To say that Maharashtra has a rich history would be an understatement. Its history can be traced all the way to the 4th century, and it has been a part of almost every major dynasty in the Indian subcontinent, including the Mauryas, Chalukyas and Satavahanas. And every great dynasty and empire has left its mark in the state’s culture, architecture and language. Today, you can find remnants of these incredible periods in history scattered across Maharashtra. For Maharashtra Day 2017, let’s take a look at some of the most iconic places in the state that capture important parts of its history. ALSO READ: 11 vintage photos of Maharashtra like youve never seen before! Also Read - To Fight COVID-19, PM Modi Launches 'CARES Fund', Urges Citizens to Donate
Bibi ka Maqbara
Bibi ka Maqbara
The legendary Mughal emperor Aurangzeb was known for his lack of interest in building architectural marvels like the rulers before him. He commissioned just two structures in his lifetime: his personal mosque, the small yet beautiful Moti Masjid in the Red Fort of Delhi, and the Bibi Ka Maqbara on the outskirts of Aurangabad. The latter was his largest structure, located around 5km from the main city today. Built by his son, Prince Azam Shah from 1651 to 1661, the mausoleum was built in the memory of the emperor’s first wife, Dilras Banu Begum. It was commissioned in 1660, three years after her death. The Bibi Ka Maqbara bears a striking resemblance to the Taj Mahal in its structure and layout, and is often called the Taj of the Deccan. Made of white marble and red stone, the monument is at its most beautiful under the early morning rays of the sun. It is best visited during the Bibi Ka Maqbara festival held every October, organized by the state tourism board. Also Read - Earth Hour 2020: Rohit Sharma Wants Citizens to do Their Bit For The Planet on Saturday
The hill fort of Shivneri is an important part of the Maratha Empire that lasted from 1674 to 1818, beginning with the crowning of Chhatrapati Shivaji as its first monarch. It was where the future king was born, effectively becoming the birthplace of the Maratha kingdom itself. Ironically, the fort was never conquered by Shivaji, despite two attempted sieges in 1657 and 1673. It finally came under the Marathas during the reign of his grandson, Chhatrapati Shahu, in 1716. Once considered invincible, the fort has since fallen to the forces of weather and time, although some structures remain, like the Ambarkhana granary and the Ganga-Jamuna water cisterns, which date back to around 2,000 years. You can find a statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji as a child to symbolize the childhood years he spent there, along with a small temple of Shivai Devi. Also Read - Can Feed 4 Lakh People From Today Onwards: Kejriwal Ramps up Efforts to Rescue Migrant Workers Amid COVID-19 Lockdown
Maharashtra’s sea forts are a symbol of the naval might of the Marathas and offer a glimpse into a relatively lesser-known part of the state’s history. And Sindhudurg is a great example of a Maratha sea fort. Located just a short boat ride off the Konkan coast, Sindhudurg and the nearby fort of Vijaydurg showcase the architectural and military strength of the centuries-old empire. It was built from 1664 to 1667, and remains in great condition to this day thanks to its lead foundations. During its heyday, the fort served as a base for Maratha naval ships, and remained so expect for the years from 1765 to 1792, when it was under British occupation. The 42 bastions of the fort remain standing even today, and you can also find the foot and hand marks of Chhatrapati Shivaji. ALSO READ: 13 majestic forts of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in Maharashtra
Ajanta and Ellora Caves
Sculpture at Ajanta caves
The centuries of Mughal and Maratha rule can eclipse other parts of Maharashtra’s rich history, and there is no better symbol of this than the once-forgotten caves of Ajanta and Ellora near Aurangabad. Situated nearly 100 km apart, the two caves lie beside the Gautala Autramghat Sanctuary and consist of several intricate, beautifully-carved caves that date back all the way to the 2nd century BC. The 32 caves in Ajanta and the paintings and sculptures within them have been called the finest surviving examples of Indian art by the Archaeological Survey of India. The monasteries of Ajanta were forgotten in the 8th century and abandoned for Ellora, where you can find 34 Buddhist, Jain and Hindu religious monuments and caves that are as old as 1,500 years.
Gateway of India
Gateway of India
From the ancient caves of Buddhist and Jain monks, let’s move to a bit of modern history built at the southern edges of Mumbai: the Gateway of India. The monument was built from 1913 to 1924 by the British to commemorate the visit of the then-reigning monarch, King George V, in 1911. Built over land reclaimed from the local fishing community at the Apollo Bunder port, the monument was designed to be the first structure that visitors would see when arriving in Mumbai by boat. It was also symbol of the end of the British Raj, because this was where the last British Army troops passed through on their way out in a symbolic ceremony in 1948. Today, the Gateway is usually the first place that tourists visit when they tour Mumbai, and it remains an immutable part of the city’s identity. You can spend an evening admiring the intricate latticework of the monument, or take a short cruise along the coast.
If the Gateway of India is a critical element of Mumbai’s identity, the Shaniwar Wada is an equally crucial part of the identity of Pune. The fortified palace was built by the second and arguably most famous Peshwa of the Maratha Empire, Bajirao I. It then became the seat of the Peshwas for the rest of their reign in the 18th century. Construction of the palace began in 1730 and completed two years later. While the fort itself was lost in a fire in 1828, the imposing walls remain standing to this day. The walls consist of five gateways, each of which has their own history. Take, for instance, the Delhi Gate or “Dilli Darwaza”, which faced the north as a symbol of Maratha’s Empire’s expansionist ambitions. The walls also consist of nine bastions surrounding the complex. Inside, you can find the foundations of the original palace and some of the latticework and pillars that survived the fire.
We’ve seen symbols of Maharashtra’s pre-independence period, but the state has been witness to incredible events even after 1947. The Deekshabhoomi monument in Nagpur stands as testament to this; it marks the place where Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian Constitution and a crusader for the Dalit Buddhist Movement, converted to Buddhism. It is considered an important site for Buddhist and the millions of people impacted by Ambedkar’s social reform campaigns. The largest Stupa in Asia was erected to honor the man, and the place hosts millions of pilgrims and travelers every year. It is one of two places that are closely tied to the life of Ambedkar, apart from Chaitya Bhoomi in Mumbai. ALSO READ: Best beaches in Maharashtra that are ideal for weekend getaways
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