Monthly Archives: November 2011

Amritsar – Punjabi delights…

The State of Punjab has been on my mind for quite a while… I mean who wouldn’t want to go there hah? Makke di Roti and Sarso Da Saag!!! Oye hoye!!! Truly something that Punjab is known for. Besides just their truly amazing food that one would cherish… the warm and hospitable culture that most Punjabis are known for is something really remarkable. One of the most dildaar, or generous, helpful and loving people of this beautiful country. Where if a boy is born in a traditional family, the mother is proud because she knows that her son would be the one who would be able to go across the border and be a part of the country’s security force and military. Numerous tales of their patriotism and their war heroics have been portrayed in stories, movies and real life.

One can’t just miss the beauty of this state and one can’t especially if you are anywhere near by. If nothing else, I had to visit Amritsar as it was on my mind. Not just for it’s amazing Paratha and Lassi… But of course The Golden Temple, The Wagah Border and of course, the Jallianwalla Baug. Something I have in common with the Jallianwala Baug is the date 13th April… Yes, unfortunately, that date is my birthdate, nonetheless, I realize despite being one of the most brutal massacares in our country’s history, this significant place and date is still remembered in our long fight for freedom struggle. Something that gives us a reality check of not to take this ‘freedom’ of ours for granted.

Which is exactly why I made it a point I go visit this one as I was in Delhi for work and had time to fly to Amritsar over the weekend and then move on to my other tasks.

It was a Friday evening. After I finished my work, I headed to the Airport and boarded a flight to Amritsar from the Indira Gandhi Airport in Delhi.  I reached Amritsar late at night and decided to

While I had a cab that took me in the city, I noticed something really interesting. Lot’s cycle rickshaw drivers are still a very popular in the city and that is one of the easiest mode of transport available especially if you are taking a train. The next day was going to be a really exciting day as loads of sight seeing, food and yes, a visit to the Wagah Border was on the cards. I made sure I made the most of my visit in Amritsar.

Cheese Nan, Dal Makhni & Mango Lassi @ Brother's Dhaba

Cheese Nan, Dal Makhni & Mango Lassi @ Brother's Dhaba

Before I went anywhere, my first order of the day was to stuff myself with something… something really Punjabi… That’s when I dropped by the Brother’s Dhaba, courtesy my Auto driver… Said, this is one of the best food joints in that area… And truly, he didn’t dissapoint.

Durgiani Temple - Amritsar

Durgiani Temple - Amritsar

Next up was a temple nearby. The Durgiani Temple. Very peaceful especially with the pond that surrounded it. Inside the temple were a group of musicians and worshipers who were singing and playing songs to delight their spiritual side. One wonders how much devotion they had and how beautifully they execute it out.

Jallianwalla Baug

Jallianwalla Baug

Despite the pain associated with this place, you have to actually go inside and feel the actual realm of what possibilities that day might have brought upon us. This is something you can’t easily forget and if you are a true Indian, then this place is a stark reminder of the trials and tribulations gone by, for our freedom that exists today.

Golden Temple - Amritsar

Golden Temple - Amritsar

One thing you must do after visiting the temple is sit outside, listening to the melodious kirtan, songs that are played at the Gurudwara… I literally went into a state of trance and felt so close to myself meditating while sitting outside on the carpet…

India-Pakistan Wagah Border

India-Pakistan Wagah Border

One of the surreal feelings that hit you is when you see the Pakistani flag flying across the border and the people sitting and watching us from there… Although Paksitanis being less in numbers, you still get to realize, there isn’t any difference between them and yourselves and wonder, perhaps, as to why this whole meaningless borders exist in the first place?

Defense Personnel posted at the Border

Defense Personnel posted at the Border

The Indian Tricolour Soars High!

The Indian Tricolour Soars High!

