Rajgad – King of Forts

Rajgad – literally means King of Forts! I have been craving to visit this place for years, but somehow was not able to make it. This fort is said to be and is actually a must visit for any trekker! It is huge and majestic. Historically, it is arguably the most important fort with respect to Shivaji maharaj’s fight for Swarajya. Even more important than Raigad.

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About the Fort
Rajgad, most aptly described as the King of forts. At 1395 metres it literally gives an eagle’s view of the surrounding region. It has three machi’s called Sanjeevani, Suvela and Padmavati. The Bale Killa (Bastion) of this fort is well known for it’s peculiar characteristics. There are many routes to climb this fort. One route can take you from Torna to Rajgad.

The two forts are facing each other and are enjoined by a range of hills. It can be a tiring trek of 8 to 9 hours. The royal route or the Raj rasta comes all the way up from Pali village and takes you through the Pali Darwaja which is located on the northern side. It had broad stone cut steps and is an easy access up the fort.

Presently the most used pathway goes from Gunjavne village and instead of taking us to Gunjavane Darwaja, forks to the right and takes us to Chor Darwaja on Padmavati Machi. Gunjavne Darwaja on the south-east side is not much in use due to thick vegetation surrounding it.

The Day Begins

Rajgad is almost 250 kms from Vasai so it was going to take us any where between 5 to 6 hours of traveling from Vasai to Rajgad Base village. We didn’t had the luxury to push the schedule to the second day. Hence we decided to start at 3:00 in the morning, to give us some extra time. We started accordingly at around 3:00 AM and managed to reach Gunjavne village at around 8:30 AM after spending almost 40 mins for searching this place. After a small snack break, we started our trek at around 9:00.

Padmavati Temple

Padmavati Temple

It was raining very heavily,  and the view of the surrounding area especially the valley was getting better and better. The trail from Gunjavne was leading us to Padmavati machi. The peak was covered under fog and hence was not visible until we reached close to it. The path until Padmavati machi is not very difficult with few rock patches in between. The authorities have built iron railings at places wherever it is a bit risky. It took us a couple of hours to reach Padmavati Machi.

On Reaching the Summit

Trail leading to Padmavati Machi

Trail leading to Padmavati Machi

On the summit we can visit four major parts of the fort – the three machi’s and the bale killa. Padmavati machi is broader than the other two, Suvela and Sanjeevani. The ruins of Rajwada, Gunjavne Darwaja, a few temples, Queen Saibai’s tomb and Sadar could be found on this machi . They are fading reminders of the forts glory.

Padmavati temple is in a fairly good state today due to renovation done recently. As one moves away from Padmavati machi with the bale killa on the right there is a small Bhagirathi temple on the other side.

As we move from Padmavati machi keeping the bale killa to our left, we approach Sanjeevani machi.  This machi is enjoined with Budhala machi on Torna by a range of hills between the two huge forts. Since we were running short of time, we skipped the Sanjeevani and Suvela machi and moved directly towards the Bale Killa.

Bale Killa is the crown of Rajgad. It has a unique triangular structure and a single point access. The tricky section is a vertical climb of around 20-25 feet with small holds in the cliff. It is a road to heaven on the slightest mistake. The authorities have tried to build some railings, but the trail remains risky. But the risk is worth the view on top. After climbing the difficult section, we reach the Maha Darwaja. After killing Afzal Khan, his head was sent to Rajgad and was buried near this door following all religious processes. There are a couple of temples, and a small crescent shaped lake called Chandratale on the bale killa. It offers an enchanting view of Padmavati, Sanjeevani and Suvela machi.

For almost 25 years this fort was Shivaji Maharaj’s capital. Rajgad boasts of the highest number of days stayed by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj on any fort. The fort has witnessed lots of historic events, including the birth of Shivaji’s son Rajaram, the death of Shivaji’s Queen Saibai, the return of Shivaji from Agra, the burial of Afzal Khan’s head in the Mahadarwaja walls of Ballekilla.

Mahadarwaza, rajgad

Maha Darwaza

This fort was also one of the 12 forts that Shivaji kept when he signed the Treaty of Purandar (1665) with the Rajput king Jai Singh in 1665 who was leading the Mughal forces. 22 other forts were handed over to the Mughals under this treaty.

