Ancient Kolhapur: A (Very) Short History

Kolhapur, a major city in the state of Maharashtra is steeped in popular history. It has an important place in Maratha history, primarily after 1707, following the succession dispute between the descendants of Chhatrapati Shivaji. References to Kolhapur in this period are many, and well documented. There’s more to this city than this recent history, however.

It goes way back; more than 2000 years ago.

Satavahana Kingdom. Image via Wikipedia

Satavahana Kingdom. Image via Wikipedia

Excavations in and around Kolhapur reveal that it was first occupied during the Satavahana period (c. 200 BCE to 200 CE). The early Satavahanas ruled, what is now Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. They were the vassals of the Mauryan empire, and established themselves after the decline of the Mauryan kingdom, around 230 BCE.


Around 1st century CE, the western parts of India were ruled by Saka (Indo-Scythians) rulers, who were collectively known as the Western Satraps. The Western Satraps, occupied territories from the early Satavahanas during their reign in this region. By 63 CE, Nahapana, one of the most powerful Satraps, was ruling over Malwa, Southern Gujarat, and Northern Konkan, from Broach (Modern Bharuch, in Gujarat) to Sopara (Modern Nalla Sopara, near Mumbai)  and the Nasik and Poona districts. While I haven’t found any specific mention that Nahapana’s domains included Kolhapur, we have other sources to confirm this. Suffice it to say for now, that Kolhapur was under the rule of the Western Satraps.


Come 126 CE, and we have one of the most famous kings of the Andhra Satavahana dynasty — Vilivayakura II, also known as Gautamiputra Sri Satakarni, also known as Shalivahan. (Yes, he is the one who gave us the Shalivahan calendar, which is used in India throughout.) Vilivayakura II recovers the territories lost by the Satavahanas to the Wester Satraps. Vilivayakura II makes Kolhapur his western capital. Kolhapur is mentioned as Hippokoura by Ptolemy and Vilivayakura II is referred to as Baleokouros. Couple of decades later, Vilivayakura II’s son, Pulumayi II moved the capital to Pratishthan (Modern Paithan, in Maharashtra) on the upper waters of the Godavari River.

Safe to say, then that there is enough influence on Kolhapur, of the Yavanas (Ionians, or Asiatic Greeks), the Indo-Scythians, the Parthians (of Persia), and the Andhra Satvahanas.

In other sources, Kolhapur is mentioned as Kollaksetra, from where it derives its current name — Kolhapur, as seen on inscriptions from the Shilaharas (800 CE – 1256 CE).

The site of Brahmapuri where the excavations were made is now almost within Kolhapur city, and the artefacts are available to view from the Town Hall Museum at Kolhapur.


  • Ghosh, Amalananda. An Encyclopaedia of Indian Archeology. Vol. II. Brill, 1990. 84.
  • Smith, Vincent A. “The Sunga, Kanva, and Andhra Dynasties.” In History of India, edited by A. V. Williams, 194. London: Grolier Society Publishers, 1906.
  • Lévi, Sylvain, Jean Przyluski, Jules Bloch, and Prabodh Chandra Bagchi. Pre-Aryan and Pre-Dravidian in India. [Articles.]. Asian Educational Services, 1929. 173-175.
  • Prasad, Durga. “Chapter II—The Satavahanas.” In History of the Andhras: Upto 1565 A. D., 33. Guntur, Andhra Pradesh: P. G. Publishers, 1988.
  • Rawlinson, H. G. “India and The Roman Empire.” In Intercourse between India and the Western World: From the Earliest Times to the Fall of Rome, 117-119. London: Cambridge University Press, 1916.
  • “Appendix 4 – Chronology of the Sunga, Kanya, and Andhra Dynasties.” Appendix 4 – Chronology of the Sunga, Kanya, and Andhra Dynasties. Accessed July 15, 2015.

About a Sher

A family wedding pulled me away in the fine month of December, last year, to Kolhapur, a city steeped in history. The bastion of Maratha history, it is a photographer’s delight, full of colour and fine imagery.

When you need to look for bits out of history, they are available to you everywhere.

Sher (Traditional Measure) - 1

One such bit that caught my attention was a standard measure, called a Sher (शेर) that was being cleaned and polished for a wedding ritual. When the bride enters the groom’s residence for the first time, she strikes inward, a Sher full of grain (usually Rice) at the threshold with her right foot (thumb, if you care for the finer details). This ritual is called “Maap Olandne” (माप अोलांडणे), loosely translated, “Crossing the Threshold (Measure?)”. It signifies the ushering of wealth and food (धन, धान्य) by virtue of her entry. I believe, this is a common tradition that is followed in most Hindu weddings.

