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Forts in Maharashtra – Raigad Fort – The King of Forts!

Moving towards the Konkan Region of Maharashtra State, who would want to miss out on visiting one of the esteemed residences of King Shivaji? The Fort of Raigad is located in Mahad, a well-known town of the Raigad district lying to the northern section of the Konkan lands. Did you know that the District of Raigad was formerly known as Kolaba district, but later it was renamed after this admired fort?

Raigad stands tall over a hill at a height of 2700 feet above sea level, residing on the Western Ghats. Being the second capital of the Maratha Empire, the fort holds huge importance in the history of Maharashtra; especially during the Reign of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. In fact, the fort is honored as the pride of the Marathas who fought relentlessly to build the great Maratha Empire.

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The name “Raigad” is often confused with Rajgad (The first capital of Maratha province) due to the similarity in their names.

History of Raigad Fort

Chandrarao More in 1030 A.D. constructed a fort that was perched over a hill in such a way that three of its sides had deep and steep valleys. These valleys ended up in forest areas, whereas the remaining side was the only side to enter the fort. He named the fort as Rairi.

Chandrarao More belonged to the Maurya Dynasty. The Mores were the feudatories of the Sultanates of Bijapur. In the year 1656, Shivaji Raje Bhosale, son of Shahaji Raje Bhosale, captured Raigad with a goal of expanding his Maratha Swarajya. Between 1657 A.D. -1670 A.D., Shivaji Maharaj renovated Raigad and expanded many of its sections.

On 6th of June, 1674, Shivaji Raje Bhosale was crowned as the Chhatrapati (King) of the Maratha Swarajya. The Rajyabhishek (coronation ceremony) was followed by an offering of a golden umbrella (called as chhatra) to the Hindu Goddess Bhavani Mata at Pratapgad. This ceremony took place on 19th May, 1674. He was then recognized as “Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj” by the entire community of Maratha people. Shivaji Raje Bhosale was the first rightful king to have successfully setup Maratha Empire for the safety of his people. Rairi was the fort that witnessed many such remarkable events including the coronation ceremony, and hence, the fort was renamed as Raigad (The King’s Fort). At Raigad, Chhatrapati was also honored with two more titles namely, Haindava Dharmoddhaarak (The one who protected the Hindu faith from Mughals and other foreign invaders) and Shakakarta (The Pioneer of an Era).

In the year 1675, on 4thFebruary, the thread ceremony of Sambhaji Raje (Son of Shivaji Maharaj) was held at Raigad. On 7th March 1680, Raigad was witness to the thread ceremony of Rajaram Raje Bhosale (Younger Son of Shivaji Maharaj). Within the next eight days, Rajaram Maharaj married Prataprao Gujar’s daughter at the same venue.

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On 3rd April 1680 A.D. troubled with dysentery and high fever, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj passed away at the Fort of Raigad. The entire administration of Marathas mourned such a great loss of the Empire. Later, on 16th February 1681 A.D., Sambhaji Raje Bhosale was crowned king of the empire.

In 1684 AD., Mughal ruler Aurangzeb started attacking the villages around Raigad with the goal of taking control over the fort. He sent his general Shahabuddin Khan along with a huge army of around 40,000 men to destroy and overtake the lands and villages around Raigad. Eventually, Sambhaji Raje was captured and later assassinated.

Rajaram Raje was crowned king after Sambhaji Raje’s death. On 25thMarch, 1689 AD, Mughals blocked all the passageways and doors of Raigad. However, on 5th April, 1689 AD., Rajaram Raje escaped from Raigad and took residence at Pratapgad. Fighting for months with the Maratha army, the Mughals gained control over Raigad with the help of a Maratha mole Suryaji Pisal. After this incident, Raigad was renamed as Islamgad by the Mughals. Siddhi Fatehkhan was made in-charge of the fort. The fort was under his rule till 1733 A.D. On 5th June 1733 AD., Marathas retrieved control over Raigad.

In the latter part of History, many British rulers entered India with a purpose of gaining control over Indian lands. In the year 1765, East India Company targeted Raigad using armed forces. Huge cannonry weapons were used during this war that ruined many parts of the fort. However, struggling for many years, they won war against the Marathas on 9th May, 1818 AD, ever since Raigad was under their control.

Touring at Raigad

To reach Raigad, you have to take local sharing transport facility from Mahad bus station to the base region of the Fort. There are mini buses or sharing jeep facilities from outside of Mahad’s main bus stop. From here the local transport facility will drop you to Pachad.

