Thursday, March 31, 2005 | 5 commentsby
I was all excited and so were my friends. All of us were taking a break from
work and had planned a good five days of exciting fun. We were going to Sinhgadh,
one of the Forts which once belonged to the great Shivaji. Sinhgadh (1290 m
above sea leve), was once known as "Kondhana" and is located 25 km away from
Pune. All of us had different ideas of how it would be, but we were all sure of
one thing. All of us were going to have great fun at Sinhgadh!
Historically, Sinhgadh has always been a place of great military significance, be it for the Marathas or the Mughals. Sinhgadh has always been associated with stories of bravery. The locals tell us that Sinhgadh is a place where valour is etched on every stone and the soil has turned red by the blood of martyrs! This fort is infused by tales of bravery. From the times when a Koli chieftain, Nag Naik, stoutly defended this fort (AD 1328) against the might of the Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq for nine months to the times of Jaswant Singh, Aurangzeb's commander, who dragged his guns up the fort's steep shoulders to avenge the insult to Shaista Khan, who had been rebuffed by Shivaji. It was at this very fort that Shivaji's general, Tanaji Malusare launched an attack to recapture the fort. In the ensuing battle, Tanaji valiantly laid down his life but captured the fort. A grieving Shivaji is known to have said, "Gad ala pan sinh gela" (The fort is won but the lion has gone). And this is how the fort got its name: sinh (lion's) gad (fort). Sinhgad lived up to its reputation even during the Indian freedom struggle. Lokmanya Tilak, the freedom fighter, had a bungalow atop here and Gandhiji is said to have asked for water from Sinhgadh whenever he was imprisoned at Pune.
But again we were more interested in fun than the history. The bus ride along the steep roads was just the beginning of it all. Finally after a 2 hour journey from Pune we reached the entrance of Sinhgadh. From that point onwards it was all walking. As we walked through we could feel the tiredness of the 2hr bus journey fade away. The air was so fresh and the gentle winds caressed you wherever you went. Our first target was to reach our dormitory, which was an old nunnery converted into a tourist bungalow. It took us about 30 minutes to walk from the entrance to the bungalow. On the way we could see many small huts and also some houses, one of which belonged to Lokmanya Tilak. Once we reached the bungalow, looking around we could see nothing but grass, trees and of course, the walls of the fort. As it was almost bedtime, most of us freshened up and went to sleep, anticipating a very busy day ahead.
Day two started with all of us going to take a look around the place. The place was so beautiful. With a glance across the walls you could see miles of open space. It seemed as if we were looking down from the windows of an airplane. We took a walk around the fort appreciating its grandeur and history.. There were monuments dedicated to Shivaji's son and also to a Mughal chieftain and we saw the wall, which Tanaji is said to have scaled. One look would be enough to scare, even the experienced climbers. It was almost straight and looked very slippery. It seems the soldiers had to scale this wall at night because the other sides were well guarded (The locals say they used a chameleon with a rope tied to its tail instead of the hook). The fort also houses a mammoth stable carved out of rock. There are also many small ponds including the famous Dev Taki. You can also see the NDA (National Defense Academy) khadagwasla from the top of Sinhgadh.
Day three was more fun. Although, we started late we were in for some high quality trekking. We took a ride to the base of the fort and started our trek and it was one of the more difficult routes we took. On the way up, you could spot these little rest spots made by the locals who made this climb daily. It was amazing to see these people making this climb to the top daily, though there are buses that they can take to the top. We saw little kids and old men climbing at a pace, which we could never hope to build up. Nonetheless, it was an amazing climb up to the top. The only thing we could see from below was the Doordarshan Broadcast tower which was at the highest point in Sinhgadh. After hours of trekking with generous breaks in the middle we reached the top. We had conquered Sinhgadh.
Day four was a rock climbing and rappelling day. Though most of us were pretty new to all this, it was one thing we couldn't miss. Under the trained guidance of our guides, we started our climbs. Though I did not particularly like the climb, rappelling was the activity I really enjoyed. Coming down the high cliffs was so much fun. I had been totally scared to take the first step, but after that it was pure enjoyment. That night our organizers had arranged for a treasure hunt which took us all around the fort. I had seen nightlife in the cities but never on a Fort before this. This was in addition to the nice campfires we used to have almost on all days.
Day Five was the last day of our stay at Sinhgadh. We packed our stuff and moved out. But not before we had devoured an amazing local meal prepared by the local chef. The curd in small clay pots that you get in Sinhgadh is just amazing! If you are a foodie, there is a special preparation called Sinhgadh style chicken, which is made on order. I think it is this sweet curd, buttermilk, Kanda bhaji, Pithle-Bhakari (Roti) and Chicken that drag many tourists here. It was a 2 hour drive back to Pune and the next day it was time to head back to the office.