The Other Mahabaleshwar let's you explore the beautiful flora and fauna of the popular hill-station

Nov 25, 2018, 19:10 IST | Jane Borges

A new field guide hopes to shed the veneer of strawberry-tourism in the popular hill-station to showcase its rich flora and fauna

The Other Mahabaleshwar let's you explore the beautiful flora and fauna of the popular hill-station
Mumbai-based architect Dhruti Vaidya and her team of researchers collaborated on this book. Pics/Bipin Kokate

How many times have you read a travel guide and not prepared a check-list for yourself? A new illustrated book, The Other Mahabaleshwar: A Template for Mindful Travel, hopes to do exactly this. Just that, it won't draw your attention to the strawberry farms, breathtaking mountain views or shopping arcades, which the forested hill station is most known for, but to the jewel bugs, yellow-footed green pigeons, Murray's cobra lilies, and other varied flora and fauna that continue to inhabit this eco-sensitive town, nestled in the Western Ghats of Satara.

Conceived by Mumbai-based architect Dhruti Vaidya, and put-together by researchers Sonam Ambe, Anand Pendharkar, Seema Hardikar, the field guide is an unusual effort in promoting responsible tourism in the hill station. The illustrations by Sneha Chhatre only makes the township more alluring to the reader.

The Indian luna moth and yellow-footed green pigeons are part of the diverse fauna that inhabit the hill-station
The Indian luna moth and yellow-footed green pigeons are part of the diverse fauna that inhabit the hill-station

"I have been visiting Mahabaleshwar for years now," says Vaidya, whose grand uncle, Purshottam Vishram Mawji, set-up the Hindu Sanatorium in the town in 1911. "We've seen this place when it had no electricity, and witnessed its progress once the roads and tourists came in, and how the quiet and contemplative Mahabaleshwar slowly gave way to this raucous, noisy place," she adds. What is most distressing, Vaidya says, is the town being trashed with plastic, bottles and other litter. The idea behind the book was to offer another way to look at Mahabaleshwar, and thus, rebrand it and showcase its real worth.

The Other Mahabaleshwar

In that, the book has stayed true to its word. Opening with the legend of Mahabal and Atibal, the two tear drops that Shiva's atma lingam shed after being possessed by Ravana, and how they immortalised Shiva on the hills of Mahabaleshwar, the book navigates through other such mythological stories, before revisiting the town's geological history, the rulers that changed hands, it's ancient temples, colonial architecture, and creatures that now thrive within its evergreen forests.

"There is a need to bring awareness of its history and forests. Right now, the only thing that the government is doing is talking about the strawberries that are growing here," she says, dismally. "I am tired of seeing this. My point is that do we need to continue developing an eco-sensitive zone for holidays of this sort. I don't think so," she adds, saying that hopefully readers will see her favourite second home, in new light.

What: The Other Mahabaleshwar:
A Template for Mindful Travel
Price: Rs 450
To buy: flipkart.com/amazon.in

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