There are many forts spread across the hilly terrain of Sahyadris in Maharashtra. Sahyadri Range, also known as Western Ghats, is flanked on its west by the long coastal strip, and on its east by the Deccan Plateau. The location of this range of hills was strategically important considering the political situation of medieval era. By occupying a defense establishment here, one could keep a check on the maritime trade. And also they could raid the Deccan establishments and come back to the safer confines of the hill forts. Of all the states in India, Maharashtra must be the state with the highest number of hill forts. Many of them have been reduced to mere walls, but there are a few that have the remains of the past.
6 Hill Forts That Are Very Significant in Maharashtra’s History
This hill fort is the brainchild of the Maratha King Shivaji. He had a knack for military architecture; Pratapgad is a fine example of that. It is true that it was impossible to capture this fort given its complicated design. Along with its sturdy construction, the fort also enjoys a commanding location on a spur in the Sahyadri Hills. Walking along the ramparts of the citadel, you can capture the views of the undulating hills of Sahyadri. To the west and the north of the fort are sheer precipices with a vertical fall of up to 250 m.
Pratapgad is 21 km east of Mahabaleshwar, and 137 km southwest of Pune.
Shivaji built this fort around the end of the 17th century. He knew he needed a stronghold to establish a dynasty. At that time Adil Shahis commanded this region. When their officer Afzal Khan decided to capture the fort, Shivaji killed him in an encounter. It was this victory that led to the naming of the fort as ‘Pratapgad’. It remained the bastion of the Marathas until 1818 when they had to surrender it to the British.
Of all the hill forts associated with Shivaji, Raigad is the mightiest. Spread over a hill, that rises 2700 m above sea level, Raigad dominates the surrounding valley and the hilly terrain. There are splendid views of Sahyadri Hills from the top of the fort. The sturdy ramparts are made up of basalt blocks mined from the hill itself. Around the base, the length of the walls is about 40 km. Hence, it was almost impossible to lay siege around the fort. This massive fort is dotted with the gateways, watch-towers, water bodies, and remains of quarters. Shivaji was cremated here; the place is marked by a statue of Shivaji. A temple called Jagdishwar Mandir is near the tomb.
Raigad Fort is 82 km northwest of Mahabaleshwar, and 131 km southwest of Pune.
The original name of Raigad was Rairi and several dynasties had controlled this hill before it landed in the hands of Shivaji. Adil Shahis of Bijapur had entrusted it to the Sidis of Janjira in 1636. And twenty years later, in 1656, Shivaji took it over. As expected he renovated and expanded the citadel. He changed its name to Raigad from Rairi and established his capital here. It was here that Shivaji was conferred with the title of Chhatrapati. After Shivaji the fort was lost to Mughals in 1689. And it took more than four decades for Marathas to snatch it back. And in 1818, the British took charge of it.
Note: MTDC runs a resort here. It is in a rundown state but the location is splendid and service is okay.
Daulatabad Fort (Devagiri)
From architectural point of view, Daulatabad is the most impressive hill fort in Maharashtra. Yadavas chose this lone hill to establish their capital in the 12th century; then it was called Devagiri. It is one of the most impregnable forts in the country. The fort has so many traps for the enemy troops trying to barge in. It was almost impossible to win over the citadel.
This fort is divided into three zones: Balakot, Kataka, and Ambarkot. Balakot is the hill itself which rises 200 m above the plains. Kataka is the fortification around the base of the hill. And Ambarkota is the outer fort which encircles vast area along with the inner fort. There are remains of palaces, pavilions, and mosques in the fort. Don’t miss to check out Chand Minar, Chini Mahal, Bahmani Palace, Mughal Pavilion, and Jami Mosque.
Daulatabad (Devagiri Fort) is 17 km northwest of Aurangabad.
Various dynasties have ruled this place from 12th to 18th centuries. The most dramatic incident associated with this fort is the famous ‘Delhi to Daulatabad’ march of Mohammed Bin Tughlaq. He shifted his entire capital here from Delhi. Entire populace was made to walk from Delhi to Daulatabad. And after failing to adjust here they were marched back to Delhi. Another significant thing about this fort is that Shivaji could never get hold of this fort.
Note: To reach to the top of the fort, you’ll need to climb over 700 steps.
Shivneri Fort is the birthplace of Shivaji – the founder of Maratha Dynasty. The fort is situated near the town of Junnar in Pune District. The triangular hill is the site of the fortification. Centuries before the kings reached this place, it was utilized by the Buddhist monks. There are many caves on the eastern flank of the hill. To reach these caves, you’ll need to undertake a tough trek. Otherwise you can opt for ‘Rajmarg’ which has flights of steps to lead you to the top. On your way you’ll cross seven defensive gates. Up there you get to see a two-storeyed pavilion which is said to be the birth place of Shivaji. There is also small mosque called ‘Kamani Mosque’.
Shivneri is 95 km north of Pune, and 157 km east of Mumbai.
It is said that Yadavas established Shivneri and then lost it to Bahmanis. Maratha General Shahji – father of Shivaji – was deputed here around the beginning of the 17th century. Jijabai gave birth to Shivaji in 1627, but Shivaji had never stayed here in his adulthood. The fort came under the control of Mughals in 1705. And in 1716, Marathas took charge of Shivneri until it was lost to British in 1818.
