Following the Ancient trade route – in mountains

In Maharashtra, forts are not just fortified walls on mountains. Forts were not built as decorative places to showcase the rulers strength and wealth. They actually protected the region around or important places like Trade routes or Markets or Religious places amongst few. ‘Whoever owns the fort, rules the region’ is the rule prevailed right from Satvahan dynasty’s rule in 2nd Century BCE to early 3rd Century CE. They built forts on the Ancient trade route which was discussed in last blog of caves.

In continuation of last post on Mumbai’s ancient trade route, way back in 1998, 4 of us decided to follow the same route till the first big market, Junnar.

To read prologue or first part of this blog, please click on link:

The reason this blog after 22 long years, when you start liking this beautiful activity of trekking to connect to nature, hindrances of not having luxuries shouldn’t stop you from focusing on going back to mountains.

. In present trekking scenario, trekkers are thronging on many forts or popular trekking spots in buses and private vehicles. Every popular trekking point is getting crowded like at a particular weekend with 1000 + trekkers like recent situation at Kalsubai or a long queue of trekkers at Harihar fort steps or Prabalgad and Kalavantin. These have become picnic points for drinking rather than getting close to nature. We can’t call these crowd as trekkers but adventure tourists. For them accessibility to these treks has become easy. 

During those old mountaineering days, one has to rely on public transport for travel and locals for food, so these blog is to portray the efforts, we had taken during those days for every trek and thus every trek has become treasure of memories. After going through so many years of trekking, still we are responding to call of mountains, every year without getting tired.  

Trade route beyond Kalyan. Map Courtesy: Rajesh Ramane

Beyond Kalyan, the trade route was mostly on flat land till the base of Naneghat.

Acknowledgment by government of this ancient trade route.
PC: FB/Amit Patel

We four of us, Kashinath Nayak aka Kash, Surendra Masurkar aka Surya, Kishore Karia aka KK and me, Rajesh Salvi started our journey in State Transport bus towards mountain at break of dawn as our first day’s travel was longer than other 2 days of our three days’ range trek plan. A must mentions here, during those days, forget about private vehicles, it was difficult to get a public transport to reach desired destination immediately if you miss your planned bus. Nowadays, frequency of public transport has increased drastically due to many villages has become big beyond Malshej Ghat region. Without saying, in all our treks, we couldn’t have kept tight plan of trek, but a disciplined schedule. Always some buffer hours or sometimes a buffer day in a multiple days’ trek had to be considered. This was an ancient route and an excitement was building up to peep in a history. A mountaineer visits a mountain or fort for various reasons. Some to get closer to nature, some to nurture hobby of photography or study of flora and fauna. Mine was always to peep in the history to become a part of heritage, our ancestors left behind for us to preserve and maintain.

Nanacha Angtha or Nana’s thumb. All pics not from our actual trek, but are from treks done recently as 1998, neither we had mobiles nor cameras to click pics.
PiC: Sandeep Sawant

Travelling on the ancient trade route, traders’ next destination was Naneghat which was a connect between Konkan and Deccan Plateau. Though, during those days many passes were in known. Mostly locals used them to travel between these regions like Bhor ghat, Tamhini ghat were the prominent ones. Naneghat was a major pass used by not only locals, but also for traders. Naneghat is as ancient as the trade route, which we were following. Built during almost the same era of first century BC which was a start of carving Mumbai’s caves for religion and traders. This pass was to make the climb of Sahydris range easy and to connect Konkan to Deccan plateau.

Arch erected some years back to identify start of route to Naneghat pass
PC: Sandeep Sawant

Today entry to Naneghat, is well marked with an Arch which none can miss, but way back in those days’ when this pass was forgotten in outside world except locals and trekkers, we had to look out for ‘OTUR 64’ milestone from ST’s small windows or from hind driver’s seat. Literally we had to make a forced exit from crowded bus, with our big rucksacks loaded with our ration, utensils to cook, Kerosene stove, mats, clothes. Bus left these 4 mountain lovers on a deserted road. Yes, deserted road because those days, Malshej ghat’s NH 222 was sparsely used due to lesser number of private vehicles and mainly used by State Transport busses and goods vehicles ferrying agriculture products from Junnar to Mumbai. This is a significant change from ancient days. Market hoas become a source to sell the agriculture stock to once known as a transit point for trade which is Mumbai and Kalyan.

