9 day trip

Maharashtra : Mumbai’s lesser known nooks

Pune -> Sinhgad -> Pune -> Lavasa -> Ajanta -> Ellora -> Aurangabad ->MumbaiCapture

Continued from here

Mumbai – Day 3

Somewhere amidst the late night conversations, Punit and Neetu decided to join us for lunch the next day while we planned to stroll around the older areas of South Mumbai in the morning. Little did we know or dare to expect that they’d actually show us more of the city. Especially to people they’d just met the previous day. We were completely blown over by their sweetness.

We, however, decided to take it slow and only left lazily taking our own time in the morning. We took a taxi first to the Asiatic library which I’d been aching to visit with my love for libraries, but unfortunately, we couldn’t enter as it was a national holiday and therefore closed.

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Brilliant in white

Its pristine white exteriors however made for a bunch of pretty pictures. We had been asked to check out Horniman’s park (the name one just couldn’t say without an immature giggle). Just as we got there, Neetu called us to give the location for lunch that day. It was called “Status Veg Restaurant” and it had a large number of chairs outside as we had to wait to be called in a queue! The chatter quickly let us pass the time and we were soon called in for a delicious Gujarati thali, our only complaint with it being it was a LOT of food. There was no way we would have ever discovered the place ourselves as tourists and were glad yet again for our gracious hosts.

 

We huddled into a taxi,very full, and me barely able to move and next went to the Afghan Church, built by the British to commemorate the loss of lives in the First Afghan War. Neetu had apparently come to the place twice before and wasn’t able to enter in so we were just third time lucky when the caretaker looked at us suspiciously but still allowed us in. The church had stunning stained glass art all over its windows. It was a place of worship just the way I liked to visit one ie., when it’s empty. We spent quite some time walking around the church and Anand, of course, was in photo-clicking-heaven.

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The majestic Afghan church

Our next stop was Ban Ganga, yet another place we doubt we’d find on a tourist list. It was a stepped pond like in a lot of temples except for the legend stating that it was formed by an arrow Lakshman shot at the ground to get water for his brother Ram that led the Ganga river to spurt forth there, hence Ban-ganga-> Arrow-Ganga. The Walkeshwar temple also had the legend that Ram created a Shiv Ling in mud and therefore Valuka-Ishwar= Sand-Ishwar. It was a nice spot to be in the early evening. There were storks and plenty of swans. All around the temple people were living in tiny homes and going about their lives. We had kids jumping into the pond for instant fun and respite from the heat and us just blissfully staring into nothingness.img_2056

 

Some rest later we decided to end the day at the promising ‘Hanging Gardens‘ at Malabar Hill. The rains decided to please Anand and showered liberally. It was all the more a reason to sit down and relax in the ‘Senior’s corner’ with conversations ranging from school pranks to punishments. Once the rain abated we walked around the park and even got to the view of the Arabian Sea at sunset, which is quite the highlight of the place. What caught my childish fancy was the shoe house and for the life of me, I couldn’t then remember the rhyme that mentioned it. I had to look it up later.We had a nice walk around the place with intermittent drizzles that made the weather join in our fun.

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.

She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do;

She gave them some broth without any bread;

Then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.”

 

We next went to the unassumingly named place called “The Tea center” near Churchgate. I first thought it was closed seeing the closed shutters facing us, but turned out the entrance was still open via the front of the building beside the shutters.  Yet another of the numerous instances, having someone who knew the place helped! We had to wait for some time as the place was full. We all did like the ambience of the place that had slightly old world charm with some tongue-in-cheek posters helping retain a quirky feel to it. The waiters were running all over the place and we made our orders.

Anand, forever the weird-item-ordering person at a table, ordered the “Hot buttered apple tea”, Punit some ginger lime tea for his cold, one Kashmiri Kahwa, and I ordered the Rose tea. Anand’s order was a favourite with the guys. The Kahwa I found too overpowering with the spices, and the Rose tea that I finally drank was still too sweet for my liking but the only one among our orders I liked otherwise. Despite our likes or dislikes, it was fun to try the various options . Since we still had dinner plans, we only ordered the potato wedges that were not what we expected. Anand and I still promised to return to the place the next time we were in the city.

After that, our hosts continued our culinary adventure and decided to take us for a perfect Marathi meal at “Aaswad“. Anand completely pigged out on the roti made of ragi and I enjoyed a little bit of everything especially the kokum drink. Our hosts clearly knew their food, and our tongues and tummies were both extremely happy while also letting us tick “delicious Maharashtrian food” off the list of things to do.

