An unusual adventure – Climbing the only dyke in Maharashtra on Bhairavgad of Moroshi

An unusual adventure – Climbing the only dyke in Maharashtra on Bhairavgad of Moroshi

Pune, where I live, is home to around 36 forts, of which 32 are hill forts and outposts of strategic importance. Most of them were built around the 1st century CE during the reign of the Satvahan dynasty and used as recently as the 19th century CE. 

One of the most interesting outposts is located atop a geographical marvel called a Dyke or Dike. 

Located near Moroshi village in Junnar, the Bhairavgad is a place of rugged beauty. It came into prominence during the Bhoj Dynasty rule. 

Junnar is better known for two more popular forts, Shivneri and Hadsar. But Bhairavgad surprises and thrills any adventure seeker with its tough ascent. 

This outpost’s distinctive feature is a huge rock slab rising between the peak and the ridges. It is a massive vertical structure standing seemingly without a broad base. 

Jivdhan and Naneghat, outposts of an ancient trade route into Konkan, lie east of the Dyke. The skyline to the west is dominated by the mighty hill forts of Harishchandragad, Ajooba, and Naphta. If the views are clear, you can spot the Alang-Madan-Kulang trio in the same direction. Nimgiri Fort is also nearby. Each has its own stories of old, carved into the igneous rock and ancient trees.

The Bhairavgad fort peak that looms behind the dyke is about 1523 m tall, and the rock wall matches it in height. 

You can either climb the peak or go up the dyke. 

Climbing the dyke needs technical gear like harnesses and ropes. You will need someone with thorough knowledge of rigging a climbing setup. There are faint remnants of rock-cut steps on one of its faces. Some of them still exist and make the initial ascent easier. But after that, it is a short but technical climb all the way. 

From the top of the dyke, you can get a 360-degree view across valleys. The peak also offers the same magnificent views without needing special gear.

I recommend travelling by night to reach Moroshi before dawn to time this trek right. You can get tea and breakfast in the village and start climbing early. It will take about 2.5 to 3 hours to reach the fork. 

Depending on the number of people in your group, you might take time to guide everyone to the top of the dyke. Climbing the hill behind the dyke is more accessible in comparison.

Either way, get back to Moroshi by 5 pm while it is still light. It is easy to lose your way in the thick undergrowth. Cattle tracks crisscrossing the hillside can also mislead you. 

Getting there

Moroshi village is located on the Ahmednagar-Kalyan state highway (MSH 2) near Malshej Ghat. It is about two hours drive from Pune. 

Once you descend Malshej Ghat from Pune, look out for a rock wall to your left. Or you can let Google Maps direct you to Moroshi. Once near, ask any roadside tea or food vendor for directions. 

Stopping at the village is a good idea since you might need to hire a guide. There are multiple approach ridges, and it is easy to get lost. Keeping the enormous rock wall in sight helps set the directions. 

If you subscribe to AllTrails, it has a route that can help you reach the peak behind the dyke and back.

Base of Bhairavgad Dyke

Once you leave the initial settlement behind, there is no well-beaten path that you can follow. The initial route meanders through fields until you start a gentle ascent.

The terrain alternates between loose soil, rock patches, and slippery hay. Thickets of Karvy, a plant that blooms every seven years, add to the hardship. I imagine a lot of hay or grass makes the trail difficult to tread and keep a foothold on in all seasons. Also, it is easy to get lost in the dense undergrowth. 

After the initial part, the ascent becomes steeper, and you begin to see some cacti along the way. At one point, the road turns away from the dyke, and it is easy to assume that the route is wrong. But in fact, it is not. You ascend to the top of a ridge, then circumvent a rocky patch to reach the base of your climb. Once there, you face the rock wall again, and a vast plateau opens up. 

A few abandoned huts are scattered along the plateau. Often, cattle can be found grazing on the lush grass or the hay as per the season. You will also find a Bhairavanth shrine under a huge tree. It is a simple spot indicted by green bangles and a bunch of tiny cradles hung by a Trishul.

The plateau has a lot of wet soil mingling with some rocky patches. It makes a perfect spot for crabs to thrive, and you can see them crawling about in moist surroundings. The trail leads you towards the dyke through a small jungle. The shade is a welcome break from the heat. Walking in the right direction is vital since visibility ahead is low. 

In a few minutes, the foliage opens up. The trail merges into a steep rock patch that will have you huffing and puffing in no time. 

The route keeps throwing new distractions to keep things interesting. Midway up, you will come across a rock-cut water reservoir. The water is refreshingly cold and very potable. Make sure you take your fill as there is no other source ahead. 

A few steps more, and then you are suddenly there. 

The giant rock stands tall right next to you. Any fatigue you feel is replaced by wonder at this geographical marvel. At this point, looking back towards the path you have trodden is a good idea. The grandeur of the Sahyadris (also called the Western Ghats) is breathtaking. 

Reaching the Fork

After a pause, you carry on past the water reservoir. Some distance ahead, the route turns to the right. This leads you straight to the ridge, which bridges the dyke and the main peak. A new valley vista opens up for your viewing pleasure. 

There is a lot of loose scree, so it’s good to keep a clear head clear and watch out. Now, you have a choice to make.

If you want to reach the peak, then the path goes up to your right. Your guide from the village or the AllTrails map can help you navigate to the top. The climb is challenging but non-technical.

Climbing Bhairavgad Dyke

If it is the dyke you have in mind, you can begin climbing rock-cut steps on the left. They disappear abruptly after a point. The legend is that the British colonial administrators blasted away the steps to prevent patriots from hiding on top. 

Where the steps disappear, the rock climb starts on an interesting note. At the end of the steps, you have to enter a rock-cut cave via a manhole. This cave might have been a water reservoir, gauging its depth. But as of this season, it is dry. Or it could have been a guard hideout. It is difficult to tell.

The cave opening has a ledge to help you on the way up.

You should patiently get your climbing and belay ropes into place here.

You must place your feet on a crude piton permanently driven into the wall to get to the ledge. From there, you need to work your way around the stone pillar supporting the cave and land carefully on the other side. These steps should be accomplished in one sweep– there is no place to change your footing. This part of the climb reminds me of the Murren Via Ferrata I traversed in Switzerland. 

From the other side of the stone pillar, there is a scramble of about 12 feet before you get a foothold on some sturdy steps. The steps then turn and disappear towards an overhang that blocks the route. 

Beyond this, only your grit can take you all the way to the top. You navigate this overhang only to find the route blocked by thorny cacti. The vista opens up as soon as you pick your way around these challenges. You are treated to a view that makes up a racing heart and a few pricks. 

Once you have had your fill of the Sahyadris in all directions, you can choose to rappel down to the cave ledge. Cave, manhole and out for the final phase. 

Walking Down

The walk down from the fork is pleasant when you are not slipping in the soft hay and over the loose stones. It should take you about 1.5 to 2 hours to come down and meet the highway.

The rugged beauty of these volcanic mountains has awed and mesmerised me in equal measure. I am lucky to stay a few hours’ drives away from excellent hikes like these in all directions.

Indian is well known for the Himalayas. The cultural extravaganza is exceptional. But the variety of outdoor experiences on offer across the country is significant. I want more folks to experience the Maharashtrian outdoors and the hospitality of its simple people. 

The basalt hills have witnessed some extraordinary moments in Indian history. Get close to discover the stories hidden in the trails, caves and ramparts.

Hi, I am Nalanda. I write about Adventure Travel, Personal Effectiveness and stories from the rich tapestry of LIFE!

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