The Idea of Going to Raigad Fort
Have you ever wondered why people choose to do different life-threatening activities like rock climbing, big wave surfing, bull riding, etc.? Does not the risk of death or severe bodily injury seem too dreadful to those who venture into performing those adventures? I have seen people try to get out of their everyday state by doing something as simple as throwing their cycles in the river from a bridge, and if that doesn’t seem to get them out of their blues, they throw themselves from the bridge.
The risk of death for the people who pursue such daredevil acts (or tomfooleries, if one would call that), I think, is comparatively lower than the risk of death by boredom. When exposed to an uncharted territory, the body and mind adjust to the new environment, which brings some excitement, some setbacks, some unknown to be known, some fear to be conquered.
When life, including mine and that of others, becomes a series of mundane actions, one has to do something and spice it up a little. So, it was quite interesting to hear my colleague Paven suggest a rather adventurous trip to his hometown where a famous fort of great significance was located, namely the Raigad Fort. His suggestion, his excited narration of life in the village and the picture he painted of some mouth-watering food, popti, for instance, intrigued me.
Popti is a special dish made in a pot by adding some well-chosen spices, fresh vegetables, country eggs, chicken, beans, etc. Pavan was going to add fish in it because I don’t eat chicken but relish well-cooked fishes.
Most people who come to Maharashtra primarily live in Mumbai (or Pune) and its suburbs, while they hardly have any idea or seem keen to know about life in the village of Maharashtra. That is an area where I, as much as the people I put the blame on, have to reconsider and improve upon. What also intrigued me was the idea of going up the Raigad Fort, about which I have heard a great deal, and to which politicians and the general mass of Maharashtra (and people interested in the Maratha culture and history) make a point of going.
The Original Plan
Pavan had already put forward the plan of going to his hometown to a few more colleagues (Onkar, Ankit, Siddesh, and Rahul), all of whom seemed equally enthusiastic about the visit. Siddesh’s native, Dapoli, a town by the seaside, happens to be close by. The water around Dapoli beach, I have heard, is pretty clear and clean. So, we made a few alterations and added Dapoli in our itinerary.
The plan now was to spend the first day in Raigad, and the next day from morning to late afternoon at Dapoli. On the first day we planned on seeing the Raigad Fort, Pavan’s old house in the village called Shivthar, and in the evening we would go to a cottage (for staying the night), and enjoy relishing popti with whiskey. The plan was thus ready, and we booked the tickets online.
The Modified Plan
As the day of the visit approached, like all things, the plan seemed to be falling apart. Siddesh had mentioned that he won’t be able to make it (and he had his valid reason for it, so it would be unwise to pick fault with him). Onkar had stated that he had some presentation to do in his college, therefore he won’t be staying for the second day at Dapoli. Seeing this change of plan, I suddenly remembered that I had my own plan on the second day and I decided to drop the plan for the second day to Dapoli, but the plan for the first day (about visiting Pavan’s hometown and the fort) was still on. Pavan added another member (a cousin of his) to the plan.
The Day before Going to Raigad
A few days before the actual day of traveling to a particular place, one’s thoughts often revolve around what essential stuff one has to carry to make the journey a smooth one.
- No sunburns, no heartburns: If you have to travel during the daytime and if the day happens to be hot, you should carry something like a packet of sunscreen, a cap, a hat or an umbrella. My wife lent me her sunscreen. She said that if I look any worse than I was, I should be ready for heartburns. Aside from the sunscreen, I took out a cap that was lying cold in some corner of my wardrobe.
- Keep the energy high: To keep yourself hydrated and your energy high, energy drinks can help, and in my case I got a can of Budweiser that was actually an energy drink and had no alcohol. There is a funny incident related to this, and it will be revealed as we progress further in this post.
- Eye for eye: If you think you will be helpless without your spectacles, as I think I will be, it is worth carrying an extra pair of spectacles, who knows when the one you are wearing will fall as you suddenly skid, stumble or fall.
