Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station

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Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is a historic railway station in the city of Mumbai, India. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a spitting image of Victorian-Gothic style of architecture in India. Its name used to be Victoria Terminus. The station is also called VT (as short-form of Victoria Terminus) or CST (as short-form of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus). Built in 1888, the station is a grand reminder of the British Raj in India and still one of the most historical landmarks within the Central Business District of Mumbai.

Chatrapati_Shivaji_Terminus_(Victoria_Terminus_Station) The building, designed by the British architect F. W. Stevens, became the symbol of Bombay as the ‘Gothic City’ and the major international mercantile port of India. The station stands as an example of 19th century railway architectural marvels for its advanced structural and technical solutions. Whatever its stature on the world stage, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is for most Mumbaikars essentially a transit point—people get on or off the suburban or long-distance trains and make their way towards their destinations. They might stop and glance at CST momentarily, click a selfie with it perhaps, but their engagement with it mostly ends there. It is the busiest railway station in India. There are always a lot of people at the station. Short-distance trains and long-distance trains come to this station.

History:

Victoria_Terminus,_Bombay_(c._1900) The Chhatrapati Shivaji station, formerly known as Victoria Terminus, was built in 1888. Designed by the British architect F.W. Stevens, the structure became a symbol of Bombay (Mumbai) and the city was labeled the ‘Gothic City’ due to this magnificent building’s architectural styles. Its remarkable stone dome, turrets, pointed arches and eccentric ground plan are close to traditional Indian palace architecture. It is an outstanding example of the meeting of two cultures, as British architects worked with Indian craftsmen to include Indian architectural tradition and idioms thus forging a new style unique to Bombay. Bori Bandar’ station, located in Eastern Mumbai, was the main station for all commercial and trade activities in the city, starting its first rail service covering a total distance of 34 kilometer to Thane. 

It was during the British Rule that it was re-designed by F. W. Stevens, who named it Victoria Terminus (VT), after the then-reigning Queen Victoria. At the time, the building was the most expensive structure in Mumbai costing 260,000 Sterling Pounds.  In 1996, the Minister of Railways, Suresh Kalmadi, changed the name of the station to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, a famed Maratha king.

Architecture:

Gare Chhatrapati Shivaji (anciennement gare Victoria) Chhatrapati_Shivaji_Terminus_(formerly_Victoria_Terminus)_-_Central_dome_over_grand_staircase_-_5 This building, designed by F. W. Stevens, is spread across a 2.85 hectare area. The terminal was built over a period of 10 years starting in 1878. This is one of the finest functional Railway Station buildings of the world and is used by more than three million commuters daily. The style and the ornamentation of the edifice were acceptable to both Indian and European culture.  Complete with turrets, pointed arches and an eccentric ground plan, the CST was a novel achievement during that period. The entrance of the Chhatrapati Shivaji terminus is flanked by figures of a lion and a tiger representing the two countries-great Britain and India. From the outside, it looks far more imposing that its three storeys for its profusion of spires, turrets, domes and gables. Close up, the building is heavily ornamented with floral and animal patterns. The grand, modern identity the British sought for their colonial cities must have been evident in this cathedral that enshrined the power of steam locomotion. and the interiors of the station are lined with high-quality Italian marble.

It is among the top ten railway stations in the world. It is perhaps the second most photographed monument in India after the Taj. It has stood for 129 years. Unless a major natural calamity strikes, it could stand for another 500 or 1,000 years.

How To Reach:

Mumbai is well connected to all Big city of India by Flight, Train and Road way. Its also have International Airport which is connected to domestic as well as International flights.

ImageCopyright by commons.wikimedia.org

 

Mount Mary Church

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While Bandra in Mumbai is one of the elitist areas that is also home to some of the biggest retailer brands and fine dining restaurants, it is where the devotees of Virgin Mary congregate to pray and seek blessings at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount, more commonly known as Mount Mary Church. The most looked forward to event here is the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary celebrated on the first Sunday after September 8.

The Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount stands on a hillock, about 80 meters above sea level overlooking the Arabian Sea, and attracts people from all faiths who pray to Virgin Mary for expressing their gratitude or requesting favours. However, the one time that it really comes into prominence is during the Bandra Fair when devotees come here in thousands. This is when the entire area gets decorated with festoons and buntings. Many pitch up stalls selling religious articles and savories. Wax figures of the Virgin Mary, along with an assortment of candles shaped like hands, feet and various other parts of the body are sold at kiosks.

Although the current church edifice is just 100 years old, the history behind the current statue of Our Lady goes back to the 16th century when Jesuit priests from Portugal brought the statue to the current location and constructed a chapel. In 1700 Arab pirates interested in the gilt-lined object held in the hand disfigured the statue by cutting off the right hand. In 1760, the church was rebuilt and the statue was substituted with a statue of Our Lady of Navigators in St. Andrew’s Church nearby. This statue has an interesting legend. It goes that a Koli fisherman dreamt that he would find a statue in the sea and it was actually found floating in the sea.

In 1879, H. Bomonjee Jeejibhoy built a flight of steps on the northern side of the hill. In 1882, a portico came to be added to the front of the building but by the end of the century it was resolved that only a new church would accommodate the growing numbers who made their way to the top of the hill to venerate the Lady of the Mount every September. Shapoorji N. Chadabhoy, an architect, designed the new chapel. The style is neo-gothic and the new altar reflects the style. Seven steps in white marble peaked by three niches lead the eye of the pilgrim or visitor to the Mother and child Jesus, the wooden statue now crowned and resplendent with a white and gold veil that flows down to the topmost marble step. Unlike most icons of Mother Mary this one has the child on the right arm. The murals in the nave depict scenes from the life of Mary.

Things to Do

Explore the capital of Maharashtra

Mumbai is the capital of Maharashtra. It has numerous attractions for a visitor ranging from the museum visits to roadside shopping. The city is a paradise for such visitors. It truly is a city that does not sleep so it is worth exploring in the night too.

Visit Esselworld

Have a Fun day at the Esselworld which is one of India’s largest amusement parks. From rib tickling crazy cups and copper choppers to scary monsters in the mist as well as adrenaline charging rocking alleys and zipper drippers, you can spend an exciting day and spend quality time with the family.

Explore the Sanjay Gandhi National Park

On the periphery of Mumbai, this is a beautiful park where tranquility prevails and the flora and fauna are allowed to have a free hand. It offers to the tourists, naturalists, bird-watchers and environment researchers a fascinating treasure of wildlife and innumerable plants and trees. In fact, almost a quarter of India’s avifauna has made their home here, including many mammals such as the elusive leopard. The park also offers various activities like boating, trekking, safaris and even a toy train ride.

Explore the Mumbai caves

The Kanheri caves have the earliest images of the Buddha in South India and were made famous across the world because Chinese monk traveller Hiuen Tsang had visited the monastery in 7th century CE and is reported to have carried a wooden image of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara to China along with numerous Sanskrit Buddhist manuscripts.

Known as Mandapeshvara, the caves at Borivali, are the final chapter in the history of cave architecture in Mumbai. Along with these, the caves at Mahakali, Magathne, Elephanta, Jogeshwari etc are the testimony of the city’s rich heritage.

Explore the Neighbourhood

Apart from the fact that there is the whole of Mumbai that you can enjoy during your visit to the Haji Ali Dargah, there are some places which are close by for a quick visit when you are in this area. One is the Mahalaxmi Temple dedicated to Mahalakshmi, the central deity of Devi Mahatmya. Built around 1785, the history of this temple is supposedly connected with the building of the Hornby Vellard. According to a legend, after portions of the sea wall of the Vellard collapsed twice, the chief engineer, Pathare Prabhu, dreamt of a goddess statue in the sea near Worli. A search recovered it, and he built a temple for it. The temple contains images of the goddesses Mahalakshmi, Mahakali and Mahasaraswati.

Also situated in this area is the Mahalaxmi Race Course which has been modelled on the Melbourne Race Course. The length of the track is 2,400 meters and it was built in 1883 on 225 acres of land facing the sea. And if your interest veers towards the skies and all that lies beyond earth, you must visit the Nehru Planetarium. Commissioned on March 3, 1977, it has grown into a centre for scientific study of astronomy and for meeting of scientists and scholars for discussions and lectures, arranged periodically on various stellar and astronomical events. The planetarium also has programmes aimed at inspiring students. These include special arrangements to watch, study, and photograph solar and lunar eclipses.

How to reach
Mt Mary Rd, Mt Mary, Bandra West, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400050
Phone- 022 2642 3152

Image & Information copyright by maharashtratourism.gov.in

Haji Ali Dargah

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A tomb on an island in the middle of the Arabian Sea! Doesn’t that immediately sound enticing enough? But there is more to the Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai than just its location. Such is the reverence that this Muslim saint commands that his final resting place draws the faithful from all communities who come here with the firm hope that their prayers will be answered. With a mosque located adjacent to the tomb complex, the edifice is also a brilliant specimen of the Indo-Islamic style of architecture.

Located about 500 meters from the coast off the Lala Lajpatrai Marg at Mahalaxmi in Mumbai, the Haji Ali Dargah was constructed in 1431 in memory of a wealthy Muslim merchant, Sayyed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, who renounced all his worldly possessions before making a pilgrimage to Mecca. It is said that he had come to India from Bukhara in the ancient Persian Empire and had travelled around the world before deciding to settle down in Mumbai.

According to a legend, the saint once came upon a poor woman crying on the road with an empty vessel in her hands. Upon inquiring the reason for her sorrow, she said that the oil she was carrying in the vessel had been accidently spilled and that she was now afraid of being beaten by her husband. The saint asked her to lead him to the spot where the oil had been spilled. There, he jabbed a finger into the soil and the oil gushed out, which the woman filled into the vessel and went home.

However, this incident is reported to have led Haji Ali experiencing disturbing dreams about injuring the earth. Full of remorse, he soon fell ill and directed his followers that upon his death his coffin should be cast into the sea. Haji Ali left this world during his journey to Mecca and miraculously the casket carrying his body floated back to the Mumbai shore, getting stuck in the string of rocky islets just off Worli. And so it was that the ‘dargah’ was constructed here.

The tomb in itself is simple in design. On an elevated platform is the main structure with a white dome and minarets. Men and women enter the ‘dargah’ through different entrances to arrive on either side of the shrine. The main hall has marble pillars embellished with artistic mirror work: blue, green, yellow chips of glass arranged in kaleidoscopic patterns interspersed with Arabic patterns which spell the 99 names of Allah. The Kinara Masjid is behind the ‘dargah’ and an open Qawwal Khana chamber next to the tomb works as a stage for Sufi singers. There is a fountain within the complex lined with a few trees adjacent to which is a tea and snack vendor and a shop selling books and ‘chaddars’ that are bought for the shrine.

The pier and the promenade leading to the ‘dargah’ have several vendors along the way selling flowers, incense sticks, colourful shawls, imitation jewellery, dresses, picture postcards, toys and souvenirs. The ‘dargah’ is also a favourite with photographers because of the sheer beauty of the place, especially the view of the sunset that is best enjoyed from the rocky edge behind the tomb.

