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Tung Fort or Kathingad near Pawna Lake in Lonavala

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Tung Fort is located in Lonavala which is easily accessible from both Mumbai and Pune by rail and road. It is located very near to the Pawna Lake. The forts of Tikona, Lohgad and Visapur can be seen from atop the fort. The fort is also called Kathingad. Which means difficult. Read on to understand how difficult it is to climb this fort. 
Infomation on Tung Fort

We had planned to visit Tung Fort along with Karla Caves, Bedse Caves and Tikona Fort. But due to shortage of time we had to skip it. 

We then decided to club it along with the twin forts of Shrivardhan and Manaranjan at Rajmachi along with camping at the banks of Pawna Lake. But had to abandon the camping part of it and so set out to visit the twin forts of Rajmachi and Tung Fort.
Tung Fort from the foothills
As decided we (Dominic and Me) met Manohar at Ghatkopar Railway station on the east side at 8 AM. We then headed over to Lonavala to conquer the three forts.

It was a day trip and we decided to do the twin forts of Rajmachi first followed by Tung Fort.
The temple at the foothills of Tung Fort
Now there are two ways of reaching Rajmachi, one is from Karjat via the Kondana Caves which is a proper trek and the other is from Lonavala via the road leading to Della Adventures which goes to the base village at Rajmachi. 

As we were travelling by car we decided to take the road to Rajmachi via Della Adventure. 
Hanuman Temple on the way to the fort
We had taken the New Mumbai Pune Expressway then exited it at Lonavala and then took the road to Della Adventure. Sign boards are put, so follow them. The quality of the road is not very good and it worsens once you cross Della Adventure. The road then turns into a muddy patch full of small stones so driving on them is quite a task for small cars. A roller coaster ride. Now we had to decide, do we go up this way or do Tung. As the road was bad, it would consume a lot of time. 
Fortification and steep stairs to reach Tung Fort
Parking our car there and walking it up to the base was also not a option as the stretch was approximately 15 KM away so it would take around 3 hours to reach the base village at Rajmachi. Then climb up the twin forts, lunch and back to the car park.That would consume a lot of time.
Trucks Tempos and SUV would make it to the top, but not small cars. We then abandoned the plan of visiting Rajmachi forts and headed off to Tung Fort. The time was now 11 AM on my watch.

Tung fort was approximately 30 KM away from here. 

We then headed over to Lonavala. Did shopping for fudge and chikki there and then headed over to Tung Fort. We traveled by the Lonavala Road then the Javan Tungi Road to reach the base of Tung.
View of Pawna Lake from atop the fort
The Javan Tungi Road was better than the road to Rajmachi. Though a tar road but was uneven, again we had to drive slowly so it consumed quite some time on the narrow and winding roads and finally we saw a small miniature board leading to Tung Fort. we followed that board and finally were at the base of the fort. There was a temple here, but couldn't locate any base village. Though we could hear children shouting in a distance, so we assumed that there is a village nearby. Tungi Village.
Bastion on Tung Fort
There are no shops on the Javan Tungi Road. So stock up food and water at Lonavala itself or at Tiger Point.

We had cakes near the temple. This was our first food intake on the trip. So we had plenty of them, lunch would only be served at Lonavala, that to after 3 hours.
Top most point on the fort
At 1 AM, with the hot sun shining on our heads we headed off to climb the fort.  There was a board put up there stating Kathingad. A few locals were there, I decided to ask them the grade and they told me it was difficult. Never the less we still headed off to climb the fort.
Rock cut water tank on the fort premises
As we were near the base, it was a straight vertical climb up the fort. Though it has small steps in the beginning which were later replaced by small and large rocks all the way up. We crossed a small Hanuman Temple. A ziz zag road led to the top. In a matter of 30 minutes we were around 50% up the hill. This place offered a beautiful view of Tungi village and the surrounding hill ranges along with Pawna Lake. 

We kept walking on the trail at the edge of the cliff and finally were at the entrance of the fort. It had a Darwaza and fortification. 
Dominic, Manohar and Me
Tung fort is basically conical in shape when you see it from Tikona Fort located on the other side of Pawna Lake. When we were travelling back from Tikona we were wondering as to how we would be able to conquer it, the shape was very unusual.

