The ancient cave temples of Ajanta are located in a far-flung river valley around 105 km northeast of Aurangabad in Maharashtra. These Buddhist caves are carved into a steep rock face gorge in the shape of a horseshoe nearly 76 m in height, with the River Waghur flowing by. Considered as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Ajanta Caves are protected by the Archaeological Survey of India. Built between 2nd century BC and 6th century AD, Ajanta Caves are among the most visited ancient monuments of India. The caves were built using only hammer and chisel, and were used as secluded retreats for Buddhist monks for about a decade before getting abandoned. They were rediscovered by Captain John Smith in 1819 after which the popularity was regained. The caves are the beautiful canvas of ancient Indian art, especially the exclusive paintings depicting emotions through gesture, pose and form elaborated in them.
There are about 30 rock-cut cave monuments – one developed during the Satavahana period, while the other one built during Vakataka period. While all the caves are interesting and beautiful in their own ways, the must visit ones include cave 1, 2, 16, 17, 19 and 26. The caves are most famous for mesmerizing mural paintings and sculptures portraying the Jataka tales. As per UNESCO, these caves are the masterpieces displaying Buddhist religious art that inspired the Indian art afterwards.
Ajanta Caves are among the major tourist hubs in Maharashtra. The 30 caves crafted out in a 250-foot rock face, including a Buddhist prayer hall with a stupa on one end (Chaityas) and a Buddhist monastery (Viharas) at the other end, it is a sheer delight to explore the region. Special mention of the caves 1,2,16 and 17 is necessary for being the finest example of ancient Indian wall-painting that still survives. Check out the vivid and warm colors that showcase Buddha’s past lives and rebirths. There are rock-cut sculptures of Buddhist deities and illustrations from Jatakamala by Aryasura to perfectly complement the entire marvel.
Ellora Caves are located around 98 km from the famous Ajanta Caves and have immense importance of historical and cultural background. Locally known as “Verul Leni”, Ellora Caves are located near Verul to the northwest of Aurangabad. These caves are entitled as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and are among the most visited ancient destinations of Maharashtra. Often teamed with Ajanta caves, Ajanta-Ellora holds huge significance of Indian history, mythology as well as architectural marvel.The caves at Ellora were built between 6th and 10th centuries AD, and are carved out of the vertical face of Charanandri hills. The caves began to be carved out in around 550 AD – it was about the same time when Ajanta Caves were abandoned. It was the same time when Buddhism was facing a steep decline in India and Hinduism was gaining to reassert its foothold. The caves beautifully exhibit the impressive complex of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain cave temples. The magnificent Kailash Temple built in the 8th century is among the most majestic works in the Ellora Caves.
There are 34 caves in the Ellora Cave complex all hewn out of solid rocks of the Charanandri Hills. These caves are not elaborated with dramatic settings like those at Ajanta, but these are definitely more exquisite sculptures. There are 12 Buddhist, 17 Hindu and 5 Jain caves depicting the impartiality of all the three religions. The coexistence of structures from three different religions portrays the prevalent religious tolerance of India and works as a splendid visual representation. The Kailash Temple, started by the Rashtrakuta king Krishna I, is a perfect example of a stupendous piece of architecture showcasing spatial effects and grand sculptures.
The Ellora Caves are the beautiful illustration of religious as well as cultural face of ancient India. The annual Ajanta-Ellora Festival organized in Aurangabad is a way to pay tribute to the legendart caves and several other historical monuments in the region. It is a sight to behold and a grand ceremony attended by several great artists and performers of Indian art and culture. The cultural events are held at Kailash Temnple or Soneri Mahal and include performances like classic and folk dancing, singing and instrumental music.
Counted among the most popular tourist destinations of Mumbai, the Hanging Gardens or the Pherozeshah Mehta Gardens is a terraced garden perched at the top of Malabar Hill, Mumbai. The history of the garden dates back to 1880 when it was built by Ulhas Ghapokar over Bombay's main reservoir with the aim to cover the contaminated water from the nearby Towers of Silence. It was later renovated in 1921. The Hanging Gardens was built to dedicate to its barrister Pherozeshah Mehta. The beautiful garden is spectacularly known for its lush green vegetation and animal shaped hedges and topiaries. Everything around the garden adds to its beauty, including the comforting view of the vast Arabian Sea and the bird’s eye view of Marine Drive and Chowpatty. There are a number of flowers and plants of different varieties which make it all the more colorful and pleasant to look at.
It is a pure bliss to watch the sunset at the Hanging Gardens, it is indeed a lifetime experience. The main attractions of the garden, besides the flowers and green and scenic view, is the clock placed right at the center of the garden. The well maintained garden is clean and complete with basic amenities for the ease of the visitors. The “Old Woman’s Shoe” or “the Boot House” is another major tourist attraction. It is a gigantic boot structure made of stone and brick mainly for the kids to climb up.
You can spend the day exploring the natural beauty in the terraced gardens, or you can get there for a family picnic. Watching the sunset is an exotic experience here amidst the lush green overlooking the Marine Drive and Chowpatty. The garden makes it a very good location for photography. Early morning joggers and yoga performers too find the place a perfect one.
Mani Bhavan Gandhi Museum is a historical building turned museum dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi located at Laburnum Road in the Gamdevi precinct of Mumbai. It is the place where Gandhi had initiated major political reforms like Non-Cooperation Movement, Satyagraha, Swadesi, Khadi and Khilafat. It used to be Gandhiji’s residence between 1917 and 1934, while executing his political agenda. The mansion was owned by Revashankar Jagjeevan Jhaveri, Gandhiji’s friend and host in Mumbai during the period when the Mahatma was staying at Mani Bhavan. The house was taken over by the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi in 1955 with the aim to make it a memorial to Gandhi. The house got renovated in the same year when it was established as a memorial for Gandhiji with a life-like statue of Gandhiji in the ground floor.
The house is a wonderful show of Gandhi’s life with a statue at the main room in the ground floor. There is a library in the same floor which goes up to the first floor trailing a staircase adorned with multiple pictures of the Mahatma. There are paintings, framed letters and documents that serve a look into the past. There are 3D tableaux depicting Gandhiji’s life events. The famous Charkha (spinning wheel) and the Charpoy complete the overall look. Copies of Mahatma’s favorite “Les Miserables” are well preserved and kept in the museum.
Visit the museum if you are interested to explore the life of the Mahatma, his struggles for freedom and initiatives for the welfare of the countrymen. Watch out for the books like those by Tolstoys and Shakespeare which were read by Gandhiji. Don’t miss the childhood pictures of his along with his assassination clippings as launched by relevant press and media. Do visit the terrace where Gandhiji was arrested in 1932 by the British.
The Prince of the Wales Museum, or better known as The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya,, abbreviated CSMVS is the biggest museum of Mumbai founded the early 20th century. Prominent citizens of Mumbai are the founders of the museum who made this with the help of government. It was built to commemorate the visit of Edward VIII, the then Prince of Wales. It was renamed in 1998 after the founder of Maratha Empire - Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The structure of the building follows the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture the most prominently, while elements of other styles of architecture like the Mughal, Maratha and Jain are also visible. Surrounded by a garden of palm trees and formal flower beds, the museum houses around 50,000 items on display belonging to ancient Indian history mainly. At the same time, there are objects from foreign lands, mainly categorized into art, archaeology and natural history.
The museum is a must visit for the ones interested in history and archaeology. There are Indus Valley Civilization artifacts and the different relics from ancient India that belong to the reign of the Guptas, Mauryas, Chalukyas and Rashtrakuta. Spread over an area of 12,142.23 sq m, the three-storeyed museum building is a wonderful depiction built of locally quarried grey Kurla basalt and buff coloured trachyte Malad stone.
Check out the exteriors ornamented by a garden of palm trees and formal flower beds. The dome of the museum carries an uncanny similarity with the Golconda Fort while the inner vaulting arches resemble to Gol Gumbaz in Bijapur. The sculptures kept inside the museum are treasures to behold especially those of terracotas belonging to the Gupta period and bricks from Mirpurkhas excavated by Cousens.
Located at the heart of the city, The Gateway of India is one of India’s most unique landmarks situated right at the center of Mumbai. It was constructed in 1924 at Apollo Bunder, with the gateway overlooking the Mumbai harbor bordered by the Arabian Sea in the Colaba district. It is a monument that marks India’s chief ports and considered among major tourist attraction for visitors. It had cost the Indian Government a total of around 21 lakhs during the British rule. The 'First Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry' passing happened to be the first main event that took place at the Gateway of India on 28th February 1948. It was after Indian independence and after the last set of British troops and divisions left India. The main aim to construct the Gateway of India was to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Bombay.
The major attraction of the Gateway of India is the structural design that is mainly a large arch reaching a height of 26 m. The beautiful construction is designed in the Indo-Saracenic style built in yellow basalt and indissoluble concrete. Traces of Muslim architectural styles can also be seen in the structure of the grand edifice. The mesmerizing and intricate lacework along with the 4 turrets are among the most eye-catching features of the entire structure of the Gateway of India.
One can spend around an hour witnessing the massive edifice. Elephanta caves are quite nearby and hence one can also visit the spot in the same trip. The Taj Mahal hotel is a heritage and luxurious hotel of India standing quite close to the Gateway of India.
Lion’s Point is a popular vantage point and a favorite among the tourists. It is located midway between Bhushi Dam and Aamby valley in Lonavala. The spot is exceptionally popular for the scenic beauty which overlooks deep valleys and steep mountains offering mesmerizing panoramic views. Considered among the must visit places of Lonavala, the best time to travel is during monsoons or just after the rainy season to make the most of it. There are dozens of waterfalls which get filled with the rain water during monsoons giving a new life to the region. Additionally, lush green hills and lakes around the waterfalls are visual treat, especially during the monsoon. The place derives its name not because it is someway related to spotting lions or anything such. Instead, it is because the place is associated with the Lions Club of Lonavala.
Lion’s Point, Lonavala is the best spot to go for if you are looking for some beautiful sunrise or sunset. It is a paradise for nature lovers as well as for the photography freaks. The most refreshing thing about the region is the strong gush of wind that blows rejuvenating one’s physical as well as emotional health. The edge of the cliff is a favorite place for the adventurous ones who want to push their adrenalin rush high by standing close to the thrilling area.
It is an amazing experience to drive to the spot as the entire region is beautiful. The Shivling peak is a conical peak located towards the left side of Lion’s Point. It is among the best subject of photography in the entire spot. Get clicked right at the edge of the Lion’s Point to get the particular “living-on-the-edge” photograph, and also to experience the thrilling winds blowing on your face.
Mahabaleshwar Temple is an ancient shrine and a popular tourist attraction located around 6 km from Mahabaleshwar, Maharashtra. Considered as an ideal example of the Maratha heritage, the temple is also known as the Mahabali. The serene ambiance and tranquility of the temple complex attracts the devotees as well as tourists throughout the year. Lord Shiva is the main deity of the temple which is extremely popular among the Hindus visiting Mahabaleshwar for holidaying. Among the ancient temples of Maharashtra, the temple was built in the 16th century by Chanda Rao More dynasty. The architecture and construction glorify the Maratha Empire through its picturesque edifice built with the backdrop of mesmerizing hilly terrain. A five-foot wall guards the magnificent architecture, and there are two sections – the inner area and the outer area. The deity of Lord Shiva resides in the inner part known as the sanctum sanctorum. The temple complex promises a very serene and spiritual environment which is flocked by the visitors throughout the year to worship as well as to enjoy the peaceful aura of Lord Shiva.
Lord Shiva is worshipped as the main deity in Shree Malabaleshwar Temple which is adorned with Shiva’s apparent presence. Several of Shiva’s “belongings” including – his bed, damru (two-headed pellet drum), trishul (trident), carvings of his sacred bull and Kalbhairav and many more relevant knick-knacks add to the existence of the deity within the temple. The main and central attraction of the temple is a huge Shiva Lingam which is 6-feet long and is 500-years old. One can only spot the tip of the lingam where stone incarnation of Lord Shiva is depicted. The Mahabaleshwar Temple is a prototype of the authentic Hemadant architecture which is more prominent in South India.
