Saturday, December 15, 2007

1-Jan-2007 Shinde Chatri, Wanawadi, Pune

We usually do not know much about Mahadaji Shinde, except that he was a great general and the ancestor of Scindias from Gwalior. Not many of us know that his samadhi is in Wanwadi near Pune. Once we decided to visit the place.

Mahadaji's greatness cannot be gauged in today's context. He was the power of Marathas during the last years. He along with Nana Phadanvis made sure that the Marathas were respected during their years. Mahadaji provided the strength and Nana provided the diplomacy. Both of them were loyal to the Peshwas and in turn to the throne of Satara.

Mahadaji's ancestors were appointed as sardars of Peshwas. They were posted in Gwalior to handle interests in the north. As per the prevailing policy, they were given large land within direct control of the Peshwas so that they could not break free at their will. Shindes had land in Wanwadi near Pune and near Vardha in Maharashtra.

1:00 PM Started from house
We started from house by an auto and directly went to Wanwadi. We can get buses from Swargate to Wanwadi or Salunke Vihar. By our own vehicle, from Swargate, we travel on Solapur Road. After AFMC, we take a right turn to reach Wanwadi.

2:30 PM Reached Shinde Chatri in Wanawadi
Chatri is actually a temple of Shiva. The main temple must have been built nearly 200 years back. It has beautiful stone carvings. The sanctum is very simple and clean. It reminded me of the Rama temple in Domagaon near Paranda.

The mandap of the temple was built nearly 100 years ago. It has photographs/drawings of all the generations of Scindia lineage right upto Madhavrao Scindia. It has beautiful glass work. The upper portion of the mandap is closed for public.

From Trips - Shinde Chatri Jan 07

From Trips - Shinde Chatri Jan 07

From Trips - Shinde Chatri Jan 07

It is learnt that the temple trust receives funds from the Scindia family. The family members still visit the temple.

Just outside the temple, there is a samadhi of Mahadaji Shinde. After learning his actions, I rever him more. He was a statesman.

3:00 PM Started back to home
After spending nearly an hour in the temple, we headed back by an auto rickshaw.

There are many very beautiful temples. However, we usually do not have knowledge. There is no information available.

History associated with the important places is not displayed properly to the tourists. Most of the time, it is left to the individuals maintaining the important place.

17 to 19-Mar-2007 Raigad

Raigad inspires most of Marathis. This is the fort most associated to Shivaji maharaj. But that is not true. Shivaji maharaj spent very small time maybe 8-10 years on Raigad. His most of the time was spent from Rajgad.

We decided to visit the fort. We booked MTDC cottages. We took a MSRTC bus to Mahad. If one has their own vehicle, they can take a route through Tamhini ghat, Mangaon and directly Raigad. From Mumbai, one can get down to Mahad which is on the highway.

8:00 AM Started from Pune to Mahad
We took 8:00 AM bus to Mahad from Swargate.

11:00 AM Reached Mahad
The bus reached Mahad by 11:00 PM. We awaited for some bus to take us to Raigad. Apparently, the bus at 12:00 PM was cancelled.

2:00 PM Took an ST for Pachad
Finally we took some bus which dropped us at Pachad.

4:00 PM Walked to roapeway
We awaited for some vehicle to drop us to the base of the fort. However two hours of wait didnot result in anything. Finally we decided to walk down to the ropeway with the luggage. The distance is about 3 kms. Fortunately the sun was on our back for the most of the route.

5:00 PM Reached cottage
Finally took the ropeway to the cottage. At last, we were on Raigad. We quickly dumped our luggage in the cottage. The cottage was spacious. At least 6-8 persons can stay in a cottage.

6:00 PM Roamed the bastion of the fort
Then we went out to see the fort before sunset. We could just see the six chambers and some portions of the palace. We came back to the canteen. Had our dinner. There was power cut in the evening. Hence till late in the night, it was all dark. We bought candles. There were few who did not get any accomodation. They planned to sleep in the open.

7:00 AM Palace and descent
Woke up early in the morning. We saw sunrise from the front of the cottage. We quickly saw the palace and other surroundings. Immediately we started descend the fort. Along the way, we met a group from Mumbai. They had come by an MSRTC bus. After some rest, they had started to climb the fort.

