Located around 170 km from Mumbai, Nashik makes a comfortable weekend destination. Basically, that was the main reason why I decided to visit this city. Before planning this trip I only knew that it was famous for its vineyards and it’s an important pilgrimage destination. Neither of these things to do in Nashik were appealing to me, to be honest, but I decided to give the city a chance.
Quick facts about Nashik
1.Nashik is the 4th biggest city in the state of Maharashtra in terms of population. Although relatively large, it doesn’t have that urban vibe one would expect from a city of this size. Instead, it’s great for relaxing and taking a slower pace.
2.The history of this place is tightly intertwined with legends. According to Ramayana, lord Rama stayed here during his 14 year exile along with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana. This is also where the demoness Shurpanakha tried to seduce Rama, but all her attempts were in vain. To teach her a lesson, Lakshmana brutally cut off her nose (sorry for the details) in front of Rama and Sita, and, according to the legend, this is how the city of Nashik got its name (Nasika – nose). Considering Ramayana was written in the 5th century BC, you can imagine how ancient the locality is.
3.Every twelve years the city hosts Kumbh Mela – one of the largest religious assemblies on the planet. More than 100 million Hindus visit Nashik over a period of two months or so to bathe in the holy water of the Godawari river. It is believed that during the battle of gods and demons over a jar of nectar that gives immortality a few drops of this nectar were spilled at the banks of the rivers in Nashik, Ujjain, Haridwar and Allahabad (four cities where Kumbh Mela takes place).
4.Due to its high altitude, Nashik is known to have relatively pleasant weather conditions. The climate is perfect for cultivating vineyards and processing wine, and it’s not uncommon to hear Nashik being called the wine capital of the east.
So, what are the things to do in Nashik for a non religious person with no interest in vineyards?
Walk around Ramkund
Ramkund is the most bustling area of Panchavati (Pancham Vat stands for five banyan trees), where Rama with Sita and Lakshmana are believed to take shelter. The place is dotted with temples of significant architectural value, and I spent a lovely couple of hours walking around. I can’t say I was in harmony with the place though – there were so many people around who obviously came with a completely different purpose.
Visit Kalaram Temple
Constructed by Sardar Odhekar of Peshwa in the end of the 18th century, Kalaram Temple is one of the most artistic monuments of the region. As the name suggests (Kala Ram stands for Black Rama), the temple is dedicated to the lord Rama and is built entirely of black stone. Photography is prohibited in the closed territory around the temple, but I took a few sneaky pictures, shame on me 🙂 We were taken to this temple by a rickshaw driver who accidentally overheard our conversation and offered to help us around the city. Next he took us to some other places like Sita Gumpha – a place where Sita was hiding from demon Ravana, but they would be particularly interesting only for a person who is actually on the Ramayana trail.
Enjoy the vibes of Tapovan
Set amidst lush greenery on the banks of the Godavari river, Tapovan is one of the most scenic parts of the city. The name of the place translates from Sanskrit as a “place for meditation”, and it’s believed that Lakshmana meditated here for 12 years in order to kill Meghnad, the son of demon Ravana. Later on this serene and peaceful place was used by pilgrims and sages for meditations and spiritual advancement. I loved the rocky banks of the river, smothered by water over many centuries, and huge statues of Rama, Sita and Lakshman against the backdrop of the afternoon sky. Is Tapovan still used for meditations? Can’t say for sure. From what I saw, it’s a popular touristic place with groups of teenagers taking selfies on the bridge.
Make a trip to the Gargoti Mineral Museum
This was definitely one of my favourite things to so in Nashik! Located approximately 30 km from the city, this museum is a real gem. There you’ll find a stunning collection of zeolite minerals, crystals and other natural wonders, found across India and other countries. I’ve written a detailed post about our visit to the Gargoti Mineral Museum – read it here. I assure you, this place won’t leave anyone indifferent whether you’re interested in geology or not.
Other places of interest in and around Nashik include Pandavleni caves (also known as Nashik caves), Trimbakeshwar Temple near the origin of the Godawari river, Sula Vineyards (they provide a guided tour), the Coin Museum, Gangapur Damb and Jain Mandir.
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