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Fall colors foliage in NJ

Autumn is here and it is time to enjoy fall foliage colors in the US. The trees around your place must be already best in their colors – yellow, brown and red. I am personally enjoying those hues of fall. The fall colors are dependent on the mositure, amount of the rainfall and transition to colder weather. The green leaves gradually turns into yellow and then brown/red and fall away from the trees. The word ‘fall’ resembles the falling on the leaves from the trees.

I have been googling for the fall foliage places in-and-around NJ for quite a few weeks now. Also visited few places and thus writing this post.

1. Plainsboro Preserve – To my surprise this heaven is closest to my place. It is a wonderful place not just to cherish fall colors but ‘nature’ overall. There is a huge water body and forest with loads of varieties of flora and fauna including birds. There are short and long nature trails. I enjoyed the ‘Maggi trail’ as it takes you on the path which is surrounded by water on both sides at dead end. And I feel short of words to express how it feels to be there.

2. Lake Hopatcong State Park – Thanks to my GPS which headed me to US route 206. The route itself is full of fall colors. Lake Hopatcong state park was in shades of green, brown and yellow. Maple trees were awesome. What I liked about the places is – there is a artifical short sand beach around the lake at park side, with some sliders and swings n stuff for kids. The good place for family outing. Get your food packed and eat on the benches under the fall trees.

3. D & R Canal State Park – The Delaware and Ranitan state park path runs along the flowing canal to the deep woods. Good place for biking and nature trail. You can see lot of deers. Very much into the city and easily accessible from Route 27.

Also people say that there are chances of citing good falls colors this year at places like – High Point State Park, Split Rock Reservior in Rockaway, Monksville Reservior too. So guys…enjoy fall colors this season!🙂

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Lavthaleshwar

I badly needed a ‘bhatanki-break’ to kill my boredom. On saturday night, I started hunting for a place to drive and suddenly ‘Lavthaleshwar’ stuck my mind. Actually ‘Lavthaleshwar’ needs to be clubbed with Jejuri as it is 1-1.5kms just before Jejuri but i had not been there earlier in my Jejuri visits. It is known to be an ancient cave temple of Lord Shiva. I felt keen desire to visit here. I got up early in the morning and took up Solapur highway.

To reach Lavthaleshwar:

  1. Take Solapur highway
  2. Drive up to Hadapsar and take right turn to Saswad.
  3. On the way to Saswad, you have to cross Dive ghat.
  4. From Saswad, take road to Jejuri.
  5. 1.5 kms before Jejuri, look for ‘Lavthaleshwar’ temple entrance on right hand side.
  6. Total distance from Pune is around 48 Kms.

It is good drive of around 50 kms to reach the temple. Amazing fact about this place is – the temple is underground and not easily seen from road side. I parked my vehicle near the entrance name and literally searched for the temple. Later found some deep steps leading to the temple door. I  descended and found this cave temple. Another unique thing about ‘shiva-linga’ was, it was placed perpendicular to the entrance of ‘gabhara’. Mostly shiva lingas are horizontally placed in ‘Gabhara’. Being cave temple, it was cooler inside. I bowed in front of almighty and sat in peace. I generally like to visit temples in off-season where in I can spend my own sweet time there and conversing with God in leisure. This time it was exactly same. Then I came outside the temple and spent some time observing the surroundings. It was peaceful and shady. 

It is said that Swami Ramdas on the way to Jejuri halted at this temple overnight. He composed famous Pooja Arati – “Lav lavathi vikrala brahmandi mala…” here derived from the name ‘Lavthaleshwar’.
 
I started my return journey, took a ‘Misal paav’ break in Saswad. It was good drive of 60 odd kms and the place was worth visiting. 
Lavthaleshwar can be clubbed with Jejuri. For all those who want to be at peace this is THE place to be.🙂

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Jab we met!

We made a plan to visit Sinhagad valley and left home by 6:30 am. We reached valley and saw ‘Changeable Hawk Eagle’.