Things to Do

Explore the capital of Maharashtra

Mumbai is the capital of Maharashtra. It has numerous attractions for a visitor ranging from the museum visits to roadside shopping. The city is a paradise for such visitors. It truly is a city that does not sleep so it is worth exploring in the night too.

Visit Esselworld

Have a Fun day at the Esselworld which is one of India’s largest amusement parks. From rib tickling crazy cups and copper choppers to scary monsters in the mist as well as adrenaline charging rocking alleys and zipper drippers, you can spend an exciting day and spend quality time with the family.

Explore the Sanjay Gandhi National Park

On the periphery of Mumbai, this is a beautiful park where tranquility prevails and the flora and fauna are allowed to have a free hand. It offers to the tourists, naturalists, bird-watchers and environment researchers a fascinating treasure of wildlife and innumerable plants and trees. In fact, almost a quarter of India’s avifauna has made their home here, including many mammals such as the elusive leopard. The park also offers various activities like boating, trekking, safaris and even a toy train ride.

Explore the Mumbai caves

The Kanheri caves have the earliest images of the Buddha in South India and were made famous across the world because Chinese monk traveller Hiuen Tsang had visited the monastery in 7th century CE and is reported to have carried a wooden image of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara to China along with numerous Sanskrit Buddhist manuscripts.

Known as Mandapeshvara, the caves at Borivali, are the final chapter in the history of cave architecture in Mumbai. Along with these, the caves at Mahakali, Magathne, Elephanta, Jogeshwari etc are the testimony of the city’s rich heritage.

Explore the Neighbourhood

Apart from the fact that there is the whole of Mumbai that you can enjoy during your visit to the Haji Ali Dargah, there are some places which are close by for a quick visit when you are in this area. One is the Mahalaxmi Temple dedicated to Mahalakshmi, the central deity of Devi Mahatmya. Built around 1785, the history of this temple is supposedly connected with the building of the Hornby Vellard. According to a legend, after portions of the sea wall of the Vellard collapsed twice, the chief engineer, Pathare Prabhu, dreamt of a goddess statue in the sea near Worli. A search recovered it, and he built a temple for it. The temple contains images of the goddesses Mahalakshmi, Mahakali and Mahasaraswati.

Also situated in this area is the Mahalaxmi Race Course which has been modelled on the Melbourne Race Course. The length of the track is 2,400 meters and it was built in 1883 on 225 acres of land facing the sea. And if your interest veers towards the skies and all that lies beyond earth, you must visit the Nehru Planetarium. Commissioned on March 3, 1977, it has grown into a centre for scientific study of astronomy and for meeting of scientists and scholars for discussions and lectures, arranged periodically on various stellar and astronomical events. The planetarium also has programmes aimed at inspiring students. These include special arrangements to watch, study, and photograph solar and lunar eclipses.

How to reach

Visitors can reach Haji Ali Dargah via the many modes of local transport available in Mumbai city – Metered taxies, B.E.S.T. city buses and Local trains are available. The nearest railway station is Mahalakshmi on the western line. Auto rickshaws ply in the suburbs of Mumbai only and will not come all the way to Haji Ali. One needs to take another mode of transport beyond Mahim / Sion when traveling into the city from the suburbs.

Image & Information copyright by maharashtratourism.gov.in

Global Vipassana Pagoda

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As an architectural wonder that helps promote peace and harmony, the Global Vipassana Pagoda near Gorai in Mumbai is a landmark monument that brings us closer to the philosophies and teachings of the great Buddha. It also has the distinction of being Asia’s tallest stone structure that majestically rises against the background of the shimmering waters of the Arabian Sea.

The Global Vipassana Pagoda has been the inspiration of the well known Vipassana meditation master Acharya S N Goenka and is representative of the teachings of Gautama Buddha. It is also an expression of the country’s heartfelt gratitude towards Emperor Ashoka and the chain of Buddhist masters starting from his teacher Moggaliputta Tissa up to the present day’s Burmese Vipassana masters like Ledi Sayadaw, Saya Thetgyi and Sayagi U Ba Khin for protecting, preserving and spreading Buddha’s teachings in India and abroad.

Built on the lines of famous Shwedegon Pagoda of Yangon, where the hair relic of the Buddha is enshrined, the Global Vipassana Pagoda houses genuine bone relics of Buddha. Some of these relics were found by the archaeology department of the imperial British government in the ruins of a ‘stupa’ in Bhattiprolu in southern India before the Second World War. They were then kept in the Museum of London and were returned to the Mahabodhi Society of India after the war. The Society presented them to Acharya Goenka to place in the Global Vipassana Pagoda for the benefit of the countless faithful who come here to meditate.

The monument is a three-storied huge hollow stone structure painted in a shining Thai golden paint. It is the world’s largest pillar-less dome especially designed for meditation. For this very reason, it is called the Vipassana Pagoda. Keeping in view the convenience of those who wish to meditate, the relics are enshrined in the centre of the middle dome and a revolving stage is created in the centre of the main dome at the ground level so that meditation can be done around it while listening to the sermons. It has the capacity of accommodating over 8,000 meditating people at a time.

The top key stone depicting the Dhamma Wheel suspended at a height of 90 feet weighs almost 4 tonnes. Besides the main pagoda there are two smaller pagodas of 60 feet height built on both sides in the north and south. The northern pagoda has a meditation hall used for teaching Anapana meditation to the general public whereas the southern pagoda contains 108 meditation cells. A grand Ashoka pillar with the Dhamma Wheel similar in shape and size to the original pillar in Sarnath has been constructed to the east of the Global Vipassana Pagoda.

The imposing complex houses a vipassana centre called Dhammapattana to the southwest of the main pagoda at the basement level where students’ courses of ten days’ duration are being conducted regularly since October 2007. The centre is well-equipped with 100 air-conditioned rooms and a meditation hall. Recently a research centre devoted to the study of Pali language and Buddha’s teachings has been established near it. There is also an audio-visual centre and a gallery of wall mounts and photographs adjacent to a book and souvenir shop. Service facilities such as rest-rooms, offices, quarters and a food court are located on the ground floor of the basement area.

Things to Do

Explore the capital of Maharashtra

Mumbai is the capital of Maharashtra. It has numerous attractions for a visitor ranging from the museum visits to roadside shopping. The city is a paradise for such visitors. It truly is a city that does not sleep so it is worth exploring in the night too.

Visit Esselworld

Have a Fun day at the Esselworld which is one of India’s largest amusement parks. From rib tickling crazy cups and copper choppers to scary monsters in the mist as well as adrenaline charging rocking alleys and zipper drippers, you can spend an exciting day and spend quality time with the family.

Explore the Sanjay Gandhi National Park

On the periphery of Mumbai, this is a beautiful park where tranquility prevails and the flora and fauna are allowed to have a free hand. It offers to the tourists, naturalists, bird-watchers and environment researchers a fascinating treasure of wildlife and innumerable plants and trees. In fact, almost a quarter of India’s avifauna has made their home here, including many mammals such as the elusive leopard. The park also offers various activities like boating, trekking, safaris and even a toy train ride.

Explore the Mumbai caves

The Kanheri caves have the earliest images of the Buddha in South India and were made famous across the world because Chinese monk traveller Hiuen Tsang had visited the monastery in 7th century CE and is reported to have carried a wooden image of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara to China along with numerous Sanskrit Buddhist manuscripts.

Known as Mandapeshvara, the caves at Borivali, are the final chapter in the history of cave architecture in Mumbai. Along with these, the caves at Mahakali, Magathne, Elephanta, Jogeshwari etc are the testimony of the city’s rich heritage.

Distance from Mumbai: 42 kms from the domestic airport terminal in Mumbai
Global Vipassana Pagoda is located in the southwest of Mumbai, near Gorai Beach.
From the Western Express Highway, head north towards Dahisar/Borivali/Ahmedabad.
For more information log onto: www.globalpagoda.org
Contact Details: Global Vipassana Pagoda, Next to Esselworld, Gorai Village,
Borivali (West), Mumbai 400091
Telephone: 91 22 33747501 (30 lines), 022 28451204 / 1170
Email: pr@globalpagoda.org

Titwala

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For all those who believe in the power of Lord Ganesh, regular visits to the Siddhivinayaka Mahaganapati Temple at Titwala is always high on the ‘faith’ list. The place is steeped in ancient legend and the temple is also frequented by those who believe that separated married couples can be united and the marriages of desired people can be arranged easily if the Ganesha image installed in the temple is worshipped with devotion.

Visited by thousands of devotees, particularly on Angarika Chaturthi – a Tuesday that follows on the fourth day of the lunar bright fortnight – the Siddhivinayaka Mahaganapati Temple at Titwala also witnesses a huge congregation during the occasions of Ganesh Chaturthi and Ganesh Jayanti. Another reason for its religious popularity is that Titwala is believed to be the putative site of the hermitage of sage Kanva, the foster parent of Shakuntala who was born here. Titwala is also an easy place to go to with its proximity to Mumbai. In fact, the domestic and international airports of Mumbai are just about 75 kilometers away.

There is a fascinating legend attached to this place. The village was part of the Dandakaranya forest where the Katkari tribe lived. Sage Kanva, who resided here, had adopted Shakuntala, who was abandoned immediately after her birth by her parents. King Dushyanta of Gandhara Kingdom while on a battle campaign was passing through the forests when he and Shakuntala fell in love with each other and got married according to the Gandharva rite in the hermitage. Since Dushyanta had to leave Shakuntala after some time due to unrest in his capital city, he gave Shakuntala a royal signet as a sign of their love, promising her that he would return for her.

Once, while Shakuntala was in the hermitage in pensive mood thinking about her husband Dushyanta, she did not pay the desired reverential attention to sage Durvasa who was visiting the place. Known for his short temper, he felt offended by this slight and cursed Shakuntala saying that the person she was dreaming of would forget about her altogether. Later, however, Durvasa toned down his curse to mean that the person who had forgotten Shakuntala would remember everything again if she showed him a personal token that had been given to her.

It is said that sage Kanva, realising the gravity of the issue faced by Shakuntala, directed her to build a shrine in honour of Lord Ganesha as Siddhivinayaka. He assured her that by her sincere prayers Siddhivinayaka would bless her and she would once again join her husband Dushyanta. This eventually came true after considerable effort and lapse of time and by which time Shakuntala who had conceived after marrying Dushyanta, also gave birth to a son who came to be known as Bharata.

The Siddhivinayaka Mahaganapati Temple built by Shakuntala with the stated legendary background was submerged under a tank. During the rule of Peshwa Madhavrao I, to resolve the drought situation in the town, the tank was de-silted to provide drinking water to the town. It was during the de-silting operations that the temple was found buried. The image of Ganesha was found by Ramchandra Mehendale. Soon thereafter, the renovation of the temple was undertaken and a stone temple was built. Peshwa Madhavrao I consecrated the ancient Ganesha image in this new temple, after the conquest of Vasai Fort. Initially, the temple was very small with a wooden ‘sabha mandap’, which was in a run-down condition. Since the temple had also degenerated over time, in 1965–66 renovation work was initiated again and a new temple was constructed at the same location.

