Thursday, 30 October 2014

Trip to Glorious Ellora – Ajanta and Aurangabad

After a beautiful Costal trip to Ratnagiri and nearby area, we decided to visit the Ajanta and Ellora Caves. These 2 sites were in my travel wish list from a long time. Considering Diwali holidays, we planned a 4 day trip to Ellora – Ajanta and Aurangabad.

Travelers for this trip were Me, Renuka and my parents-in-law.

Ajanta Caves, Wonder of India
Ajanta Caves, Wonder of India

About Ellora – Ajanta caves and Aurangabad:
                Aurangabad is the 5th largest city in Maharashtra state. It is named after the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. It is also famous as a tourism hub as many historical monuments are close to the city. It includes UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as Ellora – Ajanta caves, Bibi Ka Maqbara, Jayakwadi Dam and many more places.
              Ellora and Ajanta Caves are located 30km and 110km away respectively from Aurangabad. Ellora consists of 34 "caves" that are actually structures excavated out of the vertical face of the Charanandri hills. Buddhist, Hindu and Jain rock-cut temples and viharas and mathas were built between the 5th century and 10th century. Ajanta consists of 30 rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments which date from the 2nd century BCE to about 480 or 650 CE. Carvings and paintings inside the caves are the masterpieces and clearly indicate why these are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Ajanta caves are cut into the side of a cliff that is on the south side of a U-shaped gorge on the small river Waghur. 

The route to reach Aurangabad from Pune is –
Pune – Take road behind Pune station - Yerawada Bridge – Take right after crossing bridge for Nagar Road – Drive on highway No 27 – Ahmednagar – Aurangabad.
The route to reach Ellora caves from Aurangabad is – 
Aurangabad – Aurangabad cantonment area – Daulatabad (Visit daulatabad fort) – Khuldabad – Do not take a right for kuldabad - Ellora caves
The route to reach Ajanta caves from Aurangabad is – 
Aurangabad – join State highway 8 – Phulambri – Sillod – Ajanta Caves

Our stay was at our (Me and Renuka) best friend Ashu’s house which is in a small village called Manjari. Even though village was small, their house was of Wada type with huge acres of farm land behind the Wada. Manjari village is hardly 35km away from Aurangabad city.

Day 0: 25th Oct 2014 – Pune - Manjari village (Total Distance traveled: 214 km):
               It was the last day of the Diwali festival i.e. Bhaubeej. After celebrating this day with relatives, we left Pune by 4 PM. Our target was to reach at Manjari by 8.30 PM and take rest. Ashu’s uncle who is also fond of travelling joined us for next 4 days.
               The drive till Ranjangaon was a bit difficult due to heavy traffic. After crossing Ranjangaon, it was a smooth drive till Manjari. Due to some cyclone on west costal area the weather was cloudy and rain accompanied us till Aurangabad which made us our journey more pleasant. We took a pit stop at town called Supe for snacks and reached Manjari by 9 PM. 

Stay at Manjari Village

Expenses:
  • Car Petrol: INR 3000/- (approx. 40 lit at 76/Lit)
  • Toll 1: INR 45/- (single journey)
  • Toll 2 (at Nagar): INR 30/- (single journey)
  • Toll 3 (at Khadka): INR 30/- (single journey)
  • Snacks at supe: INR 90/- (Vada Pav and tea)

Day 1: 26th Oct 2014 – Manjari – Daulatabad – Ellora - Grishneshwar (Total Distance: 300 km):
           We woke up a bit late by 7 AM, spent some time with friend’s relatives. After breakfast we left for a day trip by 9.30 AM. It was a lazy start for our trip. Our first destination was Daulatabad Fort. After 45-50 km drive we reached at the parking area of the Fort. Daulatabad fort is a 12th century structure situated about 15 kilometers from the city of Aurangabad.
            It was built in the 12th century by the Yadava King of Bhillima V and was called Devgiri. Devagiri was also known as “Devgad”, “Surgiri” and “Dhargiri”. Then, it was acquired by Alauddin Khilji who made it a Mughal stronghold. In the early 14th century, Sultan Mohammed-bin-Tughlak, moved his capital from Delhi to Devgiri and renamed this fort city as Daulatabad. Fort consists of multiple layers of massive walls, deep water trench around fort, and complex arrangement of entryways for strong defense.

Information Board

             After crossing the entrance gate, you can see strong walls with guard rooms and different types of cannons kept for display. The arrangement of the entrance is in such a way that any enemy entering the gates is subject to attack from all sides. The walls surrounding the main entrance gate are still in good shape. After crossing the entrance structures, we took a walk towards the main fort area. On left side of walkway, you can see huge water tank known as Hatti Talav (meaning, Elephant Lake). This artificial lake is 38 meter long, 38 meter wide and 66 meter deep. Due to the hugeness, it is known as Hatti Talav. This might have been the main source of water for the entire fort.
             There is a very beautiful temple at the back side of Lake, known as “Bharatmata” temple. It is dedicated to mother India. The courtyard of the temple doesn’t have a typical roof but consists of many beautiful sculptures. This temple looks like it is from ancient time of ‘Yadavas’. There is a big statue of “Bharatmata” inside the temple. Pillars inside temple are carved in such a way that they are in same line and of same size. The beauty of the temple can be seen only after entering the temple premises. 

