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Published by Me in History of Kolhapur · 24 June 2020
Tags: PanhalaPawangadKolhapurtourism

Panhala, honoured by its magnificent history

Panhalgad holds a place of honour in the glorious history of the splendid Maratha Raj. Situated on the Sahayadri ranges on one of its junctures leading to the Konkan, at an altitude of 953 mts. above sea level, the fort held importance as a working capital for all the dynasties that managed to conquer it, owing to its solid construction and the dense forest surrounding it. No history, whether of the Sheelahar, Yadav, Bahamani, Adilshahi, Marathas or the Moghul rule would be complete without the mention of Panhalgad. So splendid was the history of this impregnable fort, that when Shivaji the Great finally captured and entered it at nightfall, he insisted upon seeing the splendor of this fort in torchlight. What better way to explore Panhalgad, immersed in history as ancient as the penance of Parasher  Muni and the Buddhist monks to the patriotic vigor of Shivaji, unmatched deeds of Sambhaji and the able administration of Tararani than through this site. One has to pass through Kolhapur, well connected by land and air from Mumbai to reach Panhalgad, a 45 minute drive by frequent state transport buses plying from the Rankala bus stand.  It is advisable to alight the bus at the check post so as to see the ruins of the Char Darwaza, the four entrance gates to the fort. On the left side of the road, just below the tarmac is the original Raj Rasta, the royal path leading to the fort. A small pathway leads down from the fort to the Samadhi, a memorial of the brave Shiva Kashid, whose statue is seen just inside the ruins of the Char Darwaza. The statue has been sculpted by the late Ravindra Mistry, a famous sculptor from Kolhapur and has been put up by the Veer Shiva Kashid Samiti.  At the entrance of the fort are the remnants of a buruj, (a watch tower) inside which one finds some remains of the third door to the fort which was broken down in 1844 A.D. during the British Raj. Very few know the existence of the tiny fourth door to the fort which lies above the third one.  Behind the check post is the revered Sadhoba Darga with the Parasher Tirth (tank) beside it.

A tar road left of this water tank leads to the Harihareshwar temple which basically leads to two squat temples with a Shivling and an idol of Lord Vishnu carved in black stone with the beautiful Lord Ganesh residing within a niche.  Adjacent to the temple runs a brook named Nagzari, rich in iron content , the  medicinal water of which is even now used by locals to cure various maladies. An inscription next to the temple reveals that the Nagzari was created during the reign of Ibrahim Adilshah by Dawood Aka.  There is a mention of this brook as a divine pilgrimage in the olden Karveer scriptures which explains how the brook got its name from the ancient lineage of the snake people.

A footpath left of the Nagzari leads to a flight of stairs, on top of which hidden by foliage is the temple of Vitthal Rukmai. The kalash and the memorial stones around it are worth seeing. On either sides of the temple are two memorial stones, so situated that one can observe the footprints of both these memorial stones standing in the temple. Naturally, the temple walls are hollow, hence this possibility.  A path further down leads to the ancient laterite cave of Parasher muni with five rooms, one leading to the next, the last one having a stone slab for meditation used by the muni to attained enlightenment.

A bunglow opposite the site once belonged to Bhalji Pendharkar and now is owned by the Nightingale of India, Lata Mangeshkar.  The road further down leads to Kali Buruj which was an effective watch tower of the eastern side of Panhala and Pawangad and which is accessible only by a flight of stairs. On climbing the buruj, one can even now see the circular indentations made to rotate cannons.  The road further leads past the Kolhapur Radio Station to the Naagfani Darwaza, called so due to the hooded cobra images carved on either sides of the archway to the door. It was very easy to bombard Panhalgad with cannons from Pawangad which made this side of the fort very weak and hence special care was taken to strengthen this side by building a re-enforcement wall, an underground pathway leads to the base from this very boundary wall.

A cement seat built at the mouth of the underground pathway is the only means of identification. This became an emergency exit, a similar one found at Vishalgad, too. Thus, the Kali Buruj area basically is significant from the angle of warfare. Retracing the way back past Lata Mangeshkar’s bunglow, down the tar road, one comes across a doorway in the wall on the left side which is a must stop to experience the fierce winds blowing off the valley.

The road continues down to the Andhar Baav, the darkened step-well. This is a three storeyed architecture in black stone, the lowest being the well with steps leading down to it while the upper two being spacious rooms with a hidden doorway that led a way out of the fort. There are separate steps from outside, leading to the upper floors of the Andhar Vaav, also known as Shreenagar, where one finds beautifully carved lotuses on the upper curves of the archways. This is a unique architecture wherein one finds plenty of water-supply, emergency hidden exits and living quarters, all rolled into one. The road continues down to the Teen Darwaza, on the right of which one finds the memorial of Shiv Bhakt Bhalji Pendharkar.

There is a tiny Hanuman Temple on the left side of the Teen Darwaza dating back to the Shivaji raj. On entering the Teen Darwaaza with highly carved peocock motifs on its arches, one comes upon an inner courtyard where a long, long time ago in 1673, Shivaji the Great was welcomed into the fort with Dattajipant Waknis and Kondaji Farjand showering gold flowers over him. The courtyard, with its beautiful carvings and magnificent doorways takes you back into the pages of history. The first door, also known as the Konkani Darwaaza leads a way down into the valley with Hanumaan Shilp and Mahadev Appa being two water sources enroute. On entering the courtyard through the Konkani Darwaaza, one finds an underground water cistern named Vishnu Tirth with perennial water supply throughout the year. The only other fort to have such a cistern apart from Panhalgad is the Rohlda Fort.

The neighbouring Gopal Baug is nature lover’s paradise with rare trees and bird life; the samadhis of Daulatrao and Vishwasrao Gaikwad who were sardars during the Chhatrapati’s reign in Karveer are situated in one corner of this beautiful garden. There is a beautifully constructed well in this area. The verdant forest found here is enough to make you forget today’s world. Out of this garden on the left side of the Teen Darwaaza one gets a glimpse of a masjid which was once upon a time used as an ammunition store.

Following the road from Teen Darwaaza to the main entry of the fort, one comes across the majestic statue of Bajiprabhu Deshpande, undoubtedly the crowning glory of Panhalgad who sacrificed his life for swaraj. The statue was made by the famous sculptor, late Ravindra Mistry. Following the road behind this statue, one comes upon the Pusati Buruj, a small pathway adjoining the broken Nandi leading to the Masai Pathara, an elevated tableland. As the elevated part of this tableland was so close to the buruj, subsequently another buruj was built next to the Pusati Buruj with a deep pit between the two thus making this a very strong watch tower which one can climb only through narrow steps on one side. This watch tower situated on the western side of Panhala offers spectacular sunsets and one can enjoy them sitting on the ancient stone seats on top. Climbing down the tower and following the road to the left leads to the Raj dindi which has only its two watch towers left, minus the doors. The hidden exit of the Raj dindi was used by Shivaji Maharaj when he escaped to Vishalgad during the siege of Siddhi Johar. The road left of the Raj dindi leads to the dual faced watch tower, the Dutondi Buruj, called so as it has stairs going up and down on either sides. At a little distance from here is the Daulati Buruj. From the Dutondi Buruj, one ends up straight to the Tabak Udyaan.

One of the most popular tourist spots, The Tabak udyaan can be reached up and down a long flight of steps, through the solid Waagh Darwaaza with beautifully carved Lord Ganesh nestling on the top. The forest department has made a model of Panhala on the left side which keeps many a young one interested.  Giant trees with their botanical name plates on them adore this garden where people can relax with their picnic hampers before retracing their steps to the main road and following it to the left that eventually leads to the Sajja Kothi.

Built during the reign of Ibrahim Adilshah, this architecture was known as Sadar-e-mahal and has stood mute testimony to the heartwarming meeting between the great Maratha King Shivaji with his son Sambhaji, fondly called Shambhuraje, on their escape from the clutches of Aurangzeb the Moghul emperor. It was from this very building that Shivaji the Great set out towards Vishalgad to escape from the siege laid by Siddhi Johar the Adlishahi nobleman. Shambhuraje used to manage the administration of Panhala district from this very building. From here one can go straight down to Bajiprabhu Buruj but as the steps leading to this buruj are broken one does need to be a bit adventurous to reach the top. But once there, the view of the surrounding landscape and the dish shaped evergreen garden below called Tabak Udyan so named, as it is shaped like a dish, is breathe taking.  As you return from this buruj towards Tabak Udyan, a small pathway on the left off the tarmac road leads down to village Apti. If you walk a distance of five minutes on this path there is another left turn which brings you to the contramure of the fort with a secret doorway but which is completely destroyed today. This outer wall was used as a vantage point for the eastern boundary of the fort. There is a big face carved in this outer wall named Patkoti Mhasoba. One must not miss seeing this excellent carving if you visit the fort.

From here you come back towards Tabak Udyan and take the pathway leading down towards the municipal building which lies in the square below. While climbing down you will come across a Shiv mandir nestled amongst the trees. This temple has two horses carved on either side of its entrance. Further down, in front of Rani Tarabai’s palace, is a temple built by His Highness Shahu Maharaj in memory of the great Shivaji Maharaj with a marble statue of Shivaji astride a horse.  Shahu Maharaj, a devote follower of Shivaji the Great, whenever camping at Panhala never missed paying homage to his great ancestor at this site. Queen Tararani’s palace is run as a school today behind which is a hostel for children of soldiers. Inside this hostel is the worship chamber of Queen Tararani and a must see therein is a square stone depicting the footprints of the ancestors of the royal family along with carvings of weapons such as swords, spears and cannons.

