Friday, June 03, 2016

Twin forts of Ankai and Tankai in the Manmad Region

About the Destination:
Satmala Range, also called the Chandwad Range located South from Manmad is a range of table-top mountains running from west to east. This range contains many impressive and beautiful ancient hill forts.

Two impressive table-top mountains of this range - Ankai and Tankai - rise up to 275 m high above the surrounding landscape. The highest summit is located on Ankai - 961 m above the sea level and here opens a wide view on valleys of Khandesh and Godavari. Both hills from all sides have nearly vertical walls with several steps and only the narrow saddle between both hills makes them ascendable.

Ankai is located to the west of the common col. The uneven plateau on its top is up to 700 m long and approximately 200 m wide. Eastern side of plateau contains a steep hill which is rising some 45 m above the other plateau.Tankai is located to the east and is somewhat larger. It is up to 800 m long and up to 600 m wide. Surface of Tankai is more flat and windswept.

At the base of Tankai there are located several 700 - 1000 years old Jain and Hindu rock-cut temples, some Hindu rock-cut temples are located on Ankai. The rock cut figure of Bhavani is worth seeing. There are also remnants of ancient temples and other structures strewn all along the way to the col.

We can ascend from the Kusur (Ankai) village to the south from the saddle between both hills. The route passes by the Tankai Jain Cave Temples and through arched entrance door then reach the saddle and have a choice to ascend either Tankai or Ankai via path of stone-cut steps.

For most part of the year the area is grey and desert like but during the monsoon miraculous change happens - even the plateaus on top of both hills are covered with lush green grass with some low shrubs in some places

Ankai Fort

While ascending Ankai fort we pass through 7 rings of fortifications and a Hindu rock-cut temple. The winding steps leading towards the top of the hill were easy to defend. Behind the last gateway there stand remnants of a curious domed building disputed to be a treasure chamber in those times.

Top of the hill earlier had many buildings, nowadays only a few ruins remain. Plateau contains up to 15 m deep rock-cut granaries, 7 water tanks. The most impressive ruins are located in the far western end - this is former palace with a huge pond in front of it. At the base of the hill on eastern side of plateau there are located Hindu rock-cut shrines with hermits living here up to this day.
In the middle part of Ankai there is square water tank with an ancient sculpture in the middle.

Tankai hill fort

Ascent to the plateau of Tankai hill also leads through fortified wall with arched door.

Plateau on the top of Tankai is more flat and lower than the top of Ankai. Grass covered plateau is windy, nowadays it is used for horse grazing. Here is no shelter, though plateau contains semi-collapsed Shiva temple built of large stone blocks adorned with stone carving and Nandi sitting in the front of the building and looking towards the shrine of Shiva.

All four corners of plateau have traces of former fortifications, in the eastern side are located remnants of well-built guard house.

Most likely Tankai served as a huge storage facility of supplies for Ankai fort.

Known history

In 1635 both forts were captured by the general Khan Khanan of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan

The last time when forts were captured was in April 5, 1818 when British (unit of Lieutenant-Colonel McDowell) took them without bloodshed. This was great luck for British as the fort had large amount of ammunition and neighbouring forts were ready to take up rebellion if Ankai would start it.

Activities that can be carried out in the forts : Trekking, early morning birding, photography
Difficulty Level: Easy

We can see Patta Fort, Bitangad, Alang, Madan, Kulang, Kalsubai and the surrounding area from Aundha fort.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Travelogue – Trek to Bitangad, Patta and Aad Forts in the Nashik region- by Chakram Hikers, Mulund

The range of Sahyadri ,starting from Igatpuri is also recognized as the range of Kalsubai. Towards the western side of this range we can find forts like Alang, Madan and the Kalsubai peak. Towards the eastern side of this range the forts like Aundh,Bitangad, Aad and Patta are situated 

On the weekend of 27-28 February, we had planned this trek with main focus on visiting and visiting the forts of Bitangad, Patta and Aad and also, if time permitted, visit the Jagdamba temple at the village of Tahakari.

