Rajgad is a hill fort in Pune built on the hill called “Murumb Devacha Dongar”. It was initially called Murumbdev and was later renamed to Rajgad by Shivaji Maharaj. It is located south-west to Pune City and commands the Bhuleshwar range. The base village Gunjavane is around 60 km from Pune and 210 km from Mumbai. This fort was initially the capital of Shivaji Maharaj‘s Hindavi Swarajya. The capital was later shifted to Raigad. The area of the fort base is 24 square miles.
The fort is of great historic significance. Rajgad was home to Shivaji for over 25 years till he became Chhatrapati. Post coronation he shifted his capital to Raigad. The fort has witnessed lots of historic events, including the birth of Shivaji’s son Rajaram, the death of Shivaji’s Queen Saibai, the return of Shivaji from Agra, the burial of Afzal Khan’s head in the Maha darwaja walls of Balekilla, the strict words of Sonopant Dabir to Shivaji, and the Khandoji Khopade episode. This fort was also one of the 12 forts that Shivaji kept when he signed the Treaty of Purandar (1665) with the Rajput king Jai Singh in 1665 who was leading the Mughal forces. 22 other forts were handed over to the Mughals under this treaty.
There are many different ways to reach Rajgad; one of the easiest way but the longest is via Vajeghar-Pali. One of the most frequently trekked routes is from Gunjavane Village via the Chor Darwaja to Padmavati Machi which takes around 2 to 3 hours. There is another route from Gunjavane village that enters the fort through the Gunjavane darwaja but this is tricky as it involves rock climbing and an expert guide. Another interesting route is via Alu Darwaja. There are two ways to approach this entry point: Bhutonde and Pali Khind. The former however, is closed in monsoons as it becomes difficult to reach Bhutonde village from Bhatghar dam.
About the trek
- Rajgad – as the name suggests is Royal Fort or King of all Forts, truly one of the most fascinating treks. It is an epitome of high class architecture of the great Maratha Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaja.
- The treacherous approaches, zig-zag narrow paths, the deceiving double-walled shield of its fortifications, massive Maha darwaja and Chor darwaja tells the tale of the Fortress of the forgotten empire. The beauty of the fort and the surroundings is mesmerizing.
- The sunrise from Balekilla is a must watch. The fort offers magnificent views of the lush green Sahyadri range. In October the entire area is covered with colourful wild flowers combined with clear blue sky and the splendour of the fort is captivating. It can be done as a single day trek but to cover the entire fort you need to do a 2-3 days trek.
Day 1: Gunjavane Village (720m) – Padmavati machi (1187m) – Balekilla (1318m) 8 – 10 kms (3 – 4 hours)
Rajgad is a huge fort to cover and it requires 1 full day to cover the top, so If you are starting from Mumbai it is advisable to start early so that you can cover some part of it on the first day. From Mumbai / Pune reach Gunjavane Village.
You have 2 – 3 small shops and a few hotels where you can have snacks / lunch. You can also purchase any last minute supplies from here. Fill water here as there is no water en-route. Take the trail that starts from behind the Suvela hotel. The trail passes through fields and in around 10 – 15 minutes merges a wide mud trail. This trail takes you right until Rajgad. You will see the wide trail gradually climbs uphill and the trail runs parallel to the Suvela Machi and one can see Rajgad fort, Suvela Machi and Hattiche nedhe (a natural hole in the hill) in the left. Another 15 – 20 minutes and you can see Gunjavane Village visible below.
Continue on the wide trail till you reach a huge meadow. In the middle of the meadow you can see a small hut that serves as a tea stall which also serves snacks if requested. It takes around 30 – 40 minutes to reach this place. Continue on the trail that moves ahead and enters the thickets. In a few minutes you will come across a sign board in the left. Unfortunately the directions are not visible though. Post monsoon one can see colourful flowers and butterflies all along the trail. One can also see bunch of bamboo trees in between. After hiking for around 45 – 50 minutes you will see the trail gradually narrows down as it climbs up the ridge. Continue on the trail, you will notice the trail widens again and the fort can be seen in the front. It takes around an hour to reach this point. You can see the trail ahead climbs straight up the ridge and connects to the left ridge leading directly to the fort. Proceed ahead on the trail; you will see the mud trail now passes through woods and bushes. Solar lamp sheds are mounted all across the trail, wonder if they function at night :). In another 30 mins you reach an opening from where the Balekilla (citadel), Gunjavane darwaja is clearly visible. It takes around 1.5 hours to reach here. You will also find a local here that sells Buttermilk (Rs 5) and Lemon Juice(Rs 10), much needed in the scorching heat if the trek is done in October or Summers. Continue on the mud trail, the trail now gradually climbs up the ridge; it is covered with green shrubs.
