4,691 feet above sea-level, with ruined fortifications and ancient caves tracing back to the Microlithic age, Harishchandragad fort is a perfect trekking destination in the Sahyadris. There are several different paths up to the fort. There two routes to reach the base from Mumbai are, one from the north via Bhandardara to Paachnai and the second via Malshej Ghat to Belpada.
We took the route from the north via Bhandardara, for we rode there on our Royal Enfield Bullets and the route is one of the best riding routes we know.
We rode on Mumbai Nashik highway and turned right towards Bhandardara on the Shirdi road. We could see the sun rising slowly from behind the mountains as we rode
We stopped at Paachmai to have some tea and breakfast before we started trekking up to Harishchandragad
The trekking route starts just after this small bridge across the stream on the left
We could already see one waterfall trickling down from the hills in the distance
As we climbed up, we were rewarded by these spectacular views of the valley below, with colorful wild flowers blooming everywhere
The trekking path is cut into an almost vertical rock face, and this waterfall becomes misty droplets as it falls from the enormous height
As you look back, the cliff and waterfall make a pretty picture!
As we climbed higher, the ground started changing colors into a carpet of yellow with these wild flowers blooming everywhere
I was lucky to capture this butterfly flicking around and enjoying a feast of honey from the flowers everywhere
Interspersed between the yellow flowers were bright blue and some white flowers… what a pretty place!
As we reached the fort, we saw the top of the Harishchandreshwar Temple nestled in the green and yellow of the surrounding flowers
Next to the temple is the Saptatirtha Pushkarni lake. On its bank are temple-like constructions in which there are idols of Lord Vishnu. Recently these idols have been shifted in the caves near the temple of Harishchandreshwar
Harishchandreshwar temple was presumably built in the 14th century. It is said that the great sage Changdev used to meditate here
The temple has no hall or mandap but consists only of a shrine with a very tall spire in the northern Hindu style of architecture as at Buddha Gaya near Banaras
The linga within is worshipped from any one of four doors with porches
On the left of the main temple is a small shrine with a beautiful idol of Ganapati, smeared with sindhur
After seeing the sculptured temple, we climbed the hill behind to go to Kokan kada – to try and catch the famous views of the valley. From this hill, the temple and the lake are clearly visible
Unfortunately when we reached Kokan kada, the clouds had already covered the valley and we had to peer through the occasional gaps. But the place is truly awe inspiring nevertheless.
The clouds swirling about makes it a totally surreal place, especially if you watch them from the edge of the cliff beyond the railings – please do not try this with kids!
The clouds slowly rising along the edge of the cliff hugging the mountain side was a remarkable sight
A panoramic view of Kokan kada – with the clouds moving so fast, there is some loss of continuity
As we made our way back to the caves, we noticed this small water snake hiding in one of the ponds
As we reached the caves, it started raining, and we took shelter inside the caves and watched the rain falling outside
Luckily one of the local villagers had setup a makeshift kitchen in one of the caves, and he was making hot bhakris… completely irresistible!
A simple meal but in this place, next to a hot fire, rain pouring outside… could not ask for anything better!
Soon the clouds descended on the entire fort, and everything was hidden in the fog and mist
Once the rain subsided, we ventured out to see the Kedareshwar cave that lies a short distance below the Harishchandreshwar temple
Inside the cave there is a big Shivlinga that is totally submerged in water. Surrounding the lingo are 4 pillars (similar to the pillars in Elephanta Caves) of which only one remains standing. It is said that the pillars were built to depict the four ‘Yugas’ of Life – ‘Satya Yuga’, ‘Tretha Yuga’, ‘Dwapara Yuga’ and ‘Kali Yuga’. When a Yuga comes to the end of its time, one of the pillars apparently breaks down. Three of the pillars have already broken down. The current ‘Kali Yuga’ will come to an end the day the fourth pillar breaks!
Just outside the Harishchandreshwar temple is another small shrine guarded by this typical lion carving
The rain had wet all the rocks and the flower patches between the rocks looked even more beautiful!
We started making our way downhill, completely enthralled by the place, and promising ourselves to return soon, hopefully to get a clear view from Kokan kada
We stopped a while to take a nice wash in the stream. Just a short distance ahead, the stream falls sharply down a rock face to form a waterfall
After one last look at the first waterfall we had seen on the way up, we reached back in Paachmai, and got back our bikes for the ride back
This father and son must be quite amused at our funny appearance with helmets and jackets. Notice the basket hanging outside the door – it is used to catch crabs in the ponds
This turned out to be a real great expedition – the ride through the hills and the spectacular views on the trek made sure that this was not the last time we came here.
Enjoy a video compilation of the ride and trek: