GHOSALGAD FORT History

Ghosalgad Fort [Contributed by Mr. E.H. Mosqardi.C.S,] (T. Roha), six miles south of Roha, is situated at the edge of the hilly country that occupies the middle of the Roha taluka, between the Revadanda creek on the south-east. It is a perfectly isolated hill, the ground to the north, east, and south being level, very slightly raised above the sea and intersected by tidal creeks. Only on the west a slightly raised neck of land joins It to the principal range or group of hills. The base of the hill Is elliptical in shape, being about a mile and a half in length, from east to west by half a mile in breadth from north to south. Its height is apparently about 1,000 feet, and as it stands completely apart, it is a very conspicuous object when seen from the north, south, or east. On the western side the Roha hills shut it from view at all points further than the top of their eastern face. From whatever side it is seen, the hill appears to consist of four parts, which rise one above the other. First comes a gentle slope, fairly wooded and fertile, and rising about 200 feet above the plain. Second comes a steep ascent of about 400 feet, bare of vegetation other than grass and stunted bushes, except a few fine mango trees on the north near the top. Third comes a steep nearly perpendicular wall of bare rock, unscalable except at two or three points, which rises into the air to a height of more than 100 feet. Fourth is the wedge-shaped hill-top, which, with a narrow ridge running east and west, rises above the third part of the hill in a steep slope, partly rocky and bare, partly overgrown with long slippery grass, bastard spurge and aloe bushes. The third division of the hill whose steepness is apparently partly due to artificial scarping, has at its top the chief line of defences which entirely surrounds the hill, Between this line of defences and the hill-top a narrow walk or terrace completely encircles the hill. From the eastern end of the third division of the hill and rising to about half its height stretches a long ridge or rather a wall of rock, fifty to seventy feet high and twenty to fifty feet broad at the top and perhaps twice as much at the base which stands on the third division of the hill. This wall of rock, which is also fortified, is about the same length as the fort itself, that is about 300 yards long. It runs east and west like the rest of the hill, and gives it a peculiar shape by which it can at once be known from the surrounding hills, especially from the neighbouring fort of Tala on the other side of the Salav creek.

The chief ascent to the fort, in fact the only ascent that is practicable without much climbing, is on the north side. Two other ascents, one along the south face and the other at the east end of the hill, are both almost impassable. Starting from the village of Ghosala, which lies on the lowest and gentlest slope of the hill and along the whole length of its northern face, the path passes up the higher and steeper slope to the point where the eastern wall or ridge of rock leaves the main body of the hill. Here was the gate of the fort, but not a trace of it remains and its exact position cannot be determined. Before reaching this point there appear on the left two temples, one of Bhavani with a rudely cut image of the goddess, and just above it a rather large square temple of Ganapati. A Gurav is attached to the temple of Bhavani for the worship of the deity. Having reached the base of the first end of the rocky escarpment, which forms the third division of the hill, the visitor climbs up to the point whence the ridge of the fortified wall of rock above-described stretches west-ward. It is fortified at the top with two parapet walls, one at its northern and the other at its southern edge. These walls are each about four feet thick and meet in a point at the western end, where are the remains of a round bastion of great height but not more than about twenty feet in diameter. The northern and southern parapet walls have each of them two niches, extending through or nearly through their whole thickness. Those in the southern wall are pointed arches about four feet high. One of them is open at the further or outside end, the other is closed on the outside by a thin wall. Of the two openings in the northern wall, which are both square at the top, one, like the latter of those on the southern parapet, is built up with a thin wall at the further end. The other is more curious. The wall is here about two feet thicker than elsewhere and suddenly narrows to its usual dimensions. At this point a low square archway about five feet in depth leads into the wall, not at right angles but parallel to the wall. It then takes a sudden turn at right angles to the wall and to its first direction, thus forming a hidden chamber about five feet long by two broad. It goes nearly through the whole thickness of the wall, for the outside opening is shut by a masonry partition pierced with chinks which show that it is not more than three or four inches thick. The part of the fort which is built along the top of this westward ridge is called the khenkada apparently from its resemblance to the claw of a crab. In the rock just within the bastion, at its western end, is a circular hole about three inches in diameter and about a foot deep. The flag-staff is said to have stood here. There is a similar hole in the ground at about the middle of the khenkada. There are no remains of buildings or other objects of interest in this part of the fort.

