The Gawilgadh or Gawilghur or Gavilgarh Fort is one of the oldest Maratha forts of Maharashtra. The origin of the fort is unknown and legends say that the fort was an old building made of mud, built by some Gawali king in the 12th century. According to Persian historian Firishta, this building was converted into a fort with major fortification by Ahmed Shah Wali in 1425. Ahmed Shah Wali was the ninth king of the Muzaffarid dynasty. This fort had seen many rulers starting from the Mughal rulers to the Marathas and finally giving way to the British rule in 1858.
The Gawilgadh Fort is situated just beside Melghat Tiger Reserve Forest, on the northern part of the Deccan Plateau. There are two strong fortified walls covering the entire fort area, thus dividing it into outer and inner fort. There are three large gateways to the main fort area Fatheha Darwaza, Kichakdara Darwaza and Delhi Darwaza. All these doorways are decorated with collages of palm trees, elephants and tigers.
Above each tiger there are portrays of double headed eagle, depicting the supremacy of the ruling emperor. There are various Persian inscriptions on the fort walls, recording the history of the fort. The fort area had two huge water Talavs or tanks namely, Devtalav and Khantalav for emergency water storage in case the fort was under attack.
A visit to the fort today will show a canopy structure of a mosque at the highest point of the fort. The fort is believed to be “Jama Masjeed”, built in 1486 AD by Emperor Fatehfulla. The stone canopy has seven arched façade with intricate designs along the arches. There were two slender towers or minarets present within the mosque, with one already in a dilapidated condition.
A visit to this fort is a must while on a trip to Chikaldhara hill station, as it is very near to the place. Moreover, one can live in the history of the place and get lost in the ruins. The fort is still isolated and the tourism has not ruined the serenity and charm of the fort.
Adventure lovers can enjoy a trek to this place from the Devi Point. The fort is a place for the shutterbugs and travel during day time is advised. If someone is visiting Gawilgadh fort during Monsoon season, then high boots are advisable. This is because the fort ruins have not been properly taken care by the state government, thus leading to bushes inside the fort area. One must carry his own food while on a visit, as there are no food stalls nearby the fort area.