Tung fort comprises of three plateaus, the first one has a bastion on it, the second one has the main door to enter the fort, the Ganpati temple and water cistern, the third one houses the Balle Kille and water tanks.

That's me
We decided to skip the bastion on  the lower most plateau as we could see it from here. 

On the second plateau is located a Ganpati temple and a water cistern which is cut from the rock. The water in it is not portable. 
Another view from the top of Tung Fort
We then headed off to the third plateau from where lead the way to the top most point of the fort. Finally we were on the top. The time was now 2 PM on my watch. 

The top has a small temple dedicated to Devi Tungi apart from a couple of orange colored flags swaying in the wind. 
Another view from Tung Fort
We took a couple of selfies and landscape photos here. Though it was hot, we were not able to feel the heat as there was strong wind blowing. We didn't break a sweat either. Only problem is, there is no shade here. Suddenly Dom located a small cave, big enough to accommodate 7 people. It is right below the top most point. 

Tikona, Lohgad and Visapur Fort were clearly visible from here. Pawna Lake nicely twisted around Tung Fort. There were other hill ranges also in a distance. Finally we located the Tung Village which is not at the base of the fort. 
Manohar and Me descending Tung Fort
History states that this fort was built by Adil Shah and later conquered by Shivaji. Though this fort is small, my understanding states that this should be a watchtower for the two massive forts of Lohgad and Visapur. 

Not much of fortification is left on the hill. except for the main entrance, but the huge rocks from a distance camouflage as  fortification. 

We then decided to descend the fort, in an hour's time we were back at the base. Though this fort is called Kathingad, there is nothing difficult about it. It took us around 2:45 hours to see the fort. 
Watch out for this signboard on the Javan Tungi Road
We then headed off the Javan Tungi road to Lonavala. 

We decided to break at Allah Rakha Hookah and Restaurant near Tiger Point for lunch. As they were the only ones serving lunch at 4:30 PM. 

Had lunch in the form of Veg Kolhapuri , Butter Chicken and Roti's and finally headed back to Mumbai.

Finally at 7:30 PM we were back at Ghatkopar Railway Station. 

Though the trip was exhaustive and tiring, thanks to the hot sun, we still managed to have a great time as always. 

Thanks Manohar and Dom :)

Tikona Fort or Vitandgad in Maval near Lonavala in Pune District of Maharashtra

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tikona Peth (Fort) or Vitandgad is located in Maval near Lonavala. Tikona Fort is located very close to the Pawna Lake, Kamshet and Tung Fort. It is located in Pune district of Maharashtra. It can be easily accessed by road, the closest rail station is Lonavala.
Watchout for the signboard on the road

Tikona fort is located at a distance of around 14 km from Bedse Caves. That is roughly around 30 minutes ride by car. Again we referred to Google Maps for directions. But then the maps are not very accurate so do ask locals around. They are very helpful.
Fortification of Tikona Fort
We traveled by Bedsegaon Road - Pawnanagar Kamshet Road to reach Tikona Fort.

Public Transport is not very reliable here. We didn't see a single ST bus on our trip nor share rickshaws or tum tum.
Hanuman Temple atop Tikona Fort
The time was almost 1:30 PM on my watch when we braked for lunch on the way to Tikona Fort or Peth. After having a heavy lunch, we were deciding if we should climb up the fort, Nevertheless we still proceeded with our plan to climb the fort.
Cave converted into a Temple and a water body near it
After asking the locals we reached Tikona Village. The base of the fort is around 10 minutes away from Tikona Village. Car parking is available near the base of the fort from there starts the muddy trail up hill.
Nyaneshwar Mohur
The climb is a mixture of muddy trail, and rock cut steps till the top of the fort. The initial climb is a steep one  in a matter of 30 minutes we are halfway up the fort. Not much shade on the trail as we were climbing in  the hot sun in the month of March. The trail starts from the side of the cliff, then moves on to the ridge and finally back to the side of hill again.
Balle Killa or topmost point of Tikona Fort
Even midway up, we saw a wonderful view of the hills around us. But the sun was killing, thanks to the cool breeze blowing, we didn't break a sweat.  

