Prabalgad fort trek lies between Matheran and Panvel. It is clearly visible from Mumbai-Pune highway with it’s distinct shape. It was also known as Muranjan and Pradhangad. It stands tall at about 700m (2,300 ft) in the Western Ghats.
Prabalgad was built to watch over the ancient ports of Panvel and Kalyan. According to historical references, it is estimated that it belongs to the time of Buddha. It was built at the time of the Bahamani Sultanate Empire. The Shilahar and Yadav dynasties made it an army camp because of the strong man-made caves engraved in this fort and named it ‘Muranjan’. It came under the rule of Nizam Shahi dynasty of Ahmednagar. Shahaji Raje came to their support of the Nizam Shahi dynasty on the verge of their collapse, but the Mughal emperor Shahjahan and Adil Shah of Vijapur sent their army separately to defeat Shahaji.
On knowing this, Shahaji moved his army to fort Kondhana and Murumbdev. The Siddhis of Janjira, turned down his appeal for help against the Mughal and Adilshahi forces. He was refused help from the Portuguese in the city of Chaul, as well. Shahaji, his wife Jijabai and young son Shivaji moved on to Muranjan fort along with army. In 1636, Shivaji left Muranjan fort. The agreement of Mahuli was made in the same year according to which the North Konkan went under the Mughal Empire who granted authority to Adilshaha of Vijapur to rule the area in return for tribute.
Shivaji grabbed this opportunity and defeated and captured the Javli area. Abaji Mahadev, a brave Sardar of Shivaji, won the area of Kalyan, Bhiwandi and Rayri. At that time fort Muranjan came under the rule of Shivaji. Shivaji renamed the fort from “Muranjan” to “Prabalgad” (Prabal means “strong”). In 1665, according to Treaty of Purandar, Prabalgad became one of the twenty-three forts to be handed over to the Mughal empire. The Mughal Sardar Jaysingh placed a Rajput named Kesarsingh Hada in charge of the fort Prabalgad. In 1658, the Marathas under Shivaji took the fort once again. The Mughal Sardar Kesar Singh committed suicide realising that defeat was imminent. The Rajput ladies in the fort commited Jauhar (self-immolation) to escape dishonour. The mother and son of Kesar Singh who had hidden themselves in the fort were granted freedom by the order of Shivaji. In the investigation of the fort, enormous wealth was found.
The top of the fort is a huge plateau covered with dense forest. There is a Ganesh temple and 2-3 water cisterns here. It is strnongly advised to take a local guide for this trek because of the deep forest cover. There are also remnants of some structures on the fort. It offers very good views of Matheran and a lot of its points can be easily made out from here. Kalavantin pinnacle which stands adjacent to the fort can be accessed by rock cut steps by descending into the cleft. There is a water tank on the way of the steps.
The “Ulahas River” runs to the east of the fort while the “Gadhi River” runs to the west. The Patalganga River is to the south. The forts of Chanderi and Peb are to the west. The Manikgad Fort is to the south while the Karnala fort is located towards the north.
Prabalgad fort trek can be done from 3 different routes. The trail from Thakurwadi, the base village to the Prabalmachi is well defined and easy. It is a mud trail and is home to a lot of scorpions and snakes. It takes about 4 hours to reach the top of Prabalgad from the base village. Prabalmachi has a lot of small establishments that provide snacks, supper and accomodation. Further from Prabalmachi the trail ascends to the col between the two mountains with Kalavantin Durg on the left and Prabalgad to the right. From Prabalmachi one can see Prabalgad fort and Kalavantin pinnacle in the front. There is a cleft between them which has steps carved in rock to access the top of the pinnacle which takes 45 minutes. One has to keep the fort to the left and walk towards the cleft in the mountain.
Another route is on the Panvel-Chowk road, near the Poinj junction next to Shedung jutnction. Proceed to Poinj village from here. There is a mountain ridge here which has to trekked to reach Prabalmachi village. Once at Prabalmachi one has to proceed towards the cleft to access the top of the fort.
One can also reach this fort from Matheran from the Pisarnath temple near Charlotte lake. Turn left from the temple and keep walking till you reach the cleft. Continue on the path and you’ll reach Aaksarwadi via the ladder route. The fort has to be reached from the plateau below the Kalaburuj(bastion) and then by ascending the cleft to access the summit of the trek.
How to reach
To reach Thakurwadi, alight at Panvel Railway Station. Take a State Transport Bus till Khopoli or get down at Shendung Phata. You can take a Share Auto Rickshaw from here.
The fort is located on the adjoining mountains of Mumbai Pune highway near to Panvel. It is about 46 kms from Mumbai and 116 kms from Pune.