A total of 5 participants started from Mulund in a Jeep on the night of Friday, February 26, 2016 for the trek. The route uptoBhandardara is quite easy to navigate. Further down the route gets a bit tricky and the road markings are far and few which makes navigation in the night a real nightmare. We turned into the route going towards Kalsubai (the highest peak in the Sahyadri in Maharashtra). We had to take a turn into the TakedPhata but due to lack of anysignage pointing to the turn, we went right ahead for around 15 odd kms and reached Rajur where we were pointed back to the right direction. Backtracking all the way, we reached the Ekdara village and took much needed rest in a temple compound. We had already lost 2-3 hours of sleep in the extra travel and just got around an hour and half of sleep before we had to get up and start the trek.

A detailed writeup of the forts visited is given below :


Bitangad is located at the border of Nashik and Ahmednagar districts, a bit interior to the Ghoti – Bhandardara road. It is a part of the Kalsubai range, and is near to Aundha, Patta, Aad and Mhasoba. To the southwest of this fort are Kalsubai, Alang, Madan and Kulang.

 Since the mountain cap has scarce area, this mountain was fortified only to function as a watch tower. Hence there are very few remnants on the fort. However, this is a good place to hike and stay overnight as it offers scenic views from the top.

Ways To Reach :

The base village of this fort is Bitangwadi, locally called Bitaka, which is quite interior to the main road. Ghoti town is located on NH3 about 30 km east of Igatpuri, a known place on Mumbai – Nashik route. From Ghoti toll, proceed towards Bhandardara. At about 19 km, we need to take diversion at TakedPhata. (This phata is not marked and one can miss it if not careful. A very good landmark is the huge semi circular board welcoming one to the Kalsubai Region There is an immediate turn to the left which leads to Taked. Make sure that you do not miss this turn.  From Taked, we have to reach the Ekdara village diversion at 11 km and take the road to Bitanwadi (Bitaka) which is 6 km away from the diversion

From the Ekdara village, we proceeded ahead to the village of Bitaka which is the base village of Bitangad.
The road is full of boulders and holes and it was quite an effort for the jeep to drop us upto the base of the fort.  Though we had a general idea of the route, it was not at all easy to search for it, with lots of shrubs and trees and no clear route

We found a local cowherd and requested him to lead us to the top. This small hill is mostly a walk and then a little bit of an uphill hike. From Bitanwadi, it usually takes about 20-25 mins to reach the base of the hill where we start hiking upwards(another 45 mins). The route up is marked by a rocky staircase(like many other hills around Nasik). The holds around the steps are well placed so that the climb is easy. There is also a small cave immediately after three staircase. It can accommodate about 6-8 people in the dry season.  The top is a beautiful place with commanding views all around. The adjoining hill- Mahankal is filled with a large number of windmills. There are 2 sets of watertanks, one near the South side of the top massif and another on the East face. We can also see the other hills around and also the pinnacle of Shenit from the top of Bitangad. There was no water on the top and one has to compulsorily carry water to the top. It takes around 3 hours 30 mins from Bitanwadi and back.

The route from Bitanwadi passes via the base of another well-known giant fort called Patta (Vishramgad) which was our stop for the day and for the evening.

Patta Fort (Vishramgad)

There are two different routes which can lead us to the fort. One route starts from Pattawadi, which is the base village of this fort. This route is very easy and we can reach to the top early, as Pattawadi is itself situated on the plateau.The other route to this fort is from the Ninavi village.

The Maratha army, under the leadership of MoropantPingle had conquered this fort in the year 1671 from Moghuls. The top of this fort is actually a huge plateau. The forts like Alang, Madan, Kulang, Trimbakgad and Kalsubai peak are in the vicinity of Patta. From Patta fort one can keep watch on this complete region.ChatrapatiShivajiMaharaj has renamed this fort as Vishramgad. In the year 1688 Matabarkhan had re-conquered this fort.

The local gram Panchayat and the villagers have taken up the task, along with the ASI to rebuild the fort and beautify it as a tourist location. The government also has allocated around 1.5 crores for this project to the village panchayat. The fort walls and a few buildings on the top have been rebuilt and beautified. The panchayat has also built a welcome arch, a couple of temples, steps to the top and quite a few guest houses at the base of the village for tourists to stay and charge a fee of Rs. 500/- per cottage per day. They also charge an entry fee of Rs. 10/- per head to enter the fort premises. We, being hardcore trekkers, refused to stay in the cottages and made our base at the top of the fort in the Granary which has been fully rebuilt.

