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We went for a refreshing drive to Bhimashankar in Maharashtra in the new Honda Amaze diesel

The monsoon is a time of great joy everywhere. The rivers are in full flow, there is greenery all around and a general sense of happiness seems to permeate the air. Rain dances, hot tea with spicy snacks and long drives are the flavours of the season and the last of these is second nature to automobile journalists like us. So, we decided to take along an equally amazing car – the new Honda Amaze VX i-DTEC powered by a brilliant 1.5-litre diesel mill – for a drive to the famous Bhimashankar temple, near Pune in Maharashtra.

The Bhimashankar temple is a ‘jyotirlinga’ shrine located at a distance of about 130 km from Pune, in the ghat region of the Sahyadri hills. Legend has it that to please Lord Brahma and attain immense powers, the demon Bhima did penance in the jungles of Bhimashankar in the Tretayug period long ago. Lord Brahma was indeed pleased and granted Bhima his wish. Bhima, however, wreaked havoc in the three worlds and caused a lot of trouble for the gods and holy men. The gods along with Lord Brahma then pleaded to Lord Shiva to rescue them from the terrible situation and, after a long battle, Lord Shiva did kill Bhima. Lord Shiva was requested to make the place his abode and he thus took on the form of the Bhimashankar Jyotirlingam. The sweat that poured from his body after the battle is said to have formed the river Bhima.

We set off from Pune at 6.00 am to avoid the morning traffic and were able to make rapid progress. The ride of the car is excellent at city speeds, with the pockmarked roads (thanks to the rain) being smothered without a hitch. The i-DTEC powerplant performs very well – the car accelerates smoothly all the way to the redline, with the 100 PS beating the output of some larger cars too.

Our route took us via Alandi towards Bhimashankar. City roads were a mix of carpet-smooth stretches with some rough patches, par for the course. The constant rain did its bit too and there were more than a few deep puddles I had to navigate past carefully, especially as the car needed to look its best for the photo-ops!
We stopped at the Sant Dnyaneshwar samadhi temple at Alandi, on the banks of the river Indrayani. Devotees were milling around on the ghat and it was a picturesque location to get some early morning shots of the car. We continued on the Pune-Nashik highway up to Rajgurunagar, where we turned left on to State Highway 54 towards our destination. The Nashik highway was a step up from the city roads we had been through till that point and was a pleasure to drive on. On long undulating stretches of the road, the car did exhibit some slight up-down movement, though far from alarming.

Soon enough, we hit the ghat section and it was time for the twisties. The road surface was smooth in most places and the scenery was gorgeous, with a sea of green as far as the eye could see.

The Amaze is quite comfortable to drive, with its double-DIN audio system equipped with AUX/USB input serving as a useful aid. Honda have not skimped on safety features either, for this car has front dual air-bags, pre-tensioning seat-belts and ABS with EBD, assuring us of a safe journey. The ‘Majestic Blue’ shade of the Amaze looked stunning against the backdrop of greenery; who says compact sedans cannot look good? Were it not for the rain, I would have just lain on the grass all day! However, we had a destination to reach and so we moved on.
A few kilometres ahead, the road was blocked on account of a bus that was stuck in the slush and was being towed out, but we got past that soon enough and reached a canal passing over the road. A narrow path, barely motorable, led up to the canal and provided a beautiful view of the surrounding area. It was quite an arduous task to turn the car around and head back down, with a slushy path and a steep drop on either side to contend with.

Along the way, we saw numerous waterfalls with people enjoying the cool water. Fog was settling in, so we cut down on the pace and, about three hours after leaving Pune, we finally reached the Bhimashankar temple. The approach road is a little messy with visitors’ cars parked on either side, but we were lucky to find a vacant slot. A long series of wide stone steps lead down to the temple, with shops on either side selling trinkets, snacks, sweets and, of course, the ubiquitous prasad. The temple itself is a modest but beautiful structure built in the Nagara style of architecture by Vishwakarma sculptors and dates back to the 13th century. There is also a Roman-style bell in the temple complex, which was presented by Chimaji Appa (brother of Bajirao Peshwa I) and is one of the two bells he took from the Vasai Fort after defeating the Portuguese.

It was a Monday, but the queue of devotees was not too long and we were able to pay our obeisance to the deity fairly quickly. What was disappointing was the priests actually asking us to give some ‘daan’ (donation) – commercialisation clearly is well-entrenched even in religious places. The local people mentioned that during the month of Shraavan (July 23 – August 21), the queue of devotees often is so long that it winds its way out of the temple, up the steps and beyond the parking lot!
We were really hungry by this time and went to the first shop we could find that served breakfast. Be warned, though – Bhimashankar is not one of the ‘big’ tourist spots and there are no fancy restaurants or hotels, so be prepared to lower your standards of food options you prefer on holidays. There is not even a proper rest room, the only option being a tin shed that you can access at a cost of Rs 5 per head. The closest resort is the Blue Mormon Jungle Holiday Resort, located about 10 km short of the temple, offering accommodation and meals at a total cost of Rs 1,000-1,500 per head per day.

Bhimashankar is a good option for a quick day trip from Pune and offers an alternative to Lonavla/Mahabaleshwar/Matheran that most people visit. There is beautiful scenery, a lot of places for picnicking and a temple for the religiously-inclined. So, the next time you have a day free, you know where to go!

Story: Gaurav Nagpal
Photography: Sanjay Raikar


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