- The only bank you can own: If you are like me, who clicks 10 photos in five seconds with the phone, consider carrying a power bank to ensure your phone is juiced up, because the chance is high that the phone’s battery would exhaust fast. You can think of some other knickknacks that would be essential in your journey.
- Scarf: Covid taught us the importance of wearing masks, but before the popularity of masks, people used their scarves for various purposes. Now the danger of Covid is waning, and so is the usage of masks. But the old scarf is back in action. Scarves can be a lifesaver. On our journey, scarves helped us to block the dust from the road and smoke from the vehicles that crossed us by.
A Brief History of Raigad Fort?
Raigad Fort, also called Rajgad Fort (Royal Fort) lies in the Raigad district of Maharashtra and forms a part of the Western Ghats.
Before being called Raigad Fort, it was known as Rairi Fort, situated in the jungle of Jawali. Chandrarao More ruled the jungle of Jawali. When Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the founder of the Maratha empire, first saw the fort of Rairi, he was greatly impressed by its formidable height. One way to keep the enemy at bay is to ensure that you have as much advanced ammunition that will last till the enemy has exhausted his own ammunition and surrendered; another way is to choose a strategic location that would naturally hinder the enemy from reaching you. The fort of Rairi provided one such natural advantage.
Shivaji Maharaj tried to form an alliance with the then king of Jawali and expressed his thoughts through correspondence, but the king refused to be a part of Shivaji Maharaj’s notion of a Hindavi Swaraj, and instead offered him insults. Shivaji Maharaj was left with no option but to usurp power from Chandrarao More. After winning the battle with Chandrarao More and taking control of the mountains, Shivaji Maharaj changed the name Rairi to Raigad.
Shivaji Maharaj’s Rajyabhisek (coronation) took place at the Raigad Fort, upon which the suffix Chhatrapati (king of kings) was added to his name.
As one of the tallest forts in Maharashtra, Raigad Fort offers one a panoramic view of the landscape in the Konkan region. In fact, it is said that many other forts that were under the possession of Shivaji Maharaj could be seen and kept a watch on from the Raigad Fort. Shivaji Maharaj further expanded and fortified the fort with his chief architect, Hiroji Indulkar, and made it one of the strongest forts in the Deccan plateau. During this time, Shivaji Maharaj oversaw the making of numerous ponds and over 300 stone houses. This fort, unlike many other forts in India, has very difficult terrains, and it’s a wonder how the gifted architect Hiroji Indulkar made such magnificent temples, marketplaces, lakes, palaces here.
Shivaji Maharaj made this fort the capital of the Maratha empire in 1674 and the fort remained a stronghold of the Marathas until 1689. Thereafter, the Mughals overpowered the Marathas, captured the fort and changed the name to Islamgad. But it could not be with the Mughals for too long, and came into the possession of the Marathas again. In 1818, the fort became a target of the British East India company who had come to India, and the British mostly destroyed the fort by bombardment. The structure of the fort was made from stone and wood. While wood has gone due to being burnt from bombardment by the British, the stone remains.
Besides being a great administrator, one can assume, from the way he acquired one after another forts, that Shivaji Maharaj had great fondness for forts. He was born in a fort called Shivnari. At the age of 16, while others could not make up their minds as to what they wanted to do for the day, Shivaji Maharaj had captured his first fort. During his lifetime, over 365 forts came under his possession. At the Raigad Fort, he lived from 1670 to his last breath on 3rd April, 1680.
The Raigad Fort served as a safe and secure base for the Maratha army, and today it stands as a symbol of Maratha pride, and reminds one of how visionary and great Shivaji Maharaj was.
How Do You Go to Raigad Fort?
Raigad does not have an airport or a railway station, which leaves only one option for the traveler: the road. It is equally convenient to go to Raigad either from Mumbai or Pune. The cheapest mode of going there would be to get in the State Transport (ST) Bus. You can take your own vehicle if you like, but if you are a tourist, you can hire or rent one.
How Did We Travel?