Things to Do

Go Boating

There is a pond next to the temple complex which is surrounded by a garden. Peddle boats of two- and four-seater capacity are available here between 4 pm to 7 pm for recreation.

Visit Other Temples

There is another famous temple dedicated to Vithoba and his consort Rukmini in Titwala that is worth visiting. So also is the exquisitely carved Vithoba Temple at Shahad. Also called the Birla Mandir, it is 10 kilometers away from Titwala and accessible by train and road.

How to reach:

By Air:

The nearest airport is at Mumbai.

By Rail:

Titwala is a suburban railway station on central railway’s Mumbai-Kasara line.

By Road:

Drive through Kalyan-Shahpur-Titwala. State transport buses ply from Thane and Kalyan.

Image & Information copyright by maharashtratourism.gov.in

Bhimashankar Temple

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A pristine natural environment with hills, waterfalls and forests; a wild life sanctuary and an ancient temple! Bhimashankar offers the ideal setting to find spirituality. It is also the perfect place for adventure lovers with a plethora of treks. Moreover this is where you can find the shekru the giant flying squirrel which is also the state animal of Maharashtra.

Nestled in dense forests, the Shiva temple in Bhimashankar is the sixth jyotirlinga and one of the most popular places for the worship of Lord Shiva. It is believed that the original temple of Bhimashankar was built in 12th century CE. However, no material remains dating to that period have been found since the temple has undergone many alterations over a period of time. The temple was renovated by Chimaji Antaji Bhide Naik in 1733 CE followed by some repair works by Dikhit Patwardhan in 1766 CE. A well was constructed in the complex by Raghunathrao Peshwa. The famous minister of the Peshwas, Nana Phadnavis carried out a lot of renovations, including the construction of the shikhara.

The present temple sanctum (garbhagriha) and the shikhara are built in the Nagara or Indo-Aryan style and have a strong influence of Rajasthan and Gujarat on the figurines and motifs of the temple. The exterior walls of the sanctum are adorned with scenes from the Ramayana, Krishna Leela, Shiv Leela and Dashavataras. Inscriptions in the courtyard give a record of grants given and a large bell confiscated from the Vasai fort by the Maratha Commander Chimaji Appa hangs in front of the sabhamandapa.

Bhimashankar is also the perfect place to combine adventure and trekking. Monsoon is a good season to enjoy the region’s stunning natural beauty.

Things to Do

Visit the Chas Kaman Dam

This dam is a very important Hydel power projects in the country and one of the important dams of Maharashtra. Built on the Bhima river amidst picturesque settings, this place with the dam and it’s backwaters is an ideal monsoon retreat.

Explore the Wilderness

The Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary is part of the Western Ghats recognised as one of the 12 biodiversity hotspots of the world. It is home to a large diversity of endemic and specialised flora and fauna. It is also an important catchment area which feeds the rivers Bhima and Ghod that flow downstream. The Forest Interpretation Centre equipped with a library and nature-related guidance and interpretation, is a wonderful place for children and adults alike to learn about nature and adventure.

Go Trekking

Bhimashankar is a trekker’s delight. It is surrounded by innumerable forts of varying heights and varying degrees of difficulty. To name just a few of them – Shivneri, Kothaligad, Padargad, Siddhagad all provide for adventure and excitement to refresh yourself from the urban chaos.

Study About Sacred Groves

There are about 14 sacred groves or ‘Devrais’ as they are called in local parlance, in this area. Forest patches are earmarked as sacred in order to protect endemic species of flora and fauna and often for water security. They provide a rich environment for study of ecological and cultural heritage.

Discover Other Treasures

The entire region is a tourist’s delight. From the scenic Malshej ghat to the historic Junnar caves, there exist innumerable possibilities for a memorable holiday.

How to reach:

By Air and Rail:

Bhimashankar is 213 km from Mumbai and 110 kms from Pune. The nearest airport is Pune and so is the railway station.

By Road:

You can take the route of Pune-Rajgurunagar-Manchar- Ghodegaon–Pokhari Ghat Bhimashankar. State Transport buses are available at regular intervals from the Shivajinagar Bus Terminus and the last bus is at 5 pm. Private transport is more convenient if you would like to visit places around Bhimashankar.

Image & Information copyright by maharashtratourism.gov.in

Theur

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One of the ‘ashtavinyaka’ (8 Ganeshas) temples of Maharashtra, the Chintamani Mandir of Theur is located 25 kilometers from Pune and is one of the larger and more famous of the eight revered shrines of Ganesha. Surrounded by the Mula river on three sides, it is just adjacent to the Pune-Solapur national highway.

The legend attached to this place says that in ancient times there was a king named Abhijit who was ruling this region along with his wife Gunavati. They both were worried because they did not have a child. With strong penance in the jungle they got a boon in the form of a son whose name was Gana. He was strong but arrogant. Once he went to the ashram of Kapilmuni where he saw the jewel named Chintamani. He asked for that jewel but was refused and hence he forcefully took it from Kapilmuni. The Rishi prayed to Durga Devi, and as per her order he prayed to Vinayak, who assured the Rishi that he would get the stolen jewel back. Vinayak fought Gana and retrieved the jewel Chintamani from him and returned it to the Rishi. But the Rishi was unhappy and asked Vinayak to settle at the place. Vinayak agreed and settled there in the name of Chintamani under the kadamb tree where all these incidences occurred. The habitation around the kadamb tree was known as kadambpur which is now called as a Theur. There are many more legends related to Indra, Brahmadev, king Nal which are attached to this place.

This temple was constructed by Shri Dharanidhar Dev, son of Shri Moraya gosavi. Shrimant Madhavrav Peshwa built the sabha mandapa after about 100 years. Then onwards Haripant Phadake and some Ganesha devotees made some alterations to the temple. Chimaji Appa the younger brother of Bajirao Peshwa offered a big bell which he got from Vasai as a memento of his victory. Shri Moraya Gosavi performed penance at Theur and it is said that Ganesha met him in the form of a tiger.

The temple’s main gate located to the north is relatively smaller compared to the scale of the temple. The central icon of Chintamani-Ganesha faces east. The hall also has a black stone water fountain. Besides the central shrine dedicated to Ganesha, there are a number of smaller shrines in the temple complex, including the Mahadeva Mandir, Vishnu-Lakshmi Mandir, Hanuman Mandir, etc. Behind the temple is the Peshwa Wada. It was once the residence of Madhavrao. Like other ashtavinyaka icons, the central icon of Ganesha is considered self-manifested and therefore there are hardly any features except for the head studded with jewel eyes and trunk.

Ganesha utsav is performed at Theur in the month of Bhadrapad and in Magh. A fair is arranged on this occasion. One more important festival celebrated at Theur is on kartik vadya 8 as per Hindu calendar which is the death anniversary of Shrimant Madhavrav Peshwa and his wife Ramabai saheb.

Things to Do

Carvings at Bhuleshwar

A Yadava period Shiva temple is situated on a hill at Bhuleshwar. One can see here intricate carvings in stone. The icons of ‘sursundaris’, different deities and a huge Nandi create the spiritual ambience of the place. A unique feature of this temple is that the Ganesha icon is in the form of a lady seen on the corridor wall of the temple. In the medieval period the temple was secured by fortification and was known as Daulatmangal Fort.

Pune

Known as the cultural capital of Maharashtra as also for its industry and academics, Pune is where you should ideally stay for a visit to Jejuri. The city has a lot to offer by way of entertainment, cuisine and a curious mix of the old and new styles of architecture. Some of the places of tourist interest include the Aga Khan Palace, Dagduseth Ganpati, Sarasbaug, Empress Garden, National Defence Academy, Sinhagad, Shanwarwada, Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum, etc.

How to reach:

By Air:

The nearest airport is at Pune

By Rail:

The nearest railway station is at Pune which is 25 kms away from here.

By Road:

Theur is adjacent to the Pune-Solapur highway and hence is very much approachable. The Pune municipal transport buses ply from Mahatma Gandhi bus stand (Pool gate) regularly to Theur.

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Siddhatek

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One of the ‘ashtavinayaka’ (8 Ganeshas) temples in Maharashtra, the Siddhi Vinayak Mandir of Siddhatek is the only one in the Ahmednagar district. Located on the northern bank of the river Bhima in the Karjat taluka, it is close to the railway station of Daund and is accessible from the small village of Shirapur in Pune district, on the southern bank of the river, from where it can be reached by boat or a newly constructed bridge. The temple stands on a hillock, surrounded by thick foliage of Babul trees, which also makes it a tourist destination.

According to legend, Lord Brahma was inflated with pride, considered himself as the supreme God and started creating the earth. A number of obstacles blocked his creation. He then invoked Lord Ganesha, worshipped him at Siddhatek and received blessings from him. Then onwards his work went on smoothly.

According to the Mudgal Purana, at the beginning of the creation of the universe, the creator, Brahma, emerged from a lotus while Vishnu slept in his ‘yoganidra’. When Brahma started creating the universe, two demons, Madhu and Kaitabha, rose from the dirt in Vishnu’s ear. The demons disturbed Brahma’s process of creation, thereby compelling Vishnu to wake up from his deep slumber. Vishnu therefore pitched a battle against the demons but could not defeat them since he had not invoked Ganesha – the god of beginning and obstacle removal – before the fight. Therefore Vishnu performed penance at Siddhatek, invoking Ganesha with his mantra – “Om Sri Ganeshaya Namah”. Pleased, Ganesha bestowed his blessings and various ‘siddhis’ (powers) on Vishnu, who returned to fight the demons and eventually slayed them. The place where Vishnu acquired ‘siddhis’ was thereafter known as Siddhatek.

The sanctum of the temple was built by Ahilyabai Holkar, the queen of Indore and Sardar Haripant Phadke, an official with the Peshwa rulers, built the Nagarkhana – a chamber which stored ‘nagaras’ (kettle drums) and a paved pathway to the main door of the temple. The idol of Ganesha is seated on a throne and is 3 ft high. The outer ‘sabha-mandapa’ (hall) – previously built by Mairal, a landlord from Baroda – was broken in 1939 and rebuilt in 1970.

The place is also famous as Shri Moraya Gosavi performed severe penance here and is supposed to have been given the order by Ganesha to go to Morgaon. Narayan Maharaj of Kedgaon also achieved siddhi here because of strong penance. Sardar Peshwa Shri Haripant Phadke performed worship for 21 days and wrote some 21 chants in praise of Ganesha which are sung regularly in this temple.

A unique feature of the deity here is that Ganesha’s trunk is turned to the right. Usually, the trunk of Ganesha is depicted turned to his left. It is believed that the right-trunked Ganesha is very powerful, but difficult to please. The temple is thus considered as a ‘jagrut kshetra’ where the deity is said to be highly powerful. The temple, constructed in black stone, faces north. The ‘garbhagriha’ (sanctum) is 15 feet high and 10 feet wide. It has the ‘Jaya-Vijaya’ – the gatekeepers of Vishnu’s abode – brass sculptures flanking the central icon of Siddhi Vinayaka.

