The fort of Panhala occupies a prime place in the history of Maharashtra and is also a favourite destination as a hill station. Built by the Shilahara dynasty of Kolhapur in 12thcentury, the fort passed into the hands of the Yadavas of Devgiri, Bahamani, Adilshahi and subsequently the Marathas. Shivaji Maharaj spent many days on this fort which was under the dominance of the Marathas until the 17th and mid-18th century. Queen Tarabai was the founder of the Panhala throne of Karvir alias Kolhapur princely state. The fort has witnessed a great many upheavals and battles and is located around 20 kilometers from Kolhapur. An interesting view from Panhala is that of the pass that connects the rest of Maharashtra with its coastal areas.
There are many a remains of the fort which are now being looked after by the Archaeological Survey of India. The fort can be visited during any season but what make it more compelling, mysterious and exciting are the fog and the dense greenery that sprouts up during the monsoon. There are hotels aplenty in Panhala and you can enjoy here the typical Kolhapuri cuisine. While entering Panhala you will come across the mausoleum of Vir Shiva Kashid whose statue is at the entrance of the fort. Walk along the opposite side of this statue and you will reach the Parashar cavern which possibly could have been a Buddhist cave.
Further, at the summit of the roads is the statue of Bajiprabhu Deshpande. From there a road leads to the three-storied andharbaw (the dark well) and Teen Darwaja and Konkan Darwaja along with their fortifications. The other leads to the Sajja Koti which was built by Ibrahim Adil Shah to watch over the lower regions. Then the third road leads to Someshwar or Somale Tank which has a mention in the medieval treatise ‘Karveer Mahatmyam’. In the centre of the fort is situated the Amberkhana or granaries, three in number built in typical Bijapur style. Apart from these, the Naykinicha Sajja (place of the courtesan), Dharm koti, Wagh Darwaja and Rajdindi are worth visiting.
Along with these beautiful medieval architectural specimens, there is a monument dedicated to Sambhaji Raja and temples of Ambabai, Mahakali, Someshwar along with mausoleums of Jijabai, Sambhaji Raja II’s wife, Ramchandra Pant Amatya and Moropant, the famous Marathi poet.
Things to Do
Most tourists who set out to visit Panhala usually begin this lap from Kolhapur, a city blessed with magnificent temples, and more importantly for the presence of Goddess Mahalakshmi. Founded by Chhatrapati Tarabai, this princely state flourished under the reign of the Chhatrapatis of Kolhapur, especially under the legendry Rajarshi Shahu Chhatrapati Maharaj and Rajaram Chhatrapati Maharaj who set a vision and laid the foundation of modern Kolhapur. The temple dedicated to Ambabai or Mahalakshmi attracts pilgrims in huge numbers throughout the year and there is a strong belief that after one worships Lord Balaji at Tirupati, offering prayer to Goddess Mahalakshmi is essential to complete the pilgrimage. Do indulge in some shopping, especially the famous Kolhapuri jewellery, chappals and jaggery. And apart from the Kolhapuri mutton or chicken thali with its spicy rassa, try out the Kolhapuri misal too.
The caves of Pohale surrounded by pure nature situated at the foot of the Jyotiba hill are a sight for sore eyes. Located about 7 kilometers away from Kolhapur on the way to Jyotiba-Panhala these caves belong to Hinayana Buddhism and are hewn in the 2nd – 3rd century of the Canon era. The post-monsoon season is the best time to visit these caves. Note that the road to these caves is rough and goes through villages like Vadanage, Pohale, etc. One can see the sign-boards leading to the caves at appropriate points.
The shrine of Jyotiba can be reached either from Pohale or by the regular road to Jyotiba on the way to Panhala. The Jyotiba or Kedareshwar is revered by a great number of devotees from Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka. The temple of Jyotiba was built in 18th century by Ranoji Shinde. Since the site is strictly religious, there are many bhakta nivas built on the hill-top. There are 12 jyotirlingas near the hilly area of Jyotiba and some devotees perform the pilgrimage to all these 12 lingas. Besides the religious centre, the area is abundant with natural beauty and is frequently visited.
For accommodation purposes, a resort by MTDC is located just a few minutes away from the Jyotiba shrine. Since the fort of Panhala is quite close to the Jyotiba shrine, one can put up at the MTDC resort at Panhala too and then might visit this shrine by any private or rental vehicle.
Visit the nearby attractions
Vishalgad, Kanermath and Narsoba Vadi are not very far from Panhala and are not to be missed places.
How to reach:
The nearest airport is at Pune. There is a domestic airport at Kolhapur but there is no regular air service.
Kolhapur is well connected to all the major cities. Miraj, at one hour distance from Kolhapur is the major rail junction.
Kolhapur is well connected to all the major cities. Kolhapur is linked to Pune- Bangaluru highway. There are regular ST buses as well as private buses plying to Kolhapur.
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