Many of the guardians of the ghats, a.k.a fortresses of yore, around the holiday hill town of Mahabaleshwar, still stand firm. Deeply embroiled in the history of Maharashtra, these mighty citadels are the ancient crowns of many a mountain in the land-locked interiors of the state. Most are approachable by motorable roads, which, nearer to the fort, are lined with villagers selling their wares. There is quite a choice available, from leather items, rubber shoes, and earthenware to local fruits and vegetables.
While most forts are open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., it is wise to descend an hour before closing. Ensure that you carry a hat or scarf, wear sturdy, closed, cushioned shoes, and are entirely clothed, to avoid insect bites, scrapes and scratches from the stone walls, etc., and, of course, beat a sunstroke.
The best time to visit is from October to March.
Commissioned by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the fort provides impressive views of the Western Ghats. It was built as a command centre, by Morepant Pingale, a minister of the king. Its purpose was to hold a small army to control the insubordinate satraps of the region. If you recall your history from middle school, you will remember this fort was the battleground of Afzal Khan, from the Bijapur Sultanate, and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. A smooth metalled road goes right up to the gates.
How to get there The fort isapproximately 20 km from Mahabaleshwar, on SH72
Set at an elevation of 1,395 meters above sea level, &lsquoRuling Fort&rsquo or Rajgad was also commissioned by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. It was funded by the hoard of gold, a teenage Shivaji Maharaj had found, when he had conquered Torna fort. Built on a triangular tabletop hill, it has three bastions, Sanjivani, Suvela, and Padmavati, plus a citadel atop, named Balekella. This vast fortress was witness to the birth of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj&rsquos second son Rajaram Maharaj, and the passing of his wife Sai Bai. Considered an unconquerable fort, it was the locus of the Maratha empire for 24 years.
How to get there It is about 115 km from Mahabaleshwar
From the road, if you spot a square, crown-like structure atop a mountain, then know that you see the Pandavgad fort. Few reach this lofty citadel, which lies at the end of an arduous trek through the dense foliage of the Mahabaleshwar-Panchgani hills. An important fort of the region, it was much sought-after through the ages. Once the reign of the Chalukya dynasty was done and dusted, the Shilahar rule took over from Kohlapur to the rest of the Deccan. Pandavgad was built by Shilahar king, Bhoj the Second, as was revealed by a copper plate inscription from 1191/92. The Adil Shahi house also captured and kept the fort, and later in 1673, the Marathas won it and included it in Swarajya. By 1701, Mughal ruler Aurangzeb had taken the fort, only for it to be taken back by Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj. By 1818, the British were in India and had raised their flag on Pandavgad.
How to get there 41 km, approximately, on the Panchagani-Mahabaleshwar road
At an elevation of 3,330 meters is another of the Shilhara dynasty forts Ajinkyatara towers over the town of Satara. Built by Shilhara king Bhoj the Second, in 1190 AD, on the Yawateshwar hills, it was later used as a state prison by the Adil Shahi rulers. Chand Bibi, the widow of Adil Shah I, was imprisoned here. It fell into the hands of the Marathas as they swept through this region, and then Aurangzeb captured, and renamed it Azamtara, after his son. The Maratha regent Tarabai recaptured the fort and gave it its current name. As the ownership of the fort passed back and forth between the Mughals and the Marathas, through the years, it was eventually taken over by the powerful Peshwa rulers, and later passed into British hands. A motorable road reaches right to the entrance.
How to get there The fort is four km from Satara, which, in turn, is 56 km from Mahabaleshwar, approximately
Said to have been constructed in the 13th century by the Bahamani kings, Sajjangad is situated near Umrodi dam, Satara. It has the Ajinkyatara fort to the east, the city of Chiplun to the west, and Kohlapur to its south. Sajjangad fort is strongly associated with the 17th-century saint Samarth Ramdas. He established many a matth around the fort, which is also said to be his final resting place. The fort has two main entrances, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Mahadvaar and the Shree Samarth Mahadvaar.
How to get there It is about 66 km from Mahabaleshwar