Trips and Itineraries for Neral
Trek to Peb a.k.a.Vikatgad
9 trekkers..none of us either been there or knew the route..a seemingly stupid and bold but unanimous decision to trek without a guide from Fanaswadi (Nearest station is Neral,from there take a rick at approx Rs.20 per seat).....
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Top Places To Visit in Neral 6 Spots
You'll have two option; 1. Take a Toy Train to Matheran (During rain it'll be closed) 2. Hire a cab (they'll charge you Rs. 70/- per person) But trekking has its own charm. Instead of these; hire an auto who'll drive you about 4 km at Rs 40/- per person, and do trekking for the Remaining 4KM upto the Parking Lot up on the Hill Top. What you'll See? Nature at its best. and the Waterfalls on the way.., which you don't wanna miss at any cost.
We headed down via Matheran which is down trek for another hour and took the shared taxi for Neral. My empty stomach couldn't wait for another second and so we had lunch and boarded the local from Neral.Trek 1: Less crowded and beautiful. Check .Basic informationHow to reachRoute from Pune: Pune- Bhivpuri RoadRoute from Mumbai: Take local for Karjat. Step down at Bhivpuri RoadBest time to trekMonsoons are the best time to visit here as you can see waterfalls and streams of waters flowing.Difficulty LevelIt is beginners trek .Time to ReachIt takes 4 hours to reach to the top and then you can trek down to matheran in an hour .From matheran you take sharing taxi for neral station which takes another half an hour.Its a weekend / Day trek. One can return the same day or if you wish to stay at the top you need to stay in village or carry a tent.What to carryMake sure you wear something light and loose because sometimes you might have to take the big steps to climb and jeans won't allow to do that.Carry sufficient water - Make sure you carry water specially when if you are not doing monsoon trek.Food - Carrying snacks, fruits and energy bars is always the good idea while trekking. You never know when you might need them.Sunscreen - If you don’t want to get tanned.
Neral Railway Station
This is a railway station forming a part of the Mumbai Suburban Railway Network on the Central Mumbai Line. This is located in the town of Neral in the Raigad District and is a junction between Kalyan and Karjat. This connects Mumbai and Pune and is the beginning of the narrow gauge railway line that leads to Matheran.
No I didn't come this far just to hear that a place like that never existed, I thought to myself . I asked another rickshaw wallah and he said he knew a different place with a similar pronunciation. Apparently he knew a village called Peth and he knew that people do visit this place for Trekking. Well trust me when you are left stranded and somebody gives you a similar option like that you don't feel bad to try that, so did I. He assured to drop me halfway and he further guided me to board another rickshaw who would leave me till the base camp. I started the journey and after an hour and half I reached the base camp of Kothaligadh, Peth.Some quick facts about this trek,1. The difficulty level to this track is EASY.2. It is suitable for Beginners and best done in Monsoon3. Duration is 4 hours (depending upon your speed)4. Carry your own Water and Food.5. Its at a height of 3100 ft.
Hotels and Homestays in Neral 3 Hotels
Weekend Getaways from Neral
81 Kms from Neral
Best time to visit - January,February,March,October,November,December
Called the Oxford of the East, Pune is a bubbling cosmopolitan city. A large student hub, this city loves art, culture and theatre. The Sahyadri hill range of the Western Ghats makes this destination ideal for hiking and wildlife spotting. A shower of rain brings the city alive. The Agha Khan Palace of Pune is a sprawling complex with emerald green gardens and sprawling lawns, perfect for a casual stroll. The Shaniwarwada is an ancient structure built by the Peshwas and the ruins of this marvellous architecture can still be seen in the city. Dedicated to the brave hearts of the Indian Army, the National War Museum is a popular tourist destination and houses militia paraphernalia. Those interested in meditation can get day passes from the Osho International Meditation Resort, which is very popular with tourists. Handcrafted beer, baked goodies at the Kayani Bakery on East Street and eateries such as Touche the Sizzler, Malaka Spice and Dario's will complete your trip here. Read More
The plan was again for Andaman and Nicobar islands , but because it so seemed a far cry , we were obliged to drop the ‘An’ from Andaman.The same group as last time , almost . Just that this time , in the place of the non-kafir , we had Prat amongst us. The packing was done , the bookings were done. Our itinerary was supposed to be of a three-day trip : First travel to Daman , then to Diu (which is a fifteen-hour bus journey from Daman) , back to Daman , a detour to Udvada , the small ghost town of Parsis (Zoroastrians) where a fire has been burning at Atash Behram for more than a thousand years ! without any seventh-year itches , or thousand-and-one-year itches , and then back to home.I had even drawn a customized map , carefully noting the distances and time between the spots we had planned to visit.We were just one day away from the impending journey , and this is where things went awry – violent showers showed up at Daman and Diu.While planning the journey , we had carefully picked up the dates with the brightest , immaculate sun shining on the website portal. Nevertheless, the website defied us – Weather went south !Nonetheless , the following night , a pack of six foolhardy youths sneaked out of their college periphery (owing to lack of permission) and set out to set the Thames on fire ! or the Arabian sea , or… hell! the Gulf of Cambay on fire !!!
