“I am speechless after seeing this fort Rajgad. STANDING TALL WITH ITS GREAT WINGS , We felt like the sky itself came down on earth. The defense extensions created deadly fear in our hearts . May be the steer bearing the weight of the earth, was crying due to the lethal weight of the huge mountain. We are were dead tired and afraid of many kinds of snakes and wild creatures. Rajgad fort is nothing but a range mountains and its span is more than 30 kms. So we could not rim the fort.”, Mohammed Hasheem Khaleekhan.
This khaleekhan along with his thousands of troops and hundreds of horsemen, had come to conquer Rajgad somewhere during Mirza Raja Jaysing’s (Aurangzeb’s chief commander) invasion to Maharashtra. He could captured almost all the important Maratha stations, but not Rajgad, he wrote above quoted message to his superiors upon seeing his failure. A mere mountain, with rare constructs , Shivaji, the great, rebuilt the three wings of Rajgad, and also named it as Rajgad, means the king of forts. And also decided to have his first military capital base at Rajgad fort. Doesn’t it spectacle the vision of Shivaji Maharaj ?
Some old memories
Today I was attempting Rajgad after many years. It was approximately 20 years ago, I trekked Rajgad for the first time, with the pioneers of trekking and hiking in Pune. To name them won’t be wayward. Shri. Anand Palande and Shri.Gulab Sapkal . Those days, we trekked only with the help of Maharastra state Govt’s S.T. bus. That’s because, that was the only option available those days. TODAY THERE ARE MANY WAYS TO REACH THERE HOWEVER THE STATE TRANSPORT BUSES HAVE THIER OWN CHARM. THE BEST PART WAS TO CLIMB FROM ANY POINT AND NOT REMEMBER TO COME BACK TO THE SAME POINT AS WE NEVER HAD OUR VEHICLES PARKED THERE SO IT WAS FUN, THEN MOVE ON TO THE NEAREST PICK UP POINT AND MOVE TO THE NEXT FORT.
We started our trek
We Nisargshala are looking forward to give the same experience to our guests so we arranged a local transport operator and hired a vehicle. The driver knew each and every road circumferencing the fort. And out destination was Fort Rajgad and the ridge connecting Rajgad and Torna Fort. The plan was like, to start from Gunjwane village and end at Jorkar wadi.
As we started climbing the fort, the dense forest beneath Suvela machi, grabbed our attention. Passing by Torna Fort is my routine of every weekend. And no vegetation along the ridges of Torna , always made me feel imperfect and wretched. But after I saw the dense vegetation along the lower ridge of Suvela Machi, I felt exultant and perfect. We took off from Gujwane village and were about to enter the fort through Chor darwaja(means a secreat gate to the fort). Towards our left was the Suvela machi. Machi is wing or military extension of fort. Identifying Suvela Machi is quite easy. You got to find a naturally formed thorough rock hole. Locals and trekkers call it Nedh(नेढ).
What is Waghru?
Before we go on with our journey to the fort, lets first understand what Waghru is? This term appeared in the title of this article. Maharashtra is blessed with many indigenous authors, composers, saint poets. These people from time immemorial have portrayed contemporary life and values through their state of the art writings. Among these many, a name Gopal Neelkanth Dandekar, stands apart for documenting rural culture of Maharashtra. Culture which prevailed in far and remote villages across Maharashtra. He is always referred as GONIDA(गोनिदा) by admirers of his excellent contribution to Gramin Sahitya. GONIDA, authored many books, most are in the form of novels. And all these novels are real page turners. Though these are novels, these are based on real life personalities, he interacted while his explorations of Sahyadri, forts of Sahyadri and spiritual journey. His work Waghru, a novel based on mysterious affection between a man (Babuda Bhikule) and a leopard (referred in the novel as Wagharu in local dialect). The story is mindblowing, and namely throws light on the life and culture of people who lived on fort Rajgad and surrounding area approximately 50 years ago. However, there isn’t any English translation of the book available so far.
Let’s resume our exploration of Rajgad fort further. As we were climbing up the fort, we could see the Nedh getting larger. The view of the entire Suvela Machi would turn from one frame to another in a fraction of seconds. Felt like the great artist was making his best landscape paintings and was again erasing it quickly to make another one, nearing perfection. Everything we could see across the valley, was nothing less than a masterpiece of this great artist, the Nature. We saw heavy clouds covering the entire Suvela Machi and Nedh and hastily the clouds were giving way for another refreshing view of Suvela Machi. We were ascending via a ridge that runs down from Padmawatee Machi of the fort. To our heads up, was Padmawatee Machi and above that Balekilla. However, both of these were lost in the clouds. We were ascending the ridge to reach the clouds. The only sight of Suvela Machi at our left, was giving us hint that we were climbing Rajgad Fort. Otherwise, this walk was none less than a walk in paradise.