The festivals on bhadrapad and magh chaturthi are celebrated on a large scale at Siddhatek. A festival and fair is also held on Vijayadashami and Somavati Amavasya, a no-moon day that falls on a Monday.

Things to Do

Deepmalas of Rashin

A beautiful temple of Goddess Yamai at Rashin is just 22 kilometers from Siddhatek. There are two big ‘deepmalas’ erected on the temple premises. A wooden handle is fixed on the top of one of the deepmalas and when operated, the deepmalas start leaning on both the sides – an architectural wonder! There are two rock inscriptions written in the Devnagari script. Rashin is the native place of the famous Peshwa personality, Antaji Manakeshwar, reference to whom can be found in one of the five inscriptions carved here.

How to reach:

By Air:

The nearest airport is at Pune

By Rail:

The nearest railway station is at Daund on the central railway which is 16 kms away from here. Trains plying from Pune to Delhi and to the south stop at Daund.

By Road:

Lot of state transport buses ply from Pune, Daund, Patas, Rashin, Shrigonda to this holy place Siddhatek. From Pune buses are available from Shivaji Nagar bus station.

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Lenyadri

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Among the ‘ashtavinayakas’ (8 Ganeshas) of Maharashtra, references of Lenyadri can be found in the ‘Ganesh Purana’ as a Jeernapur or Lekhanparvat. These are Buddhists caves carved out in the hills near Junnar. In one of these caves is an image Girijatmaj Ganesh which is very unique among all the ashtavinayakas since it has been carved out of the cave wall and can be seen from the rear only.

According to a legend from the Puranas, Parvati, daughter of Himavana, desired Vinayaka to be her son. To fulfill this wish she rendered penance in the cave of Lenyadri for 12 years. During this time she created an image of Ganesh from clay and started worshipping it. Lord Ganesh was pleased and stood in front of Parvati in the form of a small child. The child had six hands, three eyes and a beautiful body. Further, this child, called Girijatmaj Ganesh, performed penance for a furthermore 12 years and it is said that in his childhood he defeated many demons and protected the ‘rishis’ from trouble. He also tamed Shesh, Yama and Indra at Lenyadri and stayed here for another 15 years before vanishing from the cave.

To visit Lenyadri, located about 8 kilometers from Junnar, you have to climb 283 steps carved out of stone. The shrine here is nothing but a rock-cut cave at the entrance of which are eight pillars with carvings of elephants and lions. Next to these pillars is a big hall. In the south-facing cave there are 18 niches carved on the right side of the sanctum. Here, there is no separate image of Ganesh but a rock-cut image on one wall which is adorned with ‘sindoor’. Devotees can only see the back of Ganesh. Assuming that the face can be seen from the other side of the hill, there are some who have tried to traverse the hill. However, this is dangerous, especially because of the many honeycombs on the hill.

There are two small water cisterns near the temple cave. Descending a few steps on the western side will bring you to a ‘stupa’, known as the mace of Bhima, the hero from the legend of ‘Mahabharata’. On the top of this hill is a small and tiny shrine of Shiva, called Hatakeshwar, which is also a favourite with trekkers. The rituals at Lenyadri are performed by the Chinchwad Trust and a festival is celebrated on the 4th day of the Hindu months Bhadrapad and Magh. These include religious rituals like ‘sahastravartan’, ‘kirtan’ and ‘mahapooja’.

Things to Do

Fort Shivneri

This is the birthplace of the Maratha ruler Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and is just 8 kilometers from Lenyadri. You will find here an impressive statue of child Shivaji with his mother Jijabai. The temple of Shivai Devi, the goddess the fort, can be seen en route. While climbing the fort one has to cross seven doorways. There is also another route called the ‘Sakhalichi Vaat’. You will also come across some ancient rock-cut caves while climbing up the fort.

Nane Ghat

This is a part of an ancient trade route that begins from Pratishthan (Paithan) and goes to Shurparaka (Nalasopara). It has a huge rock-cut cave carved out by the Satavahana queen Naganika. There is an inscription in the Brahmi script on the three walls of this cave which enumerates the different sacrifices (yajnyas)’ performed by the queen and the list of donations given at that time. Naneghat is a trekkers’ paradise and also worth a visit are the forts of Jeevdhan, Chavand and Hadsar in its vicinity. A village called Poor, 15 kilometers from Naneghat, has a temple called as Kukadeshvar which is known for its sculptures carved out in stone.

Khodad

The place is known for having the world’s largest giant meter wave radio telescope (GMRT). Located about 20 kilometers from Lenyadri, the telescope has 30 antennas, each with a diameter of 45 meters.

Ozar, another Ganesha from the Ashtavinayak is just 10 kms away from Lenyadri. Also in the vicinity is the picturesque Malshej Ghat and the fort of Narayangad

How to reach:

By Air:

The nearest airport is at Pune

By Rail:

The nearest railway station is Pune.

By Road:

There are ample buses available for Junnar from Pune and Mumbai. Lenyadri is just 8 kms. From Junnar and the state transport buses as well as private vehicles are available in ample numbers.

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Parali Vaijnath Temple

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A renowned town in Beed district, Parali is identified by the presence of the Vaijnath Temple, a ‘jyotirlinga’ temple on a small hill that attracts a large number of devotees all through the year. Parali is also known for a thermal power station. That apart, the small town provides a unique flavour of a laid-back atmosphere that is in stark contrast to the ‘life in a fast lane’ culture of most metro cities.

Out of the 12 ‘jyotirlingas’ of Lord Shiva, five are situated in Maharashtra. Parali Vaijanath is one of them. Being popular as a ‘jyotirlinga’ it attracts a constant stream of devotees throughout the year and especially so in the Hindu calendar month of Shravan when pilgrims come here to have ‘darshan’ of the auspicious ‘shivlinga’. Parali is a taluka in Beed district and is primarily known for the temple. Known as the Vaijanath Temple, it is built out of stone on a small hill and is surrounded by a wall that protects it from all sides.

Facing towards the east, the temple has two doors in the south and north directions. At the entrance is a large hall constructed out of teak wood. The complex has a spacious courtyard and a big corridor for circumambulation of the temple. While the exact date of the building of the temple is not known, experts feel that it belongs to the Yadava period that goes back to 12th or 13th century CE. There are records stating that the temple was renovated in the year 1706. The aesthetical and architectural beauty of the temple is enhanced with some ponds around the temple which too have religious significance. One of them is Harihara Teerth, the water of which is poured over the Shivlinga every Monday. This place defines the assimilation of the Shaiva and Vaishnava sects.

As is the case with any temple, the Vaijnath Temple too has its share of mythological tales. One such is the story of Satyavan and Savitri that is said to have taken place at Parali. Another story is that of Lord Vishnu helping the gods to obtain nectar from this region. There is also the legend from the Ramayana about Ravana halting here while on his way to Lanka with the Shivlinga. It is said that to be able to relieve himself, Ravana asked a herdsman to hold the Shivlinga for a while. However, the boy was unable to do so for long and placed it on earth, which is how the jyotirlinga happens to be here. The belief is that Shiva decided to reside here in the form of Vaidyanatheshwar. Even the story of Markandeyanugraha is said to have taken place at Parali.

Celebrations take place at Parali on several auspicious occasions such as Gudi Padawa, Vijaya Dashami, Tripuri Pournima and Mahashivaratri. Parali is well-connected by road from Beed, Parbhani and Ahmednagar. Parali is a railway station on the South Central Railway. State transport buses too are easily available from all over Maharashtra to Parali. Since this is a prominent pilgrimage centre, there are ample lodging facilities in the town and the Vaidyanath Mandir Committee has their own Bhakta Niwas and Yatri Niwas where rooms are available at very affordable rates.

How to reach:

By Air:

The nearest airport is at Aurangabad.

By Rail:

Parali Vaijanath is the nearest rail head.

By Road:

State transport buses ply regularly from Parbhani, Latur, Nanded, Pune and Mumbai.

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Aundhya Nagnath

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One of the most popular places on the pilgrimage circuit of Maharashtra, the temple of Aundhya Nagnath is not just famous for its rock-cut images but also for the fact that it is considered to be the eighth (‘aadya’) of the 12 ‘jyotirlingas’ in the country. The mythological name for this place is Darukavana and the highly decorated temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is a sight to behold.

Aundhya Nagnath is located in the Hingoli district of Marathwada and the present temple is said to have been built by the Yadavas of Devgiri, dating back to 13th century CE. The temple covers an area of about 7,000 square feet and the total area of the temple complex is about 60,000 square feet. Apart from its religious significance, the temple itself is worth seeing for its amazingly beautiful carvings. The temple architecture is said to be of Hemadpanti style i.e. the construction without mortar, and has on the exterior numerous images of Shiva, including Anugraha (blessing) and Sanhaar (destroying). Stories from the different ‘Puranas’, Ramayana and the Mahabharata are depicted on the temple walls.

The name of the place has been derived from a mythological tale. Daruka was a demon who used to trouble the residents of the area, making their lives miserable. The hermits prayed to Lord Shiva who granted them their wish of destroying the demon. It is said that before she died, the demon repented her deeds and requested Shiva that her name be remembered forever and be associated with that place. Shiva agreed and hence the name Darukavan.

The temple has intricate images of Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma and other deities. The main ‘garbhgruha’ (sanctum) is underground and it was probably built this way to save the temple from the invaders of that time. Upon entering the ‘sabhagruha’ you have to descend a few steps through a narrow channel of rock-cut steps. There is a chamber here that consists of four pillars in the midst of which is a ‘Shivlinga’ that is worshipped as the main deity. Some people believe, however, that Aundhya Nagnath does not have the real ‘Jyotirlinga’. But this is more a matter of belief and pilgrims continue to come here in large numbers.

The temple also has contemporary relevance due to its association with the famous saint poet Namdev. It was here that he met his guru, Visoba Khechar. Namdev was advised by Sant Dnyaneshwar to visit this temple and when he did so, he found Visoba resting with his feet on the sacred Shivlinga. Namdev asked him not to do so and in reply Visoba asked the saint-poet to place his feet where there would be no shivlinga. Namdev tried to put Visoba’s feet in many other places but each time he did so, ashivlinga would spring up. Thus the whole sanctum was filled with shivalingas and with this Visoba taught Namdev the omnipresence of god.

Aundhya Nagnath is easily accessible with state transport buses plying regularly from Parbhani, Aurangabad, and Hingoli. Parbhani is the nearest big town, about 50 kilometers away. The nearest railhead is also Parbhani. In terms of accommodation, there are limited lodging facilities at Aundhya Nagnath. It is therefore advisable to stay at Parbhani.

Things to Do

Hit the Holy Trail in Parbhani

There are many notable temples in Parbhani, which include Shree Motha Maruti (a temple of Lord Hanuman), Shree Supari Hanuman Mandir, Ashtbhuja Mandir, Pardeshwar Temple and the Beleshwar Mahadev Temple, known for the worship of Lord Mahadev (also known as Bhagwan Shankar). The Naag Temple is also present in Parbhani, near the Temple of Lord Shani. Shri Siddhivinayak Ganpati Temple at Vidyanagar is one of the important and famous temples in the city. Recently a temple of Goddess Maata Hingulambika has been constructed by the Bhavsar community behind Shri Datta Dham on Vasmath Road. The ‘dargah’ of Hazarat Turabul Haq Shah is also located in Parbhani. It consists of the tomb of this saint who lived here during the last days of his life.

