Friday, 23 March 2012

Tribute to revolutionaries - Visit to Chapekar Smarak and Moraya Gosawi Temple at Chinchwad (near Pune) - March 22, 2012

We decided to visit the Moraya Gosawi Temple at Chinchwad (about 20 kms from Pune on Old Pune-Mumbai Highway - NH 4).

We started off from our company at Pimpri at 5.30 pm. This temple is located in the heart of Chinchwad town, in the by-lanes behind the renowned Chapekar Chowk, on the banks of Pavna.

Moraya Gosavi Samadhi Temple is the pride of Chinchwad. Ask anyone from Chinchwad, and this site will be the most favoured place for them to visit during any auspicious occasions of Dussehra, Diwali and Gudhi-Padwa.

It is associated with Moravi Gosavi, a prominent saint of Hindu Ganapatya Sect. There are some mismatches about the period. Various scholars and associations mention the dates that vary from 14th to 16th century. The temple is ‘that’ old, however it is so well maintained, that it is hard to believe that it is standing in this place since Centuries.

This temple is actually a Samadhi (Mausoleum) of Saint Moraya Gosawi. There are 6 other Samadhis of his descendents around the main Samadhi.

Behind the temple flows river Pavna. The place is very ideal to sit for a while, away from the mundane city life, and watch the calm waters flowing in front of you. But, the cleanliness of this river and its banks need to be maintained; as this hampers the beauty of the temple.

Just near to this temple is a place, not many are aware of. A reminiscence to one of the initial freedom fighters of India - आद्य क्रांती-कारक चापेकर बंधु (Chapekar Brothers - Damodar Hari, Balkrishna Hari and Vasudeo Hari Chapekar). In 1897, they hatched a plot and killed W. C. Rand, a government officer, for atrocities carried by British troops in connection with the Plague epidemic in Pune. More information HERE.

A residential place of Chapekar Brothers' maternal grand-parents is in Chinchwad. This wada has been converted into a museum in remembrance of those Heroes. The place, which must have been century old atleast, was rebuilt with RCC construction keeping the original design same. This was some time in 1970s done by the like-minded people with the help of Govt. Administration. We met one of the person instrumental in setting up this museum. He told us the history and the way they did whatever is seen currently.

What we saw inside are the pages from history; but there is a serious need to do some renovation with respect to the information and cuttings pasted there. They are severely damaged. Only question is do we have time? As our motorcycles, scooters, auto-rickshaws and four-wheelers speed past, how many of us have the time to cast even a cursory glance at this "Kranti-Teertha" of the men (read Heroes) who triggered off the revolutionary movement in India?

It seemed to be a coincidence that we visited this place yesterday, the eve of Martyr's Day - March 23 (it was then in 1931 when Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were hanged by the British at Lahore). 

Co-ordinates:    18 37' 35.91"N   73 46' 47.92"E

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Karla Caves clubbed with Wax Museum - March 18, 2012

We decided to plan out the “With Family” trip for the first time since we started our excursions in my new department. After various cancellations and rescheduling of venues, we planned for Karla Caves – just before Lonavala, about 55 kms from Pune.
This is one of the very sought after locations for people in and around Pune; however I missed to visit this place earlier.

Two families and a bachelor started off our journey on Sunday morning of March 18, 2012. I left my house in Pune at 6.30 am. We took the Pune-Mumbai (NH-4) Old Highway. I collected Bala on the way from Pimpri and reached Bhakti-Shakti (Nigdi) where Ashutosh was waiting with his family in his brand new Brilliant Blue colored Vista VX Quadrajet.

We cooched ahead at 7.15 am from Nigdi. At the Toll Booth after Dehu Road, we came to know that the Old Highway has been closed ahead due to an accident. A LPG Tanker had overturned and the Traffic Police were diverting the traffic from Express Highway to avoid any further mishaps due to LPG leakage. Now we had no option but to go via Expressway till Lonavala and come back to Malavli.

We had a sumptuous breakfast at Rama Krishna (at Lonavala). No trip to Lonavala is complete without a Chikki. Since we got a chance to visit Lonavala, we bought packets of Chikki as well.

