Rajmachi - Ideal Destination for Trekking During Monsoon

Pics: Deepak D'Souza
October 9, 2008

For someone adventurous at heart and lover of nature, Rajmachi, an idyllic hill fort in the Western Ghats is an ideal destination for trekking especially during the monsoon season. Ruins of forts and temples and the ancient Buddhist caves on the way beacon the trekker through dense forests with varied flora and fauna as well as milky white water-falls presenting a mixture of history and nature that transports the trekker from the bustling city life in concrete jungles to an heavenly experience of peace and tranquility in the cradle of nature. Trek to Rajmachi during monsoon is most adventurous and challenging.

The historical fort of Rajmachi is situated to the North West of Lonavla on the top of the Western Ghats. Rajmachi is near twin hill stations in Maharashtra - Lonavla and Khandala. The fort consists of a rich treasure of historical monuments like ramparts, gateways, water reservoirs, temples and images of deities.

The historical Rajmachi fort complex was originally constructed by the Satavahanas. In 1657, Shivaji Maharaj captured this fort along with other neighbouring forts from the Adilshahi ruler of Bijapur. In 1704, the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb captured the fort from the Marathas. However, the Marathas regained its control in 1705. In 1713, Shahu Maharaj handed over Rajmachi fort to Kanhoji Angre. Eventually in 1818 with the downfall of the Marathas, the British acquired the control of the Maratha territories including the forts such as Rajmachi.

Rajmachi consists of two beautiful peaks namely Shrivardhan and Manaranjan. Shrivardhan is more than 30,000 feet high. Shrivardhan is the citadel (bale killa) of the Rajmachi fort complex. It was constructed chiefly to keep a watch on the Konkan area.

The height of Manaranjan is around 27,000 feet. Manaranjan consists of strong walls, three doors and many water tanks. Shrivardhan and Manaranjan are separated by a small plateau. There is an ancient temple dedicated to Kalabhairav in between these two peaks.

There are two ways to reach the Rajmachi fort.  One is from Lonavla, roughly 20 km flat walk and the other is from Karjat, gradually climb of around 4 km. For beginners, it would be better to trek from Lonavla as this is a much easier path. After completing the trek they can descend to Karjat if they are from Mumbai or suburbs.  For those trekkers who are from Pune, it would be better to trek back to Lonavla.

Those trekkers who would like to begin their journey to Rajmachi from Lonavla should take the route which passes through the Tungarli Lake which is a plain road. To save time one can hire autorickshaw from Lonavla station up to the Tungarli Lake.  Through this route it takes around four hours to reach the base of Rajmachi fort. At a distance of 10km from Lonavla the trekkers come across the Walwan village. It is a picturesque region during monsoon with many beautiful cascading waterfalls. After trekking for about 5-6 hours one reaches Udhewadi, the base village of Rajmachi. Those who would like to make a halt can avail rented accommodation and typically Maharashtrian food in this village.

Those trekkers from Mumbai and suburbs who would like to complete the trekking adventure to Rajmachi within a day can take the Karjat-Rajmachi track. It is preferable to take the first Karjat local train starting from the Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus(CST) early morning at 04.40 (Dadar 04.57, Thane 05.34, Dombivli 05.56, Kalyan 06.05) that reaches Karjat at 07.05.

From Karjat one has to reach the Kondivade village to start the trek. Local transport, either State Transport (ST) buses or autorickshaws can be availed for this purpose. From Kondivade one has two options to ascend to Rajmachi. The first is to trek from the Kharvandi village which saves nearly half an hour of the total hiking time. The second option is through Kondana village if one wishes to visit the Kondana caves while ascending to Rajmachi. The Kondana caves contain beautiful Buddhist cave architecture and sculptures. 

It takes around 4-5 hours to reach Rajmachi from Kondivade village. This route passes through a dense forest. It is better to trek in groups possibly with someone who had already done trekking through this track. For amateur trekkers the best way to proceed would be to follow arrow markings below the cave and follow the arrows and sign boards put on the trunks of trees or on rocks till they reach their destination. If proper guidance is not sought there is a possibility of getting lost in this thick forest.

