Singhagad Fort

It was an impulsive decision taken at 11 in the morning on Sunday. We were getting bored. So, come on, let’s go somewhere. And what’s that somewhere? We rattled our brains to find out and then the obvious one came to both of our minds, Singhagad.

It’s barely 30kms from Pune and on the way, there’s this refreshing Khadakwasla dam which due to heavy rain of late, is full to its capacity. You merge in your tired feet in the cold quietly flowing water of Khadakwasla, and it will take out all your urban pain. All four sides surrounded by small hilly steeps, khadakwasla take an isolated look. As if hurry and bustle of nearby Pune city has nothing to do with the mystery lying deep into its water.

Last 12kms of Singhagad is bit steep and ideal for trek. But we were already late and didn’t take the risk. But the roadside beauty did compel us to stop in between and take a deep breath as we stood on the verge of the hill. It feels nice to assimilate danger within sometimes. You can feel how dangerously beautiful Nature can actually be.

Singhagad fort has quite a long history which dates back to, according to folklore, two thousand years back. This fort was called Kondana after sage Kaundinya at that time. In historical times, the fort was captured by Muhammad bin Tughlaq in 1328AD from Koli tribal chieftain Nag Naik. Shahaji Bhoslae, as the commander of Ibrahim Adil Shah I of Bijapur, was entrusted with the control of the Pune region. His son, the famous warrior and king, Shivaji, however refused to accept Adilshahi and set up his own Swarajya. He conquered this fort twice. First time, in 1647, from Sidhi Amer who controlled the fort under Adilshahi at that time. But it was to be returned back to Adilshahi as Shahji was arrested and it was given back as part of Shahji’s release pact. Second time, in 1670 Shivaji Maharaj reconquered it and it stayed with Marathas till 1689.

One of the most valiant and famous battle of Sighagad was fought in 1670 by one of Shivaji’s most-trusted general and his childhood friend, Tanaji Malusare. A steep cliff leading to the fort was scaled with the help of a monitor lizard, colloquially known as a ghorpad. Tanaji lost his life in the battle, but his brother Suryaji captured the Kondana fort from Adilshahi general Udaybhan. When Shivaji Maharaj heard the news of the loss of Tanaji, he lamented “Gad aala pan Sinha gela” (The fort has been conquered but the lion is no more). And thus the fort got its name “Singhagad”.

The parts of history left are the three gates, a stable, a small canon and a weapon store house. The journey up to the highest point is much simpler now; there are all refreshments available around. We took almost two hours to reach the top where a statue of Tanaji Malusare has been established. On the way, we had a glimpse of the Pune and Kalyan Gate, the broken rusted hinges and the stone-carved lamp-holders were something that smelt history. The stable, which is a natural cave curved out for the need, is big enough to accommodate at least 30 horses. And the weapon house with several of its visible and apparently invisible pathways to reach there are proof of amazing plans to protect the fort.

 As we sat, exhausted, on one of the “chabutara” of the fort, a small boy, apparently curious of the saffron flags flying everywhere, asked his mom what it signifies. “It used to be the flag of Shivaji Maharaj, and they put it once they conquered the fort.” True. But I remembered the story of the saffron or Bhagva jhanda , as it is called, as read in my schoolbooks.

Shivaji’s guru, Ramdas Swamy was one day found asking for alms; walking around the roads of Pune. When the news reached Shivaji Maharaj, he rushed to his guru and asked for what does he want.

“What is that I cannot give you, guruji? I am the king.”

“You can’t give me what I want.” Was his answer.

But Shivaji insisted. And at last, Ramdas Swamy disclosed. “Give me your whole country. I want your throne.”

“Of course, it’s yours only.” Prompt was his reply.

“Are you sure?”

“Of course”

“And then, now that you have gifted it to me, I am now the king of this land and you are my slave as you don’t possess anything.”

“As you wish”

“Well, then I order you to follow me and ask for alms from all of my subjects.” And Shivaji followed his guru whole day in asking alms from his erstwhile subjects. They were afraid to come out, or give alms to their king. But that didn’t stop Guru Ramdas to make Shivaji to go for it. In the evening, when they returned to the riverside hut of guruji, Ramdas Swamy ordered Shivaji to cook for him what he’s got as his alms. He obeyed. He asked him to renounce his princely dress and adore the usual saffron dress of yogis, which marks sacrificing all earthly belongings. He ordered him to sleep on earthen floor in the night. He obeyed without even uttering a word.

In the morning, when Shivaji was getting ready to going for asking alms, Guru Ramdas stopped him. He handed Shivaji his own piece of saffron shawl. “Remember, this country is no more yours. You have given this to me, a servant of God. So, this country now belongs to His Almighty. And you are a mere representative who has to run His country. Don’t act like a king. Act like a servant of God when you run this country. And make this saffron shawl your flag. This signifies sacrifice of all worldly temptations which should be the motto of all kings.”

Bhagva Jhanda is still flying high on all forts captured by Shivaji Maharaj as well as in our National Tricolour, just we have forgot the meaning of it.

Panchgani…

Well, first of all, I am a very bad person at describing anything that happens outside me. I find it easier to express my inner feelings. But this time, the inner and outer seem to merge in together. It was a journey to Panchgani …

A cloudy drizzy morning and we were in half-drousy mood when we started.  Soon after the Katraj ghat came, we started feeling the difference. Its not only the chill, but the sky meeting the earth with an easy medium of cloud that made both our senses of vision and feel smoothe…but that was just the begining.

Pnchagani was a real abode of cloud, with its due share of drizzle and fog. We actually walked through cloud, touched it and drenched in it. The curved pathway through the jungle were all dark with clouds, creating a patern of mystiqe soft light in between. We walked some strech. And felt as if we have gone back to pre-historic age, all ferny roadside and jungle creatures jumping around the trees. It was lovely to stand on the large table plateau and seeing the cloud coming rolling up to us.

Finally, when we stood on the verge of the bombay point, and far and below all seem to be densely covered by cloud reducing our visiblity to a foggy vaccuam, with only a sigle big portruded last part of the hill being visible, we touched each other’s cold palm. And I whishpered  in his ears..”Doesn’t it seem to be the end of the world?”

He smiled back.

“I am afraid. ”

“Don’t be. We are still together.”

And our fingers mingled into eternity….