This range trek in Maharashtra will give you a real feel of rustic Western Ghats

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Photo of This range trek in Maharashtra will give you a real feel of rustic Western Ghats by Vihang Ghalsasi

The state of Maharashtra is blessed with Western Ghats. The mountains harbor some of the densest forests in the state. The region is teeming with wildlife and offers breathtaking landscapes. Apart from the natural heritage, the Western Ghats in Maharashtra are endowed with magnificent forts built by the great emperors who ruled this land. Some of the forts date back to 7th century AD, whereas some are built by Shivaji Maharaj and his descendants. Today (19th February), being the birth anniversary of Shivaji Maharaj, is a great occasion to salute the great king by writing this blog on a great cultural heritage left behind by him.

Day 1

Yes, you guessed it right. I am going to write about one of the most sought-after range treks in Maharashtra—Rajgad to Torna. These forts are located in the Pune district of Maharashtra, around 50 km southwest of the Pune city. They were pillars of the Maratha kingdom in its initial stages. Torna, formerly known as Prachanda gad because of its immense size, was the first fort captured by Shivaji Maharaj at the age of sixteen. Getting control over this fort laid the foundation of the Maratha kingdom. On this fort, Shivaji Maharaj found some treasure, which was used to build his first capital, Rajgad. The fort of Rajgad stands on the same hill range as that of Torna. It remained to be the capital of the Maratha kingdom for good old 26 years after which the capital was moved to Raigad. Both the forts stand testimony to the enchanting past of the region. Today, they attract hundreds of history and adventure enthusiasts.

The trek begins at a village called Gunjavane, which lies at the base of Rajgad. You can reach this village by using public transport—an MSRTC bus from Swargate (main bus stand in Pune) can drop you here. From here, the ascend begins. Within 2-3 hours you can reach Padmavati machi. In Marathi, machi is a flat portion on the top of a hill. Such plateaus are often fortified with walls and are strategic points from defense point of view. There’s also a temple at this machi. The fort of Rajgad is divided into four parts: Padmavati machi, Suvela machi, Sanjeevani machi, and Balekilla. Among these, Suvela machi flanks toward east, whereas Sanjeevani machi extends toward west. Balekilla, being the central part of the fort, stands on a rocky hill at the center. It is this unique geography that made Shivaji Maharaj choose this fort as his capital. Walking across all parts of the fort is likely to consume the entire day. I would strongly recommend visiting Balekilla and watch the ruins of the palace and marketplace. After exploring the fort, you can head back to Padmavati machi and retire for the day. The local villagers can provide you food and shelter. If you are pressed with time, you can skip Balekilla and head straight to Sanjeevani machi. The way to Torna goes from there.

Day 2

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Rajgad - Torna Trek Path, Charhat Wadi, Maharashtra, India by Vihang Ghalsasi

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Rajgad - Torna Trek Path, Charhat Wadi, Maharashtra, India by Vihang Ghalsasi

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Rajgad - Torna Trek Path, Charhat Wadi, Maharashtra, India by Vihang Ghalsasi

The next day morning, you can start the long and exhausting hike to the fort Torna. The path goes via Sanjeevani machi. This machi is fortified on both sides with double walls. This machi is an excellent example of the fort architecture of that time. The path descending from this machi goes over a rocky patch and can be a bit slippery at some spots. After a careful descend, you reach the ridge that connects Rajgad to Torna. This ridge is the most fascinating part of the trek. On both sides you can see deep valleys being engulfed by dense forests. The horizon is dotted with mighty hills of the Western Ghats. And right in the front stands the destination—Torna. Soon the ridge ends and you come down to a tar road passing through a narrow gorge. From here, the ascend to Torna begins. After a moderate ascend, you come back on the ridge and continue the hike toward the fort. This exhausting climb takes you Budhla machi of the fort Torna. The ridge walk can be completed in 5-6 hours.

By Sopan Patil - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62712166

Photo of Torna Fort, Charhat Wadi, Maharashtra by Vihang Ghalsasi

By Sopan Patil - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62712595

Photo of Torna Fort, Charhat Wadi, Maharashtra by Vihang Ghalsasi

By Sopan Patil - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62711851

Photo of Torna Fort, Charhat Wadi, Maharashtra by Vihang Ghalsasi

Torna is also a massive fort. It has three main parts: Zunzar machi, Budhla machi, and Balekilla. You can visit the different parts of the fort and Toranjai devi temple over the evening and stay on the fort for the night. If you are short of time, you can head straight to Zunzar machi and start descending. The descend is quite steep and caution must be exercised while hiking, especially in the monsoon season. The trail offers you beautiful view of the surrounding hills and valleys. In the monsoon season, you can see some waterfalls on the way and enjoy some time in the water. This path takes you to the village Velhe. From here, you can find transport to get back to Pune.

Day 3

Overall, if done at leisure, the trek can be completed in 2.5 days. Expert trekkers can finish it in 1.5 days as well. For a beginner, the hike can be exhausting. Moreover, it is worth spending some time at exploring the ruins on top of both the forts. You can do the same trek in the opposite direction as well. This trek is indeed a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and adventure seekers should never miss it!

Best time: July to February (avoid extremely sunny days as there’s no water available on the ridge)

Duration: 2.5 days

Difficulty level: Moderate

Accommodation: Available on both forts

Food and water: Available on both forts as well as at base villages, prior intimation would be better

Nearest city: Pune

Fun quotient: Infinite!

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