Flag Hoisting at 3994 Feet!

After two back to back weekend treks, we ended up at Harishchandragad on Independence Day. It was special due to the day as well as the place we chose! Harishchandragad is in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, and is one of the most challenging treks in the Western Ghats.

History & Folklore of Harishchandragad

Harishchandragad fort is quiet ancient, with its origin dating back to the sixth century. There are caves situated all over the fort, believed to be carved out in the eleventh century. Kedareshwar cave is one of the biggest and hosts a big shivlingam which is surrounded by water. The lingam is surrounded by four pillars that essentially represent the four yugas of life on earth. The general belief is that the current phase is the Kali Yuga. The day the fourth pillar breaks down will be considered the end of this era.

Kedareshwar Cave
Kedareshwar Cave

Why Harishchandragad?

Konkan Kada (Konkan Cliff) is one of the main reasons why you should visit this fort. Situated at 3994 feet high, this cobra head shaped cliff faces west and looks down upon the Konkan

Taramati Peak – the topmost point of the fort at 4679 feet boasts views of all surrounding mountain peaks – including Naneghat and other Murbad forts.

Trek Grade – Medium with some tricky parts

Routes to the top

There are three known routes you can take –

  1. Pachnai Route – One of the easiest route but less scenic – it will take 2.5 to 3 hours for ascent and 4 hours for descent
  2. Khireshwar Route – Easy to medium route – takes 3.5 to 4 hours for ascent and 4-5 hours for descent
  3. Nalichi Vaat (Passage through the gorge) – Difficult route, lies towards extreme end of the mountain. Popular among climbers and experienced trekkers, Nalichi Vaat involves a near 80 degree climb, involving steep rock patches and is not recommended for monsoons

How we did it

Making our way to the top
Making our way to the top

We chose to ascend by Panchnai route and descend via Khireshwar route. We took at last local to Kasara and reached there on 15th August at 1:18 AM. From there we hopped onto a car to reach the base camp at Panchnai (3.5 hours). While we got down at Khireshwar, we hired a car till Kalyan station (2.5 – 3 hours) and then boarded a train from there.

We did this trek through Trek Guru but would not recommend it to others for lack of planning and awareness of the leader.

Our Experience

Harishchandragad being one of the most beautiful treks in Western ghats, my expectations from it were quite high. I was waiting thinking about the view that would greet us at Konkan Kada.

I was running late for catching the last local from Ghatkopar to Kasara; somehow I managed to board it and we assembled in the predecided coach. We were a group of 10 people. The entire coach was filled with trekkers – the biggest one being a 50 member group of Trek Mates India headed to Kalsubai. After catching up with friends and making new ones we reached Kasara and walked our way out to find this –

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There was not other way out than to cross the parked train!

We had to climb the parked train in order to get down on the other side. The way to Pachnai base was uneventful, with almost everyone sleeping. The road wasn’t that good and there were no street lights. The silence in the car made the sound of rains lashing over the rooftop feel like thunderstorms.  We reached there at 4.30 AM and opened the car door. The strong gush of wind filled our chest – painful at first, but pleasant once we got used to it. After resting, listening to music and having breakfast in the morning, we started the trek at 6 AM.

We huddled up, introduced ourselves, listened to the instructions. Virendra in our group had got us small flags! Pinning them with pride, we began walking; unaware of which mountain were we going to climb, thanks to the fog.

View from Panchnai
View from Panchnai
With our flags!!!
With our flags!!!

As we started climbing the incline, it started raining. Mud underneath became mushy and difficult to have a grip on and surroundings became more foggy.

After crossing some waterfalls, we came across a point where there were huge boulders and a small route on the edge to walk on.

Seems like Lord of the Rings movie scene!

We crossed around 4-5 small waterfalls, some bathed in all of them (our Bahubali – Mihir). We reached the temple near Kedareshwar caves and walked straight towards the cave first.

Way to Kedareshwar Cave
Way to Kedareshwar Cave, slippery due to algae but manageable

In Hinduism, there is Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the organiser) and Mahesh (the destructor). We need to destroy and make space to create something new and organise it. Lord Shiva/Mahadev/Mahesh is one of the coolest Gods – He dances, smokes chillum and has a third eye, which when opened leads to destruction. We embody all three forms.

There was a group of Lord Shiva followers who had reached there without footwear. They took a dip in the cave waters, chanting ‘Om Namah Shivah’ and paying respect to the indivisibleness of the linga and yoni – from which life originates. After praying to the shivlingam inside the huge cave, we proceeded towards the temple.

Temple of Shiva and Ganesha

The temple was in ruins and engulfed in various climbers and creepers. There was a small lake besides the temple. Wild flowers adorned the roof of the temple. As we walked past the main entrance, we worshipped the linga, and then bowed to Lord Ganesha, the vanquisher of obstacles. It is said you should always start something new with blessings of Lord Ganesha.