My focus however, is the Sher.

Sher (Traditional Measure) - 3

This particular Sher was made in the year 1910 and has the rhomboidal inscription of म श्री छ प on it (M, Shri, Chh, P). This stands for महाराज श्रीमंत छत्रपाती परवाना (Maharaj Shrimant Chhatrapati Parwana). If I am not mistaken, the Parwana means “issue”. (Will update after confirmation)

Sher (Traditional Measure) - 4

So how much exactly is a Sher?

1 Sher = 1.25kgs, so
4 Sher = 5kgs, which is also known as a Payli (पायली)

Other related Sher terminology:

1/2 a Sher = 1 Mapta (मापटं)
1/4 a Sher – 1 Chipta (चिपटं)
1/2 a Chipta = 1 Kolwa (कोळवं)

Update: Panhala

A minor update on the Panhala Fort page.

Fort Panhala

Go northwest of a city ripe with Maratha history; sprinkle a few stories of valour and intrigue, and you have a taste of Panhala.

Into the Light


While the fort has witnessed many events, Chhatrapati Shivaji’s escape from Panhala and the ensuing Battle of Paavan Khind is what Panhala is most famous for. And you wouldn’t ever miss this story — if you went to Panhala, because a towering statue, all 52 kilograms of bronze, stands in the middle of the fort to honour the one person who ensured that Shivaji survived his escape to Vishalgad.


The Seige of Panhala

The origins of this battle were laid a little over six months before, when Shivaji killed Afzal Khan at Pratapgad on the 10th of November in 1659. This was then followed by a very short battle a month later between Shivaji and Rustom-e-Jaman at Kolhapur on December 28, 1659. Shivaji, after this victory took over Panhala from Ali Adil Shah II, the fifth king of the Adil Shahi sultanate of Bijapur (Bijapur was one of the five Deccan sultanates including Ahmednagar, Bidar, Berar, and Golconda). Shivaji then continued spreading his influence over the region. This obviously caused distress to Ali Adil Shah II who was all set to march to Panhala. However, Siddi Johar who had defied the Shah and taken over the jagir Kurnool, offered a deal to Ali Adil Shah II to recognise his control over Kurnool in return for laying the siege at Panhala. The Shah agreed, and also gave him the title of Salabat Jung. Siddi Johar was assisted by Siddi Masud and Fazal Khan (Afzal Khan’s son). The seige was laid on March 2, 1660 with a force of fifteen thousand men.

The siege continued for six months into the month of July in 1660. The Adilshahi army cut of all supplies to the fort and made it increasingly difficult for Shivaji to continue resisting the siege. Sensing the trap, Shivaji clandestinely communicated with Siddi Johar and requested an alliance with him and a safe passage. Siddi, saw this as an opportunity to carve out a separate empire of his own with Shivaji and agreed to meet him. They met at at midnight and agreed to cooperate. Shivaji returned to the fort and the seige continued as before.

Fazal Khan, however, was adamant on taking revenge for the death of his father, Afzal Khan, at Pratapgad. He maintained a close watch on the movements of Shivaji and continued the seige in all seriousness. However, Panhala is one of the largest forst in the Sahydri Mountain Range. Fifteen thousand men were too less to take on a fort of that size. Fazal Khan, instead, chose to atatck Pavangad, a nearby fort and avoided a frontal attack. He used British guns and began shelling Pavangad. The commander of Pavangad requested for relief from Panhala. Shivaji know knew that if Pavangad fell, supplies to Panhala would be cut and would be starved.

Two teams left Panhala on the night of July 13, 1660. Shivaji and his commanders took a side road to Vishalgad, about 70 kilometres away from Panhala, while Shiva Kashid, a barber who had a strong resemblence to Shivaji, led the other team on the main road to Vishalgad, impersonating Shivaji. When news reached Fazal Khan’s camp, they captured the second team and brought them back to base. The imposter was however recognised and beheaded and Fazal Khan chased Shivaji through the night to Vishalgad.

