Karnala fort (also called Funnel Hill) is a hill fort in Raigad district about 10 km from Panvel city. Currently it is a protected place lying within the Karnala Bird Sanctuary. It was a fort of strategic importance as it overlooked the Bor pass which connected the Konkan coast to the interior of Maharashtra (Vidharba) and was the main trade route between these areas.
Its exact date of formation is not know but likely it predates 1400 CE as under the Devagiri Yadavs(1248–1318) and under the Tughlaq rulers (1318–1347), Karnala was the capital of the north Konkan districts of their respective empires. It later fell under the command of the Gujarat Sultanate but in 1540 was taken over by Nizam Shah of Ahmednagar. The Gujarat sultans then requested the help of the Dom Francisco de Menenzes the commanding officer of the Portuguese at Bassien(modern day Vasai) to win it back. He ordered 500 of his soldiers to Karnala fort and they were able to capture it. The fort was left in charge of the Gujarat Sultanate but with Portuguese garrisons.
The loss of Karnala enraged the Nizam Shah and he took back the fort and the surrounding countryside by sending 5,000 of his men. The Gujarat sultans fled to Vasai in panic and gave up any claims of the fort to the Portuguese. In the subsequent battle between the Nizam Shah and the Portuguese, the latter were victorious in repulsing further attacks of the Nizam Shahi army and the fort remained with the Portuguese. However the Portuguese viceroy determined that the forts of Sangli and Karnala were of little value to them and decided to give them to the Nizam Shah for an annual payment of Rs. 17,500(or 5,000 gold pardoas) to further their friendship.
Shivaji conquered it from the Portuguese in 1670 by building breastworks as he advanced. After his death in 1680 it was taken over by Aurangzeb. After this the Mughals occupied it for some time after which it in 1740 with the rise of the Peshwas of Pune it went to them. It remained under the command of killedar (garrison commander) Anantrao until a colonel Prother won the fort and established the rule of the British East India Company there in 1818.
Karnala fort actually consists of two forts one at a higher level and other lower. At the centre of the higher level is a 125 feet high basalt pillar. It is also called Pandu's tower. This structure was used as watchtower when the fort was occupied however now it is in a ruined condition. The presence of bee hives also makes it difficult to climb and have resulted in at least one casualty in recent times. There is a water cistern which provides fresh water all year long. From the top the forts of Prabalgad and Rajmachi are clearly visible.
The fort has two inscriptions one in Marathi and the other in Persian. The Marathi inscription which has no date is seen on the lower gate on the inner side. Its words are indecipherable. The Persian writing is on upper gate reads "Syed Nuruddin Muhammad Khan, Hijri, 1147 AH (1735 CE) and probably dates from the Mughal occupation of the fort.
Images of the fort
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