Panhala is the traditional residence of the sage Parasr. The Karavir or Kolhapur Puran a compilation of A.D. 1730, mentions Panhala as Pannagalaya or the home of Serpents. In old inscriptions the name appears as Pranlak and Padmanal. A copper plate found in Satara shows that in A. D. 1191-92 Panhala was the seat of the Siahara Bhoja Raja II. (1178-1209) who is first mentioned as living at Valvad, apparently either Valva about fifteen miles south or Valivade about four and half miles north of Kolhapur; in 1187 as ruling at Kolhapur and about three years later (1191) as ruling in Panhala fort. Bhoja Raja is said to have built fifteen forts of which Bavada, Bhudargad, Panhala, Satara and Visalgad are the chief. About A.D. 1209-10 Bhoja Raja was defeated by Singhana (1209-1247) the most powerful of the Devagiri Yadavas. After Bhoja Raja’s defeat Panhala seems to have fallen into the hands of petty Maratha chiefs. In 1376 inscriptions record the settlement of Nabhapur to the south-east of the fort. On the establishment of the Adil Shahi dynasty of Bijapur in 1489, Panhala came under Bijapur and was fortified with great care. To the Bijapur government are ascribed the strong ramparts and gateways of the fort which according to tradition took a hundred years to build. Numerous inscriptions in the fort refer to the reign of Ibrahim Adil Shah, probably Ibrahim I (1534-1557). In 1659, immediately after the discomfiture
of the Bijapur general Afzal Khan, Sivaji took Panhala from Bijapur. In May 1660, to win back the fort from Sivaji, Ali Adil Shah II (1656-1672) of Bijapur sent Sidi Johar who laid siege to Panhala in which Sivaji had shut himself. After four months siege Sivaji escaped to Rangana about fifty-five miles south-west of Kolhapur, and shortly after Panhala and Pavanagad were taken by Ali Adil Shah in person. In 1673, Sivaji again took Panhala. In 1674, the Bijapur generals made an unsuccessful attempt on the fort, and till his death in 1680 Panhala remained in the hands of Sivaji, who for a time kept his son Sambhajl under guard at Panhala. After Sivaji’s death Sambhajl won over to his side the commandant of Panhala and marching on Raigad in the central Konkan overthrew Rajaram’s faction and established himself as head of the Marathas. About nine years later in 1669 when Sambhaji was made prisoner by Aurangzeb’s general Takribkhan at Sangamesvar in Ratnagiri, Panhala came under the Mughals. In 1692, Panhala was retaken by Parasuram Trimbak, the ancestor of the Kolhapur Pant Pratinidhi family of Visalgad. In 1701, the emperor Aurangzeb laid siege to and took Panhala in person. In this year at Panhala, on the 28th of April, Aurangzeb received the English ambassador Sir William Norris who spent 200 gold mohars (£ 300) in fruitless negotiation with the Moghal emperor. Shortly after, in 1701, Panhala was taken from the Moghals by Ramcandra Pant Amatya. In 1705 Tarabai, the widow of Rajaram (1689-1700) made Panhala her head-quarters. In Tarabai’s war with Sahu of Satara in 1708, Sahu took Panhala and Tarabal fled to Malvan in Ratnagiri. Shortly after, in 1709, Tarabal again took Panhala. In 1782 the seat of the Kolhapur government was moved from Panhala to Kolhapur. In 1827 under Sahaji (1821-1837) Panhala and Pavanagad were for a time made over to the British Government. In 1844, during the minority of Sivaji IV (1837-1866), Panhala and Pavanagad were taken by rebels who seized Colonel Ovans, the Resident of Satara, when on tour and imprisoned him in Panhala. A British force was sent against the rebels and on the 1st of December, 1844 breached the fort wall, took it by storm, and dismantled the fortifications. A garrison of 1845 militia and a hundred pieces of ordnance were left to guard the fort.
Present stale of the fort.
Of the ruins on the hill top one of the oldest is the citadel in the centre of the fort, surrounded by high ruined walls enclosing a tangled growth of jack, mango, guava, and other trees and bushes. Nothing remains of, the old palace but stone foundations and plinths hid in shrubs and underwood. Of three enormous stone and cement granaries built with arched roofs and capable of holding provisions for a large army, the largest known as Ganga Kothi, a massive building with two entrances, is nearly choked with rubbish. On either side a staircase leads to a terrace where exist small holes through which large quantities of grain used to be passed. The building is 10,200 feet square and thirty-five feet high. Of the two other granaries, one is 152 feet long, forty feet broad, and eighteen feet high, and the other eighty-eight feet long, thirty-five broad, and thirty high. Besides these three large granaries the Dharma Kothi granary is also a stone building fifty-five feet by forty-eight and thirty-five feet high with an entrance and a staircase leading to a terrace. On the east of the fort close to the rampart stands the Kalavantin’s Sajja or courtesans’ terrace-room. It is nearly a complete wreck except that traces of fine ornament remain in the ceiling. It is sixty feet by thirty-six and fifty-eight feet high. To the north of the fort stands a palace of His Highness the Maharaja of Kolhapur, a stone and mud structure two storeyed and tile-roofed with room for a hundred to two hundred men. To the east of the palace close to the rampart is a massive stone and mortar building called the Sajjekothi. It is two-storeyed, thirty-six feet by thirty-one and forty-one feet high with one entrance and a staircase leading to the upper storey. On the south of the fort close to the rampart stands a small stone building called the Talimakhana or wrestling house with three domed rooms. The Redemahal to the south of the mamlatdar’s office is 101′ x 53′ x 36′ high. Close to the Mamlatdar’s office stands Sambhaji Maharaja’s temple, ninety feet by forty-six and including the spire fifty-five feet high. The temple is surrounded by an arch roofed building which is used as a rest-house. Opposite Sambhaji’s temple is another dedicated to Jijibai Saheb the wife of Sambhaji Maharaja (1712-1760). Of Musalman buildings the most important is the shrine of Sadhoba a Musalman saint. It is surrounded by a stone and mud wall and is twenty-nine feet square and including the dome fifty feet high. Every year a fair or urus is held. This place is said to have been the seat of the sage Parasar whose name the Karavir Mahatmya associates with several objects of interest on Panhala hill. Among these objects to the south of the fort is a rock-cut cave of the sage Parasar.