Saturday, March 3, 2018

Syalsaur – the non-existent village

Syalsaur – the non-existent village
(A photo blog)
As the morning sun lights up the Kedarnath peaks - view from Syalsaur
After spending some quality time at Devprayag we headed toward the final destination of the day i.e. Syalsaur.  From Devprayag, the road runs along the right bank of the river Alaknanda for a distance of 29 km up to a small township Kirtinagar, which was founded by one of the former Maharajas of Tehri Garhwal named Kirti Shah. Here Alaknanda is crossed over on a bridge to its left bank and then after traversing a further distance of 6 km comes the town of Srinagar. The road from Devprayag to Srinagar is all level driving without much of climbs or downhill runs.  The road traverses through some small villages namely Bagwan, Maletha and Kirti Nagar.  After crossing Srinagar, which is also a significant and historically important seat of modern learning, associated with the Garhwal University established here by the British in late 1920’s, is still known to be a seat of learning, where NIIT and other modern teaching establishments flourish.  The township of Srinagar is also known for the holy temple dedicated to Goddess Dhari Devi.  The statue inside the temple is said to change its colour in the reflection during various phases of the day.  Despite protest by locals for not disturbing the temple, which was to be relocated from original position due to construction of dam downstream, the relocation was undertaken on 10th June, 2013 and within three days the devastation in form of unprecedented floods shook the entire region on 13th June, 2013 wherein thousands of human lives and livestock perished and caused irreparable loss to property.  The devastation that took place is still attributed by the local people to the wrath of Goddess Dhari Devi. 
As River Alaknanda meanders beyond Devprayag

Green terraced fields on the road side
Approaching Srinagar town
The River Alaknanda widens as we near Srinagar town
Traversing a further distance of 33 Kms. alongside the Alaknanda River, we reached Rudra prayag, which is another confluence on the holy Ganga River.  This confluence is that of Alaknanda River with Mandakini River flowing in from Kedarnath.  I will provide you all with a brief detail about this destination in one of my ensuing blogs, as due to paucity of time, we did not have a stop over here during our journey, so as to reach Syalsaur in time i.e. before the evening set in.  From Rudraprayag, the road again bifurcates, the road that runs along Alaknanda River heads towards Badrinath and the other one that crosses the Alaknanda River heads towards Kedarnath and this road runs along the mesmerizing Mandakini River.   Having gone past small, but well known townships of Tilwara and Agast Muni and after having traversed a distance of 28 Kms. from Rudraprayag we finally reached Syalsaur, which is actually a non-existent village, with only wilderness and a single house and a silk breeding center, parked in between the villages of Chandrapuri and Banswara of Rudraprayag district of the Uttarakhand State.  Having covered a distance of 165 odd kilometres during the entire day, that included a small stop over after Dev Prayag in a small home run café of sorts, where we had some really nice noodles & Coffee, we reached Syalsaur late in the afternoon and as the lunch hour was over, we ordered some pakodas etc. being famished and tired.  Being the only occupants of the TRH, the entire staff was ready to receive and provide for us and we enjoyed our grand stay.
The gate leading upto Dhari Devi temple near Srinagar
Distant view of Dhari Devi temple 
Headed towards Rudraprayag
Going past Tilwara
Going past Agast Muni
Reached Syalsaur finally
This nondescript little destination i.e. Syalsaur, which houses the Tourist Rest House run by the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam Ltd. (GMVN) is perched at an altitude of about 870 meters above mean sea lever (MSL) and provides for accommodation in bamboo cottages that are speckled alongside the pristine Mandakini River, with its turquoise water spluttering on the rocks and the distant Kedarnath peaks looming over the valley.  It is a very beautiful location, calmness and serenity personified and for the tormented souls, to spend a few days in bliss, away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Pilgrims to Kedarnath can stay here, the holy place is about 55 km from Syalsaur.  Being a virgin destination, Syalsaur itself was home to about thirteen odd hotels, constructed in a row facing the serene Mandakini River.   All of them, including the GMVN run one, were destroyed during the ravaging floods of 2013 and I have garnered some photographs from the internet showing the location of the GMVN run TRH then and you can compare the same with my present video.  The only hotel that withstood the ravage and remained standing was built away from the river. 
The Kedarnath peaks - early morning view from Syalsaur
Photo sourced from internet to show the pre-2013 position of TRH at Syalsaur
Photo (2) sourced from internet to show the pre-2013 position of TRH at Syalsaur
Here is the link to the video for the destination

