RAIGAD FORT

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Location : Raigad, Maharashtra
Significance: Was the capital city of the Marathas and Shivaji was Coronated Here.
Britisher's Called It: Gibralter Of The East
Popular For: Trekking

Fort Raigad was the capital of the most illustrious Maratha sovereign, nurtured by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. It is a monument of his prophetic vision of Hindavi Swarajya. Stories of incredible valor and heroic deeds are etched on every pebble at Raigad.

The fort in Raigad stands as a silent reminder of Maharashtra's glorious past though the sound of trumpets or the clang of clashing swords and shields are heard no more at this historic monument. The Britisher's called it "Gibralter of the East'' as the well-fortified structure atop a hill that had repeatedly defied attackers. Various landmarks have lent it the credo of 'Shivtirth'. The holy shrine has become vibrant by the valor, courage and patriotism of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

History Of The Fort

It was here that Shivaji built his capital city in the 14th century. Shivaji was coronated here by Brahmin priests of Benaras who poured water of the holy Ganges in the Gangasagar tank at the fort. Besides, the tank now stands at the crumbling ruins of the 40-feet-high towers, which display Mughal architecture. Barring these towers, Raigad, named after the Rairi hill, was constructed and fortified by Shivaji and his engineers, notably Abaji Sondev, the then governor of Kalyan.

Raigad Fort in MaharashtraShivaji had wrested the strategic hill from Chandrarao More in 1656 AD. His father, Shahaji had selected the site as the capital of the growing Maratha Empire. For six years up to his death, Raigad remained the capital of the Marathas with its broad gates and magnificent monuments. There was only one pathway leading to the top, and prizes were offered to those who scaled the fort through unconventional methods.

Today, except for Shivaji's Samadhi, his coronation site and a Shiva temple, most of the monuments inside the fort, including the Queens' palace, are in ruins. The statue of the founder of the Maratha Empire stands without any roof or shelter not far away from the spot where Shivaji was coronated with pomp. Though parts of Raigad are in ruins, yet they inspire an aura of grandeur.

Attractions Within The Fort

At the foothills near village Pachad, is Chit Darwaja, also known as Jit Darwaja. After footslogging, you reach Khoob Ladha Buruj. It is a strategically located tower, from where an aggressor attacking from either flank could be repelled. Nearly a mile ahead, after a difficult climb comes the Maha Darwaja. Built over 350 years ago, this main entrance to the fort stands majestically. The design of this Maha Darwaja is an enigma. It defies detection of its location to the attacker. Blind curves enroute make it impossible for the attacker to use elephants to knock it down. In the battle of those historic times, elephants were used to demolish fort entrances.

At the upper station is the Mena Darwaja, a special entrance for the royal ladies and the queens. To the left of Mena Darwaja is the Rani Vasa or Queens' Chambers. They are six in number and were being used by the royal ladies. In front of the Rani Vasa is the Palkhi Darwaja, special entrance for the convoy of Shivaji Maharaj. To the right of Palkhi Darwaja, there is a row of three dark chambers. Historians believe that these were the granaries for the fort. On the right side of Mena Darwaja, is the office complex of 8 principal secretaries of Shivaji Maharaj.

The Raj Bhavan

To the right of the granaries is the Raj Bhavan, the palace of Shivaji Maharaj, where he dispensed justice in petty and routine matters. The palace rests on a double plinth and had wooden columns to support the palatial structure.

The Raj Bhavan is a mute witness to the joys, sorrows, anger, victories and overwhelming generosity of Shivaji. The plinth adjoining Raj Bhavan holds two large water tanks and by its side, is the location of the Royal Bath. Excellent toilet and drainage system highlights the structural design of that era. To the east of Raj Bhavan is in an open space, there is an underground cellar. It was used for secret dialogues, worshipping Bhavani Mata and for storing war booty.

