Welcome to the second part of my journey to Mahabaleshwar!
I’ve been to hilly places up north, thinking that the chill of the peaks lived up there, and no where else. This illusion was blown away by my visit to the areas of Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar.
It won’t be lying if I said that clouds went so close to me that I practically touched them when I was standing in the courtyard of the hotel we were living at. We reached at around 9 p.m. and were greeted by gusty winds and cold temperatures of 14 degree Celsius (That’s cold considering it was the end of May, and for me that means 40+ degrees). All through the night and even in the morning I could hear the wind howling outside. Our hotel was in the hills and covered with trees all around. The beauty of the place kept on increasing as the hours passed. Sweet rays of the morning sun brought back the feeling of warmth that you crave in the winter months. We sat in the front yard of our room and had coffee; officially “chilling in the sun”.
Before heading to the dining hall, we went to walk around the place, and came across a clearing in the trees, where we saw this breathtaking view of the clouds-
The hotel was a cozy little nook in the middle of the forest, sprawled with beautiful trees; flowers and fruits gracing their branches.
I’ve already described my visit to Pratapgad in the previous post, but two more visits were special in this trip.
Krishnabai/ Krishna Devi Temple and the Panch Ganga Temple
This one’s a biggie in the temples category as it is the meeting place of five rivers and also the origin site of the Krishna river, one of the longest rivers in India, as it goes across Maharashtra, through Karnataka and Telangana and empties into the Bay of Bengal. The temple is said to have been built around 4500 years ago and is made of black stone. There are two other temples on the premises, the Mahabaleswar and the Moolanath temple. One can either have darshan at both and then go to the Pacha Ganaga temple or go straight to it. This temple’s history goes that it was built in the 13th century and is said to be the confluence of five rivers Krishna, Veena, Savitri, Koyna and Gayatri. There are also said to be two invisible rivers – Bhagirathi and Saraswathi, which also originate from here. Water from this confluence flows through the mouth of a small stone cow statue in front of the sanctum. People collect water from here as it is considered auspicious. If one forgets to carry a water bottle, empty bottles are sold outside the temple. The 7 rivers are represented as deities in the sanctum and prayer rituals are performed regularly.
If the temples are nourishment for the soul, this place is food for, well.. you. The Mapro Gardens celebrate the king of berries in Mahabaleshwar, the Strawberry. Even along the road, you will find various small shops selling these sweet bites.
In the Mapro Garden however, you will get to see the various byproducts of fruits, especially strawberries. Jellies, jams, sherbet, ice cream, all can be found under one roof. They have a restaurant of their own where they serve scrumptious food, hot and delicious. And quite obviously, the delicacies that take the cake are sweet ones. The Strawberry ice cream with fresh cut strawberries, and Strawberries with cream are MUST HAVES. The place doesn’t offer any unique activities, there’s a giant strawberry where you can get your picture clicked, and a nano which has strawberries painted over it. There’s also a “chocolate factory” in the premises, though it doesn’t offer much of a spectacle. Overall it’s a beautiful place to come with family or friends and spend some time just enjoying the weather and good food.
All around the area of Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani you’ll find yourself at peace (if you’re not disturbed by the crowds during peak hours). There’s something intensely serene about these places which left me craving for more and resolving to come back as soon as possible. Despite the crowds and sometimes irritating traffic situations, I’d still recommend people to go and see this place at it’s most beautiful; because it’s more than worth it and you won’t regret it.