- Ajaz Shaikh
Valmiki Ashram & Ajoba Fort Trek
In India, we have many places associated with Lord Ram and Ramayan. However, it is rare to see things associated with Maharishi Valmiki or Luv & Kush (Son's of Lord Ram).
Ajoba or Ajaparvat is a 4511 feet high mountain located in Sahayadris in the western ghats near Dehene village. It is also called Ajobagad but there is no gad or fort. It is just a cave. The real Ajoba top also has no forts. It is just a peak and plateau.
Ajoba (meaning Grandfather in Marathi) mountain is the place which is known as where Maharishi Valmiki has stayed and Luv & Kush grown up here. Maharishi Valmiki was like their grandfather and trained Luv & Kush. There is Valmiki Ashram where the samadhi of Valmiki is kept. Also up high in hills are caves of Luv Kush with their cradle also known as Sita Cha Palna, hence the mountain is known as Ajoba or Ajaparvat.
How to reach?
Mumbai Local Train: The cheapest and most convenient way to reach the Dehene base village for Ajoba Trek for Mumbaikar is through Local Train (Central Railway). Take a local train to Asangaon. I suggest taking the last train out from CSMT at 12:15 AM, reaching Asangaon by 02:15 AM. Asangoan Railway station is situated around 45 kms from our base village.
From Asangaon Railway Station you take a Private Rickshaw / State Transport Bus / Shared Jeep till Dehene Village, which will take around 1 hour 30 minutes. The bus ticket from Dehene to Shahapur will cost you INR 35.00 per person and the share jeep from Asangaon to Shahapur will cost you INR 100.00 per person. Alternatively, you can book a private rickshaw from Dehene to Asangaon which will cost you INR 500.
Private Car: If comfort is your priority and travelling in a group go by car. Dehene is well-connected to Mumbai by roadways via Mumbai - Nashik Expressway, it will take around 3-4 hours to reach the bases village with a break. The road is well constructed, several ATMs, petrol pumps, hotels, restaurants and banks are located on the route.
Accommodation: At Dehene, you can easily find a homestay to spend the night if you are planning to travel a day in advance to start trekking early in the morning and of course, they will also help you with breakfast. Don't expect anything fancy here.
Ajoba - Luv & Kush Cave trek
This is Ajoba - Luv Kush Cave trek whereas not the real Ajoba top trek. Actual Ajoba mountain is the one which can be seen towards the left side from Dehene. However since there is nothing on the top of it, Most of the trekkers trek the right side pinnacle which is called Site cha Palna or Sitamai’s cradle. Luv & Kush cave or Sita Cha Palna is the last point of the trek and is at an approx height of 2300 feet ASL whereas the real Ajoba height is around 4511 feet ASL.
Ajoba trek is in two halves where the first half is upto Valmiki Ashram which is a leisure walk and the road is quite wide for 4 x 4 and offroad bikes & cars. The forest is sacred with rich flora and fauna. Being under Kalsubai Harishcandragad Wildlife Sanctuary. If you prefer to walk as I do then it would take you 1 hour from starting point to reach Valmiki Ashram.
The path from Dehene to Ashram passing through a faint entry gate is pretty straightforward. Keep ascending the road for the next few kilometres through the forest and you will be at the much-talked place - The Valmiki Ashram.
The first look and the place appeared to have surface right out of stories. Evenly spread greenery of tree lines in the red soil bathing in the rain engulfed in the thin layer of fog. There are temples dedicated to God Rama, Sita and Shiva. A Dhyan Kendra (meditation room) build in the shape of a pyramid under the canopy of the tall tree. On its left side, there is Dharmashala. Less often you will find such a beautiful blend of nature and a feeling of divine calmness.
The second part from Valmiki Ashram to Sita Cha Palna start right behind the temple, which would take another hour. Though a trek is of short duration, the second part of the trek is considered to be really challenging with the very steep rocky terrain. It will feel like rock climbing, the ascend will get steeper with every step till you reach Khind (Pass). This is a beautiful spot. Very narrow V-shaped opening between two tall mountains. The view from here was simply awesome. You can see a deep valley in front of you as well as behind. The lush green valley below and fog and clouds spread around. All this is enclosed with the black rock border of the mountain from both sides.
There is a rock patch with steps carved out on the right side mountain and above that Sita Cha Palna and the cave in which Luv-Kush’s Paduka are carved. Even though it is 20-25 ft. high, it is visible from Khind. One has to climb to reach the cave. There is a water cistern, however, polluted. This cave is under a pinnacle that is separated from the main Ajoba mountain.
The valley is very steep and one has to be careful during the monsoon. One can travel around the pinnacle. Climbing to the top is not recommended as the rock patch of the pinnacle is loose and shaky with just slight touch. The whole patch may fall at any time. This is best visited during monsoon as the winds are strong with clouds floating.
Spend some time of the top engross yourself by capturing some amazing memories in your camera and then start walking back through the same trail. Descending slowly and gradually through a path full of boulders to reach the ashram again and then the starting point again.
Sitamai Palna is located between the two rock faces and provides a splendid view of the valley, especially during the monsoon. Ajoba should trek in the monsoon as it will be lush green and full of waterfalls.
Listen To Me:
Do not risk your life while trekking, take a local guide because the patch between Valmiki Asharam and Luv& Kush Cave is completely unmarked, so just ask for the trek guide at the place you are staying or at the base village. Only local guide hiring will cost you around INR 700 or alternatively, you can take a package that includes a guide, stay, dinner, lunch & breakfast for INR 1200.
Carry some ready to eat food, atleast 2-3 litres of water. There aren't any food options available during the trek.
Please do not throw bottles or leave any trash behind. It spoils the beauty and environment.
Please get a proper trekking shoe with a grip and if possible carry a walking stick also.
Talk to the native villagers gently and give respect to them, because you are their guests.
Wear full sleeves T-shirt and Pant, which will protect you from the wild insect. It's a jungle, we are bound to bump into these wild insects like leeches.
Carry an Id proof.
Trek Level: Medium Endurance
Base Village: Dehene, Shahapur, Maharashtra
Time Required: 6-7 hours round way.
Region: Thane District