Sunday, 16 December 2012

Ashtavinayak - Ballaleshwar of Pali - December 16, 2012

We decided to visit temple of Ballaleshwar (बल्लाळेश्वर), Lord Ganesh, at Pali (पाली) - one of the Ashtavinayakas (अष्टविनायक).

We left Pune at 7.15 am and took the Sinhagad Road to pick my in-laws on the way. We went through the Old Pune-Mumbai Highway (NH-4) and reached Khopoli (खोपोली). By 9.15 am, we were eating Batata Wada Sambaar at Ramakant.

From Khopoli we took a road towards Pen (पेण). After 4 kms there comes an over-bridge above Pune-Mumbai Express Highway. After crossing this bridge, take immediate Left towards Pali and Wakan (वाकण). Straight goes to Pen and Alibaag (अलिबाग).

By 10.30 am we reached Pali. This was my second visit here after our Alibaag trip 2 years ago. There is a car parking just opposite the temple entrance. It is a paid parking with charges of Rs. 20 per hour. There is one more free parking behind this one.

The temple as well as the town is situated just by the side of a massive fort Sarasgad (सरसगड). River Aamba (आंबा) also flows nearby. Actually we crossed the bridge on that river on the way.
This is the only Ganesh amongst Ashtavinayakas which is named after his devotee Ballal (बल्लाळ). The story goes that there was a Brahmin boy named Ballal who was engrossed in the devotion to Lord Ganesh. He use to take his friends (other village kids) also along for the Ganesh Pooja. Villagers disapproved this act. Once his father caned Ballal and tied him to a tree in the forest while he was performing his Pooja. He also damaged the Ganesh Idol & left, leaving Ballal to die in that forest. At that time, Lord, impressed by Ballal's devotion, himself appeared before him and granted him a wish. Ballal wished that the Lord to remain in that village permanently. Ganesha obliged by staying there by the name of Ballaleshwar (Ballal's Lord).

This story is written there in another small temple just prior to the main temple - Dhundi-Vinayak Temple (धुन्डी-विनायक). There is a board written there, that this temple is to be visited before entering the main temple. Dhundi-Vinayak is the idol which Ballal used to worship and his father had destroyed.

Main Temple is about 50 feet away from here, made of black stone. It is said that this stone construction was done during the time of Peshwas. Earlier it was a wooden structure. Even the insides of the temple show some wooden structure (pillars and beams). There is one stone crusher (जाते in Marathi) kept outside which was used during that period to crush limestone for construction.

Lord Ganesh is East facing with Diamonds in its both eyes and naval. Outside the Main Sanctorum there is a Secondary Sanctorum which houses a Mouse (vehicle of the Lord) with a laddoo in its hands. Opposite these two Sanctorums is the Principal Hall having pillars on both sides with a large bell tied on thick chains. It was gifted by Chimaji Appa (चिमाजी अप्पा) - Military Commander of Peshwes, younger brother of Bajirao Peshwa (बाजीराव पेशवा). He had looted it from one of the Churches after his win over the Portuguese. Outside is a water body equivalent to a small lake.

After a satisfying Darshan, we left for Unhere (उन्हेरे) - place famous for its Hot Water Springs. From Pali we went ahead towards Waakan road. About 2 kms from here after a bridge on a river (supposed to be Aamba again) is a Right turn (info boards are available). 1 km from here is this Scientific & Natural Attraction. There are two stone constructed water baths (कुंड) over the water springs. One among them is covered, reserved for women.

The specialty is that the water is noticeably hot in these Kund. The temperature, they say, is in between 40 to 60 degree Celsius. This is due to the high Sulphur content in the water and its reaction with water salts. You can smell a different Sulphurous odour when you go nearby.

It is said that this water possesses medicinal value for curing skin diseases and allergies.

Only problem is that the water is stagnant. It is not a flowing water. Everybody just enters inside this common bath. This actually should be prevented. People should take the water out using a bucket and they should bathe outside. We actually saw a person sitting by the side and cleaning his teeth.

So I would recommend just to see this unbelievable place, dip your feet and witness the hotness of water and return, considering the unhygienic conditions here. Actually, I would not say this to be a "must seen" place. In case you visit Pali or a place nearby, you can see this place as it is just 3 kms from Pali and the visit will not cost you more than 15 mins of your time.

There is one Vitthal-Rakhmabai temple also between those two Kunds.

From here we decided to return back to Pune. We took the same route back.

We took a lunch stop at Lonavala at Hotel Gurukripa. Nice food, cheap. From here we went to see the Celebrations Wax Museum. Though I had seen it in last March, my In-Laws hadn't. This time I counted the statues - 35 in numbers. It was a nice refreshing second visit, because they had changed the arrangements and some interior renovations are made. I got to know additional information - the statues of Living people are made by taking their measurements while those of people who have died are made using photographs only. Secondly, these statues are made of 6 parts which are disassembled for cleaning and the clothes are changed once a month.

