RELIVING THE MIGHT OF THE MARATHAS-SHIVNERI

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The birthplace of the great Maratha leader, Shivaji, this fort is an eye-catching experience for the tourists who visit here. A visit to Shivneri fort in Maharashtra not only provides an emotional and historical connection with the place where the great Maratha King Shivaji was born but also proves to be an opportunity to test your trekking skills.

Maharashtra is a land of forts and within the walls of these fortified bastions pulsates the heartbeat of the great Maratha history, which continues to be vibrant even 200 years after the sunset on this empire. The part played by the forts in shaping the history of Maharashtra is well known through our academic literature. And one such fort that has become popular is that of Shivneri.

Shivneri is a hill fort located on the northern side of Pune district and has Junnar at its base. Junnar or Jirnanagar was an important town on the famous trade route of Naneghat during the Satavahana era, in the vicinity of which are a bunch of forts such as Jivdhan, Chavand/Prasannagad, Hadsar/Parvatgad and of course, Shivneri. Of these, Shivneri commands greater importance because it is the birthplace of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. He was born in this impregnable fort on Falgun Vadya Tritya Shake 1551 i.e. February 19, 1630, or March 1, 1630, according to the Georgian calendar. Unfortunately, he never ruled Shivneri, though he tried to capture it in 1657 and 1673, both the attempts being in vain. In 1716, during Shahu Chhatrapati’s reign, the possession of Shivneri by Maratha rulers took place as an outcome of a treaty with the Mughals.

The Routes

 

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To visit Shivneri, one has to first go to Junnar which is well connected by road to Pune and Mumbai. The fort can be scaled using two routes. A regular tar road leads halfway up the hill in its southerly direction, following which one has to ascend the steps of Rajmarg and pass through seven age-old magnificent gates. The second route is tough. It is in the easterly direction and known as ‘Sakhalichi Vat’. Halfway up this trek is a series of rock-cut caves, some of which are very difficult to access. Further ascent is in the form of extremely narrow-cut steps. Both the paths require about an hour to reach the top.

While climbing upwards, one remembers the remark made by Sir Richard Temple, an administrator in British India, ”You will see what a rugged precipitous place this is and what a fitting spot it was for a hero to be born in”. Most of the visitors prefer Rajmarg with a grandeur of the seven doors one after another. The names of the doors are Maha Darwaza, Peer Darwaza, Parwangicha Darwaza, Hatti Darwaza, Shipai Darwaza ( after this one can take a detour to Shivai Temple through Shivai Darwaza), Phatak Darwaza and Kulabkar Darwaza.

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At the second gate, in addition to vyal (mythical composite animal) or Sharabh (mythical combination of animal and bird) sculpture, there is a carving of an iguana (‘ghorpad’ in Marathi). On the third gate, we find the carving of a ‘gandbherund’ (hypothetical double-headed bird) using the vyal or sharabha sculpture style. All along the footpath and on the hill slopes, the forest department has planted a good number of trees, which makes the ascent more pleasant.

Structure and Style

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The first ruined building we see is Ambarkhana or Dhyankothi. In the 15th century, a Bahamani King sent his trusted aide Malik Ahmed to Junnar and Shivneri because the local subhedar had collected revenue for five years and had not paid it to the central treasury. Fortunately for him, Malik Ahmed was successful in getting possession of the Junnar town and the Shivneri fort. The granary was full of grains and all the revenue collected over the last five years was in the fort. Malik changed his mind and he declared himself a king by establishing a new dynasty-Nizamshahi. He then took the title of Nizam ul Mulk bahiri. This dynasty, established in 1489, at shivneri lasted till 1633 with a lineage of 12kings. This feat of sorts was possible for Malik Ahmed because of the Ambarkhana being full of grains. Later on, the Nizamshahi shifted from Shivneri to Ahmednagar.

As we proceed further, a twin underground water tank is seen on the right of the footpath. They are Ganga-Jamuna cisterns. Experts date those water tanks for the Satavahana period i.e. 2,000 years ago. Interestingly, the fort has a statue of child Shivaji, appropriate since he lived here only for his first six years.

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The spot where Shivaji was born had turned into a dilapidated structure and it was therefore reconstructed in 1925, now known as the Shiv Mandir. In its vicinity is a huge circular water tank called Badami Talavi. However, it does not hold water any longer. At the far side to the north is a precipitous cliff. This narrow channel is known as the kadelot Point. It is believed that criminals awarded capital punishment were handcuffed and thrown down from here. It is from here that one can get a good view of the Manikdoh dam as also the Hadsar and Chavand forts. A further climb provides a sight of Harishchandragad, far behind the mountains. One can also get a view of Narayangad, Lenyadri Hill, Arvi Satellite Centre’s antenna dish and the Khodad meter wavelength radio telescope.

 

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On the top of the hill is a platform with a dome. This is called ‘Koli chauthara’. In 1650, the Mahadev Koli tribe took possession of shivneri and declared it their ‘swarajya’. But the Mughals were alert and the protest was nipped in its bud. The Mughals conquered the fort and hundreds of kolis were imprisoned and slaughtered. Here you will also find a wall called the ‘idgah’, a pathway which leads to the highest spot of Shivneri at 420 metres, from where you can get a fascinating view of the surrounding landscape and Junnar.

The magnificent forts that are spread across the Sahyadri ranges make Maharashtra an ideal destination for trekking. The climb up of the Shivneri fort provides one such ascent which can be full of adventure, a discovery of nature and a trip down history.

Reaching there-Located in Junnar town, off Pune Nashik road. Distance from Mumbai-100kms.

Shivneri is a well maintained, awe-inspiring fort at a few hours driving distance from Pune.