Monday, 8 September 2014

Monsoon trip to Raigad Fort – King of Forts

I have been to the Raigad fort twice for a day trip but had never explored the entire fort. In this monsoon, a 2 day trip to the Raigad fort was on my wish list. I along with my family planned a trip to Raigad considering the long weekend of Ganesh visarjan. It was our post monsoon trek. There was no sign of rain on day one but faced cloudy rainy weather on the second day. We booked a room in Raigad hotel which is owned by the rope way operator.

Shivaji Maharaj
Shivaji Maharaj ki JAY...!!!

Travellers for Raigad trip were me, Renuka (wife) and my parents.

About Raigad Fort:
                 Raigad is a hill fortress situated near Mahad, in Raigad district. It was known as the mountain of “Rairi” before it was captured by Shivaji Maharaj. European historians have described it as 'The Gibraltar of the East'. On 6th April 1656, Shivaji Maharaj besieged Rairi and captured it in May. Then Subhedar of Kalyan was transporting the treasure of Adilshah to Bijapur, which was raided by Marathas and utilized to fortify Raigad. It became the capital of Shivaji's kingdom.
               Raigad Fort has been a witness of significant events such as Shiv Rajyabhishek (The Coronation ceremony of Shivaji Maharaj – The Auspicious day was 6th June 1674, Saturday), 24th September 1674 Shivaji Maharaj underwent another ceremony of coronation for the commoners, 4th February 1675 Sambhaji Maharaj’s thread ceremony and 16 February 1681, Sambhaji became the crowned king of Maratha Empire. On 3rd April 1680, Shivaji Maharaj passed away on this fort, which was the most devastating moment witness by Raigad.
               Aurangzeb started his conquest of Raigad in 1684 but failed and returned in 1685. Zulfikar khan attacked on Raigad in 1689. On 5th April Rajaram (King after Sambhaji and Son of Shivaji Maharaj) escaped to Pratapgad. Finally, on 3rd November 1689, Mughals captured Raigad due to unfaithful Suryaji Pisal. They renamed the fort as Islamgad. Marathas regained it on 5th June 1733. In 1818 the fort was bombarded and destroyed by British Raj. Some people say (No evidence is available) that the royal fort was burning for 11 days.
              The fort was called by 15 different names at different times – Raigad, Rairi, Islamgad, Nandadeep, Jambudweep, Tanas, Rashivata, Badenur, Raigiri, Rajgiri, Bhivgad, Reddi, Shivlanka, Rahir and Gibraltar of the east.

There are 2-3 ways to reach to the fort from Pune. One is via Varandha Ghat, whereas another route is Pune – Chadani chowk - Tamhini Ghat – Mangaon – Take left before Mahad – Pachad village – Rope way base station. If you are planning a trip to Raigad during post monsoon time then I will suggest you to go by third route which is Pune - Tamhini Ghat – Nijampur - take left at Nijampur and then base village Pachad. This route is blessed with nature’s beauty during monsoon or in post monsoon. However, currently the condition of the road is poor near Pachad village.

Waterfall at Tamhini

Waterfall near Raigad
Waterfall near Raigad

7th Sept 2014: Trip to Raigad (Total Distance traveled: 160 km):
               We woke up by 5.30 AM and left home at 7:00 AM. We chose the route via Mangaon. It was a cloudy weather and rain welcomed us in Tamhini Ghat. We took a pit stop for breakfast at Hotel Quick Bite. It was a pleasant journey till Raigad base village. When we reached at the base village, soft sun light played its best role to unfold nature’s beauty in front of us. Even though it was a Sunday, there were hardly any tourists due to Ganesh festival. Waiting time for rope way was just 15 minutes. Raigad rope way is Maharashtra’s first rope way project which was completed in 1996. It traverses a diagonal length of 760 meters and a height of 420 meters. It takes you on the top in just 3-4 minutes. The rope way ride offers you a beautiful view of the Sahyadri Mountains and nearby villages.

Raigad rope-way
Raigad rope-way

Raigad ropeway
Raigad rope way and Base village

             We reached on the top by 12 noon. Raigad rope way hotel is located near the rope way station. We checked-in and ordered Pithale bhakri for lunch. Soon we went out to explore the fort. On day one, we decided to explore Balekilla and Tak Mak Tok point. As I was aware of the history of the fort and the locations very well, I became the guide for my family. The starting point of our tour was the Mena Darwaja – the entrance through which the royal ladies of the Fort would enter. It is the southern entry to the castle. After entering inside the fort from the Mena Darwaja, we saw Rani Wada (Queen’s Palace) on our left. There are six spacious houses for 6 queens of Maharaja. Shivaji Maharaj had 8 Queens; 6 Queens stayed on Raigad fort, whereas one at base village Pachad along with Jijabai (Mother of Shivaji Maharaj) and 1st queen Saibai died on Rajgad (before Raigad was built). Queen palaces have ruined large rooms with and bathroom system. 4 palaces are connected whereas last 2 palaces are separated by walls.

