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Kopeshwar (Khidrapur)

Some places appeal so much to your heart that you get an intense desire to visit them, Khidrapur is one of such places. I came to know about this place some half an year ago and was keen to visit. Each hectic visit to Kolhapur somehow didn’t allow me to do so and this fact made the desire stronger and deep. Finally my latest trip to Kolhapur was fruitful. My sis took out time from her busy schedule and made it so.

We headed for Khidrapur in the morning. We took up road to ‘Narsobachi wadi’. It was pleasant drive through lush green fields of sugar-cane. It rained very heavily which added to the atmosphere. I found some birds like Shrikes, Brahminy Kites and Black-shouldered Kite on the way.

To reach Khidrapur (from Kolhapur):

  1. Take Kolhapur-Miraj Highway.
  2. Cross small villages like Dharma-nagar, Chipri, Shahu Nagar, and Shirol to reach Narsobachi wadi.
  3. From Narsobachi wadi, take road of Kurundwad and then via Sainik Takli reach Khidrapur village.
  4. Ask for ‘Kopeshwar Temple’.
  5. Approx distance is 60-65 Kms.

We reached Khidrapur. It is very small village with farming as primary occupation.

Kopeshwar TempleAs I parked my car, I got few early glimpses from road. This magnificent temple belongs to Lord Shiva, and named as ‘Kopeshwar’. I crossed the old stone entrance which brought us to temple vicinity. Kopeshwar reminded me of wonderful architectural carvings temples of Halebidu and Bellur. It is believed that Kopeshwar temple was built by three generations of kings, the Shilahar kings Gandaraditya, Vijayaditya and Bhoj-2 between 1109 and 1178 AD. There are Devanagri writings in the temple to support this. It’s also one of the few temples where both the Shaivas and Vaishnavas, who are arch rivals, come together in worship.

The mythological story behind the name ‘Kopeshwar’ is – Devi Sati (daughter of King Daksha) was married to lord Shiva. Daksha didn’t like in son-in-law at all. He was about to perform some yagna (hindu ritual performed along with holy fire) and he didn’t invite Sati & Shiva. Devi Sati felt sad and went to meet her father asking the reason behind not inviting her husband. In turn, King Daksha insulted Shiva and it was unbearable for Sati to tolerate her husband’s insult. She jumped in the yajna. Hearing this news, Shiva was furious and he punished Daksha by cutting his head. Later on, due to request of other deities, Shiva took back the curse and granted him life with goat’s head. It is believed that angry Shiva was brought to this place (temple) to cool his anger. Hence the temple got its name i.e. ‘Kop’ means anger and ‘Eshwar’ means lord Shiva.

Swarg MandapTemple stand firm with all its glory of stone carvings of 95 elephants and 108 pillars and hundreds of sculptures depicting scenes about from the Mahabharata, Ramayana, Shiva, the twelve astrological signs and flowers, trees, birds, human figures. As you step into the beautiful Swarga Mandap, you can actually feel the coolness. There are 12 superbly carved pillars which support the stone ceiling that is open to the skies. There is a beautiful round black stone slab at the centre which is called the ‘rangshila’. It is an amazing experience to sit on the centre of the stone round open ‘akaash gavaksh’ on the ceiling and look towards the dark inner sanctum of the grabha griha with its beautiful Shiva linga. It is said that all ‘adhyaaya‘ (parts) of ‘Shivlilamrut‘ are carved on the walls of the temple.

Next comes Sabhamandap, Antaral-kaksha and Garbhagriha. The Garbhagriha is more cold and dark. The shiva linga, burning lamps make the atmosphere peaceful and divine.

I was surprised to know that there was no nandi in the temple in spite of the fact that it is Shiva mandir. This is probably one of the unique things about this place. Another unsual thing here is sanctum has lord Vishnu first and then the Shiva linga to protect it. Each visitor first sees lord Vishnu and then Shiva.

It is sad that most of the sculptures are badly damaged by Islamic invaders in the later centuries. There is a story that one of Aurangzeb’s descendants strayed when wandering around on her own and came across this temple. She loved the place so much that she refused to leave the temple complex and go with her attendants. The Mughal Emperor came personally to fetch her. She agreed to leave on the only condition that he will not harm the temple and damage its beauty and so the temple remained untouched from the otherwise merciless Aurangzeb.
 
