Sunday, July 11, 2010

4-Jul-2010: Trek to Purandar and Vajragad forts

Purandar and Vajragad forts are twin forts near Sasawad, Pune. Both these forts are historically significant. They are very much accessible from Pune. Purandar and Vajragad are two of the forts in the basin of river Karha. Purandar is the place of Lord Indra. Indra's weapon is Vajra. Vajragad is very much important for Purandar.

Location and getting there

From Swargate, take a ST bus going via Saaswad. Alternatively, a PMT bus can be taken just outside the Swargate station. It takes nearly 1.5 hours to reach Saaswad from Swaargate, depending upon traffic in Pune city.

Just outside Saaswad station, there are six seater rickshaws which can drop us at the base of Purandar fort. The return journey also needs to be agreed with the same rickshaws. Otherwise it becomes difficult to get any conveyance back to Saaswad. These rickshaws take nearly half an hour to reach from Saaswad to the base of the Purandar fort.

Having a vehicle at your own disposal eases a lot of troubles.


Purandar fort has very significant history.

The place seems to be inhibited for several centuries. At the North East lies a twin peak. At the base of this hill, there is a two storied cave. There were some idols in this cave. Now, there are only traces of the idols. Hence the antiquity of this place cannot be ascertained. However it indicates that this place was inhabited since ages.

The earliest record of Purandar fort is the conquest of Purandar by Hasan Gangu, the first Bahamani king in 1350 AD. He fortified Purandar.

In 1596, Pune and Supe were granted to Maloji Bhosale, Shivaji Maharaj's grandfather. Purandar fort was included in this grant.

In 1646, Shivaji established his control on the fort. This was one of the first conquests by Shivaji Maharaj.

Sambhaji, Shivaji Maharaj's son was born here on 14-Mar-1657.

In 1665, Mughals besieged the fort under the command of Jai Singh I. A fierce battle ensured and Murarbaaji Deshpande laid his life in the battle. The fort went into the hands of Mughals. Treaty of Purandar was concluded at the base of this fort on 11-Jun-1665. Under the treaty, Shivaji Maharaj conceded control of 22 forts to Mughals. However, in 1670, Shivaji Maharaj won back the fort.

Under the Peshwas, the fort was a stronghold. Peshwas retreated to Purandar whenever Pune was under attack directly. In 1774, Swaai Madhavrao Peshwa was born on this fort. In 1776, second Treaty of Purandar was concluded between the Marathas and the British.

On 14-Mar-1818, General Pritzler marched into Vajragad. On 16-Mar-2010, Purandar was surrendered to the British without any fight as Vajragad commands Purandar fort.

During the British rule, the fort was used as a prison and sanatorium for the British soldiers. Quite a few buildings were constructed on the fort during this time.

After independence, the fort is in the command of NCC. One needs to take permission of the officer at the entrance to see the fort.

During these changes, we do not recognize the historical monuments. The birth place of Sambhaji Maharaj could not be ascertained. The existing residence of the Commanding Officer is built on the basement of the residence of the Peshwas. Probably this is where Swaai Madhavrao was born. Laxmi Naaraayan temple was beside the school. Cemetery was right next to the temple of Purandereshwar. Sakharam Bokil's residence was near the store of the Engineering Department.

7:00 AM Started from Swaargate

We had gathered at Swaargate station at around 6:30 AM. Going by public transport for any trek is a tough proposition. Waiting on a Bus Stand is even more difficult. The bus stands are not very clean and hygienic. In this case, we had to wait for just about half an hour. We boarded a bus going to Wai via Saasawad. In another 1 hour 30 minutes, we reached Saasawad. The bus stand looked much cleaner surprisingly. Probably because less number of commuters using the stand.

The breakfast was served in the bus stand itself. The leaders arranged for six seater, while we were seated in the station. Saasawad is the headquarter of Purandar taluka in Pune district. There are quite a few places we can visit in this taluka. This area is not developed for tourism. There is a scarcity of information due to apathy. The journey took us through Old Saasawad. We saw that the place has a rich history. There are several palaces and temples. One must visit the place just to explore the rich legacy.

The countryside was pleasant. It could have rained anytime. The landscape was green. And we were going at a slower pace in the six seater. (There were 10 of us in the six seater.) We could not locate the fort until we reached at the base of the fort. All the mountains were hidden in the clouds.

9:30 AM Started climbing the fort

The road passed the village Naaraayanpoor and took us at the base of the fort. The visibility was low. The clouds had descended. We could hardly see the base of the hill. There are two ways to reach the fort. One by the new motorized road. This road directly takes to the maachi. We need to take permission of NCC Commanding officer. The second route is the old one which takes us to Sir entrance. The third route through Kedaar entrance is closed. We started climbing by the second route. Soon we reached the part covered by the clouds.
Due to the recent rains, everything was green. Shrubs and trees had grown. Summer will show a completely different picture.

11:00 AM Reached maachi of the fort

In nearly one and half hour, we reached the main entrance (Sir entrance) of the fort. These days, there is no fortification connecting to the entrance. It is said that earlier, there were 5 entrances on the route. Now only one remains. A road passes right behind the entrance. The entrance has steps leading to its top. There is an idol of Ganapati in the entrance. This entrance is well preserved except for the wooden door that must have been present long back.
The first thing we saw on the maachi was an abandoned Church. The bell is missing from this Church. There is no plaque to provide information about the Church. Probably this was built for the British staying on the fort. The maachi of the fort has several buildings built by the British and abandoned by now.
There is a statue of Murarabaaji Deshpande. He fought the invading Mughals and perished to defend the fort in 1665.

