Journey : from Murud to Shrivardhan & then Shrivardhan, Dive Agar and Harihareshwar.
If you wish to travel to Shrivardhan either from Mumbai or Pune, the commonly used route is to first reach NH 17 at Kolad via Roha and then go to Mangaon –> Goregaon and take right turn for Mhasla and then to Shrivardhan.
However we decided to take another route which goes along the coast through villages, the road is narrow and not in great condition, but it is unbelievably beautiful journey. We, set on course in the afternoon post lunch. We drove towards Janjira fort and half way took left turn to Agardanda.
Once we crossed Tokerwar, our one of the most spectacular journeys along side Arabian see began. Interemittantly, we were seeing creek on the right side where as lush green hills on the left hand side. It is very difficult to believe that such virgin and unexplored area exists; so close to Mumbai and Pune. If you are a nature enthusiast or you like driving or you are biker - this is the most recommended route by us. It may take more time but the experience is amazing.
We crossed following villages on the way
Bhalgaon (after this village is bridge over the creek)
Pabhare (the road goes thru the village so don’t get confused)
Khargaon – Budruk
Mhasla (From here turn right to Shrivardhan approx 18 km)
At Mhasla, you can decide to either turn towards Shrivardhan or to Dive Agar. We had decided to go to Shrivardhan as we had to meet Mr Bhagat or Bhagatsir (he is a teacher) over there. We reached in the evening, and located him.
He was one of the most impressive, knowledgeable and outgoing personalities that I met in my journey. Given the fact that he is a teacher; he had knowledge of grass root level issues and realities. We kept chatting till it was almost 9.30 p.m. We discussed many topics;; right from 1993 RDX landing at Shekhadi (its pretty close to Shrivardhan), to social issues involved in homestay business, to education to governance etc. His energy levels and would put a 20 year old young, to shame. Especially Ali had a special liking for him (because of ali's pseudo-socialist inclinations !!!!).
We then ate dinner and slept.
The next day morning we surveyed the whole town.It is a very interesting town which has great blend of modernity and tradition. It being a Taluka town there is trade and commerce,, which makes it cosmopolitan at the same time town also has historical importance. It is birthplace of Balaji Vishwanath, the first Peshwa of Maratha Empire. He was the first person to expand empire much beyond Maharashtra and bring unity across factions.
The town thus has significant population of Brahmins and they stay in a particular area ( named as Brahman Aali). This has added some colour of tradition, which make festivals very vibrant in the town.
The town is situated on coast and has very good beach, but access to the beach is a problem, you need to really look for access road. However, if you are travelling with family and want to experience traditional flavour this a place to be. With one of the persons here, we saw Dolphin and whale skeleton for the first time. It was interesting to see skeleton of huge whale, it is simply huge and strong.
Do not miss to see Jiwaneshwar Temple here at Jiwana Jetty. It is fabulous as not many people know about it. Wooden carved pillars are awesome. Also there is Laxminarayan temple in town which is really famous.
Jiwaneshwar Temple - Wooden Pillars
Balaji Vishwanath Statue
We spent day meeting people in the town and stayed overnight. This town has some natural advantages to develop tourism, being a big town access by public transport is easy. It is also possible to develop more restaurants over here and also activities on the beach. However there is general apathy in the governing bodies. Even the memorial of Peshwa is in real sorry state of affairs. We will have to wait till some other organization takes up the cause. In fact I would like to appeal to organizations of Chittapavan Brahmins to take first step in this direction.
The next morning we moved on to Dive Agar. This journey was also equally picturesque along side coast. You would see folllowing village enValvati
Shekhadi (known for RDX landing in 1993 Mumbai bombings)
Near Aaravi for the first time in my life I saw Dolphins while sitting in car and driving. They had come so close to the coast. Seeing them got down, and jumped like small kids. We spent almost 20 mins watching them and then moved on further
Dive Agar is a really interesting town, in fact its a village. It was a sheepish village, with progressive farmers growing Areca nuts, coconuts etc. The village has significant population of Brahmins. It also bear distinction of having its educated sons(they are educated in Pune and Mumbai) returning back to village to cultivate farms. As a result the village is very progressive as far as farming in concerned. It shot to fame in 1997, when a lady from the village by the name Mrs Draupadi Dharma Patil found a copper box in her fields while digging. When the box was opened it had a mask of Ganesha, made from pure gold. It is estimated to be 1000 years old, the quality of gold is superb and it weighed 1.3 kg.
As the news spread, the tourists thronged this place in hordes. This spirituality of tourists with consumptions of spirits disturbed the peace and serenity of the place. Thus in initial few years there was a lot of resistance towards tourism. However over a period of time things settled and now its a destination place.
We met Mr Uday Bapat, Sarpanch of the village, he was nice person with lot of knowledge. That day was also a very interesting day, it is called World Hand Wash day. Staying in Metro I never realized that there are days like these, as well. This day is to increase awareness about cleanliness and sanitation among children. All the schools were having some program or contests to make kids aware; that they should wash hands before and after eating anything. I realized that to bring change such small initiatives are important, also there are people who are trying to do something. In Mumbai I had seen a lot of empty talk and celebrity buillshit on women's day and children day and all sorts of days in media, It had almost no relevance to reality. However at grass root level people are working with honesty and integrity for benefits of society, we are far away from such realities.We tried meeting President of the Homestay owners association here but he could not give us time. We also discussed tourism initiatives with many homestay owners in the town. In the course of discussion we realized that this has social dimension also.
Every village is more feudalistic in structure either economic or social; as compared to indstrial socities. And thus there is a lot of gap between rich and poor, the landlords and small farmers or farm labours. While we asked people why cant you join us so that we increase business, the small operators told us that we need to go thru the association. It is controlled by the rich and famous here, they would not like us to come up in life, else their social dominance would be questioned. Hence nothing would happen thru the association.
My experience of cancelled meeting with president, was compelling me to believe them, but my progressive mind was not willing to agree. Later in my meeting with Mr Bapat, these doubts were cleared he promised us to hold a general meeting of homestay owners.
Dive Agar panchayat is doing a lot of efforts to promote good for the society. To mention specifically we found ladies employed by Panchayat cleaning the beach, this is not done even by Zilla Parishads at other places. Though we did not achieve a single tie-up we appreciated work of Panchayat a lot. We felt there was not much merit is waiting for another day here, and we decided to move to Hariharshwar and visite Dive Agar again on some later day. My pesonal opinion is that there is a lot that can be done to promote tourism here. However people in general and association in particular need to look at Marketing as Revenue Initiative than cost. As of now everything is literally "god given" and if efforts are not made this place would become full of lodges like Shirdi or Ganapatipule.
We reached Harihareshwar in the night.
Its a nice small place with hills coming closer to coast. It has famous temple of Shiva in the form of Harihareshwar. The beach near temple is rocky and risky so swimming here is not possible. However very few people are aware that just 1.5 km ahead are the beautiful coconut plantation stays. The beach here is safe and you can enjoy your stay while being on Pilgrimmage.
Typically, places which are famous for temples rarely have good stay options e.g. Shirdi, Ganpatipule, vaishnodevi, guruvayoor etc. The reason is that most of the owners of hotels or homestays do not really need to focus on service and experience to gain business, everything is literally "god given". However, at Harihareshwar we could locate few homestays which were really nice. We listed them and moved on.
The next stop for us was even more interesting: We had decided to move in a ferry across creek with our TOYOTA INNOVA loaded with us ......................................coming shortly
for interesting homestay options in virgin areas : visit www.mygreatstay.com.