‘Gadh’, literally means stronghold, have been an integral part of the erstwhile kings and princes in India. It is strategically located across various parts of the country. The forts were the arsenal of rulers to deploy the forces when under attack. Maharashtra has over 300 such forts that played an important role during Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s reign. However, one fort holds a special place in the history of Maratha Empire owing to its architectural genius and the folklore attached to it. If your travelling activity accounts for history and architect, then Pratapgadh Fort is your destination. Here’s the account to the valour of Pratapgadh Fort- a testimony to genius, marvel and victory.
Formation Story of the Pratapgadh Fort
Unlike other forts of Maharashtra that were majorly captured, Pratapgadh Fort was constructed by Shivaji Maharaj. It was built under the architectural guidance of Moropant Trimbak Pingle. The fort consists of 4 watchtowers in four directions, armoury, king’s quarters, army quarter, around 450 steps connecting it all. It was all constructed within a span of 2 years. Just imagine!! Around 500 years ago, without the use of heavy machinery and equipment, in a hostile environment, clandestinely stands a stronghold of Maratha bastion.
The intriguing part of the construction was that the main door of the gate is not visible from outside. As seen in the photos, an outside glance makes it look like an impregnable wall. But actually, the main gate is hidden behind the rocks, with a series of the curved staircase leading to the door. The curved staircase was an example of an ingenious construction. It protected the fort gate from being taken down by the enemy forces.
On the way up to the top, one can witness the weapons and armoury used at the time. Literally and figuratively, each of the weapons weighs about 20-30 kgs. Also, it is said that an average person then would practice with them for 6-8 hours a day. Clearly shows the strength in the limbs of our ancestors. The highest point of the fort stands on the edge of the 3000 feet high cliff, known as Punishment Point. The place was used to execute the criminals by throwing them down the cliff. A spine-chilling place even now as the cool breeze equivalent to that of an air conditioner with temperature dropped to the lowest. And the view is worth dying for!
Significance of the name given- Pratapgadh
Among all the tales, the fort is well known for one which derived its name. ‘Pratap’ means victory, and the name of the fort is dedicated to the victory of Chhatrapati over the Mughal General Afzal Khan.
Chhatrapati Shivaji’s contemporary ruler was the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. He placed a handsome bounty on Shivaji Maharaj’s head. Afzal Khan was the Mughal General in the Deccan region and he accepted the challenge to defeat Shivaji Maharaj. Setting out a message of peace proposition to Chhatrapati at Pratapgadh, Afzal Khan had planned to kill Shivaji during the meet. Afzal Khan, as it is said, was a monster among men, standing at 7 feet tall and was strong enough to flip a raging bull without breaking a sweat.
Shivaji Maharaj, on receiving the invitation of the peace proposition, went ahead to meet Afzal Khan with 2 of his trusted generals. As they met, Afzal Khan tried to kill Shivaji Maharaj by squeezing his neck. However, Shivaji Maharaj, having anticipated such move, tore open Afzal Khan’s belly using the tiger claws he was wearing on his hands. Withering in pain, Afzal Khan retreated through the tent where one of Shivaji’s bodyguards decapitated him. The trumpet of victory was blown from the fort and hence the fort came to be known as Pratapgadh Fort.
Pratapgadh Fort is just 15 km from the famous hill station of Mahabaleshwar. Also look for other destinations to visit near Pune and Mumbai. Pratapgadh Fort stands tall reminiscing the valiant tales of the glorified Maratha history.
If you are planning to visit pratapgarh fort & some other places together & you are low on budget, these tips will help you to save a lot of money while travelling. So plan your next trip there and be amazed by living the part of the history.