Shiva Kashid
Statue of Shiva Kashid, Entrance of Panhala

As they were nearing Vishalgad, at Gajapur, 12 kilometres away from their destination, Baji Praphu Deshpande, one of Shivaji’s commander stayed back at a narrow pass named Ghodkhind with seven hundred other maratha warriors. This is a classic rear-guard defence tactic, during an escape. Interestingly a similar situation was faced by the Greeks against the Persians in the Battle of Thermopylae

Baji Prabhu Deshpande
Statue of Baji Prabhu Deshpande at Panhala

Baji Prabhu’s instructions were to hold guard till he heard cannons fired from Vishalgad, which would signal the safe passage of Shivaji into Vishalgad. Baji Prabhu fought valiantly in that pass for five hours, supposedly with two swords weighing 15 kilograms each. (Shivaji later renamed that pass as Paavan Khind (Sacred Pass) in the memory of Baji Praphu Deshpande). The remaining soldiers carried his wounded body into the hills and left the pass open.

The chasing army pushed on to Vishalgad, however chose not to attack in that terrible region (If you have been there, you will know what it means.); they returned to Panhala, and eventually to Bijapur. Johar’s treason was now known to Ali Adil Shah II and he moved to Miraj to ‘punish’ him. Johar saw his position and finally made the Marathas give up Panhala on September 22, 1660 and handed over the fort to Adil Shah II. (January 1661, according to Grant Duff)

Sambhaji Imprisoned in Sajja Kothi

(Coming Soon)

Fort Chronology

  • Built by King Bhoja (Shilahara dynasty) between 1178-1209
  • Passed on to Singhana (Yadav Dynasty) during 1209-10 CE
  • Under Adil Shai rule, 1489
  • First captured by Shivaji on 28 November 1659.
  • Laid seige by Siddi Masud and Fazal Khan (Afzal Khan’s son) on March 2, 1660
  • Shivaji escapes the seige on July 13, 1660.
  • Fort recaptured by Ali Adil Shah II in January 1661.
  • Annaji Pant, led by Kondaji Farzand regains Panhala, 6 March 1673.

Inside the Fort & Architecture

Starting from the early build by by Raja Bhoja II, Panhala has seen itself further decorated and fortified by its various owners over time. The primary architectural stamp on the fort, however, is in the Indo-Islamic style, popularised by the Adil Shahi dynasty of Bijapur.

Panhala has various examples of this architectural identity: peacock motifs, arches, domes, and vaults. Lime mortar has also been used extensively as also lead.

The room over Andhar Bau (Dark Well)

Where have all the horses gone...
The Horse Stables

Peacock Motif
Peacock Motif, Bahamani Sultanate

Lotus Motif
Shilahara Dynasty, King Bhoja II

Groin Vault
A simple groin vault.

Lattice Work
Lattice Work outside the Main gate of Teen Darwaza (Three Gates)

Lead as Mortar
Use of molten lead, mixed with mortar to strengthen the foundations of the fort. Panhala, Kolhapur.

General Information

At an altitude of 3177 feet above seal level, Panhala is a very scenic place, just 18 kilometers away from Kolhapur. It is one of the largest forts of the Deccan and has fortified walls for about 8 kilometres of its triangular structure.

You can have look at Panhala in Google Earth. Paste the text below in the search box of Google Earth.

16°48’43.75″N 74° 6’27.26″E

Or, you can see it in Google Maps here


  1. Panhala @ Wikipedia (
  2. Battle of Pavan Khind (
  3. Battle of Kolhapur (
  4. A Long Weekend in Kolhapur, a Rediff Article by V S Srinivasan (
  5. Maratha War History, Brig.(Retd) K G Pitre (AVSM), Continental Publishers, Pune (Marathi Publication)
  6. Shivaji and his Times, Jadunath Sarkar, Orient Longman, ISBN 8125013474
  7. ‘INDO – ISLAMIC ARCHITECTURE’, Centre for Cultural Studies [accessed 3 July 2010].
  8. Michell, George, and Mark Zebrowski. “Chapter 2: Forts and Palaces.” Architecture and Art of the Deccan Sultanates (The New Cambridge History of India). New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999. 23. Print.


  1. Sources on Shiva Kashid are sketchy and not verifiable. It is not known whether he was beheded by the Adilshahi army or not. Interestingly, the Shiva Kashid incident doesnt find mention in major history references, however – it is his statue that greets you as you enter Panhala.
  2. All photographs, unless otherwise stated, (c) Atul Sabnis. All rights reserved.