The newly formed group chatted on effortlessly and we even managed pics with the first statue I actually loved, at the Worli sea face promenade- that of the common man from RK Laxman’s cartoons who calmly overlooks the water. We were left extremely grateful for their brilliant company and all mushy at the feeling of having made good friends in record time 🙂

Last day :

We woke early to reach Navi Mumbai by cab but landed there in just 40 mins since it was a Saturday! We visited Bhavya’s and Lout’s beautiful house and met Lout’s oh-so-lovely mum. After a heavy breakfast of the yummiest cheese omelette I’ve ever had, thanks to Bhavya, and many other snacks Aunty had made, we headed off to cover the route from Mumbai back to Pune with people who had covered the route 100s of times in the past couple of years! They showed us around Navi Mumbai itself first, which was a lovely planned city without the crowd and traffic so inherent to Mumbai. Seeing a view of a waterfall as one goes on a highway is always pleasant too. After the picturesque road from Mumbai, we also passed by Lonavla where we picked some mandatory chikkis of various types.
Our first stop was the house of the pretty twins Pari and Piya who were beyond thrilled to see Bhavya and Lout after long. They used to live in the same apartment complex that has a beautiful view of the surrounding hills. After a short while there we headed to the Oxford Golf Resorts where it quickly became clear why it was their favourite place.img_2104 Beautiful views of the scenic surroundings, pleasant weather, greenery and no one around. I couldn’t imagine a more lovely place to spend with a loved one or just by oneself lost in one’s thoughts. A few pictures later, we were ravenous and headed to the ‘Blue Nile restaurant’ with the promise of lovely biriyani and it did hold up. Bhavya and I shared a biriyani while the boys managed to clean off one each on their own. Finally gratified we left to Kalpa’s house. Kalpa was Bhavya’s beautiful friend and could give anyone a complex with her stunning painting skills too. Just as we relaxed in her house, we met few more friends of theirs and then her sister’s fiance. Kalpa gushed about how she had a nice time trying the new Harley that morning and we shuffled along to see it. It belonged to her sister’s fiance’s friend and he was still generous enough to let all of us have a go at it! An unexpected high right at the end of the trip for all of us and I can’t forget the gleeful grin pasted on Anand’s face throughout! As we fussed over the bike and took turns, Lout- the perpetual pro, managed to make yummy chaat for us too.

With us being so close to the flight takeoff time we had to reluctantly leave the bike behind, plunk a couple of the yummy puris into our mouths and rush to the airport right in time, yet again thanks to Lout.

 

Bhavya and we had different flights a few minutes apart and we landed only to be warmly welcomed by 3 of her sisters who had come to pick us up. Our fun didn’t seem to end. We headed off to Empire near our house for a super late dinner at 12 30am filled with laughter and conversation and were then dropped off at our home all smiles at a lovely end to a lovely journey. 🙂

Up next : You didn’t think that was all Andhra Pradesh had to offer, did you?

9 day trip

Maharashtra : the very best of Mumbai

Pune -> Sinhgad -> Pune -> Lavasa -> Ajanta -> Ellora -> Aurangabad ->MumbaiCapture

Continued from here

We lazed around the room that morning, while they took the brunt of Mumbai traffic and a whole 2 hours to get to us from Navi Mumbai. But what delightful hosts they were. There truly is nothing better than being shown a city by someone who loves it. While riding through the city Lout dished out info about the innumerable landmarks and structures around

  • Bandra Fort: Our very first stop was the Bandra fort on Bandstand Promenade which had a gorgeous view of the sea link. PDA in India is probably reached its peak here.
  • We also passed by Carter road and Joggers’ Park made famous by the movie with the beautiful Perizad Zorabian.
  • We drove over the stunning Worli Sea Link that has is a testament to beauty combining the work of nature and man.img_1763
  • My first view of Haji Ali and I knew I wanted to visit,  I couldn’t on the trip, however, since it’d take quite some time and we had so much on our list.img_2095
  • We had a sumptuous lunch at a restaurant called ‘Jai Hind’ that was famous for seafood, but their dal khichdi that Anand ordered was simply off the charts and had the rest of us digging into his share.

 

  • I  do not like paan and think I last tried it at least 5 years ago and almost spat it out despite its sweetness. Anand, however, has an occasional fondness for it and Lout drove us to try the famed ice paan. Bhavya and I sat comfortably in the car, while Anand, took his camera to ensure no photo opportunity was missed. To my dismay, I saw them coming along with a total of 4 paans insisting I try them. It looked like too much to put into one’s mouth at one go but it was also threatening to spill out from the paan cover. I could see crushed ice too which was already weird. I had no option so in it went and what a brain freeze it caused! It is an experience, that’s for certain. It had the most confusing ingredients one would never associate with paan– chocolate and ice! I was glad I tried it just to have a story to narrate, though.

