Saturday, January 28, 2012

Chandhore and Mangaon: An amazing Medieval site and the best Mango Mastani in the Konkan

Woke up at 5.45am yesterday to go for a site visit to the amazing Medieval site located at Chandhore Chambharpada, taluka Mangaon, district Raigadh. After a lovely ride past Pen we arrived at Vadkhal naka stopped for chai and some mediocre vadas and a quick washroom break. Refueled we raced for Mangaon - a small town on the Mumbai-Goa Highway (NH17) - 130km away from Mumbai. 

To those who don't know - Mangaon is just a minor pit stop on the way to Goa ... to those who know a bit more, its a great place to buy fresh veggies, black crabs, raw cashew seeds (in season) and various forest products that the Katkari tribals bring in from the surrounding forests. It is also the jumping off point from the highway to the coastal villages/medieval ports  of Mhasla and Diveagar. Halfway to Mhasla (via Morba) is the small quiet hamlet of Chandhore. Chandhore is a bit of a bizarre hamlet. They have zero crime, have never had any communal problems, celebrate all the various Hindu and Buddhist festivals together and since 1934 have done these without any caste based distinctions! The Grampanchayat has also bagged ever single incentive/award the state has to offer!! All the houses - repeat all - have attached toilets and open air defecation (something extremely common in villages) is unheard off here. To add to this is the fact that Summers in Chandhore are cool and in years past people recovering from TB were sent here for R&R as the weather is usually dry and cool throughout the year. There's tonnes of greenery and a number of old manmade lakes/tanks from the medieval period. The coast is just spitting distance away and the (now famous) seaside town of Diveagar is a hop skip and jump from Chandhore. This little village has the potential of turning into a little Hill Station enroute to Diveagar!

(click on above picture for larger picture with higher resolution)

Sometime last year, Ms Karnik's mum-in laws sister Kunda Maushi reminded her and Mr Karnik about the antiquity of the village. Ms Karnik (Director, Centre for Extra-Mural Studies, Univ of Mumbai) immediately decided that we should go have a look see and we made a quick recce along with Dr Abhijit Dandekar and were pleasantly surprised to find a group of medieval Hindu temples (plinths), a large number of Hero/Sati stones, various sculptural fragments and a large tank cut into the native laterite rock with a narrow staircase leading into it. To our absolute surprise one wall had two rectangular niches one of which held insitu a weathered basalt image of Uma-Maheshwara.

Hero and Sati stones lying scattered at the site with a battered Nandi in the background.

One of the plinths.

The niche with the image.

Uma-Maheshwara from Chandhore.

We were there yesterday to meet the representatives of the gramsabha and to acquaint them with the treasures at their doorstep. We also explained to them that this heritage needed to be understood, accepted, explained to the children and that this was something the village could not only be proud of but could show off to all the world. We got a very enthusiastic response from the gathered village elders and they welcomed our efforts to work here and help promote this unknown but important part of the heritage of India, Maharashtra, the Konkan and Chandhore.

We did a quick recce of the sites and were happy to have Dr Suraj Pandit, renowned Art Historian and Archaeologist, with us. He gave us a series of new insights into the  materials that were scattered all over the landscape. 

Dr Suraj Pandit in action at Chandhore taking a picture of a Sheshashayi Vishnu plaque which may have been from the second niche in the step-well.

Modern Temple at Chandhore

Intricate memorial pillar ... possibly from the 13th c AD

On the way out (yesterday) we stopped over to say goodbye to Kunda Maushi who promptly made us sit down to a quick snack of Rice bhakri with Dried prawns in masala and a lovely dish of slowly cooked matki (Sprouted Moong).

Our mission accomplished we decided to head back to Mumbai when I told the gang we needed to stop at Mangaon and go to Vasav to have the most amazing Mango Mastani in all the Konkan. Mr Karnik was most sceptical and since Ms Karnik is lactose intolerant they decided to give it a miss and meet an old friend whilst me, Suraj and Mr Samuel Nazareth (of AAMRAE) along with our driver Kadam decided to head off to Vasav on the Mumbai-Goa Highway at Mangaon. 

We first found Vasav 4 years ago whilst driving down to Goa and Rhea ran across and got me a thick slice of delicious Mango Icecream made sans hydogenated vegetable oil! Ever since that day whenever we drive to and from Goa we try and pick up some more of the golden goodness. The last time (this May) Rhea got me some oftheir Mango mastani and I was completely bowled over by the sweet, cold, smooth, flavouresome and absolutely delicious concoction of Mango milkshake topped with large cubes of Mango Icecream and then garnished with bits of fruit jelly. The Mango Mastani is named after Mastani, the the wife of the famous Maratha Peshwa Bajirao I.

The Mango Mastani at Vasav, Mangaon NH17

We went in and were greeted by Mr Raju Shete the owner who is a trained pharmacist and runs the chemists shop you can see behind him. This used to be a family icecream shop that was given to his youngest brother when he went off to study pharmacy, sadly the brother died very young and the shop was then handed over to the next brother who ran it for a few years before marrying and moving on to run his father in laws business. Five years ago raju decided to pick up the gauntlet, emptied out all the old machinery, brought in new tech and set the old place back on it's feet. He hasn't looked back ever since and the popularity of his product alongside the praise from Pune-ites (where Mastani has said to have been invented) has prompted him to decide upon opening a branch in Pune. The branch is all set to open end Feb early March and I wish him all success.

The menu includes such local delicacies like Fresh Tender Coconut Icecream and Caramel Icecream (which sadly never caught on in Mangaon), alongside sherbets, faloodas and icecream slices and party packs.

 Dr Pandit and Samuel Sir - Before (Above) ... During (Below and farther below :))

Kadam in action

Well sated (we had 2 rounds ;)) we got into our jeep and sped off to Mumbai via Shudha Shanti Bhavan, Vadkhal Naka and their superb Batatwadas and crunchy Kothimbir wadis .... but that's a story for another day.


  1. absolutely WOW! for both the discoveries! :)

  2. This looks so delicious....hope to taste it some time.

  3. Come May 2014, and I am all set to go Chandhore, and experience this divine stuff .................. aaaaaaaaaah, here I come...... :-)