A slice of Telangana history: Exploring the once impregnable Kaulas Fort

Situated around 200 km from Hyderabad, the multi-layered walls, tall bastions and moats along the fort shows how unconquerable it once must have been.
A slice of Telangana history: Exploring the once impregnable Kaulas Fort
A slice of Telangana history: Exploring the once impregnable Kaulas Fort
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Forts – built, conquered and held – are both a testament and witness to history and contain the said and unsaid tales of the past, of forgotten dynasties and kingdoms. Similarly, the Kaulas Fort is a picturesque structure situated in Telangana’s Kamareddy district, at the border of three states – Telangana, Karnataka and Maharashtra.

Situated around 200 km from Hyderabad, one can reach the fort by taking National Highway 161 to Jukkal, from where Kaulas village is less than 20 km.  The fort can also be approached via NH44 through Kamareddy and Banswada.

Spread across 6 sq km with two entrances, Kaulas is perhaps one of the largest royal forts in the state. The mega fort sits majestically on the outskirts of Kaulas village, less than 1 km from the main village, and is surrounded by the Kaulas nala (stream).

The main gate of the fort can be reached by traversing a path through agricultural fields and then crossing the Kaulas nala. As one takes the wide stairs, a cannon welcomes us in less than 3 feet. Multi-tier rock cut layers and several bastions in each corner is said to have made the fort unassailable by enemies.

The history of the fort dates back to the 9th century AD. According to historians, it was built in Indra IV’s period of the Rashtrakuta dynasty in their political capital and was later captured by the Chalukyas of the Kalyani dynasty in the third quarter of the 10th century before it was captured by the Kakatiyas in the 12th century.

According to the state Heritage department, the Kakatiya insignia is inscribed on the fort’s gateways.

The Kakatiya kingdom, which ruled from present day Warangal, held the Kaulas Fort till 1323 AD, a period more or less parallel to the one and only Kakatiya woman ruler, Rani Rudrama Devi. Later, the Kaulas region is said to have come under the rule of the Bahmanis, Qutb Shahis, Yadavas, Naikwaries, Mughals, Devagiri, Kalyani, Marathas, etc and finally under the Asaf Jahis (Nizams) (1724 to 1948), according to Kumaraswamy, Assistant Professor of History at Giriraj Government College, Nizamabad.

The Nizams appointed Raja Gopal Singh Gaur, a Kshatriya or Rajput,  as the Chief of Kaulas in the 1720s and his successors held this fort till 1948 when the Indian Union over took Hyderabad state. It was during this time that the Jagdamba Bhawani cannon or the Navgarji tope, which was the largest (10 feet long) cannon in the world of its time, was said to have made by Raja Gopal Singh in the year 1728.

According to Ramamurthy Sharma, a historian based in Kamareddy, Kaulas remained as an independent dominion under the Nizam rule.

The massive fortress is home to more than 50 bastions, with Hussaini, Mallika, Mula and Kadika Burj being the prominent ones. Three temples (Venkateswara, Ramalayam and Ganapati Mahadev temple) in the complex, which were constructed under different dynasties, have rare sculptures of goddesses.

A strong defence mechanism is visible at the fort; multi-layered walls, tall bastions and moats along the fort shows how unconquerable it once must have been.

Kumaraswamy observes, “The fort witnessed a vast range of history and was ruled by different dynasties. After the Rashtrakutas, other rulers appointed chiefs or sub-rulers on their behalf. Given its geographical location it remained a key point.”

Two mosques and temples are seen in a dilapidated condition and covered by large, overgrown bushes. Rani mahal, Elephant well (Enugula bavi) and other wells are the highlights of the fort. Several bastions are in a damaged or deteriorating situation.

“The different structures in the fort show semi-Dravidian and Indo-Islamic architecture as the fort was ruled by different dynasties,” Kumaraswamy says about fort’s architecture.

A view from any bastion of the fort shows the entire Kaulas nala and the miles of forests that the fort is situated amidst.

Well-known historian Prof Bhangya Bhukya, head of the History department at the University of Hyderabad, says that the Kaulas was always a crucial region irrespective of who was ruling. It’s also said that from a military point of view as well the Kaulas samsthanam (dominion) was strong. A successor of Raja Gopal Singh, Raja Deep Singh, is said to have participated in the 1857 Indian Rebellion from this fort and was persecuted for the same.

While there are tales about Raja Gopal Singh’s bravery and warfare tactics, there is also ambiguity about his identity. Prof Bhukya points out, “Though there were claims about his Kshatriya or Rajput identity, there were no evidences to establish his identity. He could have been a strong local Shudra ruler, as there were no Rajputs in southern India then.”

He adds, “It was mostly given to chiefs or sub-rulers, as it was connecting the present day Karnataka -Telangana-Maharashtra and served as a commercial hub during the Nizam’s time. Prior to the Nizams also Kaulas remained politically crucial during the period of Rashtrakuta, Kakatiya and other dynasties.”

Kaulas village, which holds the illustrious past like a jewel in the crown, presently a gram panchayat, falls under Jukkal mandal. However, locals say that the fort has been empty for decades now but sees many visitors.

Kummari Shankaraiah, a village resident who is now in his early 70s, says, “We never saw anybody in the fort even in our childhood. I used to take our cattle there for grazing when I was young.”

If one starts in the morning and is done exploring the fort by afternoon, the rest of the day can be spent in the nearby Kaulas nala project, where you can see several migratory birds from across the world in the winter. On the way back, you can visit the Nizamsagar project built on the Manjira river and the Pocharam Wildlife Sanctuary before returning via the Medak-Hyderabad road.

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