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Old 17th March 2023, 18:09   #1
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An inexpensive pilgrimage in Maharashtra

An inexpensive pilgrimage in Maharashtra



Prelude:

Time for next trip which happened to be to Maharashtra in low budget. This time it was not our planning but the opportunity came to us on the way. Wife had already started talking about the 12 Jyotirlingas spread all over India for some time now.

1.Somnath – Gir Somnath in Gujarat
2.Nageshwar – Daarukavanam in Gujarat
3.Bhimashankar – near Pune in Maharashtra
4.Trimbakeshwar – near Nashik in Maharashtra
5.Grishneshwar – near Aurangabad in Maharashtra
6.Vaidyanath – Deoghar in Jharkhand
7.Mahakaleshwar – Ujjain In Madhya Pradesh
8.Omkareshwar – Khandwa In Madhya Pradesh
9.Kashi Vishwanath – Varanasi In Uttar Pradesh
10.Kedarnath – Kedarnath in Uttarakhand
11.Rameshwaram – Rameswaram Island in Tamil Nadu
12.Mallikarjuna – Srisailam in Andhra Pradesh
(Details can be seen here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jyotirlinga)

Out of these, we had already visited Srisailam ( https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/trave...travelled.html (Drive from Pondicherry to Kalahasthi, Tirupati and Srisailam via the roads less travelled)) in July 2022. Rameswaram is in TN itself and could be planned anytime. But the other 10 locations are spread all over the country so planning by car would be hectic. But one opportunity came across us for the 3 locations in Maharashtra (Bhimsankar, Trimbakeshwar and Grishneshwar) with a bonus of Pandharpur (called as Pandaripuram in our side) and Shirdi by a Saivaneri Kazhagam (can be translated as Saivism society) of Pondy. Wife was hesitant first (as her menopause is irregular but fortunately we did not face any problems so far in December / January Kerala trips ) but decided not to miss the opportunity. Further our neighbour friend and Sister-in-Law (SIL) from Bangalore also jumped in the pool.

Original idea was for 27 people with one or two additions at the end of February or 1st week of March. I decided to join for the sole purpose of getting relief from kitchen duties for a week. And also to observe how these tours are being conducted in inexpensive way (non AC bus/Train, Non AC multiple sharing hotel rooms /dormitory, simple food, and over all the comfort level at a minimum) so that I could decide about such tours in future( as ladies used to say that they will never go again like this after such tours but will be first in the line when next tour is announced).One more secret mission was to taste authentic Misal /Pav (a Maharashtrian special snack which I used to relish during my stay in Mumbai for 12 year, though we used to make in Pondy also , the bread somewhat tastes sweeter here ).

Planning:

Plan was to travel up to Solapur by train and cover all the places by booking a bus and return also via Solapur. Train tickets were booked for the earliest available date which was March 1st (from Chennai to Pune by LTT exp at 6.20 PM but alighting at Solapur) and return on 7th early morning at 2 A.M by same train (booking from Kalyan but boarding at Solapur). For Pondy to Chennai, tickets were booked in Pondy-New Delhi weekly express (9.50 AM) for 1st March. SIL from Bangalore would join us at Chennai Central by Mysuru Exp and would to return from Solapur directly to Bangalore (as it would be unnecessary for her to come back to Chennai) so her return ticket was booked on 6th march at 10.45 PM by Karnataka Exp. (as our tickets were at 2 AM). So, all were set and ready to start on 1st March.

Day 1 ( 01.03.2023) – Pondy to Chennai to Solapur:

We were asked to assemble at Pondy station at 9 AM on 1st March (for train at 9.50). Fortunately, this time no auto business as our friendly neighbour’s son dropped us at the station. Our compartment (S2) was almost empty as the train started on correct time. I had originally planned to alight at Tambaram to see my mother (who is with my brother) since time is available for the next train which was only at 6.20 PM. But I could not as our train after Pondy and Villupuram directly stopped at Chennai Egmore station only.

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Our train entering Villupuram Junction

So reached Central around 2 PM. In the train, we came to know that a bus had been arranged for all from Chennai to Pondy on the return leg on 7th March (originally, we were asked to arrange on our own and so I had already booked tickets by 6.10 PM train Chennai to Pondy on 7th just as a precaution).

