Perched amidst picturesque fields and hillocks, at a distance of 14 km from the famous temple town of Tirupati, stands a stronghold of the medeival times, Chandragiri.
The Chandragiri fort was built in 1000 CE in the form of fortifications with bastions and a steep moat. It was under the rule of Yadavarayas for about three centuries before coming under the control of the rulers of the Vijayanagara empire in 1367. It is said that the great Vijayanagara emperor Sri Krishnadeva Raya spent his childhood in this Fort. Some of the great Kavyas such as Manucharitra, Amuktamalyada were believed to have been composed here. The great poet in Sri Krishnadevaraya’s court, ‘Tenali Rama Krishna’ was claimed to be a native of this place. His descendents are said to live in Chandragiri.
In 1568 AD, the Chandragiri Fort rose to prominence as it became the seat of power for the later Vijayanagara kings who extended the fortified area further and built some magnificent buildings and temples. In 1646 the fort was annexed into the Golkonda territory, subsequently came under Mysore rule till 1792 before it faded into oblivion. Within the fortification, one can see the Raja Mahal, Rani Mahal, eight ruined temples of Saivite and Vaishnavite deities, among other ruined structures.
Raja Mahal : A fine example of Indo-Saracenic architecture of the Vijayanagara period, this three storeyed palace is adorned with crowning towers that represent Hindu architectural elements. It was constructed with stone, brick, lime mortar and is devoid of timber. The central tower over the durbar hall rises through two storeys. In 1640, at this venue, the later Vijayanagara ruler Sri Rangaraya granted land to the East India Company for the construction of Fort St. George. The floors are supported by massive pillars and the walls bear fine plaster and stucco decorations.
This palace is now home to an archaeological museum which was established in 1988-89 and is maintained by ASI.
Rani Mahal : The Rani Mahal or Queen’s palace may be misleading as an epigraphical record suggests this structure was a commander’s quarters. Very similar to the Raja Mahal in its style, the ground floor has a semblance of a stable while the first floor contains quarters that more decorative stucco work especially around its arched windows.
The museum within the Raja Mahal is spread across the three storeys and has an extensive collection of stone and metal sculptures and other antiquities retrieved from other historical places like Gudimallam (Chittoor district), Gandikota (Cuddapah district) and Yaganti (Kurnool district).
There are a number of stone and metal sculptures of Saiva, Vaishnava and Jaina interest. Many bronzes from the late Chola, Vijayanagara and post Vijayanagara era underscore the high aesthetics and workmanship of their respective times. Many weapons from medieval times like swords and daggers, coins, paper documents and other objects of historic interest are on display in some of the galleries.
The most striking exhibits in the museum are the life size replicas in metal and stone of Vijayanagara rulers. In the Durbar Hall gallery, three prominent glass enclosures house these statues – Krishnadevaraya and his consorts-Chinnadevi and Tirumaladevi in the centre while Achyutaraya with his consort Varadarajamma and Venkatapati Maha Raya stand on either side. A fitting tribute indeed to the mighty emperors who once ruled this region.