Travel

Hampi, Anegundi, Aihole, Pattadakal, Badami Part 2

Day 3

After an exhausting day in Hampi, we decided to take it easy the next day. This decided our destination for the day, which was Anegundi. Anegundi is nearby, @  20 km. from Hampi instead of another exhausting drive to Aihole, Pattadakal and Badami, which involved lot of travel.

Instead of breakfast in the resort itself, we opted for a light one outside. So the driver took us to the same garden restaurant where we had lunch the previous day. While my wife had a simple sada dosa, I had Mysore masala dosa which was totally different from the one available in Mumbai and so mouth-watering.

Once the breakfast was done, we were on the way to Anegundi. We passed through the very common landscape of Hampi and it’s surroundings, the boulder strewn countryside with small, green fields sprinkled in between. These are the rice plantations interspersed with the banana ones.

 

For those who don’t know, Anegundi or Anegondi is the Kishkindha of Ramayana. Kishkindha was the capital of Vali, the Monkey King and his brother Sugreeva, who helped locate Maa Sita for Shri Ram.

 

We reached our first destination, the  Anjanadri hill. A small, whitewashed temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman is perched on the summit. The Anjanadri hill is a hill of huge boulders piled on top of each other. The driver told us that there are more than 550 steps to the top which seemed to be a daunting task. But we decided to brave it and were on the way.

 

It’s a relief that most of the initial climb is under covers, as there is a roof constructed over the stairs. But once you have crossed 1/3rd of the way, you are climbing under the direct sunlight and the steps become steeper. It is not for those with bad knees. We were apprehensive on this point, but thankfully our knees held up.

 

As one climbs higher and higher, the view below gets more enchanting, a chequered vista of green and brown, green of the rice fields and brown of the boulders.

 

So we proceeded with regular halts to catch our breath. I noticed one thing. When there are many people doing the same thing; here, climbing and halting to catch their breath, an unknown bond is formed with the fellow climbers, smiles are exchanged, they tell each other, where they come from, their immediate travel plans, etc.

Just before the last few steps to the top, you have to bend more than half of your body height to pass underneath a huge boulder which almost bars you from proceeding further. It’s as if the penultimate bow before the Lord before you are welcomed into his presence.P_20200306_113744

We left our footwear with an aged person who seemed to be appointed for just that. Since the month of March is not in the usual tourist season, there was not much of a crowd. 

We were soon inside the Hanuman Mandir. We had darshan and sat inside, meditating before the Lord. It’s a small mandir and the space inside is enough for just a handful of devotees. 

After 15-20 minutes of silent contemplation, we emerged outside to have a look at the surrounding landscape. And were we zapped with the beauty of the fields below!

If that is not enough, tall coconut trees line the green fields and narrow canals and lazy roads meander through them.

 

After spending about an hour and a half on the top, we started our descent. During the descent, the topmost steps were comparatively difficult due to the step height. But once we reached the covered steps, the final descent was a breeze.

When we reached at the bottom, we were surprised to see a lady hawker of bananas talking to the monkeys who surrounded her. Though we didn’t understand the language, we were sure she was admonishing them for being boisterous and naughty.

Talking of being boisterous, we were certainly not, after the vigorous exercise of the last 3 hours. Our battery was down and our driver wanted us to climb another small hill to go to another temple. We declined politely, praying before the hill with folded hands.

Next, he took us to the Laxmi mandir located on the bank of Pampa Sarovar. Pampa Sarovar is a small lake which is considered to be one of the holy lakes in India. It attracts a large number of pilgrims as well as tourists throughout the year.

It finds a mention in the Ramayana too as Lord Ram and his brother, Laxmana had passed through during their quest for Sita. It is the same place where Shabari waited with the berries to meet Lord Ram. 

Though we didn’t witness it, Pampa Sarovar becomes very picturesque during the season of lotus bloom, with the whole lake being filled with lotus buds.

The priest of the Laxmi temple was a Maharashtrian from the holy place of Pandharpur and we were pleasantly surprised when he started talking to us in Marathi as soon as he saw us enter. I was surprised and asked him how he knew that we too were Maharashtrians. He just smiled mystically and proceeded with his prayers.

Once we left from there we were feeling hungry and tired. We had lunch at the garden restaurant and then decided to rest at the resort in the afternoon.

After the siesta, my wife was still feeling exhausted so I proceeded alone, this time to the Tungabhadra dam. 

The Karnataka Government has made excellent arrangements for the tourists. They arrange regular bus trips to the top of the hill, which flanks the dam and also to a beautiful garden.

Once I got off from the bus, the silvery rays of the setting Sun, reflecting from the dam waters welcomed me.

The panoramic view from above gives a bird’s eye view of the surrounding plains. One can see many water canals below, taking the water to far off places. After spending about 45 minutes on the hilltop, I made my way back. I skipped the garden as I was alone and then returned back to the resort.

 

Thus ended the day. The next day was another day of long car rides and walking.

Yatindra Tawde

 

Travel

A visit to Hampi, Anegundi, Aihole, Pattadakal, Badami – Part 1

Day 1

Our trip started on a bad footing, with us almost missing our flight. In fact, we were welcomed with ‘Gate closed’ sign at the boarding gate however a few fervent requests got us through. Bless their soul, Indigo.

We reached Hubli airport on time after a tiring, hopping flight and got into the pre-booked taxi towards Hospete immediately. The road from Hubli to Hospete was under repairs and we took almost 3.5 hours to reach our resort. Why Hospete? Well it’s the nearest town to Hampi having good hotels.

The first part of our journey from Hubli to Hospete was quite a chore, what with the bad road, the burning Sun and the treeless scenery. However as you near Hospete the scenery changes dramatically and takes on green hues, thanks to excellent water management by means of a dam and water canals. With rice fields on both sides and quite a few coconut trees, the scenery freshens one up.

Finally we reached our destination, our resort for the next 4 days. It was a long journey which started when we left our house at 6.45 am. and reached the resort @12 hours later. It was an early shut-eye as next day was long.

Day 2

Vitthal templeP_20200305_095958

After breakfast, we proceeded towards the first destination, The Vitthal temple in Hampi. When we reached there by taxi and got down, two persons selling various tourism booklets rushed towards us. Since the booklets were of good quality, I proceeded to buy one.P_20200305_094904

Another person approached us. This was the guide who was offering his services. After a bit of haggling, we finalized the deal and were on the way. Since the temple complex is quite far away from the car park, the ASI has kept a fleet of battery run vehicles. We paid for the tickets of the vehicle ride.

 

 

We were advised to buy tickets which would be accepted at other heritage places of Hampi, which we promptly did. The ticket for the heritage sites visit is quite economical for an Indian citizen.

We entered the temple complex which has the Vitthal temple, the stone chariot, the sabhamantapa, Rangamantapa with the world famous musical pillars, kalyanamantapa and utsavmantapa.

