Sugarcane fields at Phaltan, Maharashtra

Windmills & farms with Jakson Inns, Phaltan

Long before we entered the municipality called Phaltan, Maharashtra’s hinterland showed itself to us with patches of green, interesting fort-like structures and little small-town shops, their owners and customers lounging around in that enviable small-town way.

My heart sang out in holiday spirit the moment we left behind the urban splendours of Mumbai city. And when we glimpsed the attractively symmetrical structure of Jakson Inns in the distance, I knew this weekend trip would turn out to be something special.

Phaltan

Villagers hard at work in the farms of Phaltan
Villagers hard at work in the farms of Phaltan

The existence of Phaltan, located in Satara district, was unknown to me until I received the invite for this trip. And I was suitably chastised for it by the manager and staff of Jakson Inns. It turns out that Phaltan is one of the highest sugarcane producing zones in Maharashtra and more importantly for us, home to a variety of tourist attractions like a windmill farm, an agricultural science centre, a royal palace, museum and opportunities for farm visits, village walks and treks to picturesque forts.

Jakson Inns

My lovely room
My lovely room

Jakson Inns is a three-star hotel by Jakson Hospitality but we were legitimately impressed by the size and aesthetics of our terrace-facing room and the amenities provided. Spending two nights in this spacious, airy accommodation was going to be a real treat. There is a fully equipped gym, spa and bar at the inn as well. From Mumbai, it took us around five hours to reach the inn (along with a pitstop for chai etc) and so on day one, we had a light itinerary consisting of a visit to the Krishi Vigyan Kendra at Baramati after lunch at Green Bean Restaurant and a live ghazal programme and mango-themed dinner in the night.

Krishi Vigyan Kendra

Riding a tractor style bullock cart
Riding a tractor style bullock cart

Founded by Sharad Pawar and later managed by Dr. Appasaheb Pawar, KVK Baramati is a green paradise full of demonstration plots, exhibits of farming implements and laboratories containing soil and fertiliser samples. Phaltan is a drought-prone area but on that sunny May day, the Rain Gods blessed us with a short shower that lavished the entire landscape with a verdant glow. It made our strolls through neatly planted rows of tomatoes, brinjal and coriander that much more enjoyable. KVK is best explored on foot or atop a modern bullock cart-tractor hybrid that gives you an elevated view of all the fields and ponds.

Green Bean Restaurant

Green Bean Restaurant at Jakson Inns Phaltan

The in-house restaurant at Jakson Inns is refreshingly bright and colourful with transparent glass walls that look on to the garden outside. At lunch, we had vegetarian and non-vegetarian fare from a set menu, prepared in the spicy local style. At dinner, there was a very visually appealing mango-themed buffet with delicacies like mango dal and mango pulav.

Mango courgette salad
Mango courgette salad

Catering primarily to locals and employees of Cummins Ltd (the power generating company with its headquarters in Phaltan), the restaurant is rarely very crowded. But that day, we were privy to the merriment of the ‘Pink Brigade’ – high society ladies of Satara all dressed in pink sarees and having a gala time sans their cohorts.

Day 2

Jakson Inns, as seen from the back gardens
Jakson Inns, as seen from the back gardens

The second day of a trip is always my favourite because you wake up in a foreign place, with the delicious knowledge of a beautifully planned day ahead and another night in your incredibly comfortable room. On day 2, we had three exquisite experiences ahead of us – breakfast at Vithal Krishnaji Nalawade’s farm, a visit to the Nimbalkar palace and wine and sunset viewing a the windmill farm. That day, Phaltan truly stole my heart and perhaps, never returned all of it.

Breakfast at the farm

Breakfast set-up by the river in Phaltan by Jakson Inns

Early in the morning, we drove down to Nalawade’s beautiful 70 acre farm, where a lavish breakfast table was set up on the banks of a river. The Jakson Inns crew whipped up omelettes and parathas for us while we breathed in the wonderful outdoor air. After a hearty breakfast of muffins, coffee and fruits, we went to meet the farmer himself.

