Perched on the banks of Godavari river, Nashik is most-visited during Kumbh Mela, at an interval of every 12 years. Other times, business travellers and tourists pave through this city to attend business conventions and explore the surreal high altitude beauty. Along with, numerous Hindu pilgrimage sites, 100 ancient temples, Buddhist Stupa, and Pandavleni Caves. Whether driving from Mumbai or Pune, Nashik’s mountainous terrain and Sahyadris’ lush forests offer splendid beauty from start to end. Besides, the ancient burgh of Nashik is, not only, Maharashtra’s third-largest city, but also, the Wine capital of India.
Something about this city instantly takes you on a leisurely holiday across France’s Bordeaux Port City or Rome’s Wine experience in a private cellar. Be in with a chance to unravel the reds, whites, plums, and rosés in ways you never have before. At a four-hour-drive from Mumbai and Pune, Nashik is a perfect getaway to discover Indian plantation of grape-bearing vines. In fact, my initial trips to Nasik have always been about boozy brunching, music fests, and infinite Wine tastings.
Nashik in a Nutshell
From (Red) Chenin Blanc to (White) Sauvignon Vert, Nasik is where it is all grown, fermented, and packaged into wine bottles. In all honesty, the famous vineyards of Sula are synonymous with the wine culture in India. Wine connoisseurs frequent the city every now and then to explore wine tours and wine bars. Sniffing and swirling wine from freshly picked grapes is unquestionably a rare luxury. Unless of course, you stay at one of those vineyards. In the end, the multiple wine tastings will help you appreciate its hidden sweet and vinegary notes.
On my recent trip, however, I chanced upon the Pandavleni, the oldest caves in Maharashtra. Pandavleni Caves are 20 minutes from the heart of Nashik, however, at a 5-minute drive from Express Inn, my hotel for the trip. Before visiting the caves, I took a quick sneak peek inside the Buddhist Stupa, only to find the magnificent Golden Buddha. It’s a long walk up to the caves but worth it, if you have an eye to appreciate Bodhisattva and sculptures representing Indo Greek architecture. It took me over 30-minutes to climb one way and it’s best you wear sports shoes before you venture out to climb the cave stairs.
The name of the caves is not symbolical with Pandavas, from the epic Mahabharata. Instead, it is derived from two words Pundru and Leni meaning Ochre colour caves in Marathi. These 24 Buddhist caves were first carved out in the 1st century. While, new sculptures were added, until the 6th century. As you walk from one cave to another, you will notice that each sculpture represents a significant transformation in the Buddhist devotional practices.
Elaborate Facades of Buddhist Chanting
For instance, Cave 18 is the chaitya of the 1st century BC, a primordial rock-cut architecture, fundamentally introducing to the Hinayana tradition. Other fascinating points of interest are the intricate pillars and columns of infinity in Caves 3 and 10.
Take your walking inside cave 3, 11-15, and 19-20 to read and capture the medieval period inscriptions. Pay attention to the rock engravings and you will find Vashishthiputra, Gautamiputra, Satkarni, Bhattapalika, Ushavadata, Dakshamitra, and Indo-Greek Dhammadeva carved on the rock enclosures. All the up and down climbing will trigger an increase in bone-building cell and will also tire you up. The immediate remedy to that is buying cucumber from a local vendor, along with, a glass of the local lemonade.
On my bucket list for next time, I want to explore the intricate arches of Kalaram Temple, 18th-century Sundarnarayan Temple, Fortress ruins of Ramsej, Nashik Artillery Museum, Nashik Botanical Garden, and the Someshwar waterfall. Whether you live in Nashik or have travelled here, we would love to hear your favourite spots.