Panhala Fort! One Of The Most Significant Forts In Western India With Rich History Is Losing Its Identity Because Of Urban Sprawl!

Panhala Fort is one of the largest Forts in the Deccan region and it is located in the smallest city of Maharashtra, Panhala. Panhala or Panhalagarh refers to the home of serpents in Marathi. Panhala, about 19kms north-west of Kolhapur, is possibly the largest and most important fort of the Deccan. Roughly triangular in shape, the hill fort stands at a height of about 850 metres and 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.

Panahala fort was built between 1178 and 1209 CE, one of 15 forts (others including Bavda, Bhudargad, Satara, and Vishalgad) built by the Shilahara ruler Bhoja II. Later, Bhoja Raja was defeated by Singhana, the most powerful of the Devgiri Yadavas, and the fort subsequently passed into the hands of the Yadavas. Apparently it was not well looked after and it passed through several local chiefs. On the establishment of the Adil Shahi dynasty of Bijapur in 1489, Panhala came under Bijapur and was fortified extensively. They built the strong ramparts and gateways of the fort which, according to tradition, took a hundred years to build. Numerous inscriptions in the fort refer to the reign of Ibrahim Adil Shah.

Panhala’s historic fort throws up memories of Chhatrapati Shivaji, It was from here that Shivaji beleaguered for over four months, escaped one rainy night to Vishalgad, while his faithful general Baji Prabhu Deshpande laid down his life holding down the forces of Siddi Johar at a narrow pass. The fort had three magnificent double walled gates, out of which two have survived. The Teen Darwaza to the west is an imposing and powerful structure. There are a number of ruined monuments in the fort. The most impressive among them are the three huge granaries. The largest among them, the Ganga Kothi, cover nearly 950 sq m space and 10.7 metres high. In the north-east corner there is a double story building, called Sajja Kothi, where Shivaji had imprisoned his errant son, Sambhaji.

In 1701 Panhala surrendered to Aurangzeb, and the Mughal Emperor received the English Ambassador, Sir WilliamNorris in Panhala fort. Within a few months the fort was retaken by the Maratha forces under Pant Amatya Ramachandra, who asserted his autonomy by founding an independent dynasty.In1782 these rulers shifted their headquarters to Kolhapur. After a local rebellion in 1844, Panhala was taken by the British. More than 7km of Fortifications define the triangular zone of Panhala fort. The walls are protected for long sections by steep escarpments, reinforced by a parapet with slit holes. The remaining sections have 5-9m high ramparts, strengthened by round bastions. Unfortunately, the East Gate called Char Darawaja, through which the road passes on arrival at fort, was demolished by the British. The fort is evidently built using the Bijapuri style of architecture, with peacock motifs while some parts have the lotus motifs showcase the architectural styles of Bhoja II.

The famous Marathi poet Moropanta (1729-94Ad) was born and brought up at Panhala. There is also the Samadhi of Ramachandra Amatya, the author of Ajnapatra, an important work on statecraft, including for construction. Today, Panhala is a sort of hill station and provides all the necessary facilities for tourists.

Well, it is evident that the Panhala fort has rich history but now it is likely under siege once again. Now the premises are filled with hotels and resorts, as a result which the Panhala fort is losing its identity.

Sharanya Alva


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