The main attraction of this time was ofcourse, Paradise Flycatcher and we disbursed to take up the positions in the patch of the valley where these birds are ought to be found. The wait was on…

After some time, I found Paradise female coming in. I was happy to see it. It jumped from one perch to another and played hide and seek with us. I enjoyed watching and clicking it.

The next was, a juvenile Paradise flycatcher male. This was beautiful orange bird with long tail which added to its grace. I tried to click as many frames as I could. It approached water and started enjoying the breakfast. We drooled over its gestures as it drooled on its flies feast.😛

And finally…an exceptionally beautiful Paradise Flycatcher male made its way and gave us a ‘courtesy visit’. It was royal white and appeared truely as a bird from ‘Paradise’. It appeared before us for few minutes and so I couldn’t get chance to click any of its snaps…Thanks to few (hopeless) group of 4, whose movements and standing up in the middle of its appearance, scared away the Paradise bird.

We got to see few more birds like Fantailed Flycatcher, Yellow Wagtail, Malabar Whistling Thrush, Red-throated Flycatcher, Tickells Blue Flycatcher.

We left the valley and took ‘Misal-paav’ break at Hotel Shivanjali which is at base of the fort. My long-lasting wish of seeing Paradise birds had come true as we finally met today.🙂

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Balaji Temple & Narayanpur

Exploring all those unexplored places around Pune and missing most obvious place like Balaji-Narayanpur was not done and so I made a weekend afternoon plan. Best thing about the trip was, I had my mom with me. We left home in the afteroon and took Pune-Satara highway.

To reach Balaji-Narayanpur (From Pune) –

  1. Take Pune-Satara Highway (NH-4).
  2. Travel some 35Kms to reach village ‘Kapurhol’.
  3. Turn left turn from here to reach village Ketkawale’.
  4. Travel more 12Kms to reach Balaji Temple.

Note: There is also another road to Balaji from village Saswad. Road is Pune-Hadapsar-Saswad-Narayanpur-Ketkawale(Balaji).

We reached Balaji and parked our vehicle in parking area. Balaji temple is replica of actual Tirupati Balaji temple in the south. The majestic walls in white marble and typical Gopur structure are amazingly beautiful. We joined the queue and after going through all those security measure we finally reached garbhalay. The standing idol of Balaji is royal and awesome. The upalay (surrounding area around main temple) has small temples of deities like Mahalakshmi, Padmawathi, Krishna, Kuber, etc. We took prasad and enjoyed divine and clean ambience at the temple.

Our next destination was Narayanpur. We took the Ketkawale-Saswad road. Glimpses of Purandar made me think of Sambhaji Maharaj again. In fact, Kapurhol village itself reminded me of ‘Dharau’. Dharau was a village woman from Kapurhol who was brought to fort Purandar for feeding him (baby Sambhaji) after death of his mother Saibai. Dharau stayed with Chatrapati’s family for quite long till her old age. I accelerated down to zero and stopped by to click some snaps.

Evening became pleasant. I was driving towards east and was exceptionally beautiful sunset in the back mirror. I didn’t want to waste time by getting down and got an instant idea to capture it in my car’s mirror itself.

We reached Narayanpur and visited Narayaneshwar temple. This is very ancient Shiva temple and the gabhara has gupta (hidden) Shiva-linga. Above it, there is golden shiva-linga gifted to the temple by Shivaji Maharaj’s mother Jijabai. We also visited adjacent ‘Ek-mukhi (single faced) Datta’ mandir. The standing idol of Lord Datta is worth seeing.

We started our return journey and took a ‘wadaa-paav’ break at famous ‘Joshi Wadewale’ near Khed-Shivapur village. It was quick and content trip.

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Reverse monsoon (November rain) is not a pleasant thing anymore. Moreover as it was accompanied with storms, cyclone Phyan and what not. Rains made the days dull and lazy. Weekdays were spent in the office and then came weekend.