Bharatmata Temple, Daulatabad Fort
Bharatmata Temple, Daulatabad Fort

           On the right side of walkway, there is four stage 100 meter height tower known as Chand minar. It is said that, Sultan Ahmed Shah constructed this tower to commemorate the victory over Gujarat. It is prohibited to enter inside this tower. After crossing Minar, you come across first gate with strong bastions at both the sides. Climb on fort starts from this point. Nice stone steps are laid till the top most point of the fort. You can see second gate known as Dindi Darwaja, Chini mahal which was used for keeping prisoners on the fort and a cannon called as “Mendha Tof”. 

Chand Minar
Chand Minar

              Next attraction on fort is the Moat (deep, wide ditch surrounding a castle to defend against attack) around fort. There are 2 bridges on the Moat for crossing. One is an Iron Bridge (Later constructed) and another old one made up of stone at lower level. The trench was made in such a way, that if the enemy enters the main wall, the moat was filled with water enough to drown the rock bridge. The trail after crossing the bridge takes us to the third entrance which can hold a maximum of 10 to 12 people. After this, you can see the entrance in a cave known as Dark maze. A narrow path in the maze is created in such a way that the enemy can get confused and finds it difficult to move ahead. There are small windows on the roof which were used to release smoke of hot chilies and oil into the tunnel by keeping a hot pan at the top of the tunnel. There is no light source in the tunnel whereas second part has some light connections. After crossing the tunnel way and few steps, you can reach at the top. At the top, an extensive octagonal building called as ‘Bardari’ can be seen. The balconies of the palace offer you a view of fort and Daulatabad town. The right side door inside the palace takes you to the top-most point of the fort. 

Moat of Fort

Dark Maze
Dark Maze, first half of maze w/o light on left whereas second part on right with light source

Palace on top
Palace on Top

               After crossing Bijali Darwaja, a big bastion can be seen. This bastion has a cave within it. It consists of a water tank and footprints of “Janardan Swami”. At the top most point, there is a 20 ft. long cannon named as “Durga” or “Dhuldhaan”. It was very difficult to conquer such invincible, inaccessible and strong fort.

Durga or Dhuldhaan Cannon
Durga or Dhuldhaan Cannon

             After visiting such a massive fort, our next destination was Ellora Caves. We had lunch at a roadside dhaba and reached at Ellora caves. The Ellora Caves are located about 28 km from the city. The actual name of Ellora cave is Verul but it was difficult to pronounce for the British and thus was renamed as Ellora. Main attraction in Ellora cave is Kailashnatha Temple. The Kailashnatha Temple is cave number 16 amongst the 34 caves of Ellora. Building the Kailasa temple self consumed around 200 years to complete. Apart for the grand Kailashnatha Temple, there are 33 rock-cut caves in all at Ellora; some breathtaking and some that could be bypassed. Of the 34, 12 are Buddhist caves, 17 Hindu and 5 Jain caves. It is recommend that you must visit cave numbers – 10, 11, 12, 15, 29, 31, 32 and 33. The Buddhist caves are rich in paintings and iconography. Cave 10 represents a Buddhist Chaityagriha (prayer hall). 



Information board

The Kailashnatha Temple
The Kailashnatha Temple

              Due to lack of time, we saw cave number 16, 15, 18 and 29. This temple is remarkable example of Dravidian architecture on account of its striking proportion; elaborate workmanship, architectural content, and sculptural ornamentation of rock-cut architecture. The Kailasa Temple is notable for its vertical excavation—carving started at the top of the original rock and excavated downward. After entering in Kailasa Temple, we took left side path to see entire temple. There are 2 pillars (Dhwajasthambha) in the courtyard. Also on the wall of the temple you can see the story of epic Mahabharata carved beautifully. Surrounding walls have beautiful carvings which are at more than one level. A two-storied gateway opens to reveal a U-shaped courtyard. Carving, sculpted panels on walls tell you stories related to Ramayana, mahabharat, Lord Vishu and Lord Shankar. Temple premises consists of two structures; one is Shiva temple and second is Nandi Mandapa. A rock bridge connects the Nandi Mandapa to the porch of the temple. It takes around 2 hours to see entire temple in detail. 

War story of epic Mahabharata
War story of epic Mahabharata

Dhawjasthambha, Temple and Nandi Mandapa

            After the temple visit, everyone took rest when I hiked on the mountain to capture an aerial view of Kailasanatha temple. View of entire temple and garden in front of caves is breathtaking. Other important caves in Ellora are Cave number 1, 2, 10 (Vishwakarma cave), 11 and 12. In Buddha caves, you can see rest rooms, Vihar, chaitya (prayer hall) and Stupas (place of meditation). 

Temple view from hill
Temple view from hill

Sculpted panels on wall - stories related to Ramayana, mahabharat, Lord Vishu and Lord Shankar
Few Sculpted on wall - stories related to Ramayana, mahabharat, Lord Vishu and Lord Shankar

             After visiting the magnificent Ellora caves, we went for Grishneshwar. This temple is small is size but always crowded. It is the 12th Jyotirling temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is close to Ellora caves. The temple is built in Red Rock. You cannot carry leather material, camera and mobile inside the temple. Photography is not allowed. We quickly took Darshan and left for our last destination. Our last destination for the day was Badra Maruti temple located in Kulatabad. It is of sleeping Lord Maruti. Temple is clean but surrounding area is not at all maintained. Again Photography is not allowed in the temple.
               By 7 PM we started out return journey and came to Manjari village by 8.30 PM. We celebrated Diwali with small kids from village by lighting sky lanterns.