We turned back on Old Highway towards Pune. I had heard that there is some Museum of Wax Statues made in the line of Madame Tussauds, London. We decided to take stop here.

It is made by one Mr. Sunil Kandalloor (a Keralite). It houses about 30 statues – Anna Hazare, Mahatma Gandhi, Shivaji Maharaj, Babasaheb Ambedkar, Rajiv Gandhi, Satya Sai Baba, Sai Baba, Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussain, Mata Amritanandamayee, A R Rahman, Kapil Dev, Jackie Shroff, Angelina Jolie, Hariharan – to name a few.
This is definitely worth a visit. We boast about Madame Tussauds every now and then. I see photos with the celebrity wax models taken by my friends whenever they visit those countries. Feels great that such a museum by an Indian is present within a quarter day visit from my City. (Coordinates: 18 45’ 33.86” N   73 26’ 13.44” E)

Entry fee is Rs. 100 for adults and Rs. 70 for children. No additional charges for photography; photographs can be taken without flash. Comes without saying, wax-models should not be touched.

However, there were some models which were nowhere near to the original – Angelina Jolie, Sai Baba. However, some others were to the point exact; like Anna Hazare, Saddam Hussain, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Mata Amritanandamayee. Just to mention, when I checked the actual photograph of Anna Hazare, with his wax-model, a small mark on left of his forehead was also seen on the model.

From here we moved towards our original destination – Karla Caves. Just after the Toll comes the village Malavli. This is the railway station prior to Lonavala while coming from Pune. Hence we can visit Karla Caves (and also Bhaje Caves on the opposite side) by coming from Pune by a Local Train.
About ½ a km inside the highway starts ascend for the hillock. There is a small parking area for buses and heavy vehicles. Since the road is extremely steep at the turns, its better to park heavy vehicles and take the rock cut steps. Small cars however can go till the mid-hill where there is another parking. There was high amount of loose gravel on the road. This was making this ascend even more difficult.

There is a suggestion, in case you are new to driving or do not have the confidence, either park the vehicle at the bottom and start walking or else start early so that you can climb the ascent before any traffic.

There are about 250 odd steps from this parking till the top. Steps are easy and there are various shops on both sides that sell pooja items, caps and toys apart from eating, drinking stalls.

At the top there are two main attractions – Temple of Goddess Ekvira and Buddhist rock-cut Caves. Coordinates: 18 46’ 54.08” N   73 28’ 10.24” E
Goddess Ekvira Temple with Caves at the backdrop
Goddess Ekvira is the main deity of the Koli Tribe of Maharashtra (the fisherman tribe). People from all across Maharashtra visit this place. Poeple from Mumbai do visit here on Sundays; and being a holiday can be crowded at times. Its better to start early so that one can reach the top before the Sun starts showering heat and complete the darshan of the deity before the rush.

After the darshan, we went to see the caves. Most important part is the Chaitya-griha (or Prayer Hall) which is just next to the temple.

There is a large pillar at the entrance on LH side. Above it are the 3 lions carved which resemble to our National Emblem. It seems that there should be one more pillar on the RH side; which seems to have damaged. Once inside, before the Chaitya-griha entry is an area where beautiful human carvings made on the walls on both side of door. Large elephants are seen carved on either side as if they emerging from the walls. Almost all of them are severely damaged. When observed closely, there is an opening seen for the tusk. I feel in those days, there must have been real Ivory Tusk fitted.
Large pillar with Lion carvings on the top
Magnanimous carvings at the entry of Chaitya-griha
Human figures carved at the entry of Chaitya-griha
Inside Chaiya-griha, there are about 12-14 pillars on both sides (with the carvings of four humans atop two sitting elephants at the top of each pillar) and a Stupa at the end-centre. The roof is full with wooden arches which give a excellent look to the whole structure. I read it on one site on the internet (link is given below) that its the only place in India where 2000 year old woodwork can be seen. Also, the play of light inside this room is beautiful. More pictures are below:
Chaitya-griha (Prayer Hall)
This Chaitya-griha is the Principle Cave with large area and lot of carvings (as it is in any of the Buddhist Caves). Then there are many Viharas (2 storied) or Monastery for the residence of Buddhist monks. Play of light and the view from here is also mesmerising.

