The transformation of Bekal Fort is amazing in terms of reconstruction to replicate the bygone era. The legendary defense citadel, When I visited the Fort in April 2005 I found it was absolute state of ruins and neglect beyond salvage. The facelift provided to Bekal Fort by ASI and district tourism board is commendable and requires special appreciation. I hope all other historical monuments are resurrected in similar fashion without too much modernity. Now Bekal Fort seems to be idyllic spot for picnic lovers, family outing, adventure and heritage tourists.
BEKAL FORT HISTORY :
The history of the Fort construction is shrouded in mystery. However considering the architecture and style of construction, the construction seems to have begun by the rulers of Tulunadu, the Ikkeri Dynasty. Hiriya Venkatappa Nayak ( 1586 – 1629 ) is credited to have begun the construction of the fort in 1620 and it was completed during the period of Shivappa Nayak ( 1645 – 1660 ). The Nayaks are credited to have constructed number of other forts too such as Chandragiri Fort ( Kasargod ) & Hosadurg Fort ( Kanhagad ) which are all in various stages of ruin. Basically these forts were built to protect the territory against invasion from the sea, by various foreign rulers. The Fort served to protect their territory which extended from Coorg to Bhatkal. The Nayaks ( 1499 – 1763 ) were feudatory of the Vijaynagar empire.
After the battle of Talikot in 1565 when Vijaynagar empire decline began, the Nayaks began to exert considerable influence in the Konkan coast. There was intense battle between the Kolatharis and Nayaks to dominate these territories under Someshekar Nayak ( 1664 – 1672 ). He captured the entire region from Majeswar, Thaliparamba, Payyanur, Kanghad, Bekal and Panayal under his suzerenity.
The Nayaks were defeated by Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan and their trace from this area was eliminated. The carnage unleashed by Hyder Ali & Tipu Sultan, forcible conversion etc belie history being a tolerant monarchs. During 1766 to 1799 both father and son unleashed a reign of terror in the Region. Majority of the Nairs and Brahmins were forcibly converted under the name of Jihad. The bodies of slain people were laid across the landscape and the skull of the beheaded victims were displayed in the Fort. In the bargain many a temples were destroyed too as a symbol of elimination of Idol worship. The Sultan did not carry out conversion in Mysore territory which shows his jekl and hyde nature. He wanted to be seen as religiously tolerant tyrant. The details of
Tipu’s legacy is furnished in this link
Tipu Sultan has developed a number of escape routes from this Fort, due to his constant sense of insecurity. He had unleashed a reign of terror in North Kerala, which is hidden from the annals of history. The bodies of triators and rebbellers were hacked and thrown into the well. The barricading of the well resembles like the Jallianwalla bagh. I hope the ASI put up a memorial in commemoration of the innocent lives which were lost during the Tipu's reign.
British took over the Fort after the fall of Tipu sultan and formed the new taluk of Bekal under the South Kanara district. The British seem to have destroyed the insignificant palace located in the premise of Bekal fort and robbed all its antiques and riches. After India attained independence, Bekal was re-organised in the Kasargod district which was included in Kerala state in 1956.
The construction and renovation of the fort has taken place from the time of Nayaks, reinforced by Tipu sultan with observatory tower, which gives a panoramic view of the entire landscape spread upto ullal and kanghad. The grooves for the cannons seem to have been installed by Tipu under the able assistance of the French with whom he had friendly relation, with their presence in Mahe, which is located in close proximity. The British subsequently fortified Bekal Fort only for military purpose without much administrative buildings. It served as a cantonment and strategic watch tower with a light house nearby which is almost similar to Kaup light house in construction.
The entire fort is constructed with Laterite stones and limestone combination. The fort has a moat surrounding with water jutting from the sea and exiting into the sea in a circular formation. It can be reasonably presumed that the waters were infested with crocs to protect the Fort against invaders.
Bekal Fort is surrounded on all three sides with water, and the balance through the moat filled with water. The Forth seems to be built on a hillock on two tier basis. The landscape inside the fort have been used strategically to locate the armory, elephants and horses.
A number of cannon slots are created pointing towards the sea, there are as many 14 watch towers in the forty acre fort. A well is now barricaded which served as fresh water source for drinking, collected from the natural rainfall. There are number of secret hideouts within the fort, which is well ventilated for survivors in case of Fort under seize. An armory is barricaded currently, traces of the palace destroyed is also seen, a modern rest house and small restaurant with seating space is located in the eastern portion of the Fort. The fort has been under renovation from 2005 and still to be completed to bring the original splendor.
FILM SHOOTING :
Many a Malayalam films, particularly song and dance sequence have been shot in this wonderful locale. The song “ Tu hi re “ from the Bombay movie has been shot in the Fort ramparts. A safe beach is located adjacent to the Fort for sea lovers to swim and bathe.
There is a grave of saint located just outside the fort premise which can be approached through an opening leading towards the outer portion of the fort walls. There a Hanuman temple at the enterance of the Fort, another Mosque is located just opposite to the Fort, Bekal Resorts and Development Corporation is trying to beautify the surroundings with landscaping and accommodation facility. Kasargod has plenty of jewellery outlets and was famous for smugglers in pre 1990s.
Bekal is located in between Kasargod and Kanghad towns. It can be reached by Air from Mangalore or Calicut. The nearest railway junction is either Mangalore, Kasargod or Kannur. The entry fee is Rs 5/- and Videography is charged Rs 25. From the main road it is just 600 meters.
Overall a visit to Bekal Fort captures the intrigues, conspiracy, diplomacy of the Nayaks, Tipu Sultan, French and the British Era.