Mena Darwaja
Mena Darwaja

Queen's Palace
Queen's Palace

              We saw some ruined house like structures opposite to first queen palace. Some people say those were Prison cells whereas some say those were houses of royal warriors. There are 3 grain storage rooms on the right after entering from Mena Darwaja. We saw the Palkhi Darwaja before we moved into Raj Bhavan. Palkhi Darwaja is the north entrance to the castle and was mainly used by men to enter in the palace. The construction of the entrance and the 31 rock stairs are beautiful and look solid. You can see Sapt manzil (Pillars) which was used as watch tower. These pillars were said to be almost five storey high and seemed royal from the remaining carvings. There is small stair route inside the wall to enter in the palace. After watching these beautiful buildings, we went inside the Raj Bhavan. It was a beautiful massive palace of Shivaji Maharaj. It was said to be built of wooden structure, of which today only the base of pillars remain. You can see his room’s structure, bathrooms, office for discussion with his warriors etc. It was huge in size. We saw Ganga Sagar Lake from the Raj Bhavan. It was named Gangasagar because the waters from seven rivers of India which were brought for the coronation ceremony of Shivaji Maharaj were poured into this pond. This is the main source of drinking water today on the fort.

Houses of Royal warriors
Houses of Royal warriors

Grain storage
Grain storage

Palkhi Darwaja
Palkhi Darwaja

Raj bhavan - Mahajara's house area
Raj bhavan - Mahajara's house area

Raj bhavan - Office area
Raj bhavan - Office area

Ganga Sagar Lake
Ganga Sagar Lake

               After exploring Raj Bhavan for some time, we went in the Raj Sabha. It is a huge court on the fort which was used to address people. The huge building is around 220 ft. long and 125 ft. in width. The coronation ceremony was held in this place on 6th June 1674, Saturday. The throne of Shivaji Maharaj is kept in Raj Sabha facing east. The throne was made of 32 Maund of Gold (around 1280kn Gold) and studded with diamonds. There is huge shape entrance opposite to the throne known as Nagarkhana. It was the main entrance to the court, and as its name suggests, the loft on this building was used to play huge drums (Nagaare) during certain times in a day. Acoustically the Raj Sabha was designed in such way that you can hear low frequency sound at the throne from the Nagarkhana.

Throne of Shivaji Mahajara
Throne of Shivaji Mahajara

Nagarkhana
Nagarkhana

                  We move ahead to see statue of Shivaji Maharaj at Holi cha maal. It is a wide open ground, said to be used for annual Holi festival. You can see a famous statue of Shivaji Maharaj on this ground facing east direction. We took small break and then decided to go to Tak Mak Tok point. There are 2 ways to reach at that point. One is – take right after crossing Bazarpeth or take stairs on left before Bazarpeth. We decided to go by second route and while coming back, we saw Bazarpeth.

Statue of Shivaji Maharaj
Statue of Shivaji Maharaj

                As we were going towards Tak Mak tok, we saw a large size Lake on the left. It is known as Hatti Talaw (Elephant Lake). It was used for bathing the elephants from the fort. There was drain out system places in the lake. Whenever they wanted to clean the lake, then they just needed to remove 1 solid rock brick. Drain out system rock is now missing hence water can’t be stored in this lake. You can also see Maha Darwaja (Main entrance) on your right. It is a best architecture design and not to be missed if you’re on the fort. This entrance is typically a “Gomukhi” entrance protected by bastions Jai and Vijay. The attacking enemy cannot directly march on the door and face the bastions first.

Mahadarwaja (Main Entrance)
Mahadarwaja (Main Entrance)

Hatti Lake

               After walking along the fields and on narrow path, we reached near Tak Mak tok. There are 2 ruined buildings which were the Daru Kothar (Ammunition storage). Path to Tak Mak tok is quite interesting, a narrow path (with safe railing on both sides) facing North West having deep cliff on both side and strong winds playing around it makes it a major attraction for the trekkers. You should be careful while visiting this place. We went till the end point which offers breathtaking view of the Sahyadri Mountain ranges. This point was said to be used to throw the sentenced prisoners down the cliff.