More info of these caves here.

From here we started our return journey. While going back also the road was closed near Vadgaon due to that Tanker accident. We had to take the diversion again through Talegaon. By 2.45 pm we reached Pune.

The journey which was of about 110 kms and 5 hours max got stretched to 160 odd kms and 8 hours. However, this gave us the opportunity to visit the museum also, apart from our pre-planned destination.

Since we had to go through various diversions, I am not providing the Odometer readings in this travelogue as those will be irrelevant. The map below would be more useful.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Beautiful Bhandardara – February 25-26, 2012

This place, Bhandardara [भंडारदरा], was in my mind since 6 months now when one of my colleagues had visited it last monsoon. I had gathered the information about it and was waiting for an opportunity to explore the region.

And this opportunity came as part of a surprise to my wife on account of our wedding anniversary. I did the booking at MTDC last month and told her about the plan to celebrate this Anniversary Weekend somewhere outside Pune; however she was unaware of the venue (finally, I told her when we were 23 kms prior to Bhandardara).

We started off from Pune at 6.45 am and took the NH-50 (Pune-Nashik Highway). There are many routes to reach Bhandardara. The most common is from Sangamner [संगमनेर] and another one from Bota [बोटा] (just after Ale-Phata [आळे-फाटा]). There is one more (much longer) from Ale Phata and ahead of Malshej Ghat. All these routes are shown by Google Maps. However, I am not sure of the 3rd route from Malshej Ghat [माळ्शेज घाट].

I came across a much shorter route on one of the Team BHP blogs –
The Route
This costed me about 176 kms (the shortest among other 3 routes mentioned above).

The drive was interesting. Small road turning through the fields on both sides, crossing over the hillocks through ghats. I enjoyed the drive. It was different than the mundane highway driving. It gave me the feeling of driving through the Western Ghats in Konkan.

Just after Narayangaon [नारायणगावा] on NH-50 there is a left turn to Ozar [ओझर] (Ashtavinayakas). We reached Ozar by 8.15 am. After a peaceful darshan of Vighneshwar [विघ्नेश्वर] and a breakfast, we cooched towards Otur [ओतूर]. At Otur we enquired for Brahman-wada [ब्राह्मण-वाडा]. The road goes straight ahead of Otur ST Stand.
Ojhar - Ashtavinayak

Ojhar - Ashtavinayak
At Brahman-wada, there is a “T” junction. Right will go back to NH-50 (Bota). We took Left. Then came Kotul [कोतुळ] and further ahead came Rajur [राजूर].

Ahead of Rajur there comes ascend towards left at Randha [रंधा] village (sign boards of MTDC and Anandvan resorts are available). This road goes to the village called Shendi [शेंडी] or Bhandardara.

Just before this ascend there is descend on Right towards Randha Waterfall. One can visit this before moving ahead. This will save your time of coming back again. Or else plan this while going back home.

Good amount of signage and boards are available for MTDC resort. The road goes through the Power Station, PWD Residential Colony, the Dam wall, Overflow gate, small bridges, etc. There are lots of Nilgiri Trees on both sides of roads. Large numbers of Bats are seen flocked on the branches of these trees all the day.

Sometimes in monsoon, the road near the overflow gate of the dam is completely under the water and hence is blocked. In this case, one needs to go straight ahead of Randha village (don’t take the Left ascent). Need to enquire to locals for the further way.

With 45 minutes break at Ozar we reached MTDC at 12.15 pm (4.45 hours / 176 kms).
We had booked Lake View Cottage. There were two rooms (a living room and a bedroom with attached toilet). Additional mattraces were available apart from a double bed and a sofa set in the living room.

As the one at Ganpatipule and Malshej Ghat, this MTDC also scores for its location. Our cottage was just next to the lake. View from the verandah and the window was superb. I could see the beautiful lake in the front and complete Sahyadri Mountain Range at the background. I could see the fort Ratangad exactly opposite. In the evening we watched the Sun setting in front of us. 100 marks for the location. This view is not available to other resorts in the area (Yash Resort – 5000 Rs a day and Anandvan Resort – 10000 Rs a day).

