Harishchandragad, a hill fort situated on the boundaries of 3 districts of Maharashtra i.e. Pune, Ahmednagar & Thane. The fort comes under Harishchandragad-Kalsubai Wildlife Sanctuary. It is one of the most challenging treks in the Western Ghats. Harishchandragad fort can be visited all year long & known for its size and spectacular ‘Kokankada’- the cliff overlooking the Konkan belt has been a hot pick amongst adventure enthusiasts and trekkers for several years.
Harishchandragad fort is quite 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. The various temples and carvings in the caves indicate that the fort belongs to the medieval period since it is related to Shaiva, Shakta or Naath. Later, the fort was under the control of the Moguls. And by 1747, the Marathas captured it.
This hill fort can be approached from multiple routes. Khireshwar Tolar Khind route & Pachnai route is the two normally used routes. While Junnar Darwaja & Nalichi Vaat route is the route rarely used. Among these, all route Nalichi Vaat route is the toughest one.
The fort is quite ancient. Remnants of Microlithic man have been discovered here. The various Puranas (ancient scriptures) like Matsyapurana, Agnipurana and Skandapurana include many references for Harishchandragad. Its origin is said to have been in the 6th century, during the rule of the Kalchuri dynasty. The citadel was built during this era. The various caves probably have been carved out in the 11th century. In these caves, idols of Lord Vishnu carved. Though the cliffs are named Taramati and Rohidas, they are not related to Ayodhya.
Great sage Changdev (one who created the epic “Tatvasaar”), used to meditate here in the 14th century. The caves are from the same period. The various constructions on the fort and those existing in the surrounding region point to the existence of diverse cultures here. The carvings on the temples of Nageshwar (in Khireshwar village), in the Harishchandreshwar temple and in the cave of Kedareshwar indicate that the fort belongs to the medieval period since it is related to Shaiva, Shakta or Naath. Later the fort was under the control of Moguls. The Marathas captured it in 1747.
Harishchandragad is 3 km away from Pachnai. Pachnai is surrounded by mountains and in monsoon, you can get a visual of five falls from the base. This is the easiest route to reach Harishchandragad. Might be the simplest route but it’s very scenic. Since it does not take out your breath, you are more appreciative of your surroundings. While we descend in full light and clear sky, time appears to be at a standstill. Those who are photographers can get extremely beautiful landscapes on this route.
The major attraction of Harishchandragad is Konkan Kada, an almost 1,423 m concave fall. It is a vertical overhang, like a cobra’s hood, providing a panoramic view of the surrounding hills and an enchanting sunset. It’s beyond description, one should actually see it to experience nature’s architecture. The view from here is awesome and unimaginable.
Also, there are colonies of vultures in the huge crevices. You need a pair of binoculars to watch them a little closer.
Going rightwards of Harishchandreshwar temple, we come across a huge cave. This is the cave of Kedareshwar, in which there is a big Shivling, which is totally surrounded by water. The total height from its base is five feet, and the water is waist-deep. It is quite difficult to reach the Shivling because the water is ice-cold. There are sculptures carved out here. In monsoon, it is not possible to reach this cave, as a huge stream flows across the way.
The Shivling is surrounded by four pillars that essentially represent the four yugas of life on earth.
The general belief is that the current phase is Kaliyuga. The day the fourth pillar breaks down will be considered the end of this era.
This temple is a marvellous example of the fine art of carving sculptures out of stones that prevailed in ancient India. It is about 16 m high from its base. Around this temple there a few caves & ancient water tanks. The river Mangal Ganga is said to originate from one of the tanks located close to the temple.
The top of the temple resembles construction with the North-Indian temples. A similar temple is situated in Buddha-Gaya. Here we can see many tombs, in which a typical construction is seen. These are built by well-finished arranging stones one on top of the other. There are three main caves near the temple. The cisterns near the temple provide drinking water.
A short distance away, another temple called Kashitirtha is located. The fascinating thing about this temple is that it has been carved out from a single huge rock. There are entrances from all four sides. On the main entrance, there are sculptures of faces. These are the faces of the guards of the temple. On the left side of the entrance is a Devanagari inscription, which is about saint Changdev.
To the east of the temple is a well-built lake called “Saptatirtha”. On its bank are temple-like constructions in which there are idols of Lord Vishnu. Recently these idols have been shifted in the caves near the temple of Harishchandreshwar.
A little further away on the mountain is the Taramati peak, one of the highest peaks in Maharashtra, providing a breath-taking view of the surrounding mountain ranges and an ideal setting to bask in the golden canopy of the rising Sun. From here we can have a glimpse of the whole range of Naneghat and the forts near Murbad.
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