Lord Ganesha
Lord Ganesha
Animals carved on the temple walls, beautiful pillars make me wonder how this temple would have looked in its full glory
Animals carved on the temple walls, beautiful pillars make me wonder how this temple would have looked in its full glory

As we were soaking in the glory of the temple, a group of 15 individuals came and asked us to be a part of flag hoisting! We felt pride in the fact we got to respect our flag at such 3994 feet! They were past members of NCC and we did the flag hoisting in correct spirit and procedure. As we sang our national anthem, drops of water fell from the sky and our Tiranga flew higher in the wind passing by. Patriotism filled our nerves and we got goosebumps, thinking of the soldiers who stand guard our borders in sub-zero temperatures for our protection! Standing there, I felt free – Freedom to think, envision and be what I want to. I imagined a possibility of hunger free India and thanked Modiji to bring  back hope and rekindle my dreams of better India. I take pride in saying India is my country and I am doing my bit for its progress!

After the emotional moment, we began to walk towards Konkan Kada, passing through plateaus filled with greenery – be it grasses or flowers. Our trek leader didnt know the way to Konkan Kada and after crossing many non existant paths through dense bushes, he acknowledged the fact that we were lost and it would be better to head back from where we started.

There's magic in the details, all you need is an eye for it!
There’s magic in the details, all you need is an eye for it!
The one where we realised we are lost and decided to head towards the way we came there
The one where we realised we are lost and decided to head towards the way we came there

We came back to the mid point where we ate lunch and then began to descend through Khireshwar route. The descent was eventful with many a skids and falls – Some ouchs to loud aaaaahhhhs!

The View
The View

It took us nearly 4.5 hours to reach Khireshwar base camp. Sometimes the fog would make way and we could see the scenery!

Some clicks when sunshined bright!
Some clicks when sun shined bright!

As we continued our way ahead quoting Suits and Game of thrones, we came to a tricky descent. The railings were shaking and the descent was steep. The fun of quoting Arnab saying ‘ The nation wants to know why the railings are shaking?’ left us and reality struck us. Our group leader stood last and guided from behind while we helped each other take necessary grips and get down. 😛 While each step taken wrong could lead to serious injuries, we managed to cross it and enjoy the view the route rewarded.

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Lakeside view!

After completing the tricky part, rest of descent was manageable, we ran through the woods, where roots of huge trees acted as stairs. As we lost sight of some members, we would shout ‘O A’ and they would reply back ‘A O’ (to confirm they are following us).

 

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The wind was strong enough to change the flow of waterfalls! Some flowing at different angle while some defying gravity and not falling down, creating reverse waterfalls.

After finishing the major chunk of descent, as we waited for rest of members to catch up, we dipped our shoes in running water and our aching toes got some much needed relief! Though, its another story that we had to walk further for an hour with wet shoes on!!:P

Trekkers beginning their overnight trek as we move down to end our journey!
Trekkers beginning their  trek as we move down to complete ours!

We reached the final viewpoint on the route and saw the deep valley beneath us. It was breathtaking!

The last viewpoint
The last viewpoint

Another 45 minutes of comfortable descent and we had reached Khireshwar base! We got out of our wet shoes, changed our clothes and began to walk towards the main highway (approx 7 km from there)

We made it to the base!!
We made it to the base!!

As we crossed around one km, it started raining again and we felt its better to board a car directly to Kalyan station.

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This is where we came down from! The top is engulfed in fog

After some inquiries from houses coming on our way, we waited at a dhaba and then booked a car from there to Kalyan directly. The wait was worth it for all our legs were aching badly.

Sunset from the Car!
Shades of Sky

We got network once we touched the highway, made necessary calls to our families (yes, I’m alive :P) and watched with baited breath as the sun made its way to the horizon.

On our way back, Malsej ghats was totally crowded, people had parked their cars and were bathing on the road in small waterfalls. It was like we re entered the concrete jungle, filled with people, noice and pollution.

Sunset!!
Sunset!!

The trip ended with us running from one platform to another in Kalyan trying to figure out on which platform would train to CST come first and announcements kept changing (there are two platforms for CST – one from Karjat and one from Kasara). That was quite funny, as we were running (or trying to run) with our luggage!

We boarded the CST fast train which was filled 300% higher than capacity!! But hey, that’s Mumbai! With the natural massages we got as we braved our way from one end of the coach door to the one on the other side, we finally reached our respective destinations with happy memories!

Harishchandragad is definitely one of the most gruelling and gargantuan treks and I’m glad we could complete it without injuries! We couldnt see the view from Konkan Kada due to zero visibility. For that we’ll be going back in winter!

That brings me to what I learned in this trek – life doesn’t go as you always expect it to be. There are some days which are great and some which aren’t so great. Accept that and move on rather than being disappointed. For what you hold right now is still worth much more than what you don’t have… 🙂

PS – If you like my posts, please enter you email ID in the ‘Get Updates’ tab and hit enter. Confirm the mail in your inbox. Posts will be delivered through email. To read more of my trekking experiences, please click on these – Dudhsagar Falls, Kalsubai, Kashmir Trek

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7 thoughts on “Flag Hoisting at 3994 Feet!”

  1. It is so superly awesomely written that I almost felt I am bathing in the waterfalls and in the middle of the lush green mountains and valleys.
    Keep it up Raj…!!

    Liked by 1 person

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