Lohagarh is a majestic fort at a height of 1050 meters near Lonavla. It is an ideal destination for a day trek from Mumbai, especially in the monsoons. Located near Bhaja caves, the famous Buddhist caves, Lohagarh divides the basins of 2 rivers- Indriyani and Pavana. Its actual date of construction is still a mystery. If you trace back its history, it was occupied by several dynasties like Satavahanas, Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas, Yadavas, Bahamanis, Nizamshahis, Mughals and Marathas. Shivaji captured it in 1648 and it ultimately fell in the hands of the British by 1818.
Lohagarh can be approached from Lonavla. You can take a train from Mumbai towards Pune and get down at Malavli, the station after Lonavla. Or if you are coming by road, cross the Lonavla town and come towards Pune on the old highway (NH-4). You will pass Karla caves on your left. Take a right towards Bhaja caves. The fort can be seen towards your right.
Lohagarh is an easy climb and not very steep. The path is a pebbled road, sufficiently wide.However; there is monkey menace to tackle! Once on top, do not carry any food or plastic bags. You will learn the hard way that these brutes cannot be shooed away. Once they spot a bag of goodies, they won’t rest till they get their hands on it!
The trail begins after you cross the steel suspension bridge over the Mumbai-Pune expressway near Malavli. You will pass a couple of enticing waterfalls towards your left before reaching Bhaja Caves. Pass the steps that lead to the caves and continue further till you reach a cul-de-sac. There is another breathtaking waterfall on your left. After satiating your appetite for a bath, walk to your right. After a 3 kilometer walk you will come to a plateau that gives a splendid view of the twin forts of Lohagarh towards your right and Visapur towards your left. The twin forts were used as watch towers to guard the historical trade route used by Shivaji.
The steps to the fort begin at a village called Lohagaon. Since the steps were made for horses, you will have to take long leaps and any pain you feel in the knees can be alleviated by panoramic view of the Pawna dam! There are 4 massive gates to the fort. Ganesh Darwaja is the most ancient one. The inscription on this gate reveals construction by a certain Dhondopant. You will pass through Narayan, Hanuman and Maha Darwaja before reaching the top.
Once on top, enjoy the amazing the breeze. You can have a look at a big tank and a step-well (bawali) built by Nana Fadanis (1742-1800 AD). Other notable spots here are a small temple and grave of a Muslim Pir. A little tired, you can head towards Lakshmi Koti, as the cave is called, for siesta.
“Scorpion Sting” is the best part of this trek and you can keep it for the last. Go to the west end of the fort. You will find a narrow wall like fortified spur called Vinchu kata in Marathi due to its shape of a Scorpion’s Sting. This provides a panoramic view of entire region. You can spot Lonavla, Rajmachi, Karla Caves, The Express Way, The Railway Line, Bhaja Caves and Visapur fort.
Vada Pav and hot tea are ideal snacks during the rains. If you are really hungry you can try Jhunka Bakar. Jhunka is a very special dish made out of besan[type of corn flower], wheat, onions and basic spices, while Bhakar is a roti made of Jawar. You will find several small shops serving these in Lohagaon, the village at the base of the steps.
For my travelogue on trek up the famous Rajmachi Fort, visit here.