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Serial Nomination of Maratha Military Architecture in Maharashtra

Date of Submission: 13/04/2021
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Ref.: 6533

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Raigad fort

Lat. 18° 14’, Long. 73° 26’


Rajgad Fort

Lat. 18° 14’, Long. 73° 40’


Shivneri Fort

Lat. 19° 12’, Long. 73° 52’ 


Torna Fort

Lat. 18° 16’, Long. 73° 37’



Lat. 18° 42’, Long. 73° 28’


Salher Fort

Lat. 20° 72’, Long. 73° 94’


Mulher Fort

Lat. 20° 46’, Long. 74° 03'


Rangana Fort

Lat. 16° 04’, Long. 73° 51’


Ankai-Tankai Fort

Lat. 20° 11’, Long. 74° 26’


Kasa Fort

Lat. 18° 20’, Long. 72° 58’



Lat. 16° 02’, Long. 73° 27’


Alibag Fort

Lat. 18° 35’, Long. 72° 50’



Lat. 17° 49', Long. 73° 06'


Khanderi Fort

Lat. 18° 70’ , Long. 72° 81'

The fortifications in the Indian Subcontinent first appeared probably around 4th millennia B.C.E. in the form of the Harappan settlements. Architecturally and typologically, these were essentially perimeter walls defining and defending the human habitations. The construction material was mud or burnt bricks, stone masonry set with mud mortar and protected with mud plaster. Generally, these Bronze Age settlements were located close to the river banks on flat terraces and more or less were perfect rectangle, square or parallelogram on plan. Inside, these settlements were further structurally divided into the hierarchical components like the citadel, the middle town and the lower town. The outer shape of the fortifications was basically dependent on the terrain and organic growth of the settlement. In the Historical period, the building material of fortifications was mud, burnt bricks and stone and it functioned as the defence perimeter of the habitation areas. In the Mediaeval India, a separate category of military garrison evolved apart from the earlier existing category of fortified habitations. A general overview of the evolution of the military architecture in the Indian Subcontinent indicates that though many settlements continued as the fortified habitats, some emerged as the special military bases devoid of civilian population. This period also provides evidences of the fortified ports and sea forts.

The presence of such specimens is often credited to the existence of ideal geographical settings suitable to serve the purpose of defensive warfare. The Western Ghats made up of volcanic basalt rocks offers perfect settings for creation of such military establishments in the form of magnificent forts in Maharashtra. The trap rock or basalt of the Sahyadri hill range in Maharashtra is suitable for carving, and it’s almost vertical cliffs are ideal for rock-cut architecture. In the later period, the Sanyadri hills also provided the ideal locations for construction of fortifications for protection purpose. It is observed that many of the hills selected for excavation of rock-cut caves or construction of a temple consist of the fortification walls constructed in the later period. This is how the sacred spaces of the Historical period were turned into the military garrisons used for defensive purpose. Though forts were often ‘constructed’ with rubble and well chiseled stone masonry set in lime or mud mortar, the art of creating ‘excavated’ features were not forgotten altogether. The rock-cut features are often noticed on forts in the form of moats, water cisterns, scarps, gates, steps etc.

The Western coastline of India known as Konkan which extends vertically from the north to south over 720 K.M. between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea and the Eastern margins of the Sanyhadri ranges extending up to the Central Maharashtra known as Marathwada, provided the perfect settings for the guerrilla warfare tactics. In the Mediaeval period, Arabs, Turks and Europeans who first appeared in the Konkan region, slowly started to make their presence in hinterlands of Maharashtra. A small kingdom in the form of Swarajya (self-rule) established by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, a Maratha warrior king could hold against the mighty Mughal Empire which comprised almost 20% share in the contemporary world economy. The Mughal Empire was already extending from the borders of modern Uzbekistan to Bay of Bengal and Emperor Aurangzeb was trying hard to annex the Southern Indian kingdoms to extend the Mughal rule in the peninsular region of India. The Maratha kingdom could stand firm and resist against the Mughal might owning to the best use of their hilly terrain further strengthened with construction of hill, land and sea forts and by adopting guerrilla warfare tactics making a unique case of intelligence use of human genius to create these strongholds combined with locally evolved effective fighting techniques. However, the Marathas who set up a strong case of one of the best possible uses of native landscape were a part of the long tradition set-off during the Satavahana Empire which ruled these areas during the early centuries of Common Era.