From Trips - Raigad Mar 07

From Trips - Raigad Mar 07

Every one was admiring Janhavi and Varun. Both of them were descending on their own. Varun did not want to be in the lap. This slowed our pace. But it was nice to learn that children have unbelievable stamina.

11:00 AM Reached base
By 11:00 AM we reached the base at Walsure Khind (pass). We had our lunch at the only hotel there.

1:00 PM Walked to Jijabai’s Samadhi
We walked to Pachad. Jijabai's samadhi is out of town. By now, the sun had risen on top. The heat was becoming unbearable. Finally, we reached the place. We sat there for some time. While returning back, we requested one vehicle for a lift to the base of fort. All this while, Varun was insisting that he will walk. He was just one and a half year old! This slowed our pace.

2:00 PM to 5:00 PM Climbed the fort
Back to Valsure Khind, we started climbing the fort. Again Varun wanted to climb on his own. Janhavi was also climbing on her own but with little prodding. I lifted her for short distances. Passersby would give different reactions. Some used to admire the children. Some used to wonder why the heck this family is taking all these pains. We quickly reached the fort.

6:00 PM Saw the fort
Today, we had little more time than yesterday to see places. We saw most of the fort except the Jagadeeshwara temple and the samadhi. While seeing the fort, I had lot of questions about why things are like the way there were supposed to be. However, there was no reliable means to satisfy the curiosity. A boy volunteered to give us some information.

In the night, we had dinner. In the restaurant, I saw a series of books on the same kind of questions I had. I bought the books. But could not read them during my stay on Raigad.

The moment we were inside the cottage, we fell asleep. I remembered my promise to Janhavi. I pressed her acing legs. Afterall the tiny feet had descended the big fort, walked nearly 3 kms in the heat, and climbed back again. Within minutes, I fell asleep.

8:00 AM to 10:30 AM Saw remaining fort
In the morning, we had the breakfast and went to see the remaining fort. We went to Takmak tok. This cliff has a lot of wind. Hence one has to be careful. The cliff was used to punish the guilty to death. There are a couple of buildings where ammunition was stored. When the British conquered the fort, they fired tremendous amount of ammunition destroying most of it.

We took a darshan of Jagadeeshwara (Shankar). The temple top is constructed in Islamic style. On the east entrance of the fort, Shivaji maharaj's samadhi is present.

From Trips - Raigad Mar 07

11:00 AM Descended the fort
We descended the fort in the ropeway.

12:00 PM Rickshaw to Mahad
Again there was no sign of any bus taking us to Mahad. Hence we took a shared vehicle to Mahad. The bus was in the evening. Meanwhile, we wanted to see Mahad.

2:00 PM to 5:00 PM Saw Mahad
A rickshaw took us to different places. The first one was the ground where Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar addressed the audience. We saw the lake (Chavdar) which was thrown open to the dalits for the first time.

We rested in a beautiful temple. This was closed in the afternoon. Naverthless, we rested in the hall.

6:00 PM Start for Pune
Finally, we went back to the bus stand and started return journey to Pune.

We do not have efficient public transport to the historical places. Commuting to these places takes a lot of energy.

There is utter disregard towards tourists. There are no basic facilities available. e.g. drinking water, toilets, resting places, proper cover from sun. There are no safety precaution taken.

Small children have very good amount of stamina and energy. It is best not to contain their energy but just to give some direction.

3 to 4-Mar-2007 Mahabaleshwar

In the office, some of the colleagues just thought that we should visit Mahabaleshwar once. Hence we started convincing each others to join. Finally Prashant, Ram, and myself were ready. We made the bookings online with MTDC.

8:00 AM To Prashant’s house
Prashant and Ram took their cars. I had booked the bus tickets. However, both of them convinced me to come in their cars.

I reached Prashant's house by 8:00 AM. Ram was waiting for us at a joint immediately after Katraj pass. After eating some vada pavs, we started for Mahabaleshwar.

11:00 AM Reached Mahabaleshwar
We reached Mahabaleshwar very quickly as both Prashant and Ram are good drivers. We checked into the MTDC cottage.

3:00 PM Elephant Head point
After having lunch, we started for various points. We visited to Elephant Head point, Arthur Seat Point. However some of us did not enjoy the places.

