For first-ever day-long 'Durg Parishad' at Raigad Fort

The Charm of Raigad: A Journey from Mumbai

As the sun rises from the east, the Gateway of India in Mumbai glitters when you cast off for a mini voyage in the Arabian Sea.

A journey to Mandwa jetty in neighbouring Raigad district from Gateway of India - a matter of 45 minutes – can be interesting. In the morning hours, one can see the coastline of South Mumbai. And from the Gateway of India, the Taj Mahal Palace stands out.

This journey was to the first-ever day-long 'Durg Parishad' at the Raigad Fort, a popular destination in Maharashtra.

It is Raigad fort, where the legendary Maratha warrior Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was coronated and laid the foundation of Hindavi Swarajya, a term used to express ‘self-rule of Hindu people’.

In fact, Mandwa is really a village and has a jetty from where people go to Alibaug, the district headquarters of Raigad and a popular weekend destination of the Konkan region. Alibaug is also spelt Alibag.

You may remember that Mandwa became famous after the release of the 1990 film Agneepath, starring Amitabh Bachchan, Mithun Chakraborty and Danny Denzongpa, and also the 2012 remake by the same name starring Hrithik Roshan and Sanjay Dutt. 

The distance from Mandwa to Raigad fort, around 120 Km, can take anything between three and four hours, depending on the traffic situation.

My friend and fellow journalist Dilip Jadhav, who hails from Raigad, became our guide.

As you approach the fort, the sharp turns on the valley signal that you are going to witness the majestic fort. There are two options to go up - take the cable car or stairs. The cable car ride takes about eight to 10 minutes, while the trek could take a few hours.

But before going up, it is a good idea to carry water and a small towel. Using caps/hats and sunglasses are also a good idea.

Spread over 1,300 acres, this hill fort is the largest in India areawise. In fact, the fort trek takes over four hours and to fully explore it, one has to walk about 14 km. This is why it is better to stay hydrated.

A cursory 360-degree look will show that the fort is impregnable by military standards. One of the speakers at the event was Shivaji Maharaj’s descendant, Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati, who is a president-nominated Rajya Sabha member and chairman of Raigad Development Authority. He is also the 'brand ambassador of forts' appointed by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.

Nestled in the Sahyadri ranges and some distance away from the Arabian Sea, the fort in Mahad is replete with history. The fort complex, spread over hills, gorges and valleys, rises at 820 metres above sea level and goes up to 1,356m.

"It is one of the best forts that I have come across," says Amit Samant, one of the founders of Trekshitij, and has visited over 300 forts. The Raigad fort is under the Archaeological Survey of India.

In 1674, Shivaji Maharaj made Raigad Fort his capital. Earlier known as Rairi, Shivaji Maharaj seized the fort from Chandraraoji More, the king of Jawli and a descendant of Chandragupta Maurya, in 1656. For over a decade, it was renovated and strengthened. The villages of Pachad and Raigadwadi are located at the base of the fort.
After the death of Shivaji and thereafter the killing of his son Sambhajil Maharaj in 1689, the fort was captured by Mughals under Aurangzeb and in 1818, it was the target of armed expedition of the British East India Company.

In the historic fort, Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati told us that there are major plans to revamp it and it would soon be transformed to international standards in terms of tourism facilities.

Conservation architect Varun Bhamre, OSD to Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati, said: “This is our heritage and we must protect it.”

At sundown, it was time to take the cable car back to base. Early in the morning, the Kolaba Fort aka Alibag Fort is visible and is a sight to behold. The fort is an important aspect of Maratha history.

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