How many countless men have lived and loved, fought and died at Gingee (Chenji, Jinji), possibly the oldest surviving fort in
South India? It is located about 160kms from Chennai, in Villipuram District, near . Pondicherry
Shivaji had called Gingee the most impregnable fort in
. But it changed hands several times since the Cholas originally built it in 9c CE. The control passed on to Vijayanagar, Nayaks, Marathas, Bijapur, Moghuls, Carnatic Nawabs, India , French and the British. Mysore
There were two Rajput kings as well at Gingee, under the suzerainty of the Nawab of Arcot - Raja Sawrup Singh and his son Raja De Singh. The former was appointed by Emperor Aurangazeb. The dispute over payment of arrears of revenue and the matter of succession after the death of Sawrup Singh led to a war.
The Nawab’s forces that marched to Gingee consisted of 8,000 horsemen and 10,000 soldiers. The 22 years old De Singh defended his land with a cavalry of 350 horses and 500 foot soldiers.
The valiant young ruler died (either killed in battle of committing suicideto escape capture) on 3rd October 1714 and that was the end of the war. Ballads are still sung in the area about the bravery of De Singh. The young Raja was cremated with full honours as ordered by the victorious Nawab of Arcot.
Mr. CK Gariyali IAS, who was the Collector of Villipuram in the 1980s writes, “Equally famous is his [De Singh’s] horse that has been buried in Gingee close to his master. The character of Raja De Singh is reminiscent of the stories of Maharana Pratap of Chittoor and his horse Chetak.”
Articles on Gingee by the former Collector can be accessed at Chennaionline.com Two specific sites are:
We should be grateful to him for recording many details about Gingee.
Raja De Singh’s wife committed sati (the practice of a wife immolating herself on her husband’s funeral pyre). It is claimed that the Nawab of Arcot built a town and named it Ranipet to honor the lady. I have not been able to find out her name.
A European priest, Father Pinments, referred to Gingee as the "
Reproduced below are some recent pictures (©KO Isaac) of Gingee by KO Isaac, President of the Photographic Society of Madras:
All photos ©KO Isaac. Click to enlarge.