The whole experience at the border is completely something that you will never forget. The cheering of the people, the dancing to patriotic songs before the parade happens is something you shouldn’t miss. The parade itself is quite a spectacle. The salute to the tricolour, the opening of the gates at the border and soldiers o each side showcasing their best presentation skills as far as their military techniques are concerned. This is something that everybody is charged up about. People waving at each other, looking at each other’s nations flag flying past and at the end of the session synchronously being un-hoisted and kept aside… This shows true peace and harmony that exists and can very well continue to exist especially with loads of love around us.

This was certainly an experience I enjoyed and something that made me feel really alive! True Punjabi Spirit is what I call it…

Flights to Amritsar

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Spiritual Badrinath – Uttarakhand Chronicles

One of the last legs of our Uttarakhand Chronicles was our trip to Badrinath. After a rigorous trek to the Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Saheb, we were definitely overworked and the trekking had taken a toll on our feet and totally exhausted. Amongst that exhaustion, this visit to Badrinath, by a bus was a life saver.

We were almost nearing Hanuman Chatta. Yes, the traditional and very famous temple of Lord Hanuman… This has a historical significance to it  from the Mahabharta, where Lord Hanuman tested Bhim of the Pandavas fame. Yes, this the place where this story took place. Bhim was crossing the forest when he saw an old ape sleeping in the way and his tail was crossing his path.

The then arrogant Bhim asked the ape to move away the tail. To which the ape replied that he’s too weak to move it and why doesn’t he move it himself. Getting irritated, he tried to move the tail with his mace. He kept trying and trying, real hard, with all his might that he could use, but to no avail… That is when he realised that the ape was no one but Lord Hanuman! Only then did he admit his mistake and realized the importance of humility and how that is significant in a warrior’s life.

And as luck would have it… Lord Hanuman, decided to test us too. I wonder if he disguised himself as modern day Mr. Murphy?

What happened was that we encountered a landslide during our route to Badrinath and our bus was stalled for over an hour. We were waiting for the BRO (Border Roads Organization) to clear the landslide.  Hence I guess it was time to pray to the Lord and make our own way towards Badrinath! For God helps them, those who help themselves… So cliched, yet so, true isn’t it?

So, being the trekkers we were, we decided to walk it up past the landslide affected area and then we could get another bus, one that was arranged by YHAI to come from the other side to take us towards Badrinath. And after a brisk walk and a shorter detour via hilly terrain and some teamwork, we managed to reach the other side of the landslide affected area. From then on it was smooth sailing.

We reached Badrinath late at night and crashed into our respective beds. The next day was going to be a relaxed one, where no more incessant walking or trekking in terrains of toughness. And what we got was one of the most comfortable night’s sleep in quite a while.

The next day was a little bit of shopping in the city and of course, visit to the Holy Temple of Badrinath. Quite a relaxed day to a relaxed weather and setting.

Hanuman Chatta Temple

Hanuman Chatta Temple

Lord Hanuman inside the temple..

Lord Hanuman inside the temple..

The Landslide...

The Landslide...

Beautiful Waterfall View from our Room

Beautiful Waterfall View from our Room

Badrinath Temple

Badrinath Temple

Satnam Waheguru – Hemkund Saheb – Uttarakhand Chronicles

After the amazing and serene trek to the Valley of Flowers, day two was our hike to go visit the Holy Gurudwara of Hemkund Saheb at 15200 feet. Now, as less the distance seems, the steepness of this trek is something that will test everything besides your endurance. This is the true spirit of what you would generally forsake for the belief that you have and the spirituality that you want to test within your body, mind and soul. Everybody who goes here, including kids to elders, have one faith within themselves and that is what they realize when they chant the name of their Waheguru. More than that what is delightful to see is the Sikhs, dishing out Glucon D, dry fruits, biscuits, on their way back… to the people who are going on top. A mere encouragement as it looks like, goes a long way than just a simple source of energy. It’s their words of encouragement that really put you to the test and motivate you to go on top all the more faster.

