Saturday, June 5, 2010

5 to 6-Jun-2010 Jeevadhan Fort and Naneghat

Jeevdhan (जीवधन)fort is the guard fort for Nane Ghat (Pass) (नाणे घाट). This is the ancient trade route from Konkan to the Desh. During Saatwaahaan (सातवाहन) reign (1st century BC to 3rd century AD), this route used to connect Kalyan and Naalaa Sopara in Konkan to Pratishthan (modern day Paithan), the capital of the Saatwaahaan dynasty. Seemuk was one of the earlier kings of this dynasty. During Saatavahan dynasty, route through Naneghat was developed. The caves in the pass are carved during the same period.

Jeevadhan fort

Location and getting there:

There are two ways to get to this place. One through Junnar and the other through Konkan.From Junnar, take a route to Apatale (अपटाले) and then Ghaatghar. It takes nearly one hour from Junnar to reach Ghatghat by your own vehicle. It is advisable to take your own vehicle as the frequency of the state transport may not be very convenient.

Through Konkan, we can reach Vaishakhare (वैशाखरे) via Murbaad (मुरबाड). From Vaishakhare, we can climb Naaneghat to reach Ghatghar.

History of the Jeevdhan Fort

Naane Ghaat was an important trade route of Saatwaahan kingdom (1st century BC to 3rd century AD) based out of Pratishthaan (modern day Paithan in Maharashtra. This route connected the sea ports of Kalyaan and Naalaa Sopaaraa with the kingdom. The caves in the Naaneghat were excavated during this time for the travelers to stay during their travel. One of the caves has inscriptions in Brahmi. This cave had statues of King Seemuk, Kumar Shaktishree Saatkarni, Naagnika, Praankarya - Naagnika's father, Skandashree - Son of Kumar and Naagnika. As of today, the statues are not present. Only feet remain. Hence we could not guess how these figures could have been. From the Brahmi inscriptions in the cave, we know that the King had performed various Yadnyas - Ashwamedh (अश्वमेध), Raajsooya (राजसूय), Anarambhaniya (अनारम्भनिया), Atiratra (अतिरात्र), Gargatiraatra (गर्गातिरात्र)and donated large sums of money.

Jeevdhan fort stood as a guard fort of such important pass. Hence this fort has long history. Although nothing much is recorded. All that we know is that it was under possession of the Mughals, Adilshah. It was the Peshwas who surrendered the fort to the British in 1818. After conquering the fort, the British blasted the access to the fort and made it inaccessible. In fact the Western entrance is almost buried.

11:15 PM Started from Pune

We started from Pune by a private bus. Relying on State Transport is time consuming. And there are several problems for the organizers. Although this incurs some costs, time management and comfort can be achieved by private transport. Along the route, sometime, we stopped at Junnar for nearly 10-15 minutes. In another one hour, we reached the village Ghaatghar. It was pitch dark. There were clouds. The entire village must have been fast asleep. Dogs started barking in the otherwise silent night. We located one Hanumaan temple. During trekking, temples provide one important place to stay overnight. Most of us could sleep in the temple. A couple of us had to sleep outside. Since it was cloudy and humid, outside must have been a better option. By 2:00 AM we must have slept.


6:00 AM Wakeup Call

When we are sleeping inside a temple, we must remember of a couple of things:
- Keep the shoes outside the temple. This is to respect our own and villagers' conscience and maintain dignity of the sanctum. If not followed, occasionally, villagers may get angry.
- Wake up early before villagers visit the temple.

After attending nature's call and freshening up, we were ready for the next activity. Breakfast. The leaders had carried parathas. Knowing that we had a long way to go, all of us attacked parathas. Then there was a round of tea and cream rolls. The extra luggage was kept inside the bus. The leaders assembled all of us for a round of introduction and instructions. They gave us information about Vandarlingi Re-bolting project and its importance. At last all of us started for the fort.

The village is at 800 meters from the sea level.

Ghaatghar is a small village at the base of the Jeevdhan fort. It is nearly 2 kilometers from the edge of the Western Ghaats on Naaneghaat pass. This village has a school. It has water and electricity. Given the importance of the Naaneghaat pass, the village must have been settled for for thousands of years. Although nothing of antiquity could be noticed in the village.
The village is far removed from any commercialization. There is no place to eat for a large group. One enterprising villager offers lunch or dinner if given advance notice.
Nearby, we saw a bullock cart lying around. This form of the cart was used in rural India for thousands of years. In the last 30-40 years, traditional forms of the bullock cart are on the verge of extinction. Nowadays, the wheels are fitted with tires. Tractors are used wherever affordable.

