August 27, 2015

"This king of forts is a precious gift to Maharashtra and a must-visit place - full of natural, majestic and historic heritage." - Quote about Raigad Fort (Raigarh Fort) in Maharashtra by Sachin Kumar Gupta

Fort Raigad is much more than a mere tourist spot, it is a sacred pilgrimage. This is the fort where Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was crowned and he took his last breath. Raigad is a hill fort situated in the Mahad, Raigad district of Maharashtra, India.  Raigarh is approx 200KM from Mumbai and 150KM from Pune and approx 140KM from Satara. From Pune, one can reach here via drive through Mulshi Dam and beautiful curves of Tamhini Ghat.
From Pune - Chandani Chowk - Mulshi - Tamhini - Nizampur – Pachad Road – Raigad
From Mumbai - Navi Mumbai - Pali - Kolad - Mumbai Goa Road - Dhalghar Naka - Pachad Road – Raigad
From Satara - Mahabaleshwar - Poladpur - Mahad – Raigad Road - Pachad – Raigad

We planned our much awaited team event this monsoon. All the friends were quite excited about the trip. A motor-able road leads to Chit Darwaja, about 2kms from Pachad, the village at the base, where lies the Samadhi of Jijabai, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s mother. A long climb from Pachad takes one to the Mahadarwaza, flanked by two massive bastions and a high curtain wall. One has to climb approximately 2-3 hours with 1400-1500 steps in order to reach the top of the fort. But we opted for ropeway as planned. 

"Raigad Fort Rope-way"
Raigad Ropeway has opened a new dimension of sightseeing at the Fort Raigad in Maharashtra. There are cable cars/rope-way which take the visitors from base of the hill to the top of the fort and back. It's definitely a clever option to opt for, if you don't want to climb the full trek or don't have enough time. With this you can spend more time on the fort itself. Just near the ropeway starting point, we have small Museum  displaying artifacts which have information about Shivaji Maharaj, forts in Maharashtra and other details. Take a note that you have to wait for about '30 minutes to 1 hour' for ropeway trip in normal days, and upto 2-3 hours during peak season days. Two ways ticket for adults was 200 INR per adult and flight time is approx 4-5 minutes. 

Ropeway in itself could be thrilling experience for few and heaven for others, specially during monsoon. Raigad fort in rainy season is awesome to visit and experience of Ropeway acts like a cherry on cake. A flight through the clouds, whistling winds, full of rains, and cool foggy trip! The sun was playing hide and seek. Many waterfalls and amazing greenland views can be seen while being at ropeway. The Ropeway drops you near Mena Darwaja. The fort’s 5.12 sq. kms hill-top plateau, has three main points Hirkani in the west, Takamak in the north and Bhavani in the east. 
There are many attractions around Raigad Fort with magnificient views. Per our experience, this place can be explored in below order, in order to enjoy it the best (if you are coming by ropeway)
    Meena Darwaja: a special entrance for the royal ladies and the queens.
    Hirkani Buruj: Just on the top, there is MTDC resort nearby.
    Queens Palace: Its ruins today consist of the queen's quarters: six chambers, with each chamber having its own private restroom. Each one is bigger than 2 BHK flats.
    Rajyasabha Graha
    Nagarkhana Darwaja
    Palkhi Darwaja: The convoy of the king and the king himself used this gate.
    The 12-sided two-storey towers just look awesome during monsoon, this place is must seen place of the fort.
    Ganga Sagar Lake: The picturesque place contains main water reservoir for the fort.
    Holicha Mal: It is a wide-open ground, used for annual Holi festival. There is a temple of Shirkai Bhavani, a presiding deity of the fort.
    Market place (Bazaar Peth): There are few small shops selling few snacks and drink at many places.
    Takmak Tok: a cliff point from where the sentenced prisoners were thrown to their death. This is a must visit point, but the area is now fenced off, so please be aware of while walking.
    Jagdishwar Temple: The floor of temple is super cool in monsoon, as we were bare feet.
    Shree Samadhi of Shivaji Maharaj
    Throne of Shivaji Maharaj

We also had chance to meet Marathi delicacies at one of the villager's home. It was economic and an experience in itself. Raigad Fort is worth visiting over the weekend with your family, kids (If taking rope-way) or even as part of project groups. Everyone - Gaurav, Gyanu, Paresh, Sarika, Vaibhav, Vijay had lots of fun throughout the trip. 