The most celebrated festival in the temple is the Maha Shivratri which is celebrated with huge endeavor. Though the devotees flock in maximum number during the festivals, the temple is crowded with travelers throughout the year mainly due to the serene ambiance as well as because of the pleasant weather.
Also known as the Land of Sai, Shirdi is a small town located around 258 km from Mumbai in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra. Considered as one of the biggest and most popular pilgrimages, Shirdi is famous for the shrine of Shirdi Sai Baba, which is the main attraction for the devotees visiting there. It demarks the land where “a young bearded man with sparkling eyes” took shelter in a mosque. This man was named Sri Sai Baba later who lived the life of a fakir and preached the principles of love and faith in humanity to all his disciples. Sai Baba is known as one of the greatest saints of India in the 20th century. He visited the town of Shirdi at the age of 16 and stayed for the entire life till his demise in 1918. His life, teachings and contributions transformed this small hamlet into one of the holiest pilgrimage sites of India. There are records of multiple miracles done by the Sai in his lifetime and his preaching was inherited from both Hindu as well as Islam religion.
Legends say that it is the selfless love and dedication of Sai Baba for the poor and sufferers that earned him the position of an incarnation of the god. Shirdi Temple holds immense importance as it is where he attained his “Samadhi” and preached his disciples. The temple complex covers around 200 sq m and includes Gurusthan, Samadhi Mandir, Dwarkamai, Chavadi and Lendi Baug as the major holy places to visit. Shirdi Temple is one the richest temples in the country in terms of donations that is estimated around 4 billion per annum.
A huge number of devotees belonging to all religions visit Shirdi Temple throughout the year. A daily footfall of 50,000 is recorded to have the darshan of the saint deity. There are three major festivals celebrated here that include – Ramnavami, Gurupurnima and Vijayadashami. During festivals and celebrations, more than 100,000 devotees flock at the temple. There is a provision for 2500 rooms of different capacity in the Sri Sai Baba Sansthan Trust for accommodation.
Located at a distance of 41 from Panchgani, near Wai in Satara district of Maharashtra, Kamalgadh is a square hill fort which is also called Bhelanja or Kattalgad. The fort is situated at an elevation of over 4511 feet and is among the most visited places in the state by adventurous tourists mainly because of the breathtaking views of the magnificent Dhom Dam, and the trekking route. With an elevation of 4000 feet, Kamalgadh Fort is one of the highest hill forts in the region and is among the favorite trekking route and destination especially for the locals. The exact history and the construction of the fort is unknown, though it is said to have been established in the Medieval Period of India and was under the Maratha rulers before it became the part of British Empire. Totally surrounded by steep rocks, the fort can only be accessed by trekking and hiking and then passing through a tunnel which is built at its base and blocked by a huge rock.
The main attraction of the fort is its rugged look which is quite an adventurous one, especially for the young generation. Covering an area of 3-4 acres, the entire region is surrounded by thick woods and steep rocks which need careful scaling to reach its base. Interestingly, there are no buildings on the top, neither are there any wall or gateway built in the fort which makes it very unusual and strange. An 18-20 feet well sunk through the rocks is the only structure built on the top, and the soil beneath has still water.
While trekking remains among the favorite thing to do while visiting the Kamalgadh Fort, the route begins right from Vasole village or from Nandgaon. The initial route is well trodden with steep and narrow path. As the route ascends towards gorge between a hill and the fort, one might get confused with so many cattle routes emerging out. It is advisable to confirm from the locals at frequent intervals not to get misguided and lost.