Expenses:
  • Toll near Aurangabad: INR 45/- (return journey)
  • Daulatabad fort entry: INR 5/- per person
  • Daulatabad fort video camera chargers: INR 25/- (No fees for Camera)
  • Car parking at Verul (Ellora Caves): INR 10/-
  • Ellora Caves entry fee: INR 5/- per person
  • Ellora Caves video camera chargers: INR 25/- (No fees for Camera)
  • Car parking at Kulateshwar Temple: INR 10/-

Day 2: 27th Oct 2014 – Manjari – Jayakwadi Dam – Aurangabad (Total Distance traveled: 290 km):
               Our today’s target was to visit Jayakwadi Dam for bird watching and then some tourist spots from Aurangabad city. We woke up by 5.30 AM and left the village by 6.15 AM. After an hour drive, we reached near the Dam area. Road condition was quite poor whereas roads nearby Dam area were in terrible conditions.

Jayakwadi Dam

              Unfortunately, we were not able to spot any birds on the water body. Either migration season had not yet started or we were at wrong side of Dam. While driving towards Paithan if you keep a watch on right side there is a Bird sanctuary board (near Dalwadi village). Take right and drive towards wall. A watch tower is constructed to spot birds from the water bank. We saw few birds and then drove towards open jail area. We were able to see few local migratory birds such as Open bill Asian stork, white Ibis, black ibis, glossy ibis, grey heron etc.

Open bill Asian stork and Ibis

               By 10 AM we went to our next destination Paithan. We saw Sant eknath temple where he took Samadhi. After our quick visit to Paithan town we left for Aurangabad sightseen. We had tasty lunch at hotel Abhiruchi on Paithan - Aurangabad road. 

Sant Eknath Temple
Sant Eknath Temple

            In Aurangabad, our first destination was Panchakki (Water mill). This mill was designed to generate energy via water brought down from a spring on a mountain. It was built in 1744 to commemorate Hazrat Baba Shah Musafir, a religious teacher who had emigrated all the way from the Russian town of Gazdavan. It was used to grind the grain for the pilgrims. A large size water tank is not maintained properly and it has many fishes. There is nothing much to see as tourist other than old Panchakki. 

Panchakki

               Our next and last destination for the day was Bibi ka Maqbara. It is a most recognized monument of Aurangabad city. The Bibi Ka Maqbara was built by Azam Shah, the oldest son of Aurangzeb. This was his attempt to rival the Taj Mahal built by his grandfather, albeit in memory of his mother, Rabia Durrani, the first wife of Aurangzeb. One of the striking features of Bibi Ka Maqbara is it’s resemblance with the Taj Mahal in Agra in terms of design. It is often called the Deccan Taj or the Taj of the Deccan. 

Taj Mahal, Agra
Taj Mahal, Agra (Photo taken in year 2009)

Bibi ka Maqbara
Bibi ka Maqbara

             People who have seen Taj mahal may find this place quite average. I have seen Taj Mahal and Bibi ka Maqbara is just a poor replica of Taj. But still the structure is very beautiful and white marble is used for construction. Bibi ka Maqbara follows the charbagh (literally meaning four gardens) layout which was a common element in Mughal architecture. 

Way towards Bibi ka Maqbara
Way towards Bibi ka Maqbara

              Construction of the Taj Mahal was completed in 1653, while the Bibi Ka Maqbara was built sometime between 1651 and 1661. It is said that while the Taj Mahal was built at a cost of approximately 32 million rupees, the amount allocated to Azam Shah for the Bibi Ka Maqbara was a paltry 7 lakhs. Azam Shah’s only claim to fame is the Bibi Ka Maqbara. He was the son of Aurangzeb, but he was Emperor of India for a very short time – a period less than three months! He declared himself emperor after the death of his father, but within three months, he was defeated and executed by his brother, Shah Alam.
             We heard from many tourist not to hire any guide as they charge you between INR 50-100/- and tell you the above story in just 3-4 minute. After Bibi ka maqbara, we spent some time in the city to see market places and different gates. Aurangabad is titled as "The City of Gates" and the strong presence of these can be felt as one drives through the city. By evening time we came back to Manjari village and spend remaining time with our friend and her family.

Expenses:
  • Toll near Aurangabad: INR 45/- (return journey)
  • Toll near Paithan: INR 40/- (return journey)
  • Lunch at Abhiruchi hotel: INR 638/- for 5 people (Papad, Panjabi veg, roti and rice)
  • Entry at Panchakki: INR 5/- per person
  • Car parking at bibi ka Maqbara: INR 10/-
  • Entry at Bibi ka Maqbara: INR 5/- per person
  • Bibi ka Maqbara video camera chargers: INR 25/- (No fees for Camera)

Day 3: 28th Oct 2014 – Manjari –Ajanta Caves – Manjari (Total Distance traveled: 350 km):
              We woke up by 6 AM and left Manjari village by 7.30 AM for Ajanta caves. Distance of Ajanta from our location was around 170-175km. Without any pit stop, we headed towards Ajanta caves. Road condition was average. We took lunch break by 11.30 AM at a dhaba which was view point junction of Ajanta caves. We reached at Caves parking area by 12.30 PM. From this point, you need to board on MTDC’s buses that take you to the base point of Ajanta caves. Distance is around 4 km and road goes through very dense forest with some curvy roads around hill region. No prior booking is required for MTDC’s bus service and Caves are closed on every Monday.
              We got the bus quickly and reach at Cave’s base point. After purchasing entry tickets, I was in hurry to see the magnificent wonder named Ajanta caves. From this point, you need to climb steps to gain a height. After certain height gain, I saw beautiful Ajanta caves, excavated in a horse-shoe shaped rock surface about 77 meters in height overseeing a narrow stream known as Waghora. Entire cave sight was simply incredible and I was happy to see what I had come so far to see.

