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Friday, August 29, 2014

Umberkhind Trek

"16 kms Sahaydri trek and you see no fort, 
Chhodna Yaar koi dusra trek karte hai " 

Now that was the reaction that I got from my friend when I suggested that we go on a trek to Umberkhind. Honestly speaking if you are planning to trek to Umberkhind, Think again ! because to do this trek you must be in love with history.Passing through this route you should be able to feel the event that has happened centuries ago, If you are able to do this, believe me it is one of the finest trek that you may gone to.

Before I take you along with my journey. It's very important for you to know as to what is the background of this trek, what is the history connected with it. Out of the various battles fought by Shivaji most people remember the battle of Pawankhind perhaps because a very brave and courageous commander Baji Prabhu Deshpande lost his life or Battle of Sinhagad which Marathas won but with the loss of Tanaji Malusare, However in the same breath let me tell you that the Battle of Umberkhind was equally important in terms of the wealth that was added to Maratha Treasury and the manner in which it was fought and won.It was one of those battles which Shivaji himself lead and won.

It was the year 1659 when Shivaji killed Afzal Khan in Battle of Pratapgad and soon after that he appeared near Panhala Fort and defeated Rustam Zaman, alarmed by this rapid victories of Shivaji, Adilshah requested Mughals to send forces against Shivaji. Aurangzeb was the Emperor at that time , he sent his maternal uncle Shaistha Khan with a large force  to crush Shivaji.Shaistha Khan deputed the job of crushing Shivaji to Uzbek commander Kartalab Khan who along with 30000 strong army marched from Pune.This time around the Mughals decided not to march openly because they wanted to surprise Shivaji instead Shivaji took them by surprise at the pass known as Umberkhind and attacked them from all sides.This battle too involved trickery and surprise especially the way Shivaji enticed Kartalab Khan to take Umberkhind Route by sending a false news that Shivaji is camping at Kurvande Village due to which he changed his plan and proceeded to this village thus walking into the trap setup for him.In this battle Shivaji was at the forefront with the cavalry and within 4 hours defeated the might troops of Kartalab Khan who accepted defeat and surrendered all their arms and baggage to secure safe passage. A lady commander Raibagan who fought from the Mughal side was released with honour , true to Shivaji 's policy towards women. 
 Detailed History link of Battle of Umberkhind

Our Trek :
we all reached Lonawala station  by 8.00 am and from their the transportation to Kurvande village was arranged. It was a 15-20 minutes journey to the Village. One has to just enter on the right of the main road into the village and the next sight is of this long INS Shivaji fencing you see.
Fencing of INS Shivaji as seen at the start Point of the Trek

there is a well marked trail for going up, on your left is the fencing and on your right you will see a big bunglow and few metres ahead one can see the GAIL gas pipeline, you must just keep climbing straight.It's more of a bullock cart road.

First Look at the approaching Nagphani Hill
 As you are walking on this road you will be able to see Nagphani Hill on your front right side.Little more walking and you come across this kind of pass.
                               Walk through the pass
As you cross this pass you will notice Dukes Nose/ Nagphani on your right side, you must turn towards your left side as the route to right side goes toward the Nagphani Top or Dukes Nose. 
Just when you take left you can see the fencing at far end
After turning toward left and with the fencing on your left side too, Keep walking straight on this lush green path,provided you are doing this trek in the monsoon. "Warna Greenery ki pakka koi guarantee nahi "

Lush green paths to walk on
Walking on this lush green carpet don't forget to turn around and have a look at beautiful Nagphani Hill. "Chal bhai ek baar peeche mud ja" 

"Chal bhai ek baar peeche mud ja"
Nagphani Hill or Dukes Nose
The route from here onwards is basically trail walk kind of journey, Do stop here for few minutes to enjoy the beauty of nature, gaze at the lovely valley below

Lovely Valley as seen from the  Top

and you can always have a closer look of Nagphani hill.The tall overshadowing hill.

Have a closer look of Nagphani hill

 In monsoon this trek offers fantastic view of the Sahyadri beauty, mesmerising you with green splash of colours and not for a moment you feel tired or bored.

