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Ankai and Tankai forts and Jain Caves near Manmad

Thursday, January 22, 2015

It had been 15 days in the New Year, and I haven't been for a trek. This feeling was killing me from inside. All the plans I was making were getting cancelled and I was annoyed with the same.

Hatia Lokmanya Tilak Terminus

I met up with Shilpa and decided to make a foolproof plan to visit Kohoj, that didn't workout, we then settled to visit Wai for an overnight trip. That didn't workout either. Finally we decided to visit Ankai and Tankai Fort.

General Unreserved compartment

As decided we meet up at Lokmaniya Tilak Terminus (LTT) to board the Hatia Lokmaniya Tilak Express. The superfast express train departs from LTT at 00:15 AM. We were to alight at Manmad Junction at 04:27 AM.  

Shilpa and Me at Manmad Station

I took a unreserved train ticket at Andheri station (Western Line). Point to be noted here is. We can get a unreserved train ticket from the start station till the end station. But you need to let the ticket vendor know whether the train you are travelling by is a super fast train or a passenger train as the ticket costs differ. The train ticket to Manmad Station cost me Rs. 110.

Shilpa and Me at Ankai Killa station

The train journey from Andheri to Dadar (Western Line) was smooth. I boarded the 10:31 PM train. It was empty and to top it, it was a fast train so I reached Dadar at 10:47 PM. Crossed over to the other side i.e Dadar of Central Railway. Platform No.1 was packed with people. I understood that either the train is either cancelled or delayed. It was both. I left the first train as it was packed. I then boarded the Thane local at 10:57 PM which had a lesser crowd. I alighted at Kurla station at 11:07 PM.

Goods Train, we crossed

Now I had to move over to the harbour line as the train to Tilak Nagar is from there. Tilak Nagar is a station on the harbour line. 

Group Selfie, backdrop is Ankai Fort

I had to change platforms to board the harbour line train. Again I was greeted with packed crowd at the station. What I learnt on the platform is that the previous train was cancelled and the current train is delayed by 10 minutes. Finally the train arrived at 11:40 PM. I managed to get in the train irrespective of the crowd on the platform, else I would be late to board the super fast train at LTT.


Tilak Nagar is the next stop after Kurla. LTT is located at a distance of 15 minutes (walking) from Tilak Nagar station. I managed to reach LTT at 11:57 PM. 

Landmark - Temple, opposite the fort

The last two compartments were unreserved. One for ladies only and the other general. Shilpa got in ladies unreserved compartment and me in the other. Though our bags were with Shilpa. The general was packed with men. I managed to get a place to stand in the train. It was not over packed. So I had some space to myself. Men were sitting, standing  and sleeping wherever they found place in the train. 

Temple at Ankai base village

The train departed on time at 00:15 AM. The train makes a couple of pit stops at Thane, Kalyan, Kasara and Igatpuri for attaching and detaching additional engines as it has to cross over ghats, then Nasik Rd and finally Manmad. The train then moves ahead to Hatia. 

Post Thane the temperatures started dropping and I had started feeling cold. To top it my pullover was in the bag with Shilpa. 

Unknown tomb at the base of Ankai and Tankai Fort

The train stopped at Kasara for attaching engines. I took advantage of this and headed over the ladies boogie to get my pullover. The pullover and the skull cap made me feel warm.

Another Tomb

Shilpa told me that in the night males are not allowed in the ladies unreserved compartment, but they are allowed in the day provided they can prove that they are related to the women in the boogie. Now what logic is this. 

The train reached Manmad at 04:55 AM. Now we had to board a connecting train to take us to Ankai Killa station.

Tankai Jain Caves and Tankai Fort

As we exited the train and the platform, the Ticket Checker (TC) asked us for our tickets. We both had tickets with us. Only difference was mine had super fast printed on it. The TC wanted to make a quick buck and so stated that Shilpa didn't have the right ticket. To this she informed him that the ticket vendor should let us know about it. She was not informed when we booked the tickets. Sad to say that after paying him 100 bucks he let us go. We asked him, what time the train to Ankai is. He informed that he was not aware about it and that we need to ask at the ticket counter. 

Steps leading to Tankai Jain Caves, Anaki Fort and Tankai Fort

We walked to the ticket counter to find out that the connecting train had already gone. He suggested that we should go the State Transport depot and board a State Transport (ST) bus and we did just that.

Group Selfie

We boarded a share a rickshaw at a cost of Rs.10 each, we were dropped at the Manmad ST bus stand. We inquired there and were informed that there is no direct bus to Ankai fort. But the highway is near the Ankai Killa railway station, which is near the fort and that we would be dropped there. We need to go walking from there.

That's Me
Highway is State Highway 10 also known as the Malegaon-Manmad road. 

