One of the best treks to do in Maharashtra is trek to Harishchandragad. This fort is located in Harishchandragad Kalsubai Wildlife Sanctuary and, is one of the highest peaks in the Western Ghats.
Although this sanctuary houses some amazing treks like Ratangad, Kaladgad and Sandhan Valley, trek to Harishchandragad is an amazing and a must trek for trek lovers.
Getting to the details of the fort, Harishchandragad is located in Malshej ghat region in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra. The fort is 4671 feet above sea level. Although a lot of studies say, the trek is difficult, I think it can be said is moderately difficult for the first two routes. Nalichi vaat is very tough as it includes rock climbing. So, if you are planning to trek via this route it is advisable to have an experienced trekker with you.
Many of the trekking groups from Pune and trek groups from Mumbai organize trek to Harishchandragad for various adventure activities like, rappelling, rock climbing and valley crossing. So, here, I gave some more reasons for you adventure enthusiasts to go for this trek.
Harishchandragad can be trekked by three routes, namely, via Pachnai village, via Khireshwar village and via Nalichi vaat. The routes are in order of increasing difficulty.
When it comes to how to reach the following base villages, I personally like to go on my bike. If you are lucky enough and live in Pune, Nashik or Mumbai, I strongly recommend you take your bike so that you can experience the scenic nature while you drive.
For ones using public transport, here is how you can reach Harishchandragad:
- To reach Pachnai: From Pune, the route goes like, Pune – Nashik Fata – Narayangaon – Junnar – Otur – Kotul – Vihir – Pachnai. The bus frequency is very high from Nashik Phata to Alephata. You will have to change bus from Alephata to Rajur and then hire a private vehicle to reach Pachnai. People coming from Mumbai, the route looks something like, Mumbai – Igatpuri – Ghoti – Bari – Rajur – Pachnai.
- To reach Khireshwar: From Mumbai, reach Kalyan, head on towards Malshej Ghat on NH222. After the ghat ends, you’ll find a diversion leading to Khireshwar village. If you are coming from Pune, your route will be like, Pune – Alephata – Khubi Phata – Khireshwar.
- To reach Nalichi vaat: From Mumbai, the route goes like Mumbai – Kalyan – Savarne – Belpada.
You will get buses from Alephata, just ask the conductor to tell you the stop. It comes just before Malshej Ghat. The route from Pune is like, Pune – Alephata – Savarne – Belpada. You will have to walk for an hour from Savarne to reach Belpada.
Deciding to trek Harishchandragad:
When I was doing research regarding difficulty of this trek, the toughest route to reach the top is Nalichi vaat, then Khireshwar and Pachnai route is the easiest. I was not up to any adventure, my aim for doing this trek was crystal clear, and that was The Kedareshwar cave and the mythical columns in the cave. So I chose the Pachnai route.
I will tell you the myth of the cave in further part of this trek. Because reading is fun when you have some surprise at the end right?
So, I and my two friends; Vishwajeet and Anil, decided to do this trek in winter, in the month of December. We all loved to ride, so we decided to ride till Pachnai on our bikes. Even though the ride was of 160km and about five hours continuous drive, we were pretty much excited about this two days plan.
My Chosen Route:
The route we followed was Pune – Alephata – Otur – Kotul – Pachnai. We left in the evening of 27th December approximately around five in evening. Boy oh boy, only if we knew the adventure that was waiting for us in the way.
The route till Alephata is very good, obviously, after all, it is a national highway. The road starts to get worse there on. We had no idea that the road would get so bad. We were simply driving the endless road navigating in Google Maps, hoping to reach the village as early as possible.
We took our first break at Otur after driving for three and a half hours. The navigator was showing still two and a half hour drive. After having a cup of tea, we started again towards our next milestone, that was Kotul.
The route consists of lot of ghats that are very lonely and might be risky to some extent, so please, if you are going to drive, go in a group of at least five. We had dinner on the way in a dhaba which was in between a ghat.
We drove and drove, and the size of the villages we passed grew smaller and smaller. Finally, we reached the entrance of the Harishchandragad wildlife sanctuary. We gave a sigh of relief and entered the door.
After driving inside, we realized that the road had become even more threatening than before. There was no sign of any human life, no village, no street lights. All we had was a road in a poor condition that passed through a very deep and dark forest with wild animals roaming freely inside. If at all our luck was bad that day and any one of our bikes would have broken down, we would surely be dead meat.
Stumbling upon our Hero:
We were driving continuously in dark with no sign board or mobile network service hoping to reach a village and learn exactly where we are. The climate grew colder with every kilometer we passed. Finally, after driving for two hours in the forest, we reached Pachnai at two in mid-night.
The next question for us was, how do we find Bhaskar? Everyone in the village was asleep and we couldn’t just knock any random door guessing that house would be of Bhaskar’s. So we decided to sleep inside a ST bus standing nearby till sunrise. Just then, like god, two men drove on a bike near us, and what were the odds, one of them was Bhaskar!
