Trek from Panhala to Vishalgad

Panhala to Vishalgad (27-30 December 2002)

People say “History doesn’t repeat”, but we decided to repeat it.

One won’t find as much drama in Bollywood movies as in the life of Shivaji. Agra escape, Afzalkhan’s murder, and escape from Panhala! Shivaji was under siege of Siddi Johar on Panhala fort. The siege lasted long and all food stocks had finished, and it made things difficult for Shivaji. It was impossible to defeat the 30000 soldiered troop of Siddi. Shivaji with some 600 mavalas decided to escape to Vishalgad, some 60 kms away. It was Ashadi Pournima, with heavy rains falling. Shivaji informed Siddi that he would surrender hence the Siddi troops were little careless. Taking advantage Shivaji escaped from Panhala. He was not safe till he reached Vishalgad. It was some how that the Siddi’s troops spotted Shivaji escape. Siddi immediately sent horsed troops behind him and they got hold of Shivaji, who was later brought to Siddi’s camp. But it was Shivaji’s game plan; person whom they had caught was not Shivaji, but Siva Navi who was immediately killed. Siddi somehow came to know that Shivaji was on his way to Vishalgad, and so sent troops behind him. Shivaji knew that Siddi’s troops were following him. Baji Prabhu, Shivaji’s loyal sardar decided to stay in Ghod Khind with 300 mavalas, a col were mountain ridges near Vishalgad unite and was the only way to Vishalgad then. Baji with his 300 mavalas had guerilla warfare at Ghodkhind and held the Siddis troops there. They fought bravely till their death. It was only after Baji heard the canon fire indicating safe reach of Shivaji at Vishalgad, he gave his life. It was 21 hour continuous journey from Panhala to Vishalgad. Story didn’t end here; Shivaji had to fight his way to Vishalgad. Vishalgad is a fort difficult to conquer, difficult to lay siege. Also even if siege was laid, one would have enough time to escape to Konkan. Siddi was building siege on Vishalgad, but Shivaji with his diplomatic trick made Adil Shah bring back Siddi Johar.

We were in all 7, including me, Sanjeev, Nitin, Mandar, Sadanad, Sagar and Prashant. We started on 26 night from Pune via Sahyadri express, alighted at Kolhapur, refreshed ourselves in a lodge . Taking darshan of Tulja Bhavani we left for Panhala. Panhala is one hour from Kolhapur by bus. It is less like a fort and more like a hill station. Buses take one right on the top of the fort. From here there are several places to be seen Siddeshwar temple, Vagha Darwaja, Ambarkhana, Teen Darvaja, Pusati Buruj, Rajdindi. We didn’t spend much time on Panhala as we knew we had to go a long way. From Panhala we descended by the Pusati Buruj to Turukwdi and climbed up the Mhasal Pathar. It is a long rock plateau of about 11 km, devoid of any vegetation or habitation except a solitary temple. Strong winds are its specialty. It was evening time when we reached up the Mahasal Plateau and had the view of the sunset. We lost our way here and ended up through spear headed grass to a place, Dhangarwadi. We had to do some night trek then to Kumbharwadi some 4 kms from there. We reached Kumbharwadi at 8 pm. We stayed with a villager, asked them to cook food for us and decided to sleep in their varanda. With sugar mill near the village it had developed a lot, electricity, TV, phone had reached the village. Food was peculiar Kolhapuri, HOT! Bhakari, Usal, Dal rice and milk…a royal dinner!

Next day 29, we had to walk some 35 kms as per plan, hence we started early. From Kumbharwadi to Mandlawadi is 9 km walk along normal bullock cart track. From here we have to cross some mountain ridges and reach Patewadi. In the way is nice dense jungle mainly consisting of nilgiri plantation. We wished to stay in the shades of the jungle for some time, but we had to go a long way. Patewadi is some 10-11 kms away. Ahead we proceeded to Sukama, Mhasalwadi and to Pandhrepani 6-7 kms. From Patewadi onwards we found unusual behaviour of children in the village. They used to ask us for sweets, may be they were used to trekkers giving them sweets. But such behaviour could be cause of trouble in near future. Robbing incidents in Bhimashankar may be linked to this. In Mhasalwadi not only the children but also the elders asked us for sweets. When we opened sack to provide the children sweets, they demanded us chivada. Even they later started fighting among themselves for Chivada. Exact reason for this may never be found, but leads to question in the mind that should we give children sweets in the village?

It was a long trek to Pandherpani; it was evening when we reached there. Mandar and Prashant were feeling the pain. Prashant was totally dehydrated accompanied with vomiting. We hence decided to stay in Pandherpani. We decided to stay in the school there and asked a villager to cook food for us. Star gazing, Nitin’s jyotishshastra, chilling night followed after the dinner.

Our plan was totally disturbed. We were not able to cover the required distance, leaving us to cover 20 kms tomorrow, with only few hours in hand as we had reservation from Kolhapur which is 3 hours bus travel from Vishalgad. Also Prashant and Mandar were not feeling well. Also now most of the trek was just walking on tar road which would turn out to be boring. We hence booked a private jeep from Pandarpani which would take us to Vishalgad, Pavan Khind and back to Malkapur from where we can catch bus for Kolhapur.

Woke up at 4 am, cold and Khatmals didn’t allow us to sleep well in the night. Started in dark for Vishalgad. Jeep dropped us at the base of Vishalgad. It was then a climb of 15 minutes along the steps to reach the top of Vishalgad. On the top there is a popular masjid, temple, remains of fort and some 20 places to be visited. But due to lack of time we didn’t visit all of them. Instead we went to the corners of Vishalgad having a view of valley from different side, from the side of Panhalgad where we saw the sunrise, from the red Konkan side. The view took the pain out of our body. In the return journey we visited the Pavan Khind also known as Ghod Khind, where Baji Prabhu fought a lonely brave battle. Paying tributes to Shivaji, Baji Prabhu here we made our return trip.
From Malkapur to Kolhapur by bus…8 hours train journey to Pune…lots of talks on varied topics specially Sagar’s(an advocate) talk on judiciary system, experiences of our previous trek. This was the time we came to know each other really well. We didn’t know each other before the trek, except for our interlinked contacts. Night stay at Nitin’s home in Pune, and early morning bus travel from Pune ended the trek.

In the end, nice trek, new friends, lot of history learned, tested stamina and most important of all- loving nature’s proximity.

As I always say- WHAT ELSE MATTERS!!!!!

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