We kept climbing crossed a cave, then Hanuman Mandir with a huge carving of Hanuman painted orange color. Initial signs of fortification had started appearing now.
Grinding stone
Finally we meet two guys, Nyaneshwar Mohur and Sujit Mohur who are a part of Shivdurga Samvardhan, who are the guardians and caretakers of the fort. Nyaneshwar Mohur was dressed like the Malwa (Shivaji friends and soldiers).
Steep Climb up Tikona Fort
Not much is known about the history of this fort. This fort was initially built by Nizam Shah in 1585 and later conquered by Shivaji in 1657, the fort was recaptured by Mughal warrior Kubadkhan and later conquered again by the Marathas. Thereafter it remained under Maratha control. 
Caves on Tikona Fort premises
There is a temple in a cave surrounded by water body which is more than 20 feet deep. As per Sujit no diver has been able to reach the bottom of the water body. The water is not clear and not fit for drinking.
Fortification of Tikona Fort
From there one trail goes downhill to the Maha Darwaza or Main Entrance to the fort and the other uphill to the topmost point of the fort. Now we were running short on time and hence we dropped the plan of visiting Maha Darwaza. Sujit informed us that the Maha Darwaza can be seen from  the topmost point of the fort. Though it is Maha Darwaza, one cannot ascend the fort from there. 
Caves atop Tikona Fort
As the time was now 4 PM, we decided to go uphill. We climbed the steep and narrow steps to reach the top. There are cables put up on either side of the hill so that you don't lose balance. The stairs reminded me of the ones in Sindhudurg in Malvan and Ankai and Tankai Forts in Manmad. Its going to be fun getting down these steps.
Temple atop Tikona Fort
There are some more caves atop the fort, apart from that there is a temple and a water body here. Not sure how deep this water body is. There is a flag erected on the topmost point of the fort.
View from Tikona Fort
Chilled wind blowing around us, though the view was hazy, Tikona fort offers a wonderful view of Pawna Dam, Tung Fort and other hill ranges in a distance. Apart from it one can  see the hills and valleys in a distance along with villages and fields.
Pawna Lake
It felt nice to be on top of the world. Sadly there is no signal for mobile phones up here. 

It took us around 25 minutes to explore the entire fort, we then headed down via the steep steps to reach the temple. 
At the topmost point of the fort
Sujit also informed us about caves midway downhill, but he told us that they are not Buddhist caves but Hindu caves so there are no carving on the wall. These caves are converted into temples now.
Me near the flag topmost point of the fort
The time was around 4:45 PM on my watch. we started the descend downhill. By 5:10 PM after posing for a couple of photo shoots we were near the junction, one trail going uphill to Tikona Fort, the other going downhill to the base where we had parked the car and the third to the caves. We took the path to the caves. Walked down hill, it was steep. We then gave up as we running short  of time and we had to reach the car before it grows dark.
Three of us at the water body
By 5:45 PM we were finally at the base of the fort i.e near the car. 

We cancelled the plan of visiting Tung Fort and clubbed it with our camping at the banks of Pawna Lake.
Tikona Fort in a distance
We covered Karla Caves, Bedse Caves and Tikona Fort in a day's trip. Not bad. All this was possible as we had traveled by car.

Though it was tiring we did enjoy our self. One never gets tired doing what one loves.

Bedse Caves in Maval Taluka near Lonavala in Pune

Monday, April 27, 2015

Bedse Caves are located in Maval Taluka near Lonavala in Pune District in Maharashtra. It can be accessed by road only. Maval district has Karla Caves and Bhaje Caves and Lohgad, Visapur, Tikona and Tung fort in its premises.
Vihara or dwelling room

After visiting Karla Caves we headed over to Bedse Caves. Please refer to Google maps for directions. As we were travelling by car it took us around 40 minutes to reach the base of the caves.
Narrow entry to one of the rooms
We traveled on the Ekvira Devi Road - Old Mumbai Pune Expressway - Pawnanagar Kamshet Road - Bedsegaon Road.