See More Rock Images

Just 8 kilometers from Aundha Nagnath is Rajapur, where in a small temple you can see the rock-cut images of Saraswati, Narsimha and Ardhanarishwara. These are beautifully carved out of stone and adorned with ornaments.

How to reach:

By Air:

The nearest airport is at Aurangabad.

By Rail:

The nearest rail head is at Parbhani which is at 51kms from Aundhya Nagnath.

By Road:

State transport buses ply regularly from Parbhani, Latur, and Nanded.

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Vajreshwari

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Vajreshwari, the town named after the temple dedicated to goddess Vajreshwari Devi is known for its curative hot water springs emerging from the surrounding volcanic mountains. Vajreshwari Devi is an incarnation of goddess paravati. The ancient temple was supposed to have been built with the belief of the slaying of demon Kalikuli by the goddess. The temple was destroyed during the Portuguese invasion. Present temple is supposed to have been built in the year 1738 by Chimmaji Appa Peshwa, military commander of Peshwa Baji Rao I, who fought and won the Bassein (Vasai) Fort from the Portuguese. The temple is built like a fort.

The temple is located on the bank of Tansa River at the foothills of the Mandagiri hillock, which is supposed to have been formed out of volcanic eruptions, so as the surrounding hills. Due to proximity to the volcanic sites, hot water springs, scientifically attributed to volcanic activity, are spotted in and around the town. Hot springs rich in Sulphur and other minerals attract many visitors for a healthy dip throughout the year. Scenic surrounding made of the mountains, river and the forest adds to the visitors’ delight.

Pilgrims who visit the temple also have a holy bath in the springs, which are referred to as kundas in Sanskrit and are named after Hindu deities like Surya (sun-god), Chandra(moon-god), Agni (fire-god), Vayu (wind-god), Rama (Vishnu’s incarnation), Sita (Rama’s wife and incarnation of goddess Lakshmi – wife of Vishnu) and Lakshmana (Rama’s brother). Temple and the holy dips have converted the place into a pilgrimage center. Many small resorts, guesthouses and home stays offer accommodation and day change facilities for these pilgrims.

Tansa River, that supplies water to Greater Mumbai, has incorporated hot springs within its flow g through the town and people also bathe in the river for its healing properties. Local cuisine and culture can be enjoyed in the town that is a typical Marathi bastion with some some tribes of the neighboring forest.

The temple is surrounded by a stone wall like a fort. Fifty-two stone steps are to be climbed to reach the main shrine. A golden tortoise is carved on one of the steps and worshipped as Kurma, the tortoise incarnation of Vishnu.

Other sightseeing places in and around Vajreshwari Devi temple are Akloli’s ancient Shiva temple, Saibaba temple, Nityanand Swami Ashram, Shri. Gurudev Ashram, Parshuram Mandir, Akloli Kund and Pelhar Lake which is 3 kms from Vajreshwari Devi Temple.

Things to Do

Vasai Fort

Vasai fort, also known as Bassein fort, is situated about 48 kms north of Mumbai just across the Ulhas River. The fort built during Portuguese dynasty in 1535 was the inspiration for Vajreshwari temple’s architecture. There are seven churches and three chapels in the fort that has two gates-towards the East and the West. The fort incorporates fields that are used for growing grains and vegetables. Vasai fort served Portuguese as the headquarters of their Indian operations. Westward bound Mumbai local train can be taken to reach Vasai. The fort is about a 30 minutes drive away from Vasai Station (West).

Akloli

Akloli Kund at Akloli is another popular spot for dips. Main springs within the temple complex here are channeled into three neatly constructed cement tanks decorated with colourful tiles. Each pond has water of varying temperatures. The springs are surrounded by an ancient Shiva temple and a Saibaba temple. Being holy, the place is kept clean and hygienic. Ganeshpuri near Akloli has the ashram of late Swami Nithyananda, a learned guru.

Suruchi Beach

Suruchi Beach is an environment friendly clean beach in Vasai. Arnala Beach is a beautiful beach which has become one of the major attractions of the town today. The beach is surrounded by few magnificent churches. Vasai town would never ever get complete without this splendid beach, which has been attracting tourists from far and wide.

Kelva Beach

Kelva Beach – also known as Virgin Beach, it is a long (about 7 km) stretch of beautiful cost line of Arabian Sea surrounded by abundant Suru trees. It is located 8 kms from Palghar and 85 kms from Mumbai and can be reached by local train. Kelva has a fort and Sheetala Devi temple.

Jivdani Mata Mandir

Jivdani Mata Mandir at Virar is a popular temple of goddess Jivdani, built on a mountain. A climb of 1000 steps takes a visitor up to the temple. The mountain is also used by Para gliders for their activities. Papadkhandi dam and a fort of Shivaji Maharaj are other attractions here. A few resorts are available here for stay.

How to reach:

By Air:

Nearest Airport is Chhatrapati Shivaji Airport, Mumbai

By Rail:

Nearest rail station is Vasai. Vajreshwari is in Bhiwandi city of Thane district and is 31 km away from the rail station at Vasai. Hot springs are found at 21 places in a radius of 5 kilometers. Akloli is 3 kms from Vajreshwari

By Road:

State Transport buses ply regularly from Thane and Vasai to Vajreshwari and Akloli.

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Akkalkot

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A city and a municipal council in Solapur district, Akkalkot is situated 40 kilometers southeast of Solapur and very close to the border between Maharashtra and Karnataka. The city is known for being home to Shri Swami Samarth Maharaj, a 19th century saint who is believed by his devotees to be an incarnation of God Dattatreya. During the British Raj, Akkalkot was a princely state ruled by the royal Bhonsale dynasty.

At Akkalkot it is a very common sight indeed to find pilgrims making their way to the shrine complex of Shri Swami Samarth, continuously chanting his name. According to references found in the ‘Gurucharitra’, a religious text, Shri Nrusimh Sarasvati took ‘samadhi’ in 1458 CE and remained in that state for more than 300 years. With the passage of time a huge ant hill grew over him and he was lost to the outside world. One day, a woodcutter’s axe accidentally fell on the ant hill. He was shocked to find the axe draw blood. He therefore immediately cleared the ant hill and found there a person in deep meditation. This yogi and reincarnation of Dattatreya came to be known as Swami Samarth.

Swami then travelled all across the country and finally settled in Akkalkot. It was in 1856 CE, on a Wednesday, when he appeared at the Khandoba Mandir at Akkalkot. As per his devotees, Swami then looked older by age but there were no wrinkles on his body. He stood tall and healthy with his long hands touching his knees. His belly protruded and he had broad shoulders. His feet were long too. He adorned a sacred mark – a ‘tilak’ on his forehead – and he always wore a codpiece. He also had a rosary and crystal with him.

His teachings to his followers were very simple. “Once you meet the Supreme Master, meditate and focus upon him,” he would often say. He also exhorted his disciples to have firm belief in god because he alone exists everywhere in the universe and to earn a livelihood through sincere efforts. His words of assurance and courage to his followers were: Never be afraid of anything for I am always there to support you. Till date, his followers chant “Shri Swami Samarth, Jai Jai Swami Samarth.” In the months of April and May of 1863, and on the thirteenth day of the dark half of the lunar month of Chaitra as per the Hindu calendar, Swami Samarth breathed his last. He used to stay at the residence of his follower Cholappa, which has since then been converted into a temple and shrine dedicated to Swami Samarth.

The shrine complex is known as Vatavruksh Mandir since it encloses a Banyan tree beneath which the swami used to preach his message. Shri Swami Samarth Annachatra Mandal provides free accommodation and meals to pilgrims. That apart, Akkalkot continues to retain its link with the Bhonsales who ruled here. There is an exhibition of arms in the newly constructed palace of Fattesinh Bhonsale. Some of the other important places include the Balappa Math, Khandoba Mandir, Joshibuva Math, Mallikarjun Mandir and Hatti Tank. Shivpuri, just 3 kilometers away from Akkalkot, is known for Gajanan Maharaj and for the practice of the ancient Vedic therapy of ‘agnihotra’.

Things to Do

Pandharpur

Pandharpur is a prominent pilgrimage city, especially for the Varkari Sampraday, 105 kilometers from Akkalkot. The temple of Lord Vithoba is located on the banks of river Bhima. The month of Ashadh as per the Hindu calendar attracts the largest number of devotees to this bustling temple town. There are plenty of lodging and boarding facilities available here. A favourite of the pilgrims are the sugar-coated groundnuts served at the temple as ‘prasad’.

Tuljapur

Located 73 kilometers from Akkalkot, it has the well-known temple dedicated to Goddess Bhavani and is one of the ‘shakti peeths’ in Maharashtra. The temple has always enjoyed a special association with the Bhonsale clan to which Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj belonged. Goddess Bhavani was the family deity of the Bhonsales. The festival of Navaratri is celebrated here with a lot of grandeur.

Solapur

Located at the distance of 40 k.m.s Solapur is the district headquarter of the district of the same name.It is a hub for the tourists to go to important tourist destinations like Pandharpur, Akkalkot etc.

How to reach:

By Air:

The nearest airport is at Pune.

By Rail:

The nearest rail head is Akkalkot road.

By Road:

Akkalkot is a prominent place for the followers of Dattatreya cult. It is well connected with the state transport buses from Pune, Mumbai, Solapur and the other major cities of the state.

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Ranjangaon

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Earlier known as Manipur, Ranjangaon near Pune is believed to have been created by none other than Lord Shiva. This was after Shiva prayed to Ganesha to make him victorious in a battle with the demon Tripurasur. It is said that this incident took place on the day of Tripuri Pournima, following which Shiva set up Ganesha’s idol in the form of ‘Mahaganapati’. The temple here is now known by that name. It is one of the ‘ashtavinayakas’ (8 Ganeshas) of Maharashtra.

There are several references to Ranjangaon in the Puranas and according to one of the legends Rishi Grutsamada was an ardent devotee of Ganesha. A boy was born out of his sneeze. This red-skinned boy, named Tripurasur, was highly ambitious and cruel too. Grutsamada asked him to worship Lord Ganesha who, pleased with the boy’s devotion, gifted him three cities of gold, silver and iron. Inflated with pride at the grant of this gift, Tripurasur then conquered heaven, hell and earth in his quest for absolute power. The people residing there prayed to Lord Shiva and requested him to relieve them from the demonic ways of Tripurasur. Shiva pitched a fierce battle but could not wield control over the demon because of having forgotten to ask for Ganesha’s blessings before the commencement of the battle. He then prayed to Ganesha to grant him victory. Thus blessed, he destroyed the three cities of the demon with a single arrow.

