After almost eight years, I had a chance to go to Senji fort. Located less than 200 km from Chennai, Senji can be an enjoyable day trip. Then and now, I remember feeling the same way – a day where I felt included, part of a larger group. Be it after one and a half years at a new school, or after three and a half months at a new job; it seems as though going to Senji has the charm of being an ice breaker.
The fort complex consists of three citadels, each built atop a small hill, like three vertices of an equilateral triangle. There is the Krishnagiri fort, the Rajagiri fort and the Chandrayandurg fort. The forts would have been formidable in their time, built by cutting into the granite and stone hillocks, harsh and unforgiving – mirroring the land they stood upon. It is arduous to climb the fort – we took almost two hours to go up and down the Rajagiri citadel, though this may be a comment on the fitness level of the group, rather than the difficulty of the trek in itself. Except for a few crevices in the rocks where water seeps through, the heat is relentless – and this in spite of heavy rains just the previous day. There are several shrines scattered throughout, and a mosque as well. Granaries, gymnasiums, marriage halls, tanks to store rain water, prisons, stables, warehouses for weaponry – the kings have thought of everything!
The tanks are in a bad condition – since they were built of stone, with no seepage into ground water; garbage that is being thrown into the tank for hundreds of years continues to accumulate. The water is a murky green, and would delight those studying eutrophication. It saddens me to visit these historical sites in India – for you cannot escape the numerous declarations of everlasting love scribbled by the stupidly-in-love (Senthil and Meena 2006, with a heart), the empty plastic cups with few drops of whiskey remaining, the Lays packets and crushed Aquafina bottles – this extreme disregard for one’s surroundings is alarming and repulsive.
Entry is a mere 5 Rupees (but 100 Rupees for foreign citizens – I noticed because we had two Germans in our group). For 5 Rupees, you get a map if you ask for one, you also get a pitiable lack of information. I had to read on Wikipedia to learn that the fort has passed through the hands of several kings, starting from the Cholas and all the way to British. The most loved of all is the Rajput king Tej Singh, or Raja Desingu, as he is fondly remembered in Tamil folklore.
On our way back to Chennai in the sixty seater bus, we came to a halt somewhere near Chengalpet. A man was shouting things such as these into the mic: Our beloved mother, the one who feeds us, provides us with a home, takes care of us…oh mother bless us; followed by devotional music from one of Ramya Krishnan’s Amman movies, much fanfare with percussion and wind instruments; and a huge crowd. None of us knew if all that drama was about J.Jayalalitha, our honourable Chief Minister; or the Goddess herself. In Tamil Nadu, who really cares about the difference? Everybody is Amma! 🙂