Plan for the trek
After our Koraigad trek last month, we had decided that henceforth we will not be planning for treks well in advance. It should be done at the last moment or at the most a week in advance. Since the last time it was just four of us (Hems, Andy, Tara & me), this time we wanted more people with us. Swapnil(Swapya) and Prasad(Po2) were insisting on a trek for quite some time.
So we decided upon a date that is 25th June. The Destination was not to be decided till the very end. On Thursday, two days before the trek we had our conference call amongst the members. On the call were Hems, Sachin, Swapnil, Po2, Andy and me. I suggested Tikona or Naneghat as possible places for trek. Swapya suggested a waterfall somewhere near jawahar. Po2 suggested SudhaGad. Sudhagad, I had never heard of this fort before. Po2 said it is somewhere near Pali(A village near Khopoli, known for one of AshtVinayaks eight famous temples. Lord Ballareshwar is the reigning deity of this village). Po2 insisted about this place saying it is not a very big trek, and would be worth a visit. So we finalised on SudhaGad. The next day we spread the news in our group. By Friday evening we were fifteen of us including five of Po2’s office colleagues. So according to the plan, we were going to start from Vasai. Po2 started from his home. He picked Jayesh, Swapnil & Sachin en-route to Evershine gate. Meanwhile I picked Hemant and Anand from their place and returned to our meeting point at Evershine Gate.
On our way to Sudhagad (Location on Wikimapia)
According to the plan, we set out from Vasai-Virar in two cars. We picked Nilesh at Airoli. Po2′s office colleagues were coming in the third car from Mumbai. We met them at Belapur. Pranit, who works in night shift these days was going to meet us at belapur. But due to some personal issue, he could not join us.
We reached khopoli by 9:00 where Amit, the only member of todays team from Pune on his bike, had reached far earlier. We proceeded towards Pali, reaching the temple by in around an hour. After a quick darshan, we moved on towards our destination which was still 12 kms ahead. We lost some time in between coz, Casper, Po2′s colleague had lost his way in between. After a brief search operation by Amit and Swappy, we found them. and reached a small hamlet named Pachapur.
The fort appeared to be huge from the base. As we left the village behind on our way to the fort, the mud hutments of the villagers were getting replaced by trees. After a while we were actually in a very dense patch of the forest. Since the location of this fort is somewhat remote, and it is not known to many people, there were not many people around us.
This is in sharp contrast to other famous forts like Lohgad or Raigad which always have large number of visitors. Lonely though, but we were enjoying every moment of our trek. The pristine beauty of this place is still intact. After around 20 mins of climbing we reached the first amongst the four hillocks. Local authorities have built a ladder like structure to get over this obstacle. A local guy told us there is a small temple of Lord Shiva on the fort. Every year large number of people from the surrounding area visit this temple during Jatra. This ladder was built for their convenience.
Going ahead we crossed one hill after the other. Each one was different from the previous one. There were plains covered with lush green grass cover. Various types of seasonal flowers were adding to its beauty. The perimeter of the fort is very well fortified with its formidable walls still in reasonably good shape. The path which we had taken was actually the rear side of the fort. The main entrance is not very accessible. After about an hour or so, we came across steps which were leading to a huge Darwaza (Gate), covered by two bastions of the fort around 150-200 meters away. The bastion is built in such a strategic fashion that if enemy is trying to intrude inside, he can be fiercely defended. There are vents to pour boiling oil on the enemy, places from where archers can hit enemy troops. Standing on the bastions edge, one could see almost half of the forts perimeter. It also gives a very wide view of horizon, whereby a watch can be kept on approaching army. Such minute things were thought at a time when there were no cranes or vehicles to carry construction material, no advanced communication mechanism, no computer to design a blue print of the structure. Those great minds who envisioned it and the strong hands which built it, certainly deserve a manacha mujra (Salute).
After spending some time over the bastion, we proceeded towards the main fort which was still half an hour away. Nilesh, amongst us was very exhausted. But like all of us he made it to the top.
The perimeter of this fort is quite big. The fort is spread across 55 acres. There are many lakes on the fort. There is a palace of Pant Sachiv on the fort, where 50 people can stay comfortably. Also there is a temple of Bhorai Devi, where 25-30 persons can be accommodated. Different kind of medicinal plants and trees can be seen in the surrounding forest. The entrance from where we had come is called Pachapur Darwaza. Another fort named Tella-baila can be seen from one end of the fort.
Many aspects of this fort match with those of Raigad. Like Raigad, sudhagad also has a machi called Tak-mak-tok. The main entrance called the Dindi darwaza is very much similar to Maha Darwaza at Raigad. Like raigad, sudhagad has ample supply of water. Because of these similarities, Sudhagad is called a Replica of Raigad. Legend says that Sudhagad was one of the few forts shortlisted by Shivaji Maharaj for his capital. But he selected Raigad due to its proximity to Arabian sea.
We had some snacks which we had carried with us. But we had exhausted all water we had on our way up the fort. There were couple of streams which we came across. But the water didn’t appear to be potable enough. The lakes on top had water, but it was quite murky. A villager took us to a place behind the Pant Sachiv palace. There was a small water stream flowing. This place was kept clean by the local people. It is their source of water in monsoon. Water from this stream was crystal clean.
After roaming around on the fort for a couple of hours, we started our way back. It took us around 45 mins to reach the base village. On our way back, we had some snacks at khopoli after which Amit went his way to Pune. We proceeded towards our home. By 10.00 we were at our home… Tired, but with a sense of accomplishment…