The complex is surrounded by high walls and has three towering gateways. The torrential rains of 2019 have had an unfortunate impact on the old structures. Most of the structures are now closed to the tourists and they are barred from entering the structures except one. I was so disappointed when I was told that I cannot tap on the musical pillars to hear the musical notes, which was one of my goals when the visit was decided. However the exquisite carvings all round, somewhat made up for that disappointment.

The incomparable stone chariot is a must-see in the complex and one cannot miss it as it is in the central section of the complex. It is one of the few remaining stone chariots in India, the other two being in Konark, Orissa and in Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu. The guide enlightened us that a massive sculpture of Garuda was seated atop the chariot in the olden days, but now it is in ruin. He also told us that the stone wheels were rotating once upon a time but concerned about the wear and tear, the government cemented them to avoid further damage.

 

The guide explained that when the Great King, Shri Krishna Deva Raya was in Orissa on a War mission, he was fascinated by the Konark Sun temple chariot and decided to get it constructed in his dominion.P_20200305_094924_1

Amazingly it looks as if constructed from a single piece of stone, but is actually made up of slabs of granite and the linkages are smartly hidden from the lay observer. Though now closed to the public from entering inside, a stone ladder is observed between two stone elephants flanking it.

The Ranga Mantapa is another attraction and has the renowned musical pillars. As per the guide there were or are, 56 pillars and the notes emanating from them when tapped gently, vary in sound quality. He explained that the British rulers were wonderstruck and curious about the secret of the sound source and they proceeded to cut two of them to check whether anything existed inside the pillars. They found nothing but stone!

The Maha Mantapa is a structure of immense beauty and consists of four smaller halls. Even the ceiling is richly designed.

The sanctum sanctorum of the main temple is devoid of any idol. But even today, the observer can imagine the grandeur of the temple. There is an interesting story attached to the temple and there is a close connection to the Vitthal Mandir in Pandharpur, Maharashtra.

Finally we dragged our feet, reluctantly away from this grand temple, as we had to visit many more sites.

Queen’s bath

It’s a colossal bath and is believed to have been constructed by King Achyuta Raya for the women of the royal family. It was their private bathing chamber.

The exterior structure is simple, however it has an ornate interior and is built in Indo-Islamic architectural design. It is a rectangular building and consists of a big sunken bath located centrally. The sunken bath is surrounded by beautiful arched corridors and projecting balconies with windows. Though these arched bays are covered from above, the bath itself is open to the sky. An aqueduct or aqueducts brought fresh water to the bath.

Archeological museum

After a quick lunch in a good, economical garden restaurant, we were at the archeological museum of Hampi, preferring not to go out into the burning sun immediately after lunch.

The museum has a great collection of exhibits and some of the sculptures are huge. I loved the replica of the overall Hampi topography which is in the centre of the museum.

The Royal Enclosure

The unimpressive entrance to the enclosure doesn’t prepare you for the grandeur inside.

Immediately on entering the enclosure, a great vista opens up before you and it’s as if you have entered a time machine, which has taken you into the past, albeit a ruined one. It’s an open air museum and showcases the architectural excellence of that era.

Mahanavami Dibba

This is a huge 8 meter high platform and it stands a solitary witness to the grand era of centuries ago. It is three tiered and has a flight of steps leading to the top. Each tier has intricate sculptures which depict the everyday life in those days. We climbed the steps and reached the top where a panoramic 360 degree view of the surrounding area greeted us. This platform was used during the Navami celebrations and one can see the remains of pillar bases which indicate that a huge pavilion once stood in the centre.

Stepped tank

This tank is a marvel of ancient engineering and is one of the better preserved structures inside the Royal Enclosure. It is a 5 tiered tank and one can only admire those ancient builders.

Excellent water distribution by means of stone aqueducts is the hallmark of the ancient ruins and and a large section of the aqueducts is well restored. Some sections deliver water even today. One can see a stone aqueduct directed towards the stepped tank, though there is no water now in this particular aqueduct and the water inside the stepped tank is stagnant, residual rainwater.P_20200305_114225

King’s Audience Hall

This was said to be 100 pillared but only the base remains now. Remnants of a stone staircase suggest another storey above believed to be made of wood.

Underground chamberP_20200305_115946

Though we didn’t venture inside, it lies between the King’s Audience Hall and the stepped tank where the rulers are believed to have held important discussions with their inner circle of trusted aides.

Hazara Rama temple

A temple dedicated to Lord Rama, it is the only temple in the Royal Enclosure. Relics on the walls depict the Ramayana and are comparatively better preserved in the entire Royal Enclosure.

There were other structures nearby which now lie in ruins. One can see ruins of a Shiva temple with a damaged Nandi facing it.

Though the Royal Enclosure may seem an empty area at first glance, it does reveal interesting details upon closer examination. It is possible that wood was extensively used in the construction due to which it was easier to destroy by the enemies. Just outside the Royal Enclosure, the horse stables are located where there is a large stone trough for holding drinking water for the horses.P_20200305_120301

Kamal Mahal

This building is within the so-called Zenana enclosure, a segregated area believed to be used by the royal women of the ruling dynasty. It is called so, due to its lotus like structure. It seems to have survived the brutal assault on the city when the rulers were defeated by their enemies. It can only be admired from the outside now as the arched windows and balconies are vulnerable to further damage.

Elephant stablesP_20200305_124338_SRES

This impressive structure used to provide shelter to the royal elephants and is located near the Kamal Mahal.

Behind the elephant stables, two temples are located, in totally dilapidated condition.

Lakshmi Narasimha statueP_20200305_151938

As you approach the statue from the road and near it, the huge monolith dwarfs you. It is the largest monolithic statue in Hampi, carved from a single boulder of granite. This statue too was commissioned by Krishna Deva Raya and is dedicated to the Narasimha Avatar of Lord Vishnu.

Narasimha wears a beautiful headgear and sits in a cross-legged position. The seven hoods of Adishesha the divine serpent, serve as a canopy over the head of Narasimha. The large, protruding eyes impart a fearsome look.

Badavilinga TempleP_20200305_152143

Located near the Narasimha statue, is the Badavilinga Temple having the largest monolithic Shiva Linga in Hampi and is made of black stone. It has a height of 3 meters. Interestingly, the temple doesn’t have a roof and the sunlight enters through the open ceiling and floods the Linga with light. Of course, the rain water still surrounded the Linga and a water channel flows through the shrine, hence the Linga stands on a bed of water.

Sasivekalu Ganesha temple

It is a huge statue of Lord Ganesha carved out of a single block of rock. It is about 8 feet tall.

This Ganesha is seated and has a snake tied around its stomach. It is said that Lord Ganesha consumed a lot of food, due to which he felt his stomach would burst. So to prevent it from bursting, he tied a snake around his stomach.

Kadalekalu Ganesha temple

This Ganesha is one of the largest in entire Southern India. This is also monolithic and we were able to observe the statue from the rear side of the temple. Even the back of the statue is well carved. But the image imprinted on my memory, are the beautiful fingers which appear so delicate on the huge monolith.

