From afar, the fort seems to be perched precariously on top of a strange, jagged rock formation. Only when you get closer do you realise that the formation is man-made, a result of mindless and incessant quarrying of the hillock all the way down till the base of the fort at Uddappanahalli in Kolar district, about 60 km from Bengaluru.
This is not a one-off case but the fate of several rocky hillocks all around the tech city of Bengaluru.
Visit any of the adjoining villages and towns such as Ramanagaram, Bellahalli, Bettahalasuru and Sadahalli, all of which have now been subsumed by the mega city, and you see that many hillocks have been hollowed out or have been slowly shaved away over the years — to supply building material to the ever-hungry silicon city with its unceasing construction activity and incessant population inflow.
Some of the quarrying is legal while much is illegal, and allegedly carried out with the complicity of politicians and bureaucrats.
Ironically, the formations, which are a result of human greed, are stunning spectacles in themselves. A flock of crows perched on a line strung opposite a quarry at Sadahalli or the water body that has formed in a hollow at Bettahalasuru are beautiful in a surreal way. The water in this hollow, in fact, is often a lifeline for the villages nearby. With one spell of good rain, you even see nature struggling to come back to life amidst the boulders and crevices of the rocks.
As we take photographs of the hillock and the fort at Uddappanahalli, Yusuf, a curious farmer, stops to strike a conversation with us. The fort is said to have been built by a chieftain in the 17th century.
Isn’t it a tragedy that the fort is being threatened now by all this quarrying, we ask him. He looks askance at us, and replies, “That fort was also built by big stone blocks. The stone must have come from another such hillock, right?” He then walks off with a smile.
His question made us pause and we were back to the old dilemma — when does growth become destruction?