My friend wanted to capture clouds/fog for time lapse in Mulashi-Tamhini and I decided to accompany him. (Don’t ask me about time lapse stuff, i dont know any technicalities of it but i can now understand and identify it visually. )

‘Mulashi+Tamhini+rains’ equation is always delightful and also we both didn’t meet for quite some time. These reasons were good enough to catch up. We started at 5:30 AM. Plan was to reach there before sunrise but we couldn’t speed up much, many thanks to worst road condition.

 Somewhere near Mulashi, we found a wild cat crossing the road. We slowed down to watch it. It stood up to see how are we to focus lights in its eye, it gave us a dirty look and walked away. It was still dark morning. As darkness began to vanish slowly we found the road to be foggy and road-side puddles gave us evidences of rains. Few miles later, we stopped the car and my friend showed me 1st new bird of the trip. It was ‘Pied Crested Cuckoo’ (मराठी: ‘चातक’). It was busy enjoying its morning breakfast. It is said that Pied-crested Cuckoo sights are sign that monsoon are in. This is migratory bird which travels from South Africa to India. He waited for while and proceeded ahead.

We halted in Tamhini ghat for sunrise. Lord Sun slowly rose from back of the mountains, generously spreading its rays on the earth, fading away all the darkness and making the morning pleasant and worth while. We took some snaps and drove till Plus valley. There was no fog and clouds rising from valley so my friend was not able to capture time lapse. There were few rain showers in the mid.

We came across an animal which was killed by the road vehicles. The animal was ‘Small Indian Civet’. It was sad to see this rare-cited animal  getting killed in such inhuman way.😦

We traveled some more and waited at a spot.  We did hear some calls of birds and giant squirrel ‘Shekru‘. And also tremendously beautiful pair of Scarlet Minivets had caught our attention. He parked our car at road side and went to woods. The pair also had their baby with them. I must say Scarlet Minivet male with its red and black color is one of the most colourful birds I have seen in India. The female is none less and is yellow-black with some patches of grey on wings. We silently stood at trees. I was seeing them for first time and all I wanted to do is watch them. Needless to say, thanks to my wildlife expert friend who knows all about birds, wildlife and immediately identifies them.

Another attraction was loads and loads of colourful butterflies. I enjoyed seeing and clicking them too. We started our return journey at 11:30 and took a ‘Quick bite’ break while returning.

Mulashi-Tamhini and its wildlife treat is full of many such surprises and too irresistible to miss.

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Panhalgad

This was my second visit to Panhalgad a.k.a Panhala. We reached Panhala in the afternoon and still the weather was pleasantly cool on the top. First visit was more of ‘khao-pio-maja karo’ types. I made it a point to hire a guide this time, who could explain and give the historical information about the fort.

To reach Panhalgad (from Kolhapur):

  1. Take Kolhapur-Ratnagiri highway (NH204)
  2. Travel some 20-25 Kms to reach the base of the fort.
  3. Take the road to the top.
  4. Car is allowed inside the fort and you can see different places on this fort by driving your own vehicle.

Teen DarwajaAbout Panhalgad (मराठी: पन्हाळा, पन्हाळगड), also known as ‘Panhala’or ‘Panhalla’ or ‘Panalla’ which literally means ‘home of the serpents’. The Shilahara king Bhoja II between 1178 and 1209 CE built Panhala fort. The Yadavas defeated Raja Bhoja and captured this fort and then through changing hands it came to Adilshah of Bijapur. In 1659, Shivaji Maharaj defeated Bijapur general Afzal Khan and conquered Panhalgad. In May 1660, Adil Shah II sent his uncle Siddi Johar to lay siege to Panhala. Siddi Johar came with huge army and the siege continued for 4 months. At the end of which all provisions in the fort were exhausted and Shivaji Maharj was on the verge of being captured. Also there was no enough force to fight against Johar and his army.

