Saturday, 17 October 2009

Hill Fort of Mhowle or Mahuli

Hill Fort of Mhowle Drawn by Captn. Barton and Lithographed by R Ackermann.
Please click on image for a larger version.

The lithograph is one of a number made from drawings by James Barton my great great great grandfather, a Captain in the Bombay Artillery between 1811 and 1827.

James Barton who originated from Manchester, had sailed out to India from Portsmouth shortly after 12th January 1811. Arriving in Bombay shortly before the 8th of June 1811, he was appointed as a Lieutenant Fireworker on the 8th of June 1811, and was promoted again on the following day to Lieutenant.

It is not clear when the drawing that Ackermann subsequently turned into the lithograph was completed.

James Barton was however on active service in this region of the Konkan during 1818 at the height of the Mahratta War.

Following the war he married Eliza Georgiana Hawkins on the May 22nd 1821 at Bombay Cathedral. During the 1880's Eliza wrote an account of her life which said..

“I continued to reside with Catherine until in May 1821, I married Captn James Barton, who was Brigade Major in the East India Company’s Artillery. We were married in Bombay Cathedral, & went to live in Seroor, where my Husband held his appointment.We lived there very comfortably."

It is quite possible that the drawings were done in the course of their journey or possibly honeymoon while on their way together to Seroor.

Mrs James Barton, dressed in her best Muslin dress

I have never been to this region of India, and I would be fascinated to learn where he had been camped. What does this mountain look like today?

I do not know the route he was taking, but there was a route past the fort that was sufficiently important during the 1820's for it to appear in a guide book published in 1826. This perhaps provides a clue as to the location of the camp.

From "Itinerary and directory for Western India: being a collection of routes ..." by John Clunes published in 1826.

It is interesting to try to fit the route given above with Google Earth images.

Kalian, is now called Kalyan. If however you type Kalyan into Google Earth it takes you to a location at 19 degs 16' 23.32" N 73 degs 08' 13.16" E, which is a grassy bank on the Ulhas River a couple of miles upstream of a major unnamed city shown at 19 degs 14' 30.21"N 73 degs 07' 19.28" E which appears to be Kalyan, and which appears to fit mapping produced in the 1950's much better than the position given by Google Earth.

The second location given in the itinerary Titwalla is spelt Titvala today.

A marked up copy of a 1950's American map of the Konkan, showing the approximate route given in John Clune's itinerary from 1826. Please click on the image for a larger map. [1]

If you measure the modern direct route to Titvala via Ambivli, it comes out at only 7 miles, where Clunes says 9.7 miles. Interestingly however if you followed the modern NH 222 to the point where it crosses the Ulhas River, and then strike off towards Titvala the distance comes out at 9.7 miles.

Google Earth Image of the areas around Titwalla or Titvala.
Please click on image for larger version.

The most obvious ford of the Kalloo River, or Kalu River is the location shows at Titwalla Ford 1826, but the American military maps which were largely based on British military maps from the early 20th century show the ford at the alternative location I have marked. This alternative location certainly has a large gravel bank and is probably quite shallow. The actual ford used may of course have depended on the state of the river and rainfall at the time, as well as the determination of the party attempting to cross the river.

The itinerary goes on to a village called Ootnah. This name has gone, but there is a village marked at Utan on the 1950's map, and which clearly shows on Google Earth in about the right sort of location.

Route between Titwalla and Kooslah.
Please click on image for larger version.

As the itinerary clearly goes to Ootnah I have shown the probable route. The route traced follows a road that is still in use to this day, although as Kosle is neared it degenerates into little more than a cattle track, but this is often the case with routes whose importance is eclipsed by things like railways for new roads.

I have also marked an alternative route that could also have been used. The intinerary talks of "Through thin jungle... 3. 6 miles." The areas around Utan appear to be cultivated, and I can only presume that this has probably been the case for several centuries.

It is possible that this jungle was the area of tree covered hills shown on the photo. There are tracks across these hills, as well as several long linear features which I take to be natural features, possibly part of the Deccan Traps?

Are these lines caused by volcanic intrusions?

An image showing the two branches of the Batsee River. This river is nowadays called the Bhatsa River. Please click on image for larger version.

The description rather suggests that the 1820's route was somewhat to the east of the existing modern bridge. Close examination of Google Earth imagery shows several tracks down to the river from the village centre which may have moved over time.

Image of the route between the Batsee [Bhatsa] River and Assungaon [Asangaon]. Please click on image for larger version.

The route in the itinerary clearly goes onto towards the modern town of Asangaon, and it would be easy to presume that James Barton might have travelled that route as well.

However inspection of the following photo suggests that this was not the case.

Mahuli from Asangaon, a photo posted by Nature Knights on a blog called Trekmahuli, taken from the south. From comparison from of this photo and the original drawing it would appear that the drawing was either turned into a lithograph in reverse of the drawing was done from the northern slopes. [2]

The mountains either reversed or it looks very similar in profile from the north?

Did Ackermann's draughtsman, just prick the drawing through in reverse?

Have any of you been on the northern side of Mahuli?

Can you work out where James Barton camped?

The trekmahuli blog at contains a good series of photos showing the roughness of the terrain that James was travelling through.

In some senses he was nearing the edge of the map. I have tried to match Clunes itinerary beyond Asangaon, and I am finding that I cannot match the 19th century names to places on modern maps.

Have I crossed an ethnic or language boundary? Which way was Clunes sending us?

Is this why I can't match it any further?

[1] From
[2] From


Nomadosauras said...

Hello Nick! A very interesting post! I went to the fort of Mahuli very recently and would like to believe I can answer your questions.
The Lithograph has not been reversed as I can see a very clear depression in the middle of Bhandargad (to the right of Mahuli) which is in fact, the Kalyan Darwaza and when the fort complex is viewed from the south(or east, where the base of the fort is located), Bhandargad has no such feature on its east face. The camp shown in the drawing, should be in present day Vasind (in the direction of Kalyan).
Kalyan Darwaza was blasted to prevent future conquests of the fort from the west after the war and hence nowadays, that route is not frequently used by amateur trekkers like myself (we prefer the easier southern/eastern route which the trekking group you mentioned in the post also regularly takes) but experienced ones do climb it from Vasind using professional equipment. I have added the picture in my blog and also provided a link to your post in the caption of the drawing. Do check it out to see what it looks like at present!
My blog post:

Looking forward to your reply,

Colonel Rexford said...

Fascinating Nick, great stuff!