From here we returned back to Pune at 5.00 pm.

Odometer readings:
00 kms         Narayan Peth, Pune
78 kms         Lonavala (via Sinhagad Road and Bangalore-Mumbai Bypass road and then the Old Mumbai Highway)

91 kms         Khopoli exit after Khandala on common Express Highway & Old Mumbai Highway

96 kms         Hotel Ramakant, Khopoli
99 kms         LH turn towards Pali and Waakan; straight will go to Pen
140 kms       Pali
143 kms       Unhere

Return journey
181 kms       RH turn towards Khopoli; LH will go to Pen
185 kms       Khopoli
203 kms       Lonavala
206 kms       Wax Museum
280 kms       Narayan Peth, Pune

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Potholes of Nighoj : Ranjan-Khalge - December 9, 2012

Nighoj (निघोज) was a long pending place in my trip plan; which happened last week. We left Pune at 7.30 am. We took got connected to the Pune-Nagar Road (SH-27) at Yerawada via the Sangamwadi bridge from Wakdewadi.

On the way there is a very unique place, for Maharashtra at least  a place called Chincholi Morachi (चिन्चोली मोराची). Here Peacocks are seen in abundance. They say there are about 2500 peacocks in that village. They are seen roaming in the fields there.

There is a place called Shikrapur (शिक्रापुर) about 40 kms from Pune after Lonikand and Koregaon Bheema. We took left from here. This road goes to Chincholi Morachi. However, to see the peacocks, the best time is just after Sunrise or just before Sunset. Since we reached there by 8.30 am, we decided not to waste time in searching for them. Our target for the day was Nighoj and we wanted to return back home by lunch. Hence we did some breakfast in one of the hotels here. We could here peacock calls from nearby fields. We tried to go bit inside, but didn't find any. Now my plan is to come here early morning, just here and not combine with any other spot, so that we can venture peacefully.

After breakfast, we moved ahead. Just note that there is no need to turn back all the way till Shikrapur if you need to go towards Nighoj and Nagar. Take the road towards Malthan which will take you to Shirur and Pune-Nagar Highway.

While we were past Malthan (मळठण), we were thinking to go till Shirur and then take the road towards Nighoj. However, after 5 kms from Malthan we got a signboard for Nighoj towards LH. We took that. About 12 kms from here just prior to one bridge on a canal there is a RH turn. No markings were there. By luck we asked some of the locals and we got that road. It was a very dusty road of about a kilometer by the canal. I don't think that would be wise to go through this road in rains.

The potholes are about 2 kms away from Nighoj village. By this route, we directly went to the Potholes. This place is a very small rocky area where the river Kukadi (कुकडी) flows with some specific shaped gorge. During rainy season, this geology creates a force which results in the erosion of the rocks below. The stones and pebbles get entangled in these pot-holes and they turn and rotate massively thus causing more erosion and the shape of a large water cistern (रांजण in Marathi). Hence the name Ranjan-Khalge (रांजण-खळगे).

These are called as Hydro-Geomorphological Formations. It takes many years to form one these potholes. These are only of its type found in Asia.

There are so many potholes of various shapes and sizes. Two small potholes are formed initially side-by-side. And due to further erosion, the walls between these potholes collapse and they merge together as one large pothole. You can see the smooth finish on the walls of these potholes (as if done by some skilled Potter or with a machine).

There is one temple here of a Goddess by the name Maalganga (माळगंगा). There is some story of 7 sisters, avatars of the Goddess. 3 of them are here (one can see 3 faces of the Goddess inside the Sanctum Sanctorum. Other 4 are somewhere down the river bank. Every year during Janmashtami, an earthen pot appears in the cannon from bottom of the river. Devotees gather here to witness this miracle.

From here we decided to turn back. We took the more common road this time. We went to Nighoj village and from here got connected to the Pune-Nagar Highway. Took Right towards Pune and reached home by 1.30 pm.

Some snaps:

River Kukadi flowing through the Gorge

Temple of Goddess Maalganga
Suspension Bridge over the gorge
Odometer readings:

00 kms          Narayan Peth
26 kms          Lonikand
30 kms          Koregaon Bheema
41 kms          Shikrapur - take LH here for Chincholi Morachi; straight till Shirur for Nighoj

59 kms         Chincholi Morachi
68 kms         Malthan
73 kms         LH towards Nighoj
85 kms         RH on a dusty road by the canal
88 kms         Potholes

Return journey
90 kms        Nighoj village
114 kms      Pune-Nagar Road
148 kms      Shikrapur
190 kms      Pune