What’s a good place for a weekend trip from Hyderabad, especially during the monsoon, which can be done in 2 days is a place in Maharashtra. It is a trek to Harishchandragad fort near Mumbai and is in Junnar region of the Ahmednagar district. The place is at a distance of 200kms from both Pune and Mumbai. The route of Harishchandragad Fort trek falls under the Kalsubai Harishchandragad wildlife sanctuary. The three peaks of the Sahyadri mountains which are in Harishchandragad are Balekilla, Rohidas and Taramati. Taramati is the fourth highest peak of Maharashtra. Harishchandragad lies at a height of 4665 feet above the sea level and is located at Malshej Ghat. It is a tall fort with thick walls built all around it. There are more than one entrance gates to this fort like Nalichi Vaat, Junnar gate route,Indore waat, Pachnai route and Sadhale Ghat. The trail is quite different and the multiple paths to reach the top makes the trek possible for new trekkers and interesting for the expert ones.
In important Puranas or ancient religious Hindu literature like Agnipurana, Matsyapurana and Sknadapurana, the reference to Harishchandragad Fort has been found. The history of Kothali village and Malshej ghat is connected with this hill fort. The fort was built in the medieval period, in the 6th century, which is clear from its relation with Shakta, Shaiva or Naath. It is believed that the Kalachuri dynasty had built the fort. The Harishchandreshwar temple, the Nageshwar temples in Khireshwar village and the Kedareshwar cave all have carvings on them which are an indication of the period when the fort was constructed.
The caves were carved in the 11th century and these caves attract the tourists even today. The fort played an important part in guarding the nearby regions. Changdev, who was a renowned sage and was the author of the manuscript Tatvasaar, had put up in the fort and made the temple a place for his meditation for some days. The Moguls captured the fort later in the 16th century. In 1747, the Marathas took control of the fort. Many different kingdoms have been captured and ruled over here from time to time and the influence of various dynasties and cultures are visible on the different structures.
When, why, and how should you go?
The fort makes a good weekend destination because of the presence of Kedareshwar cave, Taramati Peak, Sapta Tirta Pushkarini, the Konkan cliff and the Harishchandreshwar temple. There is not just one place to see after you have climbed to the zenith and the trek route lies amidst thick forests. The best time to go for this trek is between October and April but nothing can beat the beauty the place has during monsoon. The lush greenery, clouds, gurgling streams, newly sprouted flowers, fog – the misty weather makes it a dreamlike destination. So actually come here any time between August to February to have a great trip. During summer, the temperature of the place is quite high which is not at all suitable for trekking. Just remember to avoid the peak monsoon too as the rocky parts of the terrain become slippery and unsafe.
There are three base villages from where you can start your Harishchandreshwar Trek. These villages are named Paachnai, Khireshwar and Nallichi Wat. The trek from Pachnai village is the easiest and the hardest is from Nalichi Wat. The route from Khireshwar is of moderate difficulty but the most scenic one.
If you want to reach Harishchandragad by train, the Igatpuri station is the one nearest to it. From Harishchandragad fort, it is 41 kms away. But to arrive at this junction, you will have to take a train from Kalyan Mumbai. And after reaching Igatpuri, you will have to travel by road till the base village.
If you want to fly here, the nearest airport to Harishchandreshwar Fort is none other than the Mumbai airport which is 200 kms away. Again from the airport to reach the base villages, one will have to travel by road.
If after reaching Mumbai, you want to come here by a car or a cab, it will take you approximately 4 and a ½ hours to reach. From both Mumbai and Pune, you can reach any of the base villages by car, bike or bus. From Pune, it will take around 5 hours to reach. You can come to Pachnai village by car and park your car there after paying a small parking fee. And the best bus route is the one from Mumbai to Khireshwar, plying through Kalyan and Khubi Pata.
Should you attempt the trek?