We started off at Pune , all set for Aurangabad , sneaked out of the college at 8 pm pretending to be going for random chores , because the college won’t allow us to leave. Once out, we set off for the railway station and boarded a train to Aurangabad.Once in Aurangabad , we right away started our journey after a few samosas on a booked brand new Innova.It was drizzling and the pristine grasslands , hills and forests on the way made the scene even more picturesque. After an hour of travelling, we halted at a petrol pump to pour some fluid into the car and in turn , empty out some of our fluid. But were confronted by a harsh dilemma. There was just a ladies toilet available ( so are men just supposed to pee around wetting random bushes? ) which led us to hold our urges a little longer . However ,N2 and N3 , antiblack and notsowhite , loose cannons that they were , couldn’t keep up and surrendered in the face of their more faithful callings. They peed in the ladies toilet , and that too, in the wash basin , because they didn’t have sound comprehension about how to use the female facility ( how could we possibly have known? Given our decorum of not sneaking into the lady facilities so often).
Thanks for reading and happy travelling :)* Do visit our blog www.alifeinslowmotion.com for other travel stories as well :
It was a long time we went with family for an outing. I and Arriesh's family were planning to visit a place which would be relaxing and close to nature. Being the nearest beach from Pune, we finalized Alibaug. We hired a cab and started from Pune at 7:00 AM in the morning.
Day 55, I reluctantly headed home to Pune. I Caught a midnight train from Arrah station and 30 hours later I was back home. Everything had remained the same, I had changed...
Just same excited as July 2016 Ladakh trip. Last year we did, yeah "us" did the Ladakh Expedition and now we were all set for Spiti. Let me just brief you how we came up with Spiti. Being naive Himalayan tamers we did Ladakh in 2016 and due to Kashmir curfews we needed to skip Srinagar, Kargil and Nubra from our itinerary. Here you can have complete lookup over my "Ladakh 2016 - Cursing The Kashmir Curfew". Eager to go Kargil Memorial, Nubra Valley and Pangong again :) but fate destroyed my wishes. Srinagar got shut down again and transport offices were closed. No other option than to go via Manali was left with us. We re-planned from Manali and skipped Srinagar from the plan. And whoa, now spending around 40k just to see one new place ( Nubra ) was not a good deal. That was the time when I decided for solo Ladakh. But Neha ( One of my colleagues ) keep on suggesting Spiti and she sent me pics of Kalpa Valley [ Suicide Point ] and yeah it triggered me and Anya; Within seconds Spiti plan was on. In 2 days read all blogs and made a custom plan of my own. Yayy, Spiti Baby. Well getting back to us, we 3 are still the same, myself "Azee" riding on my babe Honda Stunner CBF, my school friend "Anya" with his beast Honda Unicorn & "Gaurav" our best buddy with the Street King Yamaha FZS. We added 3 new riders, first timers, my cousin "Sujit" and Anya's 2 college mates "Kavya" and "Purvesh" on Simla rented Classic 350 & Electra respectively. 17th June 2017 00:40AM flight PNQ - IXC to reach at 08:30AM. Now lets hit the roads.Packed Bikes, Ready For Transport >>
Where & When?10th of September 2017 at the Finkick Adventures SCUBA Diving Center, Divisional Sports Complex Swimming Pool, Yerawada, Pune.Who can attend?Age 10+, non swimmers welcomed, no upper limit but if over 45 yrs of age, will need a signed medical certificateHow much does it Cost?There are limited tickets available, only 200 diver and 500 visitor. A visitor pass is priced at INR 100, early bird full cover passes are at INR 1950, increasing to INR 2850 post 28th August. (Get passes)What do you need to carry?Your own towel, swimming costume and loads of enthusiasm!What’s special for a certified diver attending?Certified Divers can participate in a full underwater obstacle course and a free-diving course. Try holding your breath and taking a dive without a tank!More info on the EVENT PAGE!
