Monday, 31 March 2014

Gibraltar of the East, Fort Raigad_March 22-23, 2014

I had been to Raigad (किल्ले रायगड) about 20 or more years back. It was without the luxury of a Ropeway (that means climbing about 1500 steps to the top). Therefore, conquering Raigad once again was one of our long pending expeditions.

We started-off from Pune in the morning. We took the better conditioned Tamhini Ghat route. Varandha Ghat route is very bad. And, moreover distance from both the routes is same.

We had our breakfast at a newly opened Kamat Hotel. It is actually a bungalow converted into a hotel about 6 kms ahead of Paud; very small compared to those extravagant Kamat Hotels on other highways.

The route (Pune-Pirangut-Paud-Mulshi-Tamhini Ghat) is pretty straight and busy till Nizampur village after Tamhini Ghat. Road is pretty good, except a pathetic patch of 2-3 kms in Tamhini Ghat.

At Nizampur (निझामपुर), there is a left turn for Raigad (signboard is available). Raigad from here is about 30 kms. Road condition is bad, but this route saves about 50 kms if one goes via Mahaad. The route is deserted. Better to avoid it during late evenings / nights; no problems during the day though. We had our share of problem on this route; we had a flat tyre.

We reached the Raigad Ropeway office at the base at about 1.30 pm. Raigad Ropeway has a canteen & Rooms at the base as well as on top. However, AC Rooms are available only at the base. All information is available online. Room booking can be done in advance; however, Ropeway tickets are to be availed on the spot. MTDC also has non-AC rooms on top. We had booked a room on top through Raigad Ropeway.

After lunch we headed for the Rope-way. At the base a 22 minute film on Raigad is shown. Also, there is a museum displaying historical items of Shivaji’s era. However, there should be atleast 30 people. Unfortunately, we were only 3 of us.

We directly boarded the Trolley. It takes about 4 minutes to reach the top. The view is mesmerizing. Within seconds the village below starts appearing miniscule & in minutes it’s time to disembark. Better not to waste time in photographing. Just enjoy the show. But I did click a few photos & a video!!!



Next to the Ropeway Station are the Rooms & a Cafeteria of Raigad Ropeway. Just a caveat. Rooms are really, really basic. Those who feel they are the persnickety kinds; this is not the place for you. Those who are interested only in the Fort & its History, can go ahead.

Climbing about 25-30 steps towards the fort, are the MTDC Rooms.
In the evening, after a cup of tea, we started for a walk-around the fort. Guides are available. We took one. He charged us about 300 Rs. for 90 mins tour (actually, he completed within an hour). There is an entry fee of Rs. 5 per head by ASI (Archeological Survey of India).
Statue of Shiv-rai near Market Place -
installed sometime in 1970s
Shivaji (शिवाजी) took the fort called Rairi (रायरी) after defeating Chandrarao More (चंद्रराव मोरे) of Jawali (जावळी). Earlier he had requested Mores to help the Swarajya (स्वराज्य) by providing the fort. Chandrarao had denied. This was the year 1656. Fort Rajgad (किल्ले राजगड) was the capital of Marathas at that time. Rajgad was extremely difficult (for common public to visit their King) & it had very less space available on top. As the governance of Swarajya started rising, Rajgad started falling short of facilities & space. Therefore, even though Rajgad was the most favorite Fort of Shivaji, for strategic reasons, he decided to shift his Capital on Raigad in the year 1662; which he finally did in 1670. It took 14 years till 1670 to complete all the construction work that we see currently on the fort.

The total area above the fort is 1200 acres. There are about 300 buildings, 11 large lakes & 44 tanks. Architect of the fort was Hiroji Indulkar (हिरोजी इंदुलकर). It is said that during the construction when there was shortage of funds, he sold-off his own land & completed the construction. Whole construction was made of Stones extracted from the fort itself & cemented by mixture of Limestone, Jaggary & Lead. The reason, these remains still stand tall battling the environment since last 350 years. There is one Stone Plaque on the fort bearing a guarantee by Hiroji in Modi Script. It states that till the time Sun & Moon keep on shining in sky, this fort shall stand tall.

