A popular temple town with ancient mythological links, Wai is also a favourite tourist destination because of its scenic ambience and the fact that it can be a stop-over on the way to the hill-stations of Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar. With its more than 100 temples, it is rightly known as the ‘Dakshin Kashi’ of Maharashtra. And if that’s not all, it is also the place where some of the biggest Bollywood blockbusters have been shot.
Located 35kms North of the city of Satara, Wai is truly a pilgrim town with its 100 temples, most of which are constructed in the Hemadpanthi style of architecture that uses huge stone slabs without mortar. These are decorated with stucco, lime-made sculptures, and paintings. The most famous of all the temples at Wai is the Dholya Ganapati Temple or Maha Ganpati Temple on the bank of the river Krishna on Ganapati Aali Ghat. Famous for its design and grandeur, it was built in 1762 by Ganpatrao Bhikaji Raste. The Ganesh idol here is considered ‘jagrut’ just as the Siddhivinayak in Mumbai.
Wai was known as Viraatnagari since it is believed that the Pandavas stayed with King Viraat of Wai when they were in exile. It was an important centre for business and commerce with traders heading toward Satara and Kolhapur or the port of Konkan. At Dhom Dam, the temples of Dhomeshwar and Narasimha witness a huge flow of pilgrims, especially on auspicious occasions.
Wai is located between the six forts of Pandavgad, Kindergad, Kamalgad, Varaitgad, and the twin forts Cahndan-Vandan. These forts are a trekker’s paradise, not yet completely ruined, and offer a panoramic view of the hills and valleys. The bell at Menavli Ghat, which is 3 kilometers away from Wai, weighs 650 kilograms and was captured by Bajirao I’s brother, Chimaji Appa, from a cathedral in the Portuguese fort at Vasai. Dated 1707, it bears a bas-relief of Mary carrying the infant Jesus Christ cast into it. There are two temples at the ghat, one dedicated to Lord Vishnu and the other to Meneshwar or Lord Shiva.
At this ghat, another tourist attraction is the ‘wada’ of Nana Phadnavis. The wada completed in 1780, is six-quadrangled, whose upper floor corridors are lined with teak-wood lattice work. One room of this wada is beautifully decorated with Maratha paintings depicting Lord Ganesha, Shiva and Vishnu and floral motifs made in mineral dyes. The paintings are done on a plain lime wall. History lovers frequent Wai as it is the first place where the 17th century Mughal warlord, Afzal Khan, stopped on his way to Chhatrapati Shivaji’s fort and the town’s main festival is known as ‘Krishnabai Utsav’.
Legend has it that when Afzal Khan set out from Wai to kill Shivaji Maharaj, a local named Shende Shastri prayed to the river Krishna for Shivaji’s victory. After Chhatrapati Shivaji killed Afzal Khan, the river was thereafter personified as Goddess Krishnabai, thereby leading to the annual festival. This week-long celebration takes place on each of Wai’s seven ghats.
Wai, over the years, has become a hotspot for the shooting of Indian feature films. More than 220 Hindi, Marathi, Bhojpuri, Tamil and Telegu movies have been shot here courtesy its beautiful locations, availability of equipment, the cooperative nature of the locals, etc. Don’t be surprised therefore if conversation with the residents of Wai often veers toward the narrating of anecdotes related to the superstars of Indian cinema.
Distance from Mumbai: 230 Kms