Saturday, December 22, 2012

Camping at Naneghat

The forts of Jivdhan and Naneghat (15th & 16th Dec 2012)

          This blog is dedicated to Thomas Hiram Holding, the founder of camping, who wrote the first Campers Handbook in 1908. His knowledge of camping came from childhood experiences when he crossed the American prairies with his parents in 1853.

          The idea of getting up on a cold winter morning, with the wind ruffling your hair and your sleepy eyes opening to the wondrous delight of the sun rising, with no man made structures around, no crowd, the idea of breathing the clean crisp air is always alluring. To lie down on the dry grass with your hands folded under your head, gazing at the myriad stars, the planets and the constellations galore, with only the sound of the wind and a wood fire burning by your side gives a kind of peace in your heart you find difficult to fathom. Camping was on my mind for quite some time now but never materialized. The Rajasthan desert safari got cancelled, a camping expedition to Tungnath in Uttaranchal got cancelled, but this time around the pegs were to be driven in to the ground, the fluttering of the tent walls were to be felt from within and without, the life of a nomad was to be lived!
          Sharp 6 o’clock, my trek mates told me; so I was there at Dombivali sharp at 6, sleepless, yet excited; but my blunt friends turned up at 7 am and Udays’ suryoday happened at 7:30 and that is when we 6 embarked on our journey in a small omni van with all our bags, with our tents, with our sleeping bags, with a gas cylinder, with some ‘somras’, with lots of uncooked ‘shahi chakna’ and with an air of enthusiasm.

          As we left Kalyan, a dense fog started spreading its tentacles all over and we were practically engulfed in it. Vehicles and people started appearing out of nowhere and we managed to fight the white monster as we safely reached Murbad and stopped for some refreshments.

Where's the road
          As we drove along the Malshej Ghat, one of the most scenic locations of Maharashtra, the huge peaks of Harishchandragad enthralled us with its magnificence. Every stretch is a photographer’s delight with small lakes and beautiful landscapes and the splendor of the mountains. We crammed our necks left and right to catch a glimpse of the much acclaimed Konkan Kada, but managed to see only a part of it. It reminded me of when it all began with my first trek of the mighty Harishchandragad. We next halted at the Malshej Ghat temple of Lord Hanuman and Shani Dev. In the monsoons this place is a picnicker’s delight with numerous waterfalls. The MTDC resort, sitting pretty in such a wonderful location is on my list for a family outing.

View from the Malshej Ghat

          After crossing Malshej Ghat, you need to take a right turn. The stretch from here (almost 40 – 45 kms) till Naneghat is narrow, filled with potholes and is in a pretty bad shape and a very bumpy ride. We crossed the Manikdoh dam and took a right from the village of Nimgiri after crossing Rajur. Saw something dedicated to leopards on the way (need to check what this is!).
          After about an hour of this bumpy ride in the middle of the huge mountains, you get glimpses of the Jivdhan fort and its pinnacle and the small pyramidal structure of Naneghat. Naneghat is in the Junnar area of Pune and the other forts in the vicinity are Shivneri, Chavand and Harishchandragad. We parked our vehicle a little away from Naneghat and the base of Jivdhan, at Santoshs house which offers food, has clean toilets and also accommodation in the verandah outside his house.
          We wasted no time as it was already late and with the hot sun smiling on us, we finally started our trek at 1:00 pm (horrible!! – Udayraj tujhe dekhte hain aaj!). As you walk towards Naneghat, Jivdhan is to your left and then you take a left walking in the middle of fields as you reach some thatched huts. One can clearly hear the sound of the flowing current from the overhead wires – an electric feeling; but it’s surprising that there was no electricity in the nearby villages! You need to walk a little ahead from here and then take a right as you realize you are walking at the edge of the mountain. The valley below and the edge of the rocky mountains are a delight for the eyes! There was nobody in sight and we were lost. We couldn’t figure out the way until some villagers appeared out of nowhere carrying wood on their heads. Asking them revealed the path which otherwise is near impossible to find out. The initial stretch of the trek is through a dense jungle and completely uphill and within a few minutes you will be left gasping for breath. The other drawback of this trek is that you will find it difficult to walk straight and will be left stooping mostly with branches getting in your way. Beware of insects and snakes as you are likely to encounter them.

Towards Jivdhan
          After about an hour of this arduous jungle trek, we decided to break for lunch. As we were having the delicious ‘theplas’ with sauce, we realized that it was already 2:30 pm and by the time we would reach the pinnacle (Vandarlingi) and roam the fort, it would already be dark and would be difficult to find the way back. This is a difficult trek and there are stories of trekkers getting lost on this trek. So, like ‘achha bachhas’, we decided to head back, have a cup of tea and watch the sunset at Naneghat. Don’t read – a part of the reality is that we were super tired and drained due to the hot sun since, like jerks; we had started the trek at 1 pm!! Uday, where are you?