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    The famed ice-paan : Try it!
  • We next headed to the most iconic landmark in Mumbai, the Gateway of India. We parked a few streets behind it and what a delightfully charming area it was. After some time admiring buildings that took our fancy, we headed off to the place. It was way more impressive than it looked in the pictures.  I was completely taken with 3 men dressed handsomely in huge bright turbans and spotless white outfits who were lovely enough to even wait for our pic to be taken while they were walking across the place crawling with tourists. It was quite a spot for people- watching too. The Taj Mahal Palace hotel makes quite a backdrop for some pretty pictures we managed to get.img_1849

University Clocktower behind the grounds was yet another photo opportunity in a lovely city we’d come to appreciate. Bhavya and Anand bonded over camera skills while I was yearning to stop at the grounds that had dog owners taking their cuddly canines out for their evening stroll. But well,that had to wait for another day.

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Photography lessons

 

As the sun set over the day, a view of the Cuffe Parade skyline was a good place to be.

I absolutely had to shop in a city known for it, and managed in the little time we had to bag some lovely deals purely thanks to Bhavya’s insanely good bargaining skills. We couldn’t miss the Leopold cafe between shopping and had a delectable cheesecake and another dessert by the street itself, and were glad the kind guy at the store didn’t mind obliging us for the 8 glasses of water we sorely needed.

We were to meet Neetu and her friend Punit at Kala Ghoda café and as whimsically lovely as it looked, it was, however, full.

We instead headed to a café simply called ‘The Pantry‘ and it was an absolute delight. Mumbai also decided to give us some respite from the humidity with some welcome drizzles. The food was flawless and the company jelled together so wonderfully that it was easily up there with one of the best meals we’ve ever head. We were laughing uncontrollably throughout and so hard that the endlessly patient staff had to actually ask us to try and tone it down and we didn’t blame them one bit.

The unbeatable company was only comparable to the completely unexpected part of the restaurant that gripped our attention- the restroom. We decided it was world class and we could live in it. A beautiful bunch of flowers, white interiors that continued off the theme of the rest of the restaurant, a beautiful table of drawers by the mirror. We unanimously decided that it would be the new standard for washrooms everywhere and were afraid it’d be hard to beat. It also lead to insisting everyone on our table made a visit to the unisex restroom, to validate the impression of the first few of us who did. Hilarity, of course, ensued with even the waiters struggling to keep their giggling in.

Like we hadn’t already had a perfect evening, our hosts took us next to the iconic  place ‘K.Rustom’s ice cream‘ where we had to try their most famous item on the menu, their ice-cream sandwich. We caught them just before they were downing their shutters at 11 pm. Though I myself had no appetite for dessert, I did nibble at all the 3 flavours we bought – custard apple, guava and walnut and could certify they were all yummy.

We walked down with the ice-creams to Marine drive and yet again I realised Mumbai was going to surprise me with the number of people out and about at such places even late in the evening.

img_2100We had to head back to the hotel, and while I had cringed at trying the Mumbai local train during the day, the suggestion to take it for our way back (thanks to Neetu and Punit’s insane kindness saying they’d come along to escort us despite then needing to go back and forth to their own homes!), greatly appealed to me. It was, of course, part of the Mumbai experience. We did take the train and while there were fewer people, we continued our conversations on the journey too. We ended the day with me surprised at myself that I wasn’t in the least sleepy or tired though it was almost 1 AM.

Coming up next : Mumbai’s lesser known treasures

9 day trip

Maharashtra : Mumbai- the first glance

Pune -> Sinhgad -> Pune -> Lavasa -> Ajanta -> Ellora -> Aurangabad ->Mumbai

Capture

Continued from here

After a well-deserved rest at our hotel, we headed confidently to the bus stand to take our bus to Mumbai, only to realise we had made a booking gaffe. Thankfully, some quick action later, we were on the right bus and on our way while not losing too much money on our incorrect booking for the next day! I spent the night being thrown across the sleeper berth from one end to another and an unhappy spine in the morning. We, therefore, after reaching Mumbai, took some time off the morning to rest.

 

In our hunt for breakfast (our hotel was very snarky about the whole early-check-in thing), we passed by a doughnut place but decided we didn’t want something so sweet early that morning. A long walk ahead and we reached a tiny Udupi restaurant. I ordered misal again and yet again was disappointed. Sinhgad had really raised my expectations of the dish. I nibbled at my food, and just managed to have one of the 2 pavs which led to an unanticipated, overwhelming and embarrassing amount of concern from the staff at the hotel who were so worried I didn’t like the food and offered to get me another dish! It was an excellent example of the fact that sometimes places that we pay a ton of money for are not necessarily the most welcoming in a city. We thanked them and finally did get back to the friendly staff at the doughnut place because what I’d eaten was too less for a meal.

Satiated, we headed to Sanjay Gandhi National park to ensure we have a relaxed day after all the walking at Aurangabad.

