MAHARASHTRA: PUNE AREA

MAHARASHTRA

Maharashtra is India’s richest and second most populous state and the third largest in terms of area. Located on the west coast of India and regarded as the threshold between the Indo-Aryan north and the Dravidian south, it is where Mumbai is located and is surrounded by the Arabian Sea to west, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh and to the north, Andhra Pradesh to the east and and Karnataka to the south. State Tourism Website: www.maharashtratourism.gov.in

Maharashtra state covers 307,713 square kilometers (118,809 square miles), is home to about 115 million people and has a population density of 370 people per square kilometer. About 45 percent of the population live in urban areas. Mumbai is the capital and largest city, with about 12.5 million people. About 80 percent of the population is Hindu, 11.5 percent is Muslim,5.8 percent is Buddhist (many of them belonging to lower castes), 1.2 percent are Jains, one percent are Christians, 0.2 percent are Sikhs and 0.5 percent are other.

Much of Maharashtra sits on the Deccan Plateau. It is watered by many rivers, including the Tapto, the Godavari, the Bhima, the Krishn and their tributaries. which divides the land into subcultures that have their own identity and history. The main political centers have been in the Godavari basin and the Krishna Valley. The state also embraces the fertile coastal plain of Konkan and thickly forested regions in north and east.

Maharashtra is regarded as cosmopolitan, forward-thinking, tolerant and vibrant. For tourists, there are temples, forts, old monuments and some the world’s most spectacular cave art and sculpture. Mumbai (Bombay) — the home of Bollywood — is considered the financial capital of India and serves not only as the gateway to Maharashtra but gateway to all of India. Maharashtra is also home to several national parks and abundant wildlife. Project Tiger is active in four major areas of the state: Tadoba-Andhari, Melghat, Sahyadri and Pench. A large percentage of Maharashtra's forests and wildlife lie along the Western Ghats or Western Maharashtra and eastern Vidarbha. The Sahyadris hold several beautiful hill stations.

History of Maharashtra

Maharashtra was created after independence in 1947 by cobbling together Maharashtra-speaking areas. Marathi is the native language of Mumbai and Maharashtra. About three quarters of the population of the state speak it as their first language. The area is a stronghold of Hindu nationalists and has traditionally been dominated by upper caste Brahmins and landowning Maratha Kunbi. In the past it was often ruled by Muslim leaders. It has a long history of independence from the other dynasties of India. If was only briefly under the control of the Mughals. Feuds were common between the Muslim rulers and Hindu population. Hindu occasionally rose up in revolt.

Chalcolithic sites belonging to the Jorwe culture (circa 1300–700 B.C.) have been discovered throughout Maharashtra. Maharashtra was ruled by the Maurya Empire in the fourth and third centuries B.C.. Around 230 B.C. Maharashtra came under the rule of the Satavahana dynasty for 400 years. The state was also ruled by Western Satraps, Gupta Empire, Gurjara-Pratihara, Vakataka, Kadambas, Chalukya Empire, Rashtrakuta Dynasty, and Western Chalukya before finally, the Yadava rule. The Buddhist Ajanta Caves in present-day Aurangabad display influences from the Satavahana and Vakataka style. The caves were possibly excavated during this period.

In the early 14th century, the Yadava Dynasty, which ruled most of present-day Maharashtra, was overthrown by the Delhi Sultanate ruler Ala-ud-din Khalji. Later, Muhammad bin Tughluq conquered parts of the Deccan, and temporarily shifted his capital from Delhi to Daulatabad in Maharashtra. After the collapse of the Tughluqs in 1347, the local Bahmani Sultanate of Gulbarga took over, governing the region for the next 150 years. After the break-up of the Bahamani sultanate in 1518, Maharashtra split into five Deccan Sultanates:

By the early 17th century, Shahaji Bhosale, an ambitious local general who had served Ahmadnagar Sultanate, the Mughals and Adil Shah of Bijapur at different periods during his career, attempted to establish his independent rule. His son Shivaji Maharaj succeeded in establishing the Maratha Empire which was further expanded during the 18th century by the Bhat family Peshwas based in Pune. At its peak, the empire covered much of the subcontinent, encompassing a territory of over 2.8 million square kilometers. The Marathas are credited to a large extent for ending the Mughal rule in India.

The British laid claim to Mumbai (Bombay) when Portugal's Catherine of Braganza married England's Charles II and he was given the future city as a dowry. The British crown initially leased the city to the East India Company for ten pounds of gold a year after the Earl of Clarendon in 1661 said that Mumbai was an island of no importance "within a very little distance of Brazil." Later, the British used Maharashtra as a foothold to gain control of the rest of India. They took control of the region in the three Maratha wars, in which they sided with one faction against another. At the end of the Third Maratha War in 1818 the British incorporated a vast amount of Maratha territory into the Mumbai Presidency.

Mumbai was the birthplace of India's independence movement. On December 28, 1885, seventy-two lawyers, journalists and academics founded the Indian National Congress. For the first 30 years of it existence the Congress operated in Mumbai with financial help from wealthy merchants. Upon India’s independence in 1947, Bombay was incorporated into Bombay State. In 1960, a new state of Maharashtra was created with Bombay as the capital. Today, Mumbai is a stronghold for Hindu nationalists. They were the ones behind the name change from Bombay to Mumbai.

Roads in Maharashtra

According to ASIRT: “Road network is inadequate to handle rapidly increasing traffic levels. Some roads carry traffic levels 4 to 5 times greater than they were designed to carry. High traffic levels make passing difficult and increase risk when larger vehicles, coming from opposite directions, pass each other.[Source: Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT), 2010]

Traffic include a high number of 2-wheelers. Warning signs, speed limit signs and other road signs are often lacking. Road markings are often lacking or are in poor condition. Drivers commonly place large stones beside and behind their trucks to keep other traffic from hitting them. They often forget to remove the stones after repairing their trucks. The stones pose a high risk for all road users, especially 2-wheelers at night.

Eastern Express Highway, Part of National Highway 3 (NH-3) is a heavily traveled three-lane dual highway. Many intersections are grade-separated. Traffic is congested on southbound lanes during morning rush hour and on northbound lanes during evening rush hour. Part of the NH-3. Links Mumbai City with its eastern suburbs and Thane. The road begins in Sion in central Mumbai and ends in Thane. Continues south beyond Sion, but its name changes to Dr Ambedkar Road.

Southern India

Southern India, unlike North India, survived and fended off invasion after invasion. As a result it is primarily Hindu, and was relatively untouched by Muslim influences. Most of the Portuguese, French, Dutch and British settlement were along the coasts. The monsoon influences only the western side of southern India, and the further south one travels the earlier it begins and the later it ends.

In accordance with this pattern the southern tip is very lush and green, and some people say it reminds them of Bali. The western and central parts of southern India are occupied by the Western Ghat mountains. The Eastern Ghats are to the east. The Ghats are a range of mountains that run down the spine of India, separated by the Deccan Plateau, between Hyderabad and Kolkata (Calcutta). The Western Ghats is known for its spice-rich slopes and green swaths of rice fields. The people of southern India have a reputation for being much friendlier than the people in the north.

