A Drive To Shivthar Ghali
It is a Sunday during a break in the monsoon. The weather is clear and we are tempted to go on a long drive. The first hour is spent in getting beyond city limits, then one painfully struggles thru Katraj Ghat onto the highway to Satara. Half an hour of driving pleasure and it is time to branch out onto the road to Mahad. The countryside is scenic, with fresh greenery and beds of wild flowers, mostly yellow smithea and cosmas; in the distance are the hill-forts of Purandar, Rajgad and Torna - silhouetted in a very dark blue against the clear sky.
The road condition progressively deteriorates as one approaches Varandha ghat, at the western rim of the Deccan. The views from here are very impressive. The sharply stepped edges of the 'Deccan trap' are hidden in the soft green folds of monsoon vegetation; the Mahabaleshwar plateau appears far to the south, resembling in profile a huge blue ship - with the sharply rising corner of Arthur Seat as its prow; to the north, one can see several seasonal streams plunging down into Konkan and farther away, a chain of hill forts from Raigad to Rajgad. It is a 6 kilometer branch road from the Mahad highway to the bottom of Shivthar Ghali - very harsh conditions for anything more delicate than an SUV!
Shivthar itself is a letdown. The waterfall, though impressive from a distance, is rather skimpy up close. The cave has been converted into a modern shrine - there are near life-size statues of Ramdas and Kalyan Swami and lots of bathroom tiles and plenty of concrete all around. Overall, the place is no longer the meditative retreat it probably was for Ramdas - not really the place to unwind after four full hours of rigorous driving on mostly substandard roads. And it is also very hot - and stifling in the moisture laden air of the coastal plains. We quickly begin the return leg of the journey, up the ghat into the open, free-flowing winds of the Deccan and back home.