Monday, September 26, 2011

Shegaon & Vani, Our Holly Places !








I am not much of a devotee when it comes to visiting holly places. Yet its said that when you are destined to visit such place then they calls you & things fall in place1 one such experience it was I visited in a single week two holly places which are far away from each other  & the experience is worth sharing! Both places have very high regards in minds of devotees or bhaktagan we can call & each day thousands of people visit them to pay their homage to the almighty. One is Shegaon which is famous for Saint Gajanan Maharaj & other is Vani which is supposed to be half shaktipith & residence of Goddess Sapatshringi!
Shegaon is a small town rather village in comparison with city like Pune & in Vidharbha region which is water scarce as well poor on most of the fronts by wealth factor. Most of the visitors are poor & public civic facilities were none few years back. Here the committee which looks after the temple comes in picture & what a remarkable achievement they have done, it’s worth visiting just to experience that. The sansthan i.e. temple is not as cash rich as few of the famous places in our country like Shirdi or Tirupati, yet what ever collection they get through the visitors they have set an example the way they have utilized the same. First off all they have a free transportation system to pick up the visitors from bus stand & railway station. As many people come by these two means to the city, Earlier the rickshaw walas & private operators use to loot the tourists to take them from the bus or railway stations to the temple asking for ransom & the visitors also had to surrender as there wasn't any other mean & one cant walk for 2-3 km with luggage in hand. This free bus service is a huge relief for economically weaker segment & it’s through out the day & night after very small intervals. Here you know the first glimpse of what the temple is doing for you!

Realizing the need of accommodation the temple trust has build hundreds of rooms in form of Bhaktaniwas all around the temple & they are made available to the guests at very cheap rate. They may not be luxurious but they are functional & serving the need. Same is about the food at mere 40/- a thali is being served at these accommodations saving the time as well money of the visitors & do mind its as best as the food which you can get at a small place like Shegaon! Medical facilities also are made available in the campus of the temple taking care of any health problem with tourists. At regular intervals drinking water fountains are there along with public toilet facility which is so rare a thing in our country. What’s more important is they are clean all the time & water is available for proper flushing in any of the toilet. Hot water & drinking water have been made available at every landing of each floor in the Bhaktaniwas, so the visitors don’t have to buy costly bottled water. At each point you can’t miss the care & concern of the trust i.e. sansthan people for the devotees & that’s what makes Shegaon temple unique.

To add on the sansthan has built a huge & I mean huge theme park " Anandsagar" over 400 acres of land & it has to be visited as it’s above any words. Its mainly for the Dhyan or Sadhana of the devotees visiting the temple but they have created a miracle over a land which was baron few years early. And now it’s a center of attraction for every visitor, making it’s a revenue generator as well a hot tourists spot in a town which has nothing against its name to visit it for except the temple! The park contains temples, lakes, water bodies, statues of various saints who has contributed in the cultural as well spiritual growth of Maharashtra, vast open spaces & lots of greenery. It will be a habitat for many species with lots of flora & fauna which is rare thing in Vidrabha region where water & greenery are scarce terms. Information charts right from the accommodation availability to trains timings for major destinations have been displayed all over in park, in bhaktaa niwas & in temple also. All this shows the way temple is striving to take care of the visitors & that's very soothing feel, especially in a country where giving service to the visitor lack professional touch.

One thing which stands above all is Cleanliness; the guys there are obsessed with it! Most rare thing to see is a piece of garbage in open& that to at a place where thousands of people visits from all class of the society! All around the clock a team of Swayansevak i.e. Volunteers is busy in keeping the place clean & not a single garbage bean is allowed to over flow such is the punctuality. Knowing our love for tobacco & pan, yet you won’t find a single tobacco chewing stain & that is remarkable achievement. Really not only other temples but even the municipal corporations & private sectors also can learn a lot as here is the display of what a governing body can do if they decide to do good! I think at least to experience this cleanliness one should visit Shegaon temple & Anandsagar! And there isn't any entry tax or toll to enter the city of Shegaon, again a rare thing!