Tak Mak Tok Point
Tak Mak Tok Point

              We spend some time at windy Tak Mak tok and enjoyed magnificent view. As weather was about to change its mood from a sunny day into cloudy weather, we decided to move back. Route to Bazarpeth (old Market area) was a bit slippery with sudden height gain; my parents got the feel of trek. Bazarpeth is huge well designed single storey complex of shops. This was the market place/trade center having shops on both sides separated by a 40 ft. road. There were 42 shop structures built in such a way that one can shop even while riding on a horse. Each shop has space to sell the goods, two rooms for storage and large passage behind two rooms. You can see drainage outlets at a few shops. Overall it’s a masterpiece construction.

Bazarpeth at Raigad fort
Bazarpeth at Raigad fort

               Heavy rain began in the evening and somehow we managed to reach at our hotel room by 6 PM. We had snacks and tea/coffee and took rest. We ordered dinner and it was delivered at the top by rope way at 8.30 PM. Now there was a drastic change in weather and we were in the clouds. Cold weather forced us to be in the room. Service by hotel staff was good. My parents were tired so they took rest whereas me and Renuka had a walk on the fort for some time. We were the only family on the fort along with the hotel and MTDC staff. It was a perfect day for us on Raigad fort.

Raigad Rop-way Hotel room

8th Sept 2014: Trip to Raigad (Total Distance traveled: 132 km):
               We woke up by 7 AM and still weather was too cloudy. It was not raining constantly but the visibility was not more than 25-30 ft. We had tasty breakfast and then left the room by 9.30 AM. Today was Anant Chaturthi (Ganesh Visarjan day) hence hardly any tourists were on the fort. We decided to visit some other places which are on off-beat route and day trip tourist always ignore it (except Shivaji Maharaj Samadhi (Memorial) and Jagdishwar temple) due to lack of time.
             Our first destination was Kushavarta Lake and Mahadev temple. Route to this place is from Holi cha maal but there is a short cut route available. For short cut, take narrow path route which is opposite to Raigad fort entry ticket office. After 5-7 min walk, you can see ruined old temple on your right. Lord Shiva’s idol is placed inside the temple as well as outside the temple. There is nice Lake named as Kushavarta Lake. You also see many ruined fortification on the route to Kushavarta Lake. It is supposed to be the houses on the fort.

Mahadev Temple
Mahadev Temple

Kushavarta lake, Raigad
Kushavarta lake

             After visiting the temple, we started our trail towards Shivaji Maharaj Samadhi (Memorial). We saw the market place again and reached at Jagdishwar Temple. It is big Shiva Temple with Nandi in the front. Entrance to the temple is from the back side. This temple is intact from Mughal or British attack. The outer court of the temple is about 128 ft. wide and 160 ft. long. Temple has beautiful Shiv Linga and tortoise carved on the floor. Behind Nandi, there is a front gate of temple. By stepping inside from the front gate, you can see letters carved on the second step. The meaning of these words is “Hiroji Italkar is at the service of" (Shivaji Maharaj). If you are facing Temple then check one stone with a message carved on left side that says “This majestic building of Jagdishwar which brings happiness to all is built on the word of Shivaji Maharaj on the auspicious muhurtam in Hindu year of 1596. The architect by name Hiroji built all wells, ponds, gardens, roads, pillars, monuments and palaces. These will remain till the sun and moon are there in the skies”

Jagdishwar Temple
Jagdishwar Temple

Nandi outside Temple
Nandi outside Temple

                 Before I write something about Shivaji Maharaj Samadhi (Memorial), I would like to share information about Bartake. It is a 12 water trench placed at one place. It was the drinking water supply of the fort. Route to these water trenches is – take left path from outside of the temple. Cross all the huts and walk towards left. You will reach a wall like structure, Take left after that ruined building. Descend few meters and then you will see 12 water trenches. Better to avoid in monsoon period. We visited this place after Shivaji Maharaj Samadhi.

Route to Bartaake Tank
Route to Bartaake (12 Water tanks)

             The Samadhi was built near the temple entrance. Behind the Samadhi, we can see the statue of a dog on a pedestal. It was Shivaji maharaja’s faithful dog ‘Waghya’ who committed suicide jumping into the funeral pyre when Shivaji was cremated. Some people say there is no evidence in history whereas few believe this story strongly. Currently dispute is in the court and the area is sealed.

