Thanks to my dad’s job in the Military Engineering Services, I have had the opportunity, or rather the compulsion, of travelling almost as soon as I was born! We have lived in nine different cities spread across eight states in less than 20 years, but one quaint town remains especially close to my heart; Deolali.
You can reach the town by air or rail to Nashik and take the road to Deolali from there on. For people living in the nearby cities can directly take the road to reach the town (it is around 200 km from both Mumbai and Pune). Many Mumbaites build their holiday cottages here to retreat for serene weekends.
Deolali is a heady concoction of religious, adventurous and health spots. Located 16 km away from Nashik a city in Maharashtra, it’s military centre; Deolali Camp is a Class1 cantonment centre and also one of the oldest. It was set up by the British in 1861. The Deolali camp is full of greenery with gardens, playgrounds and paths lined up by centuries old Banyan trees. In the British Era, soldiers often either cracked up under the stresses of life or got camp fever while waiting for their permission letters to go home. These soldiers were sent to a military psychiatric hospital in the small peaceful and green cantonment town of Deolali for recovery. Hence its name, became the basis for the English phrase “to go doolally,” meaning to become eccentric or insane.
Deolali has been called the Mecca for gunners, with the premier Institution School of Artillery situated in the Camp area. Apart from being an important military centre, it offers the twin benefits of a hill stations and a health resorts. It has a number of sanitariums, mostly built by the Gujrati and Parsee community. It offers the perfect getaway for stressed professionals, harried homemakers and change seekers who can revel in the views of lush green carpets of grass, pollution free environment and gentle weather that will bring out the apples and twinkles back on the face.
One thing that cannot be missed if you visit on a weekend is the Sunday Gujri; the weekly village haat conducted on an open ground. Here is where vendors sell a fascinatingly wide variety of goods at unbelievable prices. Here, you can capture the local flavor with people turning up in droves to mingle and spend time with families.
There are many religious spots to visit around Deolali. There is the Muktidham temple situated on the Lam road. Its unique aspect is that you can find all the Hindu Deities under one roof, with each one having its exclusive space. It’s an excellent place to meditate. On the Nashik road you can find the famous Pandava caves, where the Pandava princes of Mahabharata are said to hve styed during their 13 years of exile. Khandoba Temple, situated on Khandoba tekri, is associated with the life story of Sai Baba. Someshwar, a beautiful spot with the temples of Lord Shiva and Lord Hanuman, is also worth a visit.
For staying in Deolali, there are many reasonably priced sanatoriums and dharamshalas which offer savory meals as well. Apart from these, there are many family restaurants and ice cream parlors for catering to your palate.
For the History buffs, there is also an Artillery Museum, which shows how weapons have evolved over the centuries. For the more adventurous, there is the gliding club, which offers an opportunity to take a tour and have fun in the air at the same time. Deolali is a treat to your body and mind in more ways than one. Experience the spiritual charm and the picturesque beauty of this town and you will surely keep returning for more and more.