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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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We headed for airport in early afternoon of 18th and I bade good-bye to Aritra with a heavy heart. I came back to Pune at 4:30 AM on 20th Apr. It was again a very loooooong and tiring journey. Flight which was supposed to reach Mumbai at 9:45pm but was delayed by 4 hrs. Journey was Dallas – Atlanta and Atlanta – Mumbai. After 2 hr of take-off from Atlanta, an old lady got heart trouble in plane and we had to do emergency landing on JFK airport, NY to hospitalize her. Weather was bad and plane was too heavy to land so they just threw excess fuel out of the plane to make it lighter. So NY was long break of 4 hrs. An old lady was hospitalized and rest time was spent in re-fueling the aircraft. Total journey back home was 27-28 hrs. 😦

The dinner which was supposed to be served at 10 pm was finally served at 2 am. They didn’t even bother to serve water to rest of the passengers. Thanks to inefficient staff of Delta airlines. Only the good part of it was – a life was saved.

We reached airport and havoc was waiting for us. The cell# of the cab driver was not accessible. It was turned off. We came out of airport and found a driver with company name and our names appeared as “Mr.” instead of “Ms.” Obviously he was looking for guys and not gals. We assured him we are the one whom he was looking for, and finally he was convinced. We started from Mumbai and reached home.

It is such a feeling on happiness and relaxation to come back home. 🙂

Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home
.

John Howard Payne US actor & dramatist (1791 – 1852)

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Nashville, Tennessee:

The Music City of US

I went to Nashville last weekend. One of my colleagues (Sandeep) got a BMW and he wished to go to Nashville to do its ‘Pooja’ at Sri Ganesh temple there. He asked whether I would like to join them. I was not sure in the beginning but then I remembered one of my friends (Sachin) stays in Nashville. He was actually my teacher when I was studying. He taught me in my college immediately after doing his masters. He was always proud of me and happy with my progress. Years later the relation turned into more of friendship than teacher-student so he is now “teacher-turned-friend”. We didn’t meet for 4-5 years in Pune. Finally got to meet him here. I confirmed with him and he seemed to be pleased by the news that I was visiting him. I told my colleague that I would be able to make it for Nashville.

Park at Rest AreaWe started on Friday night and it was long journey. We had to cross states of Texas and Arkansas to go to Tennessee State. Total drive one way is around 620 miles, i.e. approx. 10 hrs from Dallas to Nashville. We couldn’t see much outside the car as it was dark in the night. In the morning, we took break at a rest area along the freeway. A rest area is a public facility on the highway or freeway for drivers and passengers to rest, eat, or refuel with minimal facilities like rest rooms, parking space, drinking fountains, telephone, picnic areas (grass lawns with benches), and sometimes more facilities like gas stations, vending machines and restaurants. We got freshen up and had muffins as our breakfast. It was a pleasant morning. American Robin caught my attention and I couldn’t stop myself from clicking snaps of this beautiful singer bird. We started again and reached my friend’s place at 10:30 am.

We took some rest and enjoyed home-made lunch. We decided to go to Nashville Downtown in the afternoon. Since the time I came to US, I had no chance to travel in public transport. I got this opportunity here. We took up bus to downtown. As we walked on the Lower Broadway, and saw many music clubs, bars, musical instrument’s shops, gift shops, live music lounges, etc. We did some window shopping. There was live music going on and people were enjoying it. We could see people playing different musical instruments like Guitar, mandolin, etc  on the roadside. This is why Nashville is called a “Music City” 🙂

Then we stretched our heads up to see some of the remarkable sky scrappers in downtown. Some of them were AT&T building (also known as the Batman Building), Life & Casualty Tower, BOA Plaza, Hotel Hilton, Hotel Renaissance, and The Pinnacle (under construction).

Then we went to riverside of the Cumberland River. We strolled at Riverfront Park and went to ‘Davidson County Public hall and Court house’. There were many beautiful fountains around this building. We crossed Commerce Street and passed by the Tennessee State Capitol building in Nashville. It is the home of the Tennessee legislature, and the location for the governor’s office. This architectural master piece is classic model of Greek lonic temple. There is War Memorial plaza near to it. We had good time in the downtown.

Ganesh Temple NashvilleFrom downtown we went to Sri Ganesh Temple at Nashville. This is again a very beautiful place (of course much contradictory from what we saw in downtown). We entered and it was really divine atmosphere inside the temple. As in every temple in US, there were all Hindu deities. There was ‘Satyanarayan pooja’ going on by a priest for some family. I bowed to all gods. My colleague performed pooja of his car. We could hear some classical musical concert which was taking place in hall on first floor. I roamed around the temple and found a cute bird couple called “Cassin’s Finch”. I clicked some snaps of temples from outside as camera was not allowed inside.

We returned home and had tea. Savani’s (Sachin sir’s daughter) music teacher had come for dinner with us. Her name is Heather Bond. She is a famous singer and piano player in Nashville. She worked with Vanderbilt University for living and wishes to devote her life to music. It was nice meeting her. After dinner, we spent some time talking about good old college days. Sachin sir asked me where-abouts of my batch mates. He also told about his life, his marriage, his journey till US, etc. By that time, it was already late and we went to sleep.

