The fort is quite ancient. Remnants of Microlithic man have been discovered here. The various Puranas (ancient scriptures) like Matsyapurana, Agnipurana and Skandapurana include many references about Harishchandragad. Its origin is said to have been in 6th century, during the rule of Kalchuri dynasty. The citadel was built during this era. The various caves probably have been carved out in the 11th century. In these caves are idols of Lord Vishnu. Though the cliffs are named Taramati and Rohidas, they are not related to Ayodhya. Great sage Changdev (one who created the epic “Tatvasaar”), used to meditate here in 14th century. The caves are from the same period. The various constructions on the fort and those existing the surrounding region point to the existence of diverse cultures here. The carvings on the temples of Nageshwar (in Khireshwar village), in the Harishchandreshwar temple and in the cave of Kedareshwar indicate that the fort belongs to the medieval period, since it is related to Shaiva, Shakta or Naath. Later the fort was under the control of Moguls. The Marathas captured it in 1747.
Places to Visit
To the east of the temple is a well-built lake called “Saptatirtha”. On its bank are temple-like constructions in which there are idols of Lord Vishnu. Recently these idols have been shifted in the caves near the temple of Harishchandreshwar. These days many trekkers have been responsible for the sad plight of this beautiful place, as they throw plastic wastes and other things in the pond. 7 years back the water was potable, and now it isn’t suitable even to swim.
Going rightwards of Harishchandreshwar temple, one comes across a huge cave. This is the cave of Kedareshwar (see picture), in which there is a big Shivlinga, which is totally surrounded by water. The total height from its base is five feet, and the water is waist-deep. It is quite difficult to reach the Shivlinga because the water is ice-cold. There are sculptures carved out here. In monsoon it is not possible to reach this cave, as a huge stream flows across the way.
Konkan Kada (Konkan cliff)
The most interesting point on this fort is this cliff, which has always fascinated many people from many years. The cliff faces west and looks down upon the Konkan. From here, one can have a breathtaking view of the surrounding region and the setting sun. This cliff is not just vertical, it is an overhang, almost like a cobra's hood. It has been climbed many times. Sometimes a circular rainbow (the Brocken spectre phenomenon) can be seen from this point. It can be seen only when there is a bit of mist in the valley, and the sun is right behind the person facing the valley. One amazing phenomenon that can be observed at this place is the vertical cloud burst, in which the clouds nearing the cliff get sucked into the pit fall area below are thrown vertically into the sky reaching more than 50 feet (15 m). It creates a magical wall that is rising straight from the edge of the cliff without entering the landmass area. The fog show and hovering clouds below the cliff complement the season if one visits.
Also known as Taramanchi. This is the topmost point on the fort (1429 meters). Leopards are seen in the forests beyond this peak. From here one can have a glimpse of the whole range of Naneghat and the forts near Murbad. From this Taramati point, you can have a glimpse of forts till Siddhagad near Bhimashankar in the south and Napta twin peaks,Ghodishep (865 meters),Ajoba (1375 meters),Kulang fort (1471 meters)in the north near the Kasara region
Caves on Harishchandragad
These caves are situated all over the fort. Many of these are situated at the foot of Taramati peak & are the place of accommodation. A few are near the temple, whereas some are near the citadel and some far away in the forests. A 30 feet (9.1 m) deep natural cave is on the northwestern side of the fort, to the right of Kokan Kada. Many other caves are still said to remain undiscovered.
Temple of Harishchandreshwar
This temple is marvelous example of the fine art of carving sculptures out of stones that prevailed in ancient India. It is about 16 m high from its base. Around this temple there a few caves & ancient water tanks. The river Mangal Ganga is said to originate from one of the tanks located close to the temple. The top of the temple resembles construction with the north-Indian temples. A similar temple is situated in Buddha-Gaya. Here you can see many tombs, in which a typical construction is seen. These are built by well-finished arranging stones one on top of the other. There are three main caves near the temple. The cisterns near the temple provide drinking water. A short distance away, another temple called Kashitirtha is located. The fascinating thing about this temple is that it has been carved out from a single huge rock. There are entrances from all four sides. On the main entrance there are sculptures of faces. These are faces of guards of the temple. On the left side of the entrance is a Devnagri inscription, which is about saint Changdev.
Way to Reach
Harishchandragad lies where the boundaries of Thane, Pune & Ahmednagar districts converge. There are 4 - 5 known ways to this fort, the most usual being the following ones:
There is another way to reach to Harishchandragadh. One can reach there from Pune. There is bus from Swargate to Khireswar village daily.
1) From Thane District : One has to board the bus for Nagar from Kalyan & alight at ‘Khubi Phata’. From there one reaches the village of Khireshwar by bus or private vehicle. This village is 7 km from the foothills of the fort.
Way from Khireshwar
The way beside the caves, where water tanks are seen, proceeds further to Junnar Darwaaja (Entrance From Junnar). From here, the route goes straight to Tolar Khind. Walking a few minutes from Tolar Khind, you come across a rock-patch on which railings are fixed. After ascending the railings, you come to the plateau region on which less dense forests are seen. From here, you have to cross 7 hills & after a walk of 2–3 hours, you reach the temple of Harishchandreshwar, the temple of Lord Shiva. Note: On this way, many arrows help in indicating the way.
Also there is one interesting short route if one has to skip the seven hills.By this route,you can reach the temple in 1 hour instead of 2 hours through seven hills but this route goes through very very dense forests hence if you are in group of many people,this route can be tried After climbing the rock patch from the Tolar Khind,follow the usual trek route going ahead and at one point,you will encounter two ways one to the right goes to the temple through seven hills and the straight one goes below the balekilla (citadel)through very dense forests (the trees are very dense that you can't even view the sky above your head)and this route reaches to the seventh mountain directly.
The third way is specially meant for hikers, which is via Sadhleghat. One should board the bus for Malshej Ghat & go to the village of Belpada via Savarne village on the Malshej-Kalyan road. From here, the route goes through Sadhleghat. Here one has to climb a straight rock patch on which grips are provided. The temple is situated at a height of about 1 km from Belpada. The total distance is about 19 km.
2) From Ahmednagar District : One has to board the bus for Nasik or Mumbai & alight at Ghoti village. From Ghoti, you have to board another bus to Sangamner via Malegaon & alight at Rajur village. From here, 2 ways diverge to the fort. 1) From Rajur, one has to board the bus or a private vehicle to the village of Pachanai. From here, the way is straight to the topmost point. 2) Recently, the way from Rajur to Tolar Khind has been made available. From Tolar Khind (Tolar valley), the temple is about 2–3 hours by walking.