One traveler wrote in the Washington Post: “South India somehow gets lost in the overall concept of “India” as many visiting Americans head straight to Delhi, to the towering Moghul masterpieces and the harsh beauty of the Rajasthan desert, all in the north. The dishes served in Indian restaurants in the United States are mostly North Indian: the ever-present tandoori ovens and food cooked in ghee, or clarified butter. South India cuisine, by contrast, is not nearly as filling and uses copious amounts of coconut milk, making it much closer in taste and appearance to Southeast Asian cooking, such as Thai and Malaysian curries.” [Source: Washington Post, September 14, 2009]

South India encompasses the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Goa and Telangana as well as the union territories of Andaman and Nicobar, Lakshadweep and Puducherry, It occupies a bout a fifth of India's area — 635,780 square kilometers (245,480 square miles. Covering the southern part of the Deccan Plateau, South India is bounded by the Bay of Bengal in the east, the Arabian Sea in the west and the Indian Ocean in the south. Godavari, Krishna, Kaveri, Tungabhadra and Vaigai rivers are important non-perennial sources of water. Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Coimbatore, Kochi, Visakhapatnam, Madurai, Mysore, Kozhikode, Tiruchirappalli, Thiruvananthapuram, Mangalore, Warangal are some of the major cities.

The majority of the people in South India speak one of the four major Dravidian languages: Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam. During its history, a number of dynastic kingdoms ruled over parts of South India. The main that were established in South India include the Cheras, Cholas, Pandyas, Pallavas, Satavahanas, Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas and Vijayanagara.

Deccan Plateau

Deccan Plateau covers much of southern India. It extends eastward from the Western Ghats, roughly from Mumbai in the north to Nagpuar in. The east and Hyderabad in the south and covers much of the states of Andra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra. It has a long association with Hindu history. The Mughals expended much energy trying to conquer it. They ultimately succeeded but the expense of expending so much resources that it eventually helped the empire to collapse from within

The Deccan Plateau is a large plateau in western and southern India. It rises to 100 meters (330 feet) in the north, and to more than 1,000 meters (3,300 ft) in the south, forming a raised triangle within the south-pointing triangle of the Indian subcontinent's coastline. It extends over eight Indian states and encompasses a wide range of habitats.

The plateau is located between two mountain ranges, the Western Ghats and the Eastern Ghats, each of which rises from its respective nearby coastal plain, and almost converge at the southern tip of India. It is separated from the Gangetic plain to the north by the Satpura and Vindhya Ranges, which form its northern boundary. The Deccan produced some of the major dynasties in Indian history including Pallavas, Satavahana, Vakataka, Chalukya, and Rashtrakuta dynasties, the Western Chalukya, the Kadamba Dynasty, Kakatiya Empire, Kamma Nayakas, Vijayanagara and Maratha empires and the Muslim Bahmani Sultanate, Deccan Sultanate, and the Nizam of Hyderabad.

Pune

Pune (150 kilometers east-southeast of Mumbai) is the cultural capital of Maharashta and one of the fastest growing cities in India and boasts a rich and varied literary and artistic tradition. Located in a hilly region, Pune was center of the powerful Maratha Empire, the regional monsoon capital of the British and the place where Mahatma Gandhi and his wife Kasturba were imprisoned in 1942 during the Quit India movement against the British. Pune is an industrial hub and educational center in Maharashtra state and is now regarded as something of a technology hub.

Ensconced in the majestic Sahayadri mountain range and situated on the Bima River, Pune (also called Poona) is.second-largest in Maharashtra and the eight-largest metropolis in India Home to about 3.2 million people, it is a rail and road junction and has some nice beautiful public gardens and numerous palaces and temples. There is military headquarters in the city and a large military presence in the suburbs.

Pune is famous for its impressive architecture, the legacy of the Marathas who were its rulers until the 19th century. The city is dotted with grand forts, palatial structures (wadas), ancient caves and temples. Its spirituality can be experienced in the many ashtavinayak (Lord Ganesha) temples in the city. Pune has a vibrant culinary scene. MG Road, Koregaon Park, Kalyani Nagar and Viman Nagar are perhaps the most frequented areas in the city and offer everything from street food to fine dining. There is a water sports complex with windsurfing, kayaking and speed boating facilities at Panshet. Pashan Lake (three kilometers outside the city) is favorite habitat of migratory birds in the winter.

Pune has seen an influx of German and other European citizens who have migrated here to volunteer at local schools and ashrams. This has led to a notable change in the type of cuisine and style of presentation in the city – the restaurants and pubs now have a versatile audience to cater to. Pizzerias, Greek resto-bars, Continental cafes, steakhouses and a whole host of patisseries call Pune home, and there are more cropping up every day. A green city with a number of parks and recreational areas, Pune is popular with retirees who move here to get away from the hustle and noise of larger, more boisterous cities. Its lovely weather, accessible amenities and peaceful streets have earned it the sobriquet 'pensioner’s haven'

Transportation and Getting to Pune

Getting There: A major transportation hub for Western Maharashtra, Pune is reasonably close to Mumbai and provides access to many hill stations in Sahyadri Hills.. Provides access to many hill stations in Sahyadri Hills. By Air: Pune has its own international airport at Lohegaon and there are direct flights from most major cities of the country. Pune International Airport is in Lohegaon 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) northeast of the city. By Train: Rail service is well developed. Pune is a major railhead and connected to all the major Indian cities. From Mumbai, the Deccan Queen and Shatabdi Express take you to Pune in around four hours.

By Road: Pune has reasonably good roads and highways in good condition. They are connected to all the major Indian towns and cities including Ahmednagar, Aurangabad, Kolhapur and Mumbai by several state and roadways buses. From Mumbai, the 150 kilometers Mumbai-Pune expressway takes you around three hours to reach your destination.

By Bus: Inter-city transport services include: Asiad Bus Service: Government-operated buses that leave from a station near the Mumbai-Pune taxi stand. Buses travel between the station and Dafar Circle in Mumbai. Service is every 15 minutes. Upon request, drivers drop passenger almost anywhere along the route after reaching Pimpri-Chinchwad.Private bus services in Mumbai also provide service between Dafar Circle and Pune. Buses leave from many locations in Mumbai. Fares vary according to type of service, time of day and season. Private buses travel to Pune Railway Station, Kothrud, Swargate or Shivajinagar. In Pune, buses going to stations in southern India leave from the Railway Bus Stand. Buses serving northern and northeastern cities leave from Shivajinagar Bus Stand. Buses linking Pune and Sinhagadh leave from the Swargate Bus Stand. [Source: Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT), 2010]

Local Transportation in Pune: Auto rickshaws provide transport. Using them is not recommended, due to safety concerns. Inter-city taxis provide transport between Pune Railway Station and Dadar Circle in Mumbai. Available 24 hours daily. Reasonable fares. May be crowded. Local buses provide transport throughout the city and suburbs, including Swargate, Deccan Gymkhana, Pune Station, Shivaji Nagar Station, meters G Bus Stand, Pune Corporation, Saras Baug.Market Yard, Katraj. Pune Municipal Transport buses link city center and the city’s suburbs, including Swargate, Deccan Gymkhana, Pune Station, Shivaji Nagar Station, meters G Bus Stand, Pune Corporation, Saras Baug. [Source: Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT), 2010]

Highways in the Mumbai- Pune Area

Mumbai-Pune Expressway: is also known as Yashwantrao Chavan Expressway. An access-controlled, 6-lane, toll expressway with paved shoulders and a median. Road surface is concrete and in good condition. Speed limit is 80 km/h (50 mph). Only vehicles with at least 4 wheels are permitted to use the road. Links Mumbai and Pune. The road is part of NH-4. Has barbed wire fencing to keep wandering cattle off the road, but residents, desiring to cross the road, have cut the fencing several places. Be alert for pedestrians, cattle or other animals on the road, especially near Vadgaon Maval. [Source: Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT), 2010]

Traffic has increased five fold in the last 10 years. High road crash risk, often due to driver error, speeding, lane cutting or burst tires. Radar is used to detect speeding. Road lacks adequate reflectors in high risk areas. Broken down vehicles and heavy goods vehicles, parked on the shoulders, often lack reflectors. Robbery risk continues to be high. Robbers may block the road with stones or throw stones at passing motorists. When drivers stop, robbers attack the occupants. Increased police patrols have reduced robbery risk, but thefts continue. Landslides may block the road, especially during the monsoons season. Highway Helpline: If caught in a traffic jam, use a cell phone to call a highway helpline to get an estimate of when it may clear. Helplines include: Vadgaon: 02114-73822, Khandala: 02114-73822 and Khadki: 020-5819301

Old Pune-Mumbai Highway: Heavily traveled. High road crash injury and fatality rate. Most sections are 4-6 lane in Pune. The section in Pimpri- Chinchwad has been widened to 8-lane. Has four concrete lanes in the center and a 2-lane asphalt-paved service road on each side. This section has no traffic lights or at-grade intersections. The road begins in the center of Pune and ends at Dehu Road. Runs near the railway line.

National Highway 4, NH-4: A 4-lane dual carriageway, passing through Western and Southern India. Links Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu states. Makes up about 90 percent of the Golden Quadrilateral’s Mumbai-Chennai segment. Provides access to major cities in India and neighboring countries. Intersects with NH-3 in Thane, NH-8 in Mumbai, NH-9 and NH-50 in Pune, NH-63 in Hubli, NH-48 and NH-7 in Bangalore and NH-5, NH-45 and NH-205 in Chennai. Known as Pune-Bangalore Road or PB Road in Karnataka state. Known as Mumbai-Pune Expressway in Maharashtra state.

National Highway 13, NH 13: Many sections are narrow and winding. Road crash risk is high in these sections. Links Solapur in Maharashtra state to Mangalore in Karnataka state. Intersects with NH-4 in Chitradurga state and NH-17 in Mangalore. Passes through all regions in Karnataka.

National Highway 234, NH-234 is also known as the Mangalore-Villupuram Highway. It Links Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh states. Kadur-Kanhangad, and Mudigere-Venkatagiri State highways were upgraded to form the NH-234. Begins in Mangalore at Mahavir Circle. Passes along the NH-48 from Mangalore to B.C. Road. From B.C. Road, it continues to Belthangady, Chintamani, Kota, Katpadi, Polur and ends at Tiruvanamalai-Villupuram in Tamil Nadu. The state highway linking Kadur and Mudigere has not been upgraded to national highway standards.

Sights in Pune

Among the Pune’s many attractions are the Marathi theater, which stages indigenous natak dramas; the Raja Dinkat Kelkar Museum, a Rajasthani-style building with fine collections of paintings, musical instruments, armor handicrafts and other objects of art that were all once privately owned; and the Aga Khan Palace, where Gandhi and his wife were imprisoned in 1942. Osho Teerth at Koregaon Park pays homage to the controversial guru Rajneesh. The fountains here light up in the evening. The famous Ganapati Temple is an added attraction. The Film and Television Institute of India is the premier institute of its kind in the country. It has produced some of the best actors, directors, technicians in India's film industry. Saras Baug is a vast landscaped garden with a mela-like atmosphere.

Pataleshwar Cave Temples is a 1,200-year-old temple with massive pillars cut from a single piece of stone. One of the oldest temples in the city, built at a site dating back to the 7th-8th century B.C., it is Shiva shrine with a nandi bull located inside. Pataleshwar Cave, dedicated to Lord Shiva brinsg to mind Ellora Caves. This temple has a separate shrine for Nandi (bull god), who is Lord Shiva’s vaahan (or vehicle). According to local lore, this temple has been carved out of a single rock during the Rashtrakuta dynasty (6th to 10th centuries). There is ample seating so visitors can meditate in peace. Another must-see here is a tiny grain of rice, which has 5,000 words inscribed on it, kept perfectly preserved in a museum within the caves. It has been recognized as Guinness World Records.

Parvati Hill is 2,100 feet high and home to a popular temple dedicated to the Goddess Parvati. Built during the rule of the Peshwas (1674-1818), it is said to be the oldest heritage structure in Pune. One needs to climb 108 steps to reach it. Parvati Hill is an ideal place to watch devotees, as there are numerous temples perched on its slopes, including those dedicated to Lord Devadeshwar, Lord Vitthal and Goddess Rukmini, Lord Vishnu, Lord Ganesha and Lord Kartikeya. Most of these were built in the 17th century, when Nana Saheb Peshwa was ruling the Marathas. Parvati Museum has portraits of Peshwa bravehearts, manuscripts, weapons and coins. The temple was once used by the Peshwas as a watchtower of sorts, from where they would keep an eye on approaching enemies. Local According to legend the Peshwa king, Balaji Bajirao, observed the Battle of Kirki from this vantage point, and watched as the British lost and fled. Today, tourists can get breathtaking views of the city from this hill.

Shaniwar Wada is a ruined palace built by the Peshwa ruler, Bariraol. The construction of this palace was started on a Saturday and hence the name (Saturday is Shaniwar in Hindi). This 13-storey building was started in 1730 by Bajirao I and was finally made ready in 1732. Security was given prime importance here, with nine bastions and five gateways (Dilli darwaza, Mastani darwaza, Khidki darwaza, Ganesh darwaza and Narayan darwaza). This fort was the center of Indian politics in the 18th century; the change in its status came at the heels of the rise of the Maratha empire. The fort itself was partially destroyed in a fire in 1828; whichever structures remained are now promoted for tourism. An unmissable site for tourists is the lotus-shaped fountain in the complex of the fort.

Fortresses Near Pune

Outside of Pune are several famous forts including Sinhagad Fort (27 kilometers from Pune), a fortress located on the top of a cliff that was reported taken in 1670 with the help a warrior who used ropes and giant lizards to scale the precipice's face. It name literally means lion’s fort. There is another fortress in Raigad (80 miles from Pune).

Lohagad and Visapur (40 kilometers northwest of Pune, 50 kilometers southeast of Mumbai) are hilltop forts that used to guard the trade route going through Bor Ghat (now Khandala Ghat), from the Arabian Sea to the Deccan region. Connected by gaymukh — a kol or sharp-edged ridge — the forts are a must-visit for those who wish to understand the military arrangements of that time, or those who simply want to explore the glory of the olden days. The Visapur Fort was built by Balaji Vishwanath, the Maratha empire’s foremost Peshwa, in 1713-1720. Caves, water cisterns, a decorated arch and several houses can be seen inside the fort. Moreover, tourists can look at various iron cannons and guns, which were disabled by the British. The mountain on which this fort has been built is also home to the 22 Bhaja caves that were built way back in 200 B.C. Other attractions that one can visit nearby include Karla Caves and Pawna Lake.