Virupaksha TempleP_20200305_154107

Dedicated to Lord Shiva, it is the holiest and still attracts large number of worshippers. It is a huge complex with a tall tower, reminiscent of all major South Indian temples. It has a large courtyard and we saw an elephant inside, feeding on grass.

The ceiling of the main temple has many paintings of Dashavatar, scenes from Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

An ancient bazaar is in front of the temple and the ancient ruins are still visible.P_20200305_170617

It is advisable to take a guide at the temple, preferably inside. Then you will be taken to an underground temple, which is small yet impressive.

Another attraction is a dark area on the side, which has only a small window. We didn’t know why the guide is taking us there and followed him halfheartedly. But once inside he asked us to see a wall, opposite to the small window. A pinhole camera effect! We could clearly see the inverted image of the main gopuram on the opposite wall.

By the time we came out of the temple complex, it was almost 5.30 in the evening and we were totally tired. The hemkunta hill is situated nearby and one should not miss it, but our tiredness did not allow us to climb up the hill and we returned to the resort to plan our next day.

Yatindra Tawde

humour, Travel

The Recliner

Those who fly frequently will agree that the amount of space on offer is much less than in an ST Bus. That is, on most domestic flights.

Yes, the ST buses vibrate and they do travel on sturdy roads and they do make a lot of cacophony. But if you feel like stretching your legs, you can do so in the space available below the seat in front, if it is not occupied by assorted luggage of fellow travellers. And small mercies, the seats of a ST bus don’t recline.

Which is not the case in a domestic flight. Recently a video is doing the rounds of the social media in which a woman tries to recline her seat repeatedly while the man sitting behind her, bangs and pushes her seat as he doesn’t want to be inconvenienced. This video is from one of the western countries but a similar story repeats in our country skies too.

The usual story on a domestic flight goes something like this…

After what seems like an eternity of waiting in the departure area, finally the announcement everyone has been waiting for, is made. Unfortunately the departure gate has changed at the nth hour and everyone has to hurry across to the new one.

The flight duration itself is only 55 minutes but I have already spent more than 2 hours at the airport terminal. I am not even counting the 2 hours I spent in a taxi while reaching the airport.

A further few minutes are spent waiting in a queue to get the ticket scanned then I am on my way. As I reach the boarding bus, it gets full and speeds away. Fortunately another bus is just behind and I get onto it.

Like most other travellers, I don’t rush to the seats but stand near the bus door. As others have the same idea, soon the door gets blocked and someone from the airlines has to show the space available inside to the people who are already inside, by wild gesticulations of his hands and vocal cords. A few passengers (not me) finally get the message and reluctantly occupy the vacant seats thus allowing others to board the bus.

Some old ladies give me obnoxious looks, as if they have seen a particularly ugly specimen. Not to be outdone, I return an obnoxious look of my own. Then the airport tarmac darshan commences, with the bus meandering across the tarmac in search of the aircraft.

In a few minutes I am out on the Tarmac, as soon as the bus comes to a halt and the doors slide open. Happy to be the first in line, I rush with my laptop bag towards the front of the aircraft but the checker takes one look at my ticket and directs me towards the rear. Muttering expletives under my breath, I run across but find myself in yet another queue.

Finally I am inside but the stewardess ignores me but has a bright smile for the old gentleman following me and even wishes him! I glance at him over my shoulder; he seems extra jolly. I scowl at him and move on.

It takes an eternity to reach my row, mainly due to various passengers trying to fit their assorted luggage In the bins above.

As always my luck, or the lack of it, takes me to a middle seat. I think this is the worst seat to get via reservation, unless someone interesting occupies the neighbouring seats. However Murphy plays his part and I sit between two especially healthy specimen.

Due to the ample leg space, the person occupying the aisle seat has to get up and stand in the aisle while I try to find room for my laptop in the bin above. I push and shove the other luggage but can’t seem to fit my humble laptop bag there. Finally I dump it below the seat ahead and plonk myself in the middle seat. As I try to make myself comfortable, I find that there is no armrest for me as the two gentlemen own that space.

As I sit waiting for the aircraft to take off, the aircraft sits on the tarmac waiting for the green signal from the air traffic control. Finally it does…

The congested leg space is made more constricted by my neighbours but I decide to make myself comfortable by reclining my seat once the aircraft completes its ascent. Pressing the knob, I jerk back my seat.

“Bloody fool!”, I hear someone cursing from behind me. Ignore, man…ignore…and I pretend to sleep.

The curses go on for some more time and then fall silent. They always do. I slip into deep sleep.

Suddenly I feel huge pressure on my knees and wake up with a start. I find that the man in front of me has reclined his seat. A few expletives escape my mouth and spread themselves like mist in the air. But the totally shameless man in front of me is unaffected. He just covers his eyes and starts snoring…I let off steam for sometime and then I resign myself to my fate.

Friends! Isn’t this story quite familiar?

Though some of the passengers are obnoxious, this spatial challenge inside an aircraft is mainly profit driven. Previously the space between two consecutive rows was 34-35 inches which has now been reduced to 30-31 inches and in some cases, to a flimsy 28 inches.

The recliner angle, which had been designed considering the previous distance between the rows, hasn’t changed after the distance was reduced.

The precise reason for the decreasing space inside a huge aircraft. The precise reason why you, me and them fight.

