Ankai generally known as ANKAI-TANKAI, the strongest hill fort in the district, rises about 900 feet above the plain and 3200 feet above the sea, six miles north of Yeola and near the Manmad and Ahmadnagar road. The hill top commands a wide view of Khandesh and the Godavari valley. In 1818 the hill was described as nearly square, a solid rock rising from another hill with sides gradually falling towards the low country. The rock was scarped on its four sides to a perpendicular fall of from 150 to 200 feet, thus presenting on its four quarters inaccessible, smooth, and bluff faces. The top, which was about a mile round, was flat except on the eastern quarter where rose a small conical hill about 150 feet high. The point of this little cone was 900 feet above the level of the surrounding plain. The ascent to Ankai was very difficult, passing over a steep and craggy way, and through seven lines of strong fortifications. The lower gate was well built, and, with its curtains and towers, presented an independent work by no means contemptible. Passing the lower gate, the farther ascent led, through a number of difficult and intricate windings, and by flights of rock-cut steps with a low and small parapet to the left. After the last flight of steps the entrance was protected by a strong gateway and works, passing through which the ascent led, by a narrow winding stair, to the edge of the rock, which was protected by a similar gate and works on its top. About twenty-five men, standing on the top of this gateway and armed with nothing but stones, could keep back any number of assailants. As this was the only way to the top, so long as it was held, the garrison could set at defiance all efforts at approach. The latter flight of sixty or seventy steps was just broad enough to admit a single man at a time; and a large quantity of dry wood was kept on both gates ready if necessary to fire the gateways. Close inside of the last gateway was a curious domed building said to be a treasure chamber. On the summit were many rock-cut magazines and granaries, some of them from twenty to fifty feet deep, approached by narrow and winding flights of steps with cisterns of pure water at the different turnings and chambers. On the surface of the rock were two large reservoirs, and at the western end were the remains of a large palace. Tankai which is about a mile north-east of Ankai was also fortified. On the east side there are still the remains of a well-built guard-house, commanding the approach from the plain which is here tolerably easy and was apparently the road by which supplies were brought for the Ankai garrison. Tankai seems to hare been used as a storehouse for the main fort. [Lake’s Sieges of the Madras Army, 88, 90; Blackers’ Maratha War, 318; Summary of the Maratha and Pendhari Campaign, 163-168. Mr. H. F. Silcock, C.S.]
In 1635 Ankai Tankai fort, with Alka Palka, was captured by Shah Jahan’s general Khan Khanan. [Elliot and Dowson, VII 57. The local use of Alka-Palka seems uncertain, According to Mr. W. Ramsay, C.S., Alka-Palka are two unfortified hills to the west of Ankai Tankai, and divided from them by the road and railway. According to Mr. H. F. Silcock, C.S., the western block of hills is called Goraknath and Alka Palka is the same as Ankai-Tankai.] In 1665 Thevenot mentions Ankai as a stage between Surat and Aurangabad. [The eighth stage from Surat was Satana 102 miles, the ninth was Umrane (on the Agra road fifteen miles south-west of Malegaon) 16½ miles, and the tenth Ankai Tankai, eighteen miles. Voyages, V. 220.]
During the last Maratha war Lieutenant-Colonel McDowell’s detachment came to Ankai on the 5th of April 1818. On the previous day negotiations had been opened with the commandant whose master, a chief in the neighbourhood, had sent orders for surrender. On arriving before the fort, as he found matters not fully settled, Lieutenant-Colonel McDowell ordered a pair of six-pounders to the gate of the village or petta at the foot of the hill. This was instantly opened and a surrender effected, and a party from the detachment climbed the lofty battlements of Ankai, and without striking a blow hoisted the British flag on its summit. The whole of the guns on the top had been loaded, and the matches lighted; nor was it without the greatest difficulty and a handsome gratuity that the commandant prevailed on the garrison to retire without giving the British camp a volley. The garrison amounted to about 300 men with about forty guns. Considering the works and the amount of stores it was fortunate that all were secured without bloodshed. The surrender of Ankai was of great importance to the English, as, if it had held out, even for a short time, the numerous other forts would probably have been encouraged to offer resistance. Within the fort were found forty pieces of ordnance with a large store of ammunition. [The details are, fifty-five pigs of lead and a very large quantity of gunpowder. In Ankai village were found 799 sers of lead’ and 9500 matchlock balls. Appendix to Captain Briggs’ Report, 20th June 1818, in Ahmadnagar Collector’s File, VI. Inward Miscellaneous.] There were about £1200 in cash and £2000 more were raised from prize sales. A party of forty native infantry under a European officer was left in the fort. [Lake’s Sieges of the Madras Army, 88, 90; Blacker’s Maratha War, 318; Summary of the Maratha and Pendhari Campaign, 163. 168. ] In 1827 Ankai had fifty houses and nine shops. Of the four forts Ankai, Tankai, Alka, and Palka, all but Ankai were dismantled. [Clunes’ Itinerary, 23. ]
The Dhond and Manmad railway has a station at Ankai. The station-master and telegraph signallers’ offices are at present accommodated in a temporary structure, thirty feet square. Near the station are two temporary houses for the permanent way inspector and engine-driver. A siding about three miles long runs from the station to a quarry from which stone was obtained for the bridges and buildings on the Manmad end of the railway.
