I have been to Mahabaleshwar many times. On almost every occasion, i would cast a glance at the Mapro Garden restaurant, but would not stop considering the very crowded parking spots. But, the advice of a friend made us stop once and after that we have always stopped here. We have even made multiple trips just to have snacks here and drive back. That’s almost a 250 km round trip for a sandwich!
Mapro Garden restaurant is mid-way between Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar and is famous for its strawberry festival in the summer. The restaurant offers many types of milk shakes, mocktails and pizzas, but it’s most famous offering is its classic sandwich. The sandwich (along with fries) is more than a mouthful and would easily compensate for a meal.
Strawberry shakes are available throughout the year, but they are at their freshest best during the summer. Should not be missed.
Mapro also makes the famous syrups and crushes. You can get any imaginable flavour of these along with the falero sweets.
The place is a garden restaurant. There is a big nursery as well as beautiful flower gardens all over the place. There is also a chocolate factory where you can see fresh chocolate being made.
Rather than have lunch at one of those oh-so-boring restaurants in Mahabaleshwar, stop here on your way to/back for a refreshing break!
If you remember the final scenes of Taare Zameen Par, there is a painting competition held on a mass scale in a school. There are hundreds of kids sitting on an amphitheater. For a very long time, i have wanted to visit this “famous” school in Panchgani. I visited this place last month. It is the New Era Boarding School.
The location is off a side road which visitors to Panchgani/Mahabaleshwar rarely pass by. The side-roads would be a wonderful sight during the monsoon, usually filled with mist. The view from the amphitheater is awesome.
Now, a bit of reality. I actually didn’t go inside the school and see the amphitheater. Vidhya, Akshara and our friends went inside while i was waiting outside the gate. Why? Because, i wasn’t dressed properly – so said the school management.I was actually in shorts/bermudas and the school authorities didn’t allow me in
A few things to note:
- Be “properly” dressed
- Cameras are not allowed, but no one objected to mobile phone cameras
- I heard that “tourists” are usually not allowed, but when i was there it was the admission season and the school authority allowed me in. No, i didn’t fake an admission, but they said that it was ok at that time.
ISKCON is a wealthy organisation and it shows in their new temple recently opened (inaugurated by our president Pranab Mukherjee) in Kondhwa (Earlier got confused with Kothrud!). This one is called NVCC – New Vedic Cultural center and has grand plans. The one in Kothrud has also a Balaji temple, a replica of the Tirupati temple.
Construction is still on (as of Mid-April 2013). The temple is architecturally very beautiful and nothing has been spared to make the interiors very appealing. The central hall has huge carvings on the roof with central dome depicting Krishna and Radha. The corridors around the main hall have murals depicting various mythological stories and also many from Krishna’s upbringing.
There are three main “deities” – Sri Sri Radha Vrindavanachandra, Sri Sri Gaur Nitai & Jagannath, Baldev & Subhadra. There is also an idol of Sri Prabhupada, the founder of the ISKCON movement.
Location of the temple – See map below for route from Magarpatta.
The darshan timings – the times when the door of the deities are open to the public are given below. The temple is also well-lit during the evening and it is a beautiful sight.
Kichdi is served free of cost through out the day. ISKCON also runs a Govinda restaurant which serves regular vegetarian fare like dosas, parathas and some sweets. The first time i went, it was during the lunch time and hence there was not much activity. The second time, i went during the late evening and darshan was on along with a bhajan. The bhajan along with the dholak and other instruments produced a mesmerizing noise. People were dancing in the central hall and it was almost a trance like situation. The energy was unbelievable and it would almost be impossible to resist the urge to dance!
On a personal note, i am not a big fan of ISKCON, because of various reasons. Anyway, the temple is a nice place to visit. Go there, enjoy the music and experience the amazing energy. Up to you, whether you want to join and become spiritually engaged with ISKCON!