(Auspicious land, holy land, Maharashtra
Accept my veneration oh great Maharashtra
Hardy land, strong land, land of boulders
Delicate land, gentle land, land of flowers)
Thus is the landscape of Maharashtra, at once dry, arid and mountainous, and yet made gentle with flora and fauna, dense forests. At the same time the courageous history of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is forever connected with the hills and dales of Maharashtra. The forts in these hill ranges bring alive this history even today. Swarajya was born in these forts and was also established through them.
These wondrous forts are not only a study for historians, but also a delight for trekkers and tourists.
Maharashtra is a land of forts, rugged terrain and also of warriors. So in most of the districts of Maharashtra, there are places of historical importance. One can also find artefacts from the bygone era.
Detailed information of some of the exceptional forts from the above list:
This is one of the important forts of the Shivaji era located in Raigad (Colaba) district: Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharajhad this fort built in 1664. Raigad was the capital of the Swarajya established by Chhatrapati Shivaji. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s coronation ceremony was held on this fort on 6th June 1674 (Shake 1597, Anandanam Sanvatsar, Jyeshta Shukla Trayodashi, Saturday). Even Shivaji Maharaj’s death took place at Raigad. This is why the Raigad fort holds a special significance.
The fort is surrounded by dense forest. The fort looks breathtaking from afar.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s samadhi is on the fort. There are also interesting historical artefacts and remains on the fort. Among these are Shivaji’s office, court hall, Hirkani bastion, Bhavani cliff, foundation of Shivaji’s mansion, remains of the market place.
There are approximately 140 steps leading up to the fort. A ropeway has been installed at the foot hill to facilitate those who do not want to climb up. There are also excellent lodging and boarding facilities on the fort. Jijabai’s, Shivaji’s mother, Samadhi is at Pachad, at the foot hill of the fort. Raigad is 27 km from Mahad. There are buses that ply from Mahad to the foot hill.
The great social reformer Mahatma Jyotiba Phule restored Chhatrapati Shivaji’s Samadhi. Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak initiated the public celebration of ShivJayanti from Raigad.
Rajgad is the King of Forts, so to speak,! Rajgad was Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s favourite fort, and is one of the most impregnable forts. Shivaji Maharaj got this fort built and spent nearly 27 years, from 1645 to 1672, on this fort. For sometime, Rajgad was Shivaji Maharaj’s capital.
Even today Rajgad is appreciated internationally as one of the most impregnable forts. Rajgad is a fascinating but difficult to climb fort.
The view from the fort is magnificent; one can see the vast Sahyadri ranges, Kenjalgarh and Raireshwar plateaus, and several forts like Sinhagarh, Torna, Lingana, Purandar, etc.
The fort can be divided into four different parts based on geographical terrain and fortification. These are the three sub-plateaux (Machee) namely Padmavati Machee, Suvela Machee and Sanjevani Machee, and the central volcanic plug called Ballekilla (small fort).
Padmavati Machee (north end)
This machee is the site of Padmavati Temple, Padmavati Lake, Chor Darwaja (secret entrance), Pali Darwaja, Gunjavane Darwaja, Daru Kothar (storage of arms and ammunition), Diwankhana, Rajwada (ruins), Ghod Tale (Horse Lake), Sadar (office) and Dhalkathi (flag hoisting place).
Sanjeevani Machee (southwest/west end)
This huge, beautiful and royally constructed machee faces west and has a three-stepped (layered) fortified structure. Each of the lower levels is separated from the higher one by a fortified bastion with a gate that could be defended independently. The lowest level is beautifully fortified by double curtain walls (chilkhathi) separated by a deep trench, on average 12 feet across. One can walk between these walls. The outer wall has openings to let soldiers out for sudden attack.
Suvela Machee (south east)
This is another grand machee facing east with lots of secret routes and doorways. This one is a double-stepped fortified machee with the steps separated by a beautiful bastioned doorway. At the end of first step a hole cuts across the rock; one can sit on this hole (nedhe).
The final (lowest) step like Sanjeevani Machee is has a double curtain wall.
To the south side of this machee one can find a beautiful triangular bastion called Kaleswari buruz having an escape door near it. The home of the renowned military leader Tanaji Malusare was in this machee.
