August 13, 2012

Yippee, our Monsoon Express moved towards the north of Pune to pay regards to Ganpati at Ozar (Shree Vighnahar Ganapati Mandir), Lenyadri Caves and Bheemashankar. The Ganapati Temple at Ozar is one among the Ashtavinayak shrines of Maharashtra, called as Vigneshwar (The Lord of Vigna/obstacles). Lord Shree Vighanahar (can be searched at google) defeated the demon of obstacles, Vignasura; hence the name.

It is about 90 km from Pune and 140 from Nashik. The holy place is about 110 km from Ahmednagar in east, and 125 km away from Kalyan near Mumbai in west. Another Ashtavinayak shrine of Lenyadri, is just about 9 km, that we covered the very same day. Below map shows the routes from different directions, along with the one which we followed from Pune as: 
Pune - Rajguru Nagar Toll - Khed - Manchar - Pimpalgaon Tarfa Narayangaon - Ozar

View Shree Vighanahar Ganpati Temple, Ozar in a larger map
The day started with August showers. With eye-soothing and heart-loving views, the journey was easy and within no time we were at Ozar Ganpati. Just near the parking area we noticed an adorable view of Vighnahar Boating Center; which was closed due to heavy monsoon. This area comes within Yadegaon Dam

The temple's entrace is well decorated and eye-catchy, with two large stone gatekeepers, two elephants, two sages, and four musician sages on the wall. As you enter, you will find two giant lamp towers on either sides of the gate. Could only imagine the beauty of all the lamps glowing together! The colorful temple walls, possess en-carved sculptures and different images of Lord Ganesha. The main temple located at the center of premises, has three tiny entrances and inside that you can worship all eight Ashtavinayak Ganpati painted on the ceiling. One can view Shivneri Fort and Lenyadri Caves hill from the huge walls marking the premises. Not to worry on the climbing bit, they do have ladders! 

Just outside the temple, you can have quick visit to Gablibaba temple, and Hanuman temple. Ganesha Chaturthi is celebrated in great splendor and thousands of devotees come over to pay regards. Once out of the temple, our creativity took its turn and we were all set again for clicking and posing for pics. Post a quick explore of the Dam, we paused for a cup of tea and homemade sandwiches. With the start of day with Ganapati Darshan, day was bound to be good. And there it went.  :) We started for Lenyadri Caves Ganpati Temple and the showers too.  

Visit another famous AshtavinayakRanjangaon Mahaganapati near Shirur.

P.S. Just to give an idea to the readers, you may want to plan a full day trip nearby as below:
Cover Ozar Ganpati, Lenyadri caves Ganpati and Shivneri Fort. or 
Cover Ozar Ganpati, Lenyadri caves Ganpati and Bheemashanker.

August 2, 2012

After trek to Bhaja caves, we continued to trek to Lohagad - The Iron FortOne can reach the foothill of the fort by walk approx 3 hours from Bhaje village to Lohagadwadi village. If you are coming by road from Pune, you have to follow below route:
Pune - NH4 - Khamshet - Lonavala - Lohagadwadi village
If you are travelling by road from Mumbai, you have to follow below route:
Mumbai - Navi Mumbai - Follow Pune Mumbai expressway - Khandala - Lonavala - Lohagadwadi village

Lohagad Fort Map
Train transport is cheaper either coming from Pune or Mumbai. Pune to Lonavala local train time table can be checked hereLonavala to Pune local train time table can be checked hereIf you are not interested in trek, you can take the cab 50 INR per person from Lonavala and reach the base village of Lohagad Fort. In that case you just have to climb approximately 500 steps. 

Though the trek from Bhaje village to Visapur and Lohagad fort is famous among tourists and trekkers prefer monsoon season for reaching the heights. We found many groups trekking on the same route. Being Saturday, it was fully crowded. The same trek can be enjoyed in summers during early morning. Prefer to cover the fort first (5-7 am so that you can adore the sunrise at the fort top.), then trek to Bhaja caves (7-9:30 am), so that you will get this historical caves gate open as per timings. 

The fort has been declared as a protected moument by the government of India. It is built on the same plateau as Visapur fort and is a part of the Lohagad-Visapur fortification. It is situated on a side range of the Sahyadris, and most of Lohagad fort is still intact. It has four large gates in good condition, and other structures as big tank and a step-well. It also has famous Scorpian tail shaped long and narrow wall-like fortified spur which is visible during a clean day. 