There are three Brahmanical caves on Ankai hill, all very rough and unfinished. The first, an unfinished ling shrine, is inside the second gate on the ascent to the fort. Its entrance is seventeen feet long by nine feet broad, and, on each side of it, is a small group of sculpture, a central female figure with a maid-servant carrying an umbrella over her head ana a dwarf. One of two figures on the outer side of the pilaster seems to hare been a man attended by a dwarf. Behind the female figure is a pilaster with much carving on its face. Prom the entrance to the front of the shrine is about 13½ feet. The shrine is the usual square room with door-keepers wearing high rounded head-dresses and inside is the base for a ling. The passage or pradakshina round the ling and a chamber to the right of the entrance are unfinished. On the back wall of the shrine is a three-headed bust, or trimurti, somewhat in the style of those in the smaller Elura caves This figure and the style of the pilasters and sculptures show this to be a late cave probably of the tenth or eleventh century. The other two caves are at the base of a knoll on the level top of the hill. They are without ornament or sculpture. One is a hall thirty-one feet wide and forty-eight feet deep with two plain square pillars in front. Three cells have been begun in the left wall. The area is divided by brick and mud partitions, which seems to show that the place has been used for other than religious purposes, probably as a magazine or storehouse. The third cave is a very irregular excavation thirty-two feet wide with two rough pillars in front, and other two further back. Below the front is a cistern. [Fergusson and Burgess’ Cave Temples, 480.]
On the south face of Tankai hill, looking down upon the village of Ankai from whioh they are hardly ft hundred yards distant, is a group of some seven Jain caves, small but richly sculptured, though unfortunately many of the figures are much defaced. [Fergusson and Burgess’ Cave Temples, 505- 508.]
he first is a two-storeyed cave; the front of the lower storey is supported by two pillars, with a figure at the base of each, facing One another and occupying the place of small door-keepers. Low parapets, ornamented on the outside, join each pillar to the end walls. The door leading from the veranda into the hall is very richly sculptured, overloaded indeed with minute details and far too massive and rich for the small apartments it connects. The hall inside is square, its roof supported by four columns, much in the style in vogue from the tenth to the twelfth century, the capital surmounted by four brackets, each carved with little fat four-armed figures supporting a thin flat architrave. The enclosed square is carved as a lotus with three concentric rings of petals. The shrine door is ornamented similarly to the entrance door, the lower portion of the jambs being carved with five human figures on each. There is nothing inside the shrine.
The upper storey has also two pillars in the front of the veranda similar to those below, but not so richly carved. The hall inside is perfectly plain.
The second cave is similar to the first, being also two-storeyed. The chief difference is that the verandas are shut in and form outer rooms. On the lower floor the veranda measures twenty-six feet by twelve, and has a large figure at either end; that at the west or left end. is the male figure usually known as Indra seated on a couched elephant, but instead of being reliefs, the elephant and Indra are each carved out of a separate block, and set into a niche cut out to receive them. Opposite him is Indrani or Amba, which the villagers have converted, by means of paint, tinsel, and paper, into a figure of Bhavani.
The door into the hall is of the same elaborate pattern as those in the first cave. The hall is about twenty feet square and similar in details to the last, but more coarsely carved. There is a small vestibule to the shrine at the back. The shrine door is much plainer than those already mentioned, having only a pair of pilasters on each side and a small image of a Tirthankar on the centre of the lintel. The shrine itself is about thirteen feet square and contains a seat for an image with a high back rounded at the top. It seems as if it had been intended to cut a passage behind it, but this has not been completed.
The upper storey, which is reached by a stair from the right end of the front room below, has a plain door, and is also partly lighted by square holes, pierced in geometric patterns. The door leads to a narrow balcony, at each end of which is a full-sized lion carved in half relief. The hall inside was apparently intended to be about twenty feet square with four pillars, but only part of it is excavated. The shrine is about nine feet by six with a seat against the wall for an image.