The expanse of Patta is huge and one would need an entire day to see the entire top of Patta along with all the fortifications and bastions, not to mention the caves and the water tanks. We spent some excellent time on top of Patta with some cooking and photography as a part of our evening activity. The night was clear with lots of wind which made the evening climate cool and pleasant. We also had some excellent birding all along the way and on the top. Birds that were sighed were the Red Vented Bulbuls, Red Whiskered Bulbuls, Pale Billed Flowerpecker, Crimson Sunbird, Long Tailed Shrike, Jungle Babblers, Greater Coucal, Green Bee Eater, Pied Bushchat, Siberian Stonechat, Baya Weavers, Spotted Dove, Indian Roller and many others.

Aad Fort

Our next day target for Sunday morning wasAad fort. We could not complete seeing the Patta fort the previous day, so took out a couple of hours to explore the Patta fort in more detail. So we proceeded toward Aad fort around 10.30 am instead of the planned 8.30 am. From Pattewadi, the road then leads to Thangaon and further to Aadwadi. Thangaon is a place known for tomato growers. You will find all farmers sorting tomatoes all over the place and then filling it in big plastic boxes for further transportation. There was also extensive fields of onions, celery, cabbages, broccoli and wheat all along the route.

The base village is called Aadwadi. The route to Aadwadi is very scenic with mostly gigantic views of the Wind mills. We cross into the village and the route winds up to the base through an embankment of a small holding lake. One can see the local women washing clothes and exchanging gossip. There is a well nearby from where one can top up the water bottles of drinking water.

Aad is a small but very beautiful fort. It is easy to hike from Aadwadi and usually takes about 30 mins from the base to top (for regular hikers). Although it is easy, the approach towards the right place to start the hike could be confusing. The top of Aad is a wide spread plateau with about 3 sets water tanks (non-potable), one door, and a cave on the other side. The cave can be approached via a staircase and a small rock step (not difficult, but be careful). The cave is worth a visit with a small compartment next to it. The cave and compartment can easily accommodate about 20 people. There is a good water tank next to the cave and it happens to be the only potable source of water. There are also some old structures above the fort which look like constructions and also some tomb like structures.

We descended the same way down and started our return journey.

There are numerous Shrines of various god and goddess in Maharashtra. Of which Mahalaxmifrom Kolhapur, Bhavani from Tuljapur, Renuka from Mahur and Saptshrungi from Vani are the most renowed divinities, which are the collectively known as “SadeteenShaktipithe”. In addition to these, there are many such other temples, of which one is of the vigilant Goddess Shree Jagdamba Mata at Village- TAHAKARI.
Tahakari is a small village located at TalukaAkole, District Ahamadnagar. Surrounding area of Tahakari is called “DandkaranyaParisar”. This location is considered auspicious as it has been visited by the lord Shri Ram according to folklore. The Adhala River flows nearby Tahakari Village and Shree Jagdamba Temple is situated at the bank of this river.
The Temple has been constructed by Yadavas. It is built using a style known as Hemadpanthi style. The entire temple is made with stones. It has seventy-two pillars and five pinnacle and many sculptural carvings on the exterior as well interior of the temple. There are also quite a few erotic sculptures on the outer walls of the temple akin to those found in the temple of Khajuraho.
Inside the temple we get to see an eye- pleasing idol seated on Tiger which has been carved in wood. One of the important peculiarities of this Goddess is that she has eighteen hands which hold various types of weapons. The panorama of “Mahishasrmardini” is displayed here. In addition to that in this temple, idol of Mahalaxmi is facing toward West and Bhadrakali facing toward East.
After a good darshan of the Goddess, we trace back out way to Mumbai and return home extremely happy and satisfied on a trek well done and some hard earned money well spent on an activity we all love to do. The total cost per participants, all included came to around 1700/-.

Ravi Vaidyanathan

Solapur - Osmanabad Trek Report

Date : September 24-27, 2004

Starting Point : Portuguese Church, Dadar, 11.10 pm

Started off at 11.10 pm after everyone assembled at the designated location. There were 9 of us for the trek, viz., Shailesh Kandalgaonkar (leader), Ashish Thakur, Ameya Datey, Ajay Dhuru, Amit Dhuru, Ketan Kale, Ravi Vaidyanathan, Nilesh Pitale and Mahesh Kadam. We booked a 16 seater Cruiser which was quite comfortable in accommodating all of us and our trekking sacks and other stuff too. Left the location and proceeded to our first destination Akluj.