You can see lot of parallel green ridges in the left and right all connecting to the fort. One such ridge in the left leads to Gunjavane Darwaja from Gunjavane Village which is another interesting route but requires climbing some rock patches. Proceed ahead on the trail, within 2 hours you reach the final rock patch. You will see railings are provided here to aid trekker’s right until chor darwaja. From here you can also see fort walls of Padmavati machi and railings at the Balekilla.
Last 20 – 25 mins of the trek climbs up the rocks till you reach the Chor Darwaja a small entrance to the fort, earlier it was used as the backdoor exit from the fort. However now it’s the main entrance to the fort for the trekkers. In another couple of minutes you will reach the Padmavati machi where your see the fort walls – remains of the great empire and the fortress. Looking down from the machi you can witness the amazing Sahyadris at their best. At the machi you come across the huge Padmavati lake. One can camp here or move up to the top most point of the fort Balekilla which is another 45 minutes of trek. Alternatively if you have time you can also visit Sanjivani machi and then proceed to Balekilla. Take the trail that moves ahead keeping the lake to your right.
In a few minutes you reach the Padmavati temple. As we proceed ahead of the Padmavati temple, we come across the residential quarters of the soldiers and the temple of goddess Padmavati, which is believed to have been built during Shivaji’s time and is worshipped by people from surrounding villages even today. Continue on the stairs that climbs up keeping the temple to the right. In a few minutes you come across a signboard, the trail forks into three parts, the straight one going up to balekilla, the left one going towards Suvela machi and the right going to the Sanjivani machi. The trail to the Balekilla is steep and climbs up 500 feet. Just before the Balekilla one comes across the Maha Darwaja, which is a 6 meter high doorway. After you enter the door there are stairs that take you to the lake and temple at the Balekilla. You can camp here for the night.
Day 2:Balekilla(1318m) – Suvela Machi(1150m) – Padmavati machi(1187m) – Gunjavane Village (720m) 12-13 kms (6-7 hours)
Today is going to be a long day as you have to explore the fort and then trek back to Gunjavane Village. After having breakfast you can explore Balekilla, Suvela Machi and Padmavati Machi before heading back to Gunjavane Village. You can also go back through the alternate routes that go to Pali village or extend your trek to Torna Fort through Alu Darwaja located on Sanjivani machi. Balekilla has the palatial remnants at the top. If you proceed ahead towards the other end (opposite to the entrance of the balekilla) you come across several water tanks that once contained potable water. The water however is contaminated now and cannot be used for drinking.
At the end you also have a semi-circular bastion, from where you get beautiful view of Sanjivani Machi, which is 2.5 km long and is the longest Machi. From Balekilla you can see Torana, Pratapgad, Tung, Lingana, Sinhagad and Visapur forts at a distance. You also get enchanting views of the Sahyadris, Mahableshwar range and Raireshwar plateau. Once you have covered the top you can move back to the Maha Darwaja. Before the Maha Darwaja you come across the beautiful Chandrakor lake that is shaped like a half moon and hence the name. You also come across a temple and some remains of the fort. As you proceed down the stairs you come across a huge hexagonal bastion from where one gets a terrific view of the Padmavati Machi, Suvela Machi, the green valley and the villages below.
Moving ahead from the bastion you reach the maha darwaja from where you entered yesterday. Proceed ahead from the Maha darwaja, tracing your steps back. Just after climbing down the rocky patch you will see a trail going to your right. The trail directly takes you to Suvela Machi through the edge of the valley. The narrow green grassy trail passes through shrubs and thickets. After a hike of 5 – 10 minute on the narrow trail you reach an open grassy ridge from where you can see the Balekilla and the other two Machi, Sanjivani and Padmavati extending left and right of the Balekilla. It takes around 25 – 30 minutes to reach this point from the Maha darwaja. Continue walking on the ridge, in around 10 -12 minutes you see Hanuman temple in your left. The temple contains a small idol of Hanuman surrounded with stones marking its boundary. You also have a small water tank on the left of the temple that contains potable water until December – January. As you proceed ahead from the temple you come across a tiny door (darwaja) which is hidden by stones – It leads to an underground passage with a hole at the end of the passage. This was used to punish the traitors; traitors were pushed down into the valley from here.
