Bhandardara: The hidden monsoon jewel near Mumbai

Bhandardara on the banks of River Pravara in the Ahmednagar district near Mumbai is a treasure trove of waterfalls, trekking trails and centuries-old forts. The hill station comes alive during monsoon when rains add to its unspoiled charm

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Bhandardara: The hidden monsoon jewel near Mumbai

Bhandardara: The hidden monsoon jewel near Mumbai

Bhandardara is a hidden gem in the scenic Western Ghats in Maharashtra's Ahmednagar district. The hill station is home to pristine lakes, and lush greenery, with the majestic Sahyadri mountain ranges as a breathtaking backdrop.

It is 185 km from Mumbai, 161 km from Pune and 72 km from Nashik. The main attraction at Bhandardara is Arthur Lake, an expansive reservoir formed by the Wilson Dam. Its tranquil waters mirror surrounding hills and forests, offering a mesmerizing panorama. The dam, an engineering marvel, provides beautiful views of the valley below.

The hill station is located on the banks of River Pravara. Nature enthusiasts flock to Bhandardara to see the Randha Falls formed when the Pravara River cascades down from a height. The Umbrella Falls are named after the circular shape formed during the monsoon.

History and legend 

According to legend, the sage Agastya meditated here for a year. Pleased with his penance, the gods blessed him with a stream of the River Ganga, now known as the River Pravara. Bhandardara is crisscrossed by trekking trails and dotted with forts. The famous Mount Kalsubai, the highest peak in Maharashtra, is a favourite among trekkers. 

umbrella falls
Umbrella Falls at Bhandardara. Pic: Wikipedia

Popular treks include the 200-year-old Ratangad Fort and the sixth-century Harishchandragad Fort.

Blessed with lush greenery, Both Ratangad and Harishchandragad forts, perched atop hills, offer panoramic vistas. Ratangad Fort has a distinctive natural rock formation at the top with an arch-like cavity that overlooks the valley below. 

Bhandardara is also a popular stopover for tourists travelling to Nashik and Shirdi.

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Its lush landscapes and cool climate make it ideal for trekking and nature walks year-round, attracting visitors seeking respite from urban life. Whether boating on Arthur Lake, trekking ancient forts, or enjoying the serenity, Bhandardara captivates with its unspoiled charm. It is also home to Mount Kalsubai, the highest peak (1,600 m) in Maharashtra.

Bhandardara's history is intertwined with the construction of the Wilson Dam, a British project for regional irrigation, in 1910. It created Arthur Lake, marking a significant chapter in local agriculture and tourism development. 

Bhandardara also hosts the annual Kajwa Mahotsav in May-June when the fireflies are in their peak season. At this festival, millions of fireflies flicker in unison, illuminating the night with their glow. 

About 17 km from Bhandardara is the Amruteshwar Temple in Ratanwadi. It is an intricately carved Shiva temple over 1200 years old, built in the 9th century CE by the rulers of the Shilahara dynasty.

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lush greenery
Bhandardara's beauty is at its peak during monsoon. Pic: Flickr

One of twelve Shiva temples commissioned by King Jhanjha, its shikhara remains intact and highly ornamental though the roof of the mandapa has disappeared, exposing the inner lintels of the ceiling. The Archaeological Survey of India has declared it a monument of national importance.

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At Bhandardara, indigenous tribal communities practice farming and fishing. The main crop here is paddy. The local communities enrich the tapestry with dance, music, and handicrafts. The top attractions at Bhandardara are:

1. Arthur Lake: Serene reservoir behind Wilson Dam, ideal for boat rides and scenic views.

2. Wilson Dam: British-era engineering marvel offering panoramic Sahyadri views.

3. Ratangad Fort: Historical trekking destination with sweeping valley vistas.

4. Randha Falls: Pravara River waterfall is captivating during the monsoon.

5. Umbrella Falls: Seasonal waterfall resembling an umbrella shape, popular for trekking.

6. Amruteshwar Temple: Ancient Shiva temple amidst greenery, offering a spiritual retreat.

7. Agastya Rishi Ashram: Mythologically linked ashram on the Pravara River's banks, serene and spiritual.

8. Kalsubai Peak: Western Ghats' highest peak, challenging trek with panoramic rewards.

9. Sandhan Valley: Trekking paradise with gorges and water-carved rocks.

10. Bhandardara Dam: Scenic spot contributing to the region's natural beauty, perfect for photography and relaxation.

Also See: Maharashtra's 5 sea forts that kept enemies in check

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