We went by bus. The colleagues got on the bus at Thane, while I waited for them (and for the bus) at Belapur bus stop, because the bus had to go through Belapur, where I live.
The time was 12:54 AM. While I stood in the bus depot, I saw other passengers get on the bus and go to their destinations, such as Kolhapur and Satara. The buses for Bangalore, and further down south, have to pass through the same route.
The temperature was 24 degrees Celsius, which was relatively hot for a winter night and during midnight at that. I was sweating and yet had my jacket on, which was in anticipation of the bus that was to come soon and the prospect of the cool air one would be subjected to in the bus in the Konkan region.
After a few minutes, Pavan rings me up and says that the bus is reaching my location now. A bus arrives and I see some of my colleagues’ hands waving at me from the window. It was a surprise to see that the bus was not the infamous ‘lal dabba’, but a rather comfortable one. From what I have heard, traveling in the lal dabba was akin to getting on a roller coaster. On the bus, I met my colleagues and Pavan’s cousin called Amar. Whatever uneasiness I had about the addition of a new person melted away when we actually met Amar, who, I should say, made the journey all the more interesting and lively with his humor and easygoing attitude.
From Belapur, the bus leaves around 1:30 AM. The bus makes a few stops for refreshment and bio breaks. The vehicle makes many turns, which makes it impossible for one to sleep. However, when I saw how peacefully my colleague Rahul was sleeping (and for a while Onkar also did) I questioned myself and thought I was not making enough efforts to get some sleep. But everyone is not Rahul, and no matter how hard I tried, I got no sleep at all.
At 5 AM, we got off the bus at a place called Birwadi, which is a small town in Mahad. We walked for a few minutes to Pavan’s house. The moon was still up, and the air was cold. It’s a good thing we got our warm clothes. Some dogs were barking at us, and Amar shouted back at them. As we reached Pavan’s house, we found his cousin and uncle waiting for us.
We decided to catch some sleep and a few mattresses and chadars were arranged for us. Sleep came to the others almost as soon as they laid down, while I could not get even a wink of sleep. I could have gotten some sleep, but the collective snoring of the colleagues kept me from doing so. I would have snored as well had I but slept.
A Sunny Morning
Without a wink of sleep in the night,
Surrendering to human snore and mosquito bite,
The time was finally ripe to get the morning view,
And the view was so sunny and the day so new
Upon getting up, I took a small walk to look in and around Pavan’s house. Next to his house was a rather lavish and imposing house, which, Pavan told me, belonged to the son-in-law of the MLA of Mahad.
The sun was up in its glory, which is what I needed in the morning’s coldness (vitamin D was an unintentional bonus, of course).
Pavan’s aunt arranged the water for our usage in the morning. Each of the colleagues took a quick bath. The bath was necessary because on top of the Raigad Fort (to which we were heading in a few minutes) was a temple of lord Shiva and we were going to pay a visit there. They looked at me and seemed surprised that I was not taking a bath. The morning was cold, which discouraged me from bathing. Moreover, I had taken a bath last night before leaving the house. The colleagues sighed and called me an impure person. I was not bothered.
We Hit the Road
After having refreshing cups of tea and bowls of poha, prepared by Pavan’s aunt, we move out of the house. Two bikes were arranged while heading out from the house, and then another one was added on our way out. Pavan arranged the bikes well in advance by speaking to his cousin and, I think, a friend. Apart from the fuel charges, we did not have to pay any extra charges for the bikes.
The roads in Mahad are pretty good. The surroundings, as far as I could see, were quite clean. The region is buttressed by the Sahyadri mountain ranges. Two rivers flow through the region, called Savatri and Kal. Savatri is the larger river and Kal meets with Savatri at a certain point. Pavan narrated how most of the portion of his town came under water due to flood water from Savatri.
Metalled, Stony and Dusty
Although the highway at Mahad is good, as you take a turn on the road towards the Fort, most of the road is under construction.
