Guardian of the Western Ghats
Panhala is a beautiful hill station - 977.2 metres ( 3177 feet) above sea level - about 18 km north-west of Kolhapur in the state of Maharashtra.
The most interesting thing here is Panhala Fort – the largest of the Deccan forts.
The Fort is strategically located on one of the principal routes passing through the Western Ghats and was therefore of great military importance. It is also intimately connected with Shivaji and the Maratha rule.
Panhala Fort was built by the Shilahara ruler King Bhoja II between 1178 and 1209 A.D. Subsequently, it passed into the hands of the Yadav rulers.
This fort was a favorite outpost of the Bahamanis of Bidar.
By the beginning of the 16th century, Panhala became a part of the kingdom of Bijapur. The Adil Shahis strengthened and rebuilt the ramparts and gateways.
Shivaji did not stay in any single fort for a long time.Panhala is the only fort where he spent more than 500 days, other than his childhood homes.
Shivaji imprisoned his errant son Sambhaji in this Fort in the building known as Sajja Kothi, Sajja Kothi was built by Ibrahim Adil-Shah in 1500 AD.
But Sambhaji escaped... right into the arms of his father’s enemies.
It was here that Shivaji beleaguered for over four months and escaped on a rainy night to Vishalgad, while his loyal general Baji Prabhu Deshpande laid down his life, holding down the forces of Siddi Johar at a narrow pass.
This place is now called Pavankhind.
In 1701, Panhala was surrendered to Auragzeb, and it was here that the Mughal Emperor received the English Ambassador, Sir William Norris.
Within a few months the fort was taken back by the Maratha forces.
Panhala was the Maratha capital until 1782, when the capital was shifted to Kolhapur. After a local rebellion in 1844, Panhala was taken over by the British.
The Fort is built on an outlying spur of the Sahyadris, rising more than 400 metres above the surrounding plains. From the fort, you can see the plains for miles around.
More than 7 kms of fortifications encircle the Panhala Fort.
The walls are protected by steep escarpments, reinforced by a parapet with slit holes.
The remaining sections have 5 to 9 metres high ramparts, strengthened by round bastions.
The East Gate called Char Darawaja, through which the road passes on arrival at the Fort, was demolished by the British.
Places to see in Panhala
There are three large buildings called Amberkhana - a huge granary - with the capacity to store 50,000 pounds of corn, sufficient to last an entire army for several months.
The Sajja Kothi was actually a pleasure pavilion set into the ramparts.
This two storied structure has an upper chamber with rather flatish domes on vaults decorated in typical Bijapur style.
An arcaded balcony on the west looks down into the fort.
The chamber on the east gives a panoramic view of the approach to Panhala from the plains beneath.
Nearby are the Sambhaji temple; Someshwar temple; Teen Darwaza; Raj Dindi; Ambabai Temple where Shivaji used to seek blessings before going out on his many expeditions; and Pavankhind, where Baji Prabhu Deshpande laid down his life to cover Shivaji's escape.
Places to see around
Air Deccan has daily flights from Mumbai and Bangalore.
Kolhapur is well connected to Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore and Miraj by rail.
Kolhapur to Mumbai is 396 kms
Kolhapur to Bangalore is 600 kms
Kolhapur lies on National Highway 4 which connects Mumbai to Bangalore.
Mumbai to Kolhapur is about 6 hours drive by road.
The road is very good.