Today Shivaji’s many forts, built on steep precipitous hills of the Deccan Plateau – Purandhar, Raigarh, Pratapgarh, Sinhgarh and many more, stand in mute testimony to his valorous exploits. Sinhgarh is 20 km from Pune, the second largest city in the State. This is where Mahatma Gandhi was imprisoned after launching the Quit India Movement in 1942, but today it is famous for the Osho Commune, the ashram of Bhagwan Rajneesh.
The holy city, Nasik, lies on the banks of the Godavari river about 195 kms north-east of the capital, Mumbai. With bathing ghats and temples lining the river banks, this is one of the four cities where the Kumbh Mela is held every 12 years.
About 400 km eastward of Mumbai, is Aurangabad, the most convenient base for seeing India’s timeless art at the renowned Ajanta and Ellora, both on the World Heritage List. The 30 caves at Ajanta, chiselled out of rock by Buddhist monks between 200 BC and 650 AD as ‘chaityas’ (chapels) and ‘viharas’ (monasteries), contain magnificent sculptures and frescoes. At Ellora are 34 Buddhist, Hindu and Jain rock temples carved top downwards from a 2 km escarpment between 350 AD and 700 AD and decorated with a profusion of sculptures. These include the Kailasa Temple, the world’s largest monolithic sculpture, covered with a variety of finely carved panels, which entailed removing some 200,000 tons of rock!
The hilly Western Ghats run parallel to the coast, and are dotted with hill stations – Matheran, Mahabaleshwar, Panchgani and many more. And in the narrow plains between the ghats and the Arabian Sea, are a number of pristine unfrequented beaches notably at Kashid, Malvan, and Ganapatipule.
Mumbai’s multi-cultural medley has resulted in a multidimensional menu card. Cuisine ranges across Goan, Mughlai, Chinese, South Indian, Irani, Parsi and, of course, Mumbai’s specialities of ‘Bhel-puri'(a snack of puffed rice, crisp noodles, chutney and chillies) and ‘Pao-bhaji’ (bun eaten with spicy potato). For continental food try Cafe Mondegar. Seafood is found on the beaches, in five star hotels and in various small restaurants. It is safe to do a culinary voyage in Trishna and Mahesh! China Garden is an elegant seafood bar and the Pizzeria is self explanatory. Lastly, be sure to try the Alphonso mango in summer.
Shopping in Maharashtra
In Kemp’s Corner, Bandra and Linking Road – trendy boutiques and leather goods
Fashion Street (lining MG Rd) – roadside stalls with trendy clothes at throwaway prices
Heera Panna Market – clothes with designer labels
At Government Emporia, World Trade Centre – Local wood carvings, brass ware, printed cotton from Nashik or traditional, longer Maharashtrian sarees
For some bargaining – a visit to Mumbai’s lively Chor Bazaar or Crawford market. Practically anything you can think of will be found amid a medley of noise and activity.