The other day, while running on the Tekdi, I bumped into a friend of mine - who owns a trekking club, and takes commercial treks all year round.
Breakfast on the way
We got talking, and I asked him for a quick 2-day trek, which was close to Pune, and didn’t involve much climbing - in short - was moderate for the kids. And, he suggested Raireshwar and Kenjalgad, a twin-fort combination near Bhor, which is close to Pune.
First view of Kenjalgad
I had taken Yuvaan on Saur Tal Trek in the Dhauladhar ranges of the Himalaya in May. During that trek, we met a family who was equally passionate about trekking, and we discussed a few places where we could go and hike together, when we return to Pune.
Getting freshened up before getting on the trail
Their names were Harshad, Pallavi and Gautam Karve. We did contact each other a couple of times during the monsoons, when people throng the Sahyadri for monsoon treks and the hills are all green and pretty. But, the plan could never get materialized, and it wasn’t before October that we could plan something. So, here we were - all packed in Harshad’s car, heading towards Bhor and further to Ambavne which is close to the base village.
Raireshwar holds importance in the history of Maratha empire, as it is in a temple on this fort that Shivaji Maharaj took an oath to establish his kingdom.
The temple dates back a couple of hundred years, and Shivaji had gotten a priest from Karnataka, by the name of Shiva Jangam, who monitored the oath taking by Shivaji Maharaj. And, it was interesting when we got to know that all 45 families on top of Raireshwar are Jangams now.
Everybody is pumped up...
It was 8 am, when Harshad and Pallavi picked me and Yuvaan up from our home. We proceeded towards the highway, when Yuvaan felt nauseated, for some reason. Last night, he had eaten a TON of paani-puris on my cousin’s birthday, and it was probably those things that might have created chaos in his stomach. So, it wasn’t long before he threw up, and that is when he started feeling comfortable and at home. Otherwise, he wasn’t his regular self in the car, which was a little unsettling for me.
Break near the stream..
We reached the base village, and asked the people whether there is any arrangement to stay on the fort. Or else, we had taken tents along with us.
Me and Yuvaan..
Usually, when people trek on such forts (which has been happening since last couple of decades, way before arrival of tents), people used to sleep in caves, temples, or out in the open. But, we had kids, and we had gotten spoilt with the choices life offered us now.
Walk on the road - boring!
So, as suggested by the village folks that we could stay in the temple of Raireshwar, or in an open shed, which was built for the same purpose, we kept our tents in the car, and started hiking up.
Directions towards Raireshwar
Right from the start, Yuvaan was damn pissed off on the fact that the trail was almost like a highway - a route on which a 4x4 would go. He is always interested in trails which are small, which have some exposure and there is some element of thrill in it. All along the route, Yuvaan was grumpy, pretending to be panting continuously, to portray that the trail was boring that he is getting tired walking.
Trail up Raireshwar
Harshad and Pallavi both knew that his capacity to walk is tremendous, and he is just throwing tantrums.
Selfie with Kenjalgad
The trail wound through mountains, and we took short breaks near a couple of streams, where we had our snacks and drank some water. After having snacks and water, we realized that the kids had gotten energized, and had enhanced their pace. We realized that it was probably a lack of food that had caused the kids to be lethargic. Plus, of course, Yuvaan was pissed at the trail being too wide.
After a few more switchbacks, we could see a car parked in a pass, which connects one mountain range to the other. This side was the Bhor side, and once we drive over the pass, we go towards Wai and Mahabaleshwar.
Nice pond on the plateau
Temple of Raireshwar
So, the people who knew this route are used to taking this to go to the hill stations of Mahabaleshwar and Pachgani. We all guessed that we are going to have to walk on paved road (which was going to piss off not only Yuvaan, but all of us), but that was the only way to go to Raireshwar. So, we took a break before the tiring walk on the paved road, and had our lunch.
Around 10 minutes of walk on paved road, we headed towards the famous iron staicase, which is installed on a rock patch which would have been difficult to negotiate. In such famous places, such installations are done for visitors / trekkers.
Me and Yuvaan inside the temple where Shivaji Maharaj took his oath for establishing his kingdom!
Once we went up from the staircase, we were on the fort. Another half an hour of walk on paved trail, and we were at the Raireshwar temple, where the famous oath was taken. We freshened up, and paid our tribute to the shivlinga inside the temple.
Inside the temple...
Picture depicting Maharaj taking oath!
It has a picture of Shivaji Maharaj taking his oath. When we asked the priest about staying inside the temple, he was hesitant, and told us that the village folks don’t like it.
Temple complex at night, from the village
Now, with no tents, we didn’t have a choice but to stay at one of the villager’s home; otherwise we would have pitched our tents in the open shed where we relaxed after the trek.
We prepared our meal, tea as well as an afternoon snack, which everybody relished. Pallavi liked the stow quite a lot, and almost decided that they are going to have one for themselves.
On our way back...at the village
The total area of Raireshwar, according to the locals over there is close to 27,000 hectare, and it takes around 3-4 days to roam around the entire plateau!
Selfie with village
Going down the stairs..
Out of the total land, around 3500 hectare belonged to locals who stay there, and the rest was under the forest department.
The sun was setting, and we could witness the chill in the air. Both the kids were layered up, and I went with the kids for the Maha-Aarti, which is held every Monday.
The prasad was rice, which was very soft and easy to chew on. We all had the prasad, along with our Khichadi, which we had taken along. Once we were ready to move, we called one of the locals, to ask for directions to his house on the fort, as it was impossible for us to find it, considering the trail crossed a stream, with trees around it.
Jeep waiting for us..