Khyder Khan, a later invader supposedly mutilated the carvings on the temple and cut almost all the elephants’ trunks. There are no exact historical evidences of ‘who destroyed what’ but it is very painful to see such beauty ruined. Unfortunately, the village of Wadi-Kopeshwar later came to be known as Khidrapur after this cruel invader.

Kopeshwar temple gave me much more than I expected. It gave me peace, joy and an opportunity to appreciate my homeland. Once again I felt proud to be an Indian and lucky that I can see all this. I clicked some snaps. It is really sad that such wonders are still unknown to the tourists. Saddest part is there are no milestones or sign boards about Khidrapur. We had to wait and inquire at several places. Also there is no much information available on internet.

This ancient architectural splendor should be made popular so that more and more people of similar interests can come and visit here. Such place needs to be maintained and conserved.

I decided to take another way while returning just for sake of finding new route and took road to ‘Ichalkaranji’. A fox gave us generous visit on the way and disappeared in sugarcane fields. It rained very heavily and many huge trees were uprooted on the way. I took a bypass through small village. It was messed up too. I could see a huge line of cars in jam for about 2 Kms at least. Paul, our lab doesn’t like it, if the car stops and in few minutes his barking attracted all the kids of the village. Kids gathered around our car and tried to get his glimpses through sun control filmed windows. Whole situation seemed funny and equally irritating as Paul was getting impatient. Finally, when I was about to start my car, I opened the car windows and all kids were very happily to see our handsome black Labrador.

After testing all my patience by worst traffic jam, lengthy waiting hours at railway crossing and narrow roads, I reached Kolhapur at 8:00pm.

Kopeshwar, (yes I prefer to call it just ‘Kopeshwar’ instead of ‘Khidrapur – Kopeshwar’) is strictly no miss-miss place if you are planning a visit to Sangli, Miraj, Kolhapur and alike.

Few more snaps here – http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruhiclicks/tags/khidrapur/

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Vadhu-Tulapur

My wanderer mind doesn’t allow me to sit at home on weekends. Saturday was spent in some household things and evening made me ‘outing-sick’. Yes, ‘no-outing’ syndrome can be as serious as any other syndrome… no kidding friends!!! 🙂

Question was ‘where?’- An immediate answer was “VadhuTulapur”. I am always obsessed by bravery of our great second Chatrapati i.e. Sambhaji Maharaj and so these places mean so much as far as history is concerned.

I made a plan to visit Vadhu, Tulapur and Phulgaon. I got up early and started at sharp 7:00. Rising sun added to the beauty of the morning. I took up Nagar highway.

Wagholi was my first hault. We can see a Shri Wagheshwar (or Wyaghreshwar) temple (श्री व्याघ्रेश्वर) surrounded by small lake on left side of highway. Just near the temple, there is black stone moument which is ‘samadhi’ of maratha sardar called ‘Pilajirao Jadhav’. He fought and won against Nizam and worked closely with Bajirao Peshwa-I. Jadhav belonged to Wagholi and his heirs built this samadhi. ‘Jadhavgad’, now turned into ‘Kamath Resort’ near Saswad belonged to these Jadhavs. Then I headed towards Tulapur.

To reach Tulapur:

1. Take Ahmednagar Highway (SH-60) and travel till ‘Lonikand’ village.
2. Travel some more, you will see board written with Sambhaji Maharaj’s pic and take left turn to go to Tulapur village.
3. Tulapur is exactly 6 kms from here. Once you take turn, you can see MSEB power station towers. Travel on tar road to reach Tulapur. You can ask villagers for ‘Sangameshwar’ temple or simply ‘Sangam’.
4. Tulapur Sangam is on right side. There is ample parking space (yes, even for 4-wheelers).

Tulapur SangamTulapur (तुळापूर) was earlier called as ‘Naagargaon’ (नागरगाव). Adilshahi Vajir ‘Murar Jagdev’ was advised by his guru to rebuild the destructed temple of ‘Sangameshwar’ which he did. Later on, Murar Jagdev wished to donate gold as much as weight of elephant. Shahaji Maharaj gave him solution of weighing the elephant in the boat and marking the depth of boat. The boat was then refilled with stone and they were weighed and same amount of gold was donated. With this sheer intelligence of Shahaji Maharaj, Murar Jagdev could literally weigh the gold as much as an elephant. ‘Naagargaon’ was then renamed as ‘Tulapur’ i.e. ‘Weighing town’.

