Category Archives: Travel

A Trip To Bedse Caves, One Of The Greatest Trips I Ever Had

Bedse caves near Pune is a tourist place very few people know. It is comparatively closer to Pune as well. The internet mentioned only a couple of Budhist caves there and nothing else. So on the morning of 24th July, Sunday, 2011, we started on our bikes thinking it will be just one of those short trips, just to break the monotony of the daily life. But when we reached there we found out internet barely did any justice to the place. And it became one of the best trips I have ever had.

Bedse Caves are about 45 Kilometers from Pune in Bedse Village and on the old Pune-Mumbai highway (National Highway 4). So after we started off from Wakad , we took the road to Nigdi and was soon on the NH4. It started raining after about 15 minutes on the highway and it made the journey interesting. We were hoping for rain and got loads of it. Had to stop quite a few times because of heavy rain but the scenic beauty on both sides of the roads was awesome so it was really enjoyable. Clouds hovering over distant hills are my all time favorites and we got plenty of it on the way to Bedse caves.

hill on the way to Bedse caves

Going straight along the highway for around an hour or so we reached Kamshet chowk. We had to take a left from there and went under a metal arch. Road was bad from there and Bedse village is around 9 KM on the inside. On the way towards village the scenic beauty of the route was mind blowing. The hills had come down to the roads at some places and at some places it really felt like we were riding through the lap of nature. Rains kept the hills lush green and the waterfalls gushing. There is a ghat called Bore Ghat on the way to village which is one of the most beautiful ghats I have ever seen. The roadsides can be great picnic spots if one is interested.

After the sign of Bedse village, the village is another 1.5-2 KMS inside from the main road and you have to do some off-roading over there. Once we reached the village we parked our bikes outside a temple. The road towards the hill starts just to the right. There is no designated road from the temple to the foot of the village and sometimes non-existent. We had to walk through mud and water to reach the foot of the hill. There are farms on the both side of the muddy road. The view of the distance hills from here was quite breathtaking. The waterfalls coming down from the top of the hills makes one feel like running to that place.

waterfall at bedse caves

After reaching the foot of the hill, there are well laid out stairs to the top making the climb quite easy. We were at the top in 20 minutes. However there are small waterfalls and lush greenery on both sides of the stairs (thanks to the rainy season) so we stopped and took in some of that beauty as well. I strongly suggest visiting Bedse Caves during the rainy season. Otherwise I am pretty sure you will miss at least 60% of its charm. The water is drinkable as well. These small waterfalls can be tracked back upwards to some extent as we did but the rocks being wet and slippery you have to be extremely careful.

Chaitya at bedse caves

There are two caves at the top. One is a ‘Chaitya’ or meditation room and the other is ‘Vihara’ or quarters of the Buddhist monks. The Chaitya has very close resemblance to the Buddhist architecture seen in Ajanta caves. The sculptural prowess is just as graceful and attention to minuscule details just as scrupulous. The cave and surroundings are litter free as not many tourists visit these Caves. The meditation room really calms the mind and makes one feel he is thousand miles away from civilization. If you really want to meditate, it is the place for it. Next to the ‘Chaitya’ is the ‘Vihara’. There are 9 small rooms 7 of which accommodate 2 persons each. It is almost unbelievable that people can stay in such places day in, day out only meditating and thinking of Lord Buddha. And it shows what the human mind and body can achieve once it has set its mind upon something.

a small stupa

There is a small ‘Stupa’ next to the ‘Chaitya’. Small statues and interesting carvings are visible in and around the meditation cave. They resemble the ‘Kinnar’ and ‘Gandharva’ statues of the Ellora caves in Aurangabad . However according to local legend, many of the carvings were destroyed due to human foolishness. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about it-“Until around 1861 the caves were regularly maintained – even painted. These works were ordered by local authorities in order to please British officers who often visited caves. This has caused loss of the remnants of plaster with murals on it.”