The existing political boundaries of Maharashtra were formed in the post-Independence era of India after the State Re-organization Act. In the British India, it was divided into the Bombay Presidency encompassing the present-day Konkan and Western India, the Marathwada which was then under the Nizam of Hyderabad, Vidharbha was a part of Birar and the Central Province. The British records refer to this area as Deccan which is English corruption of the word Dakkhan or Dakkhin which is further corruption of the original Sanskrit word Dákṣiṇa meaning South as the Deccan Plateau comprises the Southern half of the Indian Subcontinent. It is separated from the Gangetic plain to the North by the Satpura and Vindhya Ranges, which form its Northern boundary. It was ruled by many important dynasties that have shaped the Indian History. The Mauryan dynasty controlled the limited area of Deccan; however, the Satvahanas, Vakatakas, Chalukyas, Pallavas, Rashtrakutas, Chalukyas, Cholas, Kakatiyas, Hoysalas, Vijayanagara and Maratha Empire were the other prominent dynasties that ruled this region. There are references of construction of forts during the rule of Satvahanas, Vakatakas and Rashtrakutas. In 1294 C.E. Alauddin Khilji, invaded the Deccan and reduced the Yadavas to the position of tributary princes further conquering Telangana and Karnataka. In 1338 C.E. Sultan Muhammad-bin Tughluq succeeded Khiji rule in Deccan. He added many parts to existing constructed fort - Deogiri of Yadavas turning into Daulatabad fort. Further in 1347 C.E. revolt of his governor resulted in establishment of an independent Muslim dynasty cum Sultanate known as Bahmanis. In 1518 C.E. even after successful rule of a century and a half, the Bahmani Empire was disintegrated into the five Muslim states known as the five Sultanates of Deccan at Golkonda, Biapur, Ahmednagar, Bidar and Berar. The Hindu state of Vijayanagar still survived; but this too, was defeated at the Battle of Talikota (1565 C.E.) by a league of the Muslim Sultanates. Berar had already been annexed by Ahmednagar in 1572 A.D. and Bidar was absorbed by Bijapur in 1619 C.E. The Ahmadnagar was partially integrated by the Mughal Empire in 1598 C.E. and as fully in Bijapur by 1686 C.E. and Golkonda in 1688 C.E. The Bahamanis were responsible for creation of large number of forts in this area. Later on, each Sultanate added to the existing constructions besides constructing new ones.

In 1674 C.E. Chhatrapati Shivaji laid the foundation of the Maratha Empire which within 75 years of his death covered one-third of the Indian Sub-continent. The best use of fortifications and application of gurrilla warfare tactics was witnessed during this period. The Marathas had conquered a large part of the Central and Western Maharashtra state in the Western India by Shivaji's death in 1680 C.E. The Marathas kept the British at bay during the 18th century C.E. By 1760 C.E, with the defeat of the Nizam in the Deccan, the Maratha power had reached its zenith. However, it was by the British East India Company in 1818 C.E. that Marathas tasted defeat after the three Anglo-Maratha wars. After decline in French interest, a new empire in India was established by the British. The Aurangzeb's viceroy Nizam-ul-Mulk established the seat of an independent government at Hyderabad from 1724 A.D. onwards. After independence in 1947 C.E. almost all native states were incorporated into the Republic of India. Hyderabad refused to join and was annexed by the Indian Army in 1948 C.E.

Hence, the forts of Western India occupy an important place of significance in the political and architectural history of the region. While in the rest of India, the tradition of construction of forts appears sporadically in space and time, it displays a vigorous and continuous activity in the Western India for a period of nearly 1800 years, starting sometime in the centuries immediately preceding the Common Era and continuing almost up to the 19th century C.E. In terms of sheer number of forts, this region is marked with dense dots denoting various types, from forts covering hundreds of acres of land to a small check post and even an isolated watch towers.

The Directorate of Archaeology and Maharashtra has selected the following forts from the State of Maharashtra based of their overall appeal and their own unique value as displayed in the history of the State. Maharashtra perhaps is the only state that has almost all types of fort architecture, land, sea and hill forts. The forts selected below are a milieu of this representation with scenic beauty along with the geographical uniqueness provided by the terrain. The 14 forts identified under this nomination are as follows:

1. Raigad Fort (Lat. 18° 14’, Long. 73° 26’)
Originally called Rairi, the fort is built on a large wedge separated from the main range by a ravine. The natural defenses of this fort were further strengthened by ramparts and bastions by way of almost vertical scraps. There were two main gates both flanked by bastions, Nana Darwaza and Maha Darwaza. The top is fairly flat and there are ruins of number of buildings. In 12th c A.D., it was the seat of the family of a Palaiyagar. In 1479, it passed to the Nizam Shahi rulers and continued under them until 1636. In 1648 it was given up to Chhatrapati Shivaji’s partisans. In 1662 it was selected by Chhatrapati Shivaji for his permanent capital and actual shifting of the capital to Raigad took place in 1670. After the death of Chhatrapati Shivaji in 1680, the glory of Raigad declined and finally it was taken over by Col. Prother on the 10th May, 1818.

