The summer capital of Mumbai, Mahabaleshwar is one of the most spectacular and the largest of hill-stations of Maharashtra. Mahabaleshwar, which means God of Great Power is a popular town with an air of uncoils beauty.
Pass your time boating or fishing in the placid Venna Lake or explore the points that offer panoramic views of the valley and sea; or take a dip in the crystal waters of the numerous waterfalls around this picturesque locale can be an enthralling experience that may want one to come over and again.
The first to set foot here was Sir Charles Malet in 1791 and later under the Governor of Bombay, a sanatorium was built in 1828. Mahabaleshwar was then considered a British territory and was named Malcolm Peth under whom roads, resorts, bungalows, churches and the Mahabaleshwar Club were built.
A polo ground and racecourse were also opened lending it a charming sophistication. In the 19th century, an open jail reformatory center was established and convicts from China and Malaysia were stationed here.
The prime reason why people trekked up the 1372 metre-high hill to Mahabaleshwar was to commune with their deities. Today, Old Mahabaleshwar is still a pilgrim center, having temples dedicated to Krishnabai, Ram and Hanuman. The Krishnabai temple features a self-formed linga which looks like a mass of lava, solidified into protusions. This area was part of the Deccan Trap in which, according to geologists, lava welled out of the earth 70 million years ago and solidified in successive steps.
The Deccan Trap terrain also has a number of underground caves and chambers, some of which hold water, releasing it slowly as natural springs. In Old Mahabaleshwar, five springs pour water into a roofed tank. Many people believe that these springs are the sources of the five rivers of the Deccan plateau: the Krishna, Konya, Venna, Savitri and Gayatri.
Gujarati vegetarian meals, continental, Chinese and Mughlai specialties are served in hotels and restaurants.
One thing you must take back home are strawberries. Don't forget to buy fresh jams and the marmalades made here which are simply superb. Two popular shops for these here are Teacher & Co. and Elsie's.
Mahabaleshwar is famous for the wide variety of berries that grow here, so if you are there make sure you sample them fresh or in the form of juices and preserves.
Mahabaleshwar, the favoured destination of holiday-makers and honeymooners, has developed a different ethos. It has cultivated a relaxed image, which even the most ebullient, young, visitor respects. The hours flow gently in this lake-centred hill-station in the Sahyadri Hills, but there's plenty to do. Go riding or boating, watch an updraft of wind lift a hurled twig high into the air from Arthur's Seat, just sit back and enjoy being monarch of all you survey from any of the several view-points that give panoramic views of the plains far below, or feast on the many varieties of berries available - strawberries, raspberries, mulberries, jambuls with their acrid-sweet taste and their indelible purple juice. Don't forget to get a jar of the wild golden honey for the folks back home.
One way or another, Mahabaleshwar still beckons you to shed your tensions and escape from it all.
Satara District, 250 km southeast of Mumbai.
The nearest airport is at Pune, 120kms.
The nearest railhead is Wathar in Satara, 47 kms, but the convenient railhead is at Pune, 120 kms.
Mahabaleshwar is connected to major towns and cities in the region. From Mumbai, Mahabaleshwar via Pune is 290kms, Panchgani -Mahabaleshwar is 19 kms and Pune - Mahabaleshwar is 120kms. MTDC operates luxury buses from Mumbai to Mahabaleshwar and from Pune to Mahabaleshwar.
Temperatures vary from 13? C in winter to 29? C in summer.
For those looking for a spiritual experience, there are the Krishna and Mahabaleshwar Temples. As well as the point of the five rivers, which flow over the Deccan Plateau, namely the Krishna, Koyna, Savitri, Veena & Gayatri. Mahabaleshwar was considered a holy place with a strong historical background for centuries. The name Mahabaleshwar means great (Maha) power (Bali). The place is still frequented by local devotees. Another interesting temple is black stone one, a little ahead, from the others, with a lovely view.
24 kms away from Mahabaleshwar, this fort was built in 1656 by Moropant Trimbak Pingle under the command of the Maratha ruler Shivaji. It was here that Shivaji killed the mighty General of Bijapur, Afzal Khan. The fort has a great view.
There are around 30 points looking out over the flat- topped ghats, dense forests and lush green valleys below. Almost 1,240 meters above sea level, Lodwick Point has a great view. On the path to Elphinstone Point lies the Dhobi waterfall, a small scenic spot overlooking the Koyna river valley. About a kilometer from this is Tigers Spring leading to a small ledge known as The Window. The view from here is simply mesmerizing. The Lingmala waterfall, at the top of the Venna Valley, six kms from the post office, is the most impressive spot of Mahabaleshwar. The other important points are the Kates Point, Wilson Point, Helens Point and Babington Point, overlooking the Panchgani and the Carnac Point.
Tucked away in Satara district, just 19kms east of Mahabaleshwar, Panchagani is the quintessential residential hill-station, with the Raj stamped indelibly all over. It offers heart-stopping views of the River Krishna, snaking through tiny hamlets, farms and ravines on one side and the coastal plains on the other. Amble along the walkways, thickly canopied by lush trees and vegetation for glimpses of a vanished era. Panchgani is one of those rare places that doesn't crowd anyone, yet in its own unhurried way deeply touches every visitor.
CATHOLIC CHURCH - A visit to the old Roman Catholic Holy Cross church, is worth a detour. Although the church is practically falling apart, its stained- glass windows are still a sight to behold. A Hindu family now looks after this deserted church. MAHABALESHWAR CLUB - The club was built in 1881 and is still flourishing and well - maintained. Only members of the club can stay here. It is very popular for its well-tended roses and lovely jogging track. Loyal members grandly celebrate Christmas every year. MOUNT MALCOLM - It used to be the most famous building in the olden days. It was built in 1829 with magnificent architectural skills. Unfortunately, it has lost a lot of its old charm now.