It was decided. We would be heading here this Diwali: The land carved in profound bhakti, infused in deep unwavering devotion and soaked in powerful soul stirring bhajans by poet-saint Tukaram Maharaj, a distinguished devotee of Lord Vithoba … Guess where?
Yatra to Pandharpur!
Situated on the scenic banks of River Bhima in Solapur district, Maharashtra, we were headed to Pandharpur - a major pilgrimage in Maharashtra that attracts millions of devouts (especially from the Warkari sect) who perform yatra (wari pilgrimage) to its highly temple of Pandurang Vithal Rukmini (a manifestation of Lord Vishnu or Krishna and His consort Rukmini).
I was delighted!
This would be my first trip to Pandharpur of which I had only read in books or heard first hand stories from my father till now. And one that I had set my heart on ever since I saw it in one of the Ganesh Chaturthi Pandals just a couple of months back.
For centuries, the devoted pilgrims and saints have sung glories in the holy land infusing it with a timeless melody of pure devotion to the Supreme at the same time stirring in the sincere, a quest for The Truth.
"Praise be to the village of Dehu
(the birthplace of Saint Tukaram Maharaj near Pune)
and praise be to Pandharpur,
for Lord Vithoba Himself dwells there."
And so the pilgrimage began…
On the auspicious occasion of Diwali of 2016, I along with my family set out on a yatra to Vithoba’s Pandharpur with a brief overnight halt in Pune. We embarked on the journey with no fixed plans on what we would be visiting en route except, as I later found out during the trip, that dad had these little chits of paper tucked in his pocket as part of his travel research!
Thanks to him, we got to visit some really amazing temples as always – mostly old and ancient on the way to Pune (remember the Bhuleshwar Shiva Temple in Yavat?), in Pune and finally the Vithoba temple in Pandharpur. Of course, I merrily added to his list later on and with everyone together, I had a wonderful time with my family during Diwali.
So come along as an exciting journey to the abode of Lord Vithoba awaits... for the time being, here are just a few highlights from the journey on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway culminating with the halt in Pune. Come along and ride on!
Going through the Longest Tunnel on the Mumbai Pune Expressway!
The Mumbai Pune expressway has five tunnels totalling over 5.7 km. built by the Konkan Railway and passes through the mountains of the Western Ghats of Maharashtra. Bhatan near Bhatan pada village is supposedly the longest of all – the others on the route are Madap (same stretch, Panvel-Khopoli), Kamshet 1 and Kamshet 2 (Lonavla-Dehu Road), Adoshi and Khandala.
|Exiting the Bhatan Tunnel, supposedly the longest tunnel on the Expressway:|
as seen from the backseat of my car window.
Never mind how many times I may have ridden on this stretch but it’s always such a thrill to cruise through the tunnels on India’s first six-lane highway - the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. Going through the darkness of the tunnels culminating with the light of the day is kind of therapeutic - a 'not to be missed experience' in itself!
Feeding the monkeys on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.
A little further from the Bhatan Tunnel, you can spot the monkeys on the side of the road jumping on the parapet or swinging on the trees.
|Don't mess with me, dude!|
Be careful while stopping on the highway as it is Expressway, make sure to ask the driver if it’s safe and possible. We didn’t wait long but did make time to feed a few of the monkeys – they were really hungry and when we shared our bananas, we could see the jungle play of the 'survival of the fittest' with the fatter ones screeching on top of their voices and taking away all the booty.
WHERE TO STAY IN PUNE?
A Descent Budget Family Hotel in Pune: Smart Inn Hotel
If you are looking for a family hotel and a room for 4 – you can opt for Smart Inn. Located in Shivaji Nagar, off the main market area in FC road, it is a good budget hotel in the central area of Pune.
|Smart Inn Hotel Room - One of the interconnected twin suites.|
The family room had twin double bedded interconnected rooms and I thought it provided good value for money. The bathrooms are well maintained too. However, the Wifi was disappointing with its weak signal strength.
|View from my room.|
Address: 1226/2, Off Fergusson College Road, Next to Venus Traders, Shivaji Nagar, Deccan Gymkhana, Pune, Maharashtra 411004.
Phone Number: 020 2553 8811