Perched on the banks of Godavari river, Nashik is most-visited during Kumbh Mela, at an interval of every 12 years. Other times, business travelers and tourists pave through this city to attend conventions or to explore the surreal high altitude beauty. From numerous Hindu pilgrimage sites, over 100 ancient temples, one Buddhist Stupa, to ancient 1st-century Pandavleni Caves, Nashik has a lot to offer to its visiting guests. If you are driving from Mumbai or Pune, then Nashik’s mountainous terrain and Sahyadris’ lush forests offer phenomenal views as an added bonus. To top it all, Nashik, the fourth-largest city of Maharashtra is also, India’s most-celebrated Wine capital.
Something about Nashik instantly transports you to France’s Bordeaux Port or Rome’s peculiar-wine-tour in a private cellar. With a chance to unravel the reds, whites, plums, or rosés in ways you never have before, Nashik is a perfect getaway to discover Indian plantation of grape-bearing vines. At a four-hour-drive from Mumbai and Pune, Nashik is where you unearth the best of boozy brunches, music fests, and wine tastings. The perfect city to enjoy the Red Chenin Blanc or the White Sauvignon Vert!
As, a matter of fact, Nashik’s Sula Vineyards represent India’s local wine culture. And, wine connoisseurs from all across India frequent the city, to explore the distinct sweet-vinegary wine notes. The highlight of our Nashik trip, however, turned out to be the Golden Buddha at the Stupa besides the ancient Pandavleni Caves. Pandavleni, the oldest caves in Maharashtra are situated 20 minutes from the heart of Nashik, and at a 5-minute drive from Express Inn, where we stayed during our weekend stopover.
It’s a long climb to the caves but worth it, if you have an eye to appreciate Bodhisattva and sculptures representing Indo Greek architecture. Before we tell you more about the caves, you must know that the name of the caves is not symbolical with Pandavas of Mahabharata. Instead, it is derived, from Marathi words Pundru and Leni meaning Ochre-color caves. Pandavleni is a series of 24 Buddhist caves, first carved out in the first century, with last few sculptures added in the sixth century.
While we strolled from one cave to another, we came closer to understanding the meaning of carvings, which represent the significant transformation of the Buddhist devotional practices. For example, Cave 18, a primordial rock-cut architecture, is the chaitya of the first century BC. This Cave, in particular, introduced us to the Hinayana tradition. Likewise, Caves 3 and 10 are worth visiting for their intricate column work. Inside cave 3, 11-15, and 19-20 we found the medieval period inscriptions which range from Vashishthiputra, Gautamiputra, Satkarni, Bhattapalika, Ushavadata, Dakshamitra, to Indo-Greek Dhammadeva.
We summarized our trip by getting farm-fresh cucumber with a glass of lemonade, from a local vendor.