TREKKING IN FORTS

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» Maharashtra
Location: Maharashtra
Forts: Shreevardhan Fort, Rajmachi Fort



Beginners as well as seasoned hikers can enjoy the trek to Rajmachi Fort. It is interesting both for its historic features and the natural beauty of the Sahyadris. Rajmachi fort can be approached to via the town of Lonavla along the Khandala plateau. Lonavla is an important train station on the Indian rail network.

It is advised to set out early in the morning from Lonavla, because by 11.00 am the sun is really bearing down. From this point make oner way to the Mumbai - Pune Highway (NH4). Trekker's should take a right turn and follow the highway until a signboard indicating the way to Tungarli lake is reached.

This road leads to Tungarli Hill and then turns left. There is dirt track on the left, which leads up the hill to Tungarli Lake - a small lake that is at its best just after the monsoon. It is advisable to drink up and fill up as this is the last point on the trail where water is available. There is an alternative to the trekker's who want to avoid walking on the main road, from Lonavla station they take an auto rickshaw to the base of Tungarli.

As one continues up the hillside to Tungarli there is a dam and lake and on the northern end of the lake, one can see Tungarli village. The trail then leads up to a small pass from where Rajmachi fort is visible. The path then descends and joins a dirt track that winds its way along the crest of the hill and disappears into the forests this is the only track, which leads to Rajmachi fort, there are no shortcuts.

After about two hours walk one can see a fork in the trail and the path on the left leads to Rajmachi. The trail continues on oner left, climbing gradually and then levelling out. A little later it dips down and up again and then one can see the Rajmachi fort clearly. Continue following the path around the fort and one will finally reach the village of Udhewadi (or Rajmachi).

Just before there is a temple dedicated to Kalbhairavnath, and a flat clearing that can be used as a campsite. The trekker's who don't want to camp outdoors, can stay in the temple. Water is available at a tank, which is 100m away on a path to the left of the temple. Cook one's own food or buy some basic village fare of 'Bhakri' and 'Chutney'. On either side of the Col are the two forts of Rajmachi. Once up in the fort one will see that the climb was really worthwhile.

Shreevardhan, is another fort, which is just opposite to the Kalbhairavnath temple. It is the more interesting one, with some secret tunnels leading to the battlements. Two deep caves of Buddhist origin can be seen in Shreevardhan, but they do not contain any elaborate carving or inscription.

Manranjan, behind the temple, gives one a good view of the plains. People who want to explore the area can go the base of Manranjan where there are some simple rock-cut caves, which date back to ancient India when the Bhor Ghat was an important trade route. Buddhist monks used these hills long before they were fortified to guard the Bhor pass.

Return Route

The return route from Rajmachi is much easier to follow. The trail is steeper and one needs to be very careful. One needs to start from Udhewadi village and follow a well-defined trail, on the hill's western slopes. One can find arrows marked at regular and these arrows marks lead way down until one reaches Kondewadi settlement in about two hours.

Trekker's can take an interesting diversion half way down the hillside, and follow a trail, which leads to the ruins of Kondana Caves. These are rock cut Buddhist caves with a Stupa, Chaitya, Vihara and sculptures. An earthquake destroyed the floor of the caves and has left the pillars suspended from the ceiling, without support from the base.

Trekker's need to be very careful as there are several large beehives hang at the cave entrance. It is advised to avoid smoking, peeling oranges or cutting onion or garlic nearby, as this can agitate the bees and cause them to attack one.

From the settlement of Kondewadi walk for a kilometre till one arrives at Kondewadi proper (bus stop). One can either walk to Karjat (14-km) from here, or catch a rickshaw or bus and then a local train back to Mumbai or oner onward destination.



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