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Our pilgrimage to Pune, Mumbai and Aurangabad in Western India

March 27, 2019

22 February – 1 March 2019

22 FEBRUARY 2019

To Pune International Airport by Indigo Airlines from New Delhi  IGI T1D @ 15.00 hrs. arrival @ 16.50 hrs .

6.30 PM – The 8-day travel began with a brief stopover at  Dagdu Shet Halwai Ganpati Temple, located at Budhwar Peth . The temple is dedicated to Lord Ganesh and is arguably the most famous one in Pune. This temple was built in 1892 by a sweet maker who lost his son to the plague. The temple played a crucial role in inspiring Lokmanya Tilak to organise the annual Ganesh festival to unite Indians to fight for freedom from the British.

Overnight stay at Treebo Grand Emerald – Pimpri -Chinchwad. Plot Number 63, D- Block, 1, Nigadi Bhosari Road, Nigadi. Phone : 93228 00100 . Direct Phone : +(91)-20-67312200. This is a comfortable affordably priced property, approx 24 kms from Pune Airport . During evening traffic rush time, it can take 60-75 minutes to get there from the Airport !

23 FEBRUARY9.45 AM: Departed  for  Bhimashankar ,110 kms drive that takes approx. . 2.5 hours.  Bhīmāshankar is also the source of the river Bhima, which flows southeast and merges with the Krishna river near Raichur.  For elderly people, “palkis” are arranged @ Rs 750 each as several steps have to be covered down and up to get to and return from the temple .

Left for  Pune @ 2.45 PM. Spent time while returning at Himayat Bagh – also known earlier as Mughal Gardens . This is a 17th-century Garden that now houses the Fruit Research Station and Nursery, which is a part of the Vasantrao Naik Marathwada Krishi Vidyapeeth, Parbhani. It is located near Delhi Gate in Rauza Bagh area .

Dinner at the splendid Golden Curry Restaurant in Treebo Grand Emerald Hotel before retiring to bed after a long day .

24 FEBRUARY 10 AM  : Visited Shaniwar Wada, the seat of power of the Peshwas or Prime Ministers of the powerful Maratha Empire which was a dominant power in India between the 17th and 19th centuries. This Palace was built in 1730 in honour of Peshwa Bajirao Ballal Balaji Bhat for services rendered to the Maratha Empire. As per local legends, even today Shaniwarwada is dreaded for supernatural activities on the full-moon night !

People believe that the fort is haunted by the ghost of Bajirao’s grandson Narayanrao, who was murdered by his family. After the British took over the region, fort became of residence of British officers for a decade until 1828 when a major fire broke within the fort. What caused this fire is still unknown but the entire fort was destroyed in it. The fire burnt for seven long days and after it was extinguished, only the huge walls and gates remained, everything else was destroyed. The fort was abandoned after the fire and no one has lived here ever since. The fort opens at 8 AM and there is an admission fee of Rs 10 per person. A Sound and Light Show also takes place in the evening for which charges have to be paid for separately .

12 .15 p.m. : Aga Khan Palace is a national monument of India’s freedom movement. Built in 1892 by Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III, the Palace witnessed some remarkable events that define India’s freedom movement against the British.

Gandhiji, his wife Kasturba Gandhi and his close associate  Mahadev Desai were imprisoned here during the Quit India movement in 1942. Both Kasturba as well as Mahadev Desai [ who died soon after his imprisonment ] were cremated here . A small part of Gandhiji’s ashes are also kept here . During the tour, the visitors will realize why  the Aga Khan Palace is a memorial to Gandhiji and his simple life.  

Departed  for Mumbai @ 3.00 PM – 2.5 hrs away . Stopped over at the picturesque Lonavla on the way for buying mouth licking “chikkis”  made of jaggery mixed with almonds/dry fruits, peanuts  and the like .

lonavla chikkis

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An  awesome view of Lonavla valley as we drive towards Mumbai from Pune.

Arrived in Mumbai @ 6.30 p.m.

Enjoyed delicious snacks at Gupta Chat in King’s Circle , hub of food joints , close to renovated Matunga Central Railway Station .

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Overnight stay at Matunga , Mumbai Central  at my elder sister’s apartment facing Mumbai’s first garden-under-flyover  inaugurated recently . Named Nanalal D. Mehta Garden, it is located under the Tulpule Flyover on Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Road.