Coronation (Rajyabhishek) of Shivaji Maharaj (शिवराज्याभिषेक) took place on Raigad on June 6, 1674; he came to be known as Chhatrapati & formed his Saarvabhaum Saamrajya (सार्वभौम साम्राज्य - Sovereign State). He even started his own Shiva-Shaka (शिव-शक). He was only King who did so in 1000 years of Indian History after Shalivahana (discontinued later by Nana Phadanvis in 1777).

Shivaji died here on April 3, 1680. His stay on Raigad was of mere 10 years. His elder son Sambhaji Maharaj conducted his Last Rites on June 18, 1680 after his return from Mughals. One of the 8 wives of Shivaji, Putalabai Saheb, went Sati on June 27, 1680. Sambhaji constructed a Samadhi which we can see today on Raigad.

9 years after his death, Raigad went into the hand of Mughals on November 3, 1689 and then to Siddis in 1707. After 43 years, on June 5, 1733 Fateh Singh Bhosale (an aide of Chatrapati Shahu Maharaj) got back the fort into Marathas. Peshawas started controlling it from 1773 onwards. On April 25, 1818, during the last Anglo-Maratha War, British laid a seige to Raigad. When they were unable to conquer it easily, they mounted their Cannons on a nearby hillock by the name Kalkai (कालकाई चा डोंगर). During this attack one of the Cannon shot fell on Ammunition Store. Raigad burnt for about 11 days. Finally, Marathas on the Fort, surrendered on May 10, 1818 & Raigad fell into the hands of British.

After 1818, British looted whatever valuables remained on Raigad (the Gold Throne of Shivaji Maharaj was already melted & stolen by a Mughal Sardar of Aurangzeb earlier). They handed over the Fort to their Forest Department & it remained neglected. The Capital of Hindavi Swarajya & Samadhi of its Founder was soon forgotten by people. Mahatma Jyotiba Phule (महात्मा ज्योतिबा फुले) searched out this Samadhi in 1869.


After evening tea, we started to explore taking a Guide with us. The Ropeway is actually at the backside of the Fort. On the opposite side are the 1500 steps & the Maha-Darwaza (महादरवाजा). We entered through Mena-Darwaza (मेणा-दरवाजा), the door used by the Queens to enter / exit the Palace in a Mena (Palanquins). Immediately on left are the 6 doors. These are the 6 Palaces of the 6 Queens of Shivaji. Other 2 Queens – Saibai (सईबाई) used to live in Rajgad while Putalabai (पुतळाबाई) lived at the base village, Pachaad (पाचाड), with Jijabai (जिजाबाई) Saheb, mother of Shivaji. All 6 Queen's Room are exactly similar with a separate personal room & a meeting room for guests. A drainage system of those days is till today seen in some of these rooms.
Inside of one of 6 Queen Palaces
The Drainage System
On the right are the remains of the Mantralaya (मंत्रालय) building, The Ashtapradhan Niwas (अष्टप्रधान निवास - Minister's Quarters).
Remains of Mantralaya Building
Mantralaya Building -
Fort Rajgad (left) & Fort Torna (right) at the back
Straight ahead is the Palkhi Darwaza (पालखी दरवाजा) ascending the steps we can reach the Ganga-Sagar Lake (गंगासगर तलाव). Towards Right is the way towards Main Palace of Shivaji Maharaj. One can feel the grandeur of this area and the magnificence of this Palace that would have been in those days. In those days the structure was supported using high quality Sagwaan Wood Pillars.
Royal Palace Campus - Remains
Behind the Palace is the Raj-durbar, the Royal Court (राजदरबार). On the farther side a tall gate-like structure is seen which is the Nagaar-khana (नगारखाना); while just behind the Palace walls is the Place from where Chatrapati ruled Swarajya. A Meghdambari with Shivaji's statue has been kept on the place where Shiv-rajyabhishek took place. This was the place where there used to be his Gold Throne (Sinhasan).
Meghdambari with a Statue- Made of Panchdhatu;
Statue was installed sometime around 2007
Nagaar-Khana
Apart from the splendor of this Raj-durbar, there is one architectural wonder. The distance between Shivaji's Throne & Nagaar-khana is good 80 meters. Still even if you whisper from the Throne, voice is clearly heard at the base of Nagaar-khana (& vice-a-versa). This phenomenon can be witnessed even today. We have tried it.