5:00 PM Temple in Old Mahabaleshwar
Then we visited the temples in Old Mahabaleshwar. Everyone of us liked the temples.

8:00 AM Bought strawberries from the field
Early morning, we went in a strawberry field and bought a lot of strawberry.

12:00 PM Started for Pune
We wanted to visit the famous boarding schools in Panchgani. We enquired into 3-4 schools. However, they did not inspire us at all. Morever the expenses were too high. We were wondering if these were the schools for which people from far off places come here?

We reached Pune in the evening.

9 to 11-Feb-2007 Ganapatipule and Ratnagiri

We had heard about Ganapatipule. We had never been to Kokan region. Hence we decided to visit the place once. From Pune or Mumbai, one has to reach Ratnagiri. Buses ply from both these metros. From Mumbai, railway also takes you to Ratnagiri.

We had booked MTDC cottage. The cottages are at a very beautiful place. They are very near to temple and they overlook the beach. The beach is also clean.

10:00 PM Start from Pune to Ratnagiri
We took a travel bus from Pune to Ratnagiri.

6:00 AM Reached Ratnagiri via Chiplun
The bus reached Chiplun early in the morning. From there, it took us another 3 hours to reach Ratnagiri. It was almost 7 AM in the morning.

10:00 AM Reached Ganapatipule
We waited for a bus to Ganapatipule. The journey should not take much time. However, things depend on lot of other factors. The buses are usually very crowded. Finally we were at our destination. The MTDC resort is right in front of the bus stand. We took possession of the room. It was a beautiful scene from the room. The balcony opened towards beach. We could see the beach through the trees.

1:00 PM Ganapati temple

From Ganapatipule Temple Trips - Ganapatipule Ratnagiri Feb 07

After having our bath we visited the temple. The temple is also on the beach. This temple is very famous hence crowded. The reconstruction of the temple has take care of the crowd management. It is very clean. Things are in orderly manner.

In the afternoon, prasad (lunch) is served to whoever is present there. It is usually khichadi (rice preperation).

The circumambulance to the temple is rather confusing. It is not to the temple, but to the temple and the hill behind the temple. So the circumabmulance is rather long. But the route is scenic hence we can enjoy. The entire path is covered.

2:00 – 4:00 PM Pracheen (ancient) Kokan
After darshan, we walked down to a place called Pracheen Kokan. Here, the lifestyle of ancient village is recreated. Houses are recreated. The original utensils are also kept. Models are created.

From Facade of a house in the village Trips - Ganapatipule Ratnagiri Feb 07

For those who have not seen villages, this is a very nice place. However, for those who have already stayed in a village, there is nothing new. This is a place worth visiting along with the children.

6:00 PM Sunset on the beach
After having some rest in the room, we headed to the beach for evening and sunset. The beach was very crowded. People were enjoying the waves. This beach is safe.

For dinner, we were trying to find out some vegetarian Kokani food. However, despite a lot of efforts, we could not find one. One person explained the logic that most of the tourists come from Pune or Mumbai. Hence they had to cater to all this population. Hence they prepare food which will be acceptable to most of the people.

9:00 AM Started for Ratnagiri
In the morning, we vacated the guest house and started for Ratnagiri. The buses were irregular and crowded. Somehow, we entered one. No other option. We reached Ratnagiri. We kept most of the luggage at the travel company's office.

We enquired to an autorickshaw about taking us to different places. We agreed for some amount.

The first thing I wanted to see was Lokmanya Tilak's birthplace. We wnet to the house. But it was under repair. Hence we could not see much.

Across a few blocks, we saw the place where Vinayak "Veer" Savarkar used to stay. That house was demolished.

We learnt about Patit Pawan Mandir. This is the temple constructed through efforts of Savarkar himself. He saw that the traditionalists were too resistant to open temples for untouchables. He constructed this. The temple was thrown open to all. The pooja was performed by any person irrespective of his caste. This was a social revolution at that time. Savrkar did a lot of social reforms during his stay in Ratnagiri.

4:00 PM Ratnadurg
We went to see Ratnadurg fort. Actually this fort is very big. Today the other fort seems disconnected from the bastion. What people usually see is bastion. In the fort, there is a temple and one statue of Kanhoji Angre. Through the fort walls, we can see the harbour of Ratnagiri.