Nalawade with two of his children
Nalawade with two of his children

The affable Nalawade took us on a tour of his sugarcane fields, surrounded by sandalwood and tamarind trees. I wanted to taste some sugarcane along with a few of my companions, and although it wasn’t harvest time yet, they brought us a few canes and mine turned out to be quite sweet and juicy! Alas, my weak teeth came in the way of devouring the entire cane. But witnessing Nalawade’s relative prosperity had changed my perception of farmers considerably.

The royal palace

The royal palace at Phaltan, Maharashtra

The Nimbalkars were the erstwhile rulers of Phaltan and their palatial abode still stands tall in the centre of the main city. An impressive facade greets us as we walk in. The palace sits opposite a quiet temple whose walls are adorned with paintings depicting the Hindu God Rama.

Temple next to the palace at Phaltan, Maharashtra
Temple next to the palace

No longer lived in, the Rajwada as it is referred to, remains closed to the public except on Ram Navami. As we walk through rooms reeking with tasteful affluence, a staff member from Jakson Inns informs us that the three royal brothers now live in town and are the owners of Govind Dairy. The atmospheric courtyards and living rooms of the palace have served as the backdrop for several films and songs including Bhool Bhulaiya. If you stay at Jakson Inns, they will arrange for a visit, a privilege not extended to those unknown to the royal family.

Sunset with the windmills

Far above the trodden earth The windmills stand tall Gently sweeping the summer sky Clouds and all. Their rhythmic swishing rents the air With a calming melody While the ferocious winds Touch me like a sweet malady. We climb the hills and walk across stony ramps To get a little closer to their unearthly beauty And we watch the sun leave saffron stamps In a timeless sense of duty. When night falls and all the creatures sleep A starry sky the windmills shall sweep While I dream of lying on that grassy slope And wondering why the whole world seemed bathed in hope. #windmills #windmill #poem #poetry #dusk #sunset #mountains #hills #nature #Maharashtra #phaltan #beauty #evening #video #instavideo #instabeauty #videoofthenight

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Nothing could have prepared me for the ethereal magnificence of the vast windmill farm atop the mountains in Phaltan. As we drove up the winding ghats, I had glimpses of the tall windmills and smaller ones in the distance. But I had no idea that the wind would be so unimaginably fierce when we stepped out of the car. The rhythmic swooshing sound of the windmills and their sheer size and scale left me awestruck. Standing beneath these gigantic creatures, it is easy to feel like a blade could slice through you at any moment. And yet, there is something intoxicating about being so close to something so enormous.

Windmill farm at Phaltan

Man-made they might be, but the windmills seemed as wedded to the mountains as the evening sun was to the sky. Under the canopy of their rotating blades and a rapidly deepening sky, we lay back on the carpets on the ground and sipped on robust red wine. The strangely comforting motion of the windmill cast an arcane spell on us and I wanted to float away into the land of dreams right there on that windy plateau, surrounded by a saffron fire. Eventually, the sun dipped below the horizon and the world was swathed in the glow of a departing dusk. No one wanted to say goodbye but the cozy beds at Jakson Inns awaited our return.

Dinner on the terrace

As if the day hadn’t been memorable enough already, the wonderful team of Jakson Inns arranged an enchanting dinner with live DJ for us on the breezy terrace outside my room. It was summer but the night wind was cool and replete with the scent of local flowers. The way the wind whipped my hair was almost as ferocious as the windmill far but not quite. Conversation flowed as fast as the food and drinks and it was with happy, rested minds that we went to sleep that night.

Breakfast on the lawns at Jakson Inns Phaltan
Breakfast in the lawns

On our final day at Jakson Inns, after a beautiful outdoor breakfast in the lawns, the manager took us on a tour of the property and told us about their plans to include a swimming pool, water rides and perhaps another restaurant. But I wouldn’t need any of that to lure me back to Phaltan again. All I’d need really, is the memory of those windmills silhouetted against the setting sun.

Rooms at Jakson Inns start at Rs 3000 per night. For reservations & inquiries, contact +91 7722013942 or write to sales@jaksonhotels.com.

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