No cameras, no mobiles on Purandar fort in Pune
An Army unit on the historic fort imposes several restrictions on trekkers.
Purandar fort, 50 km from Pune city, is a favoured spot for trekkers and weekend tourists for its rich historical background and breathtaking nature around the fort.
However, recently the army unit and National Cadet Corps Academy which currently holds the fort, have imposed several restrictions on visitors. Cameras and mobile phones are now not allowed on the fort and no one can stay longer than the stipulated 9 am to 5 pm period. The Army has even closed the route going towards Vajragad. These rules are followed meticulously and are giving trekkers a feeling that the entire fort will be inaccessible in the near future.
“I have been visiting the fort for several years. An Army unit was always stationed at the fort, but there was hardly any restriction for trekkers. We were just told to register our names in their entry book. But during the recent visit to the fort, our vehicle was thoroughly checked at the entry point. A huge building and check post was erected with an iron gate. After checking they let us in but were told to deposit our cameras and even mobiles at another check point. They have totally put a ban on photographing the fort due to security reasons.” said Yogesh Jagtap, a Mumbai-based trekker and photographer.
“Not just that, but they had closed down the route towards Vajragad, adjoining peak which is also a part of the fort. Only one route is available and you witness army personal holding sophisticated guns on the stretch. They have even altered the fort and have constructed concrete roads for their vehicles. It looks like the next generation might not get a chance to visit the fort,” he added.
One trekker on condition of anonymity said, “The Army unit from the fort was supposed to shift to Moshi. They were granted a piece of land, but later on due to some political pressure, the process was never completed. So, the Army decided to make the fort as their base camp and there are speculations that ammunition depot is also getting a place on the fort. If this happens, chances are they will close down the entire fort and we can’t blame them for that.”
However, Dr. Anil Athale, retired Colonel and former joint director war studies division, ministry of defence, claimed that it is baseless.
“I really don’t think the Army will close down the fort for civilians. The fort has a very rich historical background and hundreds of trekkers, historians have visited the fort in the past and the Army had never restricted them. Though recently they might have closed down some part for security reasons but the fort is huge and it will always be open for enthusiasts,” he said.
“Army uses this fort to train their cadets. The geographical features of the fort and rock faces give them ample opportunity to train cadets about rock climbing and mountain warfare. Not just that, whenever any foreign army unit visits Pune for joint military operations, they are placed on the fort and the Army have built some barracks there for the purpose. I am unaware of the Moshi project, but the fort is important for Army training and they will continue it for sure.”
The increased restrictions have got mixed reactions from the trekking community. Some of them feel that due to existence of the Army, there is no case of hooliganism, liquor parties and troublesome visitors, which have become common phenomena on several forts.
“When I visited the fort I noticed it was kept clean and maintained, which is a good sign. Though they had closed down some routes, we feel it’s necessary for security reasons. Of course they shouldn’t close down the entire fort in future and should allow photography at certain places. If they keep moderate restrictions, this will be a good model for the rest of the forts,” said Virag Rokade, a Pune-based trekker.
Speaking to HT, Vilas Wahane, assistant director of the archaeological department, Pune, said, “The fort doesn’t come under the department and hence won’t be able to comment on the situation.”
History of Army on fort
The reference of army on the fort goes back to British era when it was used as a prison. During World War II it was an internment camp for German families. Jews from Germany were interned here along with other prisoners. A German prisoner Dr H Goetz was kept here during World War II. He studied the fort during his stay and later published a book on it. It major use however was as a sanatorium for British soldiers. After independence, Indian army took control of the fort.
According to mythological stories, it is said that Purandar is the broken part of the Dronagiri Parvat which Hanuman was carrying in Ramayana. However, the earliest reference dates back to 11th century, when Yadav dynasty was ruling the region.
Yesaji Naik Chive buried his son Nath Naik and daughter-in-law Devki alive under Shendi Buruj (bastion) to stop the falling of rocks.
In 1646, Shivaji Maharaj registered his first major victory at Purandar.
In 1665, it was besieged by the forces of Aurangzeb, under the command of Mirza Raje JaiSingh and Diler Khan. Murarbaji Deshpande fought a legendary battle to protect the fort and lost his live.
The first Treaty of Purandar with Aurangzeb cost Marathas 22 forts and several piece of land.
Sambhaji Raje Bhosale, Shivaji Maharaj's eldest son and successor to the throne was born at Purandar fort
Under the Peshwas, Purandar was a stronghold to which they retreated whenever Pune, their capital, was under attack.
In 1776, a treaty was signed between the British and the Marathas, known as the second Treaty of Purandar.
In 1818, Purandar was invaded by a British force under General Pritzler. The fort couldn’t manage to hold on more than two days as British garrison marched into Vajragad.
Entry from 9am to 5pm
No trekker is allowed to stay, camp or prepare food on fort
Vehicles are checked and ID proof is necessary for everyone to enter
No cameras and mobiles are allowed on fort
Photography of building, entry gate or army persons is strictly prohibited
Entry point for Vajragad is closed