Forts have always been of great significance for almost every empire. And the Maratha Empire was known for building strategic forts throughout their regions and one such strategically placed fort, is Mrugagad.
A rather small fort, Mrugagad is located near Jambhulpada, which is an hour’s drive from Lonavala. The fort is accessible to everyone and is a very basic hike. Even if it’s relatively small in size, the fort has a number of steep slopes all around its edges, which for sure gave a good fortification back then. There are very few attractions here: there's a cave which locals claim dates back to the Mahabharata era. It's a simple cave, but the walk to it is a very thrilling one.
This fort, in its glory days was used as a major granary and to store arms and ammunition. Furthermore, this fort was also used to dispatch troops in case of dacoit attacks on nearby villages. It is believed that this fort housed a secret force of about 1000 soldiers at least that was deployed during emergency times. However, there isn’t much mention of this fort since it was a secret place and grains had a lot of importance in those days.
The easiest way to reach Mrugagad is with in a car. However, since the route goes through Lonavala, you can also take your bikes and enjoy off-roading. The other way is to take a train to Lonavala station and hire a cab from there. However, there are also fairly regular state transport buses that go from Lonavala bus stand till the nearest town to this fort, which is Jambhuldhara.
The trek to this fort doesn’t take more than two hours. There are steps throughout the fort. Most of the fort is in ruins and clearly not well-maintained. You see remnants of water tanks, a small temple dedicated to goddess Durga. There is also a really old cave in the fort and the rest is open space where you can enjoy a picnic.
The fort doesn’t have any entry fee and is also pretty safe. You can also order what you want to eat at the local restaurants at the foot of the fort before you scale it; and come down to fresh home-style meals.