If anyone intends to travel anywhere, it is advisable that one get the proper gear for the body such as legs and arm guards, helmets. We did not wear helmets, but wearing helmets is important. An untrained rider will have some difficulty in traveling through the roads. As most of the road is under construction, every time another vehicle, in particular when the four wheelers pass through, a great layer of dust rises and fully covers the rider (and the pillion) who comes from the opposite side. It is similar to how one’s situation would have been if one were to participate in a battle of sand and gravel; the enemy has an advantage over you as the enemy is fully armed, and the moment you go anywhere near the enemy, you are fired upon. Taken by surprise, all you see is dust and smoke. We had our handkerchiefs (an important accessory that one should carry while traveling) and we covered our mouth and nose with that. I saw some riders on their Royal Enfield Himalayan bikes (good choice for such roads) and had the proper gear for their bodies.
For the convenience of the homo sapiens, the roads were being broadened, and it was the trees that had to suffer. The mountains of the Konkan region are rugged and stony and seem unshakeable. Making roads in these regions must be very difficult. But humans are ingenious beings and can always find a way, and humans have found a way by inventing heavy machineries. So, here we are, paving our way with the human operated machines, jolting, jerking the peacefully sleeping boulders.
The road snakes around the mountain and the vehicle can go considerably up, and the best part: the road around the mountain is in excellent condition, offering one a sigh of relief. As I looked at myself using the phone’s selfie camera, I saw that the color of my hair, which was supposed to be pure black, turned golden, which was a result of dust accumulation from the dusty road.
Getting down from the bike, I further observed that it was not only the hair, but even the clothes, the spectacles, had a good layer of dust (Amar’s clothes seemed to have attracted the most amount of dust). We moved ahead, shrugging the dust.
Many schools in Maharashtra arrange a tour of the Raigad Fort for their students, and we saw some buses carrying the students. As we went further up, several vehicles lined up, and several people marched to the base of the fort. The fort is a good spot for a one day picnic. Those who are tired of the hustle and bustle of the city can find some solace in the Raigad Fort.
The Base of the Fort
As we reached the base of the fort and got down from the bike, layers of dust had to be wiped from the spectacles. Our body had to be shaken, and the hair dusted.
Once a person reaches the base of the fort, one can find two options to go to the top of the fort: one that is super easy, and one that is very taxing. The easy option is getting to the top of the mountain through the ropeway in less than five minutes, and the difficult option is going by the steps, which, for the untrained legs, could take over two to three hours. The base of the steps and the base of the ropeway are in different locations, about 20 to 25 minutes away. The ticket price of the ropeway per person to and from the fort is Rs. 310, while a single way ticket (either to or from the fort) costs Rs. 190. The timing of the ropeway is from 8 am to 5 pm.
Ropeway or Steps?
We spent a considerable amount of time discussing whether we should go by the ropeway or by the steps before going to Raigad Fort, but could not come to a final decision.
When we reached the base of the fort, we were still unsure. Pavan, Rahul, and I walk every day to the office, and on Saturdays and Sundays, I tend to walk about 15000 to 20000 steps. But the fort was a different matter; it was all uphill. We were not very sure of Ankit and Onkar. And, what’s funny, they were not sure of themselves.
There were a few small eateries near the base of the fort, which seemed rather tempting, so we decided to go in and eat, for that’s more important than prolonging our discussion on an empty stomach. “While we eat,” we said unanimously, “we can discuss and come to a conclusion”. We ordered vada pav and tea. The vada pav was really delicious, so we ordered one more plate. Then another plate was proposed, but this time, except for two people, most of our stomachs were full, so only the two of them, who still had some appetite, ordered.
Food does good not only to the stomach but, it seems, also to the brain, because we were finally clear about going by the steps, which will be a tiring, time-consuming affair, but surely more adventurous than going by the ropeway.
On the Way, Up the Fort
I heard a guide state that there are 2300 steps that lead one from the base to the top of the fort. While many travel bloggers and travel portals state that there are about 1700 steps. The best way to verify this information would be for oneself to count the number of steps as one goes up the fort. I tried doing that, but after counting some steps, I lost count of the number, which gave me a chance to focus on the scenic view instead.
