King of Forts – Rajgad Trekking

Planning Phase

Planing a trekking in the starting of Monsoon is not a good idea but hunger of a splash of rain and taste of awesome weather can make you do anything.

Idea of trekking was eating up the brains from long time, but ingredients needed were some rain, clouds and long weekend. All came together in Eid long weekend. Planning was done in a day.

Trekking is fine but where, keeping our work place Pune in center we started our search, I finally came up with 2 options: Rajgad and Harishchandragad.

After research we found Rajgad was moderate trek with a distance of 80 Kms from Pune and Harishchandragad was hard trek with a distance of 172 Kms. Keeping both plans in mind we decided to head to Rajgad.

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We decided a one day trip on Sunday (25th June’17) so that we can have a day rest before marching to office on Tuesday. In our research we found that if we took a different route while returning we can also see Sinhagad Fort.

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During long weekends people are in a good mood and have a common question ‘Whats your weekend plan…?’ Same happened with us and in reply to our answer we had reviews about the trek. One of my friends eyes had a spark while explaining the Forts experience. I was excited but flatmate who already had a visit long time before warned us about the difficulty and challenged us that we wont be able to make to Sinhagad fort after Rajgad in a single day. Also he suggested that we can go to Torna Fort if we want to extend our trek, he added not to eat much and climb but keep water and food as we wont get any on the way to fort.

Saturday evening I took my bag filled it with sunglasses, water bottle, some plastic bags for phone and wallet and earphones. Last item may surprise you an umbrella 😀

History

Before hitting any place one should have a complete knowledge of its historical importance.

Rajgad and Torna were both strategically located to achieve the state expansion. Though Torna is impenetrable, the fort is small is size, hence the fort was not a political center. At the same time, Rajgad is inaccessible and its fortress is bigger than the Torna fort. Apart from this, Rajgad had the security of a hill or river overcoming any side, so Shivaji Maharaj chose Rajgad as his political center. The height of the citadel is the highest and its height is 1394 meters. 

The name of Rajgad was formerly known as Murmambdev, which was known by this name in the Bahmani kingdom. At that time the fort was not very spectacular.

Before Rajgad we need to know about Torna Fort, the fort has a long history. The fort was built by “Shaivas”  later it came under dominance of Muslim empire. But the Torna got his importance when Shivaji maharaj captured it from Adilshah  in 1646. Torna was the first fort captured by Shivaji Maharaj. When Shivaji Maharaj won Torna fort, he found 22 pots full of gold, which he later used to construct Rajgad Fort. 

The main entrance door is known as the Mahadarwaja. This fort is built on the hill called Murumbadevi Dongar. 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.

This fort was also one of the 17 forts that Shivaji kept when he signed the Treaty of Purandar (1665) with the Mughal general Jai Singh in 1665 who was leading the Mughal forces. 23 other forts were handed over to the Mughals under this treaty. In 1818: Rajgad was passed into the hands of the British.

Some useful information

Best time to visit this place is after monsoon, Trekking feels fantastic during the monsoons but trekkers should take precautions as the route gets very slippery.

Routes:

One can climb the fort from numerous route from villages at the base of Rajgad.

We did not have any idea until we climbed, later we discovered that basically we had 2 options:

  • Pali Darwaja: Main Entrance (easier route)

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  • Chor Darwaja: Hidden Entrance on Padmavati Machee (tough route)

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Since we did not had any idea of the route we followed the signboards and had climbed from Chor Darwaja. While climbing we were imaging how Emperor use to come, did he have a horse with wings 😀

Food:

In base location shops are there to have food and snacks though have limited options on menu. Carry atleast 1 Liter of water and some packed food. Also once you reach on the top you will find villagers selling water and snacks.

Wear some good grip shoes, shorts and tshirt. If hitting the place in monsoon carry raincoat top or a jacket.

More About Fort:

Sanjeevani Machee (southwest/west end): This huge, beautiful and royally constructed machee faces west and has a three-stepped (layered) fortified structure. Each of the lower levels is separated from the higher one by a fortified bastion with a gate that could be defended independently. The lowest level is beautifully fortified by double curtain walls (chilkhathi) separated by a deep trench, on average 12 feet across. One can walk between these walls. The outer wall has openings to let soldiers out for sudden attack.

Suvela Machee (south east): This is another grand machee facing east with lots of secret routes and doorways. This one is a double-stepped fortified machee with the steps separated by a beautiful bastioned doorway. At the end of first step a hole cuts across the rock; one can sit in this hole (nedhe). The final (lowest) step like Sanjeevani Machee has a double curtain wall. To the south side of this machee one can see a beautiful triangular bastion called Kaleswari buruz having an escape door near it. The home of the renowned military leader Tanaji Malusare was in this machee.

