Must Visit

Panhala Fort

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Panhala Fort, Kolhapur Overview

The Panhala Fort lies 20 km away from the main city of Kolhapur, situated at its north-west. This fort holds its position amongst the most massive location in the country and is the largest one in the Deccan region. It was built in a strategic position where a major trade route ran within Maharashtra from Bijapur to the coasts of Arabian Sea. This place is not only a must-visit for the people who love exploring historic locations but also for those who love to trek. 

Looking over the green slopes of Sahyadri, it has around 7 kilometers of fortifications along with full proof protection guaranteed by three double-walled gates which are humongous in size. The entire stretch of Panhala Fort is dotted with parapets, ramparts, and bastions and styled with motifs of different dynasties that ruled over the fort - the Marathas, Bahamanis, Mughals and so on. The old Panhala Fort was founded in the late 12th century by Raja Bhoja. It was constructed during the period 1178-1209 AD to be later modified by the Marathas. The Indo-Islamic style fort is famously known for being residences to the great Maratha ruler Shivaji and the Queen Regent of Kolhapur - Tarabai.

People visit this place to have a glimpse of the glorious past the country had, which needed the protection of forts such huge and grand. The sight from atop the hill on which the Panhala fort stands is also a spectacular one.

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Panhala Fort was built by King Bhoja II of Shilahara along with 15 others between 1178 BCE to 1209 BCE for the proper administration of his empire. Ever since the geographical and political significance of the fort has changed its ownership many times. After Bhoj Raja, the Singhania clan took over the fort as the most powerful of the Devgiri Yadavas. Later on, in the 1400s, it went to the Bahamanis of Bidar as one of their strongholds. Most of the major fortifications and building of complex bastions and ramparts was done by the Adil Shahi Sultanate of Bijapur, probably for more than a hundred years in the 1500s. Many inscriptions on the walls of the fort refer to the rule of Ibrahim Adil Shah.

In 1659, after the death of Bijapur general Afzal Khan in the hand of the Marathas, the Panhala fort was taken over by the great Maratha warrior and ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji and flourished under his reign for about 20 years till his death. To honor the almighty ruler, a statue of 52 kg of bronze has been constructed in the middle of the fort.

His death opened up opportunities for the then Mughal emperor Aurangzeb to attack and lay siege of the fort. At this time, Panhala fort was under Rajaram, or rather his widow Tarabai for most of the period, who established an autonomous rule and a separate state of Kolhapur with Panhala as the capital. She stayed in the fort since her formative years and gained the trust and support of officials and subjects alike.

The Panhala fort was finally given over to the British in 1827, but in 1844, a British Colonel was seized and held hostage inside the fort by some rebels, which led to British forces crashing through the fort and keeping it under guard up until independence in 1947.

Andhar Bhavadi: This is one of the chief features that need to be seen to understand the ingenious intricacies of the largest fort of Deccan. When Adil Shah commissioned the extensive fortifications to be added, he made sure that there was a fort within the actual fort in case there was an emergency situation. Andhar Bavadi or the Hidden Well was a three-storey structure that kept the main water source of the fort hidden from the besieging enemies and protected it against poisoning, along with residential quarters, soldier posting recesses and escape routes leading outside the fort. This worked as a second level firewall to the core of the fort.

Ambarkhana: All the tourism packages in Panhala will take you to visit these looming granaries situated at the heart of the fort for storing a large number of khandis (1 Khandi = 650 LBS). The three buildings were built in the Bijapuri architectural style with stairs on each side, numerous bays and holes on top. The Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati Kothis could store as much as 25,000 khandis and helped Shivaji Maharaj to withstand the long siege of 5 months by Siddhi Johar before the famous Battle of Pavan Khind.

Kalavanticha Mahal: Kalavanticha Mahal was basically the terrace room for the courtesans, which is now in ruins due to the British dismantling and effect of time. However, the ornate inscriptions on the remaining walls and ceilings still stand for tourists to have a glimpse at. This Mahal was used by the Bahamanis as the residence for the court ladies.

Sajja Kothi: This is a single-storey structure looking over the deep valley below and was used as an imprisonment chamber for Sambhaji by the orders of his father, Shivaji. This building is a must-visit because of this great historical significance.

The great doorways: The Panhala fort had three magnificent doorways to welcome its guests and enemies with equal grandeur. The Teen Darwaza was the main entrance with Persian inscriptions and carved motifs including one of Lord Ganesh, the favourite deity of the Marathas. The second one, Char Darwaza, was demolished during the British siege and the last one, Wagh Darwaza, used to be an illusion with a small courtyard beyond it, where the intruders would get trapped and be defeated.

Rajdindi Bastion: One of the secret exits out of the grand fort, this was used by Shivaji to escape during the battle of Pavan Khindi. It is one of those structures of the Panhala fort that still stands intact for the tourists to see.

There are many trek routes around the Maharashtra-Deccan region, the most famous being Panhala to Pawankhind trek route. This is the very place from which the battle derives its name. The trek is of around 50 kilometres and is requires a medium level of experience and endurance. The trek takes you on a beautiful trail rich with a mixed tale of Maratha, Konkani and Deccan history and culture, along with the scenic beauty of the Sahyadri.

Thanks to the pleasant weather, visiting the Panhala fort is always a pleasure round the year. It is open for all during the daytime, but after sundown, it remains deserted and closed.

1. Carry a camera to capture all the lovely memories and torches to explore some of the darker nooks of the fort.
2. Keep water with you because the walk can be long and tiring.

The nearest city to Panhala is Kolhapur, from where there are buses ferrying to and fro every 2 hours daily. You can also take a cab or a hired vehicle from the nearby cities like Kolhapur or Pune to reach the main sites of the fort.

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