IV. THE BIRTHPLACE OF SHIVAJI.
About half a mile westward of the town of Junnar there rises from the plain a colossal hill, the lower portion whereof consists of steep slopes covered with rough grass and a few trees, and the upper part of two nearly perpendicular tiers of scarped rock, surmounted by an undulating and triangular-shaped summit. The upper tier commences at a height of six hundred feet from the level of the plain and, rising another 200 feet, extends dark and repellant round the entire circumference of the hill. Viewed from the outskirts of the town, the upper scarp, which runs straight to a point in the north, bears the strongest similarity to the side of a huge battleship, riding over billows long since petrified and grass grown: and the similarity is accentuated by the presence in both scarps of a line of small Buddhist cells, the apertures of which are visible at a considerable distance and appear like the portholes or gun-ports of the fossilised vessel. Unless one has a predilection for pushing one's way through a perpendicular jungle or crawling over jagged and sunbaked rock, the only way to ascend the hill is from the south-western side, from the upper portion of which still frown the outworks and bastioned walls which once rendered the fortress impregnable. The road from the town of Junnar is in tolerable repair and leads you across a stream, past the ruined mud walls of an old fortified enclosure, and past the camping-ground of the Twelve Wells, until you reach a group of trees overshadowing the ruined tombs of a former captain of the fort and other Musulmans. The grave of the Killedar is still in fair condition; but the walls which enclose it are sorely dilapidated, and the wild thorn and prickly pear, creeping unchecked through the interstices, have run riot over the whole enclosure.
At this point one must leave the main road, which runs forward to the crest of the Pirpadi Pass, and after crossing a level stretch of rock, set one's steps upon the pathway which, flanked on one side by the lofty rock-bastions of the hill and on the other by the rolling slopes, leads upwards to the First Gate. At your feet lies the deserted and ruined village of Bhatkala, which once supplied the Musulman garrison with food and other necessaries, and is now but a memory; and above your head the wall and outwork of the Phatak Tower mark the vicinity of the shrine of Shivabai, the family goddess of the founder of the Maratha Empire. The pathway yields place to a steep and roughly-paved ascent, girt with dense clumps of prickly pear, extending as far as the first gateway of the fortress. There are in all seven great gateways guarding the approach to the hill-top, of which the first already mentioned, the second or "Parvangicha Darvaja," the fourth or Saint's gate, and the fifth or Shivabai gate are perhaps more interesting than the rest. One wonders why there should be seven gateways, no more and no less. Was it merely an accident or the physical formation of the hill-side which led to the choice of this number? Or was it perhaps a memory of the mysterious power of the number seven exemplified in both Hebrew and Hindu writings, which induced the Musulman to build that number of entrances to his hill-citadel? The coincidence merits passing thought. The second gateway originally bore on either side, at the level of the point of its arch, a mystic tiger, carved on the face of a stone slab, holding in its right forepaw some animal, which the Gazetteer declares is an elephant but which more closely resembles a dog. The tiger on the left of the arch alone abides in its place; the other lies on the ground at the threshold of the gate. Local wiseacres believe the tiger to have been the crest of the Killedar who built the gate and to have signified to the public of those lawless days much the same as the famous escutcheon in "Marmion," with its legend, "who laughs at me to Death is dight!"
The Saint's gate, so called from the tomb of a "Pir" hidden in the surrounding growth of prickly pear, is the largest of all the gates and is formed of splendid slabs of dressed stone, each about 8 feet in length. On either side of the gateway are rectangular recesses, which were doubtless used as dwellings or guardrooms by the soldiers in charge of the gate. Thence the pathway divides; one track, intended for cavalry, leading round to the north-western side of the hill, and the other for foot-passengers, composed of rock-hewn steps and passing directly upwards to the Shivabai gate, where still hangs the great teak-door, studded with iron spikes, against which the mad elephants of an opposing force might fruitlessly hurl their titanic bulk.