About 40 km from India’s wine capital Nashik in Maharashtra, the Harihar Fort built on a triangular prism of rock can only be reached after climbing a steep flight of 200 stairs. Considered one of India’s toughest trekking routes, the stairs are 80 degrees to the foothill and feel almost surreal from a distance.
The steep steps have been made by excavating natural rocks. Some places also have grooves for support. Harihar appears rectangular from the foothills. The fort has two villages at its base -- Harshewadi and Nirgudpada. Climbing from Harshewadi is easier, and most people take that route for trekking.
Harihar Fort has steep rock faces that offer an exciting challenge for climbers. So it is also popular among rock climbers.
History of Harihar Fort
This fort was built between the 12th and 14th centuries during the rule of the Yadava (Seuna) dynasty. Harihar is situated on the Trimbakeshwar Range of the Western Ghats. The range is divided into two major parts. One part includes the forts of Basgad, Utwad, Fanicha Dongar, Harihar and Trimbakgad. The forts of Anjaneri and Ghargad are located in the other part.
The main reason behind Harihar Fort’s construction was to keep a watch on the trade route through Gonda Ghat in the Sahyadri Hills. Harihar Fort was attacked by many invaders over the centuries.
The fort later came under the control of the Ahmadnagar Sultanate. In 1636, military leader Shahaji Raje Bhosale surrendered the Hairhar Fort, along with Trimbakgad and some other forts, to Mughal General Khan Zaman.
In 1818, the fort was captured by Captain Briggs, a British agent, along with 17 other Maharashtra forts.
A wide, safe trekking path starts from the hillock in Harshewadi. It passes through scrub forest till it reaches an open ridge connected to the fort. It takes about an hour to reach the scarp of the hill where the fort is situated.
The steps are worn out in many places, but there is support on either side of the steps for holding onto. At many places, the steps are so narrow that, only one person can climb at a time. After climbing over 200 steps, one reaches the main gate of the fort.
Upon entering the gate is the fort’s plateau, which tapers off. There is a hill in the middle. Further along the path, there is a secret door in the cliff but there is currently no way to get there.
The plateau also has a small temple of Lord Hanuman and Lord Shiva with his trident. There is a large pond of water in front of the worship structure.
On one side of the fort, there are five water tanks. The water in one of them is said to be suitable for drinking during the monsoon but is best avoided due to the possibility of contamination.
The peak of the Harihar fort gives an astonishing view of the elongated hilltop. Lush green trees, clouds floating around, steep valleys and the mist around monsoon make it an experience like none other. More pictures here: