The Sahakar Nagar area in Pune is home to a string of hills. And these hills trace a path that eventually leads to the Parvati hill temple complex. The Taljai and Waghjai hills, known by the names of the deities that reside on their respective summits, have undergone a striking “urban” transformation over the years. On one hand, the approach routes have been modernized with tar and even cement, thus making them easily accessible (and hence, attracting large crowds!). On the other hand, the hills are much greener than before (the “visible” effects of afforestation drives). One thing that hasn’t changed for the past 25 years (and thank God for that!) – the hills are still alive with the calls of peacocks and the myriad sights and sounds of nature.
Taljai: A Temple Visit, A Forest Walk, and A Game of Cricket
When we were kids, my sister and I used to wait for a public holiday when the entire family could climb the Taljai hill. We would clamber up the slopes and make a pit stop at the “Haunted House” or “Bhoot Bangla” on the way. Continuing further uphill, we would reach the Taljai temple. After a brief halt to seek the blessings of the goddess, we would head into the Parvati Van Vihar, the forest in our very own neighborhood. A few hours later, hungry and tired, but in high spirits, we would return home and rush into the kitchen to fill our growling stomachs.
Today, a wide road winds its way from the base of the hill to the Taljai temple (and continues beyond!). Several residential buildings have sprung up in the area, and thus, there is considerable traffic on this hilly stretch. Well, traffic issues aside, Taljai is a delightful escape, especially at sunrise and sunset. The bare landscape of my childhood days has given way to a greener one.
So, take a morning walk up the hill and enjoy a glorious sunrise over Pune. This is especially fun during the cold winter season. It is thrilling to escape the warm confines of your home and wander out into the chilly paths of the hill. As you walk uphill, the chill begins to disappear, and if you get the timing right, you can reach the summit just in time to capture a brilliant sunrise over the city. (Ok, the secret’s out, that’s how I love to start my winter mornings in Pune!).
Visit the hilltop temple, and then, lose yourself in the green environs of the Parvati Van Vihar just behind the temple. Join the morning walk enthusiasts or the evening leisure visitors and wander around the various paths. The peacocks are easy to spot. Look out for the bulbuls, sunbirds, water hens, and other bird life. Lose your worries, enjoy the fresh air, and marvel at the wonders of nature.
If you are a cricket enthusiast, you will find several groups playing the sport on a large flat ground about halfway up (or down) the hill. Join one of them, or go with your own group. On the outer fringes of the ground, the dilapidated “haunted house” attracts curious passers-by.
– Several benches dot the route up the Taljai hill and are ideal for a break, if necessary.
– The Van Vihar atop the Taljai hill has specific timings. Please make a note before you visit.
Waghjai: A Long Walk, A Temple Visit, and A View of Parvati
During my childhood, my parents, sister and I would walk to the hills around Waghjai, ascend and descend the various types of slopes (ranging from gentle to steep), bow to Waghjai Mata, and finally, rest our tired feet at the Shahu College grounds. On rare occasions, we would cross several hills and continue to the summit of the Parvati temple complex. Those were wonderful family outings, and the memories bring sunny smiles to our faces.
Today, the area around these hills looks starkly different. More trees and many birds cheer you on. The wide paved walking paths for fitness enthusiasts have resulted in more visitors. A new college is finding its place in this beautiful setting.
So, head to the Waghjai hill area early one morning. Enjoy a morning walk along the paved paths and greet the noisy magpie robins, Indian robins, coucals, and other winged residents. Say hello to the folks making the most of the outdoors with a brisk walk. Breathe deeply and calmly, and revel in the verdant surroundings. If you have some time to spare, visit the Waghjai temple atop a small hillock (ask any of the local residents for directions). And, of course, you will be rewarded with a lovely view of the Parvati hill.
– Access to the path near Waghjai is allowed only at specific times during the day (a couple of hours in the morning and a couple of hours in the evening) owing to various restrictions.