Panhala fort also known as Panhalgad, Pahalla and Panalla is located in Panhala, 20 kilometres northwest of Kolhapur in Maharashtra, India. It is strategically located looking over a pass in the Sahyadri mountain range which was a major trade route from Bijapur in the interior of Maharashtra to the coastal areas. Due to its strategic location, it was the centre of several skirmishes in the Deccan involving the Marathas, the Mughals and the British East India Company, the most notable being the Battle of Pavan Khind. Here, the queen regent of Kolhapur, Tarabai, spent her formative years. Several parts of the fort and the structures within are still intact.
It is one of the largest forts in the Deccan, with a perimeter of 14 km (9 mi) and 110 lookout posts. It is 845 m (2,772 ft) above sea level.This fort is built on the Sahyadris, rising more than 400 m (1,312 ft) above its surrounding plain. Numerous underground tunnels stretch out from underneath the fort, one of which is almost 1 km long Most of the architecture is of the Bijapuri style with the peacock motif of the Bahmani Sultanate prominently visible on several structures. Some of the older bastions also have the lotus motif of Bhoja II. There are several monuments at the fort which are considered notable by the Archaeological Survey of India.
Whenever an army besieged a fort, their first action was to poison the main water source of the fort. To counter this, Adil Shah commissioned the building of the Andhar Bavadi (Hidden Well). This is a three-storey structure with winding staircases that conceal the well which was the main water source for Panhala fort. There are recesses in the wall so that soldiers can be permanently stationed. Several hidden escape routes in the Andhar Bavai lead outside the fort. With its own water source, living quarters and its own exit routes, likely this structure was designed like a fort within a fort with the intention of making it an emergency shelter in case the main fort fell.
The Amberkhana, situated in the center of the fort, were three granaries built in the Bijapuri style of architecture. They enabled Shivaji to withstand a 5 month siege by Siddhi Johar. It consists of three buildings called the Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati Kothis. The Ganga kothi, which was the largest, had a capacity of 25,000 khandis (with one khandi being 650 lbs). It covers an area of 950 sq m and is 10.5 m high.
This was an additional granary next to the three granaries that constituted the Amberkhana. It was a stone building 55 feet by 48 feet by 35 feet high. This has an entrance and a staircase that leads to the terrace.Grain was distributed from here to the needy.
Sajja Kothi is a one-storey structure built by Ibrahim Adil Shah in 1500 CE.It is also built in the Bijapuri style. Sajja Kothi was constructed as a viewing pavilion looking over the valley below.
The Teen Darwaza was one of the three double gateways of the fort - the others being the Char Darwaja and Wagh Darwaja.The Char Darwaza was destroyed when during the British siege. The Teen Darwaja gate which is the main entrance to the fort is located north of the Andhar Bavai on the West side of the fort.It is a double gate with a court in between that has arcades.
This was another entrance to the fort. It was designed to elude invaders such that they would get trapped into a small courtyard and could then be easily neutralized. It has an elaborate Ganesh motif at the entrance.
Temples And Mausoleums:
There are temples devoted to Sambhaji II, Someshwar and Ambabai in addition to the Mahakali temple. The Ambabai temple is very old and it was here that Shivaji would make offerings before embarking on major expeditions. The mausoleum of Jijabai lies opposite toto that of her husband, Sambhaji II.Ramchandra Pant Amatya (who wrote Adnyapatra, a treatise on Maratha policy) was the youngest minister in Shivaji's fort.
The palace of Tarabai, arguably the fort's most famous resident, is still intact. It is now used to house a school, several government offices and a boys' hostel.The rest of the fort is in ruins though the structures within the fort are frequented by tourists who visit Panhala town- a major hill station. It has been declared as a protected monument by the government.