Narnala, alias Shahanur is famous for an ancient for tress in the hills in the north of Akot tahsil situated in 210 10' north latitude and 770 00' east longitude a point where a narrow tongue of Akola district runs a few miles into the Melghat, It is 3,000 above the mean sea level. It ban a population of 250 souls according of Census of 1971. The fortress lies about 12 mules north of Akot. the road passing through Bordi Shahnur The village lies within the first roll of the hills but just at the foot of the real ascent, the road climbs a spur of the hills and then follows a. ridge, the whole ascent from Shahanur occupying less than an hour. The fort can now ho ascended by a motorable road. About hall way up it crosses first one and then another piece of level ground, each thickly sprinkled with Muhammedan tombs. These are called Lallan and Motha Sati Maidans. On the left side of the road in the upper plot is a small broken stone having carved on it an upraised hand, the sun, and the crescent moon, which is described as Saticha hat,
'Sati's hand'. Presently the lower range of fortifications comes into sight, a line of blackened walls crowning cliffs of black stone and lying dwarfed but massive along the folds of the hillside. Accomplishing three-quarters of the ascent the road passes through the first gateway, crowned like the rest with an arch lofty enough
for elephants to pass through. A curtain projecting on the other side of the gateway is called Saha Gotyachi Sapili because its full height, about 30 feet is made up of six great stones placed one on top of the other. Lions in different attitudes ornament both the outside and the inside of the gateway. The path passes two other strong gateways and one slighter one before entering the heart of the fort, and climbs meanwhile to the uppermost glials. Between the last two gateways are the domed tombs of Bagh Savar Waii and Gaz Badshah. Wali, the former not only rode a tiger in his life but the old Gazetteer slates "even now a
tiny white tiger may be seen at night going to and from his tomb." Passing the last gateway one comes almost at once before the Ambar Bangala, the kacheri of former days. A rest-house has been constructed on the fort. It is a lofty building locking on to a cemented courtyard which formerly contained a fountain and was roofed with wood. The bar-gala had a flat roof reached by a long and steep staircase, and walls around the roof give shade during the greater part of the day, while openings afford a wide view over both the plain country and the hills. Akot is generally visible, with the nearer villages, and in the clear air
of the rains one can plainly see the Hooded Purna 25 miles away. At an equal distance on the west the fortress of Pimpardol crowns one of the two highest hills in that part of the Satpuda, a fairly large fortification but one so little known that its existence is sometimes denied by people living just below it and even by the people who used to go on pilgrimage to one of its tanks. Just across the courtyard is the tomb of Burhauuddin, sometimes called "the dogs' temple", and beyond it is the Shakkar Talao, a tank of some little size. The tomb is a commonplace stone platform with a few tombstones upon it. It has long been known as a place where the bite of a mad dog, jackal, or rat may be cured. People come from various places even from a distance. They offer gur, chana, ud, and phul (country sugar, parched gram, incense, and flowers), walk five times around the stone platform, place in their mouths five grains of gram and a very little of the other food offered,
and walk away with their eyes fixed on the ground till they have passed the list gateway of the fort (a few hundred yards away). Intelligent people of the neighbourhood are convinced that the cure is effective if performed before hydrophobia has appeared in the patient, but according to some others it even takes effect later, but every year there are one or two cases of visitors who die of hydrophobia either just before or just after visiting the tomb. The local experts hold the common belief that hydrophobia is very apt to remain latent during the dry season and manifest itself at the first fall of rain. The Shakkar Talao is connected with various legends. The cow called Kapila, pure white, and Kamdhenu, the granter of desires, descends from heaven at midnight and passes through the water to a pindi shrine, of Mahadeva beneath it, and there yields her milk. Unhappily this story was told long ago to an incredulous Deputy Commissioner, who at first made the retort that though all other liars might be dead the relater was one left alive, and then had the tank sounded and searched by a Bhoi