The fort is under the jurisdiction of the Archaeological Survey of India, Central Government, India vide notification BM-2704-A, dated 26.05.1909.

2. Rajgad Fort (Lat. 18° 14’, 73° 40’)
Recognized as the first political base of ‘Hindavi Swarajya'; Rajgad, formerly known as Murumdev (name based on the mountain Murumbadev, on which it was built), is a hill fort situated in the Pune district of Maharashtra, India and was the capital of the Maratha Empire under the rule of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj for almost 26 years, after which the capital was moved to the Raigad Fort. The fort is considered as the only fort that was occupied the longest by Chhatrapati Shivaji and hence has stood witness to many significant historic events including the birth of Chhatrapati Shivaji's son "Rajaram Chhatrapati", the death of Shivaji's Queen Saibai, the return of Shivaji from Agra and the burial of Afzal Khan's head in the Maha Darwaja walls of Balle Killa etc. Rajgad Fort was one of the 17 forts that Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj kept when he signed the Treaty of Purandar in 1665, with the Mughal General Jai Singh I, leader of the Mughal forces. James Douglas in his ‘Book of Bombay’ writes, Rajgad and Torna occupy an unchallengeable position and are unconquerable thus facilitating Hindu King Shivaji Maharaj to have a wide scope to expand boundaries of his kingdom. Rajgad has three Machis` and one Citadel. This Citadel is highest of all as it stands 1394 meters above Mean Sea Level (M.S.L.).

Due to its strategic place that was nearly unconquerable, Rajgad has seen many owners, right from Ahmed Bahiri who controlled it around 1490 to Nizam Shahi followed by Adilshahi and again back to Nizam Shahi in 1630. In 1646 to 1647, Shivaji Maharaj conquered this fort along with Torna and renamed it as Rajgad. In 1703 Aurangzeb captured he fort which was recaptured in 1707 by Gunaji Sawant and Pantaji Shivdev Later it was looked after by Shahu Maharaj followed by the Peshwa and later by Bhor Trust.
The fort is under the jurisdiction of Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, Maharashtra State vide notification ANM/1073/21733/Q dated 10.03.1975.

3. Shivneri Fort (Lat. 19° 12’, 73° 52’)
Shivneri is the birth place of Chhatrapati Shivaji and consists of 7 gates each named differently. In the year 1595 King Bahadur Nizam II conferred the fort to Maloji Bhonsale and in 1627, Shivaji Raje was born here. The Yadavas possessed it for some time, but later it was taken over by the Bahamani noble Malik-ul-Tujar. Within the fortifications, the existing structures include the Ambarkhana, mosque, tomb with tall minaret and Idgah, along with 30 cisterns.

The fort is under the jurisdiction of Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, Maharashtra State vide notification 2704-A, dated 26.05.1909.

4. Torna Fort (Lat. 18° 16’, Long. 73° 37’)
Captured by Shivaji Raje in the year 1646, at the mere age of 16, Torna fort also known as Prachandagad (Marathi for huge or massive fort) located in the Pune district of Maharashtra forms the nucleus of the Maratha Empire. The hill has an elevation of 1,403 meters (4,603 ft.) above sea level, making it the highest hill-fort in the district. This fort is believed to have been constructed by the Shaiva Panth, followers of the Hindu god Shiva, in the 13th century. A Menghai Devi temple, also referred to as the Tornaji temple, is situated near the entrance of the fort.

Chhatrapati Shivaji renamed the fort ' 'Prachandagad' ' as Torna, and constructed several monuments and towers within it. In the 18th century, the Mughal Empire briefly gained control of this fort after assassination of Chhatrapati Shivaji's son Sambhaji Raje. Aurangzeb, the then Mughal emperor, renamed this fort as Futulgaib in recognition of the difficult defense the Mughals had to overcome to capture this fort. It was restored to the Maratha confederacy by the Treaty of Purandar.
The fort is under the jurisdiction of the Archaeological Survey of India, Central Government, India vide notification ANM/1366/Q/119421, dated 25.01.1968.

    5. Lohagad (Lat. 18° 42’, Long. 73° 28’)
    Located along the crest of a steep hill with the Bhaja caves cut mid-way, Lohagad overlooks one of the most picturesque valleys and is believed to have been built in the 14th century. With a strong line of fortifications comprising of an inner and outer line of defense, entry is through four successive arched gateways called Ganesh, Narayana, Hanuman and the Maha gates, each of which is flanked by a system of double bastions rising one above the other. Except Hanuman gate built by the Mohammedans, all other were built by Nana Phadnavis. The fort is also unique in a way that it is located near the Buddhist caves at Bhaje and thus along with the caves we also find some cisterns near the gateways.
    The fort is under the jurisdiction of the Archaeological Survey of India, Central Government, India vide notification 2704-A, dated 26.05.1909.

