Travel

Amboli

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Last weekend when Nikhil told me about a two day trip to Amboli I was really excited, as the monsoons had started all over and Amboli is THE best place to visit during monsoon. So we booked our room at MTDC Green Valley over the internet. There are other hotels in Amboli but this hotel is very well maintained. You too can book your rooms by clicking here.

Amboli is a small hill station about 100 kms from Kolhapur and about 60 kms from Belgaum. We left on a cloudy morning from Kolhapur; the nature on our way was beautiful with greenery everywhere. On reaching Amboli we first checked in our Hotel. It is a nice hotel, well maintained and with reasonable room rent and spacious rooms. We freshened ourselves and were ready to enjoy the rains at Amboli. The best place to visit Amboli is the rainy season, especially the latter part of the rainy season around July end and August when the falls are teeming to the brim. There could be drought just 100 kms away, but it never fails to rain here. The main attraction for tourists is the incredibly high rainfall (7 meters average per year!) and the numerous waterfalls and mist during the monsoons. There aren’t too many places to see or things to do but it’s quiet, unpolluted and the local residents are good natured and helpful.

Amboli lies in the Sahyadri hills of Western Ghats and is at an altitude of about 700 meters. There are numerous small water falls throughout the Ghat section (High Roads) of Amboli. We first visited the tourist attraction called Amboli Waterfall. The surrounding nature captured our imagination with its green cover, dense mist and rains. This waterfall is the main tourist attraction of Amboli and we could see the huge number of tourists thronging to this place to enjoy nature at its very best during rains.

The rains had just stopped but dense fog had engulfed Amboli. There are proper steps which lead us to the falls where one can forget all their worries in the rain water fall. Water was surging down the steps as well. It was a thrilling climb up those steps. We stopped at a distance from the fall to enjoy the beauty and its grandeur. The climate in Amboli changes so fast that it started to drizzle and turned into heavy rains in an instant. We could feel the warmth of rain water under the falls though we had no intention of getting wet under the falls; the rains had completely drenched us!! The water fall was beautiful and it was coming down with all its might. People were enjoying bathing under the falls and others were enjoying getting wet in the mist of the falls and the rains.

After spending some time at the falls, we took shelter in a road side shop which was selling hot roasted sweet corn (Buttha). Best time to enjoy it! An experience one should have by coming here. The rains had stopped once again and we decided to take a walk along the curvy roads of Amboli.

The road was fully covered with fog and visibility was very low and it was as if you are walking in the clouds. There were many small falls emerging from the hills throughout the roads from in between the greens on the mountainous ghats. This sight was breath-taking. The clouds sometimes broke open to let in some sunlight. The green was reflecting the sunlight which energized our spirits and reminded us that the forest cover, which is fast depleting even in Amboli due to emergence of resorts and tourists, is more than gold. We stopped at a few other small waterfalls on the way.

After the long walk, we were completely drenched and came back to Amboli town. It was lunch time and how could we miss the Fish and chicken prepared in Malvani style. The food was sumptuous and just right and you couldn’t ask for better in this pristine climate.

After lunch we visited some other points in Amboli which include Mahadevgadh point from where we can have a panoramic view of the valley. We visited the Hiranyakeshi Temple from where the river Hiranyakeshi emerges from a cave. It was evening by now and we decided to retire for the day.

The next morning welcomed us with heavy rains. It was raining cats and dogs. We decided to explore the places around Amboli. We had a long drive where we could see small villages and farms. The Mother Nature was at her best with greenery everywhere. We then saw a board directing towards Shirgaokar Point and went searching for that place. The way was flat and full of green. We travelled about 6 kms into the forest. Flora and fauna not earlier seen could be seen here. I envied the local people for living in such surrounding. We felt reluctant to drive back home but couldn’t help as Nikhil had to go to Jaipur that night. Tch…Tch…

The Amboli weekend was very refreshing. Even folks who don’t like rains will certainly enjoy it here, like Nikhil did. Just a word of advice, DON’T POLLUTE, DON’T USE PLASTIC, MAINTAIN THE DECORUM OF THE PLACE!!

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Travel

Fort Panhala

Andhaar Bawada

When my husband Nikhil told me that, we are going to Panhala for the weekend, I was happy, but, when I heard that we are going on a two wheeler, I was a little disappointed. Why you need to strain yourself on a bike, when you can go enjoying music in an Air conditioned Car? After a short argument, I agreed ( as if I had a choice!) and started to pack for destination Panhala.

We left home next day in the morning with our backpacks on. Panhala is about 20 kms from Kolhapur, and about 3,000 Feet above sea level, a mountainous road. The beauty of the road is that it is surrounded by huge trees and farm fields on both the sides.

