Instagram Interludes

It’s been exactly two years since I’ve met my parents and gone back to India and specifically Mumbai. And the suspense of when I can go back is really bad, because my parents are elderly and my father is not doing too good, healthwise. So here are some of my favourite photos of our last India trip.

Beaches or Mountains: What kind of holiday do you prefer?

While wondering what to write, I saw this writing prompt and thought it was apt for today. It’s summer time now and we are all thinking about past holidays, unfortunately here, travel is still not allowed. Since Singapore is tiny, we usually travel out of the country for all holidays, even if it’s a short weekend jaunt. This is unlike most other countries which have a rich hinterland which can be used as holiday destinations.

So, mountains or beaches? This is easy and difficult at the same time, because I love the water. My ideal holiday destination would be a place somewhere in the mountains, surrounded by greenery and overlooks a water body. I don’t know swimming and am not very fond of water sports, so a beach holiday would not really be a preference. Though I would say that a hammock on the beach or even a nice lounger with access to cool drinks and a good, gripping book is what a real relaxing holiday is all about. However, for those who do, a beach holiday can provide hours of fun and relaxation.

Anyone who has spent time at the beach already knows that the beach is the perfect stress reliever. In fact, Hippocrates created a word, Thalassotherapy, for the buzz you get from being by the sea. Science has even proven that a day at the beach can lead to increased mood, better sleep, and a general feeling of bliss. A day at the beach increases the Vitamin D production in the body, an essential ingredient for healthy skin and bones. It also boosts the immune system and general mood. The ocean’s saltwater is a natural saline that can clear sinuses, which can help fight infection, allergies, and general sinus issues. The minerals in saltwater are great for the skin and the sand can help with exfoliation. Recent studies have also found that sea air is full of negative ions which help bodies absorb oxygen better and help balance levels of serotonin. One study even proved that negative ions can help treat seasonal affective disorder. Researchers have found that the sound of waves actually changes brain patterns, it puts the mind into a deep meditative state. There is even one study by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health that showed that exposure to blue spaces like bodies of water, had a better effect on mood than exposure to green spaces like parks and trees.

At the beach, looking out at the vast ocean which changes minute to minute is awe-inspiring and watching the waves roll and ebb with the sun glistening on the water can make hours feel like minutes. And how can one forget ocean sunrises and sunsets which showcase all that is beautiful in nature. It is like watching a beautiful painting come to life. For those living in climates which are cold, a beach holiday is a chance to escape the weather. Though for someone like me, who grew up in a tropical climate and now lives in one, the heat is not the best reason to go to the beach. Seafood lovers have another reason to love beach holidays as it is known fact that the best and freshest seafood is found in coastal areas. Sitting in a beachside shack with some delicious food, watching the waves would probably be bliss for such people.

Other than what I have written above, those who like water sports would also enjoy a beach holiday as well as those who enjoy diving, snorkelling and wakeboarding. Lovers of the marine life can also take rides to check out the many marine creatures with experienced guides. Many coastal areas are home to coral reefs, both natural and artificial, that are a haven for marine diversity.

Mountain and high altitudes have been shown to have positive effects on everything from muscle building to fighting obesity. In the mountains, one can disconnect and relax completely and be connected with nature. One can enjoy the early morning mists, the dew on the trees and grass and who can forget the loads of oxygen and fresh air one gets in the mountains. Walking barefoot in the grass is a feeling like no other.