Bedse Village is a cluster of about 20 to 30 houses surrounded by fields on all sides. 
Vihara and another Cave
It was afternoon now. We parked the car near the foothills. Stairs are built to reach the top. The caves are not located atop the hill but somewhere in between, from the base of the hill one can locate the Caves.
Chaitya or prayer Hall
Again climbing the stairs is tiring. It will test your calves and knees. There are roughly around 400 plus steps to reach the top.

Finally we made it to the caves with a lot of breaks.
History states that the caves were built in 1st century BC. There is a chaitya (Prayer hall) and a vihara (dwelling room) apart from small caves and water tanks here. Fresh water is available in the water tanks. The water is cool and refreshing. 
Bedse Caves
The caves are smaller in size in comparison to Karla and Bhaje Caves.  

The viharas or the dwelling place of the monks, were rooms built by the monks to mediate. The floor of the rooms was uneven, The room will also consist of a rock cut elevated bed. Meant for sleeping. The entrance to the room is very narrow. I guess the monks were thin. The entrance to the rooms have beautifully carved horse shoe arches atop it. 
View of Maval District from Bedse Caves
The carvings on the Chaitya or prayer hall is very similar to Chaitya of Karla Caves. It has a stupa surrounded by pillars. But the pillars were not carved like the ones in Karla Caves. no wooden arches on the ceiling and no umbrella atop the Stupa. At the entrance of the Chaitya are Viharas with beautifully carved horse shoe arches atop it. The horse shoe arches are also carved on the walls of the caves. 

There is also a detailed carving of man, woman and animal atop the pillar at the entrance of the Chaitya.

Why am I even comparing these caves? oh God.
Carvings on  Chaitya in Bedse Caves
We met Santosh here, he doubles up both as a guide and guard at this place. Santosh is doing his MA in Economics and to earn pocket money works here 6 days a week from 9 AM to 6 PM. 
Chaitya in Bedse Caves
It was great chatting with Santosh. Though economics and history are not at all related he is still able to maintain a balance between them. He informed us about the history of this place too. 
We sat in the Chaitya premises. I felt so good to be here. All the sound I could hear was the chirping of the birds and the wind blowing. This is a good place to mediate. These caves are hardly visited by people. 
View of Bedsegaon from Bedse Caves
After doing my photography we headed over to Tikona Fort. At the base of the hill is this tree, covered with red colored flowers. Dominic was trying to convince me that this tree has red colored leaves. I was like "What?" Practically not possible. As we went closer we realized that they are red colored flowers but not a single leaf atop it. NO sign of leaves below the tree either, all that I could see is flower fallen from the trees.
The tree with red flowers

Karla Caves in Karli near Lonavala in Maharashtra

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Karla Caves or Karle Caves are located in Karli near Lonavala, in Maharashtra. Ekvira Devi Temple is located in the cave premises. The caves can be accessed by road both from Mumbai and Pune (cities in Maharashtra). Closest rail station being Lonavala Railway station.
Dominic, Manohar and Me in one of the viharas or dwelling place

Our original plan was to do a overnight trek to Karla Caves, Bedse Caves, Tikona Fort, Tung Fort and finally camp for the night near Pawna Lake. Our backup plan was to visit Rajmachi Fort in Lonavala. But till the last 10 hours we were unsure as to where we were headed.
View of Karli Village from the Karla Caves premises
Finally Dominic who had  accompanied Manohar and Me on our trip to Wai, gave the final nod and the very next morning we planned to visit Karla Caves, Bedse Caves, Tikona Fort and Tung Fort. 

We planned to go by car as ST buses and public transport is not very good around Lonavala, also the places we will be going are distant from each other. So a car tripping will help save on time.
Another view of Karli Village
As decided we met at Ghatkopar Railway station at 6 AM. We were greeted by rain showers. Rain in the month of March is very unusual. I guess this is the sign of global warming.
Other caves in its premises

Mumbai - Panvel - Mumbai Pune Expressway - Lonavala - Old Mumbai Pune Highway -  Ekvira Devi Road. This is the route we took. Google Maps are available for the same.

