Since childhood I have been a fan of Amar Chitra Katha a picture story book created by Anant Pai popularly known as “Uncle Pai”. Those days we didnot have Discovery, NatGeo or History Channel so knowledge was acquired only though books and limited sources that reached our home occasionally.
Having read many picture story books bought by my parents, one of the many stories that stayed with me was Chatrapati Shivaji’s general Tanaji Malusare’s tactical approach to capture a fort by scaling it using a Bengal Monitor a common Indian Monitor found widely distributed over the Indian Subcontinent, as well as parts of Southeast Asia and West Asia. A steep cliff leading to the fort was scaled in the dead of the night with the help of a tamed Bengal Monitor lizard named “Yashwanti”, colloquially known as a ghorpad. Thereafter, A fierce battle ensued between Tanaji and his men versus the Mughal army headed by “Udaybhan Singh Rathod”, a Rajput sardar who had control of the fort. Tanaji lost his life, but his brother “Suryaji” took over and captured the Kondana fort, now known as Sinhagad (Sinha = Lion; Gad = Fort) name supposedly given by Shivaji after winning the fort and losing his friend Tanaji. Therefore, of all the Battles, this was the famous Battle of Sinhagad in the summer of 1670
I had been planning for quite some time since I moved to Pune to trace back the legacy of Maratha Empire that dominated much of the Indian subcontinent in the 18th century. The empire came into existence in 1674 with the coronation of Chhatrapati Shivaji and ended in 1818 with the defeat of Peshwa Bajirao II. The Marathas are credited to a large extent for ending Mugal rule in India.
Located 29 km from Swargate, Pune Bus stand, is a small village called Donje with a population of 1500 people and from this village one walks or drive up to the fort. It was still dark when I was dropped at the foothill of mighty Sahyadri Range by auto rickshaw driver who asked me to wait till some pedestrian start to come and then to climb up the hill to the fort which is on a high point of the Sahyadris about 1315 meters above sea level . Rising more than 750 meters above the surrounding plain, the fort is strategically located along a line of other forts such as Rajgad, Purandar and Torna. This majestic fort now known as Sinhagad (. I soon found myself surrounded by barking dogs who were eyeing me suspiciously. Soon a couple drove up to the point left their car and after informal introduction we started to walk up to the fort together. My heart sank on hearing that it is a 9 km walk up to the fort hat will take about one and half hour. Donot forget to carry a flashlight always….. I had made the mistake and regretted.
The fort of Sinhagad not only offers a fascinating peek into the history of the Maratha Empire but is also a favorite with trekkers and the residents of Pune because of its proximity to the city who come regularly for morning walk. While standing atop the hill and taking in the panoramic view of the landscape below, one cannot help but wonder at the vision of those who built such imposing structures at such a great heights 2000 years ago …
Today, it houses the tower of Doordarshan and also serves as a training centre at National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla. One can see the Panshet, Khadakwasla and Varasgaon dams and Torana fort also from Sinhagad Fort.
How to reach Sinhagad
There is a steep and narrow two lane road from the base of the fort to the top. The local municipal transport service, the PMPML runs buses every hour from Shaniwarwada and Swargate to the Sinhgad foothills. Also one can take share taxi where they charge Rs 50 per seat again from the foothill one needs to take again a shared taxi to the top by paying Rs 50 per seat. The climbing route from either side of the fort can be covered in around an hour, however it gets slippery in the rainy season. If one takes his own vehicle then the entry fee for Two wheeler is Rs 30 while for four wheeler it is Rs 50 there are no charges for either video or till camera. The trek involves a one-way walk of 2.7 km (1.6 miles) over which the walker gains about 600 m (1950 feet) in elevation.
The Pune Darwaja (Gate) has 3 gates this was created to protect the fort in case the enemy break through one of the gate. As this was a military outpost it has a Military Stable to keep horses.
Tanaji Malusare Tomb
Life of people
People walk up 5-6 km every day from nearby villages down at the foothills to the fort so sell Butter milk; Curd and freshly prepared lemonade. The most popular is Onion Pakoda which is served with local sauce. Once can also see many people selling souvenirs.
It also has a handicraft museum.
Lokmanya Tilak Purchased the Bungalow from Ramlal Nandram Naik in 1890. He used to stay here in Summer. In this historical Abode Lokmanya completed writing his research work “Arctic homes in Vedas” in the month of May and June of 1901. The “Arctic Home in the Vedas” is a seminal work on the origin of Aryans presented by Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, who was a mathematician turned astronomer, historian, journalist, philosopher and political leader of India during 1880 to 1920. The book “Lokmanya Tilak Gita – Rahasya” was written by Tilak in pencil with his own handwriting while being imprisoned at the Mandalay jail from 1908 to 1914. The more-than-400 pages of script was written in less than four months and is hence in itself considered as remarkable achievement. Although the writing was completed in the early years of his term, the book was only published in 1915, when he returned to Pune. It was here that the press copy of the book “Lokmanya Tilak Gita – Rahasya” was prepared in 1915. Lokmanya Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi had met here in 1915.
Unfortunately today the house is not in a very good shape and a renovation work is urgently warranted. to preserve the memories of yesteryear.