Tulapur itself must have been unaware then, of what it has to see in 3rd generation of Shahaji Maharaj. Young Chatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj (age 32) was caught in Sangameshwar, Konkan (Ratnagiri). One of his brother-in-laws, Ganoji Shirke deceived the Marathas and helped Aurangzeb’s commander, Mukarrab Khan to attack Sangameshwar when Sambhaji was in the garden, resolving some issues and was about to leave the town. With strong army of 20,000 people, Julfikarkhan moved towards Karad and then Baramati and finally to Bahadurgad near Bhima river.

Ganoji’s hunger for Maratha land in the form of watan led to his enmity with Sambhaji. Sambhaji like his father- Shivaji Maharaj had abolished the custom of giving away watans, as this led to the people’s suffering, from the hands of the watandar and there were chances of the watandars assuming kingship or taking possession of their watans.

Dharmaveer Chatrapati Sambhaji MaharajSambhaji was tortured and executed in most cruelest way to death. He was asked to surrender his kingdom to Aurangzeb and convert to Islam religion. Sambhaji refused to convert and instead sang praises of Mahadev (Lord Shiva). Aurangzeb ordered his men to torture Sambhaji and his friend Kavi Kalash to death. Each cruel punishment was given to kavi Kalash prior to Sambhaji as if it was a rehearsal.

They both were dressed as clowns, with their body tied in heavy iron chains and huge wooden logs on their neck and shoulders. They were tied on camel and given a ride in village. All men and women from Aurangzeb’s troop came to see this captured Maratha warrior. People threw stones and dung at them. Their eyes were burned off with hot iron bars and tongue was plucked. They were beaten up till their wounds bleed and then were given baths of salt-water. Their skin was peeled off with ‘Wagh nakhe‘. Their legs and hands were cut off and lastly the head. Sambhaji’s body was cut into pieces and was thrown away for crows, vultures and dogs to eat. On 11 March 1689, Sambhaji was finally killed at Sangameshwar at Tulapur, near Pune. He sacrificed his life at age of 32 for ‘Dharma‘ i.e. Religion which is why he is called ‘Dharmaveer Sambhaji’.

It was the worst death anyone could get. It is truly said there was/is no king as great as Sambhaji Maharaj. No matter whether few historian portait him as spoiled brat or non-managed king or characterless or whatever, there is no actual historical proofs or evidences for their statements.

I read “Chhavaa” when i was very young and it moved me. ‘Sambhaji’, son of great Shivaji Maharaj, lost his mother at age of  2, brought up my his grand mother and the lady who made Shivaji i.e. Jijabai, at age of 10 he had mastery in 8 different languages including Sanskrit and Urdu, a soft-hearted prince, a sankrit poet, a passionate writer, a great warrior, most eligible Yuvraj, a heir who suffered from politics at home due to his step-mother Soyrabai, estranged son of Shivaji due to mis-communication and misunderstandings, our second chatrapati, one who fought with Aurangzeb and defended maratha kingdom for 12 years  after Shivaji’s death without losing a single battle and the list can be endless. His multi-facet persona fascinates me like anything. I become very emotional and my eyes turn watery everytime I think of Sambhaji. Soyrabai’s own brother Hambirrao Mohite stood by Sambhaji Maharaj as he knew his sister was wrong and Sambhaji was well-deserved would-be king on Maratha throne.

Shri Ballaleshwar TempleI parked my vehicle outside the small garden at Sangameshwar Temple (संगमेश्वर). There is Sambhaji’s Statue and smarak just outside the Sangameshwar temple. I visited temple and smarak; bowed in front of Lord Shiva(temple) and at Sambhaji’s statue (who I think was indeed a personified form of lord Shiva).

I went to Sangam ghat where 3 rivers Bhima, Bhama and Indrayani unite. There are beautiful Shri Ballaleshwar (श्री बल्लाळेश्वर) and old Ganapati temples just near the ghat. I clicked some snaps. After spending enough time, I continued my journey to Vadhu.

Phulgaon (फुलगाव):

Phulgaon GhatI had planned a new place in the midway i.e. Phulgaon. Phulgaon is on the road back from Tulapur to Nagar Highway. There is ‘Shrutisagar Ashram’ in Phulgaon which I visited last time. This time, I wished to see something different i.e. ‘Phulgaon ghat’. River Bhima takes a semi-circular curve at Phulgaon and a stone built wall at ghat is worth a dekko. Water was serene and it was peaceful. I climbed up the wall and sat for some time watching Pied Kingfishers, White-throated Kingfisher and Swallows. There was Peshwas palace here but now there are only ruins left.