Kanhoji Angre was the commander of Maratha navy. He spent his early years in Suvarnadurg. He contained the navy of the British, Portugese. He was undefeated untill his death in 1729.

6:00 PM Sheeba palace
Sheeba palace was built by the king of Bramhadesh when he was exiled in Ratnagiri. The palace is now into dilapid condition. Some belongings of the king are preserved in the palace.

10:00 PM Bus to Pune
We took a night bus to Pune.

26 to 28-Jan-2007 Pratapgad, Mahabaleshwar

We had visited Mahabaleshwar before. That time, we got the info of how to visit Pratapgad. I am always interested to see different forts. This time, we took opportunity of a long weekend.
Mahabaleshwar is famous as a hill station. It is also famous for strawberries. There are plenty of strawberry fields in Mahabaleshwar. The strawberry saplings come from California, US.
From Pune, one can take state transport buses to Mahabaleshwar. The frequency is good. The comfort is also decent. One can drive down the Satara road. Just before Satara (approx 30 KMs), a diversion takes us to Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar. From Mumbai, we can directly come to Mahabaleshwar through Kokan.
26-Jan-20078:00 AM Started from Pune
We had reserved our journey in MSRTC. We started from Pune station. The bus goes to Swargate and then goes out of Pune via Katraj. It is good to book the journey in advance. Usually Mahabaleshwar is crowded as it is very near to Pune.
10:30 AM Reached Mahabaleshwar
Bus journey to Mahabaleshwar from Pune is about 2:30 hours via Panchgani.
12:00 PM to 5:30 PM Sightseeing in Mahabaleshwar
We had booked MTDC cottage from Pune. It is not advisable to go to Mahabaleshwar without booking any place to stay. From bus stand, we went to the cottage. The cottage is from British era. The British had major presence in Mahabaleshwar.
After having our lunch, we took a taxi for sightseeing. There is no other option but to hire a taxi. The taxis have formed their union. They have regulated (on the higher side) rates as well.
The taxi took us to various spots in Mahabaleshwar. Arthur seat point, Old Mahabaleshwar, Elephanthead point, Jam factory, etc. It finally dropped us at MTDC.
27-Jan-20079:00 AM Bus to Pratapgad
On the previous day, we had booked our journey to Pratapgad at the MSRTC counter. 2-3 buses leave Mahabaleshwar for Pratapgad. Apart from MSRTC, private taxies also take you to Pratapgad. However this option is very costly.
We took the 9:00 AM bus to Pratapgad. The bus stopped in between at a boutique so that people can buy articles.
10:30 AM Reached Pratapgad
Finally, we reached the base of Pratapgad. There is a masoleum of Afzal Khan. He had come to kill Shivaji with a huge army. However, his army could not manoeuvre in the thick forest and mountainous region. Hence he invited Shivaji for a friendly meet. Shivaji came prepared by wearing a armour inside his cloths. When Afzal Khan asked for an embrace, he tried to crush Shivaji. Shivaji took out a dagger and pierced Afzal Khan's stomach. All his intestine came out. There was a skirmish amongst the guards. Shivaji's men overpowered the opposition. Soon a signal went out to Shivaji's army hiding in the thick forest. They mercilessly attacked the opposition army. Shivaji gave a dignified burial to Afzal Khan.
Recently, some Muslim groups tried to use the masoleum to incite religious sentiments. The government has sealed the place.
On the fort, we saw Bhavani mata mandir. There are few canons kept inside the temple. Shivaji maharaj was supposed to be very much attached to this temple. A place where palace was supposed to exist. We saw a cliff where traitors were punished. A traitor's hand and feet used to be tied. He used to be packed inside a bag. The bag used to be thrown down the cliff. Even if he escapes, there was no way he could survive as vultures would do their job.
One of the loyal servants of Shivaji became a traitor. His left foot and right hand were cut off keeping in mind his past service. Left foot so that he should not be able to climb a horse. Right hand so that he should not be able to wield a sword.