121 Kms from Neral
Best time to visit - January,February,March,July,August,September,October,November,December
Famous for its many temples and ghats, Nashik is one of the holiest cities in India. And for those looking for something more, there are the Sula Vineyards to explore. The eventful history of Nasik is evident in its various forts, including Harihar Fort and Ramshej Fort, that are sprinkled all over the city. The Sita Gufa or the Cave of Sita is believed to be the spot from where Goddess Sita was abducted by Ravana, while Panchvati is believed to be the asylum of Lord Rama during his exile. The Timbakeshwar Temple of Nasik is as much an architectural masterpiece as it is a religious centre. Carved intricately, this much-celebrated temple is perched on top of the Brahmagiri hills. Indulge your senses at the Sula Vineyards, which offer an insightful and entertaining tour that offers information on wine manufacturing and a chance for wine tasting. Nasik offers an impressive assortment of Maharashtrian food that is lightly influenced by the neighbouring states of Gujarat and Rajasthan. Popular restaurants include Barbeque Ville Veg Aroma and Aster The Coffee Shop. For accommodation, Nashik has options in all segments – budget, mid-range and luxury hotels. Read More
Located on the banks of river Godavari, this city is home to the famous Kumbh Mela organised every 12 years. Despite being spiritually relevant, the place is perfect for a short break. The waterfalls and vineyards are great stress relievers. The Sula wine industry has blossomed here over the years. A visit to one of the vineyards could be quite relaxing. A journey to Nasik will definitely be worth your while.Distance from Ahmadabad - 475 KmWhether you’re looking for a weekend of fun or just plain relaxation, list offers the best places to visit near ahmedabad within 500 kms. Their close proximity to the city make them popular local getaways. A two-day weekend is enough to take in the sights and sounds. It saves you time and money. All you need to do is settle on a destination and then hit the road. Take the time out to pamper your senses and enjoy some alone time. It not only relaxes you, but makes you appreciate life. You might not get to visit all these place near Ahmedabad for a perfect short trip. However, you can always try to take mini vacations every once in a while. It will be well worth it.
244 Kms from Neral
Best time to visit - N/A
The destination of the World Heritage sites of Ajanta and Ellora caves where you find a new meaning of beauty, Aurangabad was named after the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. The city is located at the banks of the Kham River and known as one of the most historically significant cities of Maharshtra. You will also find the best museums out here which include the three most important ones. These are the Sunehri Mahal Museum, University Museum and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Museum. apart from recieving all other modern facilities and amenities during your trip, you can laze away the afternoons in the beauty of the Bani Begum Gardens too. Read More
The vehicle took off and we set on our way chatting and frolicking , recording videos of ourselves and of the beaut environs of Aurangabad in the pleasant drizzle AND… of course , reminiscing over our old and new one-sided loved ones . The next stop was at a Motel about forty kms before Ajanta caves. Half of us freshened ourselves up , the other half didn’t feel like it. Notsowhite tried to take a dump twice , but to no avail.After at least three of us had relieved ourselves, we took a light breakfast , grabbed a few cans and took off again amid fun , frolic and raunchy remarks and slanders. Theslut , who was a boy. Since we were all boys , spent the journey taking the piss out of Bro. The non-kafir was the quiet and probably the maturest one. I had packed along two books, one of which was ‘the Satanic Verses’ , and throughout the trip , I managed to read no more than five pages.Finally , we arrived at the bus stop of Ajanta from where a shuttle bus would take us to the caves. We bought a few statuettes of supposedly ‘antique-stone’ (as per the seller) and then after taking along a few packets of chips and snacks and clicking a few pictures of the wondrous hills encompassing us , boarded the shuttle bus . It was a short and wavy journey through the hills and forests and was really a spectacle to behold.
We got down at Aurangabad at 8:30 am which was late as the train got delayed by 90 mins. we had our breakfast, rather I would say it was a brunch as we planned to make it till the base village, Salher wadi, without any food breaks by 3 pm and start the trek.We got into the bus at 11:00 am till Malegaon and as per the bus driver we could have reached there by 1:30 but again there was a delay and we only managed to reach Malegaon by 3 pm. Traveling in bus we weren't sure on when would we reach the base village so we decided to take the shared taxi till Satana and continue to base village from there. Thanks to our taxi driver, he agreed to drop us till Salher wadi at very nominal cost. Finally we reached the base village by 6 pm.
Before exploring Bombay we were at our friend’s place at Aurangabad, Maharashtra spending quality time with family. We had a chance to visit Ajanta. It’s a 2 hour drive from Aurangabad. A must visit if you are around Ajanta. It is a thousand years old cave and took around 700 years to construct. I would suggest reading up about Ajanta and then visiting the place rather than hiring a guide, which I did not find reliable. But yes they’ll show some interesting paintings, 3D effects and illusions inside the cave. Total there are 30 caves, only 26 are accessible the other four don’t have a way to get inside. It’ll take you around 3 hours to see all the caves.
As they say that happiness is along the journey not at the end of it, we were actually experiencing it in this road trip of Maharashtra. It was day 3 and we had to cover two more Jyotirlings which were Nagnath in Aundha and Vaijnath in Parli.We had an amazing Maharashtrian breakfast before we left.
