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Panhala Fort

Unleash the history of the largest fortress in the Deccan region Situated at the north-west zone of the Deccan region, the Panhala fort stands away at a distance of 20km from the main city of Kolhapur in Maharashtra. It is entitled amongst the largest fortress in the country with some historical traces of involving the Marathas, the Mughals, the British, & various conquerors of the fort. Panhala is often referred to as Panhalagad that is recalled as the home of serpents in the Marathi language. Its foundation was laid down in strategic position to establish a major trade route within Maharashtra ranging from Bijapur to the coasts of Arabian Sea. Panhala Fort is a must-visit tourist spot not only for families but also for travellers who’re fond of trekking. The fort envelops green slopes of Sahyadri with over 7 kilometres of fortifications & structures scattered across the entire range with three double-walled gates for entrance and foolproof protection from enemies or outsiders. This historic place is structured with parapets, bastions, ramparts, classically designed motifs, & other patterns as the marks of the resemblance of various dynasties.

Dwell into the history of Panhala Fort

From the timeline of between 1178 BCE to 1209 BCE, the ruler of Shilahara, King Bhoja II raised the construction of Panhala fort to monitor the administration of his kingdom. Soon after the architecture was built completely, the fort has gone through various changes in its geographical & political significance due to the existence of multiple ownerships. Since Singhania dynasty was further ruled by Devgiri Yadavas, the fort was taken over by them after Bhoj Raja. During the early 1400s, Bahamanis of Bidar conquered the Panhala fort as they emerged as the strongest clans to rule over the architecture. It is also proclaimed that Adil Shahi, the Sultanate of Bijapur took almost more than 100 years to design and construct most of the key fortifications and complex bastions and ramparts of the fortress. However, the majority of inscriptions on the walls of the fort were craved as the remark to the rule of Ibrahim Adil Shah. The fort was further engulfed to Marathas in 1659 when the general of Bijapur died and the great Maratha warrior, Chhatrapati Shivaji took over the fort and ruled for 20 years till his death. A bronze statue of 52 kg has been built in the mid-zone of the fort as an honorary remark of the almighty ruler.

The death of Chhatrapati Shivaji led to the invasion of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb who attacked & sieged the fort. It is also known that at this time, whether Rajaram was ruling over the Panhala fort or his widow Tarabai came forward to set an autonomous rule to establish an autonomous rule to declare Kolhapur as a separate state with Panhala as its capital. She gained the trusted and support of officials throughout her stay in the fort. Moving on with the history, the Panhala fort was finally given over to the British. However, the rule of the British didn’t go well with the rebels who targeted one of their colonels and held him as a hostage inside the fort. This incidence certainly led the British forces to get into the fort and keep it under their security until the independence in 1947.

Key attractions of Panhala fort

The fort is built 845m above the sea level and it holds around 110 lookout posts. It sounds interesting that the fort encircles an area scattered around the perimeter of 14km with a lot of tunnels that are stretched along a distance of more than a kilometre. The tunnels are built beneath the fort. The structure of the fort is inspired by the Bijapur style with architecture design of peacock motifs and lotus motifs made in architectural styles of Bhoja II. Here is a list of key attractions to explore at Panhala fort:

Andhar Bavadi: Andhar Bavadi is a hidden well that was built by Adil Shahi as a three-storey structure. The well was the primary source of water to the fort and it has winding staircases that are adjoined to the walls. Moreover, Bavadi has a lot of hidden routes to fled and exit the fort during an emergency or sudden attacks. Soldiers used this Bavadi as a shelter inside the fort.

Kalavanticha Mahal: This old building is completely demolished now and it was once used as the residence of the ladies of the court. Only the ceilings of Kalavanticha Mahal are still reflecting some traces of work today. Many legends declared that the building was also named as Nayakini Sajja that means terrace room or courtesans.

Ambharkhana: The Panhala fort has three granaries that are designed in Bijapur style and it is named as Ambharkhana. The place was also used provision storage in the earlier days. Those three granaries were named as Ganga, Yamuna, & Saraswathi Kothis and the first one is the largest one amongst the three. Ambharkhana also has stairs on both the sides of its structure to lead you the top of the fort. The place is used to keep grains that are stored through an opening on the top of the bays with vaults on each of them. There is an additional granary attached to the Ambbharkhana that is named as Dharma Kothi for the storage of grains that are meant to be distributed among the poor & needy people.

Teen Darwaza: It is one of the prominent attractions of Panhala fort. The beautiful detailing with decorative designs of teen Darwaza made it a perfect add-on to explore while visiting the fort. It connects a double gate with an arcade in between and an ornate chamber along with it. It also reflects some patterns to resemble the skills of artisans of those times. The inner gate showcases a motif of Lord Ganesha along with intricate carvings, motifs, & Persian inscriptions. One can see those Persian inscriptions on both the sides the gate and it justifies that the structure was made during the reign of Ibrahim Adil Shah II.

Apart from all above features, travellers give a visit to the fort through elongated trek routes around the Maharashtra-Deccan region and Panhala to Pawankhind treck route is a prominent one. The measured distance of a trek is extended for a distance of 50 kilometres and it demands a medium level of experience and stamina for trekking. One will be on a tour to a beautiful trail on a brief history of Maratha, Konkani, & Deccan region with a bewitching beauty of the Sahyadri. It is suggested to carry water and camera while visiting Panhala fort as you have to take a long-distance walk to explore the fort and clicking some candid snapshots while roaming inside it. The Mahakali temple is another key attraction of the fort.

Entry Timings

One can visit Panhala fort during daytime as the site turns deserted and gets closed after the sunset. Though the weather of the Deccan region remains pleasant & breezy throughout the year, tourists can explore this place whenever they want to. The Panhala fort is nearest to the Kolhapur and one can reach there via public transport. Most visitors hire a cab or vehicle to visit the location from Kolhapur and Pune cities.