Kasol – The Hippie Haven

A beautiful village turned into Hippie Haven.

If you’re looking for peace and are happy with just basic facilities then Kasol is for you.

Top things to do in Kasol

Walk till Manikaran

Manikaran is a pilgrimage center for Sikhs and Hindus situated 5 km from Kasol. The main attractions are the Gurudwara, Shiv temple, and hot water springs which give it a very mystic feel.

  • You can walk to Manikaran along the Parvati river and spend a few hours there.
  • Take bath in the hot water springs which are considered to have medicinal benefits.
  • Enjoy the humble but extremely satisfying food at Langar(Community Kitchen) which is open for people across all the faiths. Langer food is cooked in the hot water springs.
  • Take a nap in the hot caves which will surely take away all the weariness.

Explore Chalal Village

We tried the Chalal trail twice, the first was from the Kasol market and I was deeply disappointed by the litter all along the way and decided to skip it halfway.

On the second occasion just 3kms before Kasol we saw a small bridge on the Parvati river connecting to Chalal Village.

Post crossing the bridge we kept walking towards Chalal for an hour. Thankfully, we got some beautiful and clean trails running parallel to the Parvati River.

We didn’t see a single soul for the first 30 minutes except for a friendly dog who accompanied us till the end. It was towards the end of the trail which was infested with irresponsible tourists who were the main reason for the litter and mess.

Good Food

When you’re done with all the walking and exploration, sit back relax and enjoy some delicious food Kasol has to offer.

  • Moon Dance Cafe – Looking at how crowded it was this seemed to be the most preferred choice for all tourists in Kasol. We tried sizzlers which were perfect for the cold weather.
  • German Bakery – Cakes Muffins Cookies – everything we tried was amazing. We even got some packed for our bus journey.
  • Jim Morrison Cafe – Named after one of the most eccentric frontmen of all time, the cafe lived up to the name. The uphill walk to the cafe makes it all the more interesting. We tried Pizza, some pancakes, and endless cups of Ginger and Mint tea. Post dinner, the descend got really adventurous and spooky thanks to the rains and no lights on the way. Please do carry a torch if you’re going to stay late for dinner. 
  • Evergreen Cafe – This is claimed to be the oldest cafe in Kasol. Lovely music and laid back vibe. If you are in no hurry you should definitely try it for one of your meals. We tried a few Israeli dishes which turned out to be quite appetizing.
  • Shamboo Momos – Who doesn’t like momos in the mountains? – Not to miss this small cart right opposite German Bakery.
  • Sanjha Chulha – Not at all pocket-friendly but this is the only place that serves authentic Himachali food. It is 6 km from Kasol. Since we were staying there we picked it for dinner. We had started getting tired of all the continental affair and needed my fill of local rustic food. Sadly there is not a single restaurant in Kasol Market which serves local food. Service here is slow as they claim to cook everything fresh. They even have Dham Thalis & Siddu. A good collection of pickle varieties. Basic comforting and everything we ordered turned out to be succulent. This was my best meal in Kasol 🙂

Route 

Chandigarh -> Bhuntar (8hours by Bus) -> Kasol (1-2 hours by Bus \ Cab)

Stay

Parvati Kuteer,  The Himalayan Village

Jodhpur

Jodhpur is also known as blue or sun city, It is the second-largest city in the Indian state of Rajasthan.

Named after King Rao Jodha it was historically capital of the Marwar kingdom.

Jodhpur is geographically located in the center of Rajasthan and can be easily reached in a couple of hours from Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Ajmer, Shekhawati & Jaipur.

Here is the list of places we visited in Jodhpur during our two days stay in Oct-19.

Day 1

Mehrangarh Fort

Mehrangarh Fort is one of the largest forts in the world and is visited by tourists all across the globe.

Built-in 15th century by Maharaja Rao Jodha this fortress has thick walls and large courtyards. It has a total of seven gates built by Maharaja Man Singh to celebrate his victories over Jaipur, Udaipur, and Bikaner.

Built on a hilltop known as Bhakurcheeria (mountain of birds), you can see hundreds of eagles flocking it.

