Thursday, March 7, 2013

Anjaneri trek - A birthplace of Lord Hanuman & Pandav Leni caves visit

Anjaneri - One of the important fort in the Nasik - Trimbakeshwar region is 20kms away from Nasik on Trimbak road. The place is of significance as per Hindu mythology - its a birthplace of Lord Hanuman and there is temple dedicated to his mother "Mata Anjani'. Hence the name Anjaneri. Its much older than Ramayana age and earlier was called "Rishi Mukh Parvat".

Situated at 4264 ft above sea level, its a delite for hikers and devotees alike. They say Lord Hanuman was born here and spend his childhood and grew up on same mountain. Anjaneri is also situated close to Jyotirling of Lord Shiva at Trimbakeshwar and one can also get close view of Brahmagiri hills from where holy river Godavari originates and flows all the way to Bay of Bengal, travelling 1465kms and is 2nd largest river in India.


Anjaneri Fort

My Trek: I had not been able to go for a trek in last few months due to work pressure and was looking for a one day trek with some group to refresh myself from daily boredom.So when I saw Night trek to Anjaneri being organised by TMI. I delightedly enrolled for it. The trek comes in easy grade, but yes one needs to climb steps to reach the main plateau and the temple which can certainly take a toll in hot summer but ours was night trek and I was sure its was going to a experience to remember. My only night trek till date was Katraj - Sinhgad moonlight trek few months back so I was sure it was going to be fun !!!! It was decided to catch 11pm train to Kasara from Dadar and meeting place was at Kasara station. One misses the train and he misses the trek as train after this one as 2hrs later and would only reach Kasara in wee hours of morning. We reached Kasara at 1.30am and had three tum-tums waiting for us to take us to base village of Anjaneri. On the way we had chai on highway dhaba and were quickly on our way to base village. The road ride was quite bumpy an pitch dark on the way. It was around 3am when we reached Anjaneri Phata, there is temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman with a huge statue.

A quick round of introduction and we started our upward journey to the summit. It a winding motor able road passing through base village till one comes across the steps which leads to the main temple for devotees and summit for trekkers like me. Vishal Khond who was leading the group informed that its almost a two hour climb on the steps and then we would halt till sunlight. All excited we marched towards our summit. It was dark but for moonlight which showed us our path. Halting at regular intervals to catch the breath we slowly moved ahead, even though it was quite pleasant but climbing the steps had everyone panting and huffing. After a climb of almost two hours we came across steps carved between two mountains. We could see Anjaneri lake even though it was dark. Also just before we reached this spot, there was a 50 meter spot where its little risky but we didn't realise it in the dark. We just walked past it but on the return journey I realised that it was little risky as one slip would put you 500feet down in the valley !!!!

We reached a plateau after 2hrs of climb and there it was.... a small temple clearly seen in the moonlight. Temple of Anjaneri mata which was now going to be our halt till sunlight. The temple was small but tiled floor where 5-6 people could easily sleep. Few tired soul from our group ran flat at the first sight of space to sleep. Others decided to get comfortable outside the temple where there are two flat concrete structures where one can sleep. There is also a small storage tank type structure outside the temple which was empty and dry. One of our group member decided to make it a sleep place.

While walking and climbing one didn't get the feel of chill in the air but as soon as all reached and got relaxed that everyone started feeling the chilly cold wind. Some had sleeping bags and some even had got shawls and bedsheets. We had almost 2-3 hrs before we explore the place and fort nearby our leader informed. Laying flat in open, it was quite a spectacular view of stars above. I had never had this experience of sleeping in open under the sky before, wow !!!!!! It was quite cold and few of our group members decided to keep warm by lighting a bonfire. One group collected all the dried grass, cow dungs and left paper trash and desperately tried to lit fire in the cold wind while other group inspired by "MAN VS WILD SERIES" on Natgeo decided to lit fire using the age old practise of rubbing two wood sticks. It was amazing experience as our efforts paid off and both groups lit bonfire which was welcome warmth in the cold and chilly wind.

First rays of sun was spectacular sight and add to the beauty was the splendid view of the valley and nearby mountains of Brahmagiri. It was sight which just cannot be described in words !!!!! with first rays of sun falling on the mountains turning it in golden colour was sight worth a million. By 8am Vishal our leader informed that there was a nearby pond and fresh water spring, and he was going to prepare breakfast and tea. In fact he was carrying utensils and food materials for Poha and chai. I first couldn't believe that there could be a water body at such a height, pond was covered or I should say hidden by dense growth of trees. One could also see the Anjaneri fort standing tall which was our destination. Girls from the group and some others joined Vishal and gave helping hand in making tasty Kanda Poha and chai. A small walk from the Anjani temple, there was huge pond and it was amazing to find such a place at top of mountain. One could take a swim or a deep dive. Also there was a fresh water spring with drinkable water oozing out of the ground. Nature at its best !!!!  After a tasty breakfast we decided to move upwards to the fort, by this time it was almost 9am. Moving ahead one had to climb more steps and view was getting more spectacular of nearby mountain range.

We also experienced Monkey menace as one of monkey wanted the plastic bag containing utensils carried by Vishal. It was quite a task to shoo away the monkey as we climbed up. More surprise was in store for me as I saw another huge plateau at the top. The view from the top was just breathtaking. We could now see the famous Alang, Malang & Kulang range along with highest peak of Kalsubai peeking out of clouds. Another walk on the plateau and we were now at the famous temple of Lord Hanuman. I couldn't stop smiling and thinking that Lord Hanuman had spent his childhood at this place which was nothing short of amazing and breathtaking and beautiful place.

A.M.K & Kalsubai

After spending some time, We decided to climb down as there was lot more to see. There was ashram of some baba and also Seeta cave. Also we also had to visit Pandavleni caves as part of our itinerary. Ashram was small but in a very quite surrounding with dense forest type cover. Close by was Seeta cave with some still intact carvings on the wall. Story goes that Seeta - wife of Lord Ram had come to visit mother of Lord Hanuman and stayed in this cave. On our way back we captured the place in our lens which we couldn't while coming up in the middle of night. On the way one could also see small caves which had Jain carvings. On our way down we could see some devotees climbing up to the temple in hot sun, Good that we were returning back !!!!!

We were back to the base by 2pm thrilled at having completed the trek successfully, having had amazing darshan and amazing experience which would stay in our memories for long years to come. On our way back, we stopped for much awaited lunch as we were all dead hungry and then some of our group members decided to go back to Kasara as we were running late and also trains from Kasara were only available every two hours towards CST. While others decided to visit Pandav leni caves outside Nasik before proceeding home.

Pandav Leni Caves history sourced from Wiki : Pandav Leni, (also Pandavleni Caves, Trirashmi Caves) are a group of 24 - 30, 1200-year-old Hinayana Buddhist caves.These were built by various Buddhist kings as homes for the saints. Most of the caves are Viharas except for the 18th cave which is a Chaitya.The location of the caves is a holy Buddhist site and is located about 8 km south of Nashik, Maharashtra, India.The caves were carved out from the 4th century BC till 12th century CE as abodes for the idols of the local kings. The caves lodge idols of Buddha and Bodhisatva and the icons of Jain Tirthankar Rishabh, Veer Manibhadraji and Ambikadevi. The name of the caves originates from the legend about Pandavas.Some caves are intricately connected by stone-cut ladders that join them to the other caves. Steps lead to the caves from the bottom of the hill. The peak of the Pandavleni is also accessible by trekking of about 20 mins but the path is well built with steps.