In Maharashtra, India - Keep your wanderlust alive every month
Do you know what Strikhedonia means? It means 'joy of being able to say "to hell with" to the world' in Greek. Do you ever feel like breaking the monotony of your life, yelling 'Strikhedonia' and just going away somewhere? But then suddenly money matters strike you and you unwillingly have to back off?
Then let me tell you that not every trip you plan should cost you a fortune and not every trip will leave a hole in your pockets. This article is heavily influenced by the place where I stay, MAHARASHTRA. This state in India has everything, from beaches to mountains, from forts to caves and from history to futuristic art and culture. I have compiled a list of places, one (or couple) per month. The month signifies the best time to visit that place. So what are waiting for, keep your wanderlust afloat all around the year.
Bird Watching at Bhigwan/Pashan Lake - Maharashtra plays a perfect host to many migratory birds in winters because of its suitable weather. The most common one being pink Flamingos or Greater Flamingos. Two of the most visited places are fortunately very close to Pune, Bhigwan and Pashan lake. Bhigwan is a small town around 100 kms away from Pune and Pashan lake is within Pune city. The area around Pashan lake is developing fast and there has been lesser and lesser number of bird sightings. But it is worth a visit and a perfect early morning outing. Bhigwan on the other hand is isolated from the city crowd. It has a huge reservoir that is created by the backwaters of Bhima river due to Ujni dam. People throng around this place from all over Maharashtra to see a variety of bird species. The other migratory birds that you can observe here are: Wooly necked storks, Herons, Painted storks, Black drongos, Sea gulls, Cormorants and many more.
Sulafest - Sula, one of the biggest or rather the only noted vineyard in Nashik hosts this festival every year on the first weekend of February. It is an annual gourmet and music festival where artists across the globe perform. Apart from food and music, activities that keep the visitors entertained are camping, grape stomping, wine tasting and shopping.
Kala Ghoda Art Festival - Another art festival that has been around than most of the festivals in Maharashtra is Kala Ghoda Art Festival. Since 1999, the festival has been gaining more popularity than previous year. It attracts artists from all across India as well as the world. The festival starts on the first Saturday of February and ends on second Sunday of February every year. The festival covers various sections like cinema, dance, food, literature, heritage walks, theatre, urban design and architecture, street food and many more. It is organized by Kala Ghoda association which is a non-profit organization. More details on their website, Kala Ghoda Association.
March - Turtle Festival - Velas Beach
Very few beaches in India welcome turtles as their guests. One of them is Velas beach in the Konkan belt on the west. Villagers of this small place along with nature conservationist organizations strive to protect the eggs of endangered species of Olive Ridley Turtles. Late February/early March is the time when these young hatchlings hatch and find their way to the sea. I am sure no one would want to miss this beautiful sight. After all, watching a new life come to this earth is a sight in itself.
April - For the love of strawberries
April is the time when strawberries grow aplenty. When in Maharashtra, visit Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani for some lip-smacking strawberries. Around this time, most of the restaurants and resorts open their doors to their farms for the strawberry farm tours. This is the time when they even innovate some unique strawberry delicacies. Do not be amazed if you are offered strawberry pizza, strawberry sandwich or even strawberry bhel.
May - Plan a date with a Tiger in Tadoba and Pench
Tadoba and Pench, both are national parks famous for their tigers. Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh share the area of both these national parks. Yes, it is hot, crazy hot in Nagpur in the month of May. However, if you want a close-up of tigers, this is the best time to visit these jungles. You can catch a glimpse of them at man-made water holes as summer time means pool-time for them as well. You will not only see tigers laze around but also see different birds take a dip in the cool waters. More on Tadoba and Pench in my next blog.
June - Fireflies-gazing
Fireflies are generally found in temperate and tropical regions. In Maharashtra, Bandardhara and Rajmachi are two most commonly visited places by fireflies-gazers. Just before the onset of monsoons thousands of fireflies emit their bioluminescent lights to attract a partner for mating. Grandeur meet of fireflies of this number can create a dance of lights, an open light show. I was lucky to have watched this phenomena at Rajmachi. Below is the actual photo taken by a good friend. Looks a scene just out of a fairytale book, doesn't it?
July - Reverse Waterfalls
Bizarre!? Yes. But also true at Thoseghar, a small village near Satara district. Okay, to cut out some secrecy, its not like a scene out of Pirates of Caribbean where water defies gravity. The reverse waterfall phenomena is due to the strong winds blowing in the valley. The winds bring the water flowing downwards straight towards you. Hence, the name.