I started for Vadhu from Phulgaon. There is road from Tulapur from Vadhu which is in not good condition. Better is to come back to highway and go to Vadhu via Bhima-Koregaon village.

To reach Vadhu:

1. Take Nagar Highway.
2. Travel to village ‘Lonikand’.
3. Cross the Toll plaza and immediate village is ‘Bhima-Koregaon’. Toll is Rs.31/- for single journey and Rs.57/- for return.
4. Take left turn which goes to Vadhu.

Sambhaji Maharaj's SamadhiVadhu (वढू) is the place where actual last rites (funeral) of Sambhaji Maharaj was carried out.  Few brave maratha sardars from ‘Patil’ family collected the body pieces of Sambhaji and sewed them together and performed final rites at this place. They were given name ‘Shivale Patil’ for an act of this bravery. ‘Shivale’ literally means ‘Sewing’ in Marathi (मराठी: शिवले) .

After few years, Sambhaji’s son Chatrapati Shahu along with his mother Yesubai came to Vadhu and gave donation to conserve this place. The statue reflecting Sambhaji’s personality is simply superb. There are Sambhaji’s and Kavi Kalash’s samadhis. I paid my tribute and started my returned journey.

War monument at Bhima-KoregaonOn the way back, a war monument at Bhima-Koregaon toll plaza caught my attention. I parked my vehicle and went inside. This ‘Ran-sthambh’ or war monument is erected in 1822, in the memory of soldiers who lost their lives in last British-Maratha war. Most of the soldiers where Hindu who fought from the side of British army. The soldiers’ names are carved in marble at bottom of this stone. Every 1st January ‘Mahar Regiment’ pays tribute to this war monument.

I started my return journey and reached home in the afternoon. I had been to Vadhu-Tulapur some 4 odd years ago and still can go there for n-times. Chatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj definitely deserves our respect in a form of such tribute visits!!!

For more snaps, visit – http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruhiclicks/sets/72157622293200575/

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Raigad

18Shivaji Maharaj always fascinated me since my childhood. In fact, I liked the history because of him. I was in 3rd grade and my history teacher went an extra mile and told the class abt Sambhaji maharaj’s bravery and his heroic death and since that very moment I am completely in love with this Yuvraj…of course! Shivaji has his own share of my respect but Sambhaji still remains very close to the heart. Bottom line is – I still can’t get over my fascination for these great Marathas. 🙂

Raja Shivchatrapati‘ series which comes on ‘Star Pravah‘ channel added to the desire and I just wanted to visit fort Raigad. We were discussing about a place for team outing and suddenly we all were like “Raigad! Raigad!”. Finally everything was organised (yes, I and my another colleague were organizers!) and we started for Raigad on saturday early morning. Most of my colleagues had never been to Mulashi-Tamhini before and so all the excitement started from Pune itself.

To reach Raigad:

  1. Start from Chandani Chowk(Pune) and take Paud road.
  2. Cross Pirnagut, Mulashi, Tamhini ghat, Nizampur to reach‘Mangaon’.
  3. Take NH-17 and head towards ‘Mahaad’.
  4. On left hand, you will see road which goes to Raigad fort. There are huge letters ‘Raigad Ropeway’ on the hill by road side.
  5. Travel 25 kms more to reach village ‘Pachaad’ which is at the base of the fort.
  6. Total distance is approx 150 Kms.

Mulashi and Tamhini always gave me the intense feeling of nature’s treasure. Lush green, heavy rains, mist over mountains, eye-catchy view Mulashi backwaters, rain-washed road, lots of waterfalls and birds. I have so many good memories of the place. This time we took 1-2 halts in the midway but rains played the spoiled sport as far as photography was concerned. I didn’t wish to make my camera wet.

Raigad RopewayOur journery was great fun with lots of latest songs, chit-chat and stuff. We reached village ‘Pachaad’ at base of  Raigad at 12. There is palace of Shivaji’s mother Jijabai here. We proceeded to ropeway base centre. We took the tickets and boarded in the cable car. It was a thrilling experience. Raigad ropeway is supposed to be steepest ropeway in Asia. As the cable car proceeded we were literally in the clouds. We were bit scared for a moment but soon the happiness took over and we started enjoying the view. Within few minutes, we were atop of the fort. Ropeway brings you to the backside of the fort. We booked the guide and then had lunch in MTDC hotel which was not so satisfying.