Oh! How mesmerized I am by this beauty of nature 
Till now the whole trek is kind of trail walk.We were explained that the route that we had just walked on was lot broader in olden days than what it is in today's time. The reason could be that in those days it was a regular route unlike now when only the villagers or trekkers like us venture on these paths.
Walking on the footsteps of Shivaji
In the past the Mughal army was marching on this route with their horses and elephants,carrying guns and cannons followed quietly by Shivaji and his small party of warriors.I could feel the excitement by just thinking and visualizing how this path was a warpath once and I am fortunate to be walking on the footsteps of Shivaji.After walking for some period we come across water stream.

Despite being monsoon there was no sign of clouds or rains.The sun was hitting us hard, so the sight of stream even though small was refreshing.
Refreshing water stream enroute
It's very interesting to note that though we are trekking this route in monsoon and feeling so thirst and tired , I was wondering about the plight of the Maratha soldiers who did this route during the month of February. One has to empathize with the plight of soldiers in hot and humid climate when the streams are also dry. I can only utter "Bravo" Taking the benefit of the  opportunity to have lovely stream flowing near us we all refreshed ourselves.

 and filled up our water bottles from this stream.I also took out some time for posing.

Posing Time
Finally the Organiser got fed up and told everyone to move fast from here and on wards starts our journey once more. Leaving this stream and walking for few minutes we come across small dwellings. I used the word dwelling because there were only 2 or 3 houses to be seen.
First Sign of Village Life
One has to go toward these  houses and move through their courtyard and cross over to the other side and take a left from here.

Walk through this , and take left 
As you can see in the picture above we took left from behind ,a little walk ahead then turn right.This right is almost immediate.

With such overgrown bushes chances of losing the way is possible but one can always take the help of the villager to lead you to the plain ground ahead. Please note in the picture above that my friend is turning towards the right side. The stone wall ahead can be set as marker for diversion.Moving from here we reach a spot from where the trail leads to open space. we all rested here for a small snacks break.
We all rested for a small snacks 

After resting for 5 minutes we all moved , descending a little down on a gentle slope towards an open ground at lower level

Descending down the gentle slope
Once we reached the open ground , Kiran our historian for the day explained to us one very interesting thing. that standing on this plain ground one cannot see the people behind though the site behind is on elevation however those standing above can see the people below.

Large plain ground

So Shivaji and his troops took advantage of this situation, as one battalion which was following the Mughal troop till here  hid behind the tree .Keeping complete vigil over the activities of the Mughal soldiers below and never for once the Mughal troop realised that they are been followed and in the meanwhile the other battalion had spread wide and far in the jungles below. 

One battlaion of Shivaji was hidden in these jungles

and one more battalion was waiting at the Umberkhind all set to ambush the Mughal soldiers. One very note worthy thing I want to mention here is that from this plain ground on wards the troops has to leave there chariots,horses,elephants here and had to descend on foot down through the jungle route where only a single person can go through at a time. Honestly I could feel the thrill of entrapment.
Descending from here to the jungles
Its is very easy to  lose the way from here  because there is no prominent shepherd trail. Best way to follow the trail is to remember that the side from where you descended on this plain ground, Now you must look out on your right side for the trail descending down.As you prepare for downward descend you will be facing the Dukes nose as can be seen in the above picture.The descent from this point is steep,through the thick jungle. Once the descent gets over, you are again a trail walking along with green grass  and lovely small water-bodies.

Green grass and small water bodies

Marching troops of Shivaji

and this trail walks leads you through some beautiful green woods
Amazing green woods

and some more green carpet
Beauty at its best
As I said for this trek if you can instill the spirit of history in your veins coupled with the beauty of the place it becomes one of the finest trek.Ek hindi film me itne twist nahi jitne is trek me hai. Kabhi pahad,kabhi jungle toh ab nadi, Yes finally we come to Amba river.One look at the river and I went bonkers with my camera clicking crazily. Please enjoy my excitement the pictures given below

we have to cross this river and go across. One has to be very careful because at times the flow of this river is very furious. In fact our trek was postponed by few days as the village people had warned us to avoid coming during excessive rains.All our us crossed this river very cautiously.

We crossed the river very cautiously 
Once we crossed the river , we again took the opportunity to have fun in water and fill up our water bottles. Ab river hai to photo session toh banta hai boss.