Shivneri Fort (near Junnar, 100 kilometers north of Pune) is famously known as the birthplace of Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Built in the 17th century, this partly ruined fort still stands strong. The Ambarkhana or Dhanyakothi ruins, an granary, are worth a look. Further in, twin underground water tanks known as the Ganga-Jamuna cisterns are another interesting feature. The Badami talav, a huge circular tank, which used to hold water, is at the center of the fort. The Shiv mandir stands at the spot where Shivaji was born. Towards the north is the Kadelot Point, a cliff where criminals were given capital punishment – their hands in cuffs, they were shoved down into the valley to certain death. Today, it is a good viewing point to see the Manikdoh Dam, the Hadsar Fort and the Chavand Fort, as well as Narayangad, Lenyadri Hill, among others.

Between Pune and Mumbai

Bhimashankar Temple (90 kilometers north of Pune, 70 kilometers east of Mumbai) is a Shiva temple known for its ornate carvings and ranked sixth among the 12 jyotirlingas (devotional shrines of Lord Shiva) in India. Rajasthani and Gujarati influences can be clearly seen in the Nagara (or Indo-Aryan) architectural style of the garbha griha (sanctum sanctorum) and shikahara (tower) of the temple. You can view scenes from Indian epics including Mahabharata, Ramayana, Krishna Leela and Shiv Leela on the outer walls of the sanctum. In the courtyard, the records of grants given to the temple are inscribed on the walls. Constructed by Nana Phadnavis during the 18th century, this temple also boasts a sabhamandap. While the structure itself is fairly new, the shrine as well as the Bhimarathi river find mention in literature dating back to as early as the 13th century. Bhimashankar is also the source of River Bhima, which merges with River Krishna near Raichur.

Malshej Waterfall (near Malshej Ghat, 70 kilometers north of Pune, 60 kilometers east of Mumbai) is nestled in the picturesque Sahyadri range. The area around the falls offers good trekking. In the rugged hills are several forts, temples and ancient caves. The best time to see the falls is during the monsoon months (from July to September) when it cascades at full flow. Close by is the Pimpalgaon Lake. A short distance away from the lake are the Lenyadri Caves and Shivneri Fort. There are some options for accommodation if you want to stay for a while.

Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary (40 kilometers north-northwest of Pune, 60 kilometers east of Mumbai) is a favorite weekend getaway for the people of Mumbai and Pune. It is covered in deciduous forests and has been identified as an IBA (important bird area) by Bird Life International. The Shekru or giant flying squirrel, Maharashtra’s state animal, is found in this wildlife sanctuary, apart from other flora and fauna. There is also has a library in its Forest Interpretation Center. The sanctuary is one of the 12 biodiversity hotspots of the world. Located in the Western Ghats, it is also a catchment area that supplies water to the Bhima and Ghod rivers. The best time to visit is from October to February.

Caves Near Pune

Bedsa Caves (45 kilometers away from Pune) was carved out of rock in the 1st century B.C. With two finished and two unfinished Buddhist caves, Bedsa is accessed through a series of steps on a slope. You will also see rock-cut cisterns and a memorial stupa. Some striking carvings can be seen at the chaityagriha that has a stone screen, as well as a verandah with engraved pillars, which are 25-foot-tall and support a ribbed roof. Figures of couples riding horses and elephants have been intricately carved into these pillars, thus giving the impression of being sculptures themselves. The roof is also supported by orthogonal pillars.

Bhaja Caves (near Lonavala, 56 kilometers from Pune) comprises 25 Buddhist caves belonging to the Hinayana phase of Buddhism. They were all created between the 3rd century B.C. and the 2nd century. One of the oldest rock-cut chaityagrihas (prayer hall with a stupa inside) of Maharashtra is located here; a horseshoe-shaped archway leads to this hall. In fact, it is the only one here. All the other caves are viharas, which are residential caves with independent cells inside them. These caves also hint at the history of the tabla, a percussion instrument; carvings from around 200 B.C. show a woman playing the tabla, while others show dance performances. Stupas, said to be the relics of Buddhist monks, can also be found.

Karla Caves (near Lonavala, eight kilometers from Bhaja Caves) were constructed between the A.D. 2nd century and the 5th century. These well-known Buddhist rock-cut caves have one of the largest chaityagrihas (prayer hall with a stupa inside) in India, known for its architectural style. It is said that the monks decided to build their shrine here because Karla was a natural cave, and was therefore ideal for excavation. A number of shrines were abandoned halfway through, something that is obvious from their broad, rugged outlines. There are gorgeous sculptures on the pillars of the chaityagriha as well as the verandah. These 15 caves are known for detailed inscriptions as well. They sit high up on a hill, and at one time received a lot of rain.

Kolhapur

Kolhapur (300 kilometers south of Mumbai) is an ancient city situated on the banks of River Panchganga known for its grand monuments and old temples. Home to one of the largest forts in the Deccan region, Panhala, where Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji is said to have spent a lot of time, the city is a mine of Maratha legends. Kolhapur also hosts one of the 51 shaktipeethas (devotional shrines where the body parts of Goddess Sati fell) and draws a large number of pilgrims every year.

Such is Kolhapur's spiritual significance that it is colloquially called Dakshin Kashi (Southern Kashi), since it is located in the southernmost part of the state. Lying in the lap of the Sahyadri range, Kolhapur also boasts a host of wildlife sanctuaries with tigers and leopards. The city's its bustling bazaars sell famous Kolhapuri opulent saaj necklaces and chappals (leather sandals). Once a princely state, the city is mentioned in the holy Puranas. Founded by Chhatrapati Tarabai, Kolhapur flourished under the rule of the Chhatrapati clan of Kolhapur (1710–1949).

Getting There: By Air: The nearest airport is Ujalaiwadi, about 10 kilometers from the city. By Road: Good roads connect Kolhapur with all parts of the state and the country. By Train: Kolhapur railway station falls on Pune-Miraj-Kolhapur section of South Central Railway.

Sights in the Kolhapur Area

Jyotiba Temple is perched atop the Jyotiba Hills. Dedicated to Jyotiba (Dattatreya), who is believed to be the incarnation of Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva, the temple is renowned as one of the 12 jyotirlingas. According to legend Jyotiba was created to kill demon Ratnasur. The sanctum sanctorum of the temple houses a lingam (phallic symbol honoring Shiva), which is also called Kedareshwar. Idols of Chopadai and Yamai are also present here. The temple has beautiful surroundings and lies to the north of Kolhapur, bordered by green mountains and black precipice.

Tourists have to climb up more than a 100 stairs to reach the sanctum of the temple. The original temple is believed to have been built in 1730 by Navajisaya. Thus, the interiors of the temple have a vintage feel to them. The temple draws large crowds on Chaitra Poornima, when a huge fair is held that devotees attend with tall (Sasan) sticks. Gulaal (colored powder) is scattered all around during the festival.

