Ever since their discovery, Ajanta's marvellous art has continued to suffer
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Pratapgad Fort, built in 1656 on craggy cliffs, survives in remarkably good shape. It was the venue of the November 1659 face-off between the diminutive, but indefatigable, Maratha leader Shivaji and the muscular and well-built Afzal Khan, the mighty general of the Adil Shah of Bijapur.
Though the meeting was intended as a rapprochement between the two, Afzal Khan reportedly had other ideas. Shivaji, not easily outwitted, stabbed him in the abdomen and killed him with his concealed wagh-nakh (tiger claws).
It’s this engaging legend surrounding the fort that continues to draw crowds. But the fort is worth visiting for its architectural virtues alone. Some 450 steps lead up to the top – an easy enough climb.
Don’t miss the Punishment Point, where villainous sorts were put into gunny bags and then dropped from a height of 1,800ft. From here, you can see the Koyna River below. The temple of Shivaji’s kuldevi, or family deity, Bhavani Mata, inside the fort, remains a star attraction.
At the last and highest level is a 4,500kg bronze equestrian statue of Shivaji. The gardens around the statue are landscaped and have benches. Pratapgad is a hive of activity inside as stall owners implore you to try the chhaas or have a light snack. Close to the fort is the dargah of Afzal Khan, where the general lies buried.
Location: 24km from Mahabaleshwar
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