Normally when you have to drive 600 km to reach your destination, you start early. (Had planned to be in Bijapur by evening.) But if you the journey is your destination, then you don’t. We started by enjoying a sumptuous breakfast at South Indian Mess with Arun Nair (School friend who was free) at Rasta Peth, dropping in at the Bishop’s House to say hi to my old School Principal (he wasn’t free) – moving on to say hi to a great COEP friend – Ajay Jandial (who was free)– at his factory, and them finally at 1030 hrs starting off for Solapur.
The first part of the journey was to Bhuleshwar. You turn right off the road near Yevat and it is a 8 km drive from there. An important part of the architecture of a monument is its location – and having a temple located on a hill adds immensely to its charm – and to the fatigue of the devotee. I sometimes imagine if you had an escalator all the way to Vaishno Devi – would the tourist inflow increase or reduce? Part of the fun is the climb – a sort of penance to the sins that the common man makes at the same rate as he lies (about a 100 times a day)
As we were rambling on to Bhuleshwar, we were invited by the scents of jaggery to visit a make-shift factory just off the highway. The team running the factory was from near a village in Roorkee. The factory is a role model for sustainability. It starts with a crusher which is converting the cane to the juice. And sir, no water wastage in washing etc – a superficial cleaning by hand and the cane is popped into the machine. A pipe takes the juice into a series of heating vats. The bagasse is burnt – unfortunately along with a lot of plastic garbage – as fuel for heating. The first vat is for the impurities which are ladled away. The second is the primary input vat where the first stage of water removal happens. The third is used for the second stage of water removal. Interestingly sugar was being added to the third vat. When I asked why, the reply was that crystallization catalysts are required when the cane is old. After half an hour of heating, the semi-fluid is transferred to a concrete cooling tray. After it cools off in the tray for 10 minutes, the jaggery is transferred to circular moulds, packed in transparent plastic, and ready for dispatch. We bought a souvenir 1 kg for Rs. 29, which was the market rate for that day.
Enroute to Bhuleshwar we came across an explosives manufacturing factory. My tech-tourism antennae tempted me to walk-in and request a dekko, but I would have been unhappy if I had been allowed in – would speak of lax security. So the tourism was restricted to what one could see beyond the high security walls. One thing that struck me was this interesting house – almost fairy tale-ishly perched atop a tower. I wonder why.
Bhuleshwar is a cycling challenge – with the last 200 m of road at a gradient which is probably close to 20%. The view from the top is worth the exertion. Monsoons are always a scenery changer in Maharashtra – and one thing worth noting was that the temple was constructed keeping the summer in mind. The inner sanctorum was quite cool – as it was enclosed all around. Two security guards manned the temple – which ensured a good level of cleanliness.
A few years later, we did cycle to Bhuleshwar – and managed to cycle up all the way – though we did it from the back route via Boriandi. A much more scenic route. We passed close to the Pune Satara railway line. Pictured above is a via duct on the line. The high point of this route was getting amazed by 3 deer galloping across the road in front of us.
No legs, but feet are still dancing on.
Possibly a war scene from the Mahabharata
The dholak was held with the left hand and played with the right. You can see the right hand fingers on the dholak.
On the way back, we found a farmer selling pomegranates, the rates were not very low, but his fields were just behind. So we negotiated to buy 2 kg, on the condition that we get to pluck it ourselves. So we sauntered into the farm – and he pointed out a row of pygmy trees – and asked us to choose any that we liked. You need to shear out a pomegranate from the stalk with a sudden movement. Having mastered that, it took just 5 minutes for us to collect our booty. 2 of the fruits were immediately sampled before we left.