MONSOON, MIST AND MYTH (Pt. 2) | Le Meridien, Mahabaleshwar
A visit to the hospitality giant’s first Resort & Spa property in the country allows Siddharth Dasgupta to unlock a few of Mahabaleshwar’s rarest gems
A DATE WITH EPOCHAL HISTORY
Thanks to ‘Destination Unlocked’, I am on my way to a cluster of some of Mahabaleshwar’s oldest temples. Normally, this would excite me as much as heading to a 2-hour recital of children’s’ nursery rhymes. But here in old Mahabaleshwar, the tried-and-tested tourist cluster is given a miss altogether. Instead, I am wading through inches of mud, large pools of rainwater, sweepingly desolate fields, and the narrowest of stone-filled pathways to something that better be worth all this Indiana Jones-style tomfoolery. And it is.
What greets me at the end of this mini-adventure is a small temple of stone that even from a distance emanates the sacred. It is covered with moss and tiny white wildflowers, which have flourished all over its unique stepped roof formation. It appears to be monolithic, as though one large boulder was the starting point for such fervent faith. There are no crowds here, there is no line-up of pujaris here, and there is no congregation of shady looking conmen looking to fleece every bit of commission out of religion here. There is, actually, no one here but me.
When the sole guardian of the temple does emerge, he turns out to be a sweet, non-intrusive priest who takes me through some of the stories behind the Krishna Devi Mandir. He tells me that this is a nearly 5,000-year-old temple. Even with my fairly dodgy historical, geographical and mathematical knowledge, I can tell you that this makes it one of the oldest such structures. In the world. Believed to be the source of the revered Krishna river, the temple gives you stunning views of the stream-like flow, the large lake it eventually flows into, and the miles of lush valleys all around. The temple is thought to have been constructed during the era of the Pandavas, and that their Guru, Dronacharya, was the first to offer prayers at it’s stone Shiva Linga resembling a Rudrakhya. As I stand in silence and stare at the majestically forgotten beauty before my eyes, I take in its handsome ruins, I ponder over its faded carvings, I immerse myself in the immensity of its significance… and I come to the realisation that nothing quite lingers like a sacred piece of beauty.
BRIMMING WITH BEAUTY
Back at the Le Meridien property, the Resort & Spa moves along to its own languid beat. From a light drizzle to a massive downpour to everything in between, rain is a constant factor as is the monsoon mist that comes with it.
Walking between villa clusters and lawns and spa retreats and restaurants, you’re always under a canopy of branches and leaves, laden with moss. Quirky artefacts, large installation pieces and some stunning animal figurines are strewn about quite casually around the 27 acres. These distinctive pieces by ethnic and experimental art initiative Karabi are the strongest aspect of the art dimension Le Meridien’s ‘Destination Unlocked’ signature is taking them in. An abundance of works from Devrai also form visible aspects of the property’s interior décor, and a majority of these are up for sale to visitors with hundred percent of the sales going directly to the tribal art collective.
Part 2 of a 3-part feature. An alternate version of this story first appeared as a Lead Feature in Travel + Leisure (September, 2015). http://travelandleisureindia.in/meandering-in-mahabaleshwar/