Raigad Fort – capital of Shivaji’s kingdom
Had director Shankar seen the Raigad Fort, i don’t think that there would have been any reason for him to go all the way to Machu Picchu to shoot the Kilimanjaro song for Robot. Raigad fort has the grandness of what any fort could ever dream of – location, view, architectural plan and of course the importance. (Click on below image for a bigger size)
Shivaji captured this fort in 1656 (originally called the fortress of Rairi), from the More dynasty. He made it his capital in 1670. Shivaji’s coronation was held in a grand manner on this fort in 1674 and he stayed there until his death in 1680.
I don’t know how long it took Shivaji to capture the fort, but it took me 22 months to finally reach this fort. This post on my three attempts, i hope, will help you go to this fort in the easiest way possible in your 1st attempt
When is the best time to go to Raigad Fort: The list below gives the best possible times (starting from the first) to visit this fort. Except during the monsoon, it can get pretty hot after 10 AM. Also, there are not many places offering shade at the top. So, plan your trip such that you can enjoy it the best, without getting roasted.
- A clear day during the Monsoon
- A Rainy/Cloudy day during the monsoon
- Morning/Evening during winter/post monsoon
- Noon time during winter/post monsoon
- Early morning/late evening during the summer
- Noon time during summer. Of course this would move to the top of the list if you happen to be a masochist!
Directions to Raigad Fort from Pune: You could choose either of Tamhini or Varandha Ghat to cut across the Western Ghats to reach NH17, the Goa highway. The exit to Raigad is in the middle of the two junctions where Tamhini and Varandha meet NH17. From there, it is a uphill drive for around 24 kms to reach the base of Raigad. From there, you can either take the 4 min ride on the cable car (recommended) or climb the 1500 steps (2.5 to 3 hrs) to go to the top by walking. The map below shows a route which takes a left (shortcut) at Nizampur directly to Pachad, the base village. This is a beautiful route, but may not be possible during the rains. If you are going during the monsoons, it is better to touch NH17 and then come back through the Raigad road. Depending on the route you take, it would take at least 4 to 4.5 hrs to reach Raigad from Pune.
First Attempt: Date: 2nd January 2010. I had been in Pune for less than a year and at that time, this was my longest road trip. I had somehow misread 180 kms as 130 and estimated that it would take me around 3 hrs to reach Raigad. So, off i drove, with my parents, on what i told them would be a leisure trip. Finally, when i reached Raigad it was 3.30 pm. When i eagerly went to buy tickets for the cable car, i was told that the waiting time is 2.5 hrs!! Doing a bit of math, we realised that it was not wise to wait as my parents were not very eager on me driving back so late considering that i was still new to these parts and had not driven through Varandha Ghat even once, leave alone in the night time. So, what we did on the first attempt: Looked at those cute little cable cars from a distance, had a chai each and drove back. Akshara clearly did not understand all this and was wondering why we drove all this way to have tea!
Second Attempt: Date: 14th August 2011. It was the monsoon. People were enjoying the rain. I collected a big group of friends, gave them a lecture on the lessons learnt from my first trip and off we went, through tamhini. We had a long hearty breakfast at Quick Bites in Tamhini. I had mentioned to my friends about the rush for the cable car and we discussed that not many souls would make the long journey in this heavy rain. We were wrong, big time! There were bus-loads of people on loads of buses, lined up throughout the approach road that finding a parking close to the cable car station proved to be impossible. We were there around 1.30 pm and the waiting time for the cable-car, 3.5 hrs!! We even contemplated the 2.5 climb, but then with small kids and the rain, this was not something to do. So, what we did on the second attempt: Watched the cable cars magically disappear into the mist. The kids had grown. So, we showed them how cable cars looked and asked them to say tata-bye-bye to them! We had packed lunch and with a heavy heart and a hungry stomach, we settled down to having lunch watching the cable cars zoom by. Akshara clearly understood all of this and was wondering why we drove all this way to have food! But, there was a positive to this trip. Left with nothing to do, we decided to drive back through Varandha Ghat and for the first time realised what a wonder Varandha was in the monsoon, leading to many more trips there.