Ajanta Caves
Ajanta Caves, Entry towards first Cave

               It is a phenomenal place as Caves are built over 2000 years ago, in second century BC. Most recent caves were dug out of rock in the 9th century AD. History says that, this mountain region was ancient Deccan trade route to the sea and these caves were house of the Buddhist monks as well as a place for traders/pilgrims to take a rest during monsoon time. I can almost imagine them walking barefoot through the dense forests, unaware of the dangers, seeking a place on such a cliff where they could find peace. These people were great explorers and must be great artists, excavating, carving and painting the caves as beautifully as they did. 

Painting on Ajanta Cave's roof
Painting on Cave's roof

Carving and painting at Ajanta Caves
Carving and painting at Ajanta Caves

              British officer John Smith on a hunting mission accidentally rediscovered these caves in 1819. There are 29 to 30 Caves and few of which are unfinished. The caves are numbered 1 to 29 according to their place along the path. The caves were dug over two periods – the first set around the 2nd century BC, during the reign of the Satavahanas. The earliest group of caves consists of caves 9, 10, 12, 13 and 15A. In these caves, we can see Stupas representing the Buddha, but not figures. The paintings represent stories, especially from the Jataka Tales. The second sets of caves were excavated somewhere between 6th to 7th centuries AD, during the reign of the Vakataka kings. Second phase Caves are more focused on buddha’s life which is now known to world. It also consists of Vihar, chaitya (prayer hall) and Stupas (place of meditation). Paintings in caves were very old but still masterpiece art. Even after so many years the colors still look fresh and each painting conveys a story to you. 

Gautam Buddha
Gautam Buddha

            Once you enter the Ajanta caves area, Cave number one is on your right side and all others are sequenced accordingly. The paintings seen in the interiors and exteriors of the caves include different images. These images are Great Buddha, a Goddess on the upper left corner of the shrine doorway, a Bodhisattva believed to be Padmapani Avaokitesvara, Four Deer with a Common Head, Lovers, a Dark Princess believed to be an Andhra Princess, a Dancing Girl with Musicians, a Princess Reclining by a Pillar, a Maid seated on the Ground, Proceedings in a Persian Court, the Golden Geese, the Pink Elephant, a Bull Fight, etc. 
            Cave 6 is believed to be the first important cave of the Mahayana phase. It comprises of a central pillar in the lower story, along with an image of seated Lord Buddha. Cave no 7 consist of beautiful painted ceiling and simple carving. Cave number 9 and 10 are Chaitya Gathering Hall. One of the most impressive images seen inside cave number 18 is that of a princess looking at her mirror, with a child looking at her from below. You can see rest cells inside caves meant for rest. 

Stupa

            Do not miss Cave number 26 of Sleeping Buddha. This Cave was chaitya hall with Stupas in it. Painting of small Princess on pillars has its own specialty. If you look at the painting from any direction still it gives you a feel that same princess is staring at you. Spending 4 hours in Ajanta world, we started with our return journey. After crossing bridge on river, we saw a waterfall which was at the end of horse-shoe shaped mountain. 

Sleeping Buddha at cave no 26
Sleeping Buddha at cave no 26

Princess painting on pillar (Staring at you from any direction)
Princess painting on pillar (Staring at you from any direction)

Same Princess painting on pillar from other direction (Staring at you)

Ajanta Caves
Ajanta Caves

            I wanted to see entire Ajanta caves from a height. There is a view point location which is just opposite to caves. To reach at this point, you need to climb few steps. I alone went there as others were tired. From this point, you can see entire Caves in 120 degree view. I wondered what happened in past that made the monks disappear from Ajanta. Some caves have been left unfinished. Answer to this question was unknown. The only thing we do know is that Ajanta was abandoned and the caves were hidden by nature till the British officer found his way there. After capturing this moment, I came down to catch the bus. This place is simply fabulous and everyone should visit this once.

Waterfall on Waghora River

Ajanta Caves from view point
Ajanta Caves from view point



We started our return journey and took dinner in Ludhiana hotel on Aurangabad – Nagar highway. It was a perfect day of our vacation. 

Expenses:
  • Toll on Ajanta route: INR 40/- return journey
  • Car Petrol: INR 2000/- (approx. 27 lit at 73/lit)
  • Lunch at dhaba: INR 750/- for 5 person
  • Ajanta Car parking: INR 30/-
  • Ajanta person tax: INR 10/- per person
  • Bus service till Ajanta Caves: INR 15/- per person
  • Ajanta Caves entry: INR 10/- per person
  • Ajanta Caves light chargers: INR 5/- (for group of 20 people)
  • Ajanta Caves video camera chargers: INR 25/- (No fees for Camera)
  • Bus service to Ajanta parking: INR 15/- per person
  • Dinner at hotel Ludhiyana on Aurangabad-Manajari highway: INR 520/- for 5 people

Day 4: 29th Oct 2014 – Manjari –Pune (Total Distance traveled: 220 km):
             Today was our last day of vacation. Our stay was at friends place in small village and they own more than 100 acre of farming land behind their house. Also they were having additional huge acre of farming land which was just 5 km away from village. We were aware of one fact that many group of deer’s and blackbucks can be spotted easily in the farms. It was best opportunity for me to capture them in my camera. It was in my mind from day one.
              Without any kind of alarm, I woke up by 6 AM and was set for photography. Ashu’s brother and uncle were ready with 2-3 bikes as after certain point it wasn’t possible to go ahead by car. After few minute’s drive, we reached in a farm. With the help of binocular we spotted a group of deer and blackbucks. I went in the farming area and clicked few shots. That group was small hence I was not satisfied. Prashant kasale (my friend’s young enthuse uncle) asked me to join him for more blackbuck sighting. We both went 2-3 km in different direction and saw 30-40 blackbuck. Wow, it was great moment for me to click them. Without disturbing them I manage to click few shots. These animals are problem for farmers as they destroy farms during their internal fight. Group of farmers from other side came towards blackbucks and the beautiful animals ran away.