river. Nothing was found but mud, upon which the officer added, 'Is there nothing in the tank? Then take the patwari (who had told the tale) and drown him. there'; and though the order was not enforced this unsympathetic attitude has greatly discouraged the recounting of anecdotes. It is said also that a paras, spike of a dome, lies in the tank with the power of turning everything it touches into gold, and that an elephant's shackles were once changed in this way when it entered the tank. The water dried up in the famine of 1899-1900 and nothing was found, but it is remarked that no one knows what is hidden in the mud. At the west end of the courtyard mentioned are a pretty mosque and handsome stables, while near the other end is a block of four large covered cisterns with broken but graceful arches rising above them. Some have thought them to be Jain water-cisterns, but they are locally called telache tupache take and are said to have been used for storing oil and ghee for the large garrison The fort covers 392 acres, and the walls, which only approximately keep at the same level wind about so much in following the shape of the hill that people say the full circuit measures 24 miles. It would certainly take very many hours to trace out all the buildings, especially as the walls, though generally in excellent condition, have crumbled in places and the enclosure is much overgrown with long grass and bushes. It is said that there were 22 tanks, six of which still hold water all the year, 22 gates, and 360 buruj towers or bastions. The first fortifications, according to tradition, were made by Naryendrapun, a descendant of the Pandavas and at the time Emperor of Hastinapur (Delhi). Ahmad Shah Bahamani got the fort repaired around 1425 when he constructed Gavilgad with a view to obstructing the invaders from the north frontier of his Kingdom. Nearly all the present
buildings seem to be of Muhammedan origin. The fort passed on to Fatehulla Imad-ul-mulk when he became an independent ruler by 1490 as he was the Subhedar of Berar under the Bahamanis Gavilgad also passed on to him. Burhan Imad Shah was imprisoned on this fort by one of his Amirs Tufalkhan who crowned himself. In the battle that was fought between Tufalkhan and Murtaza Nizam Shah in 1572 Tufalkhan was defeated and had to flee and took asylum with Muhammad Shah of Khandesh. On being threatened by Murtaza Nizam Shah of dire consequences if the asylum was continued, Muhammad Shah of Khandesh, refused to give refuge to Tufalkhan who was forced to return to Narnala fort and stay there. The fort was invested by the army of Murtaza. The fort surrendered and
Tufalkhan and also Burhan Imad Shah were imprisoned along with 40 others. They were confined in the fort of Lohagad where they died while in captivity. Some historians say that all of them were poisoned under the orders of Murtaza Nizam Shah. After the battle that was fought between the armies of the Ahmadnagar kingdom and the Emperor Akbar on January 26, 1597 in which the armies of the Adilshahi Emperor who alongwith the Kutub Shah of Golconda was an ally of Nizamshah emerged successful, and followed the Delhi army upto Shahpur. However., Khan Khanan defeated Sohelkhan soon afterwards and instead of following them, he sent his army for the capture of Narnala and Gavilgad along with the other minor forts in the area. However, Khan Khanan was recalled by the Emperor Akbar in view of the differences he had with Murad and Abul Fazl was appointed in his place. He captured most of the forts in the area. Akbar had divided his kingdom into 15 Subhas and Narnala was one of them. The fort passed on afterwards to the Maratha followers of Shivaji and his descendants, then to the Peshva. After the return of Shahu to the Deccan in 1707, Parsoji Bhosle was the first Maratha noble who joined hands with Shahu on the Western border of Berar. He was given the title, of Sena-saheb-subha and a jagir was conferred upon him which included Sarkar Narnala. The fort passed on to the Nizam again, and finally to the British, but people say that throughout all this history no great fight ever took place over it. The fort along with that of Gavilgad was handed over to the British according to the treaty of January 6, 1818 entered into by the East India Company and Mudhoji Bhosle. A legend connects a hill a little to the south-west of the fort with its capture in the time of Aurangzeb. On the top of the hill is the dargah of Saiduliboa or Saiduliwali; it is said that a gun was taken up there unknown to the Dakhanis and delivered by night so effective a lire that the garrison fled. Again, the name Sati Maidan is sometimes applied to the whole sweep of the hill-side between Shahanur and the fort and the explanation is given that
a vast number of men were killed here in the time of Aurangzeb. the tombs of the Muhammedans alone remaining; the name would then have the general meaning of Plain of Death. The vaults, bhuyar, mentioned above lie a short distance to the west of the. Ambar Bangala: they are a series of small chambers connected by low archways and are sometimes called zanan khana on the supposition that they were meant for the residence of gosha women, women who must not be seen in public. Their purpose is, however, not certain, and their extent is not known. An attempt to explore them, inspired by the hope of finding treasure, was defeated by great numbers of bats coming upon the intruders, who were also afraid of snakes. A late jaglia of Narnala, Gafur Ahmad, is said to have driven a score of sheep into the vaults to see where they would come out. One emerged at Gavilgad, more than 20 miles away, but no trace was ever found of the others. A cross stands on a high point on the eastern side