Statue of Waghya dog
Statue of Waghya dog

               Shivaji Maharaj passed away on the 15th day of first month in the year 1602 of Hindu calendar (April 3rd 1680). The memorial is octagonal and the porch is made from black stones. The base is hollow inside, where the ashes of Shivaji Maharaj are kept. Our Raigad visit came to an end after bowing our head at Samadhi.
प्रौढ प्रताप पुरंदर,
क्षत्रिय कुलावतंस,
सिंहासनाधीश्वर,
राजाधिराज महाराज
श्री छत्रपती शिवाजी महाराज की जय!!!

Shivaji Maharaj's samadhi (Memorial)
Shivaji Maharaj's samadhi (Memorial)

                We came to our room by 3 PM after lunch at a house behind the Samadhi area. We left this massive beautiful historical fort by rope way. Raigad is a must visit fort and a place to remember the greatest Maratha King. For return journey, we preferred Pachad – Nijampur road which is blessed with nature’s beauty. This is offbeat route so avoid night journey. We reached home by 7.30 PM safely ending a pleasurable trip in monsoon.

Our Expenses:
  • Car Petrol: INR 1500/- (approx. 18 lit at INR 79/lit)
  • One night stay at Raigad ropeway hotel: INR 1300/- for 4 person.
  • Breakfast at quick bite hotel: As per order
  • Car Parking at Raigad: INR 80/- for 2 days
  • Ropeway (Return ticket): INR 180/- per person and INR 115/- senior citizen
  • Pithale bhakari Lunch plate: INR 45/- per plate (Pithale with 2 bhakari) + INR 20 per extra bhakari
  • Tea: INR 10/- per cup
  • Coffee: INR 15/- per cup
  • Veg meal for dinner: INR 75/- per plate
  • Misal-Pav: INR 50/-
  • Upama in breakfast: INR 30 per plate
  • Pithale bhakari on Monday lunch: INR 60 per plate (At local place)
  • Snacks at quick bite: As per order
Places we missed on fort due to bad weather:
  • Bhavani temple
  • Hirkani Buruj - Hirkani point is named after a brave woman by name “Hirkani”. She used to supply milk on the fort during the regime of Shivaji Maharaj. The doors to the fort would be opened at sunrise every day and would be closed at the sunset. Once she was late to return and the doors were closed. The love for her kid in the village compelled her to descend the fort from the side of western cliff, and she reached home successfully. The story spread through, and Shivaji Maharaj recognized her efforts and bravery by felicitating her. He also strengthened this part of the fort so that no one can ascend from here again.
  • Nana Darwaja – Entrance of fort
  • Wagh Darwaja - Route to escape in case the fort was captured. This is the route from where Rajaram Maharaj escaped when Zulfikar Khan attacked the fort.
Contact Number for reference:
  • Raigad ropeway stay a.k.a Millennium Raigad hotel: 020-25459730 / 020-25459735.
  • Ankesh for Guide or lunch: 9011784795

Road in Konkan, Raigad
Return journey to Pune - Happy Journey

Thanks for reading this Travel Blog. Happy traveling.

Pritesh Kulkarni
Pune

Monday, 28 July 2014

Monsoon Magic in Malshej Ghat and Shivneri Fort

Monsoon was on peak and we decided to have a monsoon trip with family. To enjoy the waterfall with the beautiful nature, we decided to visit Malshej Ghat area. I had heard that Malshej ghat on weekend becomes very crowded so we went there on Monday.
Shivneri fort along with Malshej Ghat is a best combination to spend an entire day.

Travelers for the day trip were Me, Renuka, sister Pratima and my parents.

Waterfall in Malshej ghat
Waterfall in Malshej ghat

About Malshej Ghat and Shivneri Fort:
             Malshej Ghat is a mountain pass in the Western Ghats of Maharashtra. It is a famous destination in the monsoon to enjoy waterfalls and delicious snacks like Vada-pav, Bhajji and tea. Malshej Ghat is situated in Pune district near the border of Thane and Ahmednagar districts. It is at a distance of 154 km from south Mumbai towards northeast and 130 km north of Pune. A nice view of valleys is one of the major attractions here.

Shivneri Fort is a 17th-century military fortification located near Junnar. It is the birthplace of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the founder of the Maratha Empire.

The route to reach Malshej from Pune is – Pune – Kasarwadi – Bhosri – Chakan – Rajgurunagar – Peth – Narayangaon – a right turn after the bus stand – Junnar – Malshej Ghat. To reach Shivneri fort, take a left at T-junction in Junnar town.