Now the bus departs at 06:30 AM and so we had to kill time. We then decided to sip on some hot tea at a tea stall outside the ST bus stand. But as the weather was cold the hot tea grew cold in a matter of a minute or two. 
Structure near the Tankai Jain Caves

The bus started on time and by 06:45 AM, from platform no. 1 at Manmad ST bus stand and were alighted at the Ankai Killa Railway Station. Cost of tickets was Rs.9 each. The bus driver guided us with instructions from there to visit the fort. So board any bus plying to Malegaon. 

Tankai Jain Caves

Now there was a goods train parked near the railway line. We inquired with the station master about the same, he informed us to cross from below the line. This is very dangerous and one should not be doing it. Though we did cross this way under the guidance of the station master.

Tankai Jain Caves

Now there are two sets of railway lines that need to be crossed one with a set of three tracks and the other with just one track, after that you will reach a tiny tar road. There is a temple near by a yellow top (kalash). You just can't miss it. Keep walking straight on the tar road next to the temple, the fort is now on your left hand side. In 30 minutes time we were finally at the Ankai Village. It is the base village for the fort. 

Temple in Tankai Jain Caves

From the village one can see the caves and then the fortification of both Ankai and Tankai Fort. 

Note: there are no signboards here.

Sculptured stone outside Tankai Jain Caves

A series of steps will lead you to the caves. These steps were built recently as they looked new plus there is construction material located at the start of the steps. 

There are a couple of old structures near the base village and also near the caves. Not sure as to what it is.
Fortification of Ankai and Tankai Fort from Tankai Jain Caves

The were 7 to 8 caves here carved from the rock. The carvings on them were beautiful. Some of the caves were converted into temples. Good to see that people have taken up the work or restoring caves and forts seriously. The view was hazy but we could see farms, trees and houses in a distance. We could see the railway line and also the highway from here. 

View from Tankai Jain Caves

The time was now 09:00 AM on my watch when we breaked for breakfast. 

After having breakfast we decided to climb up the stairs leading to the fort. 

First you need to cross the bastion, from here is the main entrance to both the forts.

Elephants sculptured on the Tankai Jain Caves

The fortification is not all around of the fort but just a few portions of the fort. The meeting point of both hills i.e Ankai Fort and Tankai Fort is well fortified. The walls are redone but they still have a charm of their own. This place offers a wonderful view of the surrounding. 

Three Sparrow at Tankai Jain Caves

Now there are monkeys here. Point to remember here is. If you don't want to be harassed by monkeys, then don't harass them. Please keep food items in the bag, as they get attracted to it. 

Fortification of Ankai Fort

We decided to trek Ankai Fort first. The way up the fort is very similar to Lohgad fort near Lonavala. One has to cross a series of doors or Darwaza and steep steps to reach the top. These steps reminded Shilpa of Harihar Fort in Nasik. This part of the fort is still intact. Note that it will put pressure on your knew joints. 
Main Entrance to Ankai and Tankai Forts

Finally at 11:00 AM we were atop the fort. Now the reason why it took us so long is, we were taking selfies all the way up and were enjoying the view around. 

The weather was nice and cool, gusty winds blowing so we didn't break a sweat. We decided to do this fort in entirety. We first decided to walk around the edge of the fort so get a good view of the hillside and valleys and then trek to the top most point of the fort, where the orange flag sways in the wind.

Shilpa and Me at one of the Fort Darwaza

The fort is basically a plateau. The fortification is only at the entrance of the fort. The entire plateau is not fortified.We kept walking around the edge of the plateau just to get a 360 degree view of the surrounding. Which was amazing. The hill ranges in a distance, the fields below, the tiny houses amongst them and the barren land. The railway line which circles the fort. We could see Manmad packed with houses in a distance. 
View from the common entrance of Ankai and Tankai Fort

The plateau is mostly barren. I has huge cactus bushes on it. What we found strange is that most of the cactus bushes were covered with clothes belonging to men, women and children. We did ask a couple of locals who were on the fort about it. They gave us a lame reason that the clothes flew and came all the way up here. 
Tankai Fort

We then walked to the other end of the fort and located another square shaped fort like structure. A fort in a fort, no this is new. I was eager to go in and check it out. But Shilpa decided to spend some time near the pond outside it. 

Again no signboard to inform as to what the structure is. It was way different from the inside. It houses a dargah in the inside and a few windows on one side of it. There was also a banyan tree which has a couple of sacred threads around it. Also there was a dried square shaped pond in its premises, which had steps leading to it. Again it was isolated.  
Group Selfie

Coming to ponds, let me inform you that there are a couple of water bodies up here, some are ponds, others are carved in rock and have dirty water accumulated in it.  

