Narnala fort

Narnala is an ancient fortress in the hills in the north of Akot, taluka at a point where a narrow tongue of Akola District runs a few miles in to the Melghat. It is uninhabited but is in charge of a patel and patwari; the latter, Narayan Dattatreya, has a fund of information about it. The fortress lies about 12 miles north of Akot, the road passing through Bordi and the deserted village of Shahanur. The latter village lies within the first roll of the hills but just at the foot of the real ascent. Its lands were made forest two years ago and signs of cultivation are rapidly disappearing. It has a bungalow and sarai, through no caretaker, and carts can go only as far as this. The rest of the road is under the care of the District Board but is in parts exceedingly steep and stony; however camels mount it, and it is possible to ride a horse all the way. The road climbs a spur of the hills and then follows a ridge, the whole ascent from Shahanur occupying less than an hour. About half way up it crosses first one and then another piece of level ground, each thickly sprinkled with Mohammedan tombs. These are called Lahan and mota sati maidan; on the left side of the road in the upper plot is a small broken stone having carved on it an up-raised hand, a sun, and crescent moon, which is described as Saticha hat, Sati’s hand. Presently the lower range of fortification comes in to sight, a line of blackened walls crowning cliffs of black stone and lying dwarfed but massive along the folds of the hill-side. Accomplishing three quarters of the ascent the road passes through the first gateway crowned like the rest with an arch lofty enough for elephants to pass. A curtain projecting on the outer side of the gateway is called Saha Gotyachi Sapili because its full height, about 30 feet; is made up of six great stones placed on top of the other. Lions in different attitudes ornament both the outside and the inside of the gateway. The path passes two other strong gateways and one slighter one before entering the heart of the fort, and climbs meanwhile to the upper most ghats. Between the last two gateways are the domed tombs of Bag Wawar Wali and Gaz Badshan Wali. The former not only rode a tiger in his life but even now a tiny white tiger may be seen at night going to and from his tomb. Passing the last gateway one comes almost at once before the Ambar Bangala, the kacheri of former day and the chief rest house of the present. It is a lofty building looking on to a cemented courtyard which formerly contained a fountain and was roofed with wood. The bangala has a flat roof reached by a long and steep staircase, and walls around the roof give shade during the greater part of the day, while openings afford a wide view over both plain country and hills. Akot is generally visible, with the nearer villages, and in the clear air of the rains one can plainly see the flooded Purna 25 miles away. (At an equal distance on the west the fortress of Pimpaldol crowns one of the two highest hills in that part of the satpuras, a fairly large fortification but one also little known that its existence is sometimes denied by people living just below it and even by Mahars who go on pilgrimage to one if its tanks.) Just across the courtyard is the tomb of Burhanuddin, some times called “the dogs’ temple,” and beyond it is the Shakkar talao, a tank of some little size. The tomb is a common place stone platform with a few tombstones upon it and a dilapidated building beside it. It has long been known as a place where the bite of a mad dog, jackal, or rat may be cured, people come from Shegaon, Balapur, Mahan and even Basim, 90 miles away, to the number of 100 or 150 in a year. They offer gur, channa, ud, and phul– country sugar, parched gram, incense, and flowers– walk five times around the stone platform, place in their mouths five grains of gram and a very little of the other food offered, and walk away with their eyes fixed on the ground till they have passed the first gateway of the fort (a few hundred yards away). One of the jaglias of Narnala directs the proceedings and adds to his income by the gifts of patients. Intelligent people of the neighborhood are convinced that the cure is effective if performed before hydrophobia has appeared in the patient, and jaglia says it even takes effect later, but every year there are one or two cases of visitors who die of hydrophobia either just before or just after visiting the tomb. The local experts hold the common belief that hydrophobia is very apt to remain latent during the dry seasons and manifest itself at the first fall of rain. The number of visitors to the tomb does not increase just at that time, but the difficulty of travelling would explain this; people vow to make the pilgrimage at a more convenient time.

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