28th July 2014: Pune to Malshej Ghat (Total Distance traveled: 320 km):
            We woke up by 6 in the morning and left home by 7am. After crossing Chakan town, heavy rain welcomed us. We took a halt for breakfast at restaurant Bikaner. The monsoon clouds were super busy with their assigned work and we enjoyed our car journey with heavy rain and melodious songs. 
            We took a left at Narayangaon and progressed towards Junnar town. The condition of the road was pretty smooth. Entire journey was very picturesque with ghat routes, dam and greenery and too many waterfalls. After crossing 2 small ghat sections, we finally started with Malshej Ghat. We took our first pit stop at the first fall. A lot food stalls were selling tea, coffee, corn, egg dishes and vada pav. The way to the first waterfall goes through few steps and through a lower tier of the waterfall. It’s a 2 tiered fall and one of the most powerful falls from Malshej Ghat. Another beautiful tiered fall can be seen from here. We enjoyed this fall and then went ahead to witness more water falls.

Malshej Ghat
Malshej Ghat

              We crossed a small tunnel after few km of drive towards Mumbai side. It was a lush green mountain meeting the white clouds. You can see many waterfalls on your left. There are plenty of natural waterfalls along the mountains which come straight on to the road. The best part for me was driving through a huge waterfall – the whole experience of being in a car while it goes through a massive waterfall is thrilling. As we were on high altitude, the clouds were on the road and this experience which I love – passing through the clouds. We spend some time around few small waterfalls and had tasty vada pav in the Ghat side food stalls. Due to heavy rain, I was unable to click more photos.

Ghat side food stall
Ghat side food stall

Waterfall on road
Waterfall on road

              After enjoying in heavy rain and the fall, we decided to have lunch. The nearest option was a MTDC’s restaurant. It was a nice hotel and restaurant with amazing view. Somehow the restaurant was not clean and lacking in variety of food. We left this place without having lunch. While coming to Malshej, we saw newly open restaurant name Ratan so we decided to try that. It turned out to be our perfect decision. It was very clean newly open restaurant. Food was very tasty and service was quick. 

Hotel Ratan Executive, junnar
Hotel Ratan

             After the tasty lunch, we moved ahead towards fort Shivneri. A 1.5-2 km drive from the statue of Shivaji Maharaj takes you to the car parking area. From this point, nice stone steps are laid till the top. It was a steady and easy climb. The fort has seven doors – Maha Darwaja, Parvangicha Darwaja, Hatti Darwaja, Peer Darwaja, Shipai Darwaja, Phatak Darwaja and Kulambkat Darwaja. An interesting fact about these doors is they are huge wooden doors fortified with iron spikes. Strong walls and sheer rock cliffs on three sides ensured Shivneri was well protected. We reached on the top after 30-40 mins of climb.

Maha Darawaja (main entrance)
Maha Darawaja (main entrance)

Ganesh Gate, Shivneri fort
Ganesh Gate, Shivneri fort

Hatti Darawaja
Hatti Darawaja

Pir Darawaja
Pir Darawaja

           You can see a temple of goddess Shivai devi after Shipai Darwaja. History says that Shivaji Maharaj was named after the goddess Shivai. After crossing last entrance, you can see Ambarkhana on left side. Ambarkhana is the place where huge amount of grain can be stored. This place is quite ruined but still you can get a feel of the massive construction. During Maratha rule, it was said to be served as stable for horses and house for elephants. From this point, there are 2 ways to explore the fort. One goes to the hill where you can see Koli Chauthara and edaga. This monument is built in the place where Mughals killed thousands of Koli (fisherman) soldiers in the year 1650. Another route goes towards Shiv Kunj and Birth place of Shivaji Maharaj.

Ambarkhana, shivneri Fort
Ambarkhana, shivneri Fort

               We decided to go by the second route. On this route, you come across a large water trench. It is known as Ganga and Jamuna. There are total 10 water tanks on Shivneri fort. The purpose of these water tanks was to supply drinking water and it is said to have been constructed during Yadava times. After these water tanks, we saw Shiv Kunj which is a monument constructed by the state government, in honor of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Inside Shiv Kunj there is an idol of Shivaji (as child) and Jijabai made of Panchdhatu (alloy of 5 metals)

Ganga n Jamuna water tank

Shiv Kunj, Shivneri Fort
Shiv Kunj, Shivneri Fort

             The plateau in front of the Shiv Kunj consists of the birth place of Shivaji Maharaj, Hamamkhana, Badami water tank, Kadelot point and kamani Masjid. The birth place of Shivaji Maharaj is now known as Shiv mandir (Shivaji temple). As we entered in Shiv mandir, we saw a room which houses a statue of Shivaji Maharaj and a cradle to signify his birthplace. A narrow stone stairway takes you to the upper floor. There is an artificially created lake with stone flooring and wall named as Badami tank. From here you can also visit Kadelot point where prisoners were punished by throwing them down the fort.

