YOUNG WORLD

Khandala beckons

KAMAYANI SINGH

Khandala beckons

Everybody has now heard of Khandala, thanks to the popular Hindi song "Aati kya Khandala". Even earlier, Khandala was popular because of its proximity to Mumbai. Khandala is a small hill-station located on the western slopes of Sahyadris. At a height of 625 meters, it is on the Mumbai-Pune highway (95 km from Mumbai and 65 km from Pune) making it a popular weekend get away. Lonavala is just five kilometres from Khandala. A visit to one is incomplete without a visit to the other. Most people who visit Khandala-Lonavala prefer to stay in Lonavala, as it is easier to find cheap accommodation there.

Lonavala is like a typical mall-road of a hill-station. Its bustling markets, crowded streets and heavy traffic can leave one exhausted. To get away from the uproar of Lonavala, one can go to Khandala. Khandala allows one to enjoy the solitude of a small town. It has fewer hotels, a small market and several private bungalows overlooking the valley.

The ideal time to visit Khandala-Lonavala, according to the tourist brochure, is between October and May. However, I landed there on an unplanned visit in July, during the rains and discovered nothing less than a paradise. Situated in the Western Ghats, Khandala experiences heavy uninterrupted rains, sometimes for days. But most often, it rains sporadically allowing one to go out for walks and experience the breathtaking beauty of surrounding hills.

Khandala beckons

That is why Khandala-Lonavala is flooded with tourists even during the monsoon. The lush green valley, the clouds floating lightly over the small hills and the numerous waterfalls gurgling down the valley form a picturesque setting. The pleasant cool winds, the striking beauty of the hills and the winding misty paths leave behind a magical feeling. A local said that even during the rains, close to 2,00,000 tourists visit Khandala at any weekend. A hotel owner proudly said that all his rooms were booked for the weekend and tourists even offer to pay room fare just to sleep in the hotel corridor. Unfortunately, I did not stay long enough to witness the weekend carnival.

There are several other places worth visiting nearby. Bhushi dam in Lonavala is a popular picnic spot among tourists. Unfortunately, just a week after I left, four boys were drowned while bathing in the dam. On the way to Mumbai from Pune, one can see the Rajmachi fort, just 10 km from Lonavala. Also 10 km from Lonavala is the Lohagad fort, which belongs to Shivaji's times. There are many caves around Lonavala-Khandala of which Karla and Bhaja are a must see. These are ancient Buddhist caves and date back to Second Century B.C.

There are several lakes in and around Lonavala-Khandala, like the Tagauli Lake and the Lonavala Lake. These enhance the beauty of the place. There are many places from where you can get an awesome view of the valley. Lion's Point, located 12 km above Khandala and Tiger's Leap are very popular with tourists.

When Shimla and Nainital have become crowded and polluted, the scenic splendours of Khandala will rejuvenate you.