Monday, March 2, 2009

28-Feb to 1-Mar-2009 Lohagad

Most of us are intrigued by the mysteries of sky some time or the other. To most of us, sky is ever changing. And we will not be able to distinguish planets from stars on our own. There was a program announced by Trekdi about astronomical night out on Lohagad fort. I took it as a opportunity to learn some of the mysteries of the sky.

Lohagad was an important fort right from Satwahan dynasty, nearly 200 BC. It was primarily built to watch the routes in the region.

This fort is called Lohagad after Sage Lomesh who was meditating here. 

After the downfall of Bahmani kingdom, the fort went into the hands of Nizamshahi in 1489. Thereafter it remained with till 1630. In 1630, the fort went under the control of Adilshah. Shivaji Maharaj captured it in 1648, two years after he captured Torna. Netaji Palkar was appointed to look after the fort and the surrounding region. In 1665, Mirza Raja Jaisingh attacked Pune region. Villages around Lohagad were ravaged. According to the
treaty of Purandar, the fort went into the hands of Aurangzeb. Shivaji Maharaj got it back in 1670. Aurangzeb recaptured it in 1700. Shahu Maharaj gave the fort to Kanhoji Angre.
In 1720 it was under the control of Balaji Vishwanath. 

Nana Phadanvis developed the fort a lot. He renovated the first, second and the fourth entrance of the fort. Jaavji Bomble and later Dhondopant Nitsure ruled under Nana Phadnis. Nana shifted his entire treasury on this fort, which was kept in Laxmi Kothi. Nana's wife came here in 1802.
In 1818 colonel Prother aptured Visapur fort. Lohgad fell into his hands without firing a single bullet.

Location and getting there
Reaching the place is very easy. From Pune take a local train going to Lonavala. Alight one station prior to Lonavala at Malavali station. From Mumbai, take a passenger train towards Pune. Malavali station is the next station from Lonawala. From Malavali railway station, walk towards Bhaje village. After walking for nearly 5-6 kilometers, we reach Lohagadwadi, the base village of Lohagad.

Malavali is famous for two cave complexes - Bhaje (barely two kilometers from the railway station); and Karla (5 kilometers from the railway station). Both these are Buddhists cave complexes.

28-Feb-2009, Saturday
5:30 PM Reached Pune railway station
All of us were asked to gather at Pune railway station. We reached there with our children. They were very excited at the prospects of watching the stars.

6:15 PM Local train to Lonavala
Tickets were booked for the entire group. Headcount was taken. We proceeded to the platform where train was expected to arrive. Some of us got some seats in the crowded local train.

7:45 PM Reached Malavali station
After one hour and 15 minutes of journey, we reached Malavali station. It was already dark. There were few lights along the road.

10:30 PM Reached Lohagad fort
Somehow, we continued on the road upto a small hotel. All of us took some rest. The group from Mumbai was waiting for us there. The entire group continued their journey in the dark. We were not realizing where we were going. There was a road which we traversed. But the road was very primordial. After nearly 2 and a half hours of trek in the night, we finally reached the top of Lohagad fort.

The fort itself is not very high. It is very easy to climb. From Lohagadwadi, there are we constructed steps. The fortification is intact. There are four doors on the way to top.
a) Ganesh Darwaja
b) Narayan Darwaja
c) Hanuman Darwaja (Oldest)
d) Maha Darwaja

In the night, we sat in front of the Shiva temple. There a telescope and a spotting scope were already set up.

From Trips - Lohagad

11:00 PM Star gazing
Without wasting our time, we quickly finished our dinner and started watching the sky.

Our astronomers Sushrut and Pinakin were guiding us through the sky. First we started with the sky towerds West. As this part of the sky would set very soon. Various constellations were explained - Leo the Lion, Gemini the twins, Libra, Taurus the bull, Cancer (partial), Orion the hunter, Big Dipper, North pole, Southern Cross. We also learned how to find direction from North Star. Southern Cross is the only way one can judge directions in the sky in the South hemisphere. Magellan used the same constellation during circumnavigation of the earth.

1-Mar-2009, Sunday
3:00 AM Slept
We saw planet Saturn and its rings through the telescope. We also saw Beehive cluster. Finally, I slept at 3:00 AM in the morning when I could no longer hold myself.

Most of us slept in the very big cave called Lakshmi Kothi. Few of us slept in front of the temple where telescope was setup. Lakshmi Kothi can accomodate nearly 50 persons. It has 3-4 chambers one inside another.

From Trips - Lohagad

7:00 AM Woke up

In the morning, I woke up at 7:00 AM. After readying myself, we strolled around on the top of the fort. There is only one source of potable water on the top of the fort. All other water tanks contain polluted water.

9:00 AM Introduction
We rushed back to the cave for introduction and breakfast.

9:30 AM to 11:00 AM Saw Lohagad fort
After introduction, we started seeing the fort. There are lots of monkeys on the fort. One needs to be careful!

One of the first thing we saw in front was Visapur fort. The two forts are very nearby. We could not visit Visapur fort though.

As per the inscription on Ganesh Darwaza, the construction was done by Dhondopant under Nana Phadanvis. After entering the Maha Darwaaja we come across an old dargah. There are remnants of the court beside the dargah.

After dargah, there is a Shiva temple and some water cisterns beside it.

Further down, there is a tomb of Sheikh Umar. As per the history, three Arabs named Sheikh Umar, Sheikh Salla and Sheikh Malang invaded Pune. Salla resided in Pune city and destroyed the temples. Malang went and stayed on what is known as Malanggad, near Kalyan. Umar seized Lohgad. A sage was meditating here. Umar threw him off the cliff and became the ruler here. Today this tomb has gained importance as pilgrimage. 

Further down the fort, there is a polygonal well constructed by Nana Phadanwis. Further down, there is Vinchu Kata (Scorpion Point). There are fortifications in this area. Lonavala and the expressway can be seen from this place.

From Trips - Lohagad

We took our luggage from the cave and started descending. The main entrance of the fort is amazing. The interconnected ramparts and doors are the star attraction of Lohagad.

From Trips - Lohagad

11:30 AM Lunch
At the base of the village, we had a lunch.

12:00 PM to 2:15 PM Walked to Malavali railway station
After our lunch, we started to walk towards railway station. The entire route has very few trees. The sun was shining bright. One needs to be careful and protect themselves during this route to escape sunstroke.

2:30 PM Local train to Pune
As soon as we reached the station, a train arrived. We somehow boarded the station.

4:00 PM Reached Pune
After nearly one and a half hours, we reached Pune.

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