25 FEBRUARY10 AM: Mahalakshmi Temple : This  is one of the most famous temples of  Mumbai situated on  Bhulabhai Desai Road in Mahalaxmi area. It is dedicated to Goddess Mahalaxmi . The temple was built in 1831 by Dhakji Dadaji (1760–1846), a Hindu merchant.

TEMPLE mahalakshmi

Babulnath Temple : Situated on a small hillock near Girgaum Chowpatty, close to Marine Drive , it is one of oldest temples in Mumbai City, Shiva in the form of the Lord of the Babul tree is the main deity in this temple. We were fortunate to be present at the time of afternoon Aarti .  Senior citizens/ladies with young children can use the lift for going up and coming down paying just Re 1 per person for up and down travel .

Mumba Devi Mandir : It is an old temple in the city dedicated to Goddess Mumbā, the local incarnation of the Devi. The Temple was first built in Bori Bunder in 1675. It  was destroyed and reconstructed at Zaveri Bazaar [ Jewellers market ] , Bhuleshwar in 1737.

Since ancient times, the Koli fishermen and Dravidians offered their prayers to Mumbadevi at this temple and still continue to do so. Car parking here  is quite a problem !  One of the 12 infamous terrorist attacks of  November 2008 [ also referred to as 26/11 ] were carried out here by the miltant group Lashkar-e-Tauba  !

Shree Siddhi Vinayak Temple : Located in Prabhadevi area over a huge area, this is where residents and visitors come in large numbers , especially  during Aarti time in  the evening , to have a “Darshan” of Lord Ganapati . There is a special gate in the temple for the benefit of senior citizens and the infirm which ensures quick entry . The temple presents a splendid view when illuminated during late evenings . It was originally built by Laxman Vithu and Deubai Patil on 19 November 1801 and is one of the richest temples in Mumbai.

The temple has a small mandap with the shrine for Siddhi Vinayak (“Ganesha who grants your wish”). The wooden doors to the sanctum are carved with images of Ashtavinayak (the eight manifestations of Ganesha ).  The inner roof of the sanctum is plated with gold,  and the central statue is of Ganesha. In the periphery, there is a Hanuman temple as well.

The long day ended on  a happy note with a grand party at the NSCI, opp: Haji Ali, overlooking the Arabian Sea  to mark our marriage anniversary .

26 FEBRUARY11 AM :  Visited the very splendid Shri Narayani Dham constructed out of red stones in typical Rajasthan architecture . It is located at Lonavla ,  90 kms drive from Mumbai which takes about 2 hours to cover . The temple –constructed 17 years ago in 2002 –  is dedicated to Goddess Narayani and is one of the famous places of sightseeing in Lonavala.  The main deity of the temple is Ma Narayani and on either side of the main shrine are shrines dedicated to Ganapathi, Hanuman and other Hindu deities. The deities are beautifully decorated with glittering jeweleries. The entrance is a 4 storeyed structure, with fountains lined up on the pathway from entrance to temple.

The temple has large Halls and gardens sufficiently large  enough to host marriages and receptions . It also has several airconditioned  bedrooms with attached toilets so that the devotees coming from long distance can stay comfortably. Visitors can have delicious vegetarian meals in the dining room at very affordable prices . There is also  a Goshala where visitors can feed the cows.

27 FEBRUARY :  5 AM: Left for Aurangabad by early morning flight by Jet Airways from International airport departures . Checked  in the early morning hours  at Treebo Trends Sonia Hotel ,6-A, Town Center, Jalna Road, Sambhaji Nagar, N 1, CIDCO. [3 Kms from the Airport via Highway – Less than 10 minutes drive ] .

The property is owned and managed by Mr Subodh Gite , a very affable  person  I was happy to make friends with . During my conversation with him, he assured me that guests staying at this Hotel will receive utmost attention and best of hospitality .

10 AM: Visited Bhadra Maruti temple  dedicated to Lord Hanuman in Khuldabad on way to Ellora caves. At this temple, the idol of Hanuman is portrayed in a reclining or sleeping posture.

maruti1

The approach  to the temple is unfortunately in a bad condition with no repairs in sight !  Several shops selling flowers and “kandi pedas” [ sweets ] abound in the vicinity .

To Ellora Caves – 110 kms from Aurangabad .  Cave 16 with the gigantic Kailash temple and Cave 12 with a two storey monastery is a must see. Kailash temple is notable for its vertical excavation-carvers started at the top of the original rock , and excavated downwards , exhuming the temple out of the existing rock . In all , 34 monasteries and temples, including those devoted to Jainism and Buddhism , extending over more than 2 km, were dug side by side in the wall of a high basalt cliff .

