|Saras Baug Ganesha! Ganpati Bappa Morya!|
After we got off at the last stop in Pune, Vini and I took a rickshaw to Saras Baug near Swargate. This is supposedly one km from Deccan. I am not quite sure what this means, but I am sure the information will help someone making a trip to Pune. If you check on Google for Pune sightseeing, Saras Baug is one of the places that come up a lot on the first page.
|Various sections of the garden|
We arrived at the gates to be greeted by a ‘mela
’ atmosphere. I understand that it is a regular thing there. There were mobile merry-go-rounds; a guy making cotton candy; a number of food stalls and of course a couple of shops selling flowers and ‘thalis
’ to offer Lord Ganpati who is the centre of attraction in this garden.
|Lily Pond with lots of fish|
The whole garden is quite big with a lot of trees and stretches of grass – simply beautiful! There is a pond in the form of a moat that surrounds the hillock where the temple is. The sad thing is that the pond is quite dirty while being full of lotuses and lilies. There were a lot of fish – all of them grey or black in colour. I could not help comparing it to the pond that I saw at the aquarium in Langkawi, Malaysia. That was so clean with a number of colourful fish in it. But they probably spent a lot of money to maintain that one while the local pond just managed to survive by itself, I am sure.
|The black bird's antics in the water. Don't miss it taking off in the third picture|
A small black bird – maybe a duck as it kept swimming inside the water – entertained us with its many antics. It moved stealthily underwater looking for fish. It kept bobbing its head up and looked pretty cute. Suddenly it flew out of the water with a small fish in its beak and managed to swallow it at one go. Awesome show!
|The entrance to the temple|
A set of staircase goes up to the temple. You are warned to hold your breath tight while climbing these. This is because of the stench caused by bird droppings. I know all about those who want to yell that one should not criticise temples. Well, I am not criticising the God, only the way the place has been maintained.
I believe the temple is very old and is open all seven days of the week – from 5 am to 12.30 pm & later from 4 to 9 pm. The place was quite crowded on the Sunday I visited. The temple looks prosperous, so why doesn’t someone maintain the surroundings? I am sure Lord Ganpati with his long nose must be quite disgusted with the smell.
|Inside the temple|
In the meanwhile, one of the devotees who was praying hard – I saw his lips moving continuously – and circumambulating the Lord made it a point to stop me – not once, but thrice – from taking pictures. He was very clear about this rule and kept pointing out a notice board to me. I could only see one which showed a picture of a red slash over a mobile phone, nothing about cameras. I waited for him to leave before taking my pictures. The Panditji
and two workers near the sanctorum did not have any objections to my using the camera. Our country will make for a better democracy without these moral police, I am sure.
|The outer Prakaar|
Lord Ganesha in the main sanctorum was made of marble with a golden crown. His trunk is curled to the right same as at the Siddhivinayak Temple in Mumbai. This is not the most common form, I believe. We had a wonderful darshan despite the crowd and I could go around the sanctorum for three rounds.
I could not get any literature on the temple as the office was closed being a Sunday. The Panditji was helpful enough to give me info on the timings as he told me that it was a very old temple. The outer praakar was quite big and neat and was in an oasis with so many tall trees surrounding the area. It was very peaceful just walking in that area.
|Rangoli at the temple|
Some people were making a beautiful Rangoli on one side with the forthcoming Independence Day as the central theme.
There is a small room that has been converted into a museum that held a few shelves full of Lord Ganesha’s statuettes. I just had a look from the outside as there did not appear much to see. One is allowed inside for a charge of Rs. 5.
After spending some time in the temple, Vinitha and I went down the staircase to reach the ground where we went in search of a toilet. There was one at the left corner of the garden. While the doors had no handles and there were no lights, the toilets were very clean and there was water. It was worth paying Rs. 3 per person for using it.
It had taken us a little more than an hour to see Saras Baug and visit the temple. We came out and decided to try out the food stalls right at the entrance. These were but shop space with tables and chairs placed on the platform in the front. A plastic awning covered the whole area as it was the rainy season, I presume. It kept drizzling intermittently and the weather was just perfect for a holiday.
|As you can see, all the stalls are named Kalpana - serving chaat, pav-bhaji, juices, etc|
We had a bhel puri
and a cheese pav-bhaji
between the two of us washed down by Musambi juice
. I finished it off with an ice-cream
while Vini had a mango milkshake
. Not too bad for a road-side stall and the bill was quite reasonable at Rs. 275 with a few extra pavs
We saw another customer with a Labrador pup and could not help petting the little one. I believe Bozo was just one month old and he was so sleepy. Not that it stopped us from cuddling him. He was so cute!
As it started to rain heavily, a rickshaw cruised along to where we were sitting and the driver agreed to take us to Koregaon Park, that too with the meter on. Not a bad deal, I thought!