On Sunday, 24th July 2005, my wife Amita, my sons: Aniruddh, Ajinkya and I set off at 06:31 from Sylvan Heights Aundh in a white rented Toyota Qualis.
The objective: to visit the Venkateshwara Temple at Ketkawale, and then also visit Shrikshetra Narayanpur, Purandar fort and Saswad.
From Abhimanshree society, we turned onto Pashan Road and headed for Chandani Chowk. From here we hit the Pune bypass and joined the Pune-Satara National Highway 4.
Crossing over the Katraj ghat we passed by the village of veLu (वेळु) at 07:23, and reached the Kapurhol (कापुरहोळ) phaaTaa (junction) and proceeded East to Ketkawale (केतकावळे).
Dreamed up by Padmashree Dr. B.V. Rao of the
corporate group, the Venkateshwara Temple is a magnificent replica of
the original Tirumala-Tirupati temple. The temple was a mega initiative
by the Lord Venkateshwara Charitable and Religious Trust, a trust set
up by the Venkateshwara Hatcheries
corporate group. Built at an estimated cost between US$3 to $5 million,
the temple also provides living rooms and kitchen facilities for
visiting devotees. The entire project was undertaken under the guidance
of the Tirumala
Picturesque verdant hills topped by dense cumulous cloud and mist surround the 10 acres of flat land, on which stands, this abode-of-the-Lord in the Sahyadris.
Enroute, plenty of signboards advertise Venky’s (India) Ltd. products from Venky’s chicken to Uttara Atta (flour). Close to the temple is Uttara Foods’s 100 ton per day, wheat flour plant.
The stone sculpture of the original Tirumala-Tirupati temple has been mimicked in wood and painted in grey oil-paint. All the woodwork is kept scrupulously clean by an army of attendants with large and small brushes. The sculpted spire over the sanctum-sanctorum is painted yellow to pay obeisance to the Gold spire of the Tirumala-Tirupati temple. Even the black stone and other building material have been brought from Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu. The construction of the temple went on from 1996-2003.
I took off my Reeboks and white socks and left them behind in the Qualis. The monsoon had turned the red-brown soil of the unpaved parking lot into a red stamp pad and I padded away on the paved footpath leaving a trail of brown footprints.
Devotees are guided into maintaining an orderly flow by uniformed security guards.
We were early enough in the morning to beat the queues of devotees awaiting darshan, said to be typical at this temple.
In front of the garba-griha an ensemble of naadaswaram and ghaTam players struck up a lively serenade, punctuated by a brass-horn blower.
My digital camera and camera-phone were deposited with the temple security guards and we entered this magnificent work of art.
The twenty-five laddoo-makers who make authentic Tirumala-Tirupati laddoos and twenty-five garland-makers hail from Tirupati. We are also told, the eight priests who perform the puja also hail from the same families as those of the original temple.
After darshan of Lord Venkateshwara, we drove towards Shrikshetra Narayanpur.
There was a delightful nip in the air as we drove past the Purandar valley countryside with terraced paddy fields, lush green valleys and mirror lakes.