On this back ground when I traveled to another equal highly regarded pilgrimage i.e. Vani which is situated near Nashik, the contrast in the up keeping of the place was remarkable. No signage, the temple is on up hills so from the bottom of hill to the temple one has to use private vehicle or climb up. The place with all due respect of the Vani sansthan isn't clean but garbage & drainage overflowing on narrow streets. No proper parking places for the vehicles neither arrangement for accommodation or toilets of the visitors. Whatever little accommodation over the place is, it has not even drainage line & the whole drainage has been laid in open. In peak time water is scarce commodity as there isn't any permanent source of water supply has been created & with all these lacuna's we have to pay entry tax which makes us wonder why we have paid it?

Another major aspect is using natural resources, at Shegaon right from Bhaktaniwas to Anandsagar solar water heating plants have been used as Solar energy is available in abundance in that locality. Similarly Vani could think of the same as well wind energy as it’s at much higher altitude. With all due respect to the sentiments of the devotee's & agreed we visit for the goddess a question surely crosses the minds that if Shegaon can do it why not Vani?

Recently I read in a report that over 50 million tourists visited our Maharashtra state last year & most of them for pilgrimage & look what we have to offer them as facilities at such places & what image they must have been carrying back home about our holly places! At both places i.e. Shegaon & Vani, the local governing bodies are dumb in compare with the temple bodies. They are just doing nothing when actually the city is getting benefited by so many visitors to the respective temples. Not even proper roads or road signage going towards the temple from railway or bus station is there at Shegaon, leave apart the parking facility or a proper information center. Same is at Vani the Ghat road has been done yet a lot needs to be improved & this is job of the local governing body only. With all efforts the temple management is doing to keep the premise in clean form at Shegaon, the area outside of the temple premise says the same story which is at Vani or at most such places in our state. Saddening is nobody speaks about it neither complaint! May be people think they earn more Punya if the darshan is in tough conditions but what we forget is no God will like to live in such conditions & especially when they are man made!

Like the great Buddha said, I think instead paying random amounts in danpeti or doing abhisheak, every visitor should try to contribute on this front then only our prayers will be with meaning to it & reach to the God!

--
Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

Envo-Power Committee, Credai, Pune

Please do visit my blog to know about our philosophy at Sanjeevani !

http://visonoflife.blogspot.com/

Social Side of Sanjeevani !

http://www.flickr.com/photos/16939159@N05/sets/72157626002106936/

For any of your complaints about city, log in at link below

http://www.punecorporation.org/GRS/Complaint/LaunchComplaintCitizen.aspx

Think Green, Think Life

www.sanjeevanideve.com

Friday, September 23, 2011

Konkan, fogotten treasure!







Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not… Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Some times reluctantly you go on a holiday & it turns out as a best break you could have even with all the planning! Some what my experience with my recent Konkan trip with my badminton group was one such. I am a forest lover & most rather all of my free time in vacations have been in forest but this time when the trip is planned for Konkan I was a bit reluctant as what’s there to see, was my approach. Agreed many will wrinkle there nose over this question & I too have heard as well read a lot about Konkan's scenic ness yet like the ad of one liquor brand " Have I made it large?" my mind was asking " Is it worth? " But the outcome was more than what I have expected, its not only worth visiting once but repeatedly yet it made me sad seeing the poor infrastructure as well lack of enthusiasm of govt as well local bodies who neglects this immense wealth of nature & have failed to en cash the same!

The resort which we had been visiting claims to be an Eco- Savvy & on the coastal road from Alibaug to Murud. It runs all along the virgin beaches mainly because all the properties adjoing to the sea are privately held. On other side of road are the ranges of Sahyadris with thickest forest with all shades of greens & amongst one such hill the resort is situated. As most of the properties are private the sea shore isn’t accessible to the public at such places. There are advantages as well disadvantages too, advantage is the beach remains much cleaner in comp air to the public beaches but at the same time it becomes restricted to guests or limited visitors! All along the trip I was looking for the Eco- tourism &announcements by the govt about which I have read in news papers & media but unfortunately I couldn't see even the glimpse of the same leave apart the exhibits of it! We say we have a tourism department & with all due respect if its there then it don't know what they are missing! First of all the horrible road conditions, the distance from Pune to Alibug-Kashid must not have been more that some 150 km & it took us nearly 4 & half hours plus a constant fear that any moment the vehicle may get damage. A good road condition is a very basic & primary demand of the tourism which we seem to have forgotten. When we expect people to visit us we should see that their journey to the destination is simple & with least bothering, which is completely missing. There are no proper signages where to go for your destinations neither any information available about the locations which you can visit around any of the places. You have to be dependent on local’s advice or relay on some one's opinion of the place who has visited earlier here. Why can’t we have booths at regular intervals along the mains roads giving such information with proper maps & distances mentioned? That will ease away much of botheration for the visitors. I am not expecting recreation centers like we get in Europe or US where not only the info but the tourist can fresh up with the facili8ties like toilets ,fuel stations, restaurants but simple plain information should make available. About the road condition why can’t the tourism dept raise a hell over the concern dept & blame them for the loss of revenue because of such conditions of road as that does reduce the repeat customers & the delay in reaching time to the destination does make the visitor wary of the place!

