Thursday, February 28, 2013

Rajgad Fort - An Architectural Wonder

Welcome to my blog on Rajgad trek done on 21st and 22nd Feb, 2013!

This was my second trek in the month of February. After coming back from my first trek on Kalsubai, I rested for 3 days. As I was still on vacation, I started planning my second trek. Unfortunately, I was not getting any companion for weekday trekking. No professional group does the trekking on weekdays because of unavailability of people. There was still some time for Ind Vs Aus series to start and I knew I would get bored if I choose to sit at home and watch TV. I had an unfinished book that I finished while resting after Kalsubai Trek. So it was high time for me to get out.

I had told all my trekking friends that I was game for the weekday treks. But nobody was available. I was becoming restless sitting at home. And guess what? My phone started ringing and it was call from one of my trekking friends, Sandip. He is one of the core members of Wild Trek Adventure group. He told me that he had planned an overnight trek to Rajgad with his colleagues from Conginzant and whether I would be interested in joining them. Wow, I said! Fantastic News! I told him that I would confirm in an hour. I called my wife and took the necessary permission for an overnight trek since she had to manage office and my son’s school alone. After 2 calls, I got the permission and there I was! Super excited at the thought of being on the field!

Swargate was the starting point from where we had a bus to Gunjavane (Base village of Rajgad). We decided to meet @ 4.30 PM and I was there 5 min before. After a while, I was surprised to see Nikhil, another member of Wild Trek Adventure group. He came to know about this last moment trek just an hour before and he had directly come from Alandi (where he is a student of MIT). Wow, this is called a passion! Sandip along with 3 of his colleagues came around 5 PM and we sat down in the bus and started our journey around 5.30PM.By the way, Sandip and his friends were coming on the weekday trek because they were sitting on the bench! Wow, there can't be better utilization of your time on the bench!

We reached at Gunjavane around 8PM. By that time, we all were very hungry. Our plan was to spend night at the temple top of Rajgad. So we didn’t want to have dinner before our trekking. We wanted to carry the dinner parcel with us after having a little bit of food which would give us enough energy for climbing. As our bus reached to Gunjavane and we got down, we were shocked to see everything closed down. None of the shops or any food joint was open. There were few people sitting and we asked them where we would get the food and they pointed us to a direction where there was a small house. We went there and asked whether we could get a dinner. That man flatly refused saying that all his staff had gone home and it would not be possible for him to provide us the dinner. Then, he gave us address of Suvela restaurant which was on the other side. Man, we were just counting on this last option; otherwise we would have slept hungry.

We reached at Suvela restaurant after walking for 2 min (actually restaurant is a very fancy term) if you look at the picture below. Let us call it a food joint. Fortunately this food joint was open and its owner happily agreed to feed us.

Restaurant where we had snacks and packed dinner:

We ordered for Omelette for a quick bite and Zunka-Bhakar for 3 vegetarians and Chicken-Bhakari for 3 non-vegetarians. Omelette was delicious and we just had enough of it (not less, not more). Owner packed our dinner very nicely and after paying our bill, we started our trek around 9.30PM.

Well, we had prepared us for the dark night trek being unaware of the moon phase. But we were pleasantly surprised to see moon glowing above.

So our night trek was now pleasantly getting turned into moonlight trek. We gradually started our ascent; there were bhajans going in one of the temples of Gunjavane. Moon with millions of stars above, bhajans playing in the background and cool breeze! I couldn’t have asked for a better setting for a trek.

After climbing for an half hour, we had a rest of around 5 min. I and Nikhil had come ahead and Sandip was encouraging his friends to keep climbing. Apparently, they did not have any prior trekking experience and they were out of breath only after climbing for 15 min! Poor fellows! There were many times in the trek where we had 2 groups (Nikhil and me ahead) and poor Sandip lagging behind with his friends making sure that they came along and did not give up!

Finally, after climbing for another 30-40 minutes, we almost could see the top of Rajgad. Only couple of rock patches to overcome but it was a steep climb. Well, after negotiating these rocky patches successfully, we entered Rajgad through Chordarvaja and there we were! On top of Rajgad; beautiful Rajgad. The same Rajgad where Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj spent 25 years of his short life; birthplace of Chatrapati Rajaram; where Saibai took her last breath. We all shouted slogans of “Jai Bhavani, Jai Shivaji” once on top and proceeded to Padmavati Temple, our halting destination for the night.

After relaxing for 5-10 minutes, we made seating arrangement for dinner at the back of the temple. We were very hungry then; omelette was digested a long time back and we started our dinner around 11.45PM. It was an amazing setting for the dinner; moonlight,twinkling stars, cold breeze and cattle grazing around. Definitely, this was the most heavenly dinner I ever had in my life.

We finished our dinner around 12.15AM and proceeded towards the temple. Initially, we had thought of sleeping under the sky; but we started shivering after our dinner and there were plenty of cattle and dogs who were outnumbering us. We were only 6 people on Rajgad that night. This is the advantage of doing the treks on weekdays! You have the exclusive access to all the facilities on the fort!