One can enjoy the picturesque hills, lush green fields, tranquil and serene climate. On the trek route, you can get water, nimbu paani, soft-drinks, poha, maggi and some other snacks during peak monsoon season. Don't expect much! We had the maggi break at one place. We enjoyed the trek with all our gang and stopped at a greener place for some Facebook profile pictures. Just near the foothills of the Lohagadwadi village, it started raining heavily, and we had some snacks with tea-coffee.

By the time we reached the top of the fort, it was fully covered with mist and clouds started pouring. At the apex point, there is a small tea stall which is being seen majorly in monsoon season. We just said "We conquered the fort". We all got drenched and enjoyed the moments there. During this trek my camera screen got wet, and then no further clicks from my cam. Luckily I had Tara and Phani's cam to have some random clicks. 

While returning back, just near the Lohagadwadi, we had some quick snaps of "Nine Planets" place. At the dawn time, we moved back to Lonavala railway station to catchup our train to Pune. We enjoyed the full day and played UNO playing cards game in the train. I will rate this fort higher as compare to other forts in Maharashtra, I have visited so far. 
So, Pack-up your shoes to start with Pune monsoon express.
Other Forts nearby Pune-Mumbai:
Kolaba Fort - Alibaag, A sea fort in Konkan region at Raigad

August 1, 2012

Pune Monsoon of 2012, has really been keeping us on wheels. After Alibaag, and Shirur, it was time for a trek to Bhaja caves, Lohagad fort and Lonavala; which was again an adhoc plan. This time Phani, Tara, Anmol, Anuradha, Komal, Meenal and the energetic kids Divit and Chetan were in our gang. If you are coming by road from Pune, you have to follow below route:
Pune - NH4 - Khamshet - Malavli (Just before Lonavala) - Bhaje village
If you are coming by road from Mumbai, you have to follow below route:
Mumbai - Navi Mumbai - Follow Pune Mumbai expressway - Khandala - Lonavala - Malavli
Train transport is cheaper either coming from Pune or Mumbai. Pune to Lonavala local train time table can be checked here. Lonavala to Pune local train time table can be checked here

Bhaja Caves Map
After four wheeler trip to Alibaug, 2 wheeler ride to Shirur, we preferred multi-wheeler train for this trip. :P We kick-started our trip with the early morning 6:30 am local, which took us to Malavli. To our luck, it started raining heavily! Tempted for hot tea and snacks, we took shelter in a small tapri outside the Malavali Railway Station. This is where we gathered some info on further route and relevant expenses. Our next vehicle was a 3 wheeler, which took us to Bhaje village, at the rate of INR 50 per auto. Unlike us, some of the groups had opted for a walk (2.5 km - 30 mins walk). 

Once you are here at the Bhaje Village, you feel like being at the entrance of heaven. The scenic beauty of place will leave you speechless for a few moments during monsoon. Shades of green, with white patches of clouds, topped with beauty of multiple waterfalls is really a treat for ones eyes. We had the chance to click some quick snaps at this place and climbing up and down the hill. What else do you wait for! Our lenses were all set to capture glimpse of this place. Further, you can see the stairs leading to Bhaja Caves. If you keep following the straight path (rather than going upstairs) you will reach Lohagad and Visapur forts. The inscritions and cave temple is declared as a protected monument, and listed in the archaeological survey of India. These caves will remind you of Karla and Bedsa Caves in Lonavala, if you've been there, and the smaller version of famous Ajanta and Ellora caves.

Bhaja Caves Timings and Fees:
9:30 am to 5:30 pm;  
Indian: 5 INR; Foreign Nationals: 100 INR

Bhaja caves consists of 22 rock-cut excavations and situated on a hilltop of Bhaja village, Maval Taluka in Pune district near Malavli. The excavations here consist of chaityagrahas, viharas and podhis. These are one of the important Buddhist centres of Hinayana faith in Maharashtra. The chaityagraha is a large hall having a stupa and 27 pillars in tow. The entrance of the hall is completely open and one can notice some interesting carvings inside the caves. 

We took some more group snaps at the smaller caves, besides the main hall. One irregular excavation is identified as a cemetery, which has fourteen rock-cut stupas, five inside and nine outside. If you keep going till the last cave, you will find yourelf near the Bhaja falls. Not to mention, it is possible only during monsoons! Some people also bathe and enjoy in this waterfall, but one should be very cautious, as some of the rocks become very much slippery. This water flow falls into a small pool at the roadside.  

Lush green meadows, mountains covered with clouds, sun playing hide n seek, cool breeze and serene climate, makes this place worth multiple visits during monsoons. There are two Maratha forts, Lohagad (Iron) fort and Visapur fort nearby hills. After enjoying quite a while at this historic place we continued our trek to Lohagad Fort

Visit the famous Ajanta and Ellora caves in Maharashtra

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