This point is 50 kms from Kalyan city. If you have a vehicle, you can park at the base or a nearby village, Vaishakhare and walk towards the Arch, entry place to Naneghat pass.

Nanacha Angtha from Malshej ghat road.
PC: Sandeep Sawant

Season was winter and with a pleasant morning, we started our Naneghat trek. You can see, Nanacha Angtha, Nana’s thumb named after the person who was commissioned to carve Nana’s Pass which is Naneghat. A legend says, two brothers took a challenge of carving a pass for traders to climb the range.  One brother, Nana finished the work in stipulated time, but his brother, Gone failed to finish and you can find an unfinished path on right  of Naneghat. There is no written proof to support this theory, but an unfinished route or a path similar to Naneghat can be seen if you explore more in jungle.
With heavy sacks, we reached the first part of the route, an incline of 30 to 40 degrees.  Naneghat is not counted in a difficult trek, but an easy one for a regular trekker or medium grade for a first timer because of an incline. Through Nilgiri tree cover which has become thinner as the years are passing. Most of the first patch consists of scree or with loose gravel, but easier to walk on. You enter a slightly denser green patch. Being a first day and we had decided to cover, since we had started fresh. It wasn’t a difficult task. We three were regulars in mountains, but KK’s was first range trek, so we had divided our load in such a way that we three can carry maximum. In our group trek, we were called as porters as maximum load was always shared by us, Kash and me. We reached Naneghat’s irregular steps in little more than hour. So the start was good for a long trek. Today’s target was to stay at Jivdhan fort or at the base village. In range trek, the unsaid rule is to finish as much as possible on first half or 2/3rd of the day and keep last 1/3rd as buffer to make food arrangements and night stay preparations. Always carry packed lunch as setting up a kitchen in the afternoon and dismantling is a time consuming task. Other option is locating villages on the way and make sure to inform a villager to arrange a lunch beforehand. In today’s world, this is possible due to improved communication network, but in our case, forget about villagers, mobile was a luxury and only select few could afford it. Our starting day was a weekday, so the chances of other trekkers on the route were very limited. Naneghat is famous as a trekking location right from the start of mountaineering in Sahydris. The top reason, we could guess is, this pass is in use by locals at the base, even if Malshej ghat is built to connect with Junnar and beyond. Locals from base village are still using this pass to reach Ghatghar village which is closer to Naneghat on Deccan Plateau side Ghatghar village is 27 kms from Junnar by road. Since 1998 when we did this trek till date, the roads are improved a lot. You can drive your car till Naneghat from top. This mode or facility is for people who are not trekkers, but still would like to visit this ancient pass, Junnar is 114 kms via Malshej Ghat.

Naneghat steps. Almost end of pass. Sun opens up on Deccan Plateau to bring you to new terrain, new life and new world.
PC: Anshuman Chaudhari

From the base, we reached Naneghat in slightly lesser than 3 hours. So far we were right on schedule.

Cave of Naneghat. Though now its gated, but in earlier days, we had spent nights on multiple occasions.
PC: Sandeep Sawant

As mentioned in suggestions for long range trek to carry or to arrange food at the base village, we had carried our first day’s lunch to have it in Naneghat cave. This cave was a biggest relief for traders during ancient time after climbing a long incline. With multiple rock cut cisterns which holds water till summer, traders could quench theirs and their convoy’s thrust, to continue their journey towards Junnar which is now few kms away. One can imagine a sigh of relief on their faces. We can guess, for the journey from Kalyan port till Naneghat base which is mostly a flat land, they would have used bullock carts which are faster than loading on animal’s back. To climb Naneghat, another convoy of only animals without cart waiting to load on its back. Once they reach the top of Naneghat, one more convoy waiting for them to transport till Junnar in bullock cart as till Junnar, the road mostly is flat.

One of the water source to quench thrust at Naneghat
Pic: Sandeep Sawant
One of the oldest Stone inscription in Eastern part of India on Naneghat wall.
Pc: Sandeep Sawant

Rock cut cave at the base of Nanacha angtha, still has some carvings on one wall which has Brahmi language inscriptions mentioning of the king’s name alongwith his queen who funded to create this cave. Naneghat inscriptions belong to the oldest historical documents of the western India and in some respects more interesting and important than all the other cave inscriptions taken together. The script of inscription is Brahmi and the language is Prakrit and the period of the inscription is first century B.C. (Source: Now only statues’ legs are left.