Way to Shiv mandir
Way to Shiv mandir

Birth place of Shivaji Maharaj, Shivneri
Birth place of Shivaji Maharaj, Shivneri

Badami water tank
Badami water tank

             Before I write further, I would like to share some history about Shivneri fort. Junnar was known as Jirna Nagar during ancient India and it was an oldest city. The Shaka Empire ruled here and a Satvaahan king Gautamiputra Satkarni defeated the Shakas to establish his rule. To keep control on famous trade route “Naneghat”, Satvaahan established this fort. Later the fort went into the hands of Yadava Empire, and then
to the Bahmani Kings. Most of fortification was constructed during Yadava’s time.
              Shahajiraje Bhosle was concerned for the safety of his wife Jijabai during her pregnancy. He therefore moved his family to Shivneri fort with a cavalry of 500. Chhatrapati Shivaji was born in the fort on Firday after sunset, 19 February 1630. Shivaji Maharaj left this fort in 1632 and it went into the hands of Mughals in 1637. In 1650 the local fishermen protested against the Mughals but lost against rules. They were assassinated cruelly on the fort. Shahu Maharaj brought the fort under his control forty years later. Later it was under the control of Peshwas.

Hamamkhana
Hamamkhana

Kamani Masjid
Kamani Masjid

Shivneri Fort Map
Shivneri Fort Map

             After sightseeing, we started descending at 5.30 PM. We reached at our parked cars at base in just 20-30 min. We reached home by 9 PM safely ending a pleasurable monsoon trip with the family.

Our Expenses:
  • Car petrol: INR 1500/- (approx. 18 lit at INR 81.8/lit)
  • Toll: approx. INR 40/- return toll
  • Breakfast at Bikaner hotel: As per ordered Dish (Around INR 300/- for 5 person including tea and coffee)
  • Tea in Malshej ghat: INR 10/- per cup
  • Vada pav: INR 10/-
  • Corn masala: INR 20/-
  • Lunch at hotel Ratan restaurant: INR 600/- for 4-5 person (Soup, Panjabi veg, Roti/Naan and Jeera rice)
Contact Number for reference:
  • Ratan Executive:  0-9881176699

Other places which you can combine with Malshej Ghat:
  • Lenyadri caves and Ganesh temple
  • Ozar Ganesh temple
  • Trekking spot like Naneghat, Hadsar,Chavad and Jivdhan

Thanks for reading this Travel Blog. Happy traveling. 

Pritesh Kulkarni
Pune.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Monsoon trek to Torna fort

After Visapur and Tung fort, it was time to do one more trek in the month of June. We wanted to step up the endurance level so we decided to go to the Torna Fort. It was our monsoon trek. There was no sign of rain on the day but cloudy weather and soft sun light played their best role to unfold nature’s beauty in front of us.

Trekkers for Torna were me (as group leader), wife Renuka (Female group leader), Himanshu (My partner to organize treks)-Ketaki, Abhijit-Manasi, Sangram, Girish Ghospurkar (Father-in-law), Parikshit, Sandeep, wishwas, Ashish and smallest trekker Tanmay (Age-13)

Torna Fort
Torna Fort

About Torna fort: 
               Torna Fort or Prachandagad (means ’massive fort’) is located in Pune , State of Maharashtra. It is the first fort captured by Shivaji Maharaj in 1643, at the age of 16, forming the nucleus of the Maratha Empire. The mountain has an elevation of 1,403 meters (4,603 ft.) above sea level, making it the highest fort in Pune.
There are many places to see on the fort. You can see Bini Darwaaja (the main entrance) Temple of goddess Mengai, Budhla machi, Zunjar Machi, (bastions), Kothi Darwaaja and Konkan Darwaaja on the fort.

There are 2 routes to reach the base village Velhe. One is Pune – National highway 4 – Cross first toll – take right at Nasarapur phata – Baneshwar – Velhe village whereas another route is Pune – Khadakwasala lake – Donje phata – Take right at Donje phata – Khanapur village – After khanapur village, take left for Pabe ghat – Cross Pabe ghat – On T-Junction, take right for Velhe village.

Personal vehicle or Government bus services from Swargate are convenient options to reach Velhe.

There is only one route to climb the Torna fort from Velhe village. Trekkers also prefer Rajgad – Torna trek route which is more popular. For this route you need to climb Rajgad – Sanjeevni machi – Descend along the left side of Sanjeevni Machi – 5/6 hours of walk to cross hills – Climb Budhla machi – there are 3 rock patches – walk towards right side to reach at Mengai devi temple.

