Nasik or Nashik was our last stop on Deccan Odyssey before we headed back to Mumbai. There was no set itinerary for the city except going around the banks of Godavari and visiting some temples. It was my first visit to this ancient and holy city. A city that I know for Kumbh Mela, for being the place of Aranya Kand in Ramayana. And more recently for its vineyards. It is also the origin of River Godavari and home to one of the 12 Jyotirlingas. Making it a holy in more than one ways for Sanatana Dharma followers.
Places to visit in Nasik
We landed in the town at ‘Godhuli’ or dusk, the temple lights were coming up and shining in the waters of Godavari. Streetside vendors were preparing Diyas that devotees would light and leave in the waters as an offering. Soon enough temple bells reverberated everywhere. There are old and new temples, old ones in stone with carvings telling their potential age and new ones in cement telling their ages by default. Some temples were just four pillars and a roof with a Shivalinga beneath it. While others like Kale Ram temple are elaborate ones.
Small narrow streets one leading to another – dotted with temples – big and small. In between them, there are lines of small-time vendors selling flowers, brassware, trinkets, Prasad and other pooja items. People come as much to shop here and as to pray. To take back souvenirs or a piece of the place for those who could not come. Chat and Chivda shops attracted people with their colorful and promising to be tangy snacks. What stood out though were the bright yellow, orange and white garlands made out of not flowers but sugar. They seem to be favorite with the Gods here.
Sita Gupha or Panchvati temple – the place where it is believed Ravana in Ramayana abducted Sita bring the visuals of the story alive. You can go inside an artificially made cave through narrow pathways that you have to slide through and visit the temple beneath it. Outside there are five Vata i.e Bargad or Banyan trees that give the place its name, numbered in case you miss them. The trees are obviously quite young and are surrounded by a bustling bazaar. Making it tough to imagine that it was a dense forest once where the Ramayana trio lived during their exile. Faith to me, reflected in the yellow-red ‘Maouli’ threads wound around the fat trunk of the tree. More than anything a faith in nature, in the forces of the universe and in the thoughts of the believer.
Happy to be in Nasik
What I found most reassuring was that the whole group was so happy to be in the holy town. They all had a bit of spring on their feet, they all felt re-charged at the end of a long tiring journey. And they all were beaming as they got back into the train. There was a strange parallel that I saw with Varanasi, which also has a similar impact on people – they become carefree. Is it a sheer coincidence that it happens at the locations marked holy since ancient times? Was there a scientific reason camouflaged in the religious rituals that these places were chosen for periodic pilgrimages? Is it the prayers performed overages that have added to the energy levels of these places?
I do not have an answer, but I know it for a fact that places like Nasik do have a positive impact on you. And probably that is why they devised rituals, fairs, festivals to ensure that people who do not live close to them can keep visiting them regularly through their lives.
I could not visit Trimbakeshwar and the origin of the Godavari river. So this visit remains incomplete till I go back and complete it.
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