We entered Raigad fort through the ‘Mena Darwaja’. “Mena” means palkhi or palki (i.e. sedan chairs or palanquin). It was entrance to the queens and royal ladies’ palanquins. This leads to the Queens chambers, each Queen had separate chamber. The main palace was made up of wood and in front there were 3 hexagonal minars which were watch towers.

Minars RuinsRuins of these minars stand in front of the palace grounds overlooking an artificial lake called Ganga Sagar Lake. On other side of queens’ chambers is the residences of ‘Astha-pradhan’ means eight ministers of Shivaji. The midway leads to Shivaji Maharaj’s own palace and huge Maratha raj-darbar i.e. King’s court facing the Nagarkhana Darwaja. The newly installed Maharaj’s statue on the throne ‘Meghdambari’ is worth seeing. The unique thing about design of this court was anything spoken from any corner of the court is clearly heard at throne.

Outside the court, there is open ground called ‘Holi cha maal’ which was place for Holi festival. Adjacent to this, there are ruins of huge market place. It was designed such that one can shop even while riding or sitting astride a horse.

Another and famous statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji maharaj is erected in front of the ruins of the main market avenue that eventually leads to the Jagdishwar Mandir. Jagdishwar temple is serene and has Shivaji Maharaj’s Samadhi and also tomb of his dog called ‘Waghya’.

The main entrance to the fort is the imposing Maha Darwaja. The convoy of the king and the king himself used the Palkhi Darwaja. To the right of Palkhi Darwaja, is a row of three dark and deep chambers. Historians believe that these were the granaries for the fort.

We then headed for the execution point called Takmak Tok(point). It is a cliff from which the culprits and sentenced prisoners were thrown to their death. The area is now fenced off. This place is extremely airy and gives scary view from top. In addition to this, there are many lakes like ‘Kushavart’, ‘Kolimb’, ‘Gangasagar’, ‘Hatti Taake’, etc which were built on the fort for water supply and Bhavani temple, Khalbat-khana, Hirkani Buruj, Shirkai devi temple, residences for foreigner guests in Shivaji’s era.

Shivaji Maharaj spent most of his life on this fort i.e. about 25 years. This fort being powerful was converted into capital of Maratha kingdom. Fort evidence most of the major incidents in Maratha dynasty like coronation of Shivaji and his death. Forts like Torna, Rajgad, Kavlya and Lingana can be seen towards the East of Raigad. Towards the South are Vasota, Pratapgad and Makarandgad.

After Shivaji’s death, Raigad did see the worst of the history. Raigad, earlier known as Rairi, is obscure. In the 12th century Rairi was a seat of the Shirke-Palegar family. After changing several hands, it was captured by Shivaji from Chandrarao More in 1656 AD. Shivaji chose Rairi for his capital and renamed it as Raigad. The gigantic construction work was entrusted to Abaji Sondeve and Hiroji Indulkar. In its glory days Raigad had more than 300 houses, and structures. After Shivaji, the fort remained in the hands of Sambhaji till 1689 AD. After Sambhaji Maharaj, Zulfikarkhan a warrior of Aurangzeb won this fort by bribing the chief of the guards. He captured wife and son of Sambhaji maharaj. After Aurangzeb the fort was handed to Siddis of Janjira. They kept it with them till 26 years after the death of Aurangzeb. Bajirao Peshwe won it for Chatrapati Shahu Maharaj i.e. Marathas in 1735 AD. From Peshwas, Raigad was surrendered to the British in 1818 AD and they gave it in the captivity of forest department.

I was so excited by the fact that I was on same land where my favourite icons Shivaji and Sambhaji lived. My mind went back to Shivaji’s period and imagined him in every place I visited – his throne, his raj-darbar, queens’ chambers, Jagdishwar temple. I bowed at his throne and Samadhi. Each stone from the ruins was defending the history and for me it was no less than idol of any god.  Pity! Our government is not much alert about good maintenance of such gifted treasure. 😦

It was raining like cats and dogs. I clicked as much as snaps I can while protecting my camera from rains at same time.

We decided to descend the fort in the afternoon and thought to take the stairs seemed impossible due to heavy rains and fog. We booked the tickets for ropeway and boarded in the cable car. We did miss the main darwajas (fort entrances) because of this but there is always a ‘next time’. 😀

I paid tribute to this great maratha and this great fort in my mind and bade a good-bye. Raigad was indeed an unforgettable experience!