Yatindra Tawde

Travel

A trip to Adivare

It was supposed to be an extended family visit but due to various genuine reasons, the other family members couldn’t make it but we decided to proceed.We had booked by Tejas Express from Thane to Ratnagiri, which is an early morning train and due to my mistake, we reached Thane station still earlier. The train reaches Thane station at 6.25 am. but I had misread it as 5.25 am. and had to face angry, sleepy stares from my wife and daughter. But since there was no other option, we waited it out for the train to arrive. Thankfully the train was on time so the wait did not extend for long.Tejas Express is one of the best trains in india and we were impressed with the spacious and clean interiors as well as the catering service. I must mention the excellent masala tea which was served. Very invigorating indeed.We reached Ratnagiri station on time. I have seen Ratnagiri station so many times but it still fascinates me, the way it has been constructed, gouged out of a small mound and retains an old world charm.After having a simple but tasty veg lunch at my company guest house and after freshening ourselves up, we moved to Ratnagiri ST Bus stop where we spent an eternity awaiting our bus for Adivare, to arrive. Every bus which came into the bus stand seemed like ‘our bus’ only to disappoint us with the town nameplate displayed at the front. Finally ‘our bus’ did arrive after almost 1.5 hours (@40 km.) and we were on the way. The short journey of approximately 1 hour was spent in catching up on our sleep.Why Adivare? Someone might ask as it is not on every tourist’s tourism goal. Well it happens to be the town which hosts the Kuldevi of the Tawde family, Maha Kali. In fact, in addition to Maha Kali Devi, it also hosts Maha Saraswati Devi and Maha Laxmi Devi. In addition to this, the Tawde extended family (all Tawde’s located anywhere in the world, irrespective of their native villages) have contributed to build a very elegant and imposing Tawde Wada (Tawde Atithi Bhavan), which is located off the Ratnagiri-Adivare road at a distance of @2 km. from Adivare towards Ratnagiri. This Tawde Wada was supposed to be our abode for the next 2 days.Though we had seen photos of Tawde Wada many times before, nothing had prepared us for the imposing red structure which greeted us, as we entered through the gates. The huge swords and shield which adorn the imposing, front facade give a fort-like feel to the already formidable construction. The central portion is occupied by a huge hall which also serves as a temple for Shree Saptakoteshwar (a form of the Lord Shiva), the Kuldaivat of the Tawde family. As the small reception desk is also in this hall, you have to remove your footwear outside and enter.We were warmly welcomed by the ever smiling caretaker, Mr. Sawant who registered us and then guided us to our room. After freshening up and resting for a while, we were outside to admire and explore the exquisite building.The lawns in front are very well maintained and so is the driveway. Though a huge structure, there are only 8 rooms which flank the huge hall in the centre, four on the lower level and four on the top. The construction itself reminds you of Rajasthani havelis, though there are no intricate carvings or designs. The building itself is made using laterite stone. It is apparent that the focus of the Architect was to give an exclusive feeling to discerning connoisseurs rather than maximising profits, which would be the main aim of any ordinary hotel.The homely atmosphere is further strengthened by very down to earth staff who are helpful and ever smiling. We had sumptuous veg meals on both days which reminded us of homemade food.On the second day, we proceeded to the Maha Kali temple in Adivare by an autorickshaw in the morning. The peaceful surroundings and no crowd allowed us to proceed with our prayers at a gentle pace. The highlight of the temple is the brightly painted, intricate carvings on wooden ceiling of the temple.In the same complex there is a Shiva temple which is said to be very ancient. A huge anthill from the floor, right upto the ceiling, occupies one corner of this temple which is said to be the abode of a cobra. A sighting of this cobra is said to be very auspicious.There is also a Ram temple in this complex where we prayed for the wellbeing of all.From Adivare, we proceeded to another temple nearby, the Sri Dev Kanakaditya temple which is dedicated to the Sun God and located in Kasheli village. It is one of the few remaining Sun temples in India. The murti is tejasvi (lustrous) and the entire temple complex is recently renovated. Beautiful and highly polished wooden carvings and pillars grant this temple a serene atmosphere.The story associated with this temple is very intersting. It is said that the main murti has been brought here from Prabhaspatan in Gujarat and here is the story -Many centuries back, a businessman from Prabhaspatan was proceeding on some business trip by a ship and he was carrying with him a murti of Sun God on the ship which was handed over to him for safe keeping by a priest of the Sun temple in Prabhaspatan. Once the ship reached the sea near the Kasheli village, it refused to budge! It did not go further so he instructed the seaman to reverse it but to no avail. One night, the Sun God appeared in his dreams and instructed him to take him to the shore. Early next morning, the businessman proceeded to take the murti onto the shore and established the idol in a small cave. Once this was done, the businessman was able to proceed further on the trip on his ship.Now it was the turn of the Kanaka, an ardent devotee of the Sun God, and a resident of Kasheli, to get a dream. The Sun God appeared in her dream and told her about his arrival on the shore and asked her to search for the cave which she dutifully did, alongwith the other villagers. With great pomp and gaiety, Sri Dev Kanakaditya was brought to his current location in the village and installed. The temple is said to have been constructed by the Shilahaar dynasty and there is an ancient tamrapat (copper plate) in the temple which establishes the ancient origins.The rest of the trip was rest and relaxation and then we were on the way back to Mumbai.Yatindra Tawde

humour, Travel, Uncategorized

The ST Bus

If you are living in Maharashtra, you must surely have travelled by a ST bus. And if you have not, then you have missed an experience.

For the uninitiated, ST bus is the State Transport bus. It is the lifeline of Maharashtra, especially for the large population residing in villages. The people lovingly refer to it as ‘lal dabba’ which translates into English as the ‘Red Box’. It is so named because it is literally a travelling box on wheels.

Many of you will remember the tin boxes which you carried to school, especially in the primary division. It used to hold the books, pencils, rulers, tiffin boxes and many other things. And at the start and end of school timings and during the recesses, the boxes of all the students used to make a great racket.

When the ST bus travels, it too makes a similar racket. This racket is caused by the assortment of metal trunks and other luggage of the passengers and by the passengers themselves who want to make themselves heard over the great racket. Above all , all the nuts and bolts which hold up the bus, make a big noise since the buses vibrate while travelling.

It seems these buses are manufactured by an ancient bus manufacturer, who has been bypassed by all the advances made in the field of bus body assemblies. After all no other buses vibrate as much.

And these buses have their moods…

he

They will be taking you to your destination, your are trying to grab a few winks in all the cacophony, when suddenly the bus coughs and splutters and with a few jerks, comes to a halt in the middle of the road. And no amount of cajoling by the bus driver and the conductor is enough to make it go again.

As the bored passengers get down from the bus to stretch their legs or to answer nature’s call, the bus driver goes below the bus, with assortment of tools, with the conductor at his constant beck and call. Finally the driver gives up and emerges from the bowels of the bus, quite dejectedly.

In the meanwhile some of the passengers have managed to get lifts from private vehicles and goods trucks while some have decided not to give up on the resting bus. This attitude of the passengers, is what the bus likes and its mood changes for the better.

As soon as the driver decides to give it a one final try, the bus starts after a few false starts. With a great victory cry from the remaining passengers of ‘har har mahadev’ and ‘Ganpati bappa Mourya’ as they board , the bus is motivated to take them to their destination.

Now you will appreciate that I was very surprised to read in the papers that the ST Mahahmandal have decided to provide free wi-fi in these very buses. And the following images flashed before my eyes…

People have lined up in the ST stand for boarding the bus along with their assorted luggage, awaiting the bus to come inside the stand. Like always, their luggage consists of metal trunks, some carry pickle jars very delicately, some are holding long bamboo brooms made in their village, some holding their infants who have the propensity to emit ear piercing cries, while some are students who are going back to their colleges in the city after completing their vacations in their villages.

But most of them have one thing in common, they are all carrying their precious smartphones. After all they are very eager to use the newly provided wi-fi inside the bus.

Finally the bus arrives, the passengers rush to their seats inside . As they settle down in their seats they await for the bus to start. But more than that they await the passwords for wi-fi usage.

Already some are fiddling with their phones , they can see the wi-fi available but wait for the password is killing. You will never see a more silent ST bus, since no one, no longer wants to make small talk with their neighbours neither do they want to shout out to their friends sitting a few seats away.

They are not interested looking out of the window, neither are they bent on grabbing a few winks.

Then the moment arrives, the conductor distributes the scratch cards having the passwords to all those who ask for it.

And that’s it!

Those who take the scratch cards, they stop living in the present. Someone starts communicating with his office on office mail, trying to do his pending work so that he is not overly burdened when he finally rejoins office. A boy in the corner seat is trying to download the latest songs on his smartphone whereas another one is watching his favourite movie. A girl on the first seat is engrossed in chatting with her friends on social media all the while ignoring her best friend sitting beside her in the bus.

