Panhala Fort is strategically located looking over a pass in the Sahyadri mountain range which was a major trade route from Bijapur in the interior of Maharashtra to the coastal areas in Kolhapur district of Maharashtra, India. Panhala fort is also known as “Panhalgad Fort”.
This historically important site is constructed by King Raja Bhoj. Built in the late 12th century, Panhala Fort spread over a vast expansion beneath a steep slope. This fort is situated at about3177 feet above the sea level. Panhala fort shape is Roughly triangular and it has a circumference of approximately 7.25kms. Half of its length is protected by a natural scarp reinforced by a parapet wall and the remaining half is surrounded by a strong stone wall strengthened with bastions. The fort had three magnificent double walled gates, out of which two have survived.
History Of Panhala Fort
Panhala was the capital of the Shilahara king Bhoja II during 1178-1209 Ad. It was successively held by the Yadava and Bahamani Kings. In 1489 AD, the fort and the territory were taken over by the Adil Shahi dynasty of Bijapur. Shivaji seized the fort in 1659 AD. It was from here that Shivaji, when encircled by the forces of Siddi Johar, escaped one rainy night to Vishalgarh. Later, the fort remained with the Marathas, except for a short period in between, when it went to the Mughals. The fort remained with the Kolhapur State till India achieved independence.
Panhala is one of the biggest forts in Maharashtra. At the entrance, there is a statue of Bajiprabhu. During the siege of Shahistekhan’s army, Chhatrapati ShivajiRaje was in trouble. Bajiprabhu Deshpande one of the daring and trustworthy generals of Shivaji Raje, escorted him to Vishal Gad through a pass and thus enabled the king to reach safely and out of the reach of the Mughal general. Baji Prabhu sacrificed his life for the safe passage of Shivaji Raje and so this pass, which is located between Panhalgad and Vishalgad, came to be known as ‘Pawan Khind’ meaning Holy Pass.
Best Viewing Point of Panhala Fort:
The Teen Darwaza gate which is the main entrance to the fort is located north of the Andhra Bavai on the West side of the fort. Teen Darwaza or three gates built during the era of Adil Shahi. Teen Darwaza on the western walls of the fort is a massive entrance consisting of 3 consecutive gates. The gates were designed in such a way that they opened in awkward angles, trapping enemy troops in the inner courtyard making it impossible to charge into the fort.
This was another entrance to the fort. It was designed to elude invaders such that they would get trapped into a small courtyard and could then be easily neutralized. It has an elaborate Ganesh motif at the entrance. The place is often frequented by tigers which is why the name might have come to be. This gate leads to the garden, a favorite spot for Marathi filmmakers. Birds and snakes of different varieties have been preserved here.
Andhar Bavadi :
Whenever an army besieged a fort, their first action was to poison the main water source of the fort. To counter this, Adil Shah commissioned the building of the Andhar Bavadi (Hidden Well. This is a three-story structure with winding staircases that conceal the well which was the main water source for Panhala fort. There are recesses in the wall so that soldiers can be permanently stationed. Several hidden escape routes in the Andhar Bavai lead outside the fort. With its own water source, living quarters and its own exit routes, likely this structure was designed like a fort within a fort with the intention of making it an emergency shelter in case the main fort fell.
Sajja Kothi :
Sajja Kothi is a three-storied building where Prince Sambhaji was imprisoned by treacherous means. He plunged down into the deep valley and made an escape. Saja, an Urdu word means punishment and Kothi means cell. The building is a fine specimen of Mughal architecture. One can have a panoramic view of the beautiful Warana valley from here.
Dharma Kothi :
This was an additional granary next to the three granaries that constituted the Amberkhana. It was a stone building 55 feet by 48 feet by 35 feet high. This has an entrance and a staircase that leads to the terrace. Grain was distributed from here to the needy.
The Amberkhana, situated in the center of the fort, were three granaries built in the Bijapuri style of architecture. They enabled Shivaji to withstand a 5-month siege by Siddhi Johar. It consists of three buildings called the Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati Kothis. The Ganga kothi, which was the largest, had a capacity of 25,000 khandis. It covers an area of 950 sqm and is 10.5 m high. Rice, nachni and warai were the major provisions stored. Stairs on both sides lead the top of the buildings. It has sixteen bays each with its own flat vault with a hole on top through which grain used to be passed. The eastern entrance has a domed chamber with a balcony and plasterwork of the Bijapuri style.
Kalavanticha Mahal :
The name of this building, which is also called Nayakini Sajja, literally means“Courtesans’ Terrace room”. It stands on the east side of the fort close to the rampart. By 1886, it had become a complete wreck with only traces of ornamental work on the ceiling. This was used during the occupation of the fort by the Bahmani Sultanate as a Rang Mahal.
The Empress Botanical Gardens in Panhala and its large lawns, tall trees, cool shades, and the quite calm ambiance makes this botanical garden a hot spot of the picnickers. The rambling gardens are well maintained by the forest department. The arched gateway of the old fort serves as the entrance to the green lawns of these gardens. A scaled model of the old fort, exhibited near the entrance, is interesting to watch. The gardens open from 7 am – 7 pm every day. Mottled with lovely tropical trees and beautiful plant varieties, the botanical gardens of Panhala are the best place to spend the leisure time.
The Rajdindi bastion was one of the hidden exits of the fort to be used in times of an emergency. It was used by Shivaji to escape to Vishalgad during the Battle of Pavan Khind. Rajdindi is still intact.
Sun Set Point:
Located on the northern end of the magnificent Panhala fort, Sunset Point presents a breathtaking view of the visitor. A hot spot of the tourists, this vantage point is located on a small tower on the northern portion of the fort wall. When the sun sets in the western horizon, it makes a fabulous view on the western wall of the fort and one can see this enchanting vision from the sunset point. Normally one can see the sun sets in the west only on the seashore. But seeing this natural splendor on a historic monument is a wonderful experience and that is what sunset point offers to the tourist.