Raigad fort is ideal for camping. If you are planning to trek in the night, ensure that you are trekking with experienced trekkers and have good flashlights with you. One can stay overnight, at the top of the fort. We would love to go this place again, and will definitely plan for an overnight stay.

August 16, 2015

Quote of the Post: "This hilltop is one of the best treasure for temple and nature lovers" - Quote about Neelkantheshwar Temple near Pune by Sachin Kumar Gupta

One can reach Neelkatheshwar temple from Pune via either side of Kadhakwasla Dam. There are two ways to reach Neelkantheshwar Temple (in Kondhur) from Pune. One covering one side of the Khadakwasla Dam, while another covering other side of Khadakwasla Dam.
Route1 (dam being on your left side) - On this route you'll find beautiful resorts and waterfronts alongside the dam. (~50 KM)
Swargate - Anand Nagar - Khadakwasla Village - Kudje - Mandvi - Jambhali - Neelkantheshwar Road - Temple
Route2 (dam being on your right side) - This route gives a closer look of dam and Khadakwasla Chaupati road. (~60 KM)
Swargate - Anand Nagar - Khadakwasla Village - Sinhagad Road - Khanapur - Sonapur - Velhe Panshet Road - Cross Mutha River by Bridge - Neelkantheshwar Road - Jambhali - Temple

It was Independence day, when we finally started for this much awaited trip. We started late morning from Pune and wanted to spend sometime at Khadakwasla dam, so we took Route2 while going, and Route1 while returning, so we covered whole circumference with monsoon views of Khadakwasla Dam. Neelkantheshwar road is in little bad condition for nearly 5-6 kms, but Ok to move with 2 or 4 wheelers. It goes straight at the base of Neelkantheshwar. We also saw few autowalaas from Jambhali to temple base point. It took approximate 2 hours (approx 50-60 kms) to travel from Hadapsar Pune to Neelkantheshwar Temple near Kondhur. It’s a very pleasant and scenic drive till Neelkantheshwar parking point. Lush green surround the place specially during monsoon.

This hidden treasure temple is situated at hilltop of triangle dams:
Khadakwasla Dam
Panshet Dam
Varasgaon Dam

Notes and important points while visiting Neelkatheshwar temple:
  • From the parking point, you have to climb up the steep hill approx 1.5 KM, so plan accordingly. Wear sports shoes or floaters and plan well, while being with toddlers.
  • The climb is really steep at few places (though wide) and this can prove to be a good exercise for all ages. :) With all high spirits we were gald to see many old age people climbing up the temple. 
  • During summers plan to climb early in the morning when it isn't too hot and while returning, walk carefully else you may skid and fall.
  • Bring water bottles and other snacks as per your choice.
  • During monsoon, don't forget to bring an umbrella as there are no shops on the top except for a small restaurant.
  • It is a huge temple, with lot of open space to sit and enjoy the beauty of exquisite sculptures that tell different Hindu mythological tales, located between lush green hills and breathtaking views. 

It was quite a lucky day, as we could capture many beautiful photographs throughout the day, specially from the hilltop. Unfortunately, there is not much promotion or maintenance done by Government. I hope someday, there will be motor-able road right up to the temple.  Two big idols welcome everyone at the temple entrance and the walls of the temple are decorated with many other Hindu Gods. We saw backwaters of Panshet, Varasgaon and Khadakwasla dams. The views were just amazing and this was pure rendezvous with nature. Neelkantheshwar temple is full of beautifully crafted cement sculptures depicting various Indian mythological stories from the great Indian epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. 

Few sculptures are of:
Shiv Parvati Family
Ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu
Sagar Manthan
Royal Court of Indra
Fierce battle between Bhim and Duryodhan
Mace Battle between Vaali and Sugreev
Waking up Kumbhakaran from his sleep
Sant Dnyashwar, Sant Ramdas, Shivaji Maharaj stories
Many stories depiction, unknown to my knowledge

I have never seen so many sculptures in one place, this is one of the best temple I have seen. I couldn't cover all the pictures to tell the complete story. Enjoy some of the photographs to get a sense of what you are missing, if you haven’t been to this place yet. We visited this during the month of Shravan, this temple of Shiva attracts thousands of devotees in this month and on the occasion of Maha shivratri. If you are a temple or nature lover and looking for a weekend retreat near Pune in the lap of nature then Neelkantheshwar is your place. You can visit Neelkantheshwar at any point of time during the year but monsoon would be the best time.

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