Next morning we bade a good bye to my friend and his family and thanked them for their time and loving hospitality. We left Nashville at 9 am. We drove slowly as we wanted to enjoy the scenic views outside. On the way, we saw dense forests, trees, green grasses, jersey cows, horses, stables, beautiful farm houses, lakes, and all that which I never imagined to see here. We could relish real countryside of the US. Spring season is gradually painting the trees with different colors – green, yellow, white, pink, purple, red.

Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas:

We crossed The Mississippi River while entering the Arkansas state. There are many rivers like Buffalo National River crossing this state and it is a land of mountains and valleys, thick forests and fertile plains. This is why Arkansas is called ‘The Natural State’.

We had planned to wait at one of the state parks in our journey. State parks are different from our normal parks. These are protected parks for an area of land preserved on account of its natural beauty, historic interest, recreation, or other reason, and under the administration of the government of a U.S. state. People come here to do all kinds of adventurous activities like hiking, camping, sailing, water sports, nature trail, birding, photography. I found few American Black vultures and Turkey vultures on the way.

Waterfall at Lake Catherine State ParkWe halted at ‘Lake Catherine State Park’ in Arkansas. We went to the park admin office and got map of the park. We located spots of our interests and headed. We enjoyed walking in the woods as part of the nature trail. There was a huge water body along side of the forest. We aimed to go to a waterfall. There was a small hanging bridge on the way. Also a wooden bench for resting. It was THE spot. We could see picturesque panorama from here. After 2 miles of walk, we finally reached a splendid waterfall. We went inside the water and it was freezing cold. I drank the water and it tasted heavenly. Remember free flowing water is always purest. 🙂

We came back from the park and resumed our journey back to Dallas. We returned back late night. It was an amazing weekend. Thanks Sandeep for taking me to Nashville, State park and moreover for considering a nature lover in me. I don’t think anyone would have showed me ‘this’ marvelous side of the US. I have the memories to cherish for whole of my life. And yes, your BMW rocks!!! 😀

P.S. : For more snaps please visit – http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruhiclicks/sets/72157615867820870/detail/

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It was 3:30 pm on Sunday and I was doing nothing at home. It was instant plan to go to Ramdara. My friend confirmed by SMS and at 4 pm we started for Ramdara. As we drove, we noticed that there was sudden change in climate. The sky turned very cloudy at once and signs of rain were pretty much clear.

We reached Ramdara after an hour of bumpy rides. Not entire road was in bad condition. There were few scenic views too. There was a patch which is covered by Pearl millet (Bajra) fields on both sides of the road and it looked amazing. Fortunately there was no rain till then. There is huge parking area near the temple. As soon as started towards Ramdara temple, some birds caught our attention. We headed to the opposite side of lake to catch some birds. I tried to capture Iora bird. My friend went and spotted Baya weavers and their nests. These small yellow beautiful creatures were busy building their nests; few were engaged in feeding their young-ones. We sat there watching and clicking them. It is always immense joy to watch birds and observe their behavior. After some time, the rain drops alarmed us and we packed our cameras back in our sacks. There were light showers.

We went inside the temple. Ramdara has beautiful temple surrounded by small lake and coconut trees. The temple has beautiful idols of Lord Rama, Sita and Laxman along with other sculptures of different deities in hindu religion. The nandi in the temple is worth a dekko. There is also hermitage of Dhundi baba near the main temple.

How to reach:

  1. Start from Swargate and take Solapur highway.
  2. Cross Hadapsar, Manjri etc. Travel straight till you reach “Loni Kalbhor” Toll plaza.
  3. As soon as you cross Toll plaza, you will have to cross a bridge.
  4. After crossing this bridge, you will see a fade “Ramdara” sign board on left hand side showing to turn to right side. Take immediate right turn to go to Loni kalbhor village.
  5. After distance of 2 mins drive, we will get a small chowk. Take again right turn from there. (You may ask local people)
  6. Now enjoy some bumpy ride to Ramdara temple. It is 7 kms distance from here.

The environment in Ramdara is pleasant. We can enjoy a good one day outing here. You can visit this place throughout the year.

For One-day outing – Start in morning and reach by 9:00 am so that you can also see some birds. Carry our food and water bottles and mattresses. You can enjoy playing games, etc under dense tree shades. I guess there are rest rooms also at the back side of temple. You can return by afternoon or evening.

PS: You can enjoy guavas here sold by local people from their guava gardens.

For Bird-watchers – Start for Ramdara early morning and reach there by 6:00 am.
Birds you can see – Sunbirds, Baya weavers, Red wattled lapwings, Drongos, Small bee-eaters, Ioras, Mynas, Bulbuls, and Doves.
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I got mail from my friend Ajit (whom they call C.O.O of Wanderers group) that Wanderers is arranging Island Adventure Program in Mulashi. It will be overnight stay on an island in the middle of River Mula. The mail instantly triggered my desire.