Considered among the 50 tiger reserves of India, Tadoba National Park is a popular tiger reserve and a favorite tourist spot in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra. It is the largest and oldest national park of the city with an area spread of 1727 sq km, and one of the top wildlife sanctuaries of India. Also known as Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, it was established in the year 1955 and was declared as a tiger reserve in 1986. The national park derives its name from the tribal god ‘Tadoba’ or ‘Taru’, who was a chief in the tribal village and was killed by a tiger. He is worshipped as a god whose shrine has been built on the banks of the river that runs through the region. Tadoba National Park is a famous destination to catch a glimpse of the Bengal tiger. It is also famous for a rich flora and fauna including 88 tigers as recorded in the year 2016.
The Tadoba National Park is divided into three different forest zones - Tadoba north range, Kolsa south range, and Mohurli range, with 6 different entry gates named Mohurli gate, Kolara gate, Kuswanda gate, Navegaon gate, Pangdi gate and Zari gate. Mohurli zone is the best area to spot animals which lies in the central zone. Tadoba zone is the most visited for its scenic locations and animal spotting too. Kolsa zone is famous for its dense vegetation and forest region. Though safari isn’t an easy option here, people visit Kolsa zone to mainly focus on the flora.
Safari is at the top of to-do list while visiting Tadoba National Park. There are open gypsy safari and bus safari that are conducted within the forest and are accompanied by professional guides. Open gypsy safari is mainly conducted to spot wild digs, sloth bears and several other animals like leopards, striped hyena, small Indian civet, jungle cats, sambar, gaur, nilgai, dhole, spotted deer, barking deer, chital, and chausingha.
Echo Point is one of the most popular spots at Matheran which stands out in its own unique way. Visit the spot to learn some unlikely physics lesson with its real life illustrations teaching the basics and practical depiction of the acoustics of echoing. Matheran is a small hill station located in Raigad district of Maharashtra and is among the most favorite monsoon destinations in the state. Situated at an altitude of 800 m, Matheran falls in the Western Ghats range at a distance of 94 km from Mumbai. The town was developed by the district collector of Thane and the Governor of Bombay in 1850 AD as a British summer resort. Matheran, meaning “forest on the forehead”, is a popular eco-sensitive region declared by the Ministry of Environment and Forest under the Indian Government. It stands out for the fact that it is the only automobile-free hill station of India where no private automobiles are allowed inside the town. One has to reach Matheran by foot or pony after descending down at Dasturi Point 2.5 km away.
Echo Point, as the name suggests, is a spectacular point to visit famous for reverberations and echoes that are generated in and around the region. People visit here to hear their voice retracing back to them which is a fun-filled interesting phenomenon. The spot is also a sheer visual treat exclusively for its natural virgin exquisiteness, especially the Sahyadri mountain ranges which are a speechless sight to behold. The bird’s eye view of the surroundings is definite to sweep off your feet.
While playing with your own voice at the Echo Point and indulging into some blissful scenic pleasure of the surroundings are among the major things to do, one must also checkout the local Maharashtrian delicacies sold at roadside stalls. The place is a foodie’s paradise with so many local foods available at various stalls at reasonable prices. Echo Point is also an exceptional gateway for weekend trips or for family picnics.
Elephanta Caves are a UNESCO World Heritage Site located on Elephanta Islands in Mumbai Harbour around 10 km away from the main city of Mumbai. It is a collection of cave temples predominantly dedicated to Lord Shiva, and consists of about five Shaivite caves and a few Buddhist stupa mounds that date back to the 2nd century BCE. There are two Buddhist caves as well that have water tanks built inside them. The Elephanta Caves are made of solid basalt rock cut stone sculptures that show the perfect syncretism of Hinduism and Buddhism in terms of ideas and iconography. It is a perfect example of Indian art depicting the most perfect expressions, particularly the main cave with massive reliefs. The caves were named by the colonial Portuguese who spotted big elephant statues on them. The caves were restored in 1970s and in 1987 the renovated caves were designated by UNESCO as World Heritage Site after which they are maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
The major attraction is the main temple and its orientation along with its relative location with other temples forming a mandala pattern. The carvings portray Hindu mythologies with a gigantic monolithic 20 feet Trimurti Sadashiva (three-faced Shiva), Nataraja (Lord of dance) and Yogishvara (Lord of Yoga) among the major attractions celebrated by the travelers. The Sadashiva sculpture represents three aspects of Shiva – the Creator, the Preserver and the Destroyer. The main body of the cave is exceptionally beautiful with three open side porticos and the back aisle framing a 27-m square supported by rows of six columns each.
