In 1660, Shivaji and his army offered a strong resistance to the forces of Adil Shah II (led by Siddi Johar) who were trying to capture a key fort in the Deccan. The siege by the Adil Shahi forces lasted for over 5 months. Eventually, Shivaji and his brave soldiers attempted a daring escape from the fort, an event that led to the Battle of Pavankhind. The loyal and valiant commander, Baji Prabhu Deshpande, gave up his life to ensure Shivaji’s safe passage. Shiva Kashid, who is said to have borne a strong resemblance to the Maratha king, played a key role in diverting the enemy’s attention.
The strategic fort in question? Panhala.
To relive this historical event and several others, pack your bags and set off on a trip to Panhala, a town located approximately 20 km from Kolhapur, in Maharashtra.
Rising above the plains, on a hill that offers commanding views of the surrounding region, Panhala is a town within a fort.
Over two days, we admired the strong fortifications, visited fascinating monuments, and learned about numerous intriguing stories and events from history.
From one dynasty to another, one kingdom to another:
Panhala Fort is said to have been built by Raja Bhoja in the 12th century. Then, it passed through the hands of the Yadavas, the Bahamanis, the Bijapur rulers, Shivaji, the Mughals, and finally, the Marathas, before being taken over by the British.
An Ode to the Heroes:
At the entrance to Panhala is a memorial to Shiva Kashid, a hero who is believed to have helped Shivaji escape. Also, further ahead, the beautiful life-like statue of Baji Prabhu serves as a reminder of his heroic exploits.
Mighty Fortifications and Secure Gateways:
The sturdy ramparts and the well-designed gateways (or darwaza) to the fort are very impressive. Head to Teen Darwaza for a start. Walk around the inner courtyard and observe the inscriptions and motifs on the walls. Wagh Darwaza, at the entrance to Tabak Udyan, is another imposing structure. Look out for the Ganesha on this gateway. Char Darwaza, at the entrance to (or exit from) Panhala was destroyed by the British. However, some of the ruins of the original structure are still visible.
Various bastions (or buruj) along the periphery of the town offer great views of the surrounding plains. We were treated to a couple of beautiful sunsets on one side of town (near the Andhar Bavadi and Teen Darwaza).
Monuments with a Purpose:
The common purpose? To deceive or defeat the enemy, of course!
On capturing a fort, the enemy often poisoned the main source of water. To counter this strategy, the Andhar Bavadi was designed. This thoughtfully designed structure includes a cleverly concealed well that could be used as a water source in an emergency.
To deal with the situation of a siege by the enemy, enormous granaries were built. Visit the Ambar Khana and marvel at the immense size of the Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati granaries. How much grain can be stored in them? Take a guess!
Sajja Kothi offers a panoramic view of the valley below. It is here that Sambhaji was imprisoned when he revolted against his father, Shivaji.
The Ambabai temple, where Shivaji sought blessings before embarking on an expedition, and the Sambhaji temple are the perfect spots for some quiet reflective moments.
The Wagh Darwaza opens into a refreshing green lung, the Tabak Udyan. Exhausted from the history lessons? Reward yourself with a big break in this garden. Stroll along the pathways, spot the winged visitors, cool your heels.
For history buffs, Panhala is a great destination. As always, we left a couple of places unexplored (on our list for next time!). One of those is the Parashar Caves. Have you been there?