The climb up the fort is a truly arduous activity, in particular when your normal physical activity is limited to walking from one room to another or just taking a stroll. The ordeal became evident from the faces of Onkar and Ankit, who now, from their body language, seemed unsure if they had it in them to go up further. It seemed they were going to suggest that it was better to choose the ropeway, but we had already come to about 250 steps, and now going by the steps means undoing the effort of going up so many steps. With the will to do, and some encouragement from others, humans can surprise themselves with what they can do. Every time Onkar and Ankit went up a little, their efforts were appreciated, and they were encouraged. With every word of encouragement, they found a reason to move their way up.
On the way up, one can find small shops where one can take a little rest under the shade of the shops, have something to drink such as cold lemon juice (which we did) and keep yourself hydrated.
We made a mistake by going to the fort in the afternoon when the sun was blazing, so there was more sweating, more need to quench our trust than would have been if we had made the move to the fort early in the morning.
Some portions of the way are plain surfaces, walking on which is easier. Instead of walls, one can see iron railings in that portion.
Some steps are smaller than the rest and are highly elevated, which makes one tired easily.
While on the way, some portions of giant rocks protrude out.
The higher up we went, the better the view became.
What to See at Raigad Fort?
The question should not be so much about what you can see at Raigad Fort, but it should be about what you can see from Raigad Fort. While what you can see at Raigad is surely historical and important, what you can see from Raigad will be one of a kind of experience that you will always remember. Nonetheless, here are a few things we saw while we were going up to the top of the fort.
One would not know that in the middle of the steps leading to the top of the fort, there is a Maha Darwaja or Great Door. It has two bastions and serves as the main entrance point of the fort. The Maha Darwaja seems solid and imposing, and seems as robust as it always was. In the past, guards were always present to keep a check on who was entering the fort and who was going out. Today as well, guards are present, but they are unarmed and their main job is collecting entrance fees from the tourist.
The Maha Darwaja has a smaller door within the larger door, which was made to let individuals pass through. While the large door was opened only when the going and coming involved riding on horsebacks or when the royal ladies had to be brought on the palanquin.
Affixed to the door are many pointed spearlike rods which kept elephants from damaging the door. In the past, elephants were used to break into big doors which proved too much for the humans.
If, by any chance, the enemy manages to get past the Maha Darwaja, the puzzling curve in the steps and walls would have made it difficult for the enemies to move ahead, because while the enemies could not have seen what was above them, but who were above could see the enemies, and they could easily drop boiling hot oils on the enemies, forcing them to step back.
While we sat for a while on the steps in front of the Maha Darwaja, posing for photos, Amar spoke to almost every tourist and everyone seemed to entertain him. Amar approached one person and asked him what he did for a living. The person said that he was an English teacher. Amar suddenly pointed his finger at me and said to the men, “He is Ramu Das, from north-east, and only understands English and no other language. Let’s have some English sessions.” I smiled. The English teacher smiled. Amar laughed.
As we kept walking, we came across a pond called Hatti Talav (elephant tank), which had very little water. A description board near the talav states that the talav has suffered from water leakage issues and work was going on to make it leakage proof. This talav was used for elephants’ bathing. How did elephants come to such an elevated hilltop where humans had such difficulty getting to? You might wonder. This question puzzled others as well. The answer is that Shivaji Maharaj had brought baby elephants when the elephants had puny physiques.
Shirkai Devi Temple
As we move further up, we come across a small temple called Shirkai Devi Temple. Shirkai Devi is a village deity and a fierce form of goddess Shakti.
We Reach the Top
While coming up to the fort, and seeing what an arduous thing it was to do, I wondered who in their right minds would ever think of invading this hill. Yet several powers and empires made repeated attempts to capture it. The British, who were frustrated by the might of the Marathas, resorted to bombarding it, leaving ruins behind them.