Bale Killa (center): This is the highest part of the fort which has remains of palaces, water cisterns and caves. It has a beautiful entrance door called Mahadarwaja. One can view the whole fort and the vast surrounding expanse.

Journey Begains

We decided to leave Pune by 6 AM Sunday morning on bikes. With 5 bikes and 9 people we were ready will all the riding gears and excitement.

The morning indicated the fun we were going to have, the view from our balcony made us more excited.

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As we took the bikes out the clouds welcomed us with the shower of rains, but it felt different we were not actually suffering we were enjoying the perfect weather for a day out. We left at 7 AM and hit the highway NH-47 (Mumbai-Bangalore Highway) by 7:15 AM. Fort is on the Bangalore side, road is known to us as we took the same road for Khandala trip. The rain was playing with us, we were like clothes in washer getting wet and dry.

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One of the best part I find in the journey are the tunnels, they are amazing. The sound of engines multiplies, the blinking lights and the darkness wins my heart. We crossed our first tunnel. After 1-2 Kms we stopped for some bites. In a small show with a lady in command we ordered vada-pav with some tea. All preparation and making was done in front of us but waiting was worth as they tasted so good, we ended up eating 2 vada-pavs each.

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We again started crossed the Toll-Plaza, being on 2-wheeler we did not pay and by-passed from left lane. Then we took the right where NH-48 and SH-65 meets.

Not we had to ride for 30 more KMs on a narrow state highway with 2-3 villages and markets in between. Maximum people we passed were heading towards the trek. We were getting closer and closer to the view and clouds. Roads were plain and we did not gain any elevation while riding.

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Rain was pouring us all, the common thing in all the farms around us which we were passing was the bright green patches of some crops. The farmers specially ladies were working in the farms. Road had turns and some traffic, sides of road was muddy and slippery.

We then took a left from SH-65 and were much closer to the trek, we stopped for capturing some moments.

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The views were making us speechless and restless, while heading towards the trek from several ranges one mountain had more attention of clouds and I was wishing inside that this should be the place we are going. Once we reached to the base we found lots of bikes and some cars in the parking. Some nominal charges were taken by forest dept. and we moved a bit more to park our bikes in a snacks shop and paid the parking fee. We also kept our helmets in the same shop. It was too muddy our bike wheels were rolling, we had to push them and park. It started raining more heavily, we stood under the shade but soon left with the idea that it will rain all day and we cannot wait. An idea even came in my mind to use the umbrella I carried but it was trekking and has to be done being raw.

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And we started…

It was 10 AM when we started our trekking and way was muddy and elevated already, soon friends were complaining about mud and dirt in shoes.

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Somewhere I read that king had ordered to plant mango trees, it was way back but still from base to the top I found many mango trees.

We were full of energy and so was the ambiance, we started slipping and balancing. Some among us started giving tips to avoid the situation. Best were to walk through the channels where water was flowing down and other was to put the feet slightly tilted. well all had there own theory and experiences to share. The trek was long enough to exhaust all past experiences  by narrating them.

Soon we took a left elevated turn and found some big rocks from which water was flowing down. After crossing our first small milestone we came to a V point and were helped by a small hand painted signboard which stated that Rajgad trek was towards the left.

The more we walked the closer we were to the amazing view, we reached to a plain green field big enough to play football with clouds as audience cheering with rain. We stopped in front of a aged couple selling Jackfruit, though I love it when cooked spicy but I had never tasted it as a fruit. Bright yellow in color it tasted somewhat different, we bought handful of those in just ₹35.

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Closer to it was a tea stall and we found a group of girls and boys jumping and screaming for pictures, we stopped and marked it as as our first checkpoint and took some pictures, every second passing was making me afraid that what if the clouds vanishes…! But it was raining and we managed to click some pictures. We were already satisfied with the breathtaking view and easily sit there for hours. But the urge to get into those far way clouds made us move.

Now the main trek started, ways started getting narrower and forest denser. The muddy elevated path was scaring us how we will manage to get down, seeing people getting down with naked feet told the story. Hearing us discussing  some anonymous voice came saying that that the path ahead is much more muddy and slippery but we took it lightly as we walked few meters and found nothing hard. But sooner we were into it, Balancing and moving   was the mantra ॐ.

One of my friend tried to scratch some dry mud from sides which were almost our waist heighten had to run even faster then us as a baby snake dropped down. Mustard in color with black lining it looked magnificent but it was a dangerous as well, we all had a lesson not to touch the untouched 😀

With the increasing height of each step my back started paining, breath was loud and clear, sweat mixed with rain drops tasted sour and legs paining we some how passed those paths and completed another phase of trek. We reached another flat ground and felt relaxed.

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The place had so much to offer, clouds were almost to our eye level. Sooner the group was divided according to pace, we 3 moved ahead others was behind but just a scream away, we were screaming to motivate them. Telling about the views we were able to see a we were ahead of them.