7:45 AM Started walking towards the fort

The initial route does not climb much. We almost walk half the length of the fort without too much climb. When we see up, we can see the huge rock walls of the fort - almost hundreds of meters without any slope. I was wondering how do we climb the fort. Will there be any rock patch? Will I be able to climb the patch? etc...

One of the best things at that time was clouds. They shielded us from the heat. And watching their dance made us forget all the problems the world may face. Trekking takes us closer to the nature.

The Sun rays could be seen in different bands falling on the ground on different spots. This beauty cannot be captured in any camera.

Notice different streaks of Sun rays.
The clouds were moving fast. In this case downwards. This created an umbrella effect. This was an experience which can not be expressed in any word.

By now, we were climbing on steep slope. The clouds were very low. Some of the air currents were making the clouds move upwards like a jet. No words are sufficient to describe the experience. We were enjoying all this without actually getting drenched. Rain could have started anytime. Later when the clouds were cleared to some extent, we could see the depth on the Konkan side. These mountains have elevation of nearly 1000 meters from the base on the Konkan side. The cliffs are almost vertical.

8:30 AM Reached first minor rock patch

Soon we hit a rock patch. This was a minor rock patch. Between scree (lose soil and stones) and rock patch, the later is always preferable. The grip is firm. This wisdom may not be implementable always by everybody. Without much difficulty, all of us climbed this patch. Now we could see the steps. We could not see them till now. To reach these steps, we have to climb straight and reach the huge rock wall of the fort. Now we turn the direction. Till now, we were climbing North to South. Now we head Northwards to reach the base of the steps.

Here we sat and enjoyed the majesty of the nature. All the team members gathered and enjoyed the scene. The leaders setup the rope for climbing on the rock patch ahead after climbing a few steps. The rock patch is nearly 5-6 meters high. Once they were ready with the setup, we started to climb the rock patch. From both sides, there are walls. Hence there is no exposure for this rock patch. That made it easy. Even though this is not an easy patch, this is not difficult either. The leaders had tied a rope just in case, someone was not able to reach a hold. Such safety precautions give a lot of comfort. During rains, this patch can prove difficult as none of the holds will be reliable.

Soon all of us climbed the patch and reached a place. Later I read that this was the entrance of the fort. Now hardly we could recognize. A little ahead, there are some water tanks on the left side of the path. The view from the bastion on the right side was amazing. Now we were on the top of the fort. There was fog all around. Visibility was very low. Suddenly it started drizzling.

10:00 AM Reached the cave

All of us ran towards a structure - the only visible which could provide shelter in the rains. This is a cave with the facade constructed in the stones. It was pitch dark inside the cave. With the help of the torches, we explored the chambers of this cave. There are three chambers one inside another. The outermost chamber looks like a temple. The pillars are constructed in stone with some carvings. The inside chambers were pitch dark and deeper. There is a window like opening between the chambers.
It was amazing. To enjoy the beauty, it should have been a sunny day outside.
It is said that during war with British in 1818, the grains stored in this cave was burnt. That ash is still lying at the bottom of the cave. This is the only structure on the fort. If someone needs to stay on the fort, this is the only place. Soon, we were out of the cave. The drizzle had stopped.

There are several water tanks just outside the cave. Some of them contained green water and some of them were dried up. On our forts, the water sources are not secure and clean. This antipathy must be changed.

We climbed the back side of the cave and descended on the other side. The highest point was 1150 meters. Dramatically, the clouds cleared to some extent and visibility increased. Now we could see the top of the fort. The top was still nearly 50-100 meters. There seemed no construction there. Later we were proved wrong and we missed one of the most important monument of antiquity on the fort - Jeevabai's Vrundavan.

On the other side, there were two water tanks. This water is better than from the caves. Most of us filled water bottles.
Now we could see the Naaneghat from the plateau. There is only one house on the plains below. It is Milind Gunaji's house. He is an established Marathi actor. He has seen 300 plus forts. I might be on the lower side. He has written several books on his trekking experiences. We just expressed that he should be getting money for seeing places! And we had to spend money to see the places. Jokes apart, he is really an inspiration for his trekking.

10:25 AM Reached Western edge of the fort near Vandarlingi Pinnacle

We reached the western most point of the fort. Suddenly we could see the Vandrlingi pinnacle. It is a straight column raising about 150 meters. It is a challenge for the rock climbers. Until Mar 2010, it had old bolts. Safe Climbing Initiative and Giridarshan jointly removed the old bolts and installed new ones with 3000 KG capacity. Now the place is safe for the climbers. This place is used for valley crossing - between Jeevdhan fort and the top of Vanderlingi pinnacle. Next, we headed for the base of the Vanderlingi pinnacle.

