Located on the outskirts of Mahabaleshwar, the Pratapgad Fort is perched at a height of 1,100 ft above sea level and offers spectacular views of surrounding green valleys and the imposing mountain range. It is divided into two parts. The sprawling lower fort has 10-12 m high towers and bastions at corners on projecting spurs. It is built on the southern and eastern terraces. The upper fort, 180 m long on each side, used to host the main proceedings. The Mahadev Temple is located on the northwest side of the upper fort and the royal darbar used to be held in front of it as Maratha leader Shivaji believed that no one would lie in this holy space.


The fort was commissioned by Chhatrapati Shivaji, and built by his prime minister, Moropant Trimbak Pingle in 1656, to control the officers of the Javali basin nearby, as well as to defend the banks of the Nira and Koyna rivers, and the Par Pass. It is said that at this fort Afzal Khan, commander of the Bijapur Adilshahi forces, came to meet Chhatrapati Shivaji. His intent was evil, and he tried to stab Shivaji as he embraced him in greeting. Shivaji was unharmed as he was wearing an iron armour and he swiftly took out his waghnakhi (iron tiger claws) that he had hidden under his finger rings and attacked Afzal Khan. Sambhaji Kavji Kondhalkar, Shivaji’s lieutenant, then beheaded Khan. On Shivaji’s orders, a dargah named Afzal Buruj was built at Pratapgad Fort. It is also home to a temple dedicated to Goddess Bhavani and it is said that Shivaji received a new sword from the goddess at this temple.


In 1957, former prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru unveiled a 17-m-high equestrian bronze statue of Shivaji. Today, Pratapgad Fort is owned by Udayan Raje Bhonsle, Shivaji’s descendant and heir of the Satara princely state. Several of the great king’s descendants still live in this fort.

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