This morning was no different from that of the previous day. It was raining. It was misty.
This day also, we decided not to go too far. Instead of going too far, we planned to go to the Mahabaleshwar temple at Old Mahabaleshwar and also visit some nearby viewpoints. We had visited those viewpoints in our earlier trips. We knew that the viewpoints would be sans of any view because of clouds. Still, we planned to go because we wanted just to drive.
We started around 12.15 pm. The first destination was Elphinstone point. The distance was 15 km. We took one hour to cover the distance. We did not mind that. In fact, we would have been happier had it took longer.
The last 10 km of the drive was through woods. The road was smooth barring few stretches. There was hardly any vehicle on the road. It was completely engulfed in the clouds. At some places, visibility was almost nil. There were intermittent drizzles. We were exclusively enjoying the beauty of Mahabaleshwar monsoon.
After reaching the Elphinstone point, we parked our vehicle at the designated parking lot. The parking lot was quite big. Only a handful vehicles were there.
The actual viewpoint is at a short walk from the parking lot.
By the time we reached the viewpoint, other visitors left and we were the only human beings from there. Elphinstone point was discovered in 1830 by Dr. James Murray. On a clear day, it offers the views of Koyana valley on the left, Savitri valley on the right and Pratapgad Fort in front. But this day was different. What we saw was impregnable silver coloured cloud all around. What was there beneath the cloud is a matter of imagination. Being engulfed in the cloud, we were soaking the feeling of solitude.
From Elphinstone point, we started for Arthur’s seat. On the way, we took a momentary stoppage at Majorie viewpoint. Majorie viewpoint is not a major viewpoint. The road has touched the edge of the flat hilltop here so one can see the valley below. That’s why it has become a viewpoint.
We took one more stop at Savitri Point before reaching Arthur’s seat. This view point also has a big parking lot. When we reached there, one more vehicle was standing there. The view point is across the road. In a clear day, it offers view of the Savitri river.
We reached Arthur’s seat around 2 pm. This place was relatively crowded compared to other viewpoints. 7-8 vehicles were standing there. Here also, one has to walk downward from the parking lot to reach the view point. There were 3-4 polythene sheltered stalls at the parking lot where corn, magi, tea and coffee were available.
When we walked a few steps after parking the vehicle, we saw a monkey taking special interest in our vehicle. Initially, it peeped inside the vehicle and then got itself stationed on top of the vehicle. The posture was a philosophical one so to say. I guess the monkey did a barter arrangement with us. Since we came to see their habitat, in return, he was keen to peep into our world.
From a distance, I checked whether all the windows were properly shut. Being sure about that, we crossed the parking lot and started walking downward towards the viewpoints.
There were five viewpoints connected via a km long walking trail, Arthur Seat being at the end. Essentially all the viewpoints offer more or less same view but do have some different context/background. The walking trail was well paved and with adequate protection.
The first one was the Hunting point. This point used to be used by the British officers for hunting.
The second one was Echo point. As per the description given there, if someone shouts from there into the valley enough loudly, he/she can hear echo of that. On a windy and chilling day, we were not at all keen to do that experiment.
Malcom point was the third point. On a clear day, on can see Arthur seat, Torana Grah fort, Pratap Garh fort and Savitri valley. But that day, it was offering the view of vast emptiness.
While we were at Malcom point, it started drizzling all of a sudden. We kept our umbrellas in the vehicle. So, there was a dilemma whether to continue for Arthur seat or returning back to the parking lot. Fortunately, there was a tea and food stall near Malcom point with adequate polythene cover. We took shelter under that and ordered for corn masala and tea. The fellow running the shop was a local person staying near Mahabaleshwar temple. We found the corn masala very tasty may be because of his preparation style or because of weather. And piping hot tea always tastes good in wet weather until and unless somebody is exceptionally bad in making it.
By the time, we finished corn masala and tea, drizzle had stopped.
So, we moved on to the next point – Tiger Spring Point. There is a water hole in which acts as a source of natural water. Apparently, in past, wild animals used to drink water from this water hole and that led to the naming of this point.
From there, we went to the final destination of this walking trail – Arthur Seat. There were some other tea and food stalls between Tiger Spring Point and Arhur Seat. I had come here earlier. It offers breathtaking view of the valley below and Savitri valley on a clear day. But that day, it itself was engulfed in clouds.
Sir Arthur, a British official, lost his wife and son to Savitri river. He used to sit here and stare at Savitri river. That’s why this view point is called Arthur Seat.
We came back to Parking lot at 2.55 pm and started for our next destination – Mahabaleshwar temple.
We came to Mahabaleshwar for the first time in 2003 and visited Mahabaleshwar temple then. After that, we came here twice but did not go to the temple. This time we decided to go there, may be because we are getting older or to keep us aligned with the prevailing socio-political environment of the country.