One study showed that even a weeklong vacation in the mountains can have a positive impact on weight loss. Participants at a higher altitude lost an average of 1.5 kg per person in a week even when they kept to their regular diet and activity level. Not only does the high altitude have a positive effect on the metabolism, it also reduces appetite and increases the feeling of being satisfied after eating. Higher altitudes also lower the risk of heart disease. At high altitude, the lower oxygen levels force the body to produce new blood vessels that increase blood flow to the heart. The air up in the mountains has lower pollution levels which also has a positive impact on health. Spending time in the mountains has shown to be beneficial for people with asthma or other respiratory problems and the scent of pine and lavender, be found in the mountains, has a calming effect, reducing depression and stress. The mountains are nature’s gym and vacations in the mountains tend to be more active with even a gentle walk that takes in declines and inclines, and gravity being a great personal trainer. Hiking which has a whole range of health benefits like increasing the heart rate, exercising the core muscles, increase bone density, build strength in the legs, buttocks, hips and lower back and reduces the risk of diabetes. So, time spent in the mountains can transform the body and mind.

There is also an interesting study done by psychologists of the University of Virginia. Psychologist Shigehiro Oishi and colleagues Thomas Talhelm and Minha Lee in a series of three studies, tested whether there is a link between personality and an aspect of physical ecology: flat terrain versus mountainous terrain. For one of the studies, the research group analysed a database of 613,000 personality surveys across the United States to see whether introversion and extroversion was associated with a state’s geography. The study found that only one of the Big Five personality traits predicted terrain preference – extraversion.

Extroverts prefer beaches to mountains and introverts love the mountains more. The study was developed on the basis of the psychologists’ hypothesis called person-environment fit which suggests that people choose surroundings that help them fulfil their desires. The study also reveals that mountain lovers are more introverted than beach lovers. Mountain lovers seek isolation when they travel and hence, they wish to go to the mountains where the population density is low and the probability of meeting people is less. People who prefer beaches are extroverts, who like to socialise.

Participants perceived wooded/secluded terrain to be calmer, quieter and more peaceful. In contrast, participants in the flat/open condition perceived the terrain to be more sociable, exciting and stimulating. The study found that when people want to socialize with others, they prefer the ocean far more (75%) than mountains (25%). In contrast, when they want to be alone, they choose mountains (52%) as much as the ocean (48%). Results of the study also showed that introverts tend to live in mountainous regions, while extroverts live in open and flat regions. The researchers caution that there is no evidence mountains make people introverted, but rather, introverts tend to choose mountainous geography because of the secluded environment.

According to the lead researcher, Shige Oishi, individuals should consider their personalities more closely when choosing a place to live as some cities and towns have a geography that is more accommodating for some people than for others and if someone knows they are introverted, then they may be rejuvenated by being in a secluded place, while an extrovert may be rejuvenated more in an open space.

So, in conclusion, beach lovers are social, have a large group of friends and can often divulge in small talk. Their phones do not stop buzzing and they make friends freely and easily. They probably love music and believe in the notion of carpe diem which means to live in the present moment and be too concerned about the future. A mountain lover is an introvert at heart, who likes seclusion and loves their own company above anybody else’s. They are creative, be it writing, painting, sketching, or singing and belong to the mountains because they think they bring out the best in them. They are also philosophical and like conversations that are much deeper and love talking about art, nature, life and philosophy. They are also better listeners.

When I initially said I would prefer mountains, it was right up my alley as I am self-professed introvert and maybe that study is absolutely accurate. What about you? Are you a beach person or someone who prefers the mountains?

Travel Bucket List: India – Maharashtra Part 5

Being a state with a rich western coastline of about 720 kms along the Arabian Sea, Maharashtra has some stunning beaches. This post is all about the beaches and some of the wildlife sanctuaries found in the state. The beaches are categorised from north to south

Dahanu
Dahanu is a coastal town in the Palghar district of Maharastra. Located at a distance of 135 km north of Mumbai, it is situated along the coast of Arabian Sea. The name of the city was obtained from Dahanu Gram which means village of cows. This emerged because, back in time, most people in the town used to cattle cows. At an elevation of 9.88 metres, the city has several beautiful mountains. There are a few famed beaches around the city which are commonly visited by the locals and tourists. There are also some dams, which are a nice spot for sightseeing. The vegetation in the city is also extraordinary. With a variety of plant life, ranging from tadee, coconuts, chickoo and palm, the town offers an excellent look of greenery. Bordi, which is about 30 minutes drive from Dahanu also offers some stunning pristine beaches.