Naneghat cave. Big enough to accomodate 30/40 people, but nowadays, this cave is barricaded and ASI, doesn’t allow to spend a night, may be to protect and keep the cave clean.
PC: Sandeep Sawant
An ancient Toll collection pot at Naneghat top once a trader leaves caves and continue his journey.
PC: Sandeep Sawant

One more legend is discussed about how Naneghat got its name. as per story, ‘Nane’ in Marathi is coin and in old days, if you would use this route, a toll has to be paid for the facilities by way of dropping a coin in a huge pot carved in rock which is a witness to support this story. Looks like, System of toll collection goes hand in hand with trade.

With all this stories playing  in our mind we moved towards Jivdhan fort which can be seen from Naneghat. Base village of Jivdhan fort is Ghatghar approximately 2/3 kms from Naneghat. With couple of more villages with name Ghatghar on Deccan Plateau, you shouldn’t get confused. This common name may have derived from ‘Village’ or ‘house’ settled at the point of ghat or pass’ on plateau. Another Ghatghar which I clearly remember is near Ratangad, another fort near Bhandardara dam.

Why rulers’ felt need for forts?  

In Maharashtra, unlike Rajasthan where forts built in the area where rulers ruled. In Maharashtra, except couple of forts during Chatrapati Shivaji’s time where he actually  lived and ruled from, all other forts were built or rebuilt or fortified for few reasons. To keep a control of the territory, Rajgad was built. From Rajgad, he ruled and protected Maval province. To protect an important area like Pune, Sinhagad Fort was ortified. Sarasgad near Pali to protect one of the Important pilgrimage, Ashta Vinayak temple. Whoever held any particular fort, ruled the surroundings was a common trend from Maurya dynesty and other dynasties followed. It’s a general misconception that Shivaji Maharaj built all forts in Maharashtra. To clarify, many forts were built before him, right from Satvahan kings who ruled Maharashtra. After capturing them, Shivaji Maharaj fortified almost all forts as he recognized importance of these forts.

Many forts also were built to protect some important trade routes. To guard Bhorghat and trade route to Pune from Mumbai port a chain of multiple forts like Sudhagad, Korigad, Lohagad, Visapur, tung, Tikona were recognized and fortified. Similarly, a line of forts was fortified on the ancient trade route which we were exploring. Some forts were on Konkan side such as Siddhagad and Gorakhgad (not exactly a fort, but was used as a watchtower), Mahuli (which is not exactly on the same route, but little far off). On Deccan Plateau, a chain of forts was built by Satvahan kings like Jivdhan, Hadsar, Chavand and Shivneri. We were planning to cover this link of forts on Deccan plateau. We had covered Konkan side forts regularly as they were close to Mumbai.

In today’s scenario, you can cover this entire range of forts in couple of days by car considering all base villages are connected with tar road network. Though not well maintained but it exists.

For us during those days, we had relied heavily on ST bus network or our own no. 11 bus i.e. walking.

There is one unusual site of Jivdhan from Naneghat side. A pinnacle resembling an old Parasi Bawa. That pinnacle is famous in rock climber’s circuit. Its called Khada Parasi pinnacle. Many rock climbing clubs have climbed the pinnacle. It’s a technical climb with all equipment and not a trekking point. Ghatghar from Naneghat is hardly 35/45 mins flat walk. Still sun hadn’t started its Westward journey, so we decided not to wait and left our sacks at the house with whom we had fixed our dinner and stay arrangements.

Jivdhan Fort

Jivdhan with ‘Khada Parsi’ pinnacle
PC: Sandeep Sawant

Powerful Satvahan dynasty spread over few centuries was the creator of this fort during their prime time. From the Deccan Plateau  side, this fort covers entire region till Junnar and beyond whereas from Konkan side, the excellent view of Konkan comes in vision as far as you stretch your eyes. At present, the fort is in dilapidated conditions where not many structures are standing. This is the case with many other forts in Maharashtra, but you can imagine its status in this link of protective forts. Once a trader crosses Naneghat, he is observed and protected by soldiers who are ever vigilant to scrap any attack on them. Built in 1st century BC, the structure which is still available to inspect, shows remarkable carvings. Parts of the place have peculiar structure including its entrance.