Aurangabad is a bustling town (The world-heritage Ajanta and Ellora caves are a little distance away) and I could comfortably find a decent hotel (Hotel Karthiki) near the main bus stop. The hotel was cheap and pretty good for the tariff (Rs. 600 per night). I freshened up and then headed out to the main bus stop to figure out how to get to Lonar. Turns out Lonar wasn’t very much frequented by tourists and was more or less an off-beat destination. I guess researchers and geologists were the ones enamored by the place. So here was the deal with buses. Private buses leave at around 2.30 am to a place called Sultanpur which is about 15km from Lonar. Sultanpur lay enroute to Pune so all buses heading towards Pune might as well stop there on request. There are state transport buses from Aurangabad to Lonar as well but their availability is meager compared to the private buses. One can also take a state transport bus from Aurangabad to Jalna and then head off to Lonar. Jalna is around 100 kms from Lonar and the availability of buses to Lonar from Jalna is more than in Aurangabad. I weighed my options and decided to take a private bus at 2.30am to Sultanpur. Sultanpur is 135km from Aurangabad. The bus promptly did turn up at 2.30 am. It was an uneventful ride to Sultanpur. Reached Sultanpur at about 5.30am. Sultanpur operates private autos to Lonar Village. I parked myself in one of these and amidst “Baazigar” reached Lonar at 6.30am.
Aurangabad is a good place to visit if u love street food.... WE had street sandwich which I think not a single hi fi restaurant can make... WE tasted almost everything there which was available on the streets. There are few historical places but govt is not maintaining them so no one visit them.
This city is named after Mughal Emperor Aurangazeb. It was called Fatehpur before it took its present name. This city is gateway to the World Heritage Sites of Ajanta and Ellora caves. Developed as a modern city, Aurangabad provides all comforts and modern facilities.
Arrive into Aurangabad on a morning flight. Transfer to your hotel and proceed for a half-day sightseeing tour of the Ajanta/ Ellora complex. Don't forget to take a torch- it'll come in handy inside the caves. Return to your hotel at your convenience. Overnight Aurangabad.
We spotted a rustic, vegetarian dhaba called ‘Deluxe Dhaba’ and attacked the food as soon it was served. Dal Tadka and Shev Bhaji, (a famous local Maharashtrian dish) was our nourishment for the night. After a few quick cups of tea, we set off again at a steady pace.
249 Kms from Neral
Best time to visit - January,February,March,October,November,December
An integration of historic monuments and modern skyscrapers, Surat is a quaint town located along the banks of river Tapi. The ISKCON temple here, standing on an area of around 13,000 km, is frequented by devotees from all across the world. The Dutch Cemetery, Shahjahan's Fort, Parsi neighbourhood and colonial building are beautiful symbols of the history of this city. Dandi is a popular destination among tourists visiting Surat and is a place made famous by the Indian independence movement. When it comes to food, Surat offers lip-smacking Gujarati flavours, albeit only vegetarian. Popular eateries here include the Leonardo Ristorante Italiano, Jalaram Khichadi and Kansar Gujarati Thali. Accommodation here is easily available and sits well within in your budget. If you want more, travel to the Dumas Beach, which is located about 18km from the city. Read More
Day 5: Surat to Maliya, Ahmedabad 450 KmsAhmedabad was our next destination for stay before we reached Kutch. We stopped at Malliya for rest and the drive ahead to Kutch.Stay: GK Hotel, Maliya-Halvad Highway, Near Petrol Pump,, Malia, Gujarat 363670 Ph no: 7046009901/2/3
278 Kms from Neral
Best time to visit - February,March,April,May,June,July
Kolhapur, in Maharashtra, is a land of temples and regal palaces. The most revered of them is the Mahalaxmi Temple, which has a simple yet fascinating structure. Other temples here are the Temlabai temple, Jyotiba temple and the Bimkhambi Ganesh temple. The Shri Chhatrapati Shahu Museum, which was once the residence of the first Maharaja of the Maratha Empire, is a vivid display of artefacts representing the ancient history of the city. Take a walk through history at the Panhala Fort, which is an imposing fortification believed to have housed Chhatrapati Shivaji himself. Kolhapur is known for its spicy array of Maharashtrian food. Try some of the local delicacies at Padma Guest House, Waman Guest House and Parakh. Being a bustling tourist destination, Kolhapur has a lot to offer when it comes to lodging for all types of budget travellers. Don't forget to take back the local Kolhapuri Chappals, that make for lovely traditional footwear. Read More
Now the D Day arrived it was 1st of Dec and I was sitting in my office preparing powerpoint presentation for the client instead of our roadtrip and celebrating our anniversary with my wife . My wife availed the leave as she had informed all her colleagues that we are going for the roadtrip and if she will go offc everyone will ask what happened. She was angry too and we didn’t talked in the morningMe : Hello, Happy AnniversaryWife : So ??? Do your offc work ( I can feel the Angriness on the other side of phone )Me : Lets continue our tripWife : How ????Me : Will travel in Night , pack the bags and be ready . We will start the journey once I reach home from OffcWife : Is it possible ?Me: Yes we will start today and cut short the journeyWife: YipppieMe: Ok, I will reach home by 4 will start soonSomehow pleaded to my manager that I will leave a bit early and he agreed. Now the wait was killing. Once the clock strike 3 30 PM I left office and was at home. When reached home found that the luggage is full ( Thanks to my wife who travels very heavy ) .Now there is no time to repack bags so we started from Pune by 5 PM with a good pace in chilling winter reached Kolhapur by 11 PM. Time to take rest in a pre-booked hotelNow another jolt of hammer, we informed the hotel earlier that we will be doing card payment, thanks to demonetisation we had only INR 6000 of hard cash. He agreed upon that but once we reached Kolhapur found that his swiping machine was not working as the internet is down ( Thanks to NHAI fellow who cut the broadband line while digging) and also he didn’t had any Paytm account. We tried for Online Transfer also but we failed. Now with no option left, we paid 2k to him in hard cash.Now the biggest question “Shall we return to Pune as we have only INR 4000 left”. Wife said will decide tomorrow morning as it’s already too late
It is a historical place and has great temples too
The closest central place, to cover the spots, in Kolhapur one can visit Mahalakshmi Mandir, Binkhambi Ganesh Mandir, Shahu Place, Rankala Lake. Also you can visit famous Jyotiba temple which is hardly 26 Km from the place all places can be covered in 2 days span
From Kolhapur to Malvan it takes 5 hours. There are two routes to reach Malvan- via Gaganbawada ghat or via Radhanagri. We took the route via Radhanagri village. The road condition is good. But the route has lots of turns and swirls. We left from Kolhapur at 7.30am and reached Malvan at 1.30pm. On the way we stopped at Radhanagri for breakfast and at backwaters, a little ahead from Radhanagri near Anuradha village.