The fatigue and physical discomfort on the way up suddenly vanished a few minutes after reaching the top. The challenge of getting up the stairs finally borne fruit. The fort is one of a kind and provides a panoramic view of the picturesque landscape, and this, and the material treasure that was in the fort, was the reason many powers and empires made their attempts to take the fort.
Holi Cha Mal
This is a spacious site where the annual Holi festival used to take place. I have heard that the burning of Holika used to be an occasion of fun activity in which a coconut would be thrown on fire, and as it burnt, it had to be pulled out by the bare hands. Whoever pulled the coconut out of the fire was rewarded with a gold ring.
Near Holi Cha Mal is a statue of Shivaji Maharaj sitting on his throne on a pedestal.
Next to Holi Cha Mal, opposite the statue, is the Bazar Peth (market place). The Bazar Peth is a long line of raised concrete blocks in two columns. There are 22 shops on each side. The shops were made on high plinths and had inward steps which enabled the soldiers on horses and the women on the palanquin to shop without getting down. The inward steps allowed more space for the horses to move. However, some refute the claim that these were actually shops; they say that these were resting places for the soldiers.
As we keep moving from the Bazar Peth towards the Jagdishwara Temple, to the left at some distance, we see a spot called Takmak Tok (more about this in a while) where many people were heading to. We decided we will go to Takmak Tak while coming back from the Jagdishwara Temple and the Samadhi of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, an adherent of the Hindu faith, ordered the construction of the temple and it is said that he visited the temple every day. The temple, like the markets, lakes, pillars, and the palaces, among many other things, was built by Hiroji Indulkar.
The exterior of the temple resembles a mosque and has six minarets. Some say that the resemblance to a mosque was a deliberate attempt to protect it from Aurangzeb and his force or similar forces who intended to wipe out the Hindu culture, overthrow the Maratha empire and dominate the length and breadth of the Deccan Plateau, and that of Hindustan. The appearance of a mosque would have halted such people from attacking the temple. Some, on the other hand, say that Shivaji Maharaj was influenced by the Islamic scholars and the temple was constructed to look like a mosque to depict the unity between the Hindus and the Muslims.
In front of the temple is a statue of a mouthless Nandi (the bull of lord Shiva).
As we entered the temple, we saw a group of people chanting ‘Om’ and doing yoga. Without disturbing them, we silently went inside the sanctum, knelled down before the Shiv linga.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Samadhi
The Samadhi (memorial) is situated on a high platform opposite the Jagdishwara Temple. The site is considered to be sacred and is visited by thousands of people every year to pay their respects to the great warrior king. This is the area where the Maharaj’s last rites were performed. There were many people here, and it was difficult to get a proper picture of the Samadhi because of the flow of people.
Statue of Waghya
If you know me, you would know how much I love animals, especially dogs, so when I heard about the story of Waghya, my sentiment for dogs got an added booster. It is said that the dog was a constant companion of Shivaji Maharaj in his military campaigns and was known for his bravery and loyalty. Legend has it that the dog proved its loyalty to the last breath, and when the Maharaj’s pyre was burning, the dog jumped to the fire and sacrificed itself, following his master into the afterlife.
After seeing the temple, the Samadhi and the statue of Waghya, we make a return towards the Bazar Peth, but on the way we had to go to a very infamous site called Takmak Tok (I just love the sound of those two words, and find myself repeating them). Takmak Tok (punishing point) is a cliff, and it was used for throwing traitors and criminals down to thier death. “Takmak”, a Marathi friend told me, means “blood-stained”.
Before going to Takmak Tok, we took a short rest under the shade of a shop. Pavan, Rahul and I were done resting, but Onkar, Ankit, and Amar took some more rest. While the three of them were resting, Pavan, Rahul and I went up to a small hill to locate Takmak Tok. When we saw it, we tried to go closer to find the way that leads to it, but as we went ahead, we lost sight of it. We went several steps away from the trio, and they could not see us, nor could we see them as the view was blocked by some rocks and some wild plants.
“Where is it?” asked Pavan.
