Nirmal Forts

Nirmal is a city of forts surrounded by Satpura Hills, dense forests, rivers and waterfalls.

There are 4 forts in a radius of 15 kms range from Nirmal. Three small forts are nearby Nirmal town and the fourth bigger one is 10 km from Nirmal.

These forts are locally named as Quilla Gutta or Bhairava Gutta or Nirmal Fort, Batisghad, Syamghad and Sonaghad. These are basically military forts strategically located on ancient trade route.

Not much is known about the forts of Nirmal, but it is believed that most of them were built around 1650 under the rule of Srinivasa Rao and Asaf Jahis to check the entry of enemies from Maharashtra.

While the forts have been extensively ravaged over the years, the ramparts still stand strong, testifying to the engineers’ skill and talent. However, while the fortifications are extant, most of the structures inside are completely dilapidated. Worse, several haphazard constructions and unplanned development have swallowed the lower reaches of the fort and at the rate at which they are proliferating, not much will remain of the structure in the years to come.

Nirmal Fort or Quilla Gutta or Bhairava Gutta
Almost every hillock in Nirmal has a fort or the ruins of a fortification. So if you ask for directions to a particular fort, predictably there is a lot of confusion. Adding to the confusion, the Nirmal Fort as some people like to call it has multiple names, utterly confounding the first-time visitor. And this despite the fact that the fort is in the middle of the city and towers above it. However, there is a solution the most well known landmark for Quilla Gutta or Bhairava Gutta, as the Nirmal Fort is also known, is the Devarakonda temple on its western periphery.

There is a well located inside the fort, called the Atta-Kodalla bavi (Mother-in law, daughter-in-law well). You can get a beautiful view of the town from this fort, but it's tough finding your way through the shrubs and undergrowth that dot the fort. 

Nirmal fort has multiple entrances, with one of the main entrances being on the western side diagonally opposite the police station next to the Devarakonda temple. A paved road lined with houses leads up to large tanks. From there, the path becomes narrower and leads to an entrance of the fort, outside of which there is a temple. Within, there a few ruined structures including a series of arches at the edge. There are many trails lined with dense overgrowth of thorny brambles, which makes exploring the fort seem like an adventure sport. After making your way through the scrub – hopefully unbruised – you will reach one of the bastions. The view from atop here makes the expedition completely worth it, especially during sunset when the city and the surrounding hills are awash in golden hues.

On the northern part of the fort, there is another entrance beside a garbage dump, where a recently-constructed staircase leads to the top. There is a statue of Bhairava on one of the boulders, but not much can be accessed here as the paths have been blocked due to random construction of houses. 

Head to Soangarh or Soan Fort, 12km from Nirmal. Shyamgarh and Battisgarh are two other important forts in the vicinity. Mostly deserted, the forts offer solitude as you climb up the rickety steps and trace the path to hidden doors and windows.

Battis Garh Fort
At the eastern periphery of the town, there are a series of expansive lakes over which towers the Battis Garh fort. It is one of the largest fortifications of Nirmal, though remarkably desolate. The entrance of the fort is on the west and is accessible by a staircase constructed in recent years. While the ramparts and bastions are largely intact, most of the structures inside are in ruins. Ahead of the entrance, there is a bastion with an inclined path leading up to it. However, this is often covered in thick vegetation, making it difficult to spot. There is a cannon atop the bastion, which has spectacular views of the city and the surrounding forts.

Apart from the ruins, the fort mostly has scrubs and boulders. The overgrowth is often burned to clear the pathways. There is also a pillared hall to the left of the entrance.

On the hillock opposite Battis Garh is another smaller fort. Depending on the rainfall, you might see a shallow lake populated with water birds between the two. The forts are accessible by a dirt track off the Vellapally Road, which is to the east of the town.

Shamgarh or Nirmal Fort
Nirmal Fort, also called as the Shamgarh fort, was built by the French.
1747 AD : According to the history of Nirmal town, the fort was built as part of a defense mechanism by French engineers, who were employed by Nizam II who ruled over this region in 1747. Material used for constructing the structure was stone and mortar. It was erected during the regime of Srinivas Rao who was chieftain of Nirmal.

As you approach Nirmal from Hyderabad, it is hard to miss Shyam Garh on your left. The rugged fort once overlooked a picturesque lake, though now a highway divides the two. The entrance of the fort is to the north. Not much remains of this citadel apart from a few ruins and walkways on parts of the rampart.