To our left was another ridge of the fort, that runs down from Pali Gate of the fort. This part of the fort is north facing. At the middle of the ridge, there lies a plain, quite wide, with lack of vegetation at the centre. There I happened to see a barn. The locals call such barns a Wada. And it is used as shelter for their cows. It’s typical wada, even you can see this while climbing the fort. However, upon sighting this barn, recollected a character from GONIDA’s Waagharu novel. Sopan Dardiga. He is shepherd and is always found with his cattle around the fort. I felt like Sopan Dardiga, a character from the novel, is himself trying get all his cows in the shelter. I could sense his cries to control the cattle. All this while, we almost reached beneath the Chor Darwaja(Secrete entrance to the fort ). Right below the entrance, in the rock, there is a water cistern and somehow I saw Babuda, sitting beside the water hole and was waving his hand to me like he wants us to go there and drink some water and feel better as we all were dead tired. Babuda, was a servant appointed by Bhor royal family, in order to take care of the fort and to perform daily duties like arranging the sadar(a place of meeting ), cleaning up the premises. He was getting paid 50 Rs per month by the Bhor royals. He wandered entire fort, Spent all his life on the fort. To him, the fort was the whole world . He lived there, he loved every single thing associated with fort.
By the time we entered the fort through secret entrance, hell lot of monkeys arrived to welcome us. Sometimes, it’s quite difficult to get away from these monkeys, especially when you are alone. Sometimes, if some lady tourist of kids are walking alone in the presence of these monkeys, monkeys make sure that they do all the terror and snatch whatever is there in the hands of tourists or trekkers. It’s not the original behaviour of these monkeys. In fact we have made them like this. Some immature people willingly or unwillingly throw biscuits of any sort of edible items to these monkeys. And such idiot tourists do come in hundreds sometimes. Initially the monkeys waited for someone to throw something to them, now if they find a lone trekker, they just don’t wait, they snatch. So ultimately , it’s we who forgot the jungle etiquettes and made the monkeys thieves.
As we entered the fort, Padmawatee Machi to be precise, we saw a lake, a acre wide and long right I front of us. This lake is called as Padmawatee lake. Padmawatee is considered to be an ancient goddess of the fort. There still is a temple of the devi on this machi. There are well built stairs, from the left of the lake. These stairs would take us Balekilla and other Machis of the fort. And towards right of the lake, a paved pathway would take is Padmawatee and Shiv temple . We took off our footwear and entered the temple of Padmawatee Devi. We were about to have lunch in the temple and then move further on.
Couple of months ago, when I planned this trek, the first thing knocked mind was Waghru. As prefaced earlier, Waghru is a novel, by GONIDA, in Marathi language. I had read that earlier. The idea of reading Waghru on Rajgad, couldn’t leave me. I even had announced novel reading of Waghru on Rajgad. Now that, we were already on the fort, quite safe under the roof of Goddess Padmawatee’s temple, I felt, that was the right time to try reading Waghru. I had two major challenges. First the audience and second time. I had only 15 to 20 minutes to read as , some of the members from our group were yet to arrive the temple. None the less. Now audience. I had only two participants from our group who could understand and speak Marathi. Rest were various cosmopolitans. I proposed my plan of reading some part of the novel to Ajit and Mandeep. These two young trekkers, had come all the way from Mumbai to venture Rajgad with Nisargshala. They nodded in assertion. And I immediately started reading the book. Though I had read it earlier, it was great experience reading the book aloud in the original native dialect. In a minute or two, after I started reading, I noticed some more audiences joined us and sat around us to listen to Waghru. Rest all voices from the temple disappeared and it was only my voice, garnished with dialogues between Babuda and his son-in-law Hanuwatee. The incident I read , took place exactly in front of the temple, in which we were reading and listening to the book. After the incident was over, I straightened up my neck to look around and to my surprise there were approximately more than 15 people in the temple, listening to me and even did not want me to stop reading. By that time, our other participants were also seated beside us and were not able to comprehend what was going on. I decided to stop reading and we had heavy food in the temple. While having food, I noticed few locals also, who were listening to the novel reading project. After lunch I approached them and talked informally. Of the two men, the oldest is from Velhe village and surprisingly , it was his first ever visit to fort Rajgad. And second person was from Pali village at northern foothill of Rajgad fort.
It was now time to move ahead. So after cleaning up the littering we had done, we took the stairs to Balekilla. On the way to Balekilla, there lies the ramparts of a Rajwada(a Palace), to right. The rajwada fortification looked big, may measuring in 3 to 4 acres of plain land. Little elevated from ground, was the core Rajwada. This entire Rajwada also had its very own defence line(तटबंदी) .This tatbandee had been built in well baked earthen bricks. Another idea came to my mind that someone , who knows 3 modelling, should model this palace also.