From Trips - Pratapgad Jan 07

From Trips - Pratapgad Jan 07

From Trips - Pratapgad Jan 07

From Trips - Pratapgad Jan 07

From Trips - Pratapgad Jan 07

From Trips - Pratapgad Jan 07

12:30 PM Started back to Mahabaleshwar
Since the bus had given us only about 2 hours, we rushed back to the base of the fort. We came back to Mahabaleshwar.
6:30 PM Sunset at Bombay point
From MTDC cottage, Bombay point is nearby. From this point, one can see sunset.
We walked approximately 2 kms to Bombay Point for sunset. Initially, there was not much crowd. However, as the sunset time neared, suddenly the crowd appeared from nowhere. It bacame difficult see the sun!
Since we had to walk back nearly 2 kms, we hurried back to MTDC cottage.
In the night, we did some shopping. Mahabaleshwar is famous for the leather articles.
28-Jan-200710:00 AM to 1:00 PM Sightseeing
Since we had booked the tickets for the evening bus, we had to pass our time. Hene we left the cottage, booked a cab to see some of the places again. Arthur Seat Point being one of them.
5:00 PM Start for PuneWe took the evening bus to Pune. There was huge rush. Whoever did not reserve seats had to stand. The buses are also loaded with strawberry baskets.
In Mahabaleshwar, one gets to eat other berries e.g. mulberry during these days.
Mahabaleshwar could have been developed into a more professional tourist spot. There is a lot of natual beauty. It is accessible from major urban centers Pune and Mumbai. The facilities can be improved. Public transport can be made much more efficient and affordable. The accomodation can also be improved. All those major tourist attractions can be made more safe and tourist friendly.
We see that a lot of natural forest has been encroached upon. Some part goes to strawberry plantations.
Even the strawberries can be made a big industry.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

26-Dec-2004 Bannerghatta National Park, Bangalore


Even since I started living in Bangalore, I used to hear about Bannerghatta National Park. I used to stay in JP Nagar, Jaynagar 9th Block. All these areas are very close to Bannerghatta Circle. Whoever had visited the place during this period, always complained that there is nothing to see in the National Park. Hence I never had any desire to visit the place.

When Janhavi was small, we decided to visit the park to show her different animals. One day we started with our sister's family in their car. Either one can take their own vehicle or they can travel by BMT city buses. There are buses from Majestic, KR Market. All these buses should converge near Bannerghatta Circle.

8:00 AM Started from house
We started early from house so that we could avoid some rush. However we did not reach early enough to beat the traffic. We took Outer Ring Road from KR Puram and reached Bannerghatta Circle via Silk Board. Bannerghatta Road was not in a good shape.

10:00 AM Reached Bannerghatta National Park
After parking the car, we got the tickets for safari. We had to wait some time in the queue. When our turn came, we were in a caged vehicle with some openings to view the animals.

11:00 AM Safari
The safari started. There were different sections for different animals. To my astonishment, the animals were in wild and we were in a caged vehicle. I liked the idea. Instead of seeing caged animals, it is always better to see animals in open and ourselves in cage.

Enough protective arrangement was made in the park so that animals cannot escape from their respective sections. The animals were fed their respective diets again from caged vehicles.

In this manner, we saw bear, deer, tiger, white tiger, stag, lion.

The safari ended in one and a half hour approximately.

2:00 PM Lunch
We sat in a garden. This garden was crowded. There we had our lunch which we carried from house. People were moving around without any order. Children were playing in the garden. After resting in the garden for some time, we started to see other sections.

3:00 – 4:00 PM Different birds and animals
There are different cages and enclosures all over the garden. Various animals and birds are kept inside these cages.

We saw many different birds, deers, zebras, hippopotamus, monkeys, snakes, and cheetah. Unfortunately I cannot click a photograph of an animal beyond the grill. The prime object becomes secondary in the picture and grill messes up with the photograph.

5:00 PM Started back home
After we were satisfied, we started back home.

Public places are not maintained properly in India. Authorities contribute their part. But the citizens are also to be blamed. They do not behave orderly. The authorities have nothing at stake if things change. Morever they cannot bring in the expertise required to do their job. If run properly, all these places can be like Jurong Bird Park in Singapore. They can contribute to the revenue for the government.

Do not go by hearsay. Staying so close to the national park, I always thought this is not a place to waste time. But once I saw it, I appreciate it. I respect the biodiversity more now. And I am more worried that our future generations will be able to see less and less of all this.