Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Ramshej fort - My trek to the fort which remained invincible for Mughals

Come weekend and I get adrenaline rush to go on some treks in Sahyadris. This time the visit was to a small fort in North west of Nashik city called Ramsej or Ramshej. The fort is about 3273 ft on Nashik - Peth road. Base village is Ashewadi.

Ramsej fort : This fort lies approx 14 kms north west of Nashik city. Despite its small size, it has special mention in hard hitting battle history between Marathas and Mughals. History reads that after death of Shivaji Maharaj many forts put up strong resistance under leadership of his son Sambhaji. This tiny fort was no exception. Mughals boasted that they would capture the fort in few hours to a day but our great Marathas resisted all attacks by Mughals to capture it for long seven and half years. Mughals were only able to capture it by paying bribe to new killedar after long years of battle !!! Later Ramsej fort was one of the 17 strongholds which were surrendered to British in 1818. Also mythological story goes that it got the name Ramsej which means Lord Ram's bedstead as during his stay in exile Lord Ram had stayed in the caves on this fort.

My Visit : This time on weekend I decided to visit Ramsej fort along with TMI group. They had planned overnight trek to the place starting on Saturday night by bus from Dadar. The fort comes in easy grade and not much effort is required to climb it but on reading the history of the fort, It was quite interesting so I was sure the visit would be equally worthwhile. So here I was all backpacked on Saturday night, on my way to Dadar to meet the group on our quest to explore yet another place which had played important part in our history.

A small group of 19 people lead by Vikram, Sai and Jal drove in mini bus to base village of Ashewadi on Nashik - Peth road. We left Dadar around 11.30pm picking up some group members from Thane. With Jal and Mahen in the group, TMI antakshari started as soon as bus left Dadar and classics was the flavour with probably all classic hit songs were sang by all, Ably joined by Shree, Vikram, Sai and others from Thane. In no time we were cruising on the Kasara Nashik highway as there was not much traffic in wee hours. It was perfect jamming session till we stopped on highway dhaba for hot cuppa of tea & coffee. Midnight tea on highway dhaba has its own charm and is always welcome, at least I wouldn't miss it !!!

Back in the bus to our destination, the singing continued till late in the night I don't know for how long as I didn't realise when I went off to sleep. Itinerary was that we would have to spend some hours in the bus after we reached in the wee hours. We must have reached base village by 4ish when I opened my half closed eyes only to find some of group members busy asleep on bus seat while others chatted sitting in open sky outside the bus. I decided to take finish some more sleep before we get ready for the trek on first Sun rays. Around 6.30am it was wake up call for everyone as Vikram had arranged for breakfast and tea at village dhaba. With hot cuppa tea and whole loads of Poha, we were all now ready for our trek to the fort.

The fort stood tall on the small mountain with small houses lined below at the base village. We moved past the small village houses on our way to the top with curious eyes in the village watching our group go past their houses. Stopping at one of the huge village house which was temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman. As we started our climb up, we could see the fields below and vast tracks of open land as far as eyes could see. At farther distance, some water bodies with small dams build on it, clearly indicating it was effort towards rain water conservation.

Within 30 minutes we were standing below what seemed to be rock cut cave. On reaching the cave we found a small Shivling surrounded by water. We noticed that there was opening right above the Shivling in the ceiling of the cave from where the water would have dropped from the top.

At the entrance there was another Ram temple which was probably another cave converted into a temple occupied by a Sadhu with dreadlocks of hair (Jata). He was busy in his prayers so we decided to visit the temple on our way back. At the side of the temple there were proper steps carved which took us to a small cave filled with water. The temple was built on the cave. Interesting .......

As we reached the top, we saw a huge plateau with picture perfect 180 degree view of entire region with neighbouring hillocks and mountains.

There was small neatly carved entrance which we found was leading to a cave hidden on the plateau. This cave was perfect hiding place which surely would have given the advantage to Marathas fight against Mughals. The fortification was still intact and made one wonder the skilled engineering work done by our predecessors in bygone era.

On the left was huge plateau or so called machi and on the right side there was tunnel with steps which lead to the main fort. The main entrance was still intact and also within that fort was secret tunnel with steps which had small opening, On closer look we found that it was same opening which was right above the Shivling. May be this was secret entrance to the fort and was aptly used by Marathas to their advantage in their war against Mughals. I stood in awe, admiring the engineering and construction skills that went in making this fort.

But this was not all as above the fort there was small hillock which we were yet to explore. There was yet another small temple dedicated to a goddess and as we climbed up the hill, we found numerous water tanks and cisterns. There was small pond with fortified walls. There was almost 10-12 water cisterns carved in different places which was clever work of water conservation. From the top the view of entire mountain range of Trimbak, Satmala, Bhorgad and vast plains was simply breathtaking. We spent some time here with everyone trying to capture the beauty of the place in their lens and Why not ? The place offered some stunning views.

From the top, we could see radar installation on neighbouring mountain. The place is also home to Indian white back vultures and we were lucky enough to spot one flying right above our head.

With very little shade at the top and sun getting blazing hot, we decided to move back to main Ram temple which had some shade. Taking some rest here, we had our lunch that we were carrying. We also explored the Ram temple cave which was neatly maintained by the devotees and the resident sadhu baba.

It was just 11.30 am and we had explored the entire place. Descending back to the base village which hardly took 30 minutes, We sat under a huge tree thinking of what next ?? Someone came up with idea of visiting Sula Vineyard which was close by before we head back home and the plan was unanimously approved by one and all.

On inquiring we found that Sula was just 25-30 kms from the place and would be on our way to Mumbai. So off we were for wine tasting at SULA VINEYARD. At SULA we opted directly for wine tasting rather than the tour which except two, everyone participated in. With some interesting things that we learned about wines and after tasting 4 different wines, we were back on our way home with yet another interesting day coming to an end, yet another interesting fort explored by us all.

Hoping for yet another adventure trip next week to yet another adventurous place, till then ... ADIOS !!!

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