12:00 PM Reached Kedaareshwar temple on the top

Soon, we started for the fortress. Even now, we could not see the fortress due to the clouds. There is a proper pathway to reach the fortress from the maachi. It starts just behind the Purandareshwar temple. This one is wider and one can easily walk into the fortress. The other way is to climb straight. This part has difficulty. One must be careful while trying this route.

Within half an hour, we reached the fortress. The entrance (Bini entranace) is in good condition. But there is one wooden frame probably added much later. As soon as we climb the entrance, another entrance and the adjoining bastion awaits us. It is perpendicular to the first entrance.
Notice the two openings in the fortification for guns. Upper opening is for longer range. The lower opening is for shorter range.
We entered the Bini entrance. Immediately we saw some building. The roof is collapsed. Part of the walls of this building are also collapsed. However, we can notice that there was provision for wooden pillars inside the walls. A similar arrangement is seen in the buildings near Takmak point on Raigad. Probably this arrangement was for storing the supplies. There are a couple of tanks and one hill. This hill is called Raajgaadi. It housed the palace. We could not explore the hill thinking that there is nothing on it or on the other side of the hill. Ammunition store was below the hill.
The area of the fortress towards Vajragad is a small hill. It is called Kandakada hill. It houses some bastions, one tank, and one small entrance. Vajragad can be seen from closer distance. This place is just 3-4 meters wide at places.

We saw the area near the entrance and proceeded towards Kedaareshwar temple. Along the route, we could see wells/tanks, crumbling buildings all immersed in mist. Soon we reached a water tank called Mhasoba tank. The plain road is narrow and there is a danger of falling in the tank. Hence we descend from the other side and climb. Kedaar entrance is very near from this place. After walking nearly 20-30 minutes, we reached a flight of stairs. The visibility was very poor.
And soon, we reached Kedaareshwar temple. It is a Shiva temple, very simple in style yet very beautiful. It is situated on the highest point of the fort. There is very small area surrounding the temple.
Outside the temple, there one Nandi. It is covered with a mandap. Beside the Nandi, there is very old light tower. The light tower should predate the Nandi.
There is one samaadhi. No information is present about this construction.
It is said that there is another entrance (Kedaar entrance) just near the temple. However, it is closed. Due to mist, we could not see the anything around. We returned back to the entrance of the fortress. Had our lunch there. Vajragad could be seen in the distance. Not many of us did see the other extreme of the fortress (Kandakadaa hill). From the top of the fortress, we can see several buildings on the maachi of the fort.
We descended back to the maachi. On the maachi, we saw another monument of antiquity - Purendareshwar temple. It is a Shiva temple. There is another Shiva temple just behind the Purandareshwar temple. Now some of us were tired and did not want to see Vajragad. They all sat at one place. The remaining of us started for Vajragad.

2:00 PM Started for Vajragad fort

On the way to Vajragad, we saw several abandoned buildings. If roof is repaired, then they can be used again. One of them has smarak of Sambhaji Maharaj. He was born on this fort.

Vajragad seems very steep with vertical cliffs. But we traverse and reach the entrance. The entrance is not visible until we reach it. The last portion of the path has some steep ascent.

Vajragad was a potential threat for Purandar fort. It is almost equal in hight. Purandar can be easy target for cannons from Vajragad. Hence the hill is fortified.

2:45 PM Reached Vajragad fort

The entrance of the fort is well concealed. Now it is broken.
But once we enter the fort, we come into a plain ground. There are huge rocks in the center of the fort. One can circumvent the entire rock face. There are traces of existence of some buildings.
At the other end of the rocks, there is one entrance in the fortification. From this place, we can see one the lower part of Vajragad. One can descend and reach two temples - one Shiva temple (Roodreshwar) and one Hanuman temple. There are 3 tanks right next to the temples.

The far end of the lower ground has some fortification. Probably used for watching the surroundings. From this place, we can see the other side of the Vajragad. We can realize that this fort complex is susceptible for attacks from the gradual slopes.
From this extreme of the fort, Purandar and Vajragad can be seen together.

4:00 PM Back to maachi

After spending nearly an hour on top of the fort, we started to descend back to the maachi. Now we explored some of the abandoned buildings. These buildings had fireplaces, big halls, verandas. If the roof is repaired, then these buildings can be functional again. These buildings indicate that the fort had been some camp for the British. Nowadays, NCC has a camp on the fort. But nothing is maintained.

Within half an hour, we returned to the maachi. We could not locate the place where Sambhaji Maharaj was born. Nor could we locate the place where Sawaai Madhavrao Peshwa was born.

Immediately, we started to descend to the base village. The six seater was waiting for us to take back to Saaswad. In nearly half an hour, we were back to the base of the fort.

5:00 PM Naarayanpoor

The six seater took us into Naarayanpoor village. The village is famous for Datta temple. However adjoining the Datta temple, there is ancient Shiva temple. It must be nearly 800-1000 years old. There are six pillars. Probably they constructed a hall in front of the temple. The top portion is constructed with bricks. Now it is painted taking out antiquity of the monument. It only indicates that this place must have been important during earlier times.

6:00 PM Saaswad

The six seater dropped us back at Saaswad bus stand. Now getting back to Pune on a Sunday evening is really difficult. We struggled a lot to get some space in any of the buses going to Pune but in vain. Finally after nearly an hour's wait, some of us boarded one bus. Others stood in the bus.

8:00 PM Pune

The bus dropped us at Swaargate bus stand by around 8 PM.

Thus ended another good trek. I was glad to see the ancient temple in Naarayanpoor. However we could not preserve the crumbling heritage. Our neglect, apathy comes in between.

On the Purandar maachi itself, what was the need to construct so many Shiv temples? Having only one and maintaining it would have been far better.

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