While the wi-fi users are happy, it has certainly mellowed down the environment inside the ST bus, which has always been known for its boisterous passengers.

But are we being over optimistic here. Maybe the wi-fi will not work. After all, a few years back, there was great talk of CCTV cameras being installed in public spaces. Now we know that most of them are mere non-working dabbas.

And the ST buses will continue to carry their boisterous denizens to their destinations across the state.

Yatindra Tawde

humour

The Bus

As man evolved, he understood that, compared to other animals, he was a weakling. This was apparent on his various hunting expeditions to provide food for his dependents.

In addition to many other parameters, he lacked in speed. Most of the time, his prey galloped away or ran away, and he was left panting by the wayside.

Thus his need to domesticate various other animals like the horse to gain speed. This was his preferred means of transport, whenever he needed to travel faster, till the industrial revolution, when mechanised vehicles were introduced in the form of cars.

But these cars ran on petrol or diesel which were in short supply, hence expensive.

He felt the need to transport a larger number of people at a time and thus a bus was born. Though it ran on the same expensive fuel, the higher numbers it carried made it economical. But this dependence on buses and cars for faster travelling meant burning of the highly polluting fuels which became one of the major factors of global warming.

Thus started the search for cleaner and inexpensive energy sources.

Electrical energy is cleaner and today it is taking baby steps towards electric cars but there are other cheaper energy sources too, on which buses and cars can run. Like CNG, LPG, etc. but man is never satisfied.

Which brings us to the news which I read today.

It seems UK has taken a very important step where they have test driven a bus run by poo.

Poo, did I say!

Coming to think of it, it certainly would be inexpensive as it gets generated regularly, mostly every morning. Of course, there are those unique specimens who generate it untimely. And then there are few who fall ill and cannot hold it in and have to rush to generate.

There are enough species who do this extremely important social work day in and day out and contribute to reducing the global warming. My salutations to the scientists who conceived this unique energy source, based on methane conversion.

The day is not far, when this poo generation takes the form of an industry where various species are lined together every morning to generate energy for the ever growing vehicle numbers.

Already I see the importance of certain middle Eastern countries going down and corresponding elevation of another country which already has such an industry lining the huge network of railway tracks all across the length and breadth of its vast geography. It just needs to be tapped and exploited in a proper way.

Yatindra Tawde

Travel, Uncategorized

Keralaaa…God’s Own

 

Guys…it is not always that such days come into our life, which makes us say, WOW! I had such a day during my visit to God’s Own Country, Kerala.

I had gone to Kerala during the Diwali vacations with family in 2014…first stop Trivandrum…and as you might know, the city of Trivandrum is famous for the Shree Padmanabha Swamy temple…a very beautiful and majestic temple dedicated to the Lord Vishnu. And it goes without saying that we had to visit the temple . So we started for the temple from the hotel in an auto. After crossing many lanes and bylanes we reached the temple at @4.30 pm. Actually the auto dropped us at some distance away from the temple since autos or other vehicles are not allowed near the temple.
There is a huge archway through which you enter and as you near the temple you see the water tank near it. Water tanks near the temple are a hallmark of all small and big temples in Kerala. This water tank was very well maintained, with ducks swimming in it.

Anyway there were many other devotees like us who had come to take Darshan. My wife, myself and our daughter were proceeding towards the temple, like you approach any other temple in amchi Mumbai, when suddenly we heard shouts of “MUNDU…MUNDU…”and a portly old gentleman in the typical dhoti worn by the denizens of Kerala came running towards us gesticulating wildly. A whole lot of syllables, mono syllables , syntax and maybe syntax errors shot off from his mouth, which I was not in a position to understand. Then he pointed towards his own lower garment, which was a dhoti, and pointed towards a shop on the road side. Finally through all these gestures I was able to make out that I too had to wear a dhoti, also known as a Mundu before entering the divine temple. And my wife and daughter too, had to wear the Mundum Neriyathum which are a combination of the lower and upper garments, unique to Kerala.

As we approached the shop we saw a crowd of people who were there to get these garments. The shop was selling these and the first thought that came to mind is, what to do with them after the visit is over. Anyways I pushed that thought to the back of my mind and stood in line. Finally on reaching the counter I disbursed the payment and now became the proud owner of a Mundu.

Now the next question presented itself, which was, where do I change into it, and that too, modestly. While women had the option to wear the garments over their own clothes, the same option was not available to the men. I saw some men entering the same shop from a side door and I too joined the crowd. Since I have never worn this particular garment before, I was in a fix on how to go about it. So I started observing a few other men who were at it in all earnestness. Observing them I could make out there were many like me who were doing it the first time. Seeing them, I had a go at it. The first time I tried to wrap it around myself, as I passed the end from one hand to the other, it came off from the other side. I tried out a lot of permutations and combinations but without any luck. Then one gentleman pointed out that I cannot continue wearing my jeans below the mundu. That presented another challenge…now not only I had to wear the mundu properly, but also remove the jeans and ensure that the mundu did not come off while walking or something. I also had to ensure that it is not worn so tight, that I will be able to walk in only baby steps…too many challenges, to go in the presence of the Almighty.
Finally I applied my jugaadu dimaag…first I tied one end of the mundu to a clutch of mundu cloth securely (mundu is a long piece of cream coloured cloth)…after checking the security of this arrangement by pulling on it, I removed my jeans gently…so far so good…once the mundu was secure on my waist, I then proceeded to wrap the remaining cloth round and round around my body…and finally the the end of the mundu cloth was tied again to the first knot…I WAS READY TO FACE THE LORD…triumphantly I came out of the shop to see my wife and daughter bursting into uncontrollable giggles…But I was walking like a Kerala king going to meet the Lord…when suddenly the same portly gentleman again came running towards me shouting “SHIRT…SHIRT…” . I realized that all other men in the vicinity were shirtless.. And this was expected of me too. Gingerly I removed my shirt too and handed it over to the same shop for which I was given a token coin…the same system which is used in Malls everywhere…
Finally the three of us proceeded to meet the divine Lord himself…a thought struck me that you are going to the Lord ‘s abode leaving behind all your material belongings …you go there as a new person…

Once inside, it was a totally different atmosphere due to the unique aartis in Malayali language accompanied by an assortment of drums and trumpets. As we waited in a line to go into the presence of the Lord, I took a look at the temple architecture which was very beautiful. One thing I noticed, is the extensive use of wood in Kerala temples, which one does not get to see in Maharashtra. Another feature which I noticed, was the wide walking area surrounding the main temple area. I thought it must be for the people to do the Parikrama. I was partly right and partly wrong. But first things first.

