Last year, I & Prateek travelled to Nashik for Kumbha Snan. The 3 day trip also included visits to Shirdi, Shingnapur, Tryambakeshwar and many other places. The mesmerising beauty inspired us to plan another trip to Maharashtra. Since then, we were planning. I had heard a lot about the beauty of Konkan & Paschim Maharashtra in the monsoons so when Prateek told me that he wants to join me on a visit to those places, I readily agreed. Later, Mayank also joined. The spiritual guy inside us prompted to include some temple towns to our itinerary.
We reached Mumbai on the night of 11th to be joined by another friend who most of our friends on facebook know as #FunsukBhai, in whose car, we then started journey for our first stop – Kolhapur. We travelled on the beautiful Mumbai-Pune expressway and then, the Asian Highway 47 to reach Kolhapur. Beautiful view on both sides kept us mesmerised.
#Kolhapur is a small but really beautiful city. I must mention the route from Mumbai to Kolhapur, first the Mumbai-Pune highway and then the AH-47. I have No doubt that it’s one of the most beautiful roads to travel on!
In Kolhapur, we had darshan of Ma Mahalakshmi. The Aai Mahalakshmi temple is a beautiful peace of art, created from a single rock. I must admit I experienced immense peace in the temple. The folktales say it’s necessary for devotee to come to this temple after having darshans of Lord Venkateshvara at Tirupati.
The next morning started with a visit to #Panhala Durg – the living example of the ultimate valor shown by Bajiprabhu Deshpande in the battle of #PawanKhind. Bajiprabhu, with 3 more warriors fought against an army of 1000+ till Shivaji Raje didn’t reach Vishalgad fort, which is 52 km away from Panhala safely. As we reached it quite early, the fort was still under fog and was looking immensely beautiful.
After Panhala, we started our spiritual journey to one of the most sacred pilgrimage of the Dutt Parampara – #NarsobaWadi or Narasimha Vadi. It’s situated at the confluence of river Krishna and Panchaganga. Sri Narsimhanananda Saraswati – the 2nd descendant of Dutt Parampara lived in this small town in Shirole taluka of Kolhapur for 12 years. Though the temple was submerged in water, we could still feel the immensely powerful vibes of the place.
Our third destination and I must say, the one I was anxiously waiting for, was #Pandharpur. Pandharpur is a small town in Solapur district, famous for the temple of Bhagwan Vitthal & Rukmini. It’s undoubtedly one of the most prominent places of the vaishnava tradition. A loving gesture which made us emotional was tilak done by didi of Devendra bhai’s didi who lives in Pandharpur. She also prepared a sumptous marathi meal for us.
Though it was no special day, but the ambience in and around Pandharpur was infectious! People were singing bhajans, dancing on roads, Varkaris singing Abhangs of Sant Gyaneshvar & Tukaram – made the atmosphere electric to say least. The queue was really long, so we had Mukh Darshans of Bhagwan Vitthalanath. When we reached inside temple, to our absolute fortune, a toli of Varkaris were singing Abhangs there. We just sat there. I can bet, I had the best ever meditation of my life! People who were in queue told me, it took them 8 hours and more to reach the deity! What devotion! Can there be a bigger driving force in the world? I doubt! We came out and found some devotees from southern parts of India, singing & dancing. Both me & Mayank couldn’t stop ourselves in joining the celebration of bhakti. The group comprised of people as old as 80+ and as young as 20s. Bhakti is the biggest unifier!
Last destination of the day was #Tuljapur – the divine sthan of the Devi, who gave her sword – the Bhawani to Shivaji Raje. Tuljapur Bhawani or Aai Bhawani is the Kuladevi of the warrior maratha castes. Legend says she used to give Darshans to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. It’s a powerful deity. The place is full of divine energy.
Third day of our journey, I must admit, is one of the most important days of my life and will remain so – We visited #Raigad – the historic fort which witnessed one of the most important incidents of the Hindu history – the Coronation of Chhatrapati Shivaji Raje and the establishment of Hindavi Samrajya. Raigad is not a fort, it’s a TEERTH. The sense of energy, the confidence, the swabhiman, you feel inside you when you stand in front of the statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is incomparable. India as a nation & hindus as a community should be indebted to the people of Maharashtra forever for they, unlike us, have preserved the legacy of our great kings. I was awed by the devotion of people towards Shivaji Raje. I saw father of a 5-6 month old kid, touching feet of Shivaji Maharaj and then putting the soil from there to his son’s forehead. A father was telling his son to bow before the statue telling – सर झुकाओ, आज हम इनकी वजह से जीवित हैं। It won’t be an exaggeration if I say this statement brought tears to my eyes. What have we, here in North, taught to our children? I wonder if I was not inducted in the Sangh, would I have ever known about Shivaji Raje? I doubt. Every kid in Maharashtra knows about Chhatrapati Shivaji Raje. The architectural planning of Raigad tells how Shivaji Raje was ahead of his times. The fort, though situated on 1500 feet, isn’t visible from ground. No enemy can see the fort from anywhere while person inside can even see every activity happening in 50 kilometres around it. I bowed my head in feet of Chhatrapati Shivaji Raje – the Rakshak of Dharma and prayed to him to give us courage to preserve his legacy. I must mention one hilarious incident. When after visiting Raigad, we came down to board the trolley to reach downstairs, there was huge crowd there. The attendant told that there’s a 2 hour waiting. Devendra bhai suggested to trek down the fort saying that it’s a just 25 minute journey. We readily agreed. Who would have waited for 2 hours? We started the journey. Soon, there was dark all around. It was a real difficult terrain. The way was in ruins with boundaries broken and stairs devastated. Adding to it was water flowing from natural springs at several places. After 1 hour and no sight of destination, we asked Devendra again, his reply was same – “Bus aa to gye. Wo rha destination.” I must appreciate how he kept us motivated by continously extending the travel time. His 15 minutes finally culminated in 2.25 hours but he still said, “We could have done this in 15 minutes!” 😀
The last day was spent well with friends. Chandrabhushan bhau, Ashutosh Kulkarni & Ashutosh Muglikar joined us for a fun filled day at CJ’s home that also included visits to Sri Dagdusheth Ganapati, the legendary Goodluck Cafe, Shanivar Vada – the fort of Bajirao Peshva and later German Bakery. There were intense discussions, fun-filled chats and heated debates too but every single moment was worth cherishing for life. Thank you, pals!
Not to forget the impromptu visit of Rohit Narra, who due to his love, brought sugar from his own Sadguru Sri Sri Saakar Karkhana.
This visit, I must admit, is one of the most memorable ones in my life. I seriously look forward to many more such, if Prateek or Mayank join and most importantly, Preeti permits to go on one, after marriage!