Panhala Fort (20 kilometers northwest of Kolhapur) is one of the biggest in the Deccan region. Overlooking the verdant hills of the Sahyadri range, it is perched at a height of 977 meters and bordered by 7-kilometer-long fortifications. The entire stretch is peppered with watchtowers, bastions and ramparts. The fort was constructed by Raja Bhoja in the 12th century in the Indo-Islamic style of architecture.

The best time to visit the fort is during the monsoon months when the fog hangs over the area, lending it a mysterious and exciting feel. Tourists can get an interesting view of the pass connecting Maharashtra with its coastal areas from the fort. The place also has a historic significance as it was from here that Shivaji laid a siege for four months, and is believed to be the only place where he spent more than 500 days.

Ratnagiri

Ratnagiri (150 kilometers south of Mumbai, 70 kilometers west of Kolhapur) has beautiful seashores and beaches, thick mangroves and verdant valleys. Located in Maharashtra's Konkan region, the city is near Velas beach, which welcomes hundreds of Olive Ridley turtles, who come here to lay their eggs from February to April. One can see thousand baby turtles scampering to reach the water’s edge for their first journey in the sea.

Surrounded by the spectacular Sahyadri mountain range, Ratnagiri is blessed with many waterfalls and a rich flora and fauna. One can see old forts and bustling fishermen hamlets The city is also famous for its Alphonso mangoes, regarded as the best tasting variety of the fruit. here. Close to Velas is the sleepy town of Guhagar, which has one of the best beaches in Maharashtra.

Getting There: By Air: The nearest airport is Ratnagiri Airport and Sambre Airport, about 170 kilometers away. By Road: Ratnagiri is well connected with reasonably good roads to all the major cities. By Train: There are regular trains to Ratnagiri from all the major cities.

Nanded

Nanded (650 kilometers east of Mumbai, 253 kilometers west of Aurangabad) is an important places for Sikhs. Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru of the Sikhs, preached to his last congregation here while standing by the banks of River Godavari. And passed on the guru-ship to Guru Granth Sahib in 1708, just before his death. Nanded is dotted with gurudwaras (Sikh temples)

Guru Gobind Singh is believed to have arrived in Nanded with Bahadur Shah in August 1708 and while the latter proceeded to Golconda, Guru Gobind Singh decided to stay on. According to legend, Guru Gobind Singh was travelling in the company of Bahadur Shah to convince him to mete out justice for the murder of a number of Sikhs, including his sons, but the Shah refused to relent and the two parted ways.

Nanded also houses various Sufi shrines and, historically, the banks of the sacred Godavari river have been the site of many Vedic rituals. Some of the important ghats include the Urvashi Ghat, Ram Ghat and the Govardhan Ghat. Other attractions include the once grand Kshetrapala statue, which is believed to have been taller than 50 feet.

Getting There: By Air: The nearest airstrip to Nanded is in Aurangabad, about 253 kilometers. By Road: Nanded is accessibly by good roads from most places in Maharashtra. Nanded is 650 kilometers east of Mumbai by road and 250 kilometers from Hyderabad. It is a ride of about 4-5 hours from Aurangabad and 11 hours from Pune. Several passenger bus services operate out of Nanded connecting most major cities through overnight journeys. By Train: Nanded is connected with most of the cities in the country through the Nanded railway station. Sachkhand express is a special super fast train running directly from Amritsar to Nanded.

Sights in and Around Nanded

Sachkhand Sri Hazur Sahib (on the River Godavari in Nanded) is a Sikh gurudwara constructed by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the leader of the Sikh empire, at the place where Guru Gobind Singh ji breathed his last. According to a religious belief, this is where the guru-ship was passed on from Guru Gobind Singh to the Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Gobind Singh ji realised that men, even as great as him, are perishable, but ideas, which the Guru Granth Sahib represents, are not. While conferring the guru-ship on the holy book, Guru Gobind Singh ji called Nanded the Abchalnagar, or the steadfast city. The name 'Sachkhand' literally means the region of truth.

This was meant to denote the abode of god. According to Sikhism, there are five takhts or seats of power. This gurudwara, also known as Takht Sahib, is the holiest among them. It is situated near the Godavari river. Laid out in majestic white marble, the dome of the main shrine is capped in gold. The complex houses two more shrines - the Bunga Mai Bhago Ji, which houses the Guru Granth Sahib, and the other is of Angitha Bhai Daya Singh and Dharam Singh, two of the Panj Pyare (five beloved ones). The complex has two storeys and the decoration is similar to Harmandir Sahib or the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The inner room is called the Angitha Saheb. Its walls are covered with golden plates. Relics of Guru Gobind Singh preserved here include a golden dagger, a matchlock gun, a studded steel shield and five golden swords. The sanctum is decorated with marble that is inlaid with floral patterns. The walls and the ceiling are decorated with stucco and tukari work. During the day, the Guru Granth Sahib is brought out and placed in a room in front of the sanctum. At nights, it is placed back in the sanctum.

Laser And Musical Fountain Show is held at Huzur Sahib. The show is quite unique and is geared towards attracting the attention of travelers. It is held at Gobind Bagh and has been directed by popular artist Jasbir Singh Dham, with the famous gazal singer, Jagjit Singh giving a voice-over. The show gives viewers a brief but beautiful summary of the life of all the ten Gurus in Sikhism. There are two shows that travelers can catch, at 7:30 and at 8:30pm every day.

Anudha Nagnath (40 kilometers north of Nanded) is a jyotirlinga (devotional shrine of Lord Shiva) and is important because it is considered to be the eighth or adhyalinga installed by the Pandavas of the epic Mahabharata. This temple is believed to have been built during the 13th century in the time of the Yadava dynasty. Local mythology also suggests that the original temple was a grand seven-storey structure that was demolished. The sanctum sanctorum is now located under the ground level and devotees have to go down two stone steps to be able to get a darshana (view) of the idol. Saint Namdev is also believed to have visited this temple and the locals share this story quite enthusiastically. Devotees of Lord Shiva frequent this temple as well. It is built in the Hemadpanti style of architecture and boasts several intricate rock-cut carvings. Its mythological name is Darukavan. Even if one is not religiously inclined, the temple is worth a visit because of its intricate architecture.

Parali Vajinath (100 kilometers west of Nanded) is another popular jyotirlinga. This stone temple is located on a hill and the surrounding areas are covered in traditional medicinal plants. The temple allows devotees to perform personal prayers. Every Mahashivratri, a fair lasting 15 days is organised, which witnesses massive footfalls. There is an interesting legend associated with the shrine. It is said that once Ravana was carrying the jyotirlinga to Lanka and the gods did not wish for this to happen. Thus, they sent sage Narada to stop Ravana, who conned him into dropping the jyotirlinga. It is said that wherever the pieces of the jyotirlinga fell, temples of Lord Shiva have been erected.

Kinwat Wildlife Reserve (100 kilometers northeast of Nanded) covers an an area of about 138 square kilometers and is part of the Kinwat forest area. It is a short drive of three hours from Yavatmal. Here, one can spot wildlife like tigers, panthers, sloth bears, blue bulls, sambar, chinkara, barking deer, chital and wild boar.

