|Malanggad or Bava Malang, also known as " Cathedral Rock " from the broken outline of its basalt crest, was once a strong hill-fort, and among Thane hills one of the most picturesque and the most difficult to climb. Lying approximately ten miles south of Kalyan and connected by a regular bus service upto its base from the Kalyan railway station, it has grown into a major centre of pilgrimage for people of all castes and creeds. Everyday, all the year round, and especially on Thursdays, Sundays and holidays, the stream of pilgrims is endless. |
The oldest name connected by tradition with Malanggad is that of Nala Raja who is said to have lived on the hill about 800 years ago and to have improved the ascent by laying down a line of iron straps. During his reign, Haji Abdul Rahman, an Arab missionary, arrived with a number of followers and settled on the lower plateau of the hill. To test his sanctity Nala Raja sent his lovely daughter to the holy man. The recluse stood the test. He took the maiden on his knee and she was to him as a daughter. Convinced of his virtue, Nala Raja gave him the girl in marriage, and to this day she shares her husbands glory and sanctity. According to some the tomb next to the Bavas is that, of his adopted daughter, but the pilgrims refer to it as the tomb of Masaket. Six hundred years and more passed, and the fame of Haji Abdul Rahman was still at its height wl1en the English made their appearance in Kalyan. As they stayed only for two years (1780-82), their departure was ascribed to the power of the saint and as a thanks offering the Peshwa sent to the shrine a pall of cloth of gold trimmed with pearls and supported on silver posts. Neither this cloth nor the supporting silver posts are found in the tomb today. This gift was brought in State under the charge of Kashinath Pant Ketkar, a Brahman of Kalyan. Bare-headed and bare-footed, accompanied by a large number of followers of all castes and creeds, Kashinath went in procession from Kalyan up the hill to the tomb, bearing the Peshwas thanks-offering. Moved by the sight of the dilapidated tomb, Kashinath determined to repair it. A difficulty about the masonry was removed by the saint, who, without the help of men, quarried and dressed the handsome blocks which cover his tomb. This is how the Ketkars became the managers of the Bavas dargah. The Kalyan Musalmans headed by one Hydad, the hereditary guardian of the tomb, did not acquiesce in Brahman management. In 1817 the dispute was taken before the District Collector who ordered that the will of the saint should be determined by casting lots. Lots were accordingly cast and three times the lot fell on the representative of Kashinath Pant, who was proclaimed the guardian. Recently the battle was taken right upto the Supreme Court which decided that the office of vahivatdar or manager should be hereditary in the Ketkar family. Gopalrao Krishnaji Ketkar, an adopted descendant of Kashinath Pant, has been the vahivatdar since 1937. A mausoleum, with a huge dome and !)ilver-plated doors, has been constructed over the tomb. Every May since the time of Kashinath Pant there has been a yearly pilgrimage and fair. On the February full moon, (Magh Shuddh pournima) urus attended by over two lakhs of devotees, Hindus, Musalmans, Parsees, Christians and others, is celebrated.
On the night of the fourth of August 1780, a body of British troops from Kalyan, under Captain Abington, surprised Malanggad and succeeded in taking the lower hill, but the garrison made good their retreat to the upper fort. A body of 3,000 Marathas cut off Abingtons communication with Kalyan exposing him to the attacks of the garrison from the upper fort. Early in October Colonel Hartley arrived from Bombay and was joined by a corps under Captain Jameson near Malanggad. The garrison was also reinforced and taking a position to the south-east of the hill began to lay waste the country. Colonel Hartley, after relieving Abington on the lst of October, advanced upon the Marathas, who retiring towards their camp, were surprised and put to flight by Captain Jamesons corps. However the English did not hold on to Malanggad for long. They retired in 1782. After the cession of the Konkan to the English in 1817, Malanggad held out for some months. It was escaladed in January 1818 by a small force under Colonel Kennedy with the loss of one seaman killed and nine or ten sepoys wounded.
