Somewhere down the state highway to Malshej Ghat, Mumbai and everything it stands for vanishes and the show begins to unfold. You know you would soon be in a heavenly abode when you see clouds settling down against the sky-scraping cliffs of the Sahyadris. As we journey close to these cliffs, one is bound to be awestruck by a ‘Thumbs up’-like pinnacle peeping out of the clouds. This pinnacle is eminent among the trekkers as the Nanacha Angtha or the ‘Nana’s Thumb’, beside which is the trail that takes you up there, popularly known as the Naneghat.
Naneghat and its hinterland has been a paradise for the trekkers, especially when it announces its mood in the monsoon through a series of breathtaking sights. Drive down the state highway up to Vishakhare, a small village at the foothills of Naneghat. Keep walking on the highway towards Malshej until you see a milestone with “Otur 64 km” inscribed on it in Marathi. Just ahead of it turn right and after a 5 min walk you would be surprised to find yourself amidst the lush green trees! It is really hard to believe that we are just a few meters off the state highway.
The trail is a tough 2-2 ½ hour climb. But a nature-lover would find it rather commendable for the splendid things Naneghat has to offer. The silent green woods… the lofty cliffs of the Sahyadris… the freshness in the air… lousy ambiance… and above all the soaring Nanacha Angtha overlooking the ghat. There’s everything here, a trekker would crave for to make his weekend ambitions come true!
Atop Naneghat, at the base of the pinnacle are caves which date back to the Satvahan era. According to a historic chronicle, the Satvahan Queen Nagnika had these caves hewn out of the rock. On the walls of a life-sized cave were carved the figurines of the seven rulers of the Satvahan dynasty, which today are in an extremely loathsome state. The names of the kings inscribed beneath, though are legible. These are the only caves in the whole of India, with portraits of the Kings carved in it.
One of the cave walls bears an inscription recounting the munificent conduct of Queen Nagnika. It enlightens us about the Ashwamedh Yagna, Godaan, etc. performed by her. One can also get glimpses of religious and social life of the residents of ancient Deccan, and hence the inscription holds utmost importance.
Trekkers can lodge themselves in this cave for the night, provided you have the right gear and of course a thick blanket – for a chilly breeze dominates the dark. In the monsoon the outskirts of the cave is stuffed with clouds, which descend so low and the misty ambiance makes your wits fly like a free bird. And then you begin to envy those wee creatures for their knack to fly!
Across the Naneghat pass is a ranjan (a stone pot), where apparently the toll was dropped in. A merchant by profession, Nane is said to have built this ghat to facilitate business at the ancient Deccan for the merchants in Konkan. All those, who clambered up the ghat for business or otherwise, had to pay the toll.
Facing the ranjan is a rock cut temple, the path behind which, leads us to the top of the towering apex of the Nana’s Thumb. Twenty minutes of a fairly steep climb and you are on “top of the world”. Standing 2-2 ½ thousand feet above the sea level, you would find yourself at the edge of the lofty Sahyadri range gazing at one of the finest sights you have ever seen. The green bottomless valleys being dictated by the cloud cover… atypical silence in the air… and the cold breeze striking your body. Is being in heaven unlike this wonderful moment?
With clarity in the atmosphere, one can see the prominent peaks in the Sahyadris popping up from near and far. If you are well-informed, you could easily identify the forts like Harishchandragad, Jeevdhan, Chavand, Dhakoba and Gorakhgad.
Standing atop the soaring pinnacle, you are bound to be the object of envy for a keen observer in the vehicle passing the state highway. There are lots of goodies on offer for a fervent trekker at Naneghat. So pack your bags and get geared for a weekend full of excitement this monsoon or even otherwise!
© Amit Chilka