The range of Sahyadri, starting from Igatpuri is also recognized as the range of Kalsubai. Towards the western side of this range we can find forts like Alang, Madan and the Kalsubai peak. Towards the eastern side of this range the forts like Aundh, Bitangad, Aad and Patta are situated 

We had planned this trek with a focus on visiting the forts of Bitangad, Patta and Aad and also, if time permitted, visit the Jagdamba temple at the village of Tahakari

A total of 5 participants started from Mulund in a Jeep on a Friday night for the trek. The route up to Bhandardara is quite easy to navigate. Further down the route gets a bit tricky and the road markings are far and few which makes navigation in the night a real nightmare. We turned into the route going towards Kalsubai (the highest peak in the Sahyadri range in Maharashtra). We had to take a turn into the Taked Phata but due to lack of any signage pointing to the turn, we went right ahead for around 15 odd km and reached Rajur where we were pointed back to the right direction. Backtracking all the way, we reached the Ekdara village and took much needed rest in a temple compound. We had already lost 2-3 hours of sleep in the extra travel and just got around an hour and half of sleep before we had to get up and start the trek

 

Bitangad

Bitangad is located at the border of Nashik and Ahmednagar districts, a bit interior to the Ghoti – Bhandardara road. It is a part of the Kalsubai range, and is near to Aundha, Patta, Aad and Mhasoba. To the southwest of this fort are Kalsubai, Alang, Madan and Kulang

Since the mountain cap has scarce area, this mountain was fortified only to function as a watch tower. Hence there are very few remnants at the fort. However, this is a good place to hike and stay overnight as it offers a scenic view from the top

Ways To Reach:

The base village of this fort is Bitanwadi, locally called Bitaka, which is quite interior to the main road. Ghoti town is located on NH3 about 30 km east of Igatpuri, a well-known place on the route from Mumbai to Nashik. From Ghoti toll, proceed towards Bhandardara. At about 19 km, we need to take the diversion at Taked Phata (this phata is not marked and one can miss it if not careful). A very good landmark is the huge semi-circular board welcoming one to the Kalsubai Region. There is an immediate turn to the left which leads to Taked. Make sure that you do not miss this turn. From Taked, one has to reach the Ekdara village diversion at 11 km and take the road to Bitanwadi (Bitaka) which is 6 km away from the diversion

From the Ekdara village, we proceeded ahead to the village of Bitaka which is the base village of Bitangad. The road is full of boulders and holes and it was quite an effort for the jeep to drop us to the base of the fort. Though we had a general idea of the route, it was not at all easy to search for it, with lots of shrubs and trees and no clear route

We found a local cowherd and requested him to lead us to the top. This small hill is mostly a walk and then a little bit of an uphill hike. From Bitanwadi, it takes about 20-25 minutes to reach the base of the hill, from where one can start hiking upwards (another 45 minutes). The route up is marked by a rocky staircase, like many other hills around Nasik. The holds around the steps are well placed so that the climb is easy. There is also a small cave immediately after three flights of stairs. It can accommodate about 6-8 people in the dry season.  The top is a beautiful place with commanding views all around. The adjoining hill - Mahankal - is filled with a large number of windmills. There are two sets of water tanks; one near the South side of the top massif and another on the East face. One can see other hills around and also the pinnacle of Shenit from the top of Bitangad. There is no water at the top and one has to compulsorily carry water along. It takes around 3 hours 30 minutes from Bitanwadi and back

The route from Bitanwadi passes via the base of another well-known fort called Patta (Vishramgad) which was our stop for the day and for the evening

Patta Fort (Vishramgad)

There are two different routes which can lead us to the fort. One route starts from Patta wadi, which is the base village of this fort. This route is very easy and one can reach to the top early, as Patta wadi itself is situated on the plateau. The other route to this fort is from the Ninavi village

The Maratha army, under the leadership of Moropant Pingle had conquered this fort in the year 1671 from Moghuls. The top of this fort is actually a huge plateau. The forts like Alang, Madan, Kulang, Trimbakgad and Kalsubai peak are in the vicinity of Patta. From Patta fort one can keep watch on this complete region. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj has renamed this fort as Vishramgad. In the year 1688 Matabarkhan had re-conquered this fort

