Greetings fellow travelers! Join me on a thrilling journey through the heart of Maharashtra, where every twist and turn unfolds a new adventure.
Date: 27th Jan 2024
It was a long weekend, but we (my Mom, wife, and I) decided on a day’s drive to Kolhapur, visiting both Mahalakshmi Temple and Panhala Fort and setting off from our home in Belgaum at 7.45 am. We were filled with anticipation for the adventures that lay ahead.
Our first pitstop was for breakfast at Hotel Brindavan, Hattarki Toll. Indulging in a sumptuous breakfast to fuel our energies for the road ahead. Little did we anticipate the challenges that awaited us as we set out, only to encounter numerous deviations due to the ongoing highway construction. Yet, amidst the detours and delays, the camaraderie amongst us remained unwavering, turning each obstacle into an opportunity for shared laughter. Arriving in the vicinity of the Mahalakshmi Temple by 10:45 am finding suitable and safe parking proved to be a challenge. It took us 30 minutes to secure a spot, located a mile from the main temple sanctum.
Undeterred by the detours, we made our way to the sacred Kolhapur Mahalakshmi Temple for a soul-soothing Mukh Darshan. There was a long queue with no facility for a special paid darshan, so we entered via the South Gate. If you intend to perform any special pooja, you need to get your tokens from the ICICI Bank’s counter before 10.30 am. or stand in the long queue. If you need a quick darshan, then you need to visit through the Mukh Darshan gate of the main sanctum.
The divine aura and intricate architecture left an indelible mark on our spirits.
Due to a small oversight – the money donation given by my dad meant for the temple was left in the car. A gentle reminder that even the best-laid plans can sometimes have their twists. I had to walk back and forth to get this.
Savoring the sweetness of sugarcane juice at the temple exit, we embarked on the next leg of our journey towards Panhala Fort, situated roughly 20 kilometers away. Amidst the scenic drive, our appetites led us to Hotel Madhuban Gardens, where we treated ourselves to a delightful lunch. The delicious spread offered a moment of bliss, revitalizing our energy for the adventures awaiting us.
Panhala Fort – A journey through Time !!
As we approached Panhala Fort, its imposing silhouette dominated the horizon, a testament to centuries of history and intrigue. Nestled amidst the Sahyadri mountain range, this ancient fortress stands as a sentinel, guarding the secrets of bygone eras.
Embracing history at Panhala Fort, we enlisted the services of our knowledgeable guide, Vaibhav. The fort’s ancient charm and panoramic views made the detours worthwhile.
Stepping through the gates of Panhala Fort is akin to stepping back in time. Built by Raja Bhoj during the reign of the Shilahara dynasty in the 12th century, the fort has witnessed the rise and fall of numerous empires, each leaving its mark on its weathered walls. From the Marathas to the Mughals, Panhala has been a witness to countless battles and sieges, each adding to its storied legacy.
The fort’s architecture is a marvel, blending historical styles seamlessly. Its sprawling layout encompasses a network of bastions, ramparts, and secret passages, each revealing a different facet of its rich history. The breathtaking views from its vantage points offer a glimpse into the strategic importance of this formidable stronghold.
Panhala Fort is steeped in legends and folklore, adding an aura of mystique to its ancient walls. From tales of brave warriors to whispers of hidden treasures, every stone seems to echo with the whispers of the past. Exploring its labyrinthine corridors, one can’t help but feel a sense of awe and wonder at the stories that have unfolded within its confines.
The outer perimeter of the fort walls is 9 km.
Andhar Bavadi or the Dark Well was not just a source of water for the fort’s inhabitants but also served as a clandestine passage for the brave souls who dared to venture into its depths. Its dark recesses are said to have provided refuge to spies and soldiers during times of conflict, shielding them from prying eyes and hostile forces.
True to its name, Teen Darwaza, or the “Three Gates,” is adorned with three majestic archways, each a testament to the fort’s strategic importance and formidable defenses. Constructed during the reign of the Marathas, this gateway served as a vital link in the fort’s intricate network of defenses, allowing for controlled access to its inner sanctum.
Translating to “Tiger Gateway,” constructed like the face of a Tiger. Wagh in Marathi means Tiger. At the entrance of Wagh Darwaza, an elaborate Ganesh motif adorns the gateway, serving as both a symbol of divine protection and a testament to the fort’s cultural heritage.
Sajja Kothi holds a deeper significance as the War Room of the Maratha Empire, where battle strategies were meticulously devised, and wars were won.
Ambarkhana: The Granary of Panhala
Ambarkhana served as the beating heart of provisioning for Panhala Fort, where vast quantities of grains and provisions were stored to sustain its inhabitants during times of need. Its sturdy architecture and strategic location within the fort’s defenses ensured the security of its precious cargo, safeguarding against the ravages of famine and deprivation.
The famous nostalgic Bollywood song: Chota Bacha Jaan Ke Humko Na Samjhana Re of the 90’s was shot here.
In times of war and uncertainty, Dharmakothi shone as a beacon of hope amidst the darkness, offering a glimmer of light to those in need. Its doors remained open to all who sought assistance, regardless of caste, creed, or background, embodying the universal values of compassion and humanity.
We had tea at Salgar Chai Point in the fort premises.
Note: You can roam around the fort in your vehicle. As per our guide Vaibhav, the best time to visit Panhala Fort is during the monsoon, there are a lot of stay options available within the Fort premises.
As the sun began its descent, we started our return journey towards Belgaum we made a pitstop at Kognoli Toll for a quick snack at Shahu Bhel Point.
With the day’s experiences of 300 km etched in our memories, we reached our home, Belgaum, by 10 pm.
Until the next expedition, happy trails!
Note: There are many other places in Kolhapur; New Shahu Maharaj Palace, Rankala Lake, Jyotiba Temple, and Kaneri Math which you can include along with Mahalakshmi Temple & Panhala Fort during a 2-day trip.
Also, read my biking adventure of Rider Mania 2022