We spent some time on the pinnacle and then started descending towards Padmavati machi. We lost our way down to Gunjavne, but fortunately an elderly village lady guided us back till the base village. We had some rest and began our journey back home. We started our journey back at around 3:00 in the afternoon. Taking our morning time as a yardstick we had informed our homes that we’ll reach by 9:00. But whatever energy we had in us was further used up in huge traffic which we encountered first near Pune and later again near Thane. Finally we ended up reaching home at 1:30 in the night. It was a long day for us, more than 22 hours. But yes, we had successfully accomplished one of the most challenging treks in our lives. This feeling of accomplishment far surpasses the exhaustion. The King of Forts is any time worth the pain! Continue reading

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Trek to Kohoj

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The year end celebration, this time round were some what muted due to various reasons. We didn’t had any specific plan for the 31st. Hemant and me had a discussion on Monday(31th Dec) about a small trek nearby for the next day. Based on that, I found Kohoj, a fort never heard of before. According to the limited information which I could gather, this trek was supposed to be easy. It was somewhere on the road from Manor to Wada. Around 70kms from Vasai. Ideal candidate for what we were looking for. After a brief discussion, we finalized on Kohoj.
Since this was a last minute plan, only Sachin and Prasad apart from us were available for the trek. As per plan I started off at the crack of dawn from my home, picked up Hemant and Sachin on our way to Virar for Prasad. Usually, for most of our treks, we travel towards Pune. Hence Prasad comes all the way to Vasai so as to proceed further. This was the first time we were picking him up from his home. This may sound a bit silly, but he was really happy about this one off exception. 🙂 Everybody was on time, so by 6:30 we were cruising on the Mumbai-Ahmadabad highway towards Manor. We took a right turn at Manor leaving the highway behind. Our next target was a small village named “Vaghote”. It is around 9 kms from Manor. Since it was early morning, there were hardly any people on the road to ask directions. Unfortunately Google maps had let us down, even it was not able to locate the tiny hamlet correctly. Finally we found a guy who told us that we had came around 2-3 kms ahead. Even after going back it took us some time to find a good place to park our car and to find the path towards the fort. We lost almost half hour in this activity. The fort was hidden in early morning haze.

Path Leading into the forest

Path Leading into the forest

We proceeded towards the fort based on the instructions we had got on our way. After around 10 – 15 mins the fort was quite clearly visible. As I had mentioned at the very beginning, this was supposed to be an easy trek. But, just at its first sight, honestly speaking, we were taken aback. It is not a tough one though,  but nowhere close to easy either. Another reason for our anxiety was that we were not carrying enough “water”.  We were left with just a half liter bottle of water and a sole orange in my bag,  thats it. Biggest possible blunder for any trekker. Such a basic necessity but the thought never crossed any of our minds till we saw the fort for the first time.

Demoralized though, we proceeded towards the fort. The atmosphere was very pleasant with early morning dew settling on grass and giving it the typical essence we find in forest or farms.  In some time we had crossed a small dam below the fort. The trail goes along the perimeter of the lake into the forest. After around 30 mins into the forest, we came across few villagers who were collecting firewood’s. They guided us on the trail ahead. But after climbing few minutes we reached a dead end.  The fort’s huge natural wall was just in front of us, but there was no trail which could have lead us ahead. We had to split in group of two, to explore in two different directions. But that effort too was fruitless. Finally we come down back to the villagers and requested them to guide us further.

By now even the sun had risen quite a bit, and despite the dense forest we were feeling the heat. The villager took us through a trail which we could have never found. Since not many people visit this fort at this time of the year, the trail was kind of lost in the bushes. The path we had taken previously was going straight towards the fort where it meets the wall. The actual path circumnavigates the hill. The villager took us through the thick vegetation upto a place where the path ahead was clearly visible. The trail ahead from here was quite steep. After another 15 odd minutes we met another villager. He told us that it would take another 45 minutes to reach the top. From that point we were able to see a cliff which was probably at a distance of 10 mins. We were puzzled a bit as to why did he say 45 mins for such small distance. But the riddle got solved when we covered those 10 mins. We realized, we had covered only half the distance until that point and the actual top  was visible only now. Infact the 45 mins which he said seemed to be very aggressive. Prasad, by now was totally worn out. He had whatever was left in the half liter bottle we had with hope that we will find some water at the top.  Halting after every few minutes, we finally made it to the top :).  We were happy, we made it. But the feeling of triumph was diminished to a great extent when we came across the two cisterns at the top. There was water in them, but nowhere close to potable. Infact it was not even good enough to wash our faces. We had the sole orange still remaining, giving us some respite.

After spending some time, we started our return journey. We thought we could make it to the base in an hour, since it doesn’t take much time while declining. But this was not to be. There was still some anguish left for us. After reaching almost half way, we met a village lady. She told us that the path which we were taking is a bit complicated and hence there are high chances of getting lost. There was another path which is simple and would directly lead us to the main road. Unable to make decision, we proceeded on our original path, but then looking at the dense forest, we thought the lady’s suggestion made sense. So we took that path. This was another mistake we made that day. The path was almost two times the original one. The lake which was at the bottom of the hill, appeared far away now. We realized, we have messed up with the path, but we were already far away from the fort. There was a village below the hill we were on. We left the routine trail and started declining towards the village. Sachin and Hemant went ahead of us. We reached the bottom where we requested one villager to give us some water. He was generous enough to give us more than two bottles of water. “Water had never ever tasted that good before” :).He told us that the place where we have kept our car is now almost 45 mins from his home. We had to walk back this much  distance to get back to our car. It took us another hour to reach our home. So, this is how we completed one of our most exhaustive trek. Exhausted but very much Content. 🙂

Trek to Vikat gad (Peb)

“You are not feeling well, you can’t go tomorrow”- my parents were insisting on me canceling the trek plan.  I had canceled the Prev trek to “Peth” due to some unavoidable reason. Not this time.

We had decided to meet at Dadar Stn @ 6:30 in the morning. I left home @ 5:20, but still could reach only by 7:00! 😉 . But Mandy was still late, so I was not in the line of fire! :). We got a local to Kalyan. Sanchi n Mukesh joined us @ Thane. Stations went by one after the other, as we were busy chating, discussing. The topic of discussion was as usual, NDS! The days spent there, current state etc. Everybody is bound to get Nostalgic. After all NDS is the place where we came together as a group. We can spend days, without getting bored; discussing the time we spent @ NDS. But no discussion amongst this group can ever be termed as complete unless we abuse this one  guy, we hate so much! The one and only, Kaka! @#$%&! (Cant get more specific on a public forum).  Finally we reached Neral @ 10:00.

We took taxi to the dasturi point. This was the actual start to what turned out to be one of the most adventures and successful trek by Team NDS so far! Unlike our previous outings, there was not much of climbing in this trek. we were at higher altitude and were supposed to descend down the fort to Neral.  The route through the dense forest was awesome, there were trees which had fallen on the rails, but then there was light at the end of the tunnel. 😉 

There is a small gate on the left side after walking for around half hour along the rails.  This is where we leave the rail route and start walking on mountain edge. The mountain slope was lush green and the breeze was spreading the typical fragrance of wet soil! Mukesh as usual was leading our way.  We had to cross a couple of ladders. The meeting point of the Matheran hill was amazing. When viewed from some distance it appeared like a “V” like structure. A ridge of around 100 meters connects these two mountains. Crossing this ridge was a thrilling experience, with wind blowing, and having deep valley on either sides.

Vikat GadPeb

There were a couple of ladders more which we had to climb before we reached the fort. The fort as such is not much maintained. There are few walls here n there. There is this Bastion facing Matheran which is in reasonably good shape.  Despite the heavy fog, view from the bastion was breathtaking!  There is one ashram on the fort, the volunteers over here do the basic maintainence. As we went further up to the pinnacle, it was getting difficult to even stand still without holding onto anything. The Pinnacle i.e. the highest point of peb, gives you a 360 degree view of the fort and its surrounding area.

