Sunday, October 30, 2011
Frankly speaking, I had gathered very little information about Sinhagad fort from the internet. I had liked the pictures I saw online. And that was enough for me.
Sinhagad is a Marathi word which means Lion’s Fort. This fort is around 30 km away from Pune. It is around 1350 meters above sea level. Not much is known about who built this fort. But it has been in the control of both the Marathas and the British.
On this trip, I was accompanied by Nimish, who had joined me on earlier treks, and Nelson, a first-timer.
We had to board a train to Pune station and from there take the State Transport bus to Sinhagad base village and then trek up the fort. Most sites online had told us that it would take around an hour to see this fort.
We boarded the Pandharpur Fast Passenger train at Karjat at . As we had not made any reservations, we boarded the unreserved compartment. Pune can also be reached by road, but we decided to take the train as I love traveling by trains.
Most of the passengers were already fast asleep when we entered the coach. We made ourselves comfortable near the door of the compartment. We took turns, sitting at the door, to see the countryside sleeping in the dead of the night. As it was dark we could not see how deep the valleys were but we could see the countryside lit up in the distance.
As people alighted at their destinations, we took over their seats. Now we had ample space to sit and so we made ourselves comfortable. I was about to drop off to sleep when I heard a sound that made me wish I was somewhere far away and not on this train.
|Sinhagad from a distance|
A group of eunuchs were working their way down the coach, harassing the passengers and demanding money. The menace of the eunuchs is something that only those who have been harassed by them will understand. They demand money, rather than beg, and if you refuse to give it, they will try to touch you just to annoy you into giving them
money to get rid of them.
They approached us and we quickly gave them money. But one of them wanted some more money and he began his dirty routine to extort money from us. It was an embarrassment hard to get over. There were five eunuchs in all and we were just three of us. Nimish was fine but Nelson and I had a tough time with one of the eunuchs. Finally they alighted just before Pune. We thanked God for our escape. Our co-passengers had made no move to help us. They had just watched while the eunuchs harassed us. Later we learned that these eunuchs regularly travel up and down this train everyday and harass passengers into giving them money.
|Donkeys atop the fort|
At we arrived at Pune station. At the bus depot, we asked people for directions to Sinhagad fort. We were flooded with mixed suggestions which made it difficult for us to reach a conclusion.
Things did not get any better when we asked the ST bus drivers and conductors for help. No two people gave us the same answers. We had been advised by the passengers not to take the rickshaws as they charged exorbitant rates at night. We wasted 3 hours at the bus stop.
|View from the Darwaza|
Then we met a bus driver, who advised us to board a bus to Swargate bus stop, and from there, board another bus to Sinhagad. God alone knows why I believed in him and did
as he said. But his suggestions saved the trip. At the Swargate bus stop, the
friendly bus stop manager gave us a lot of information about how we
should proceed on reaching Sinhagad.
We had our breakfast at the village. There was a small school near the eatery where we were having our breakfast. A group of children were performing morning warm up exercises. It was a nice sight to see.
|Structure atop the Fort|
The climb from the base village was very steep and tiring. We managed to get up the main entrance of the fort in 2 hours time, having taken multiple breaks along the way.
The view from the top was beautiful. The valleys were deep and the hill ranges were covered with trees. A few horses and donkeys were grazing. Some village houses stood far away in the distance.
|Horse stable filled with water atop the fort|
The villagers had put up shacks on the way to serve refreshments. These included water, lemonade and buttermilk, fruits like Indian gooseberry (amla), guavas and raw mangoes sliced and seasoned with chilli powder and salt. It gave the fruits a very tangy and spicy
taste, a real treat for the taste buds. We were on an eating and drinking spree up here, drinking lemon water at every other shack. Very soon, we lost count of how many glasses we had. Along the way, we also had amla, guavas and raw mangoes.
Those who don’t feel comfortable climbing can always hire a vehicle which can take you up in less than 30 minutes. But then you will forego the joy of trekking up a fort.
At the entrance of the fort they are many villagers who gear up as guides to show you the important places on this fort. Some of them are dressed as Maratha soldiers of that era.
As we were about to enter the fort from Pune Darwaza a herd of donkeys came rushing down the Darwaza in hurry. So we had to move aside or else we would have been knocked down by them. The donkeys were laden with gallons on their backs.
Some of the walls of the fort were still unbroken. It was hard to believe that they still stood strong after all these years. They were made of stone and kept together with cement.
There are two towers of Prasar Bharti on this fort. These towers intercept Doordarshan signals (Doordarshan is the national TV channel of
) and send it to all viewers on their home television antenna. India
|Entry to the Fort|
The donkeys we encountered on the way up supply diesel to the operating rooms of these towers.
The fort houses two caves named “Ghodayachi Pama” meaning horse’s stables. There is a narrow entrance which takes you inside them. The pillars of the caves have been steadily getting eroded due to water seepage over the years. I think they could still hold on for the next 200 years. The caves could have housed around 40 horses. Unfortunately, the place was filled with water, in which floated plastic water bottles and plastic packaging of snacks.
When will people stop destroying our heritage with waste? Ideally they should carry all their waste back home and dispose it off in a garbage bin rather than leaving it behind on hills and forts, leading to land pollution and destroying the natural habitat.
|Thats me in the yellow T-shirt, Flying Fox|
There are many small temples here. I saw a tree with red leaves. It looked more like a big bush.
There were many water tanks or cisterns at a place called “Ganesh Taki.” Four of them of various sizes had been cut out in the rock. They were all polluted but there was one small one with plenty of guppy Fish.
The Kalyan Darwaza was also big and its bastions were in very good condition, This entrance is often used by trekkers. The Darwaza had carvings on the walls; one had the face of an elephant carved on it. Having seen all this, we walked on the walls to get a better view of the low-lying valleys below.
There was Flying Fox. Flying Fox means a cable fixed at two ends, one high and the other low, Goods and People can be transported via this, But on Sinhagad we transported ourselves from one end of the fort to another. We took our turns to enjoy this ride at just Rs 100 per head. It took us around 20 minutes to reach the start point but hardly 5 minutes to go down the ropeway. Oh, how I wish I could stop midway and enjoy the view with no earth beneath my feet. It was like flying without wings. I loved the feel and the thrill.
|State of my shoes|
After that we decided to head back home. It had taken us around 5 hours to see the fort. So much for those websites.
All the walking had badly affected our shoes. The soles were almost worn out. It took us around an hour to reach the base village. From there we headed to Swargate to board a Mumbai-bound bus.
In the bus, I recollected all the adventures we had had on this unplanned trip. It had all been very exciting and one of the high points had been the flying fox. Of course, the climb had been rather steep but we had managed thanks to the strong winds which kept us from perspiring.
It had been a great trip and we had the worn out shoes to prove it.