Jai Bhavani, Jai Shivaji!
Yeh hai mulq Marathon ka, yahan Shivaji dola tha
Mughlon ki takat ko isne talwaron pe tola tha
Har parbat par aag lagi thi, har parbat ek shola tha
Boli ‘Har Har Mahadev’ ki bachha bachha bola tha
Sher Shivaji ne rakhi thi laaj hamari jaan ki
Is mitti se tilak karo ye dharti hai balidan ki
Aao bachon tumhe dikhaye jhanki Hindustan ki
is mitti se tilak karo ye dharti hai balidan ki
There are 300 forts in the area that Shivaji used in his campaigns, and each has a story attached. Coming from Hyderabad, where our concept of forts is shaped by the opulent Golconda, I was taken aback with the sparseness of the Maratha forts. There are hardly any structures here, save a few to store grain and the odd temple. The fortifications are just secure spaces that were used as temporary camps – these were wartime forts, not forts for living in.
I knew of course that Shivaji was revered the length and breadth of Maharashtra, but I had no idea the man lived so vividly in the state’s imagination. Perhaps it was the assortment of Marathi people in our group, perhaps it was the fact that we were touring some of the forts the great Maratha had used, but hero worship flowed through the course of our trek, and ‘Har Har Mahadev’ rent the air quite frequently. All this was great fun and I sympathise with patriotism but attitudes often spilled over into chauvinism that had me squirming a bit. On the plus side, I can now do a rousing impression of ‘Jai jai Maharashtra maaza…”
The weight of your backpack, as I have hinted once or twice before, is very important. Everyone on our trek was inordinately interested in what exactly made up other peoples’ packs. Most trekkers are extremely gram-conscious and go to some trouble to cut down. Acquisition of light gear can become quite obsessive, I’m told. One experienced trekker confessed to cutting his toothbrush in half, and bringing only midget plastic spoons.
On the other hand were the Gujjus, who brought a wide assortment of eats, nearly four kilos of munches: roasted peanuts, chikkis and stuff as well as three types of pickles. But they bore these hefty packs cheerfully and were heart-warmingly generous with their food, which shamed us for we had nothing to offer beyond glucose. Still, a refreshing drink of jaljira is not something you can turn down when you have been walking six hours, so we accepted with gratitude. No doubt we will square up this life or the next.
Many splendoured things
What the trip lacked in birds was made up for by butterflies. What a vivid collection the Sahyadris have: blue monarchs, eggflys, yellow grasses, striped tigers in great numbers and all at once…. Most luckily we had entomologist Dr Nanabhai for names and descriptions. I’m afraid we’ll now have to buy a butterfly field guide as well.