To the sound of cymbals and drums, the gate to the Lord’s abode was opened. As the people started going inside to get a darshan of the Lord, the decibel level went up behind us. Once we had taken the darshan, we were ushered out to witness a grand spectacle before us!! On the wide walking path, going around the perimeter of the temple, an elephant, heavily bedecked with beautiful golden ornaments was walking across, with some pujaris sitting on a howdah, placed on the elephants back with many other people following the elephant, some of them walking briskly and some, almost running. We too joined the crowd for a couple of rounds, thoroughly enjoying ourselves and very happy to be part of this unique experience.

Then we sat inside a cool part of the temple, meditating before the great Lord, thanking him for this opportunity of a lifetime. This was certainly a great day in our lives, that it will always be remembered as a gift from the Almighty.

Yatindra Tawde

Travel, Uncategorized

Narayani Dham

 

The Narayani Dham temple is located near Lonavla, in Tungarli village and is visible from the Mumbai Pune expressway on the right side, if you going towards Pune. You can leave the highway at the Khandala exit and proceed towards Pune on the old Mumbai Pune highway. It is spread out on acres of land and looks elegant and imposing. The structure surrounding the temple is built in Rajasthani style of architecture and looks pretty in pink colour. The temple itself is constructed in white marble. There is excellent staying arrangement at the temple complex and also in the surrounding village of Tungarli. There are rooms available in the temple complex which are clean and tidy. There are very beautiful, well maintained gardens surrounding the main temple, and we liked the rose garden in particular. Ample space for parking is also available. There is a small gaushala near the temple which is also kept clean. In the evening, the colour fountain is put on, and the lighting looks very beautiful. On the left side, is the area where good breakfast as well as lunch-dinner is served at nominal rates. It is better to get the coupons for the same, in advance and come within time, to avoid missing the strict timings or you will be disappointed on missing out on authentic home made Gujarati/Rajasthani fare.

Main temple – The main temple is constructed in white marble and is very well decorated and designed. Before going up the temple steps, you can remove your footwear below the temple and wash your feet before climbing up. The main temple is quite similar to the Birla temples. Upon climbing up the stairs you enter into a huge hall, where you can either stand, sit on the white marble or sit on the plastic chairs kept on the periphery of the huge hall. The ceiling is quite high and grand designs adorn it. The central idol is of goddess Narayani, and a sense of calm descends upon you, in her benevolent gaze. The idol is adorned with jewels and ornaments and is peaceful to look at. The main idol is flanked by idols of Lord Ganesha on one side and Lord Hanuman on the other. You can spend as much time as you want, in their presence and are sure to shed all the stress of your worldly life and face the daily challenges with a renewed vigour.

It’s a must visit place located so very near Mumbai or Pune.

Yatindra Tawde

Travel, Uncategorized

Udaipur, Rajasthan

 

