Kalsubai, the highest point in the Deccan, 5127 feet above the sea, is said to take its name from a Koli girl named Kalsu.’ Kalsu, according to the story, was fond of wandering in the forest. One day she came to Indor at the foot of the hill now called Kalsubai, and took service with a Koli family on condition that she should not be asked to clean pots or to sweep. Matters went smoothly till, one day, one of the family ordered Kalsu to clean some pots and clear away some Utter. She did as she was bid, bat, immediately after, climbed the hill and stayed on its top till her death. Where she cleaned the pots is known as Thale Mel, and where she cleared away the litter as Kaldara. The hill is a natural stronghold about ten miles south-east of Igatpuri, the nearest railway station. Its top is a cone with room only for a small shrine and a trigonometrical survey cairn. There is a large lower shoulder without remains of buildings, and the absence of water cisterns shows that the hill was never used as a fort. [Mr. W.Ramsay, C.S.]
The hill falls very abruptly on three sides. On the fourth, that is the south side, are numerous pathways cut by grasscutters and visitors to the temple. There is also a road up the hill from Indor, steep but practicable, the only difficult bit being near the top where it passes over a slippery wall of rock, where holes are cut to climb by. A priest from Indor climbs daily to the temple to offer fowls. Every Tuesday devotees flock from the villages below to pay their respects to Kalsubai Devi and make offerings. About one-third of the way, on the north side which is singularly bare of trees, a fine spring of water flows from a stone-built basin. The water is said to reappear in Shuklatirth, another large basin of out stone with a cow’s mouth, about a mile from the base of the hill. There is no regular fair, but all passers-by visit the spot.
Kalsubai is worshipped at two places, one half way up, the other on the hill top. Many Kolis worship her as their household goddess for the people believe that the goddess favours those who make a vow to her in cases of trouble and difficulty. The village of Bari in the Akola sob-division of Ahmadnagar was granted to the Koli family who gave employment to Kalsubai, because their breach of contract gained the bill a deity and the people a guardian.
In 1860 Archdeacon Gell wrote the following account of a visit to Kalsubai: [Chesson and Woodhall’s Bombay Miscellany, I. 8.] ‘Daring the night I mounted this king of Deccan hills, the ascent of which was more than usually precipitous. At one place, the only possible advance was through the branches of a sturdy little tree, which conveniently grew out of the cleft and formed a ticklish sort of staircase to walk up in the middle of the night. [This cleft overlooks Bari village east of the hill, and the tree still (1879) serves the same purpose. There is an easier, though in one or two places more slippery, path to the south of that used by Mr. Gell. Mr. J. A. Baines, C.S,] When we reached the foot of the knot of rocks, which form the highest bit of earth in the Deccan, so chill a night wind struck us that my guides declined the further ascent and assured me there was nothing whatever on the top, which we, being so close under the rock, could not see. Scrambling up, I found a little temple dedicated to Devi Kalsu on the bit of platform only a few yards in circumference, at a height of 5427 feet above sea level. I knew the sunrise would give me a fine prospect, and I was not disappointed. Below, to the northward, lay a ruck of hills, sinking into the wide Godavari plain, the great rocks of Trimbak, Anjani, and Harish at its source being distinctly observable. A shade of green in the far plain showed where lay the city of Nasik, over which rose the Dhair and Ramsej forts and their range of hills. Above and beyond, the great Chandor range stretched across the horizon; Achla, Ahivant, Saptashring, Markinda, Ravlya-Javlya, Doramb or Dhodap, Rajdhair, and Indrai lifting their sunlit heads against the morning sky. Beyond the hollow of Chandor, hidden by two projecting forts belonging to the line of the Kalsubai hills, were the Ankai-Tankai twins commanding the road between Ahmadnagar and Malegaon. To the west on the Kalsnbai range itself were Alang and Kulang, and to the east and north-east the giant heads of Bitangad, Pattah, Aundha, and Ad. To the south the eye ranged over dense forests, rising amid which, along the line of the Sahyadris, were several more forts, the chief of them Harischandragad; and beyond, to the south and west, lay the Konkan, and resting on it the great fort of Mahuli. Further to the south the Matheran range was dimly visible, like islands floating on a sea of wave-like hills.’