Discovering Karla : A Scenic Adventure

As our evening coffee reduced to a snack bowl, Jaganathan Ji began recounting his latest family trip to Mumbai. Last week, I shared with you his fascinating journey to the Elephanta Caves (click to read) . This time, he captivated me with tales of the mesmerizing Karla Caves in Lonavala. His enthusiasm was contagious, and I leaned in, eager to hear about his latest adventure.

"Lonavala is about two hours away by train from Mumbai, Vignesh," he started, "and the best way to travel is by taking the Vistadome coaches on the Deccan Queen train. I’ll tell you why?” he leaned forward to the table and mentally mapped out the structure of the train on the table as he explained. “It’s similar to booking a 3rd AC ticket, but with an added layer of luxury”, Jaganathan's eyes lit up as he described further. "The coaches are fantastic! They have huge windows, tables at the seats, and the rear part of the coach is completely open with a glass enclosure so you can stand and take in the views. Unlike the usual train coaches where you place your luggage above you, in Vistadome coaches, you store your luggage in a separate compartment and then settle in."

As they journeyed towards Lonavala, the scenery began to change. "Once we reached Karjat, which is halfway between Mumbai and Lonavala, the scenic beauty really kicked in. The urban sprawl of Mumbai gives way to lush landscapes, making it a picturesque ride. And you must try the Vada Pav from the vendors at Karjat station—it's a must!"

The Vistadome coaches added a unique element to their journey. "These coaches have a translucent rooftop, so sunlight streams in, making the ride through the numerous tunnels quite interesting. Just a word of caution: the train stops only for a minute at some stations, so you need to be careful with your luggage to avoid any mix-ups."

Upon reaching Lonavala, he said that they found comfortable accommodations in one of the many available cottages. "Two full days are enough to explore Lonavala," he noted. "There are numerous caves, cave temples, Buddhist caves, a fort, and a lake—all worth seeing."

Their main destination was the Karla Caves, an ancient Buddhist site dating back to the fourth century. "The Karla Caves are a remarkable monolithic structure, with wooden architecture and an old stupa inside. It's believed to have been discovered in 1909 by the Archaeological Survey of India. At the entrance, we were pleasantly surprised to find a Shaktipeeth temple."

Jaganathan Ji went on to explain the significance of the temple. "The temple is dedicated to Aai Ekvira Devi with rooster as a vehicle, considered by some to be the daughter of Lord Shiva, and by others as a form of Renuka Devi. Here ‘Aai’ means mother. This place holds great importance for the Koli fisherfolk community. The atmosphere was charged with powerful vibrations, and the climb up the 200 steps to reach the cave and temple took about 15-20 minutes."

He also mentioned an unexpected but delightful addition to their trip: "On our way back, we visited a wax museum that featured life-like wax statues of famous figures like our Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Amitabh Bachchan, and even Abraham Lincoln and Kalpana Chawla. It was quite entertaining for the kids."

No visit to Lonavala would be complete without indulging in its famous treats. "We went to the well-known Mapro garden to try their fresh fruit ice creams. They have flavors like strawberry, mango, chickoo, and vanilla, all made with fresh ingredients. It's a bit pricey but definitely worth it."

Finally, he shared some practical travel tips. "The train back to Mumbai leaves from Pune at 8 AM, so you can catch it and be back in Mumbai by around 10:30. It's a convenient and scenic route."

Jaganathan’s vivid storytelling transported me to the serene landscapes and historic wonders of Lonavala. The Karla Caves, with their rich history and spiritual significance, are a must-visit for anyone looking to delve into India's ancient heritage. Stay tuned for more travel tales as we continue to explore the diverse and enchanting locales of this incredible country. She is indeed beautiful.

Vigneshwaran, Senior Correspondent of TheVerandahClub.com is both a skilled digital content writer and marketer by profession, as well as an avid independent writer driven by his passion. His literary talents extend to crafting beautiful poems and captivating short stories including the Sehwag Tales series. In addition to these creative pursuits, he has also authored a book titled "Halahala," which can be found on Wattpad.

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