Maharashtra is home to several majestic forts. Of these, while some impress with their dimensions, others seem to cling on to near-vertical rock faces and many are unrivalled in their lost naval splendour.
A prolific fort-builder, 17th-century Maratha ruler Shivaji harboured more than military affinity towards these commanding structures of stone, brick and mortar. He had once put it into words, thus, “… in (hill) forts not only does the kingdom get its strength but these hill forts are also instrumental in (the) survival, nourishment and well-being of our people, particularly in the wake of (an) attack by our enemy.”
Now, a long-standing demand by fort lovers and heritage activists to include the forts of Maharashtra in the UNESCO World Heritage site list is fast gaining ground. Among these forts are Raigad, Rajgad, Sindhudurg, Jinji, Pratapgarh, Panhala, Vijaydurg and Devgiri.
Saili Palande Datar is an Indologist, who is keenly interested in the status of Maharashtra’s hill forts. She laments the fact that adequate efforts are not being made by the government for the upkeep of these historic structures, most of which are in a dilapidated state. “The Maharashtra government is planning to spend Rs 400 crore to build a statue of Maratha warrior king Shivaji in the Arabian Sea, off the coast of Mumbai. How about sparing some money on the much-needed repair and restoration of the forts where Shivaji Maharaj waged his wars and created history?” asks Datar.
Similar concerns have underlined the efforts of Anand Kharde. A member of the Pratapgarh Restoration Committee, Kharde filed a Right to Information query to ascertain the status of forts located in the Sahyadri mountains of Maharashtra in October 2014. “The issue of inclusion of these forts in the UNESCO World Heritage List first came up two years ago. Since then, we have been working to get these forts their rightful place on the world heritage firmament,” says Kharde. “We have been working under the guidance of Dr Rajendra Shende, a former UN diplomat, who has been instrumental in taking up this neglected part of Maharashtra’s history.”
The following are descriptions of five of these fortresses that still stand strong and narrate countless tales of valour, bringing alive a sense of history without parallel. It would be a disservice to history if these majestic structures are not accorded their due.
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