Location: Panhala, Maharashtra
Built In: 1178
Built By: Bhoja II, Adil Shah
Dynasty: Bhoja, Shilahara and Paramara dynasty
Tags: ‘Home of the Serpents’
Other names: ‘Panhalgad Fort’, ‘Pahalla Fort’ and ‘Panalla Fort’
The fort was founded towards the end of the 12th century by Raja Bhoja and his men. The fort, also known as the ‘Home of the Serpents’ was a lavish structure that spanned 7 kilometers in length with steep gradients. Situated in the northwestern regions, 20 kilometers off Kohlapur, the Hill fort was strategically built and tucked away in the Sahayadri Mountains which was also an important trade route to and from Bijapur. Due to its predictable location, the fort was a bystander to countless skirmishes with the British East India Company, the Mughals, the Marathas and the Battle of Pavan Khind. Surrounded by hills and tucked away in the mountainous plateaus, the fort is a living example of a complex past, led by countless rulers; from Bhoja the 2nd to the Yadavas and from Shivaji to Ibrahim Adil Shah and Aurangzeb. Although, the fort was attacked on numerous occasions, most of the interiors of the fort still remain intact, leaving tourists and visitors dumbfounded.
Panhala Fort Panhala Maharashtra India
From the palace of ‘Tarabai’ to the courtesans’ terrace room called the Kalavanticha Mahal, every building in the fort, has a rich history. The fort was the brainchild of the ruler, Bhoja the 2nd, who like other rulers, built a series of garrisons. Panhala Fort was one of the fifteen other lavish forts that were built under the Shilahara ruler. The fort at the time was mainly used for domestic purposes. A copper plate with inscription found there suggests that Raja Bhoja was defeated by the Yadavas after a brief period of reign and Singhana, one of the most powerful figures of the Yadavas, took control of the fort. In the following years it became evident that Singhana could not maintain the fort and it was eventually passed on to the Bijapur establishment. The ruler at the time was Ibrahim Adil Shah, who went on to rule over the fort for a period of 14 years before being defeated by Shivaji.
One of the largest forts in south-western India, this garrison had a massive diameter of over 14 kilometers and was built 2772 feet above sea level. As the Panhala fort was a hill fort, the stronghold was built with natural materials and rocks that would provide a strong foundation. Some of the lattice wall-designs, tunnels, entrances and granaries had intricate wall patterns and stone work that depicted the exquisite workmanship in a time of limited knowledge and resources. Some of the elements of the fort were done in Bijapuri style, with perched balconies, open courtyards and grand pavilions. A breathtaking example of this type of design can be seen on the ‘Sajja Kothi’ built by Adil Shah. The other popular features of the fort were the gateways namely, the ‘Teen Darwaza, Char Darwaza and Wagh Darwaza’; the Ambarkhana, the Kalavanticha Mahal, and the Rajdindi Bastion, the horse stables, shrines and temples. All of these features are intact and the visitors can catch a glimpse Indo-Islamic architectural grandeur. Apart from the inner features of the court, the walls of the fort are protected by precipitous bluffs and bastions. While walking through the main entrance, one will also notice the tall, bronze statue of Shiva Kashid who fought bravely in the place of Shivaji, giving up his own life in the process of protecting the fort.
Major Battles And Events
- The Battle of Pavan Khind and the story of Chhatrapathi Shivaji’s escape echo from the walls of the Panhala fort even today. History states that Shivaji, after successful ventures against Rustom-E-Jaman and Afzal Khan, had decided to seize the Panhala fort from Adil Shah the 2nd, who was the fifth king of the Bijapur Dynasty.
- Adil Shah the 2nd was feeling threatened with Shivaji advancing through all parts of the region and decided to attack Shivaji and his forces with an army of over fifteen thousand men.
- The Battle of Pavan Khind was a bloody one that lasted for six months, and Shivaji’s forces were weakening. When he was under attack by Adil Shah’s commander ‘Siddi Johar’, Shivaji planned an escape route for him and his army at night and escaped from the fort in the dead of the night, and appointed a barber, called Shiva Kashid, and Shivaji’s commander, Baji Prabhu, to fight in his place. The battles continued with both the forces believing that the impersonator, Shiva Kashid, was actually Shivaji, before being recognized and was beheaded.
- After Panhala was surrendered to Aurangzeb in 1701, the Maratha forces attacked the fort under the command of Ramchandra Pant Amatya. Aurangzeb and his army fought back leading to another siege in which Tarabai was left alone in the fort after her husband Rajaram fled.
- The British garrison breached the wall fort in the year 1844 and was under the supervision of Kohlapur until Independence.
The fort is presently maintained by the Government of India and the Indian Tourism board. The palace of Tarabai is also used as a government office and there is a boy’s hostel and a school running within the fort.
Best Time To Visit
The best time to visit the fort would be between the periods of June-September and November-January. The weather is relatively cool during this period, bringing with it mountainous winds. The fort remains open to the public from 9 am to 5.30 pm. It is open on most days of the year.
How To Reach
- Travelers can reach Panhala by air, rail and road. The nearest airport to the Panhala region is at Kohlapur which is at a distance of 35 kilometers from Panhala.
- One can also travel to Mumbai Chhatrapathi Shivaji airport and then rent a car or a taxi to Panhala.
- The nearest railway station is also located at Kolhapur, which is linked to important Maharashtra cities like Mumbai and Pune through railway.
- Once the tourists reach Kolhapur, local transport or private transport can be hired to reach Panhala.
Around The Fort
There are countless places in Kolhapur that the tourist can visit apart from the Panhala Fort. Tourists can also visit the Sambhaji Temple, Someshwar Temple, Pavan Khind, and Ambabai Temple to name a few.
A beautiful hill station, Panhala Fort is a historical crest and is an element of added heritage and beauty to an otherwise, serene region. The largest of all Deccan forts, this fort has witnessed past filled with battles, innumerable rulers and dynasties.