As per the plan we needed to take care of our food until Solapur from where community food would be served by taking the cook everywhere. Except us, everybody had brought food for nearly a day in hand (with extra for others also). Latter I came to know this was their general practice as we were the only newcomers in this group. But in Central station we looked for lunch and found A2B and IRCTC stalls and decided to take at A2B with Sambar rice and Curd rice (both were not as per our liking). SIL joined us at 2.30 PM from Bangalore. Many Zero’B Water stalls were present in all platforms for Rs 5/- a litre of water. For dinner (since we didn’t know whether food would be available in the train or not), purchased packed Chapattis and Veg Biryani from A2B and got one more veg biryani from IRCTC counter for comparison (which costs Rs 80/- compared to A2B’s Rs 200/-). A2B chapatis were horrible and both biryanis tasted ok (so paying higher price for A2B was not justified). (Coffee also Rs 10-/ in IRCTC and Rs 35/- in other counters and could not find much difference). All of us had sleepers in S2 compartment and I slept well (had upper berth).

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Chennai central
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RO water outlets

Day 2 ( 02.03.2023)- Solapur to Pandaripuram to Bhigwan:

Train reached Solapur station at 8 AM. Our bus (34-Seater) was waiting for us and took us to our lodge where we were given shared accommodation for getting ready for our first leg to Pandharpur. Meanwhile we finished our breakfast also (idlis) which were brought by others and shared with us. While were getting ready, Lunch was prepared by local cooks (who accompanied us in the bus for the whole trip) with Sambar, Rasam, curd, potato Curry, Chips in the menu which was the last proper meal for many days to come (with additional item called Kaara Kuzhambu, a tamarind pulp based spicy gravy which gets better while aging, brought from Pondy itself).

After lunch started for Pandharpur which is 90Km from Solapur (with a diversion on Solapur-Pune highway). Initial highway road was good and interior roads were also ok. When we reached the parking (plenty of parking space available), auto drivers tempted us with a package tour of 5/6 temples which was accepted by many. So, the journey started (in Auto) with 4/5 people in each auto and 150/- per head. (Tanpure Maharaj Mat, Kaikadi Maharaj museum, Vithoba Temple officially known as Shri Vitthal-Rukmini temple (main), Tukaram temple, Gajanan temple). Tanpure Maharaj Matt had all the 12 jyotirlingas replicas. Kaikadi Maharaj Matt had all the statues of various entities from puranas to current politics (looked like a museum and amusement park than a temple).

When we reached the main temple on the banks of river Bhima, called as Chandrabhaga (due to its moon shape) here, the crowd was going on for Kms. Our auto driver informed that those were for the Foot darshan which would take many hours (which we could not afford) and so took us to the Face Darshan where everybody could see the statue (like other temples) without touching (needed to deposit electronic gadgets outside). After finishing these temples, we started towards Pune (on the way to Bhimsankar). As it was getting late already, were put up at Anand Lodge at a town called Bhigwan for the night. Dinner was Aval (flattened rice), Upma etc., and had a good night sleep.

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Solapur Station
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On the way to Phandarpur
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Pandharpur Bus parking
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Tanpure Maharaj Matt
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Kaikadi maharaj matt
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Vittal temple
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Gajanan temple

Day 3: ( 03.03.2013) – Bhigwan to Bhimasankar to Trimbak:

Morning was misty and chilly and had a walk for 2 km to get warm. After breakfast started for Bhimsankar which is 80 Km from Pune (with a diversion from Pune- Nasik highway). But since crossing Pune itself took long time, we could reach Bhimsankar by afternoon only. From the main highway the roads went onto forest and hill areas but nothing difficult to drive. Could see Dimbhe Dam (on Ghod river) on the right side. We had to go down in a valley to reach the temple from parking for a half a km (which was easy but return was different story). Here cell phone and all was allowed freely without any restrictions. Though not allowed to touch, we could go near the lingam easily. Bhima river starts nearby but could not visit the place.

Though lunch preparation was planned here, could not be done due to lack of water facilities. Started again towards Trimbak and reached the destination only at around 2 AM and were put up at Trimbakeshwar Guest house which was a km from the temple. On the way we took lunch where my secret mission got fulfilled ( Misal-Pav) and dinner at some places of which I could remember the names.

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Anand Lodge
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Misty Sun
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Crossing Pune
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Misal Pav
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On the way to Bhimsankar
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On the way
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Dimbhe Dam
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Parking
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Temple
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Temple
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Temple outside

Day 4 ( 04.03.2023) – Trimbak to Shirdi to Ellora:

The plan for the day was to visit the Trimbakeshwar temple and reach Shirdi by afternoon. So, we went to the temple before breakfast and completed and returned back by 9 AM (Here though shooting was not allowed, carrying phones not restricted so photos could be taken outside). Had poori with potato and Pongal/Vadai and all.

