Sinhagad - the Lion Fort
Neeraj Shinde Sunday, August 09, 2009 Maharashtra
|A Serene View from the Sinhagad (Kondana) Fort, Pune|
I find it not gainful enough to start the description of this fort with its glorious history since I believe that the Internet is already filled up with enough pages depicting the greatness of it. Sinhagad, formerly known as the ‘Kondhana’ fort has been an epitome of bravery for centuries. Every glimpse of the fort is full of the memories of the great warrior Tanaji Malusare – one of the outstanding Generals from Chhatrapati Shivaji’s army. His memorial on the fort reminds us of the bravery and loyalty of the Maratha soldiers during the reign of Maharaja Shivaji in the month of March 1670. Today, it is one of the prime attractions of the Pune city and is a great historical place, a true heritage of not only Maharashtra but of the nation.Last Saturday, we visited the Sinhagad fort for the very first time. Most of the tourists who visit the place are not hardcore trekkers; a majority of them prefer to climb the fort using their personal vehicles. Needless to say, I was one among them. Although, there are government buses plying every hour from Shanivarwada and Swargate, Sarasbaug to Sinhgad foothills, it is recommended that you travel using your personal vehicle esp. a two-wheeler, a bike.After a forty five minutes drive from Swargate, leaving behind the Khadakwasla dam, we reached near the Sinhagad foothills. Just then we came across a milestone that read 12 kms. We continued further to reach a toll pass of the forest department – charging us Rs. 50 for a four wheeler and Rs. 20 for a two wheeler. It was just after we crossed this toll pass, we started to feel the exuberance of the lush green forest and the cool breeze coming from the mountains. Adding to the excitement, it started drizzling that made our journey even more exiting. Suddenly we realized that the roads had started loosing its smoothness and soon it was covered with pebbles, pits and bumps.The uphill journey was now filled with thrills and the unexpected curves seemed real scary. The smell of the water-soaked mud was enchanting our minds. If you are driving a two wheeler motor, I would advise you to be extra cautious on these roads in rainy season since the roads tend to become too slippery and hence more unpredictable. After a few minutes drive from the foothills, we reached the hilltop. It is hard to digest that once well-known for its strong fortification, the fort today is none other than the ruins of the great walls which once formed the fort’s assets. Just as you reach the top of the fort, you come across a parking area which is normally occupied by numerous vehicles. It is no hard job to find a space for your vehicle in the parking lot, unlike several shopping malls and joints in the city of Pune.If you are a food freak, then the fort is a place to be. Don’t be amazed to find numerous hawkers and their stalls selling yummy eatables viz. my all time favourite Kanda-Bhaji, Pithala-Bhakari, Vada, Makaa (Corn), Matka-Dahi (Curd served in a Pot), Taak (buttermilk) etc. These are among the common Marathi dishes in the state of Maharashtra; but their taste is unique and doubtlessly worth trying. If you are from a foreign land, a tourist not belonging to the state, these fall among my most recommended eateries list for you. The hawkers and shopkeepers here are from the rural areas of Maharashtra and you will love their hospitality just as you would enjoy their mouth watering dishes.For trekkers, it is an amazing journey towards the fort, almost 800 meters high; it makes a great journey amidst the green grass that grows on the mountain in the rainy season. The NDA (National Defence Academy) trainees are often found drilling towards and back from the Sinhagad fort as a part of their regular training exercise. The trek, although not very hard, would make you pant at times. But you definitely realize the worth of all your efforts when you get a glimpse of the breath-taking view from the fort. Provided the sky is very clear, you could see a majestic view of the Pune city from the apex. The bird’s eye view of the fort shows you the Panshet, Khadakwasla and Varasgaon dams. The famous Torana fort is also visible from the Sinhagad fort.I happened to wander across the fort, glaring at the ruins of the fort. The most prominent landmark on the fort is the Doordashan tower, which is responsible for the television transmission to the Pune city. The fort also consists of the bungalows of the famous Maharashtrain social reformer Lokmanya Tilak and the renowned Marathi poet and writer G. D. Madgulkar (Ga Di Ma). The monuments that were built in the memory of Rajaram Maharaj and Tanaji Malusare can also be found on the fort. In addition to these attractions, the Pune Darawaza, Kalyan Darawaza, Kondhaneshwar (temple of Lord Shiva), Zunjar Buruz, Tanaji Kada, Kadelot Point, Western Point and Dev Take are amongst the other attractions that make a mark.Just as our journey uphill, our return journey was equally enjoyable. The fort is definitely the best place for a one day tour, a good break from the troubles of the City life. The strategic location of this fort has always been an attraction for great warriors to fight for it. Many great heroes have sacrificed their lives for the possession of it, yet the Sinhagad fort stands still, for centuries.“People ruled, people fought, captured and died; but none were able to retain. History is not about the ones who once ruled me, but it is about the great ones who gave up their lives for their love towards me” – is probably what Sinhagad speaks to us today.