Bhongir : a forgotten ruin
January 1, 1970
If you are someone with a sense of adventure and a longing for unknown havens, Bhongir is the place for you. 50 km from the chaos of Hyderabad- the capital of Telangana, lies this forgotten(and sadly, ruined) fort-garrison, scarcely visited and widely forgotten.
I came to know about Bhongir through a friend who, one fine November morning, dragged me out of bed to announce his great plan for an adventure. 30 minutes later, I found myself on the crowded platform of the Secunderabad railway station, joined by three other friends. A 45-minute train ride in an overcrowded Golkonda express took us out of the whirring city and into the wilderness of Telangana. As we got down on the deserted railway platform of the Bhongir station, the sun was up and blazing, and at a distance, I could see the monolithic mountain and the ruins sitting back above the sleepy town.
We decided to walk, which turned out to be a poor decision- given that auto rickshaws were lined up along the station walls. A 20 mnt walk under the sun is not the best thing to do before you start climbing a mountain- which we learned the hard way. According to the signboard at the entrance, opening hours are between 10 am to 5:30 pm, but the person at the entrance was okay with us staying back for watching the sunset.(I came to know later that they open the place much early.) Ticket prices were Rs. 25 per person(Like all monuments in India, foreigners have to pay more.) We filled our water bottles from a nearby shop, rested for another 15 minutes, and started climbing.
The fort is built in such a way that the main buildings(or what was left of them), rested upon a huge piece of rock which rose from the main rock. In short, it is a hill upon a hill. The first hill had steps cut into the rock, making the climb easier. Two of my friends took the lead halfway up and soon disappeared from our view. The rest three of us decided to be slow and steady. As the initial enthusiasm slowly wore off with the height, we decided to rest beneath a wall overlooking the valley.From up here, the town was a crisscross of lines and squares, broken by a rare patch of green here and there. As we sat, a freight train lazily made its way through the valley, spitting out smoke against the blue sky, and finally came to rest at the station. We sat there for probably an hour, even after the train got out of the station and disappeared from view at a painfully slow speed. It took an effort to wake ourselves out of the lethargic lull in which we got ourselves caught, and proceed with the climb.(You will probably find your own spot of peace while you climb up, and I highly recommend taking small breaks and looking out across the valley.)
The Archaeological Survey of India has tried to maintain the walls, but the renovations were in poor taste- the extensive use of concrete among the carvings were hard to miss. The government has failed to capitalize on the rich history of the place, as was evident from the few visitors. But the absence of crowds provides a pleasant loneliness and a rare sense of peace, turning Bhongir into a quiet haven far away from the tiring chaos of city life.
The sun was still hot when we reached the base of the second rock. We decided to take another rest and lay down in the shade of a solitary tree. An unknown amount of time later, I woke from a peaceful nap. The sun was no longer hot, the light was golden, and a gentle breeze was climbing up the mountain. I turned to find my friends sleeping, a smile on their lips as if they were dreaming. Somehow, I could not bring myself to wake them. Getting up, I slowly started climbing the rock. This one had no steps cut into it, and the climb was tiring but in a good sort of way. The climb was steep – I could only see about 10 meters ahead and had to constantly check whether I was going straight up or sideways. Then suddenly, I was there. A ruined building with tall arches stood before me with calm arrogance- and I found myself falling in love with it.
Of course, the place was not well-maintained. There even was a run down concrete building near the ruins, constructed by the government and later abandoned due to some rumors about the place being haunted.Graffiti – not the artistic type, but names of couples- covered the walls. And tourists had taken the effort to litter the place with plastic. But still, the place had a certain charm. The ornate roof, the wide arches, the rusty cannon that lay on one side, the warmth of the bricks, the steady wind – everything gave out a strong sense of confidence, a sense of calm, a sense of home. I took a walk around the main building and ran into a herd of goats(Yes, they are good at climbing rocks.) grazing on a tiny patch of green on the rock.
I suddenly felt guilty for not bringing my friends up here. I climbed down to where I had left them and found them the way I had left them, sleeping peacefully. I woke them and together, we started the ascent. The sky was turning a pale orange when we reached the top. After roaming around for a while, we followed a narrow spiral stairway on to the terrace and settled down on a ledge facing the setting sun.
The most beautiful sunset of my life – that is all I can say about it. While we sat together, watching the sky change from blue to yellow to orange to red, and as the thin clouds trying in vain to mask the deep redness of the giant November sun, none of us took out our phones and clicked a picture – nor did we wish to. We knew somehow that this sunset was ours, that this was a moment to be etched in our memories for ever, and with its pure beauty and brilliance, was completing us in ways unknown. We sat in silence, bound by a strange feeling of togetherness. When the sky started darkening we stood up and started on our way down, without breaking the silence.The night crawled down the slopes behind us.
We met the rest two of our group at the entrance. The return train was late to arrive(Not very unusual with the Indian Railways).As I climbed into my bed that night, I had a piece of Bhongir within me.