Blackbucks
Look at Me...Black bucks 

Blackbuck in action
Blackbuck in action

            While returning to village, we saw group of 50 blackbucks running from one end to another. I realized that if doesn’t move ahead then they will cross the road just few ft. away from us. We parked bike near bushes and sat down on road. Within few minute they crossed the road. To capture them while jumping was different experience for me.

Let's Run...Blackbucks

Blackbucks
Stop...Blackbucks are crossing the route

Long Jump or high jump...Blackbucks crossing road
Long Jump or high jump...Blackbucks crossing road

            We came back in the village and spend some time with the relatives. After breakfast we left for Pune journey. On the way to Pune, we took small break at Devgad village which has a nice temple of Lord Datta. The temple premise is large and very clean. We left Devgad after lunch in nearby hotel. We travelled via Nagar – Highway No 27 and reached Pune safely by 7.00 PM.

Expenses:
Water bottles: INR 15/- per bottle
Lunch at Devgad: INR 125/- for 5 people (Pithle Bhakri)
Toll 1 (at Khadka): INR 30/- (single journey)
Toll 2 (at Nagar): INR 30/- (single journey)
Toll 3: INR 45/- (single journey)

Visit Places which we miss due to lack of Time:
  • Aurangabad Caves
  • Soneri Palace
  • Gavatala Wildlife Sanctuary
Thanks for reading this Travel Blog.
Happy traveling.

Pritesh Kulkarni 
Pune

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Trip to Beauty of Konkan Ratnagiri, Ganeshgule and Jaigad


After a long monsoon break, we were ready to explore the Konkan region again. We took advantage of Dasera and Gandhi Jayanti vacation and planned a 4 day trip. Our destinations for costal line trip were Ratnagiri, Jaigad, Pawas, Ganeshgule and surrounding area. Travelers for this trip were Me, Renuka and our friends Abhijit and Manasi.

GaneshGule Beach
GaneshGule Beach

About Ratnagiri and surrounding places:
Ratnagiri city is a port city on Arabian Sea coast of Maharashtra in India. It is a main city from the Konkan region and famous for its Alphonso Mangoes, Birth place of “Lokmanaya” Bal Gangadhar Tilak, prime leader of India’s freedom movement and Shivaji’s Fort. There are many tourist points in Ratnagiri district that are blessed with untouched and beautiful beaches.
Pawas is well known for the Ashram of Swami Swaroopanand and is approximately 20 km from Ratnagiri city. Ganeshgule, a village few kilometers ahead of Pawas offers you a beautiful untouched beach.
On the northern side of Ratnagiri, you can visit twin beaches called Aarey - Warey and also the Malgund beach. Ganapatipule is a holy destination which is just 25 km from Ratnagiri city.

The route to reach Ratnagiri from Pune is –
Take National highway 4 – Drive till Karad city on highway – Cross Karad and drive for few km – after Karad, look for the first flyover on the highway – Do not take flyover route – Take right below the flyover – Drive on State highway 144 – Malkapur – Amba – Sakharpa – join on Mumbai Goa highway – Drive towards Mumbai for few km – Take left for Ratnagiri – Ratnagiri.
Total distance via this route is around 304km.

Other routes are Tahmini – Mangaon – Mumbai Goa national highway OR Pune – Umbraj – Koyanagar – Chiplun – Ratnagiri.

Road to Aare Ware Beach

Day 1: 2nd Oct 2014 – Pune - Ratnagiri (Total Distance traveled: 304 km): 
              We woke up early in the morning and left home at 6 AM with our friends. We wanted to avoid the highway traffic and enjoy the morning breeze. After Satara, we took a pit stop for tea and coffee. We decided to go by the Amba ghat route. After crossing Karad, we took right from Amba ghat route. Because of smooth and wide road we were able to move faster to reach our destination. We wanted to have lunch in Ratnagiri but because of few pit stops for photos, we were not able to make it. We had our lunch in Hotel Kasturi which is close to Amba ghat. Because of nonstop drive after lunch we could reach our destination by 2.30 PM
              In Ratnagiri, our stay was at one of our relative’s place. As they were out of town for a month, they had graciously offered us their apartment to stay in during our trip. We were tired so we took rest for an hour. In the evening, we decided to visit Ratnadurg fort and Mandavi beach. When we reached at the fort area it was too crowded. We got to know from the locals that due to Navratri people visit the temple on the fort to take a blessing from Goddess Bhagwati. Many people suggested visiting this place after Navratri, so we decided to come here again on 3rd Oct. We left for Mandavi beach. This beach is also known as black sea beach. The reason behind this name could be that the color of the sand here is black. This is the local beach of Ratnagiri and not at all well maintained. Too many people and huge number of stalls have messed up the beauty of the beach. There is a narrow bridge that leads into the sea. It is called the Getaway of Ratnagiri. Unfortunately everything here is poorly maintained. After watching the sunset we came home. We were more excited to visit Pawas and Ganeshgule village on the next day.