29th June 2014: Trek to Torna (1.5 hr. of Journey + 3-3.30 hr. total climb):
            We woke up by 4.30 AM and left home at 5. We met the other trekkers at Rajaram Bridge. Some people were new to me as well as for others. After a quick round of introduction, we left for Velhe village. It was a cloudy weather and we were expecting showers as we did the previous 2 treks without rain. It was a pleasant journey to Velhe via Pabe ghat. We parked our cars at a restaurant ‘Torna Vihar’ in the village. It was 7 in the clock and we did not want to waste time for breakfast. We had Poha/Misal pav in breakfast and then our trek began at 7.45 AM.

Torna Fort and route
Torna Fort and Path to climb first hill on Right side

               Weather was perfectly set for trekking conditions. The sun was busy in hide and seeks game with rainy clouds. The first patch was a flat one through planes and fields. But soon after crossing the fields and planes, it got an elevation at approx. 40 degree. There are a series of interconnected hills of varying heights which gradually lead to the highest hill hosting the fort. Reaction of new members after watching height of Torna fort and its route was like, are we sure that we’ll climb this fort in 3.30 hours? My reply was not to think about the peak but just try to focus on the hills. After walking along the fields, we took a right-hand side path to start hike towards the first hill. The patch was rough and there was no defined path. We somehow climbed carefully. From the first stretch only we found that it was going to be our test of stamina and energy. We took a small break and then resumed our trek to climb the further part of the hill.

Blue sky

               After the warm-up hill climb, everybody started the trek in high spirits with the aim to reach on top in three hours. We were taking breaks at regular intervals to gain energy. The trek to the Torna fort was simple and straight on the path nicely laid after climbing first hill. After 1 hour of hike, we reached on top of one hill. You can see beautiful nature view of Gunjavne Dam once you’re on top of the connected hill. It was not possible for us to start climbing on massive Torna fort without capturing its beauty in our cameras. From the top of hill, you need to walk on small plateau before actual hike.

Route to Torna
Route to Torna

               The last 45 minutes of trek uphill are indeed pretty interesting. Torna fort offers you two small rock patches. For safety purpose, railings were mounted. Any person with basic knowledge can climb it easily. Somehow 3 girls from the group took lead and went ahead of us. Ketaki and Manasi are new to trekking activity but they climbed till the top without our help. The route after the small rock patches to Bini darwaja is pretty narrow though you do have railings to support you in case you miss a foot. There is a small waterfall just before Bini Darwaja and we took a small pit stop to get refreshed.

Torna Fort a.k.a. PrachandGad (Massive Fort)
Torna Fort a.k.a. PrachandGad (Massive Fort)

Walk on plateau before actual Hike
Walk on plateau before actual Hike

Waiting for Trekkers or for Monsoon!
Waiting for Trekkers or for Monsoon!

Railing on route during final hike

               Soon we reached the entry gate of the Torna fort ‘Bini Darwaja’ by 11.15 pm. All were really happy to reach here. It was as if one has got the fruit of all his efforts made. Next entrance named Kothi Darwaja to Torna fort is quite interesting. The path to the entrance is in curved shape along with guardrooms. As we were on height, sunny weather was replaced by cloudy weather and cool strong breeze was playing around us. We took a break and then decided to go to Goddess Mengai Temple for lunch break. On the way to the temple, you can see a water tank and a constructed room without roof. Trekkers can either set up their tents here or can stay inside the Goddess Mengai temple.

Bini Darwaja (Bini entrance)
Bini Darwaja (Bini entrance)

Bastion at Kothi Darwaja
Bastion at Kothi Darwaja

Kothi Darwaja (Kothi entrance)
Kothi Darwaja (Kothi entrance)

              After 3.15 hours of trek, everyone was hungry. We settled down inside the temple for lunch. Homemade packed lunch and some rest made us feel fresh to explore the fort. This fort is believed to have been constructed by the Shaiva Panth in the 13th century. Torna was the first fort won by Shivaji at the tender age of 16. Seeing this huge fort must have prompted Shivaji to name it Prachandgad. After his daring escape from Agra, he came here & renovated the fort. When Shivaji started the restoration work of the fort, he came across a hidden treasure which financed the cost of rebuilding the fort of Rajgad which stands on the mountain opposite Murumbdev. In the 18th century, the Mughal Empire gained control of this fort after assassination of Shivaji Maharaj's son Sambhaji. Aurangzeb, then Mughal emperor, renamed this fort as Futulgaib (Language unknown: Divine victory), in recognition of the difficult defense the Mughals had to overcome to capture this fort. It was restored to the Maratha confederacy by the Treaty of Purandar.

