RAIGAD FORT

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RAIGAD FORT

 

Raigad is a hill fort situated in the Mahad, Raigad district of Maharashtra, India. The Raigad Fort was seized by Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and made it his capital in 1674 when he was crowned as the King of a Maratha Kingdom which later developed into the Maratha Empire, eventually covering much of western and central India.

The fort rises 820 metres (2,700 ft) above the sea level and is located in the Sahyadri mountain range. There are approximately 1737 steps leading to the fort. The Raigad Ropeway, an aerial tramway exists to reach the top of the fort in 10 minutes. The fort was looted and destroyed by the British after it was captured in 1818.

Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj seized the fort in 1656, then known as the fort of Rairi from Raje Chandrarraoji More, The King of Jawli and a descendant of Chandragupta Maurya family. Chatrapati Shivaji renovated and expanded the fort of Rairi and renamed it as Raigad (King’s Fort). It became the capital of Chatrapati Shivaji’s Maratha kingdom.

The villages of Pachad and Raigadwadi are located at the base of the Raigad fort. These two villages were considered very important during the Maratha rule in Raigad. The actual climb to the top of the Raigad fort starts from Pachad. During Chhatrapati Shivaji’s rule, A cavalry of 10,000 was always kept on standby in Pachad village.

After capturing Rairi from Chandrarao More, Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj also built another fort Lingana around 2 miles away from Raigad. The Lingana fort was used to keep prisoners.[

In 1689, Zulfikhar Khan captured Raigad and Aurangzeb renamed it as Islamgad. In 1707, Siddi Fathekan captured the fort and held it until 1733.

In 1765, The fort of Raigad along with Malwan in present Sindhudurg District, the southernmost district of Maharashtra, was the target of an armed expedition by the British East India Company, which considered it a piratical stronghold.

In 1818, the fort was bombarded and destroyed by cannons from the hill of Kalkai. And on 9 May 1818, as per the treaty, it was handed over to the British East India Company.

In a first, a team of archaeologists will undertake a massive exercise to unearth the remains of Raigad, the erstwhile Maratha empire’s sprawling capital that once thrived at the eponymous fort in the Sahyadri mountain ranges.
A team of experts from the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) and Deccan College, Pune, have been carrying out excavations at the site for about three months.

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Work on the Rs 600-crore project is being carried out under the supervision of the Raigad Development Authority, a special body functioning under the state government, which is headed by Sambhaji Raje, a descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. “Along with restoration, the idea behind the project is to understand what the empire looked like… today, most of the ruins have been covered under layers of earth,” Raje, who is also a Rajya Sabha MP, told The Indian Express.

Unlike many other forts in Maharashtra, which are built on a chain of interconnected mountain ranges, Raigad stands tall on an isolated block of mountain with steep slopes, which are extremely dangerous to climb. While it is commonly believed that the capital of the Maratha empire was invaded by the British, who set it on fire, archaeologists at the site have found no indication of such a blaze.

Vice-Chancellor of Deccan College, Vasant Shinde, who is monitoring the progress of the project at the historic and sensitive site located in Raigad district, said, “After defeating the Marathas, the British destroyed all these forts… But so far, we have found no evidence of the fire recovered from the fort.”

From the 350 spots at the site identified for carrying out excavations, students from Deccan College have managed to excavate one of the hundreds of building complexes of the empire. “This was a wada (traditional cluster of houses)… the team managed to recover rare artefacts from the site, such as Persian pottery, earrings, mortar and pestle and gold threads, among others,” said Raje. Buried under layers of earth, the wada has multiple storeys, elaborate stairways, a main verandah and structured outer walls.

“Nearly 70 per cent work on the site has been completed…,” added Raje. During the course of the project, the researchers are hopeful about understanding the importance of each building and learning about the various activities that were regularly carried out there, as they believe it will shed further light on the Maratha kingdom, including the hundreds of people who lived at the fort.

As it will be a difficult task to excavate all 350 spots, Shinde has suggested that the team use Ground Penetration Radar (GPR) to survey the area. “This method will provide basic details of each spot, such as the number of buildings present, and help in deciding which spot needs to be studied further.”

The project also includes the development of 21 neighbouring villages, as well as Jijauwada, which was the home of Shivaji Maharaj’s mother Jijamata, and the road that connects to Mahad, a town located about 25 km from the fort.

 

 

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