The third cave is like the lower storey of the second cave, with a perforated screen wall in front, much injured by time and weather. The front room is about twenty-five feet long by nine wide, the end occupied by large reliefs of Indra and Amba. Indra who is much destroyed, his elephant being scarcely recognisable, wears a high; tiara of a late type and is attended by fly-whisk bearers and heavenly choristers or gandharvas. A pilaster at each side of the compartment is crowned by a four-armed dwarf as a bracket and supports an alligator or makara and a human figure. Between the alligators is the canopy or torana so common in such positions in modern Jain shrines. Amba has also her attendants, one of them riding a small defaced animal with a large club in his hand; another an ascetic with a long beard and carrying an umbrella The mango foliage usually represented over this figure is here conventionalised into six sprays hung at equal distances under the canopy or torana which, with a grinning face or kirtimukh in the centre, stretches across the top of the sculpture.
The hall, which is entered by a door with a moderate amount of ornament, measures twenty-one feet by twenty-five, the roof being supported by four pillars as in the others, except that the lotus that fills the central square is much richer and more curious. It has four concentric rows of petals, the inner and outer ones plain, but in the second, counting outwards, each of the sixteen petals is carved with a human figure, mostly females, and all dancing or playing on musical instruments; the third circle contains twenty-four petals, each carved apparently with divinities, singly or with. a companion, and mounted on their carriers or vahanas, mostly animals or birds. The lotus is enclosed in an octagonal border carved with a lozenge-and-bead ornament, outside of which, in one corner, is a single figure standing on one foot, and in each of the other corners are three figures, a larger one in the centre dancing or playing and two smaller attendants.
On the back wall, on each side of the vestibule of the shrine, is a standing naked Jain figure about life-size. On the left of this figure is one of the Tirthankars, probably Shantinath. He stands on a low basement, carved with a devotee at each end, a lion next, then an elephant on each side of a central wheel, not set, as in most caves, with the edge towards the front, but with the side: under it is an antelope or mriga, the symbol of the sixteenth Tirthankar, with a small worshipper at each side. The Jina has a diamond-shaped mark on the centre of the breast; and drops his hands straight down on either side to meet with the finger points some objects held op by devotees wearing loincloths. The sculpture has a pilaster on each side, in front of which stands Parshvanath in the same attitude as the central figure but only about a third of the size, and distinguished by the five-hooded snake overshadowing him. In a recess in the top of each pilaster on a level with Shantinath’s head is a seated Jina, and outside the pilaster on the left is a female fly-whisk bearer. Over the shoulders of Shantinath are small choristers or vidyadhars, above which, on projecting brackets, stand two elephants holding up their trunks towards a very small figure seated like Shri, behind the point of a sort of crown or turreted canopy suspended over the Tirthankar’s head. On each side of this figure and above the elephants are four men and women bringing offerings or worshipping it. Over them is a canopy with a grinning face or kirtimukh and six circles in it each filled with a fleur-delys ornament Above this, under the arch that crowns the compartment, are seven little figures each holding a festoon with both hands. All this is so like what is found in Jain temples even of the present day that it cannot be ancient, and probably belongs to the twelfth or thirteenth century.
The Parshvanath on the other side stands in the same stiff attitude touching with the points of his fingers the heads of two little attendants. On the left stands a woman with an offering, and on the right is a seated figure with a pointed cap. The pilasters on each side of this compartment are plain, and over the snake-hoods which canopy Parshvanath’s head is an almost hemispherical object intended for an umbrella. Over this is a figure with his hands clasped, and two others on each side bearing oblong objects like bricks, which they seem about to throw down on the ascetic.
The door of the shrine is moulded but without figure ornament, and the shrine is about twelve feet square with a seat for an image in the middle of it. Behind this to the right is a trap hole into a small room below, with a Tirthankar evidently thrown down from the shrine. The custom of providing sunk hidden rooms for these images came into vogue after the inroads of Muhammad of Ghasni (1000-1025); whether this cellar was formed when the excavation was made or afterwards, it shows that the shrine was in use in times when idols were special objects of Muslim hate, as they were during the rule of Ala-ud-din Khilji (1295-1315).
The fourth cave has two massive plain square pillars in front of its veranda, which measures about
thirty feet by eight. The door is similar to that in the first cave, with a superabundance of small members, and having a Jina on the lintel. The hall is eighteen feet deep by twenty-four wide, its roof supported by two pillars across the middle, with corresponding pilasters on the side walls, also on the front and back, quite in the style of structural temples of the present day. They have no fat figures on the brackets which are of scroll form. A bench runs along the back wall which serves as a step to the shrine door. The seat for the image is against the back wall in which an arched recess has been began but left unfinished. On the left pillar of the veranda is a scarcely legible inscription in characters of about the eleventh or twelfth century.
The remaining excavation to the east are smaller and much broken and damaged; they have doors similar to those in the first and second, and in the shrine of one of them is an image of a Tirthankar. They are partly filled with earth.