There are guest houses lined up along the road where the localities have displayed boards saying MTDC (Maharashtra state tourism dept) affiliated but that's it! They don’t have basic infrastructure like telephone or list of popular places around! Hygiene & cleanliness was never our strong point yet it’s high time that if we want to really convert visitors in repeat run as regular tourists then we need to maintain a certain scale of standards on these fronts. A good & clean toilet is a very primary need at such places which is missing from most of the places. Same is with the information available about the surrounding places as the hosts themselves are ignorant & unable to guide the tourists properly, thus making a negative impact on them.

The coast carries probably the best & thick forest line for which the Konkan is famous for. But the unfortunate part is it’s neither advertised nor the govt depts. i.e. forest & tourism has done anything to explore the same. Except the Karnala bird sanctuary which is along Goa highway all other forests have no means for a tourist to explore them. Here forest & tourism department should have jointly worked up about the facilities being provided to the visitors & it could have a great revenue earner as well making people aware about the coastal forests which are so rich in biodiversity of various species. Look at the way other states like MP or Karnataka or Uttaranchal have projected their forest assets via Kanha, Bandipur or Corbet parks! It’s saddening that with so much of on platter yet we fail to deliver & this richness remains away from the tourists. No where there is any information how a visitor can see or explore these places neither there are any trails made for the same. All one can admire is the thick green cover on one side of road & occasional glimpse of a fish eagle coming out of it & circling the sea shore. Forest dept should take lead & open up this treasure for all those visiting Konkan & let them know about the nature around. Had this spot been in any other country like Malaysia or Singapore, I can’t imagine where they would have taken the same in terms of developing as a tourist hot spot!

Another disheartening factor is most of the tourists don't take any effort to keep this serene surrounding clean & add on there thrash which includes liquor bottles to water bottles to plastic carry bags. All ready the infrastructure of most of the local bodies is poor & this additional garbage is real burden on them, making the road sides as well the public beaches open garbage beans1 this we should remind to ourselves is the area is popular destination because it offers something which our urban life don't have & that is the clean pure nature around. If we forget this then lets understand we ourselves are killing our treasures & have no right to blame the govt for not offering good infrastructure! As Waldo Emerson has said, after all nature doesn't asks us anything from us in lieu of the joy it’s giving us but to keep it as it is!



--
Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

Envo-Power Committee, Credai, Pune

Please do visit my blog to know about our philosophy at Sanjeevani !

http://visonoflife.blogspot.com/

Social Side of Sanjeevani !

http://www.flickr.com/photos/16939159@N05/sets/72157626002106936/

For any of your complaints about city, log in at link below

http://www.punecorporation.org/GRS/Complaint/LaunchComplaintCitizen.aspx

Think Green, Think Life

www.sanjeevanideve.com

Friday, September 9, 2011

Eco friendly Ganpati ?






If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders….Abigail Van Buren


Come Ganpati & I remember the festival in my childhood days at my small town Khamgaon, which is a very tiny place in Vidarbha. No big lighting or huge statues or big mandap’s  but the charm was different. The festival was a social gathering in real terms with programs like orchestra or popular Hindi movies were shown & various events from debating competition to plays which were performed by the Galli gang & applauded by the entire Mohalla adults who were the spectators! The festival was a good platform for the youngsters to give exposure to there various skills & give them stage daring which in later years becomes there big asset. I myself stared giving speeches on different subject for prize of  mere Rs 5 in front of mixed crowd & it has helped me a lot giving presentations to much different crowds in my growing age. Some where in the back of mind those stage performances always have very high regards as its those times which boosted the confidence in a village boy who when come to city like Pune has them as the only skill along! That’s what a Ganpati festival to me!