As luck would have it, we took a cab to the place and the had to pay an entrance fee for the cab too. Just as I wondered why we needed the cab ‘inside’ the park, I realised the park also housed the Kanheri caves that were 6kms from the entrance! He took us all the way to the caves but there was a lot of climbing involved and I’ve to admit I had cave-fatigue by now and had really been looking forward to a lazy day. So I plonked myself at cave number 72 (not numbered in order) just a little ahead of the start while Anand, , the brave explorer went ahead in the blazing sun to see if there was anything interesting for his camera amongst the 100 more caves that made up this group.

 

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Kanheri caves

 

He came back soon enough and we walked down only to realise there were only 2-way vehicles! Ie., one had to take a vehicle at the entrance that would wait till people were done and would take them back. We picked up some refreshments that were hearteningly provided only in paper bags to avoid littering of plastics inside the national park. Note : the monkeys have learned how to look oh-so-cute and ask for your food, and well, we succumbed too. Since it was a tree lined road inside the national park we decided we were the type who would actually walk it out, yes, the whole 6 km!

My strong will did not mean I was chirpy about the whole thing! Anand proved to be quite a champ narrating the stories of 2 whole horror movies in detail the whole while to keep my spirits (no pun intended) up. It’s not every day we get to walk amidst trees on a pretty path, so I trudged on despite the chance of asking the passing cabs to take us too.  We took frequent breaks as needed, and at the last one almost towards the entrance, we sat down and he nudged me to look behind. We were rewarded with a view of 4 spotted deer calmly going about their grazing and resting just a few feet away from us. Walking through loveliness sure has its rewards. We spent a while with them and then got back to the exit.

For lunch, we went to a nice place, Café Moshe’s near our hotel and then headed to the famed Prithvi theatre to get our tickets for the play that night. The play in Hindi was called ‘Peela scooter wala aadmi and was performed in a nice cosy space in a semi-circular setting around the stage itself. The play was about a writer trying to write amidst questions from his childhood haunting him. One of those deep intense tales elevated by the right performers. We decided to lighten up the mood by heading out to the Juhu beach just behind the theatre, though the beautifully lit café at the theatre was also tempting.

Of course, we absolutely had to have the pani puri and it didn’t disappoint! We hadn’t seen the menu of course, because who sees the menu for pani puri.  However, if we had, we would have been saved from an unexpected brain freeze because it was called ‘Ice cold pani puri‘. Nevertheless, it was brilliant and all that we wanted it to be, and I picked a cola flavoured gola and Anand, picked some more filling pav bhaji with dollops of butter to call dinner. It was interesting to see families and people from all backgrounds out at the beach that late at night. The next day promised to be an interesting one with Bhavya and Lout taking us around the city.

Up next: We make up for not photographing Mumbai enough on Day 1

9 day trip

Maharashtra : Aurangabad and its secrets

Pune -> Sinhgad -> Pune -> Lavasa -> Ajanta -> Ellora -> Aurangabad ->MumbaiCapture

Continued from here

The next day was one I was excited about. We had a list of places in Aurangabad we’d decided to visit. After some haggling with a cab driver, the contact of whom had been shared by a friend, we hired him for the day for Rs.1400.
First on our list was the Daulatabad fort. We severely underestimated its vastness when we started. It was huge, imposing and hot.

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A gorgeous view

 

I could imagine it being even more beautiful in the rains. It was apparently, the only undefeated fort in history. And supposedly only ever won over by bribery or corruption much like the Great Wall of China.

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A castle with a story

I guess no amount of preparation could beat that, then or now. The fort had 4 concentric walls each with entrances not aligned to each other. The moat was the first one I’d seen in a fort with actual water and we spotted a water snake in it too. We found interesting the temple with a huge hall of ‘Bharath Mata’ in its premises.

 

 

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Seen a Bharat Mata temple before?

The most intriguing part of the fort, however, was its bhool-bhulaiiyya/andheri/labyrinth. It had confusing passages with strategic locations to place one’s own soldiers so they could attack the enemy that tried to penetrate the fort with boiling oil, poisonous gases or the classic beheading amongst other charming methods.

 

 

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A long walk, but worth it.No wonder the child needed to be carried – Down right

There were quite a few squirrels around and we had an entertaining few minutes at the top feeding them chikkis and watching them eat. The climb up and down easily takes half a day and we then headed off to a nearby eatery for lunch and next to ‘Panchakki’ which I thought was a dam as I hadn’t done any reading on it.
We had just enough time for a short nap in the car and we reached the place. It was a calm, cool oasis in the hot surroundings. We hired a young lad who offered to guide us around the place for a tiny sum and it was worth it. Panchakki itself was formed with pani+chakki = water+grinding stone. It was essentially a turbine system which caused a grinding stone to continually grind away.