Nagpur

Nagpur (250 kilometers south-southeast of Bhopal) has forts, palaces and ancient temples and is neat lakes and forests. Nagpur boasts a history that dates back to the 18th century, when Bhakt Buland, a Gond prince, is said to have founded the city.

Nagpur's famous orange cultivation has earned it the moniker of the 'Orange City of India' and tourists can visit farms lined with orange-laden trees. From trying freshly squeezed juice to sweets prepared with oranges, there are several unique experiences on offer here. Nagpur's culinary culture invites food-lovers from all over the country for its rich diversity and strong flavors. Try authentic Maharashtrian specialities or dig into the city's native fiery Saoji delicacies.

Getting There: By Air: Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar International Airport, serving the city of Nagpur, is one of the busiest airports in India and well-connected to most Indian cities. By Road: NH 6 running north-south from Varanasi to Kanyakumari and NH 7 going east-west from Surat to Kolkata both pass through Nagpur. By Train: Nagpur Junction is well-connected with most major railheads of the country.

Sevagram: Gandhi’s Residence

Sevagram (60 kilometers southwest of Nagpur) is one of the few sites in India that provide a deeper insight into the life of Mahatma Gandhi. Sevagram once served as the residence of the Mahatma during India's freedom struggle. Today, it stands as a testament to the great life lived by him and attracts tourists from all corners of the country. The ashram is divided into different parts that allow tourists to explore various nuances of the Mahatma's life.

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “Sevagram Ashram near Wardha, Maharashtra: The Sevagram Ashram became the residence of Mahatma Gandhi in 1936. Spread over an area of over 300 acres (1.214 square kms.), it was the laboratory of Indian politics and head quarter of Indian freedom movement. Important decisions on Satyagrah movements were taken here and it became the central place for a number of institutions for the nation building activities devised by Gandhi-ji to suit the inherent strength of this country. This Ashram was also built in a simple manner comprising small homes akin to huts found in villages. [Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]

“Mahatma Gandhi established Sevagram in a village near Wardha in Maharashtra at the invitation of Jamnalal Bajaj. From 1936 to 1948, Mahatma Gandhi was based here, spreading the message of Non Violence in his work towards Indian Independence. In April 1936, Gandhiji established his residence in the village Shegaon which he renamed as Sevagram, which means 'village of service'. Many decisions on important national matters and movements were taken at Sevagram. Though initially Gandhiji had decided to live here with only his wife Kasturba, pressure of work necessitated more colleagues join him at Sevagram until it became known as Sevagram Ashram and became a full-fledged institution. [Source: Archaeological Survey of India]

“The Satyagraha Ashram, later renamed as Harijan Ashram, was established as part of the Freedom Movement. The Satyagraha Ashram was founded on May 25, 1915 in Ahmedabad at Kochrab, when Gandhi returned from South Africa, with 25 inmates. The Ashram was shifted on the bank of river Sabarmati in July 1917. Devoted ashramites led a community life in search of Truth and Non-violence under his guidance.”

Start your trip with Adi Niwas, which was the first hut built in the ashram. Gandhiji spent his initial days at Sevagram here and its northern verandah served as his dining space. Morning and evening prayers of different religions are held until date. Located nearby is the residence of Mahatma Gandhi's wife, Kasturba Gandhi, known as Ba Kuti. The Bapu Kuti is the room where Gandhi lived. It still houses his sleeping cot along with other belongings of daily use. Then, there's Gandhiji's Secretariat from where Gandhi stayed in touch with the entire world. A telephone, a cage and a pair of wooden scissors have been put on display.

The next stop should be Bapu's kitchen that houses a flour grinding machine, which was used by Gandhiji himself. Tourists must check out the Gandhi Photo Exhibition at Sevagram Ashram. The photo exhibition displays the life and works of the Mahatma. Tourists can also choose to stay at the ashram's Yatri Nivas, built by the government of India in 1982, for an immersive experience.

Saytagrah — India’s Non-violent Freedom Movement — Sites

Sites of Saytagrah, India’s non-violent freedom movement was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014.According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “The series contains sites associated with India’s non-violent freedom movement, a rare and notable example of political emancipation achieved during the first half of 20th Century that became the role model for civil resistances worldwide. The movement demonstrated effective implementation of the instrument of Satyagrah, a political strategy promulgated by Mahatma Gandhi based on non-violent means of civil resistance through tools such as protests, marches, demonstrations and boycotts. The success of Indian Satyagrah lay in it being a mass movement of civic resistance that saw participation of almost all sections of society rising above the divisions of caste, creed, religion and gender, unified against the oppressive colonial rule in the country. And the impact of this movement can be gauged from the fact that since 1966, over sixty political transitions have been effected through nonviolent civic resistances worldwide.[Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]

“The principle of non-violence or ahimsa is a much older tenet of Indian culture and spirituality deep rooted in the beliefs of Ancient Indian religions such as Jainism and Buddhism. Another role model for Mahatma Gandhi was the Kuka Movement led by Bhai Ram Singh Namdhari, originator of the nonviolent and civil disobedience movement in Punjab in 1872.

“Satyagrah is an amalgam of two Sanskrit words, Satya (meaning Truth) and Agrah (meaning Request or Insistence); loosely the word translates to mean ‘Insistence on Truth’ or pursuit of truth. It is a specific strategy under the wider umbrella of civil resistance and the term was coined by Mahatma Gandhi in 1906 during his fight for civil rights of resident Indians in South Africa. He defined it as the Force which is born of Universal Truth and Love, equating it with Non-Violent means for all actions including protests. This theory stems from the belief that means and ends are inseparable, i.e. in order to seek justice it would be contradictory to use unjust means, or the use of violence to obtain peace. Thus, in essence, Satyagrah seeks to eliminate antagonisms without harming the antagonists in any manner, as opposed to violent resistance or armed conflicts, which are meant to cause harm to the antagonist. Mahatma Gandhi asserted that Satyagrah is a weapon of the strong that always insists upon Truth; in the context of Indian Freedom Movement, the Truth meant the right of Indians to be free of oppression and to be treated as equals by the British.”

Saytagrah Ashrams and Protest

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “In consonance with the Gandhian philosophy of non-violence, two types of sites have been identified to be associated with the Satyagrah movement. First are the Ashrams established by Mahatma Gandhi that acted as Training centers for indoctrination of the principles and instincts of non-violence, or Satyagrah.The second include sites most representative of the historical significance and non-violent means of mass scale civil agitation against the oppressive British rule where the political movement of Satyagrah was waged, which made the Indian example a success and a role model for other countries to follow. Together, these sites express the OUV of the Saytagrahmovement.”

“When using Satyagrah in a large-scale political conflict involving civil disobedience, Gandhi-ji believed that the Satyagrahis (follower of the Satyagrah philosophy) must undergo spiritual and physical training to ensure discipline and to develop their nonviolent reflexes. For this, he founded Ashrams (the Kochrab Ashram near Ahmedabad, Gujarat; the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, Gujarat; and the Sevagram Ashram near Wardha, Maharshtra) to teach Satyagrah. The Ashrams set out to remedy what it thought were defects in our national life from the religious, economic and political standpoints. This development contributed at the first level of indoctrination in non-violence, i.e. personal transformation.

