It had been 2 months since my last getaway & I was itching to go somewhere.. Since most parts of the country are hot or crazy hot, there are very few options left. That is when a friend mentioned she was going to be doing a day trip to Wai [near Satara] with Western Routes. The agenda looked interesting, and of course, travelling with Jayesh meant it was going to be a chill fun trip. The wheels in my head began churning and I started looking at the calendar and juggling things around in my head. After a quick chat with the partner, went ahead and signed up for the day trip. Soon, 2 other sets of friends + their partners also had confirmed and we were all set & excited. Ironically, a few days before the trip, the friend who’d spoken about the trip, and had registered 1st announced she couldn’t make it as they had to work through the weekend. Oh well…
With everything in place, I was all set. The day began at 5 am, was up, ready & waiting for friends [who were also joining the trip] to come pick me up. We reached the FC college gate by 6 am and hopped across to say hello to all waiting.
The first halt as always was for breakfast. This time at a new restaurant called Jagg’s Inn, Khed-Shivapur. Met a few others who were driving to Wai [another set of friends was coming by car as they were headed elsewhere post the trip]. Fun conversations, yummy food [ chocos, masala dosai, fruits among others], a quick pitstop and we were on the road again, towards Limb Village [ which is a slight detour from Wai]
Baramotechi Vihir, Limb Village
A guide near the well told us the history and other legends attached to the well. Baramotechi vihir was built in the 1640s during the rule of Shahu Raje [constructed by Virubai Bhosale under the supervision of a woman Sahu]. It is 110 feet deep and 50 feet in perimeter. There are twelve outlets for pulling water from the well with bullocks in moat / मोट ( leather bucket tied to rope ) and thus came the name Bara motechi. The main purpose of the well was to provide water to the farm nearby that is said to have had 3500 mango trees. Infact we were told this well became a place for secret meetings between two rulers back in the day.
Once again, like most of the other step wells in the country, here too the architecture is beautiful. The arches, walk away, the Ligers on the wall, and the steps are all made of stone and have survived all these years. There is an underground palace in the centre of the well. A narrow pathway leads towards the palace and the octagonal main well. There was enough water, though green[algae], but we did see kids jumping and playing around. In total, there were 4 ligers on the wall, 2 of which in the south had 2 elephants at their feet. legend has it that this signifies the King had conquered the South and will next head towards the North.
There are 2 entrances on the side apart from the 2 hidden entrances [called chor darwazas] to enter the well, which leads you down a narrow flight of stone stairs. These were built so the King could escape the place unseen and quickly. As you climb up from the well, you will see windows with arches that resemble those seen in palaces, These overlook the well, and the world outside. Right on top, on the roof is a chair of sorts where King Shahu Maharaj is said to have held meetings and court.
Nearby you will find local women setting up stalls and selling local fare – fresh turmeric powder, papads, and other local fruits. There are 2 sugarcane juice stalls as well. The one bang opp the guide’s place has an Indian toilet for women travellers.
Dholya Ganpati Mandir
The temple of Dholya Ganapati is located along the Krishna River. The deity acquired the name Dholya Ganapati from its massive size (In Marathi, Dholya means huge or fat). The Ganapati idol is carved out of a monolith of orange stone and is about 10 ft tall and 8 ft wide. Built in 1762 by Raja Bhoja of the Shilahar dynasty, the temple is made entirely out of stone. The inner sanctum is spacious, with a huge hall in the front. A stone floor covers the whole temple. The rear side of the temple is shaped like a fish, which was done deliberately to protect the temple during floods.
Right next door is the Shri Kashi Vishweshwar Mandir – a Shiva temple with a huge hall that is ornate with tall ceilings and beautiful arches. There is also a wooden door at one end. The two towering lighting lamps and the enormous black Nandi Bull carved out of a single rock are breathtaking.
Lunch break at Wai- Anandvan
It was nearly 1.30 pm and we headed towards Lunch break. The place we ended up was Anandvan in Wai, a quiet but huge resort, that had an open restaurant right near the entrance. Plenty of open space to walk around, lawns, and cottages scattered throughout the property, it was quite a beautiful one. Lunch was laid out Buffet style, and included freshly made chapatis among other dishes. The Aam Panna was heavenly and had a pinch of elaichi & gud[jaggery] which elevated its taste. Lunch was simple but packed with flavours.
We must have spent about an hour or more here, generally walking around and chilling, before hitting the road towards the last top.