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Oh to see water and feel its cool breeze on a hot day..

 

The speciality being the water itself came from 8kms away in the mountains via pipes made of mud. Quite a feat in the 12th century AD. The saint of the place was someone called Baba Shah Musafir who was supposedly from Russia and who brought this in place to be able to grind flour in huge amounts to feed the poor and needy. Using a syphoning method, later, they have managed to make a waterfall of sorts falling back into a small pond in the premises.

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  • My very first dargah , one of Baba Shah Musafir, which sadly ladies weren’t allowed to enter 😦 However I did get a blessing with a bunch of peacock feathers so it’s a start.
  • They had a small ‘museum’ of the Baba’s clothes and utensils.
  • There was a resting area for the poor/travellers below the pond, which meant that the place below it would be pleasantly cooled by the water overhead.
  • Inside the spaces are now being used by different officials of the Wakf board; quite a scenic place to have an office.

Next on our wish list was Bibi ka Maqbara, the tomb of Rabbia-Durani, the wife of Aurangazeb; built by her son Prince Azam Shah. I loved it instantly. It was a calm, white structure that had beautiful art across its surfaces.

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Who needs Taj Mahal 😉

 

Inside the actual area with the tomb ,there was appropriately not much adornment. The tomb itself was housed below ground level within it. Despite a notice not to, people had thrown in money there. We sat a while under a tree in its sprawling lawns and then headed back.
Last on our wish list was a factory tour of Himroo and Pathani saris that we’d heard of online. It was quite a let-down though 😦 It was essentially 2 looms and an older gentleman attempting to use the loom with most of it left to the imagination. In my quest for local saris I, however, did buy one as a souvenir, though not completely convinced of it being a good deal.img_1730

Up next: Mumbai’s cityscapes

9 day trip

Maharashtra: Ajanta and Ellora

Pune -> Sinhgad -> Pune -> Lavasa -> Ajanta -> Ellora -> Aurangabad ->MumbaiCapture

Continued  from here

We headed off that night to the bus that would take us to Fardapur- and the Ajanta caves. We didn’t expect the morning to be eventful but when we were dropped at 5 am at the village of Fardapur and the car didn’t reach us from the hotel to pick us up after repeated calls to them, we decided it would be. We had enquiries made by everyone except the hotel staff – villagers, caretaker of the MTDC resort (that we couldn’t reach during our booking time, or we’d have booked that) while we waited there. A broken AC, no hot water, no working phones in the room or the reception, and many miseries followed us at the hotel that I’d rather not describe further to avoid it sounding depressing.
After passing through a group of annoying vendors yelling out their store names and screaming at us to come buy their wares we managed to take the bus to the caves. The caves are simply breath-taking.

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Our first view of Ajanta 🙂

We crossed the first cave where a guy offered his one-cave-guide services, while we watched another gentleman guiding a person from Burma who was audio-recording him. We finally approached the duo in the 2nd cave and continued to visit caves with him for the rest of the day and 34 caves.

The first cave undoubtedly had the calmest and most beautiful image of Buddha or maybe because it was the first, it has its own charm. Across the caves , the paintings on the ceilings and the walls had stories from Jataka tales(instant childhood reminders), Buddha’s life and that of the other saints. The process of creating the caves themselves by removing layers of the basalt rock sounded fascinating. The paintings were made with limestone, coal and lapis for different colors. img_1304There were roughly 2 types of caves. 1 with individual units for monks to live/meditate and the other like a temple of sorts with a roof that enhanced the sounds of chanting.

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These type of caves were my favourite. The sounds that rang through the place were a delight

 

 

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The monks had to rest somewhere too

We had to take off our footwear at many caves and I was glad I hadn’t worn laced up shoes. Mercifully  there was also drinking water available around the place.

 

 

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Something at every corner

There was much to see other than the caves too. A couple of viewpoints and a park where one could choose to eat. However as we were wondering which direction to head, a guard suggested a waterfall in the premises! After a climb over a few bumpy rocks, we got to the gushing sound and the misty freshness of an earnest waterfall breaking through the stubborn mountains. The roaring waterfall fell into a placid pool that further trickled down into a clear stream.

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See the people beside the waterfall for scale

Anand, who initially wanted to go to the viewpoint uphill also decided to instead relax a while after clicking his photos of course. A thaali meal at the MTDC hotel later, we happened to bump into the same guy who had initially shown us the way in and who continued to insist we visit his store. Memories of those yelling storekeepers ensured we had no such interest and we instead asked him the way to the Ajanta caves museum next door. He did take us to a hard-to-find exit while insisting we visit his store. Filled with guilt we headed out with no intention to return!