The only option left with Shivaji Maharaj was an escape from the fort. With few trusted soldiers and his commander Baji Prabhu Deshpande, they escaped in the dead of the night to fort Vishalgad on 13 July 1660. Another troop with Shivaji’s barber, Shiva Kashid, who resembled like Shivaji in his looks, kept the enemy engaged, giving them an impression that Shiva Kashid was actually Shivaji. Shiva Kashid was caught and killed immediately after the truth was known. Furious Siddi Johar sent his army to chase Shivaji.

Baji Prabhu Deshpande's statueAt the pass through the mountains, called ‘Ghod Khind’ (‘khind’ means ‘narrow pass in mountainous terrain’, ‘Ghod Khind’ means Horse Pass – literally through which only a single horse could pass) Baji Prabhu let Shivaji Maharaj proceed towards fort Vishalgad and fought a battle with 300 odd men against Siddi Johar’s army in thousands. He fought bravely till he heard the cannon firing from fort Vishalgad, which was signalling that Shivaji has reached safely. Baji Prabhu fought relentlessly, at times with swords in both hands. He breathed his last along with many great men of Shivaji like Sambhaji Jadhav, Bandals, etc.

Ghod Khind was covered with blood of 300 Marathas who willingly gave up their lives and fought to the last man for the cause of freedom. The pass was then renamed as ‘Pavan Khind’ which means ‘Sacred Pass’ and known for sacrifice and bravery of Baji Prabhu Deshpande and his men in Maratha history.

The fort went to Adil Shah. Finally and permanently Shivaji occupied the fort in 1673. Panhala fort housed 15,000 horses and 20,000 soldiers in Shivaji’s rule.

Sajja KothiMuch later, Sambhaji, Shivaji’s son was kept under house arrest in Panhala fort. He escaped from here along with his wife on 13 December 1678 and attacked Bhupalgad. He returned to Panhala, however, on 4 December 1679 to reconcile with his father, just before his father’s death on 4 April, 1680. The fort remained with Chatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj, Chatrapati Rajaram, Tarabai and Chatrapati Shahu until it went to British and now belongs to Government of India.

AmbarkhanaAwesome statue of Baji Prabhu Deshpande is erected at the entrance of the fort. Our guide took us to different places of interest like – Tabak udyan, Andhar Baav (hidden well to protect drinking water from getting poisonated), Someshwar temple, Teen Darwaza, Raj Dindi bastion, Sajja Kothi (where Sambhaji was kept under house arrest), ancient Hanuman temple, Rani Tarabai’s palace, Ambabai temple, Kalavantin Sajja, Ambarkhana (Graineries and commodities storage), Dharmakothi (from where donations were done to poor and needful), Teen Darwaja, Wagh Darwaja, Someshwar temple, etc. The fort is one of the largest forts  in Deccan with perimeter of 14 km, 100+ lookout posts, 2772 feet above sea level and 400m above the surroundings with more than 7 km of fortifications (Tatabandi). Views of Jyotiba, Konkan, Masai Pathar from the top of the fort are amazing.

The replica fort called ‘Pawangad’ lies adjacent to Panhalgad. It has ‘Tupachi Vihir’ (ghee well) i.e. a well built for specially for storing ghee. In olden times, a well was used to store and decompose ghee, which was later used as an antiseptic for injured soliders. Application of this ghee on wounds created intense burning sensation but avoided turning septic and healed faster. Apart from Pawangad only forts Ajinkyatara and Purandar have the remains of such wells and Ranjan (a large earthen water-jar).

Panhalgad and Pawangad forts together stand today depicting magnificent history of India. While descending, I again halted at statues of Baji Prabhu and Shiva Kashid for few moments. Panhalgad once again gave me a chance to experience and remember the history of great Shivaji Maharaj and his men who made Maharashtra.

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Ha-P D’wali!!!!

 

Happy Diwali

 

Here  is wishing for all my friends and readers a very Happy Diwali and Prosperous New Year!!! 

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