Laxmi Narsimha Temple, Dhom
The first place we stopped at was Laxmi Narasimha Temple, a short walk down the road as our bus couldn’t enter the narrow road. Once again, situated near the Krishna River, the temple was small but beautiful and very different from other temples I’ve been to. There stood a tall tower with a lotus pond and a nandi resting on a giant turtle at the bottom of the pillar. There were two shrines – two forms of Narasimha in two separate mini structures. One was the angry and tearing out of Hiranyakashpu’s stomach, and the other was a calm God with Goddess Laxmi on his lap.
While most of the temple is in the Maratha style of architecture, the later add-ons are Peshwa style. It is also said to be the only temple for Narasimha in Maharashtra. There are a few smaller shrines around the temple for Lord Hanuman and Ganapathi. What makes it interesting is that the Laxmi Narasimha’s shrine is built on a circular pillar of sorts, with a few tall steps leading to the actual sanctum while the other one resembles a regular temple made of dark stone.
Nana Phadnavis Wada,Menavali
Our last stop was Menavli, a village about three kilometres from Wai in the Satara district. The village’s claim to fame is the wada built by Nana Phadnavis, who was an 18th-century Maratha statesman and the regent of Peshwa Madhavrao II. There is the Wada [home/palace], a Ghat (steps) from the Krishna river to the mansion and two temples down the banks of the river- Lord Vishnu and another to Lord Shiva. The architecture is typical of the Peshwa era.
Who was Nana Phadnavis? Well, his real name was Balaji Janardhan Bhanu. During the Maratha rule, the King needed someone to manage the finances & administration of the Palace. So, Balaji Bhanu was appointed as a Phadnavis [Finance minister/administrator]. Since then, he was addressed as Phadnavis [and most forgot his real surname to be Bhanu] He was given several villages and space in Menavalli, and that is when he built this wada for himself.
The wada has six courtyards. Nana’s quarters on the upper floor are lined with teak-wood latticework. A narrow concealed escape stairway leads out of the Wada. infact, along the steps leading to the ghat, there is a dark narrow, steep staircase concealed in the metre-thick wall to the floor above. The staircase was at once secret and easily secured, admitting only one person at a time into Nana Phadnavis’s Darbar hall. Across the wada, we find fresco paintings and murals. One of them depicts Sita in a Marathi saree, while a few others are of Krishna with Gopis. There is a huge tree just outside the gate, known as the African baobab – the flowers look like a tulip with an extension.
While most of the wada is still retained by the family and is in use even today, a portion has been cordoned off for tourists and visitors. From the main door to the paintings and architecture, it gives you a glimpse into the world that was and the life led by people back in the day.
Menavali [Krishna] Ghat at Wai
Right behind the Wada are a series of steps that take you to the Krishna River and the ghat, with the two temples just a few years away. As you walk around the steps, you will find two temples, one Meneshwar, dedicated to Lord Shiva [a swayambu idol] and the other one Vishnu Temple. Right next to the Shiva temple is a majestic Nandi and a small mandap with a giant Bell in it, said to have been captured from the Portuguese by the Marathas. Upon closer look, you will find an image of Mother Mary & Jesus on the bell, along with an inscription in Portuguese. We saw a whole bunch of kids happily frolicking in the river, playing and swimming around.
We had some hot gud [Jaggery] wale chai at one of the shops along the way back to the parking lot, before hitting the road back to Pune. One small stop along the way was at a small store run by two women selling different kinds of chutneys and pappads. I did pick up a few – curry leaf powder, peanut garlic powder, flax seed spice powder & two kinds of pappads [ spinach & Nachni- Ragi flour]
There was just one more stop left, which was to a place I have been to before and loved – Mapro Food Garden, Park & Factory in Wai. We have done a drive here many times since moving to Pune, and the highlight is the fresh strawberries and their delicious dessert- Strawberry cream & Ice cream. The food here is also amazing, especially their french fries. About a month ago, we came here with a few friends and had pizza & Strawberry cream/ice cream. The place is huge, there is a small tour before you make your way towards the cafe or shop. There are some fun activities as well, a long list mentioned near the reception area. That day, some of us made a beeline for the cafe and grabbed a strawberry cream+ice cream, while others went to the store [we had only 30mins here]. Even though fresh strawberries are no longer there, the frozen berries used are just as good.
While eating, spent some time chatting with a few others who were on the tour on topics ranging from law to astrology to zodiac [ how is it that two people of the same zodiac have contrasting/different traits/personalities].
It was now time to hit the road and head back to Pune. Some of us caught up on a quick nap, while others chit-chatted away. We reached Pune [ FC College gate] around 9 pm and made our way home from there. What a fun day it had been~!
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