“You would know better,” I said. Pavan and Rahul had already been to the fort a few times before.
We were unsuccessful in locating Takmak Tok. It seemed to be just here, but now it was gone. We went back to where Onkar, Ankit, and Amar were sitting, but they were gone from there. Now, our task had increased, as we not only had to locate the way to Takmak Tok but also find the colleagues who were gone missing. Rahul began calling out, ‘Ankit, Ankit!’
Finally, as we were still unsure of the way to Takmak Tok, we asked a shopkeeper, and she showed us the direction. We stood on a hill and saw Ankit, Amar and Onkar almost reaching the cliff.
They have found what we were looking for, so it was us who were lost, and not them. Amar was speaking aloud from a good distance (about 700 to 800 feet away) and we heard him clearly. He was telling us: “Not this direction, come from the other direction.” We did, and we reached Takmak Tok. While at one point, people would have dreaded the name Takmak Tok, and it would have painted a gory picture, but today it is a wonderful tourist spot that offers a breathtaking view of the landscape.
The Nagarkhana Darwaja looks somewhat similar to the Gate of India (but the Nagarkhana Darwaja came much before the gateway of India did, so, if there is any connection, then it has to be said that the architect of the Gateway of India took inspiration from the Nagarkhana Darwaja, and not the other way round).
The Nagarkhana Darwaja is the entrance to the King’s Court or Raj Durbar. As one goes straight about 200 feet from the Nagarkhana Darwaja, one sees the throne of Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj, which is a replica of the original. The original golden throne, which was studded with precious stones, is lost, but to whom, where, when, remains a mystery.
One very interesting feature of the King’s Court is that when one makes a small sound, like a whisper, the sound can be heard from the throne. A demonstration of this was given to the tourist. A guide whispered “Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj ki” from the Nagarkhana Darwaja, and over 200 feet away near the throne, the tourist, among whom we were included, answered back with a loud “Jay”. Then the guide said that he was going to tear a paper and if we could hear the tearing of the paper, we should clap our hands for Hiroji Indulkar, the one because of whom the magnificent durbar had this acoustic sound quality. We heard the tearing sound, and we clapped our hands.
Nearby, we come across a rectangular plinth, and to the right of that is where Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is believed to have taken his last breath.
Queen’s Palace (Bed Room)
The Queen’s Palace has six rooms for the six queens of Shivaji Maharaj (he had married 8 women in total, the reason for which was more than just love for the women; it was love for his kingdom which he wanted to strengthen and extend, to curtail any rebellion against his kingdom, and to get support of the people from different regions). Designed to provide the queen with privacy and comfort, the rooms are very large and have attached toilets.
The Watch Tower
The Watch Tower, most of which is in ruins today, was an important part of the fort’s defense system and played a crucial role in warning the fort’s occupants of any approaching enemy attacks. It was also used to send signals to other watchtowers in the region and to communicate with other forts in the Maratha Empire.
Granaries: These are three underground chambers used to store large quantities of food and other supplies to support the fort’s inhabitants during times of war or famine. I have heard that the granaries were used by the Peshwas, after the death of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, to jail the traitors and criminals for 7 days. On the eighth day, if the traitor/criminal did not confess to the crime, he/she used to be thrown down from Takmak Tok.
Other Attractions We Missed Seeing
There were a few more attractions at the Raigad Fort which we missed seeing because of the shortage of time. The places we missed are equally interesting and have thier own stories. For instance, there is a chamber for secret discussion, which is eleven steps underground. Many confidential discussions used to happen there.
There was a Mint room that was used for manufacturing coins which were used as currency in the empire and facilitated trade and commerce.
The story of Hirkani Buruj is in awe-inspiring. Hirkani was a milkmaid and lived in a village at the foothills of Raigad Fort. One day, Hirkani found herself trapped on top of the fort as the gates of the fort were closed after sunset. She had gone to the fort to sell milk and had lost track of time. She had an infant child that had to be taken care of, and she imagined the worst might happen to her infant if she did not get home. She then climbed down the steep cliff of the fort using a rope and made it back to her village safely. Her bravery and determination earned her the respect and admiration of Shivaji Maharaj, who built a tower in her honor called Hirkani Buruj. The tower stands at the spot where Hirkani is believed to have descended from the cliff.