The view:

It’s a no-frills place; basics only are available.
Room service is available with a 10% extra charge à Very bad!!!
Toilets were exceptionally clean.
Load shedding is a problem. When we reached our room, there was no electricity. Generator starts at 3.00 pm (???). Surprisingly, the ambient temperature was much cooler inside the room as compared to outside. At night we came to know that the fan is not working, tubelights have gone off. We complained, an electrician arrived, he tried to fix the problem; but in vain.
Food when we ordered in the afternoon was awesome (Veg Thali); however when we tried Punjabi Dish in the evening, it was pathetic. Breakfast (Omlet) and tea next morning was again – awesome.

I had heard that Guides are available near MTDC who take you around the place. We met one such person while checking in our room. I took his contact details.
After a brief nap in the afternoon, we called up that Guide – Vijay. We fixed up a rate of 400 Rs. for two days. There are two ways for sight-seeing – a short 22 kms to-and-fro for Wilson Dam, Arthur Lake, Over-flow Gate and Randha Falls AND a longer 55 kms to-and-fro around Bhandardara Dam catchment area (Arthur Lake).

We left at 4 pm for the shorter route first. We visited through the same route while coming from Pune some time back.

Wilson Dam: Named after a British Governor of the region. Built some time during 1910; construction took about 16 years to complete. It is built on Pravara [प्रवरा] River (also known as Amrutvahini in the region). The water catchment area is as wide as 25 kms and as deep as 260 feet.
Wilson Dam wall with Umbrella Falls on right
Umbrella Falls: When one of the sluice gates (on the Right side of the wall) is opened, the water that gushes out forms a shape of the Umbrella due to the shape of the rock below. Hence the name. It is visible in monsoons or when the dam gates are opened as per the irrigation requirements during the year. (our bad luck – the gates were opened just 2-3 days ago)

Arthur Lake: Named after the architect of the dam. It is the water body that is formed due to the catchment of Wilson Dam. Boating facilities are run by locals here. The sight of this lake surrounded by Sahyadri Mountains all around is mesmerizing.

Over-glow Gate: Little ahead of the Main Dam Wall, are the Over-flow Gates. These radial gates are used to maintain the required water levels. In monsoon, these gates are opened to its limit and still water overflows from the adjust walls passing through the bridge and road. This causes the blockage of road.

Randha Waterfall: Pravara River ahead of this dam descends roaring down into a beautiful gorge forming a Waterfall. Named after the village nearby. It is one of the leading waterfalls in India. It is available all-year-round. However the intensity in monsoons is magnanimous.

Honey-combs on rocks at Randha Falls; Tribals climb down
towards them to collect honey
By 6.00 pm, we reached our cottage. Watching the Sun set from your verandah is an awesome sight. Though the Sun sets everyday, you cannot witness it in your cities.

Next morning, we checked-out from MTDC at 9.00 am after our break-fast. We started off for the drive around the Bhandardara Dam. We again took the same road as yesterday till the Over-flow Gates. Then there is a Right towards Amruteshwar [अम्रुतेश्वर] Temple. This road comes under Forest Department surveillance. This is to avoid people from entering into hunting activities. One can find Rabbits, Foxes, Wolves and Leopards inside. Actually the area is the part of Kalsubai –Harishchandragad WildlifeSanctuary. There is charge of Rs. 50 per vehicle and Rs. 20 per person. However, if you visit the place before the schedule timing of the watchman’s arrival, you can visit inside without any ticket.

This drive is excellent. Small road turning in the forest covered with lush green trees; wheat fields were seen all around. Dried leaves were gushing behind due to speeding car wheels and watching this from rear view mirror of my car was priceless.
This road is around the lake with Sahyadris on to the left. We moved ahead of the village named Mutkhel [मुतखेल]. By 10 am, we reached the Amruteshwar Temple in the village of Ratanwadi [रतन-वाडी]. This is at the base of the fort Ratangad [रतन-गड].

