Some 20 odd kms on the Kolhapur-Ratnagiri road you veer off into the hills and land up at the Panhala fort It is a short ride and a small climb and we find ourselves at the entry point of the fort - called the char darwaza - of which precious little remains. However there are enough signs of the fort of Panhalgad. Panhala apparently means home of serpents!
|Shiva Kashid's statue|
The fort was built in the late 1100s by Bhoja II, the Shilahara ruler. He was also responsible for building forts at Satara, Vishalgad, Bhudargad and Bavda). From the Shilaharas to the Yadavas of Devgiri and then to the Bahamani kings of Bijapur, the Adil Shahs, Panhala was ruled by many dynasties. Shivaji took over the fort after killing Afzal Khan at Pratapgad in 1659. It is after this that the story of Panhalgad gets interesting and almost like the movie 300. Adil Shah II sent his army led by a general Siddi Johar to recapture the fort from Shivaji. Shivaji fought back but after a four month siege was on the verge of capture. And it is then that he decided to escape.
|Baji Prabhu Deshpande's statue|
To keep the 15000 strong enemy occupied his general Baji Prabhu Deshpande and a small group of 1000 soldiers along with a barber Shiva Kashid, who was a Shivaji look alike, fought against the stronger army allowing Shivaji to escape. Most of the soldiers including Shiva Kashid and Baji Prabhu Deshpande died in that battle. Baji Prabhu Deshpande is said to have held the Siddi Johar men back in a narrow gorge with his men, two swords in their hands, bleeding heavily but not giving up until they heard the sound of cannons from Vishalgad that signified that Shivaji had reached safety. History is replete with such stories of loyalty and sacrifice and bravery and it makes your spine tingle and makes you want to see some of that spirit our there today. What was amazing is the loyalty that Shivaji commanded from his soldiers. Even at Vishalgad there is the story of young Rano Narayan Sarpotdar.
|Mosque at Char Darwaza|
|Temple at Panchganga, Kolhapur|
|Old bridge, submerged temple|
At the entrance you find the statue of Shiva Kashid. Shivaji's lookalike who sacrificed his life for his king, and in the middle of the town one finds the imposing statue of Baji Prabhu Deshpande with two swords in his hands. Some means of transport could help cover the distance easily though its not really a large place to cover by foot if you have the time. One could check out the Char darwaza, the Teen darwaza, the Andhar bav, Ambar Khana, Dharam Koti, Tararani mahal, Sambhaji's temple, Sajja Kothi and other such structures which are centuries old. The work on the darwaza's is intricate and really wonderful to behold. To walk on the same land where so much history took place itself makes one feel so privileged and instantly you get greedy and wish you'd stayed a couple of days.
|Tourist Inn, outside the rooms|
|Kawade's Tourist Inn|
I booked myself into Kawde's Tourist Inn which has decent rooms, lovely tree cover, great food at pretty reasonable rates (Tel No ). It's quite central to the action and one could actually trek around the place on a good day. There are several other places to stay too offering a wide range of prices. If you're interested in going to Panhala check out the bungalows on hire too. Views are great across the valley and we saw many youngsters drinking beer on the bastions, several other love birds and honeymooners apart from families. There are lovely bungalows as well and one of the tourist attractions is Lata Mangeshkar's bungalow. If in Kolhapur, do make time to spend an evening in Panhala. In a vehicle, checking out the fort takes about an hour and a half. We had a lovely time because the weather was superb that day with cloud cover all through and a nip in the evening as if we were in a hill station.
For the religious there is the Jyotiba temple on the way back from Panhala to Kolhapur. We missed that but stopped at a lovely temple at the outskirts of Kolhapur - an old bridge reminding me of 'The Bridges of Madison County' and a temple half submerged in the waters of the river. Was it called the Sangameshwar? Or Panchganga? Anyway, good to partake of some history again.
Remember Baji Prabhu's story. Legend is that his body continued the fight after his head was severed!
The Great Panhalkar, .... your post is useful and creative i likes it...
Very nice blog and pictures. I am planning this winter for Panhala and Kolhapur tour
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