This is part 2 of the 4 part trip diaries to Kolhapur. For those who have not read the first part click here
If you are in a city which boasts of a glorious historic past and you do not have much time on hand, then what will you do? Well be on the move as much as you can. That’s exactly what I did. With two hours of my time utilised at the temple and less than 48 hours to go, I hurriedly proceeded to my next destination – The Panhala Fort.
Panhala Fort – The remains of the glorious history.
Panhala (meaning the home of serpents) fort is located around 20 kms from the main city center. You can either take a rickshaw or the state owned MSRTC buses. Private cabs are also available. I would personally suggest not waiting for the bus, as the frequency is less. I took the rickshaw which charged me Rs 80 for a single seat.
The transport will drop you at the foot of the fort from where you can hire local guides to take you through the important points and explain their importance. These guides are local rickshaw drivers. I paid Rs. 300 for the guided tour. It was here that I got to taste the spicy food that Kolhapur is famous for. I had the famous Kolhapuri misal which was so spicy and tangy that I decided to settle for the restaurant food at Atria for the rest of my trip in order to avoid acidity. 🙂
The fort 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 this strategic importance, this fort was the center of numerous conflicts. Needless to say, whoever controlled this fort, also controlled the trade and commerce in the area.
Inside the fort
Like all the other forts, this too was constructed to withstand invasions. There are three entrances to the fort all constructed in a way to elude the worst of attacks. These were the Teen Darwaza, The Char Darwaza and the Wagh Darwaza. The Teen Darawaza is the main entrance to the fort. It is a double gate fort with a courtyard in between.
The Chaar Darwaja was destroyed during the British siege of the fort. Wagh Darwaja is another entrance to the fort. Entry through this gate leads to a small courtyard. This was designed to elude the enemies so that they would get trapped in the small courtyard, from where they could be neutralized easily.
The Andhar Bavdi or the hidden well.
One of the strategy to capture the fort in those times was to poison the potable water source around the area. In order to overcome this, the fort also had a hidden well inside, known as the Andhar Bavdi. This is a three storey structure with the well and the residence quarters for the soldiers along with a secret escape routes that lead directly outside the fort. This was designed as an emergency shelter in case the main fort fell.
Amberkhana or the Granary complex
Like every fort in those times, Panhala was built to withstand siege for months together. Since food was of primary importance during the seize, The Amberkhana located in the center of the fort were the three granaries where food grains were stored to be used by the soldiers and those living in the nearby villages. These were named as 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. Rice, nachni and warai were the major provisions stored. Stairs on both sides lead the top of the buildings. It has sixteen bays each with its own flat vault with a hole on top through which grain used to be passed. Their importance can be gauged from the fact that during the battle of Pavankhind, Shivaji Maharaj resisted the seize for 5 months before escaping to Vishalgad
The legend of Gangu Telin
We all have heard the saying in Hindi ” Kaha Raja Bhoj aur kaha gangu teli”. It is used to convey the difference between an important and an inconsequential thing. But here in Panhala, I came across another interpretation of the story which was told by our local guide and was interesting.
It is said that when the construction of the fort walls were taking place, the walls used to collapse after every 6 months, Astrologers were consulted who suggested that a human sacrifice was to be done and only then the construction would be successful. But there was a condition. A pregnant women who was willing to lay down her life without being forced had to be chosen. When announcements were made in the villages, a lady by the name of Gangubai Telin came to the front. She had 2 daugters named Ganga and Yamuna. She was sacrificed at the very same place. Its in her honour that the graneries came to be known as Ganga Yamuna and Saraswati. And thats how the saying “Kaha Raj Bhoj aur Kaha gangu Teli” came into being signifying the selfless sacrifice made by Gangu Telin. Even today during certain occasions, villagers from Gangu Telins village come in to perform pooja at this location where she was sacrificed.
The visit to Panhala lasted for an hour with some interesting stories shared by my guide. Its always fun to visit places of historic importance. For once, you are transported to the past through the stories and the local lores. Secondly, you get to see the structure right in front of you. Though most of these forts are now in ruins, they still speak of a glorious past and the way they stood amongst all odds. Panhala fort and the Janjira fort (I’ve written about the Janjira fort in my earlier post. Click here to read) are the examples of how advanced we were even in those days when modern technology was not available. It speaks of a glorious past which we should be proud of and learn something from.
It was time to return back to the city and head off to my next destination. But not before capturing some stunning views of the surroundings.
My local guide dropped me at the foot of the fort where, luckily, a bus was waiting for me. The bus dropped me at the city center and it was time to visit the next destination on my list. However, something happened in the middle and I ended up being off course. But more about it in Part 3 of the Kolhapur Diaries. Please leave your comments and feedbacks in the comment section below. See you soon with Part 3 of this series. Until then good bye!!!