Raigarh was Shivaji’s capital, the hill
fort where he was crowned (1674 AD) and where he died (1680 AD).
Strategically situated on an irregular wedge-shaped mass of rock,
detached from the main body of Sahyadri Mountains by a deep valley and
inaccessible from three sides, Raigarh is 210kms south of Mumbai and
27kms north of Mahad. The fort’s 5.12sq.kms hill-top plateau has
three main points Hirakani in the west, Takamak in the north and Bhavani
in the east. There is only one pathway to Raigarh, probably in
keeping with Shiviaji’s strategy “the fort’s approach should be easy for
friends and impossible for foes”. A motorable road leads to Chit
Darwaja, about 2kms from Pachad, the village at the base, where lies the
Samadhi of Jijabai, Shivaji’s mother. A long climb from Pachad
takes one to the Mahadarwaza, flanked by two massive bastions and a high
The top plateau is covered with a large
number of remains of buildings and reservoirs. Behind the Ganga
Sagar reservoir are two high towers, in Muslim style. Behind the
towers is the Balekilla or citadel, entered by the Palakhi-darwaza.
On way to the right are remains of chambers of women of Royal families
and on the left those of the Darbar of Shivaji. On a low mound in
the centre is the site of Shivaji’s throne. Further north is the
two-row market place, the Jagadishwar temple in an enclosure and the
Samadhi of shivaji, and also that of his favourite dog, Waghya.
The history of Raigarh, earlier known as
Rairi, is obscure. In the 12th century Rairi was a seat of the
Shirke-Palegar family. After changing several hands, it was
captured by Shivaji from Chandrarao More in 1656 AD. Shivaji chose
Rairi for his capital and renamed it as Raigarh. The gigantic
construction work was entrusted to Abaji Sondeve and Hiroji Indulkar.
In its heyday Raigarh had more than 300 houses, and structures.
After Shivaji, the fort remained in the hands of Sambhaji till 1689 AD,
when it was captured by the Mughals. Reverted to the Marathas in
1735 AD, Raigarh was surrendered to the British in 1818 AD.
Pictures: South-western view of
Raigarh from Pachad, the base village (above), and remains of buildings
in the fort (insert). The 12-sided two-storey towers (below).