Bale Killa (centre)
This is the highest part of the fort which has remains of palaces, water cisterns and caves. It has a beautiful entrance door called Mahadarwaja. One can view the whole fort and the vast surrounding expanse.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s birth has given the Shivneri fort a special and permanent place in the chronicles of history. The fort is impressive at 1070 m. and spread out north-south. The southern part of the fort is semi circular which peters off towards the north.
There are various historical sites in the fort like the house in which Shivaji was born, Shivai temple, Hatti Darwaja (Elephant door), ShivaBai Darwaja, Badami pond, etc. It is said that Jijai named her son Shivaji after the goddess Shivai in the fort. There are also two massive water tanks named Ganga-Jamuna that contain cool water.
There are three hill ranges nearby that have Buddha rock cut caves.
Recently the Maharashtra government has built a large court hall there and named it ShivKunja. A sculpture, made of five alloys, of Jijai sitting on a lion and child Shivaji holding a sword has been instated there.
The Shivneri fort is in Junnar taluka, Pune district and is 94 km from Pune. There are lodging and boarding facilities atop the fort.
Made famous by Narveer Tanaji Malusare’s courage, Sinhagarh is a mere 24 km from Pune. Kondana was the erstwhile name of Sinhagarh. Narveer Tanaji Malusare sacrificed his life in a fierce battle and won the fort for Shivaji’s Swarajya. On that event Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj had said Gad Ala Pan Sinvha gela (the fort is won but the lion is gone)about Tanaji. From then on, Kondana was renamed as Sinhagarh.
Sinhagarh is about 800 feet above sea level. The historical places worth a visit on the fort are Narveer Tanaji’s samadhi, Kalyan Darwaja, RajaRam’s samadhi, Amruteshwar temple. Similarly, Lokmanya Tilak’s bungalow is also in the fort. Tilak frequented the fort for solitude and rest, contemplation, study and to write.
This fort was used to incarcerate people during the era of the Peshwa. The fort was important during Shivaji’s era, Peshwa era and during the fight for independence.
One can see a beautiful vista from the fort; the Khadakvasla dam and the National Defence Academy are visible from atop.
Proximity to Pune city has made it a favourite tourist spot and weekend getaway.
The Shahir Tulshidas had said Rajgad Rajacha, Pratapgad Jijaicha! (Fort Rajgad is the king’s and Pratapgad is Jijai’s). Pratapgad was queen mother Jijai’s favourite fort. The construction of Pratapgad was completed in two years from 1656 to 1658. It was built under the supervision of Moropant Pingale. The fort is located in the Sahyadri ranges, in the glen of Jawali, atop the hill range. The fort is surrounded by a dense forest.
Afjal Khan, who attacked Swarajya, was executed by Shivaji Maharaj at this fort. In the tremendous battle that ensued during Khan’s attack, Shivaji Maharaj used guerrilla warfare with great expertise to vanquish Khan’s large army.
There are many temples at the fort dating to the Shivaji era. Other than these, there is a temple of deity Bhavani, and Chhatrapati Shivaji’s sculpture.
The famous hill stations Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani are close by. Pratapgarh is located in Satara district, 137 km from Pune city. There are buses plying to the fort from Pune. There are excellent lodging and boarding facilities at the foot hill.
The Purandar fort reminds of certain important historical events: the birth of Dharmaveer Sambhaji Maharaj, the birth of Savai Madhavrao Peshwa, the trap laid by Diler Khan around the fortress, the challenging fight by MurarBaji, etc. The fort is around 1400 m. high. Diler Khan had surrounded the Purandar in 1665 with his large army. Murarbaji was the fort custodian. He bravely fought with a group of mere 800 Mavale for Swarajya, and sacrificed his life for the same. Despite both his hands being cut during a duel, he continued to fight till he was killed.
There are historical sites at the fort like Kedareshwar, Rameshwar, the Peshwa mansion, Khandakada, Shendya bastion, Hatti bastion, Murvi pond, Rajale pond, etc. There is also a statue of Murarbaji. One an see other forts like Sinhagarh, Rajgarh, Vichitragarh from the Purandar fort.
Currently the fort is in the hands of the National Defence Academy and the academy holds practice sessions there.
