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Maharashtra’s history is encrypted on every nook and cranny of the famous Panhala fort that held a strategic position during the reign of the Marathas. Also known as the Panhalgad or literally ‘Fort of Serpents’, this historic edifice stands testimony to the thousands of intrigues that were entered into by the lions of the Sahyadari ranges or the Marathas. They held their own in this fort by sheer dint of hardwork, bravery and rare innovative initiatives driven war strategy. Under Shivaji Raje, the Panhala Fort was a much coveted outpost on the vital trade route between Bijapur and the very interiors of Maharashtra. It is one of the largest forts of the Deccan extending over a perimeter of fourteen kilometers and having n all one hundred and ten sentry look out posts.


The fort is a reflection of the Maratha bravery and every inch resonates with the battle cry of Shivaji Raji, ‘Har Har Mahadev’. The construction of the fort itself is a reflection of the quick wit and battle tactics of the wily Marathas who did not let their small number deter them in any way. Instead they made it their forte. Using guerilla warfare as their chief battle strategy, the Marathas left their mark on the fort as well.

One of its corners is a mere facade which camouflages the sheer drop to a ravine. Built between 1178 and 1209 by Raja Bhoj whose emblem of the lotus still adorns it the fort was one of fifteen forts constructed to mark the territorial expanse of the empire of Raja Bhoja II.

After Bhoja, it was passed onto the hands of Yadavas and subsequently, the Bahamanis of Bidar. However in 1534-1557, the fort went to Adil Shahi dynasty who took a hundred years to fortify. In the confusion following the death of the Bijapur caretaker, one general Afzal Khan, (in 1659) Shivaji Raje staked his claim to the fort.

He was virtually starved out of the fort in 1660 but within thirteen years, he had reclaimed his Panhala never to give it up again. It is said that at the very peak of Shivaji Raje’s reign, the Panhala had reached the pinnacle of its glory and housed 15,000 horses and 20,000 soldiers who were always primed for war.

In a historic move Aurangzeb took over the reins of Panhala personally in 1701 only to have them snatched away by the Marathas. Then, in 1827, Panhala passed onto the British but were won back by the Marathas only to be returned to the British in 1844 who left a garrison to guard it and gave over its administration to Kolhapur where it was ensconced till independence in 1947.

Tourist Attractions in Panhala

The fort in itself is a major tourist attraction. However, the many quaint stories and legends attached to several of the edifices associated with the fort make them equally attractive to visitors to the fort. The Ambabai Temple where Shivaji paid obeisance before going out on his expeditions is said to have miraculous powers. There is also Sajja Kothi the place from where Shivaji Raji had made a miraculous escape and is also the place where Shivaji’s son Sambhaji had been imprisoned for insubordination to his father.

Then there is the huge and cavernous Ambarkhana or the granary where the fort’s rations were stored to wait out long and painful sieges some lasting months on end. It is said that just one of its sections had the capacity to hold 25,000 ‘khandis’ or measures that had one ‘khandi’ equivalent to 650 pounds weight of rations. The Ambarkhana had three distinctive buildings called the Ganga kothi, Yamuna kothi and the Saraswati kothi.

It was the Ganga kothi that could hold more than 25,000 khandis. It covered an area of 950 square meters and was 10.5 meters high. Besides, the three granaries there was a fourth and hidden granary called the Dharma Kothi to be used only in severe emergencies.

The Someshwar Tank and the Andhar Bav or the hidden well as also the Nayakini Sajja are all the special places of the Panhala fort that have a million stories to tell especially the last which is a mere treacherous trick to send the unsuspecting enemy scaling its wall into a deep ravine. The Kalvanticha Mahal or the Rang Mahal which was a immensely decorative ‘terrace Room’ constructed on the East side of the fort was for the courtesans who entertained the Bahmani Sultanate.


The Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporations have several luxury and economy Holiday homes and lodges for the avid traveler. Some of the hotels also provide a historical ambience of the times by copying some of the architecture of the Panhala edifice. Then, there are also the Bed and Breakfast options that the shoe string budget seeker can utilize.

Where to Eat

All the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation outlets hold the promise of wholesome, healthy and tasty food for all who visit the Panhala Fort. There are the options of continental, Indian and local fare to be had in the hygienic ambience of the many eateries that dot the tourist areas.

Weather and the Best Time to Visit

The Deep green forested area of the Sahyadri Mountains holds out an open invitation all the year around. Except for the monsoon season during the months of July and August all other times are wonderful for visiting the Panhala fort.

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Best Time To Visit Rajasthan 1
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Best Time To Visit Rajasthan 1
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