227 Kms from Neral
Best time to visit - January,February,June,July,August,September,November,December
A lovely city in the Konkan region of Maharashtra, Ratnagiri is a port city surrounded by the beautiful Sahyadri Hills. If this is your first time here, you'll be spoilt for choice. Ganapatipule Beach makes for a great visit and is perfect for a leisurely afternoon. There is a Ganesh temple right next to the beach that is also worth a visit. The Ratnadurg or Bhagwati Fort, which is a beautiful structure constructed in a horseshoe shape, surrounded by the Arabian Sea, is also a beautiful place to check out. Thebaw Palace is another lovely touristy spot where the Burma King Thebaw was imprisoned. The palace is built in Pagoda style and is a must see. Bhatyachi Khadi is where the river meets the sea; the village near this place is Bhatye known as Bhatyachi Khadi. If you're here from March to June, do pick up some juicy Alphonso mangoes that the city is famous for. There are a lot of other scenic cities around Ratnagiri and depending on your mood, you can choose any of the cities to spend your vacations. Read More
According to the inscriptions on clay tablets that were found during initial excavations at Ratnagiri in 1960s,this was a great center of learning for Tantric Buddhism and especially Vajrayana school.The clay tablets also mention it's name as 'Shri Ratnagiri Mahavihariya Arya Bhikshu Samaghya'.It was active between 5 th and 13 th century AD.Amid the scattered ruins at the hilltop are various votive stupas but it's the main monastery complex at the center which is miraculously preserved till date.The entrance gate to the main compound is made up of green chlorite stone with some intricate carvings which makes it distinct from other stones in the compound .As we stepped inside once again,stories ran in my head about monks and their activities that would have kept the place busy many centuries ago. The various sized Buddha heads were aglow with the direct moonlight falling over them.What could the various head sizes signify? May be they were designed as various steps towards attaining the greatest wisdom,of becoming the perfect Buddha head. Ratnagiri has two large monasteries and right in the middle of it stands a large statue of Buddha which is flanked by the statues of Vajrapani and Padmapani,two Boddhisatvas. As you walk the periphery of the main compound,the highly advanced and intricate drainage system of the facility stuns you. The large monastic complex houses around twenty four cells for residence made up of bricks.At a given time,more than five hundred monks could have lived and studied at this center.The center also housed three copies each of major scriptural works of Mahayana and Hinayana Buddhism. The Lama never talked,as if he had come only to quench my curiosity.But talking was not necessary,and I learned to appreciate the soothing beauty of quietness and silence.As I saw the diverse stone artefacts strewn all over the place I was reminded of what Tagore had told of the Konark Temple,that "here the language of stones had surpassed the language of man".Here too the stone works made the human need of language redundant. Me: But when one speaks of Buddhist history or heritage,no one speaks in same breath about Odisha as they do about other sites like Bodh Gaya or Nalanda. Lama: As per texts and Buddhist chronicles found in Tibet,China and Ceylon,a place called 'Odiyyana' is mentioned where the roots of Vajrayana Buddhism took shape.This place in all probability could be the present day Odisha and the great learning centers of Tantric Buddhism they refer to could almost certainly be the Puspagiri University that we are currently standing at.The entire sect of Vajrayana Buddhism seems to have originated from these scholastic centers at Lalitgiri-Ratnagiri-Udaygiri complex if we take the available archeological and literary evidence into consideration. The old Buddhist Pali canons and Pas-Sam-Jon-Zang a Tibetan Buddhist text mention the land of Odiyyana where many great Tantric Buddhist preachers lived. The canons mention many secret places called 'Beyuls' where a seeker could go and find enlightenment and knowledge.Such Beyuls were hidden valleys and retreats often found in the Himalayan mountains of Tibet and India.The locations of these secret valleys were kept in scrolls which were placed in important monasteries and stupas.Sambhala is a well known beyul. Me: Just like James Hilton described the valley of Shangri-la in his book 'The Lost Horizon'? Lama: Hilton's story of Shangri-la was actually inspired from the myth of Sambhala itself.If you look closely the name Shangri-la is a modified form of Sambhala only. Me: Ah! Yes .....I never thought about it before,strange! And what role does Sambhala play in Tantric Buddhism? Lama: According to legends,the Tantric rituals of Kalachakratantra was taught to the Kings of Sambhala by Buddha himself.The kings of Sambhala wanted to follow the path of enlightenment without renouncing the world so they requested the Sakyamuni to teach them a less austere method of reaching Dharma and Truth,Buddha gave the first initiation of the Kalachakra rituals.Further a Tibetan text called 'The Blue Annals' credits Acharya Cheluka of bringing the teachings of Kalachakratantra to India from the mythical land of