Once the river is crossed, we again see the bullock cart road, this road can be very easily be seen after we cross the river.
Bullock Cart road as seen after crossing Amba River
 we all started to walk on this road. The beautiful Amba river flowing along us on the left was indeed a lovely sight.
Amba River flowing along the road
 We walked along this Amba river for another 15- 20 minutes till we reach Chavni Village and this time its indeed a village. Once you enter the village you will understand that it has proper connectivity by the way of Tar road,one can see tempo and car in village.However this is what we are talking of modern day, but during old days all the Moghul soldiers were covering this distance on foot marching toward the Umberkhind to nab Shivaji as their Spies have told them that he is camping there.We walk through this village turning to left and after some time come across the bridge, we cross over this bridge with Amba river flowing beneath it

Resting on the Bridge over the Amba river

Majestic sight of  Amba river flowing with another bridge at far end.
I can very well understand the ordeal of Moghul soldiers who had to cover the distance till the Umberkhind  in the month of February and here we were walking the road in monsoon and yet soaked to death by the August heat.I was almost grumbling at this point because of the overbearing heat but then I reminded myself as to the purpose of this trek,which was not only trekking but to walk on the footsteps of Shivaji, in another words its was a reminiscent of journey of Shivaji.

Slumped due to heat but the smile is intact
  The walk from the Chavni village to Umberkhind is long and arduous, walking on tar road can be very boring and tiring one has to keep himself very motivated to walk this long distance.My motivation was very clear because I was walking with the history. I was walking with Shivaji. I was motivated to be one of the soldier who will trap Kartalab Khan and his army, braving the heat we finally reached Umberkhind. The Khind is not very prominent because of the road passing today, but I can visualise how in a narrow pass the Kartalab's soldiers must have got trapped like mouse and how the Shivaji's mere 2000 soldiers overpowered 30000 Mughal soldiers into submission.
Board on the road at Umberkhind 
Today at this point where the battle of Umberkhind was fought we have this board which narrates the entire battle.While coming from the chavni village this board is on our left side. We take a U turn from this board towards the Amba river to visit the memorial or Vijay Stamb constructed by the initiative of Shiv durg mitra  trekking group and the entire Chavni village.
Vijay Stamb or Victory Memorial on Amba River

 The memorial stands majestically across the river, we have to walk across the Amba river once more to pay our tribute to the heroes of Battle of Umberkhind.
One has to cross the river to reach this memorial
The Memorial is indeed a work of art ,the front side has the picture of Shivaji,

On one side the history is mentioned.

Another side has Aagaya  Patra embbed in the stone

 And the fourth side has the details of the people who initiated and inaugurated the Vijay stamb or the Memorial.

For us the most important part was now, because this was the time to offer our prayers to all the brave heroes who fought the war bravely and intelligently.

Paying our respect to the brave warriors
 After paying our respect it was time to chill out in the Amba river, with 4 kms more to go we needed all the freshness and rejuvenation so without any further thought we jumped into the river, feeling the chilled amba river water.
Time to chill out
With full on fun in the waters we were all set to finish the rest of the 4kms of the long 16km trek. The route was again on the same tar road and it was 5 pm when we reached the Shemadi village. The end point of this trek which takes you to Pali khapoli road. As our Tumtum had not arrived so crashed out on the road itself due to tiredness ,we all squatted on the road waiting for vehicle to come.
Atlast the trek is over,resting on Pali-khapoli Road

My only regret through out the trek was the extreme heat that we have to encounter on this 16kms trek despite our trek being in monsoon season, finally we boarded the vehicle and perhaps to tease us the heavens poured so hard that amid thunderbolts and heavy rains we reached Khapoli station.

Special thanks to  our trek organiser Kiran Shelar for bringing the history alive for me.

Travel tips:
1.Trek starts from lonawala
2. Lonawala to Kurvande village arrange transport.
3. Kurvande village start point.
4.Chavni village next point
5. Detour from Umberkhind board for the Vijay stamb or Memorial.
6.Final 4kms walks till the shemadi Village, on pali -Khapoli road.
7. Tum tum ply from Pali to khapoli, but preferably arrange for advance transport .

Grade: Easy/Endurance.

Thank you

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