Friday, 24 June 2016

Historical Panhala fort near Kolhapur, Maharastra

Panhala fort,near Kolhapur, Maharastra.
Panhala fort,near Kolhapur,
Panhala fort is perhaps one of the important forts in the state of Maharastrara, strategically located  about 18 km northwest of Kolhapur  city, overlooking a pass in the Sahyadri mountain range which was once  a major trade route from Bijapur (now in Karnataka) and  interior parts of Maharashtra to the coastal areas.  Also known as Panhalgad, Pahalla and Panalla ( meaning "the home of serpents"), its strategic location in the secure mountainous area attracted the attention of many  competing rulers, and consequently this fort witnessed a continuous struggle and skirmishes among the rulers to control the fort. Besides, it is the largest fort in the Deccan area  and carries a rich heritage.  The Marathas, the Moguls and the British East India Company, vied with one another to take full control over this significant fort.  

Built between 1178 and 1209 AD one among 15 forts by the Shilahara ruler Bhoja II who held the court  1191–1192 CE, as confirmed by the inscriptions on the copper plate found in Satara town, the fort came under the control of the most powerful of the Devgiri Yadavas -  Singhana (1209–1247) who defeated Bhoja Raja. After Shilahara dynasty and Yadava dynasty,  Bahamani kingdoms, Shivaji, Devagiri Yadavas, Adil Shahi dynasty of Bijapur, Mughal Aurangzeb (1700) became the masters of the fort from time to time. It became Maratha state capital under Tarabai upto 1782, and then British conquered it in 1827. It was here - Sajja Kothi Shivaji imprisoned his own son Sambaji for not obeying him and later Shivaji died before his son could make a reconciliation bid with him. After a sea-saw battle between Mogul forces and Marathas, finally Aurangzeb took control (April 1692). It was here he had negotiations with the British officer William Norris. Later Marathas took possession of the fort.

In 1782, the capital  of the Kolhapur government was moved from Panhala to Kolhapur for some political reason. It was in the year 1827, under Shahoji I (1821–1837),  Panhala and its neighboring fort Pavangad were transferred  to the British East India company in 1844, during the minority of Shivaji IV (1837–1860).

The well known  Maratha ruler and warrior, Chhatrapati Shivaji took control of the fort in 1660. Later  Adil Shah II (1656–1672) of Bijapur after a long siege lasting several month took over the fort and Shivaji and his loyal followers escaped in the dead of night (July 1660). It was only after that Shivaji Maharaj could reoccupy the fort.
Panhala fort,near Kolhapur,
Chhatrapati,  Shivaji, the  records show, is believed to have spent more than 500 days in this fort. During his peak period in 1678,  at Panhala  Shivaji had 15,000 horses and 20,000  well trained soldiers as part of mighty Maratha  army to protect his kingdom.  The main darwaza was chaar darwaza. The famous Ambabaji Temple - where Shivaji used to visit to  seek blessings of the deity before embarking on  war  expeditions, Pavankhind - where Baji Prabhu, close confidante of Shivaji laid down his life to cover Shivaji's escape and Someshwar temple are some of the historical places worth visiting and they speak volumes of the legacy of valiant Maratha rulers who fought tooth and nail against the Muslim rulers and the English company's army. During their hey days, they were a force to reckon with and  Panhala fort stands as a living monument to their valor and wisdom.

The astonishing feature about this fort is it covers vast area and its boundary walls run  over 7 km in length and a steep slope beneath the fort hinders easy accessibility. The entrance to the fort is well strengthened by three  double-walled gates. Almost self contained, the fort has huge granary - amberkhani which has the storage capacity of  25,000 khandis of grains.