Day 50/ 365 – Shiva – The God of Duality

I clicked this picture at Panchvati in Nasik. There is a small Shiva temple near Ramkund and it is easy to miss it. Shiva transcends all duality, one image to express this is the ardhanarishvara (“the Lord who is half woman”)  As you can see, one half has male features and attributes, and the other half female (thus showing how Shiva transcends one of the most basic divisions among human beings, that of sex).


Day 40/ 365 – Nasik Sightseeing – Part II

After our unsuccessful attempt to breach the defenses of the Gangapur dam, we started driving towards the city. While driving towards Gangapur dam, I didn’t recall taking any turns and thus continued driving straight. However, after driving for a few kms, I couldn’t recall seeing some of the landmarks on the road and felt I was lost. Well I was lost – but it turns out we had somehow reached the city and were on the College Road. After driving for a few mins we saw a row of footwear shops and my wife said we need to stop right here and do some shoe shopping. There is something about handbags and shoes which makes my wife absolutely crazy. So we parked in a nearby mall which had one of the narrowest ramps ever and headed out to shop. We shopped for a hour or so and identified some shops with really funny names (Pics below). It was already 2 pm and we were really starving. I was not able to find any good restaurants on the College Road – may be there are some in the by lanes – but on the main road I wasn’t able to find any and we didn’t want to eat fast food. Finally we found a place to eat and finished our lunch and then headed towards Shalimar (Panchvati).


Takle = Bald
Takle = Bald

We took an rickshaw from College Road and got down at Shalimar. The best part of exploring any new city is by foot. We wanted to go towards Ganga ghat, Ram Kund, Lakshman Kund etc. and kept asking directions from various people and walked right through the market area. Seeing the market area, my wife once again got into a shopping spree – but thankfully we didn’t end up spending a lot of time there. We finally reached our destination and I was really surprised to see people taking a dip in the dirty Godavari river – all in the name of religion. We saw a lot of people doing puja’s  and all. Panchavati has significant religious significance for Hindus with a temple complex on the bend of the Godavari river, which includes Kalaram Temple. It is a pilgrimage site, with the Kumbh Mela, the largest peaceful gathering in the world – involving over 100 million people in 2013, taking place here once every twelve years in rotation with Haridwar, Allahabad, and Ujjain. In Hindu theology, as outlined in the epic Ramayana, Panchavati was the place in the forest of Dandakaranya (Danda Kingdom), where Rama built his home along with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman during their period of exile in the wilderness. Panchavati literally means “a garden of five banyan trees”. These trees are said to have been there during the exile of Lord Rama. However, we couldn’t find the trees. We did ask a couple of people who confirmed their existence somewhere on the other side of the road. But we didn’t really decide to check it out. We also came across vegetable market right there. The best part of Nasik is, the vegetables and grape products are really cheap. Since we had parked our car in a mall on the College Road, we didn’t buy vegetables from this market. However, we did end up buying raisins from there.  We spent quite sometime over there and then decided to continue shopping in the main market area. We roamed around the market for some time and then headed back towards College Road to pick up the car.

It was around 530pm by the time we picked up the car. We then decided to make an impromptu trip to Deolali. Apparently, I had heard a lot of good things about this place and decided to explore the place. The drive to Deolali was full of traffic and we reached the place after almost an hour of driving. As soon as you enter Deolali, you are surrounded by sanatoriums on both sides of the street. We kept driving further ahead in the anticipation of finding some good looking points etc. However, it had gotten dark by then and there was no point in going any further. We then decided to go check out the Levitt market as we had heard a lot about this place. Levitt market is a place where you can find branded clothes at reasonable prices. However, what we saw was very different to what we had read. The market is relatively small and most of the shop keepers have the same stuff and the prices are relatively high too. We also explored a local military shop and Empire bakery. We got cakes, wine biscuits etc from the bakery and it is good. We then decided to head back to Nasik and as usual got lost in the between. Deolali, by the way, also has a large presence of Indian Air Force military station and by mistake we entered the military area. We asked someone inside who gave us directions which required us to go out through the main gate which was barricaded – so while coming out of the gate – the soldier started calling me shahab (Sir) and gave us a smile. I think he thought that we were someone from Air Force and not civilians. For a moment I was very surprised and then realized that he probably would have got confused with someone else. We quickly made our way out and then found the road and returned super exhausted to Nasik. Overall it was a good day spent.