The fort was erected by Nimma Naidu who ruled the region in the 17th Century. 

The Nirmal word was derived from his name. Nimma Naidu had encouraged the artisan community and promoted their art. He had asked the Nakashi community to come to Nirmal and encouraged their paintings which were popular worldwide. Nirmal paintings and toys were made of a rare lightweight Poninki wood which was available in the Adilabad forests.

Now, restoration works of the collapsed and damaged walls of the fort have been undertaken at a cost of Rs 75 lakh. The officials denied reports of construction of a restaurant or any other permanent structure inside and outside the fort. The restoration works are being supervised by engineers of the archaeology department. District tourism officer V. Ravi Kumar made it clear that the restoration works were going on as per prescribed norms. Private contractors were doing works under the supervision of archeological engineers. However, tourism officials are yet to arrange lighting and music system at the fort.

Multiple restoration projects have been undertaken and the government has tried to make the monument more tourist-friendly, though these attempts have not made much headway. At the time of research, the beautiful stone battlements were being painted a ghastly white. The remains of bright blue umbrellas and broken benches are strewn all over the fort.
There is a Haritha cafeteria next to the monument, though it is currently under renovation. Shyam Garh is about 2km south of the city centre on the NH 7. Tourism department is planning a rural tourism project at Kadthal on Nirmal bypass road.

Soan Garh 
This fort, close to the Godavari, must have once been an important outpost for many rulers, but now it stands forlorn amidst fields. However, the stone battlements of Soan Garh, rising sharply from the surrounding flatlands, still stand sturdy despite the ravages of time and neglect. A rocky, inclined path takes you to the entrance of the fort. Soan Garh is quite small, though no less impressive, compared to the other forts of Nirmal. Inside there are a few boulders and ruins overrun by dense overgrowth. A tunnel at the rear of the fort leads to a small outpost, which is a great spot for birdwatching.

Soan village is south of Nirmal on the NH 7. The fort is about 500 metres north of the village and can be easily seen from the NH7 on your left (opposite a petrol pump) when you’re driving from Nirmal. There is no approach road as such to the monument. You will have to park your vehicle on the highway or one of the dirt tracks branching from the road and trudge through fields and thorny scrub to reach the fort.

Wear hiking shoes and thick clothing as all the forts in and around Nirmal have a dense overgrowth of thorny brambles

Most shops selling Nirmal art and toys are clustered around Shri Krishna Residency on the old NH7. The Nirmal Toys and Arts Industrial Cooperative has a wide range of toys, paintings as well as handicrafts at fixed prices.

Other shops where you can buy these crafts include Nirmal Gift Articles (09959298998), Nirmal Paintings (09959298998) and Nirmal Art Gallery (9505903242, 9966774839).

There are only a few accommodation options in Nirmal, so make sure you book in advance. Mayuri Hotel(Tel: 08734-241919, Cell: 073869- 72444/ 1222/ 1333; Tariff: ₹890– 2,100) on Bus Stand Road is the best the town has to offer. It is well-maintained, has 28 clean and comfortable rooms and offers internet facilities.

Another option is Sri Krishna Residency (Cell: 09705972103; Tariff: ₹500–840), which has AC and non- AC rooms as well as room service. If everything is booked out, you could try Hotel Tirumala (Tel: 242345-47, 243045; Tariff: ₹525–971), which has AC and non-AC rooms and a shady restaurant-cum-bar. Women should avoid this hotel as it caters to an exclusively male clientele.

Geeta Bhawan, near Sri Krishna Residency, serves excellent vegetarian meals. The restaurant at Mayuri Hotel has some scrumptious non-vegetarian options.

As compared to other districts in the state, Adilabad is relatively remote and spans a large area. The tourist attractions here are rather spread out and commuting between destinations can be time-consuming. As one of the largest cities in the district, Nirmal is a good place to base oneself to explore the interiors, especially the waterfalls and the Kalwa Narasimha Swamy Temple. Alternatively, one can also stay at the Haritha Hotels in Kaddam and Jannaram, which are closer to the wildlife sanctuaries. Keslapur and Jainath Temple are relatively nearer to Adilabad town.

ATMs outside Nirmal and Adilabad are mostly non-functional, so keep enough cash in hand

Responsible Tourism & Human Accountability for Sustainable Business

edited by Dr Ramesh Kumar Miryala, Dr Jayaprakash Narayana Gade