The difficulty level of Harishchandragad trek can be put as medium to difficult and the trek is adventurous. The Harishchandra trek distance is a total of 16 kms, 8 on each side. The most experienced trekker will take around 2 – 3 hours to reach the top. From Pachnai village, it is a 5 km uphill climb. For a beginner trekker, the route through Pachnai village is recommended. Among all the treks possible on the Western Ghats, this is one of the most challenging ones and will make a pro trekker tired too. But one thing that you must keep in mind is that you have to have a true love for trekking if you want to visit the fort. You will not find any toilets during your trek. If having washroom facilities during a trek is a must for you, this place is not recommended. And you must wear a pair of good trekking shoes. If you are an experienced trekker, visiting the Harishchandragad fort is going to be a beautiful experience for you. Harishchandragad falls on the Sahyadri range and doing this trek is a thing of pride for trekkers.
There are eateries which have come up beside some of these caves. Some caves are still hidden in largely uncharted territories. Trekkers have no inkling of them but the locals are aware of these caves. At a little distance from Sapta tirtha pushkarini, the most impressive cave is present which is 30 feet deep. There are many entry points of this cave which makes going in and out of the cave easy. Trekkers can go to one side from another for exploration through the cave.
When required, such as on rainy days and during the winter, trekkers took shelter inside these caves. They actually stayed here. Now with the eateries also coming up with Harishchandragad camping packages, adventurers do not usually choose the caves for overnight stay.
River Mangalganga is known to have originated from here. Initially to maintain the cave, four pillars were constructed around the Shiva Linga. Only one of the pillars is still standing now. The other three pillars have been damaged. It is believed that the four pillars represented four periods of time or ages, referred to as Yugas. The four yugas represented by the pillars are the four yugas which together form the Mahayuga – Krita, Treta, Dvapara and Kali Yug. The breaking of each pillar has marked the end of one yoga and once the 4th pillar also breaks, the Kali Yuga will end.
As mentioned earlier, this is an easy trek route. You will have to trek for 3 kms and you will be able to reach Harishchandragad after around 2 hours. There is a clear trail which will guide you throughout the trek, so that also makes the hike easy. If you come here solo, you will be able to do the trek without the help of a guide. You will find the trail starting right from the base village only. There is a board at the entry point which will show you the directions on how to reach the top of Harishchandragad. The forest department has even constructed ladders and railings using metals to help the trekkers. These make climbing the difficult parts much easier. You will see a big rock wall after trekking for about one hour. You will have to walk along the huge wall. It will take you approximately fifteen minutes to leave the wall behind. After crossing the wall, you will reach a plateau. From the plateau, within half an hour, you will arrive at the Harishchandragad temple.
During the Harishchandragad trek, you will explore many things and have great experiences. If you are a true nature lover and are not going with any travel agency, spend a night at Harishchandragad Fort. Trekkers love to camp in and around the fort. If you stay in the fort, you will have the freedom to explore the whole evening without any hurry. On the next day, you can start trekking downhill. Another option for camping are all the caves that are around the temple. If you have some trekking experience and can carry your own tent, you can put it up wherever you want. There are no restrictions. You will also be able to hire a tent from the villagers by paying around five hundred rupees. The tents are big enough to accommodate three people. You will also have no problems in getting your meals, as there are eateries set up by locals around the fort. The fare is mostly Maharashtrian food. But be informed that only during the peak tourist season, when the footfalls are high, the food stalls are set up by the villages. If you plan to trek during off-season, carry everything you might need for an overnight stay, including food.
If you are an experienced and adventurous trekker, do not give Harishchandragad Fort trek a miss, there are opportunities for adventure sports like camping, rock climbing, valley crossing and even rappelling.
Board the train from Hyderabad for going to Pune
9;00 am : Reach Pune.
9:15 am: Leave for base village in pre-booked Non-AC private vehicle
4:00 pm: Briefing session after lunch and start trekking
10:00 pm: Arrive at the caves of Harishchandragad
11:00 pm: Have dinner (cooked by local trekkers or by us) and sleep in caves/tents
5:00 am: Wake up early & freshen up. Day to see the temple protected by UNESCO, One Pillar Temple, Pushkarani and Konkan Kada peak.
6:00 am: Start trekking to reach Konkan Kad.
6:30 am; Reach destination and spend some time
7:30 am: Trek back to caves
8:00 am: Arrive at caves
8:30 am: Visit the nearby temples and leave for the base village
12:00 pm: Get into vehicle for getting back to Pune
4:00 PM: Reach Pune and board the train for Hyderabad
Reach Hyderabad between 6:00-7:30 am. Say goodbye to your new friends and leave with some great memories