    6. Salher Fort (Lat. 20° 72’, 73° 94’)
    Salher is one of the highest forts in Sahyadri Mountains and is located in Dolhari range, at foothills of Salher fort. According to the popular myth, Lord Parshuram did his penance on this very fort and he made land for him to live in, by pushing the sea back with his arrows, right from this place.

    Salher fort was ruled by Raja Mandev in 1340 CE. In 1639 CE, the fort was conquered by Mughals and renamed as Sultangad. Salher was captured by Sayyid Abdul Wahab Khandeshi in February 1638 for Aurangzeb but by the year 1663 the hill-forts of Mulher and Salher were in the hands of Shivaji Raje.

    The fort witnessed an important battle in 1672 fought between the Marathas and the Mughals. Shivaji Raje captured the fort of Salher in 1671 while the campaign for Baglan was still going on. He also captured Mulher shortly after winning over Salher. The news set unrest in Mughal camp, Bahlol Khan and Ikhlaas Khan were sent to recover fort with huge cavalry. The siege was lead and then Prataprao along with Moropant Peshwa were sent to deal with the matter. It is via Salher that Shivaji proceeded and sacked Surat. In 1663 the hill-forts of Mulher and Salher were in the hands of Shivaji. In 1672 Mulher and Salher were attacked by Chhatrapati Shivaji. This campaign led to the assimilation of entire Baglan area into Maratha rule.
    The fort is under the jurisdiction of Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, Maharashtra State vide notification ANM/142000/Pr.Kr.153/San.Ka.3, dated 06.01.2001.

    7. Mulher Fort (Lat. 20° 46’, 74° 03’)
    Mulher Fort located about 3.21 km south of the Mulher town in Satana is situated on a hill with three fortified peaks near one another, Mulher in the middle, Mora to the east, and Hatgad to the west. According to a local legend, during the time of the Pandavas, Mulher fort was held by two brothers, Mayuradhvaja and Tamradhvaja. The Rathore dynasty of Bagul ruled from 1310 ruled over here and Mulher was their capital.

    The first historical reference to Mulher is in the Tarikh-i-Firozshahi, which says that about 1340, the mountains of Mulher and Salher were held by a chief named Mandev. The next mention of Mulher is in the Ain-i-Akbari (1590) which notices Mulher and Salher as places of strength in Baglan. In 1609 the chief of Mulher and Salher posted 3,000 men to guard Surat against attack by Malik Ambar of Ahmednagar. In 1610 the English traveller Finch described Mulher and Salher as fair cities where Mahmudis were coined. In 1665 Thevenot mentioned Mouler the chief town in Baglan. They had two mighty castles, the roads to which allowed only two men or one elephant to pass. In the third Anglo-Maratha War Mulher was surrendered to the British on the 15th of July 1818. An amnesty was granted to Ramchandra Janardan Phadnavis who held the fort for the Marathas. The surrender of Mulher ended the third Maratha War.
    The fort is under the jurisdiction of Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, Maharashtra State vide notification ANM/1782/156781/ (3407) Prasha-4, dated 19.07.1982.

    8. Rangana Fort (Lat. 16° 04’, 73° 51’)
    Rangana fort is situated from 112 km from Kolhapur and lies at the border of the districts of Kolhapur and Sindhudurg which led to constant clashes between the Sawants and rulers of Karveer modern day Kolhapur that continued until the mutual treaty was signed after 1781 as the fort is at a strategic position to gain control over either.

    It is generally assumed that King Bhoj II constructed this particular fort but no evidence has been unearthed. Mohammed Gawan took hold of the fort in 1470 which establishes its existence before the 14th century. The fort was controlled by Bahamanis followed by Adilshahi. During Shivaji Raje’s reign, the fort was under control of Sawant's from Sawantwadi however Sastubh-e-Jaman, a commander from Bijapur won over the fort from Lakham Sawant in 1658 though the Sawants took back the fort in 1767. Later, Raghuji Pandit took over the fort in 1666 for Swarajya. Bahlol Khan and Vyankoji Raje besieged the fort in 1667, for which Shivaji Raje had to come down to settle the issue. Shivaji Raje spent over a total of six thousand hons on repair works of the fort. Aurangzeb tried to conquer this particular fort along with Bhudargad and Samangad in his Deccan campaign but he was not succeeded. Though as per the treaty of Varna signed between Shahu and Tarabai, gave control of the fort to Shahu still there were constant struggles between them both to besieging the fort. British took hold of the fort in 1844.
    The fort is under the jurisdiction of Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, Maharashtra State vide notification ANM/1096/Pr.Kr. 232/96/San.Ka.3, dated 26.07.1999.

