Sunday, September 21, 2008

Trek to Kotligad

Kotligad Fort

Type :
Hill fort

Fort Range :
District : Raigad Grade : Medium
Peth, also known as ‘Kotligad’, is situated in Shahapur Taluk, approximately 30Km North East of Karjat. This fort stands tall in the company of various other forts like Rajmachi, Dhak, Siddhagad and Bhimashankar, a witness to our illustrious history.

Kothaligad is more commonly known as the fort of Peth because the village of Peth is situated at its base. This fort though small in stature has a vast historical background. Mughal chronicles provide us a lot of information on this fort. This fort was more of a ‘defense station’ than a strong fort. Peth was mainly used for ammunition storage. Peth gained importance during Sambhaji’s era.
History :
Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb ordered his warriors ‘Abdul Kadar’ and ‘Ali Biradarkani’ in November 1684 to capture the forts belonging to Sambhaji’s empire. Abdul Kadar had a fair idea of importance of possession of this fort. Control over fort means control over Konkan region. He made a concrete plan to conquer the fort. In his efforts, he went in the surrounding region and kept people thereof as his servants to get inside information from them. As soon as he came to know that arms and weapons were traded here, his group of 300 gunmen reached the base in November 1684. The Marathas forced most of them back, but some still managed to reach the ‘Magarkot Dwar’ and started shouting ‘open the door’. The Marathas inside the fort opened the door on the assumption that these shouting Mughals were ‘own men’ who came for picking up the weapons for war. The Mughals immediately rushed in and the battle started. They could win the battle with help of ‘Mankoji Pandhere’.

The next day, the Marathas surrounded the fort. Abdul Kadar’s position became critical. The ammunition in the fort was destroyed and used in the battle. Although the Mughals were occupying the fort, they were helpless as the Marathas looted ammunition and food sent to them at their base camp, on its way. About 10-12 days later, Abdul Aziz Khan sent his son Abdul Khan to help Abdul Kadar. But Maratha Sardar Naroji Tryambak was hiding in the valley to prevent him to approach the fort. When another war broke, the Marathas lost and Naroji was killed. Ehmat Khan killed Naroji and hung his head right in the middle of the road. Now, the Mughals had total control over the fort. The Golden keys of main door of the fort were sent to Aurangzeb as a symbol of victory. After confirming the victory, he rewarded Abdul Khan. The Mughals renamed the fort as ‘Miftahulfateh’, meaning victory key.

The Marathas continued their efforts to conquer the fort. In December 1684, the Marathas tried to stop Mughals moving towards the fort. Seven thousand Marathas constituted a strong battalion and fought with Mahamatkhan. But success was far away. In April 1685, 700 Marathas attacked again. About 200 of them climbed the fort with the help of rope ladders. Battle started between two parties and a lot of blood shaded. The goddess of victory again favored the Mughals and the Marathas lost the battle and the fort.

After 130 years in November 1817, Bapurao, a Maratha Sardar with Bajirao II fought with British and won the fort.

Ways to get there:
We took the local from Dadar to Karjat at 7:07 am. The distance from Karjat to Ambivali is about 30 Kms. We got down at Karjat station and took a share auto (a 10 seater) to Ambiwali. Its a 45 min ride which takes you through some nice scenery. Once we reached Ambiwali, we took the auto walla's number and made sure he wud come back and pick us up in the evening.

A path leads to village Peth from Ambivali. From Peth, a tiring pathway leads to the fort door.

On e can also get down at Neral, another railway station on Mumbai-Pune route and reach Kashele by local conveyance and catch a bus for Ambivali from there.

Ambivali to Peth – 45 min
Peth village to top of the fort – 1 hour

Fascinating Spots :
The pinnacle of the Peth can be seen from the village. It looks like a filed surface. On reaching the top of the fort, we see caves carved in huge rocks. The first one is the cave of a Goddess, besides which is a water cistern and the last one is the spacious Bhairoba cave. A flat floor and well-sculpted pillars are a specialty of the cave. Along the Bhairoba cave, steps are carved leading to the pinnacle.

Some canon balls are scattered in the fort. Kalwawantinicha Mahal, Nagfani, Siddhagad, Malanggad, Chanderi, Prabalgad, Manikgad, and Matheran all these surrounding historical places are visible from top of the fort Peth.

Accommodation Facility :
The cave on the fort is the best place to spend a night.

Drinking Water Facility :
Although there is a fresh water spring inside the fort, it is best to carry your own water.

Time To Reach :
One and a half hour hike from Ambiwali to the base of the mountain (Peth village). And then an hour's trek up the hill to the top.