Ellora, with its uninterrupted sequence of monuments dating from A.D. 600 to 1000, brings the civilization of ancient India to life. It is estimated that about 200,000 tons of rocks were scooped over several years to create this monolithic structure . Built in 8th century by Rashtrakuta king Krishna 1 , Ellora Caves is now a UNESCO heritage . An amazing collection of structures that simply leaves you spellbound  !

Visitors can opt for a guide against payment of Rs 500.  An admission fee of Rs 40.

Grishneshwar [ Lord of Compassion ]  temple is one of the 12 Jyotirlings dedicated to Lord Shiva  in the country and is located within a distance of  500 metres from Ellora Caves . All men must take off their vests before entering the temple premises .

 

This 240 ft x 185 ft temple is the smallest Jyotirlinga temple in India. Halfway up the temple, Dashavataras of Lord Vishnu are carved in red stone

Returned to Aurangabad around 6 PM . Overnight stay at the Hotel .

28 FEBRUARY  : 9.30  AM:  Ajanta Caves – 105  kms away from Aurangabad . However,  the driving time is approx. 3.30 hrs as the road to the Caves from Aurangabad city is under major repairs . Ajanta Caves are 30 rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments which date from the 2nd century BCE to about 480 CE. The entire complex has been maintained nicely with beautiful landscaping all around . A shuttle bus takes you to the entrance to the Caves from the parking spot [ fee of Rs 20/person either side] . As the approach to the Caves is quite steep [ via steps or ramp ] , elders can opt for the visit riding on “Palkis” @ Rs 1500 /person [ essentially a wooden Chair lifted by 4 persons ] . Admission fee : Rs 40/person.

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In front of the steps leading to Ajanta Caves

Ajanta Caves include paintings and rock-cut sculptures described as among the finest surviving examples of ancient Indian art, particularly expressive paintings that present emotion through gesture, pose and form. The site is a protected monument in the care of the ASI . Since 1983, the Ajanta Caves have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site . Ajanta Caves constitute ancient monasteries and worship-halls of different Buddhist traditions carved into a 250’ wall of rock.The Caves also present paintings depicting the past lives and rebirths of  Buddha, pictorial tales from Aryasura’s Jatakamala, and rock-cut sculptures of Buddhist deities.

While vivid colours and mural wall-painting were abundant in Indian history as evidenced by historical records,  Caves 1, 2 , 16 and 17  of Ajanta form the largest corpus of surviving ancient Indian wall-painting and are a must see .

There is a Maharashtra Tourism Department managed Café here which serves meals at affordable prices and a MTD run Guest house as well .

3.30 P.M. Left for Aurangabad . Enjoyed delicious mango kulfis at Bombay Kulfi in a market on Jalna Road before returning to the Hotel for overnight stay .

B ombay Kulfi

1 MARCH : 9.45 AM: Bibi Ka Maqbara . It is a tomb which was built during 1668-69  by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb’s son Azam Shah in the memory of his mother, Rabia –ud-Daurani.  It bears a striking resemblance to the famous Taj Mahal in Agra, the Mausoleum of Mumtaz Mahal –  wife of another Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan.

Due to this resemblance, it is also called the Dakkhani Taj (Taj of the Deccan ). Bibi Ka Maqbara is the principal monument of Aurangabad and its historic city. Admission fee : Rs 20 per visitor . Well worth a short visit .

Siddharth Gardens : This  is a beautiful garden in the heart of the City ,  well-known for housing a wide variety of trees and shrubs. Covering a large area, the garden is beautifully designed and very well-maintained, which allures tourists from all over the city and the country.  Colorful flowers, majestic trees and fountains are the main highlights of the garden.

There is a small aquarium in the garden  where we noticed several varietes of fishes . In the premises, there is also a memorial to the brave Indian soldiers who laid their lives while fighting in the wars . Admission fee: Rs 10/visitor .

Aurangabad is famous for its handwoven Paithani and Himroo Silk Sarees and the Mughal Silk Store in the heart of the City offers a great selection of these .

Checked out from the Hotel @ 3 p.m. to board  Air India flight for New Delhi landing @ IGT Airport  T1 @ 7.30 P.M.

End of the trip with pleasant memories . I would very much like to visit Aurangabad again in the near future with my friends , esp. from overseas .

Note by the Author : October – January is the best time for visiting these places .

 

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