Sept 25, 2004

Akluj (Solapur District)

A beautiful fort in Akluj was our first destination. Reached Akluj at 7.40 am, had our breakfast and then visited the fort. This fort is not quite vast and it took us around an hour to see it completely. Beautifully maintained garden inside the fort and quite a bit of it is being restored. This town in named Akluj after Aklai Devi who is the presiding diety of that town.

On the way to our next stop Velapur, we came across the village of Khandali, which had a “Ghadi” or fortified enclosure which we visited next. It is located around 6.5 kms from Akluj on the Akluj - Velapur road. The “ghadi” is made of compressed mud and stones and can withstand cannon fire. The cannon balls get embedded into the softer mud walls and hardly cause any damage to the stronghold. This one has the Deshmukh family living in it, and has belonged to them for generations. This stronghold is around 400 years old, the first level of fortification has already crumbled except for a small portion of it, the inner walls are also quite fragile. Out of the three entrances that existed in the past, the final inner one is still present.

Velapur (Solapur District) (distance 8 kms from Akluj) – Velapur has a very ancient Hemadpanthi style temple of Shiva & Parvati. The name of the diety is Ardhanarinateshwar. The beautifully and intricately carved black granite sculpture of Shiva and Parvati has been consecrated on the base of the Linga and is highly polished. This village was called Ekchakrinagar back in time but is known as Velapur now. Quite a beautiful temple worth visiting. A shilalekh in the devnagri script is present in the temple and another one on the right hand side of the staircase leading to the temple pond. Left for Pandharpur at 10.20 am.

Pandharpur (Solapur District) (11 kms from Velapur) – Reached the famous town of Pandharpur at 11.00 am. Washed our feet in the river Chandraprabha (Bhima later), had a quick darshan of Vitthal and Rakhumai, took our lunch and left for our next destination Mangalweda which had a fort waiting to be appreciated. Left Pandharpur around 1.00 noon.

Mangalweda (Solapur District) (20 kms from Pandharpur) – A huge crowd greeted us at the entrance of Mangalweda at 2.00 pm when we reached the fort. The whole of zilla parishad offices are located inside this fortification. All the bastions are in a very dilapidated condition but the fort walls are still quite intact. In many places the walls have been refurbished and rebuilt. The fort houses some huge ancient trees which gave the black ibis some good building sites for their nests. The could be heard communicating with their shrill calls quite often. Hardly any of the olden structures left inside, completely occupied by Zilla Parishad offices. Out next stop was the fort of Mohol.

Mohol (Solapur District) (around Kms 14) – Reached the fort of Mohol at 4.15 pm. Inside the village and not visible from the main road. Hardly anything left of the fort except a bastion (out of the 4 which was originally present), and that too in a very bad condition. All the fortification stones are lying around and quite many have been used to reconstruct houses around. Left Mohol in ½ hour and proceeded to Solapur Fort.

Solapur (Solapur District) – (Temple and Fort – reached 5.20 pm – 15-16 kms). The temple is located in the middle of a lake and the fort stands in its banks. A very beautiful temple of Shiva (Siddheshwar Temple). After visiting the temple, went to see the fort. One part of the fortification is right opposite the temple with a river running in the middle and acting as a natural moat. The fort was closed due to rains and we could not have the opportunity of visiting it and seeing its grandeur from inside. However, we managed to get permission from the owner of a tall 6 storey building located in the opposite site of the road to the fort and video shoot the entire fort from above. Disappointed, we left for Tuljapur for the night halt.

Tuljapur (Osmanabad District) – ( Kms) Reached around 8.15 pm for the night halt. Had dinner at a hotel and booked room for ourselves at the pujari’s place which is just next to the temple. Got up at 4.30 am, had a bath and went for the early morning darshan by 5.15 am. A fantastic darshan of Tulja Bhavani at close range was a very pleasurable and beautiful experience. Left for Naldurg after having breakfast at Tuljapur at 6.50 am.

Sept 26, 2004

Naldurg (Osmanabad District) (32 kms) – Reached Naldurg at 8.30 am. This fort comes under the ASI and is a protected monument. Photography is prohibited but the watchman appointed by ASI can be pataoed. Mahesh was the guy whom we used to send to patao these guys for photography, and it worked ….. always.. A land fort which has been quite well preserved and is very beautiful. This fort covers an area of around 35 acres and is quite huge. It took us a full 3 hours to see the complete fort and still we missed out on a few things.

