Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pratapgad - Fort near Mahabaleshwar

Pratapgad - A Fort near Mahabaleshwar

The monsoons has started but not yet reached its ferocious best. What i like about Pune during monsoons is the way it changes the color of the landscape of the place to a glistening green. This weekend i decided to travel solo to one of the strongholds of the Shivaji empire, Pratapgad - a beautiful fort up a hill near Mahabaleshwar.

Mahabaleshwar is a hillstation near Pune which doesn't need any introduction. A beautiful hillstation, favorite destination of many a puneite at a distance of about 120 Km from Pune, Mahabaleshwar has many sub destinations like gems on a crown scattered around it. Pratapgad fort is one such gem at about 25 Km from Mahabaleshwar. To reach Pratapgad fort from Mahabaleshwar one has to drive towards Poladpur and this fort lies ahead of the Ambenali ghats. Ambenali ghats is about 10 Kms long and shows one few of the most beautiful views around Mahabaleshwar. 
Most of the distance is covered in a thick canopy of trees and riding through the woods is in itself a special experience with the fog and the clouds partially blinding you. During monsoons one would find numerous seasonal waterfalls along the way. I wonder at times why the monsoons are considered to be off seasons in Mahabaleshwar apart from the fact that one might miss out on the strawberries, but there is lot more to Mahabaleshwar than the strawberries! anyways the good part about off seasons is that room tariffs go down to almost one third of what it would be during high seasons and one gets to see the place in the greenest possible way. I can keep wondering why monsoons are off season but there are no reasons to complain!!
Once you descend the Ambenali ghats you reach the Ambenali village from where you need to take a left to the Pratapgad fort which is about five Km from the deviation. Its a steep ascend to reach the fort. The altitude lost in the Ambenali ghat in about 10 Kms, the steep climb gains almost the same altitude in about 5Kms. The point being be ready for a treacherously steep climb!! On the way up there is a handicraft centre where different aretefacts can be found. An exhibition of art and pictures carved in metal is a stop that you should take. I visited the exhibition which is grand.
One can ride right up to the base of the fort where the stairway up starts. I reached the fort early in the morning and it was a misty walk up the fort.There is a cannon placed right at the gateway; on passing the gateway, Abdulla's tower lies to the right while the path to the left leads to the upperfort. The temple of Bhavani is on the eastern side of the lower fort. This temple apparently was built in 1661 by Shivaji as he was unable to visit his favorite diety, Bhavani at Tuljapur due continous heavy rains. The stairway continues upto the top of the fort where a statue of Shivaji is erected on a pedestal sorrounded by probably a erstwhile manicured garden. 

The inscriptionread that statue was unveiled by Pt Jawaharlal Nehru in the year 1957. There is also a rest house built by the PWD for which booking can be done from Satara or even at the rest house real time subject to availability. Its very basic accomodation with no frills attached. The ramparts of this huge fort extends further however the whole place is covered by trees and bushes. There is a water tank up ahead and also you can see the Mumbai-Goa highway. The fort has gigantic cliffs on The western and northern sides with a drop of a few hundred feets.

Pratapgad fort built by Moro Trimbak Pingle at the command of Shivaji to secure access to his possessions on the banks of Nira and Koyna river near the source of the River Krshna, and to strengthen the defences of the Par Pass is today a beautiful destination near pune for a weekend geta away.

For booking at the rest house on top you may contact Laxman the caretaker of the for and it would cost approx 400-500 a day to stay here.

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