PLACES OF INTEREST

TUNGAR.

Tunga'r hill, [Da Cunha s Bassein, 256. The Honourable T. C. Hope, C.S.I., Memorandum dated 11th October 1879. Tungar is perhaps the Dunga of Ptolemy (Bertius, 198), though Dugad near the Vajrabai hot-springs seems a better identification. It is a place of sanctity among the Hindus, and gives its name to a particular class of worshippers of Shiv. Part of the Padma Purana, the Tungar Mahatmya, gives an account of the establishment of Tungareshvar. According to this legend Parshuram, in revenge for affronts done to Branmans, attacked the evil spirits or asuras, who, under the leadership of Vimal, were troubling the people of Vara-lata perhaps the highlands of Lat-desh (?). The demons were beaten and forced into the sea, except Vimal who fixed his residence on mount Tungar. By performing penance, he gained the favour of Shiv, and, on a promise not to harm the Brahmans, obtained the gift of immortality, and had his hill honoured by a holy pool and a lingam. Da Cunha's Bassein, 3.] in Bassein, about thirty miles north of Bombay and 2200 feet high, lies, about ten miles from the sea, north-east of the Manikpur or Bassein Road station on the Baroda railway. There are six paths up the hill, but the only regular road, made by Mr. Hope on a gradient better than the Matheran ascent, is about nine and a half miles from the Bassein Road station to the top, four on the level and five and a half on the way up. [The details of the road are: station to Gokirva, road bridged, drained, embanked, and metalled, 1 mile 766 feet; Gokirva to foot of hill, road cleared, 2 miles 1193 feet; foot of hill to top, road cleared six to eight feet broad, 5 miles 2689 feet. From Gokirva to the top the road was made in 1869-71, at a cost to Government of 855 (Rs. 8555). Though good for riders, it is not fit for carts or carriages. The cost of a good road from Gokirva to the hill-foot has been estimated at 1692 (Rs. 16,920).] It takes about an hour and a half to ride, and three hours for a palanquin. The road passes between the villages of Achola and Rajavli to Gokirva, where is a shrine of Mahadev, a pond, and the remains of an old Portuguese stockade. On the crest of a hillock, at the base of the hill, are the ruins of a Portuguese tower, probably built as a defence against the attacks of the Jawhar chief and his Kolis, who were very formidable to the Portuguese, ' leaping like monkeys from tree to tree.'

Like most Konkan hills, Tungar is trap, capped with, a layer of iron-clay or laterite from two hundred to three hundred feet thick. The north and east sides, though steep, are clothed with magnificent forests. To the south and west the slopes are gentler, and there are several spurs and outlying hills, the whole, except certain bare grassy slopes, being covered with forest in which the bamboo predominates. The top plateau is in parts open and stony, and elsewhere covered closely with stunted trees. The foot of the hill is washed by the Vaitarna to the north and the Bassein river to the south. From Satavli a path begins to rise, passing through the Varli hamlet of Dhondvira to the temple of Shri Tungareshvar, about five miles from the foot of the hill. The temple is a group of four square buildings, standing in a little valley almost surrounded by hills. The buildings are said to be of great age, and were rebuilt about a hundred and thirty years ago by Shankarji Keshav, the celebrated Maratha Sarsubhedar of Bassein. Of the four temples the largest, on a two feet high plinth, is about ten feet square and is surrounded by a six feet platform. Its domed roof ends in a small spire. The door is flanked by images of the four-armed Shiv and Ganpati, and opposite, beyond the ling, is a well-carved figure of Parvati. Behind the shrine is a little room with an image of Kaliyamardan, or the Cobra-holding Krishna. In front of the shrine is a four-arched canopy with a sacred bull and a pair of Shri Dattatraya's footprints, and, close by, is a hollow square stone in which the saffron and other dyes used in making the sect-mark are ground. There is also a shrine to Hanuman, and not far off, shaded by rich mango, apta, and auli trees, [ Apta Bauhinia racemosa, auli Phyllanthua emblica.] is the thatched wattle and daub hut of the temple servant or bava. In the neighbourhood of the temple a plot of ground about three miles square (1 kos) was granted to the shrine by the Peshwa, and has been continued by the British Government. In a stream bed, near the temple, are a number of stones with the sun and moon, and human figures carved on them.

The top of Tungar, which is about three miles long, consists of two Parts, a plateau and a ridge. The plateau lies to the north and slopes south and west from Vaitarna point the highest spot on the hill. The ridge has little flat ground, but here and there it offers lovely sites, and is a useful extension of the space for walks and rides. At Kaman point, about half way along the ridge, a commanding eminence overlooks the Bassein river, while Bellevne and Panorama points have fine views of Kamandurg, Matheran, and the Sahyadri hills. The hill-top was surveyed in 1869. Fifty-three house sites were marked off and many more could be found, were they required. About thirteen miles of foot and bridle-paths have also been laid out and cleared on the summit and in the woods below, which only require a trifling yearly expenditure to be permanently serviceable.