Built-up store rooms on Jivdhan fort.
PC: Hitendra Patel
Jivdhan fort map, so that you can explore easily.
Map Courtesy: Mahendra Govekar

Fort has couple of routes. This is also an uniform identity of most of the forts in Maharashtra. If enemy tries to attack from main gate, other gate which is normally at the back or side is opened for guarding force to cut loose and attack enemy from behind. Though the back route on Northern side is now slightly difficult route to ascend and descend with few holds carved in rock, requires a brave heart. This route, traverses from the base of the pinnacle, Khada Parsi. You get a closer look of the pinnacle which is known as ‘Vanarlingi’ (in local language). We decided to take a safer route, which was from village side. This route is also made tougher due to the grace of British army who destroyed routes of many forts, so that revolutionary forces of 1857 Free India movement couldn’t get access to fight against British army.

Rock cut store rooms on
Jivdhan Fort PC: Vaibhav Palnitkar
Jivdhan Fort – Rock cut Water Cisterns . Though, water is not potable.
PC: Hitendra Patel

We didn’t take much time to explore top and to visit the other regular characteristics of forts which were built or renovated during Shivaji Maharaja’s rule such as storage for water in the form of tanks carved in rock, grains storage rooms and store rooms for arms and ammunition. If you have tents and carry your own provisions, you can pitch your tents in open. You will have flatten the grass. In grain storage rooms, a lots of ash has made it impossible to live and also its infested by rats.  This fort not only has water tanks, but a sizeable lake, too. On the main route from where we climbed, there were also rooms for soldiers to stay temporarily and looking at the size of the rooms, one can imagine importance of this route, so that as many as possible soldiers are available at any given point to prevent attack on traders.

We were back to base before sunset. I loves to stay in any village, may be because my memories from childhood days gets rekindled and such stays reminds me of my native place in Konkan. A smell of burnt wood, cow dung coated walls and flooring, and warmth of locals’ hospitality. Dinner was simple. Rice, sprouts vegetable, pickle and chillies chutney which is called ‘Thetcha’. A quick early dinner and we were out at the front of house lying down on our carrymats to look in awe at the vast expanse of sky without any artificial lights to obstruct, entire universe was open above us. This gave us a same experience of sitting in Mumbai’s Nehru Planetarium’s dome for sky show. This visual is rare in city. This is one of the side advantage of trekking in mountains apart from nature love. Looking in past, only one thing I have a repentance on of my mountaineering days. I didn’t develop any side activities in my mountaineering years. Many of my club mates of mountaineering have developed many hobbies with a connection to nature like study of flora fauna, photography, star gazing, study of Sahyadri geographically and Maratha kingdom’s history, study of architecture during various eras. For young nature lovers, I will suggest to explore one of the above mentioned special interests and be a specialist. There are work opportunities in many of the above mentioned fields. It’s a duel benefit of work and earn.

Sunset from Jivdhan fort base. PC: Hitendra Patel

After a long day’s trek, it was a time to catch up some sleep backlog because we had woken up early to board first Naneghat bus in the morning, though the treks were not that tiring.

Day 2:

Next day was a flat walk towards next link of this trade route and exploration of next fort. We were told on previous night about our next fort is 3/4 hours walkable distance. According to the distance to hours calculation which a human can cover is 4 kms an hour with regular speed. With our loaded sacks, it would take an hour extra. We had to calculate this approximately in absence of mobile phones, so no network and Google map’s help. Freshened after a sound night sleep, this distance was nothing. According to our plan which looked relaxed, in comparison with the treks we covered in last 22 years. We were not in a hurry to finish the trek because literally we wanted to walk on the ancient trade route and not just touch any fort or place and run for the next fort. Less or rare connectivity of transport network gave us an opportunity to not only peep in history but soak in the route’s past and understand this route through trader’s psyche.
In ancient days, traders who might not have wasted time in reaching Junnar market might had covered this distance a day’s time with the help of Bullock carts and they didn’t have to take detours to stop at the forts enroute. For them, this link of forts are to protect them and not to obstruct them.

Today, we had plan either to stay at Chavand fort or at Kukdeshwar temple which was in closer proximity of the fort. With an energy of proper sleep and morning Poha breakfast at Ghatghar village, our aim was to climb Chavand before harsh sun heats up the region. This region didn’t had much tree cover back then and till date, the situation hasn’t improved. This flat walk along the route and with some shortcuts, we reached Chavand fort base much earlier than planned. 

