‘These wells are not just architectural wonders. They are in this particular shape not because they look good in the landscaping of the village.’
The learned sage was telling the spellbound audience, listening intently, myself included.
‘These are “Jalayantras”, the ancient machineries s that can be used for a specific purpose. If one has the “key” and the technique of this yantra, he can make it rain. These yantras’ existence is the main reason of this village’s prosperity.’
These wells were here for ages. The villagers took them for granted, and children went for swimming in them. But this knowledge was new to even the most elders amongst us.
But that was years ago.
The hotel I was staying in was indefinitely better than yesterday’s insect-house. But the owner was stingy as hell. There was no mirror in the room! I had to shave using the webcam. The lag in the webcam image was really confusing, and I kept on thinking that the left sideburn was shaved bit more inside than the right side one!
My first halt was the fort Murud-Janjira. This is the fort that the Marathas couldn’t win, no matter what. The sea fort built by the locals and later captured and improved upon by Siddi, remained unwinnable till the time India gained freedom and all the Princely states were merged with the Indian Union. King Shivaji couldn’t take over it in four different attempts, and so couldn’t his son, Sambhaji. Sambhaji even attempted an ambitious feat – to fill up the sea by stones to connect the fort by land – but even that didn’t bring him victory. Finally he built another fort named Padmadurga to keep watch over Janjira.
Such was the glorious history of this fort, that a visit becomes must. But the rains disagreed, and thus figuratively and literally, washed away my plans of touring the fort. The boats that take the tourists to the fort were closed. So I had to capture the forts in camera from outside only. Janjira remained unconquerable even today, even to a tourist! But I’ll be back!
The nearby Janjira beach is not much in terms of beauty of either sand or scenery. I can’t imagine swimming in here, because it is pretty filthy, and the sand too is harsh gray one, not the soft while or gold one.
Even though I couldn’t hoist the flag on Janjira fort, Vesta hoisted the flag on the sea shore.
The same road to the fort goes straight to Kude, our next stop for today. Maharashtra has many Buddhist caves, in fact it has 80% of the caves that are found in India. Some are totally forgotten, some near are used by slum dwellers for dirty activities, some are now hosting temples, while some are still living life of glory. The Kude caves fall in the forgotten category. As the aim of this trip, I wanted to visit all the places that finally come together to form Maharashtra, and hence, visit to a Buddhist caves was a must.
The scenic road passes near the sea, and through many villages.
The following scene repeated quite a many times, before I reached Kude.
‘Maai, does this road go to Kude village?’
‘Are you going that side? Give me lift, I will point you to the way!’
*the lady sits on the pillion seat*
‘Okay, let’s go.’
The ladies were chatty, and told me that the main business of the surrounding area was prawns farming. There were many square ponds formed for this. Some even commented that though the size of the prawns is huge, their taste is not as good as found in sea. This is very common perception, and perhaps truth, that river fishes do not taste as good as sea fishes, and it was confirmed here.
One more interesting thing I noticed. I had recently gone to Kerala, where I had seen these farmings. But in Kerala, they have created some ingenious methods to keep the free-loader birds away. They tie a rope across the farm, with many empty bottles filled with stones tied to the rope. Once in a while, someone rattles the rope, which causes a commotion by the stones in those bottles, and the birds fly away. Here, there were hired workers for the same job! Travelling around to new places indeed teach you a lot, I thought, but didn’t attempt to educate the farmers.
There is this bridge that one has to cross before reaching Kude. I was hearing it for a long time now ‘Pass the bridge on the river’, and here it was.
The road to Kude caves starts from being a kuccha road, and deteriorates with each hundred meters. In fact, for last few hundreds of meters, calling it a road is a cruel joke. But after riding through the Nizampur-Pachad road to Raigad, this road was not to hard either for the bike or for me.
The vehicle goes all the way to top, if you dare.
There are two storeys of caves. The first two contain carved walls, whereas others are simple accommodation with varying luxury.
Some have verandah and sitting hall, some have nice big bedroom, and others are simply a sleeping accommodation.
There were some tanks formed near caves, and the water on the upper floor tank was very clean and used for drinking by the watchman and locals. I didn’t try it though, because I didn’t want to take any risk towards health, however remote.
The textbook village of Kude, nice red houses, tall green coconut trees, the square ponds for prawns farming, and the nearby sea.
Visiting such caves is always a calming experience. Years of hard work must have gone for creating these halls in the rocks that have lasted centuries of neglect. If one closes his eyes and tries to connect with the history and lets the imagination run loose, the visions you see are splendid. You see the main ‘Guru’ with his disciples giving out the discourse. You see the neighboring villagers approaching the sages for advice and blessings. The small joys in otherwise serious setting. The settling in of new pilgrims. The departure of old timers. The happiness and sorrows of people who lived far ago, and yet that transcends through time. It is a magical experience indeed.
It was time to leave Kude caves. I had to catch the boat from Murud – actually Sagarmanda, some 9 kilometers away from Murud – to Dighi, for reaching Dive agar.