As we were moving ahead, we saw Ambarkhana also. There goes a pathway from Ambarkhana to Dhalkathee. And there was a favourite tree of Hanuwatee. Locals call the tree as Rukhache zad. Hanuwatee(forgot him? He is the son-in-law of Babuda) was quite disappointed because, the collector of Pune, had sent a hunter to hunt down the Waghru. Somebody might have informed the govt that, Rajgad fort area is witnessing attacks on cows by leopards. Though important , Hanuwatee was somehow not convinced to kill the leopard. At least he wanted a one on one with the leopard in order to maintain the decorum of a hero. Accordingly Babuda, Waghru is a royal, the king of the jungle. He deserves to hunt other small animals in order to fulfil his appetite. However once Waghru is full stomach , it would never attack anything or even think of hunting and storing prey for days to come. Babuda was a big time fan this quality of Waghru. So Babuda, always taught same things to Hanuwatee also. Hanuwatee knew the threats from the leopard to his cattle and wanted to get rid of the creature. But somehow he was not convinced with idea of hunting the leopard with help of a gun, that too shot by someone hidden quite away, while the leopard was not alert at all. To Hanuwatee, it was unfair. An unfair war. Still, due to govt order, and his father in laws instructions, he companied the Raosaheb, who was sent to shoot the leopard kill. They had set up a bunker on the same, favourite tree of Hanuwatee. Hanuwatee was quite upset. Raosaheb, along with his friend were up on the tree, breathing low, without making no noise, aiming his gun to the batter goat which was tied few metres away from the tree. With all this in my mind , we almost had reached Sadar(सदर). Yasudee, Hanuwatee’s wife and Babuda’s only daughter, just had reach sadar and she was also looking the the drama which was about to start, while holding her breath. Suddenly the sky broke with huge blast. Birds started crying loud, monkeys too shouted. Something had happened. But what? Was the Waghru shot down?
We were now at the foothill of Balekilla. And we took a pathway to Sanjeevani Machi. Now a days there are direction boards on the fort at places. We continued walking , keeping Balekilla on our left. It was a very pleasant walk through cloudy and misty mountains. The entire rock of Balekilla had grown kinds of mosses and leafy creeper, which were hanging and thus adding beauty to the rock. It looked a yet another great piece of art. Suddenly it started raining and we could see hundreds of waterfalls to our left, hardly few meters away. After we left Balekilla behind, then our journey was only through clouds. There are valley to our left and even right. We started walking towards the far west end of the fort. This far west end is called as Sanjeevanee Machi.
Sanjeewanee Machi is not less than a military engineering wonder. To know how big Rajgad is lets learn how big Sanjeewanee Machi is. The perimeter of this Machi is approximately 2.5 kms. Only to walk this perimeter, one should spend couple of hours. And the entire perimeter is well built. Built by Great Hindu King Shivaji. This machi is built in three steps. Each step has defense watch towers(Buruj).As we get down from step one to second, and walk towards north, along the defence call, we see three more such watch towers. These towers are built in three layers. It is said that during the times of the great king Shivaji, there were many cannons here. There are total 19 watch towers to Sanjeewanee Machi. There is a system of underground passage also. One can come to the outer defence wall though special small sized gates. One can come to Sanjeewanee Machi even from Aloo darwaja. From Aloo darwaja, the special double layered defence walls start to both the sides of the fort. The distance between these two defence walls is wide enough for a horse rider to ride through.
We walked and saw the Sanjeewanee machi and started our journey to the ridge connecting the duo forts, Rajgad and Torna. We got down from Aloo gate of the fort. Our transport was waiting for us in pass, in adjoining jungle. We did not need to walk the entire ridge. Still, considering the difficulty level of the ridge, my decision of not walking the entire ridge was proven true. Some members of the group were beginners. Mountains and valley do look beautiful. The fresh greenery, jungle, waterfalls, pathways, grass, shrubs, almost everything appear heavenly when we see those from distance. However if one has to walk the scenery, touch the rocks, the boulders, the trees, and all this with a deadly fear of falling into the valley…gosh. But no worries. We are there to help you in such situations. However, the beauty of nature is not only to see, it is to experience as well. So giving assistance to some new members of the group, we left behind Sanjeewanee Machi. Suddenlly, I heard Yasudee shouting for her cows. Immediately, I turned and tried to have a look in the direction of the Sanjeevanee Machi. I felt young Yasudee, the daughter of Babada and wife of hanuwatee, grazing her cows shouting on Sanjeewanee machi. I resumed my way, away from Sanjeewanee machi. Away I went from the Machi, faded her outcries for the cows. And some time later it all dissolved in winds. She was not there.
We reached our vehicle, had some healthy snacks and boarded the vehicle for camping riverside.
AT NISARGSHALA WE LOOK FORWARD TO GIVE YOU EXPERIENCES LIKE THESE WHERE THERE IS NATURE AND YOU AND NOONE IN BETWEEN.
WE DO NOT PROMISE YOU THE MOON BUT RAW NATURE AS THE ALMIGHTY CREATED IT
See some of the best photographs of Rajgad on the following link..