Pune, the cultural capital of Maharashtra, is located about 170km from Mumbai. It has been a bastion of the powerful Maratha Empire for over one hundred years. In 1818, Pune was taken over by the East India Company who made it as a military base. It has one of India's oldest universities and numerous colleges catering to Indian and international students. Pune is an important commercial and educational centre. Pune is connected with the rest of the state by air, highways and rail.,/p>
Osho Commune International
For many westerners, the city'a main attraction could be Bhagavan Rajaneesh's Osho Commune International. It is located in northern suburb of Pune.The commune has facilities like swimming pool, sauna, tennis and basketball courts, massage and beauty parlour and a five hectre Zen garden known as Osho Treeth. The commune runs courses in traditional meditation as well as new age techniques. Casual visitors can take an hour tour and video presentation for a normal fee.
Raja Kelkar Museum
The museum exhibits the personal collection of Sri Dinkar Gangadhar. This fascinating museum has a collection of more than 17000 artworks and curios. They include Peshwa and other miniatures, musical instruments, carved doors and windows, and other unique articles.
Gandhi National Memorial
Built as a palace in 1892, this memorial, set in 6.5 hectares of gardens, originally was the palace of Aga Khans until 1956. In 1969, it was donated to India by Aga Khan IV. In 1942 after Gandhiji initiated his quit India movement, the British imprisoned him and other leaders here for two years. Kasturba Gandhi, Mahatma's wife and Mahadoebhai Desai, his secretary for 35 years died during this period. Their ashes are kept in memorial tombs in the garden. Photographs highlighting Mahatma's career with his simple personal effects are also displayed here.
Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute
Those who are serious to learn Hata yoga can do so at this institute under the guidance of legendary BKS Iyengar. The institute is 5km west of Pune Centre.
Sinhagad or the lion fort is located 24km southwest of Pune and it is ideal for a day trip. While recapturing the fort from the forces of Bijapur, Tanaji, Shivaji's general died. A grieving Shivaji is known to have said, "Gad ala pan sinh gela" (The fort is won but the lion has gone). And this is how the fort got its name - sinh (lion's) gad (fort). Though the fort is in ruins, one can visit the memorial to Tanaji, the tomb of Shivaji's son Rajaram and the warehouses where the Pune merchants used to store their wealth in the past. The fort can be scaled from its many approaches. One can trek from Donaje up to the top. Donaje can be reached by bus from Pune. Another shorter and less steep climb is from Kalyan village past the Kalyan Darwaza.
120km from Pune, Mahabaleshwar is Maharashtra's most popular hill station. Located at an altitude of 1372m, it is an escape from the noise and fumes of Mumbai and Pune. Founded in 1828 by Sir John Malcolm, it was the summer capital of Bombay Presidency during the British Raj. One can while away the hours boating or fishing at the placid Venna Lake or explore the walks or the thirty points that offer panoramic views of the valley and the sea. The crystal waters of the numerous waterfalls are delight to bathe in.
Located 19km east of Mahabaleshwar at a height of 1334m is another hill station but not as popular as Mahabaleshwar. It is a residential hill station with an old world charm. This can be seen in the architecture of the British buildings, the Parsi houses and the boarding houses that have been around for a century or more.
80km northwest of Mahabaleshwar, Raigad was the capital of Shivaji's kingdom. The fort is strategically balanced atop a wedge-shaped block of hill, split off from the Western Ghats and is inaccessible from three sides. Shivaji crowned himself Chhatrapati here. For six years upto his death, Raigad remained the capital of the Marathas. The fort has broad gates and magnificent monuments. Parts of Raigad are in ruins. One can also visit Gangasagar Lake, the nearby Jagadishwar Temple and Shivaji's Samadhi. Raigad can also be an adventure-filled day excursion from the hill station of Mahabaleshwar or from Pune.
Pratapgarh fort is also associated with Shivaji. Located 24km west of Mahabaleshwar, The fort was built in 1656 and has spectacular views. Regular buses from Mahabaleshwar take about one hour to reach Pratapgarh. It takes a further five hundred step climb to reach the fort.
Located 125km from Pune, Bhimashankar is the Shiva temple with one of the five jyotirlingas found in Maharashtra. Constructed during the Peshwa period, the Temple has fine carved wooden entrance. Mahashivratri is celebrated with great pomp and tens of thousands of devotees attend the fair. One can also visit Bombay Point, Gupta Bhimashankar-the origin of Bhima River, Hanuman Tank and Nagphani Point.
