Friday, November 19, 2010

A Visit to Fort Shivneri : A Photo Travelogue

Date of Visit: 13th December 2009
On the way back from the nearby Lenyadri Caves, we decided to pay fort Shivneri a visit. It was well past two in the afternoon. The high altitude Lenyadri trip had sapped our energy, but enthusiasm to see the fort pushed us to embark on the climb.
The Fort Shivneri is located at Junnar town (which was earlier called Jeernanagar and Juner , and acted as a trade route to the Konkan ports), around 100 kms from Pune (off Narayangaon on Pune Nasik highway).It is one of the few well maintained forts in Maharashtra, thanks to the efforts of the locals and the initiatives taken by Shri A.M.Sonawane, the R.F.O, Junnar jurisdiction.


It has become memorable in history as the birthplace of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the legendary Maratha warrior king. It is unclear who actually constructed the fort, but its origins have been traced back to the Satavahana period(Their king Gautamiputra Satkarni was said to have replaced the Saka rule in this region). There were many Buddhist caves built in the vicinity. But the actual fortification may have started during the Yadava rule and continued during the Islamic rule ( Bahamani rule and later Nizamshahi of Ahmednagar). When Shahaji raje Bhosale was surrounded by enemy forces, he shifted his wife Jijabai who was pregnant with Shivaji to fort Shivneri (which was under the care of its Killedar( Fortkeeper) Sriniwas Vishwasrao).Shahajiraje ensured the streanthening of the fort to protect his family from the enemy forces. Chatrapati Shivajiraje gave up this fort in 1632 and it passed hands to the Mughals in 1637. In 1637 an attempt was made to recapture the fort by the Marathas but it was unsuccessfull. However during Chatrapati Shahurajes tenure, the Marathas surmounted the fort. The fort was later maintained by the Peshwas.
We could take our vehicle upto the foothills and parked the same below the fort.


To reach the top of the fort you have to climb around 400 odd stone steps. It takes you almost one and a half hours to reach there, depending on ones stamina. To reach the top, you have to pass through seven huge fortified gates named as Maha Darwaza(Gate), Ganesh Darwaza, Pir Darwaza, Hatti(Elephant) Darwaza, Shivai (Godess temple) Darwaza ,Mena(Palanquin for the ladies) Darwaza and Kulup (lock)Darwaza.






The most distinctly conspicuous gate one encounters is the Hatti darwaza (Elephant gate) due to its huge wooden doors fortified with iron spikes. It may have been named so, either because it was a gate to allow in the elephants, or the sharp iron spikes were meant to ward off even a elephant attack.


Inside the premises you come across the temple of Shivai (pronounced Shivaaii) devi, the Godess of the Fort accessible through the Shivai Darwaza. It is to be noted that Shivaji was named after the Godess.


As you climb further, you see the Amberkhana ruins, that probably served as the quarters for Malik Ahmed, then a Bahamani commander and later the progenitor of Nizamshahi of Ahmednagar, who first occupied the fort. It occupies an area of 20 x 10 meters and is an black stone structure. It reveals the presence of an regal structure that existed during those times. It later served as a grainery. During the times of Malojirao Bhosale (Shahajis father) it was used to redress public grievances. During Maratha rule, it was said to serve as stables for horses and also to house elephants.


As you proceed further, you come across large water tanks and water reservoirs(there are said to be ten water tanks on Shivneri, the main water cistern being the Ganga Jamuna), said to have been constructed during Yadava times.

Still further lies a memorial dedicated to Shivaji viz. ‘Shiv kunj’ or Shiv smarak, which was inaugurated by the first chief minister of Maharashtra, Shri Yeshwantrao Chavan. Therein lies a beautiful panchadhaatu (5 alloys) statue of Shivaji as a boy with his mother Jijabai.


To the right of Shiv kunj lies the Kamani mosque having Quranic verses engraved on its arch. This mosque was constructed by the Mughals after they had occupied the fort.