 

The Ajanta museum itself was quite a surprise. It was spacious, filled with info and short videos and replicas of the actual caves. It was in fact, a fantastic option for people who didn’t want to walk in the heat within the actual Ajanta caves. It had a lot of staff who were helpful and eager to help in the wide space. The only drawback perhaps that we were already quite tired after walking in Ajanta so we couldn’t give it as much time as we’d have wished otherwise.  Seeing the effort put into sketches of costumes, jewellery, weapons of the people of the time was however quite a treat.

Aurangabad – Day 1
On our return to the hotel, we crashed and slept the evening away in exhaustion. We decided to take the bus to Ellora the next day. After a breakfast at the nearby eatery, we headed off in the most rickety bus I’d ever been in , to Aurangabad. We could almost sense every nut and bolt in the bus, but it was still strangely comfortable with enough leg space. 3 hours later, we reached the bus station from where we took a rick to our oh-so-comfortable hotel room.

It took all of our determination to drag ourselves out of its comfort to head back into the sun for more walking at Ellora. We managed to freshen up, have a meal and headed back to the bus station, despite the offer of our hotel guy to spend Rs.1500 on a taxi. We landed there at 3pm. There was no time for a leisurely walk exploring as the place closed by 6pm. The next day was a Tuesday when caves are closed for visitors, hence this was our only chance. So we optimised based on a very useful article that suggested must-visits based on time one had, on the archaeological survey of India site. This floor plan also helps.

Cave 16, the Kailash temple right at the entrance was undoubtedly the most breath-taking. A huge, detailed, monolithic, gorgeous structure carved out from top-down an entire temple with several areas, it was hard to fathom where they’d have started and which great mind had the courage to envision such a work of art.

 

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This was simply stunning
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Carving this out of rock from the top-down, what a grand vision
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I loved this carving of the lot!

We optimised on time by visiting the rest of the caves as suggested on the site to view “representative art of Buddhism, Brahmanism, and Jainism”. The caves suggested on Buddhism were similar to the ones in Ajanta. And the ones of Hindu like style were similar to other temples we’d visited before but were still interesting. Just as we eagerly headed to the last bit, we realised the pathway to the next set of caves was blocked with thorns! There was a gorgeous waterfall between the last cave(29?) such that the water from there would have sprinkled on those walking along the path. Would have been quite a blissful experience but it wasn’t our day 😦 .

 

 

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Such a spot of mystery and magic 🙂

 

The only way now was by road and quite a walk. With our shared distaste at arguing with auto-rickshaws and their unreasonable demands, we decided it was a walking trip for us. Was not too sunny and only a couple of km but it was slightly uphill, so not the easiest of walks either. Thankfully, we had refreshments and we both had some water and ice-candy and were all set for the Jain caves. We also found a guide who took us all through the connected set of Jain caves while regaling us with their stories. The cave 32 with the Indra sabha and the thirthankaras at the entrance, especially the familiar Gomateshwara (made familiar to us by trips to Shravanabelegola and our history books) were placed amidst quite lovely artwork on the upper floor of the cave.

 

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Some of the Jain section

 

We headed off to the exit determined to take a bus back to Aurangabad. There was also a lady at the bus stop with us. After 3 buses passed by without stopping, we began to question our choice of transport only to have the next one stop. Apparently, the lady was an employee at the caves and knew the bus driver since she took the bus daily, we were lucky enough to be there then, and managed to head off to Aurangabad. We got a seat quickly enough ; me, initially on some sort of extension to the bus seat where the bus conductor could take a nap!

Up next : Aurangabad turned out to be a surprise package

9 day trip

Maharashtra : A heritage walk and a modern city

Pune -> Sinhgad -> Pune -> Lavasa -> Ajanta -> Ellora -> Aurangabad ->Mumbai

Capture

Continued from here

We were up early for the part of the Pune trip I was most eager about, the heritage walk. We got to the location at 7 am and headed off with a small group, 2 locals, one American and the 2 of us being guided by a Dr.Ajit Apte. And how wondrous it was. Some highlights of what we learned

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The lovely little bylanes that we happened on, ever so often in our walk.

 

    • Mihrab : An ornamental indentation in the wall of a mosque, which marks the direction of the mecca. Mihrabs vary in size and color but are usually shaped like a doorway and decorated with tiles and calligraphy to make it stand out.
    • Ganesh patti or Kumbha patti : A wooden strip on the top of the entrance door to the house, that would either have a Ganesh or a kumbha design (coconut and betel leaves in a small pot) was carved out as a sign of auspiciousness
    • The grills in a couple of homes had the bust of Shivaji or Queen Victoria as part of the design.

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      If you really zoom in, you can see the Queen on the railing where the gentleman stands
    • Shaniwarwada : was where the kings resided, there were other areas for the commoners(done up in Agra style) and comb makers. It had walls of 2-8ft thickness and stairs within the walls themselves.