For map of Raigad, click – http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruhiclicks/3899680852/in/set-72157622299929624/

For more snaps, visit – http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruhiclicks/sets/72157622299929624/detail/

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Sunbirds & I…

Purple Sunbird in eclipse plumageMy fondness with sunbirds dates back to more than a decade or so. My home garden at Ratnagiri, houses many birds. Sunbirds are major among them. I still remember when I first noticed the Purple-rumped sunbird pair building their nest on our pomegranate tree branch. The couple was hard-working and busy building their sweet home. The interior decoration was done with cotton, small feathers to make it cozier. The nest was ready and female laid a single egg in it. She was home-bound to incubate it. After a week or so, I could hear chirping of the baby. Both the parents took intense care of their baby. They feed it timely. The baby grew faster and started peeking out through the nest. One day it came out of nest and parents promptly taught it all the lessons of life. Extracting nectar was most important lesson. They accompanied it on almost all types of flower which had nectar. Baby sunbird was not able to fly and was jumping from one small branch to another. I have spent endless time watching them. I was young and didn’t have camera to click snaps. Soon the baby became independent and flew away to live its own life. The empty nest hanging on my tree branch remained there for quite some time. I was lucky to see birds so closely since childhood.

When I got my camera, I started clicking sunbirds every time I went home. I don’t know which generation of Purple-rumped sunbirds comes to my garden now but I feel they too know me. They make me chase them harder for n-times in a day to get my desired shot but I do get some nice clicks at the end of the day.

Red Crimson SunbirdSince last few years, I found another beautiful species of Sunbird coming home. It is Red Crimson Sunbird. It comes mostly in monsoon. It is not easily seen in Pune and most of my bird watcher/photographer friends keep on wondering how am I able to see it every time.

In my outing to Nighoj-Daryabai-Takali Dhokeshwar, I got to see Purple Sunbird. Its dark purple color was just amazing.

Recently I shifted to new place in Pashan. Again, a familiar chirping caught my attention. I rushed to my balcony and was glad to see Purple Sunbird on the branch near by.  This time it looked different. My friend helped me with the fact that it looks different due to an eclipse plumage. Yesterday I clicked few more shots for my new friend.

Now I see, find and identify Sunbird everywhere I go and my obsession with these cute little beauties continues forever…

Some zoological info about Sunbirds here –

“Sunbird is classified in the phylum Chordata , subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Passeriformes, family Nectariniidae. There are 132 species in 15 genera. They have long and slender, highly curved bills, tube-shaped tongues, and feed primarily on nectar and small insects. However, they perch when feeding rather than hovering as the hummingbirds do. They are typically small birds, with length of less than 10 to 20 cm and are native to forest and brush throughout Africa, Asia, and the South Pacific. The males of most species are brightly colored, with metallic, sometimes velvety, plumage. Out of breeding season, the males tend to take on the duller female plumage. Sunbirds may change their feeding grounds during the non-breeding season but are not particularly migratory. They are not very gregarious, and males tend to be aggressive, especially during breeding season. Sunbirds build a characteristic purse-like, hanging nest, into which the female deposits her one/two, rarely three, white or pale blue, variously spotted or striped eggs.”

Note – For more Sunbirds snaps click here – http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=sunbird&w=10523689%40N03

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Peacock FeatherI visited “Morachi Chincholi” for second time last weekend. From learning from last visit, this time we started very early morning at 5:00 AM. I had my friend and her family along with me. They were very keen to see this place and we made a plan.

After reading my earlier post on “Morachi Chincholi“, a young chap called “Tanmay” from same village was very much excited that I wrote about his village and then we got in touch through mails. He insisted that I should visit his home when I go there again. He has also launched website to promote this specialty about his native. I became his critic to make his efforts better. This time I had company of Tanmay’s cousin “Dattatraya” in exploring more peacocks.

So….we reached there at 6:30.  On entering the village, we heard the “Mee-ow” of peafowls and then we HAD to stop. We had first flocks of peafowls to welcome us. 🙂

Datta joined us and we began to go to different places around the fields to see more peafowls. I really wonder how God has gifted this bird with so many magical colors. Its elegancy is divine. We witnessed graceful dances of peacock from behind of the shrubs and bushes without disturbing them. I am spell-bound to explain how amazing it was! 😀

Datta invited us for breakfast and tea and I just couldn’t deny his offer. We went to his place. His house was simple and neat with livestock of cow, buffalo and bullocks. His mother made “Pohe” and “Kanda bhaji” for us followed by refreshing tea. We were overwhelmed by their warm welcome and hospitality.