Alibag
A little coastal town tucked away in the Konkan region of Maharashtra, Alibaug is a very popular weekend getaway holiday destination and has earned itself the name of ‘mini-Goa’, owing to the high tourist footfall all year round. Steeped in colonial history, Alibaug is a quaint little town located about 110 kilometres from Mumbai, and is replete with sandy beaches, clean unpolluted air and plenty of forts and temples, ensuring that despite being a small town, you never run out of activities to do. Alibaug has numerous beaches, and all the beaches are only a few minutes’ drives away from each other, so you won’t have to worry about which beach to visit and which one to leave out. The most visited in the beach in Alibaug is, of course, Alibag beach, which offers a spectacular of view of not only the sunrise and sunset but of the Colaba fort as well, which you can take a short boat ride to. The Colaba fort was once the cornerstone of the Maratha Empire, and most of the fort is still in good shape. Other popular beaches in the area include Kihim Beach, and Nagaon Beach, with Kihim beach being a photographer’s paradise. The Mandwa beach offers a stunning view of the Gateway of India in Mumbai from its bay. The best time to visit Alibag is between November to July and you should avoid the monsoon season. Other local attractions include the Kanakeshwar Devasthan Temple, Vikram Vinayak Temple, Versoli Beach, Nagaon Beach, Akshi Beach, Kashid Beach and Kulaba or Colaba Fort

Kashid
A beach town, popular for its white sand and blue seas situated in Konkan region of Maharashtra, Kashid is the perfect destination for a quiet weekend getaway from Mumbai. Kashid is mildly enchanting with its quiet environment and picturesque location. This beach town is known also for its majestic mountains and whispering Casuarinas. Kashid’s spotless water and clean beach makes it one of the most beautiful spots in the nearby areas. A drive through the area in itself is a great experience. Chaul, which lies near Kashid, has many Buddhist caves that are of public interest, and also famous churches and temples. The Korlai Fort is another beautiful attraction here.

Diveagar
Gleaming white sand, pristine blue water, swaying coconut palms and betel nut trees and gentle breeze producing a serene and calming effect, this is not a dream but the enchanting place called Diveagar. This place is a beautiful beachside village nestled on the Konkan coast of Maharashtra offering its visitors a sight of pure bliss. Diveagar is better referred to as seashore extending up to 6 kms and serves as prime attraction of the region. Tourists can also catch an unusual sight of rarely found Suru (Casuarina equisetifolia, or Australian pine tree) trees on the coast. Where one end of the beach is fishing settlement, the other end is blessed with an eye catching sight of thousands of migratory seagulls in the sanctuary. Apart from that, a temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha is another prime attraction of the region. In fact it is a perfect destination where one can unclutter their minds and relax with family and friends amid the glory of immaculate nature. With Mumbai-Goa National highway located just 40 kms off the village; the place is highly accessible and waiting to be explored.

Harihareshwar
Surrounded by four hills and with river Savitri flowing through the town, Harihareshwar is famous for its temple of Lord Harihareshwar and is a popular weekend beach destination especially for people in Mumbai and Pune. Harihareshwar comes across as a pleasant surprise with some of the most peaceful and beautiful beaches along the Konkan Coast. The nearby Pushpadri hill and surrounding dense woods only make the beaches more attractive. The name literally translates into the abode of Lord Shiva and the place assumes significant spiritual and religious importance. Harihareshwar’s ancient temples also let the visitors view a unique blend of the Indian and Maratha architecture

Murud and Karde
Murud and Karde form what is apparently the longest stretch of beach on the Konkan Coast. Hotels and homestays have mushroomed in the area, and there are many options for a beachfront stay. The main attraction is dolphin watching, especially during the winter when sightings are frequent. A little further north, Harnai is renowned for its massive daily fish market. The nearby Suvarnadurg Fort can also be visited.