          As we dozed while waiting for our tea at the thatched house where we had parked our vehicle, everyone’s’ ears stood like an alert dogs’; the scope of an oasis cam to life in the arid desert! A bus full of ladies! Can you imagine? Can you imagine Rohits’ plight?
Thinking of it as a dream, we dozed back and after having tea, we started towards the peak of Naneghat.

Beautiful view of Naneghat!!
          Climbing the peak of Naneghat is a 10-15 minutes affair, but the view from this altitude is amazing. The hay hued landscape stretching for miles and miles gives you the pleasing feeling of being so far away from civilization. In fact, walking towards Naneghat from the house, towards the left, we saw an amazing and breathtaking scene. The sun was just about to set and turning a vermilion red. Like a hidden treasure, through the valley, the reddish rays of the sun were penetrating a heart shaped lake – a sight not to be easily forgotten, to be cherished! We spent some time at the summit taking the scenery in and clicking pictures against the setting sun before heading back for the feat of the day. Nagesh, the ‘kadi pehelwaan’ all of a sudden thought he was the Lord Hanuman and tried to eat the sun!!

          There is a Ganesh idol in a cave at the base of Naneghat. Above the temple, to the right are small tanks of water and some cave like structures. From the base, a path leads to the actual trekking path of Naneghat, from where people come trekking to Naneghat from somewhere near Malshej, approximately a 2 hr trek. There are 2 big caves which can easily accommodate more than 10 people each and beside one of the bigger caves, there are 5 small cisterns, though they don’t have potable water. A railing is erected at the edge of the water cisterns, advisably so; else it would be a very dangerous affair. The wind here is very strong and as you climb the rocky steps, you need to be careful. The trek to Naneghat is more or less through these winding rocky steps (noted as one of the next treks).

The accomodation
          We had 2 tents and under the expert guidance of Vineet, they were erected in no time. The tents were enough to accommodate 5 people each. Then came the next task of cooking and since we had enough time on our hands (we were going to have dinner after 12, since no non-veg on Saturdays), we went at a leisurely pace. Siddhesh, Uday and Rohit got down to making the tandoor and we got down to cooking and cutting inside the tent. We had a lavish menu of Veg Biryani, Butter Chicken, Chicken Kebabs, veg tandoori of onions, potatoes and capsicums and a dressing of salad, thanks to Vineet again. We also had a lecture by Vineet Baba/Kaka on why we should not follow the English timing of considering 12 am as day end among other discussions on whether drinking is a sin or not etc.etc.
While we were cooking, till 12 am, the group of girls and boys were pouring their lungs out and singing the highest chords. We were thankful that they left after having their meals and enjoying their ‘antakshari’.

          Then, in the silence of the night, we played ghazals (farmayish of Rohit from the ‘Ha gadh majha aahe’ fame) on the car audio while we had our dinner. The chicken had gone bad, so we enjoyed our biryani. Having your tent pitched under a symphony of stars, humming to Jagjit Singh and Ghulam Ali and songs from Umrao Jaan – what a feeling!! It was such a clear sky, every star twinkled brightly as if recently washed and kept for display and their little lights magnifying the darkness.

          We slept at around 3 am and were awake by 7 am as we needed to unwind quickly and head home. At around 5, I was awoken by something beating on the tent walls. I was horrified and though that it was an animal. However, it turned out to be only the wind!! We went to the cisterns early morning to wash our utensils so that we could quickly cook our breakfast of Maggi and tea and head home. Washing utensils proved to be a big task and finally after having breakfast and packing our tents, we drove back. I had my first experience of driving an Omni all the way to Dombivali from Malshej Ghat for the first time (no power steering)!! Forgot to mention, we saw an almost 6 feet long snake while returning!!

A great experience!! Adieu until the next trip!

A little history
          The fort stands 1145 meters above sea level. The British captured this fort in 1818 and destroyed all its approaches. This is one of the forts known as Famous 5, the others being Chavand, Hadsar, Shivneri and Naneghat. Read more on
          This is a mountain pass used as a toll collection plaza extensively used as a trade route between Kalyan and Junnar. The inscriptions in the caves indicate that they are the work of Satavahana rulers. It is believed that a powerful woman ruler Naganika, the wife of Satakarni (180–170 BCE) of the Satavahana family commissioned the cave, the statues and the inscriptions. Inscriptions in the cave mention her and her family members. Vedic Gods like Yama (Hinduism) Indra, Chandra and Surya are mentioned here. The mention of Samkarsana and Vasudeva indicate the prevalence of Bhagavata form of Hinduism in the Satavahana dynasty (Source:

Photos of the trek

The road through the mountains

Band of Brothers

We paid for that!!
Me, myself and Jivdhan

The gang at Jivdhan

Jagged edges

Posing on the edge!!