Shivaji Maharaj was extremely fascinated by this system as well as overall construction of the Fort. He told Hiroji Indulkar to ask for anything in reward & that shall be provided. Hiroji, instead (the simple man that he was), asked for just one small demand. He said to create a Stone Plaque in his name stating - "सेवेची ठायी तत्पर, हिरोजी इंदुलकर" (Always at the King's Service). That plaque is seen in the Jagadishwar Temple complex on the Fort.

Crossing the Nagaar-khana there is a well-laid route towards Bazaar-Peth, the Market Place (बाजार पेठ). On your right you can see the Jagadishwar Temple (जगदीश्‍वर मंदिर - the Lord of the Fort).
Jagadishwar Temple
The temple is constructed in Islamic Style, looking at the Minaars & Central Dome. This was to save it from destruction in case the Fort falls into the hands of Mughals or other Islamic Rulers.
Bazaar-Peth
Market Place was the main trading area of the Fort. There are about 22 compartments (shops) seen. These are properly divided as the front shop area & the living quarters at the back. The height of each shop is such that the Sardars won't need to get down of their horses. They could shop sitting on their horse-backs.
The 7th left shop bears a symbol of a Snake, which is nowhere seen on other 21 shops. It is said to represent one of the big trader & head of the Market of that time, Nagappa Shetty.

It is this place where the Guides end their tour. From here we can cross the Bazaar-Peth and towards Right is the Jagdishwar Temple while to the Left is the Takmak Tok (टकमक टोक).
Takmak Tok is the place from where it is said that the death penalty was executed. The convict was tied inside a sack & then thrown off the cliff. It is till today a very difficult area on the Fort. And the strong winds make walking to it even more difficult. There are safety railings though.
There is one more story related to Tamak Tok. I am not sure how true it is. There was one person who used to hold an umbrella over Shivaji's head whenever Shivaji used to go on a tour of Raigad. While on Takmak Tok, due to strong winds, that guy got lifted upwards due to umbrella & he fell in the valley. But he kept his patience & didn't leave the umbrella & safely parachuted in the village below (Nizampur). Shivaji was extremely happy with his presence of mind & therefore, he named that village as Chatri-Nizampur.

We stopped our Raigad tour here as well since we had a small kid with us & walking towards Temple & Takmak Tok is really tiresome (for children & aged).

Next day morning, we again decided to spend some more time till the Ropeway starts at 8 am.

We walked down the Palkhi Darwaza this time. The Ganga-Sagar Lake & the 3 Watch Towers can be seen from here.

About 50 families still live on Raigad. Drinking water is used from this lake even today.
Palkhi-Darwaza - Takmak Tok at the back
One of the Watch Towers
Ganga-Sagar Lake
Panorama - 3 Watch Towers & a Strategy Discussion Room -
As seen from the King's Palace
After breakfast, we took our descend through the Ropeway. Within 10 minutes we were driving back. On the way, took a halt at the Jijamata Samadhi in Pachaad vilage (base village of Raigad).


The statue is so intricately carved -
just see the design on her Paithani Saree
We came to know that there is one exhibition of 20 miniature Forts of Shivaji, prepared by a localite. We went to see that, but it was closed at 10 am in the morning (?).
We took the Mahaad route this time. We were planning to see couple of places, the Buddhist Caves of Pale (पाले) & Hot Water Springs of Sav (सव). However, by the time we reached these places, it was 11 and the March Summer Sun was bursting extremely hot. Hence we cancelled the idea & decided to return to Pune.