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Entrance
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Temple inside
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Lingam mirror reflection
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Temple outside(
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Board

Started towards Shirdi ( 120 Km) after breakfast and reached by around 3 PM. Initially they tried to take a room for refreshing and lunch but decided to take free lunch at Sai Ashram Bhakthiniwas (food was ok) with good toilet facilities. After meals, purchased Rs 200/- ticket in that complex itself and went to the Saibaba temple in Autos by groups to Gate 2. Here our group made a mistake of surrendering the Slippers and phones in a private shop rather in the free counters in front of Gate 2. By the time we finished, others already went inside (tickets were carried by one person) so we approached the Gate without tickets. But we were allowed in 2 places of security after explaining the situation (that in our group of 28 , 4 of us were left behind).

While we approached the main statue, we were sent in groups (to not to overcrowd the main area). In our turn, they allowed only me and other 3 ladies were left behind (for next group). I thought of slowly moving inside so that they also would join me but suddenly they were behind me and also they were allowed by the side path to reach the statue directly near the foot by overtaking me in normal line (which could only see from a distance). I think the security misunderstood something about leaving them behind without me and overcompensated. While I was least bothered about the darshan (near or far does not make a difference to me) but for them it was a feeling of ecstasy moment. Then we went around other places also like museum etc., and came out of gate 3. Visited Dwarkamai and Chavadi which were outside Gate 3 on the right side. Then walked to Gate 2 and collected our slippers and Phones.
Then we made a mistake of taking coffee in one of the hotels and the bill came to Rs 300/- for 4. (Normally we don’t have a habit of drinking coffee/tea and regretted why we did not stick to our habit. We keep coffee /tea powder only for guests in our home). Returned to our bus by Auto (50/-). Started our journey towards Aurangabad by 5 PM and reached our lodge (Sri Darshan Lodge) by 10 PM (using the Samruddhi Highway which was very wide and without much traffic). Again, had the dinner given by the cook and had a good sleep.

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On the way to Shirdi
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Free Lunch at Shirdi
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Ticket counter

Continued in next post......

Last edited by kvsneela : 17th March 2023 at 18:16.
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Old 17th March 2023, 18:15   #2
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Re: An inexpensive pilgrimage in Maharashtra

.... Continued
Day 5( 05.03.2023) - Ellora to Solapur:

Got up early and went to Grishneshwar temple which was walkable distance from our Lodge. Had to deposit phone in our side shop (5\-). Finished the visit in 30 minutes. By the time our entire group was inside the complex and they started singing hymns on Lord Siva (in Tamizh like Thevaaram and Thiruvaasagam etc.,) and initially the security wanted to shoo us away but after seeing the singing left us alone. On the way ladies purchased some items (except us, others have daughters and our son is yet to marry) and returned for breakfast (Idlies). On the way visited Amrut Tirth Pond also. Our temple visits were completed by that time and after breakfast visited Ellora caves.

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On the way to Ellora by Samruddhi Highway
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On the way to Ellora
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Grishneswar Entrance
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Grishneswar temple
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Pond

Ellora Entry fee is Rs 40/-. (Tuesdays closed). Though cart facility is available we went by foot only. Went on the right side (cave no 1 to 15) after visiting the Kailash temple (in the centre no 16). This temple itself takes more time than the others combined. Caves 1 to 15 looked similar (mostly by Buddhist monks) and returned back without visiting the other side (left side 17 to 34). Latter heard that that was more worth seeing with mixture of Jain and Hindu structures.

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Ellora Entrance
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Kailasa temple
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Lingam
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Ellora Pictures

Returned back to the lodge and had lunch. Started back to Solapur and reached by 8 PM by Aurangabad-Yedashi Highway and were put up at Godavari Lodge near station. Had dinner and good night sleep.