As has already been mentioned, Malanggau is most easily reached across a tar-topped road from Kalyan. Like most of the chief Thane hill-forts, it rises in a succession of bare stony slopes, broken by waJls of rock. From the base almost to the tomb of the Bava, masonry and kutcha stone steps have been laid by some of his devotees to facilitate the climb, the entire route being flanked by huts of the beggars v ho pester the pilgrims and to propitiate whom, it is believed, is to invoke the blessings of the Bava. At intervals along the path and on the saints plateau, numerous restaurants. sweetmeat and flower shops have sprung up catering to the needs of the pilgrims. An easy non-stop climb of about twenty minutes brings the pilgrims to the first stage marked by the tomb of Bokhtiar Baba who is believed to have tried to ascend the hill before Syed Abdul Rahman. A further climb of another fifteen to twenty minutes ends in a wide, once richly wooded plateau, the path leading to the tomb of Bava Malang, the holy man of the Malang school of Musalman ascetics. Before reaching the Bavas tomb the pilgrims do not forget to pay their respects to tile tomb of Sultan Shah Baba, a disciple of the great saint. At a short distance, to the left of Sultan Shahs tomb is a recently-installed Shiv ling. The plateau slopes upward to the base of a great comb backed rock from four to five hundred feet high. From the slopes at the back of the plateau, a flight of rock-cut steps in fair order and nowhere less than three feet wide, climbs a long narrow arched ridge about fhree hundred feet up to a small level space which forms the lower fort of Malanggad. This is a fragment of one of the level belts or terraces as it were a step between the saints plateau and the crest of the rock. It is bare of trees and badly supplied with water, and nothing is left of the fortifications I save a broken gateway, a low ruined parapet wall and the sites of ruined dwellings. From the west end of this shelf of rock a flight of rock-cut steps climb, in irregular twists and zigzags about a hundred feet up the face of a sheer cliff. The ascent begins with a sharp turn and a breast-high step and above there is much difficulty and some risk. The ledge up which the steps clamber is not more than twenty inches broad in some places, and Captain Dickinsons blasting was so thorough that now and again, hand and foot holes have had to be cut for the help of the pilgrims. On one side the cliff falls in a sheer wall of about a hundred feet and then slopes sharply with clumps of trees, patches of bleached grass, and lines of broken borders, two or three hundred feet further to the saints plateau. On the other side rises a bare overhanging rock and neither in front nor behind are there any clear signs of a path-way. The steps end in the upper fort, a level ridge about fifty yards by twenty, bare of trees except one old umbar or hill fig, but full of ruins, old cisterns and the sites of buildings. On "
reaching the top the pilgrims have three duties to perform, viz:, to wash their hands and feet in the large cistern, gather and eat some umbar figs, and to cast a stone at the pinnacle of rock that rises to the, " south-west across a cliff about twenty yards broad. To the pilgrims this pinnacle is known as Balahamsa. On a clear day the hill-top commands a splendid view much like the view from Panorama point of Matheran hill except that close at hand the rocks of Malanggad itself and of its neighbours, Tavli and Chanderi, look wilder and more desolate, and that in the far south-east, the Sahyadris are hidden behind the long ridges of Matheran and Prabal. To the right of the Bavas ~
dargah, at a distance of five minutes walk, is a perennial spring known to his devotees as the chashma. The pilgrims sip the holy water and carry it home as tirth. About two miles further are five kabars or tombs of the five great servants of the Bawa and are called as Panch pir.
The following are the details of Captain Dickinsons survey in 1818 :-The fort is reached after climbing a perpendicular height of about 700 feet. Connected with the base of the hill is a forest-covered tableland upon which is the Bavas tomb and a few huts for the use of the garrison. From this tableland the ascent to the lower fort is very steep and upwards of 300 feet high. The latter part of the ascent is by an almost perpendicular rock-hewn staircase, at the top of which is a strong gate-way covered by two outstanding towers, which even with the smallest garrison, make the place impregnable. Beyond this gate- way, the lower fort is nothing more than the summit of this part of
of the hill, an exceedingly narrow strip not more than 300 yards long. The precipice which surrounds it is in most cases a complete natural defence and all spots which could offer a footing to an assailant have been strengthened by masonry .The lower fort contains only two scarcely habitable buildings and a small reservoir, giving a sufficient supply of water during the greater part of the year. From the lower to the upper fort there is a perpendicular ascent of 200 feet by means of a narrow flight of rock-hewn steps on the other side of the hill, on the face of a precipice so steep as to make the ascent most difficult and dangerous at all times. The upper fort, a space of about 200 yards long by about seventy broad, is nothing more than the top, as it were of the third hill. It has no fortifications, but there are traces of an enclosure and of the walls of an old building. The water-supply is from a range of five cisterns, and a copper pipe is used to carry water to the lower fort, as its single cistern used often to run dry .