While returning Datta gifted us with peacock feathers as memento. I said to myself that this is not the last time and many more visits are on my mind. I strongly believe that there are some knots tied somewhere among the individuals which make us to meet different people in our life. I am happy that my path has crossed many such in my life.

We reached Pune by afternoon. My weekend was celebrated!!! 😛

Note: Few more snaps here – http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruhiclicks/tags/morachichincholi/

Disclaimer: Friends, I recently got a comment that someone visited Morachi Chincholi and was unhappy that ‘Datta’ didn’t help/entertain them. Let me make it very clear that ‘Datta’ or people alike, whom I met are simple villagers who don’t have any travel company to entertain visitors like us. Nor do they do it for money. It is just for sake of relation and love that they have with me. I am thankful to them for that. I highly disclaim here that do not visit Morachi Chincholi or any of the places with expectations that ‘Datta’ or any villager(s) whom I wrote about, will help/entertain you. I myself have visited many remote places around Pune without knowing anyone there. Intention of my blog is not to provide you assistance for site seeing and food. My sheer objective is to provide detailed information about routes, place and share my own experiences.

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Interview on Boingbird

Many thanks to Michael for publishing my interview on BoingBird website!!!

You can read it here – http://boingbirdtv.wordpress.com/2009/07/10/boingbird-talks-to-photographer-ruhi-malgaonkar-northern-mocking-bird-photo/

And also for picking up my ‘Barn Swallow’ snap as “Bird pic of the day!” 😀

I have also posted the same interview below –

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Boingbird talks to photographer Ruhi Malgaonkar

In an interview with Boingbird CEO Michael Clark, Ruhi Malgaonkar talks about her photography, her master’s degree, her passion for birdwatching and where she wants to go in the future:

Ruhi, what is like to live in Pune, Maharashtra India? I originally belong to a city called “Ratnagiri” which is on western coast of Maharashtra state in India. I am born and brought up there. And then “Pune” happened to me. Pune is called “The Oxford of the East”, due to the various educational institutions. I came to Pune for my higher studies in 1999 and since then I am completely in love with this city. Pune has amazing climatic conditions and gifted by beautiful nature from all sides.

Who is Ruhi Malgaonkar? What is your life’s passion? Ruhi is a simple, optimistic gal. I like to enjoy each moment of life, crack jokes and like make others happy. I make friends wherever I go. I value relations more than anything else. I like smiling faces.

I started working at early age of 20 when rests of friends were busy enjoying their college life. Mine was more of “earn & learn” types. Along with work, I completed my Graduation and post-grads with flying colors.

In simple words,

By Camera, an amateur.
By Heart, a nature lover.
By Passion, a bird watcher.
By Career, a software professional.

What type of work do you do as a software professional? Are you still a student? I am working in a software organization as a ‘Module Leader’. Yes I am still a student. I am on verge of completing my masters in Computers.

Why did you become a birder and bird photographer? My home at Ratnagiri (native place) has a beautiful garden. Thanks to my Mom for her gardening hobby. It attracted lots and lots of birds. Some to name among them are Rose-ringed Parakeets, Cattle egret, Asial Koel, Purple-rumped sunbird, White-throated Kingfisher, Red-Crimson Sunbird, Oriental Magpie Robin, Tailor Bird, Orange Headed Ground Thrush, Red-vented Bulbul, Red whiskered Bulbul, Indian Mynah, Pond heron, etc.

Bulbuls, sunbirds, robins had usual nests. I was always fascinated with them and spent hours watching them nesting and feeding their young ones. I grew with up them and knowingly or unknowingly birding started since I was a kid.

There is huge ‘Sacred fig‘tree near and a flowing water canal behind my apartment in Pune. And birding continued. New birds were Indian Grey Horn bill, Parakeets, Eurasian Golden Oriole, Babblers, Pied Kingfishers, Cormorants, Darters, Oriental White-eye, Coppersmith Barbet, Kite, with bulbul, koel, crow and pigeon as common ones.

I became a Bird photographer much after birding. I capture birds because I like them. Still bird watching remains first love and then comes clicking. Given an option among these two, I would go for bird watching rather than photography.

When did you start your birding hobby? How long have you been a photographer? I don’t’ remember when Birding hobby bug hit me but roughly it started when I was 2-3 yrs old. I still remember my first pet was a Rose ringed parakeet when I was 2. It was gifted to me by my grandma. I enjoyed playing with it and feeding it. After a year or so, I just opened the door of the cage and set it free.

