Standing up high on mountains of Sahyadri’s, Raigad represents an architectural wonder built by men in 1600’s. India represents a country where forts have significant strategic importance and formed the place of Kings and Queens to reside safely; Forts of Maharashtra have unique place in history.
Not built or founded on plateaus like Red fort of Delhi or castles Rajasthan but on tricky terrains of Sahyadri Ranges, the mighty Raigad is one such great fort built by ‘Chatrapati Shivaji’ during his reign of Swarajya. The architect of this great fort is ‘Hiroji Indulkar.’
There are many forts in Maharashtra, but Raigad fort trek is best weekend getaways near Mumbai. As said earlier Raigad represents ‘Marvel’ and a ‘Might.’ Though in a dilapidated state now, the remains of the fort also prove that when in its wholesome state what a fort it might have been. Trekking to Raigad is not such as difficult, proper steps are built and way is led down to reach the ‘Maha Darwaja.’ Maha meaning massive and yes indeed it is massive, the boundary and the watchtower are so powerfully built that there is not an inch of crack that can be seen. It gives an instant thought that when the army would have stood on it who could have dared to attack the grand fort. The ‘black rocks’ a specialty of building forts in those days created strong structures.
Entering the fort the paths lay to visit different sites and different places on the fort. Many water tanks can be found on the fort. The fort always had the abundance of water and food. Coming into view there are ‘8 Mahals’ of 8 queens of Chatrapati. The Mahals even had floors and staircases, at least 2 floors can be identified. Wow building floors in those days and at the height of around 3000 ft. is just amazing and very creative. At the backside of the 8 Mahals, there is a huge lake called ‘Hatti talav’ (Elephant lake), the elephants used to bath here.
Walking further the office of clerical staff can be seen in the broken state. It seemed spacious and well built. As we move forward the ‘Darbar’ of the fort comes in view. The ‘darbar’ is still strong and walls on both the sides are still present concretely. Even the entrance is in good shape. The gate of Darbar is huge, a Sinhasan of Chatrapati is at the other end constructed with what is called as ‘Panchdhatu’, it is said that during the reign the Sinhasan was of pure gold and it was looted by British in later years. The peculiarity of this ‘Darbar’ is, if any person speaks in a whispered voice, it is audible at Sinhasan, even if the person is standing as long as near the entrance. It is an example of great architectural acoustic arrangement.
Coming out of Darbar and walking down the lane, one arrives at an open space where Sculpture of Chatrapati on a throne is built. It is a famous sculpture that appears at many places in Maharashtra.
In front is the ‘bazaar Peth’ (market), it is vast and some walls are broken down, it is built parallel and a track goes through between with market on both the sides. The floor is built on some height, the purpose being that even people on horses could shop without descending down. Walking down the market gives a feel of how it might have operated in those days.
As we walk further to the right there is a huge temple of Lord Shiva known as ‘Jagdishwar temple’, the peculiarity of the temple is that it has a dome like a mosque. The Samadhi of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is built in front of the temple. Seeing the ‘Samadhi’ invokes a very different emotion, the great King laid his life establishing Swaraj. There is also a Dog’s Samadhi in front of King’s Samadhi, supposedly the dog was very loyal to King and had jumped in the funeral pyre, in honor of that it was built.
On the entrance of Samadhi at the bottom of the steps, a stone is carved where the architect’s name is inscribed ‘Hiroji Indulkar,’ on the instruction of Chatrapati himself. Leaving the temple and Samadhi leaves you calm and mesmerized, backtracking, on the right side there is ‘Takmak tok’ the point of punishment, the punishment being to be pushed down into the valley through this point. It is quite a scary point. But the amazing fact is that there was no such incident that this punishment needed to be implemented, showing that the crime rate during King’s rule was very less.
On the other side of the fort, there is a ‘Hirakani Buruj’, it’s the watchtower built on the very narrow cliff. It has got its name from a story, which a lady named Hirakani had climbed down this watch tower without any support of rope, only with sheer will and strength to get back to her child down the village. The fort’s door used to get closed at the twilight, and no one after that was allowed to enter or leave, but this lady had come up for some work and had to get back, so with her will, she climbed down this dangerous watchtower, thus the name.
There are many other points to visit on the fort like Khubladha Buruj, Nana Darwaja, Madarmorcha (Mashidmorcha), Pillars, Pailhi Darwaja, Palkhi Darwaja, Queens Palace, Rajbhavan, Ratnashala, Rajsabha, Mena Darwaja, Nagaarkhana, Shirkai, Temple, Kushavarta Taloa, Bhavani Point, Gangasagar Talao, Wagh Darwaja. Sahyadri mountain range can be seen from the majority of these points.
Ahead now there are MTDC rooms built for the stay in the fort and also there is a ropeway attached for those who don’t want to climb.
Viewing all the points we can again descend back from ‘Maha darwaja.’ Every season adds different color to the fort. The fort in Monsoon is surrounded by lush greenery, rains are lashing heavily on the walls of the fort, and waterfalls are flowing heavily through the hills. The winter brings misty fogs and chilly weather on the fort, the fogs is sometimes so dense that it is difficult to view what is in front. The summer brings the luster on the fort; the black stones shine and reflect, the grass is dried away.