Sunday, March 22, 2009

21 to 22-Mar-2009 Bhorgiri Bheemashankar

In India, we have a general perception that there are not many forests left. However, this perception is not entirely true. There are some patches of forests preserved to this day. Quite a few of them are in the Sahyadri ranges. These patches may not be as thick as earlier times. But they give us a feeling of what a forest is like.

Bheemashankar is one such wildlife sanctuary. The Giant Squirrel is the main protected animal in this forest. As the name suggests, it is related to the squirrel that is commonly found in Western India. Bhimashankar is also home to herbovores like the barking deers, wild boars, etc. It is also host to small carnivores like jackal. 

Location and getting there
Bheemashankar is located in Pune district in Maharashtra. Bheemashankar is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas (Shiva Temple) in India. As per the legend, Lord Shiva destroyed demon Tripurasura at this place. Origin of the river Bheema is near this place.

Getting to Bheemashankar is fairly easy from Pune. There are direct buses plying from Shivaji Nagar every hour or so. From Mumbai, one has to take a route via Karjat, Khandas.

However to reach Bhorgiri is a different matter altogether. There are few direct buses from Shivaji Nagar in Pune. One has to take a route of Rajguru Nagar (Khed) and from there Bhorgiri. From Mumbai, I doubt if there is any direct route to Bhorgiri. One will have to come to Pune and then proceed OR directly go to Rajguru Nagar via Lonavala, Chakan.


12:00 PM Report to Shivaji Nagar bus station
We reported at Shivaji Nagar bus station. There we found out that there were very few participants in this trek. That made managing the trek very easy.

1:00 PM Bus to Rajguru Nagar (Khed)
There are buses directly to Bhorgiri from Shivaji Nagar. However their frequency is less and hence not suitable. The next best thing is to go to Khed (Rajguru Nagar). There are buses plying frequently to Khed from Shivaji Nagar station.

2:15 PM Reached Rajguru Nagar
Lunch at bus station
After reaching Rajguru Nagar, we found out that the next bus to Bhorgiri is at 3:00 PM. Hence we ate our lunch carried with us in the canteen.

I usually like to carry my lunch into rolls
instead of spreading out the entire lunch on a table. This is handy in situations where one wants to eat quickly.

3:00 PM Bus to Bhorgiri
Finally we boarded the bus to Bhorgiri. The bus was empty.

5:00 PM Reached Bhorgiri
It took two hours to reach Bhorgiri village. Some last section of the road is through ghats. This part is beautiful as the road winds through the mountainous region along a dam on the river Bheema. The backwaters of the dam in the evening make this area beautiful.

5:30 PM Bhorgiri fort
After getting down in the village, we filled water bottles on a hand pump. Some of us rearranged our sacs. We started our journey.

Bhorgiri village is a very small village. There are hills on the three side of the village. And one of the hills has Bhorgiri fort and caves.

From Trips - Bhorgiri Bheemashankar Mar 09

Bhorgiri Fort as seen from the village

From Trips - Bhorgiri Bheemashankar Mar 09

Soon we started towards the fort. Not much is known about this fort. The path descends into a stream and then climbs the hill. The climb is easy. And the height is small. Within 15 minutes, we were near the caves. One of the caves has a Mahalaxmi temple. This cave was filled with water. The villagers visit the temple often. Some of us went inside the temple and had darshan. There are 17 water tanks on the fort.

From Trips - Bhorgiri Bheemashankar Mar 09

One of the caves had a peculiar method of water harvesting. Rainwater running down is channelised through a criss-crossed channel into one cave. This water is potable. This cave and the water channel can be seen in the photo below towards the right. Notice that the entrance of the cave is very low. Probably it is not meant for human use.
Another aspect of these caves is the shoddy construction done in the recent times to close front of some of the entrance. Apart from several caves, there is nothing much to see on this fort. There is hardly any trace left of any fortification. The top of the fort did not have anything except a few trees.

The sun was setting. We had to trek to Bheemashankar. Hence we started to descend from one route.

While descending, one accident happened. We decided to take a route where some steps are carved into the stone. Some portion is scree with lose stones. While descending, one person stepped upon a stone. The stone started rolling down. Despite warning given by others and Partha trying to avoid it, it hit him hard. The stone had changed its direction while rolling down. That was painful. Within a few minutes, he regained himself for the long trek ahead. Later, it was dignosed that he did not have any fractures fortunately. Alertness is the only way to minimise such accidents.

6:30 PM Start trekking to Bheemashankar
We started our trek to Bheemashankar. It was already dark. The accident shaved some time from our schedule. Most of the route was through jungle or fields. Some of us had switched on their torches. This caused difficulty to adjust our eyes.

We could see some farms in between jungle. It was nice to have a long trek in dark. After some time, all of us switched on the torches.

8:15 PM Stargazing
At one point, we sat for some rest. Pinakin took a brief session on stargazing. He educated us how to locate planets in the sky. Only three planets Mars, Saturn and Jupiter can be seen by naked eye during night time. Mercury and Venus can be seen only around sunrise or sunset. Uranus and Neptune are too far to be seen by the naked eye. All these planets traverse in a narrow band in the sky. One needs to know the constellations along the apparent path of the planets. A bright odd "star" in these constellations is a planet - one amongst the three (Mars, Saturn, Jupiter).

He explained few constellations like Orion the hunter, Taurus the bull, Canis Major the dog, Gemini the twins, Hydra the serpent, the concept of Gateway of heavens.

We also learnt how to locate the North Star with the help of Big Dipper constellation. With the help of the North Star, how to find North direction.

9:00 PM Reached Nigdale
Keeping our lunch in mind, we wrapped up this session and walked to Nigdale village. Nothing was open in this village. Now we had to trek for another 4 KMs so that we can have dinner. After calculating the possibilities, we took a vehicle to Bheemashankar so that we could have our dinner.

10:30 PM Dinner
All of us went to a restaurant and ordered dinner. The dinner was simple. We attacked dinner. Since Bheemashankar is a pilgrim place, there are several restaurants and places for overnight stay. These places may not offer luxury. Since we were on a trek, there was no question of any luxury.

11:00 PM Slept in a temple
After dinner, we headed to a nearby temple for night halt. Since it was already summer, it was pleasantly chilled in the night. After such a long trek, we deserved a good sleep.

6:00 AM Wakeup
7:00 AM Left the temple
8:00 AM Left into jungle trail after breakfast
With a good breakfast and overnight sleep, we started our excursion in the jungle. The attraction was obviously the Giant Squirrel. To our dismay, we could not spot one. However, we saw the nest of this animal on the tree tops.

Different butterflies were seen in a dry stream and pond.
Pinakin explained some behaviour of butterflies.

We explored the jungle a little more till noon and headed back to the restaurant for lunch.

1:30 Bheemashankar temple
Just before the lunch was served, some of us headed to see the temple. This temple is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva. Fortunately, there was no rush. Hence we had a good darshan in very less time.

From Trips - Bhorgiri Bheemashankar Mar 09

The temple is very beautiful. It is built in stone in Hemadpanti style of architecture. The temple has a bell installed by Chimaji Appa, brother of Bajirao Peshwa.This bell was taken when the Portuguese were driven out of Konkan region.

From Trips - Bhorgiri Bheemashankar Mar 09

2:00 PM Lunch
Quickly, we came back for lunch. We had to head back to Pune.

3:00 PM Took a ST bus to Pune
There is a bus every half an hour to Pune. We got the next available bus.

6:30 PM Reached Pune

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