Rajmachi is one of the most scenic treks in the Sahyadris. Picturesquely located between Khandala and Lonavla, Rajmachi actually consists of two forts Shrivardhan and Manaranjan. At the base of the Mountain is the serene Tungarli Lake surrounded by waterfalls while Kondhavi Caves can be found on top of the fort. There is a beautiful temple of Kal-Bhairavi between the twin forts. The view from top of the Fort is panoramic comprising Ulhās River, Duke’s Nose, Karnala, Mahuli and Bhimashanker. This Trek packs a plentiful punch!
Rajmachi Fort was originally built by the Satvahanas. Shivaji Maharaj captured both Shrivardhan and Manaranjan in 1657 from Adilshahi Kings of Bijapur. Interestingly the Mughal Emperor and arch enemy of Shivaji, Aurangzeb had taken the fort in 1704 only to be regained by the Marathas by 1705. The forts were strategic as they guarded the Bhor-Ghat which was the trade route between Mumbai and Pune.
We drove down from Navi Mumbai to Khandala. After stopping for breakfast at the famed Kamat Hotel, we continued on the Mumbai-Pune Highway NH4. Soon we spotted a signboard for Tungarli Lake. This road took us to Tungarli Hill and Tungarli Lake. This is the last watering hole on the route so we filled up our bottles. We spotted the trail to Rajmachi just after the Tungarli Dam.
The route is meandering but the great views make you forget the tiredness. We saw scores of giant spider webs on the way. I picked up a stick to clear the path as a shiver ran down my spine looking at the size of the Spiders waiting for their prey!
After walking for a couple of hours we reached a fork. We turned left to lead us to Rajmachi. The trail starts getting steeper and then we reached a plateau.
Finally after walking for 4 hours we reached the village of Udhewadi.
We could see both Shrivardhan and Manaranjan Forts from the village. As we started to look around, it was amazing to find mighty ramparts, gateways, secret exit gates, administrative offices, water storage tanks, residential quarters and a temple in this desolate area.
We washed ourselves and visited the Kal-Bhairav temple between the two forts. This quiet place turns into a pilgrimage point teeming with hundreds of devotees during Mahashivratri festival. The temple is a great place to camp out at night. You have a choice of putting up a camp on the campsite opposite the temple or just stay inside the temple.
The village delicacy seemed to be Bhakri and Chutney and we had a handful before proceeding to the Forts!
The first Fort we conquered was Manaranjan Fort in the western side of Rajmachi. Situated at a height of 2700 feet above sea level, it had 3 entrances and a large water tank. We could also see some ammunition depots inside the Fort. From the top of the Fort there is a good view of the Manaranjan Hills.
Next we moved to the eastern part of Rajmachi to Shrivardhan Fort located at a height of 3000 feet above sea level. The entrance was semicircular in shape and there were a couple of water tanks on top. The most intriguing part of this Fort was the numerous secret passageways below the Fort. There were also a set of Buddhist caves here with a statue of Ganesh in the entrance of one of them! Kondhane caves as they are known, were supposed to have come up in 200 BC.
The view form top of this Fort is magnificent and the most striking object you can see from here is the Shirota Lake which serves the Hydro Electric power plans of Tata Electric at Khopoli.
Towards the western side of Rajmachi is an ancient Shiva temple built in Hemdpanti style. There was a remarkable piece of Art at the entrance in the form of a fountain in the shape of cow-head and a water tank.
The remains of the glory days of Rajmachi can still be seen on the southern side of Udhewadi. Ruins of palatial houses can still be seen in this area, which once upon a time must have served as residences for the nobility.
Lost in thoughts about the glory of Rajmachi’ s past and developmental work being carried out by the NGO for its future, we trotted back to Mumbai determined to come back again.
Mumbai has scores of interesting destinations around it which can be covered in a day. Check Mumbai weekend for some ideas.