Lying at the head of the main pass through the Western Ghats, the fast-developing city of Nasik (or Nashik) makes an interesting stopover en route to or from Mumbai, 187km southwest. It is one of the four sites of the world’s largest religious gathering, the Kumbh Mela, most recently hosting it in 2015 (it won’t return until 2027). Even outside festival times, the ghat-lined banks of the River Godavari are always animated. According to the Ramayana, Nasik was where Rama (Vishnu in human form), his brother Lakshmana and wife Sita lived during their exile from Ayodhya, and the arch-demon Ravana carried off Sita from here in an aerial chariot to his kingdom, Lanka, in the far south. The scene of such episodes forms the core of the busy pilgrimage circuit – a lively enclave packed with religious specialists, beggars, sadhus and street vendors touting puja paraphernalia.

However, Nasik has a surprising dearth of historical buildings and its only real monuments are the rock-cut caves at nearby Pandav Lena. Excavated at the peak of Buddhist achievement on the Deccan, these 2000-year-old cells hark back to the days when, as capital of the powerful Satavahana dynasty, Nasik dominated the all-important trade routes linking the Ganges plains with the ports to the west.

Somewhat in contrast to its religious importance, Nasik is also the centre of Maharashtra’s burgeoning wine region.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

India features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Budget trips: 20 of the cheapest places to travel

Budget trips: 20 of the cheapest places to travel

That ever-growing travel wish list might be putting some pressure on your pocket – but there are plenty of destinations where you'll get more bang for your b…

11 Oct 2017 • Emma Gibbs camera_alt Gallery
19 places to get utterly lost

19 places to get utterly lost

One of the great joys of travelling is stumbling across unexpected places, wandering without a single destination in mind and embracing the journey. These place…

12 Sep 2017 • Keith Drew camera_alt Gallery
The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

There's nothing like an amazing view to inspire you to book your next trip, whether you're drawn by rolling countryside, isolated islands or soaring mountain …

30 Aug 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook