Unpack an era!
Bhandardara has a glorious past, which stretches to the prehistoric period. The reference of nearby hills, temples, caves & people also comes into Hindu mythology.
If you ask a tourist about Bhandardara first thing he would tell you will be about the dam. During the colonial administration economic progress took place of which the most important was the Wilson Dam also popularly known as Bhandardara Dam because of the area where it is based.
84 years ago to provide irrigation to the Ahmednagar region the British constructed a dam across Pravara River which commenced in 1910 and completed in 1926; at 270 feet high above river bed and 278 feet above lowest foundation it was the highest dam in Asia when it was built, for Rs. 84,14,188/-
Opened by his Excellency Lt. Col. the Right Hon’ble Sir Leslie Orme Wilson, Governor of Bombay, on 10th December 1926, the dam was named after him, “Wilson Dam” to honor his contribution.
The site for this dam was discovered in 1903 by Mr. Arthur Hill, the chief engineer for irrigation and secretary to government, Bombay. In recognition of the valuable services rendered by him to irrigation in the Bombay Presidency the lake was named after him, “Lake Arthur Hill” also now popularly known as Bhandardara Lake.
According to Puranas (ancient indian literature),it was believed that Shri Agastya Rishi meditated here continuously, surviving only on water and air. Pleased with his display of tremendous devotion The Lord came down to earth and blessed him with a stream of Ganga River – Amrit Vahini (Pravara River) which is now flowing through the hillocks of Bhandardara with its majestic pomp and also has a spiritual value.
Legend has it that Shri Agastya Rishi gave Lord Rama a miraculous arrow when He visited the Rishi along with Laxman and Sita . The arrow was used by Lord Rama to kill Ravana and rescue Sita from the devil.
Today Agastya’s Ashram is in Akole Taluka, near Bhandardara on the bank of Amritvahini (Pravara) river where he formed the first human settlement.
Truly this region boasts of ancient references in Indian mythology.
Bhandardara is situated in the Ahmednagar district where the lands have been gained by conquest, cession, and exchange. It was dominated by the Nizams and Moghals followed by half a century of Maratha rule. Chhatrapati Shivaji Raje Bhosle personally invaded Ahmednagar in 1657 and in 1665.
Being surrounded by high hills of Sahyadri from all four sides Bhandardara always had a geographical advantage to the rulers of surrounding areas as it would make an outsider’s entry difficult into the region. Mount Kalsubai the highest peak (5400 ft.) of Maharashtra was extensively used by the Maratha warriors as an observation post to watch the enemies.
Eighteenth century painting of a Maratha Soldier by François Balthazar Solvyns
Ratangad, an ancient Fort captured by Chhatrapati Shivaji Raje Bhosle remained one of his favorite. About 1763 Ratangad was among the other forts taken by the insurgent Javji. In 1818 it was the head-quarters of a district of five mahals. The forts of Alang and Kulang were subordinate to it. In 1820 Ratangad was occupied by irregulars under the command of Captain Gordon.
A reference must also be made to the revolutionary movement. As this region was ruled over by the tribal chieftains a strong resistance was put up by the natives of the western hills who harassed the British troops intermittently. The British Army firmly took possession in 1817 & remained thereafter till independence
An artist impression of British army taking posession of Ahmednagar in 1817
From the archaeological excavations carried out by the Deccan College Research Institute at Nevasa, the first human settlements in Maharashtra were on the banks of the River Pravara and Godavari in the Ahmednagae District.