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On the way to Solapur

Day 6(06.03.2023)-Solapur to Chennai :

Since my Piles (haemorrhoids) problems started acting due the long ( 350 Km) bus trip in the last leg., I decided to take rest in the room itself while the ladies went for shopping /local temple etc, as there was no official programme. Fortunately, this was the only room in the entire trip which had working tv/cable setup. Originally, they booked separate rooms for night only and asked us to move all the luggage in single room (thinking that everybody would be out shopping or something for whole day until we move to station after dinner). But I might not be convenient and continued in the same room by paying additional rent (after us, many people did the same thing). Had breakfast, lunch and dinner there itself (by the cooks) including Masala Dosais for dinner.
Moved to Solapur station by 9 PM by groups in auto (though the station was walkable but with luggage) and waited for our train (2 AM) patiently. Meanwhile SILís train from Delhi was late by 2.30 hrs and reached Solapur by 12.30 Midnight only which actually turned into blessing as the sisters could spend some more time together.
Reached Chennai Central at 4.30 PM on 7th and our bus was already waiting in the parking lot. Started around 5 PM and reach Pondy by 8.30 PM including stopping for dinner at Geetham on ECR road (V. Good)

Observations:

1. Though the trip was planned with minimum budget, it was not really uncomfortable for us except for me travelling bus increased the body heat. It was mainly due to all of us were middle class and not born with all the comforts and also donít expect them everywhere (like Airconditioning everywhere, in car/bus/train and hotel rooms)unlike the 2K kids. Some of us might have had problems in not finding hot water in rooms (for those who accustomed in taking hot water bath) but nobody complained. Taking cooks with us also helped in getting food like homemade supervised by the organiser.
2. I need to appreciate the organiser (77 years old) for taking much pain in his age to arrange such a trip. In many places, gathering everybody again to start the next leg itself was little difficult as each group takes their own time to finish a visit. Supervising cooks and selecting menu is another headache. Since prebooking was not done (as our arrivals were unpredictable) searching for lodges in our budget requires patience. Only improvement required in communicating the programmes (instead of announcing in the bus itself, messages were passed through word by mouth so somebody always missed.)
3. Since we were new and did not understand the modus operandi that early bird gets worms, regular travellers used to get the better choices (whether it was bus seat or hotel rooms) since one needed to be early in the line to get better options. As our group was always last, we could get only next to last row (and because of that I could not take much photos of road views). In this type of trips (to avoid confusion) the seating arrangement on the first day continued till the end of the journey (in our case it started from Solapur station to Lodge).
4. The main big plus in this whole journey was that none of the temples had big crowds (except Pandharpur which we bypassed by going for normal visit) so we could finish the visit as planned (might be due the exam season or something else). The climate/weather also was perfect for the entire journey (neither cold nor hot) and never felt the absence of Airconditioning.
5. All the temples/places have good toilet and potable water facilities.
6. Recent survey in this forum voted TN has better roads of all states and after travelling last 5/6 days I felt Maharashtra was not far behind TN in road infrastructure (among the roads travelled).
7. In Ellora, after seeing the Kailasa temple, one could not help wondering the irony that while we were visiting other jyotirlingas (which had much fanfare and crowd with chanting of mantras etc.,) here is a lingam standing alone at the centre of this majestic (monolithic carved out of possibly single rock) without any attention or anything and turned into tourist attraction rather religious attraction.

I could not end this post without revealing the amount spent for this tour which was approx. Rs 8000/- per person.

Last edited by kvsneela : 17th March 2023 at 18:29.
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Old 18th March 2023, 13:37   #3
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Re: An inexpensive pilgrimage in Maharashtra

Quote:
Originally Posted by kvsneela View Post
1. Though the trip was planned with minimum budget, it was not really uncomfortable for us except for me travelling bus increased the body heat. It was mainly due to all of us were middle class and not born with all the comforts and also donít expect them everywhere (like Airconditioning everywhere, in car/bus/train and hotel rooms)
This is a different type of travelogue. As you said, I remember in my childhood, we used to travel like this as a family, boarding the train as early as possible. We never thought about taking an air-conditioned coach or hotel rooms, but we never felt any discomfort. In fact, we enjoyed those little journeys. All of those were a different type of experience.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kvsneela View Post

2. I need to appreciate the organiser (77 years old) for taking much pain in his age to arrange such a trip. In many places, gathering everybody again to start the next leg itself was little difficult as each group takes their own time to finish a visit. Supervising cooks and selecting menu is another headache.
The 77-year-old deserves respect for his fortitude. He likely encountered challenges during his youth and is probably a wealth of interesting tales.

Thank you for sharing this nice travelogue.
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Old 19th March 2023, 15:10   #4
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Re: An inexpensive pilgrimage in Maharashtra

One way trip from pondy to Solapur is approximately 950 km which requires fuel of 7500 and toll of 1000. It's wonderful to know mam you pulled off entire trip with the same expense.
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