As we were going down by a door, which I think was the Mena Darwaja, I saw a few boys desperately asking a celebrity to click some photographs with them. The celebrity happened to be someone who came with us: Amar.
Some by Ropeway Car, Some by the Steps
Some of my colleagues had become more tired than the others, and they decided to go by the ropeway. Aside from tiredness, the prospect of experiencing the ropeway was enticing. As far as I was concerned, I considered coming up to the fort through the steps was a difficult and time-consuming task, which is when the need for the ropeway is higher; while going down, the downward slope would not be very difficult and would not take as long as it took to come upwards. For that reason, I decided to go by the steps. We went along to the ropeway station to drop some of the colleagues off. We saw a huge number of people sitting there, waiting for their turn to get in the ropeway cable car. It looked very crowded and would have taken more than half an hour when the colleague’s turn would come to get in the cable car. We had to be on time to board the bus that was leaving from Mahad for Thane. I tried telling Onkar that we might miss the bus if he waits for the ropeway car. He had enough of walking for the day, and he was okay to miss the bus if that was the case, but he won’t walk anymore. Thus Onkar, Ankit and Amar went down by the ropeway car, while Pavan, Rahul and I went down by the steps.
While getting down the steps we had to increase our pace (to reach on time and board the bus), and with one stride we moved two to three steps forward (but such a thing is not recommended to others, for if you lose control and trip, you will roll down several steps and cause grave injury to yourself). Many a time, we simply had to jump a few steps ahead because of the pulling effect of the downward slope of the hill.
We grew tired. Suddenly, Pavan remembered that I had a can of energy drink, which I had completely forgotten. I unzipped my bag, opened the can and was about to drink when I saw Pavan made his eyes wide open and seemed to be shocked.
“Any problem?” I asked.
“How can you bring such a thing here?”
“What thing?” I ask, confused.
“This beer,” he says, and seems disappointed. I explained that it was a non-alcoholic drink meant to provide instant energy like Redbull. He was sceptical.
“Well,” I said, “go ahead, try some.”
He drank a little, kept quiet, and passed the can to Rahul. Rahul drank. They both claimed that it tasted very much like Budweiser beer. That is true; the taste is quite similar. Some energy drinks like Monster, Hurricane, taste like some cough syrup, but the energy drink from Budweiser tastes like the beer they sell.
Pavan gave me a lecture on how people would not know the difference between a Budweiser alcoholic can and a Budweiser non-alcoholic can, as there was hardly any difference in the way both the cans looked. Before the people can understand the difference, Pavan said, they will first raise their hands, and later try to know if there is any real difference between the alcoholic and non-alcoholic cans. But I have paid for it, so brushing his warnings aside, I finished the content of the can.
We finally reach the foothills of the fort (and we did that in just 40 minutes) and met the colleagues who had come by the ropeway car. Once again we had to hit the road, move past the metalled, dusty road. I hop on to the bike that Rahul rides, and for a small man (in terms of physique), he managed the bike very well and rode fast (almost like a professional rider). We reached the Mahad bus depot, from which Onkar and I were leaving for home, almost half an hour ahead of the scheduled time. The bus was late by half an hour. This time the bus, an AC one with more legroom, was even better than the bus by which we came to Mahad.
Although I haven’t had the chance to visit exactly where my friend wanted me to go, considering the paucity of time. We made a few miscalculations and thought it would be possible to cover the places that we had intended to. But part of the blame for this miscalculation also lies in the fact that the Raigad Fort is so vast that it will hardly be possible to visit it as well as the other places in the short time we had given ourselves. An individual who hails from that area mentioned that one would require at least two days to explore the fort properly and appreciate all that was at the Raigad Fort, and I concur.
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