The view of the valley from the top of the hill is breathtaking. The constant drizzle made it look even better. One can stand there for hours and feast his eyes on this splendid scenery. I was certainly feeling like going to the top of those hills and sitting there for hours. It reminded me that mother nature has given us so much to cherish but we spend our days running after goals that do not really matter, and leave a bad taste in our mouths even as we achieve them. Rain was coming down with full force by that time so we decided to delay our return. We went inside the small rooms of the Vihara and sat on the rocky beds that belonged to the people who created these caves from nothing many thousand years ago. We were lucky to feel a little of what they might have felt spending their time there on those stony beds, talking among themselves and listening to the rain drops outside.

beautiful view from atop the hill

On the way down we almost camped at a small waterfall. The water was fresh and warm, the force was strong and letting it flow over our legs was utterly satisfying. Not bringing extra clothes was lamented as we really wanted to roll into the flowing water. We spent considerable time there as our legs were pretty tired. Just sitting on the rocks and dipping our feet into the flowing water did wonders. I ventured a little upward to find the root of the stream, but thick foliage prevented my climb in short course. The rain had slowed down to a drizzle by that time and chirping of birds had started. The calmness,pleasure and relaxation almost hypnotized me. I started to feel if there was ever any nice way to die, it will be sitting here like this and slowly drifting of to that eternal sleep. Alas! all good things must come to an end and so was this beautiful trip was coming to. We started descending drenched on the outside but warm inside, tired but satisfied, hungry but calm. The descent was a little difficult as the stairs were slippery from constant water flow over them. But we were at the foot of the hill pretty quickly.

mangal murti morya idol

It would have been nice if our trip experiences ended there. But that day had something else to offer. On the way back through NH4 , to the right of the road there is a Ganapati temple made by the Birlas. We decided to pay a visit to that as well. The statue situated at the top of a small hill. Ganapati here is called ‘Mangalmurti Morya’. The statue is huge and the detailing are unbelievable. According to the notes there, the statue took 2 years to finish. As ‘9’ is considered lucky and auspicious number in Hindu Religion, the statue is 72 feet tall(7+2=9), the seat of the statue is 18 feet high(1+8=9) and the seat is 45 feet in width(4+5=9). It is a really nice place to spend your evening at. The unhindered 360 degree view of the city below is something to cherish as well. We spent around half an hour there before deciding it was really time to leave.

Evening fell as we rode into our places. It was time for a little snack and to start preparing for next day which was a Monday of course. But even as I got busy in my daily chores, I knew inside that, that day I saw a rare beauty of the nature that I will remember for a long time to come.

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Aurangabad Trip – A Trip To The Land Of History

On last April 21st in 2011, I went on a trip to Aurangabad, the city of history and culture, former capital of the Mughal Empire and home to one of the 12 Jyotirlingas. Aurangabad was every bit as I expected her to be, and then some more.

Took a bus from Pune on that fateful Thursday evening and reached Aurangabad at around 11PM. Thankfully hotel booking was already done. It took around 10 minutes to reach the hotel from bus stand by Auto. And it was time to sleep as next day was going to be hectic. We rented a car next morning with the plan to visit 5 of the most prominent spots on that very same day. They would be Panchakki, Biwi Ka Maqbara, Ghrishneswar Temple (One of the 12 Jyotirlingas situated in india), Ellora caves and last but not the least Daulatabad Fort.

We started at around 10:30 Am. There are 17 gates or “Darwajas” scattered around the Aurangabad town built in different times. Previously there were 18 but one could not bear the brunt of time any more and broke down few years back. While on the way to the main spots, you will be able to see some of them, can even get out an click a few pic as some of the gates are very nicely built and also bears the evidence of time on their bodies. One cannot help but imagine ancient monarchs passing through them on their majestic elephants and horses and people standing in line saluting and greeting them. And now few centuries later, you are passing through them on a fast moving, chauffeur driven, motorized vehicle feeling the least bit enthralled. Time does pass by so fast! But thankfully such structures will always be there to remind us of times forgotten.

Panchakki Aurangabad

Shortly we reached our first destination, the Panchakki.  It is near the Mahmood Darwaza, one of the 17 gates. Built mostly during the 1695 , Panchakki means Water Mill. Water is kept in a large reservoir, and is made to fall on the mill from quite high. It drives the grinding stone that prepared flour to feed the pilgrims and army men. Excess water is let into the Kham river. The building houses a mosque of Baba Musafir Shah, a sufi saint. It contains some other graves as well and a there is a huge Banyan tree in the front of the entire yard. One large hall is built that uses the bottom of the reservoir as its ceiling. This keeps the hall cool during summer and Pilgrims gathered in that hall during summertime, and they still do. In a museum, some articles used by Musafir Shah and his disciples are kept. It takes around half an hour to finish the visit of  Panchakki. One has to be amazed by the application civil engineering in a structure dating back almost three and a half centuries.