Located on the Pune-Ahmednagar highway, 51 kilometers from Pune, the majestic temple is the fourth in the ‘ashtavinayaka’ circuit. It faces east and has a huge entrance with two large-sized ‘dwarapalas’ on either side. The temple is designed in such a way that during ‘dakshinayan’ and ‘uttarayan’ (movement of the sun to the south and north) the rays of the sun fall directly on the deity. The sanctum of this temple was constructed by Thorale Madhavrao Peshwa and the hall by Sardar Kibe of Indore. The image of Mahaganapati is seated, faces east and has his trunk to the left. The forehead of the deity is exceptionally broad. Here, Bhadrapad Chaturthi is celebrated in a big way. Ranjangaon is also an industrial hub and home to many manufacturing set-ups.

Things to Do

Yadava Period Temple

Just 4 kilometers from Ranjangaon is a Yadava period temple in the village of Pimpri Dumala. The temple is known for its intricate carvings. It also has a pond with steps leading to the water. With its ancient Banyan trees and tranquil atmosphere, the place is a favourite with those seeking respite from urban chaos.

Potholes at Nighoj

A natural wonder, the potholes at Nighoj are just 30 kilometers from Ranjangaon. These were created by immense water force and stones on the river bed over a long period of time.

How to reach:

By Air:

The nearest airport is at Pune

By Rail:

The nearest railway station is at Pune

By Road:

This place is en route Pune Aurangabad highway hence all the buses of state transport stops at the Ranjangaon. Ample of buses are available from the Shivajinagar bus station of Pune.

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Siddhivinayak Temple

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With the firm belief that nothing new should ever be embarked upon without invoking the blessings of Lord Ganesh, the Shree Siddhivinayak Ganapati Temple at Prabhadevi is understandably the most popular of places of worship in Mumbai. It was but a humble consecration by Mrs. Deubai Patil in early 19th century that is supposed to have started attracting hordes of worshippers soon after India’s independence to ‘Siddhivinayak’, as it is popularly known.

Located at Prabhadevi in central Mumbai, the temple’s idol of Shree Siddhivinayak was carved out of a single black stone with the trunk on the right. This is considered a rather unusual appearance of Lord Ganesh. The upper right and left hands hold a lotus and an axe respectively while the lower right and left hands hold a rosary (japmala) and a bowl full of ‘modak’ respectively. On the forehead of the deity is an eye, which almost looks like the third eye of Lord Shiva. On both sides of the Lord Ganesh idol are placed one idol each of goddesses Riddhi and Siddhi and it is because of these two deities along with that of Lord Ganesh that the temple is called the Siddhivinayak Ganapati Temple. These goddesses signify sanctity, success, wealth and prosperity.

The wooden doors to the sanctum are carved with images of the Ashtavinayak (the eight manifestations of Ganesha in Maharashtra). The inner roof of the sanctum is plated with gold. Consecrated on November 19, 1801, the original structure of the Siddhivinayak Temple was a small 3.6 meter x 3.6 meter square brick structure with a dome-shaped brick ‘shikhara’. The temple was built by a contractor called Laxman Vithu Patil and was funded by Mrs. Deubai Patil so that Lord Ganesh should grant children to barren women.

An additional five-storied temple complex has been built over the years and special ‘pujas’ are performed on the mezzanine floor. The fourth floor houses a library and a reading room while the kitchen and dining area are on the top floor. A dedicated enclosure inside the temple is for Hanuman, whose statue was unearthed during a road construction project in 1952. It is believed that the two big silver mice statues in the main hall grant the wishes of the faithful if they whisper their requests into their ears.

Interestingly, the temple has adopted modern eco-friendly techniques of rainwater harvesting and is self-sufficient in energy with its own solar unit. The daily floral waste is recycled as compost. At the temple’s entrance are many shops that sell flowers, fruits and sweets that are bought as offerings to the god. Packets of ‘prasad’ containing ‘laddus’ and coconut ‘barfi’ are available at the temple’s outlet within the complex.

Shree Siddhivinayak Ganapati Temple
Prabhadevi,
Mumbai 400 028
Tel: +91 022 24373626
Email: eo@siddhivinayak.org

Siddhivinayak Temple e – mail Address:
svl@vsnl.com
info@siddivinayak.org
admin@siddivinayak.org

Tuesday is a special day to visit the temple but is also the most crowded. Saturdays and Sundays are crowded too. Call the temple reception office on + 91(022) 24373626 (10am to 5 pm) and find out about crowd status. There is a PRO office just inside the main gate where NRIs and foreigners will get assistance and guidance.

Things to Do

Visit the Neighborhood

In the vicinity of the temple are two interesting places that you could visit. One is the Shivaji Park, the city’s largest park that has historical and cultural value because of the political and social gatherings it has witnessed, both in pre- and post-independence Mumbai. The park is named after the legendary 17th century warrior king, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and was created in 1925 by the Mumbai Municipal Corporation. The grand statue of Shivaji in the park is one of the very few statues in which the Maratha king is depicted without having drawn out his sword. Instead, Shivaji is shown simply leading the way with his arm outstretched. The other place of interest is the Ravindra Natya Mandir which is a preferred auditorium for drama and music groups to hold their shows.

Shop at the Dadar Market

A shopper’s paradise, the market at Dadar near the Plaza theatre is very famous for the purchase of day to day goods like the shopping bags, purses, clothes, sarees, dress materials, imitation jewelery and other such items

Explore Mumbai

If you are a first time visitor to Mumbai, the city has a lot to offer in terms of tourist attractions. From Caves dating to the first century BCE at Kanheri Borivali and Elephanta, a paradise of flora and fauna which is the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, a long list of museums as also shopping centres, beaches, places of spiritual interest for people of all faiths and even a Bollywood tour; Mumbai, the capital city of Maharashtra will provide a mesmerizing experience

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Mansar

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A town in the Ramtek tehsil of Nagpur district, Mansar is one of the prime archaeological sites in the country, known for many interesting excavations that have resulted in the discovery of various shrines, a palace complex identified as Pravarapura which was the capital of the Vakataka king Pravarasena II and an extensive temple complex. It’s a place that beckons historians, the curious and the tourists in equally large numbers.

Located 45 kilometers northeast of Nagpur city, Mansar shot into prominence when in 1972 an image of a deity, later identified as Shiva Vamana, was found from a hillock in this area, locally known as Hidimba Tekri. Important excavations were carried out at the ancient sites of Mansar since 1997-98 and so far five sites have been excavated that have yielded significant 5th century sculptures of Hindu deities, artefacts and some coins. The water reservoir around the site and findings of ancient tools and other objects point to the fact that a large population inhabited the area 1,600 years ago.

The site of Mansar has been excavated by Nagpur University, thereafter the Archaeological Survey of India and the Bodhisatva Nagarjuna Smarak Sansthava Anusandhan Kendra, Nagpur. The excavation revealed four cultural periods: Period I – Maurya-Sunga (300 BC to 200 BCE), Period II – Satvahana (200 BCE to 250 CE), Period III – Gupta-Vakataka (275 to 550 CE) and Period IV designated as the rule of Vishnukundin. The main dominating feature of the remains at Mansar is a huge palace complex built on a high raised solid brick platform with entrance from the west. It consists of many large and small rooms, surrounded by a lobby (corridor) between the inner and outer main walls of the palace.

The outer walls of the palace and the ‘adhistana’ (moulded platform) are embellished with pilaster mouldings which were lime-plastered with red and white colour alternately. The ‘kapota’ level was decorated with brick ‘makara’ figures at regular intervals. The palace was fortified by a massive brick wall on all four sides. The fortification wall in the east and south had a moat whereas the north and west were surrounded by a huge tank. The most striking feature of the structures here is its intriguing terraced arrangement with a number of straight and curving steps, arrays of round brick projections of various heights and sizes. Frequently, brick surfaces have been reshaped through patterns of incuse lozenges devised by means of moulded bricks.

The excavations have further revealed evidence of symbolic human sacrifice. Sites on the hill within the same complex called Hadimba Tekdi have revealed a Buddhist ‘stupa’ built on solid bedrock with rammed earth and 38 raised courses. The staircases were provided on the eastern side to approach the stupa. Another box pattern brick stupa was built over the original one and has rectangular boxes filled up with small boulders, bricks and earth. The base and knob of a limestone relic casket was found in the stupa. The stupa and ‘chaityagriha’ belong to the Maurya-Sunga period of about 300 BC to 200 BC.

A Shiva temple was found built in bricks on one of the hillocks that consists of an octagonal sanctum provided with black granite ‘linga’, ‘antarala’ and ‘mandapa’ with approach steps. The Shiva temple belongs to the Vakataka period. On the western and southern side of the main complex a row of 16 brick-built Shiva shrines were found placed on three terraces approached by a flight of steps. Out of these, six have ‘shivalingas’. The excavations here have revealed a number of beautiful sculptures like Vaman-Shiva (now in the National Museum), ‘trinetra’ Parvati, a turbaned male head, Shiva-Parvati with bull, a Narshimha riding on Garuda and Kartikeya riding a peacock, etc.

Things to Do

Visit the Fort

The fort of Ramtek, the temples within and a sculpture of Trivikrama are within 10 kilometers from the site of Mansar. The condition of the road is good, offers a pleasant drive for an hour or so one can stay at Nagpur and plan a one-day return trip of Mansar-Ramtek. A MTDC resort and PWD guesthouse at Ramtek offer accommodation by the side of the spectacular Khindasi Lake.

How to reach:

By Air:

The nearest airport is at Nagpur. Mansar is 40 kms away from Nagpur.

By Rail:

Nagpur Railway Station is major railway station 36 km from to Mansar. Ramtek Railway Station (near to Ramtek) , Amdi Halt Railway Station (near to Ramtek) are the Railway stations reachable from nearby towns.

By Road:

Ramtek is the nearby town to Mansar having road connectivity to Mansar. From Mumbai, take the NH6 and continue. It will take around 11 hours to reach Mansar from Mumbai.

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Lonar Crater

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A town in the Buldhana district of Vidarbha, Lonar’s claim to fame is the huge meteor crater that is not only visually dramatic but also of ecological and scientific interest. It is made all the more interesting because the crater is believed to have references in the most ancient Indian texts such as the Valmiki Ramayan. And in addition to the crater, Lonar in itself is a beautiful place, just ideal for a short break to get away from urban pressures.

Lonar is situated around 550 kilometers from Mumbai and 160 kilometers from Aurangabad, a little more than a four-hour drive from the famous Ajanta Caves. Most tourists come here to see the crater, now considered a rich heritage site. Ranked among the world’s five largest craters and the third-largest salt water lake in the world, the crater was first discovered in 1823 by a British officer, C J E Alexander.

For ages there was much debate over whether the crater had been created by a meteor or whether it has a volcanic origin because of its perfectly round basin-like structure with definite edges. Geologists, for quite some time, were in favour of the volcanic theory but recent research has proved that it was definitely created out of the impact of a meteor due to the typical glassy material found around the crater, created due to the heat generated at that time.