Purandar is located between the Nira and Karha rivers in Purandar taluka, 38 km from Pune city. There are State transport buses plying up to the foot hills. There is a beautiful temple of Pratibalaji in the Ketkavle village at the foot hill.
After the unsuccessful attempts of conquering Murud-Janjira, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj built the massive impregnable sea fort near Malvan, and named it Sindhudurg. The fort was constructed between 1664 to 1667. The fort is spread across 48 acres and has 42 bastions. The walls of the fort were built using large stones and 72,576 kg of iron. It is believed that the material for construction was brought through a tunnel that was dug under the sea bed starting from the Malvan coast and ending inside the fort. Inside the Mahadeo temple at the fort is a well, and the tunnel is supposed to end on the wall of this well. This is an important fort of the Marathas. Many Portuguese experts were called over from Goa for building this fort. Around 300 workers toiled day and night at this site for three years. Shivaji Maharaj incurred great expenses in the construction of this fort.
The fort stands out since it is completely surrounded by the sea. There are some interesting sites at the fort like the statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Shivaji Maharaj’s palm and foot prints, and his temple. There are also remains of Shivaij’s mansion, the flag staff, temples of deities Bhavani and Maruti etc. There are three sweet water wells too called Dudhbhav, Dahibhav and Sakharbhav. There is a one of a kind coconut tree which has two trunks.
One can only reach this fort via the sea; there are ferries available for the same off the coast of Malvan.
This fort in Kolhapur district is another important fort of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Shivaji Maharaj conquered this fort in 1659. An important historical event, where Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj escaped with just a few associates to Vishalgarh when Siddhi Johar surrounded the fort, occurred at Panhala fort..
Panhala is approximately 850 m. tall and is spread across 8 – 9 km. The fort has three entrances named Wagh Darwaja, Teen Darwaja, Char Darwaja. There are massive granaries in the fort. Ganga and Sajja Kothi are the important ones among these. The important sites at the fort include great poet Moropant’s birth place, samadhi of RamchandraPant Amatya, massive statue of BajiPrabhu Deshpande, statue of Shiva Kashid. Shiva Kahsid’s samadhi is in Nevapur village at the foot hill of Panhala. When Siddhi Johar surrounded Panhala fort with the intention of attacking it and capturing Shivaji Maharaj, a small battalion of Mavals held this huge army at bay to allow Shivaji Maharaj to escape. In the battle that ensued, Shiva Kashid sacrificed his life bravely in battle. BajiPrabhu’s courage and valour also created a mark in history in this battle.
Maharani (Queen) Tarabai managed the administrative affairs of the sovereign Kolhapur territory from Panhala as the capital for a while.
The Panhala fort is 20 km from Kolhapur city. The Jyotiba temple atop the Jyotiba hill is nearby. The natural landscape of Panhala is breathtaking. There is a motorable road that leads right into the fort. There are excellent lodging boarding facilities in the fort, with multiple hotels and lodges available. There is a veritable village inside the fort. A unique feature is the Hill station municipal council established here by the Government.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj first conquered this fort to establish the foundation of his Swarajya. This fort is 1404 m. above sea level. Unfortunately, even to-date there isn’t an easy path or steps that lead up to the fort. The only available path is extremely narrow and difficult and only expert trekkers visit this fort. There is an old iron ladder in one patch that has to be carefully climbed. But this fort is a trekker’s delight. The dense forest around the fort is a great offset to the fort. An English researcher had once said - Sinhagarh is a lion’s cave whereas Torna is an Eagle’s nest.
While constructing this fort Chhatrapati found a massive hidden treasure at this place, which made a valuable contribution towards establishing Swarajya.
There are historical sites at the fort which include Shri TornaJai temple, Bini Darwaja, GangaJai temple, Zunzar machee, TakMak bastion, BaleKilla, Kokan Darwaja, Hanuman bastion, Vetal, etc. Looking eastwards from the BaleKilla, one can see a vista that includes landmarks like Sinhagad, Purandar, Khadakvasla Dam, Raireshwar, etc. and westwards one can see Pratapgarh, Makarandgarh, and even Raigad afar.
The Bhor Institution holds a fair at the fort during Navaratri.
