Sitting majestically at a height of 820 meters, the magnificent Raigad Fort is one of the historical heritages of India and is perched on the Sahyadri mountain range in Mahad, in the Raigad district of Maharashtra. The fort is of great pride for the Marathas and is a specimen of the bravery and audacity of the historic rulers. Raigad Fort is nothing less than a sacred place of pilgrim for the Maratha people which carries the engravings of the grand vision of the Hindavi Swarajya as cherished by Chhatrapati Shivaji. The fort was erstwhile known as Rayri which was then renamed as Raigad meaning ‘Royal Fort’, by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaja who made it his capital.
The fort is accessible only from one side through a stairway of 1737 steps while the other three sides are enveloped by a deep valley. The ropeway can also be taken which will reach the fort top in just 4 minutes. Raigad Fort was known as the capital of the Maratha kingdom by Chhatrapati Shivaji and was nicknamed as the ‘Gibraltar of the East’ by the Britishers, as this splendid fort had defied several attackers. Most of the fort is in ruins now, but it still stands tall with pride and boasts of the brave past of the Marathas.
The Raigad Fort was established by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj – a Maratha ruler in the region of Maharashtra in India, by developing and renovating a fort (which was earlier known as the fort of Rairi) he seized from Chandraraoji More, the king of Jawali in 1656. After seizing it, Shivaji renovated and expanded the fort of Rairi which got completed in 1670 and renamed it as Raigad (meaning King's Fort) and made it the capital of his Maratha kingdom.
In 1689, Mughal emperor Aurangzeb renamed it as Islamgad, after it was captured by Zulfikhar Khan, who was appointed as the Nawab of the (then) Tamil Carnatic State. In 1707, the fort was again captured by Siddi Fathekan, who held it until 1733. After 1733, chiefs of the Maratha kingdom re-captured Raigad and held it until 1818.
In 1818, the fort was bombarded by cannons from the hill of Kalkai and destroyed; and a few months later, it was handed over to the British East India Company according to their treaty. Post India’s independence from the British, since 1947 the fort has been in possession of the Central Government of India.
The architecture of Raigad Fort is an excellent example of the Maratha military style of construction. The fort is located on a hill, which is around 820 meters above sea level and is spread over a vast area of 14 acres surrounded by massive walls. The fort has a complex structure, which includes various buildings, temples, and courtyards. The architecture of the fort is a blend of Hindu and Muslim styles, which were prevalent during the 17th century.
The main entrance to the fort is known as the Maha Darwaja, which is a massive gate built of stone with two towers which are around 30 meters in height. The gate is designed to protect the fort from invaders and has a unique feature of spikes on the gate to prevent elephants from charging at it. Once, inside the fort, one can see the Rajwada, which is the residence of the king. The Rajwada is a three-storied building, and each floor has separate rooms for different purposes. The ground floor was used for storage, while the first floor was the residence of the king and his family. The second floor was used as a courtroom. Another prominent feature of the fort is the Jagdishwar temple, which is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is built in the Hemadpanthi style of architecture and has a beautiful idol of Lord Shiva.
The fort also has a unique water management system known as the Ganga Sagar Lake, which is located on top of the fort. The lake collects rainwater and supplies water to the entire fort throughout the year. To conclude, the architecture of Raigad Fort is a masterpiece of Maratha military engineering and a testament to the engineering skills of the Maratha Empire. The fort has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site and is a popular tourist destination.
The ropeway to Raigad Fort is another way to witness the breathtaking beauty of the fort and the greenery surrounding it. Those who are not fond of the trekking, there is a ropeway to reach the fort which has a diagonal length of 760 meters and a steep ascent of 420 meters, which takes only 4 minutes to reach its destination. The price of the ropeway also includes a visit to the museum and a film show. The prices are as follows:
The best time to visit Raigad Fort is during the winter season, between the months of November and February as the weather during this time is pleasant and cool. The temperature during the winter season ranges from 12°C to 25°C, making it comfortable for tourists to explore the fort and its surroundings.
The monsoon season, from June to September, can be another good time to visit Raigad Fort as the surrounding hills and valleys turn lush green and the waterfalls come alive. However, it is important to note that heavy rainfall during the monsoon season can make it difficult to explore the fort and its surroundings.
There are total 1737 steps leading to Raigad Fort.
Raigad Ropeway provides excellent lodging facilities for the visitors and tourists. AC and non-AC rooms are available with both western and Indian toilets.
Winters are the best time to visit Raigad Fort as the weather remains pleasant and apt for sightseeing. From October to March is the best time to have a trek on the Raigad fort. During the monsoons, the fort seems even more exquisite with the lush greenery around, but trekking can be difficult due to heavy rains.
As the fort is very expansive, it is best to stay there a night to explore all the spots and sites. Lodging and food are available with the help of local villagers at Raigad foothill and the Raigad Ropeway facility.