The crater, and the lake at its centre, has also been associated with the distant past. It has, for example, a reference as Panchapsar in the Valmiki Ramayan and has been later written about by the epic poet Kalidas 16 centuries ago. He too has termed it the lake Panchapsar in his famous text, Raghuvansh. According to mythological lore, when Lord Rama was flying overhead on his way from Sri Lanka to Ayodhya, his capital, he showed his beloved Queen Sita the crater, which looked like a moon among clouds. Researchers are of the opinion that he was definitely referring to the lake at Lonar. As for the name Panchaspar, it has been derived from the fact that there are five different streams that feed the lake. The Lonar crater also finds a mention in ‘Ain-e-Akbari’ which was authored during the later Mughal period.

Further, the crater finds a link with the Daitya Sudan Mandir in Lonar. As per a folk tale, Lonarasur, a demon, used to stay in the crater’s saline waters. Vishnu, the god known for sustaining life, killed the demon in the Lonar Lake. Inspired by this story, one of the Chalukya kings built the magnificent Daitya Sudan Mandir. This 6th century masterpiece still remains among the finest sculptures of ancient times and serves as an example of the impressive architectural sensibilities that were prevalent during those times. At Lonar you will also find many other temples such as the Shankar-Ganesh Mandir, Wagh-Mahadev Mandir and Ambarkhana Sun Temple.

For those drawn to study how temples were built in the old days, the ones in Lonar may be of special interest because they used the Hemadpanthi style of architecture i.e. constructed without the use of cementing agents. At the lake itself, one of the amazing sights is that of the hundreds of peafowl which live inside the crater. Snakes, monitor lizard, mongoose, fox and deer are some of the other wild life sightings possible in the vicinity of the crater.

Things to Do

Shegaon

Earlier known as Shivgaon because of the presence of a temple of Lord Shiva, Shegaon mainly draws the faithful to the ‘samadhi’ of Sant Shri Gajanan Maharaj. A holy man, he brought about tremendous change in the lives of many people with his spiritual knowledge and power within a short period of 32 years. In 1908 he drew a line to his incarnated life and also hinted at exactly the place where his final resting place would be. The temple is now a source of inspiration and spiritual insight for millions of devotees.

Ajanta Caves

Ajanta is located 107 kilometers from Aurangabad and 60 kilometers from Jalgaon. A cluster of 32 Buddhist caves not far from a medieval village of the same name, the site is a protected monument in the care of the Archaeological Survey of India. Moreover, since 1983, the Ajanta Caves have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Ellora Caves

One of the most fascinating archaeological sites in Maharashtra, Ellora dates back to the Rashtrakuta dynasty, about 1,500 years ago, and is the epitome of Indian rock-cut architecture. The 34 caves are actually structures excavated out of the vertical face of the hills of Charanandri and you will find here evidence of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain ‘viharas’ and ‘mathas’ which tell the story of how social and economic order was often represented through religion. A protected site under the aegis of the Archaeological Survey of India, Ellora’s Cave 16 popularly known as Kailash Temple, has been given the status of a World Heritage Site.

Bibi ka Maqbara

A smaller tribute to the same architectural sensibility that gave form to the Taj Mahal at Agra, Bibi-ka-Maqbara is the final resting place of Dilras Banu Begum (1622-1657). Known posthumously as Rabia-ud-Daurani (Rabia of the Age), Dilras Banu was the first wife of Emperor Aurangzeb, the last of the great Mughal emperors.

How to reach:

By Air:

The nearest international airport is at Mumbai.
Aurangabad is the nearest airport, located about 122 km away and is well connected to major Indian cities.

By Rail:

Aurangabad is the nearest major railhead. It is connected to cities like Mumbai, Pune, Nashik, Madurai, Bhopal and Delhi by regular train service. Aurangabad is located about 145 km. away. Jalna is another railhead, located about 102 km away.

By Road:

Reaching Lonar by road is most convenient and preferable. State transport buses ply regularly to Lonar from Aurangabad, Mumbai, Pune, Alibag and Daman. Aurangabad, the nearest city, is also well connected to several cities.

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Koppeshvara

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At Khidrapur, close to Kolhapur, the multi-dimensional temple of Koppeshvara is more than just an aesthetic achievement; it reflects the deeply felt spiritual understanding of the architect and the depth and range of its all-encompassing narrative in stone.

A small town on the Maharashtra-Karnataka border, Khidrapur, located approximately 60 kilometers from Kolhapur, is best known for its magnificent Koppeshvara Mandir which dates back nearly a 1,000 years to between the 11th and 12th centuries CE. It is remarkable for its Shilahara style. Legend has it that the temple was built to placate Lord Shiva’s rage after his consort Sati immolated herself, giving the temple the name Koppeshvara. However, inscriptions found carved in the temple appear to mention a village called Koppam, thus logically making Koppeshvara the local deity.

The first striking feature about the temple, situated at the confluence of the rivers Krishnaveni and Kuweni, is its stunning plinth base. Standing on this intricately carved base or ‘adisthana’ are 92 carved elephants, roughly a meter high each. The plinth and the elephants together form the base for the entire temple. These majestic creatures are shown shouldering the burden of the superstructure and also serving as mounts to various gods who are seated on their backs. Each elephant is separated from the next with a carved figure of a ‘surasundari’, each beauty standing on her own plinth. This kind of plinth or ‘jagati’ of a structural temple is rare. Some consider Koppeshvara as a miniature replica of the plinth of the world famous Kailasa at Ellora in Aurangabad district.

This sacred structure consists of a sanctum, an antechamber, almost of the same size as that of the sanctum, a closed hall which has impressive entrances to the south, north and east and a slightly detached octagonal mandapa known locally as swargamandapa as it open out to the sky and seems to let the heavens in.

Inside, the ‘garbhagriha’ (sanctum) is square with three unusual smaller chambers, the entrances of which are flanked by female doorkeepers. The ‘shivalinga’ is known as Koppeshvara. The dome of the ceiling is supported by the eight figures on the pilasters and four corner figures. Both the chambers and these figures are the special features of the sanctum. The doorjambs are decorated with scroll and bead design at the foot of which are carved the figures of deities. The ‘gudhamandapa’ (closed hall) can be approached through the eastern main door. This is flanked by pillars, one at each side, and at its foot are ‘vyala’ figures in small niches.

Koppeshvara is worth visiting not only for its aesthetic aspects but also for the well-integrated imagery of its sculptural scheme. The architect has achieved a balance between the southern and the northern side of the structure by pairing two opposite or complementary deities such as Ganesha and Saraswati – both related to learning or Brahma flanked by Savitri and Gayatri and Vishnu with Lakshmi and Bhudevi on two sides of the hall, both facing the east and honouring the main deity Shiva in the centre, i.e. in the sanctum. Further, the selection of two scenes – one from the Ramayana and the other from the Mahabharata – indicate the artist’s depth of knowledge and the symbolic importance of the temple.

How to reach:

By Air:

The nearest airport is at Pune.

By Rail:

Miraj and Kolhapur are the nearest railway stations.

By Road:

Khidrapur is about 60 kms away from Kolhapur and 32 kms from Miraj. State transport buses ply regularly between these cities to Khidrapur.

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Kaas Pathar

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If ever you have wished to be surrounded by a bounty of colourful flowers and nothing else for quite a distance, the Kaas Plateau is where you should be. Just 25 kilometers from the bustling city lies this pristine and wonderfully unique ecosystem nestled in the Sahyadri Mountains. The metamorphosis that takes place here during the monsoon season is like witnessing Mother Nature unfolding a miracle for the world to be astounded with.

Known as the ‘Plateau of a Million Flowers’, Kaas has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the reason is quite clear – it is acknowledged as home to endemic life forms that are found nowhere else in the world! But what truly amazes, and presents a breathtakingly colourful picture, is the blossoming of thousands of flowers during the monsoon season when the plateau becomes covered with sheets and drapes of innumerable tiny flowering plants in a riot of yellows, pinks, blues, purples, and so on. The show that starts sometime late in July continues, changing dramatically, throughout August and into September.

The making of this very special place can be traced to the time when it was part of the Deccan Plateau which had 29 volcanic lava flows across 20 crore years. With every eruption, a new layer of lava flowed from the land’s fissures and spread horizontally over the already weathered older strata. When the flow of magma finally stopped, the action of many water streams and huge rivers began, eroding the flat land mass and forming deep valleys and gorges, thereby giving it its present form. With the arrival of the southwest monsoon clouds, the region receives up to 2,500 mm of rainfall in just about three months. The water that accumulates from this catchment finds its way into the Kaas Lake, which is the source of the river Urmodi. It is due to this life-giving rain that the thin layer of red soil suddenly erupts in a profusion of flowers.

Soon enough, the land is covered with the golden-hued Smithias and Sonkis. Not to be left behind are the carpets of pink, lavender and purple of the Balsams. Then there is the dazzling white from the blooms of Gend – Eriocaulon with their head-like flowers. In contrast is the peach of Murdania, which has spectacular sheen of gold dust on its petals. Adding to the colour purple is Seeta’s Tears or Utricularia, which have small bladders around their roots. Tiny insects, attracted to these bladders, get trapped, thus providing the plant with nitrogen and phosphorus. Taking this glamorous show forward is the universe of the ground orchids, including Habeneria digitata with its greenish-yellow flowers. Some of the other unique species found here include the Ceropegia, whose lantern-like appearance gives it its appropriate vernacular name of ‘Kandil Kharchudi’.

However, the story of Kaas would remain incomplete without a mention of the ubiquitous Pleocaulus ritchei, known in vernacular terms as ‘Topli Karvi (basket kept upside down). This plant flowers only once in its lifetime of eight years. And yet when it blossoms, it is a sight to behold with baskets of purple flowers swaying in the breeze. And with so many plants coming to life, the landscape also buzzes with bees, butterflies, insects and frogs for whom the plants provide yet another cycle of life.

Things to Do

Satara

A small district in western Maharashtra, Satara has an incredible historical background. Places like Karad, Pateshwar, Mahuli, Rajpuri Caves, Bavdhan and Yeradwadi reveal its antiquity. Forts like Pandavgad, Sadashivgad, Vasantgad, Vasota and Ajinkyatara are very popular tourist sites. It is home to places like Adalatwada, Rajawada, Bansapuri-Math, and Char-Bhinti. Furthermore, 97 temples and seven lakes add to the beauty of this region. The other attraction in the city is the Chhatrapati Shivaji Museum. This museum holds artefacts like weapons, clothes and glass paintings from the 17th and 18th century. The descendants of the royal Bhosale family still live in Satara. Satara is also nicknamed the ‘district of power’ because of the giant Koyna hydroelectric plant along with smaller dams like Dhom, Kanher and Urmudi. Not to be missed is the district’s famous sweet delicacy known as ‘Kandi Pedhe’.

How to reach:

By Air:

The nearest airport is at Pune.

By Rail:

Satara station is 30 kms away from Kaas. Satara is connected to most of the cities.

By Road:

From Mumbai, take the Mumbai-Pune Express way to Pune and then take the highway 47 to Satara and turn on to the Kaas road. Several private buses and State transport buses ply to Satara from many big cities in Maharashtra and Goa.