Hemkunt Sahib or Hemkund Sahib (Hindi: हेमकुडं) is a pilgrimage site for Sikhs in Chamoli district, Uttarakhand, India. With a setting of a glacial lake surrounded by seven mountain peaks and each peak is adorned by a Nishan Sahib on its cliff, it is located in the Himalayas at an elevation of 15,200 ft as per the Survey of India. It is accessible only by foot from Gobindghat on the Rishikesh-Badrinath highway.

Hemkunt Sahib is famous for the Sikh worship-place Gurudwara, known as Gurudwara Sri Hemkunt Sahib Ji, devoted to Guru Gobind Singh Ji (1666–1708), the tenth Sikh Guru, which finds mention in Dasam Granth, a piece of work narrated by Guru Gobind Singh Ji,Himself. The lake also has a Lakhmana hut on its shore which was later built into proper small shrine by the Sikhs. (wiki)

Treading their path in faith towards their Waheguru

Treading their path in faith towards their Waheguru

The glacial lake of Hemkund Saheb

The glacial lake of Hemkund Saheb

Inside the Gurudwara... Truly spiritual and more importantly.. Warm

Inside the Gurudwara... Truly spiritual and more importantly.. Warm

Tasty Dal Khichdi & Hot Tea served to all at the Langar

Tasty Dal Khichdi & Hot Tea served to all at the Langar

Valley of Flowers – Paradise on Earth – Uttarakhand Chronicles

Of the great misty clouds.
The rainbow began to shine,
Some said it was the great white light,
While some said it was about time…

There came the foggy strokes of sunlight,
Sometimes dark and pitchy as they could get.
Beauty of horizons, across the various mountains,
Colors that shone, knew no boundaries as they fret…

The dawn shone upon the great valley,
It took us some time to realize.
What did not come upon us until now,
Till it struck us heavily as a ray of surprise…

They came back again with some hope and some prayer,
Without which they could have never made it so far.
Upon the sunlight they knew they could go higher,
Yet, we tried hard and tried fast, to breathe the air…

It is this place where I would like to seek enchantment,
Forsaken in the depth of this long lost beauty,
I pray to my soul, where you must seek reprise for thee,
Beyond these mountains,into the ‘valley of Flowers’
I seek my penance and here is where I ask ye to bury me…

This was my poem written when I had set my sights on reaching this paradise on earth. But when I look back at this now and relive my experience of the journey to the Valley of Flowers, I certainly feel speechless. No matter how beautiful these words might seem like, nothing can beat the magic of the fact of being in Valley of Flowers.

Besides the fact that the journey to the place was a daunting 8-9 hour trek, first, from Govindghat to Ghagariya ghat. Then the next day, another 6 hour steep walk to the Valley of Flowers, the most amazing and enchanting feeling is the beauty of the surroundings that set forth another level and a whole new world out to yourself.

The best time to go here would be between June and September. Ideally flowers bloom during this period and as a matter of fact, every week you’ll get to see a whole range of flowerbeds across the valley. When we went, we had a possibility of viewing a new flower that had bloomed in the valley and we were also told that in a span of 5 years, first time there was a glacier that appeared enroute the Valley of flowers.

Now that is something that sounded really amazing as this would have been the first time I’d ever get to see glacier, though technically not snow, yet something worth experiencing.

Here are a few glimpses from the Valley, just a little showcase of what is something you have to encounter yourself to really experience it.

Queen of the HImalayas - Blue Poppy

Queen of the HImalayas - Blue Poppy

Waterfall streams enroute the Valley

Waterfall streams enroute the Valley

Diamond Dew Drops

Diamond Dew Drops

Besides that, this early morning walk to the enchanting valley certainly refreshed a lot of my senses and something that will get me visit the place yet again.

Auli – Garwahl Himalayas – Uttarakhand Chronicles

This was one of the places we visited during our acclimatization pre-trek. Before we got ahead and went to The Valley of Flowers, we had an opportunity to visit this beautiful place and must say it was quite beautiful.