10:45 AM Western entrance of the fort

Out of nowhere, we could see the other entrance of the fort. This lies on the western side of the fort. Both entrances to the fort are through narrow notches in the huge 200-300 meters of stone wall. The entrance is carved out of rock. This entrance was buried by the British. Now one person can bend and go through the stone entrance.
There is provision to fire guns from the top. The crescent of the moon is a distinctively Muslim symbol. It indicates that the entrance must have been constructed after use of smaller guns was more prevalent. It should have been constructed during the Muslim rule in the area.
We can see the beautiful Naaneghaat from this place. It looks like a thumb. The plateau is gradually rising until the edge. It is termed as Naanaacha angtha (Naana's thumb). Poor Naana, whoever it must have been.
After the entrance, there is small rock patch of nearly 10-15 feet. The place is so narrow that one can put pressure on both walls with hands and legs to descend. For safety, the leaders had tied the rope.
Here , we can see the places for steps on both sides of the wall. Even today, if we insert wooden planks, it would be a nice stairway. After descending, there are some steps constructed. We need to turn left immediately to see the Vanderlingi pinnacle.

12:00 PM Vandarlingi Pinnacle base

This is a traverse immediately at the base of the huge rock face. Suddenly we see a pinnacle separating out from the main fort. That is the Vanderlingi pinnacle. A challenge for many climbers. The entire height of nearly 150 meters is climbed in 5-6 stages. After the rebolting project, several climbers have reached the summit. Some even using different routes.
Dhakoba is another challenge for the climbers. It is nearly 1000 meters of climb from Konkan side. In 2009, one group climbed it. It took them nearly 7 days to climb the entire rock face.
Beautiful Konkan can be seen below along with the mighty Sahyadri.

1:30 PM Reached a hut for lunch

We traversed back and started to descend. Now there are steps. Suddenly the path enters thick forest cover. In the forest, the re-bolting project team had set up a camp. They had to get the provisions from below. That itself was a daunting task.

Now we were getting hungry. Suddenly we discovered several trees of black berries. They were ripe. All of us ate severals of them. So far away from pollution. We just plucked them and ate as much as we could. I wish I was carrying a huge empty box so that I could have taken them back home.

Soon we reached the hut - the only one on the plains for lunch. The lunch was very simple. Bajra rotis, very simple daal, sabji and rice. It was such a nice meal. No oily stuff. Far away from the commercialization. Simple home made food. We thanked the lady who prepared the food.

2:30 PM Naneghat

Now we headed for Nane Ghat just a couple of kilometers away. This was the ancient trade route connecting Konkan with Deccan Plateau. There is a small temple before we enter the pass.
The huge stone vessel must have been used to collect the tax from the travelers through the pass. The tax coinage must have been dropped in the vessel. Hence this place must have been termed as Naane = coin. No relation with any person by the name Naanaa
As soon as we enter the pass, we see the Konkan below. This pass has not been converted in a road. Hence we could imagine how this must have been 2000 years ago.
The floor of this pass is just the rocks - as they would have existed for the last thousands of years.
On the left side of the pass, we see the most important monument of antiquity. Nearly 2000 years old cave for pilgrims. This cave has inscriptions in Brahmi. There were statues of royal family of the Saatwahans. Now only traces of feet of the statues are present.
I could not ascertain even these traces.

3:30 PM Kukadeshwar

After being content with the ancient monument, we headed for another monument of antiquity. Kukadeshwar temple is at the origin of Kukadi river. From Ghatghar, we take a route passing through the base of Chavand fort. This route takes us to Kukadeshwar temple. This is a Shiva temple.

At the moment, the temple is being reconstructed. Each of the stone being replicated. The entire temple has several beautiful carvings. The temple had several carvings. Not sure how long it will take to renovate. I appreciate the efforts. All monuments of antiquity must be renovated at priority. We must not see the heritage that our ancestors left for us crumble in front of our eyes.

7:00 PM Reached Pune

Content with the trip, we started with a heavy heart for Pune. Having our own vehicle helped us. It is very difficult to get any conveyance to Pune on Sunday evening. By 7:00 PM, we were back in Pune.

Thus ended another very good trek. The leaders organized the trek very well. Hats off to them.


We have inherited a rich heritage from our ancestors. It must be respected and preserved. There are several places where due attention must be given otherwise the heritage will be lost forever.
The things that have been disfigured must be restored. Due care must be taken to preserve the objects.
Proper information must be provided at every place. Otherwise people may not know the importance of the place.
Adventure activities must be encouraged so that youngsters can learn to respect the nature.
Accessibility should be improved. Those who really want to be there should be able to reach easily.
Simple houses can serve the best food one can get. No hotel or commercialized entity can offer such food.