Day 38/ 365 – Trip to Sula Vineyards

The next day we decided to visit Sula Vineyards. However, as mentioned in my previous post we were staying in my friend’s empty apartment. Since we arrived late the previous evening, there was no one to clean up the place. So today morning, I called up my friend and asked him if he knew someone who would clean the place. The house cleaning person arrived after one hour and took almost an hour to clean the place up. In the mean time, I went to the local grocery store and got some Maggie for breakfast. We prepared breakfast, waited for the house cleaning person to finish his work, and then got ready to leave. By the time we left, it was almost 2 pm and we hadn’t eaten lunch yet. I tried searching the route on the Here Maps of my Nokia Lumia 620, but was not able to find one (There needs to be Google maps app for Windows). So we relied on the old Indian way – which is ask for guidance and route. After asking a couple of people and getting lost once, we finally found our way to the Sula Vineyards. Once we left the main road, the drive to the Vineyards is quite pleasant and you enjoy driving here through a couple of little villages which fall on the route. We reached our destination around 3:00pm and registered for wine tasting and facility tour for 3:30pm. We registered for 6 wine tasting which cost us Rs. 250 per person. The tour of the facility is short and brief. The best part is the wine tasting part. We tried 6 different wines – I don’t remember the names of all – but there was a sparkling wine, three white wines, couple of red ones – Dindori and Rasa. The tour guide taught us in brief as how to recognize an old wine from a younger wine based on its color (tilt the glass against light – lighter the shade younger the wine for white wines – opposite is true for Red wines), how to smell the aroma of the wine (swirl the wine in the glass for a few seconds and then smell) to even how to hold the wine glass (don’t hold the glass by the palm). The entire tour lasted for 45 mins and was quite educational and fun. However, we didn’t get to crush grapes as it isn’t grape season yet. Post our wine tour, we decided to buy wines for family and friends. We also ended up buying Grape seed oil. Apparently it is good for cooking and can be used in salads as well vegetable cooking. We spent around 2 hours at Sula Vineyards, before deciding to head out towards Nasik city.  There is also a resort in case people wish to stay over for the night, however, being Friday it was going to cost us Rs. 6500 per couple and hence we decided to skip it.

The drive towards Nasik city in the evening was extremely chaotic. The problem which most car drivers in India would face in any tier 2 cities is the number of the bikes which are on the road. Nasik is no exception to the rule and there are plenty of two wheelers on the city roads and one has to be extremely careful while driving. We were extremely hungry when we reached the main highway and once again decided to halt at Kolhapur Express for an early dinner. After having a sumptuous dinner, we decided to explore the city via car. Big mistake!!! Since we didn’t know where we wanted to go, we just kept driving aimlessly and got stuck in multiple traffic junctions and at one time were thoroughly lost in the Panchvati area. We finally managed to find our way out (thanks to the GPS) and then decided to head back home with plans for next day ready. Next destination – Trimbakeshwar temple, Coin Museum, Panchvati and Deolali. (Pics to follow later)

Day 37/ 365 – Drive to Nasik

Since I have an extended weekend, me and my wife after a lot of deliberations (yes/ no) decided to go to Nasik for the weekend. Nasik is approximately 172 kms from Mumbai. One of the reasons we chose Nasik over other locations was that one of my friends has an empty apartment on the outskirts of the city which we could use and save some money on the stay. Other than that, there are plenty of things Nasik has to offer and we decided to explore it to the fullest. Also it was our (me and wife together) first holiday for this year. We keep traveling with friends, but this time it was just us and we were looking forward to the time together. We left for Nasik around 3:30pm. After finishing some petty work on the way and picking up the house keys from my friend, we were finally on our way to Nasik around 5pm. The drive to Nasik is very nice. The roads are good and the scenery is excellent. There was a lot of traffic near Bhiwandi and Kalyan junction, but post that there was hardly any traffic and it was a pleasure to drive on. We took a break near Asangaon at a rest area – they had Dominos, KFC and other variety of food over there. In between, we came across Kasara Ghat and it was my first ever experience of driving on a proper ghat. The best part of the drive on the ghat was that it was unidirectional – no two way traffic. That really helped in negotiating some of the curves. We reached my friend’s place around 8:20pm and waited for him for 30 mins to give us further directions. Once we got the next set of directions, we reached within 10 mins and unloaded the car and decided to go find dinner. I had visited Nasik earlier (may be around 7 years ago), but a lot of things have changed since then. We wanted to find a local dinner place where we can eat authentic Maharashtrian food. The sad part about travel nowadays is that anywhere you go, all you get pizza, dosa, idli, pav bhaji, Punjabi, and Chinese food. In this rat race to get customers, the local cuisine of the area is lost. I call it the influence of the traveling Gujaratis. I will write a detailed post on that later. We really wanted something local and went about finding it. Luckily, we didn’t have to drive too far and found a local food place called as Kolhapur Express which serves authentic Maharashtrian food. They have thali system (they have 2-3 varieties of dishes, chapatti, sweet, rice and curry (dal for veg) all served in a single plate – picture below)and have a variety of thalis – chicken, mutton, fish, prawn, eggs, and veg. For vegetarians, there isn’t much option to choose from. However, that’s expected. The food was good and after dinner we decided to call it a day. Next stop – Sula Vineyards.