India's rich cultural tapestry unveils a country with many faces, each unraveling a piquant feast of fresh experiences. At different moments, India can be indelibly spiritual, architecturally glorious, astonishingly natural, and fascinatingly cultural. Each idiosyncratic destination is infused with a kaleidoscopic blend of enchantment and sensual indulgence, ensuring that no previous travel compares.
Famous as the birth place of Maratha King Chattrapati Shivaji, Shivneri Fort was among the important citadels during Maratha rule. It is located near Junnar town in the Pune district about 95 km north of Pune. The fort attracts a large number of tourists, history buffs and trekkers because of its association with Shivaji, who dreamt of creating a Hindu Swarajya.
Located at an elevation of 2260 ft, the fort resembles the shape of a Shiva-Pind (Divine Phallus). The fort is accessible by two routes – one via stone steps carved out of the rock face which date back to the Satavahana era and the other, a rough extremely hazardous path. The second route has been improved to make it tourist friendly.
One of the most historic and magnificent structures in the country, the Aga Khan palace is ranked high among Pune‘s top attractions. It was built by Sultan Muhammed Shah Aga Khan III in the year 1892. It was originally built to help the poor in its neighboring regions during famine. Its primary historic significance in India is that it was used as prison for Mahatma Gandhi, his wife Kasturba Gandhi, his secretary Mahadev Desai and Sarojini Naidu following the Quit India movement of 1942. In fact, Kasturba and Mahadevbhai breathed their last in this palace and their samadhis are placed here.
Located just 30 km from Pune is the amazing fortress of Sinhagad which literally translates to ‘The Lion’s fort’. The fort has witnessed several battles including the Battle of Sinhagad in 1671. Sinhagad lies in the midst of the Western Sahyadris on top of a cliff in the Bhuleswar range. It offers scenic views of the beautiful green Sahyadris and a sneak peek into the time of the Marathas. The fort has quite a history behind it. It was formerly known as Kondhana and fell under the reign of Mohammad bin Tughlaq in 1328 AD. But after Shivaji rebelled against the Adilshahi, he took control of the fort in 1647. He had to give it up to secure the release of his father Shahaji Bhosale, but recaptured it in 1656.
The fort was attacked by the Mughals in 1662, 1663 and 1665. It remained under Maratha rule till the year 1689. It was only after the death Shivaji’s son Sambhaji that the Mughals were able to gain back control of the fort. However, the Marathas did regain its control on and off before finally, it was conquered by the British in 1818. With such a glorious past, Sinhagad remains one of the most historic places to visit in Maharashtra and a favorite among trekkers.
A popular hill station situated between Mumbai and Pune in Maharashtra, Lonavala is known for its natural beauty and cool climate. Offering respite for those wishing to make a quick escape from Mumbai and Pune, Lonavala and its twin city, Khandala are the ideal getaway spots. Situated at 625 meters above sea level, Lonavala is 110 km from Mumbai and 60 km from Pune. The host of caves like Bhaja, Bedsa and Karla, are believed to be the reason why Lonavala derives its name from the Sanskrit word lonavli which means caves. Due to its strategic location, various dynasties have vied for control of Lonavala and its surrounding regions. Several dynasties — from the Yadavas to the Mughals and the Marathas — have ruled Khandala and its surrounding regions before it eventually fell in the hands of the British. Several forts including Lohagad, Tunga and Tikona were important battle stations during Shivaji’s reign and fell into the Mughal hands under Treaty of Purandar. Lord Elphinstone, the Governor of Bombay Presidency in 1871, is credited with the discovery of Lonavala and Khandala.