Torna is located in Velhe taluka in Pune district. There is a regular bus service plying from Pune to Torna.
Vishalgarh is permanently linked in history with the great valour displayed by Bajiprabhu Deshpande at the GodKhind battle. Bajiprabhu bravely held the army of Siddhi Johar at Godkhind till he heard the sound of the canon fired from Vishalgarh signifying the safe escape of Shivaji Maharaj from Pratapgarh to the Vishalgarh fort. His martyrdom made Godkhind into Pavankhind .
This fort located in Kolhapur district is at a height of 1344 feet and spread out 3 km long by 1 km wide. There are some historical sites inside the fort like the Mahadeo temple, samadhi of Phulaji and Bajiprabhu, a memorial of Ahilyabai (wife of Rajaram Maharaj), Sarkarvada, Peerbaba Darga , Bhopal pond, etc.
There is a trail leading up to the fort. The natural landscape around the fort is enhanced during the monsoons.
Vishalgarh is approximately 49 km from Panhala. Other than the monsoons, the state transport buses ply right up to foot hill of the fort. The Pawankhind of Gajapur is close by. There is lodging and boarding available in the Gajapur village at the foot hill. This place is a trekkers’ delight. Many youth, history lovers and trekkers do the Panhala – Vishalgarh trek in memory of Bajiprabhu’s valour.
There is no other fort in Maharashtra that can hold a candle to the Devgiri fort built by the Yadavas. Mohammed Tughlaq renamed Devgiri to Daulatabad. The Bahamani dynasty ruled this fort till 1526. Later the fort was under the Mughals till the death of Aurangzeb in 1707.
The fort is at a height of 200 m. There are seven entrances to the fort and a 2 km long impregnable fortification. There is a long pillar inside the fort. There are also other historical sites worth a visit like Hatti watering spot, BharatMata (deity of the country) temple, Chini palace, Meeth Andheri route, Khandak, etc. A unique feature is the vigilante tower that reminds one of the KutubMinar in Delhi. Janardan Swami’s, Saint Eknath’s Guru, samadhi is inside the fort. A unique feature of this fort is, in all the years, no King could conquer this fort through a direct attack.
The fort is a mere 13 km from Aurangabad. There are excellent transport facilities available from Aurangabad to visit the fort. Nearby are the Ajintha- Verul caves and Grushneshwar temple.
Sajjangad has a special significance in Maharashtra’s history due to the presence of Samarth Ramdas Swami at this fort. Samarth Ramdas resided at this fort for a considerable period, and went into samadhi too is at this fort.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj conquered this fort in 1676. Previously this fort was named Parali. The presence of Samarth Ramdas Swami changed the name of this to Sajjangarh.
The fort has two main entrances. ShriRam temple, samadhi of Shri Samarth, residence place of Shridhar Swami, Angalai temple, and a small display of the articles used by Shri Samarth can be seen at the fort. There is a pleasant and holy atmosphere at the fort. The RamNavami festival is celebrate with great pomp at the fort. There are lodging and boarding facilities available at the fort. The natural landscape around the fort enhances the beauty of the fort.
The fort is just 12 km from Satara city.
Murud – Janjira
Murud – Janjira is recognised as the strong, sturdy and impregnable fort off the coast of Konkan. There are historical records of Burhan Khan having built this fort in 1567 – 1571. Initially this fort was called Janjire- Mehroob. The word Janjira is Arabic for an island and Mehroob is semi circular moon. Siddhi Ambar, the root person of the Siddhi family, acquired the territory around the fort. For the next 325 years, this fort was under the Siddhi family. Surrounded by the sea from all sides, this fort is a fine example of architecture. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, SambhajiRaje, Nana Phadnis, tried their utmost to conquer this fort, but all of them were unsuccessful. This fort remained with the Siddhis till the very end.
There are many animal carvings inside the fort. One can view stone edicts carved in Arabic, Panchayatan Peer, the mansion at the top of BalleKilla, and multiple cannons at the fort. The PaddhyaDurg fort built by SambhajiRaje is visible from this fort.
