THE TOWN OF NASIK is one of India’s most holy sites. A bustling temple town, built on both banks of the Godavari river, it has almost 200 shrines. The ghats that line the river front are the venue for the spectacular Kumbh Mela. Legend says that Rama, hero of the Ransayana lived here during his 14-year exile. Eamkund , the centrally located tank and the town’s focal point, is believed to mark the spot where Rama and his wife Sitar bathed. The ashes of the dead are also immersed here.
Most of Nasik’s temples date to the 18th century. The Kala Rama Temple, east of Ramkund, is built in black stone with a 25-in (82-ft) high shikbara. It supposedly marks the spot where Sita was abducted by Ravana. The Rameshwar Temple has splendid carvings on the roof of its hall, while the Muktidham Temple, close to the station, carries inscriptions from the Bhagavad Nita on its walls.
ENVIRONS: Pandu Lena, 8 kin (5 miles) south of Nasik, has 24 Buddhist caves dating to the 1st and 2nd centuries BC. The oldest is Cave 10, a vihara (monastery) which has splendid sculptures and inscriptions above its entrance. Cave 18, an early chaitya griha, has a beautifully carved exterior. Other fine caves include Caves 3 and 20. The sacred Trimbakeshwar Temple, 33 km (21 miles) west of Nasik, is built on the site of one of Shiva’s 12 naturally occurring Stirling (lingas of light). It is surrounded by a large paved platform and has a carved shikhara. Though closed to non-Hindus, visitors can still get a good view of the courtyard and the shrine leading off it. About 65 km (40 miles) south of Nasik is Shirdi, the temple complex of the first Sai Baba, Maharashtra’s most popular saint, who died in 1918.