Wednesday, January 7, 2015


Thought behind the thought:

India has fought a long and hard battle to gain independence from the British Empire. We are still reeling from the repercussions of the same. Yet the future too is very worrisome. There are major problems that need to be taken care of like proper law enforcement, infrastructure, population control, poverty to name a few. These are real problems and they need fixing. The higher economic class feels that escaping the country and migrating abroad is a quick fix to better one’s future. The poor have neither the means nor the liberty to do anything about it. Yes, the past was difficult and so is the future. Who then are the solution finders? It is every educated and responsible Indian who needs to chip in. After all, they say charity begins at home!

About The Art: 

Maratha Architecture and forts built by Shivaji Maharaj 

The Marathas had their stronghold in the Western Ghats for nearly two centuries. Giving the Mughals a tough resistance it was only in the early nineteenth century that dissension in their own ranks and the war with the British Empire finally ended their power. Shivaji was an Indian warrior king and a member of the Bhonsle Maratha clan. Shivaji was born in turbulent political times, he laid the foundation of Hidavi Swaraj at a very young age and the whole future ahead was difficult , dark and under the threat of the Mughals and the British Empire. In 1674, he was formally crowned as the Chhatrapati (Monarch) of his realm at Raigad.Truly a troubled past was easy compared to the clouds of doom that hung over the Maratha kingdom's future. Hence they built many forts in and around Maharashta, India to strenghten their power.

Marathas were excellent architects and visionaries. Not only did they build strong and formidable forts but their approach and meticulous planning is really commendable. Some of the salient features of the Maratha architecture are as follows:

Sindhudurga fort


Types of forts: There were essentially two types of forts namely, Jala Durg which was a water fort or Giri Durg which sat atop a hill. The Giri Durg allowed the king to have control across the land and Jala durg was used to guard the entry of enemies via sea routes.

Purandar Fort

Site and Siting: The selection of site was one of the most crucial elements in fort architecture. A place that had to be habitable for the king and his armies to live for long lengths of time yet be completely inaccessible and impenetrable to the enemy. Purandar fort lies 4000 feet above sea level and has an upper and lower fort. The lower fort is called Vajragad. The fort was built such that it would not be seen from other ridges. They even went on to the extent of blasting surrounding ridges to prevent any part of the fort be seen or overlooked by the enemy from other ridges.


Placement and Terrain: Raigad was considered during Shivaji's time to be one of the strongest forts in India, and in 1978 at a Fort Exhibition at Lucerne, a model of it was displayed as the best hill fort in the world. There are 1400 steps up to the fort and is extremely difficult to climb even by the regular route. Normally the fort sites were chosen such that it was impossible to attack the fort from any side. Tall sturdy walls fortified with ramparts built on rugged mountains with precipitous ridges.

Reservoir on Vijaydurga Fort

Water management: Water was perhaps the most precious commodities on a fort. A natural source of water, normally a spring or well was guarded very closely. Very elaborate measures of water conservation are seen especially on the sea forts as the king and his army had to survive several months at times on the fort alone. Reservoirs seen on Sindhudurga give us an idea of how rain water harvesting was known as a technique back then and effectively used as well. The name Panhala comes from the Marathi word panhali which means a drain. Apparently the entire fort of Panhala is such that the surface runoff of rain water could be collected and stored for consumption. The whole technique of studying and understanding terrain and topography and tapping appropriate places to get potable water was evident even in such an olden time.

Vijaydurga fort

Construction techniques and marvels: The constructions of these forts were done with very basic materials with limited technology. Yet the design solutions were remarkable and ingenious. A mixture of lime mortar and jaggery along with a few local materials was the bonding material used to construct the walls. This binding material was of such superior quality that on some of the sea forts one can see that despite erosion most of the mortar joints are fairly intact. 

At Vijaydurga recent oceanographic evidence suggests the presence of an undersea wall. It is supposed to be constructed in the sea at a depth of 8–10 m under the sea. It seems to be constructed in Laterite and is estimated to be 122 metres long, 3 metres high & 7 metres broad. Attacking ships were caught unawares and met their watery grave after colliding with it. Siddi Johar was warned by the Portuguese who had lost two ships near the fort.

Entrance to Sindhudurga fort

Surprise elements: Surprise elements are not often seen in Architecture but a number of such examples can be seen in the Maratha Architecture. Shivaji was known to practice guerrilla warfare and instances of these are seen in the forts too. A dummy wall would be erected on the opposite hillock to confuse the attacker so that they wasted their ammunition on it. A curved entry point to the fort ensured that the enemy was caught by surprise. The curve was designed in such a way that it took into consideration that swords were held in the right hand. As the enemy approached from outside their swords could be easily knocked down by the army within the fort without them being noticed first.

Walls of Sindhudurga fort

Walls: The lengths, breadths and heights of the walls are really stupefying. At Sindhudurga the wall thickness is about ten to twenty feet at places and houses toilets and  for the soldiers when they were on guard.

Temple on Raigad

Temples: Shivaji was a devout Hindu and Tulja Bhavani was the goddess he worshiped. Most forts have temples present on fort. In the temple in Sindhudurga there is a hidden passage that starts in a temple,  looks like a water reservoir but goes under the island for 3 km, under the sea for 12 km, and from there on 12 km to a nearby village. The tunnel was used as an escape route for the women if the enemy entered the fort. However, the British partially closed this passage after the fort was abandoned.

Shivaji himself constructed about 15–20 totally new forts including key sea forts like Sindhudurg. He rebuilt and repaired many strategically placed forts to make a formidable chain of roughly 300 forts stretched across a thousand kilometres along the rugged Sayhadri mountain range and in the coastal Konkan region.


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