Cavand village at the base of Chavand Fort.
PC: Hitendra Patel

When we reached Chavand fort base village, Chavandwadi. Whether this fort is named because of village name or village is named because of fort is like a basic question of Chicken came first or egg. On this trek, while planning, we had an information of availability of village at the base of every fort. That information sorted our one issue of ferrying our loaded rucksacks on the fort unless, we decide to halt at top of the fort. We had carried ration and cooking facilities with us as a back-up as the information available was an not that updated.

We had reached before lunch, so there was no point in spending many hours at one fort which didn’t have large mountain top to explore, so with an alteration of plan, we dumped our sacks at the base with lunch arrangements at the village.

Chavand fort:

Chavand Fort from the start of the trek. PC: Mahendra Govekar

As important as other 3 guardian forts – Jivdhan, Hadsar and Shivneri, Chavand is also known as Prasanngad, This fort chain kept the trade route safe from dacoits as well as any enemies who always kept on looking for opportunities to loot a big consignment convoy. Importance of this fort adds up more because of an ancient temple’s location in nearest vicinity. Built in the same era of Naneghat and other three forts by Satvahan kings.

‘Manikdoh’ dam from Chavand Fort. PC: Mahendra Govekar
Rock cut Water Cisterns on Chavand Fort.
PC: Mahendra Govekar
Chavand Fort map.
Map Courtesy: Mahendra Govekar

One observation on need of building forts exists from ancient age. This fort, too has multiple water tanks carved in a single stone which are not in use at the moment and a dilapidated temple still stand tall representing the heritage wealth . The breath taking view of Manikdoh dam’s water reservoir and an assurance of company from other 3 forts makes this fort a once to visit. The fort has a huge stone door at the entrance which was built by Shivaji Maharaj as per records. Trek on this fort has become easy as per latest information. ASI and Forest department in assistance with villagers has built steps and railings for easy access, so that more and more tourists can visit the this heritage.
We sat at one of the point to absorb beauty of the landscape. An hour to climb and one and half hour for exploration plus time required for getting lost is needed to explore this fort.

Chavand Fort Mahadarwaja (Grand Entrance) PC: Mahendra Govekar
Depilated Chamundadevi temple of Chavand fort.
PC: Mahendra Govekar

Descending back to base village, simple lunch like yesterday night’s Ghatghar village was waiting for us.

Today our most of mountain trekking was done in first half itself. Next destination was a walk on the flat terrain till Kukdeshwar temple. About an hour’s trek or 4 kms away.

Kukdeshwar temple

Built by Shilahar kings in 11th century on the bank of Kukadi river, is a glorious and heritage past of the kings who ruled Junnar. This Hemadpanti style Shiva temple is built by interlocking of stones without using any mixture to keep them stable. This style of temples is majorly found on Deccan plateau and North West Karnataka. Many important deities are carved on gate and external walls of temples. Inside temple, every pillar is artistically decorated. Though not specious inside, still has three sections. What we noticed after reaching at temple site, the temple’s stone blocks arrangement is slightly skewed. ASI was trying to rearrange the temple as per original design, but somewhere efforts were fallen short. Dome of the temple was missing.

An ancient Kukadeshwar Temple next to Kukdi river
PC: FB/Sadhana 108

 I believe recently ASI again attempted to recreate the temple and tried to fix as the original layout.

We took shelter under nearby shade. There is also a village named ‘Pur’ closeby. Today we had a chance to utilize our grocery, we were carrying since yesterday morning and I had to show my limited culinary skills to feed us. We had lot of spare time to explore around and take a bath in Kukdi river’s shallower bank.

Day 3:

On our last day we would be close to end of this trade route. We were going to reach the market place, Junnar. Before that we had to cover one more fort which was much better and stronger than earlier 2 forts, we covered on the way.

