This is History. No doubt, almost all have come across these facts of history — either while studying or while teaching kids about Maratha history.
However, when I recently re-visited this ancient fort after a long gap, I re-learnt some details, which I realised, were not commonly known.
A view from Sajja Kothi
Built by Raja Bhoj II in twelfth century, the main parts of this fort are still strong and intact. Later, some additions like the Sajja Kothi etc. were built by the Sultans of Bijapur.
Andhar Bawdi : The dark or hidden well:
In those times, the easiest and quickest way to destroy an entire camp, was to poison the main well or the water source. So this chief water source of Panhala Fort was built as a three storied structure. Only the topmost floor is visible above the ground.
Top part of Andhar Bawdi
The middle floor is below the ground level and the actual well is hidden and protected even below it. There is enough room to post guards to protect the water.
The second level and the steps leading down to the well
It is also said that, this well was used for sending signals. If a lemon was dropped in this well at Panhala, it used to reach Kolhapur (18 Km away). So, one lemon was a signal for war-situation, two for immediate help —– so on. Such was the code and signal system of those times.
This is one of the main entrances of the fort. There are two, inner and outer gates, to this entrance.
These gates are powerfully built with black rocks and the blocks of these rocks are cemented with molten lead, making it more fortified. This lead bonding can be seen even now.
Then there are three huge granaries – Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati.
|Entrance of the granary Ganga|
|Huge side wall of the granary Ganga|
The first one, Ganga, is the largest of the three and it is more than ten meters high. The side walls of these granaries have stairs to reach the top, for pouring the grains through the holes on the top.
Inside the granary Ganga
The hugeness of the structure can be perceived by how tiny the human figures appear inside the granary. One can feel real coolness inside these massive stone structures — a natural or architectural help for grain preservation.
The great amount of grains that these granaries stored, helped Raja Shivaji to pull through the siege laid by the Bijapur army.
Panhala fort witnessed many historical events. The chief one amongst them was Raja Shivaji’s escape from the siege of Panhala, with the help of his brave commander Bajiprabhu Deshpande.
Ali Adil Shah II of Bijapur handed his entire army to Siddi Jauhar for capturing Fort Panhala as well as Raja Shivaji. Afzal Khan’s son, Fazal Khan, along with his army, joined Siddi Jauhar to take revenge of his father’s death.
This vast army laid siege to Fort Panhala, all supplies were cut off. The huge granaries saved the Maratha King and his army for five months. After that, the situation turned difficult.
Instead of surrendering, Raja Shivaji decided to escape to the nearby Vishal Garh. With a handful of brave soldiers, Bajiprabhu stopped the enemy at a narrow pass in the mountains (Ghod Khind) and fought till he heard the gunfire signal from Vishal Garh, indicating that Shivaji Raja had reached safely.
This part of Maratha History is widely known
However, there was more to this escape than this battle.
Raja Shivaji’s personal barber, Shiva Kashid had a striking resemblance, in looks and built, to Raja Shivaji. When the escape plans were secretly being made, Shiva Kashid volunteered to pose as the king, knowing the consequences fully well.
So in the darkness of a rainy July night, two palanquins stealthily moved from the hidden path of Panhala, one with Raja Shivaji and another with Shiva Kashid in the king’s disguise. Raja Shivaji took a side road to Vishal Garh and the palanquin with Shiva Kashid went along the main road to Vishal Garh.
When the enemy got a whiff of this escape, they followed and arrested Shiva Kashid. They assumed that they had captured Raja Shivaji. By the time they realised their mistake, Shivaji had gained enough lead towards his destination.
It is not very clear as to what happened to Shiva Kashid, but logically it is assumed that the enemy did not spare his life.
In the pages of history, not much is mentioned about this brave, unsung hero who offered his life in this suicide mission. He knew it very well that this would have only one outcome — loosing his life. And still he himself volunteered. That is some Courage! And that is some Loyalty!
The statue of Shiva Kashid at Fort Panhala
The locals of Panhala are very proud of their brave-heart ancestor and the first thing they point out is his statue in the fort and a narration of his courageous deed. But his mission didn’t find its due mention in the pages of history.
Our salute to this Hero!