Sambhala. The philosophy that guides the school of Vajrayana Buddhism states that though the goal of all living beings is same i.e attaining knowledge and Nirvana,there are other methods of reaching there apart from the old methods of austere meditations. The tantric rituals can provide that path to salvation. Me: So Vajrayana created a short-cut path to salvation,because the older methods of meditations were hard and time taking? Lama: Let's not be quick to judge the ways and methods people adopt in their lives.As each person is unique so is their path to salvation. As I mentioned before,our current lack of knowledge on Tantric Buddhist practices in these parts of Odisha comes to a road block due to the secretive doctrines of the people who followed the school of Vajrayana. The stroll in the lonely night had got us very far from Ratnagiri now.Perhaps the Lama was aware of it but I was far from realizing that we had stumbled upon the foothills of the grand ruins of Udaygiri.I was astonished because the journey in the daytime had taken a much longer .So far so good.Like Ratnagiri, the excavations at Udaygiri stand on a hill top which is spread over a much larger area and even during the day the hillside looks beautiful.As if someone has sprinkled those stone artifacts over the lush green rolling hills. I could see the moon's reflection in the deep well that stands at the foot of the hills.Stone staircases lead down to the well which was sparkling in the moon light. In the same time as the monasteries at Ratnagiri,the facilities at Udaygiri had their peak time from 7 th century to 12 th century AD.The inscriptions found at the site refer to the name of the place being Madhavapura Mahavihara.Udaygiri has a large monastic complex amid it's ruins and among it's many relics the most interesting are the unearthed images of 'Dhyani Buddhas'. Not to miss out on details,the Lama showed me a stone carving on the entrance wall of the compound.Even in the moonlight,I could make out the figure.It was a human figure swinging on a rope with his eyes closed,in a prefect state of happiness.Nobody perhaps knows who or what the figure means,but may be it means exactly what the viewer feels by watching it,a sense of calm and bliss.A single piece of stone can speak to you across the length of ages. On the hills of Udaygiri there exists a huge Mahastupa where four cardinal Buddhas sit facing each direction.Akshobya facing East,Amitabha facing West,Amoghasiddhi facing North and Ratnasambhava facing South. I returned to the conversation at hand. Me: We were speaking of the Kalachakra tantra. And Kalachakra Tantra is one of the ritualistic practices of Vajrayana Buddhism? I saw the initiation ceremony last summer at Leh by the Dalai Lama. Lama: The Kalachakra Tantra is the most evolved and complicated form of Vajrayana school.Even today it is considered as one of the highest form of Tantric philosophy.Apart from the sect of Vajrayana itself,the Kalachakra Tantra may have it's roots in Odisha. 'Kala' means time,'chakra' means wheel and 'tantra' means a system.This tantric practice in Buddhism is based on the concept of Time and how we perceive it.Almost all religions and schools of philosophy consider time to be cyclic in nature,so does Tantric Buddhism but it differentiates the time cycles into three parts.The internal cycle,the external cycle and the alternative cycle. Internal and external cycles are passage of time as we perceive it.Just like modern science,Buddhism considers time to be a measurement of rate of change of things around us. Me: This is very interesting indeed.What are these internal,external and alternative time cycles according to Kalachakratantra? Lama: As I said before the external and internal cycles are time as we human beings perceive it. For example the change of moon's shape and location in sky denote the monthly lunar cycle which can be considered as external time perception.Similarly the menstrual cycle of a woman's body is an example of internal time perception.The alternative time cycle is a way taught by the teachers of Kalachakra to gain harmony over the internal and external time cycles. So this summer in Leh,when you saw the Dalai Lama initiate the Kalachakra rituals,he was paving the way for gaining harmony over the influence of time. Me: The Buddha himself never came to the land of Kalinga to teach or give sermons? Lama: Though there is no direct evidence of Buddha coming to Kalinga or preaching here,but places and their names have been a shifting entity on the pages of history. The 1st Khandaka of Mahavagga text in Buddhism confirms that two honey traders from Odisha named Tapassu and Bhallika were the first lay disciples of Buddha after he achieved enlightenment under the Bodhi tree.They offered honey cakes to Buddha after receiving teachings from him. Me: Not only the tantric sects but the entire Hindu pantheon seems to have assimilated Buddhism in current times.I have seen Buddhist images like Avalokotisvara,Tara,Yaksas etc in many Hindu temples especially in Odisha. Lama: Later during awakenings of Vaishnavite and Bhakti sects in medieval India,the all encompassing arm of Hinduism took Buddhism into it's fold and many considered Buddha as 9th incarnation of Bishnu.This happened in complete paradox of the fact that Buddhism became famous in