We had ample amount of time after Raigad fort. Per initial plan we were supposed to stay there for a night but instead decided to go to this another fort. We thought it was Shivthar Ghad and hence thought of it to be a fort. When we reached there at around 5:00 PM after passing through some really remote locations we realised that it was Shivathar Ghal and houses a famous Sundar math. There is nothing much here except for the math, two shops and three houses. This place is an abode of nature; completely surrounded by hills and forest. Below is the info on this place from Wiki -
"Shivthar Ghal, also known as Sundarmath, is a cave, about 34 km from Mahad, near Barasgaon. Samarth Ramdas dictated Dasbodh to Kalyanswami. Samarth Ramdas lived here for about 22 years. It is believed that this is where the first meeting between Shivaji Maharaj and Samarth Ramdas took place. The cave was discovered by Shri Shankarrao Deo of Dhule in 1930. The cave and surrounding area was renovated after Samarth Seva Mandal was formed in 1950. The campus includes the actual cave under the waterfall, Ramdas Swami temple, dining hall and accommodation. Shivthar Ghal is located in Varandha Ghat in the Sahyadris on the Bhor-Mahad road."
On our way to the math, I saw this beautiful house and told that it would be great to live there. While enquiring at the math we learnt that they had only basic amenities and we had to carry our blankets and instead could choose to stay at the Raigad Jilla Parishad Guest house. And that happened to be the beautiful house we had passed by. That happy coincidence was more than welcoming and we immediately drove to the place. Standing alone without people attending to it, it appeared like an haunted house. The caretaker and his family live in a small outhouse behind the guest house.
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Well, the whole bungalow was ours but we booked two rooms for Rs 500 each. Food was extra and he charged Rs80 for a meal. There is also a VIP room that is only reserved for Government officials. We settled in and then quickly got ready to go to the math for Aarathi that happens from 6:00 to 7:00 PM. Three old men and one old lady sat in the main hall singing prayers. As soon as we entered, the lady gave us books which had all the Bhajans. We sat there for about forty five minutes singing the Bhajan and Jap along with them. It was a nice experience.
The ashram is inside a cave and a beautiful but furious waterfall falls very close to the place. The sound of the waterfall was so loud that standing in front of it made me feel scared of the power it holds. The cave actually is below the waterfall and as you walk towards it you get drenched by a light shower.
We returned back to the guest house and waited for food. The math also offers food but we choose to have dinner at the guest house. After a long wait our dinner arrived at around 10 PM. Rice Bhakri, Baingan and Potato Sabji, Dhal and Green chilly Tesa with some rice. Everything tasted very delicious.
After a good nights sleep, I woke up at around 5:00 AM next morning (September 1st). Ganesh Bhai was getting ready to go for morning Aarathi. I decided to join him. We freshened up and left. The same gathering of devotees were there. We sat with them and sang bhajans and prayers. I felt very relaxed and peaceful there. The music of bhajan seemed to blend with the sound of waterfall. We were offered some tea at the ashram.
We took a small walk up the hill behind the muth. The path leads to a village. After climbing a few distance we decided not to continue and return as we were unsure of how far up the village was.
At the guest house delicious Poha and tea was waiting for us. I had requested the caretaker the previous night to add some potato to the poha. His wife had added some finely chopped potato to the Kandha poha that tasted brilliant.
We got ready and left by around 9:00 AM. On our way we stopped for a while to absorb the beauty of the place. This is one of the best places I have visited in India; very meagrely populated, an abode of greenery that radiates only positive energy.
On our way back we stopped at Pale caves near Mahad. The design in these Buddhist caves are not very intricate but still possess a charm of the bygone days.
Again the beautiful view of Sahyadri mountains followed us where ever we went. Countless waterfalls pouring from its shoulders.
We hurried back to Panvel as I had to leave to airport by 2:00 PM. But not before stopping for a quick vada pav. How can I leave Mumbai without eating its most famous dish? Even though i ordered one, i could not resist a second one. There is something unique about the vada pav that you get in Mumbai than those that are found else where and should never be missed.
And also not before stopping to buy some vegetables from this vegetable vendor who was all decked up with a traditional attire.
We reached Panvel at around 1:45 PM. Akki had ordered Johar bhakri and some Sabji. She quickly prepared some Kichdi and we had a quick lunch. I left for airport by 2:30 PM. My flight was delayed by 45 minutes that gave me enough time there with which I did nothing. I was still in a blissful mood that the greenery of Sahyadri had filled me with. At the other end of my flight a mundane life awaited me but I wished to keep drifting like this instead. Fortunately or unfortunately all good experiences have to come to an end so that we can cherish them and value everything involved with it; the magnificent view that you filled your eyes with, the people who accompanied you and helped you get around, The people you met on your journey and the moments shared, the food you ate and then those magical moments that make you wonder why are you there of all the places that you could have been in?
The flight was uneventful. I tried to catch some sleep and when I woke up, the plane was close to landing. As I took a taxi back home, I realised how untouched by the festive mood this city was. In Bangalore and even Mangalore, Ganesha festival is more about cultural programs but I had returned from a place where there was only devotion where ever one saw. Importance was given to the intent and not some dance or music program by a celebrity.
From a lively and green vacation I began to drive on the roads leading to regular life. I knew that it would take me at least more than a week to get over this Mumbai Hangover.