Monsoon in the Western Ghats is bound to lure one into ventures – firstly because of the chilly weather it brings, and secondly due to the intense greenery that it blesses the ghats with. Now, on one such cold, wet morning, my friend and I hit the roads to reach our destination – Lohagad Fort.
It was cloudy since morning, and once the train dropped us at Malavli station, from Pune, it started drizzling. From the station, it took some 20 minutes for us to walk and reach the end of the settlements. We snuggled inside a small chaai shop, made our tummies full with warm ohe and tea, and started off on our way towards Lohagad.
A few minutes of uphill walk led us to Bhaja - a series of caves carved out of rocks, dating back to the times of Hinayana phase of Buddhism (3rd century, BC to 2nd century AD). The caves reminded me of the marvelous book I had read on Ajanta, authored by Narayan Sanyal. Seeing the viharas where the Buddhist monks used to stay, and the chaityagriha where they prayed, I felt a shiver down my spine (however, I later wondered whether or not that shiver was due to our wet clothes, an occurrence which we had completely ignored due to the excitement of our venture).
As we climbed up, the drizzle seemed to get mightier, and the wind made our umbrellas literally useless. The wind teased us from all around, showering from this way and that. So by the time we reached Lohagad-gaon, we were absolutely wet except for our heads. Lohagad-gaon was the village located almost at the top of the hill, just at the base of the fort. Another Tapri sort of a chaai shop treated us with its extremely sweet, milky tea (which actually lacked any flavour of tea whatsoever). The woman who owned the shop was surprised (since we both were women) to find that we were accompanying each other, and didn't have more friends tagging behind. After that she treated us more kindly, and started chatting in Marathi as we struggled to understand her and reply as far as possible in Hindi. She even proposed that we can spend a night at Lohagad since they also provide enthusiasts with accommodations. However tempted we were, to spend a night in a place that still houses history in its every nook and corner, we had to decline her offer due to our classes next day.
Lohagad fort was only 15 minutes away now. We walked uphill again and, at a distance, saw Pavana Dam.
We reached the fort. The winding stairs, the cold stony demeanor of the walls, the long green bunches of grass and ferns clasped to the creeks of the walls, and above all, the cloudy haze, gave the fort the exact mystic look as I had imagined.
The trip back to Pune was spent unknowingly thinking about this fruitful day, and a plan, to return on a full-moon night to savour the majestic beauty that Lohagad is, and forever will be.
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