ancient India when people revolted to some degree to the Brahmanical-Vedic orthodoxy in society.In current age,images of Dhyani Buddha has been found in the de-plastered walls of Puri's Jagannath Temple. The Asokan rock edicts and the stone carved elephant at Dhauli are the earliest evidence of Buddhism's presence in Odisha.A very similar rock cut elephant has been found in the excavations of relics near Kaima in Jajpur district.As per records ,even a stupa existed near the rock edicts at Dhauli until 19 th century which was lost to time later on. A Prakrit inscription in Nagarjunakonda confirms that 'Puspagiri' in Odisha along with Nalanda ,Tosali and Palur were great centers of Buddhist learning and scholastic traditions.There are even speculations that the Buddhist preacher Padmasambhava else known as Guru Rinpoche spent some time studying and contemplating in these hills of Odisha.Guru Rinpoche is credited with taking Buddhism to many Himalayan kingdoms as Tibet,Sikkim and Bhutan. The figures of Buddhist iconography such as Boddhisatvas,mandalas,images of Tara,fourteen forms of the Avalokotiswara,many Yakshas and Yakshinis that are spread through coastal Odisha and some western parts just goes to confirm that Buddhism had a stronghold in the land and helped in the propagation of the sect to far off lands beyond India. Me: I had never pondered on the idea that Odisha had such a substantial contribution to the rise and propagation of Buddhism in India and elsewhere.When I used to visit those monasteries and lamaseries in remote Himalayan valleys of Ladakh and Himachal,I never thought my home state would have played such a grand role in the epic narrative of Buddhism. Lama: I will once again go back to Tagore to illustrate my point....he once said that "though I traveled great many countries and visited far off lands from my home,I forgot to see the beautiful dew drop outside my window". I suppose you understand what he meant by that. Me: Yes dear Teacher,I most surely do.I always have it in mind that though I am out to explore the world I shall know my home land up close and thoroughly.Only when resident Odias have knowledge of their rich cultural heritage and past,rest of the world will slowly know too.I suppose I realize that. Lama: A Teacher is only as good as the pupil he is teaching....the more thirsty a student is,the better a teacher becomes.Now that you have accepted me as a teacher,will you do a small favor to these old bones? Me: What may I ask? Lama: Nothing,just a ride along the road till we get to the oldest of the three sites in the Diamond Triangle. So with the chilly winter wind against us.A young man and an old lama were riding on through deserted roads to Lalitgiri which is 8-9 kms down the road from the sites of Ratnagiri and Udaygiri.While on the road, we found an old couple whose vehicle had broken down and we stopped to help them out.The desperate old faces heaved a sigh of relief when the lama and me got down to give a hand to the broken down car.While the lama took the wheel,I was at the engine part.A small battery problem which was sorted out quickly and we bid farewell to the old man and woman who were repeating 'thank you's' till we got embarrassed. It must have been the last quarter of the long moonlit night,when we arrived at Lalitgiri. It was at this site,that tooth relics and bone relics were found in a stone casket.The bones and tooth were in a charred or half burnt condition and many consider them to belong to Buddha himself,but nobody can be sure.The Buddhist iconography and sculptures found scattered in these parts are highly esoteric in nature.More than fourteen forms of Avalokotisvaras have been found in Odisha and many have been unearthed here.No other place in India displays such variety in artifacts. Lalitgiri was the place where Tantric Buddhism was prevalent from around 300 BC to 13 th century AD.And hence it is considered as the oldest of the sites at Langudi hills. The terracotta inscriptions found here mention this place as 'Sri Chandraditya Vihara Samagra Arya Bhiksu Sanghasa'. Images of Buddha in various poses,images of Tara and other beings, sculptures of Avalokotisvara and many forms of Boddhisatvas,all strewn over the places and excavation is still going on. The old lama once again takes my hand to show something particular, an image of a woman breastfeeding a child. Me: Who is she? Lama: Her name is Hariti and she used to be a child lifter before Buddha persuaded her to become the protector of children.To be a mother to all those who do not have that privilege. Apart from four large monasteries at Lalitgiri,the major attraction is an apsidal ChaityaGruha or stupa completely made of bricks. After circulating the large stupa and prayer hall I walked over the slope to watch a glorious sight that people in today's age take for granted.I watched the sun climb slowly over the horizon and change the color of the sky.The sun has been doing this for ages,but still we find the sight ethereal.May be because our lives depend on it.May be because we know our time on this earth is limited and it would be a sin to miss out on such splendid and yet so simple views. I expected the lama to say something about that divine view,but as I turned around, he was not to be found.Morning always brings a change but this was something