“The Ashrams also acted as grounds for the next level of indoctrination in non-violence, i.e. construction program for social upliftment and projects for welfare of oppressed sections of society. The principles of social equality and non-discrimination were the basis of life in the Ashrams and activities such as khadi weaving aimed at empowering the poorest of the poor and the highly oppressed providing them with opportunities of self-reliance against social discrimination prevalent in Indian society and politico-economic constraints imposed by the British. The third level of indoctrination in non-violence was Political Action against the evil of Colonialism through collective civil action. This was done through the tools of demonstrations, protests, marches and boycotts that formed the core of the political Satyagrah movement for freedom in India.

“The chief activity in the Ashrams was the teaching of the old as well as the young, who also received some general education. Hand weaving was the principal industry with some carpentry as accessory to it. The hand weaved cotton was then used for cloth making. No servants we reengaged; therefore cooking, sanitation, fetching water everything was attended to by the residents of the Ashrams. Truth and other observances were obligatory on them all. Distinctions of caste were not observed. Untouchability had not only no place in the Ashram, but its eradication from Hindu society was one of our principal objectives. Emancipation of women from some customary bonds was insisted upon from the first. Therefore women in the Ashram enjoy full freedom. It was an Ashram rule that persons following a particular faith should have the same feeling for followers of other faiths as for their co-religionists. An Ashram without orchard, farm or cattle would not be a complete unit. At Sabarmati there was available cultivable land and therefore went in for agriculture at once. Therefore, these ashrams were a model of sustainable living in order to attain purna swaraj.”

Khadi Pratishthan and Ashram at Sodepur

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “Khadi Pratishthan and Ashram at Sodepur, Kolkata: Second home and base in Eastern India for Gandhi-ji to promulgate the virtues of Satyagrah. The political sites most representative of Indian independence movement that demonstrate the application of Satyagrah for the purpose of civil resistance include: [Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]

Sites of Saytagrah, India’s non-violent freedom movement was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014.According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “The series contains sites associated with India’s non-violent freedom movement, a rare and notable example of political emancipation achieved during the first half of 20th Century that became the role model for civil resistances worldwide. The movement demonstrated effective implementation of the instrument of Satyagrah, a political strategy promulgated by Mahatma Gandhi based on non-violent means of civil resistance through tools such as protests, marches, demonstrations and boycotts. The success of Indian Satyagrah lay in it being a mass movement of civic resistance that saw participation of almost all sections of society rising above the divisions of caste, creed, religion and gender, unified against the oppressive colonial rule in the country. And the impact of this movement can be gauged from the fact that since 1966, over sixty political transitions have been effected through nonviolent civic resistances worldwide.[Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]

“The principle of non-violence or ahimsa is a much older tenet of Indian culture and spirituality deep rooted in the beliefs of Ancient Indian religions such as Jainism and Buddhism. Another role model for Mahatma Gandhi was the Kuka Movement led by Bhai Ram Singh Namdhari, originator of the nonviolent and civil disobedience movement in Punjab in 1872.

“Satyagrah is an amalgam of two Sanskrit words, Satya (meaning Truth) and Agrah (meaning Request or Insistence); loosely the word translates to mean ‘Insistence on Truth’ or pursuit of truth. It is a specific strategy under the wider umbrella of civil resistance and the term was coined by Mahatma Gandhi in 1906 during his fight for civil rights of resident Indians in South Africa. He defined it as the Force which is born of Universal Truth and Love, equating it with Non-Violent means for all actions including protests. This theory stems from the belief that means and ends are inseparable, i.e. in order to seek justice it would be contradictory to use unjust means, or the use of violence to obtain peace. Thus, in essence, Satyagrah seeks to eliminate antagonisms without harming the antagonists in any manner, as opposed to violent resistance or armed conflicts, which are meant to cause harm to the antagonist. Mahatma Gandhi asserted that Satyagrah is a weapon of the strong that always insists upon Truth; in the context of Indian Freedom Movement, the Truth meant the right of Indians to be free of oppression and to be treated as equals by the British.”

Saytagrah Ashrams and Protest

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “In consonance with the Gandhian philosophy of non-violence, two types of sites have been identified to be associated with the Satyagrah movement. First are the Ashrams established by Mahatma Gandhi that acted as Training centers for indoctrination of the principles and instincts of non-violence, or Satyagrah.The second include sites most representative of the historical significance and non-violent means of mass scale civil agitation against the oppressive British rule where the political movement of Satyagrah was waged, which made the Indian example a success and a role model for other countries to follow. Together, these sites express the OUV of the Saytagrahmovement.”

“When using Satyagrah in a large-scale political conflict involving civil disobedience, Gandhi-ji believed that the Satyagrahis (follower of the Satyagrah philosophy) must undergo spiritual and physical training to ensure discipline and to develop their nonviolent reflexes. For this, he founded Ashrams (the Kochrab Ashram near Ahmedabad, Gujarat; the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, Gujarat; and the Sevagram Ashram near Wardha, Maharshtra) to teach Satyagrah. The Ashrams set out to remedy what it thought were defects in our national life from the religious, economic and political standpoints. This development contributed at the first level of indoctrination in non-violence, i.e. personal transformation.

“The Ashrams also acted as grounds for the next level of indoctrination in non-violence, i.e. construction program for social upliftment and projects for welfare of oppressed sections of society. The principles of social equality and non-discrimination were the basis of life in the Ashrams and activities such as khadi weaving aimed at empowering the poorest of the poor and the highly oppressed providing them with opportunities of self-reliance against social discrimination prevalent in Indian society and politico-economic constraints imposed by the British. The third level of indoctrination in non-violence was Political Action against the evil of Colonialism through collective civil action. This was done through the tools of demonstrations, protests, marches and boycotts that formed the core of the political Satyagrah movement for freedom in India.

“The chief activity in the Ashrams was the teaching of the old as well as the young, who also received some general education. Hand weaving was the principal industry with some carpentry as accessory to it. The hand weaved cotton was then used for cloth making. No servants we reengaged; therefore cooking, sanitation, fetching water everything was attended to by the residents of the Ashrams. Truth and other observances were obligatory on them all. Distinctions of caste were not observed. Untouchability had not only no place in the Ashram, but its eradication from Hindu society was one of our principal objectives. Emancipation of women from some customary bonds was insisted upon from the first. Therefore women in the Ashram enjoy full freedom. It was an Ashram rule that persons following a particular faith should have the same feeling for followers of other faiths as for their co-religionists. An Ashram without orchard, farm or cattle would not be a complete unit. At Sabarmati there was available cultivable land and therefore went in for agriculture at once. Therefore, these ashrams were a model of sustainable living in order to attain purna swaraj.”