Mandavi Beach a.k.a. Black sea beach
Mandavi Beach a.k.a. Black sea beach

Sunset from Mandavi Beach
Sunset from Mandavi Beach

Expenses:
  • Car Petrol: INR 4000/- (approx. 50-51 Lit at average INR 80/lit)
  • Toll on NH-4 (Khed-Shivapur): INR 80/- one way entry
  • Toll on NH-4 (Anewadi-Satara): INR 55/- one way entry
  • Toll on NH-4 (Taswade): INR 70/- one way entry
  • Coffee: INR 30/- per person on highway
  • Lunch at Kasturi hotel: INR 685/- for 4 person (starter, Punjabi veg, Solkadi and Roti)
  • Coconut water at Mandavi beach: INR 120/- for 4 pic
  • Dinner at home: INR 200/- for 4 person

Day 2: 3rd Oct 2014 – Ratnagiri – Pawas – Ganeshgule – Ratnagiri:
              We woke up a bit late and had breakfast at home. We decided to travel to the south of Ratnagiri. We left home by 8.00 AM for sightseeing and our first destination was Bhatye beach. This beach is located on the Ratnagiri – Pawas road and this beach has large suruban. The important thing of the Bhatye beach is that Mandavi and Bhatye beach are divided by a creek. This beach is much better than Mandavi beach. It is quite clean and safe for swimming. We spent around an hour on this beach. It was a hot sunny day and we left the beach soon for our next destination.

Bhatye Beach
Bhatye Beach

Bhatye Beach
Bhatye Beach

               Pawas is a prime spiritual place in Ratnagiri district due to a very long stay of Swami (saint) Swaroopanand. He was born on 15th December 1903 at Pawas. At the age of 20, he had received the initiation (Dikshya) from his Guru Sadguru Babamaharaj Vaidya from Pune. From this point, his journey in the spiritual world had begun. At the age of 70, on 15th August 1974, Swamiji took Samadhi (self-immolation) at Pawas. Swami Swaroopanand was a follower of Warkari Sampraday (cult). Pawas is just 20km away from Ratnagiri city and the road till Pawas is in excellent condition. The temple in Pawas is very clean and well maintained. We attended the prayer at 12pm and it was managed very well by the temple staff. It is definitely a must visit place if you are in Ratnagiri area. We had lunch at Pawas as Maha Prasad. They served tasty Khichadi as Prasad.

Pawas

               Our next destination was Ganeshgule temple and the beach. This temple is older than Ganpatipule. The Ganesh idol in the temple is "Swayambhu" (i.e. formed naturally) idol with its trunk turned towards the west. The statue of the mouse in front of temple is very beautiful and made up of metal alloy. You can see beautiful valley view from the temple. It was a clam peaceful place as hardly any tourists visit this area. Near the temple there is an ancient well from supposedly the Pandava era. It is fairly deep but there are steps to reach the bottom.

GaneshGule Temple
GaneshGule Temple

               Next destination was the Ganeshgule village for untouched beautiful beach. It is a very small village and unknown to many tourists. We found only 1 resort in the village which was called “Oceano Pearl”. The resort was a mixture of Konkani-modern style with lot of greenery and with a huge farm of different trees (Wadi in Marathi) like Coconuts, Alphonso and many more. They have built nice rooms and one tree house which is very close to the beach. It was 3.30 PM and bright sun light was dominating. Management and staff from resort welcomed us with a smile. Even though we are not going to stay there, but they took us around to show the property. We ordered tea/coffee and went on beach.

Tree House at Oceano Pearl
Tree House at Oceano Pearl

            In the noon, we set up a tent on the beach and took some rest. Ganeshgule beach is around 1.5-2 km long beach and gives you a feel of a private beach. With white soft sand all over the beach, it was very neat and clean. Water was so clear that we were unable to stop ourselves from going into the water. We saw some small fish swimming around us even in 4 ft. deep water. We liked this place and it was one of the cleanest beaches in Konkan. Sea bed is safe to swim but avoid right side of shore. There are few rocky patches in the sea bed. I added this resort in my must visit places and definitely will like to stay here for a night. After spending quality time in water, we came back to the resort.

Tent Set up on Beach
Tent Set up on Beach

GaneshGule beach top view
GaneshGule beach top view

Local Fishing at beach
Local Fishing at beach

Drastic change in weather was amazing treat to eye - GaneshGule  Beach
Drastic change in weather was amazing treat to eye - GaneshGule  Beach

GaneshGule Beach
Cloudy effect after sunset - GaneshGule Beach

              They gave us a room to freshen up. We had some snacks and sea food and left this lovely place. During the return journey everyone was thinking to visit this place on our 4th day of trip before leaving for Pune. We had dinner in a restaurant called Veg Treat which was close to our stay. It was perfect day of our trip and we enjoyed a lot.