    9. Ankai Tankai Fort (Lat. 20° 11’, 74° 26’)
    Ankai and Tankai, two different forts built on adjacent hills with a common fortification wall built to secure them both are together considered as the strongest hill-fort in the district which rises about 900 feet above the plain and 3,200 feet above the sea. Thevenot, the European traveller and Vento had referred to the Ankai- Tankai forts as one of the stages between the journeys from Surat to Aurangabad. In 1635 Ankai-Tankai fort was captured by Shah Jahan's general Khan Khanan. During the last Maratha war, Lieutenant-Colonel McDowell's division came to Ankai on the 5th of April 1818. Though the negotiations were opened, terms of surrender were pretty clear. The surrender of Ankai was off great importance to the English, as, even for a short time of the numerous other forts would probably have been encouraged to offer resistance. Within the fort were found forty pieces of artillery with a large store of ammunition. There were about Rs. 12,000 in cash and Rs. 20,000 more were raised from prize sales. A party of forty native infantry under a European officer was left in the fort. Later Ankai fort was dismantled.
    These forts are under the jurisdiction of Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, Maharashtra State as handed-over by the Nizam.

    10. Kasa Fort (Lat. 18° 20’, Long. 72° 58 ’)
    Kasa or Kamsa fort popularly known as Padmadurg is built on a rocky island off the coast of Murud. Apparently Sambhaji Raje had planned to build an inner fort but it was never completed. The fort is in the open sea and one surely marvels at the way the Marathas must have carried all the building materials. The fort was built purely as a foil to Janjira and to seal it off. It had a high stone wall with a gate on the southern side.
    The fort is under the jurisdiction of the Archaeological Survey of India, Central Government, India vide notification 3, dated 02.01.1954.

    11. Sindhudurg (Lat. 16° 02’, 73° 27’)
    Built by Shivaji Raje in 1668, the sea fort of Sindhudurg is an amazing bulwark of defense in the raging sea waters with ramparts about 2 miles in length and 12’ thick. The walls are low ranging from 29’ to 30’ high. There are 24 bastions placed within the fortifications generally semi – circular with fine embrasures for cannons, with a flat seat on the parapet. The entrance of the fort is at the northeast corner with 45 staircases leading from the inside to the top of the wall. There is a temple of Maruti near the gate and few small temples of Bhavani, Mahadeo, Jarimai and Shivaji. The temple dedicated to Shivaji is only one of its kinds in India and there are miniature shrines that hold his hand and feet impressions.
    The fort is under the jurisdiction of the Archaeological Survey of India, Central Government, India vide notification BM.2907, dated 21.06.1910.

    12. Alibag Fort (Lat. 18° 35’, 72° 50 ’)
    Popularly known as Kulaba Fort, Alibag fort hold an important place in Maratha history as it was chosen as one of the forts to be modeled as a naval base by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, when most of Konkan south of Kalyan, came under his dominion and he decided to develop naval power. The nearby Nagaon creek was constituted as one of the shipbuilding creeks of North Konkan, which was earlier separated from Chaul and the mainland by tidal lagoons. This shipbuilding and trading center was well defended by Kulaba fort built at the creek entrance. In 1713, under the treaty with Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath, Kulaba with several other forts was handed to Kanhoji Angre.

    Alibag Fort has one of the best examples of sea fort architecture wherein it is built on a rocky outcrop ½ a mile from Alibag and is characterized by strong ramparts approximately 6 to 7 m high and seventeen bastions named as Pinjala, Nagarkhani, Tofkhani, Darukhani, Ganesh, Surya, Hanumant, Fatte and Darya. Each of the bastions had a small outpost, almost a miniature fortress, lies at the north of the fort, called the eighteenth bastion of the main fort also called Sarjakot. This was built to shield the inner fort from the artillery fire of Hirakot on the Alibag mainland as well as to act as a watchtower, warning against land invasions.
    The fort is under the jurisdiction of the Archaeological Survey of India, Central Government, India vide notification BM – 2316-A, dated 24.03.1914.

    13. Suvarnadurg (Lat. 17° 49’, 73° 06’)
    Presumably built by the rulers of Bijapur in the 16th century A. D., Suvarnadurg was repaired and strengthened by Chhatrapati Shivaji in 1660 A.D. Built on an irregular island about of quarter of a mile from the shore, it is perhaps the most striking of all the Ratnagiri coastal forts. Surrounded by high walls built of blocks of stones 10 to 12 sq.ft., relieved by strong bastions and covering an area of about 8 acres, the fort consists of a stone-built magazine, extensive foundations of buildings, guard-room and several reservoirs. Later it was a station of Kanhoji Angre’s fleet and one of the head centers of piracy.
    The fort is under the jurisdiction of the Archaeological Survey of India, Central Government, India vide notification BM.2907, dated 21.06.1910.