I decided to go for River Island camping on 24th May 08. This was last batch of the summer season as monsoon was approaching.

The group gathered at Hotel “Kinara” on Paud road. I met Ajit after ages. As in, we were in touch through all hi-tech media i.e. Mails, SMSes, etc. Meeting personally is always a feeling of pleasure. I got to know few people out there. The group was heterogeneous with people from different fields like a music teacher at school, a business development head of a mechanical designing firm, some geologist, a botany Ph.D student, and obviously few IT guys. Ajit introduced me to Omkar (another pillar of Wanderers group). There were few cars, bikes and rest in “Vadaap” jeep. “Vadaap” is typical Marathi word for to-and-fro transport service in rural areas with nominal charge and comfort. I was placed in Ashwin’s zen. We all started for River Camping Island in the afternoon. And the adventure began….

We reached on river bank. There was an option for raft or boat. I choose the former. Ajit gave us few instructions (like don’t carry valuables on rafts, etc) and insisted that most of us would opt for boat option as it will be easier and faster. Everyone will get chance for rafting tomorrow. Even then I and Ashwin told Ajit that we would wait and be the last ones to enjoy rafting. We ported our sacks and cameras in boat so that they will be safe. I didn’t want to take any risk about my camera. In mean time, I was able to spot some “Pied Kingfishers” near the bank. Finally all crossed the river and it was our turn. We climbed the raft. Ajit was the sailor. In the mid, Ajit gave light jerks to the raft to let us enjoy “roller-coaster” ride and it was real controlled adventure. This controlled adventure became uncontrolled when suddenly the tied side-drum of the raft got distracted apart and in no time the raft was upside down. For the moment, it was like all finished. My mom’s and bro’s faces flashed in mind and there was some different feeling altogether. There was an instant feeling which taught me importance of my life and living. We were drowning in the middle of the river. Of course we had life jackets and life savers for rescue but in such situations your brain stop thinking logically. Among 3 of us, I was the only one who was a non-swimmer.

Ajit and Ashwin held my hands and assured me that they were there for me and not to get afraid. I was feeling uncomfortable due to the water which ran inside my nose, throat and ears.

We 3 came safely out of water. To our astonishment, one of our expert life savers also recovered our caps from river bottom. The other went to chase the floating drum of raft but it went beyond the limits. We came to the bank and someone noticed that I had my mobile in jeans pocket. My mobile went for a toss. It was literally filled with water. It reminded me of water game with Rhino tusks and rings which I played when I was a kid.

All that happened for last one hour was just beyond imagination. Now I was aware of Island “Adventure” Program. 😉

We landed on the beautiful island. It was huge 17 acres out of which 4 acres was usable area. We were also told that there are wild boars, insects, snakes, Pythons…thanks to Ajit for giving this scary information. This place was developed by Ajit and Omkar. There was a kitchen shed, sleeping hall which could accommodate 50 people and rest rooms. Few other things were a camp fire place, meditation hut, meeting area and a net court for playing multiple games like badminton, dodge ball, etc. The sleeping hall was covered by the insect-repellent powder. Each minute thing was very well taken care of. All these structures were built using bamboo and dried bamboo leaves. All I could say is hats-off to the duo that made this.

We had evening tea and Pattice. I went to other side to find some more birds and click some snaps. Found drongos, small king-fishers, red wattled lapwings. As sun began to set, the sky looked amazing and so was the ambience. There was no electricity and each area had hanging burning lanterns which added to the beauty of this place. It was the best late evening which I have ever experienced.

We had introduction session at meeting hall in the evening. By that time it was time to cook dinner. We decided to cook dal-rice khichadi and onion-tomato-potato sabji but looking at the sizes of utensils we had, finally we cooked something which was combination of khichadi and sabji. It took hours for cooking. Thanks to our stove and in-time shortage of kerosene stock. After all the hook and crock our food was ready. We all enjoyed it and it was worth the efforts. We had papad, pickle to go with it and Jalebis as sweet dish.

Then it was time for camp fire. A beautiful night, a camp fire, sky above and group of friends! It was performers’ paradise. It was a perfect time for all songs, mouth-organ songs, jokes, antakshari and mimicry. We lied down on a mattress with the roof of sky. We went to sleep past 4 am. No one actually slept so there was no question of getting up. We were supposed to do yoga but no one was keen to do. I went for short walk in morning. We had tea and prepared some sandwiches. Then we went to river walking. We were in water for 2-3 hours and had loads of fun. By the time, we returned it was time for departure. We packed our sacks and came back by boat. I turned around and looked at island for last time. I was in love with this place for sure. We had nice lunch in a restaurant in Mulashi. I returned with wonderful memories with me.

Aah, I missed something. As the drum broke there was no rafting for the rest campers. I was among very few campers who got chance to do river rafting…with all that adventure!!!!!!!!! 😀

NOTE: For more snaps visit – http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruhiclicks/sets/72157605249014435/detail/

More info about River Island Camping watch out this space – http://islandcamping.googlepages.com/

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