Ganpatipule
A beach town on the Konkan coastline, Ganpatipule has temples of Lord Ganesha as major attractions apart from the beautiful virgin beaches. There is a hill shaped like Lord Ganesh, from which Ganpatipule probably got its name. The village of Ganapatipule is famous for its 400-year-old Ganesha temple. The idol is said to be a self-created monolith of Lord Ganesha, allegedly discovered 1600 years ago. Ganpatipule also has water sports to offer between the months of November-May. Ganpatipule is typically clubbed with Ratnagiri and other smaller villages like Velneshwar, Malgund and Pawas for a perfect 2-3 day trip.

Tarkarli
Tarkarli is famous for its long and narrow stretch of beach, with its pristine water, white sand, and of course Singhudurg, Maharashtra’s popular sea fort. Tarkarli with a series of pristine beaches made up of white sand makes it an ideal choice for a holiday weekend. If lucky enough, you might spot dolphins too. Tarkarli boasts of the finest talcum-powder sand to be found along Konkan. It could be called the most beautiful beach in all of Maharashtra, if not in India. As this place is just being discovered, you might be in time to find it untarnished by commercialization. The pristine white beaches shrouded with Suru trees (Casuarina equisetifolia, or Australian pine trees) are a perfect place to relax, get in touch with nature and eat amazing Malvani food. The choice ranges from a long stroll along pristine white sand beaches to revisiting the past glory of Maratha bastion and forts.

Vengurla
Located only 30 minutes from the Goa border, semi-circular Vengurla beach is surrounded by lush hills. The road leading down to the beach provide dramatic vistas. Attractions in the area include a lighthouse, a jetty where fishermen return with the evening catch, and Vengurla Rocks (also known as Burnt Island) which is excellent for bird watching.

Tadoba National Park
Overlooked by tourism until recently because it was off the beaten track and lacked accommodations, these days Tadoba National Park and Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra is fast gaining a reputation as one of the best places to see a tiger in the wild in India. Famous for its natural heritage, Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve is definitely one of India’s most exciting and best protected Tiger Reserve, with most visible tiger sightings in the state of Maharashtra. Tadoba national park is located in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra. This place is an ideal weekend gateway for wildlife and nature lovers. Spotted in this region are rare species of flora and fauna, soothing your very being. Tadoba is famous for Tadoba national park, Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve, Tadoba lake, Erai dam, Moharli and Khosla village. These attractions serves the tourists of an enchanting wildlife experience.

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Bhamragarh Wildlife Sanctuary
The Bhamragarh Wildlife Sanctuary of the Bhamragarh town is located in the Chandrapur district of Maharashtra and is home to various animal species like leopards, the blue bull, peacock, flying squirrel, wild boar, etc. Spread over an area of about 104.38 sq.km, the sanctuary is very green and is covered by various species from the plant kingdom including mango, jamun, Kusum, Bamboo trees along with shrubs of Neel, Tarota, Kuda, etc. The Pamalgautam and Parlkota rivers flow through the sanctuary providing water to the flora and fauna and as well as to the tribes living nearby namely Gonda and Madia tribes which depend on the forest for their habitation.

Chandoli National Park
Located in Sangli district of Maharashtra, the Chandoli National park is famous for the Sahyadri tiger reserve and the Koyna Wildlife sanctuary. It was established in the year 2004 and is spread over an area of 317.67 sq.km. Located near the Chandoli dam, the Sahyadri Tiger reserve as well as the entire area under the Chandoli National Park was declared as a ‘Project Tiger Reserve’ by the National Tiger Conservation Authority in the year 2007. Home to 9 tigers and 66 leopards, the area is abundant with forts from the era of Shivaji and other Maratha Kings. The park also has major falls as well as a dam namely; Kandardoh falls, Tanali falls and the Vasant Sagar reservoir that attract tourist attention. The best time to visit is between October to February while heavy rainfall is usually expected between June to September.

