January 01, 2015

the Caves..the Crater..the Gods..

Some companies are grounded.. other are taking advantage..The airfares are soaring..
So...December trip this year we are going for a long drive...
We started planning for a trip down south.. Hampi and other destinations around.. But somewhere we got lost and did not book on time..
It was time to plan another destination..

Conditions apply :
-- open ended trips are always awesome !
-- should not be very close
-- should have good stay options
-- should have good sightseeing places
-- can be done without prior bookings in some places

We thought..
We planned..
We decided..
So here we are... in the Marathwada region of Maharashtra..

Covered the following destinations..
1. Aurangabad and around...
    -- Bibi ka Maqbara..
    -- Salim ali talaab.. for birding off course..
    -- Grushneshwar temple.. one of the 12 jyotirlinga..
    -- Ellora caves..

2. Ajintha caves..

3. Lonar crater and around..
    -- Crater / Lake..
    -- Hanuman Mandir in Lonar village..
    -- Daitya Sudan Mandir..

4. Shegaon
    -- Anand Sagar
    -- Gajanan Maharaj Mandir..

5. Ambajogai
    -- Ambajogai Mandir..

6. Pandharpur
    -- Tulja Bhawani Mandir..Tuljapur on the way..
    -- Vithoba Rakhmai Mandir..

Day 1 : Travel to Aurangabad..
We started from Mumbai around 8.15 for our journey towards Aurangabad. Decided to take the Mumbai-Nashik-Manmad-Aurangabad road..
Mumbai to Manmad was a brisk drive averaging 60kmph. But Manmad to Aurangabad we averaged around 35kmph.
We reached Aurangabad, Hotel Lemon Tree at around 3.45pm and were tired after the gruesome drive.
Took rest for the day and decided to check out Bibi ka Maqbara and Grushneshwar Temple the next day.

Common Stonechat

Room at Lemon Tree

Day 2 : Around Aurangabad.. All calculations go out of the window.

We had decided to take the day easy. So we got up lazily.. Had sumptuous breakfast and then decided to leave to check out 2 places today.
1. Grushneshwar temple.
2. Bibi ka Maqbara.

Tip : Relying solely on google maps can be dangerous..

Directions to Grushneshwar temple showed 5kms from the hotel. So we decided to go to that place first.
Just to make sure we were on the right track, we decided to check with locals before we started.
We were in for a shock. The actual temple is 40kms from the hotel.. Sigh.. What do we do.. do we go, do we not go..
Now that we have started, lets check it out.
The temple is close to Ellora caves too.. So we decided to add that to todays itinerary as well..

Grushneshwar temple (also written as Grishneshwar), is one of the 12 Jyotirlinga's in India. We reached the temple and to our surprise we did not find many people at the parking. Boy, was I happy..
We go fast and we see that no mobiles, cameras are allowed inside the temple premise. So we deposite everything in the locker and move ahead.
We are shown way to the line. and it goes back as far as you can see..

Another dilemma, should we wait, should we leave ??
We decide to wait ... but then there is another wait, as some VIPs decide to visit the Temple on the same day.. Sigh.. Wife gets irritated.. so damn irritated.. she wants to confront, but I want to keep the darshan smooth.. We let it go..

Finally after a wait for 2 hours, we reach the temple Gabhara.. Men have to go without any clothes on the upper body.. No leather belts are allowed too.. so make sure you are ready for that if you want to visit this temple.

But we get good darshan. There is rush, but we see the God.. Har Har Mahadev !!

Next we saw the Ellora Caves.. There are around 34 caves which are carved out of rocks..
12 Buddhist (caves 1–12), 17 Hindu (caves 13–29) and 5 Jain (caves 30–34) caves are carved out.

look at the details.. modak in the left hand and trunk towards them...

intricate carvings on the pillars..

this is one of the biggest caves around Ellora.. The carving that you see in the above image is a scene which depicts Ravan (on the lower side), lifting a mountain.. and to keep him in check , Lord Shiva, has placed his leg so that Ravan cannot move it.. There is Parvati besides Shiva and on the lower rung kids around Ravan are teasing..

This is Veerabhadra... One of the avatars of Lord Shiva... You can see he has killed a Demon (Raktbeej) using his sword on his left hand side.. the blood oozing out is being collected on the bowl so that it doesnt fall down and created more demons.. Parvati is sitting on the lower right corner with her hand on her chest showing she is scared..

Tandav Nrutya

shows the various beautifying accessories and make up done even in that era..

Wedding of Lord Shiva and Parvati..