Right from Pachad, you can begin your trekking to the peak of Raigad. There are two ways to reach the fort– You can either hike to the top of the fort or take a ropeway. If you are opting to walk, there are around 1737 steps to reach Raigad. But do not worry! You can take mini breaks while heading upwards as there are locals selling refreshments at various stops on the way. Take a break at food stalls where you can enjoy delicious kanda bhaji (dumplings made of fried onion and gram flour), Bhutta (roasted corn), Lemon Soda, Bhel (an Indian snack made out of puffed rice, onions, tomatoes and tamarind sauce), Vada Pav (potato dumplings) and many different types of snacks.

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For those of you who find it inconvenient to travel to Raigad via steps, can take a ropeway. This option is easily available at the base village, Pachad. Physically challenged individuals can also enjoy the beauty of such an incredible destination by taking a ropeway. The idea of ropeway was designed especially for such individuals who find trouble in reaching Raigad climbing steps. It hardly takes 5 minutes to get to the Fort of Raigad via ropeway.

The entrance of Raigad is called as Nagarkhana Darwaja which is a huge door that takes you to the inside of the fort. There you can spot a replica of Shivaji Maharaj’s throne. There also lays another door called Mena Darwaja which was a private entrance to the Fort of Raigad during the reign of Shivaji Maharaj. This door was specially made for the royal ladies to enter the Queen’s chamber. Another entrance called as Palkhi Darwaja was used by the King and his companions.

To the right of Palkhi Darwaja lies a series of three dark rooms. These three rooms were designed especially for storing grains and pulses. You can see a bastion built on a cliff from the fort side, famously recognized as the Hirkani Buruj. You can view the Gangasagar Lake which was artificially made beside Raigad. It is said that construction of an artificial lake was made especially before the crowning ceremony of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The lake was filled with the holy water of River Ganga and was a point of worship and sacred ceremonies.

Within the fort arena lays another point called Takmak Tok. This point is recognized as the execution point. Prisoners punished under death penalty were thrown down into the valleys from this point.

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With due respect to the great King Shivaji, tourists ought not to miss the point of Shivaji Maharaj’s Samadhi located in front of ruins. Beside this, you will also find the Samadhi of the King’s loyal dog, Waghya. Other prominent points of Raigad include the Nane Darwaja, Khubladha Bastion and the Hatti Talav. The Samadhi of Shivaji Maharaj’s Mother, Jijabai Shahaji Bhosale is also located at Pachad.

Note that it is quite difficult to travel to the fort region during the months of June to September (Monsoon season) due to obvious reasons. So it is safe to plan a trip anytime before or after monsoons.

How to Travel Raigad Fort?

Map.

Airways: The Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai is the closest airport to reach Raigad fort located at a distance of 109.7kms. The Lohegaon, Pune Airport is another airport well connected to many major cities across India. It lies at a distance of 132.4kms from the Fort of Raigad.

Railways: Roha is the nearest railway stop to reach Raigad which is located 9.8kms away from the Fort of Raigad. Mangaon is another railway station that lies around 30kms away from Raigad. This station is well connected to many other major cities like Panvel, Karjat and Lonavla.

Roadways: Mahad Bus Depot is the closest bus stop for your roadway trip to Raigad. You can easily hire a taxi or an auto service from Mahad to Pachad village. For travel freaks coming from Mumbai, there is a direct bus from Parel ST Depot to Pachad Village around 12.15 am that reaches the base of Raigad around 6.15 am.

Ropeways: When you reach Pachad, you can find options for traveling via Ropeway to reach the top of the fort.

Overall, Maharashtra has around 350 forts, and Raigad Fort is known as the King of Forts! Some of these forts like Kohgad and Visapur Forts are architectural wonders; whereas, some have delightful views. Few of these forts were witness to some of the most important historical events of the Maratha Empire, though every fort has it’s own unique story to tell.

Shivneri fort witnessed the birth of Shivaji Maharaj who would later establish the Maratha empire; whereas capturing Fort Torna (Prachandgad), was the beginning of Maratha empire, after Shivaji and his friends took an oath to free his countrymen from the Mughal intruders. Sinhgad fort near Pune saw Shivaji Maharaj’s bravery as he along with a few soldiers, went to Lal Mahal amongst thousand of Mugals in surreptitious manner; cut the fingers of Shahistekhan and returned immediately to Sinhgad. The next morning, Mughals left not only the city but they went all the way back to Delhi!

Rajgad, being the first capital of Marathas, was witness to many important events as it was the capital for 25 years! Panhalgad, near Kolhapur was won by merely 60 soldiers of the Marathas led by Kondaji Farjand!

Every fort has witnessed some serious history but we’ll hardly come to know about their details as only a gifted few can listen to what stories those forts are telling!

The image used as Featured is taken from Wikimedia Commons taken by By Gbaadkar – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28551282

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