As you move ahead you come across the stairs that lead to ‘Chilkhati Buruj’, the entire Machi is visible from here. Chilkhat means shield & buruj means barricade. Like the one seen on Sanjivani machi, this buruj is also double walled providing additional protection to the fort. As you move ahead from the buruj you come across a gigantic narrow rock which resembles an elephant and hence the name Hatti Prastar. It has a natural large round hole in the wall called the nedhe also called waghobacha dola (Tiger’s eye) which can be seen from as far as Gunjavane village. You can climb up the rock to the hole for some marvellous views. After enjoying the views from the nedhe you can proceed to the end of the machi from where you get some tremendous views of Bhatghar dam and valley below. After absorbing the views that the fort has to offer you should retrace your steps back to the Hanuman temple. From here a trail takes you straight to Padmavati machi through a small door in the rock. You can now explore Padmavati Machi which has some old canon’s, Saibai’s tomb, temple of Goddess Padmavati, Padmavati lake, ‘daru-gola kothar’ (arms & weapons storehouse), ‘sadar’ (the place of meetings of important people), a private chamber under sadar and well that contains portable water. After exploring the fort you can proceed down the same route to Gunjavane village.
The secret to ascending any trail lies in building your cardiovascular endurance. You can begin by jogging everyday. Ideally, you should be able to jog 4 km in 20 minutes before the start of the trek. It takes time to be able to cover this distance in the given time. Start slow and increase your pace everyday. Swimming, cycling and stair climbing without too many breaks in between can help too. Strength This is another area you should work on. You will need to build strength in your muscles and in your core body. You can do some squats to strengthen your leg muscles. Do around 3 sets of squats, with 8 squats in each set. Apart from this, you can add planks and crunches to your work out.
Another aspect that will help you trek comfortably is flexibility. For this, you can do some stretching exercises – stretch your hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, lower back muscles and shoulders regularly. Carrying a backpack, however light, can become a strain after a while. These exercises will help you to be in good shape before the trek. Working out indoors
If you can’t go out and jog because of time and space constraints, here’s a video you can use to work out indoors.
No, stuffing it all in isn’t the right way to do it Packing a backpack correctly saves precious time that you might waste trying to find your things later. It is wise to spend some time on learning what really goes into packing a backpack.
How much should my bag weigh?
“Your backpack for a weekend trek should weigh between 8 and 10 kg,” explains Arjun Majumdar, co-founder of Indiahikes, “To break it down, your tent should weigh around 2.5 kg, your sleeping bag, around 1.5 kg, and the ration, stove and clothes should constitute the other 5 kg.” The best way to plan is by concentrating on the basic necessities – food, shelter and clothes. Gather only those things that you’ll need to survive. Do not pack for ‘if’ situations. “That’s one of the common mistakes that people make – packing for ‘if situations’. It only adds to the baggage that you can do without on a trek,” says Sandhya.
One good way to go about it is to prepare a list of absolute essentials. Start with the most essential and end with the least essential. That way, when you feel you are overshooting the limit, you can start eliminating from the bottom. Another tip is to be smart while packing clothes. Invest in light. wash and wear fabrics.
How to pack The thumb rule for this one is to eliminate air spaces. Make sure that everything is packed tightly, especially clothes and jackets, as they tend to take up maximum air space. Put in all the large items first. Then squeeze in the smaller ones in the gaps. This ensures minimum air space. A good way to pack clothes is by using the Ranger Roll method.
Where to pack
Bottom Sleeping bag: Make this your base layer. Sleeping bags tend to be voluminous, but do not weigh much. They’re perfect for the bottom of the bag. Tent: Just like the sleeping bag, even tents are voluminous and light. Keep the tent poles separately and place the fabric at the bottom of the backpack. Middle Heavy jacket: Roll up the jacket in a tight ball and place it in the middle of the backpack, close to your back. The middle region of the backpack should always have the heaviest items. You can store other things like ration or mini stoves in the middle. Other clothes: Roll other clothes and place them in the remaining space, to fill air gaps.
Top Water: Water, although heavy, needs to be easily accessible. So put it in the top most region of your backpack. Medicine box: This is another component that you wouldn’t want to be scavenging for when in need. Poncho: It could rain at any time in the mountains. So, ponchos should be accessible easily. Also, having a waterproof poncho at the top of the backpack provides additional waterproofing to items in the bag.