Udaipur palace
We went through narrow lanes lined on both sides by numerous shops selling marble sculptures, leather bags, etc. and arrived at the main gate of the City palace. We got down and were directed to the ticket booking office. The charges are quite high at Rs. 250/- per person and Rs. 250/- if you want a guide. Audio guide was also available but we preferred to go with a guide. But at the end of the palace tour we realized that the expense was well worth it.
After buying the tickets and along with the guide, one Mr. Rathore, we then approached the main huge gates of the palace complex. From the narrow lanes outside to the wide and open expanse inside, it was a total surprise for us. On one side is the majestic palace whereas on the opposite side, is a beautiful manicured lawn. We could also see the lake Pichola beyond the lawn. Few more shops selling antiques, marble sculptures, etc. were inside too and our guide informed us that previously during the period of the Maharanas, these used to be horse stables which have now been converted into shops. We then entered the main palace through a beautiful arched gate. This entire area, where we were now entering, was where the Maharanas used to stay along with their families but the current Maharana Arvind Singhji has now thrown open and converted this part into a Museum where the common folk like us can get a glimpse of the Royal life.
Immediately on entering, we were shown the total genealogy of the Suryavanshi Sisodia dynasty from the very first Maharana Hamir Singh right down to the current Maharana. The most well known Maharanas were Hamir Singh, Rana Kumbha, Rana Uday Singh and of course, the greatest of them all, Maharana Pratap. The Bhosale clan from Maharashtra, to which Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj belonged to, claims its descent from a branch of this very Sisodia dynasty.
On going further inside, we saw the heavy armour worn by Maharana Pratap during battles as also the statue of the loyal horse, Chetak. One intriguing thing was that the statue of Chetak was having a trunk like an elephant which was fitted on its nose. We were most surprised by this, but our guide explained that this was a very ingenious idea. During those times, the elephant carrying Emperor Akbar’s army general, Raja Man Singh, was trained to fight with a sword held in its trunk. It used to thrust the sword, everytime an enemy soldier or horse came in front of it. A horse with a trunk confused it and it stopped thrusting its sword. This allowed Rana Pratap precious moments to mount an attack on Man Singh who escaped by ducking inside the palanquin. In the meanwhile, the mahout had again instigated his elephant to start thrusting the sword once again. This time the sword hit the leg of Chetak but in the meanwhile, in trying to kill Man Singh, Rana Pratap had killed the mahout. But the injury to Chetak made him slow on the battle field, but he carried Rana Pratap to safety by jumping over a river in spate, to cross over to the opposite bank and thus save the life of Rana Pratap.
The doorway to go further inside the Palace was deliberately kept very narrow and short in height. This is a safety mechanism so that in times of war, if the enemy is successful in breaching the outer defences and tried to enter inside, then only one enemy soldier at a time can enter. This allowed the defenders inside to take an offensive position , since due to the short height, the enemy had to bow to enter which enabled the defenders to decapitate the entering enemy.
Many other rooms were shown where the royalty used to stay and then we were on the terrace. We were very surprised to see fully grown trees on the terrace. Our guide then satiated our curiosity when he told us that there are no rooms under this terrace and actually the terrace is built in such a way on a hill, which has been made a part of the main palace building, that it is impossible to even imagine that there is a hill beneath.
In the olden times, Belgian glass was very famous and it has been used extensively to decorate the bedrooms. One bedroom is fully made up of mirrors, again Belgian. Dutch and Chinese tiles, which were quite expensive in those days have been used in windows, bathrooms, galleries, etc.
The space where courtesans used to dance is very beautiful and adorned with magnificently decorated peacocks. Must see!
The Maharanas belonged to the Suryavanshi dynasty and it is a tradition that the Maharana will eat after bowing to the Sun. A beautiful gold plated Sun is mounted in the dining room of the Maharana so that he could now bow before him, during the rainy season, when the Sun is not seen for days together.
There were many such interesting things to see and a special mention must be made of the Silver room, where many silver artefacts are displayed.
Finally the palace tour was over and we returned back to our hotel, after a day well spent. Certainly a place not to be missed when you are in Udaipur.
Lake Pichola
You wind your way through narrow lanes as you head towards lake Pichola. It is called so because it is situated behind the city palace and also because of the nearby Picholi village. It is an artificial lake created in the 14th century to meet the demands of a growing city. It boasts of some of the greatest landmarks in Udaipur, the Jag Mandir, the Jag nivas, Mohan mandir. The Jag Nivas has been converted into a heritage hotel and I think it is managed by Taj group of hotels. In the evening all the lake properties shine like jewels. A must visit if you are in Udaipur.
Ranakpur
We started for Ranakpur from Udaipur quite late in the morning, at 10 am. Ranakpur is at a distance of 97 km. from Udaipur and since our hotel was situated on the outskirts of Udaipur, add another 20 km. We were on the Udaipur-Jodhpur highway for quite a distance, then you take a right turn for going to Ranakpur. On the highway, I was admiring the fold mountains that are the Aravalis and wondering at the tectonic plates movements which caused these mountains to rise. The Aravalis are one of the most ancient mountains which rose, when the Indian sub-continental plate crashed into the Eurasian plate, the same process which is still in progress and due to which the Himalayas continue to rise every year. Due to some reason, the Aravalis stopped rising further but since the process was the same, you see similar features which you see in any Himalayan range.
Once you take the right turn towards Ranakpur, the road suddenly narrows and passes through many Rajasthan villages and you can observe the Rajasthani way of village life. And our driver told us that these villages are very rich, their denizens being spread across mainly Mumbai and Surat where they have made their fortune. Since it was raining quite heavily, lot of water had collected on the road but our driver was very tactful in going over all obstacles. There are many small man-made and natural ponds which line the roads, the rains making them swell with water. We could see greenery everywhere and once you start descending the Ghats, you are actually passing through authentic jungle area. The driver told us about his encounters with tigers resting on the road, especially when he travelled in the early morning time.
Once we crossed the Ghats, we were in a valley and within no time, we were in the parking lot outside the main temple of Ranakpur. Nothing had prepared us for the architectural marvel, which is the Temple. It rises to a great height and dwarfs everything else in the Pali district of Rajasthan. And the profusion of white marble everywhere makes it a sight to behold! Leather objects, mobiles are not allowed inside and wearing of shorts is not allowed. There are lockers where you can deposit mobiles, belts and money pouches. If by chance, you have worn shorts then you are given a full pant to be worn over the shorts. I could see most of the foreigners were wearing these temple full pants. In addition to this there is a useful facility of audio guide where you are given a small device with ear phones which tell about the different facets of the temple in a serial order.
Main temple – The temple honours Adinath, the first Tirthankar and founder of Jain religion. Ranakpur village and the temple are named after Rana Kumbha, during whose domain the temple was constructed. You climb up the stairs to enter the temple. Near the entrance, the temple security do their routine checking under a beautiful carving of Jarasandh vadh, which is mounted in the ceiling. After the routine check, you enter the main sanctum Santorum and the architecture and the scale of the temple is sure to stun you, such is the majesty. There are pillars and pillars everywhere totalling to 1444 and all of marble. There are many idols and at least two idols always face each other. The temple is designed with four faces and known as chaumukha. This symbolises the Tirthankaras conquest of the four cardinal directions. The beauty of the temple is beyond compare and you can marvel the domes on the top, which are carved exquisitely, only when you visit and see with your own eyes. The pillars are set in perfectly straight lines and you cannot see any off set. And since only God’s creation is perfect, one pillar is deliberately built leaning slightly. It is said that exquisitely carved 108 torans adorned the entire temple complex out of which only 3 now remain. The four domes show higher and higher degree of carving intricacy which shows the advancing skills of the temple sculpturers as they honed their skills over the entire period of temple building. I could go on, but the beauty and the architecture of this temple cannot be fully described in words. It is a must visit for all budding architects.
Temple history – it is a well known fact, due to availability of ancient copper plates, that the temple construction was started in 1437 AD by one Dharanka Shah who was inspired by dreams of a majestic celestial vehicle, under the patronage of Rana Kumbha, then ruler of Mewar. One Deepaka was the architect, who converted this dream into reality. From the huge scale of this construction you can make out that it commanded extensive patronage of the general public as well as the rulers of that time. However within 200 years of its construction, it was damaged during the idol destruction phase of Aurangzeb and the temple fell into disuse. For the next few centuries, it was fully swamped by the jungle and became a refuge of wild animals, thieves and dacoits. However the temple was resurrected by the Anandji Kalyanji trust managed by lay Jains which has restored this magnificent temple to its past glory.
The entire mankind is indebted that we are lucky to witness the excellence of our ancestors after so many years.
Shreenathji
As you enter the holy city of Nathdwara, situated at about 60 km. from Udaipur, everywhere you go, the beautiful idol of Shreenathji welcomes you, in the form of a beautiful painting or sculpture. As the road gets narrower and winds through the town, you know you have reached near to the temple, the moment you see small shops selling assorted items, including the exquisitely beautiful paintings and sculptures of Shreenathji. Beyond a point the car is not allowed and you have to proceed by walking.
As we reached outside the temple, we were welcomed by a huge crowd of pilgrims and the doors to the temple were closed so we waited outside, merging ourselves into the crowd. Before that we had to deposit our mobiles at a counter where they give a token which can be returned after the Darshan. And leather items like belts and wallets are not supposed to be worn inside so we had removed them in the car itself.
Shreenathji is the God Krishna as a seven year old child. Legend has it that the deity’s hand and face first emerged from the Govardhan hill. Under the spiritual leadership of Madhavendra Puri, the local inhabitants started the worship of Gopala deity. This Gopala deity was later known as Shreenathji. In 1672 AD, when Aurangzeb decreed the destruction of idols and banned idol worship, the devoted people decided to transfer the deity to the south. When the chariot carrying the deity was passing through the Rajasthan village of Sihad, the wheels of the chariot got stuck in the mud and could not be moved further. It was taken as a divine sign that the Lord wanted to stay there and the idol was installed in a temple there. This temple is also known as Shreenathji Ki Haveli and Shreenathji is also known as Thakurji as a mark of respect. The idol of Shreenathji symbolizes Krishna when he lifted the Govardhan hill to protect the denizens of Vraj from the rain and thunder God, Indra. Hence the left hand of the idol is raised whereas the other hand is resting on his waist. Its one of the most beautiful idols of Krishna.
There is a daily ritual of 8 darshans, when the devotees can take Darshan of Thakurji and we had reached at @11.30 am. We had reached at the time of Rajbhog, when the Lord is at his most regal and fresh garlands and lotuses are offered to the Lord. By the time the doors were opened, the throng of devotees had increased manifold and fearing a stampede inside, I decided to wait till the crowd had dissipated to manageable levels and was one of the last devotees to enter the sanctum Santorum. The priests managing the crowds were very impatient asking all to proceed faster and faster.
But once I was in the presence of the Lord, I forgot all the little hassles. The image of the Lord is capable of giving inner peace, though the Darshan was for a very short while. The beautiful idol is carved from a monolithic black marble and is adorned with exquisite jewels, some of which date back from pre-Mughal era. Intricately woven silk clothes with beautiful zari and embroidery work , are worn by the Lord.
Once we were outside after the Darshan, we took almost 45 minutes to retrieve back our mobiles and shoes since now the queue was for these worldly possessions!!
A pilgrimage to Nathdwara for the Darshan of Shreenathji is recommended to all Hindus, at least once in a lifetime.
EKlingji
We reached the temple at 4.30 pm.The temple gates were closed. On enquiry with the local shopkeepers, we were informed that the gates will open at 5.00 pm. So we waited there, enjoying the gentle rains. From outside, the temple appeared like any other ancient temple and we were expecting an old dilapidated but regal temple. At exactly 5.00 pm.the temple gates opened and we stood in a line for going in. We were still not fully inside and again there was a waiting of 15-20 minutes. This gave me opportunity to marvel at the architecture and beautiful carvings on the only temple I could see. But the real fun started as we advanced in the line. As we reached near the entrance of the temple, the entire visage of numerous temples in the complex was before us. We were not expecting it and it was as if all the Gods had given us a Darshan. There were so many temples, we lost count. And all were authentic ancient. From outside, you cannot get any idea of the grandeur and beauty inside. The main temple of Eklingji is itself quite an architectural marvel and the main idol of Lord Eklingji, very majestic. Once you have said your prayers and outside this temple, you should take the opportunity to explore the other temples in the huge complex. We were quite impressed with the artistic taste and grand vision of the Great Maharanas of Mewar. After all, Eklingji is considered the Ruler and the Maharanas are the Dewans of The Celestial Godly Ruler. A must visit for Indians and all World dwellers to fully understand the grandeur of an Era gone by.
Bharatiya lok kala mandal
Good place to visit if you are interested in cultural shows. The puppet show is very good but the bhavai dance is the best. Here the bhavai dance was performed by a male and he was very proficient. It is essentially a dance where layers of colourful pots are put, one on top of the other, and balanced on the top of the head and the dancer dances with them. And the degree of difficulty. First the dancer dances on the stage floor then he dances balancing on top of a chopper plate and after that he dances on glass pieces. Mesmerising performance! Go for it!
Yatindra Tawde