Mengai Temple
Mengai Temple

Colors of Nature

Rajgad Fort from Torna
Rajgad Fort from Torna

                 We decided to go towards the Budhla machi. In Marathi "Budhla" means a vessel, & "Budhla" Machi looks like a vessel kept upside down. This is a breathtaking spot on the fort. On the way to budhla machi, we saw mahar water trench and kokan darwaja. Fortification of the Kokan darwaja (kokan side entrance gate) is in a better condition. On the way to Budhla machi, you can see a beautiful bastion construction with a secrete route to enter into the bastion. You need to crawl to reach here. We went there and it was truly amazing. It is definitely a must visit place. From budhla machi, you can go to the Rajgad fort.

Fortification and Fort wall
Fortification and Fort wall

Kokan Darwaja (Kokan Entrance)
Kokan Darwaja (Kokan Entrance)

Budhla Machi
Budhla Machi

Way to secrete Bastion
Way to secrete Bastion 

            Another famous location on the fort is the Zunjar machi. After spending some time near budhla machi, we took a walk towards Zunjar machi. It is situated on the western side & is a wonderful spot to see. This machi was the most important part of the fort during the wars as it is the most difficult part of the fort to win and hence it is called as “Zunzar machi”. "Zunzar" means a "Fighter". To reach “Zunzar machi” you have to descend an iron ladder. This iron ladder has been put on the wall of the fort making the access to the Zunjar Machi easier. After this ladder there are two rock patches, out of the two the last rock patch is a difficult one. Everyone was trying to capture the beauty of the machi in cameras. We spent some time here and then walked along the fort wall.

Sadar

Zunjar machi
Zunjar machi

Fort's Wall
Fort's Wall

             We saw almost the entire fort in 2 – 3 hours and now everyone wanted to have a power nap before we started the descend. The nature changed its mood regularly, sometimes raining, and sometimes winds playing with us and sometimes sudden focus of the sun-rays glowing up the lush green wet vegetation. Everyone was taking rest when I was eager to enjoy nature’s beauty. I informed my group member and went to explore the fort again with my camera. As most of the other trekking groups had started to descend, I was exploring the fort alone. Peace of the fort, nature’s beauty with cool breeze was best way to do meditation for me. I enjoyed photography for around 1 hour and joined my group for snacks.

Waiting for Monsoon...
Waiting for Monsoon...

                 After sightseeing, we started descending at 4.15 pm. Myself and Abhijit helped the girls to descend the rock patch. Descending was not a difficult job but after some time, pressure on the knee becomes troublesome. After descending half the way (Rock patches), we took a break for 10 min. No reason as such for the break. Yet after the small break, we covered the remaining distance with lighting speed. We reached Velhe village at 6 PM. After we reached at our parked cars at base village, we had tea break and then we left this historical place.

Our Torna Gang (L to R: Me, Renuka, Ketaki, Himanshu, Sandeep, Sangram, Girish Ghospurkar, Parikshit, Abhijit, Manasi, Wishwas,Ashish and Tanmay at center)

                 Torna is truly a place to visit and to remember the greatest Maratha King. One must visit the fort and enjoy the nature and the beauty of the great fort. It was a perfect end to an adventurous weekend. We reached home by 8.30 PM safely ending a pleasurable trek in monsoon.

Zunjar machi from another angle
Zunjar machi from another angle

Old beauty at base village Velhe
Old beauty at base village Velhe

Things to carry for Torna trek:
  • A water bottle to carry at least 2 liters of water
  • Some dry food and packed lunch, No suitable food stall is available on Torna fort.
  • Windcheater / jacket / Barsati during monsoon trek.
  • First aid kit
  • Do carry instant energizers like Glucon-D or Tang.
  • A towel or napkin and 2-3 old newspapers
  • Camera to capture best nature movement
  • Better avoid wearing Gold and other ornaments. No need to carry heavy cash.

Our Expenses:
  • Car petrol: INR 750-800/- (approx. 9 lit at INR 81.8/lit)
  • Breakfast at Village Velhe: As per ordered Dish (Poha: INR 20/-, Misal: INR 30/-, Bread-omelet: INR 35/-)
  • Tea: INR 10/- per cup
  • No Expenses on Lunch as we were carrying food from home.

Contact Number for reference:
  • Restaurant Torna Vihar at base village: Hemant kadam – 9403581022 / 9021813512.


Thanks for reading this Travel Blog. Happy traveling.

Pritesh Kulkarni 
Pune