While returning back, again stopped on the river bridge. It is prettily set amongst nature, and it would look beautiful in or just after monsoons, where all the surroundings are shades of green.
While returning, I stopped at village Khokhra. There were the tombs of the Murud fort’s ruler Siddi along with others. The place is a silently still image, and with hardly any tourists, it is as if you are watching a picture exhibition.
I rode fast for checking out of the hotel, because the launch that would take me to Dighi jetty was scheduled at 2.45 P.M., and it was almost 2. Today too, I had to miss lunch. Damn, this is becoming regular, I thought. Came back, picked up the already packed bags, and rode back to the Jetty. Half way on the road, I saw something on my key chain. Oh no, it’s the hotel’s key! I forgot to give it back in excitement of catching the boat. And I didn’t even remember the name of the hotel. That stingy owner will now have to spend against his will!
While riding, I was wearing helmet with visor shut, but the jacket was worn with its zipper open, because it was hardly 9 kilometers distance. Usually in night, you see all these insects trained to be kamakazes flying straight at you, especially your bike’s headlight and your face. Riding in nights many times had imbued a habit in me: always ride with the visor shut. As I was riding full speed, I could see an insect, perhaps a bee by the size of it, fly towards me, and SNAP, it stung me hard on the open neck.
I shouted under my helmet where no one could hear. The stinging was sharp, and was paining a lot. I kept on thinking whether a bee’s stinging is poisonous, and how long it will burn, while still being in agony, still being at full speed. I guess it wasn’t a bee, because the sting only lasted 2-3 days as opposed to weeks for that of a bee, but this taught me important lesson. Don’t leave your neck open, especially when you have option to cover it!
I and the launch arrived at jetty at the same time. I was shocked to see the size of the launch. It was pretty small, not the big ones used usually, where you ride your bike right into the boat. Here they were picking up the bike to load and unload, and were not particularly careful at that. At each bike’s pickup, they would call its owner and tell:
‘If something is to break on your bike while transport, we are not responsible. Do you agree?’
Only when he said yes did they pick up the bike and load it. I waited till last making up my mind whether or not to go. Finally there was no other bike left.
‘You, sir. Do you want to load the bike?’
‘If something is to …..’
‘NOOO!! Think positive men! Nothing will happen!’
I kept on encouraging them, and pointed the camera for video shoot. Whether because of my encouragements or the camera, I do not know, but my bike was loaded gently.
The boat ride is pretty rough. It is not as smooth sailing as its bigger counterparts. The small boat is at sea’s mercy, and the sea keeps on tossing it here and there, occasionally splashing water inside to check whether everyone is awake.
It took about 20-25 minutes to reach the other side. The same drama repeated while unloading the bike at Dighi. The camera trick worked again.
Dive agar is hardly half an hour from here. The road goes through backyards of the sea, and so scenery is a constant companion. The road too is beautifully laid.
I remembered a sage telling about the square wells being the Jalayantras. I decided to search for them.
Dive agar is a prosperous village in this area, and you can see the well-to-do-ness of the area while travelling. I decided to do a roundabout tour of the village, to see the sea and the square wells – called as Pushkarani by locals.
Conquering the Dive agar beach
I noticed that many old temples in the village are now being renovated, with the laterite stone. When completed, they will look beautiful. Even while in construction they were looking grand.
Finally found the well I was looking for in front of Rupnarayan temple.
I kept on looking at it in wonder and disbelief. Could it really be ancient machinery used to bring rain? Was the sage saying the truth? But what reason he had to lie? And if it was indeed true, how unfortunate we are, to have forgotten such science!
Dive Agar is famous for its gold idol of Ganesha, in fact it is called – Gold Ganesha of Dive agar. But this is not factually correct. The gold mask along with ornaments was found while farming, and the lady donated the whole brass box with all the gold to the village Ganesha temple, where it is kept on display. But many times I noticed that people pray at the mask, and don’t see the main idol! The Ganesha idol in the temple is hundreds if not thousands of years old. It was placed when this village started to take shape. I visited the ‘Prakat-Sthan’, the place where these ornaments were found. It is on the street right behind the temple, so you have to take two rights or two lefts for reaching there.
It is a small temple built in a Wadi – an area for plantations. Many interesting flowers too were blooming around in the vicinity.
A cranky old grandma scolded me for taking the photos, but I was already done and on my way out.
It was 6.30 P.M. already. I started rolling on the beautiful Shekhadi road to Shrivardhan, in hope of catching a good sunset, and I was not disappointed.
The night’s halt was in an ashram near Shrivardhan. Today’s ride was mostly on sea roads, and it was very enjoyable. I visited three beaches in twenty four hours, Kashid, Murud and Diveagar. I would recommend Kashid for the sea lovers who don’t care too much for amenities, Dive agar for the tourists who require food and shelter, and Murud in the last, to those who don’t care too much about either beauty or amenities.