We had basic information of how to reach Hadsar fort from books, but it could have been outdated. Not many had followed this link of forts due to their remote location. At every night’s stay, we enquired about ST bus connectivity till next destination, so far we had no such luck for last 2 days. We enquired with villagers half-heartedly expecting a demoralizing answer. Looks like, our luck hadn’t run out completely. We were told, we had to still walk for couple of hours to reach a junction village, Aptale. A road from Junnar gets bifurcated at this junction. One road on which we walked from Naneghat for last 2 days, joins a road to ‘Manikdoh’ dam which we have been witnessing from last 2 forts’ tops. A road to ‘Manikdoh’ dam further extends to base of Hadsar fort. We were told, we will get a State Transport bus which has a frequency of 2/3 times in a day for the convenience of dam workers who travels from Junnar every day for work. Because of slight delay in winding up in the morning and mainly Mumbai habit of boarding a train at the last moment, we were delayed by 10 mins. Because of which last couple of kms, we literally had to run to reach at a stipulated time at Aptale village. And wow, there is no sign of bus or dust inferno on a dusty road caused by the bus. Road was flat and visual was clear for few kms on Manikdoh road. We were confused. Couldn’t figure, whether bus has left or still due to come any moment as we were just late by few minutes. When enquired at a standalone junction shop, owner looked at us with an amusement and started laughing. He asked us about our origins. When told him that we are from Mumbai, without breaking his laugh, he brought us the facts of rural ST timing which we knew as regular trekker in interior Maharashtra. In rural parts, public transport buses never run on time due to bad roads. Villagers who depends on bus travel, never take timing seriously. That means, the big news was bus hasn’t left.

We didn’t have to wait for long and bus wasn’t that late. Boarded the bus to reach Base village of Hadsar, name adopted from the fort.

We could have taken, a direct road from Ghatghar, base of Jivdhan fort, to reach Hadsar. If we could have taken that road, we had to give a miss to Chavand and Kukdeshwar temple.

Manikdoh dam was built some years back and the region got divided in two parts. Both forts – Chavand and Hadsar were divided due to dam’s catchment area. One can guess about the actual ancient trade route must have gone under dam water.

Hadsar Fort

Hadsar Fort – Parvatgad. Not a single route seen from base. All sides chipped to make this fort impregnable. PC: Mahendra Govekar

Also known as Parvatgad – a fort on mountain. When we got out of bus and dust settled down, stood in front of us was a mountain with all sides of it as bare as a bald’s head, no route to be seen. We had heard this forts’ impregnability which was a perfect example of ideal fort. On many forts which Shivaji Maharaj conquered, ordered either to make it difficult to climb or fortified them barring route leading to entrance, so that enemy can’t scale easily and not much finances are required for fortification. This was a uniqueness of many forts in Maharashtra. That’s the reason, many forts remained unconquered unless someone from inside commits treachery to open gates of that fort. As usual, we dropped our sacks at the base village. Armed with information of fort routes, important things to explore, we moved with water bottles and biscuits in smaller sacks.

Hadsar fort Map
Courtesy: Mahendra Goveka
Main entrance of fort.
PC: Mahendra Govekar

There were two routes to scale this fort. To reach both routes, first you have to take a mountain trail which leads to a pass. This pass is one of the umpteen number of passes in Sahydri mountain range which locals use to cross the mountain to avoid a long road at the base. From here, two routes get separated. We decided explore both routes. While climbing up a difficult one just to add some thrill on a relaxed trek. This was a Southern side route of fort is for those who love adventure and also a difficult one, but short cut by villagers to climb the fort. Small ledges cut in rock and for hand support, small iron pegs hammered in rock. It took hardly 30/40 mins for us to climb the fort by this route. Locals take half of the time. Today we were on other side of dam, as usual the view was breath-taking.

Rock cut door to make entrance stranger, just like fort. PC: Mahendra Govekar

When we climbed the fort, we were already told what to find on fort. Even if this fort is a grand rock, the creators of the fort had given a uniqueness by carving some delicate designer arches on huge entrance. You can find bastions still standing and inside were chambers carved for soldiers with delicate designer borders gives a feeling of a cave. These chambers were built with the purpose of rest rooms for convenience of soldiers on duty, so that they do not have to leave their watch at any point. We saw some plinths of houses on the fort, water tanks cut in rock transforms you in ancient time. This fort had mentions in Shivaj Maharaj’s era. After his era, fort was on a decline mainly due to British army and nature tried their best to destroy it. Route which we took for descend a clear example of the same. Though this was called a main route made in a mountain gap on Northern side has broken steps.

We didn’t spend too much time reaching at the base because our main attraction was to reach Junnar our final destination and stay at Shivneri fort.

Even if the frequency of bus service is regular, we decided not to take a chance. We were lucky to get a bus in some time which saved our time. We had plans to reach Junnar for lunch. On our way, a local sitting next to me showed some caves carved in one mountain on left. Those caves are called Tulaja caves. These were the Buddhist caves. Now we could connect the reason for carving theses caves to caves in Mumbai which is spread of religion.

