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The land of forts

Friday, October 19, 2018

Maharashtra has 350 forts, each with its own history and special appeal. Makarand Chothe outlines the ones you must visit

Nestled in the Western Ghats or the Sahyadri Mountain range, and standing proudly on rugged hillsides across the state, or in the middle of the sea, are a whole host of magnificent forts that are worth a visit. There are around 350 forts in Maharashtra, and though many are in ruins, one can still feel the sense of grandeur —the rich and royal past of the Marathas and the Mughals.

These forts, which played an important role during battles, were built so strongly that even nature has been unable to harm them. Strategically located and cleverly designed, they had ample space for food grain storage; during war time, people did not suffer from lack of food. The water reservoirs were at such a height that they did not have to climb up and down for water daily. Also the king and the military were positioned in a way that they could keep an eye on all four directions and ensure the safety of the people.

Here are some of the must-visit forts in Maharashtra. We have only mentioned five, which can be experienced without guidance and expertise. The others are recommended to be visited under guidance and with experienced trek leaders.

Rajgad

Rajgad Fort is the capital of Hindavi Swarajya and was recognised as its first political base. This fort extends its boundaries of Hindavai Swaraj till Torna fort, which can be seen from the top. Although both the forts were equally unconquerable, Rajgad fort scored over Torna primarily because of its huge size. To reach Rajgad fort, one has to either cross a mountain or a river.

How to reach

Rajgad is 200 km, or four hours, from Mumbai. State Transport buses are available to reach the base. There are four routes from here, each challenging in its own way.

Rajgad via Pali Darwaja A small and easy trek.

Suvela Machi via Gupt Darwaja Moderate, route from the forest.

Rajgad via Alu Darwaja Difficult

Rajgad via Gunjavane Darwaja Moderate to difficult.

Time required Five to six hours

Sindhudurg

Sindhudurg Fort is situated at Malvan in Sindhudurg. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj built this fort in the ocean to keep a watch over enemies travelling via sea. It was built over three years, between 1664 and 1667.

How to reach

Sindhudurg Fort is 450 kms or approximately 10 hours from Mumbai. One has to take a 10 – 15-minute boat ride to reach it. The fort is very well maintained. Hiring a guide is recommended.

Major attractions

This huge fort, built in just three years, is very impressive. The massive walls will linger in your memory.

Time required Four or five hours

Raigad

Raigad Fort is among the most famous forts in Maharashtra. Built by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, it became the capital when he was crowned king. Raigad fort is at Mahad.

How to reach

One can easily reach by road. It is 165kms, or around four hours from Mumbai. Public transport is available till the Mahad base village. One has to climb approximately 1700 steps to reach the main gate. Alternatively, there is a ropeway.

Major attractions

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Statue, Bazar Peth, Maha Darwaza, Kings Durbar, Watch Towers

Time required Six to seven hours.

Lohagad

Lohagad Fort is at Malavali near Lonavala. (Loha means Iron and Gad means Fort.) The fort was captured by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in 1648 AD, but several other dynasties occupied it at different times, including the Satavahanas, Chalukyas, Yadavs and Nizams. Shivaji was forced to surrender it to the Mughals in 1665, but he recaptured the fort in 1670 AD. It was used as a treasury.

How to reach

Lohagad is just 100kms or four hours from Mumbai. This is easily accessible via road. One can take a local train from Lonavala and get down at Malavali station.

Major attractions

The strong walls are impressive. Also observe the Vinchu Kata; if you look carefully, it resembles a Scorpion’s tail.

Time required Three to four hours.

Murud Janjira

Murud-Janjira Fort is situated at Raigad district in Maharashtra. This is believed to be one of the strongest forts; it was built in the 17th century and is still intact. Since it was built in such a strategic location, no king was ever able to conquer it.

How to reach Murud Janjira Fort is just 165 km, or six hours, from Mumbai. This fort was built in the sea and hence one has to reach via a 15-minute boat ride. This fort is also very well maintained. Hiring a guide is highly recommended; they are good and provide enough information.

Major attractions

This is a remarkable fort; it was built in such a way that nobody can see its main entrance until they are just 40 feet away. There are three huge cannons on the fort, of which one is the second largest in the world. Also it surprising to know how it is so brilliantly built.

Time required One to two hours.

Stay safe

Trekking is not as easy as we think it is. It is always better to gather all the information before starting the journey. Usually in the mountains it is very easy to get lost. Also there may be wildlife , and thanks to forest areas, such places get dark soon. Due to lack of experience, people panic and take wrong decisions and get injured or trapped in accidents. Hence we always recommend seeking expertise before going to such places. The experienced trekker will always be ready, no matter what the situation.

Makarand Chothe is an avid traveller and also organises treks

Quick facts

Maharashtra has approximately 350 forts, which offer exciting treks and scenic views.

Though many forts are in ruins, there are some which are still in good condition and hold great appeal for adventure-lovers.

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