I had not expected.I searched all over the place and called him out but to no avail.My teacher had disappeared just as easily as he had appeared back in Ratnagiri hill top.I climbed down the slopes near the ruins to see if the old man would be waiting near the bike.But nothing.The last I saw him was when he sat down on the big rock under the huge tree. Perhaps more than surprised,I was disappointed,may be even a tad angry. There were no proper goodbyes and no parting words. This was the end of the line.The long night where we both contemplated on the ruins of the Diamond Triangle had come to a passé.As fog clutched the countryside I rode my bike alone back on the road to Ratnagiri in faint hope of finding the old lama somewhere waiting for me.Has he landed in some trouble?I was agitated and raced back. While on the road,the night flashed before me and all those images of the past swarmed past me.The ruins on these hills nearby had taken a shape in my mind.A heritage of the rich past of this land and a promise for the future times.My mind swam at the disappearance of the old lama.I was in distress because I knew I was too realistic a person to believe in phantom lamas who came and went as they pleased. Atleast someone I knew appeared on the foot of Ratnagiri hilltop.The old couple sipping tea at the road side tea stall smiled at me when I stopped my bike.They quickly offered me a hot cup of tea and only then I realized how bitterly cold the morning air was. Trying very hard to hide my anxiety, I just asked-"Have you seen the old man who was with me last night? I am afraid I lost him somewhere". The old lady looked at me and then at her husband. "The poor old man.He must be having trouble trying to find me....he was all alone", I added. Between the old woman changing her face from being aghast to a funny smile on her lips,the old man said,"Which old man?You were all alone last night when you stopped to help us". Taking the cup in my hands, I looked away.I tried very hard to recall the last words of the old lama. Soumya D Jena 10th March 2017This post was originally published on The Lost Hermit.
In my quest to travel and experience new destinations and places I decided to travel towards the Konkan highway this time. Being a Delhite the lure of the mountains is so much that you seldom make plans doing random trips towards Maharashtra. So here I was on my journey again with a few tips on the internet – stay, weather and travel distances was all that I was armored with. My SLR slung on my shoulders to take on yet another journey of its own.My destination – Romancing the Konkan highway with no real agenda – Just to experience it the way it is! The cities that draped the highway. The beautiful coastline. Lush green paddy fields and much more. I got on to a hired car from Mumbai and set off towards Ratnagiri – a commercial town by the seaside. 7 -8 drive from Mumbai and you land up in at a beautiful destination – The journey had its own experience –Driving through Ghats and quaint little villages. The coastline villages and the homes are so very different from the ones you see in the north – Lush green and brightly colored. The cuisine on the way was interesting from Poha breakfast to fish Thalis at the local eating joints.
The most scenic leg of the journey. Sea on one side Green mountains on the other. Located on the same MH SH 4, Ganpatipule stretch is something i will remember my whole life. It was like the movie perfect scene. All along the route I could see the virgin beaches where one could spend countless hours relaxing. Unfortunately we were running short of sunlight so we have to rush through this stretch and hence didn't get chance to click many pics.
Ratnagiri is just another town situated along the beautiful Goa-Bombay road. Goa-Bombay road is one of the best roads I've been to. All the green on both side and the awesome monsoon weather is just superb. Riding on MH SH 4 from Ratnagiri to Jaigad is a different experience alltogether. The scenic beauty is simply mesmerizing. Be careful while riding on this route though there wold not be any traffic but there will be numerous green snakes crossing the road.
We reached Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus to catch morning fast local to Neral (Nearest Local station to Matheran). It is the fastest mode of transportation to reach Neral from Mumbai. On arriving we took a sharing cab at Rs 80 per person. It took us 40 minutes to reach Matheran from Neral. Since we left quite early from hotel, we were damn hungry. So first thing first; we searched for a place to eat. There aren’t many options available at taxi stand. So we ate Misal Pav (Buns served with Curry & Namkeen) at small dhaba. Read More
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We reached Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus to catch morning fast local to Neral (Nearest Local station to Matheran). It is the fastest mode of transportation to reach Neral from Mumbai. On arriving we took a sharing cab at Rs 80 per person. It took us 40 minutes to reach Matheran from Neral. Since we left quite early from hotel, we were damn hungry. So first thing first; we searched for a place to eat. There aren’t many options available at taxi stand. So we ate Misal Pav (Buns served with Curry & Namkeen) at small dhaba.