Jawhar - An off-beat destination just 170 km`s from Mumbai

Bertram Fonseca helps you explore Jawhar--the less known weekend getaway from Mumbai--which was once a tribal kingdom.

Lonavala and Matheran had become old and boring and we wanted to spend our summer weekend at an unexplored place. A bit of research and a few emails later, the decision was unanimous; we were going to Jawhar, a quaint hill station about 170 km from Mumbai, which is also referred to as the ‘Mahableshwar of Thane District’.

On a hot Saturday morning at 6 am, four of us hop into a car and head out on NH8 towards Manor. The best way to get here is by a private vehicle as public transport connectivity is not too good. Three hours later we stop for breakfast after which, we reach Manor in half an hour. From Manor, we take a right turn and drive along the Jawhar-Vikramgad road toward our destination. Being a single-lane road, the drive is a bit slow, but on the bright side, it gives us a chance to enjoy the slow and scenic village life. The final stretch is a winding ghat, through green forests, at an altitude of more than 1,400 ft. We stop to take in the scenery and capture it on our cameras.

Jai Vilas Palace

Jawhar has a few hotels and resorts which suit a wide range of budgets, so research and pre-book accordingly. We reach around 11 am; an early lunch and a quick nap later, we venture out. The best spot, we`re told, to head to in the evening is Sunset Point, so that`s where we go. We reach early, but no one complains as we are greeted by spectacular surroundings; verdant forests stretched over hills and valleys. The view of the sun set is undescribable. The temperature begins to drop slowly, but we decideto stay and admire the starlit sky–a rarity for city slickers like us–until our stomachs start growling around 9 pm and we call it a night after dinner.

The next morning we were set to explore the other parts of Jawhar. Our first stop is Hanuman Point, on the east side of Jawhar, where we get a splendid view of the valleys and villages in the distance and the Jai Vilas Palace, on our right. We head to the palace next. Built by Raje Yashwant Rao Maukne, the Jai Vilas Palace is a masterpiece in pink stone. The drive to the palace takes you through a well-laid mud road, surrounded by trees on either side. Standing tall in the midst of a massive garden, the palace is deserted as no one lives here permanently anymore, except for the caretaker. After a little pestering he shows us the interiors of the palace and then we walk around the palace courtyard amidst the kaju plantations.

Warli art on coasters

We make our way back into town to check out the Warli art. Famous for its vibrant Warli art, Jawhar, being one of the few remaining tribal regions in Maharashtra, currently has a population of less than 12,000 people. We find Warli art adorning the walls of houses everywhere. Circles, triangles and squares form the basic structure of this art and is themed solely around village life portraying daily activities like dancing, hunting, fishing and farming. While Warli art was traditionally made with rice paste, today, paint is used and these paintings done on paper, canvas as well as other surfaces are on sale as souvenirs. We enter an artisan’s house and are shown a huge collection of Warli art done on both paper and canvas, varying in both size and price. We select a couple of paintings to put up on our walls back home.

Dabhosa waterfalls

Our next destination Shirpamal, located just outside Jawhar, on the Nashik road, is where Shivaji camped on his way to Surat. Strategically built on top of the tallest hill, this spot also gives you a panoramic view of the surrounding area. A red arch welcomes you into Shirpamal, and a commemorative plaque inside describes Shivaji’s visit here.

As the sun grows stronger, we make our way back to our hotel and after lunch, begin our journey back home feeling totally refreshed. If we had more time, Bhupatgad, a small fort, would have been our next stop, as well as the Dabhosa waterfalls, which is said to be a splendid spot to visit during or after the monsoons. Located around 15 km from Jawhar, it is easily accessible after a short trek down a rocky trail.

The author of this piece- Bertram Fonseca is a freelancer

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