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Sajjangad (Mahabaleshwar)

In a region that is essentially known for its hill forts, a long coastline with wonderful beaches and places of pilgrimage, Sajjangad in the district of Satara not only occupies a place of historical importance but tops the list when it comes to the devotees of Samarth Ramdas Swami, one of the most prominent spiritual mentors in this part of India. It was here that he stayed for a long time as also breathed his last.

Much before it began to attract pilgrims with their inherent faith in Samarth Ramdas Swami, Sajjangad was known as a historically important hill-fort considered as originally of the Shilaharas but re-built by the Bahamanis in the mid-15th century. It then came under the rule of Chhatrapai Shivaji Maharaj, during whose reign it was re-named Parali Fort. Later, however, due to the long stay of Samarth Ramdas Swami it began to be known as Sajjangad. Ramdas Swami was an ardent devotee of Lord Rama and one of the best-known spiritual mentors of this region. And it was Sajjangad that became his final resting place, following which it has drawn the faithful from across the world in multitudes.

Also called Aswalya Gad due to the presence of many bears, Sajjangad is at a distance of around 18 kilometers from the city of Satara, which is also the nearest railway station. You can drive up to the base of the fort but then have to climb about a 100 steps to gain access within it. For those who may find this physically challenging, the service of palanquins is made available. For those without their own vehicles, state transport buses are available from the Satara Central Bus Stand.

The fort and the ‘samadhi’ of Samarth Ramdas Swami have been maintained by the Ramdas Swami Sansthan. The day begins with prayers, ‘abhishek’ and ‘puja’, and most importantly the reading of ‘Dasbodh’, a text authored by Samarth Ramdas. The main temple is built exactly on the final resting place of the saint and the idols in the temple dedicated to Rama are said to have been sculpted by a blind craftsman. The fort has undergone many renovations and you will find here relics that are evident of a glorious chapter from the history of the Maratha Empire as also the days of Ramdas Swami. Of these, the most interesting are the huge copper pots which were used by Kalyan Swami, Ramdas Swami’s ardent disciple, to fetch water from the river Urmodi for his teacher.

Those visiting the temple are served ‘prasad’, which is almost a complete meal, at fixed hours during the afternoon and evening. Visitors planning for a longer stay can avail of the free lodging facility in the ‘dharmashala’ built by the Ramdas Swami Sansthan, which runs with the help of donations from visitors. The fort is open from 5.30 am to 9 pm and entry and exit beyond these hours is restricted. Along with its spiritual and historical ambience, Sajjangad also offers a picturesque vista and is a preferred spot for photographers who often capture the sight of the Urmodi Dam and its catchment area. Moreover, the monsoon and the few days proceeding this season is the best period to absorb the true beauty of this place when it turns a deep green and sprouts impromptu waterfalls. The nearest MTDC resort is at Panchgani.

Distance from Mumbai: 270 kms.