Mumbai to Kelichapada: Far from the madding crowd
I looked at the children fighting over a cricket bat and smiled. It reminded me of my school days. Except that this was no ordinary city school. I was in Kelichapada village. Years of hustling corporate life in Mumbai had barely given me moments to step back and unwind. This was near perfect.
About 160km north of Mumbai lies the town of Jawhar (a 4-hour drive). Kelichapada, home to the Warli, Kukana and Kolchas tribes, is about 5km from Jawhar. My introduction to the village was by an initiative called Rural Mania, which works with the villagers in Kelichapada to provide basic necessities, infrastructure and avenues for generating income. This was an aberration to my other getaways, but I was eager to step out of Mumbai for a weekend with a difference. So I set out in my car on a Saturday morning, soon escaping the water-clogged roads of Mumbai, for a tryst with village life in the Sahyadris.
Winding our way through small hamlets, we arrived at Rural Mania’s guesthouse on the outskirts of Jawhar, about 6-7km from Kelichapada. It is a perfect place for leisurely strolls and invigorating hikes. With me was a group of 10 people, aged 20-50.
Getting immersed in village life at Kelichapada was the focus of the getaway. On Saturday afternoon, we spent some time with children at a local government school, supported by Rural Mania. Papercraft, fun with numbers and singing ensued. After this, some of us got our hands dirty tilling the soil with a farmer, while others relaxed in a village home.
There is another, less pretty, side to Jawhar. The region is one of the worst in the country in terms of malnutrition among children and Rural Mania’s primary objective is to provide balanced meals for the children at the local school.
The village immersion is both eye-opening and heart-warming—one that will make you think of the plush life at home and the vast economic disparity in our country.
Since ours was a three-day trip, there was time to explore the area around Jawhar. On a hill overlooking the town stands Jai Vilas Palace, made of pink stone. The palace, now in ruins, was built in the 1300s by the Munkes, a tribal dynasty that ruled the region. Jawhar was a princely state which lost its sheen post-independence.
Less than 2km from Jawhar is the Jaysagar Lake, which swells in the monsoon and recedes through the rest of the year, leaving in its wake rock faces imprinted with intricate moss patterns. As we strolled on the banks of the lake in the evening, there wasn’t another person in sight.
On the last day we decided to visit the two nearby waterfalls. Dabhosa, around 20km from Jawhar, is the more popular one. The lesser known, but equally pretty, Kal Mandavi, is 12km away. A short but steep hike leads to the waterfall. Kal Mandavi rarely sees visitors and its pleasures can be had without intrusion.
The trip is possibly designed in a way to build in solitude—it helps city dwellers reflect on the life in a village.
Every fortnight, Weekend Vacations will offer suggestions on getaways that allow for short breaks from metros.