Within half an hour we were riding uphill the Fort city and we could feel the chill in the air. The city welcomed us with the statues of two brave soldiers of Shivaji Era.

First Gate of Teen Darwaza

We had breakfast at a small hotel, and headed towards the places to see. Our first stop was Andhaar Bawada (Well). Localites said that it is so called because one cannot recognise the well from outside the Fort as it is hidden under a two storied building. From the building we can see the greenery. Soldiers and local people at that time used the water for drinking. What a way to trick your enemy!!

Just near the Andhaar Bawda, there is another place called Teen Darwaza. Though the Panhala Fort has been built in between 12th and 13th centuries by Raja Bhoj II, it gained its name and fame when the first ever crowned Maratha King Chatrapati Shivaji conquered it in 16th century. Teen Darwaza was the main and only entrance inside the Fort at that time. The three gates are one within the other so from outside, one can see only the first gate. The fort is built in stone by using the mixture of jaggery, lime and mud in the absence of concrete (what durability as the Fort withstood many invasions thereafter and is still standing!!). As we were inside the Fort, we entered from the Third main Gate. There we can see the carvings of Lions and elephants on the Huge Entrance. Once we are out to the First Gate we can really see the beauty of the architecture on one side and mother nature on the other.

Third Gate of Teen Darwaza

The weather was perfect with sunshine and cold air, hence, we decided to see the next place by walk. Our next stop was the Watch Tower. May be this is the highest point of the city as the view from here is awesome. We could see the valleys spread with greenery and the hills stretched a long way. We took our time there sitting on the age old stone benches and savoured the nature.

It was lunch time and we went to a hotel near the Panhala Bus Stand where we had a Kolhapuri mutton meal with the ubiquitous Pandhra and Tambda rassa. The food was mouth-watering and had a typical Gavaran touch to it!

After having the delicious food, we went to see a place called Ambarkhana i.e. Godown. Built by Raja Bhoj II, Ambarkhana includes three buildings named Ganga, Jamuna and Saraswati. Ganga being a huge building where foodgrains were stored in those days. History tells that at the time of Siddhi Johar’s attack, it enabled Shivaji to sustain a 5 months siege.

It was time for us to see the Tabak Udyan. We guess it is an old garden but, well maintained by local authorities. We had a stroll in the garden. We then did some trekking in the adjoining mountain, although I am reluctant as far as trekking is concerned. We were tired after the trekking. Then we decided to check in to our hotel and retired for the day.

Beautiful Valley View

The hotel we stayed has almost all its rooms facing the valleys. The view from the room was beautiful. When we woke up next morning, we were greeted by the beautiful valley. We had our tea and breakfast in the garden restaurant of the hotel, facing the valleys.

Masai Pathar in the evening

We went to see Sajja Koti or Sardar-e-Mahal, a two storied building surrounded by green. It is said to be the pleasure pavillion of the Kings which provided a panaromic view of the valleys. Now, on its roof, you can see the surrounding views of Panhala through a telescope (paid, of course). We could see The Jyotiba Temple, Masai Pathar, and even vacation homes of Bollywood Filmmakers like V.Shantaram and singers like Lata Mangeshkar. We then went to Masai Pathar, which is a table mountain (no, not the one in Capetown). The hill top is flat and is a good place to enjoy with our family and play games and hang out.

That was the end of our adventure journey to Fort Panhala. Despite my initial disappoint of travelling on a two wheeler I enjoyed the weekend to the fullest and felt it refreshing. And I will try to listen to my hubby as he comes out with some wild ideas, which just seem to work (pun intended).

 

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Travel

Mahalaxmi -Goddess of Prosperity

 

One of the main tourist attraction and pilgrim place of Kolhapur is Mahalaxmi Temple.

Puranas say that Mahalaxmi got angered by the action of Lord Vishnu apologising to a sage who kicked The Lord on His chest, where Mahalaxmi resided. Out of anguish She decided to reside in Kolhapur, then called Karveer. Kolhapur then was ruled by a demon called Kolashur. Mahalaxmi destroyed the demon and as a last wish of the demon named the city as Kolhapur.  History states the the temple inherits its architecture from Chalukyas in the 7th century CE. The temple is built in black stone with carvings on each and every pillar.  It is said that the pilgrim to Tirupati Balaji is not complete unless one visits Mahalaxmi. It is one of the Six Shakti Peethas of India and it has been told that one can get their wishes fulfilled just by visiting the place. There are many small temples of gods in and around the main temple which are Navagraha, Vitthal Rukmini, Ganesh, Kartikeya to name a few.

The number of devotees to the temple is ascending year after year. People come from all over the country to see the grandure of 3 feet tall statue of the Goddess which is decorated with jewels and flowers. Kolhapurians are lucky that they are constantly living under the blessings of Goddess Mahalaxmi.

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