Ausa (Latur District) (70+ Kms from Naldurg) Our next destination Ausagad was no exception to the rule. The route was through Umarga which is 35 Kms from Naldurg and Ausa was 45+ kms further down. Reached the fort at 1.30 noon. Ausagad is not as big as Naldurg but equally impressive. The fort is under the ASI and is being maintained well and repairs are underway to maintain it in a good shape. Some statistics of Ausagad are – 7 entrances, 7 wells, 26 bastions, 65 canons and 25 acres spread. Finished our rounds at Ausagad at 2.45 and then proceeded to have our lunch and further down to our next destination Udgir.

Udgir (Latur District) – (91 Kms from Ausa) – Udgir was another lovely fort not worth missing. It is as extensive as Ausagad and has lots of original buildings and construction left in it, though in a bad shape. The beauty of the remains makes us wonder how beautiful the actual buildings and the fort would have been in its glorious past. Reached Udgir at around 4.45 and finished our rounds of the fort by 6.45. We left for our next destination which was supposed to be Ambejogai for the night halt (distance around 117 kms).

Parli (Beed District) – (120 kms from Udgir) One our way, we changed plans and diverted to Parli as we had to come back the next day to Sirur and we had to do that via the Ambejogai route. The last diversion to Parli (around 16 kms) was pretty bad with roads giving us and the vehicle a very bad time. Reached quite late at around 9.45, searched for a Khanaval and had a good meal there. Stayed at the guest house belonging to the temple.

Sept 27, 2004

Woke up quite early at 4.30 am, had our wash and went in to have a darshan of the Jyotirling (Vaijnath “Vaidyanath” of Parli). After a lovely darshan, left at 6.10 am for Ambejogai to seek the Darshan of Amba Bhavani. (24 kms from Parli). The darshan at Ambejogai was also very good, hardly any crowds and we had a good look at the diety and quite much time to pray too !!.

Dharur (Beed District) (40+ Kms from Ambejogai) – On our way to Dharur stopped midway at Aadas when we sighted a ghadi there. This fortified enclosure has been standing proudly for the past 400 years and time has taken its toll, as usual. Left Aadas at 8.00 am for Dharur fort, where we reached at 9.00 am. It took us nearly 2 hours to go round the fort looking at the various structures there. A beautiful fort with lots of construction, dyke protected, and strewn with lots of lakes and tanks too. Left Dharur at 10.45 for Paranda.

Paranda Fort (Osmanabad District) (110+ Kms) Reached Paranda at 3.00 pm after lunch and chasing the pelting rains for an hour on the roads. The fort of Paranda was the cream of the cake. The chowkidar was again pataoed and he let us take photographs. The assistant who accompanied us to the rounds of the fort was quite surprised at the ease with which we got a permission to photograph the fort, which is prohibited according to the ASI notice. A fantastic fort with lots of bastions and crenellated walls. Most bastions had a huge cannon still lying on it and displaying its past glory. Cannons of the Maratha era, the Nizamshahi, Adilshahi, Dutch and English are all found here. There is also a store room where around 50 cannons and around 150+ cannonballs are stored. Quite a picturesque fort with lots of peacocks around voicing their presence regularly. Left half heartedly for our last destination – Karmala at 4.45 pm. A beautiful fort with lots of cannons in brief.

Karmala (Osmanabad District) (20+ kms) – A fort worth forgetting all about. From the outside the walls and bastions are extremely good looking and quite intact. It is when you go inside that u get the shock of your life. A whole town is thriving inside the fort. The walls have been sliced apart to build roads and the bastions are just nowhere in sight. We had the distinct impression of huge fort sets which are made for shooting movies, beautiful from the outside but nothing inside !!! None of the old construction remains inside… did see a lot of Ganpati idols being taken out for visarjan and that was a beautiful sight. Left the fort at around 5.30 and took the jeep back to our hometown Mumbai. Stopped on the way to have a late nite diner at around 1.30 and reached Mumbai Tuesday Morning (Sept 28, 2004) at around 5.30. Thus ended one of the most memorable treks of the Solapur – Latur regions. All pictures (290+) are posted elsewhere under the name Solapur Trek.