Panhala Fort

Panhala Fort: Beyond Walls and Ramparts – A Historical Odyssey (2024)

Embark on a historical odyssey at Panhala Fort, where the echoes of Maratha valour and architectural grandeur resound beyond its formidable walls and ramparts. Discover the secrets of Maharashtra’s majestic citadel as you delve into the rich tapestry of its past.

Have you ever heard about India’s renowned forts? The country boasts numerous forts, each with a fascinating story waiting to be unravelled. My journey led me on a road trip to Kolhapur with two of my girlfriends, where I had the opportunity to explore the captivating Panhala Fort.

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About Panhala Fort

Situated in the Maharashtra state of India, Panhala Fort, also known as Panhalghad or Panhalla Fort, holds a strategic position overlooking a pass in the Sahyadri mountain ranges. Throughout its history, the fort has withstood numerous attacks from rulers such as the Marathas, Mughals, and the East India Company, with the Battle of Pavan Khind being a significant chapter.

Characterized by a zigzagged shape, Panhala Fort earned the moniker “Fort of Serpents.” It played a crucial role in the life of Tarabai, the queen regent of Kolhapur, who spent her formative years within its walls. As one of the largest forts in the Deccan region, Panhala boasts over 100 lookout points and stands proudly at an elevation of 845 meters. The architectural style is distinctly Bijapuri, featuring peacock motifs adorning various monuments throughout the fort.

For visitors, the winter season, from October to January, offers the most pleasant weather for exploring Panhala Fort. Remarkably, this historical site stands out as it is entirely free to visit, without any entrance fee. While the fort is accessible 24 hours a day, exploring its wonders during daylight hours is advisable for a safer and more immersive experience.

Panhala Fort: Beyond Walls and Ramparts – A Historical Odyssey (2024)

History of Panhala Fort

Constructed in the 12th century by the rulers of the Shilahara dynasty, Panhala Fort has a rich and tumultuous history. Initially under the reign of King Bhoj until 1192, the fort witnessed a power shift when Singhana of Devgiri Yadavas defeated King Bhoj. Over time, Panhala passed through the hands of various local chiefs, undergoing neglect and changing allegiances.

With the establishment of the Adil Shahi dynasty, the fort came under Bijapur, experiencing significant fortifications and the construction of multiple gateways. In 1659, Panhala Fort became a part of the Maratha Empire under the rule of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The Battle of Pavan Khind saw a temporary shift to Adil Shah’s control in 1673, only to be reclaimed by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

In 1689, the Mughals seized the fort from Sambhaji, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s son. The ebb and flow of power continued as the Marathas recaptured the fort, briefly returning it to Aurangzeb of the Mughal Empire. However, within months, Panhala was once again in Maratha’s hands.

The fort went under Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj of the Maratha Empire in 1659. In the Battle of Pavan Khind, the fort went to Adil Shah. In 1673, the fort went back to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The Mughals took over the fort from Sambhaji, son of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, in 1689. The Maratha Empire again captured it and then returned to Aurangazeb of the Mughal Empire. Within a few months, the fort was again won by the Marathas.

Panhala Fort

During Aurangazeb’s renewed attack, Rajaram of the Maratha Empire sought refuge in Gingee Fort, leaving his young wife, Tarabai, at Panhala. Tarabai, during her formative years at the fort, managed its administration, resolving disputes and conflicts among the people. Rajaram eventually reclaimed Panhala, bringing it back under Maratha control.

The fort witnessed further battles, primarily between Tarabai and Satara, before eventually being handed over to the British in 1827, marking the end of its long and eventful saga.

How to Get to Panhala Fort?

Situated approximately 20 kilometres from Kolhapur, the journey to Panhala Fort takes a mere 40 minutes by road. Travellers have the option of local auto-rickshaws or taxis, with Uber or Ola being recommended for their registered and reliable services. Accessing the fort is convenient, requiring no trekking or walking, and ample parking spaces are available near the entrance.

When opting for Uber or Ola, it’s advisable to call the drivers upon booking, as there may be instances of cancellations without customer notification. For extended road trips, Ola outstation cabs are a preferred choice.

For those travelling from Belgaum, hiring a known driver for a personal car proved to be a hassle-free option.

  • By Train – Alternatively, Kolhapur boasts a train station with services connecting major cities like Bangalore, Pune, and Mumbai. Up-to-date train information can be obtained from the IRCTC website.
  • By Flight – If air travel is preferred, Kolhapur has an airport servicing major cities like Bangalore. Flights operated by Air India and Indigo offer connectivity, with ticket costs averaging around INR 3500 for a one-way journey between Bangalore and Kolhapur.

Shop for Kolhapur Chappals

While in Kolhapur, make it a point to acquire a couple of pairs of Kolhapuri chappals. These renowned chappals are highly esteemed for their meticulous handmade craftsmanship and exquisite details. Typically crafted from cow leather and natural ingredients, they exude a unique charm.

Numerous local shops in Kolhapur offer these authentic chappals, providing an excellent opportunity to bring home a piece of local craftsmanship. For those preferring non-leather options, artificial leather chappals are also available, allowing you to enjoy the style and cultural significance without compromising your personal preferences.

Panhala Fort: Beyond Walls and Ramparts – A Historical Odyssey (2024)
A display of Kolhapuri chappals at a local shop

Is Kolhapur Safe for Solo Female Travellers?

In my experience, both Panhala Fort and Kolhapur felt relatively safe for female travellers, and we encountered no issues during our visit. Generally, people kept to themselves, with the exception of some youngsters at the fort.

However, I would advise against solo exploration, particularly during sunset and after dark. For added security, it’s preferable to either accompany a reputable travel agent or hire a taxi driver who can guide you throughout the day and ensure a safe return.

Forts in India
Rayadurga Fort (Andhra Pradesh)
Red Fort (Delhi)
Zorawar Fort (Ladakh)
Bangalore Fort (Karnataka)
Chitradurga Fort (Karnataka)
Gudibande Fort (Karnataka)
Ballalarayana Durga Fort (Karnataka)
Channarayana Durga Fort (Karnataka)
Panhala Fort (Maharashtra)
Sinhagad Fort (Maharashtra)
Palakkad Fort (Kerala)
Rayakottai Fort (Tamil Nadu)
Gingee/Senji Fort (Tamil Nadu)
Golconda Fort (Telangana)
Rani Durgavati Fort (Madhya Pradesh)

Closing Notes

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Panhala Fort, and the visit to Kolhapur was equally delightful. The fort’s beauty and rich history left me captivated, and I’m eager to return to delve deeper into its stories. If you find yourself in Maharashtra with some free days, I highly recommend exploring this incredible fort for a memorable experience.

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Panhala Fort: Beyond Walls and Ramparts – A Historical Odyssey (2024)
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    PIN for later reference – Panhala Fort: Beyond Walls and Ramparts – A Historical Odyssey

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