There is an open ground here named Aagad, which was converted as Saath Mari, a site for elephtant fights, by H. H. Shahu Maharaj.  You will notice some evidence of this site in the ruins lying around. On the right, in the sheet rock, you will find ancient caves which in later periods were used to hide the players who fought the elephants in the Saath Mari sport. In the municipal building, you will come across an old Maruti Temple. After seeing this area when you start waking down the road on the right you will come across a garden which was originally named Sandhya Baug but which is now the Nehru Udayaan. From here you will reach the Ambabai temple built in the reign of Raja Bhojraj II, and its idol has some resemblance to the Ambabai idol in the Mahalaxmi temple at Kolhapur. Adjacent to this temple is the Brahmeshwar Mahadeo Temple. After seeing these temples you climb up from the road to the left and reach Bale Killa. This small fort is built in solid laterite and had a moat, now filled up, running all around it which made it a very secure place on the fort. As you enter this Killa through the recently constructed irongate, the left side in the wall has a niche with a small carving. From whatever original documentary evidence available in the custody of the late M. G. Gulavni, in 1770 A.D. one Sakhubai Telini is supposed to have been buried live in one of the buruj( castle nut) of Bale Killa to help fill it up. After seeing this strange memorial you come to the Ambarkhana, a group of storage buildings used for storing essential commodities. The construction of these buildings is truly on a grand scale and the support pillars are equi-distant and in a straight line. The symmetry and the beautifully carved windows on the entrance of the main storage house are worth seeing. The other two buildings in this complex were used to store grains in corn bins and a popular misconception is that the air vents on the top were holes to pour grains into these store houses.

There is a Mahadeo Temple nearby with a famous belief which goes with. It is said that the arrow on the Mahadeo pind changes colour on being touched. The road across the temple near the Bale Killa leads to the Huzur galli where you come upon the entrance door to the Killa with Ganesh and Hanuman idols carved on its either sides. Huzur galli leads to the state transport depot with golden champa trees blooming on either side, lending a heavenly scented air behind. Kavivarya Moropant Library with handwritten letters by the great poet is situated near the bus-stand. The Ram Temple opposite the stand has been built by Ramchandra Pant Amatya with the Karpoor Vaav next to it from which Shivaji the Great drank water when he entered this fort. At the left corner of the bus-stand, in the Vitthal mandir, one finds some rare collections of artifacts by late Mr. M. G. Gulavni.  Each of these artifacts adds to the history of Panhalgad. Across the road is the Dutt mandir with the Somale lake next to it and the Someshwar mandir on its banks. The Someshwar temple is of great importance since it was here that Shivaji the Great had an abhishek of one lakh champa flowers on its magnificent shivling by the hands of his fearless mavlas in 1673. The ParnaalParvat Grahanaakhyan has a mention of the Karpoorvaav and the Someshwar temple in its text. The Someshwar talaav is the oldest and the biggest of its kind in Panhala with the samadhi of Chh. Shivaji II ( Karveer I ) on its eastern side.

The road further down the lake leads to the samadhi of Hukumatpanha Pant Amatya and his wife, he being one of the important nobles instrumental in retaining the swarajya established by the maratha kings. After years of neglect, it is recently being restored. Across the road is the Rede Mahal, which at the moment is the consumers’ shopping centre.  This may have been built to tie the male buffaloes once upon a time or according to the author, living quarters.  Nearby is the temple of Chh. Sambhaji II ( Karveer I ), built in his memory by his widow Jijabai.  Chh. Rajaram Maharaj’s son, he came to rule over Panhala in 1714. There is a beautifully carved idol of the king in the temple and a Sanskrit scripture on a pillar nearby.  Behind the temple is a well and four cannons of days gone by. Across the temple is another temple of Jijabai who more or less saved the Karveer Chhatrapati’s throne from the clutches of the Peshwas with fearsome valour.  A little ahead is the Samadhi Mandir of Rajasbai, Chh. Rajaram Maharaj’s wife with a beautiful idol inside the temple.

The road leading from Rajasbai’s Samadhi temple leads to the Dharmkothi with beautiful carvings on it and which actually may have been the court once upon a time.  Across the road on the left are the ruins of the artisan’s stage the Kalavantini Sajja with extremely intricate carvings on its ceilings dating back to the Adilshahi period.  Unfortunately there are no stone scriptures found explaining the actual use of this architecture. From this Sajja upto the Sajja Kothi on the valley side, leopards are invariably found roaming freely in the months of October and November. Ask any local about these wild life and they will talk about it in a very matter-of-fact manner, confirming how they take leopards lurking in their backyards in their stride. This completes the tour of Panhalgad, the author suggests that tourist spend a night here if they are to see and enjoy all the spots of importance at Panhala and Pawangad which is adjacent to it. There are good hotels as well as cottages of the Maharasthra Tourist Development Corporation (MTDC) at reasonable rates and bookings can be done in advance from any MTDC office.