Mani Bhawan

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “Mani Bhawan, Mumbai: The focal point of Mahatma Gandhi’s political activities between 1917-1934 from where several Satyagrah movements, such as the Non-Cooperation, Swadeshi, Khadi and Khilafat, were initiated. It is now converted into a memorial and looked after by the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi. [Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]

Sites of Saytagrah, India’s non-violent freedom movement was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014.According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “The series contains sites associated with India’s non-violent freedom movement, a rare and notable example of political emancipation achieved during the first half of 20th Century that became the role model for civil resistances worldwide. The movement demonstrated effective implementation of the instrument of Satyagrah, a political strategy promulgated by Mahatma Gandhi based on non-violent means of civil resistance through tools such as protests, marches, demonstrations and boycotts. The success of Indian Satyagrah lay in it being a mass movement of civic resistance that saw participation of almost all sections of society rising above the divisions of caste, creed, religion and gender, unified against the oppressive colonial rule in the country. And the impact of this movement can be gauged from the fact that since 1966, over sixty political transitions have been effected through nonviolent civic resistances worldwide.[Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]

“The principle of non-violence or ahimsa is a much older tenet of Indian culture and spirituality deep rooted in the beliefs of Ancient Indian religions such as Jainism and Buddhism. Another role model for Mahatma Gandhi was the Kuka Movement led by Bhai Ram Singh Namdhari, originator of the nonviolent and civil disobedience movement in Punjab in 1872.

“Satyagrah is an amalgam of two Sanskrit words, Satya (meaning Truth) and Agrah (meaning Request or Insistence); loosely the word translates to mean ‘Insistence on Truth’ or pursuit of truth. It is a specific strategy under the wider umbrella of civil resistance and the term was coined by Mahatma Gandhi in 1906 during his fight for civil rights of resident Indians in South Africa. He defined it as the Force which is born of Universal Truth and Love, equating it with Non-Violent means for all actions including protests. This theory stems from the belief that means and ends are inseparable, i.e. in order to seek justice it would be contradictory to use unjust means, or the use of violence to obtain peace. Thus, in essence, Satyagrah seeks to eliminate antagonisms without harming the antagonists in any manner, as opposed to violent resistance or armed conflicts, which are meant to cause harm to the antagonist. Mahatma Gandhi asserted that Satyagrah is a weapon of the strong that always insists upon Truth; in the context of Indian Freedom Movement, the Truth meant the right of Indians to be free of oppression and to be treated as equals by the British.”

Saytagrah Ashrams and Protest

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “In consonance with the Gandhian philosophy of non-violence, two types of sites have been identified to be associated with the Satyagrah movement. First are the Ashrams established by Mahatma Gandhi that acted as Training centers for indoctrination of the principles and instincts of non-violence, or Satyagrah.The second include sites most representative of the historical significance and non-violent means of mass scale civil agitation against the oppressive British rule where the political movement of Satyagrah was waged, which made the Indian example a success and a role model for other countries to follow. Together, these sites express the OUV of the Saytagrahmovement.”

“When using Satyagrah in a large-scale political conflict involving civil disobedience, Gandhi-ji believed that the Satyagrahis (follower of the Satyagrah philosophy) must undergo spiritual and physical training to ensure discipline and to develop their nonviolent reflexes. For this, he founded Ashrams (the Kochrab Ashram near Ahmedabad, Gujarat; the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, Gujarat; and the Sevagram Ashram near Wardha, Maharshtra) to teach Satyagrah. The Ashrams set out to remedy what it thought were defects in our national life from the religious, economic and political standpoints. This development contributed at the first level of indoctrination in non-violence, i.e. personal transformation.

“The Ashrams also acted as grounds for the next level of indoctrination in non-violence, i.e. construction program for social upliftment and projects for welfare of oppressed sections of society. The principles of social equality and non-discrimination were the basis of life in the Ashrams and activities such as khadi weaving aimed at empowering the poorest of the poor and the highly oppressed providing them with opportunities of self-reliance against social discrimination prevalent in Indian society and politico-economic constraints imposed by the British. The third level of indoctrination in non-violence was Political Action against the evil of Colonialism through collective civil action. This was done through the tools of demonstrations, protests, marches and boycotts that formed the core of the political Satyagrah movement for freedom in India.

“The chief activity in the Ashrams was the teaching of the old as well as the young, who also received some general education. Hand weaving was the principal industry with some carpentry as accessory to it. The hand weaved cotton was then used for cloth making. No servants we reengaged; therefore cooking, sanitation, fetching water everything was attended to by the residents of the Ashrams. Truth and other observances were obligatory on them all. Distinctions of caste were not observed. Untouchability had not only no place in the Ashram, but its eradication from Hindu society was one of our principal objectives. Emancipation of women from some customary bonds was insisted upon from the first. Therefore women in the Ashram enjoy full freedom. It was an Ashram rule that persons following a particular faith should have the same feeling for followers of other faiths as for their co-religionists. An Ashram without orchard, farm or cattle would not be a complete unit. At Sabarmati there was available cultivable land and therefore went in for agriculture at once. Therefore, these ashrams were a model of sustainable living in order to attain purna swaraj.”

Wildlife Sanctuaries in Western Maharashtra

Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary (150 kilometers east of Nagpur) is one of the most popular wildlife viewing places in Maharashtra. Among the animal species seen here are tigers, panthers, bisons, sambars, nilgais, chitals, wild boars, sloth bears and wild dogs. There is also a variety of butterflies and an interesting amphibian and reptilian population at Nagzira. Tourists can also visit Navegaon National Park, another popular attraction nearby. The best way to explore the sanctuary is through a jungle safari. Itiadoh Dam, the Tibetan Camp at Gothangaon and Pratapgad are some other sights at this sanctuary.

Chaprala Wildlife Sanctuary (150 kilometers south of Nagpur) is located at the confluence of the Wardha and Wainganga rivers. Nearly 131 species of fauna like tigers, leopards, sloth bears and wild dogs, including endangered species like the Indian python and the common Indian monitor, reside here. Wild boar, spotted deer, sambar, barking deer, blue bull, jungle cat, jackal, peacock, jungle fowl and flying squirrel are also call this sanctuary home. Chaprala Wildlife Sanctuary has a rich protected forest area along with patches of grasslands that harbour these wildlife species. The best time to visit is during and between the months of February and May. Other places of interest around the sanctuary are Prashant Dham at Chaprala, Chaprala Temple and Markanda Temple.

Bor Wildlife Sanctuary (50 kilometers west of Nagpur) covers an area of 61 square kilometers at Hingni in Wardha, Maharashtra. It is home to wildlife species like tigers, panthers, monkeys, bears, wild dogs and its flora comprises teak, ain , tendu and bamboo. The best time to visit the sanctuary is during summer in the early morning. The best part about Bor Wildlife Sanctuary is that the main animal viewing area is relatively small, making it very easy to spot wild animals, especially the elusive tiger. For an immersive experience, tourists can stay at the Forest Guest House managed by the Forest Department of Maharashtra. The wildlife sanctuary derives its name from the gushing Bor river that divides it into two parts.

Chikhaldara (150 kilometers west of Nagpur) contains a coffee plantation, picturesque hill station, pristine waterfalls, serene lakes, lush green estates and a large variety of birds. Chikhaldara Sanctuary is home to a number of animal species like leopards, sloth bears, sambars, barking deer, wild dogs, blue bulls, porcupines, langurs, wild boars and others.Melghat Tiger Project Reserve contains 75 tigers, along with panthers, sloth bears, sambars, wild bears and wild dogs. There are great views at vantage points like Devi Point, Prospect Point and Hurricane Point. Chikhaldara is also home to the ancient Narnala and Gavilgarh forts that stand as proud reminders of India's rich cultural history.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: India tourism website ( incredibleindia.org), India’s Ministry of Tourism and other government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.

Updated in August 2020

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