Explore the main cave marked as 1, as a must visit. There are 120 steep steps from the shore beach taking you to the main cave. You may also avail the toy train to reach the cave which is an experience by its own. Caves 2 to 5 are most incomplete or damaged canon hills while caves 6-7 are stupa hills.
Ganapatipule is a famous pilgrimage center located in the Ratnagiri district on the Konkan coast of Maharashtra. It is also a popular beach town and one of the top holiday destinations of the state that is often visited along with Mahabaleshwar during a trip that includes the religious and cultural places of Maharashtra. Ganapatipule is known for its famous temple of Lord Ganapati that is 400 years old. The deity is carved out in an idol which is believed to be a monolith which was self-incarnated. It dates back to 1600 years when it was discovered as a unique temple where the deity faces to the west side unlike in majority of the temples of the country where east-faced deities are prominently present. For the same reason, it is known as the “Paschim Dwar Devata”. It is also counted as one of the Ashta Ganapati Temples of India. The temple is beautifully located at the base of a hill from where the pilgrims and devotees have to climb up the hill encompassing it in clockwise direction to show devotion for the deity.
There are multiple legends associated with the name of the town Ganapatipule. The first one suggests that Lord Ganapati was insulted by a local lady after which he changed his form to what we know as “Pule”. Hence, the name Ganapati-Pule. Another legend says that the name was formed from the white sand (Pule in Marathi) with which the idol of Ganesha was made. Apart from its religious importance, Ganapatipule has one of the most beautiful beaches along the Konkan Coast in Maharashtra and one of the only two white sand beaches in the state. The best part of the beach is that it is clean and the sea seems to be strikingly clear ideal for sunbathing and watching sunsets.
Ganesh Chaturthi is the most important festival celebrated at Ganapatipule. It is celebrated during August-September and is attained by unbelievably huge crowd of devotees who flock at the the Swayambhu Temple and Ganpatipule beach. It is a spectacular sight to behold. The idol of Ganesha is taken out in a palanquin for a visit across the town, accompanied by the priests and huge procession. The town is also a popular hotspot for water sports along the beach during the months of November to May.
The Sindhudurg Fort is an ancient fortress located off the coast of Maharashtra on an islet in the Arabian Sea. Spread across an area of 48 acres, the massive construction stands tall with huge walls against the crashing waves of the sea. The monument is protected and lies on the shore of Malvan town of Sindhudurg District in Maharashtra around 450 km south of Mumbai. The fortress isn’t identifiable from outside as the main entrance remains hidden strategically behind the huge rocks. It is a spectacular example of the Maratha prudence and resourcefulness. The fort was constructed by Shivaji Maharaj, the famous ruler of the Maratha Empire. It was built with the aim to counter rising influence of foreign, and also to cut down the rise of Siddis of Janjira. The construction work used 4000 pounds of lead for casting and the foundation stones were firmly laid down under the supervision of Hirojee Indulkar, in the year 1664. It took 3 years for the fort to get completed over 48 acres, with a 3 km long rampart, 30 feet high walls which are 12 feet thick.
The major attractions of the fortress are the massive walls that were designed with the purpose to serve as prevention against approaching enemies. It was also made as a deterrent to the waves and tides of the Arabian Sea. It is indeed a pleasure to watch something that exhibits the revolutionary mindset of its engineer back then, a time when traveling by sea used to be a strict no by scriptures. The remains of the iron mould is a tourist attraction too.
It is a pure delight to watch the magnificent architectural marvel that still stands the test of time. The unique and unyielding construction style with the natural protection provided by the surrounding rocks that acted as an unconquerable barrier against enemies is a thing worth treating your eyes with. You can also visit the small temple dedicated to Shivaji Maharaj that finds its place within the bounds of the fort.