There are a couple of temples and caves in its premises. The temples are open to pubic but not the caves as it is under lock and key. 
Playing cards in a water tank atp Ankai Fort

We then decided to climb up to the top most point of the fort. There is no proper route to take you to the top. You need to make your own. As the saffron flags are there, Shilpa said that there has to be a way to climb up this place. We took a difficult and steep route up which took its toll on me. It was a 80 degree angle climb. I was the weakling here and so it took us time to reach the top. Finally after 35 minutes of struggle we were on top. Standing tall on the highest point of the fort. The view from here was amazing. we could see what was there on Ankai plateau and also on Tankai plateau. Remember Tankai is smaller in height in comparison to Ankai. 
Another monumnet on Ankai Fort

Strong winds were blowing here. It was midday but we were not feeling the heat due to the strong winds. We had snacks here and started discussing personal and work life experiences. Now I had this scary thought in my mind. It was a pain to climb up, no way I am going down the same way. We then located another way to descend. Now we saw four ways that came up. We had to make a choice on the easiest way down. 
Inside the monument premises on Ankai Fort

The time was now 01:10 PM. We went as per our instincts and took up another way down, and this was the easiest way, both for climbing and descending. Why did it not occur to us earlier. Aaaaahhhhhhh.   

From the Ankai Fort the Tankai Fort is clearly visible. Again it has a fortification and is only till the main entrance of the fort. And that is the one only entrance or door or Darwaza to the fort. Again Tankai Fort is also a plateau and is mostly barren. There are just two house like structures atop it along with a pond full of water. 
Inside of monument premises

We then decided to descend the fort. Descending was equally difficult as it put extreme pressure on our thighs, knee and calves. Though there were steps, they were huge. 
Tem ples in Ankai Fort

We finally came to the meeting point of Ankai and Tankai fort. we dropped the plan of climbing Tankai fort as it was clearly visible from Ankai fort and headed back to the village.

Now the descend had started taking it's toll on our legs but we still managed to get down to the base village at 03:00 PM. 
Caves on Ankai Fort

Had refreshments here. Note there are couple of shops in the village which serve snacks and cold drinks. We then headed to the highway. As we needed to hitch hike to Manmad Station. 

After waiting for 15 minutes we got a shared rickshaw to take us to Manmad at a cost of Rs. 10 each. The distance from Manmad Station to Ankai Killa Station is around 8 KM.
View of Tankai Fort from Ankai Fort

We were hungry, had lunch in the form of chicken lollipop at a local roadside eatery and then headed off to Manmad station to book tickets for a super fast train to Mumbai.

Now the time was 04:20 PM on my watch. There are a couple of trains plying to Mumbai from here and we had to get on one of the trains to reach Mumbai. We started checking for train info to check as to which train would get us to Mumbai in the shortest possible time.   

Main Entrance to Tankai Fort

We first boarded the RBL-PBH-LTT Express, as it arrived the moment we stepped on the platform. Later at Igatpuri we swapped trains. We boarded the Geetanjali Express. 

Now at Igatpuri station, additional engines are attached to trains so that they move smoothly across the ghats. Funny part is, both trains took off at the same time. Is this a race? We were hoping that we made the right decision to swap trains. Lucky stars. The Geetanjali Express was the first to cross the finishing line. 
Monuments atop Tankai Fort

We were again travelling in the unreserved compartment. The general was full and there was no place to stand, so we boarded the ladies unreserved compartment. There were many men there along with their families. Then we switched over to the disabled unreserved compartment in the Geetanjali Express. But what was worth seeing is that even though it is a coach meant for the disabled, it had a upper berth, it had abled people travelling in it and to top it, it had a huge toilet. A toilet that big I have not seen in the Rajdhani either. On our way back we travelled standees and sitting too.  
Me, Tankai Fort in the backdrop
We finally reached Dadar at 09:30 PM.

Geetanjali Express

It was a good trek as there were stairs all the way up and the climb was not difficult, except for the last bit. We did manage to conquer the Ankai fort and see the Tankai fort from it. Road transport and Rail transport were easy to find. We didn't end up wasting a lot of time on waiting for the mode of transport. Also we had taken ample food and water supply with us. Great company always makes the journey fun. Thanks Shilpa.

Shilpa and Me on the railway tracks

A big thankyou to Aashish too, gave me guidance for this trip on call and also via his blog. 

Happy Trekking :)


Cynthia Rodrigues Manchekar said...

That was quite a detailed post, Merwyn. And the video is a great idea.


Thanks Cynthia
Planning to do more videos going forward

Anonymous said...

very few people know about the history of this fort

Green Teacher said...

It is very interesting journey and experience you share with minute details. your work is worth of appreciation. I hope that you will post your other journey also with same style. Such efforts are made people to travel and finally tourism development. This region is not a potential for agriculture and industry so tourism is one way to lift the income level of local people of Anaki and surrounding. From that point of view this work is best.


Prof. Nitin B. Borse, thanks for reading my blog

Vikas said...

Your determination is commendable. It's such a pity that tourism departments focus on the so-called popular spots, and neglect the comfort and amenities that could turn such unique places into attractions. Are these places deserted always? Ankai has been on my mind but frankly I don't think I have the inclination anymore after seeing the troubles you took to climb up and explore. Moreover, going there alone isn't such a good idea anymore. But lovely pics and details. Enjoyed reading!

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