The site of the epic encounted between Shivaji and Bijapur general Afzal Khan, the hill fort of Pratapgad stands testimony to the greatness of the Maratha King.
At an elevation of 3454 ft, the fort is located in Satara district of Maharashtra. A winding, sharp mountain road leads to Pratapgad from Mahabaleshwar, about 21 km away. The fort was built to defend the Par Pass and played an important role in the defence of the region around Wai.
From a distance, the fort looks like a round tipped hill with the walls of the lower fort giving the impression of the fort being a crown on the hill. Further fortification of the fort was later authorized by Shivaji and done by Moropant Pingale, the first Peshwa or the chief minister of the Maratha Empire
The fort can be divided in to two parts, upper fort and lower fort. The upper fort was built on the summit of the hill. The layout of the fort forms a crude square and the walls stretch for approximately 590 sq ft on all sides. You can get stunning views of the Raigarh Fort and coastal Konkan from the top of the Pratapgad Fort.
There are many structures in the upper fort with the Mahadev Temple being the most impressive structure. The temple is located in the northwest area of the fort near the edge with cliffs on three sides and a sheer drop of over 800 ft.
The lower fort was built in a rectangular shape with a length of about 1050 sq ft and width of about 360 sq ft. To defend the fort, there are towers and bastions in the southeast of the fort which rise up to 40 ft. There is a Bhavani Temple in the eastern side that is dedicated to Goddess Bhavani.
The battle between Afzal Khan and Shivaji was known as the Battle of Pratapgad after which the Afzal tower was constructed outside the fort on the approach road as a lookout for enemies. It is said that Afzal Khan’s head is buried under the Afzal tower which is also known as Afzal Buruj. The southern side of the fort has natural protection because of the rocky terrain and the eastern side has heavy fortification till the Afzal Burj.
The construction of the fort was the responsibility of Shivaji’s Prime Minister, Moropant Trimbak Pingle so that the banks of the Koyna and Nira Rivers and the Par pass could be defended.
The fort was completed in 1656 and the ramparts became the site of the battle between Shivaji and Afzal Khan. After the win over Afzal Khan, the Maratha Empire flourished and Pratapgad was active in regional politics.
In 1818, the Maratha forces had to surrender the Pratapgad Fort after losing the third Anglo-Maratha War.
A 17 ft high bronze statue of Shivaji was unveiled on November 30, 1957, by the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru to honour the great Maratha King.
WHERE TO STAY
There are no accommodation options in the fort but Mahabaleshwar has a wide variety of options for accommodation.
WHERE TO EAT
Carry food hampers and water when visiting the fort.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best time to visit Pratapgad is between October and May.
WHAT TO SEE
Bhavani Temple: Built by Chhatrapati Shivaji, the temple has wooden pillars and the roof was later covered with lead by Pratapsingh, the King of Satara.
Afzal Khan’s Tomb: The tomb of Afzal Khan has over time become a mausoleum. The tomb has been preserved as a memorial to Shivaji’s courage.