Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj was the founder of the Maratha Empire back in the 1600s and since then stories of his valor have abound the popular narrative. He fought the Mughal and Britishers alike and laid the foundation of a proud Maratha kingdom. Apart from being a brave warrior he was also an astute strategist and was known for his guerilla warfare techniques. His strategy included not only a strong army but also strong fortifications across his kingdom.
Forts Built By Shivaji
At the end of his time he had over 370 forts under his rule however a few of the forts were exclusively built by him to protect the borders of his kingdom. His forts unlike the Mughal or Rajput forts and palaces have certain unique characteristics. Some of them are:
- No uniform style, the architectural style changes according to the topography of the fort. It is to be noted that not only did he have forts along the coastline but also on the highest hills
- No grandeur, he was a fighter and in accordance to his ambition to rule India he did not invest in creating elaborate palaces and gardens, it was all functional
- The quarters of the higher ranked officers were not much different from lower ranks
- The defense of the forts was paramount and everyone was involved in it, also there was a rigorous continuous inspection of the forts to ensure security
Today, many of these forts are still standing strong and are places of interest for his followers. Some of the forts in the hills are also popular for trekking as it is quite an uphill journey and the forts are so uniquely built that they can be accessed only by foot! You should definitely visit some of these forts built by Shivaji.
1. Raigad Fort
Raigad District, Maharashtra
It was the seat of power of the Maratha Empire when Shivaji made it is capital in 1674, the name of the fort itself means Rai – King, Gad – Fort. The fort is located in the Sahyadri Mountains at the height of 820 mtrs and has 1737 steps leading to the entrance. Today, there exists a ropeway to reach the top of the fort. Known to Europeans as the Gibraltar of the east, it had a marketplace and quarters for the royalty. The famous spots in the fort are the Hirakani Buruj, Khubladha Buruj, nane Darwaja, Hatti Talav and Ganga Sagar.
2. Sindhudurg Fort
Sidhudurg District, Konkan, Maharashtra
This unique fort was built on an islet off the coast of Konkan near the town of Malvan. The fort was built to protect the shoreline of the empire acting as a coastguard and was unheard of back in the era when even sea faring was considered dangerous. It is an engineering marvel and was built with iron and stones using more than 4,000 mounds of iron!, a handful of families live on the fort and it is a major tourist attraction for its scuba diving snorkeling to view the coral reefs around the island.
3. Pratapgad Fort
Satara District, Maharashtra
This fort built by Shivaji was to protect the kingdom at the banks of Nira and Koyna rivers and turned out to be the spot for an epic battle. The battle of Pratapgad is the defining moment in Maratha history as Shivaji fought Afzal Khan and established his arrival. The fort is built at a height of 1,080 mts and is a popular tourist destination. The fort has a upper and lower division and has a striking tower known as the Afzal Tower where Afzal Khan’s head is supposed to have been buried!
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