Bekal Fort – Kasargod
Bekal Fort is the biggest fort in Kerala, spreading over 40 acres. The important features of this fort are the tank with its flight of steps, the tunnel opening towards the south, the magazine for keeping ammunition and the broad and wide steps leading to the Observation Tower which is a rarity. From there one has ample view of towns in the vicinity like Kanhangad, Pallikare, Bekal, Kottikkulam, Uduma etc. This observation center had strategic significance in finding out even the smallest movements of the enemy and ascertaining safety of the Fort.
The Fort appears to have been built up from the sea since almost three fourth of its exteriors is drenched and the waves stroke the citadel. The Mukhyaprana Temple of Hanuman and the ancient Muslim Mosque nearby hold testimony to the age-old religious harmony that prevailed in the area. The zigzag entrance and the trenches around the fort show the defense strategy connected with the fort.
Unlike most other Indian Forts, Bekal fort was not a center of administration for no remains of a palace are found within the fort. Arguably the fort was built exclusively for fulfilling the defense requirements. The holes on the outer walls of the fort are specially designed to defend the fort effectively. The holes at top are meant for aiming at the farthest points; the holes below are meant for hitting when the enemy is nearer and the holes underneath facilitate attacking when the enemy is very near to the fort. This is a remarkable evidence of medieval technology in defense strategy.
During the Perumal Age Bekal was a part of Mahodayapuram. The Kodavalam inscription (Pullur, 7 km from Kanhangad) of Bhasakara Ravi II (the King of Mahodayapuram) illustrate the undisputed political sway of Mahodayapuram over this region. Following the political decline of Mahodayapuram Perumals by the 12th century AD, North Kerala including Bekal came under the sovereignty of Kolathunadu. The maritime importance of Bekal increased much under Kolathiries and it became an important port town of Thulunadu.
Battle of Talikota in 1565 led to the decline of the mighty Vijayanagara Empire and many feudatory chieftains rose in political prominence including the Keladi Nayakas (Ikkeri Nayaks). The Nayakas realized the political and economic importance of Tulunadu (which is the region comprising of modern-day Udupi and Dakshina Kannada districts along with the Northern part of Kasaragod district) and attacked and annexed this part of the country. Bekal served as a nucleus in establishing the domination of Nayakas in Malabar. The economic importance of the port town prompted the Nayakas to fortify Bekal subsequently. Hiriya Venkatappa Nayaka initiated the construction of the fort and it was completed during the period of Shivappa Nayaka. The speedy completion of the port was aimed at the defence of the fort from overseas attack and to strengthen their attack on Malabar. Chandragiri fort near Kasaragod was also constructed during this period.
Somashekhara Nayak captured Manjeswar and Thaliparamba and built a fort at Kanhangad Hosdurg which means new fort. The other forts found in Kasaragod are constructed on the coastal region and on the route to Madikeri (Mercara in Coorg). It is believed that the ‘Kotteyar’ community found in Bekal, Panayal and other places in Kasaragod were brought to this land by the Nayaks to build and defend the fort. There was a prolonged struggle between the Kolathiries and Nayaks to recapture and maintain their hold over this area. These unending battles came to an end with the rise of Hyder Ali who conquered and defeated the Nayakas. Subsequently Bekal fell into the hands of Mysore kings.
Arabian Sea visible from the fort
Bekal served as an important military station of Tipu Sultan when he led the great military expedition to capture Malabar. The coins and other artifacts unearthed by the archaeological excavation conducted recently at Bekal fort is a manifestation of the strong presence of the Mysore Sulthans. The death of Tipu Sulthan in Fourth Anglo-Mysore War in 1799 saw the end of Mysorean control and subsequently the fort came under the British East India Company.
During the reign of the Company Bekal became the headquarters of the newly organized Bekal Taluk of South Canara District in Bombay presidency. South Canara became a part of the Madras presidency in 1862 and Kasaragod Taluk was up in the place of Bekal Taluk. Gradually the political and economic importance of Bekal and its port declined considerably. Kasaragod became part of Kerala with the state reorganization in 1956.
Its solid construction resembles the St. Angelo Fort at Kannur built by Portuguese and also the Thalassery fort. The Ikkeri Nayakas had not developed guns to defend themselves from the invaders approaching from the Arabean sea route. But the western part of the fort is built in a solid manner with numerous slits on the walls for defending the fort from the naval power of other rulers. So it is believed that the present look of fort was the outcome of the conflict between European powers. Modification to the fort was made by all the rulers who ruled the land from the time of the Ikkeri Nayakas. Moreover a number of forts built by the Ikkeri Nayakas have failed to stand the test of time and perished. Located at the centre of the fort is an Observation Tower built by Tipu Sultan which offers a breathtaking view of the coastline as well as that of neighbouring places like Kanhangad and Pallikare. Also in existence is a rest house built by the British Government. Presently the protection and preservation of Bekal fort has been entrusted to the Archaeological Survey of India.
The Ikkeri Nayakas of Bedanur have been widely regarded as the founders of this fort. The fort was eventually completed during the period of Sivappa Nayak. It is believed that the Kotteyar community found in Bekal, Panayal and other places in Kasaragod were brought here by the Nayaks to build and defend the forts. However the issue of the fort’s origin has forever been open to dispute.
The Ikkeri Nayakas had not developed guns to defend themselves from the invaders approaching from the Arabean sea route. But the western part of the fort is built in a solid manner with numerous slits on the walls for defending the fort from the naval power of other rulers. So historian Nandakumar Koroth argued that the present look of fort was the outcome of the conflict between European powers. Moreover, a number of forts built by the Ikkeri Nayakas have failed to stand the test of time and perished. Located at the centre of the fort is an Observation Tower built by Tipu Sultan which offers a breathtaking view of the coastline as well as that of neighboring places like Kanhangad and Pallikare. Also in existence is a rest house built by the British Government.
Tourism promotion activities are happening in the areas surrounding the fort, under the Bekal Resorts Development Corporation, which is an initiative by the Government of Kerala. The song ‘Tu hi re’ from the Movie ‘Bombay’ has been shot at Bekal Fort.
Place of interest near Bekal Fort
* Pallikere beach
* Kappil beach
* Chandragiri fort
* Chandragiri Cruise
* Ananthapura lake temple
* Nileshwar Muthappan Temple
* Oyster Opera Theme Resort-Thekkekaduu
* Shri Nithyananda Yogashrama, Uppala, Kasaragod District
* Sustainable Environmental Research Institute