Tasty Sea food
Tasty Sea food

Expenses:
  • Breakfast at pawas: INR 120/- for 4 people (Poha and missal Pav)
  • Coffee at Oceano Pearl hotel: INR 20/- per coffee
  • Cold drink: INR 50/- 
  • Pomplet fish in snacks at Oceano Pearl: INR 200/- for 2 medium size fish
  • Dinner at veg treat: INR 470/- for 4 people (Panjabi veg, roti and Paratha’s)

Day 3: 4th Oct 2014 – Ratnagiri – Are-Ware – Jaigad – Ganapatipule - Ratnagiri:
               We woke up early morning and the plan was to have a 1 day trip to Aare-ware beach, Jaigad and Ganapatipule. We left home by 7 AM. Aare-ware is a twin beach separated by a small creek. Both beaches haven’t commercialized yet and hence clean as compared to the nearby beaches. The road journey from Ratnagiri to Ganapatipule offers you beautiful scenery as most of the time the road is parallel to seashore. The road has several curves and hair pin bends that give you wonderful view for photography. The road travels past a high cliff, below which the sea waves ferociously lap without a pause. In fact, the road hugs the seashore for a length of some 7 - 8 Km. It becomes difficult for nature lovers to go ahead without capturing the beauty in the camera. We took many pit stops for photography. This route is ideal for aerial view of the beaches.

Aare Beach
Aare Beach


Road to Ware beach
Road to Ware beach

              Aare-ware is blessed with heavenly seashore and clear waters. As of now, there are no amenities available and fewer tourists are aware of this heaven. We went on the Ware beach for swimming. This beach is also safe to enter into the water. We spent around 2 hours playing in the water before we left for our next destination, Jaigad fort. We had some heavy breakfast at Ware village and continued with our journey.


Ware Beach
Ware Beach

Clean untouched Ware beach
Clean untouched Ware beach

BhandarPule Beach
BhandarPule Beach


              Again the journey further from Ganapatipule till Jaigad is parallel to the shore which makes you feel fresh. Every ghat section offers you an aerial view of upcoming beach on same route. Road condition towards Jaigad is horrible. We reached at the fort in the afternoon. Jaigad Fort is a coastal fortification that is located resting on a cliff, at the entrance of the Shastri River. The fort offers you a breathtaking view of the sea. The fort area is very small and you can cover it in one hour. Currently it is not maintained properly. You can see a strong wall around the fort area, water tanks, 20 bastions, watch tower bastion, entrance gate and a ruined 2 storey palace. The fort was built by Vijapur Empire. An interesting story about the fort is that after investing money, time and efforts people were unable to built fort. Someone told the king that this place is cursed so you need to sacrifice man’s blood. No one was ready to die for fort construction when one young boy named “Jaiba” became ready to get sacrificed. He requested the king to name the fort by his name. He was killed there and again construction began. Afterwards without any problem the fort was built. As per his wish, it was named as Jaigad. There is no historical evidence and only the locals believe on this story. In year 1713, the fort was won by Khanoji Aangre (Navel head at the time of Shivaji Maharaj and one of the great undefeated navel warriors in the world).It was also conquered by Maratha before Aangre but year record is missing in history. There were 55 cannons on the fort till 1862.

Palace inside Jaigad Fort
Palace inside Jaigad Fort

Fort Wall - Jaigad
Fort Wall - Jaigad

                During our return journey we went to Ganapatipule. According to a local folk lore, the Hindu god, Ganapati, taking umbrage by a remark made by a native lady, moved to Pulé (a few km ahead of the town) from his original abode of GaneshGulé (which we visited on day2). Thus the region was named Ganpati-pulé. The temple is at the base of a hill and very close to sea. The God is considered to be the Paschim Dwardevta (Western Sentinel God of India), and those who visit Ganapatipule, make it a point to pay their respects to this deity. We and our friend already visited this temple in our earlier Konkan trip and there were too many tourists so we skipped temple visit.
                We saw a museum which is based on Konkan lifestyle known as Prachin Konkan Museum. It is an open air museum set up to display the houses, costumes, ways of livelihood and lifestyle in ancient Konkan. A guided tour in the museum takes you through various aspects of life in Konkan in the past. A lot of models are places which will give you details of how old konkan culture was like. Entire area is covered with lush green trees which doesn’t give us a feel of hot weather. Wooden toys from Sawantwadi (famous for the wood artisans and their handicrafts) are also available for purchase. There was also a display of a variety of shell collection. They claim that it is a biggest sea shell exhibition of India.

Prachin Konkan museum
Prachin Konkan museum

              We were hungry so without wasting any time we had our lunch in Ganapatipule. After heavy lunch, we began our return journey to Ratnagiri. We reached home by 3.30 PM and took rest for an hour. We kept our evening slot for local sightseeing. Our first place to visit was Bal Gangadhar Tilak Birth Place. He was an Indian nationalist, journalist, teacher, social reformer, lawyer and an independence activist. He was the first leader of the Indian Independence Movement. The British colonial authorities called him "Father of the Indian unrest." He was also conferred with the honorary title of "Lokmanya", which literally means "accepted by the people (as their leader)".
             You can see the entire house which is maintained very well. You can get a sense of the typical house of a Ratnagiri resident. Some of Bal Gangadhar Tilak’s personal belongings like pagdi, uparna, and pen are there on display along with some old photos too. Unfortunately tourists skip this place but I feel proud and lucky to visit such place where a legend freedom fighter of India was born.

Birth Place of Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak
Birth Place of Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak
              Our next destination was the Ratnagiri lighthouse. It is located on the nearby hill of Ratnadurga fort. The road to the lighthouse is narrow and only 1 car can travel at a time. You need to take left just 1.5km before the fort’s parking area. Timing to visit this lighthouse is from 10am to 5pm; it is better to visit after 4pm. Lighthouse offers you beautiful view of the sea and Ratnagiri city. Watching the sunset defuse its light over the sea is amazing sight in the evening.