We had breakfast in the form of vada pav at the food court on the Mumbai Pune Expressway at 9 AM. 
Sculpture in one of the caves
There is an entry fee of Rs.30 to visit the village. From the village starts the round and winding road uphill to the base of the caves. The roads here are very narrow and steep so see to it that you drive in gear one and don't race uphill.
The big pillar with the four lions of Ashoka outside the main cave

The roads offer a beautiful view of the villages below, the mountain ranges in a distance and fields around. Sadly we couldn't stop on the way else we would have gone down the hill.
Carvings on Karla Caves

After paying parking fee of Rs.10 we set out to visit the caves. A series of steep steps, leads to the top of the caves. These steps did test our calves and knees. So take sufficient breaks while you climbing up. There are souvenir shops on either side of the road, selling articles of worship, restaurants, toys and local sweets. 
Beautifully carved entrance to the Karla Caves

Finally we reached the caves. Entry fee for the caves is Rs.5 for Indians for Rs.100 for foreigners. To his Manohar commented, "And we talk of racism." LOL.
Carvings on Karla Caves

There are around seven caves in its premises. Nothing much to see in the initial ones. Certain caves are located on the first level and second level also. But entry to these is not possible  as it is either locked or weeds placed on the stairs making it difficult to move up.

Surely something might have happened in the past due to which this restriction is imposed.

The vihara's or the dwelling place of the monks, were rooms built by the monks to mediate. The floor of the rooms was uneven, They had to sit on them for hours to mediate. I tried sitting on it and my bum started paining in 5 minutes, wondering how they would have sat for hours at a stretch. The room will also consist of a rock cut elevated bed. Meant for sleeping. 

Dominic, Manohar and Me
The place where the Karla Caves are carved is not the highest point on the hill. There is a small tiny road going uphill which takes one to the top. But entry here is restricted and there is a guard manning it. But this place offers a beautiful view of Karli Village and the surrounding hills. 

The Ekvira Devi Temple is located outside the main and the most beautifully crafted cave among st them all. 
The stupa in the centre with the wooden umbrella atop it, parallel pillars with carvings atop it and the wooden arches on the ceiling
There are lots of devotees at Ekvira Devi Temple. So there is crowd around the main cave. The Ekvira Devi Temple is old but not as old as the Main Cave.

Outside the Main Cave (Chaitya or prayer hall) is a huge pillar with the four lions of Ashoka on it. Though I have been to many Buddhist Caves in the past, this is a rare sighting.
Carvings atop the pillars with inscription on them
The Cave is huge both in length and breadth. They have put net on most parts of the caves so that it obstructs bats and birds from entering its premises, who dirty the place with their droppings. Ajanta Caves and Ellora Caves near Aurangabad, they too have nets all over the place.

The elephants, whose tusks have fallen, the carvings of the couple, Buddha mediating and carvings in the shape of a arc are beautiful. There are horse shoe shaped arch carved on the walls of the Chaitya. Similar to the Chaitya at Bedse Caves.
Inscription on the pillars
Inside the premises is a huge stupa with a wooden umbrella atop it. I haven't seen this in any of the other caves I have visited so far.

The parallel pillars leading to the stupa are beautifully carved at the top. A design which is uniform on all the pillars. We also located certain symbols on the pillars. There are writings both in Pali and Sanskrit on the pillars, as confirmed by Manohar.
Stupa with a wooden umbrella atop it
The top of the caves is made of wooden arches. It is surprising that it has survived all these years. 

It really feels nice in these caves. It took us back in time and we started discussing history. I loved history in my schooling days. But what is worth knowing is the handwork that has gone in designing these caves over the years. The Buddhist monks had to cut out huge portions of the rock so that the place could be built. For example to make the Elephants trunk, they have to remove the rock around it. As confirmed by Manohar.

The Karla Caves are maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) These caves were built between 2nd century BC to 2nd century AD

Though the Buddhist built these caves to mediate there is a huge crowd at this cave, mainly the devotees at Ekvira Devi Temple. So it is difficult to be at peace in this cave.

We the headed off to see Bedse Caves the second on out itinerary. 

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