    14. Khanderi Fort (Lat. 18° 70’ , Long 72° 81)
    Khanderi officially named as Kanhoji Angre Island in 1998 is located 5 km off the coast of Maharashtra (off Thal, Kihim) and 20 km south of Mumbai. Khanderi, along with its sister fort Underi (Jaidurg) formed the major fortification along the Maharashtra coast, the former falling under Shivaji's control and the latter under his opponents, the Siddhis.

    In 1679, Khanderi was occupied by the forces of Shivaji under the leadership of Maynak Bhandari, who oversaw the building of the fortifying walls. Subsequently, Khanderi fort was built during the reign of the Maratha king Shivaji in 1679 CE to keep a check on the Siddhis at Murud-Janjira fort and was the site of many battles between Shivaji's forces and the navy of Siddhi. It contained two wells to supply water to the forces within, and a temple of Sri Betal. The fort was subsequently ceded in 1818 to the forces of the British East India Company at Bombay as part of the Peshwa territory. Most of the fort is still intact, with the most prominent structure being a lighthouse which is 22 feet high and can be seen from up to 13 km away. It was built by the British in June 1867 and the two storey building upon which the lighthouse is located.
    The fort is under the jurisdiction of Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, Maharashtra State vide notification Government Resolution No Rasansma 2017/Pr.Kr.108/San.Ka.3, dated 18.12.2017.

    Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

    A thematic study of military architecture in the Indian subcontinent is vital to recognize the range of typology and identify the model cases that may qualify for the World Heritage nominations. It is also to be noted that current inscriptions or potential ones are limited to the Outstanding Universal Value of individual forts or a series of forts narrating a political period, particular kingdom  or adaptations to physiography of the region. The defence structures as a part of the wider network of military operations or as a complete cultural landscape are yet to be understood and acknowledged in the case of Indian history. The military landscape is an important aspect that needs to be further mapped and studied in detail across the India’s terrain through the historical perspective.

    The military landscape of India is dotted with numerous settlement spread across the entire subcontinent and timeframe extending from 3rd millennium B.C.E to 19th century C.E. It has a rich repository of forts and fortifications, including more regional typologies evolving in each region such as the Maratha forts, Sikh forts etc. An overview of the forts and fortifications of India on the World Heritage List and Tentative List clearly presents some distinctive fort typologies from various historic kingdoms namely: the Mughals, the Rajput’s, the Deccan Sultanate and the local vernacular Dzong from Arunachal Pradesh. Since ICOMOS Gap Analysis of 2004 mentions the under representation of Military Heritage from the Asia-Pacific region on the World Heritage List, it is important for India to undertake a thematic study of fortifications to identify the key military sites that possess potential outstanding values and may have possibility of being proposed for nomination in future.

    While discussing the military landscape of Maharashtra state, existence of hill and land forts is well recorded in the historical sources and records. However, in terms of Archaeology, the Sultanate period forts are still standing physical entities indicating development of defence network system shaped by landscape which led to major political, social and economic developments in the Deccan and Maharashtra. Hence, the Sultanate period forms a great example for serial nomination. The second category is of the costal forts constructed by the local rulers as well as foreign powers such as Portuguese, Dutch, British and Abyssinians. Their role in establishing foreign trade and political relations was vital enough to affect geopolitics and economy of the region. The third and the most shining example among the forts of Maharashtra is the series of forts built, repaired and controlled by the Marathas. The Maratha rule often referred as Swarajya or Self-Rule as referred in the contemporary documents was established by a king known as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and it became the most influential political force India before establishment of the British rule. The base of this later period of Maratha expansion remained upon geographically smaller principality established by King Shivaji in Maharashtra. After decline of the Yadava dynasty this area was always ruled by people who neither spoke language of the country nor were dedicated towards the welfare of the subjects. The self-rule or Swa-Rajya established by the indigenous Maratha (a warrior clan in Western India) ruler laid out welfare and well-being of his own subjects and this development was solely based upon the best use of military landscape and guerrilla warfare tactics which were applied by him. Hence, the Maratha forts of Maharashtra are proposed here as a serial nomination on the Tentative List.

    The Maratha military landscape developed during the period of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj represents a very interesting phenomenon in the Indian history which remains unparalleled for its military ingenuity. The value resides not only in the architectural grandeur or the strategic setting and picturesque locations of the forts but in the innovation of connecting them into a single operational system of defence through a strategic military network exploiting the unique cultural landscape stretching from Konkan to Sahyadri hills and further up to the Deccan plateau. The fortified cultural landscape of Maharashtra encompasses 720 K.M. of coastal defence structures and island forts that were further supplemented by the network of hill forts across the Sahyadri range and Western Ghats. The mapping of the forts of Maharashtra clearly indicates the concentration of forts in the Sahyadri hill range and lesser intensity of forts forwards the Deccan plain as communication of hills was dependent on proximity. Out of 463 Maratha forts recorded so far, 11 are island forts, 71 are coastal forts, 225 are hill forts in the Western Ghats and 156 are land forts. Among these 463, two were administrative capitals, 36 were secondary forts while 378 merely worked as outposts. These networks are excellent examples of how the existing terrain was used for developing the guerrilla warfare strategy by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and the Maratha army to combat the imperial power of the Mughals on the landside and European coastal powers from the seaside. Among the military landscape of India, the warfare strategy of the Maratha Empire clearly stands out as one of its kind with potential to be showcased to the world.