Perfect spot for para-gliding

The road to the destination is through hardships

Through the dense jungle!!

A hearty lunch!!

A scene imbibed in memory!!

A heart shaped lake on fire


Still a long way to go...look at the altitude

A panoramic view of Jivdhan

From ub above!!

Posing at the summit

The trekking path to Naneghat

Enjoying the sunset

Gulping the sun

One of the caves at the entrance of Naneghat

and let there be light!!

The best of hues

The photograph and his canvas...

Preparing the meal of the decade!!

Ganesh Temple

The water cisterns

Meditation time

First aid....mouth to mouth :)

Just love the hue

More caves

Going with the wind...

Ready to unwind!!

Scenic view near Malshej

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Madhya Pradesh Tour - Day 5 (Bhedaghat)

The glittering and soaring Marble Rocks at Bhedaghat (20th & 21st Nov 2012) 
          We drove down in time from Pachmarhi to Pipariya and en route saw a few peacocks again. The difference in the weather became obvious between Pachmarhi and Pipariya. As we waited for the Intercity Express which was to take us to Jabalpur, we had some hot yummy jalebis and chai.

          If you are traveling from Pipariya to Jabalpur by train, don’t sleep – keep looking outside and you will be rewarded. We saw huge herds of deer in not 1 but many fields.

          As we got down at Jabalpur, the rickshaw touts lost no time and didn’t leave us alone for a minute. Everyone wants to take you everywhere! I said we want to go to Bhedaghat and someone quoted INR 600 so I sarcastically smiled at him and when he asked how much I would give, I said INR 100 and he gave me a glare and advised me to go walking. I said I will. The next rickshaw guy who was hearing the conversation quoted 400 and I started walking, so he said 350, and I said that it is just 24 kms and the poor guy finally said 300 and we agreed. I have started to get good at haggling.
          So the same story of 6 people with their entire luggage in a single rickshaw repeated again and we autoed away towards Bhedaghat.
          Jabalpur is a crowded town like any other in this city and is an industrial city. It is also the pass through for most of the tiger reserves like Pench, Kanha and Bandhavgarh. Not sure of buses, but one can hire private vehicles to go to these places from here. The rickshaw guy thought I was a crackpot to have booked a hotel at Bhedaghat and not at Jabalpur and I made him feel proud by giving a stupid look and feigning him my ignorance.
          And so after about an hour, we reached Hotel River View at Bhedaghat. Since we reached before 12, we had to wait but not for long.
          And then we were allotted our room.
          And then we saw that it opened up to a small lawn
          And then we saw that the lawn was overlooking the Narmada River and the Marble Rocks we were here to visit.
          And then we went bonkers at the sight and jumped in joy! It was spectacular – total paisa vasool! From the open area, one can also see the ‘Nauka Vihar’ ghat, from where the boating and a tour of the Marble Rocks of Bhedaghat commences and where the Narmada Arti is performed every day as an ode to the river Goddess.

View of the Narmada from Hotel River View
          We quickly had our lunch and ventured first to the Dhuandhar waterfalls which are at a 15-20 minutes walking distance from the Nauka Vihar. You can also get dropped down by an auto rickshaw at a nominal charge of INR 5 per person.

Dhuandhar Falls:

The roaring Dhuandhar Falls
          To get to the Dhuandhar Falls, you walk across small alleys with shops selling artifacts, various marble statues, incense stick holders, marble turtles, vases and everything that can be made with marble. You can even get your names inscribed on marble designs. Turtles seem to be the favorites as you see them designed in various forms and materials. If you have females in your troupe, keep aside at least 1 hour extra for every spot as they will not be able to resist buying tidbits from here and there. The shops here and near the Nauka Vihar will be one of the highlights of your trip here. Even in the roadside shops, you will see all marble artifacts and huge statues of Gods and Goddesses. 

          The shops end and you come to an open space where you get a glimpse of the river and as you walk down the cemented steps, you can see cable cars hovering over you and crossing the river. They say you get a better view of the waterfall from the cable car/ropeway, but I didn’t try as we were short on time and boating on the Narmada watching the Marble Rocks was our prime objective. Here the River Narmada roars and comes to life. It is not your normal fall where water falls from huge rocks or mountains above. Water gushes down a naturally formed pit and you can feel the splash and the drops of the foamy water at quite a distance. It is definitely a scenic location and must visit on your trip to Bhedaghat. The energetic sound of the river brings in a strange excitement in the traveler.

