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The gates to history and adventure reopen

Three Maharashtra forts – Rajgad, Sinhagad, and Torna – are finally fully open to tourists today after seven months of closure. Locals rejoice.
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Mountain path to Rajgad. Image: Shutterstock/A Photon Bounce Creation.

Maharashtra has almost 350 magnificent hill forts and each has its unique architecture and splendid past. Finally, all of them are open to visitors after remaining closed for several months during the pandemic, with the last three having opened officially today. Omkar Shinde, an Incredible India tourist facilitator and guide, says, “This is good news. There are almost 450 people such as drivers and vendors selling the local delicacy pithla-bhakri with curds, who live in the eight villages that surround Sinhagad, whose livelihoods have been affected terribly over the last year. Now that tourists will return to the forts, the rural economy should revive.” Apparently, after the release of the film Tanaji: The Unsung Warrior in January last year, 30,000 people had visited Sinhagad on the Republic Day holiday.

One of the 24 local guides to undergo the 10-day training programme conducted by the Ministry of Rural Development in association with Maharashtra Bank to generate employment among the local youth, which concluded on October 11, 2021, 26-year-old Shinde is waiting to welcome tourists to his favourite fort. He is excited about the plans that are afoot to install a ropeway and introduce electric buses to ferry travellers to the top of the fort that were announced last month.  

Strongholds of stories

SINHAGAD

This hill fort in the Sahyadris is around 30 kms southwest of Pune. Once known as Kondana, it was renamed Sinhagad to commemorate the lion-like bravery of General Tanaji Malusare, who fought valiantly against the Mughal armies to win back the fort for Chhatrapati Shivaji.

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Tourists climbing up the steps at Sinhagad. Image: Shutterstock/Ramniklal Modi.

Must see: The site of his samadhi is one of the many places inside the sprawling fort that are a big tourist draw, apart from a memorial to the nationalist leader of India’s freedom movement Lokmanya Tilak, the huge doorways called Kalyan Darwaza and Pune Darwaza, ‘kadhe lot’ point, which is the edge of the cliff from where traitors were pushed over, etc.

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In remembrance of the brave General Tanaji Malusare. Image: Omkar Shinde.

RAJGAD

This fort was the capital of the Maratha Empire for almost 26 years until AD 1672 when Chhatrapati Shivaji moved his capital to Raigad. This fort, formerly known as Murumdev, is about 60 kms southwest of Pune. A ramble around the fort will bring you to ruined palaces, water cisterns, and even caves.

Must see: Be it Padmavati, Suvela, or Sanjeevani Machi (level), temples, impressively intricate doorways, and many other fortifications that made this fort almost invincible, they’re all visible to the visitor even today.

TORNA

Also called Prachandagad, with ‘prachanda’ meaning huge, which refers to its size, this fort was the first of the many that Chhatrapati Shivaji conquered. He was just a teen when he accomplished this feat in AD 1646 and it spelled the start of the Maratha empire. While the original fort may be as old as the 13th century, many additions have been made since.

Must see: The top of the fort is tough to scale. But, a number of goddess temples, the Bini, Kothi, and Konkan Darwazas, Budhla and Zunjar Machi levels, and more await the adventurous.

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View from Sinhagad with the forts of Rajgad and Torna on the horizon. Image: Omkar Shinde.

Run with the past

Come December 11, these three forts of Maharashtra will soon be witness to another edition of the SRT (Sinhagad-Rajgad-Torna) Ultra Marathon, organised by the Western Ghats Running Foundation (WGRF). It is a 53 kms circuit on the ancient routes that involves climbing up Sinhagad and Rajgad and then across the ridge to Torna.

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