About: Karnala Fort and Karnala Bird Sanctuary

About: Karnala Fort and Karnala Bird Sanctuary, Panvel, Maharashtra, India

Just 10-12 km from Panvel while traveling on Mumbai-Goa National Highway, like a thumb in the distance attracting attention, a clear peak – Karnala Fort that captures the sky! In the year 1968, the government declared the Karnala Bird Sanctuary in this area which is surrounded by dense forest. Two types of forests are found in this sanctuary – humid mixed deciduous forests and evergreen riparian forests. Various types of tree species, vines, and medicinal and rare plants exist in these forests.

Along with this, wild animals like wild cats, rabbits, sheep, wild boars, salinders, monkeys, and many wild animals like snakes, pythons, monitor lizards, and lizards have a free range here. This is the home of birds! Along with predatory birds like Sarpagarud, Sasana, Owl, Peacock, Hornbill, Jacobin Cuckoo, and Yyellow-footed Green Pigeon, various species of migratory birds have been recorded here to date. 4 Nature Walks have been created for bird watching by nature lovers and scholars and good accommodation can be arranged here in the form of rest houses, and cottages as per demand. In order to create awareness about nature conservation, a nature introduction center has been established here.

Karnala Fort and Bird Sanctuary, which preserves historical footprints and is rich in nature, should be preserved.

History of Karnala Fort

History of Karnala Fort, Panvel, Maharashtra, India

Karnala Fort is situated at a height of 445 meters from sea level. It was used to keep a watch on the trade routes passing through old Panvel and Bhor Ghats, to Mumbai and Chaul ports.

This fort was ruled by the Yadav kings of Devagiri between 1248 and 1318. Later, between 1318 and 1340, it was under the Muslim rulers of Daulatabad. In those days, Karnala was the headquarter of the North Konkan district (Thane & Raigad). After this period, it was under the rule of the army of Gujarat. In the year 1540, the Ahmednagar army took it over.
The army of Gujarat, along with the Portuguese won it back. The Ahmednagar army surrounded the fort. So the Gujarat army handed over the charge of the fort to the Portuguese. The Captain of Vasai fort invaded and drove away the Ahmednagar army. The Portuguese kept back 300 European soldiers for the protection of the fort. A treaty was signed between the Portuguese and the Nizam of Ahmednagar. The fort was handed over to the Nizam who had to pay a yearly security amount of 1050 Pounds. Shivaji Maharaj defeated the Mughals and took over the fort in 1670. Later as a part of the treaty of Purandar with Mirza Raje Jaisingh, Shivaji had to hand over the fort to the Mughals. He later won it back. After the death of Shivaji, Aurangzeb took over the fort. Around 1740 it was under the rule of the Peshwas of Pune. The British army took charge of the fort in 1803 on behalf of Bajirao II. It remained with the British post-1818. The grandfather of great freedom fighter, Vasudev Balvant Phadke, was the Killedar (Governor) of this fort till 1818.

Karnala Bird Sanctuary and Fort – Year 1968 Declared as a Bird Sanctuary

Karnala Bird Sanctuary and Fort, Panvel, Maharashtra

At 8:20 am we were at Bandra and at 9:45 am we were at Palsape Phata, Mumbai – Pune Highway having breakfast at Shree Datta Snacks Corner.

Rs. 80 for two Misal Pav and Rs. 10 for tea.

At 10:30 am we reached Karnala Bird Sanctuary.

Bandra (Mumbai) to Karnala Bird Sanctuary is a 53 km distance by Royal Enfield Thunderbird Twinspark motorbike.

At the entrance of the sanctuary, we parked our motorbike and paid entry fees for two including a parking ticket. Rs. 55 the cost. And a little further we paid Rs. 10 for two people to co-operate in cleaning the sanctuary plastic and garbage-free – very important.

Ganesh Jadav is a guide, and he was ready to join us to enhance our knowledge about the park. He charged us Rs. 100. We enter the sanctuary area and turn right and cross a wooden bridge and a watchtower. We climb and saw the first glimpse of Karnala Fort and the lush green surroundings around. Wow – natural 100%. I was happy.

Currently, there were no birds around because it is August month and the rainy season but yes, tourists were there, especially youngsters. Ganesh advised us – Best Time to Visit Karnala Bird Sanctuary is in the month of December to watch birds.

As we walk further, the guide enhanced our knowledge about some medicinal plants – Ghaneri, Apta, Murudsing. And further we walk he showed us more plants such as Palash, Sagwan (teak), Ukshi, Bahava, Safed Kuda, Kadol, Asana, Dekamali, Lokhandi.