The local gram Panchayat and the villagers have taken up the task, along with the ASI, to rebuild the fort and beautify it as a tourist attraction. Government also has allocated around Rs 1.5 crores for this project to the village panchayat. The fort walls and a few buildings at the top have been rebuilt and beautified. The panchayat has also built a welcome arch, a couple of temples, steps to the top and quite a few guest houses at the base of the village for tourists to stay in., at a fee of Rs 500/- per cottage per day. They also charge an entry fee of Rs 10/- per head to enter the fort premises. We, being hard-core trekkers, refused to stay in the cottages and made our base at the top of the fort in the Granary which has been fully rebuilt

The expanse of Patta is huge and one would need an entire day to see the entire top of Patta along with all the fortifications and bastions, not to mention the caves and water tanks. We spent some excellent time on top of Patta with some cooking and photography as part of our evening activity. The night was clear with lots of wind which made the evening cool and pleasant. We also had some excellent birding all along the way and at the top. We sighted birds such as the Red Vented Bulbuls, Red Whiskered Bulbuls, Pale Billed Flowerpecker, Crimson Sunbird, Long Tailed Shrike, Jungle Babblers, Greater Coucal, Green Bee Eater, Pied Bushchat, Siberian Stonechat, Baya Weavers, Spotted Dove, Indian Roller and many others

Aad Fort

Our next day target for Sunday morning was Aad fort. We could not complete seeing the Patta fort the previous day, so took out a couple of hours to explore the Patta fort in more detail. So we proceeded toward Aad fort around 10:30 AM instead of the planned 8:30 AM. From Pattewadi, the road then leads to Thangaon and further to Aadwadi. Thangaon is a place known for tomato growers. You will find farmers sorting tomatoes all over the place and then filling it in big plastic boxes for further transportation. There were also extensive fields of onions, celery, cabbages, broccoli and wheat all along the route

The base village is called Aad wadi. The route to Aadwadi is very scenic with mostly gigantic views of the Wind mills. We cross into the village and the route winds up to the base through an embankment of a small holding lake. One can see local women washing clothes and exchanging gossip. There is a well nearby from where one can top up the water bottles with drinking water

Aad is a small but very beautiful fort. It is easy to hike from Aadwadi and usually takes about 30 minutes from the base to top (for regular hikers). Although it is easy, the approach towards the right place to start the hike could be confusing. The top of Aad is a wide spread plateau with about three sets of water tanks (non-potable), one door, and a cave on the other side. The cave can be approached via a staircase and a small rock step (not difficult, but one needs to be careful). The cave is worth a visit with a small compartment next to it. The cave and compartment can easily accommodate about 20 people. There is a good water tank next to the cave and it happens to be the only potable source of water. There are also some old structures above the fort which look like constructions and also some tomb like structures

We descended the same way down and started our return journey

There are numerous shrines of various Gods and Goddesses in Maharashtra; of which Mahalaxmi from Kolhapur, Bhavani from Tuljapur, Renuka from Mahur and Saptshrungi from Vani are the most renowned divinities, which are collectively known as “Sadeteen Shaktipeeth”. In addition to these, there are many such other temples, of which one is of the vigilant Goddess Shree Jagdamba Mata at Tahakari
Tahakari is a small village located at Taluka Akole, District Ahmednagar. Surrounding area of Tahakari is called “Dandkaranya Parisar”. This location is considered auspicious as it has been visited by Lord Shri Ram, according to folklore. The Adhala River flows nearby Tahakari Village and Shree Jagadamba Temple is situated at the bank of this river
The temple was constructed by the Yadavas. It is built using a style known as Hemad Panthi style. The entire temple is made with stones. It has seventy-two pillars and five pinnacle and many sculptural carvings on the exterior as well interior of the temple. There are also quite a few erotic sculptures on the outer walls of the temple akin to those found in the temple of Khajuraho
Inside the temple we get to see an eye- pleasing idol seated on a tiger which has been carved in wood. One of the important peculiarities of this Goddess is that she has eighteen hands which hold various types of weapons. The panorama of “Mahishasurmardini” is displayed here. In addition to that, there are also idols of Mahalaxmi facing the West and Bhadrakali facing the East
After a good darshan of the Goddess, we traced our way back to Mumbai and returned home extremely happy and satisfied with the trek well done and some hard earned money well spent on an activity we all love to do. The total cost per participants, all included, came to around Rs 1700/-


As shared with IFIN Panorama Editorial Team

Ravi Vaidyanathan

 







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