Fort houses museums, craft markets, cannons, armor collection, temples, gardens, and restaurants.

You will need a minimum of 3 hours to explore this fort. It has also featured in the 2012 movie The Dark Knight Rises.

Jaswant Thada

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Jaswant Thada is one km from Mehrangarh Fort. It is a cenotaph built-in memory of Raja Jaswant Singh and serves as the cremation ground for the Royal Family of Mawar.

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It is built of pure white marble and has intricate designs all over the walls and ceiling. It even has a well-maintained garden where you can sit and relax for some time. 

Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park

Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park is within walking distance from Fort. It was created in 2006 to restore the natural ecology of rocky wasteland around Mehrangarh Fort.

We visited it around sunset, post climbing a hillock in the park you can click magnificent shots of Mehrangarh fort.

It isn’t a normal park as you have to walk through rocky patches and climb really steep parts and even tickets are a bit expensive. If you have some time then try visiting it around sunrise or just before sunset.

Mandore Garden

Post 20 min drive from Rao Jodha park we reached Mandore gardens. Mandore is an ancient town and was the capital of Marwar before it was abandoned in the 15th-century.

These gardens are huge and have many centuries-old temples that tell you stories of the glorious past of Marwar. Sadly by the time, we reached it was a bit dark. This place needs to be explored around 5 pm or early morning to enjoy the best views. If you are visiting Jodhpur please don’t miss it.

Janta Sweets Foodcourt

After a long and tiring day, we decided to have our dinner in Janta Sweets Foodcourt.

We had Onion Kachodi, Rainbow Kulfi, Cheese Sandwich, and polish it down with loads of Chaas (buttermilk).


And then packed some Gevar packed to take back home.

Day 2

It was our last day in Jodhpur as we had to catch a train to Mumbai at around 7 pm. We decided to start a bit late, packed our bags had breakfast at homestay. Post requesting them to keep our luggage at their reception we booked Uber till Clock Market. 

Clock Market

Toorji Ka Jalra

A well-kept step-well in the heart of the city. Every corner of this step-well is Insta worthy and you should definitely spend some time here.

Shahi Samosa & Mirchi Vada

This place serves the best samosas in India, You should definitely try their Samosa and Mirchi Vada

Umaid Bhavan Palace 

Umaid Bhavan Palace is one of the world’s largest private residences. This palace has 347 rooms and a major part of it is converted into a Hotel. A small section of the palace is converted into a museum which is open to tourists. The royal family still lives in a section of this palace. It was even awarded the world’s best hotel at the Traveller’s Choice Award organized by TripAdvisor. International celebrities Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas’s tied knot here.

Why Jodhpur is called Blue City?

  • Since the weather here remains hot all year and blue reflects heat so people have painted their house to keep them cool.
  • When the fort was built most of the Bhramins painted their houses blue to identify themselves as Blue color is associated with Lord Shiva.
  • Limestone and Copper are available in abundance near Jodhpur, so these must have been the cheapest and easily available options to paint houses blue.

Some interesting Graffiti on the walls

Toorji ka jalra, clock tower & Fort

Tips:

  • Stick to easy peasy cotton wear and comfortable shoes as you have to walk a lot and climb to Mehrangarh Fort is steep.
  • Plan your visit during winter months ( Nov-Feb) and avoid peak summers.
  • Wear a cap and sunglasses as it gets very hot during peak hours.
  • We visited Mehrangarh fort during the first half of the day, I think if you want better photos you should visit post-lunch and stay till sunset to capture some amazing shots.
  • Don’t forget to hire a guide or opt for the audio guide with headphones while purchasing your tickets to Mehrangarh Fort
  • Monuments hold deeper meaning when you know about their past too.
  • I am not a fan of shopping while I am traveling but you can definitely buy some bangles, Colorful dupattas, silver jewelry, and famous jodhpuris.
  • Carry a water bottle, you can get it re-filled at many places
  • All the tourist places in Jodhpur have very good facilities, definitely the best I have seen in India.
  • I preferred uber for traveling within Jodhpur, it worked perfectly for us family of 4.
    • Uber is definitely a cheaper option, you don’t have to bargain with cab and auto drivers – trust me saves a lot of time and patience.
    • You can spend as much time as you want at any place rather than dealing with drivers who start rushing things.