Diagonally facing the mosque is a storeyed stone building (which was I was told was reconstructed in 1925 by Chatrapati Shahu maharaj of Kolhapur and Shri Bhaskarrao Jadhav, Education secretary, Mumbai), which was the birthplace of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. It was previously accessed by the ‘suryamukhi dwaar’ (sun facing door) which you come across as you walk still further. But since then , apart from the main building rest of the premises are ruins. Facing the main door (which is entered from the rear, the front cascade being Jharoka styled windows).

A few meters away from the main door is a square water reservoir made inside the stone flooring.

 As you enter the main door, you first come across a room which houses a statue of Ch.Shivaji and cradle to signify his birthplace. Alongside this room is a narrow stone stairway which lead to the upper floor. There are arched windows on all sides and also the earlier mentioned jharoka windows). The ceiling is also beautifully done.

Facing the birthplace structure is the ‘Badami talao’ which was an artificially created water pool. Right in its midst is a stone pillar .

On the way back you notice an tomb like structure atop an hillock. It is the ‘Koli Chauthara’, a memorial constructed for the hundreds of ‘kolis’ (fishermen) massacared by the occupying mughals after an outbreak of a rebellion(1650). Unfortunately due to the paucity of time we weren’t able to see the monument. We later realized that we missed the ‘Kadeloat’ point as well, where prisoners sentenced to death were thrown of the cliff (kadeloat).Alongside the Kadeloat point was the Qaidkhana (prison).
Nor could we see the Idgah structure (which has some Bahamani graves) , as we hurried down the stone stairs.

But on the way back we were able to photograph the sunset which indeed looks beautiful from the fort.
Fortunately going down wasn’t as strenuous as the way up and we reached the foothill within fourty five minutes.
Having finished our exhausting but fulfilling trip, we headed back for Pune, with wonderful memories of Shivneri.

Text and photographs by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha

Visit to Fort Lohagad : A Photo Travelogue

I had heard a lot of the unique fortification of Lohagad and was wanting to see it myself. Finally on 9.1.2010 , the opportunity came my way when a trip to Lohagad was actually decided upon.

Pic source:

Lohagad lies around fifty kilometers from Pune. It is located at the foothills of Lohagadwadi village , which is centrally located around ten kilometers between Malavali and Lonavala. It is around 3500 feet above sea level.

There are two routes to reach Lohagad (by car) from Pune. One being Pune city (Paud road)- Chandni Chowk-Pirangut-Paud village-Dudhiware Khind-Lohagadwadi. The other route is Pune city-Pune Mumbai expressway-Lonavala-Malavale-Lohagadwadi .(You can even take a road from within Lonavala directly to Lohagadwadi. This road is comparatively well maintained). We preferred the Pune Lonavala route.
We had to park our car at Lohagadwadi and tread the path up the fort on foot.

At the entrance we saw an saffron coloured board which displayed the history of the fort. A sage, Lomesh was said to have meditated here.
The fort supposedly existed since the Satavahana period (2000-2500 years back), followed by the rule of the Chalukyas, then the Rashtrakutas and the Yadavas.
Later it passed hands from the Nizamshahi of Ahmednagar (One of the Nizamshah rulers, Burhan II was imprisoned on this fort) to the Adilshahi of Bijapur, before being captured by Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in 1648.

But Shivaji had to cede it to the Mughals vide the treaty of Purandar in 1665. Shivaji recaptured the fort in 1670 and used it for storing his treasury (the Surat loot?). The fort once again changed hands to the mughals only to be captured by Sarkhel Kanhoji Angre in 1713. Angre had apparently camped here when he had a meeting with Peshwe Balaji Vishwanath , which led to the former accepting Shahu as his king. The fort thereafter came directly under the Satara throne.
Thus the fort passed over to Chatrapati Shahu and was in the charge of his Peshwa,Balaji Vishwanath. The fort later came under the supervision of Nana Phadanvis, the erstwhile chief minister of the Peshwas (Sawai Madhavrao). He had this fort renovated. The fort was managed by his trusted aides Javji Bomble and subsequently Dhondopant Nitsure.Nana Phadavis's wife too resided in this place after his death.