The next destination was Biwi ka Maqbara. A mausoleum erected by Mughal Emperor Azam Shah as a tribute to his mother. Due to its resemblance with Taj Mahal, it is often referred to as Replica Taj Mahal or Taj of the Deccan. From a distance, it looks really majestic and a lot like the Taj itself. The main structure based on a hexagonal structure while four minarets cover the angles. The canal in the front used to contain water once. Now it only does during rainy season, it is said that it enhances its beauty many times.

Biwi Ka Maqbara

The way to the top and front of the main structure is accessed using narrow stairs.  View of the surrounding is quite good from that height and you can easily get distracted by it for a minute or two.  The main burial chamber must be entered bare feet as it houses the grave of the late empress Rabia Durrani. Upon entering the main hall, you reach a circular balcony. The grave is located at bottom center. There are beautiful designs on the walls and ceiling. Strategically created windows which let only part of light pass, create a dramatic ambiance at times. Some pigeons were nestled really cozily in the corners of the chamber.

There are nice ornamentation on the outside walls and doors itself. There was renovation work going on hence some parts were inaccessible. Most the structure however was open and provided some good opportunities for photo shoot. All in all the experience of Bibi ka Maqbara was good, but would have been really good if the sanctity of the mausoleum could be preserved a little more. Constant chatters and too much of crowd kind of dulled the surreal atmosphere that could grow in such a monument.

After that we had a quick lunch and was on the way to the Ellora Caves. One of the most famous series of caves that contains sculptures created by Hindu, Buddhist and Jain devotees. There are total 34 caves spanning across a 4 kilometer diameter. Among them cave no. 16 is the biggest and most popular. It houses the famous Kailashnath temple. This cave is the biggest and contains numerous sculptures along with the temple. The sculptures include that of Shiva Parvati, Ravana, Viahnu and other gods, Different animals (Mostly Elephants) etc. Observing this cave completely takes around one hour itself. Upon entry, towards the left there is balcony at the top which makes for a good photo shooting place. Since the insides are dark, flash must be used for photographs.

Ellora Caves

As you start to observe the sculptures, it does not take long before you immerse in the beauty of them. Almost fifteen centuries ago, a bunch of men equipped with only hammer and chisel, cut down hole mountains to create timeless sculptures to honor their gods. A long time has passed, but the minute details in their work are still awe inspiring. The goddesses are beautiful, the gods are somber, the animals are beastly, the rakshasas are devilish, not one place you will find , where you can say the work was inept. The Shiva-parvati statue is one to definitely look at. Also the sculpture where ‘Nrisinghavatar’ is killing ‘Hiranyakshipu’ is breath taking. I doubt there are many such sculptures in India.

In the center of the cave yard, stairs go up to the Kailashnath temple. The Kailashnath Lingam is situated inside a dark cave while hundreds of devotees throng the place. Taking photographs is allowed but getting a clear shot may take some time due to the crowd and lack of light. Right opposite the cave temple, is a statue of Bhringi, one of Lord Shiva’s two mounts. There are some pillars with beautiful carvings all around the cave. After the 16th cave, most of the other caves are smaller and some are lacking any sculptures inside them. One most notable is Ravan ki Khai( Cave no 14) which has a sculpture of Ravan trying to lift Mt. Kailash. Among others, cave no.1 (Vishvakarma Cave) is a notable Buddhist cave containing a Chaitya, and beautiful carvings on the ceiling.

After we had seen through all the caves we were on our way to the Ghrishneshwar Temple. On of the Jyotirlingas of India, Ghrishneshwar imposes some strict rules on men. First of all no photographs must be taken in and around the temple. I did manage to sneak a shot of the outside of the temple though 😛 Once inside we had to remove our shirts, vests and belts to be able to offer our offerings to the god.

The temple took no more than 30-45 minutes to cover, if not less. By this time, the sun was slowly moving towards the west horizon with the daylight fading. This information is critical as our next destination was the Daulatabad Fort, and we had to complete the climb and descent before dark as there are no lights in the fort or the way up. People were climbing with electronic torches but we took the challenge and decided to complete the tour before dusk.

Daulatabad fort was one of the most impregnable forts all over the world. Protected by long walls, and a moat, this fort had never seen a battle. The climb to the top of the fort consists of about 930 stony steps. Just after the entrance there are 4-5 cannons kept. We decided to postpone the photo shoot till we got back. Then started the steps and ascent. Sometimes there will be long ground to cover between two steps. This gave a chance to catch our breath. However the road and steps are not well maintained and might make for a difficult trek. Some distance on the way, to the right, was Chand Minar. A monument made from red stones, was erected by Ala-Ud-Din Bahamani to celebrate his capturing the fort. It is 210 meters is height and gave us some shooting opportunities.

