By Quaid Najmi
Kolhapur (Maharashtra), Feb 5 (IANS) In a big find, over 400 cannonballs, believed to be of the 16th-18th century Chhatrapati era, were unearthed in and around the ramparts of the Pavangad Fort in Kolhapur in the past couple of days, officials said here on Friday.
The Panvangad Fort, one of the hillforts constructed in the Western Ghats in the 17th century by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, is located on the Panhala spur, around a km to the east of Panhala Fort and the two forts are separated by a deep forested ravine.
A local group of fort-lovers, ‘Team Pavangad’ along with forest department officials, accidentally made the discovery while digging holes to install signboards for tourists on various aspects of the fort in the past two days.
“The big and small cannonballs, each weighing around 100 gms to 7,000 gms, were found in shallow pits around 2-3 feet deep, assembled in 2ft X 3 ft rectangular stacks or in ‘military readiness’ with indications that more of these ammunition may be found buried there,” one of the Team members Maruti Patil told IANS.
Though the digging work is on since a week, the first of the artillery was found only around noon on Thursday, sending waves of excitement among the team members.
After that the team-mates started systematically digging up the area with renewed vigour to unearth many more cannonballs from there, and at the last count, 406 are now deposited with the Archaelogy Department at its Panhala office, Patil said.
Simultaneously a team of archaeologists from Pune has rushed to the site to conduct a detailed survey and panchnama before devising an excavation plan, said an official.
Besides, experts from the explosives and museum departments shall also examine the cannonballs to determine their origins and potential hazardous nature with the amount of gunpowder in them, etc.
The main defence of the Pavangad Fort includes a scarped rock between 15-25 feet tall and in many places the steepness was increased by manual scraping to keep the enemy at bay, besides strengthening its boundaries by a huge 14-feet high parapet wall, which has now collapsed at several locations.
While its main two entrances were razed in 1844 when the fort was dismantled, it still has good water supply sources, though remains largely deserted by people barring fort-lovers.
Local historians said that the site near the Mahadev Mandir in the Pavangad Fort was designated as an artillery site which was later destroyed after the British rulers captured it.
Currently, Team Pavangad with the assistance of other official agencies, is helping renovate the fort and its sprawling precincts since nearly three years to restore it to its old glory for the benefit of the future generations, said Patil.
This is considered one of the biggest finds after a whopping 1,486 live cannonballs, each weighing around 2.80 kgs with low gunpowder content, and believed to be of the Peshwa era, were unearthed from the Khadak Police Lines, Pune, while digging was on to lay a water pipeline, in December 2019.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
By Quaid Najmi