Where the gate originally stood are the remains of a building said to have been the dungeon of the fort. Its eastern wall is simply the rocky side of the hill, its northern and southern sides are formed by prolonging the northern and southern walls of the khenkada, which here draw close together and are each about twelve feet thick. In the southern wall, a curious arched gateway, about five feet six inches high, leads outside the fort by means of steps. It appears to have been approached from the bottom of the hill by a path or by steps, no trace of which remains, and to have been intended to give easy access to friends desirous of entering the fort from the south side. In the east wall of this building a rock-cut cistern stretches several feet under the hill. It is now empty. Near the west end of this chamber is the place where the gate of the fort seems originally to have stood. Lying on the ground ate a number of dressed stones, two of which have crudely cut figures of tigers with wide open jaws and long curling tails, the tops of which nearly touch their heads. These tigers are said to have formerly been above the gateway. The way into the fort passes up a flight of steps built on the top of the southern wall of the chamber which has just been described. Both the northern and southern walls of this chamber seem to have had a flight of steps at the top, and to have had parapets on the outside of the steps. The parapet of the north wall and the steps of the southern wall remain. The parapet of the north wall is about three feet thick and is pierced with loopholes for musketry. The steps on the top of the southern wall are prolonged along the face of the rocky escarpment of the hill, until they reach the ledge which divides it from the highest ridge. To the right or south side of these steps, on a small ledge which breaks the generally perpendicular face of the escarpment, are three small rock-cut cisterns. The steps lead to the main enclosure of the fort itself which is triangular. The length of the northern and southern sides is about 300 yards each; they meet in a point at their western end. The third or eastern side is about 150 yards long. There appears to have been a wall with a parapet all-round the outside edge of the fort. Most of this wall has fallen, but traces of it everywhere remain. Beginning at the western angle of the fort, a little along the northern side, are three rock-cut cisterns. Unlike the cisterns in the building below near the gateway, they are open at the top. The water in them is not now fit to drink. Passing along the south
side of the fort the bottom of the rock on the left, that is on the southern face of the highest ridge of the hill, is seen to be pierced with low and shallow grottoes, evidently artificial. Close to these grottoes is the plinth of a ruined temple of Bhavani. The image in the little temple at the foot of the hill just above the village of Ghosala is said to belong to this temple. Just below this, on a ledge approached from the main ledge of the fort by an imperfect flight of steps, are two rock-cut cisterns about forty feet long by fifteen broad. The east cistern is open at the top; the west cistern is cut into the face of the rock and overhung by it. The water in the west cistern is bad, that in the east cistern excellent and of considerable depth.

At the east end of the south side are the remains of what appears to have been a large round bastion. Here there is a plat-form apparently intended for a gun, and, just below it, an iron gun about ten feet long and of good workmanship was unearthed in 1881 from about a foot below the surface. Apparently it was buried simply by the operation of nature, being covered by the sand and gravel, formed by the disintegration of the rock above. The rusted gun has no inscription. About the middle of the east side of the fort was an old ruinous Musalman tomb or dargah, and near it was a rudely cut cistern holding clean water. Close to this and to the north of it are the remains of a large and solid-looking dwelling house, and immediately to the north of the dwelling-house are the remains of the powder magazine still in fair preservation. It was evidently a solidly built structure, with a veranda on the north and south sides and a high roof with gables at the east and west ends. The length of the whole building from east to west was about eighty feet, and its breadth including the two verandas about forty feet. The inner chamber is only about twenty feet wide. The walls are nearly nine feet thick. A masonry facing protected the building.

From the northeast corner a steep path leads down the face of the escarpment to a triangular out-work or redoubt, which is built along the edge of a low hill which forms an eastern spur of the fort. This outwork is rudely constructed of stone and has platforms for cannon. Tradition says that this was the place where the besieged kept their provisions, but it is scarcely credible that they should have kept them in so exposed a place. The only object of interest on the north side of the fort is a large open pond faced on the outer side with masonry. Near this is the only point from which the ascent to the top of the hill is practicable. As it is, the ascent is very steep and is overgrown with long and slippery grass. The top of the hill forms a narrow ridge about 180 yards long whose eastern end commands an extensive view. A little east of south, beyond the plain which stretches from the foot of the hill, the Salav creek winds towards the sea across low mud flats hidden by mangrove bushes. Beyond the Salav creek, and separated from it by a narrow neck of rising ground, is the broader expanse of the Mandad creek. Beyond this the view ends with the Kuda hills. In front of the Kuda hills, and hiding them on the left, is the range of hills above Madar, and to the left of these and somewhat nearer is a thick range of hills, called the hill of the Gods or Devaca Dohgar, to the extreme left of which is the nearly detached hill on which is built the fortress of Tala. Just on this side of this last range, and appearing to flow at its feet, is the tidal river that lower down broadens into the Salav creek. In the distance behind Tala fort are a number of hills, one of which is called Move. Still to the left of these and nearly due east is the level country that stretches across Mangahv, bounded in the far distance by the Sahyadri hills. These the eye can follow till they disappear about north-east of the point of observation. In front of them stretches the chain of hills that lies to the south of the Roha creek. The view to the west consists merely of a narrow valley which is bounded at its further side by the central range of Roha hills. Nothing is visible beyond these hills except at one point, where, behind slight depressions, is the group of hills on one of whose summits is the fort of Avacitgad.

Of the building of the Ghosalgad fort no notice has been traced. During the sixteenth century, along with the forts of Tala and Rairi the modern Rayagad, it belonged to the Ahmadnagar kingdom. In 1636 it passed to Bijapur and was in charge of the Mores of Javji from whom it was captured by Sivaji. In 1659, on the approach of Afzal Khan from Bijapur, the Sidi laid siege to the fort but, on the report of Afzal Khan’s death and the destruction of the Bijapur army, he hastily retired. [Grant Duff’s Marathas, Vol. I, 138.] In 1733 Ghosala was reduced by Bajirav Pesva, and in the agreement made with the Sidi in the following year the fort was ceded to the Marathas. [V. G. Dighe’s Peshava Bajirav I, p. 84.] In 1818 it was taken by a detachment of Colonel Prother’s force before the siege and surrender of Rayagad. [ Bombay Courier, 2nd May 1818, Pendhari and Maratha Wars, 264.]

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