A night in Bhimashankar

Lodging for the night was easy to find. We walked into a dharmashala and negotiated a room for Rs. 150. Just an 8×10 feet room, tiled by rough cut, unpolished slabs of granite, a solitary window, a door and a sheet of rippled asbestos for roof. The courtyard outside was spacious and formed the center of this dharmashala with connected rooms on it’s periphery.

Bhimashankar Dharamshala
Dharamshala in Bhimashankar

The room came with just a coir rope strung on nails across the length of a wall, probably as a clothes line – that’s how we treated it in any case. Upon inquiring we received a large sheet of polyurethane foam (typically used to wrap cooling pipes in air conditioning installations) meant to be used as a more comfortable sleeping surface and I must confess, it didn’t disappoint the purpose. The sheet of foam tempted me to lie down flat on my back gazing out-of-focus at the clear blue sky, framed by the window.

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Retracing Bhimashankar

The last time I hiked Bhimashankar was 14 years ago to this very season – the fag end of monsoon. The anticipation, then, was stoked by lucid descriptions by my co-worker about the pristine quality of the woods, the complex nature of the trail and the 800 year old temple dedicated to Shiva on the summit. All too eager to indulge, my friend and I took the last local train to Dadar, waited out the night on the platform and took the first train to Karjat at 4:30am. We started our hike at 8am and returned home the following day. It was all worth the effort then and I was eager to relive that experience now.

Khandas near Karjat
Khandas – living in the shadow of Bhimashankar

Bhimashankar is just another peak in the Sahyadri mountain range. Looks like any hill of this region, brown and arid in the summer but lush green and sporting countless streams otherwise. It’s situated at a height of 3250 ft. above sea level and connected by road to Pune. Reaching it from Mumbai is a 2250 ft. climb on a trail that serpentines 3 hills. It’s well known as a revered pilgrimage among Shiva devotees as are most forest trails in India. On the summit, a village of few hundred services this industry. I was told by the locals that the tourist season here are school holidays in May, Shivraatri and Shravan, the season of fasting observed by the Hindu Maharashtrian community.

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