Bekal, the Keyhole Fort, Kasargod, Kerala
- Padma Mohan Kumar, freelance writer
April 6, 2019
Bekal fort which is situated in the coastal area of Kasargod in Kerala is one of the best maintained forts in the state. Spread over forty acres, and built of local laterite, its massive walls extend to a height of 12 metres. Uniquely shaped like a giant keyhole, this 17th century fort has strong walls and ramparts on the seaside. These structures are interspersed with bastions for guns. One can get a breathtaking spectacle of the Arabian Sea from the observation tower which served as a storehouse for huge cannons during the yesteryears. The tower also provided the defenders an ample view of all the strategic areas nearby so that they could ascertain the safety of the fort. There were gaps in the walls for placing the guns. The head of the fort is circular and made of red brown stone. This fort, which is said to have been built by Shivappa Nayaka of Bednore in 1650 for purely defence purposes, has witnessed the rise and fall of several dynasties. Its features clearly demonstrate that it was built to fight off enemies. The holes at the top were used for aiming cannons at foes at a distance, those in the middle were used to fight off enemy armies who were nearer while the lowermost holes were used for firing cannons at the enemies who were located close by. The defence of the fort was further strengthened by the surrounding trenches and the zigzag entrance. The fort has an arsenal for storing ammunition with broad steps that lead towards the observation tower. Built by Tipu Sultan in the 18th century, the observation tower affords an impressive view of the towns close by such as Kanhangad, Pallikkara, Bekal, Kottikkulam and Uduma. It is also from here that the visitor gets a spectacular view of the rocky coastline of the Arabian Sea. The most attractive features of this fort are the beautiful walkway and the illuminated beach. It was not a centre of administration hence there are no remains of any palace here. However a temple and a Durbar dating back to the times of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan were discovered at this site. Some coins of this period were also there among the discoveries.
The fort has quite a few unusual features, the most important of which is the water tank with its flight of steps. Then there is the opening of the tunnel towards the south, and a broad incline leading to the observation tower. The main gate which is on the eastern side is protected by bastions. The fort area consists of walls, walkways and bastions with trenches surrounding the entire complex. The trenches and the zigzag entrance were a part of the defences of the fort. Other heritage sites near the fort are the ancient mosque, the Mukhyaprana temple of Hanuman and an old 9th-century lake nearby.