Along the route the trekkers come across a rich variety of plants and herbs. One is also treated to the beautiful view of waterfalls. Due to a considerably steep ascent, trekkers are forced to take breaks at an interval of every fifteen minutes or half an hour depending on their stamina.

The routes to Rajmachi, either from Lonavla or Karjat merge at Udhewadi village which is the base of Rajmachi. A climb of another half an hour takes the trekker at the base of the twin forts, Shrivardhan to the right and Manaranjan to the left.

There is a small temple of Kalabhairav in between these two peaks. The temple has idols of Kalabhairav and Jogeshwari, believed to have been donated by Chatrapati Shivaji and Peshwa Bajirao I. The old cannon in front of the temple manifests the historical antecedents of the region.

From the temple of Kalabhairav in about fifteen minutes one can reach the entrance of the citadel of Shrivardhan. The climb till the steps of Shrivardhan citadel is almost vertical. From this point the route to the peak is quite tricky and risky. One has to walk on slippery ridges to reach the gate of the fort. The fort has an excellent architecture. There are also few caves which provide temporary shelter to the trekkers during hot days. A carving of Lord Ganesha can be seen on the entrance of the middle cave.

After exploring the Shrivardhan fort the trekkers have to retrace back to the Kalabhairav temple to get to the trail for the Manaranjan citadel. While climbing the two peaks, one can view the country side, ruins of many forts, water tanks and water falls. Besides, one can also view other places of interest at a distance from the Manaranjan peak such as Ulhas River, Duke's Nose (Nagphani), Karnala ,Matheran, Mahuli and Bhimashankar.

After enjoying the natural beauty one can return to Udhewadi village. On the southern end of this village, a small forest-trail leads to the Udaysagar lake. After the strenuous hike of Rajmachi, a swim in this lake proves to be a refreshing one provided one is a good swimmer.

From Udhewadi one can make the return journey either to Lonavla or Karjat. The return journey from Rajmachi to Karjat is easier to follow. However, the trekkers should be extra careful while descending the steep track.

The completion of trek to the Rajmachi, especially during the monsoon is a fulfilling experience. For a day at least the trekker lives in a world of fantasy, the world of adventure, natural beauty and historical legacy.

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by Dr Eugene D'Souza, Mumbai
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Comment on this article

  • John Pereira, KUlshekar/Ghatkopar

    Sun, Oct 12 2008

    Rajmachi is indeed an excellent trekking destination close to Mumbai, near Lonavla/Karjat.The description is very lucid and while reading, one can feel as if you are already on the trail of reaching the destination peak of Rajmachi. I remember my own personal experience of trekking to Lovegad Fort near Lonavala and Karnala Fort at Karnala Bird Sanctuary near Panvel. I had undergone a wonderful experience.

    So, I can imagine that Rajmachi will lure me for my next trekking trip, after reading this beautiful article on nature's sightseeing. Hats of to Dr. Eugene D'Souza and his son Mr. Deepak D'Souza for their adventurous spirit by photographing/publishing breathtaking scenery resulting in their inspiration to the lovers of nature like me!

  • ashutosh dabral, dehradoon/ manipal

    Sat, Oct 11 2008

    Beautifull .  . no words to define

  • sandya, Mangalore

    Sat, Oct 11 2008

    It is wonderful nature I like it very much...


    Sat, Oct 11 2008

    Beautiful pictures thanks for daiji.

  • margret, malpe/udupi

    Fri, Oct 10 2008

    lovely pictures and good information for anyone to visit rajmachi for trekking. One will not get lost.Thanks Daiji for giving us beautiful information how to travel to rajmachi.

  • viraj,

    Thu, Oct 09 2008

    Beautiful pictures,took me back to the time when I had been to Rajmachi with our entire group of 15 family members......though I could not make it to the full height, all my cousins enjoyed the adrak wali chaai sold right on the tip of Rajmachi in a small daaba....thanks for the article.

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