This unplanned 2day trek in the Pune district turned out to be one of the most fascinating experiences ever to all of us. Reaching the grandeur of the Shivaji forts and blending with the amazing history of the Maratha warrior literally took our breath away.
Before I go to the actual description of our trek I want to share some interesting facts about the two Maratha forts.
Situated on top of the Murum Hill in the Shayadris at about 35Km south-west of Pune, Rajgarh,’the king of forts’, was the pre-coronation capital of the greatest Maratha leader Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj for about 26years.The fort consists of 3 ‘Manchis’ or sub-plateaux namely Padmavati Manchi,Sanjivani Manchi and Suvela Manchi and 4gates or ‘Darwajas’ which are Gunjavane,Pali,Alu and Kaleshwari(Dindi) Darwajaspaving way to the different manchis. The fort is 1318m above the sea level with a radius spanning over 40kms at the base making it quite difficult to climb.The fort is a witness to events of great historical significances.
Torna Fort is the highest point in Pune district and the second highest in the Shayadris with an elevation of 1405m. It was the first fort captured by the Maratha King, Chattrapati Shivaji at the age of 16 in 1646AD who renamed it as ‘Prachandagarh’or massive fort. The fort , located 65Kms south-west of Pune,was originally constructed by the ‘Shaiva Pantha’, the followers of Lord Shiva, in the 13th century.A temple,also called Tornaji Temple, dedicated to Menghai Devi was built at the entrance of the fort.In 1704AD,after the assassination of Shivaji’s son Sambhaji, the fort fell into the hands of the Mughals who renamed it as ‘Fort Futulgaib’(divine victory) but was later restored to the Maratha confederacy by the Treaty of Purandhar.
Our journey started from Hyderabad from where we boarded a Pune bound bus which took off at 7pm the previous night and took approx. 12 hours to reach the Marathi city next morning.
From the bus stand we took an auto to Pune Swargate Bus-stand at a quite nominal charge.
We boarded a local bus from Swargate which took us to Nasrapur Village. The journey took about an hour or so and the road became more and more welcoming as we left the city behind and ventured into the mountains.
The bus left us in a junction in Margasaani Village from where we took a shuttle jeep to Gunjavane Village, at the base of the Rajgarh Fort.
Having some tea and local breakfast of ‘Vada Pau’, we started our trek along the well-marked path with the view of the citadel(Balekilla) and the entire span of the fort almost throughout.
On our way up, we met old village ladies selling buttermilk and lemonade which can be taken as refreshments.
The initial walk was simple and flat, going up and down along the small hills and sometimes barren lands till we reached the rock-cut steps at the very base of the fort that led to the ‘Chordawaja’ on the Padmavati Manchi ,the climb being a little difficult.
We entered the fort and came across the Padmavati Temple and the Padmavati Lake. There are no hotels or restaurants in the fort premises and these small temples and the fort ruins are the only places to take shelter if one is opting to stay overnight atop the fort. This actually makes it more interesting giving u a chilling thrill throughout the stay.
We chose a shelter for ourselves among the ruins and decided to make it home for the day.
After having some lunch which we had bought from Gunjavane Village, we set out to explore the fort.
We reached Balekilla, the highest point on the fort, the view from which was the most picturesque ever. The vastness to the Shayadris from the top was breathtaking and left us awestruck.
From there we decided to go towards the Sanjivani Manchi where we had an overwhelming view of the sunset.
As the day ended we headed back to our ‘Chosen Home’. After having some dinner under the most starry night ever, we headed straight to our sleeping bags with a hope of something more the next day.
The previous day we had asked a local lemonade seller guy to guide us to the next fort, Torna for which he gladly agreed. Though he charged us Rs600 but it is preferable that u take a guide as the route at some junctures might become confusing.
So we started for Torna very early the next morning and took us approx . 7-8 hours to reach there.
The route was amazing but at the same time quite challenging. After walking the entire morning along hills and through thorn bushes and green dense forests at times, the real challenge came when we reached the base of the Torna fort.
The ascend was entirely along a rock surface ,considerably steep and quite difficult to climb.
When we reached the top we came across another temple dedicated to Menghai Devi and called ‘Tornaji Temple’ where we took some rest for an hour or so. This temple can also be used for staying if one plans to stay overnight.