We reached Mahabaleshwar temple complex around 3.15 pm and parked our vehicle on a road nearby to the temple. There was a designated parking lot too. Later, we realized that we did a mistake by not parking it at the parking lot because we faced great difficulty to reverse the vehicle on the narrow road.
It was a short walk for the temple complex from where we parked our vehicle.
There were three temples in the temple complex Mahabaleshwar temple, Atibaleshwar temple and Panchaganga temple. All the temples are connected with each other through cemented path. On both the sides of that walk way, there were small shops. However, most of the shops were closed when we were there.
We first went to the Mahabaleshwar temple.
This temple was built in 1215 AD as per historical records. This temple was built in Hemadpanti style.The temple houses Shiva's bed, damru and trishul which date back to approximately 300 years. It is believed that every morning, the bedsheet is found crumpled indicating Shiva's presence at night within the temple.
The temple also housed idol of Lord Vishnu.
By the time we finished our visit to the Mahabaleshwar temple, it had already started raining heavily. We took shelter under the corrugated tin shed beside the exit point and were waiting for the rain to subside. While waiting there I saw a banner depicting the mythological context of the Mahabaleshwar temple.
The reference of the God Mahabaleshwar is available in the 1st and 2nd chapter of ‘Skand Puran’. The story of the God Mahabaleshwar refers to a period when the world was just created. At that time, there were two demons – Atibal and Mahabal who used to trouble everyone a lot and it became difficult for other to survive. So, Lord Bramha, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva decided to kill those two demons. Lord Vishnu defeated and killed Atibal. But Mahabal could not be killed because he was earlier given a blessing that nobody could kill him and he would die on his own will. So Brahma called Mahamaya, who allure him of love and enticed him to death. He agreed but prayed that Gods should stay at that place by their names so that those two demons become immortal. He died and thus Shiv stayed there in the form of Mahabaleshwar, Vishnu as Atibaleshwar and Brahma as Koteshwar. Name of the city is also said to be derived from Mahabal.
Unfortunately, I could not take any photo of Mahabaleshwar temple. I was not getting clear view from the front side because of shops and polythene covers. Neither, I could go to the rear side because that area was open area and it was raining.
After sometime, rain subsided a bit though did not stop completely. Since we were getting late, we started walking towards the Atibaleswar temple using the shades of the shops as protection.
This is a small Shiva temple which is often overlooked by most tourists who visit the temple complex at Old Mahabaleshwar. As we walked up to the Panchganga Temple, from Mahanbaleshwar teple, the Atibaleshwar temple was on the left hand side. There was a narrow passageway between the wayside shops and then there was a large Nandi bull at the entrance to this temple.
From there, we went to Panchganga temple.
Inside the temple, there are two small tanks. The second one is at slight elevation to the first one. Those tanks are continuously getting filled up by water flowing out from the mouth of a statue of cow. It is said that this temple is at the confluence of five rivers, Krishna, Venna, Savitri, Koyna and Gayatri and all the rivers come out from the mouth of a statue of a cow (Gomukh). That’s why this temple is called Panchganga temple.
The temple was constructed by Raja Singhandeo, the Yadava ruler of Devgiri in the 13th Century. In the 16th and 17th Centuries, Raja Chandarao More of Jaoli and the Maratha ruler Shivaji improved upon its structure on a large scale.
The temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna and has a beautiful idol of him. The legend behind the temple is closely linked to Savitri's curse on the Trimurtis, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, who flow here as Koyna, Krishna and Venna rivers. It is a major religious site and is thronged by devotees throughout the year.
We completed our visit to the temple complex around 4 pm.
That was the last destination of the day. Till that time, we had not had anything after breakfast. So, our next destination was a restaurant. We planned to go to Saayali restaurant.
We reached there around 4.35 pm and found the restaurant closed.
In the same complex, there was another restaurant called “The Sizzler Palace”. We went there.
It was completely empty. Waiters were having nap. On enquiry, they told us only Chinese dishes were available. We ordered Chilly Paneer, Veg Crispy, Crispy Chicken Honey Chilly.
Since they were taking time to serve the food, I went to the adjacent wine shop “Treacher & Co.”. It had a good collection. Price was at the same level of that of Mumbai.
In the same complex, there was a hotel named “Hotel Shreyas”. It seems that “Hotel Shreyas”, the two restaurants namely “Saayali Restaurant” and “The Sizzler Palace”, the wine shop shop “Treacher & Co.” are part of same group. There was one more small shop in the same complex selling cold drinks, water, namkins , “boiled eggs” and “ice”.
Food arrived after 15 minutes. It was quite tasty.
We started from there for Club Mahindra around 5.25 pm. In the evening, we ordered for some Pakodas and enjoyed that with coffee and Vodka. We had an early dinner as we were intending to start early for Mumbai on the next day.