Ancient history notes the existence of Panhala as Brahmagiri even before it was a fort.  Its peaceful environment prompted Parasher Muni to choose it for his residence and penance and hence was known as Paraashram. Later on when the snake people submitted themselves to the protection of Parasher Muni it became Pannagalay, the residence of the snake people. From the ancient caves found here, it can be safely assumed that this place was inhabited around two to three hundred years before Christ and there must have been some sort of protection wall around it from that time onwards. In 1187 A.D. Raja Bhoj II of the Shilahar family shifted his capital from Valwe to Kolhapur and within three years made Panhala his capital.

Raja Bhojraj the second is credited with building the solid fortification wall around the hill. Thereafter, in 1209 A.D., the Yadav king Shingdev won this fort over from the Shilahars. In 1469 70 A.D. the brave Sardar Momand Gava won this fort for the Bahamani Sultan from whom it passed on to the Adilshahi sultanate.

On 28th November 1651 just eighteen days after slaying the Adilshahi sardar Afzal Khan Shivaji Maharaj conquered Panhala and added it to his Swaraj. Infuriated by Shivaji’s actions Adilshah dispatched his trusted Sardar Siddhi Johar with twenty thousand horsemen and thirty five thousand foot soldiers to recapture the fort and hence a siege was laid down around Panala which lasted for four long months wherein Shivaji was stuck on this fort. He managed to escape from the clutches of Siddhi Johar by the sacrifice of Shiva Kashid, a look- alike of Shivaji who seated himself in the palanquin which was carried to meet Siddhi Johar. On realizing that he had been deceived, Siddhi Johar promptly took the brave Shiva’s life.  Many of the brave malvas’ with their leaders, Bajiprabhu Deshpande and Phulaji Deshpande, laid down their lives defending the narrow Pawankhind while Chh. Shivaji Maharaj made good his escape to Vishalgad fort.

On the 20th of September 1660, Shivaji Maharaj made his peace with Adilshah and returned the fort to him. But by 11th January 1666,  Shivaji Maharaj, while fighting on behalf of Moghuls  with Mirzaraje Jaisingh, got defeated and lost more than a thousand of his malvas in trying to re-conquer  Panhalgad. Again in 1673, he sent his trusted Sardar Kondaji Farjad to capture Panhalgad. The clever sardar had an easy victory over the fort with a mere 60 mavlas who captured Panhalgad by dawn amidst the cacophony of drums and tutari, a wind instrument. Winning over Panhalgad with a handful of men indeed became a moment to be written in golden letters in the history of Panhalgad. Like the fearless Bajiprabhu Deshpande and Shiva Kashid, Sardar Kondaji’s memorial needs to be rightfully put up in due respect for his courageous feat. Shivaji Maharaj came to Panhala in 1680 to supervise the construction work of Pawangad, but this unfortunately, was destined to be his last visit to this fort.

Sambhajiraje was at Panhalgad when the news of the sad demise of Shivaji Maharaj reached him. Chh. Rajaram Maharaj escaped from Raigad and came to Panhala before proceeding to Jinji.  Dignitaries like Santaji Ghorpade, Ramchandra Pant Amatya, Shankraji Narayan, Dhanaji Jadhav, Parshuram Pant Pratinidhi administered the swarajya movement from Panhalgad. Chh. Rajaram Maharaj’s widow Tararani continued the war against moghuls from Panhalgad.

Thereafter, on 9th Match 1701, Aurangzeb himself laid siege to this fort wherein gradually the arrangements made by Tararani weakened and the fort keeper, Killedar Trambakji Mahadkar handed over the fort to the moghuls in lieu of a large sum of money. The fort then came to known as Beni Shah Durg, named by Aurangzeb. Later on, till 1777, Panhalgad remained the capital of the Chhatrapatis of Kolhapur from where all administrative work was carried out, after which the capital was shifted to Karveer. In 1844, following the mutiny of the inhabitants of the fort, the British destroyed many sites of the fort, more importantly, the Chaar Darwaaza and constructed the present road leading to the fort.

Panhala is today popular largely as a hill station than as a fort of historical importance much to the dismay of historians and fort lovers although some of its architecture has been restored by the archeological department and it acts as a constant reminder to such avid fort lovers that it will remain a mute witness to its past glory for generations to come.

Thank you Ms. Sonal & Mr. Kumar Deshpande for translating it in English for me. You did it in 2008.

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