Gugumal National Park
Built in 1974, the Gugumal National Park is located in Amravati in Maharashtra. It is the home to a variety of diverse flora and fauna like tigers, crocodiles, wild deer and the bison. This wildlife reserve oers a glimpse into the lives of animals and birds in their natural habitat. The hills of the area known as Melghat have the southern deciduous forest which has about 750 dierent species of plants and herbs. Crocodiles were artificially introduced into the area in 1990 near the rivers that flow through the park. The best time to visit the Gugumal National Park is from March to the month of June.

Navegaon National Park
Based in the Gondia District which is the easternmost part of Maharashtra, Navegaon National Park is a forest reserve nestled in the lush green hills of Navegaon. Built in the 1800s, the park also has a serene lake and a watchtower just adjacent to it. You get to see breath-taking views of the natural sceneries and marvel at the sight of exotic wildlife: a bird sanctuary, a deer park, and three lovely gardens. The bird sanctuary, known as Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary houses almost 65% of the bird species that are found in the state of Maharashtra. Flocks of stunning migratory birds visit the park every winter and unwind by the lake – an eye-catching view. The national park also boasts diverse types of flora – ranging from moist to dry deciduous forest. A unique experience here is staying in tree houses, going on a jungle safari in the dense forest, and sailing boats in the pristine lake. The park is open from 6 am to 6 pm daily and remains closed on Fridays and from 16 July to 30 September each year. The park also remains closed on the festivals of Holi and Buddha Poornima (the first and second days only)

Malvan Marine Sanctuary
The only marine sanctuary in the state, Malvan Marine Sanctuary was established in 1987 to preserve this biologically rich coastal region. The core zone of the sanctuary expands over an area of 27 square kilometres and offers an unexploited environment for marine flora and fauna including coral, Pearl oysters, seaweed, molluscs and over 30 species of fish.

Rehekuri Blackbuck Sanctuary
Spread across an area of 2.17 sq km, the Rehkuri Sanctuary is home to one of the rare and famous animals, Indian Black Buck. The Sanctuary is located at a distance of about 80 km away from the city of Ahmednagar. The Sanctuary serves as a safe haven for nearly 400 Black Bucks. The Blackbuck, called ‘Kalvit’ in Maharashtra, is easily recognised by its magnificent spiral horns, colour and long jump. It is the only member of its genus and is found predominantly in India. Also, known as the Indian Antelope there are only four sanctuaries in India that can boast of the presence and conservation of the blackbuck. The Rehekuri Blackbuck Sanctuary in Maharashtra is one of the best places for blackbuck sightings. The sanctuary was established in the 1980s and at one point the number of blackbucks dwindled to 15. Today Rehekuri is home to about 400 blackbucks making it an excellent example of sustained conservation. Besides, the sanctuary is also the abode to various other wildlife and birds. The jeep safari from 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM, as well as, walking or trekking along with a guide are the best ways to explore the sanctuary.

Travel Bucket List: India – Maharashtra Part 2

After Mumbai, lets move to Pune. The second largest city in Maharashtra and also called “Oxford of the East” due to the large number of educational institutions in the city, Pune or Poona is also considered to be the cultural capital of the state.

Copper plates dated 858 and 868 show that by the 9th century an agricultural settlement known as Punnaka existed at the location of the modern Pune which was ruled by the Rashtrakuta dynasty. Pune was part of the territory ruled by the Seuna Yadavas of Devagiri from the 9th century to 1327. In 1599, Pune became part of the fiefdom granted to Maloji Bhosale for his services to the Ahmadnagar Sultanate and was ruled by the Ahmadnagar Sultanate until it was annexed by the Mughals in the 17th century. Maloji Bhosale’s grandson, Shivaji, the founder of the Maratha Empire, was born at Shivneri, a fort not far from Pune. It changed hands several times between the Mughals and the Marathas in the period 1680 to 1705. After the destruction of the town in raids by the Adil Shahi dynasty in 1630 and again between 1636 and 1647, Dadoji Konddeo, oversaw the reconstruction of the town. He stabilised the revenue collection and administrative systems of the areas around Pune and the neighbouring Maval region. Shivaji’s mother, Jijabai is said to have commissioned the building of the Kasba Ganapati temple. The Ganesha idol consecrated at this temple has been regarded as the presiding deity (Gramadevata) of the city. From 1703 to 1705, towards the end of the 27-year-long Mughal–Maratha Wars, the town was occupied by Aurangzeb and its name was changed to Muhiyabad.