Amruteshwar is the Shiva Temple built in Hemadpanthi style of architecture using black stone. It is about a century old. Some say that it is built in the era of Pandavas. References aside; the piece of art is awesome. Carvings inside and outside is beautiful. The black colored sculpture with a saffron flag flying on its top and the lush green back ground behind, makes this temple stand out as a Jewel in the area.

Amruteshwar Temple
Sculptures inside
This temple can also be reached through boat from Bhandardara. It’s about an hour’s ride and then a walk till the temple. This walk depends upon the water levels. We were told that we would need to walk about 3-4 kms (1 ½ hour) as the water levels are low.

Near the temple is the Jal-Kund [जल-कुंड] (Water Tank); again of black stone with carvings on it.

From here we moved ahead along the base of Ratangad. On our left was the grand fort of Maratha Empire while far away on right on other side the of lake I could see the tall peak of Kalsubai [कळसुबाई]. Leaving behind the village by the name Saamrad [साम्रद], we reached towards Kokan-Kada [कोकण-कडा] (not to be mistaken with the one on Harishchandragad [हरिश्चन्द्रगड]).
This is a place near Ghatghar [घाटघर] dam with no signs or boards around. It was the Guide with us hence we could trace it out. Else it is very difficult to identify the location. Locals might know about it; only there should be someone available to ask; we didn’t find anybody nearby.

This is place with “V” shaped rocks on both sides. Through which you can see a dam below – Chonda [चोन्दा] Dam. The view is beautiful; with strong winds flowing through.
The fun part is, the dam at the bottom is in Thane District. We were actually standing on the border of Ahmednagar District. Mumbai from here would be very close by. However, sadly, there is no road-route available yet.
From here, we moved ahead around the Ghatghar Dam walls towards Panjare [पांजरे] village. This is the base village for Mount Kalsubai. From here the Maharashtra’s tallest peak stands tall (1646 meters / 5500 feet above seal level) just next to you. You can see the red dot of the temple on the top of the peak.
Mount Kalsubai
From here we moved ahead towards our base camp, MTDC. We reached back by 11.30 am after completing a full circle of about 55 kms around Bhandardara Lake. Our route was Shendi-Mutkhel-Ratanwadi-Saamrad-Ghatghar-Panjare-Shendi.

When enquired at MTDC Canteen for lunch, it was not yet ready (lunch starts at 12). Nothing else was available to eat. We therefore had lunch at hotel nearby – Sonali. There is one more by the name Vaibhav. I had heard that these two serve good rice plates (Veg/Nonveg). Sonali was definitely good. But I felt it was costly at Rs. 70 per plate.

By 12.30 pm we started our way towards Pune. This time we decided to take the more busy and common Sangamner route. There is a Left just after Rajur towards Akole [अकोले]. This road meets the NH-50 (Pune-Nashik Highway) at Sangamner.

By 3.15 pm we were at Daulat drinking Watermelon Joice and by 6.30 pm, we were at the comforts of our home.

Coordinates of the place: 19° 33' 08.00" N   73° 45' 20.66" E

Odometer readings:

Day 1:-
0 kms     Pune (Narayan Peth)
13          Nashik Phata
24          1st Toll Point on NH-50 (Near Chakan)
43          2nd Toll Point on NH-50 (Near Rajgurunagar)
46          Rajgurunagar
66          Manchar
80          Narayangaon
91          Ozhar
100        Otur
116        Brahman-wada
133        Kotul
152        Rajur
166        Take the ascent on Left (look for boards of Anandvan and MTDC Resorts)
176        Shendi village (Bhandardara)
201        Sight-seeing at Bhandardara – Wilson Dam, Arthur Lake, Randha waterfall - total of 25 kms

Day 2 :-
257        Sight-seeing at Bhandardara – Amruteshwar temple (at Ratanwadi), Kokan-kada, Ghatghar dam, Kalsubai peak (base village) – 56 kms (around the Arthur lake)

281        Rajur
285        Take Left towards Akole, Sangamner
302        Akole
325        Sangamner
362        Daulat Restaurant (on NH-50)
476        Pune (Narayan Peth)