So, who exactly is Bhaskar right? While I was doing research about this trek, I learned that lot of people suggested to have a trek guide. Bhaskar is one of residents of Pachnai village, initially I did not trust the man, but I ensure you, he is a very kind and humble man. He took us to his home and gave us place to sleep. He also gave us good sheets and made us hot tea to survive the cold. After the trek, I took his number and if I ever go to Harishchandragad, I will be hiring Bhaskar only as my guide.
Plan to catch the sunrise gone flop:
We decided to start ascending the peak early morning at six and dozed off in no time. With no surprise, we woke up at seven in morning and I was the first one to wake. I soon woke up the other two sleepy heads and we got ready in few minutes. We started the trek at eight in morning.
There is a sign board at the start of the trek saying “Harishchandragad paivaat” which means route towards Harishchandragad. The route is quite clear wide and not too tricky to follow. There are hand railings in the way where there are boulders and steps to climb.
After walking for thirty minutes, you will come across a path carved in the mountain at its edge. So when you pass this 15 minutes path, there is a valley on one side and carved mountain on the other side.
Spots to visit on Harishchandragad:
Basically, there are four main points to visit on Harishchandragad:
- Konkan Kada (Konkan Cliff)
- Harishchandreshwar Temple
- Kedareshwar Cave
- Sapthatirtha Pushkarni
Generally, people finish spots number two – five and later go visit Konkan Kada. But our friend, Bhaskar suggested us to visit Konkan Kada first as the view in early morning from the cliff is amazing. So we took his suggestion and started walking towards the cliff.
We reached Konkan Kada at 9:30 and we were amazed to see the creation of nature. The Konkan Kada name is given because; it faces towards west and looks towards Konkan. While we were gazing down the cliff (although there were only clouds), we noticed that we saw a circular rainbow amongst those clouds.
Another interesting phenomenon about this spot Bhaskar told us that, when the there is high traffic of clouds, the overhanging shape of the cliff suck in the clouds and throw it up in the sky. I wish we could see that in reality, but unfortunately we were short of clouds!
We rested at the end of the cliff for almost an hour; we clicked many pictures and had some snacks. Finally, we realized that the sun was getting over our head, so we decided to move to the top of the peak.
Reaching the top of Harishchandragad:
The top of the peak is again about an hour trek from Konkan Kada. We reached the top at 11:15 because we walked continuously without taking any break.
At the top of the peak, you find Sapthagiri Pushkarni, Harishchandreshwar temple and Kedareshwar cave. We first visited the Pushkarni, which is present on the eastern side of the temple. On the banks of the pond, there are 14 small temple like constructions in which there were idols of Lord Vishnu. Now after the government took control over the area, these idols are moved inside the Harishchandreshwar temple. The water is in very bad condition as it is getting contaminated by visitors every day.
Next we visited the temple which is an excellent example of ancient architecture. The temple is pretty much higher than usual temples found on forts and has got entrances from all four directions. A river called Mangal Ganga is said to originate from one of the water tanks present inside the temple. Another interesting temple inside is The Kashitirtha temple, which is said to be carved from a single piece of rock.
The Mythical Cave:
Moving parallel along the temple, I finally got my wish fulfilled of visiting the Kedareshwar cave. I promised to share the myth about this cave, so here it goes. Inside this cave, there is a huge Shivalinga, about 5 feet tall and is completely surrounded by water all the year long.
You will see, the entire cave is supported solely by a single standing pillar. 3 pillars are broken! Legends say that the four pillars of the cave represent the four Yugas of Hindu mythology, namely Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dwapara Yuga and Kali Yuga. Currently, we are living in Kali Yuga and the final pillar, is said that, it will break when the final Yuga ends. So, what do you think? Interesting right?
Bidding Adieu to Harishchandragad:
We could not spend much time on the peak as we had to return back home and mainly we had to get out of the sanctuary before it got dark. So, we started to descend at 12 and reached the foot at around 2 in afternoon.
We bid goodbyes with Bhaskar and exchanged his number and started for our homes at 2:30. We had lot of stops in between as it was day and we had to witness the view that we couldn’t see while we were coming to Pachnai in dense dark. We also visited Ozhar Ganpati, which is one of the famous Aashthavinayak.
We reached Pune around 8:30 and I just crashed on the bed as soon as I reached my home. And just like that we completed our one of the most memorable treks.
Harishchandragad is not the highest fort in Maharashtra, but still it is considered to be of the difficult trek. So if you are adventure enthusiast, go for this trek as soon as possible.
According to me, the trek route through Pachnai is very easy and can be done by anyone. The place is just amazing having some beautiful artifacts like the Harishchandreshwar temple and some amazing spots like The Konkan Kada and some mythical wonders like Kedareshwar cave. There are lot of spots on the top where you can camp and lay tents. Overall, this is the trek you must do at least once in your life-time.
There is no issue of food, as the villagers of Pachnai have hotels both in the village and on top of the peak. They also provide tents for camping and guide you to the trek.
If I have interested you in this trek, when are you planning it?