Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ganesh Chaturdashi special trek to Ankai - Tankai

The Ganesh festival is one of the biggest festivals celebrated in India. There are crowds all over a city during the 10 days of the festival, which peaks in the last 2-3 days and all main roads in the city get closed for vehicles, to make some room for the crowd walking from one place to another to see the decorations made by various groups (Mandal). The highlight of the festival is the Ganpati Procession (Miravnuk) that takes place on the final day - Anant Chataurdashi.  So unless you want to see those decorations or want to see anything from traditional Dhol - Tasha Pathak in the procession to people dancing on the beats of rowdy hindi film songs, it is not the place for you.

Me and my friends have been going to see this procession since we were in school. We used to go on Laxmi Road at night around 8 - 9 pm, the main road from where all the groups take their Ganapati for immersion and witness the huge crowd gathered there just to be part of the whole festive atmosphere. Wherever you look around, be it the road, railings, footpath, balconies and any open space in the buildings on the road, there is crowd. We used to wait for the very well known and well respected Ganesh Mandal, Dagdusheth Halwai to arrive at the Laxmi road, which never missed its 6 am timing, and then only go back home.

For past few years, the crowd has been inscreasing on the roads and finally we got fed up of being part of the crowdy & noisy procession and since then it has been almost everyone's tradition in our group to go out on some trek on the week end near "Anant Chaturdashi", that is when the Ganesh festival ends.

On a sunny afternoon in August 2011, after our lunch break in office, few of us were discussing what to do on this weekend and suddenly plans started building up very fast. We decided to go to the twin forts Ankai & Tankai. These can be seen while going to or coming from Manmad by railway and we had seen these quite many times while going and coming back from Himalayan treks. Shridhar kaka, one and only senior member in our trekking group, who loves to trek regularly and probably more importantly loves to plan it very well before hand and execute it as much possible as per the plan, insisted that we should make the railway bookings such that we will get a good nights sleep in the journey. We made few calls to regular trekkers of us and booked 9 tickets from Pune Junction (PUNE) - Manmad Junction (MMR) passenger train leaving Pune at 12:30 on Saturday, 10th Sept 2011 morning. We had a return booking from MMR to PUNE of the same passenger train at 9:55pm on 11th September. As the days went by, few more friends joined in unexpectedly :) and ultimately on the night of 10th Sept., 14 of us gathered at Pune station.

The train left Pune on right time and we reached near the forts around 9:50 am on 10th. To go to the forts, we need to get down at the Ankai station and start walking towards the forts. With lot of information on the basis of other's experiences, we concluded that there are two stations, one is 'Ankai' and other 'Ankaikilla', and hence we did not get down at the Ankai station, from where the forts were looking quite far. In few minutes of time train stopped at Ankaikilla station, but the station is so small that our bogie wasnt even close to the station and we got down directly on the train tracks, very much near to the forts.

After traversing the fort around 20 minutes we reached a brightly painted temple in the Ankai village, from where the path to the forts goes up. From this temple, you can see the very strongly builtfortifications. The col between the 2 forts is heavily fortified probably because this is the only real way you can get into the forts..There is no other way to get into the fort & all the sides of the fortare huge rock faces daring anyone to take even one step towards them. At a 5 minutes distance from the temple, there are few Jain caves, which seems to be nicely carved but are ruined now. Still you can make out the sculptures of deities from the information you can get in books and other blogs. It is quite nice, windy, place to take a halt. We had some breakfast here, saw the caves and around 12:15pm started climbing up the stairs to the pass between the two forts. It took us only 15 minutes to climb up at to the huge door in the fortifications, but it was sometimes sunny and humid and it was a bit exhausting . After few more minutes we went ahead to find another entrance of the fort which goes down towards Manmad. From this point the right path takes you to the stairs climbing up the Tankai fort and the Left side stairs take you to the Ankai fort. On both the forts, there are plenty of steps..which I dont really enjoy, but still it very good to see the stairs still standing there to take you wherever you want to go.

On the both sides of the stairs to Tankai, you can see couple of water cut cisterns, quite big considering the size of the fort. It takes another 15 minutes to go at the top. As you climb up you can see a magnificent view of the Ankai fort, especially when you can see it in the light and shadows simultaneously. After crossing a small Dargah at the entrance, at little distance there is big cistern with a lot of small fish in it. Up ahead of this, about 5 minutes away there are 2 more huge cisterns, one of which is dry and other is probably used by the cows. Near these, there is an old temple of Lord Shiva. There is another building towards end of this side of the fort, where you can see a well built bastion.

While climbing up the Ankai fort, there are few small caves on the left side of stairs. There is nothing in it but still we went to see those since we dont like missing seeing any part of any fort. As we go up the Ankai fort there are lot of very well built entrances and stairs with varied heights. On the right of the main entrance there is rock cut cistern, to see it you need to climb up on the rocks. This point is again great for photography. As we go up, we have to cross 4-5 entraces / arches to reach at the top. After first entrance and stairs, there is a large cave with some unfinished carvings.

After getting to through the final doorway, you can see a path leading to up to the foot of a small hill. Right in the front there is a cave with a iron gate built at its door. The cave is 3 levels deep with the first level being used as a place to keep cows. But the inner portions are clean enough to live in.. There are two more caves near this. A path to the right of this cave leads to a large courtyard with a huge tree in the centre & has been tiled. The cave here is converted in temple of 'Agasti muni'. There is a small water cistern with potable water just as we reach the courtyard. The left side cave is used by the care takers at the temple for stay.

We stayed at the cave and decided to see rest of the Ankai fort on the next day. From the temple cave, a path goes ahead towards a palace which must have been the biggest buildings on both the forts. On the way to the palace there is water tank, at the center of which there is small temple. As we go ahead there are couplemore water cisterns. The palace must have had at least 1 floor above the ground but only remnants of that remain now. On one corner there is a portion of the second floor still standing & there is a 'Pir' there.Other that that four walls of the palace are still standing. There is a huge water tank at the center of the palace and at the right side in the tank, there is small door. As per the books we referred, it was a tunnel which is now closed.

On the way back from the palace we climbed the top of the hill over the cave, which is the highest point on the fort. It takes hardly 5 minutes to reach the top of it to see half a dozen of flags with flag sticks . While climbing one can see another big cistern at the other side of the hill. It seems to be the biggest water tank build using rock bricks and has a good depth, but it is a dry tank. There is another route to go down from here which is fairly easy and takes you between the right and middle caves.

Photo by Harshad Chhatre
Both these forts can be seen in a single day and other forts near these, like Katra and Gorakh can be visited on the second day, but since we had spent quite some time in roaming on Ankai and taking pictures, nobody was in the mood to go anywhere else. Since the last night everybody was behaving like a child & doing everything to have fun like school children and tease each other every way we could. It was a fun trek especially because there were so many of us together after so long. Generally we are used to have 4-5 companions max and here there were 14 of us (Shridhar kaka, Abhijit, Manali, Ashwin, Parth, Myself, Harshad, Rasika, Ketaki, Ashish, Gaurav, Pinakin, Apoorv, Shivaji) were there :) I think it was the best time we have had with each other in couple of years..

More Photos


  1. Thank you guys!

    @Apoorv, the correction you suggested is done. :)

  2. Hello Himangi,
    Nice pic!
    Recently, I too have visited Ankai Fort with my group
    Heres one of my pic