He also enhanced our knowledge by rubbing leaves of teak commonly known as Sag (साग) in the Marathi language. He said the leaves are used for making dyes.

During the walk, we also saw a crab and then many crabs crossing muddy paths and big spiders on trees.

As birds were not there guide further enhanced our knowledge about birds like Yellow Footed Green Pigeon, Indian Grey Hornbill, Black Drongo, Golden Backed Woodpecker, Small Blue Kingfisher, Golden Oriole, and many other presents during the winter season. The display boards also present nicely written details about birds. It is home to a variety of birds.

During walks a few times we cross a small stream of water too. In short, a walk inside a green sanctuary away from city life is a nice pleasant experience to refresh ourselves.

We stop at the canteen. Read the canteen menu list and had Batata Bhaji with Tea (Rs. 20+ Rs. 7) and Nimbu Sharbat (Rs. 10). Excellent – the taste.

There are two rest houses inside the sanctuary and one is available for the general public but in-advance permission is required from forest officials.

We requested the guide to join us for the Karnala Fort trek but he was not interested and suggested not to go because of mud due to rain but we said we will try and if not possible to reach the fort we will return and walk while saying bye to him and paying Rs. 100. Thanks.

It took us one hour and fifteen minutes to reach Karnala Fort from the base nearby canteen. There were many trekkers on the way. Though I have been on a few treks, this one will be one of the best treks also because I find it very natural with no man-made modern paths. Just pure natural as you walk up and up. Yes, the climb initially for half an hour is steep, and then later onwards steep and flat.

Just before the fort is the Goddess temple. Prayer and we walk further toward the fort.

(History of Karnala Fort narrated in English by Rahul Patil – a friend from Pune, Maharashtra)

Karnala fort is situated on the Mumbai-Goa National Highway, about 10-12 Km from Panvel. Its altitude is 445 meters above sea level. Its peak is a thumb-shaped massive rock soaring high in the sky.
In the old days, this fort was used to guard the trade routes from Panvel and Boar ghat to ports like Mumbai and Chaul in Maharashtra.
From the Kingdoms of Bhoj, Shilahar & Devagiri to the rule of Marathas and then the British, the fort has witnessed various regimes.
In the year 1968, it was declared a bird sanctuary.
From Karanala fort one can see peaks like Matheran, Prabalgad, Rajmachi, Malang-gad & Manikgad.

In the past 1200 years, the fort has witnessed various regimes.

Rulers of the fort
1248 – 1318 – Yadavs of Devagiri
1318 – 1347 – Muslim rulers of Daulatabad.
After this, it was under the Gujarat rulers.
1540 – It was taken by the troops of Ahmednagar
Gujarat rulers regained the fort with the help of the Portuguese.
1670 – Shivaji Maharaj took over the fort from the Mughals. But later he hand it over to Mirza Raje Jaising in a treaty signed after the battle of Purandar. Shivaji Maharaj again took the fort.
Aurangazeb took it over after the death of Shivaji Maharaj.
1740 – Peshwa rulers.
1803 – British took control of the fort, and it remained in their control thereafter.
The grandfather of revolutionary Vasudeo Balwant Phadke had been in charge of the fort till 1818.

You know the view from the fort is breathtaking. Panvel, Raigad, and the surrounding area are lush green with forests and reservoirs. What I found the best and most exciting was the return downwards via steps from the main fort. One can watch the deep valley on both sides as you climb downwards. The stairs are a little narrow and thick but thanks to Sanctuary officials for making railings around the stairs because maybe without railings for many it was not possible to climb or climb downwards. Thanks again.

We started climbing down around 1:35 pm, and it took us one hour (2:40 pm) to reach the base.

In total I guess 3 hours is the minimum requirement to and fro the trek to Karnala fort.

Very interesting, and very natural. I will surely visit again in December to watch the birds.

We met Ganesh Jadav – The guide again and he further enhanced our knowledge that on 26th January, 15th August, and 1st May there is no entry fee inside the sanctuary for the visitors FREE FREE FREE.

We also question another visitor – How to reach Karanala Bird Sanctuary if coming via Panvel Railway Station?

He said – one has to take a bus from the Panvel bus depot nearby Panvel Railway Station. Any bus going towards Alibagh, Pen will drop you at Karnala Bird Sanctuary.

Thank you – said I.

While returning, we were very hungry.