Third Attempt: Date: 8th October 2011. Two missed attempts had given us lot of information and we put that all into the extensive planning for this trip. We left Friday evening, checked into a hotel on NH17. Saturday morning, we were up early and drove the 25 kms to Raigad Ropeway, the cable car station. And.. we were the first ones (among the tourists) on the cable car. We were ecstatic, probably experiencing the same joy that Shivaji might have had when this fort was signed over to him in 1656 The rest of the trip and up until this day, a mention of Raigad in our gang evokes a nostalgic success story!
It was October and the greenery was still very much there. You have to climb few steps from the cable car station on the top to reach the fort. The first sight you get is amazing. First are the office quarters, the main living rooms and the queens’ chambers.
It is better to take a guide along. You can of course read up all the information on the internet, but the passion, the delivery style and the trivia cannot be matched by reading material. It doesn’t cost much too. They charge around 200 bucks and the information they share is worth every rupee. The fort is amazingly photogenic. Click on the last pic below (panorama) to see a bigger version
The King’s durbar/court has a statue of Shivaji seated on a throne. It is said to be designed such that the King’s voice would reverberate through the huge hall and that any whisper in the hall would be heard throughout. One end of this durbar has the huge Nagarkhana Darwaja.
The path then goes through scenic views and leads to the marketplace. It was amazing to even consider that there was a full fledged marketplace at this height. That meant that this fort was thriving in its heydays. The stalls are built such that even people riding on horses could come and shop without getting down, probably the earliest version of a drive-through
Proceeding beyond the market, a diversion to the left would take you to takmak tok, the place used in those days as an execution point where prisoners were pushed to their death to the 2000 foot drop below. There is a narrow trail to the edge and for the acrophobic, this can be quite a challenge. The wind is also pretty swift at the edge and can easily put you off balance. But, if you are for it, it is a thrilling walk. Click on the last pic below for a bigger version.
The trail further takes you to the highest point on the fort – Jagdeeshwar Mandir. The temple is said to be built in Mughal style to ward off invaders. Some more trivia – The entrance to the temple is narrow and short forcing one to bend while entering. This it seems has two purposes, one that the person entering will bow before the god and if it happens to be an enemy, the soldiers hiding inside can behead him as soon as he enters. Interesting!
Just outside the temple is the samadhi of chatrapathi shivaji. Right next to it is rumoured to be the samadhi of his beloved dog (which it seems also killed itself when Shivaji died). This is contested as there are no records anywhere of Shivaji having had a dog. But then, stories like these are what that make any trip to a historical place interesting. The guide will tell you many many more interesting stuff. The 270 deg view from this place is awesome and i am sure that you would run out of numbers counting the waterfalls you can see. Given below is a map of all the points on the fort. Click on it for a much bigger version.
If you are still reading this, then i am sure you are interested in visiting. So, here is a recap of the main things to consider before a visit.
- It takes around 4 hrs to reach Raigad from Pune by car. A van/bus would take longer. I would recommend to go by Varandha as it is shorter/faster. If you can halt for the night on NH17 and then go early to the fort, nothing like it.
- Once you reach there, immediately go to the booking counter to get the ticket for the cable car. The chai and the samosa can wait. Of course, if you plan to climb (which is around a 3 hr climb), take rest and then proceed.
- The cable car operates (usually) from 8 AM to 6 PM. Beyond 6 pm, it only brings people from top of the fort. So, technically, you can even take the 6 pm car to the top. But then, no fun if it gets dark.
- There are options for stay. Raigad Ropeway has cottages at the bottom. MTDC has rooms on the top. Both require a prior booking.
Enjoy this very important place of Maratha history and share your experiences!