Climbing With a Purpose…. Redefining History!

Tripoto
27th Oct 2015

Back in 2011, when I was roaming around Mangaon, I went to Kurdu Gad for the first time. It was during the monsoons, the best season for trekking in the Sahyadri. Unfortunately you cannot go rock climbing in this season. Kurdu Gad, situated in a remote area of the Sahyadri, has the largest natural cave in Maharashtra. The constructions inside have been a witness to human habitation centuries ago. The cave is now used by various animals for shelter. Being remotely located, one can spot rare species of reptiles on the fort. We spotted a Slender Racer, a snake species.

Photo of Kurdu, Maharashtra, India by Bhushanshet

Fort Kurdu as seen from village Kurdu Peth

There aren’t many monuments on the fort, but the temple in the Base Village, Jite is worth visiting. There are huge VIRAGAL (Hero Stone) in this temple, not well maintained though. And the pinnacle of Kurdu is worth climbing.

Photo of Climbing With a Purpose…. Redefining History! by Bhushanshet

VIRAGAL/ Hero Stones scattered around village Jite

Two – three years later, Anjay, one my friend who is a historian studying in Deccan College, Pune, visited the fort and believed in exploring its caves. The pinnacle has been climbed several times before, but there’s only a single written account mentioning caves being found; maybe because the climbing route is from a different side and from that route these caves cannot be noticed. But the written evidence cleared his doubt, and now he wanted us, the climbers, to climb a 100 ft rock patch to reach to the caves.

Photo of Climbing With a Purpose…. Redefining History! by Bhushanshet

Caves seen from village Kurdu Peth

Now, the real challenge was not the climbing, but to bring a historian, not experienced in climbing, to the cave. So we decided to have some practical sessions for him. After that, the plan was to complete the project in two sessions- first included climbing and setting the route, and the second was to study the cave.

According to plan, a team of a few climbers and other enthusiasts reached the base village- Jite. The trek to the climbing base is around 2 hours long. Rahul, Chintan, Rupesh, Jayesh, Deepak, Anjay and some other climbers were a part of the first team. Chintan was supposed to lead the route till the cave and Rahul to belay him. And thus the climb began. Chintan did it very easily and gracefully. The route to the caves was set. He placed around 4 bolts and a single peg for anchoring. Rahul followed him and reached the caves. Both the climbers accomplished their task in the first attempt. That was it for the day. As night started to fall, they descended the face without completing the traverse.

Photo of Climbing With a Purpose…. Redefining History! by Bhushanshet

Chintan opening the route

Now it was Anjay’s turn to employ his practical sessions. A second team of five people, myself included, went after two months, equipped with excavation tools, a sketch book and the important climbing equipment. Climbing till the caves was not an issue now as the anchor bolts had already been placed. I fixed the rope quite easily.

Photo of Climbing With a Purpose…. Redefining History! by Bhushanshet

Me, fixing rope

Anjay was prepared and did the jumaring very well and easily. Then I did the traverse, where three more caves and a water tank were discovered. Anjay took all the necessary samples from the caves and measured the caves. Samples included a decayed piece of wood used for construction centuries ago for carbon dating. Along with that, many pieces of broken pottery and bangles were collected. All this work done by the afternoon, we then descended for lunch.

Photo of Climbing With a Purpose…. Redefining History! by Bhushanshet

Anjay observing the caves

Later, after studying the samples and photographs, Anjay concluded that the caves were built between the 11th and 12th century. The pottery and bangles were also from the same time. He strongly believes that there were well carved steps to approach the caves from the north west direction, as huge broken boulders are found under the caves in the same direction. The steps must have been destroyed by continuous exposure to rains & wind for centuries.

Photo of Climbing With a Purpose…. Redefining History! by Bhushanshet

First and biggest cave discovered

These outcomes redefined the history of the fort. Earlier, it was believed to have been built around the 17th century under Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s rule. This climb and study gave a new direction to the historical study of the fort.

That’s all I know about the history of the caves. But this climb was an ultimate experience as this was not ‘just a climb’ but it was climbing with a purpose- that of a historical study. And we all were pleased with our new discovery.

Photo of Climbing With a Purpose…. Redefining History! by Bhushanshet

A short movie clip of exploration is on YouTube, please do visit.

Exploration of Caves at Kurdu Gad / Fort Kurdu

This blog was originally published on 'BHUSHAN SHET'

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