The English general couldn’t believe his eyes. He had just come up Raigad for King Shivaji’s enthronement ceremony, and was now staring at two huge elephants at the entrance – Mena Darwaja – decorated beautifully.
‘How did these beasts come up all the way? Elephants don’t climb stairs, not of this size.’ he inquired.
‘The king had them brought up in palanquins many months before this ceremony, when these elephants were just babies. They are raised on the gadh.’ The Mahout answered.
The Englishman couldn’t hide his amazement towards the king’s foresight.
‘So Hiroji, what do you want?’ Shivaji was honouring the workers who have built the Raigad, and was now asking its architect about his desired prize.
‘I will take my prize after your enthronement, my king.’
‘So be it’.
After the enthronement ceremony, when Maharaja Shivaji came to Jagadishwar temple, Hiroji Indulkar, the architect, removed a stone from the steps of the temple, to reveal an inner hidden one containing his name – ‘Always willing to serve, Hiroji Indulkar’ – and asked Shivaji:
‘Maharaj, each time you come to this temple, you will first step on my name. This is my prize.’
‘Sir, please open the gates. It’s very late now. I have to go home.’
‘We can’t open the gates, Hira. As per Maharaja Shivaji’s words, gate is to be closed from sun down to sun rise. We can arrange your stay on the gadh.’
‘But I have a small child… he will get scared if he doesn’t see me. Please…’
‘Sorry lady, king’s order.’
Hira, a milkmaid, regularly served milk on Raigad. On the eve of Kojagiri, a full moon night, she rested on the fort for a little more time and couldn’t return to her house in the village at the base of the Gadh. This gadh was guaranteed to be infiltratable by anyone from any sides of the gadh except from the front gates. But mother’s love overcoming the obedience towards the king, she found an unsecured way and climbed down the fort at night. The word reached the king, and it was evident that there was still a weak point to the gadh. If someone could get down undetected, someone might come up as well. The infiltrator was be handled right in order to set an example.
Hira was called up on the fort. Though she came up scared, shaking to hear the punishment that was now surely be hers, she was in for a surprise. Hira was rewarded, a new watchtower was to be constructed at the place she descended, and her name was to be given to that watchtower. Shivaji indeed set an example of how to handle people who accidently come across your weak spot.
Roaming around on Raigad is awe inspiring. The construction itself is sight worthy, but more so are the tales that are associated with it. The grand darbar constructed so that any word spoken at any point of the darbar was heard by the king, the bazaar built at such height so that soldiers on their horses would find it easy to shop, the places for the ministers in government, the palaces of the queens, each place has a history of its own. A wanderer with an open mind can literally get lost in time here.
It took 11 days for the English to burn down the gadh. They destroyed it totally, not sparing even the Shivaji Samadhi – memorial of death. It was later rebuilt by Lokamanya Tilak’s initiatives.
I first toured the fort with the rope way assigned guide, who takes a group of 30 people before moving on. Later, with the help of a map, I roamed around. The design of the fort is very ingenious. Before constructing the fort, Shivaji had studied the surroundings for months, before deciding that this would be the best place for a gadh. Geographically, it really is. While being a huge hill, Raigad is not connected with any other hills, and thus making it a safe high point in case of war.
The construction itself is creative. The stones used for building the fort are dug up on the gadh itself, and in the places where this was done, they had constructed deep lakes, some going as deep as 75 feet.
Palaces of the ministers
Jagadishwar temple in a distance
In background, Takmak tok, a straight cliff of 1300ft fall, where criminals would be pushed away!
Samadhi of Shivaji
The step in the above story – Seveche thaayi tatpar – Hiroji Indulkar – Always willing to serve
A guarantee by the architect that the temple would remain forever!
Lot of policemen and women were on duty. Why, you ask? Well, there is a statue of a dog near Shivaji Samadhi. It is said to be Shivaji’s loyal dog, which jumped in Shivaji’s burning pyre.
Now, one caste organization is saying that this isn’t so, and this statue is to be removed or broken. So for protecting the statue and maintaining peace – or peaceful breaking – police presence was huge. But they were not without style.
Clouds gathering on the gadh
Sitting atop one ‘shop’ in the bazaar
Yesterday’s drama group was practicing in the Darbar. Their performance was scheduled this evening. Therefore the place around the Shivaji throne was all staged up with bamboos and sticks, making it impossible to get clean shadow shots.
Afzal Khan was forcing me to wait for the performance in evening. But as the schedule was quite tight, I satisfied myself watching their practice for a while. His performance was already over. I asked him whether Afzal Khan returns in a dream sequence or something. He reminded me this was a drama, not a TV serial ‘KKingg Shivajii’.
The actors practicing walk-ins. No prizes for guessing Shivaji.
While returning, I took a detour to Hirkani Buruj, named after the lady in the above story. It is quite far, and I made it only half the way, before being scared away from the gathering rain clouds. A few drops started splattering here and there, and I made a run towards the room. No sooner than a minute that I put the foot in the room had it started raining. Luckily I was spared of the free wash.
After a simple lunch on fort, I was back by the ropeway and on way to next stop of the day – Kashid beach.
Getting down from rope way
I didn’t dare to take yesterday’s back breaking path. I chose a longer but nicer route. When I started Vesta, I noticed her voice was not as usual. She is usually throaty and roaring on inclines, but this was different. I wondered whether it was about lack of oil. There were no garages on this side of the gadh. The next mechanic was 25 kilometers away in Mahad! I rode Vesta very gently till Mahad, praying she may go well without any hiccup. We reached the mechanic safe and sound, and I had her oil changed.
Then I remembered, Mahad is a name I read a lot in history books as a child. This is the town where Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar did his Satyagraha for getting the equal rights as mankind. That lake, the ‘Chavdar Tale’, literally ‘tasty lake’, is pretty much in the middle of the town. Felt good that this detour showed me an important part of history which always remains unseen.
Then it was a speedy ride to Roha. The Mumbai Goa Highway is something I don’t particularly like, but have to take anyways. It is a single lane highway, with most of the times the bigger vehicles showing an attitude to kill.
I rode ahead, kilometers after lengthy kilometers. Took a left at Roha, and then straight road to Kashid – today’s destination. We cross many hills on this route to go to the sea, so many small ghats are part of the plan. The road is very scenic, with Gulmohars spreading their red color everywhere.
Finally at around 7.00 P.M. I arrived at Kashid. The village lies some walk-able distance ahead of the beach. I searched for some beach facing property, but then came to know that there are no such hotels in Kashid. So settled for a hotel that was looking good from outside, but sucked to the core once inside the room. It was raining heavily, and I was pretty wet, so I wasn’t much choosy for selecting the room, something that I resented later. Had no connectivity, so internet was out of reach. In fact, when I asked the hotel owner about availability of Internet Café, he understood it as a smoking joint café! That time I lost all hope I had of finding any internet. The night of bugs and insects awaited me. But two days of continuous exertion, the boating and the gadh roaming, took its toll and forced me to sleep.