View of Ratnagiri city from lighthouse
View of Ratnagiri city from lighthouse

Defuse light over sea
Defuse light over sea

Road to Lighthouse
            
             After the visit to the lighthouse, we moved ahead to Ratnadurg fort which we had missed on day one. This fort is also known as Bhagawati fort. It is at a distance of 3km from the city and looks like a horseshoe with an area about 120 acres. It is surrounded by the sea on three sides and is connected to the land at the southeast. It was built during the reign of Bahamanis. In 1670 Shivaji Maharaj won this fort from Adilshah. It was controlled by Karawir Chatrapati which was hand over to Aangre’s (Chief of the Maratha Navy) family. The fort was reconstructed in 1790 to make it stronger.

Ratnadurg Fort
Ratnadurg Fort

Information Board

                 Bale Killa (Main part of fort or small fort on top of main fort) is major attraction amongst tourists. You can see goddess Bhagawati temple after entering from main gate. The fort consists of a wall which is newly constructed. There are many bastions and Rede Buruj (Bastion) is the main bastion on the fort. It also offers you a breathtaking view of the sea and the cliff. There is small secret way which opens at sea but it is now not is use. Fort entrance is closes at 7pm daily. We enjoyed sunset and left this historic place.

Bhagawati Temple
Bhagawati Temple

View of fort from Fort - Ratnadurg Fort
View of fort from Fort - Ratnadurg Fort

              We did some shopping of homemade products of Konkan in the evening. When we asked about good restaurants we got to know 2 names, Aamantran (for sea food) and Mithila (for veg food). We had our delicious dinner at Mithila. After dinner we went back to the apartment for rest.

Expenses:
  • Breakfast at Warey beach: INR 135/- for 4 person (Poha and tea/coffee)
  • Prachin Konkan Museum entry: INR 30/- per person including guide for group
  • Prachin Konkan Museum Camera fee: INR 25/-
  • Konkani juice: INR 10/- (too many flavors are available outside museum)
  • Lunch at Naivedyam in Ganapatipule: INR 75/- for veg limited meal.
  • Coconut water: INR 25/- at ware beach
  • Ratnagiri Light house entry fee: INR 10/- per person
  • Ratnagiri Light house camera fee: INR 25/-
  • Dinner at Mithila restaurant : INR 605/- for 4 person
Day 4: 5th Oct 2014 – Ratnagiri – Ganeshgule – Pune (Total Distance traveled: 301 km):
              Today we were supposed to leave for Pune in the afternoon. We wanted to enjoy the seashore so we decided to visit Ganeshgule beach again. Yesterday we were unable to visit Thiba palace. As we didn’t want to miss it we visited there early in the morning. Timing to visit this place is 10am to 5pm. Thiba palace was built for the King of Burma when he was captured by the British. The palace is built in Pagoda style. It is huge palace but not maintained it properly. Renovation was going on hence we were not able to see it from inside. There is huge garden area around this palace which is poorly maintained. Some changes in palace and surrounding area can make this place as major tourist attraction. We left Ratnagiri by 7.30 AM.

Thiba Palace
Thiba Palace

              Ganeshgule was most beautiful and clean beach among the other beaches which we saw in last couple of days. We gave a call to “Oceano Pearl” hotel for arrangement like breakfast, washroom facility to get fresh after playing in water and lunch. He gave us a room for few hours when we reach the resort. We had tasty breakfast by 8 AM and then went on the beach. We were the only 4 tourists on the beach for entire morning. We enjoyed a lot in the crystal clear water. After spending more than 3 hours on the beach, we came back to the resort. My friends and my wife had veg meal whereas I enjoyed king fish meal. Memorable trip came to an end with Modak as sweet dish.

Crabs on beach

Oceano Pearl Home stay resort
Oceano Pearl Home stay resort

King Fish Meal
King Fish Meal

Veg Meal with Modak
Veg Meal with Modak
             We left Ganeshgule via Lanja route by 3 PM. We travelled via Amba Ghat – National highway 4 and reached Pune safely by 9.30 PM.
Expenses: 
  • Breakfast at Oceano Pearl hotel: INR 200/- for 4 person (Khichadi, Ideali sambar and coffee)
  • King fish (Surmai fish) meal: INR 300/-
  • Veg meal: INR 175/- per meal
  • Modak in sweet dish: INR 15/- per pic
  • Toll on NH-4 (Taswade): INR 70/- one way entry
  • Toll on NH-4 (Anewadi-Satara): INR 55/- one way entry
  • Toll on NH-4 (Khed-Shivapur): INR 80/- one way entry

Contact numbers for your reference:
  • Kasturi Hotel and restaurant: 9371923039, 9422513797
  • Oceano Pearl beach home stay at Ganeshgule: 02352-237800, 02352-219400, 8605599789, 9405340784
  • Ratnasagar beach resort at Bhatye beach: 96eg 04002661
  • Veg treat restaurant: 9823071188.
  • Joshi family for home made Konkani food products at Ratnagiri: 02352-220952

Visit Places which we miss due to lack of Time:
  • Ratnagiri aquarium: Now it is closed and heard from locals that it will shift to newer place soon
  • Marleshwar temple: known for the Cave Shiva Temple, where devotees handle venomous snakes
  • Malgund beach
  • Ganapatipule temple and beach

Other Travel blog on Konkan:
 Thanks for reading this Travel Blog. Happy traveling.
Pritesh Kulkarni
Pune