The journey back from the fort was even more exciting. We were not sure how the route will be. I had pain in my knees, which was getting severe. Some trekkers whom we met on our way back told us about a ladder and a rope using which we had to descend. This kinda made us rethink on our return journey! But then we decided to carry on. While climbing down the ladder was an experience which could give any amusement park a run for its money. Heavy rain, blowing wind, shaking ladder and water splashing on your face from below. It was too good. A few minutes later we came to the point where we had to descend taking support of a rope. It was definitely not as tough as it was made out to be. But that should not take away credit from Mukya, Mandy and Deva! These guys were the first one to descend and made sure everybody amongst us could get through safely.  The descend through the forest can be best resembled with a Hollywood movie scene shot in dense Amazon forest. With severe pain in knees, Making your own path, through waterfalls, bushes. Avoiding the shrubs. Taking support of the weeds. Balancing ur weight on mud, loose rocks and tree branches. It was simply Aamazzinggg…..

Participants: Steve, Vishal, Sidd, Sanchi, Mandy, Dev, Sneha, Mukya, Iqbal, Wilson & Yogi!

Trek To Raigad!

Finally the date was finalized. 17th July! This was a long overdue Trek for me with my college frenz! Po2(Prasad) & Kesto(Ketan) had done all the arrangements. I received a call @ 4:00 in the morning. It was Tara(Sachin), he said the car would be coming to my place in 15mins and it did! ….. and thus begins an exciting journey to Raigad!

The Journey Begins

The First car started from NalaSopara from Swapya’s (Swapnil) home, they picked Tara & Tari(Yugandhara) and came to our place. Me (Panga) and Pangi(Sangeeta) were late a bit ;). But we did start at 4:30!

Po2 with his car picked Babu (Nikhil), Andya (Anand) and Chingya (Hems)!

We refueled our cars and our first halt was at Thane. Kesto and Nilu(Nilesh) were waiting for us. We took our next halt near Panvel, where we had Misal Pav. After many small halts for photo sessions n all we finally reached the base of the fort @ 1:00 in the afternoon. We had to wait for our other frenz to come from Pune.

During a break @ Panvel

About Raigad

We started the trek @ 2:00.  Before going any further, let me just brief u bout Fort Raigad! It was Chatrapti Shivaji Maharaj‘s Rajdhani (Capital) from 1674! The amazing fort is at the height of 2700ft. The total area on the fort is more than 100 acres. It is star shaped with three machis. One is known as Hirkani’s machi. second Tak-Mak-Tok. Third is towards Fort Torana.

The Trek

SHivaji maharaj's Statue in front of the bazaar peth @ Raigad

Going up to the fort is quite easy on normal days. But today it was raining like nything. we were hardly able to c 10 feets ahead and as we were going higher it was getting colder! After around an hours walk, we reached the Maha Darwaza We reached the top in @ around 4:00. Visibility was nex to nothin. we made our way to the Darbar. It is a huge hall which people say was decorated with gold and silver. But the british took everything away. They torched the roof. Here we saw Maharaj’s Sinhasan.

Then we went to Bajaar Peth. Its a huge area with shop like structures on both the sides. Behind is the area where horses n other animals were kept. From there we went to Tak-Mak Tok. It is a cliff from where criminals and thieves were thrown down in the valley. The valley below was not visible. n we were required to hold on to the railings as the wind was too strong.

Shiv Ling at the temple on Raigad

From there we went to the third machi i.e. towards Maharaj’s Samadhi. there is a Temple of God Shiva near the Samadhi. Just behind the temple is the Samadhi. Opposite the samadhi is the samadhi of Maharaj’s Pet dog. Legend says that he jumped into Maharaj’s cheeta and sacrificed his life..

Megdambri- Shiv samadhi near the wagh darwaza at Raigad

We could not go further down towards Wagh Darwaja as it was getting late. So we started our way back. Though we were not able to c the entire fort, the effort for going up there, so close to nature and shaking hands with our rich history, was worth it. While coming back few of us came back in on the Rope Way. Swapya, due to some miscommunication came down the fort alone. 😦 The rest of us came back taking the same route. We came back to our rooms.
Everyone of us was tired. But we had this feeling of Fulfilment. Mission Complete. 🙂 Har har Mahadev!