Coming in 2011 though a lot has changed, still Ganpati festive times are probably the best days in this very city of Pune which at a times is even bigger than Diwali! As the whole city gets ready shrugging the monsoon drops away & possesses a new fresh look giving signs of festive mood ahead & which continues till New Year ! The nature also has changed of the festival about which a lot has been talked, the budget along with the programs have soured to new high. No longer it’s just a stage for the Mohalla or the Galli kids but now its celebrities & big banners which define a mandal. Now the Ganpati mandal is mentioned by the set & not by its programs or participation's in the same. Even look at the immersion procession i.e. the Mirawnuk & what we see? Walls of speakers, members of the mandals dancing with all zataka mataka, loads of Gullal & heavy lighting on statue carrying vehicle! I wonder by which definition it can be called as Eco friendly! Some mandal's may be exception but this is in general scene, not just in Pune but mostly in all cities around us. Also the common man is drifting away from the festival except to visit the different mandals as spectator of the sets they have erected. Its no longer is seen as a platform where all classes of the society share the stage & perform, giving room for each others skills to grow. Since last few years come Ganpati times & we find numbers of write ups & appeals for making the Ganesh festival Eco friendly! And we find the competition for Eco friendly ganesh mandal etc. No doubt its need of the time but are we understanding the practicality of the issue rightly or its just one more fad of applying Eco friendly tag to everything we do?

Ganesh festival is probably the best platform to make people aware about various aspects of environment. Eco friendly Ganapati doesn't mean just to curtail noise as well river pollution by not using hi peach speakers or not using Gulal or not submersing the all nirmalya in river nor  just avoiding use of Plaster of Paris or Thermokol  But it means using this platform at fullest for the cause of environment. We are thinking of reducing the damage but we are forgetting to use the power of this festival to reach out to the people for spreading the message about environmental conservation.

One can always display the posters/ banners about biodiversity conservation in & around the pendol. We can arrange various programs about environment instead going for DJ's or some conventional programs like orchestras. Also we can display CD or sound clips about awareness regarding environmental issues in & around the city at background for ten days in the pendol instead some loud music. Give pamphlets to the visitors about Eco awareness & various means by which we can participate in the cause. There are hundreds of NGO’s, Institutions which keeps on doing better things for the society but very few are known to the common man, using the platform of festival we can share this information with the people. Right from printing such information in Warshik Ahaval ( yearly report), instead photographs of celebrities to print their names & works on the back side of receipts a lot can be done. A simple information like names of Sarpamitra i.e. Snake friends in the locality can be printed as many a even don’t know what to do if a snake is seen in the house & whom they should call. Many a times I get call from my friends about they have found an injured bird in their back yard & what should they do to save it? Then I give them Katraj snake parks authorities’ number & things move. Living in protected urban life we have forgotten our exposure with nature & this festival can be a good tool to give us back that exposure.

The mandal's can arrange various competitions right from debating to painting with focus of subjects around nature & biodiversity & try  to involve as many school/college students we can. These paintings can make a good display in & around the pendol for creating awareness amongst the visitors & a good exposure for the artists who have painted them. Similarly we can arrange for photography competitions with photographs covering various problems around us in the city which can include right from the road pot holes to reducing tree cover around.

We need to revive our earlier days & make the festival a real mass base & try to get along as many segments of the society we can, making it a real social event. After all what we mean by Eco friendliness? Its a life style where all segments of the society can enjoy the event at peace & real joy & which one needs to adopt not for just the ten days but all around the year! And this is what a Ganesh festival should make us experience us then only we can call it as Eco friendly! And for that as the wise man has said we need to make our self aware about the cause then only we can make our genre next more responsible for the same! The day we will be able to do that I think that day we will be more proud & deserving to welcome the Bappa !



--
Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

Envo-Power Committee, Credai, Pune

Please do visit my blog to know about our philosophy at Sanjeevani !

http://visonoflife.blogspot.com/

Social Side of Sanjeevani !

http://www.flickr.com/photos/16939159@N05/sets/72157626002106936/

For any of your complaints about city, log in at link below

http://www.punecorporation.org/GRS/Complaint/LaunchComplaintCitizen.aspx

Think Green, Think Life

www.sanjeevanideve.com