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Forts in Maharashtra

 
 
forts.jpgBassein

Bassein Fort, now in ruins, was under the Portuguese a thriving fortified city from 1534 to 1739 when it was sacked by the Marathas. The ruins of the Portuguese Fort still stand almost hidden by brushwood and palm groves. Some of the walls and churches can still be seen.
About 10 kms to the northwest lies Nalasopara village, the capital of the Konkan region from 1500 BC to AD 1300. Many Buddhist relics were discovered here. Nalasopara is believed to have been the birthplace of the Buddha in a previous life. To the north, is the Agar of Agashi and to the south is the Agar of Bassein.
An hour by bus from Bassein station are the Vajreshwari Temple and Akoli Hot Springs. Also easily accessible is Ganeshpuri with the Sadguru Nityanand Maharaj Samadhi Mandir, the Bhimeshwar Temple and other ashrams.

Getting There: From Mumbai, Bassein Fort can be reached easily by local train up to Bassein or Vasai Road station on the Western Railway and then by auto-rickshaw or taxi. By road, it is 77 kms along the Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway. 

Gavilgad

Shrouded in mist and myths is the Gavali tribal fort of Gavilgad or Gavaligad, on the Chikhaldara plateau, now under the Melghat Tiger Project. Featured in the epic, the Mahabharata, this is the place where Bheema killed the villainous Keechaka in a herculean bout and then threw him into the valley. It thus came to be known as Keechakadara - Chikhaldara is its corruption.
At Gavilgad, the bloody history continues, though the serenity of the dense forests around it camouflage the turbulent past. Built by the Gavlis, or cowherds in the 12th/13th centuries, the fort was occupied later by the mighty Gonds, the last of the sub-continental powers to fall to the Mughals.
Today although no signs of dramatic battle remain, the fort walls and ramparts still stand. Four gates guard the strategic entrances with only a cool wind whistling past them. There is no trace of the tunnel, reputedly linking it to the nearby Gond fort at Narnala. You could trek to Narnala, or drive through the thick forest to discover yet another blend of Gond and Mughal influence.

Weather: Chikhaldara has an annual rainfall of 154 cms. Temperatures vary from 39 C in summer to 5 C in winter. October to June is the best time to visit.

Getting There: The nearest railhead is Badnera on the Central Railway branch line, 110 kms. Chikhaldara, 763 kms from Mumbai, is connected to most major cities by road. Regular ST buses connect Chikhaldara to Amravati, Nagpur, Wardha, Akola and other cities.

Accommodation: The MTDC has a resort in a Chikhaldara which includes a convention center. 

Daulatabad

Rising dramatically over 600 ft above the Deccan plain is the arresting sight of Daulatabad. Once known as Devgiri, this fort served as the head quarters of the powerful Yadava rulers. In the 13th century, Mohammed bin Tughlak, the Sultan of Delhi, made it his capital and renamed it Daulatabad, or City of Fortune.
One of the world's best preserved forts of medieval times, surviving virtually unaltered, Daulatabad still displays many of the internal contrivances that made it invincible. A series of secret, quizzical subterranean passages lie amidst the fort. Its defense systems comprised fortifications of double and even triple rows of massive walls. A fortress conquered only by treachery!
The most notable structures at Daulatabad are the Chand Minar, Jami Masjid and royal palaces. The tapering 30-metre high tower of the Chand Minar is divided into four storeys, and was faced with glazed tiles and carved motifs. The Minar probably served as a prayer hall or a victory monument in its time. The Jami Masjid was a mosque built by the Khilji ruler of Delhi, Qutubuddin Mubarak. The palaces consist of spacious halls, pavilions and courtyards. The fort is open till 6 pm.

Weather: The tourist season extends almost through out the year in the Aurangabad region. April to July are the summer months which are fairly warm. The rainy season, from August to October is very pleasant, and the winter months, from November to March are the coolest.

Getting There: Aurangabad is the gateway to the region, and is generally where you would arrive or depart from. Aurangabad airport is conveniently located, around 10 kms east of the town, and is directly air-linked to Mumbai, Delhi, Jaipur and Udaipur. By rail, Aurangabad is well connected to Mumbai and other cities. There are two trains that depart daily from Mumbai. The Tapovan Express leaves Mumbai early morning arriving in Aurangabad by late afternoon, while the Devgiri Express is an overnight train. Daulatabad Fort is a part of the MTDC tour to Ellora from Aurangabad, but it can be accessed by private taxi or by the local bus that runs between Aurangabad and Ellora.

Hotels: There are several luxury and budget hotels in and around Aurangabad city. The MTDC has a tourist lodge, near the Aurangabad railway station. There is also a youth hostel in the city.

Sinhagad

Where valour is etched on every stone and the soil has turned red seeped by the blood of martyrs! From the time when a Koli chieftain, Nag Naik stoutly defended this fort (AD 1328) against the might of the Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq for nine months to Jaswant Singh, Aurangzeb's commander, who dragged his guns up the fort's steep shoulders to avenge the insult to Shaista Khan, who was rebuffed by Shivaji, this fort has been infused by tales of bravery.
It was here that Shivaji's general, Tanaji Malusare launched an attack to recapture the fort. In the ensuing battle, Tanaji valiantly laid down his life, but captured the fort. A grieving Shivaji is known to have said,"Gad ala pan sinh gela" (The fort is won but the lion has gone). And this is how the fort got its name: sinh (lion's) gad (fort).
Lokmanya Tilak, the freedom fighter had a bungalow atop here and Gandhi ji is said to have asked for water from Sinhagad, whenever he was imprisoned at Pune, a few kilometers away. You can visit the memorial to Tanaji, or the tomb of Rajaram -- Shivaji's son -- who died here. And if you are fortunate, you may find a priceless jewel or an ancient coin as Sinhgad used to serve as a storehouse of wealth for Pune merchants.

Getting there: The fort can be scaled from its many approaches. You can trek from Donaje upto the top. Donaje can be reached conveniently by bus from Pune, 25 kms away. Another shorter and less steep climb is from Kalyan village past the Kalyan Darwaza.

Vijaydurg - Sindhudurg

Once naval bases, Vijaydurg and Sindhudurg bear testimony to Maharashtra's martial supremacy during Shivaji's reign. Vijaydurg or Victory Fort was strengthened around the seventeenth century by Shivaji, to whom it owes its finest features -- the triple line of walls, the numerous towers and the massive interior buildings.
Once seized by the British and renamed Fort Augustus, Sindhudurg or the Ocean Fort at Malvan port has history etched all over. Constructed by Shivaji in 1664, at a site personally selected by him. The construction of a sea fort is a stupendous task, and at Sindhudurg no efforts were spared. Over 2000 khandis (4000 mounds) of iron were used for casting and the foundation stones were laid down firmly in lead. Even today, as one approaches the fort past a rocky reef, navigable through a narrow channel, one marvels at the transportation of such heavy material through such choppy waters. Within its precincts are temples holding the shrines of Maruti, Bhavani, Mahadeo, Jarimai, Mahapurush and also of Shivaji -- the only such shrine in the country.
As for Vijaydurg and Sindhudurg beaches, they offer the visitor one of the most serene and beautiful coastal views in India.

Getting There: Rajapur and Kudal respectively are the nearest railheads on the Konkan Railway. Sindhudurg by road is 510 kms and Vijaydurg is 425 kms from Mumbai via the Goa highway. 
 

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