In 1720, Baji Rao I was appointed Peshwa (Prime Minister) of the Maratha Empire by Chhatrapati Shahu. He moved his base from Saswad to Pune in 1728, marking the beginning of the transformation of what was a kasbah into a large city. He also commissioned the construction of the Shaniwar Wada on the right bank of the Mutha River. The construction was completed in 1730, ushering in the era of Peshwa control of the city. The patronage of the Maratha Peshwas resulted in a great expansion of Pune, with the construction of around 250 temples and bridges in the city, including the Lakdi Pul and the temples on Parvati Hill. The building of temples led to religion being responsible for about 15% of the city’s economy during this period. The Peshwa’s influence in India declined after the defeat of Maratha forces at the Battle of Panipat but Pune remained the seat of power. In 1802 Pune was captured by Yashwantrao Holkar in the Battle of Poona, directly precipitating the Second Anglo-Maratha War of 1803–1805. The Peshwa rule ended with the defeat of Peshwa Bajirao II by the British East India Company in 1818. The city was known as Poona during British rule. Poona Municipality was established in 1858. A railway line from Bombay to the city opened in 1858, run by the Great Indian Peninsula Railway (GIPR). Poona was prominently associated with the struggle for Indian independence. In the period between 1875 and 1910, the city was a centre of agitation led by Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Bal Gangadhar Tilak. The city was also a centre for social reform led by Mahatma Jyotirao Phule, feminist Tarabai Shinde, Dhondo Keshav Karve and Pandita Ramabai. They demanded the abolition of caste prejudice, equal rights for women, harmony between the Hindu and Muslim communities, and better schools for the poor.

The must-see places to visit in this city steeped in culture are below:

Shaniwar Wada
A prominent historical landmark in Pune is Shaniwarwada, a majestic 286 year-old fortification which was built in 1732 and which was the seat of the Peshwas of the Maratha Empire in their heydays. In 1828, the fort was destroyed by a huge fire and later the remnants were transformed to become a tourist site. Shaniwarwada was a seven-storied capital building of the Peshwas built by Peshwa Bajirai I and the Peshwas wanted the building to be made of stone alone. However, after the completion of the ground floor, the people of Satara insisted that stone monument can be sanctioned and built only by the Shahu King, not the Peshwas. With respect to it, the Peshwas were asked to continue the construction of the building by using only bricks. But when the British attacked, only the base floor survived while all the other floors were completely destroyed. The major buildings inside the fort are Thora Rayancha Diwankhana or the court reception hall of the eldest royal member, Naachacha Diwankhana which is the dance hall, Juna Arsa Mahal that is the Old Mirror Hall and so on. Since all the buildings were destroyed in the fire, only descriptions of the remaining areas are available currently. The doorways were made of teak arches with ornamental teardrop teak pillars shaped like Suru trunks. Ceilings were beautified by numerous chandeliers and the floors were filled with polished marble adorned with rich Persian rugs. The walls displayed paintings depicting the Hindu epics. The top floor of the building enacted as the residence of the Peshwa and it was called Meghadambari.
The Shaniwar Wada, although ridden with tales of treachery and deceit, is one of the last standing testimonies to the grandeur, valour, and the just rule of the Peshwas. The entire old part of the city of Pune is laid out in a chaotic yet ironically, orderly fashion all around this historical structure. It is around Shaniwar Wada that you will find the oldest markets of Pune including Laxmi Road, Tulshibaug, Ravivar Peth etc. Shaniwarwada is open all days of the week from 8 am to 6:30 pm and there is a Light & Sound show daily. Tickets for the show can be booked between 6:30 – 8:30 pm. Entry fee for Indian citizens is INR 5 while for foreigners it is INR 125. The price of the Light & Sound show is INR 25 per person.