Raigad road trip in Monsoon season

This Hill Fort is one of the most significant forts in Maharashtra and testimony of many significant events.

Located in Sahyadris mountain range Raigad, which was once capital of Marathas led by Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and center of Maratha Kingdom.

Built on a hill 820 meters above sea level you need to climb ~ 1700+ stairs to reach to the top if you are an adventure enthusiast.

For rest, the easier way is rope-way from the base which takes you to the top of the fort in 5 minutes.

The fort is in complete ruins, but the stories of Maratha valor are ingrained in every part of this Fort.

The Fort is huge and it can easily take 2-3 hours to explore all the parts of this magnanimous part of an era gone by.

Shivaji Maharaj observed that mountain of “Rairi” was the best place, steep on all sides and tallest of all, the whole mountain being a seamless rock and almost impregnable .“This Fort is formidable. All sides appear as if chiseled from a mountain of solid rock. Not even a blade of grass grows on the sheer vertical rock. This is a paragon to house the throne

History

  • Built by a King of Maurya Dystansy and was called Rayri.
  • Seized and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and made it his capital in 1674 and remade it to Raigad.
  • His Rajabhishek was done here when he was coronation as King of the Martha Empire.
  • On 3rd April 1680, Shivaji Maharaj passed away on this fort
  • In 1689, the Mughals captured this fort, and Aurangzeb renamed it “Islamabad”.
  • In 1765, the Raigad Fort was the target of an armed expedition by the British East India Company who saw it as a piratical stronghold and thereby bombarded and destroyed in 1818, and the looted the fort, it is believed they even robbed fort of golden throne weighing 1000kg.
On the way to Fort in Monsoon season
View from Ropeway
Queen’s Quarters “Rani Vasa”, six chambers, and attached restrooms.

Ruins of Market place, it is interesting to know that the market is elevated from the ground as the people used to shop on horses.

Jagdishwar Mandir

How to reach

Tips

  • You can stay overnight in the fort as there are rooms available by MTDC
  • Famous among trekking & photography enthusiasts.
  • Best time to visit is Monsoon Months ( July – October) and winter months ( December – Feb)
  • Please book a guide, who can the significance of all the main points well.

Kahneri Caves

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In the heart of Mumbai city, these millennium-old Buddhist caves take you back to the era when the Buddhist religion was at its peak in this region. Largest Buddhist site in India with more than 100 caves excavations on one hill.

These caves were built between the 1st and 11th centuries and consist of 109 rock-cut caves which include Viharas (monasteries), Chaitya (Meditation halls), cisterns and one of the earliest statues of Buddhist iconography.

Why this location was ideal for Kahneri caves

The Ancient trade route between important ports like Sopara and Kalyan passed through Kahneri (Krishnagiri – Black mountain ). Businessmen would use it for staying during their long travels. Various inscriptions at Kahneri mention that various businessmen contributed to building these caves.

Why should you visit Kahneri Caves

109 rock-cut caves of different types

Cave 1

This is the first cave you encounter, It is a Vihara and only two-storied cave in Kahneri. The interior part of the cave is unfinished probably due to a structural defect in the architecture.

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Cave 2

This cave is simple and has a long verandah to provide relief in Monsoons.

Cave 2 has Stupas in a separate section.

Cave 3

Cave 3 is the chaitya cave and the most celebrated cave of Kahneri.

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On the entrance on either side, there are huge Buddha statues. These statues are first of its kind in Buddhist Iconogry due to their mammoth size.

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These Buddha statues are claimed to be one of the earliest statues of Buddha in India. It is even believed that with these statues, the trend of building large idols of Buddha started which later spread in Asia.

Inside the case is a huge Buddha stupa and it has pillars on either side, few of the pillars are unfinished.

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Cave 11

The Durbar Hall or the Assembly Hall has a statue of Buddha enshrined in the center and many small Viharas on either side.

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Dining area in Cave 3

Viharas

Most of the caves are small cells used by Buddhist students for living and meditation.