After a lunch break at Quick Bite in Tamhini Ghat, we reached Pune at 4 pm.

Odo Readings:
0                     Narayan Peth
8                     Chandani Chowk
21                   Pirangut
29                   Paud
35                   Kamat Hotel
91                   Tamhini Ghat ends
105                 Nizampur
137                 Raigad base (Ropeway Parking)
159                 Mahaad
177                 Sav (Hot Water Springs)
200                 Maangao
210                 Nizampur
256                 Tamhini Village
316                 Narayan Peth






Sunday, 16 March 2014

Bhuleshwar: A Broken Beauty_March 16, 2014

It is hard to believe that a treasure of beautiful sculptures can be found at a distance of just about 50 kms from Pune. We decided to explore this place – for me, once again.

We started from Pune at about 8 am. We took the Pune-Solapur Highway (NH-9) via Swargate. After an awesome breakfast of Misal-Paav at Kaanchan (a Hotel just before the Bhuleshwar exit), we reached the temple. The temple is located about 10 kms off the Highway on a small hillock. This hillock is actually the Fort by the name Daulatmangal (formerly known as Mangalgad). Remnants of fort walls & bastions can be seen. The road up the fort is beautiful with excellent twists & turns. We went in hot summers; however, driving here in rains would be an experience to cherish.

The temple can be easily seen from a distance, with a telecommunication tower just behind it destroying the beauty of the place.

Reaching near the temple, a striking difference is seen as compared to other temples. Half the structure is made from Black Stone in a distinct Hemadpanthi Style while top portion, Shikhara, is of yellowish white coloured stone (seemed to be Standstone). More noticing is that the Shikhara is dome-shaped constructed in Islamic Style.

It is said that the temple was attacked by the then Mughal Rulers & destroyed. The Shikhara was completely destroyed. This was later reconstructed by the then Maratha Rulers. The workers were mostly Muslims and hence the Islamic Style is seen. The extent of this destruction can be felt once you are inside. The entrance is hidden. It has steps on both sides to reach the top; the passage is narrow & dark. It is said to be constructed after the invasion to prevent any more.

A large Nandi meets your eye as you climb these steps. Sanctum Sanctorum with Shiva Linga inside is seen ahead of the Nandi. The Sanctorum is at the centre surrounded by the open-to-sky pathway around 3 sides; further surrounded by the pillared corridor. The entire area of the temple is a treat to watch. Intricately carved sculptures of Gods, Goddesses, Apsaras, Yakshas, Nymphs & Celestial Beings are present. These are carved around the Sactorum outer walls from bottom to top. The “differently colored & styled” Shikhara can be seen from here. There are sculptures over the top side of the corridor as well as on pillars.
Sandstone construction over Black Stone
Pillared Corridor surrounding the Sanctum Sanctorum
This Beauty is posing here since eternity

But the sad part is each statue bears the mark of hammers of its invaders; each sculpture is destroyed. The sculptures even in their destroyed form look beautiful. So one can imagine how it would have been looking centuries ago.
Sculptures adoring the walls of Sanctum Sanctorum

There are murals depicting stories from our epics like Ramayana & Mahabharata. I could identify the scene of Bharat-Bhet from Ramayana. One area on the top displays Lord Ganesh in Feminine form (Vinayaki Pratima). It can be easily identified because of its Trunk & a Mouse as carrier.
Mural depicting Bharat-Bhet from Ramayana
Vinayaki - Ganesha in Feminine form
I saw one dark room at the side. Actually nothing was visible inside. I just clicked a photo using a flash and this is what I could see. The sculpture has striking resemblance to Lord Vishnu resting on a Shesh-Naaga. Lord Vishnu’s form is not clear though.

While returning we decided to visit Theur. More info about this Ashtavinaya can be sought here, our previous trip.