          The place was pretty crowded and everybody wanted to get their exclusive photos clicked with the waterfall as a background. My nephew went a step ahead and put his feet in the water at a small inlet and washed himself in the holy water and we followed him. Though there is no fee for this attraction, the ropeway charges are around INR 55 per person as it is a relatively small distance to cover.
          If one minuses the crowd, this would be a great romantic spot and am sure can get only better in the rains.

Marble Rocks
The Marble Rocks in all its grandeur
           There’s something about rocks and Madhya Pradesh, In Sanchi, we saw huge Stupas built of stone, in Bhimbetka, we saw the pre-historic rock shelters, in Pachmarhi we saw rock caves of various forms, Lord Shiva being the prime occupant and here, at Bhedaghat, the glittering marble rocks rising to a hundred feet ooze a different grandeur that needs to be seen and experienced.

          The Narmada River originates from Amarkantak before snaking through the Marble rocks here. Boating starts as early as 7 am and the last boat returns before the Narmada Arti at around 6:30 pm. There are 2 kinds of boating options. Either you go along with the crowd in a larger boat costing INR 40 per person or you can take a small boat for yourself at a cost of INR 320. The larger boat travels for only 30 minutes and covers less whereas the latter option takes you for a longer tour and gives you a glimpse of the real thing. Boating is also available from 8-10 pm on full moon nights.

          On every boat, a person to steer, 2 oarsmen and 1 guide accompany you. The guide will be quite vocal and bring in a fun element in his commentary as he shows around or rather shows off the Marble Rocks. He shows you a naturally formed Nandi, 3 faces of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswari, a hermit being pushed by his disciple, Bhims’ ring and many other formations and for safety sake, applies an asterisk of ‘Terms and Conditions’ mentioning that if you see them, it is well and good, else it is meant only for the ones good at imagination. He boasts about all the movies having been shot here, the recent one being Kareena Kapoor, in a round raft like boat, singing ‘Raat ka Nasha abhi’ in the movie Ashoka. He shows you all the different kinds of marbles, white, black, slate, pink etc. He informs you about the river being around 600 feet deep at the deepest end and moderately being around 300 feet deep.
We went for the boating at the marble rocks twice, once during sunset and again in the early morning and what we experienced are left for you to see in the photos I clicked!! I would definitely like to visit again on a moonlit night, wading through the silvery water and the shiny rocks – just imagining exponentially increases my craving!! It just makes you feel that if you are ever marooned, it should be a plce like this - it is an amalgamation of the different beauties of nature.

Chausat Yogini Temple

Chausat Yogini Temple
          The Chausat Yogini temple was at a 2 minute walking distance from our hotel and very near to the Nauka Vihar as well. Getting to the temple takes your breath away as the steps are quite steep.

          It is a beautiful temple with Lord Shiva and his consort Goddess Parvati riding Nandi as the main statue being worshipped. The panditji said that this is the only temple in the whole of India which has such kind of a statue.

          Outside the temple, in a circle are the beautiful carved yet ruined statues of the deities belonging to the Kalchuri period i.e. Sixty Four Yoginis which gives this temple its name.
There is another temple just adjacent to the Hotel River View and it houses 5 smaller temples within it and is worth a visit.

A little on Jabalpur and its other tourist destinations

          Capital of the Gond kings in the earlier days, Jabalpur belonged later to the Kalchuri Dynasty later before being wrested by the Marathas and then the British. Today, Jabalpur is an important administrative centre.
          Jabalpur is the most convenient base for visiting Kanha (165 km) and Bandhavgarh (190 km) National Parks
          Jabalpur prides itself in being the originating place for the game of Snookers.

Madan Mahal fort: Built by the Gond ruler, Raja Madan Shah, the fort perched above a hillock gives a panoramic view of the city of Jabalpur.

Rani Durgawati Memorial & Museum: Dedicated to the great Queen Durgawati, it houses a collection of pre-historic sculptures and relics.

Dumna Nature Reserve is an eco tourism site and is spread over 1058 hectares.

Bargi: At a distance of 35 kms from Jabalpur, the Bargi Boat Club offers local cruising and on demand cruising to Mandla.
Hotel River View

View of a ghat from the hotel lawn

View from the hotel

A grand affair - Grandmother, Grandfather and Grandson

A lot of catching up to do!!

Temple beside the hotel

Desi Bond

Walking towards Dhuandhar

Ropeway at Dhuandhar

Kitne aadmi the - ee Ramgarh nahi, Bhedaghat hai

Bhedaghat - This one looks like a rhino


A rocky ship

A view of Hotel River View from the river

Experiencing the sun set from a boat


Anna khao ganna

Charlies Angels

The easy process of purifying

Having some fun!!


The Navigator

Outside the Chausat Yogini Temple

Being pious

Chausat Yogini Temple

One of the deities at the Temple

At the Chausat Yogini Temple