The silence is refreshing, broken only by the occasional gust of wind, carrying in the smell of wet earth and freshly mown grass. Just outside the window, the Sahyadris are awash in hues of green. The effusive waters of the Mula River’s tributaries and the dark rain clouds reverberate in unison, birds chirp as they fly to their roosts for the evening, and shepherds whistle to their cattle. A visit to Avanti Kalagram, an eco-resort just a few hours from Mumbai, is like getting a prime seat at nature’s symphony.
Located in the village of Kathardak in Maharashtra, Avanti Kalagram is the perfect spot to unwind during the monsoon without burning a hole in your pocket. It is close enough to Mumbai to be accessible, but just far enough to escape the taint of its bedlam. Besides, it is an oasis for traditional arts and crafts. The resort was developed by the Nalanda Pratishtan Trust to promote indigenous traditions by bridging the gap between creators and potential buyers.
The drive to Avanti Kalagram is invigorating, peppered with waterfalls, farms, cowsheds, the Mula River and plenty of flora. Guests are welcomed with hot poha, onion bhajiyas, and tea or coffee in the dining area overlooking a valley. Art and craft workshops allow visitors to learn batik painting, pottery, paper craft (₹75 per activity); plus there is opportunity for adventure activities like rafting (bamboo rafts), rappelling, valley crossing, and night treks (₹300 per activity). After a day filled with activity, the night is full of the sounds of cicadas, crickets, and owls.
In the monsoon, waterfalls drape the hillsides. A two-hour drive away is Mulshi Lake (70 km), a pleasant picnic spot. Rabbits, deer, wolves, foxes, tigers, and leopards roam the dense forest around the lake, as do peacocks, bulbuls, and parrots. The grounds of the Hadshi Temple (35 km/1 hr) dedicated to both the Sai Babas and Panduranga, an avatar of Krishna, has beautiful ponds with lotus flowers. The long boulevard that leads to the temple offers a spot for quiet contemplation. Just ahead (15 km/30 min) of the temple is Pawna Dam which is sometimes busy with adventure sports like paragliding and motor boating (not in the monsoon) but at other times it is a soundless haven.
It is possible to make a day trip here to attend workshops (₹600 per head, includes entry, breakfast, lunch, tea, and art demos). For overnight stays there are varied options (020 25410034; www.avantikalagram.com; doubles ₹1,500; dorm bed ₹500; tent ₹750; entry ₹100; meals ₹600). Meals are hygienically prepared, authentically Maharashtrian and includebhakri, polis, pithale (a gram-flour based curry), dal-rice, koshambir (salad),dalimbi ussal (a dish of beans), and other vegetarian side dishes.
Appeared in the July 2013 issue as “Artsy Unwind”.
Avanti Kalagram is in the village of Kathardak, 160 km southeast of Mumbai, off the Mumbai-Pune Expressway (50km/1 hr 30 min from Pune airport) via the Paud route. The closest railway station is Chinchwad (33km/1 hr away). The best season to visit this village is during the monsoon when the area comes alive with greenery. The closest store is at Hinjewadi IT park, about 17 km/40 minutes away so stock up on essentials. Carry mosquito repellent. Book ahead, especially during the monsoon and winter months.
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