Maharashtra perhaps is the only state that has almost all types of fort architecture, land, sea and hill forts. The forts selected below are a milieu of this representation with scenic beauty along with the geographical uniqueness provided by the terrain. The UNESCO has added to its tentative list the following forts from the State of Maharashtra based of their overall appeal and their own unique value as displayed in the history of the State. The 14 forts are:
|The Rajgad Fort|
The fortifications in the Indian Subcontinent made the first appearance probably around 4th millennia B.C.E. during the Harappan civilisation. They were simple in nature like boundary walls for defending the human settlements. In the Historical period, beginning during the Mahajanapadas (6th century BCE), the building material of fortifications was mud, burnt bricks and stone and it functioned as the defence perimeter of the habitation areas.
The presence of such specimens is often credited to the existence of ideal geographical settings suitable to serve the purpose of defensive warfare. The Western Ghats made up of volcanic basalt rocks offers perfect settings for creation of such military establishments in the form of magnificent forts in Maharashtra.
In the Ancient period different dynasties such as Satvahanas, Vakatakas, Chalukyas, Pallavas, Rashtrakutas, Chalukyas, Cholas, Kakatiyas and Hoysalas. There are references of construction of forts during the rule of Satvahanas, Vakatakas and Rashtrakutas. In the Mediaeval period, Arabs, Turks and Europeans who first appeared in the Konkan region, slowly started to make their presence in hinterlands of Maharashtra. During this period, a separate category of military garrison evolved apart from the earlier existing category of fortified habitations. In 1294 C.E. Alauddin Khilji, invaded the Deccan and reduced the Yadavas to the position of tributary princes further conquering Telangana and Karnataka. In 1338 C.E. Sultan Muhammad-bin Tughluq succeeded Khiji rule in Deccan. He added many parts to existing constructed fort – Deogiri of Yadavas turning into Daulatabad fort. Further in 1347 C.E. revolt of his governor resulted in establishment of an independent Muslim dynasty cum Sultanate known as Bahmanis. In 1518 C.E. even after successful rule of a century and a half, the Bahmani Empire was disintegrated into the five Muslim states known as the five Sultanates of Deccan at Golkonda, Biapur, Ahmednagar, Bidar and Berar. The Bahamanis were responsible for creation of large number of forts in this area. Later on, each Sultanate added to the existing constructions besides constructing new ones.
A small kingdom was established by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, a Maratha warrior king could hold against the mighty Mughal Empire. The Mughal Empire was already extending from the borders of modern Uzbekistan to Bay of Bengal and Emperor Aurangzeb was trying hard to annex the Southern Indian kingdoms to extend the Mughal rule in the peninsular region of India. The Maratha kingdom could stand firm and resist against the Mughal might owing to the best use of their hilly terrain. The Maratha power was further strengthened with construction of hill, land and sea forts and by adopting guerrilla warfare tactics.
Hence, the forts of Western India occupy an important place of significance in the political and architectural history of the region. While in the rest of India, the tradition of construction of forts appears sporadically in space and time, it displays a vigorous and continuous activity in the Western India for a period of nearly 1800 years, starting sometime in the centuries immediately preceding the Common Era and continuing almost up to the 19th century C.E.