….. Rajesh Deshpande © 2013. Based upon my personal visit in September 2013.
Destination Type – World Heritage Site. Trip Type – Leisure. CLICK HERE to view photostream of Kaas.
Kaas Pushp Pathaar as it is officially known in Marathi literally means Kaas plateau of flowers. It is called as Maharashtra’s Valley of Flowers. Kaas is declared as a world heritage site, one amongst the 49 locations in the western ghats identified as world heritage sites by UNESCO.
Situated 22 Kms. from Satara city in western Maharashtra, Kaas is at an height of approx. 1280 meters or almost 4000 feet ASL. The plateau spans more than 300 hectares. Soon after monsoons the plateau witnesses mass blooming of wild flowers. It appears as if nature has laid down a carpet with pink, yellow, white, indigo, purple and blue colours. Kaas is visited by lakhs of visitors from all over India and has fast gained popularity world over with the number of foreign tourists increasing every year.
How to reach?
By Road – One has to reach Satara which can be best reached from Mumbai, Pune or Kolhapur through NH4. Satara is about 256 Kms from Mumbai and 109 Kms from Pune. It takes about 4.5 hrs. to reach by a private vehicle or about 5.5 hrs. in a State Transport bus which ply regularly to Satara from Mumbai and from Pune. There’s a bus almost every hour going to Satara from Mumbai and Pune.
By Rail – All Kolhapur bound trains halt at Satara. The most popular trains to reach Satara from Mumbai and Pune are Mahalaxmi Express (17411 DN), Koyna Express (11029 DN) and Sahyadri Express (11023 DN) that run daily. Other south bound trains are also available although they do not run daily.
By Air – the nearest airport is at Pune. From Pune, one has to travel by road or by rail to Satara.
From Satara, Kaas can be reached by a hiring private vehicle or through State Transport buses.
Where to stay?
Being a small village there’s no decent accommodation in Kaas. It is therefore essential to stay put at Satara city which has decent hotels. The height of luxury in Satara is Hotel Rajtara situated on Radhika road. Rajtara is a 3-star luxury hotel, an ideal place for a relaxing and comfortable stay. There are other good hotels which are in reality business hotels like the Radhika Palace hotel (although there’s nothing like palace in the hotel) for a budget stay. Hotel Maharaja Regency is another decent 3-star hotel comparable to Hotel Rajtara. Hotel Maratha Palace (beware of the word palace – it’s a business hotel) is a decent hotel on the NH4 recommended for the ones who wish to halt overnight while enroute to some other destination. Hotel Nivant on the Satara Kaas road has fast gained popularity due to its location – every room here oversees the valley presenting breath taking views of Satara city, an ideal place if the purpose is to visit only Kaas and nothing else. In Satara city, there are many small hotels located around the central bus depot.
Things to do
The right time to visit Kaas is during the month of September or early October when the wild flowers are in mass bloom. While at Kaas adore it’s sheer beauty and see the riot of colours on the plateau. Kaas is a photographers delight and many photographers can be spotted any day with their photography gear. Kaas has an enchanting climate due to its height of about 4000 feet ASL. The plateau of Kaas is classified as a volcanic plateau formed of two types of rocks viz. basalt and laterite. There is only a thin layer of soil which supports abundant endemic species which makes Kaas a unique ecosystem and a biodiversity hotspot.
Kaas is an extremely fragile ecosystem. The volcanic plateau has a thin soil cover. One must be careful about the flowers, do not stamp or walk over the flowers or pluck them. There’s strict vigil of forest guards and police on the region and anyone found plucking flowers is fined at Rs. 50/- per flower. It is everyone’s responsibility to safeguard and nurture the treasure of mother nature for our future generations. Some greedy souls pluck plants under the illusion that they’d plant them in their backyard and see the flowers bloom, this isn’t possible as the flowers bloom only in the climatic conditions of Kaas, they don’t bloom even in nearby Satara. Do not litter on the plateau and spoil its charm. Plastic bottles, wrappers are bio non-degradable and cause irreparable damage to the environment. Eatables are thus not allowed in the region. Behave responsibly and prevent others from behaving irresponsibly while at Kaas. Immediately report incidents of flower plucking and littering to a forest guard. Car parking is not allowed on the main road. There’s ample parking area provided about a kilometre away. Do not park your car on the main road and cause inconvenience to others. Unprecedented crowds are witnessed at Kaas during weekends and national holidays during the season.