Photography started much later when I bought my camera in 2006.

I do have few friends who have similar interest i.e. photography. I belong to some few great groups on flickr.com. I have participated and organized in few photography exhibitions here in Pune. Our exhibitions financially supported some social causes like a deaf-and-dumb children school and an orphanage. It was altogether different feeling to interact with those children in our exhibitions.

What brought you from India to Dallas, Texas and what is the travel time from your home to Dallas? My work brought me to Dallas, TX. Travel time is approx 22 hours.

What do you think is unique in your approach to birding and bird photograpy? The unique thing about my approach is I don’t wish to disturb any bird while I do birding or I do bird photography. I won’t disturb it or its natural habitat for sake of my hobby.

I prefer wearing camouflage kind of clothes rather than wearing bright color when I do birding so that birds don’t get annoyed. I do take calculated risks on own in pursuing my hobby like climbing huge stone to get a desired shot, etc.

What methods and equipment do you use? I use a simple Canon digital camera – Canon S2 IS. I wish to upgrade to DSLR soon.

Talk about your experiences in Dallas and in America. I really enjoyed my stay in Dallas. It was good work (profession wise) and great fun at personal level. I stayed in Irving. The main reason behind enjoying is again “birds”. There were lovely birds around my hotel place. I got to see new American birds like Northern Mocking birds, Blue Jay, Northern Cardinal, Cedar Waxwings, Grackles, Swallows, etc.

When I found any new bird, I searched for bird’s name on the net and soon found that there is extensive birding done in TX. I was lucky that I visited here rather than any other state in the US. I quite liked Dallas but not sure about other states in the US.

I visited Nashville, TN and Catherine State Park in Arkansas. I also went to Fossil Rim Wildlife centre, Glen Rose, TX and enjoyed being with wilderness.

Where do you plan to travel to in the future for your birding and photography? I like driving, traveling, birding and photography and together they make great combo. I have already listed down quite a few places around Pune for monsoon trips.

In near future, I wish to travel and explore my own country across its boundaries. In India, we have all the essences together, from ice to deserts, from beaches to lakes, from naturally formed pot holes to mountain peeks, from rivers to wild life sanctuaries, from religious holy places to historical heritage monuments. It is my dream to see entire India.

On the other hand, definitely I would like to travel all around the globe and see the world!

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Lakaki LakeEvery time I passed from Jagtap Dairy in Model Colony, this beautiful lake caught my attention. Finally one evening, I decided to go there and find it out. I bought the ticket and entered in the park. I was pleased to see beautifully developed park around the lake with walking track. Another attraction was obviously birds. To name a few are Spotbills, Egrets, Waterhen, Coots, Crow Pheasant, pigeons, Indian Mynah, Cuckoo, Kites, and Robin.

“Model colony lake” or also known as “La-Kā-Ki” (named after Industrialist ‘Laxmanrao Kashirao Kirloskar’ whose residence is just near by) is supposed to be more than 100 years old and unique nature reserve. Since 1995 there were some controversies going on its development but finally it was open to public.

WaterhenI found a water hen with its three chicks. The parents were busy in building new nest for this season. Dad walked on the lotus leaves and came up to bank to get the sticks. It carried new stick and passed it on to the mom who was actually putting it in the place. Even in this bird species, interior was of home-minister’s choice. I waited and watched their activities endlessly and they were so busy and did not bother about the rest of the world. Dedication was key factor.

I clicked some snaps of birds. The park care-taker came up to me and we had talk about park, birds, etc. I told him Marathi names of birds and he seemed to be satisfied.

Lakaki lake is supposed to be ‘silent-zone Park’ and ideal place for reading, writing (i.e. for poets and writers), bird watching, meditation, being with nature and peace. May God save this place from vulgarity of couples like Sambhaji park and Saras Baug.

Gentle Request: To all people reading this post, please avoid making loud noise or talking loudly if you happen to visit this place. You can sit and speak softly along with enjoying amazing nature here.

The park timings are 6:00 to 8:00 AM and 4:00 to 6:00 PM (In summer, till 7:00PM)

Ticket for park is Rs.5/-

Note: For more snaps click – http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruhiclicks/tags/modelcolonylake/

Google Map: http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&msa=0&msid=111578650756510337605.00046bd0fe4ad9c3ad2be&ll=18.531192,73.841794&spn=0.007182,0.009656&z=17

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