Karnala Fort Trek
Karnala fort trek is a hill fort hike in Raigad district about 10 km from Panvel city. It is also called the Funnel hill because of it’s pinnacle. It is now a protected place lying within the Karnala Bird Sanctuary. In the past it was a fort of strategic importance as it served as a watchtower and overlooked the Bor pass which connected the Konkan coast to the interior of Maharashtra (Deccan Plateau) and was the main trade route between these areas.
The fort is thought to be constructed before 1400, under the Devagiri Yadavs(1248–1318) and the Tughlaq rulers (1318–1347). Karnala was the capital of the Northern Konkan districts of their respective empires. It later fell under the command of the Gujarat Sultanate but in 1540 was taken over by Nizam Shah of Ahmednagar. The Gujarat sultans then requested the help of the Dom Francisco de Menenzes the commanding officer of the Portuguese at Bassien (modern day Vasai) to win it back. He ordered 500 of his soldiers to Karnala fort and they were able to capture it. The fort was left in charge of the Gujarat Sultanate but with Portuguese garrisons.
The Gujarat sultans fled to Vasai, surrendering the fort to the Portuguese. The loss of Karnala enraged Nizam Shah, who sent 5,000 men to reclaim the fort and the surrounding countryside. The attempt was unsuccessful, and the Portuguese continued to hold the fort. Deciding that the forts of Sangli and Karnala were of little strategic value, however, the Portuguese viceroy agreed to return them to Nizam Shah for an annual payment of Rs. 17,500 (or 5,000 gold Pardoas).
Shivaji Maharaj conquered it from the Portuguese in 1670 by building breastworks as he advanced. After his death in 1680 it was taken over by Aurangzeb. After this the Mughals occupied it for some time after which it in 1740 with the rise of the Peshwas of Pune it went to them. It remained under the command of killedar (garrison commander) Anantrao until a colonel Prother won the fort and established the rule of the British East India Company there in 1818.
The ruins of the fort are a popular destination for hiking and tourism. There are two ways to go up, one from the left of the restaurant inside the Karnala Bird Sanctuary and the other on the right. The left one is usually preferred and is an easy route up. The trek from this route is about 1 hour from the bottom to the base of the pinnacle. There are 5 resting places on the pathway made by forest department. There are safety railings near the steps at the base of the pinnacle. It is not advisable to cook food at the base of the pinnacle, as the smell of smoke irritates the Honey Bees. The water from the southernmost rock cut water cistern is potable. First aid is available at the forest guest house.
The route from the right is a challenging one and full of scree. One should not attempt it unless they are experienced or have a local guide.
Trekking during the monsoon is really an exhilarating experience.
How to reach
The Funnel Hill is lies on NH-17 at a distance of about 60kms from Mumbai. You can also hire a cab from Mumbai or Pune to reach Karnala. There are State Transport Buses available from Mumbai Central to Karnala.
If travelling by train, one can reach the Panvel station and hire a rickshaw there after to the Karnala Bird Sanctuary. There are share rickshaws available right outside the station