Auli, (alt. 2915 mts-3049 mts ) is an important ski destination in the Himalayan mountains of Uttarakhand, India. Auli is known as ‘Bugyal’ in the regional language which means meadow. In fact some French and Australian experts consider Auli to be one of the best ski resorts in the world. Auli is less known ski destination than Shimla, Gulmarg or Manali. It was only in the recent time, after the creation of new state Uttarakhand(formerly Uttaranchal) carved out from Uttar Pradesh, Auli was marketed as Tourist Destination.

he slopes here provide enough thrill to professional skier and novice as well. The Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam Limited (GMVNL) a govt agency which takes care of this resort have imported snow beater to maintain slopes. Auli also boasts the Asia’s longest – 4 km – cable car (Gondola). It also has a Chair Lift and a Ski-Lift. Apart from Skiing there is an interesting trek route also. There is a training facility of Indo-Tibetan Border Police. A small temple having connection to great epic Ramayana is also present. Best time to visit is last week of Jan to first week of March for skiing. Though weather is highly unpredictable. (wiki)

Some of the houses in Auli to stay

Some of the houses in Auli to stay

Beauty of the Kumaon HImalayas

Beauty of the Garwahl HImalayas

Auli Ropeway

Auli Ropeway

Joys in Joshimath – Uttarakhand Chronicles

Joshimath in Uttarakhand was our first basecamp, in the Himalayas… This is one of the most amazing places where you can actually start getting immersed in the white clouds and snow peaked mountains that surround the Himalayas. Very close to Western Himalayas, Joshimath is a hub if you want to enter Auli of the Kumaon Himalayan region, go to Badrinath or for that matter reach towards Govindghat. (starting point to go to Ghagariya ghat, which is the village where people  usually stay during their visits to Valley of Flowers or Hemkund Saheb.)

Our journey to reach Joshimath crossed about 250 kms via mini bus. Now the journey towards Joshimath if you start early in the morning from Rishikesh, is certainly one that is enchanting and of course filled with a constant gaze to the confluences of the river Ganga with other rivers. Every where you go while your bus is doing the hairpin bends, you are bound to see the confluence of River Alaknanda with Bhagirathi and you will definitely get to go through Dev Prayag and Rudra Prayag. One of the two prayags (Confluences) before you reach Joshimath.

Confluence of Alaknanda & Bhagirathi enroute Joshimath

Confluence of Alaknanda & Bhagirathi enroute Joshimath

What is most exciting is the beautiful weather and the peaceful roads will start giving you an enchanting sense of belongingness towards what you would want your Himalayan trek to start off with. Plenty of occasions where you might just drop your jaws with serene and scenic beauty of huge cliffs and mountains in the Uttarakhand region, not just one or two, but stretches of it. That’s something that made the journey all the more exciting.

Beauty of the cliffs & Mountains...

Beauty of the cliffs & Mountains...

Cloud Covered Mountains

Cloud Covered Mountains

After a gruelling 8-9 hours of a bus ride, full of hairpin bends, your entry in Joshimath is one that shall certainly refresh you.

Hairpin Bend Road

Hairpin Bend Road

Waterfalls at the entrance of Joshimath is one of the pit-stops that you have to take before you get into the buzz of the small town of Joshimath. Even as you do that, you will feel the weather change, much different from Rishikesh’s humid texture to a colder ad more fresh air of the Kumaon Himalayan region.

Waterfalls at the entrance of Joshimath

Waterfalls at the entrance of Joshimath

Jyotirmath is the uttarāmnāya matha or northern monastery, one of the four cardinal institutions established by Adi Shankara, the others being those at Shringeri, Puri and Dwaraka. Their heads are titled “Shankaracharya”. According to the tradition initiated by Adi Shankara, this matha is in charge of the Atharvaveda.
Jyotirmath Lord Narasimhar Temple

Once you reach Joshimath, besides getting acclimatized to the weather, one of the things you would want to do is to check out two things.