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      Lots of pointing, this time at Shaniwarwada
    • Kasba Ganapati temple : The male deity of the town and the first idol immersed during visarjan in Pune. Also, it’s considered auspicious to give the first wedding invite to the temple here.
    • Lal Mahal : We saw the gate closed and sighed in disappointment seeing the working hours of the place. Our guide, however, tweaked the gates to open them up! Though the building is a reconstruction atop the original structure that was there, the place itself holds great value for being the location of one of the the greatest commando attacks in the history of the world. The attack on Shaista Khan by Shivaji with a troupe of 2000 that wilted down to 50 as stages of the attack progressed made for a gripping tale.
    • Shaniwarwada : Arguably the most popular with 5 gates. Spikes added on the door to prevent elephants who were then used to crash it open. The sun and moon symbols on it to indicate the longevity of the empire.
    • Origin of the surnames Fadnavis : clerk/officer in charge and Peshwa : Chief minister. We also learnt of the popular Nana Fadnavis who handled all the affairs of the Peshwas.
    • Shizam wood and Burma teak used for construction still resist termites and decay because of its oil secretions.
    • Nana Wada : A night school for the underprivileged and a day school run in the premises of a historical building made my day.

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      Historical structures continuing to be used as the foundation for the future: Nanawada
    • Baji Rao: the only unbeaten general.
    • Bhausaheb Rangari : I’d heard of the story of the Ganesha festival being used to unite people and bring the masses into the fold of the freedom struggle. But hadn’t heard before of this gentleman whose home was the start of this. He was a renowned doctor of repute and the most memorable part of the walk was the door to his house, that could be unlocked from inside and from outside without a key and I was the proud person of the group to figure out the latch. This was to allow escaping freedom fighters to enter quickly and evade the police.

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      The magic door, behind this guy who photo-bombed it
    • Tambdi Jogeshwari : the temple that housed the female town deity and protector. It was also the 2nd location that got the privilege of visarjan of Ganapati.
    • Bhide wada : My personal favourite historical place on the walk was a non-descript location that was the first place in the region where girls were educated by a native person. Near it was also the first library for the vernacular (Marathi) language.
    • Mahatma Phule Mandai : was the vegetable and fruit mandi ironically named after the person who opposed its construction with public money.
    • The Sree Ram mandir in Tulsibaug with monkeys sculpted all over. The Nagarkhana housed a traditional musical instrument called Chaughada that is played every day. Both are located next to the Laxmi road that was the commercial street of Pune since days of yore.
    • Vishrambagh wada where we ended our walk was a pleasant place where people would come to be entertained with music or dance. It had beautiful lamps all over the ceiling.

 

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What sights this space may have witnessed!

 

On the guide’s recommendation, we had our breakfast at the popular place ‘Sri Misal’ after a wait in a mercifully quick moving queue. We got back to our car for the rest of the day and headed to the other spectrum of time at Lavasa, the modern private hill city.
The drive was beautiful all through the way once we crossed the city’s traffic that refused to let us leave comparisons with Bangalore aside. We sat down by the lake we passed by just after the toll to relax a while and enjoy the pleasant breeze and view the surrounding hills.

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Away from it all..

 

A little further and we reached the planned township. Built surrounding a water source, we headed straight to the promenade for a heavy meal after which we strolled around the area. It was a nice place to explore on foot/on hired cycles and had options for water sports.

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What I’d enjoy the most, however, was just sitting by the water on a bench and reading or gazing into the landscape. We left there and got to the hotel after returning the car later that evening.21600847984_2cd6cd5fea_o-2

Up next : Remember Ajanta and Ellora from your textbooks?

9 day trip

Maharashtra: Wandering in Pune

Pune -> Sinhgad -> Pune -> Lavasa -> Ajanta -> Ellora -> Aurangabad ->Mumbai

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Some vacations are not for chilling in the typical sense. They are for wonder and fun and meeting people, places, and new and interesting versions of yourself that you didn’t know could calmly hike 6kms after the more hectic 3 days of foot-work or stay awake without fatigue till 1AM.

Pune : 2 days

After a birthday spent mostly at the bank either physically or mentally, the highlight being a lovely lunch with (mercifully) a group of folks who did not know of it being my birthday, and being interrupted even during the lunch with 2-3 bank related interruptions, all I wanted was to head out the next day with a reasonable level of things settled in.