Daulatabad-Fort-Aurangabad

After Chand Minar, there are few excitements until you get to the top. We had to trudge to pitch black mazes and labyrinths at some places. The steps can be very steep at times. Also crossed a draw bridge on the way. The water beneath once used teem with crocodiles, ready to gobble up any enemy or traitor thrown in. Thankfully none are kept in these modern times. The water we took with us was consumed very fast. But the climb in itself should be pretty fast and we were almost at the top in about half an hour. The Chand Minar looks like a small red candle from that height and gives you and idea how far and high you have come. The final climb to the utmost top is treacherous as the steps are narrow and steep and almost broken. Upon reaching the top, there is a big cannon, that used to protect the fort’s perimeters centuries back. Now it only lies there like an aged crocodile, unable to hunt its prey, and waiting for the final moment to come.

There is also a tomb of one sage over there. The view of the town from top is not as breathtaking as we expected. In fact we were a little disappointed but it may turn greener and better during the rainy season. Chand Minar looks just a little thicker than a matchstick at this point. We took some photographs and started our descent. Still lots of daylight left and we were confident about making it down in time. On the way down we lost our way in the dark maze and went round in the same place, twice. But soon recovered and was on our track. Some photographs of the cannons at the starting were in order and we completed that in about 15 minutes. Soon our car started towards the hotel. We had hurting legs, thirsting throats, unkempt and dusty hair and cloths, but gleaming eyes telling the story of a day well spent. A day when we witnessed and touched a small part of the rich history of our beautiful country.

Next day was to be hectic as well as we had to travel to the Ajanta Caves. It is about 110 kms from Aurangabad and usually takes a whole day’s plan. We booked a car from the hotel for 1600/- and left at around 11:15 in the morning. There were some more gates on the way namely, Rangin Darwaja, Delhi gate, Bhadkal gate etc. We reached Ajanta at around 1:15. upon reaching we had to take a bus of Archaeological Survey of India to the starting of the caves. There from the counter we took the tickets and started climbing towards the caves.

Ajanta is a series of 29 caves consisting Buddhist paintings and sculptures. Caves 1,2 and 16 contain the paintings and to visit them we had to take separate light passes. However flash photography is prohibited in all of the caves. Cave 1 consists the most famous paintings Padmapani and Bajrapani. Age has taken its toll on all the paintings but still the beautiful coloring and detailing created during 2nd BC is enough to spellbound any one by its magic. Those people are lucky who visited these caves during their full glory and marveled at their grandeur.

Ajanta caves

Ajanta being Buddhist caves, contains chaityas in many of them. Also sitting sculptures of meditating Buddha, teaching Buddha, praying Buddha are also pretty common. Most of the caves have numerous small beautiful engravings and sculptures. Cave ceiling’s have been cut as ‘Mandaps’ or canopy, and pillars carved as though decorated with flowers. Sculptures of  ‘Kinnars’ and ‘Yakshas’ are also abound. Cave no. 24 is the biggest but unfinished. It took us around 2 hours to complete viewing all the caves. The caves close at 5 PM so that time should be kept in mind. The beauty and somberness of the caves were breathtaking. Many of the caves would warrant revisiting them and that we did. Especially the caves containing the paintings were worth the second look.

Some of the statues convey a meaning towards life. The overhead beams carried on the back of lonely ‘Yakshas’ show fatigue but when they are carried by ‘Kinnar’ couples, they show bliss. It tells us that burden of life could be really heavy when carried alone but a jiffy when sharing it with others. The sculptures, created with Da Vinci-esque precision shows the the exact body structures while carrying a load. So both design wise and meaning wise these sculptures are truly magnificent. Also the details in the painting of the queen fainting from the news of the King’s death in battle , in cave no 16, is another one to savor. The minute details in dressing and body postures are unbelievable to have been done in an age so ancient. The huge Buddha statues have even their toenails created with scrupulous perfectionism. One of the pillars in a cave (might be cave no 11, can’t remember) creates tabla like music when knocked with the hand. The guards should be happy to tell you the location 🙂

We had some Vadapao after coming down and started towards the hotel. this trip concluded our journey to Aurangabad for that time. We had a great time in those two days, felt like experiencing a different era altogether. We had a bus to catch next day, but it took a long time for the marvels of Ajanta to vanish from my mind and let me sleep that night.