Mahabaleshwar is a beautiful hill station, situated among the Western Ghats in Maharashtra. The town is surrounded by numerous small and large lakes, some of which are natural and others are man-made. Tourists can take trains and flights to Pune from major Indian cities like Delhi and Mumbai. The roughly 117-kilometre distance between Pune and Mahabaleshwar can be covered in just a little more than 2 hours by road. This town can be visited during any part of the year as the temperature here usually stays around 30 degree Celsius. The months of June, July, August and September should, however, be avoided as it rains heavily during this period. There are hordes of sites that can be visited during a Mahabaleshwar tour like Venna Lake, Pratapgad and Kate, Elephant, Wilson and 3 Monkey vantage points.
Situated about 21 km from Mahabaleshwar, Pratapgad is a pre-modern fortress built in the first decade of the second half of the 17th century. The construction of the fort was undertaken by Moropant Trimbak Pingle, the first Peshwa prime minister under Chhatrapati Shivaji. On November 10th, 1959, Afzal Khan, the commander of the army of Ali Adil Shah II, invaded the fortification. The war ended with the victory of Chhatrapati Shivaji and the firm establishment of the legendary Maratha Empire. Between 1817 and 1818, the last of the three battles between the Maratha Empire and the East India Company was fought at the end of which, this military stronghold of Pratapgad finally fell. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of independent India, on November 30th, 1957, unveiled a 17-feet high statue of the greatest Maratha ruler within the complex.
The fort complex is constructed atop a long ridge amidst the Western Ghats at a height of about 1080 metres above the sea. This site has an elongated plan and the structures, situated on different heights of the ridge, are inter-connected by steps or winding roads. Through the Abdullah Tower, situated in the southern part, a narrow road leads to the main entrance, protected by a bastion tower on either of its side. Only a few structures within the fortress now survive that too in ruins, including some huts and a temple of Goddess Bhavani. Overtime, lichens, moss and small plants have covered its thick, stone walls giving it a nice antique look. Along the walls are slightly raised brick platforms, probably built to allow soldiers to keep a watch on the area nearby.
In the southern section is the temple, dedicated to Goddess Bhavani, built in 1661 by Shivaji as he was unable to visit the actual shrine in Tulijapur. During his invasion campaign, Ali Adil Shah II had desecrated the original temple like other Muslim invaders, had done to other Hindu places of worship over the years. The shrine, within the fortress, has a hall that has been rebuilt and another, with 12-feet high wooden pillars, with the idol of the goddess, inside the latter. Atop its roof rises a conical tower called shikhara in Hindi, which is a characteristic of such houses of god. The eastern and western sides of the complex have gorges, some roughly 800 feet deep. Another minaret, called Afzal Tower is part of the fort and rumoured to be the burial site of Afzal Khan.