Saturday, 28 April 2012

Mumbai to Kudal via Panhala and Kolhapur

I am writing here about a family trip which I made last week. There were no intriguing experiences which of course I did not expect. Now, it does not mean that you close your mind and stop thinking about whatever that is being perceived while on the way.
We wanted to visit my in laws in Kudal and the direct trains going there from Mumbai were all full in line with the expectations. My decision to visit was ad hoc and I decided to convert this problem into an opportunity. Instead of following straight route, I decided to reach Kudal via Kolhapur. Panhala is a historic place situated at slightly higher altitude of 1000m above mean sea level and just 20 km from Kolhapur. Spending a day here would have been a slight relief from hot and humid coastal weather. I searched for a guest house over the internet and booked it over the phone after some deliberations from both the sides.
With good road, comfortable sleeper bus operated by Konduskar Travels with the timely pickup, reaching Kolhapur was totally hasslefree. So was reaching Panhala with an autorikshaw driver found in Kolhapur who frequents Panhala. After having small rest, a hot bath and carefully prepared tasty, sumptuous but simple breakfast of Poha and Sheera we were all ready to explore Panhala.
We toured the town of Panhala by hiring an autorikshaw whose driver couples his job by also being a tour guide. The information received during the tour can be summed up as follows. Panhala town is actually located in the premises of a fort which came into existence in the 12th century during Shilahar period and was built by Kind Bhoj II. Afterwards it remained in the hands of Adilshah, whose Farsi inscriptions are still seen on many walls. It was later captured by Shivaji and later on transferred to his successors. It went into the hands of British in 1844 who destroyed the main imposing entrance of the fort in order to make road. The town still serves as a block headquarter for the surrounding 16 villages which are located at the base of the hill. If you want to make a tour of Panhala by knowing all the facts and the stories of warfare, bravery and negligence done in our modern times, do look for Mr. Nikam, a middle aged, short and silent looking person and hire his services as guide cum autorikshaw driver.
Statue of Veer Baji Prabhu Deshpande, Shivaji’s Sardar
In the evening we tried to traverse the town and its nearby surroundings on foot. My three and half year old son also walked long distance without complaining about it. The town has many old buildings and also a dark and depressing garden named after the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. An interesting find on the road near the corner was an impressively built hexagonally shaped old well which is still in use. Somewhere in the midway while we were walking it started to rain and not just plain rain but with hails which we are not used to in Mumbai. We returned to the room all tired and had to remain satisfied with the boring meals offered by a nearby hotel.
The Historic Hexagonal Well near Nehru Garden
Next day we started our journey to Kudal from Panhala early in the morning. Since we were passing through Kolhapur, we stopped at one of our distant relative in Kolhapur and had to miss the Kolhapuri Misal which I was craving a lot. While in Kolhapur, my wife wanted to buy a Kolhapur chappal (a kind of footwear). The town is famous for them and if you happen to shop it at the Sant Rohidas Lane, where there are many Kolhapuri chappal shops, don’t forget to bargain unlike other places in Kolhapur, since they essentially cater to the outsiders these days. Also if you want to wear a no frills and highly durable chappal, try Abhyankar Footwear shop in Kolhapur. They sell only their own brand. Though with little variety and ornamentation, their chappals are reported to last for more than three years not because they get worn out completely but you get bored of them and want something new.
Now something about an observation which made me write this blog post. While from Panhala to the another corner of the Kolhapur city, at almost every junctures, there were these huge banners greeting a political leader called Ravikiran Ingawale on his birthday. They were in various sizes with him showing as the main figure and then photographs of his family members and those who were wishing him were displayed as secondary figures. The huge display was intriguing enough for an “ignorant Mumbaikar” like me to remember his name and keep that display lingering in my mind. I made some calculations based on my observations. These are as follows.
In about 40 km of the road traversed by me by me, I must have spotted at least 200 such banners. Given that Kolhapur is a city where roads cross from so many different directions there is a possibility of total number of posters 10 times the figure I spotted bringing it to a total number of 2000, which I think is a very conservative estimate. The total cost of erecting one banner must be around `1200 which makes the total money poured in by his well wishers in the city comes to approximately `24,00,000. Given the support cost for agricultural inputs of `6,000 per acre for an unirrigated rain fed food crops grown by the dry-land farmers, the same amount would have helped 400 farmer families with a total of 2000 souls to feed themselves for an year.
These are just the cost comparisons and not the directions for what one should do with his money. I don’t want to thrust my opinions about the kind of democracy in which are we are living on the readers but want to share something which I found after googling in Marathi about this guy at the centre stage of the posters.
A piece of information about what had happened in the past,
The banners which I had noticed have not gone unnoticed by the media as well,

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