The forest department and the Sanyukta Van Vyavasthapan Samiti, an NGO jointly manage the Kaas plateau. Their activities include crowd management, cleanliness, preventing environmental abuse, safety and security of tourists and vehicular traffic management. The entire region is heavily fenced to prevent people from walking over the flower beds. For maintaining the region, a nominal fee of Rs. 10/- per tourist is charged. For still camera Rs. 50/- and for a professional camera Rs. 100/- is charged.
It is essential to register the visit on http://www.kas.ind.in website. The entry fee of Rs. 10/- per tourist can be paid online.
Flora and Fauna at Kaas
The flora of Kaas includes many shades of colours, the flowers start blooming as soon as monsoon drenches the soil. A new dominant colour can be seen every week depending on the dominant flower blooming at that moment in time, the cycle continues with monsoon during the months of June to October.
The flora of Kaas include the white Habenaria (ground orchids), bright yellow sonki (Senecio grahami) and micky mouse shaped Smithia, purple Aponogetan satarensis (Y- Tura) species is endemic to the Western Ghat region only and isn’t found anywhere in the world. Sita`s tears or Utricularia is insectivorous and has interesting small bladders around their roots. Tiny insects are attracted to it and are caught in thereby providing the plant with precious nitrogen and phosphorus. Ceropegia (kandil pushp literally meaning lantern flower in Marathi) gulps insects and release them only after pollination & fertilization. Trumpet flower (a parasitic plant) is another species belonging to the family Scrophulariaceae found in Kaas. Species like Drosera & Utricularia are insectivores & native to Kaas. Topli Karvi (Pleocaulus ritcheie) is found in abundance in the crevices between rocks. Some flowers bloom annually while others like Strobilanthes bloom every 7 or 9 years. Kaas plateau is also home to variety of fungi, lichens, ferns and mosses which are large group of parasites which decompose the dead plant material.
Fauna found on Kaas plateau is also having specific features; they are both insectivorous as well as nectivores. This reflects high diversity in Amphibians. Among 139 species of amphibians different species of frogs are found at Kaas. Many species of reptiles and mammals are found at Kaas.
Kaas can be reached from Satara, one has to reach a tunnel on the outskirts of Satara, where the road forks towards Kaas just before the tunnel and soon a steep ascend begins. A few kilometres ahead sudden change in atmosphere can be experienced. On the way, a small diversion leads to an ancient temple of Lord Shiva called as Yevateshwar. On reaching the top of the plateau the views become truly breath taking with the Urmodi dam on the left (built on the Urmodi river which is believed to be originating at Kaas lake) and the Kanher dam to the right. A little ahead countless windmill farms could be spotted on the adjoining table tops running for kilometres. Kaas also has a beautiful lake which supplies water to Satara city. The lake can be reached after a descend from the car parking area. There are few food stalls near the lake which serve piping hot Pakodas, Missal, Vada and Bhel all equally tantalizing to the taste buds. Tea flavoured with a dash of lemon grass served at the stalls is not to be missed. The lake is large and placid. An ideal place for photography.
From Kaas lake, the road further descends towards Bamnoli, a small village on the banks of the Koyna Dam reservoir. From Bamnoli, ferries and speed boats are available to nearby places within an hour’s distance through water viz. Vasota Fort, Tapola (near Mahabaleshwar), Triveni Sangam and Datta Mandir to name a few. A full boat can be hired for Rs. 450/- to Rs. 950/- depending upon the destination. Boat rides are also available on per seat basis ranging from Rs. 30/- to Rs. 90/- per seat depending upon the destination. However, one has to wait till the boat is full.
In and around Kaas
Satara City – is an ancient city known to be the second capital of Marathas. It is also the district headquarters and has important government offices, district courts , and educational institutions viz. the Rayat Shikshan Sanstha founded by the legendary Karmaveer Bhaurao Patil. Satara has some well-known attractions like Char Bhinti (literally meaning four walls in Marathi) on a hillock beneath the Ajinkyatara fort, it is a Hutatma Smarak (Martyrs Memorial) built in the 18th Century by the erstwhile ruler of Satara to commemorate 100 years of the Indian war of Independence. One can see a panoramic view of Satara from Char Bhinti.
Rajwada is the palatial house of the erstwhile rulers of Satara, not occupied by the royal family anymore has a school and few government offices. The main road of Satara city is the Raj path which leads to the old Rajwada and just ends at the Moti chowk. Another prominent place in Satara is the Powai naka which is the commercial and shopping hub of Satara.