As the hill-top is only ten miles from the sea and is open to the breeze, the heat is never great. In May 1876 the average readings were at sunrise 74, at 10 A.M. 78, at 4 P.M. 82, and at 10 P.M. 77. The fall of rain is supposed to be about eighty inches, or about the same as in Bombay. The hill soon cools and the nights are unusually cold. The air appears to derive a special freshness and lightness from the neighbourhood of the sea. The sea breeze sets in about the same time as at Bombay. There is less land wind than at Matheran, and there is much of the cool north wind, drawing round to north-west as the hot season approaches, which is common in south Gujarat and down the north Konkan. Owing to the light rainfall, there is comparatively little damp after the monsoon, and the hill is free from fever and other forms of malarial sickness.

Tungar seems to possess peculiar advantages as a sanitarium for poor families, who cannot avail themselves of the expensive accommodation of Matheran, and for the large colony of Europeans employed by the Baroda and Peninsula Railway Companies. To both these classes, exposed to the unhealthy influences of the humid atmosphere of Bombay, Tungar would prove both useful and cheap. Its comparatively light rainfall and its openness to the sea would probably make it of great service, both as a permanent residence for women and children, and as a place of resort in case of sickness, whereby the great expense of invaliding to England might be avoided. Early removal to such a hill as Tungar might check ailments, which would otherwise become serious and necessitate a change to England. On the other hand, to new arrivals from England the hill might also be a great boon by gradually acclimatizing them and preparing them for the greater heat of Bombay, or of up-country stations. Railway or factory servants, sickening up-country, might by a suitable visit be restored to health, to the great convenience and profit of their employers. Though in the absence of regular statistics for any length of years it is difficult to say in what classes of cases the Tungar climate is likely to prove most efficacious, it may be said generally that cases of fever, of general debility attendant on long residence in the plains, and all ailments in which there is no organic disease, may be expected to derive benefit from a sojourn on the hill.

The supply of water is fair, including a made reservoir at Vaitarna point and springs on the slopes of the hill. Of the springs Gidhpani, or the Vultures' Spring, about 300 feet below the top of the hill is reached by a fair path. The water is good and the yield large and unfailing. Pardhi spring, also about 300 feet below the summit and reached by a fair path, supplies water throughout the year. Nali spring on the western slope, a little to the north of Pardhi, is about 500 feet below the top of the hill. It lasts throughout the year and is reached by a good path. Bhatkhindi spring, about 400 feet from the top, has a good supply of water in the cold months, but runs dry in April. Ketki spring, towards the south end and far down the western slope, yields a good supply of water throughout the year. Not far from Vaitarna point is a rock-cut reservoir thirty-six feet by ten and five deep. Near it are three other reservoirs each twenty feet by twelve. All these are difficult to get at from the top of the hill, but are not necessary for its water-supply. [Mr. Ebden mentions the following additional springs:—Ara, Chirbav, Ghar-tyachepani, Haud, Kashti, Kunda, Murba, Nadyachepani, Pandav, Pari, Rahatavli, Sirkathi, Talyachepani, Varsa, Vehala and Zapa.]

In 1865 the suitableness of the hill for a health resort attracted the attention of the Hon'ble T. C. Hope, C.S.I., then an assistant collector. Mr. Hope thoroughly explored the hill and brought it to the notice of Sir Bartle Frere, Governor of Bombay, who ordered it to be examined. Various reports were written, but little progress was made until 1867. In 1868, Mr. Hope built a large thatched house for himself, and his example was followed by a Mr. Ansell of Bassein. A Portuguese also built a hotel in connection with the refreshment-rooms at Bassein Road station. In 1869, about forty applications for the newly marked sites were received, some of them speculative and some bona fide. Great delay occurred in responding to these applications, the fair season passed, other difficulties followed, Bombay entered on a period of depression, houses at Matheran were cheap, and the attempt to make Tungar a health-resort fell through. Mr. Hope continued to visit the hill, for a month in 1869, two months in 1871, and about a fortnight in 1874. In 1872, he built an upper-storied bungalow on his site at a cost of 500 (Rs. 5000). Various officers visited the hill during this time, and a few people also came annually to the hotel. But depression of trade prevented enterprise, Mr. Ansell's thatched cottage was burnt, and the only buildings now on the hill are Mr. Hope's house, a thatched cottage known as the 'hotel,' and a rest-house for native workmen. Mr. Hope's house has recently been bought by Government for the use of forest officers, and the hotel has been closed as it did not pay.

In 1880, a committee was appointed to report on the capabilities of the hill as a sanitarium. Their report was not encouraging and Government decided that, for the present nothing could be done with Tungar. [The Committes's report is dated 6th March 1880; the Government Resolution is 3314 of 1880.]

On the Vaitarna point, on a knoll to the north of the pond are some Jain cells supposed to have been cut about the middle of the thirteenth century (1234). They seem never to have been finished, and fragments and splinters lie about. They are now filled with water and are known as the Pandav springs. On the top of the hill a stone image of a Jain saint, clothed and with a Rajput-like head-dress, has lately been broken to pieces by the Roman Catholic hotel-keeper. Unlike Matheran where the hill tribes are Dhangars, Thakurs and Kathkaris, the people of Tungar hill are Kolis and Varlis. In the plants of the two hills there is said to be little difference. But Tungar is much richer in wild animals than Matheran the tiger, bear, sambhar and wild hog being not uncommon and the bison being occasionally found.