It was raining cats and dogs all over Maharashtra and the news of floods, dams full to the brim, railway tracks in Mumbai submerged and so on and so forth was consistently being broadcast on T.V. In such circumstances on 2 nd July night, with our light luggage we waded through shin deep dirty waters everywhere outside the station and entered the Pune station to board the Sahyadri express. Our destination was Kolhapur around which 110 villages were submerged! Come what may, we had decided to stick to our schedule and even the train, starting from rain pounded Mumbai was just 45 minutes late though the reports of most of the trains indefinitely delayed were broadcast!
Next day morning we were in Kolhapur , the prosperous town of Chhatrapati Shivaji 's dynasty,on the banks of river PanchaGanga. Believe me, surprisingly the weather had improved a lot and there was some sunshine, bringing happiness on our faces. Our main purpose was to visit the famous Mahalaxmi temple, built around 700A.D. in the Chalukya period. The same morning we were in the beautifully sculptured and planned huge stone temple with a big yard all around and an elderly banyan tree in one corner. One of the six Shakti-Pithas in the country, here the Goddess is supposed to be present in all her glory and benevolence. Her beautiful 40kg gemstone idol (supposed to be 5000yrs. Old) in the sanctum sanctorum is eyes filling and graceful with a change of sari every now and then(sarees are offered by the pilgrims). From the Balaji of Tirumala, during the Navratri days, the first saree is gifted to the Mahalakshmi of Kolhapur!If you want to come here from Tirupati,remember Rayalseema express!Incidentally,we had the 'darshan' on a very special, auspicious Tuesday(Angaraka sankashta chaturthi) on which people here do not eat meat and even non-vegetarian hotels do not prepare non-veg. food!
Also known as Karveer area this rich town with one of the highest per capita incomes in Maharashtra was in the list of Merc-Benz Co. since pre-independence days. Along with the Dutch,Greek and Ethiopian royalties, ChhatrapatiShahu was also an early owner of aMayBach car, and today the number of Mercedes cars here is second only to Mumbai! Kolhapuri footwear is popular throughout the world and Kolhapuri chicken,you will get in good Hyderabad restaurants. The most interesting and pleasing points to note were,though narrow,the streets and roads were maintained clean and no one spat on the roads or peed on the road sides.We were told that garbage was cleaned twice a day.
Panhala by car.18km. north-west of Kolhapur , a soothing green hill-station3177ft. above the sea-level. Sprawling all over the hill is the Panhala fortress (more than 700yrs. Old) filled with the aroma of history of legendry Chhatrapati Shivaji and Maratha empire.One day earlier we could not have reached there as the road was submerged with flood waters Even today we were passing submerged sugarcane fields on both sides!
All the time the rains were playing hide and seek with us. Panoramic views of the valleys from the different remnants of the majestic fort were lush and beautiful and gratifying to the eyes in the rainy season. Somehow, wrath of the torrential rains was over and we had great fun as we moved as we moved from one remnant to other in the largest of all Deccan forts with a loquacious guide. Don't worry, you too will get one quite cheap and don't expect me to tell the historical details of the fort!We started back early in the evening enjoying the cool green fields getting a golden hue due to the setting sun.On the way back we visited the classical Royal Palace in Kolhapur,where the present descendent prince Shahu Maharaj resides.
Next day morning we had a unique, hearty breakfast of Kolhapuri Missal(a thick, hot vegetarian soup of sprouted legumes with laving mirchi tang) and Pav(bread). Our driver told us that he had instructed the waiter not to make it rrreal hot;otherwise we would have tears in our eyes! Then we started for Sajjangadh,via the National highway to Pune,another 100 km. a very popular hill fortress, in the foothills of Sahyadris. Here Swamy Ramdas guru and guide of Shivaji, spent his life philosophizing noble thoughts in the form of verse for the common people of Maharashtra.Most of the hill we could climb by car and then the final phase of the serene fort, replete with steps, we climbed by foot. Having the 'darshan' of the 'Samadhi', we returned to our car seeing beautiful views of picturesque valleys all around. It drizzled most of the time and fragrance of freshness in the
atmosphere was exceptionally rewarding for people like us from the big rut cities.
We also came across several mini waterfalls on our sides as we ran down the ghats;but the biggest bonus of our trip were the Thoseghar waterfalls, about which, some days back, I had read in a local news paper. We didn't know that they were on our way back!
Soon we were in the vicinity of the falls and saw the name and direction board on our left,a heartening surprise! The thunder was audible but the drizzle, suddenness and newness of the place bewildered me as I confusedly rushed, first in the wrong direction and then in the right direction. Then I started climbing down the well made steps towards the falls. After around 300 steps and some turns, finally I made to the view-point. And loin was nature and beauty personified in the valley with the falls, fortified by abundant rains. For about 20mts. It did not rain and again the rain started thrashing us. Yes, it was time for us to feast nature along with other revelers! It was a rare opportunity for us to be there at the decisive moment! Of course I am not Henry Cartier bresson(a great 20 th century photographer), but definitely my eyes photographed many details for my pleasant memories.
Raja Ram Atre, Those Ghar Falls
Hyderabad , A.P.