After climbing down the Torna fort along the rock-cut steps we reached the Velhe Village where we had some food and took a shared-jeep ride to the highway from where we boarded a bus to Swargate.
Our Hyderabad bound bus was supposed to pick us from there which made our amazing journey come to an end leaving us awestruck and simply speechless.
Situated in one of the rocky spurs of the Shayadris at about 35Kms south-west of Pune, the Rajgarh is said to look like a flying bird with its wings spread, the Padmavati Manchi (North End) and Sanjivani Manchi(South West) being its two wings and the Balekilla (Centre) and the Suvela Manchi (South East) being its body. The Balekilla, meaning ‘small fort’ or ‘citadel’ is the highest point in the fort from where one can have a mesmerizing view of the entire fort and feel the vastness of the surroundings. Constructed in a Deccan style architecture and situated1318metres above the sea level, the fort has four gates or ‘darwajas’. These are Gunjavane and Pali Darwajas, both leading to the Padmavati Manchi, Alu Darwaja leading to Sanjivani Manchi and Kaleshwari or Dindi Darwaja, towards Suvela Manchi.The diameter of the fort at the base is 40 km making it difficult for anybody to lay siege and also the geographical terrain makes it quite difficult to climb.
But what the fort actually flaunts about is its rich history in which it had been the pre-coronation capital of the greatest Maratha leader, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj for about 26years, the longest span he has spent in any of his 300 forts, after which he shifted the capital to Raigarh Fort. The fort was formerly called Murumdeo when held by theNizamshahi and Adilshahi rulers. It got the name “Rajgarh”, the King of Forts, from the Maratha king himself in 1648AD when he got it under his firm control.One can find ruins of arsenal, temples, granaries, water tanks, residential buildings and state offices inside the fort, the walls of which are the sole witnesses of some of the most significant events of history like Birth of Shivaji’s second son Rajaram Chhatrapati, the death of Shivaji’s first Queen Saibai, the antyayatra of Tanaji Malusare to his Konkan Village,the burial of Afzal Khan’s head in the Mahadarwaja walls of Balekilla, the Khandoji Khopade episode and various more. This was also one of the 12 forts that Shivaji did not give up when he signed the ‘Treaty of Purandhar’ with the Rajput king Jai Singh I in 1665AD where he had to give up about 22 other forts to the Mughals but like other forts magnificent Rajgarh was also passed into the hands of the British in 1818AD.
Torna, the highest point in Pune district and the second highest in the Shayadris with an elevation of 1405metres, is said to be ‘the first fortress of Shivaji’s dreams’. It was the first fort captured by the Maratha King at the age of 16. The fort , located 65Kms south-west of Pune,was originally constructed by the ‘Shaiva Pantha’, the followers of Lord Shiva, in the 13th century.Some say that the Shaiva Pantha named the fort Torna because of the large number of Toran trees that cover the fort while others say that Shivaji Maharaj put a garland(Toran in Marathi) around the fort and from there it came to be known as Torna. A temple dedicated to Menghai Devi was also built at the entrance of the fort.The temple is more commonly known as Tornaji Temple.The fort was captured by Malik Ahmed, a Bahmani ruler in 1470AD but later passed on to the hands of Nizamshahi Empire in 1486AD till it came under the control of Chhatrapati Shivaji in the year 1646AD and became the nucleus of the Maratha Empire.Shivaji renamed the fort as ‘Prachandagarh’ where ‘Prachanda’ in Marathi means massive and ‘garh’ meaning fort.
Shivaji built several monuments and towers in and around the fort and had fought many battles from there. It is said that Shivaji Maharaj found 22pots of gold hidden in the ground during the building of monuments and utilized this gold in the construction of the Rajgard Fort. Mughals took over the fort after Shivaji’s son Sambhaji Maharaj’s assassination. But Marathas regained control over the fort due to the efforts of Shankaraji Narayan Sachiv. In 1704 A.D., Aurangzeb captured the fort. He named it as Futulgaib or The Divine Victory as this was the only fort that Aurangzeb found very difficult to capture due to its strategic position and won by fighting a real war. However, within 4 years Sarnobat Nagoji Kokate was able to re-establish Maratha control here. In the treaty of Purandar, Torna remained with Shivaji Maharaj until the end of 17th century.
Photography Courtesy: Sayantan Chatterjee