Thoseghar Waterfall – about 26 Kms south west of Satara is the small village of Thoseghar. A little ahead of the village are a group of three waterfalls where water plummets about a 1000 feet offering a spectacular view with roaring sound of the waterfall. A fee of Rs. 10/- per tourist, Rs. 20/- per vehicle and Rs. 10/- per still camera is charged by the village panchayat for maintaining the area. The panchayat has constructed pavements and steps leading to the waterfall. Wide galleries are constructed for viewing the waterfall safely.
Chalkewadi – just 2 Kms ahead of Thoseghar lies Chalkewadi known for its Wind Mill farms. Huge Wind Mills can be seen for miles generating Wind Energy. Cool breeze can be experienced on the Chalkewadi plateau due to its height.
Sajjangad – is a fort in which the shrine of renowned saint Shri Samarth Ramdas Swami is situated. Ramdas Swami lived in the 16th century CE, he was the spiritual guru of Chhatrapati Shivaji and author of famous spiritual scripts – Dasbodh and Shri Manache Shlok (‘Verses of the mind’ in Marathi). Sajjangad is about 16 Kms from Satara city off the Thoseghar road. Base of the fort can be reached by vehicle. There’s ample parking space available. From the parking area approx. 250 steps lead to the entrance of the Fort through three huge doors. The underground shrine is reached through an alleyway inside the temple. Every afternoon the temple serves free meals to pilgrims between 12 noon and 1:30 PM. A small path leads to the backside of the temple from where breath taking views of the Urmodi dam can be seen with the Kaas plateau on the other side. There’s also a Hanuman temple about 300 meters away from the shrine. Sajjangad has many shops selling books and souvenirs and small hotels serving snacks, refreshments and meals.
Mahuli – is a village 5 Kms to the east of Satara city. It is known for the confluence of Krishna and Venna rivers and has some old Ghats with a temple complex constructed in the Hemadpanth style of architecture. The temples and Ghats date back to the Peshwa period. The confluence is called as Sangam Mahuli whereas the complex of temples is called as Kshetra Mahuli.
Wai – is a small town about 40 Kms from Satara city in the Jaoli taluka. It is famous for its ghats and temples on the banks of the Krishna river. The town is believed to be in existence since the Shilahar dynasty. The temples include the famous Mahaganapati temple also known as the Dholya Ganapati due to the enormous size of the ganapati idol, the Kashi Vishweshwar temple and the Rameshwar temple. Wai is at the foothills of Panchgani which is about 30 Kms uphill.
Menavli – is a village on the outskirts of Wai about 3 Kms from the centre of Wai. Menavli also has ghats and temples on the banks of the Krishna river. There’s also a palatial house of the legendary Peshwa statesman Nana Phadnavis who had constructed the ghats and the temples. Menavli Ghat is featured in many Bollywood movies such as Swades, Gangajal, Omkara etc. and Marathi movies such as Kaksparsha.
What and where to eat?
Satara is famous for its Kandi Pedha. It is also famous for milk products as the region has abundant milk production and dairies. Pure milk tea is also a speciality of Satara. Mutton Bhakri cooked on a clay choolah must not be missed, relish it at Manas restaurant or Pranjali restaurant on the NH4 near Satara city. Restaurants of Rajtara and Radhika palace hotels also serve good food. Especially, the restaurant of Radhika Palace hotel is popular for its vegeterian thali meals. Hotel Ajinkya on Raj path is also a good option. For sweets and namkeen try Rajpurohit’s sweet mart on SH58 (the main road leading to Satara ST depot). Feast on the yummy ‘Mastani’ (a falooda, milkshake or a smoothie) at Maharashtra Cold Drinks near Moti Chowk.
At Wai, feast on a non-vegeterian thali meal of mutton, bhakri, tambda and pandhra rassa at Shri Siddhagiri hotel (open between 12 – 3 PM and 7 – 9 PM only). Extinguish the fire set due to digging in to the mutton bhakri and experience pleasure after pain at ‘Pyasaa’ cold drink house in the main market with a glass of ‘Mastani’.
There’s nothing special to shop at Satara except for Kandi Pedha and Bakar Wadi (crispy and spicy deep fried spring roll). Khamkar, Modi or Raj Purohit are famous for Kandi Pedha and Bakar Wadi. At Wai, Khamkar is popular for Kandi Pedha, Mango Barfi and Bakar Wadi.
Rajesh Deshpande © 2013