Each Vihar has a small porch, one main room, and a small room that has a stone bed. Exterior part with have a cistern for water storage on either side

Windows for ventilation carved on all viharas.

Few viharas even have inscriptions on few caves mentioning names of merchants who sponsored for these caves

Huge grinding stone outside each vihara, probably used for grinding purposes or for storing water or food.

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Rock Cut Stairs connecting all the caves.

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Exterior of Caves

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View of caves from the top of the hill

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Evolved Rain Water Harvesting System.

Kahneri in Mumbai region is famous for its heavy monsoons which lasts between June to September, Over the years the water management system was evolved by inhabitants to store this rainwater to last them for remaining dry months.

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Two hills on which these caves are built look like one water stream flows during Monsoon season and water tanks are built to collect this water.

On the top of the hill there are huge water tanks and then small canals which help to route water from top to bottom in a perfect network system.

These cisterns have multiple level structure where top cisterns fill first and when it is full water routs to next cisterns, to ensure water isn’t waster at all. Each Cave has cisterns on either side.

One of the water tanks on top of the hill

Best season to visit Kahneri Caves

Best Season to visit If you want to explore all the caves is from December – Jan. Climate is pleasant, you can walk around and due to sunlight – the interior of caves is bright.

Even Rainy season is the perfect season to explore caves for adventure purpose as the climate is pleasant and the forest around caves is lush green, however, the interior of caves are dark so I suggest carrying torch if you want to explore caves properly.

During rainy season avoid days when it is pouring heavily as it might get big dangerous as water starts accumulating on the pathways making it slippy and bit dangerous especially if you have kids with you.

I would suggest taking private vehicles till the main entrance of caves and then exploring which will take 2-3 hours.

If you are looking for some adventure you can even walk from the main gate of national park ~ 6kms from caves.

Rani Ki Vav

This 11th-century Stepwell is the latest addition to the UNESCO world heritage sites list. This Stepwell is Queen of all step wells in India. Perfect example of Ancient India’s finest design and architecture.

Built on banks of river Saraswati and situated in Patan. Since the Saraswati river has completely dried up now, there is no water in the Vaav during most months except monsoons.

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Who built Rani Ki Vav?

Queen Udayamati built it in the memory of her late husband Bhima 1.

A bold decision by a Queen during medieval times, when she decided not to commit Sati, as a norm back then. Instead, she devoted her life to the welfare of her people.

This is the first of its kind where a Queen builds a monument in remembrance of her husband. She wanted her husband’s legacy to stay till eternity.

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Architecture

Built-in Maru-Gujaru architecture, around the same time as Dilwara temples and Modhera Sun temple.

It has 7 levels of stairs with each level adorned with beautifully carved sculptures which surprisingly are still in very good condition.

There are claimed to be more than 1000 big and small sculptures adorning all the sections of Vav.

These sculptures mainly consist of gods, goddesses, Aphasara (Dancers), Naag Kanyas ( Snake Woman), Vishnu Avatars.

Rediscovering Rani ki Vav in the 1980s.

Due to floods in Saraswati Rani ki Vav was flooded and got completely buried, with no traces of its existence. for many centuries

When it was rediscovered in the 1980s it took ASI 10 years to excavate and then restore the complete Structure. This may be the reason for most of the sculptures being in very good condition too and protected it from many Islam Invaders.

In the last 1000 years, this region has suffered many earthquakes, but due to the amazing design and architecture, none of the sculptures is damaged.

The stepwell is designed in the form of an inverted temple highlighting the sanctity of water during that period. All the walls are adorned with numerous Hindu deities.

Dedicated to Lord Vishnu who is enshrined in the main sanctum in his favorite sleeping pose.

This image looks beautiful and serene and is visible from all the floors, making it easier for the devotees to have darshan of their favorite lord.

Prominent Sculptures on the walls of Vav

Geometrical shapes
Naag Kanya – 3 owls symbolize that like them she is active during the night
Monkey teasing a girl
Woman in her elaborate jewelry
woman chewing on a twig
woman adorning herself in the mirror while adjusting flower in her hair
woman wearing footwear