Ballarpur Fort

Ballarpur, more properly Ballalpur, and also known as


Ballarpur in ancient times was a royal city, and in the

ruins of the fort and its palace, still retains the

memorials of its past greatness. It is said to have been

founded by the Gond King Khandkya Ballal sah (1437-62)

who succeeded to the throne on the death of Ser Sah, his

father. He was also the founder of the Candrapur town.

This king was so afflicted by tumours and boils that he

was an offence to his wives as well as the court, only

the wise and the beautiful Hiratalni, his queen

remaining faithful to him and bearing him company. She

induced him to leave Sirpur and erect a fort and a

palace on the opposite bank of the river Wardha where in

retirement she tended him with care till his happy

recovery. An interesting legend is related about the

miraculous recovery of the king which had defied every

medicine, as also how Canda came to be founded. It is

worth quoting here. The legend tells that one day the

king went hunting north-west of Ballalpur and on

becoming thirsty rode up to the dry bed of Jharpat.

looking for water. He soon found some in a hole and

after quenching his thirst washed his face, hands and

feet. And that night for the first time in many years,

he slept soundly. Next morning Hiratalni was gladdened

to see that many of the ulcers had disappeared, for all

parts touched by the waters of the previous day had

become whole. On the king’s relating the happening on

the previous day she entreated him to take her there.

Accordingly they proceeded to that spot and on clearing

grass and sand discovered five foot-prints of a cow in

the solid rock each filled with water, and the strange

thing was that, take how much one would, the water would

not diminish. Thus was discovered the Acalesvar Tirth

which had been fixed to the spot in the Treta Yuga.

Hardly had the king taken a bath with that water when

all the ulcers and tumours disappeared. The Royal party

encamped near the place that night and in the visions of

sleep Acalesvar appeared to the king, and spoke

comfortingly. On hearing the dream, the queen advised

the erection of a temple on the spot and the king

approving of the idea sent his officers to get skilled

artificers for the work. He took a great interest in its

progress and visited it daily. The legend about the

founding of the city of Candrapur has been quoted under

Candrapur town.

To return to the main story, the fort as well as the

settlement that grew up around it came to be known after

the king as Ballalpur or the city of Ballal. Though a

new palace came to be built at Candrapur during the

reign of Khandkya’s successor, and the seat of

government was transferred there, Ballarpur appears to

have been a secondary royal residence for several

centuries. Here in 1751 A.D. Nilkantha Sah, the last of

the Gond Kings died in imprisonment, and in 1790 the

palace was repaired by Nana Saheb Bhosle. Today the

fort, with the exception of a few walls which still

stand erect defying wind and rain for centuries, has

fallen into ruins. The gateway is very picturesque and

inside the fort the outlines of the ancient palace can

be traced with ease. Within the palace are two tunnels

with entrances a few feet apart which branching off in

opposite directions, lead each to a set of three

underground chambers, one of which communicates with the

entrance from the river or the water gate. When these

chambers were explored in 1865 A.D. some ancient copper

coins and rusted iron rings were found. There is also a

perpendicular shaft the object of which has not been

ascertained. It is told that one of the tunnels

communicates with the palace in Candrapur the entrance

to which is said to be in a well in the courtyard. This

tunnel has its passage virtually blocked at the entrance

and now no one enters it due to pitchy darkness inside.

From the water gate a staircase leads up the rampart

wall where there are spacious stone platforms from where

an enchanting view of the river can be had. The scene

looks all the more beautiful when the river is in

floods. The foundations of the ancient city can still be

traced for a considerable distance in the surrounding

jungle, indeed as far as the ruined palace on the tank

band. Remains of old stone buildings are also round as

far as Junona. North of the town is a large and

elaborately constructed tank, which probably owing to

the caving in of its under channels does not retain

water. On an islet in the Wardha is Rama tirtha, an

exceedingly curious rock temple, which during several

months of the year remains fathoms under water. In 1866

it was thoroughly cleaned and explored. In Sasti, a

village in Rajura tahsil on the opposite bank of the

Wardha are three caves cut in the rock, each of which

contains a Siva linga. A leaden image of Kesav nath

plated with gold formerly stood in a small house under a

neem tree in front of the palace. In 1818 during the

Wars of the British with Appa Saheb this idol was

stolen. Four years later a Kamavisdar by name Pungpatel

More presented a stone image in place of the stolen

metal one, and Mr. Crawford who was superintendent

sanctioned an allowance for the temple. East of the

village by the side of the Sironca-Allapalli road,

amidst overgrown jungles, lies the temple tomb of

Khandkya Ballalsah in a neglected state. It is locally

called the temple of Kharji and some ignorant

fortune-seeker has removed the gravestones in the hope

of striking buried wealth and left the hollow open. In

front of it, at his feet, as is meet, is the tomb

enclosing the ashes of his wife, the loving and the

faithful Hiratalni, noblest and wisest of the queens of

Candrapur. Near her lowly and unpretentious tomb is a

stone on which are carved the representations of 84 feet

arranged in pairs. These are said to be commemorating

the 42 other wives of Khandkya, who made amends to their

neglect of him in life, by performing sati at his death.

Behind the monument is an unnamed tomb said to be that

of a 44th wife. The tomb of Hiratalni is falling last

into ruins. Some plants have already taken roots and all

these remains may disappear altogether before long.

Alongside the tomb of Khandkya Ballalsah is a plain

platform without a superstructure or ornamentation. It

is said to be the tomb of the unfortunate Nilkanth Sah,

the last of the Gond Kings who ruled Canda. Thus here

side by side in death, in one of the strangest ironies

of history, lie the noble founder of Candrapur and his

degenerate and dishonoured descendant from whose

unworthy grasp the sceptre of the Gond Kings slipped.


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