Also, when we thought of staying in the tent in the open shed, we would have faced problems, as it had huge halogen lamps, which were on solar energy, and they used to stay on for the entire night. So, sleeping in full light would have been difficult.
Keljalgad in a distance
So, we made it to the village, and slept the night at one of the local’s home.
Everybody on the stairs...
Going towards Kenjalgad
In the morning, we were treated with hot poha and tea for breakfast, and while discussing with Mr. Jangam, we learnt that the ridge that connects Raireshwar and Kenjalgad was entirely covered with grass, and it was impossible to go that route.
Inside the jeep!
The other route to climb Kenjalgad was to walk for about 2 kms on paved road, and then climb up to the fort. This paved road started from the pass which connects the two valleys. So, we decided to go to Kenjalgad base village in a jeep, which helped cut our travel time, and the driver (Mr. Jangam’s son) would help us with showing the trail.
He was from that region, so we went ahead with him, and parked our jeep near the village temple.
Kenjalgad was a small yet tough one! The steep ascent, with scree everywhere, but lots of trees and shrubs to take support of, this was something which we all loved, especially after the boring hike of Raireshwar.
Yuvaan and the guide
Yuvaan fell in love with this ascent, and told me at least 10 times how much he loved it. The ascent led us to a gigantic cave, where trekkers are known to camp for the night, when they don’t have tents and such.
All of us at the cave...
A little ahead of the cave, one could see giant steps cut out in the sheer rock face of the fort, which eventually led us to the top.
Topping out at Kenjalgad
Towards Mahabaleshwar..Dhom Dam
Once on the top, we had to wade through chest-high grass, to a high point on the fort.
Sunny day on top
Us on top
We all were a bit nervous for we shouldn’t be stepping onto any creatures like snakes or lizards, which would easily bite us. In case something like that happened, there was no way out. So, we just stayed at one place, soaked in the views, and decided to climb down.
We could see Panchgani, Mahabaleshwar, Mohangad (another fort) and the old lady’s teeth (Mhatariche daat) on Mohangad.
Going down....amid tall grass
The sun was up, and it had started to heat up, so we decided to climb down, as we had plans of visiting some real important historical places on our way back.
The descent was steep and slippery, so everybody had to be cautious.
Village at base
Almost everybody slipped one or more time. And, within no time - we were at the jeep, happy to sit in, with a satisfied look on everybody’s face that we “actually” did something which can be called a thrilling trek.
Local Village Temple
Our car, parked the previous afternoon
The jeep dropped us at the base village called Korle and we hopped into our car, to go to Ambavne and Kari, where interesting things awaited us.
Nageshwar TempleAmbavne was a village just a little north of Korle, and it was famous for two things - one suspension bridge over a river, and two - resting places for two of the most valiant Sardars (warriors / officers) during Shivaji’s time - Jivaji Mahala and Kanhoji Jedhe.
Old constructionWhen Shivaji went to meet the hugely built Afzal Khan, at the base of Pratapgad, in the forests of Javli, one trusted lieutenant whom he took with him was Jiva Mahala.
Jedhe WadaWhen Afzal Khan tried to kill Shivaji with his dagger, Shivaji ruptured Khan’s stomach, and pulled out his intestines with the tiger’s claw that he was wearing. As soon as Khan realized this, he called out for his bodyguard - Sayyed Bada (some people call him Banda), who stormed inside the tent with his sword, determined to kill Shivaji. However, Jiva Mahala was there, who cut Sayyed’s hand (which had the sword), with his Dan-patta (a long flexible blade, used as a sword).
Kanhoji JedheAnd, this is how the story goes in our local language - Hota Jiva mhanun Wachla Shiva (Shiva was saved only because there was Jiva).
Name PlaqueSo, it was almost mandatory for us to pay our respect at the resting place of such a great warrior!
Once we were done with this, we got a glimpse of Nageshwar temple, which is deeply related to the Raireshwar temple on Raireshwar.
Both temples belong to lord Shiva, and are highly revered. We were told that if we go around the Raireshwar plateau, we should be able to go to a local village called Kari, where the 14th descendant of one of the most trusted lieutenants of Shivaji lived; the warrior’s name being - Kanhoji Jedhe.
Armor used at that time...
When Aurangzeb tried to capture the entire Deccan plateau, Shivaji was one of his biggest nemesis, and whom he could never beat.
Personal Temple at Jedhe Wada
So, in order to beat Shivaji, and capture him, he tried all possible tactics - one of them being - to bribe his Sardars with money and land, so that they join hands with Aurangzeb, and fight against Shivaji. Many Sardars left Shivaji, one of them being Khandoji Khopde, who was a sworn enemy of Kanhoji Jedhe. Shivaji felt very bad that one of his good Sardars had joined Afzal Khan, and hence Aurangzeb. But, when Kanhoji Jedhe went to Shivaji, he swore his loyalty to Shivaji. He told him - no land, money or jewelry is enough for me to break my allegiance to you. I discard any such offer given by anybody!
This was a very important event in the Maratha history, and Kanhoji Jedhe commanded immense respect among the cavalry!
So, here we were - at the Jedha Wada (residence), where we met his 14th descendant, saw the traditional temple, swords which were used at that time, and the armor which was worn by Jedhe himself, all about 400 years old! The shivling (shankarachi pinda) was so unique that you wouldn’t get such a shivling anywhere, even if you ask for it. The temple was carved out of solid wood, and showcased an era which had people made up of a different nature!
On the way back...
We all felt inspired at the preserved condition of the artifacts at his residence.
Returning back home, there was only one feeling - Shivaji continues to inspire us, with his valour, bravery and above all - his personality, which evoked such loyalty from his commanders, that they were ready to lay down their lives for him!
No comments posted yet.