Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Climbing the Sahyadris

Just a hundred kilometers from Mumbai, the Sahyadri hills begin.

This New Year weekend, we decided to go climb one of the hills to see the ruins of Korigad, a fort built on top of the hill.

There are nearly 350 forts in Maharashtra, evidence of a martial past, when the Marathas fought long and hard to shake off Mughal rule. Some of Maharashtra's forts are large strong cunning affairs, built on islands in the sea, or on the shore - but many like Korigad are small clever mountain hide-outs in the Sahyadris.

What makes the Sahyadri forts interesting is the way the very mountain lends itself to warfare.

You see, unlike the Himalayas, which were formed by two tectonic plates colliding, the Sahyadris are a relict of an ancient table-land, whose sides have been scooped out by massive erosion. (Check out the Deccan Uplift map, very cool pics)

How does that help in warfare?

In two ways - first, the sides of the mountains are steep. The
climb is so steep in places that invading armies can't come up except in ones and twos.

And second -
the top is flat! In fact, it's so flat that Korigad actually has a lake on top, inside the fort. What a clever place to hole up! There's probably water enough to last for a few months in troubled times.

There's a Marathi saying -
Jyanche kille, tyanche rajye. He who owns the forts, rules the land. When I went to Korigad, I could see the sense in it.

Here's a photo of husband and me at the top, inside the fort. You can see how flat it is. Behind us is a small part of the lake (full pic here). At the far end is the fort wall.

Why is the wall only 8 feet tall? Because the other side of the wall is a sheer drop, of course! Barring the one route by which we came up, the other sides of this hill are steep and difficult to climb. They knew what they were doing when they picked this place for a hide-out!

The coolest thing about Korigad is actually the fact that it is so close to Bombay - just two hours away - and yet so charming and unspoilt. We sat on the fort wall, in the shade of a leafy bush. We ate salted peanuts, drank cold water, played desultory word games and watched the birds. The afternoon was quiet and still, we had the entire fort to ourselves. I could hear bees buzzing. The breeze and the sun were doing their bit as well, making me drowsy.

I tell you, I've become a Sahyadri fan.

2 comments:

Sujatha said...

Hi Deepa, check out http://desicritics.org and let me know if you'd like to put up your posts on Desicritics. Sorry to introduce this to you via a comment, but I did not see an e-mail address in your profile.

Sujatha.

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