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If you have lived in Maharashtra then you must be knowing the respect people give to Shivaji, the Maratha Emperor. We met a group which was climbing with a saffron flag and shouting ‘JAI SHIVAJI JAI SHIVAJI’ with the flag shivering in winds as they raised their hands.

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We were simultaneously coming closer to the nature, a big crab came on our way and in seconds I could turn on my camera was inside rock gaps, my friend tried to bring him out was stopped by a soft voice ‘Don’t’.  The group of boys and girls behind us had a girl in pink shorts and white jacket, she felt bad or might have thought that we were about to kill the crab. But our intentions were to shoot it.

Again we started and were inside jungle, lush green top to down. The trees were old enough, the roots were used to form stairs with mud.  The path was simple as compared to our previous patch. Here we gained heights much quickly. With some uneven rocks we climbed up and had a view of our friends coming.

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We took a 5 min halt and saw people climbing down, a couple came and shared their review that we have rock climbing ahead.  Already tired of breathing and handling a fast pumping heart it was not easy to hear that. We started again and moved a little around in the circumference of main mountain. Paths had a little garnish of fog.

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We crossed some water streams, small to be called waterfalls but big enough not to be ignored. Groups were busy clicking pictures and drinking fresh water. But we had a bigger picture in mind and didn’t stop.

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Point to be noted the route had no support to climb till now but we noticed some pipes and rods which indicated that dangerous path had came to scare us. The path was small enough to pass alone. We passed a rocky turn slipping from where could have resulted in directly dropping down the hill. The structure was now visible with our neck stretched hard enough.

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We had to wait in queue for the people to climb down, we were noticing the trick to get down, as our chance came a group of monkey came on our way. Restless people behind us asked us to proceed. Finally we were at the small entrance, entered bending had to climb some stairs to reach the fort floor. Once we reached the board read Chor Darwaja.

 

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The view was sublime, Clouds was the only barrier to the eye pleasant view. The winds was hitting us to relax and welcome us. The grassy fields and stone structure was all around, one densely clouded edge was puling we close so when I went close, but realized that it was huge water body at this height. I called everyone to have a surprise look.

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Then we decided to move ahead and explore the place, soon I was hearing and wondering how these perfectly edgy stones have been placed so beautifully..?

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I was completely exhausted by that time, though the view was relaxing but body had given up needed some place to sit.

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We sat in front of Padmavati temple and some people hovering around the place. My attention was then seeked by a small girl asking us if wanted anything to eat or drink. Her small hands held a water bottle which she offered. We really needed something, we were assuming that items must be sold at this height for gold rates. We inquired rates for her offerings, poha was ₹25 a plate and tea was ₹10 a cup. We ordered 9 cups of tea and consumed it with the packed items we carried.

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The arrangement of preparation was beside another temple some steps away. Lunch was offered and served inside temple. Few pairs of shoes was gathered outside and some people were having food inside the  dark room.

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The fort is spread in 3 dirrections, we moved ahead and found some more ancient construction. Ahead was Sadar, a beautifully built standalone building with a window and door. By seeing one can tell the royalties of the door. Wide door with golden nobs embedded.

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This was kind of another base, many groups were siting outside having tea and biscuits. Some brought things to prepare sandwiches. The view was constant and didn’t disappoint even for a second.

Stepping ahead we moved a little around the mountain. I specially loved this part. It was quite, clean and water was flowing down from some part of fort stones which was yet to be climbed. The fog was dense and we walked. I was excited and could not imagine a better ambiance for video call. Yes network was there, a full 4G network, Jio and airtel. I tried calling but could not connect. I wanted her to see where was I and what I was experiencing.

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Some steps ahead we stopped near another rock climbing area. Few people grouped and sat there. The path was that narrow that people formed a queue. We standing at the starting of path stopped to think should we conquer the last part of fort or should stop as we were already drained and had to go through the 3 hrs long trek to climb down the hill. Soon our phone rang and friends left behind called to inquire is it worth for them to come ahead or should stay where they are…? We decided within seconds to retun and leave the left part. Though I was happy enough with the decision but had to agree, reason being it was not much left comparing what we had already covered.

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While returning I lived the moment and grasped as much as I could. We returned to base near Sadar and had another round of tea and snacks. I am not a tea lover but consuming such hot beverage in rains and hills makes feel better. With this I remember my Dalhousie trip where we had Mall road and a small market which opened late and closed early. We used to consume lots of momos and hot coffee.

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Climbing Down

Coming back to Rajgad, we now started stepping down and had a feeling that soon the views and beauty around  will start decreasing. We stepped down to Padmavati temple from some new path, in between we stopped or were made to by the winds with thicker clouds around and a stone perfect placed to sit and get shot.