Aga Khan Palace
Built by Sultan Muhammed Shah Aga Khan III in the year 1892, the Aga Khan Palace is one of the most important landmarks in Indian history and has been instrumental in many defining moments of India’s independence. It was once the site where Mahatma Gandhi, his wife Kasturba Gandhi, as well as Sarojini Naidu and Mahadev Desai were held prisoners. Spread over a vast land of 19 acres, the palace is now the headquarters of the Gandhi National Memorial society. The Sultan built the palace to support the poor in the neighbouring areas who were hit by a famine. In the memory of Kasturba Gandhi and Mahadev Desai, architect Charles Corea had their memorials built in the premises of the palace. The palace houses a museum which holds a rich collection of pictures. There are also other items like the personal belongings of Gandhis. The Palace also has the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi buried in its ground. In 2003, the monument was declared to be of national importance by the Archaeological Survey of India. The palace is open all days of the week from 9 am to 5:50 pm and entry fee for Indians is INR 5 while that for foreigners it is INR 100.

Lal Mahal
Located near Shaniwarwada, Lal Mahal or Red Palace is a historic landmark from the 16th century. Subject to innumerable attacks and initial revival, the palace has significant stories to tell. It was first restored by Shivaji’s father Shahaji Bhosle for his family to stay in the 1630s. The original one had undergone several destructions and the current one is a reconstructed structure, built between 1984 and 1988. Shivaji’s wedding with Maharani Saibai took place in this palace. There is nothing much that this place exhibits or explains because of continuous harm to the building. Consequently, it leaves much to imagination like how big it was, how many rooms etc. The original monument was constructed with the aim of rejuvenating the city of Pune when Dadoji Kondev entered the city with Shivaji Maharaj. Pune Municipal Corporation was the one who rebuilt the current Lal Mahal and the construction was begun in 1984 and ended in 1988. The current palace displays a collection of large sized oil paintings based on the important events happened in the life of Shivaji. There is the Jijamata Garden now recognised as a recreational park for kids.The palace is open on all days between 9 am and 1 pm and then again between 4 – 8 pm. Entry fee for all is INR 3 per person.

Dagdusheth Halwai Ganpati Temple
The Shreemant Dagdusheth Halwai Ganapati temple is a famous Pune landmark which is visited by thousands of pilgrims each year. The annual ten-day Ganesh festival celebrated at the temple is the main festival at this temple. The inception of the temple took place over 125 years ago in 1893 by Shri Dagdusheth Halwai (a confectioner) and his wife, Lakshmibai. The idol of Lord Ganapati is 2.2 meters high and 1 meter wide and is adorned with almost 40 kilos of gold. The main idol is insured for a sum of INR 10 million. The temple is open daily from 6 am to 11 pm.

Parvati Hill Temple
Constructed as the personal temple of the Peshwas by Balaji Baji Rao in the 17th century, the Parvati Hill Temple rises over 2,000 feet and offers sweeping views of the city. It serves as a shrine for several Hindu Gods- God Shiva, Goddess Parvati, God Vishnu, Goddess Rukmini and God Vitthalla, and God Vinayakar. The Parvati temple, a black stone structure which lies among four other temples and the Peshwa Museum and Parvati Water Tank on the hill however, is dedicated to Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva. The hill is accessed by climbing 103 stone steps which were originally designed to allow elephants to ascend and descend from the hill. It doesn’t take anyone longer than 10 minutes to reach the top. The hill is the highest point in Pune. The gates of the temple open at 5.00 am and 8.00 pm, while the hill is open daily from 8 am to 5 pm. Sunsets from the hill is beautiful and is favourite activity of Punekars.