From the horse's mouth:

We left SP at 6:15 AM. We were 15 min late. We reached Andheri station at 6:30 AM and caught the train to Dadar. One more team member joined us at Dadar and the 10 of us set out to Karjat on the Local at 7:07 AM. We made sure to buy return tickets at Andheri itself.

Once we reached Karjat, we had a quick breakfast with Vada Pav & chai. We stocked ourselves with fruit, chocolates and water bottles. Two of our illustrious team even went shopping for jackets. The weather was perect. Gloomy , cloudy weather, with a gentle breeze and a lazy drizzle. We walked up to the "bridge" from the station. Here we caught a "tum tum" which is the name for a share auto (10 seater). We paid Rs. 35 per head for the ride to Ambiwali. The auto was pretty noisy , but the scenery was pretty nice. Eveything was green and the roads were pretty well maintained.

We told the auto wala that we wanted to trek upto Peth, so he took us to the point where the path leads to Peth. We met a local there who serves food to trekkers. He gave us his card and mobile number in case we needed any help. He also asked us to get in touch with his brother, one Mr. Sreeram Savant at Peth for food and refreshments at Peth.

We then started our 5 km hike. It was a clear path along an incline that led all the way to Peth. Midway we found a waterfall and we deviated from the path to the base of the waterfall to cool our heels in the crystal clear water. After spending half an hour there, we resumed our hike. We deviated from the path further ahead once we spotted some green (really green ) meadows. We hiked up the meadows and it gave some really nice views of the valley below. It showed us how high we actually had hiked so far.

We rejoined the main path after some time. We reached Peth Village at around 12.30 pm. We met Sriram Savant and asked him to prepare some food for us. There were quite a few options as far as the menu was concerned. We decided to scale the mountain and come back for food on the way down.

We set out to scale the mountain. The terrain was rocky with dense undergrowth. It was slippery because of the rain. There were water pipes that ran along the path. We later discovered that these pipes were once used to bring down water from the natural springs at the top to the village.

One needs to watch for millipedes in this mountain. There are scores of them. Red in color, although they are pretty harmless, they do tend to gross you out by there sheer clustered presence all along the path. Half way up the mountain, we met a couple of locals who were going down. They advised us to take the left path as it was less slippery. I vaguely remembered reading on a blog that one should take the right path but i prefered to trust the locals more. So , away we went on the left path only to realise that it was getting steeper with with every step. To add to it, the cloud was moving in reducing visiblility to a few meters. We finally reached a spot from where we could see the vertical face of the last stretch to the top.
We sent two scouts to see if it was possible to scale this rock face. However, it proved to be tough. We did discover a cave in this stretch. All of us climbed to this cave only to realise it was the wrong route. We trekked back to the fork and we were all but ready to go back down when one of the team members discovered a new route and a few steps carved in the rock. We all re-assembled and decided to scale this mountain at any cost. We then set out to the top. It was extremely slippery and dangerous in some places. One wrong foot could have sent us falling several hundred feet. But we managed somehow to reach the archway or the entrance to the fort. Here we saw a temple and a few caves which were awesome spots to spend the night. We also saw an underwater spring with crystal clear water. The caves had a lot of bats as well. From inside the cave , we saw a set of steps carving upwards. We climbed on to these and realised each step was close to 1.5 feet high. These steps were carved into the mountain and it was really beautiful. Once we reached the top, we had a sense of accomplishment. We had made it inspite of the odds, the rain, the slipping and sliding. However, the view from the top was a disappoitment as there was a dense cloud covering. We were literally amidst the clouds and hence everything was white!
We could barely see a few meters around us. We then set out back down. The downward trip took us an hour as it was extremely slippery. Once we reached Peth, we had a yummy meal waiting for us. We finished the meal and then hiked back to Ambiwali. The 5 km hike was special because it started pouring very heavily. It is a special feeling to walk in the rain in the wilderness. We reached Ambiwali and the share auto was waiting for us as expected. We took the 7.40 local from Karjat to Dadar and were back home at 10:00 pm. A wonderful weekend getaway and hopefully the first one in a new series of weekend treks for us.....

Things to look out for:

1. There are a couple of forks on the route up the hill. Be sure to stick to your right always. We kind of lost our way mid way and had to then retrace our steps and "explore" the hill before we reached the right route.

2. The rocks are extremely slippery in the rains. So be sure to wear the right footwear.

3. Lunch can be arranged in Peth Village. Ask for Sriram Savant. He provides home food for trekkers going up the hill. The food was quite good!

Its all in the eyes!!!

Ain't she beautiful ?