Location: Raigad, Maharashtra
Built In: 1030
Built By: Chandrarao Mores
Dynasty: Maurya Dynasty
Tags: ‘The king of Forts’, ‘Gibraltar of the East’
Other names: Raigarh Fort, King’s Fort
Nestled in the deep valleys of Maharashtra, this fort is a somber reminder and a reflection of Raigad’s glorious, yet grim past. Built in the early 12th century, the fort was used merely for domestic purposes by the Royal family. The fort also holds ruins of an ancient market, a Durbar, food storage and the Queen’s chambers; some of which are reduced to rubble and some that survived the test of time. Apart from being just a mere tourist destination in modern times, the fort is also a sacred haven for pilgrims. Although the fort was used by the Shirke-Palegar family in the 12th century, it only rose to prominence when it was taken under possession by the Maratha king, Shivaji Maharaj in the year 1656. Situated on an irregular shaped rock with three side entrances, the hill fort is situated 210 kilometers south of Mumbai and spans 5.12 square kilometers atop the hillock.
Raigad Fort, Raigad
History Of Raigad Fort
Although nurtured by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the Raigad fort was actually seized from Chandrarao Mores by the Marathas in the year 1656. It was previously known as the ‘Fortress of Rairi’. The Royal house of Chandrarao Mores was a rival of the Sultan of Bijapur before the time of the fort’s seizure. After taking possession of the fort, Shivaji went on a mass renovation spree and rebuilt the fortress of Rairi into a symbol of royalty. He renamed it as the ‘Raigad Fort’, which meant ‘the King’s fort’ in literal terms. Shivaji eventually made the fort, the centerpiece of his kingdom, when he instituted the Maratha Empire. The Raj Sabha and the Raj Bhavan were built within this fort, and the Raj Sabha was witness to the splendor of Chhatrapati Shivaji’s coronation.
Situated in the district of Raigad, this fort became the essence of magnificence of the Maratha kingdom at the time. Standing tall in the irregular ghats of Raigad, the fort was labeled ‘unreachable for enemies’ and ‘accessible for friends’ through the three main entrances to the fort. There were many failed attempts to seize the fort from very early on. However, Shivaji was determined to protect his garrison and his feted ‘Hindavi Swarajya (his opulent throne) from hostility. The fort was eventually a prime target for the British East India Company in 1765, and was then finally reduced to ruins with cannons in the year 1818.
The Raigad fort was known for its astonishing architecture and its many elements. Although the Fort is in ruins in many parts today, tourists and visitors will still be able to have a glimpse of its regal architecture. Many of the walls have been bombarded and reduced to debris, and only the foundations of pillars remain in view. Most of the fort was built with natural rock, primarily to keep it camouflaged from the discerning eyes of enemies. The main palace itself was built with wood and the three main towers that stand as guard to the palace are the only palatial elements that remain. Next to the towers, the artificial lake ‘Ganga Sagar’, that provided as an important water source to the fort, can also be viewed and visited by visitors.
Apart from the palace, some of the main remnants of the past are the grand entrances used by the Royals such as the Maha Darwaja, the Palkhi Darwaja and the Nagarkhana Darwaja. The royal throne made out diamonds and gold has a replica put in place today, facing the main entrance of the fort. Apart from that, the Raj Bhavan, the Raj Sabha, the Jagadishwar temple, the Holi Cha mal and the most revered place of the Fort; the Samadhi (tomb) of Chhatrapathi Shivaji and his pet dog; Waghya, still remain today. For those interested in savoring a bit of ancient Royal enigmas, will also be interested to know that ruins of a private, ancient market, the Queen’s chambers, state-of-the-art drainage facilities, food storages, the execution place known as Takmak Tok and the dozen water reservoirs are also a part of this colossal citadel, that are now slowly degenerating to dust and bricks.
Major Battles And Events
- The palatial fort was initially known as the Fort of Rairi and belonged to the Royal house of Chandrarao Mores. Early in the 17th century, the fort was seized by the Marathas after a fierce battle, and Chhatrapathi Shivaji was entrusted with the responsibility to look after the fort.
- After renaming the fort, the entire reconstruction responsibility was handed over to Hiroji Indulkar and Abaji Sondeve. With their engineering abilities they turned the fort into a magnificent citadel with countless royal structures.
- After Shivaji, who died at the fort, the establishment was under the possession of Sambhaji and towards the late 17th century was captured by the Mughals. The fort was directly attacked under the commands of Shahbuddin Khan and the grandson of Shivaji, Sambhaji was executed.
- Following the capture of the fort, the Marathas soon gain controlled of Raigad after the Maratha War of Independence ended, and displaced the Mughal army. Shankarji Narayan was responsible in restoring the control of the fort back to the Marathas.
- The biggest blow to the Raigarh Fort came when the British East India Company tried to gain access and control over the fort in the early 18th The British considered the fort to be a threat as it seemed like a dacoit stronghold.
- In the year 1818, the East India Company, destroyed and bombarded the fort with advanced bombs and weaponry. Cannons were also used to blow up the enormous structure.
- The Government of India is the current owner of the Raigad Fort and is now left to maintain and ensure its preservation with the help of trusts.
- Tourists used to find the fort unreachable because of its never-ending, flight of stairs and the time taken from the base of the hill to the fort. A new system allows the tourists to reach the Fort in a matter of four minutes with the help of an advanced transport system known as the Raigad ‘Ropeway’.
- Guides are available at the fort for the visitors and no vandalism is tolerated at the fortress, and is a punishable offence.
- The abundant sources of water supply at the fort are also available for the public and the neighboring villages all year round.
Best Time To Visit
The best time to visit the Raigad fort are between the periods of June to September and November to January, when there are no monsoons and the weather is pleasant. The Fort is open to the public from 9 am to 5.30 pm in the evening, and is accessible to the public to all days in the year.
How To Reach
- Raigad can be accessed through the Chhatrapati Shivaji International and Domestic Airport in Mumbai and also from the Pune airport.
- Once the tourists or visitors have reached Mumbai or Pune, the options for private tourist buses, cabs or rented cars are also available.
- The nearest railway head in Raigad is the Vir Dasgaon railway station, which is also connected to Mumbai and Pune through all major networks.
- Once in Raigad, tourists can opt for local transport or rented vehicles to transport them to the base of Raigad Fort. Adventurous trekkers can either choose to climb the hill on a 3 hour trek or opt for the ‘Raigad Ropeway’.
Around The Fort
Tourists also have the option to visit the Ganga Sagar artificial lake, the Jijamata palace, Rajgad Fort, and the Harihareshwar.
With a past filled with fullness and wealth, the Raigad fort now stands 2700 feet above sea level, as a sinister grave with miscellanies of an affluent past. However, there are parts of the fort that are still in place, reverberating the traditions and the beauty of what it ‘could-have-been’ before the British bombing debacle. All that remains is a fort, slackly connected with the leftovers of a departed era.