At 3:30 pm we stop at Himalayan Punjab Family Restaurant, Palaspe Phata, Mumbai – Pune Highway, and had Chinese Sezwan Friend Rice, Chinese Lollypop, and a cold drink. A fruitful visit and a happy tour. Thanks to Mahesh – a friend who joined me on tour to Karanala Bird Sanctuary and then to trek to the fort. Thanks again.

Nakshatra Vedh Shala (Observatory) – Established in the Year 1946

Shri Prabhakar Joshi at Nakshatra Vedh Shala (Observatory), Devprayag, Uttarakhand, India

I read about Nakshatra Vedh Shala (Observatory) well written in a blog by a foreign tourist and the day I decided to visit. I hire a Scooty from Rishikesh and reached Devprayag – 70 Kms approx. distance.

Once you cross Motel Dev (right-hand side) at Devprayag on the left-hand side of National Highway 58 there is a path that goes towards PWD Dak Bungalow. Follow the left road – This is the first road of Garhwal that ends at Bungalow. In the year 1935, the first bus came to this road only.

Near the entrance gate of Dak Bungalow are the steps that will take you to the observatory up on the hill. Ask anyone. Everybody knows the house. Few meters of the steep climb.

During the visit, we were welcomed and offered tea and snacks by the family members and then I met Shri Prabhakar Joshi son of renowned astrologer Late Shri Acharya Pandit Chakradhar Joshi – Director of The Himalayan Astrological Research Institute also known as Nakshatra Ved Shala (observatory).

Shri Prabhakar Joshi is a press reporter. His younger brother Acharya Bhaskar Joshi is a sadhak (one who does meditation).

On the way to the observatory, Prabhakar Ji showed us more than 40 years old two big Christmas trees, and a Golden fish pond existing since his father’s days.

Maybe for some astrological reasons? Maybe – a thought within as I walk further.

Established 1946, Latitude 30°,08′ 45″ 74′ L, Longitude 78°,35′ 44″ 94′ L, Height from Sea-Level – 674 meters (2123 feet) written on an old display board.

We open our shoes and enter the observatory and had a seat on the floor. This is the location where Shri Acharya Pandit Chakradhar Joshi ji used to sit.

Upon the query Shri Prabhakar Joshi enhanced our knowledge:

‘Joshi’ is the surname because it is said people who were into astrological studies i.e., Jyotish Vidhya named as Joshi. They arrive at Devprayag for the first time in the 8th Century with Shri Adi Shankaracharya from South India and later in the 15th Century and settled down in Uttarakhand.

Their family was also in astrological studies since their father, grandfather, and great-great-grandfather time.

Shri Acharya Pandit Chakradhar Joshi was one of the most renowned astrologers in India mostly staying at Altamount Road, Mumbai.

In the year 1946, in August month he selected and established an observatory and a library for astrological studies. The distance of the observatory is equal from all four directions in Devprayag.

Shri Acharya Pandit Chakradhar Joshi was also having sound knowledge of Sanskrit, Vastu, and many other subjects.

He also stayed at Shantiniketan with Shri Rabindranath Tagore. Later he meditated in the Himalayas and at Charan Paduka, Badrinath. His photos during meditation were clicked by one of his disciples Vidyavrata – a great photographer and a follower from Pondicherry.

A box full of photographs is another story.

Shri Acharya Pandit Chakradhar Joshi also helped to establish many schools and colleges.

He traveled all over India and collected rare manuscripts, Granth, Yantra, and paintings for the observatory.

This is the only astrological institute in Uttarakhand having the maximum number of rare manuscripts. The oldest one ‘Bhakth Shiromani’ is from the year 1620. There are more than 3,000 manuscripts and 25,000 Granth on different subjects available in the library.

Tadpatra Granth written in the Telugu language is also present.

The only Ramayan written in Uttarakhand known as ‘Ramayan Pradip’ written by Shri Meghadhar Shastri during the rule of King Pradip Shah is from the 17th century also available.

Not only Granth and Manuscript there is one page handwritten 18 chapters of ‘Bhagavad Gita‘ 300 years old present in the library and ‘Durgasaptasati’ written on Chakra by Shri Anand Thapliyal in the year 1763.

Bhrigu Samhita, How to make Gold, Books related to mercury (para), rare Tantra-Mantra, Ayurveda, Jyotish, pre-independence newspapers, and magazines are also present.

Prabhakar Ji was very young when his father died 32 years ago. He and his brother have an immense interest in saving history for the future generation trying their best despite termites, and dampness in the house area.

A telescope from England with Carl Zeiss lens – 1903 make.