of the fort and marks the grave of a European officer who was left in charge and died here after the battle of Adgaon but no trace of his name is left. Among the buildings on the east side is a nagar-khana where prisoners are said to have been kept in a pit, with a big stone over their heads, to await execution. A few hundred yards off is the khuni buruj, where a platform was built on the edge of a sheer precipice over which criminals, were sometimes hurled. The naugaj toph, nine-yard gun, lies between these two. This is said to have been placed there during the reign of Aurangzeb in 1070 and it bears an inscription in Persian. This 18 foot long cannon with a diameter of 6 feet had a reach of seven miles. A ball from it is said once to have carried off the golden spike set on the domed building at Dharud in the plain below and to have continued its flight till it fell into the tank at Kutasa, 20 miles away. (It is also said at Narnala that the Hemadpanti temple at Kulasa contains enough buried treasure to restore the fort, the repeated mention
of Kulasa perhaps showing its former importance). Formerly there was a sister gun called khadak bijli, terrible lightening, but this somehow fell over the cliff into Chandan Khora, the valley of sandal wood, and mysteriously disappeared from sight. Two other guns lie near the Akot gate, to the south of the ordinary entrance, but the bulk of the military stores were removed in 1858. Tatya Tope and Mugutrav
were then at Jalgaon, the headquarters of the tahsil on the west, and it was
thought that they might seize these stores, though the fortress was in the hands
of the Nizam. The guns were, therefore, taken off to Akot, the Tahsildar gathering 1,000 or 1,200 people together for the task of bringing them down the hills, and the guns being hauled across the plain by long teams of oxen in one great contused procession, The powder and sulphur were brought out of the magazine and watered and burnt, but a spark got into the last cask before it
was removed; such an explosion followed that one still hears how people's ears rang, and men were knocked down by the hundred, while two rockets went sailing across the fort into the hills; but the magazine, a strong building, withstood the shock and is still to be seen. The Dhobi Talav is a pretty tank which
holds water all the year. It has a series of arches at one side, with summer houses if one may use the word, consisting of two stone chambers one above the other and covered by a flat roof. Water was taken thence to a garden, and one stone is grooved in almost a score of places by the rope which ran on it. The garden is ascribed to the Bhosles. There were two lofty stands for Tulsi, basil, plants that also revealed Hindu influences. Moreover, a shrine of Mahatoba, or Mhatoba, on the south of the tank, is famed for the cure of snake-bite. The victim must utter the name of the god and place a stone or piece of earth on his head. Upon this he has invariably strength to reach the shrine, the power of the poison being checked. Arriving there he burns a little ghee in a lamp, or ral, ud, gul, resin or incense, or something of the sort. Presently he shivers and sweats or according to the report of some eye-witnesses the god sweats and straightway the man is cured; cattle are also healed. The old
Gazetteer mentions that a Mahar of Warud who was cured in this way came on a yearly pilgrimage and put the shrine in order. Now it consists simply of a rough reddened stone on a rough platform, and its importance must have diminished by the snake god at Shiupur below the ghat, 5 miles distant. Quite close to the stone of Mhatoba is an image of Mahavir or Bajrangkali, holding its hand upraised and supported by a much smaller figure. The dalbadal, containing the old mint, is quite near, and a Muhammedan graveyard is at no great distance. It is said that the Bhosles had 2,0G0 or 2,500 men here, and the number and variety of buildings show clearly that there must have been a large population, but now the place is generally empty save when Hindu pilgrims visit the tomb of Saiduliboa and Burhanuddin in the rains, or Muhammedans come in Ramzan, or the dog-bitten come for healing. Evil spirits, bhuts and Shaitans, are said to haunt it; wherever the walls are broken there are the tracks of wild beasts, in the morning and evening peacocks come to the tanks, and at night sambars also come thither, following well-worn tracks through the ancient gateways. Only four gates facing Akot, Shahanur, Dehli and Mahakali remain out of 21 that formerly protected this fort which had 67 bastions.
The following description about the archaeological remains on the fort of Narnala reproduced from the old Akola District Gazetteer published in 1910 makes interesting reading as it still holds good.
The largest monument of antiquity in the District is the fine hill fort of Narnala, standing upon an isolated hill of the Satpura range. The whole series of fortifications consists of three distinct forts stretching in a line from east to west, Jafara-bad on the east, Narnala, the principal fort, in the centre, and Teliyagarh on the west. The forts are enclosed, except in those places where the natural escarpment of rock renders artificial defences unnecessary, by crenellated stone walls, well and strongly built. The bastions are numerous and the gates number twenty-two in all, but this number includes wicket gates and separate gateways situated on the same main entrance to the fort. The main entrances to the fort are but four in number, the Delhi darvaza, the Sirpur darvaza, the Akot darvaza, and the Shahanur darvaza. None of the entrances, save the last, calls for any special mention. The Shahanur entrance consists of three separate gateways on the same path. The outer most is the Shahanur gate proper, the first and main gate of the fort, and a very plain structure. Mr Cousens concludes from its style that it is pre-Muhammedan but doubts whether it is Gond or not. The ornaments on this gateway are two lions, facing inwards, just as they are found on the old Gond fort of Chandrapur. Ferishta says that Ahmad Shah Wali, the ninth king of the Bahamani dynasty, when he halted at Ellichpur in 1425 "built" the fort of Gavil and 'repaired" that of Narnala, from which it may perhaps be concluded that fortifications already existed on the Narnala hill, though the words of a somewhat inaccurate historian must not be construed too literally. We certainly have no reason to believe that the Gonds ever bore sway in the Melghat, and there is not, perhaps, sufficient ground for the belief that the Shahanur gateway is pre-Muhammedan. 'It is flanked by walls and bastions built of cyclopean masonry, some of the great blocks being over six feet long. These are laid upon one another with very clean joints and their surfaces are cleanly dressed. Some of the kanguras or merlons of the battlements are of single stones, one that was measured being four feet five inches high by three feet seven inches broad. A curtain wall of this same heavy masonry projects upon the outer side of the gateway and thus screens and protects it from below.' This description would apply generally to pre-Muhammedan architecture, but it is not mentioned that the gateway itself consists of a simple Pathan arch instead of the post and lintel doorway which we should have expected to find. That this outer gateway is of an earlier date than the innermost gateway of the same entrance is evident, but there is no reason to believe that it was not constructed by Ahmad Shah's builders in 1425. The second gateway of this entrance is the Mehudi darvaza, which calls for no special notice, but is probably of the same date as the outer gateway. The third and innermost gateway is the best piece of work in the
fort. Hindus have named it the Mahakali gateway, though there is nothing Hindu in its architecture or its surroundings, except a heap of rough stones daubed with red pigment and oil in one of its galleries and locally known as 'Raja
Ilal,'- a possible reference to the eponymous Raja 1 la of Ellichpur. The gateway is wholly Muhammedan and was built by Fathullah Imad-ul-mulk in 1487, a year before he repaired the companion fort of Gavil. It consists of the great entrance archway, nineteen feet from the ground to the apex of the arch and ten feet six inches wide. The whole height of the gateway is thirty-seven feet three inches. Above the lower arch ring is a second, with an inscription in Arabic between them. Above this again are several horizontal courses, one being corbelled forward, forming, with their vertical jambs or pilasters, a recessed frame-work round the archway. Over these again is a very large inscription, stretching across the gateway and surmounted by a line of ornamental kanguras or battlements. The gateway is flanked upon either side by galleries and rooms, probably the original guard-rooms; but the most striking feature of all is the overhanging balconied windows, two on either side. These are beautifully wrought, being supported by corbels or brackets below, and having deep cornices and eaves boards protecting them above. A couple of little pillars and corresponding pilasters, with panels of perforated screen-work between, add to the general pleasing" effect. The gateway must be regarded as being in the main ornamental, for it is weak in itself and adds nothing to the strength of the entrance, which is defended by the Shahanur and Mehndi gateways. In front of the gateway a quadrangle has been added at a later date, surrounded by guard-rooms, but the workmanship oi these additions is rough and coarse, and they have been built up against the gateway on either side, covering up much of its work".
The upper inscription on the gateway runs as follows:-
"On the date of victory. Saith the Lord God Most High and Exalted, 'Whosoever enterth herein is safe from tear.' The year 892 (A. D. 1487)."
"Far removed from imperfections is God. There is no God but the one God and Muhammad is the Prophet of God. May God bless and save him and may God bless all the prophets and apostles and the favoured angels Praised be the Lord God, the Ruler of the universe. Lord have mercy on the legitimate khalifahs, the rightly guided, exalted over others of the believers and Muslims, namely, Abu Bakr the Truthful, Umar the Discriminator, Uthman, and Ali the approved of God, and Hasan-ur-Radha, and Husain, and all the martyrs of Karbala, and Hamzah,
and Abbas, and all those who accompanied the Prophet in his emigration to Madinah, and all those who helped him there. May the acceptance of God be on them all. (Written by Muhammad Abdullah)"
The lower inscription runs as follows: -
"In the reign of the great and exalted Sultan, the Ghazi, Shahab-ud-dunya Wad din, Mahmud Shah, the son of Muhammad Shah, the son of Humayun Shah, the son of Ahmad Shah, the son of Muhammad Shah, the ruler, the Bahamani; may God perpetuate his rule, his kingdom, and his khilafat. Written by Kamal Jang.''
It is not clear what victory is referred to in the beginning of the first inscription, for no victory was gained by Fathullah Imad-ul-Mulk in 1487. The expression used may perhaps be regarded as a rhetorical flourish, with a reference to Fath-ullah's name and to the fact that he was already virtually independent. The rest of the inscription indicates his orthodoxy as a Sunni. The pedigree of Shahab-ud-din Mahmud Shah in the second inscription is full of errors, but corroborates more valuable evidence which refutes Ferishta's obstinate assertion that the name of the fifth king
of the Bahamani dynasty was Mahmud, and not Muhammad.
On a knoll in the fort is the large gun known as the nau-gazi top, or nine yard gun, built of rods and rings on the fagot system. Engraved on it is a Persian inscription of which the following is a translation: "He (God) is the Everlasting One. The emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir. This is the nine-yard gun which was made during the rule of the Deccanis. Now Atiu Beg, the slave of the imperial court, having come to the fort of Narnala in the month of
Jamadi-ul-awwal, in the year 1091 of the holy Hijra, has mounted the above mentioned gun by the grate of His Majesty, the lord of the earth and the age, ruler of the world and its inhabitants, the true spiritual guide. Written by Pahlad Das the Kayath. It is 150 years since this gun was captured, and nobody has mounted it till now."
The three forts contain between them twenty-two tanks, most of which are in the central fort. The system of water-supply in this fort was admirable. Of the old water-works there "still remain a part of the old aqueduct and some of the stone drains constructed for conveying the surface water into the cisterns and the overflow from one cistern into another. From the fact that some of the cisterns are covered it has been surmised that they
are the handiwork of the Jains, but there is not sufficient ground for this belief.
The Jami masjid or principal mosque is in ruins. It occupies a commanding position and was perhaps an imposing structure, but what is left of it does not enable us to form an opinion on this point. A local historian tells us that it was built in A. II. 915 (A. D. 1509) by one Mahabat Khan, and that it bears an Arabic inscription to this effect, but of this no trace now remains.
Upon the hill, close beside the ambar khana, now converted into a residence, is a neat and substantial little, mosque in good repair, with three arches and a high Pathan dome. It is disfigured by an inscription recording the visit of a Hyderabad noble in 1873. This should be removed. Other buildings are the mint, sarraf khana, arsenal, and elephant stables. There are also the rains of a mahal erected for one of the Bhosle rajas of Nagpur, and in Teliyagarh is a small mosque. The ruins of two gun foundries also remain."
Recently the Forest department has undertaken the plantation of eucalyptus trees over the area covered by the fort. The Adivasi jungle Kamgar Society has been established at Shahanur that is at the base of the fort.