    Criterion (ii): The forts of Maharashtra represent Maratha ideology in architectural planning based upon best utilization of hilly terrain and sea. These forts offer new insight in various forms of architecture including rock cut features, construction of perimeter walls in layers on hill tops and slopes, temples, palaces, markets, residential areas, and almost every form of medieval architecture. Raigad is the classic example of Maratha architecture and best representation of capital fort on hill. Rajagad, another hill fort was also capital for a very long time. Besides Administrative headquarters there are forts like Rangna and Salher which guarded boundaries of the kingdom during Chhatrapati Shivaji’s time and also played vital role in many battles serving as military bases. Coastal forts like Alibag, Suvarndurga kept check on trade, foreign powers and pirates on coastline. Kasa (Padmadurg) and Sindhudurg are sea forts which provided base for naval military operations. The tough terrain in form of Western ghats and adjoining sea seems to have been best utilised to create military architecture including planned settlements reflecting Maratha ideology.

    Criterion (iii): The series of 14 hill and sea forts are architectural expressions of Maratha gallantry, heroism, and cultural traditions, documented in several contemporary historic records of the medieval period in India. The medieval Deccan witnessed a different kind of social set up after arrival of the Delhi Sultans, Mughals and Rajputs. The fortifications and their distinguishing Maratha style of architecture synthesizing Sultanate and Rajaput architectural traditions are an exceptional testimony to the cultural traditions governed by the landscape in Maharashtra.

    Criterion (iv): The series of Maratha forts is an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use and representative of Indian culture. It is a shining example of the optimum utilization of the landscape and environment by the human communities for an about five centuries in best possible manner and application of Swarajya or self-rule established by local Maratha (a warrior clan in western India) ruler based upon welfare and well-being of his own subjects. This development was solely based upon best use of military landscape and guerrilla warfare tactics. The Maratha military landscape developed during the period of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj represents a very interesting phenomenon in the Indian history that remains unparalleled for its military ingenuity. The value resides not only in the architectural grandeur or the strategic setting and picturesque locating of the forts, but in the innovation of connecting them into a single operational system of defence through a strategic network exploiting the unique cultural landscape form Konkan to Sahyadri hills and the Deccan plateau.

    Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

    The forts selected under present serial nomination are notified monuments by the Government of India and the Maharashtra Government. Forts namely Raigad, Shivneri, Lohagad, Padmadurg, Vijaydurg, Sindhudurg and Alibag are centrally protected monuments by Mumbai Circle of the Archaeological Survey of India under provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Sites and Remains Act, 1958. The forts at Rajagad, Torna, Salher, Ankai, Rangna, Khanderi are protected by the Directorate of Archaeology, Government of Maharashtra under Maharashtra Ancient Monuments and Sites and Remains Act, 1960. Within the area protected by respective departments, implementation of law as well as the management mechanism is effectively functioning.

    The remains of these fortifications were spread across the Western Ghats (already inscribed as natural World Heritage Site) are largely authentic and contain original materials of the respective periods. Periodic conservation works carried out from time to time taking into consideration that no attempt is made at falsifying the historical record or indulge in conjectural restoration which will obliterate the authenticity or integrity of the historical remains. The policy of conservation of monuments by respective archaeology departments is primarily aimed at extending the life of the monument without altering their original features. Reconstruction of the missing portions is kept to the barest minimum except when it is absolutely necessary for structural stability. The guidelines for conservation works are laid down in the Archaeological Works Code and Archaeological Conservation Manual. Before conservation measures are initiated an extensive study of the monument is done as to its period, the contemporary technology and the materials used for construction. Even the craftsman who are still perusing such vocations are employed so that they can easily understand the intricacies of the work involved and take up the work with considerable dedication.

    The competent authority inspects the monuments periodically and inspection note is drawn regarding conservation measures to be taken up. Pre-Conservation Photographs are taken of the damaged part of the Monuments which require urgent attention for Conservation, Preservation. Estimates are framed and approval of the competent authority obtained and only then the work is included in the works program subject to the availability of funds. The Government of Maharashtra has funded a special program solely dedicated to the development of Raigad. Further a special project of conservation of 28 forts was also implemented in Maharashtra during 2014 to 2020.