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In the way we found many ladies carrying heavy weights on their heads and stepping down, a salute to those people who does this for 2 times meals. We were doing in the name of adventure but they had to do this for fulfilling their basic needs.

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Stepping ahead we stopped near Padmavati temple the gazed the beauty of huge water body on the way to Chor Darwaja. I even had a picture at the entrance of lake. Finally before passing and stepping down I took a 360 round and captured the beauty within myself.

Started at 1 PM, stepping down was not easy we already had seen. I am afraid of heights and steps down were steep. Grabbing the rails on our sides we started our journey. A point came where I had to step back to think how to step down then I turned around and stepped down in ladder pattern. Finally we had crossed a segment, rock climbing. Some suggested to wait for other friends left behind but according to me it was not a good idea and I along with other 2 continued to trek. According to me once we stop half of the enthusiasm dies that moment  itself, pain overtakes and it becomes more difficult.

All paths seemed different though we had crossed them some hours before. We could only map certain spots to our memory. Refreshing what happen where was not easy. I grabbed a stick to help, I was thinking to grab one from long as it was very much required in the muddy path. We had successfully crossed the rock part and were relaxed with some plains. It was a common halt for all, I was thinking throughout the way that when will these people climbing reach top and return to base. Also I was worried about the mid aged kids following the steps of their parents, why did they even bring them here. People coming saw us climbing down and asked about how much of suffering was left…? We answered truly 2 hrs for the top with rock climbing on the way. Then they asked how was it, I said ‘Mast!!’ they had a smile on there face like I had lid the fire within them.

We saw some people taking a different much narrower path and we followed it, we were  glad that we had crossed the muddy part without getting into the mess. The trek was hard though, I allowed the person behind me to pass as he was carrying a speaker which was annoying and creating barrier between me and the silence which ambiance had to offer.

I was stunned by the voice of my friend some what ahead of me that we were at the muddy part, myth of crossing was broken and we were into the mess. The mud was nothing less then the dense cake icing. I placed my feet and haad to balance at same time, one of my friend showed quickness and stepped down faster and one was behind me. I was not in a good state, shoes were not clean till now but were sober, not different skills were developed on spot to battle with the trek, first was to push the stick against dry mud to have a grip,  which helped a lot. Twice I was saved from falling down. Second was to dip the entire shoe onto the mud to find some solid ground and grip. This  made the process of getting down slow but hepled. Also I was holding what ever I getting  to hold. This included the roots and the branches of trees. People ahead were falling but the patch was not ending.

Soon I was in the victim list, I slipped down. It was not painful but made me chocolaty. I was finding people discovering new ways to avoid the path which included the forest but they had to finally just into the mud. I again slipped along with my friend following my steps. He was wearing a new white t-shirt which had now lost its color to mud. We were frequently asking each other about each step, how to pass this…? We finally passed, in spite of rain we were in sweat.

Now the trek was easy and short, we were stepping down from rocks. A tea/snacks seller saw us in bad state and started talking about our experience, his first question was did we climbed till the end and we had to deny. We questioned him and he started sharing his views on what we missed out. Firstly he mentioned about another water body in the shape of half moon, then he stated we could have viewed Torna fort from top. Our faces turned small and thought we could have made it. Then he stepped sown smoothly from a shortcut and we followed our path, sooner we reached to a point from where we could not judge where to go, we took help from a solo traveler beside us and  he guessed the right way. Viewing our first check point we realized we were on right path and had almost reached to parking within 10-15 mins of walk.

Reaching to the base at about 4 PM we saw group of govt school children with full preparation of trekking and camping. Dressed in white they were ready to hit the hills. In the end of our trekking who ever we met was climbing with preparation of camping. If you want to stay there then one can book a bed inside temple or carry tents.

We were tired and hungry but before entering the small snacks shop we washed our shoes. Then we inquired about the menu, it was very limited. We ordered Pakoras and Misal Pav with a glass of lemon water. Ended up eating 2 plates each, then we decided to leave the place and friends will join us on the way. Bikes were in deep mud and wheels rolled as we accelerated, anyhow we dragged and were on the road. It felt so good, after 6-7 Hrs we were riding a wonderful mechanism which runs on its own. So tired we were.

We did not stop anywhere and reached home within 2 hrs of ride, friends had joined in the mid way. No one talked much on the way, all were tired and in mania of the views and experience.

What can this trip do to you, it will not change you but will make your soul healthier make you energized and not to forget the shoes and clothes 😀 It will make you remind of the trek by the pain in the body for a day or two.

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The journey of the UNCHALLANGABLE, UNDISPUTABLE and UNCONQUERABLE fort ended but the memory will last long, would love to explore it more if got a chance again. It was a life time experience and has boasted us up for more trekking.

I would like to recommend you to visit the fort, it will be hard and rain makes it much harder but the resulting peace of soul cannot be defined.

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