The British captured the fort in 1818 after the siege of Visapur fort. The British commander Col.Prother apparently took over this fort without firing a single cannon ball. But the structures on the fort were subsequently razed to the ground by the Britishers and the fort was rendered inactive.

The initial steps are made from stone cut from the mountain itself.

One encounters many monkeys lurking around waiting expectantly for food being thrown at them by the tourists. But we were warned not to entertain them lest they follow you all the way to the fort, even attempting to snatch unguarded foodpackets from the tourists.

On the way we noticed around twenty villagers ( we were told they were from Lohagadwadi and the neighbouring Bhaje village) pulling up a giant wooden gate , apparently meant for one of the fort gates. They were chanting slogans like ‘Har Har Mahadev’ and ‘Shivaji maharaj ki jai’ as they were pulling up that giant gate up the fort steps.

One has to pass through four main gates while climbing the fort.

The first gate is Ganesh darwaza, which can be identified by a Ganesh carvings flanking the gate. One family by the name of Savale apparently offered themselves as a human sacrifice (as was the practice of those times) in return for the 'Patilki' /revenue collection-headmen rights for the village Lohagadwadi. A shilalekh in its vicinity indicates this gruesome fact.

There are three more gates viz. the Narayan darwaza (Constructed by Nana Phadanvis between 1790-94. There exists a secret tunnel where rice and foodgrains were kept for safe storage),the Maha darwaza (probably the one that can be reached by climbing a stone stairway)

and the Hanuman darwaza (which has an equally beautiful Hanuman carved on the gate). These were also constructed as per instructions by Nana Phadanvis.

On the midway, one encounters cellars which probably housed the sentries on duty (or were used as storehouses).

Midway there is also one huge cave which may have been a storehouse. Next to it is a huge water cistern.

As you look down the fort walls the pattern of the ramparts below presents a very unique design.

Down below one can also see the vast expanse of the Pawna lake adorned with the lush greenery around it.

There is also a panoramic view of the Fort Visapur which is in proximity to Lohagad. (Note, there are also many other forts in the vicinity like Tung ,Tikona,Korigad,Ghangad, etc besides the famous Buddhist caves of Bhaja,Bedse and Karla) .

After a forty five minute climb and five hundred odd steps later, we reached the top of the fort.

 The fort then onwards is a plateau. The once existing structures are now in ruins.

 There is an tomb, supposedly of an Arab invader, Sheikh Umar (acc. to some belonged to Aurangzebs daughter) who had occupied the fort at one point of time.This tomb has since been converted into a dargah. There are two more similar dargahs towards the right which are habitated.

One more prominent cave like structure we came across is what remains of the ‘Laxmi kothi’where the Maratha chief minister Nana Phadanvis had supposedly hidden his treasures after an attempt was made to seize them by the then Peshwa Bajirao II.

There were also two water tanks one octagonal and other hexadecagonal in shape.

There is also one Mahadev temple constructed before a seemingly ancient Shiva linga.

We also came across several small cannon barells which may have been used by the Maratha army.
There were once edifices on the fort called as Khajindar kothi,Laxmi Kothi, sadars etc which since have ceased to exist.

As you go up north you see strip of land extending which takes you to the buruj (watch tower) which is the extreme end of the fort. It is almost 1500 meter by 30 meter in area and appears like a scorpions tail and is aptly called the ‘Vinchu kata’ .

The entire fort was covered in an hours time and we retraced back the path we came by.

We had lunch at the local dhaba at the foothills before bidding adieu to the fort.

Text and Photographs (except the ones credited) : Abhijit Rajadhyaksha