Saturday, November 08, 2014

Fort Jadhavgarh

Among the princely states that ruled India before the Mughals arrived, the Marathas were known as one of the fiercest in battle. This was proven several times as the mighty Mughal armies were defeated in spite of superior numbers during the early 17th century.  These Deccan Wars are probably the longest recorded military engagement in Indian history - they were on for a period of about 30 years.

The Marathas secured their positions by a vast network of forts throughout the hilly territories of the Western Ghats of India.  There are about 350 of them today, but several of them are by design located in inaccessible regions - a boon for those who love hill-climbing and trekking through nature, but not so much for those who prefer being driven directly to the door.

Fort Jadhavgarh is one of the lesser known forts that dot the countryside near Pune.  Built by a Maratha general Pilaji Madhavrao years after Shivaji’s reign and when the Mughals controlled much of the Maratha heartlands, this area is in a valley and relatively easier to approach from the highway. The drive to this fort is also a pleasant one and quite scenic.

Fort Jadhavgarh has been turned into a weekend resort by its current owner, with a set of rooms built within its imposing stone walls, a spa and swimming pool at its highest point and with a small museum that displays a variety of artefacts from the daily lives of those who lived here many years back.

Having spent a weekend here, I would recommend it to anyone in Mumbai and Pune looking for a weekend break.  While many come here for a day-trip, I believe you need to book a night here to get the most optimum experience.  Also, note that this is not five-star quality accommodation; however, if you set your expectations correctly the visit here can be quite enjoyable.

We had booked a 'hill-view' room on the upper level.  The spa and swimming pool were only a short walk away which was good since the afternoons were warm and just right for a refreshing hour at the pool.  An old neem tree at the centre of the pool has been left alone which added to the old-world charm.

There are two main restaurants at Fort Jadhavgarh: Payatha at the foothills and Chhajja within the walls of the fort. When you make bookings, they give you a full-board plan that includes buffet meals at Payatha. My recommendation is to book only rooms without a meal plan, since Chhajja is the one we liked more.

A relaxed lunch at Chhajja was so much fun.  We were lucky to get one of the two outdoor seating areas in the royal balcony that gives the restaurant its name.  The kababs, the mutton curry and the breads were all pretty good and the beer was refreshing as the afternoon got warmer; however the lunch experience was enhanced primarily by the historic setting and the views of the outdoors with not another building or signs of modernity in sight for miles.

During the evenings, the lawns, the fort and the small temple on the ground were lit up nicely.  My daughter had run into a friend and they ran around the large garden and were content to use the swings affixed to some of the old banyan trees as they chatted.  The resort organised some activities during the evenings for the children.  We also found some time to tour the museum and understand the lifestyle of the men and women who lived here several years back.

Early in the morning, before the sun rose, we were out with a few others for the morning trek to the hills beyond.  The resort had organised a guide and we could take our young daughter since the trek was a relatively simple one.  In the distance, some deer moved cautiously having heard us trampling inelegantly over the hillside.

It was lovely as the sun rose over the countryside slowly lifting the misty haze that hung over the distance. Overall, while the trek didn’t take us through particularly scenic territory, it was nevertheless a highlight of this short trip.


anusia said...

Very nice place and very beautiful view.

Shantanu said...

@anusia: Agree. Thanks for visiting.