THE LARGEST hill station in Maharashtra, Mahabaieshwar is situated 1,372 m (4,501 ft) above sea level. In 1828, Sir John Malcolm, Governor of Bombay, chose this beautiful spot as the site for the official sanatorium. Soon after, the wooded slopes were covered with typical colonial structures, among them Christ Church, Frere Hall. Government House (which was the grand residence of the governor), the Mahabaleshwar Club, and the ever-popular polo grounds and race course. Due to its high altitude, the town has a cool climate and offers many pleasant walks. There are also several lookout points such as Bombay Point, from where the sea can be seen on a clear day, and Arthur’s Seat, which affords panoramic views of the Konkan Coast. Venna Lake has facilities for boating.
In the old town is the sacred Krishna Temple, supposedly built on the legendary site of the Panchganga, or source of five rivers – the Koyna, Savitri, Venna, Gayatri and the mighty Krishna. The latter covers 1,400 km (870 miles), stretching from this spot to the Bay of Bengal on the east coast. The temple has a much venerated, naturally occurring Shivalinga, and a small tank. There are two other temples here, dedicated to Hanuman and Rama. Them are also several berry farms close by, where visitors can help to pick strawberries, raspberries and mulberries.
ENVIRONS: The hill station of Panchgani, 18 km (11 miles) east of Mahabaieshwar, is surrounded by five hills. The town is the starting point for many scenic trekking trails. It is also dotted with some charming old British and Parsi bungalows, some of which can be visited. The majestic hill-top forts of Pratapgarh and Raigad, 18 km (11 miles) west and 70 km (44 miles) northwest of Mahabaieshwar respectively, were both Maratha strongholds. They offer commanding views of the surrounding countryside. About 111 km (69 miles) south of Mahabaleshwar is Chiplun, lying on the banks of the Vashishti river, whose waters supply Koyna Lake, a large man-made reservoir. The town is well-known for its irrigation scheme, developed in the 1980s, that provides water to the coastal fringe between the Sahyadri Hills and the sea. This quiet place offers splendid views of the Vashishti river as it winds through the hills.