Finally as planned, we reached our last destination, Ancient Market place known from 1st and 2nd BCE. This was a place where goods travelled from all over globe either sold or exchange hands to next set of traders or the same traders to reach capital of Satvahan dynasty, Prathistan or Paithan of present world, a major hub for trade famous for it’s specially designed saree – Paithani.

Kings from Satvahan dynasties who are responsible to build many forts in Maharashtra. There is a mis-conception regarding forts in Maharashtra are built by Shivaji Maharaj. The truth is, he conquered almost all forts in Maharashtra, fortified them wherever required and ruled this part of India. With memories of the greatest warrior of his time who has a huge imprint through his art of war, balanced rule and many more virtues, he is a legend. Many historians have written thousands of books on him. Today we were going to visit a place where he was born. A pilgrimage place for his followers and almost all Maharashtrians.

Shivneri from Junnar PC:

Market place, Junnar where we had lunch, has lost its glory and now remains as one of the thousands dusty towns of India who has progressed in modern world, doesn’t leave much impression. Had heard about few of remaining small monuments, but due to lack of time, we had to leave for Shivneri which is just couple of kms. Junnar is still a market place for locals for surrounding region to sell their agricultural produce.

Shivneri Fort

Shivneri Fort: Shivaji Maharaj’s birth place. One of Maharashtra’s non-religious pilgrimage
PC:FB/Group Shivneri trek
Shivneri Fort map courtesy: Mahendra Govekar
Shivneri Fort entrance and bastion

Very little is known about the original builder of this fort as other three forts were built by Satvahan Dynasty kings and can guess are the creators of this fort as well. While another theory is also true of Shivaji Maharaj’s father, Shahaji Maharaj.

When Shivaji Maharaj’s father, Shaharaje felt a need to protect his family when he was serving for Bijapur’s Sultan. He had hints of some courtiers’ plotting against him, he ordered to build a fort far away from Bijapur in Maharashtra’s Pune district on a mountain next to this ancient trade centre. We can guess, he must have ordered to further fortify this existing fort. This theory looks feasible than he being a creator of this fort. Satvahan kings who built other forts in guardian link, couldn’t have left this important market place unguarded, so this fort must have come in existence.

This fort already had some Buddhist caves before Shahaji Maharaj’s fortification, which are on the front facing Junnar.

With this history in our mind, we moved to this Maharashtra’s political and historical pilgrimage. As per our plan, we didn’t have any plans to spend a night in Junnar. After lunch moved to the main entrance of the fort which is now surrounded by so many constructions almost reaching to its base. It looked like this fort has walked in the town.

An inside gate

Shivneri fort is not meant for trekking, but a walk. After few steps, you enter the fort. However, there is one more route which is on the front face of Shivneri Fort when you are facing the fort at Junnar. We quickly strolled entire fort. Luckily other monuments on the fort like Shivaji Maharaj’s birth place site is preserved with care and tried to keep an ancient look.

Pond ‘Badami’
First floor room where Jijabai gave birth to Shivaji.

You couldn’t believe your eyes when you visit a room in which Jajaabai, Shivaji Maharaj’s mother delivered a greatest warrior of all time. It’s a fine example of Shivaji Maharaj’s simplicity right from birth. He never believed in flashy palaces suitable for a king. All his places of living are simple, but practical. He was truly a king of mass. Even his two Capital forts, Rajgad and Raigad have buildings which in no sense looks like palaces, but strong to resist any attacks. Apart from his birth place, there are few important There not many monuments on the fort. Very few are still intact except some plinths of some buildings, a pond named Badami’ at the centre and a mosque. From far off side, we could look back to see the historical path, we had walked on. Our journey of exploring the trade route was completed.       

Kulup Darwaja

There is no accommodation available on this fort, we decided to camp at one side near water tank. Spending a night at the fort was walking in the history events. I had transported back to the history. Imagining all historical characters and events coming out of this blessed earth by THE king. In my trekking years before 1998, I had witnessed some unusual events happening around me. Have gone through Paranormal activities sensations near few historical monuments or at some villages. Having gone through these experiences, I still don’t believe in these sensations. Always I have tried to justify these sensations on the basis of science, many a times concludes with non-possibility of these sensations. But there are some occasions, where all scientific parameters fall flat. Today was the day when earlier possibility was coming true.


