We woke up late on a lazy sunday and had no plans. Suddenly this place struck me. I had read about it somewhere and off we were to it. Neelkantheshwar! A place just around 50 kms from Pune. After the Temghar-Lavasa road, we cross a small town named Bahuli and the small Roads take us uphill to Neelkantheshwar. It is a Shiva temple located on a steep hill. But the main attraction is a hundreds of statues built on the temple premises. Once you park your car at the assigned parking, the small boy who gives you the parking ticket tells you that its just a kilometre of a climb to the temple. But don’t you believe him ! The climb is indeed a task. The road is wide but very steep. There are a few hairpin bends which make it easy for many people to give-up and to crawl back. The stiff climb might be a reason that it is not easily approachable by “vandalising-tourists” ( the kinds throwing garbage all over and behaving as if they own the tourist spot) . Thanks to the climb, the temple premise is still clean and serene. Being monsoon, we could climb in the afternoon, but it would be wise to not try that when the sun is on top. There are no shelters and no panipuri or chat joints either 😉 We asked a few people who were smiling as they climbed down, “How much more ? “Aaah you are almost there”. And we exchanged places of this conversation while descending.
When you finally have that feeling that you have accomplished something, you have reached the steps that take you up. Still a small way to climb, but the steps make it simpler. The big sleeping Hanuman Statue and a few stray dogs welcome you. The statue series start from there itself.
Beautifully carved and artistically crafted, these statues take you through the ancient tales of our fascinating mythology. Every statue tells a story. A wonderful concept but less known and lesser visited, probably due to the steep climb. The temple is a compact and simple one which is presumedly visited by many devotees during the mela. There is a provision for a big queue outside the temple. We were lucky to see and roam around with very few people around. We somehow managed to ease our small trek to the temple as we left all our belongings down in the car and carried nothing in our hands. The temple is almost situated 1000 feet above Pune and the views from the top are marvellous. We can see both Panshet and Varasgaon dam from Neelkantheshwar and also the backwaters of Kadakwasla while driving to the location. There is a small canteen on the temple premises which will help you with basic tea, coffee, poha etc. There is no good place to lunch/dine nearby. Our small snack-box saved us. Climbing down is also not a cakewalk. You have to be careful not to slide yourself down in the valley in excitement. The scenery can be best enjoyed when you are coming down, as the stress of the climb has vanished and you are free to look around.
Neelkantheshwar is indeed a atypical destination. No eating-joints, no dirt, no garbage ! It is hard to believe how it has remained to be the way it is. Thanks to the steep climb. There seemed to be a plan to make a motorable road to the top. But I hope it doesn’t happen soon. The earth needs places to breath. Let some places be happy as they are !