Nashik is a city of forts, temples and holy sites. The famous pilgrimage centre of Shirdi is situated in Nashik. River Godavari flows through Nashik and its Northern part is called Panchavati. It is said that lord Ram and Sita along with Laxman stayed at Panchavati for some time during his exile. Nearby is Sita Gumpha (cave) where Sita is said to have stayed. Nashik has always been a major centre of commerce and trade in the past. Leading researchers are said to believe that it was probably the country's largest market place.
Today, Nashik is a bustling township with a blend of the ancient and the modern. It is the home to many industries. The Security Printing Press of the Indian Government is located here. Nashik is connected with the rest of the state by rail and good roads. The nearest airport is Mumbai at 190km.
The Gumpha (Cave) is near the five Banyan trees in Panchavati. One can enter the cave with the help of a very narrow ladder. The cave has the idol of Lord Ram, Laxman and Sita. To the left, another cave has the Shiva Linga. Devotees believe that Ravan kidnapped Sita from this place.
The most important place in Panchavati is Ramkund. It is so called because Lord Rama is believed to have taken bath there. A dip in this sacred kunda is considered to purify the devotee and help attain salvation. The Gandhi Lake is nearby and has a memorial made out of white marble, in memory of Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhiji's ashes were immersed in Ramkund after his death.
Kala Rama Mandir
Built by Peshwas in the 18th century, the Kala Ram Mandir is another sacred temple in Nashik. During Ramnavami, Dasara and Chaitra and Padwa there are festivities in the temple. The temple was built with black stones brought from Ramshej. It is said that 2000 workers toiled for 12 years to build the temple. The apex of the temple is made of gold.
The Sundarnarayan temple was built in 1756.The architecture of the two Mandaps is attractive and the dome is made with ornate cordons. The arched recesses are in Mughal style. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. A remarkable feat of the construction of the temple is that on 21st March, rays of the rising sun fall first on the idols.
36km from Nashik, the village of Trimbak is renowned for the Trimbakeshwar temple and as the source of the Godavari River. Trimbakeshwar temple is one of India's most sacred with one of 12 jyotirlingas dedicated to Shiva. At the Kushavarta Teertha, devotees dip into the waters to purify themselves of all sins before entering the temple. It is also believed that bathing in the waters of the Godavari will bring salvation. The annual festival of Shivratri attracts thousands of pilgrims from all over India.
Shirdi is 122 kms from Nashik and is the abode of Sai Baba of Shirdi. Sai Baba preached tolerance towards all religions and the message of universal brotherhood.
Every activity at Shirdi revolves around the vast temple complex and devotees queue up in the dawn to seek the blessings of Sai Baba. There are various rest houses for pilgrims and eating rooms providing boarding and food at nominal rates. Budget and luxury hotel accommodation is also available.
Pandav Lena Caves
Pandav Lena caves are located on a small hillock, 2.5km from the Taj Residency hotel on the Bombay-Agra Road. This group of 24 Buddhist caves belonging to the Hinayana faith, who worshipped Buddha in symbolical form, dates back to the 1st Century BC and the 2nd Century AD. The images of Buddha carving in some of the caves are additions by the Mahayana faith during 4th - 6th Century AD.
All caves in the group are Viharas (monasteries) except cave No. 18, which is a well sculptured Chaitya (Temple). Cave No. 3 is a large vihara with a shrine and cisterns and was excavated at the orders of the Mother of the famous Satvahana King Gautamiputra Satkarni. Cave No 10 is also a vihara identical to cave no 3, but it is much older and finer in its details.
Vijaydurg and Sindhudurg
Vijaydurg and Sindhudurg bear testimony to Maharashtra's martial supremacy during Shivaji's reign. Vijaydurg was strengthened around the 17th century by Shivaji, who built the triple line of walls, numerous towers and massive interior buildings. Shivaji constructed Sindhudurg in 1664, at a site personally selected by him and no efforts were spared in its construction. Within its vicinity are temples of Maruti, Bhavani, Mahadeo, Jarimai, Mahapurush and also of Shivaji. Once seized by the British Sindhudurg was renamed Fort Augustus.
Vijaydurg and Sindhudurg beaches offer the visitors one of the most serene and beautiful coastal views in India. Rajapur and Kudal are the nearest railheads on the Konkan Railway to Vijaydurg and Sindhudurg respectively. Vijaydurg is 425km and Sindhudurg is 510km from Mumbai via the Goa highway.