Another telescope from Germany – 1950 make to watch Moon and Stars.

And glasses from Brazil to watch the eclipse.

Surya Ghati, which forecasts current time as per shadow, Jal Ghati to watch time in night hours, Dhruv Ghati with 12 planets to tell Ghati, Pal, and Rashi. All these are Uttarakhand make.

And a photo resembling Agni Devi (God of Fire).

‘Sampurna Gandhi Vangmay’ – 67 volumes.

First Encyclopedia by Nagendra Nath Basu in the year 1914.

And many eminent personalities visited the observatory such as Late Shri Jaidev visited in the year 1975 and stayed for 2-3 days and gifted HMV record of ‘Madhushala‘ by Dr. Harivansh Rai Bachchan sung by Manna Dey.

Photos of Shri Acharya Pandit Chakradhar Joshi with Swami Muktananda Paramahansa, Hari Om Sharan, Naushad, Jairaj, and Ravi.

And he will tell you about his landline number 32 in those days which was only of two numbers.

Prabhakar Ji also enhances our knowledge about the old route of Badri-Kedar and also about the much older route from Shivpuri from the era of Tulsidas.

A fruitful visit. I was happy about visiting the observatory to know how rich our astrological science is and how good we are at astrology.

Before we leave he requested us for ‘Prasad‘. Home-made food was offered. Donations I kept in front of the house temple.

And then he came with another surprise by donating a book to read:

‘Acharya Charkradhar Joshi Smriti-Granth’

I was more than happy. Thank you. I wish for more donations for the observatory to save knowledge for future generations. I have to say if you are visiting Rishikesh or Devprayag or passing via Devprayag you should visit Nakshatra Vedh Shala.

How I reach Rishikesh from Badrinath by Jeep

Distance from Mana, Chamoli, Uttarakhand, India

This photo was taken from Mana Village (Uttarakhand).

(Distance from Badrinath in Kms)

Ghaziabad – 527
Delhi – 551
Haridwar – 323
Rishikesh – 299

I have traveled within Uttarakhand via GMOU bus service but the personal choice is a journey by sharing the jeep though traveling by jeep is a little costly in comparison to bus service but at the same time it takes fewer journey hours and I personally find the jeep much safer than the bus, especially in hilly areas. And the capacity of passengers in a jeep is only 10.

But for long-distance like Rishikesh to Badrinath/Mana Village (300 km approx.) or vice-verse, I guess there is no direct jeep. Maybe till Chamoli or Joshimath or from Joshimath or Chamoli you will find a jeep for Rishikesh and you have to change to another jeep for the onward journey.

I personally find jeep service much safer. I prefer the front seat nearby the driver.

During Badrinath/Mana village tour while returning back to Rishikesh I obviously opt the jeep option. We reached Badrinath bus stand where jeeps with yellow number plates are also parked along with buses for various destinations. At the entrance gate, a jeep was in the queue for Joshimath. Charges – Rs. 80 per person. The jeep took one and a half hours to reach Joshimath from Badrinath.

Badrinath to Joshimath distance is approx. 44 km

At Joshimath the moment we reached we found another jeep for Chamoli. Rs. 80 per person the charges and journey hours – Two.

Joshimath to Chamoli distance is approx. 50+ km

After reaching Chamoli we have to wait at least 40 minutes because Chamoli is less crowded with tourists in comparison with Badrinath or Joshimath. It took 40 minutes to have 10 passengers and then the journey continued for Rishikesh.

K. S. Parmar was our driver. He is 71 years old, and I find him the best driver having fantastic hill driving skills.

Chamoli to Rishikesh we paid Rs. 350/- per person. There was a traveler who paid Rs. 700/- to occupy two seats for comfort.

Chamoli to Devprayag we reached within 4 hours 40 minutes and from Devprayag to Rishikesh while having a stop for food at Teen Dhara we reached Rishikesh within 2 hours 30 minutes.

Conclusion: Total journey time from Badrinath to Rishikesh including the stop for changing the jeep, cold drinks, petrol for the jeep, and having food it took 11 hours and 30 minutes approx. The total cost of the journey from Badrinath to Rishikesh by sharing the jeep was Rs. 510/- only. Bus charges from Badrinath to Rishikesh if I am correct is somewhere around Rs. 400/- Correct?

Note: At Rishikesh, the Bus stand is nearby Chandrabhaga Bridge, and a little further is Natraj Chowk for sharing the jeep. And within hills finding a jeep stand or bus stand is not a tough task because towns are small in comparison with Rishikesh.