    The objectives of the Conservation is “to conserve and preserve the monuments and the natural resources around, improve the infrastructure and visitor management, carry out tourist developmental activities and arrange training programs for higher quality of tourism, and improve the quality of life of local population around these forts, and also to integrate the local population with the development of tourism. In contrast to such heritage properties being converted in heritage hotels no such example is seen in case of forts in Maharashtra in order to maintain its authenticity. Many of the forts fall in protected boundaries of notified forest areas. A buffer zone of legal protection of landscape around the hill forts is already in place. Modern developments under costal forts are regulated by CRZ and other legislations of Government of India. In modern context these forts are trekking destinations as well as tourist destinations. Beyond that locals worship these forts and they are commemorated as inspiration for resistance against oppressing rule and they also serve as spaces to revive heroic memories of their ancestors. Often community participation in cleaning campaigns, forestation and other adventure related activities is seen on and around these forts. Thus authenticity and integrity of these forts is ensured by government mechanism as well as community participation.

    Comparison with other similar properties

    The fortifications of India which are existing World Heritage Sites are namely the Mughal Forts of Delhi and Agra inscribed in 2007 and the Hill Forts of Rajasthan inscribed in 2013. The Agra Fort and the Red Fort at Delhi are two significant fortifications of Mughal period that are World Heritage Sites. The Agra Fort built magnificently in red sandstone by the Mughal Emperor Akbar in the late 16th century was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1983. It is presumed to be the model for the Red Fort at New Delhi that was inscribed years later in 2007. This powerful fortress of red sandstone encompasses, within its 2.5-km-long enclosure walls, the imperial city of the Mughal rulers. It comprises many palace structures mostly lined along the riverfront, such as the Jahangir Palace and the Khas Mahal, built by Shah Jahan; audience halls, such as the Diwan-i-Khas; and two mosques named Nagina Masjid and Moti Masjid. The Red Fort at Delhi built later in the 17th century is considered to represent the zenith of Mughal creativity which, under the Shah Jahan, was brought to a new lever of refinement. Bothe, the Agra Fort and the Red Fort Complex are managed by the Archaeological Survey of India.

    The most comparable example for present serial nomination is Forts of Rajasthan. The state of Rajasthan in north western India has more than 100 forts and fortifications of varying scale that served as historic strongholds of the medieval Rajput warrior rulers. These forts present a rich variation across the vast range of geographical and cultural zones within Rajasthan. The Rajput Fort typologies as per adaptations to the physiographic terrain can be categorized into 7 types: Hill Summit Fort, Hill Slope Fort, Hill Valley Fort, Hill Forest Fort, Hill Water Fort, Hill Desert Fort and Ground Fort (Elevated). The key attributes that distinguish the 6 Rajput hill forts finally inscribed as a single serial World Heritage Sites are:

    1. As the former capital of the Sisodia clan and the target of three famous historical sieges, the site is strongly imbued with associational values attaching to Rajput history and folk lore. Furthermore the sheer number and variety of architectural remains of early date (ranging from the 8th to the 16th Centuries) mark it out a site of exceptional importance, with only a few Indian forts that are comparable.
    2. Its distinctive contribution arises form it having been constructed in a single process and (apart from the palace of Fateh Singh, added later) retains its architectural coherence. Its design is attributed to an architect known by name – Mandan – who was also an author and theorist at the court of Rana Kumbha in Chittorgarh. This Combination of factors is highly exceptional.
    3. Its distinctive contribution arises from it being the only forest fort included in the series. In addition, the remains of the palace of Hammir are among the oldest surviving structures of an Indian palace.
    4. Gagraon- Its distinctive contribution to the series arises from it being the only river-protected fort included in the series. In addition its strategic lacation in a pass in the hill gave it enchanced significance in the control of trade
    5. Amber- Its distinctive contribution is there presentation of key phase (17th century) in the development of a common Rajput Mughal court style, embodied in the buildings and gardens added to Amber by Mirza Raja Jai Singh
    6. Jaisalmer- It is the only example included in the series of a hill fort in desert terrain. The extensive township contained within it from the outset, still inhabited today, and the group of Jain temples, make it an important (and in some respects even unique) example of a sacred and secular (urban) fort.

    Overall these six sites 6 were selected as necessary to demonstrate the potential of a series that bears testimony to the power of the Rajput princely states that flourished in the region from the 8th to the 18th centuries. These were inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2013. Similarly, a series of Maratha forts in Maharashtra offers similar example of a warrior clan utilizing the best of landscape and war tactics in development of the Maratha Empire.

    Internationally, following examples can be compared to the proposed category of serial nomination:

    1. Fortress of Suomenlinna, Finland
    2. Fortifications of Vauban, France
    3. Forts and Castles, Volta, Greater Accra, Central and Western Regions, Ghana
    4. Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd, England