The fort has many huge water reservoirs, one of which is the picturesque Ganga Sagar. Two main entrances from the Royal Palace open in to a sprawling lawn. This is the Raj Sabha. It has witnessed the splendor of the glorious coronation of Chhatrapati Shivaji. The shackles of 300 years of slavery were broken and Shivaji Maharaj proclaimed establishment of Hindavi Swarajya.

The magnificent throne, studded with diamonds and gold, rested on eight columns of pure gold weighing almost 1000 kilos. It also bears the royal emblem of Shivaji Maharaj. The umbrella over the throne was adorned with strings of precious stones and pearls.

Nagarkhana

Entry for common public to Raj Sabha was through the "Nagarkhana". In those times, the royal band played here round the clock. It is an excellent example of architecture and miraculous acoustics. The distance between Nagarkhana and the Royal Throne is more than 200 feet, yet even the slightest whisper can be heard from both ends very clearly.

Holi Cha Mal

Holi Cha Mal is outside the Nagarkhana. It is a wide-open ground, used for annual Holi festival. There is a temple of Shirkai Bhavani, a presiding deity of the fort. In front of Holi Cha Mal, there is a spacious and well laid-out marketplace. It is built on a high plinth and is separated by a 40-feet wide road leading to the Jagadishwar temple. Adjacent to this temple, is the most revered place on Fort Raigad, the Samadhi of Chhatrapati Shivaji. The Samadhi is intact and well maintained, even today, due to the personal initiative of Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak.

Well-trained and courteous guides are at hand to give tourists a conducted tour of the fort.

OTHER PLACES OF INTEREST

Other places that are worth a visit are the Ammunition Depot, Bara Tanki i.e. more than a dozen huge water reservoirs, Rameshwar Mandir, Wagh Darwaja, Takmak Tok - an execution place for the proclaimed criminals, etc. These are testimony to the valor, courage and ultimate sacrifice of Maratha soldiers, who made Hindavi Swarajya a reality.

NEARBY ATTRACTIONS

Mahabaleshwar: The famous hill station of Maharashtra-Western Ghats is situated only 75-km away from the fort site.

Harihareshwar: The famous temple of Lord Shiva, built by the great Peshwas is located on the seashore here. The beach is simply superb and worth a visit.

Ganpatipule: There is an ancient temple of Lord Ganesh situated on a beautiful beach side that will simply take one's breath away.

Shivthar Ghal:This place is known as the sacred abode of Swami Ramdas, the Guru of Maharaja Shivaji.

Gandhar Pale: These caves of the Buddhist period are located near Mahad, close to Fort Raigad.

TREKKING AT THE FORT

Excellent trekking places exist all around Fort Raigad.

Fort Torana: It is on the east at a distance of 30-km and is clearly visible from Raigad.

Fort Lingana: Within a distance of 3-km in the western Sahyadri range is located the Fort Lingana. It is at a height of 2,969 feet from the sea level and was used to house prisoners by Shivaji Maharaj.

Nijampur - Fort Mangad - Raigad Trek: Nijampur is on the northwest at a distance of 16-km from Raigad. This is a beautiful trek that one can enjoy by foot.

Birwadi - Raigad Trek: Village Birwadi is 24-km from Raigad. The trek is along the river Kal.

Mahad Trek: The trek is of 21-km along the river Gandhari up to Konzar, then via Pachad to Raigad.

HOW TO GET THERE

Rail: Vir-Dasgaon Station is the nearest railway station on the Konkan railway. From here tourists have to take a bus or taxi to Raigad.

Road: There are many interesting routes to Raigad, varying from the relatively easy to the challenging. Raigad can also be an adventure-filled day excursion from the hill station of Mahabaleshwar or from Pune . Raigad is at a distance of 150-km from Pune, 75-km from Mahabaleshwar, 140-km from Mumbai, and 250-km from Raigad.

Sea: From the Gateway of India to Alibaug by motor launch in just 45 minutes. From there the rest of the distance is covered by road up to Raigad.

WHERE TO STAY

Accommodation is available at the hotels in Raigad or Mahabaleshwar.



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