August - Trek to Sandhan Valley
Yes! You heard that right. You trek down the valley to experience some breathtaking views. Night-camping, star-gazing and rappeling are the most sought after activities amongst trekkers. Sandhan Valley is a water carved valley that is 200 ft. deep and 1.5 km long. It is also known as Valley of Shadow and is possibly the only canyon in the Sahyadri Western Ghats.
Kumbh Mela is celebrated at four destinations, Haridwar, Allahabad , Nashik-Trimbakeshwar and Ujjain at an interval of 12 years. Depending on what position the Sun, Moon, and Jupiter hold in a particular period in different zodiac signs, the venue for Kumbh Mela is decided. Kumbh Mela at Nashik is held when Sun and Jupiter are in Leo during the Hindu month of Bhadraprada (August-September months as per Gregorian calendar).
The legend behind the fair being hosted at these four destinations is that Vishu was said to have dropped small amounts of amrut (nectar) while transferring it in a pot (kumbha). Kumbh derives its name from the immortal Pot of Nectar, which the Demigods (Devtas) and Demons (Asuras) fought over, described in ancient Vedic scriptures known as the Puranas. It is these Vedic literatures that have stood the test of time, out of which the tradition has evolved into the one that the world now knows as The Kumbh Mela.
June to September is the time when people trek at different forts that surround Pune. Most of these forts belonged to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, a born fighter and an Indian leader. The forts were built at a height for strategic reasons, to make it difficult for the enemies to attack them. Only the ruins of these once strong forts stand as many of them were destroyed when Britishers ruled India. Lohgad, Visapur, Sinhgad, Raigad, Rajgad, Rajmachi, Kathingad, Torna are few famous ones around Pune that become trekkers paradise for these few months. 'Gadh' in Marathi language stands for fort. Hence, most of these names end with 'gad'.
October - Kaas Plateau - Valley of Flowers
Another marvel from Satara district is the Kaas Plateau. During the month of October, this flat land is covered with flowers giving an illusion of a colorful carpet. The place was recognized as UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site in 2012. The place boasts of over 600 variety of flowers including orchids, wild brinjal flowers, Impatiens oppositifolia, Murdannia lanuginosa and many more.
Harishchandragadh - Most local treks are not adventurous enough for experienced trekkers. But the one to Harishchandragadh is physically daunting and visually rewarding trek! Climbing at almost 80 degrees to a concave cliff that looks like a cobra’s hood, a trekker will surely have stories to narrate after this experience. This is also the place where trekkers get to view Konkan Kada. This cliff faces west and looks down upon the Konkan. It provides views of the surrounding region. One phenomenon that can be observed at this place is the vertical cloud burst, in which the clouds nearing the cliff get sucked into the pit fall area below and are thrown vertically into the sky reaching more than 50 feet (15 m), creating the impression of a wall that is rising straight from the edge of the cliff without entering the landmass area.
Konkan Beaches - October, November and December is also the time when you can visit the beautiful beaches of Konkan belt. Summer time is too hot to visit them and most of the beaches are shut in monsoons due to heavy downpour. Some of the beaches that I have visited are Diveagar, Ganpatipule, Kolthare, Alibaug (avoid this beach as it is not as clean as it used to be few years back), Tarkarli, Harihareshwar and Murud-Janjira. There are very few luxury hotels and resorts at these beaches but the homestays are in abundance. Homestays are cheap, cozy and the best part is, you get some lip-smacking home-cooked konkani style food. They also provide some freshly caught sea food if notified earlier (at least a day in advance).
December - Olive Ridley Turtle Visits
Do you remember the cute little turtle hatching in the month of March? Well, if you want to see their mother come ashore to lay eggs, this is the time of the year. Every year, around November-December, adult female Olive Ridley turtles come to the shore of Velas to lay their eggs. The females memorize the beach they were born at and return when they attain adulthood, to lay their eggs at the same beach, no matter where in the world they are. Astonishing, isn’t it? Sadly, Olive Ridley turtles are an endangered species and their eggs have been victims of poachers and also predators like jackals and eagles. The village of Velas is doing a humane job to protect these eggs by barricading them and guarding them 24X7. Hats-off to them for this self-less act.
Well, that is my list of some fun things you can do all around the year when you are in and around Maharashtra. If I have missed something, please mention them in the comments section and I will definitely talk or explore about it.
Disclaimer: The sources of the images above are Google Images and some are my own. The images from Google Images do not belong to me.