Pataleshwar Cave Temple
An atypical rock cut cave temple, the Pataleshwar Cave Temple is an ancient temple that dates back to the 8th century during the Rashtrakuta period. The temple is also known as Panchaleshvara or Bamburde temple. The main God in the temple is by Lord Pataleshwar, who is the God of the Underworld, a form of Lord Shiva. Carved out of a single magnanimous rock, this spellbinding monolith originally was located outside the town and when the city limits were expanded, the temple is situated now in downtown Pune. It has been declared as a protected monument by the government. The construction of the temple was inspired by the majestic Elephanta Caves but it was left incomplete. For the same reason, the temple has no real entrance; the only major entrance is next to a banyan tree in the courtyard. The temple is maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The temple is open from 8 am to 5:30 pm and entry is free.

Vetal Tekdi
A prominent hill in the city limits of Pune is Vetal Hill which is the highest point at an elevation of 2600 feet. Vetala temple is also located on the top of the hill and that is how the hill got its name as Vetal Hill. Adventure seekers come here in plenty to escape from the hustles and bustles of the city and it is a great morning trek location. The hill surrounds the city across a distance of almost 11 km and acts as the lungs of the city. Vetal Tekdi has a mostly dry deciduous type of vegetation and a number of bird species that are native to the region also call it home. In fact, it is not unusual to spot a peacock or two lingering on the premises early in the morning. Near the temple, there is an observation desk set up by the Indian Forest Department. Vetal Tekdi has two spurs named Fergusson College Hill and Chatturshrungi Hill. There is no particular timing to visit the hill but it is advised to trek up the hill before dawn to enjoy the beautiful sunrise and the unbeatable serenity.

Sinhagad Fort
Located in the Sahyadri Mountains, Sinhagad Fort is an ancient fortress known for its historical significance and architecture. It was once known as Kondhana and has witnessed a number of battles; a notable battle being the 1670 Battle of Sinhagad. The name, “Sinhagad”, literally means Lion’s Fort signifying its strength and brilliance. Today, the structure is a perfect landmark for trekkers as it is located at a height of over 750 metres in the Sahyadri Mountains. In fact, the fort is strategically built right in the centre of the line of Maratha forts built in the Sahyadris. Some of these citadels are the Rajgad Fort, Torna Fort and the Purandar Fort. The place is also famous among photographers and nature lovers. Sinhagad Fort and its surroundings mostly provide a good environment for a quick getaway. People living nearby often head to the attraction over the weekend. Back in the time, renowned personalities like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Mahatma Gandhi have also visited the fort for meetings and holidays. The mountain also serves as a great location for training of the National Defence Academy Students. They hike up the hill till the fort in complete battle gear. Due to its historical and cultural significance, there are restrictions on partying, cooking/ consuming non-vegetarian food, alcohol etc. Nonetheless, one is bound to have a great time if they avoid these activities and soak in the dilapidated yet striking structure and the scenic surroundings.

Shivneri Fort
Shivneri Fort is the birthplace of the founder of the Maratha Empire, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. It was built in the 16th century and was recognised as a military fortification. The place is also famous for being the place where Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was trained. Its proximity from Pune, atop a hill with Junnar at its base, makes Shivneri Fort a good picnic spot for the locals. Its sheer magnificence draws a considerable number of visitors each year. Plus, there are some more attractions nearby which can be covered along with the fort in a day. Its terrain makes it a good trekking route too. Having said that, several history lovers are also drawn to the attraction for its historical significance. An English Traveller, Fraze, who visited Shivneri Fort in the late 17th century noticed that the fort was so well managed that it has enough supplies to feed thousands of families for about 6 to 7 years. The ancient architecture and its massive built is also worth a visit to Shivneri Fort.