After starting work from 6 AM and going on till 11 AM (we had booked tickets mid-day by mistake instead of the evening in our holiday planning rush) and wading through Bangalore traffic we managed to get into the flight that would take us away, just long enough for us to be away to be glad to get back home too🙂

We landed in Pune and headed to our hotel room only to be absolutely delighted with it. Cosy and carefully decorated with attention to detail it was just what we needed for a quick nap to start off our vacation. Early in the evening we were up and decided to ramble around the Koregaon park area with my walking shoes (that I was eternally grateful for throughout the trip). Our first stop was German bakery that was just a couple of minutes away from our hotel. It was the first eatery I’d ever been to with a security check and metal detectors, no thanks to the nasty bombing of 2010 that killed and injured many. Keeping that thought aside, we tried to focus on the bakery itself and decided amongst ourselves that we liked it. Some satisfying cheese filled jalapenos and coffee later we decided it was enough nourishment to tide us over our walk of the area. As popular as the kheema pao was, as a speciality in Pune, I didn’t feel up to finishing that for tea and decided to try it some other day.

We continued walking in the area past the Osho ashram that we considered visiting, however stumbling upon a Quora post on a very weird guy describing the place made us decide against it. Nevertheless, it was an interesting stroll through residences of people we’ll never be as rich as. The Ganesha idols in pandals were also all over the place.

 

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Pandals everywhere for Ganesha Chaturthi

We stopped at a sufficiently interesting place for something to drink and had drinks called Boom(Musumbi,Khus,Lemon) and Jhoom (Musumbi,Rose,Lemon) to satisfy our thirst and our tickled curiosity. The cheese from the previous meal still filling us up, we walked back to the welcoming hotel to rest enough for another interesting day.

 

Interesting dreams paid us a visit : a visit to the heavens and being chased back to the earth , form-changing creatures and floods for me, and a honey badger attacking a cat for him. We took a rick to pick up the hired car for the day and headed off to yummy breakfast of alu vada, puri with shrikhand, and sitaphal milkshake. Following the maps to Sinhgad lead us to a suspicious fine of Rs.250 for a toll ‘missed’ because we were in a hired car. But that was also the first time we passed by the war cemetery. We couldn’t help but stop there even if only by the road, every time we passed by it on our trip. This was only the first.

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On the way to Sinhgad

 

After a bumpy ride with beautiful purple and yellow blooms and thriving plantain plants on either side of the rocky surfaces ,we did reach Sinhgad and were welcomed by the sight of thinly sliced amla, raw mangoes, guava, cucumber, kulfi and boiled peanuts.  We headed off on the trek uphill to reach the top. For all places on this trip, the recurring theme was to carry as much water as comfortable, good walking shoes and hats. Even despite it being expected to have mild weather/rains, it was predominantly sultry. We passed by towers and pools of water randomly showing up along the way. The walking route, however, was quite confusing with it forking every few minutes.

 

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Lots of prettiness

 

After Kuvempu’s in Shimoga, this was yet another scenic samadhi, this time of Raja Ram Mohan Roy one of my favourite social reformers.

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A samadhi with a view

 

Other than the view from there, it also had a catchment of water and a small Ganesha temple beside it. Once we reached the top it was scenic with the Khadakwasla river also visible. The beautiful breeze gave some respite and sufficiently revived us to make our way back down.

 

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Warning : These yummy looking peanuts have no salt 😦 But try everything else!

 

After some disappointing boiled peanuts (they were steeped in turmeric and didn’t have any salt!), we entered an area that promised ‘unique art’ for an entry fee. It turned out to be metal etchings depicting Shivaji’s life starting from the time his parents were wedded till his own demise. It made for an interesting overview of him. Just as we were about to leave we also stumbled upon the horse stables of the older ages that were essentially a rock carved out into sections for the animals to rest.
We were quite hungry and decided to head out to the thatched hotel of the guy who first called us over when we had parked the car. We got to sit on chairs at an angle due to the inclined mud-floor, and what a view it was.

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A great view and delicious food. Life doesn’t get better

 

I had the most delicious usal made with green gram. Turned out that the rest of the trip would disappoint me as I continued to order it everywhere hoping for a repeat of the taste. Anand merrily consumed 2 tiny pots of the matka curd too and it was clear that was not a day for food complaints.

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This is certified yummy

 

We lingered a bit more, bought some bottled water, promptly left it behind and then headed off to the Khadakwasla dam in search of some soothing water views.

It was, however, teeming with people and we just went around it without stopping. Looking for places to cover the rest of the day we headed to the Pataleshwar temple within the city. It was a rock cut temple below the ground level, but otherwise wasn’t much to write much about.

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Pataleshwar temple

 

To further our culinary adventures for the day, we headed off to Kalyan bhel which was supposed to be the best in Pune. We did have bhel puri but our Bangalore- bhel- puri-adjusted palate found it too sweet to be completely happy about it. We had to return the car, so stopped again on the road by the war cemetery, then returned the car, packed some dinner of a salad and some chilli-cheese toast from German Bakery again and walked back to the hotel to rest for another day.

Up next : A mix of old and new in Pune