India is known as the Land of Forts. One can see a variety of forts here, some built-in hills, some in the seas, and some surrounded by a forest. Considered the country’s third-largest state in terms of area, Maharashtra has a rich history of various empires ruling its lands and the subsequent battles fought for invading, capturing, and subsuming these lands into their kingdoms. Geologically, Maharashtra has a long Konkan coastline next to the Arabian Sea and the Deccan plateau on the opposite side. These are separated by the mighty Sahyadri Ranges. Construction and planning in such difficult areas was a challenge for the rulers, but it was necessary for defensive and strategic purposes. These forts in Maharashtra are not only symbols of the grandeur and dominance of the emperors, but are monuments in which culture and traditions of the era can be found embedded in every stone ever placed.
The following are some of the forts in Maharashtra that depict the majestic history and architecture of their time.
1. Raigad Fort, Raigad District | Forts in Maharashtra
Built-in – 1600’s
Elevation – 820 m. above Sea level
Architect/ Built by – Hiroji Indulkar
Located in the Sahyadris, this fort in Maharashtra served as the capital of the great Maratha Empire for a very long time. The main entrance of the fort is called Maha Darwaja, a massive 65-70 ft. tall door and watchtower. Other entrances were Nagarkhana Darwaja – that used to open up in the Darbar, Mena Darwaja – a private entrance for the royal ladies that led to Queen’s quarters, and Palkhi Darwaja – for the King’s convoy. The Queen’s quarters housed eight Mahals for the eight queens which are now broken into ruins. One can see a replica of the throne in the Darbar from the main doorway. The Darbar had an exceptional acoustic feature, where even a whisper by someone in the corner of the room was audible to the king sitting on the throne. Other remarkable spots in the fort are Hirkani Buruj, Jagdishwar temple, Bazaar Peth, Samadhi of Shivaji Maharaj, and Jijabai, Gangasagar Talao, etc. Raigad was a perfect example of fort architecture until 1818 when it was looted and destroyed by the British.
2. Murud Janjira, Murud
Built-in – 17th century
Architect/ Built by – Malik Ambar (Minister of the Sultan of Ahmednagar)
An architectural marvel surrounded by the sea on all four sides, the Murud Janjira fort was initially a wooden structure built by a Koli chief in the late 15th century. Later the fort was strengthened and accentuated when it was captured by Nizamshah of Ahmednagar. The fort stands at an impressive height of 40 feet and is bounded by high walls on all sides. This fort was strategically important and is said to have had 500 cannons all over. Today only a few are left, out of which three major ones are named Kalar Bangdi, Gaimukh, and Chavdi. The fort has 26 rounded bastions, still intact. The precinct also has two freshwater lakes (around 18m deep), ruins of palaces, tombs, and stone sculptures. At the gate, one can find a sculpture of six elephants by a tiger that portrays the valor of the Siddis. The fort was so secured that despite their repeated attempts, the Portuguese, the British, and the Marathas failed to subdue the Siddi power.
3. Pratapgad, Satara
Built-in – 1656
Elevation – 1080 m. above Sea level
Architect/ Built by – Moropant Pingale and Hiroji Indulkar
The majestic fort of Pratapgad is famous for witnessing the battle held between the Maratha Leader Shivaji Maharaj and Adilshahi General Afzal Khan. The amusing feature of this fort in Maharashtra is the double-line fortification that divides it into two parts – the upper fort and the lower fort. The upper fort is roughly square-shaped built on the crest of the hill with each side approximately 180m long. The lower fort is 320m long and 110m wide and is secured by bastions that are 10-12 m high. The fort houses a temple of Goddess Bhavani and Afzal tower where the body of Afzal Khan is said to have been buried. It also has a Dargah of Afzal Khan.
4. Panhala Fort, Kolhapur
Built-in – 1178-1209 AD
Elevation – 845 m. above Sea level
Architect/ Built by – Raja Bhoj of Shilhara Dynasty
Largest of all the forts in the Deccan area, Panhala fort carries rich heritage and cultural background under many emperors like Raja Bhoj (Shilahara Dynasty), Ibrahim Adil Shah (Sultan of Bijapur), Chhatrapati Shivaji, and Sambhaji Maharaj (Maratha Empire), Aurangzeb (Mughal Empire), etc. It is mainly famous for the Battle of Pavankhind. Somewhat triangular, this fort has more than 7km of fortifications with round bastions at intervals. Many notable elements exhibit the remarkable thinking of a ruler. The Andhaar Bavdi (Hidden Well) is a 3-storied structure that was constructed to conceal the main source of water in the fort. Kalavanticha Mahal (Courtesan’s palace), Amberkhana (Granaries), Dharma Kothi, Sajja Kothi, were some other important structures that displayed the Bijapur style of architecture. Teen Darwaja, Wagh Darwaja were some of the beautifully ornamented entrances of the fort. The premise also houses various temples dedicated to Sambhaji II, Someshwar, Mahakali, and Ambabai.
5. Daulatabad Fort, Aurangabad | Forts in Maharashtra
Built-in – 12th century
Architect/ Built by – Raja Bhillamraj of Yadav Dynasty
Built on the Deogiri Hills, this fort in Maharashtra is a masterpiece of defensive planning and architecture. The name ‘Daulatabad Fort’ was coined by Muhammad bin Tughlaq in 1328 when he made it the capital of the Delhi Sultanate. It was surrounded by three concentric circles of fortification also called kots (Amberkot, Mahakot, and Kalakot) which made it impossible for the enemy to penetrate. The fort is surrounded by a moat, which was filled with crocodiles in ancient times for protection. The entrances, doorways, and walls were planned with such great complexity to confuse the invaders. The top-most hill was smoothened so that no one could climb it, even with the help of mountain lizards. Other monuments in the fort include the Chand Minar, Chini Mahal, Baradari, etc.