The fort is reachable only via ferry boats. The fort is in excellent shape even after 450 years. There is a massive mansion of a Nawab in the near by Murud village. This sea fort is 45 km from Alibaug in Raigad district. There is no human settlement inside the fort; but there is lodging and boarding available at Murud. It takes approximately 6 – 7 hours to see the entire fort.
Lohagarh is a favourite tourist spot for many people from Pune. Lohagarh is a strong fort. The fort is at an approximate height of 1024 m. above sea level. The atmosphere inside the fort is very pleasant. The dense forest inside the fort makes the ambient temperature inside the fort very cool.
The architecture of the fort appears quite ancient. Shivaji Maharaj conquered this fort in 1648. But the fort returned into the hands of Moghuls during the Purandar treaty. The Marathas won it back finally in 1670.
There are many historical sites inside the fort that are worth a see. The fort is a one day trip from Pune. A breathtaking view is visible from the fort. Near by are the Karla rock cut caves. The Lithopress started by Raja Ravi Verma is also near to the fort.
The two forts of Lohagarh and Visapur are visible from the Malavali station.
This fort, located in the heart of Pune city, was the capital of the Peshwa. This structure was at one time the centre of politics of the entire India. Bajirao I, the first Peshwa, laid the foundation of this fort on 10th January 1730. Consequent heirs completed the construction of the fort by building its bastions and entrance doors. The fort has some main entrances like Dilli Darwaja, Khidki Darwaja, and Narayan Darwaja, etc. One can see the remains and foundations of historical structures inside like Arse Mahal, the court hall of Shrimant Peshwa, water tank, residence place of Sadashiv Bhau, Hazari fountain, Diwankhana, Paga office, etc. The pillars of the Rang Mahal are beautiful carved.
There was a seven storied, seven roomed structure in the fort. It is said that the peak of the Saint Dnyaneshwar Maharaj temple in Alandi could be seen from the roof top of this structure. Approximately 100 people lived inside this fort in 1758. A massive that broke out on 27th February 1828 burnt out everything inside the fort. This fire burnt for seven straight days. This fort has experienced the presence of many a great politician and administrator from the first Peshwa to Nana Phadnavis.
The fort fell into the hands of the British in November 1817.
Currently the only original structures remaining are the bastion and the main entrance doors. There are very few remains of the grand structures inside the fort. There is a massive statue of the first Bajirao outside the main entrance. The fort has been a close witness to many an agitation and movement like the freedom movement, social reform movement and unified Maharashtra agitation.
It has been only 100 years since the Wardha city was established. This city has the Ashram of Mahatma Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave. Gandhiji came and resided in Savagram in 1936. Even today his residence and articles of use have preserved.
This is a historical city. The fort built by a Gond king is located here. The Anandavan Ashram established by Baba Amte, amply awarded for the great social work by its founder, is located in Warora near Wardha. The Tadoba reserve, famous for its Tigers, Bison, Sambar, Chinkara and Nilgai, is located in Chandrapur district.
Ghat like Malshej, Tamhini, Khandala, Borghat, Pasarani, Amboli, Amba, Radtondi, Kasara, Konkankada are famous for their trek routes and picnics.
There are several forts of historical significance in the mountain ranges of Sahyadri and Satpura in Maharashtra. It is a duty of each citizen to protect and conserve these monuments of historical importance. But since history is a neglected subject, conservation of artefacts, books, documents and maps of historical importance takes a back seat. In order to understand the development of mankind and civilization each one of us should know the history and each one of us should pass it on to the next generation.
A number of mountaineers, adventurous tourists and youth are impressed by the mountain fortresses. They are attracted by the tales of bravery, wisdom and the leadership qualities shown by Shivaji Maharaj at a very young age. The tourists should visit these historical monuments in order to protect these fortresses, to approach the future with a sound understanding of history and to enjoy and appreciate the nature. Some of the Ghat and plateaus have wonderful natural beauty and deserve tourist attention. The green foliage peeping through the Ghat, mountain peaks touching the sky, the difficult mountain passes and the small tile roofed houses, lush green patchwork of fields down below in the valley with the birds gliding over them, is a spellbinding view offered by almost all the Ghat.
The difficult and treacherous mountain roads may seem risky to the tourists but the beauty of the nature more than makes up for the risk, and trips to Ghats remain very popular.