Maha: On Jijamata’s 424th birth anniversary, Raigad Fort facelift gets a fillip

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On the occasion of the 424th birth anniversary of Rajmata Jijabai Shahaji Bhosale on Wednesday — the mother of warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj — the Maharashtra government has ordered expeditious development of the historic Raigad Fort, located 166 km from Mumbai in Raigad district.

One of the most imposing hill-top forts in the country, the Raigad Fort was declared as the capital of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in 1674, where he was crowned on June 6 that year.

Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar on Wednesday took a review of the ongoing Raigad Fort and premises development planning authority’s works.

He said the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government will soon complete the refurbishing of the fort, develop the 21 villages in its vicinity and help provide employment opportunities to the locals through tourism.

“Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj established ‘Swarajya’ with inspiration from Rajmata Jijabai and the history they created together is inspiring for all,” Pawar noted.

He assured the officials that funds would not be a constraint for the development projects and would be routed through the Raigad District Planning Committee to ensure no hiccups for the functioning of the (Raigad Fort development) authority.

The works will also include refurbishing the Rajmata’s palace in the Fort, the conservation of her ‘samadhi’, preservation works, and erection of the Shiv Shrishti which would be done in a scientific manner at this heritage precinct.

Also present at the review meeting were Cultural Affairs Minister Amit Deshmukh, Tourism Minister Aditya Thackeray, Minister of State for Tourism Aditi Tatkare, Rajya Sabha MP and descendent of the royal family, Chhatrapati Sambhaji Raje, MP Sunil Tatkare, top officials Valsa Nair-Singh, Vilas Patil, and Mahendra Kalyankar, among others.

On December 6 last year, President Ram Nath Kovind visited the fort — only the second presidential visit after then President Giani Zail Singh had gone there in 1985 to inaugurate the ‘Meghadambari’ erected in the fort.

Earlier in 1980, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had visited the fort, and later Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee too went there in 1999.

Perched 820 metres (21,700 feet) atop a steep hill, the fort was earlier accessible only by a gruelling climb on a single pathway of 1,737 steps, taking several hours.

Now, visitors and tourists zoom to the top in barely five minutes, thanks to the Raigad Ropeway that was built in 1996, while enjoying breathtaking views of the surrounding green Sahyadri mountains, deep valleys, rivers, and tiny villages dotting the rugged scape.

The fort encompassed gates like the Mena Darwaja for the royal women, the main entrance Nagarkhana Darwaja, Palkhi Darwaja, and the main entry from the pathway to the structure known as Maha Darwaja — flanked by two massive bastions — which was shut daily at sunset.

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