Well, I was the first one to go to sleep and other people chatted for a while outside. I had set an alarm for 6AM since I didn’t want to miss the sunrise. What is the point in coming on top if you miss the sunrise! I was fast asleep within few minutes that too on the hard surface, with temple light on. I even didn’t notice when my other friends came inside and slept.
Alarm clock in my cell started ringing at 6AM and I was awake. I opened the windows of the temple and it was still dark outside. All my other friends were still asleep; some were snoring like anything. Wow, here were the guys who are so accustomed to luxuries of life and they were having so much of a sound sleep on a hard surface with bare minimum sheets to pull over.

It was just before the sunrise that I came out of temple. I was greeted with the following beautiful views:

I woke up Nikhil and Sandip and co. around 6.15AM. It was just before the sunrise and sunrise would be starting anytime. We proceeded towards the sunrise point which was just 2 min walk from the temple. And there was sun rising slowly and steadily! Sun rising from the back of Purandar with vast water body of Bhatghar dam in the background was a spectacular sight.

After the sunrise, we planned to visit Bale Killa and Suvela Machi. Sandip’s three friends were still exhausted and they preferred to save their energy for climbing down.

We, 3 of us, then proceeded towards the Bale Killa - Pride of Maharashtra.It was looking enticing and I was very eager to visit it.

There are few patches which are steep and you need to take help of the railings to climb up.

Finally, after 15-20 min of climb, Bale Killa Mahadarvaja was in sight. What a beautiful structure! There is a small cave in the bottom. There are 3 such caves on Rajgad - one under the bastion of Padmavati Maachi, second one while climbing Bale Killa (as seen in the below picture) and third is near Bramheshwar. It is said that thousand years ago, many ancient Rishis have done deep meditation sitting in these caves.

After entering Balekilla from the Mahadarvaja, you need to climb few steps to go to Bramheshar Temple.

Remnants on Bale Killa. Wonder, how beautiful the life had been for the people staying when these structures were intact!

This is a small and beautiful Brahmeshwar Temple.

In front of Brameshwar temple, there is a beautiful ChandraTale.

We spent around half an hour on top of Bale Killa and we were just spellbound with the beauty around. Rajgad is situated on top of a beautiful hill named Murumbdev which has 3 trunks in 3 directions.

View was quite clear and we were able to spot many forts from the top – Torna, Lingana, Raigad, Sinhagad, Purandar and many more which I could not recognize due to lack of expertize in this area. One can rarely get to see so much of forts; we were plain lucky to have such a clear weather. Last time when I was on Rajgad, there was fog everywhere and there was hardly any visibility from the top.

View of Sanjeevani Machi from top of Bale Killa was just breathtaking. What a lovely piece of architecture! It starts from the base of vertical cliff of Balekilla and runs around 0.75KM in length.

 No wonder, Rajgad is recently awarded as the best fort in the world.

After witnessing the magic for over 30 min, we then climbed down from Bale Killa and proceeded towards the Suvela Maachi. Backside of Balekilla was looking pretty from the way.

We came across a tiny Hanuman Temple on the way.

Finally Suvela Machi was visible. Another architectural wonder!

It is written by Historians that these two maachis are the most beautiful maachis among the 350+ forts. I have not seen all the maachis on all forts but I can’t agree more on this observation.

Due to lack of time, we did not go to the end of the Suvela Maachi. Instead we visited Nedhe- Giant Hole in the mountain formed due to natural erosion.

On the way to Nedhe, there is a small Ganapati idol carved in the wall.

We needed to overcome a small rock patch to reach to Nedhe.

And finally we were sitting in the Nedhe and we witnessed another fantastic view! It was a majestic feeling sitting and just witnessing the beauty around.

We came back to Padmavati temple and had a wonderful breakfast of Poha and Tea in front of a small house near Padmavati Temple.

It was almost 10AM now and we had our bus to Pune at 11AM. So we had 1 hour to catch our bus. Next direct bus to Pune was after 5 hours so we just couldn’t afford to miss this bus. So immediately after the breakfast, we started climbing down.
I was pretty confident of reaching to the bottom within an hour so I didn’t miss any opportunity of capturing the scenes that I could not capture while trekking at night.

View of Padmavati Lake:

View of Nedhe where we had the privilege to visit and sit inside:

Beautiful trail while climbing down:

Some beautiful views captured while descending::

Some time with villagers:

Sandip and Nikhil came down in 30 min. I was the second one to reach in 50 min. Still, there were no signs of our 3 friends who were lagging behind. Finally, it was 11AM and bus was about to depart and there came our 3 friends almost running and panting.

Finally, it was time to say good bye! Rajgad queen was waiting for us to drop us to Pune.

Overall, this trek was a wonderful experience. Memories of Trekking in moonlight, staying in Padmavati Temple, witnessing beautiful sunrise, breathtaking mountain views from the top of Balekilla, marvelous Sanjeevani and Suvela Maachis will remain with me for a long, long time.

Well, despite having so many stunning moments, I can’t say that I had enough of Rajgad. There is still so much to explore – to enter Rajgad through other gates – Palidarvaja and Aludarvaja, actually visiting Sanjeevani Machi, exploring the caves, witnessing the sunset and experiencing beauty of Rajgad on a clear day in the rainy season! Many more reasons to visit Rajgad again and again!

Hope you enjoyed reading the blog!

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  1. Mast Blog!! Keep writing! - Deepali.

  2. thank you prashant dada!! loved it and it was so so so helpful!! keep writing and keep us inspiring for these treks!!