Sunday, March 16, 2014

Igatpuri – Not just another station on your long distance route

Driving to Igatpuri - 08th Mar 2014

            The purpose was driving. To a new place. Not too far, not to close. What was supposed to be an early morning rendezvous started only in the heat of the 11 am shining sun. The agenda was to visit the Vippasana Centre, to laze around the banks of the Tringalwadi lake and watch the Tringalwadi fort from a distance and gaze at the clear blue skies. But when you are traveling with women, plans are bound to fail. You can leave only when they are ready to leave,you can do only what they make you do and then they will invariably convince you that everything happened as per YOUR plans, YOUR planning wasn’t right, basically YOU are a good for nothing!

            Ok! Let’s not spoil the drive by discussing unwanted matters. Igatpuri is around 100 kms from Thane. After once crosses the main toll booth for Nasik, the road is well maintained and smooth all the way.The ideal time to be in this place would be the monsoons or just after the monsoons when the entire area would be lush green. You can easily make out the cone like challenging peaks of the Mahuli fort to your left before you get to the Kasara ghat. Crossing the Kasara ghat, don’t miss the railway tracks to your left and you might just be lucky to see a passing engine happily hooting. The whole expanse of the scenery with the mountains watching over will give you a hard time concentrating on the wheel.

Camel Valley
            A few kilometers before reaching Manas resort (the most hyped landmark of Igatpuri) is the Ghatandevi temple. Opposite the Ghatandevi temple, on the other side of the highway is Camel back valley offering a few flat plateaus and a breathtaking scenery. Those flat stretches of the mountain offer a great chance for camping. Don’t know the way to get to them but would definitely like to explore them someday (obviously not with family). That would be some adventure!
Camel Valley
Ghatandevi Temple

Vippassana Centre
Myanmar Gate
Painting of the Buddha
            To get to the Vippasana Centre, just after you cross Manas resort, leave the highway and get on the service road. Take the first left and ask for Dhammagiri (people look confused if you ask for Vippasana Centre or Pagoda). Just as one gets the first glimpse of the railway station to your right, take the first left, crossing the Ram Mandir.
            The Vippasana Center is spread across 400 acres of land with the mountains as a backdrop. The huge golden Myanmar gate welcomes you to Dhammagiri. At the enquiry office are around 20 huge paintings depicting the life and teachings of the Buddha. The paintings are really beautiful and the artist deserves all the commendation for his art. The only bad thing is that the lighting in the rooms are not conducive for clicking good photos as you are almost sure to catch some reflections in every click. The writings around it are very interesting too. On request, you are allowed to watch a 17 minute video narrating the history, importance, rules and regulations of Dhammagiri. You can also meditate for 10 minutes listening to the Gurus’ voice on tape. Outside the office is a Vijay Stambh. The whole place depicts silence and is well maintained and clean. Beautiful gardens with colorful flowers welcome you as you walk towards the main Stupas and the Gurus residence. That’s as far as you can go if you are not a student. A guide shows you the dining places of the students, their living chambers, their places of meditation etc. As you walk towards the main Stupa, you come across a bell which can be heard in the entire centre. This place was a very calm and soothing experience.

Dam it!
Bhawali Dam
            There happen to be a lot of dams in the area. The Bhawli dam is situated very near once you have reached Igatpuri. Where the service road end, cross the highway and drive for around 6 kms through the village of Pimpri to reach it. The road is marked with green cultivated fields on both sides, stacks of hay, sunflowers greeting you with their swaying smiles and bullock carts to make the picture complete. Once you climb up the dam steps, the beauty of the lake and the backdrop of the mountains has a pleasing effect. This is an ideal place for a picnic. 
            The Tringalwadi lake and dam is also nearby and at a distance of about 6 kms. from Igatpuri. The Tringalwadi fort is also near to the lake and I have heard it is an easy trek to the fort and that the lake looks exceptionally beautiful from the top of the fort. The other dams in this area are the Talegaon dam and the railway dam. Haven’t been to any so can’t comment much.

            From my colleagues, all I had heard in the name of restaurants or hotels at Igatpuri was Manas resort, but there are a many other options. We had food at the Hotel Grand Ashwin which also has rooms; children play area and swimming pool too. On the highway, there is no dearth of veg or non-veg restaurants, dhabas and you can easily find accommodation too no matter which side of the Kasara ghat you are on.

            Overall, I liked my drive to Igatpuri. Would definitely like to explore more of it, especially the Tringalwadi fort.

            If you are going from Thane, there are 2 toll booths on the way, one costing 29 one way and 43 for return and the other costing 95 one way.

More photos


The roof of the Myanmar gate
Dissapearing into the tunnel - Kasara Ghat
Guards at the Ghatandevi Temple
The picturesque Bhawali lake
A look at the landscape from the Bhawali dam
Bhawali dam
Bhawali lake