Rajgad is where Shivaji stayed longer than any other hillforts of Maharashtra. It straddles a triple-pronged hill and its highest part is 4600 ft above sea-level. The only way to reach the fort is by climbing up from a hamlet called Vajeghar. The climb takes about two hours and good fitness level is needed. Many adventure seekers opt to stay overnight in the fort. A temple up there can accommodate up to 50 people. The fort has ruins of granaries, residences, stores, and reception halls. Climbing up further can take you to the inner fort called ‘Bala Kila’. It has remains of the palaces and chambers.
Rajgad is 66 km southwest of Pune, and 116 km north of Mahabaleshwar.
From late 15th century to early 17th century, Rajgad alternated between Nizam Shahis and Adil Shahis. In 1646, Shivaji captured the nearby Torna Fort. With its treasure he strengthened Rajgad which had also come under his control. From 1647 to 1659, Rajgad was Shivaji’s base.
Panhala, situated near Kolhapur, has a fort set on a spur overlooking an important pass. Its 7 km long walls impart a roughly triangular shape to the citadel. In many parts, steep escarpments topped with parapets act as protective walls of the citadel. It encases memories of many dynasties. But much of what you see today is attributed to the Adil Shahi King. Shivaji had stayed here for a short period though. Dotted about within the fortifications are granaries, pavilions, stepwells, and ruins of palaces. There are many underground tunnels in the citadel. If you are a connoisseur of military architecture, you will be able to notice many defensive elements here.
Panhala is 22 km northwest of Kolhapur.
Raja Bhoj, a Shilahara King, built Panhala Fort in the 12th century. He lost it to Devagiri Yadavas who eventually lost it to the Bahmanis. It 1489, it came under the Adil Shahis of Bijapur. Along with strengthening it, they also did the expansions. Shivaji could capture it in 1673. And in 1701, after Shivaji’s death, it was lost to Aurangzeb.
5 Hill Forts That Are Also Popular As Trekking Destinations
Visapur and Lohagad
Visapur (or Visapoor) and Lohagad are twin forts situated in Maval Taluka of Pune District. These hill forts enjoy proximity with the famous Bhaja caves.
The only way to reach Visapur fort is by trekking. The trek is moderate but at a normal pace it can take more than 2 hours. It is best done in monsoon when many waterfalls have come back to life. Entire path is scenic. The fort has remains of ramparts, a stone-built house, a water tank, and a few shrines. The origin of the fort can be traced back to Bahmani Kings. But it was strengthened during Maratha rule. British had used this fort to mount their guns so as to bombard Lohagad Fort.
As compared to Visapur, Lohagad is a small fort. But it is pretty intimidating due to its shape and location. Its walls cling to a steep cliff. Be ready to ascend about 1.5 km to reach the top. The path has enough steps to exert you well. Once at the top, you’ll be greeted with the splendid views of the countryside. Lohagad is a historical fort, it came in the hands of Shivaji in 1648. After losing it to Mughals for a short period, Shivaji reclaimed it in 1670.
Visapur is 63 km northwest of Pune, and Lohagad is just about 2.5 km from Visapur.
Sinhagad literally means ‘Lion Fort’. It sits atop a steep hill and is just 30 km from Pune. The fort is completely ruined. Except ramparts and gateways, nothing has survived. But it makes for an exciting day trip from Pune. You can either drive up to the fort or choose to trek. There are multiple trekking paths with varying steepness. If you do it gently, you would take about 1.5 hour to reach to the top. Walking along the ramparts at the top is the best way to earn some magnificent views.
In 1647, Shivaji controlled Sinhagad for a while before losing it to Mughals. Thereafter, it alternated between Marathas and Mughals. Tanaji Malsure, a general of Shivaji, fought a unique battle here in 1670. He used the ropes to raise troops and animals up to the hill. He died in the battle but won the fort for Shivaji.
Sinhagad is 30 km south of Pune.
Purandhar (or Purandar) Fort is set amidst a scenic landscape, which becomes even more scenic during monsoons. Spread across a ridge, this fort is 4472 feet above sea level. Shivaji’s son Sambhaji was born here. British, after capturing it, had used Purandhar as a sanatorium and detention centre. Along with the gateways, there are remains of several ancient shrines in the fort. There is a road which leads to the lower part of the fort. From there you need to ascend 350 m on foot. The hike is enjoyable.
Purandar Fort is 55 km south of Pune.
Tikona Fort is meant for the trekkers. None of the structures built by the kings have survived except an entrance and a temple. There are a few caves which are said to be from Satvahana period. The fort is situated on a pyramidal hill at a height of 3500 feet above sea-level. The trek to Tikona begins from Tikona-Peth, which is the base village situated near Kamshet. The fort had come under Shivaji in the year of 1657. For a brief period after 1665, Tikona was lost to the Mughals. But Marathas recaptured it later.
Tikona is 50 km west of Pune.
A long coastal strip forms the western border of Maharashtra. This coast, in the medieval period, was dotted with many bustling ports. And to defend these port towns, rulers had to erect defense fortifications on the shore. Some of them were also created off the shore. All of these forts are set in picturesque locations. And each of them is a unique piece of architecture. Read More
Maharashtra, a multifaceted state, is rendered beautiful with its long coast and tiny hill stations. The caves of Ajanta and Ellora in this state are the finest examples of the ancient rock art of India. The hilltop and coastal forts of Maharashtra are reminiscent of the era when most of the part of this state was under the reign of warrior Marathas. Maharashtra of the present day is home to many industrialized cities including Mumbai – the commercial capital of India – which displays the metamorphosis this land has undergone. Read More