Interesting facts about massive Panhala Fort near Kolhapur

Inner gate of the teen dharwaza, Panhala Fort, near Kolhapur.
Indian subcontinent, centuries ago, was ruled by innumerable powerful rulers who were bent on expanding their kingdoms to establish their supremacy. The majority of the rulers, to avoid being overridden by others, began to build massive forts to safeguard the ruling classes and their entourage. As years went by, they began to introduce effective innovative methods in the construction of forts. First and foremost, forts had to be strong and  self-contained in case of long siege set up by the enemies and needed enough supply of grains and water to last  for several months, besides innovative hurdles or impediments around the fort to avoid direct access by the invaders. Panhala Fort, Panhala is one such a safe fort perching atop the hill on the western part of India. This massive fort silently witnessed the rise and fall of many dynasties, bizarre, unexpected political events associated with various battles among the competing rulers  and the transient nature of its ownership.

Sambhaji temple, Panhala fort
 Above image: Sambhaji temple, Panhala fort was frequented by  Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. He never failed to offer worship here before embarking on  war expeditions.

Ibrahim Adil Shahi of Bijapur Sultanate, (1534–1558)
Panhala Fort, Panhala that lies 18 km from Kolhapur city, Maharastra state, as  mentioned in my earlier post, is  the largest and strategically important fort in the entire Deccan region of India.  The following are the noteworthy features of this fort.

01. Fort is built at an altitude of roughly 850 m (2,772 ft) above the sea level in a tough mountainous terrain. It is a nice place to hike uphill amidst captivating scenery.

02. Once Panhala Fort was the capital of Shilahara King Bhoja II from 1178 to 1209. Subsequently it  came under the  rule of Yadava and Bahamani Kings. Adil Shahi, Mogul Aurangazeb. Adil Shahi dynasty took over the fort in the year 1489. The English possessed the fort and the adjacent lands  during the minority of Shivaji IV (1837–1860). Till  independence, Panhala Fort remained with the Kolhapur  Princely State.

03. The sheer massive  size, with the circumference of about 7 km of thick tall, sturdy walls beefed up by escarpments and the slope with thick vegetation provide extra protection to the fort.

04. The fort has a perimeter of 14 km (9 miles) and 110 lookout posts at vantage points. Since the watch towers overlook the valley, any enemy movements can be detected easily from atop the fort.

05. There are numerous underground tunnels carefully built beneath the fort which could be used  to exit the fort secretly in case of emergency. One tunnel is roughly a mile long.

06. Panhala fort, initially, had three huge double walled  entrance gates, of which only two remain today.  Teen Darwaza, an impressive structure lies north of Andhar Bavai. It was one of the three double gateways of the fort - the others being the Char Darwaja and Wagh Darwaja. Char Dharwaja was destroyed during the British siege. Wagah Dharwaja was built in a unique way as to mislead the enemies, draw them in to an open courtyard and then neutralize them.

07.The fort en-composes many monumental structures associated with various events. For example a  double story structure, known as Sajja Kothi, is  in the northeast corner of the building.  It was built by Ibrahim Adil Shah in 1500 CE. It is a viewing  pavilion overlooking the valley below. It was here  Shivaji had imprisoned his  son, Sambhaji for his misconduct and intention to defect him

Amberkhana (granary) in the center of Panhala fort.near Kolhapur.
 08. There are   three massive granaries -  Amberkhana in the center of the fort inside the complex  called Ganga Yamuna and Saraswathi Kothis to  store vast quantities of food grains to tide over prolonged siege to the fort by the enemies; the largest one  is  Ganga Kothi, covering  an area of around 950 sq m and is 10.7 m in height.The additional granary called Dhama Kothi is in the same place.

09. Adil Shah  had hidden water wells called Andhar Bavadi  built for the uninterrupted supply of copious water during siege. The purpose of this well was to avoid poisoning of water sources by the enemies. This  three-story structure has a  winding staircases that conceal the well and there are large recesses in the wall  where soldiers can be permanently stationed. 

10. There are several hidden escape routes in the Andhar Bavai, leading  outside the fort to escape from any eventuality.

11. Rajdindi is one of the hidden bastions to be used as an escape route in case danger to the royal families during war.
12. There are Hindu temples devoted to Sambhaji II, Someshwar and Ambabai besides Mahakali. There are many mausoleums - Samadhi among them are the Mausolems of of Ramachandra Amatya, Jijabhai, et al. Ramachandra Amatya was the  the author of Ajnapatra, an important work on statecraft. Those, who are on a holiday trip  to Kolhapur, can include this historical fort in their travel  itinerary.