Serendipity in the lap of Nature – the calm water of Koyna river gently flowing by the side of the road, you cross a small bridge across this little river and reach the tranquil haven where paddy and ragi happily grow in step cultivation; where various shades of green paints separate steps in its own hue; where the sweet aroma of Indrayani paddy spikes fills the air; where fluttering birds make soothing music in the evergreen forest on the hills behind; where tiny white waterfall gushes down breaking the monopoly of the green; where multiple windmills stand tall to stealthily blend with the living world around. A dreamy picture meticulously painted to soothe the eyes, body, mind and soul.
We were in Koynanagar, a small town near the famous Koyna Dam of Maharashtra. And this tiny hamlet called Maneri is a peaceful village nearby. The drive through the very bad road of the Karad-Chiplun highway rattled our bones, but the well-paved narrow road on the other side of the bridge healed our discomfort. We were driving to Ramakrishna Math on a nearby hill.
Most Bengalis find a divine connection with the great spiritual leader Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, the guru of world-renowned Swami Vivekananda. (Read more about Sri Ramakrishna.) So wherever we see or hear about a Ramakrishna Math we yearn to visit there. It was during one such road-map searching session for our drive to Koyna we found the spot but was marked as Bahai temple. We were doubtful about how a Ramakrishna Math can be a Bahai temple so wanted to discover it ourselves. Since then we were looking for the opportunity and time within our itinerary to visit the Math.
Ultimately we managed time and drove towards the Math. On the way, we were greeted by the lovely fragrance of the Indrayani rice coming from the paddy fields which was lush with the tender spikes gently waving in the cool breeze. I could not resist my evil temptation to pluck a tender spike to bring along. While we were deeply engrossed in this luscious aroma of the paddy, the soft chirping and tweeting diverted our attention to the winged creatures that were fluttering around.
We looked out for the birds in the trees and bushes around and the hills behind. To our surprise, we spotted Square-tailed bulbul, white-bellied drongo, small minivet, iora and a few other common birds that I regularly see from my balcony like purple-rumped sunbird (in eclipse), flowerpecker, golden oriole, Indian grey hornbill and a few more. (Read about my balcony birding.) The other winged creatures that kept us involved were the Blue Mormon butterfly, the Blue Moon butterfly and the Glassy Tiger butterfly.
After spending some good time with the birds we were on the roads again. Every turn delighted us as the smooth narrow road meandered up through the hills. At one point there were a series of windmills standing on a flat hilltop, just below there was a reasonably thick seasonal waterfall gushing down and vanishing into the greens. What a sight to behold!
We continued on our quest to the Ramakrishna Math passing by the uninhabited stretch of grasslands and tiny waterbodies. We came across many herds of buffaloes and goats with their master resting under the shade of trees while their flock happily grazed on the rich pasture. We enquired about the location of the Math from one of the cowboys who was delighted to show us the direction saying the Maharaj (head of the Math) may not meet us at this time.
We reached the Math, a tiny temple on a hilltop within the wildflowers in the shrubs, overlooking the vast valley below where the silvery water reflects the blue of the sky. We were in Maneri village, with a handful of houses this Math and its surrounding area is like a heaven on earth. The cool breeze was gently flowing by and the bright blooms were happily dancing with them facing the sky.
Mesmerised by the beauty of the place we kept watching the impressive nature in its glory when the Maharaj came out of his small room beside the temple. The Maharaj was extremely delighted to see visitors from another city to this small unknown temple. He was very welcoming and he offered us tea, coffee as a gesture of his hospitality.
He talked about his stay in Belur Math (read more about Belur Math), Karwar (read more about Karwar) and the other places where he was deputed as the caretaker of the Math. He also spoke about his social work as a part of his duty here for the education and upliftment of the girls. He is the sole member of the Math here and he provides basic education to the children of the village and they in turn help him is taking care of the Math and the surrounding.
With the great pleasure of finding the gem of a place and meeting the amicable Maharaj, we decided to head back to our stay again through the lovely roads. We were filled with the joy of a different kind – it was a strange satisfaction of finding the desired place and along with that the enjoyable drive and the charming location everything fell into place and made our trip memorable.