1. Shankracharya Math (One of the 4 maths in the world) – It also has the Rudraksha tree, which is simply enchanting.

2. Narsimha Temple (Also known as Bhavishya Badrinath Temple) Legend has it that once the Badrinath temple in the future is destroyed, it would be placed here. In fact even now, during the winter, people move the Lord Badrinath shrine here and is worshipped religiously here.

Narsimha Temple

Narsimha Temple

This palce is a certain pitstop if you go towards Auli, Tapovan or anywhere in the Western Himalayan regions of Uttarakhand. Something you’ll cherish deeply.

Magical Rishikesh – Uttarakhand Chronicles

This was another one of the destinations that had the magic and enchantment of the natural beauty that surrounds you. One of the reasons besides of course the travel enthusiasm that I had to visit the famous Ram & Laxman Jhoola at this destination, was to go to the Parmarth Temple. I was told that every evening the aarti that happens here is truly spiritual and that this quest is not to be missed.

On the banks of River Ganga, across the temple worshipers sit in front of a majestic Lord Shiva statue behind the Parmarth Ashram temple… It is truly a magnificent view and something that I wanted to experience it myself. But that had to wait. Before we did that on a beautiful evening, we decided to explore in and around Rishikesh. It was certainly very amazing as we went out for a stroll at night towards Laxman Jhoola and explored the shops that sold amazing handicraft and artworks across the river…

Laxman Jhoola At Night...
Laxman Jhoola At Night…

The whole experience of looking at the gigantic bridge which has lasted there for ages takes you off your feet. You keep wondering how long it’s been hanging there… Well certainly about a 100 years. But what’s important is how quickly it takes you from one side to the other and you wonder how the sight completely changes. Once you get on the other side, you can take a long walk towards Ram Jhoola and other places that are even more enchanting. But the long walk makes you ponder how you got there in the first place.

Some really great work you find in the shops when you walk past them across the bridge. This is when you are walking towards Ram Jhoola.

That’s a sight of the Laxman Jhoola during the day… All buzzing and clear… Very few people really take the time to admire the sight of this amazing heritage! Most regulars just walk by it nonchalantly. Little do they know that this has great significance for many people and how beautifully arduous this majestic architectural symbol is…

Ram Jhoola
Ram Jhoola

Now, that’s the Ram Jhoola. Much bigger and more magnificent than the Laxman Jhoola. Incidentally we were told by one of the locals, that even though it’s called the Ram Jhoola, it didn’t really carry any significance to Lord Ram. In fact this bridge was made for Lord Shiva, as you can also see in the Shiva Statue near the Parmarth temple… However, since there was a Laxman Jhoola, (near to the oldest Laxman Temple in Rishikesh)  they decided to credit this one as Ram Jhoola…

Lord Shiva at the Parmarth Temple
Lord Shiva at the Parmarth Temple

As the evening sets in around 5.30, I recommend that you drop all the work you are doing and head towards this beautifully amazing and enchanting place called the Parmarth temple and set yourself for a showstopper that will spiritually heal you and take your breath away. It truly did for me. Sitting across this magnificent statue while the river Ganga flows steadily and voraciously under it’s feet, it gives you a clear view of what you want to see. There are no cloudy judgements, there is no way to think beyond anything that is blurry. Just clear view and conscious thought. They start the Maha Aarti around 6.30, but the best thing to do is to go and seat yourselves on either side of the steps that are near the river. With the cold water gushing at your feet, an enchanting spiritual chant at the back of your head, this is true devotion. Something that will make you think about what the true meaning of life is. A MUST-DO if you are in Rishikesh.

This had to be one of the best experiences there and I have to attribute it to the most beautiful and enchanting place there is in Uttarakhand. If you have ever been there or planning to go there. Do let me know what your views are…