Above scene : Post wedding rituals of playing some games where Parvati's asks Lord Shiva to open her hand. and with a bit of cheating from Mahadev he says je cannot open it.. you can see a smile on his lips..

It took us about 2 hours to cover Ellora, much much more than I expected..

From Ellora, we decided to take a look at the Tomb of the Lady..
Bibi ka Maqbara (Taj mahal of maharashtra) is located around 15 kms from the hotel..

Day 3 : Aurangabad to Ajanta..

We started day 3 a bit early, as we had to do some sightseeing on the way to Ajanta.. We had to seen Daulatabad fort and Bhadra Maruti in Khuldabad..

But not before I went some birding around Dr. Salim Ali Talaab in Aurangabad city. The lake itself is not accessible and the gates are closed, but they there are always other entrances.. the one I went to is like a naala and not a great spot..

Spot Billed ducks..

Purple Moorhen..

Two is company..

Three is family..

Daulatabad fort, which is around 12 kms from the hotel..

the huge canon on top of the fort.. called Mendi-Tof..

and now you know why.. Mendi --> sheep..

Must see Tunnel... Super architecture.. One of the must do's on the fort..

There is a Bharatmata Temple in the fort which shouldnt be missed either..

From here it was a non-stop drive to Ajanta T-junction MTDC guest house.. The guest house is located right at the parking of Ajanta caves.

Day 4 : Ajanta caves..

Started with some awesome Sunbirding :)

With that awesome start to the day, we moved towards the 26 caves of Ajanta (Ajintha).. Most of the paintings in the caves have worn off.. but the idols are still there..
The bus to the base of the caves costs Rs.15/- each. and the Entrance cost is Rs.20/- each for Indian citizen and Rs.250/- for a foreigner.

Small hill on the other side of the caves, the lower view point, gives the view of the entire 26 cave structure.. The walk is a steep 20 minutes steps...

The Lower view point, also gives a view to a 7 step waterfall..

It was a tiring day.. we came back and rested..

Day 5 : Ajanta to Lonar..
Last evening, I thought I saw a pair of Painted storks landing somewhere in the woods in front of the resort.. So today morning, I go check ... and wallah !!!

Black Stork

Eurasian Spoonbill

And some birds in flight...(Check the album at the end of the blog for more :D)

Intermediate Egret

Little Egret

Drive to Lonar was good... reached the resort to be astonished at the cleanliness and beautiful rooms at the MTDC..

Day 6 : Around Lonar..
Called up Prof. Bughdhane to check if he could accompany us to the Lonar crater as a guide. He is one of the best around. He has trained a few students who also take you around the town..
The guides charge around 1100 for taking around the Crater and other sightseeing places around Lonar.. The Hanuman temple and the Daitya Sudan Mandir..
But Bughdhane sir did not tell me about any charges even after insisting. So I gave him what I felt at that time.

We started from the resort at 8.10am and reached back after to the resort at 2pm..
We stepped down in the crater from near the Temple of Kamala Mata..

And we walked all the way around the lake for nearly 2.5 kms and got our at the other end towards the Dhaar side or the Sita Naal of the crater..
Though the lake is devoid of fish, there are still birds like Brahmini Ducks, Grebes which visit the lake for the Blue-green algae on the lake..

I will try to put up a video, which runs into 1.6gb right now, which shows Bughdane sir giving details about the Lake..

the small white structure is the temple we came down to...

thats the one.

We visited the Hanuman Temple and the Daitya Sudan Temple before returning to the hotel..

Day 7 : Lonar to Shegaon..

The day when sightseeing stops and God visits begin... The first stop is Shegaon, for Gajanan Maharaj mandir.. We reach Shegaon by afternoon.. We go directly to Anand Vihar Bhakt niwas and we see there is a huge line for availing stay.. They allow only one of us wait in the line and I can see atleast 50 people ahead.. which implies 50 families..
We are told, the rooms are allotted as and when they get vacated.. We wait for 35-40 minutes and then my patience starts fading.. I tell me wife to wait in the line while I hunt for a place to stay..
I check google, and it shows me Tulsi-Inn.. I navigate and reach the spot through the smallest of the lanes and dirtiest of the places..
He shows me the room.. Its congested and he quotes 2000/-.. plus point -- close to the mandir..

I think of checking some other room.. So I come back from where I started, call up my wife.. She tells me.. Just heard that people who are in line from 6am, have got room at 2pm.. I ask her to leave the line and we search for a stay some place away from the mandir..

So we check google again, and this time I see a hotel called, Rasika Inn.. The room is clean and neat, but again the charges are exhorbitant.. We pay 2300/- for a night.. sigh.. but then beggars are not choosers..

We dump the luggage and head out to visit Anand Sagar.. Its a tourist complex which houses some attractions, like a Musical Fountain, Aquarium and there is also a Dhyaan Mandir (Meditation centre)..

We walk nearly 5kms inside the Anand Sagar. But the experience at the Dhyaan mandir is really awesome !! havent had a peaceful time like that..

Day 8 : Shegaon to Ambajogai..
Decided to start really early morning to visit the temple.. Started at around 5.45 from the hotel and reached mandir at 6.. There was not much crowd as the train generally arrives around 6.. So people who travel by train had just reached Shegaon and were on their way to get fresh..
We had really good darshan there..
Came out of the temple by 8.30.. Went back to the hotel, grabbed our luggage.. had breakfast and were on our way to Ambajogai..
This was the most pathetic travel I had in the whole journey... Some places lack tarmac altogether.. and most of the drive was on a State Highway..

Day 9 : Ambajogai to Pandharpur..
We added Tuljapur to the itinerary on the go as it was on the way.. Tuljapur is one of the Shaktipeeth..
Wanted to also visit Parli-Vaijnath, but somehow missed that part on this trip..
Tuljapur was crowded.. Very crowded..
One cannot take cameras inside the temple premise. There are cloak rooms and lockers outside where one needs to deposit the camera.
We went inside and checked the line, some people said it would take 4 hours to complete the darshan.. I was planning to go back, but then we decided to go ahead and wait..
We had to cover 3 floors to finally get into the Gaabhara of the Devi.. and when we finally reached after nearly 3 hours, we did not see the idol..
There are 3 periods when the Devi sleeps.. 7 days, 7 days and 4 days.. Total 18 days a year..
And we were in one of those time frames.. The Devi was sleeping..

We came out of the temple a bit disappointed.. and started our journey towards Pandharpur.. Reached Pandharpur and checked into hotel Aishwarya.. One of the better hotels in Pandharpur..

It was 8'o clock and I wanted to visit the temple. The temple is open for darshan till 10.45p,m..
So we quickly get ready and walk to the temple. I buy some flowers and prasad.. And we get into the temple.. We see nobody and then we see Mukh-darshan board..
We ask the guard there and he tells us it will take atleast 2 hours to take darshan in the line..Not sure what to do, we go ahead and go in the line..

It takes around 45 minutes for us to take darshan.. and it is one awesome Idol ! absolutely serene and amazing..

No photos from Ambajogai or Pandharpur..

Day 9 : Pandharpur to Mumbai..

Started the day again we start early to take darshan once more.. this time there is crowd.. we have to move 3 floors.. but it takes around 1 hour 15 minutes to reach the idol.. Nice start to the day again..

Come back to the hotel.. have a quick breakfast and start back for Mumbai around 9.45..
We take the Pandharpur -- Shirwal -- Mumbai road.. And boy some amazing road of the full journey..

Reach Mumbai at around 4.15pm..

Stats :
Days traveled : 10
Places covered : 7
Distance crunched : 1910kms
Petrol burnt : ~110lts

These are photos of a trip that lasted for 10 days and 1900kms..Watch at your own convenient time..

Road conditions update...

Mumbai to Aurangabad road condition :
Mumbai to Manmad, we did around 60kmph for 260kms..
The next patch of 120kms from Manmad to Aurangabad is a MANmade disaster..we averaged around 35kmph.. Some good patch and some non exisitent patches..

Aurangabad to Ajantha road condition :
Great drive.. may have some bad patch but very very few..

Ajantha to Lonar road condition :
Nice roads and a lovely drive..

Lonar to Shegaon road condition :
Ok to Good roads

Shegaon to Ambajogai road condition :
We decided not to travel by the same route as we took from Lonar to Shegaon and wanted to check the other route the Google maps was showing..
We decided to take the Shegaon--Washim--Hingoli--Parbhani--Ambagojai route..
The road has the most horrible patches I have seen in the entire trip..
Before hingoli for nearly 10kms.. the road is non-existent..
This was the most tiring of all the journey..

Ambajogai to Tuljapur to Pandharpur road condition :
Ok to good roads.. can keep good speeds of 70kmph..

Pandharpur to Shirwal road condition :
Nearly complete 4 lane route.. Awesome views in between.. Great tarmac..

Shirwal to Mumbai road condition :
There are a lot of places between Satara and Pune where the road widening, flyover construction is going on.. But couldnt see anyone working there too..

Other rides

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