Travel, Uncategorized

Dapoli – The jewel of Konkan

My first visit to Dapoli was about 6 years after my marriage. It so happens that my wife’s native place is near Dapoli, due to which our visits started.

Dapoli is in Ratnagiri district which lies in Kokan area of Maharashtra. As most of you are aware, the Kokan is one of the most picturesque places in Maharashtra, blessed as it is, with miles of beaches, greenery of the top order, and an undulating landscape.

Dapoli is known as the Mahabaleshwar of the Kokan, since it is blessed with a mild climate and situated at a height. It was very popular with the British, who had their army camp here.

Let’s go on a tour of Dapoli and the surrounding towns and places of interest. Join me!

Let’s go in the same order as I visited them. The first town is the beach facing, Murud. Please note that this Murud is different from Murud-Janjira. We had stayed in one of the beach facing resorts where the waves almost lap at your legs. If you want to spend your holidays lazing at the beach, hanging on a hammock tied between two coconut trees, this is the place you want to be in. If this is not heaven, I don’t know what is.

For the adventurous, the nearby beach of Karde village is the answer. There is a huge choice of the best water sports ranging from the common, speed boat pulled parachutes (parasailing), where you will be flying and feeling the sea wind against your face, to the sea-sofa. This is an unique experience, where, literally a air-filled sofa is attached to a speedboat, and you are supposed to catch hold of a few straps attached to the sofa and hold on, as the speedboat drags the sofa, with you hanging on for dear life. Believe me, it’s a thrilling and adrenaline pumping experience. And safe too, since you don’t enter the sea waters without a life jacket. And all the other water sports are available too.

For those, not inclined to enter the water themselves, but would rather enjoy other species doing it, you can always go dolphin watching, early in the morning. This will certainly act as great stress buster.

For the foodie minded, are sure to enjoy the wide variety of fish platters on offer. And these fish dishes can be had, fried or with curry, sitting on the beach, enjoying the hot afternoon sun.

For those with devotional mindset, Murud has a beautiful medieval temple dedicated to Durga Devi. Nearby, is a memorial to the great social reformer, Maharshi Dhondo Keshav Karve.

Murud is also known as Murud-Harnai. Harnai, a neighbouring village known for the fish auction taking place at Harnai bunder and also for the sea fort, Suvarnadurg, situated a mile away from the mainland. Nearby, is the village of Anjarle and the Anjarle beach.

But Anjarle is more famous for the Ganpati mandir, situated on a hilltop overlooking the beach, hence also known as ‘kadyavarcha Ganpati’. The Mandir is, of course beautiful and peaceful, and when you drive from Dapoli to the Mandir, you pass through winding roads, and climb small hills overlooking magnificent vistas of the Arabian Sea. The panoramic view of the beaches and sea, seen from the vantage point of the hill, will stay with you forever.

Asud is one village, which should not be missed, when you are anywhere near Dapoli, and with good reason too. Situated at a distance of just 8 km. from Dapoli, on the road to Murud, it is famous for the ancient temples of Keshavraj and Shree Vyagreshwar. Once you park your car on the road side, and enter the village, you are transported to a different world, where work related or any other stress, just evaporates, as you start walking down the hill, on a winding path, covered by a canopy of coconut, betel and jackfruit trees, planted so densely together, that the rays of the Sun, cannot penetrate, even during the main summer months.

The coolness of the place is enhanced by softly running streams of water, which have been channeled through rocks, an ingenious piece of aquatic engineering. Once you reach the bottom of the hill, you cross the main stream and then again start climbing the ancient steps, ushering you to the temple built on top of another hill. Once you reach the top, the ancient temple embraces you into its structure and provides you with cool water trickling down the Gomukh, for your parched throat. The silence of the serene surroundings is broken only by the chirping of the birds. Shree Vyaghreshwar mandir is situated on the riverbank and houses the Swayambhu Shivling. Asud village is certainly a must-visit.

Jump on a vehicle on the way to Dabhol, and reach the Chandikadevi Mandir, just before you enter the town of Dabhol. This temple, dedicated to goddess Chandika, is underground inside a natural cave. You are not supposed to carry any light inside, and the only an oil lamp allows you to take darshan.

It’s a real experience when you enter the temple for the very first time. Once you enter, the darkness envelopes you, as you feel your way inside. You proceed like this for sometime , and then the dim oil lamp near the main idol guides you, suddenly you are in her presence. This temple is known to be very ancient.

Finally Dapoli!

Dapoli has one of the biggest Krishi Vidyapeeth or Agricultural University in India. There are many nurseries too, Amrute Nursery and Koparkar nursery, to name a few. Blessed with a good climate and fertile land, the nurseries of Dapoli offer a wide variety of flowering and decorative plants. The Amrute nursery also has staying arrangements, though not on a large scale. Don’t miss having lunch or dinner at Amrute nursery, whether veg or non-veg. I had the tastiest foods here and you should too, though advance intimation needs to be given.

The ST stand is just on the exit road going out of Dapoli and is flanked by a huge ground. The roads are tree lined and offer shaded roads. There is a lots on offer in Dapoli and the surrounding villages. So friends, Chalo Dapoli!

Yatindra Tawde