We unpacked our grocery bags to set up kitchen. Three Partners decided to get freshen up and fill the bottles with potable water for cooking. When I was busy in preparations, I heard a feminine voice talking in a hushed tone alongwith bangles clinking sound. At first I thought, its my imagination and ignore the sound. After a minute or two, same thing continued. I was frozen and couldn’t concentrate in preparations. Though my partners were hardly 40/50 mtrs away, but I couldn’t utter a word to call them. The same sound continued for more than a minute and decided to walk up to them to have a chat. One thought vaguely brushed my mind of my partners decided to play a prank, so playing some tricks, but when I reached at the pond and found them busy in freshening, that thought of prank carried away with the wind blowing on the fort. After my narration of the incident, they came to our camping place and in a silence, witnessed the same thing which I described. We discussed and decided to search whole fort to find, if anyone else is also on the fort besides us. In next hour, we checked each and every corner, but none was found. In a silence, we prepared our dinner and still alert, noticed a change in the surrounding. Wind had stopped blowing, so as the sound. The fear in our mind had reached to its peak. With all those Hollywood horror movies we watched, we had serious doubts of our decision to stay at such place. We couldn’t sleep peacefully. We were just lying on our carrymats. Sometimes mind also plays games wo worsens the situation. After couple of hours, with a jolt, reality struck. Voila or rather Eureka! It was a simple law of Physics. Wind was blowing sound which travels faster in an unobstructed surrounding. With Junnar just 2 kms away from the fort, wind was a carrier of the sound from nearest home in Junnar. Once night had fallen and everyone sleeping, those sound waves also stopped. We slept peacefully with a final conclusion which was positive in nature.

Junnar from Shivneri Fort, just to give an idea of the travel of sound of the evening.

It was an eve to remember and one more story of paranormal activity added in my bagful of memories of years of treks till date. I can foresee an idea of writing a blog on all those memories of different sensations felt on various other treks.

In this sensational evening, we had forgotten our another worry. Last two days, after our night halt at Kukdeshwar, all of us had an itching sensation all over body, particularly upper part of body. We had slept on a floor covered with cow dung which is a regular practice in absence of concrete floor and cow dung keeps floor and walls cooler in summer and warmer n winter. We were scratching all over body.

Next day morning after wrapping up, we got down from steps route which were on the other side of the fort. Our itching sensation was getting worse. Surya with his sense of flora fauna, found a neem tree at the ST depot’s corner and got handful of its leaves. Neem is used in many of the medicines. We didn’t know neem can be used to get rid of itching sensation also. We went to rest room and rubbed crushed leaves all over body. Was this an innovation in medical history as after few years a company used this tree leaves in one of the body lotion.

Finally, we had achieved of a dream of walking on that ancient route till Junnar. Someday, we thought of continuing our travel till the route is extended to the major trade hub, Paithan.

Since then, we have been busy in exploring many routes, walking on untrodden paths on mountains, adding a wealth of knowledge and introducing newcomers on this positive addition called Mountaineering and instigating love for nature in them.

Will try to share few of those interesting stories of exploring mountains in my upcoming blogs.  

Some facts for reaching these forts, cave and temple:

Season: Throughout year, if travelling by private vehicle. In monsoon, you need to be extra careful on treks, otherwise the view is magnificent from Naneghat and other forts.

How to reach:
As mentioned in the main blog, Junnar is 115 kms via Malshej Ghat road. All 4 forts – Shivneri, Jivdhan, Chavand and Hadsar, Naneghat and Kukdeshwar temple are in the vicinity of 30 kms. You need to have couple of days to travel and trek on the forts to cover our entire route keeping Junnar as your base.

Where to stay: Junnar have budget lodges and also new small resorts at outskirts to cater travellers with various type of travellers.  

Keep on looking for more explorations through my view point…

2 Replies to “Following the Ancient trade route – in mountains”

  1. संपूर्ण ब्लॉग अतिशय सुंदर आणि अभ्यास पूर्ण.सर्व किल्ल्यांची माहिती इतकी छान आणि ओघवत्या शैलीत लिहिली आहे की किल्ले बघण्याची ओढ अजून खुणावते.enjoyed a lot day 2 …day 3
    सगळे फोटो ही माहितीला साजेशे आणि ज्ञानात अजून भर घालणारे.त्याच बरोबर तिथे कसे जायचे, कुठे रहायचे ही अतिशय महत्वपूर्ण माहिती ज्यांना जायचे असेल त्यांच्यासाठी अतिशय उपयुक्त.ब्लॉग लिहितानाची मेहनत स्पष्ट जाणवते.keep it up..very nice.


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