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Markandi Temple

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If unique art motifs in temples are what attract you, the group of temples of Markandi or Markanda Deva in Gadchiroli district of Vidarbha would be worth a visit for they certainly stand as an embodiment of the finest traditions of sculptural and architectural art of the Vidarbha region. Also, the surrounding landscape of small hillocks and the river flowing below have made Markandi a pleasing tourist attraction.

Located about 216 kilometers southeast of Nagpur, the village Markandi is believed to have acquired the name probably after the main temple of Shiva at the site, known as Markanda Deva or Markandi. The group of temples here is situated on the eastern periphery of the village and has acquired sanctity over the years as it stands on the bank of the perennial and holy river Wainaganga. The main temple in the group is assigned to Markanda Rishi. The ‘Puranas’ also refer to Markandeya, the son of Mrikanda, to whom another temple in the complex is dedicated. Markandeya is referred to in several of the Puranas and it is stated that he was very famous and long-lived. He is believed to have practiced severe penance to get the favours of Shiva.

Four of the 20 temples viz Markanda Rishi, Yamadharma, Mrikanda Rishi and Shankara Temple are still well preserved. Of these, the main temple draws the maximum number of devotees as well as tourists and connoisseurs of art. Unlike any of the temples not only in Vidarbha but also in Maharashtra, the exterior of this temple is full of lavishly carved sculptures. It has human sculptures modeled with rhythm and grace, and the images of gods and goddesses represent interesting aspects in iconography.

In fact, some of the imagery found here has unique characteristics. As for example, the image depicting Lord Ganesha engaged in dance. It occupies a prominent place on the south face of the temple and is one of the most enchanting icons in the entire range. Here, Ganesha is shown holding a battle axe, tooth, serpent, flower, etc. Equally fascinating is the image of Saraswati who is shown with six arms with a lotus flower in her upper right; rosary in her lower right; the third right playing upon a musical instrument; the middle left with a manuscript; and the lower left having a fruit. She is seen wearing all her usual ornaments of which the armlets are noteworthy. The peacock, her mount, is shown in a shallow niche below her.

It is said that when Bibhishan, the brother of Ravan, the prince of the Rakshasas, was sick, Hemadpant, the minister of the Yadavas, cured him and the grateful patient told him to ask for a wish. Hemadpant asked for the aid of Rakshasas to build temples wherever he might require them. The boon was granted but on condition that the Rakshasas were not to work for more than one night at a time. Hemadpant accordingly built all the temples at Markanda, Bhandak, Neri, etc., in one night. This is a legend told about the temples of Hemadpanti origin in this district as also the rest of Maharashtra.

How to reach:

By Air:

Nearest airport is at Nagpur.

By Rail:

The nearest railway station is at Chandrapur, 80 km from Gadchiroli. The distance between Markandi and Gadchiroli is about 30 kms.

By Road:

From Mumbai, it’s a long drive via Nashik, Aurangabad, Jalna, Yavatmal and Chandrapur before finally reaching the town of Markanda.
From Nagpur, Markanda is a pleasant three and a half hour drive via the Nagbhir-Nagpur highway.

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Ellora

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One of the most fascinating archaeological sites in Maharashtra, Ellora dates back to about 1,500 years ago, and is the epitome of Indian rock-cut architecture. The 34 caves are actually Buddhist, Hindu and Jain religious monuments carved in the rock. They were given the status of World heritage Site in 1983.

Created between the 6th and 10th century, the 12 Buddhist, 17 Hindu and 5 Jain caves carved in proximity at Ellora are proof of the religious harmony prevalent during this period of Indian history.

Buddhist Caves

All the Buddhist caves were carved in the period 6th – 7th centuries CE. These structures consist mostly of ‘viharas’ or monasteries. Some of these monastery caves have shrines including carvings of Gautama Buddha and ‘bodhisattvas’.

Of these, Cave 5 is one of the most important and unique caves in India and can be dated to mid-6th century CE. It consists of a long hall with two benches running for over 18 meters in the centre. This cave was most probably used for group recitation of various Buddhist sutras. Further, Cave 10 is popularly known as Vishvakarma’s (the architect of gods) cave because of its intricate carvings. There is a huge Buddha image placed in front of the ‘stupa’ covering the base and the drum part of the stupa.One of the unique features of this cave is its rock-cut balcony.

The other two important caves are 11 and 12, known as Don Taal and Teen Taal respectively. Both are three-storied and serve as prime examples of esoteric monastic Buddhist architecture.

Hindu Caves

These caves were excavated during the rule of the Kalachuri, Chalukya and Rashtrakuta rulers. Of these, Caves 14, 15, 16, 21 and 29 are not to be missed caves. Cave 14 consists of the sculptural panels of numerous Hindu deities. Cave 15 can be reached after climbing a few steps. This cave has numerous noteworthy sculptures carved on the interior walls which still have some traces of plaster left suggesting the paintings on the sculptures. Cave 16, also known as the Kailasa is the unrivalled centre piece of Ellora. It looks like a multi-storied temple complex, but it was carved out of one single rock. The courtyard has two life size statues of elephants and two tall victory pillars. There are columned galleries decorated with huge sculpted panels of a variety of deities in the side walls. There are a few beautiful traces of paintings in the porch of the hall on the upper storey.

The Rameshwar cave i.e. Cave 21 is famous for some of the most beautiful sculptures at Ellora. On either side of the cave are images of Ganga and Yamuna. Locally known as Sita ki Nahani the Cave 29 is also unique in plan and elevation. Resembling the great cave at Elephanta in plan this cave also has some of the impressive sculptures at the site.

Jaina Caves

These caves are clustered in five excavations and numbered 30 to 34. Apart from these, there are six more Jaina caves on the opposite face of this hill. All of these caves belong to the Digambara sect of Jainism. One caves worth a visit includes Cave 32 or Indra Sabha. The lower storey of this cave lies unfinished, while the upper storey is one of the largest and most elaborate caves with beautiful pillars, large sculptural panels and paintings on its ceiling.

Of all the caves at Ellora, the Jaina caves have the largest number of paintings still extant on ceilings and side walls.

Things to Do

Stay in Aurangabad

While you may visit the Ajanta and Ellora caves, it is always good to stay at Aurangabad, known as the City of Gates. Named after Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, the city has now been declared as the ‘Tourism Capital of Maharashtra’. The fifth largest city in Maharashtra, it has several entertaining options for tourists including caves in the city itself as also the Daulatabad Fort.

Study Mughal Architecture

To get an understanding of how and why Mughal architecture was so very different, plan a visit to Bibi Ka Maqbara, situated about 3 kilometers from the city. This is the burial place of Emperor Aurangzeb’s wife, Dilras Banu Begum, also known as Rabia-ud-Daurani. It is an imitation of the Taj Mahal at Agra and due to its similar design, it is popularly known as the ‘Taj of the Deccan’. The ‘maqbara’ stands in the middle of a spacious and formally planned Mughal garden with axial ponds, fountains, water channels, broad pathways and pavilions. Behind the mausoleum is located a small archaeological museum.

See the Water Dance

Panchakki, meaning a water mill, is located about 1 kilometer from the city, and is a 17th century creation that intrigues for its underground water channel, which traverses more than 8 kilometers to its source in the mountains. The channel culminates in a mesmerising artificial waterfall that powers the mill. The beauty of the mosque housed in the inner enclosure is enhanced by a series of dancing water fountains.

Be With the Birds

If you like nature at its best, and particularly birds, go to the Salim Ali Sarovar, popularly known as Salim Ali Talab, which is located near Delhi Gate, opposite Himayat Bagh in Aurangabad. During the Mughal period it was known as Khiziri Talab. It has been renamed after the great ornithologist and naturalist Salim Ali and has a bird sanctuary and a garden.

Savour Local Cuisine

When in Aurangabad, don’t forget to taste the local delicacy called the ‘Naan Qalia’ a meat dish cooked in special herbs and spices.

How to reach:

By Air:

The nearest airport is Aurangabad which has daily flights to major Indian cities.

By Rail:

Aurangabad railway station is well connected to most cities.The Aurangabad Jan Shatabdi Express is a daily fast train to Mumbai.

By Road:

Ellora is about 30 km from Aurangabad. Buses, rickshaws and taxis ply regularly between the two.

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Elephanta

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As you stand at Mumbai’s most well-known spot of tourist interest – the Gateway of India – the most overwhelming desire you will experience is to step into a boat and explore the Arabian Sea. But this need not just be a whim. It can serve a purpose too if you take the ride to visit the Elephanta Island which is just 10 kilometers from Mumbai. Not only is the island host to a bounty of nature in the form of lush plantations of palm, mango and tamarind trees but is also home to ancient cave temples that have been carved out of rock and which have been declared a World Heritage Site.

The Elephanta Island has a tiny population of just about 1,200 residents who are mainly engaged in growing rice, fishing, and repairing boats. But the historical legacy of the place is another story altogether. This island was once the capital of a powerful local kingdom and now has three small villages occupied by the ‘kolis’ (fishermen) and the farmers who have, despite the close proximity to the commercial capital of India, carried on with their traditional way of living. Interestingly, the island was so named after a more or less life-size sculpture of an elephant along with a sculpture of a horse was unearthed from here.

Of particular interest are two hills on the island, known as the Gun Hill and the Stupa Hill. The former derives its name from the presence of two canons of the British period placed on its top. These canons must have played a vital role in the defense of the Mumbai Fort. This is also the main hill on the island where a total of five Shaiva caves were excavated in mid-6th century CE. The Stupa Hill has the remains of a Buddhiststupa. It is completely covered with earth and referred to as the archeological mound of a brick stupa. These caves along with the unspoiled beauty of the place make for a perfect one-day excursion out of Mumbai. This site was included in the list of World Heritage Sites of India in 1987.

Exploring the Caves

At the Gun Hill, the main cave is a masterpiece of art and architecture. This is the largest and most impressive cave and reflects an affiliation to the esoteric Pashupata sect of the Shaiva system, the revival of which was supposed to have been done by Lakulisha, the great preacher. He is considered as an incarnation of Lord Shiva by the Pashupatas. They believed in Shiva as the supreme god and in the philosophy of ‘being one with him’ and implying ‘end of the sorrows’ as the ultimate goal of the life of any ascetic. The panels in the caves indicate five stages in the life of an ascetic i.e. the importance of a teacher, his grace, illusory existence of the world, oneness of ‘shiva-shakti’ and the ultimate form of Shiva.

For those interested in studying cave architecture, Cave 1 will come across as the most complex of three caves referred to as the east and west wings of the main cave. The main cave is the temple, probably for lay followers. There are two rooms at both the ends of the verandah in front of the Sadaashiva image, most probably for meditation and to perform esoteric practices. The side wings were probably the residential complexes and the private shrines for the ascetics. The east wing has a panel of seven mother goddesses, which is again a common feature of the Pashupata temples.

How to reach:

Small motor boats from the Gateway of India are available to reach Elephanta Island. The journey takes 40-45 minutes. The ferry service is closed during the monsoon season from June to August.

Image & Information copyright by maharashtratourism.gov.in