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Divinity of Devprayag

Divinity of Devprayag

Dev prayag - close up of Alaknanda & Bhagirati confluence - where from holy River Ganga flows
             Having enjoyed the serene Ganga aarti on the banks of the holy River in Rishikesh the night before, we were all geared up for our day’s journey heading for our next destination i.e. Syalsaur, which was to remain our base camp of sort for exploring some destinations nearby.
Beyond Rishikesh - view of Ganga River valley - shot in 2001 (using Yaschica FX2000 SLR)
Beyond Rishikesh - view of Ganga River valley - shot in 2018 (using Nikon D5300 DSLR)
            We commenced with our journey at around 8.00 A.M in the morning after partaking our Breakfast.  The weather was clear and the winter sun was bright, its warmth was cushioning in the cold morning air.  The journey towards the destination runs along the holy River Ganga and its scenic beauty can mesmerize and rejuvenate any tormented soul.  Although the road requires some repairs, but apparently the tree cutting spree all along the road i.e. National Highway 58 indicates that it will be done alongwith the proposed widening, for construction of all-weather road in the region, for connecting the Chardham destinations.  I was traversing this road almost after ten long years and there has been a tremendous increase in building activity all along the road, but it still retains it old charm of being a picturesque valley.
Rafting in Ganga River 
Close up of  Ganga River 
             Devprayag is situated at a distance of 70 odd kilometres from Rishikesh and as I had instructed the driver to keep a steady pace, so that we could imbue the scenic fragrance of the hills, we expected to reach the destination in about two hours’ time.  Devprayag is a small town snuggled amidst three mountains, whose peaks are considered sacred, named Giddhanchal Parvat, Dashrathanchal Parvat, and Narsinghancal Parvat. Giddhanchal Parvat is on top of Raghunnath Ji temple. Narsinghanchal Parvat is in front of Giddhanchal Parvat and Dashrathanchal Parvat is on top right side of "Sangam".  Devprayag is one of the five prayags that dot the holy River Ganga and the first one while headings from the plains towards the mountains. Perched at an altitude of about 472 meters, Devprayag is a small but religiously significant township in the Tehri District of Uttarakhand. Devprayag, as the name suggests and literal translation would be ‘God’s confluence’, is the site of the confluence of the two rivers - Bhagirathi and Alakananda and from thence it flows out of as the sacred river Ganga.  The Alaknanda flows from the left, and is an eye-catching shade of light blue or a powder blue from Badrinath side; whereas the Bhagirathi is of a light shade of green that flows in from Gangotri. However, the colours change with the change of weather and the colours seem to alternate. 
Meandering in the upper reaches - Ganga River 
Panoramic view of the Ganga River valley
           Devprayag is also otherwise a significant township, as all the pandas of Sri Badrinath temple hail from this town.  Most of the pandas are Bramhins and are scholars in Vedic scriptures.  Their knowledge of Sanskrit comes as a family inheritance from times immemorial. A local pandit called Sri Chakradhar Joshi had established an elaborate observatory known as Vidya Mandir. This institute is considered to be the seat for astronomical and astrological learning in this area. The observatory has a library with a collection of large number of ancient texts and books and hand written manuscripts dealing with subjects of ancient learnings.   This observatory is open to visitors during particular timings during the day, but is at end of a steep climb upwards and hence not for the faint hearted souls.  Devprayag is 47 Kms from Pauri, 74 Kms from Rishikesh, 80 Kms from New Tehri, 93 Kms from Haridwar, 112 Kms from Dehradun, 150 Kms from Kotdwara, 230 Kms from Ranikhet, 303 Kms from Nainital,322 Kms from Kathgodam
A village perched atop a hill side 
Devprayag finds mention in mythological texts also and according to the Ramayana, Lord Rama and King Dasharatha did penance at Devpraryag, to relieve themselves of their sins of Brahmahatya. It is also believed that the Pandavas also performed ablutions at Devprayag before visiting Badrinath to attain salvation, during their journey towards heaver through Swargarohini valley.  The religious significance of Devprayag is further enhanced, as according to the Vaishnavism, Devprayag is one among the 108 Divya Desams or the sacred abodes of Lord Vishnu. Devprayag holds the fifth place among the five sacred river confluences or the Panch Prayag, the other four being Vishnu Prayag, Nand Prayag, Karn Prayag and Rudra Prayag. The piousness of Devprayag is considered equivalent to the Triveni Sangam located at Allahabad.
Panoramic view of Devprayag - shot in 2001 (using Yaschica FX2000 SLR)
Panoramic view of Devprayag - shot in 2018 (using Nikon D5300 DSLR)
          Devprayag houses many temples within its precincts and the temple of Raghunathji is dedicated to lord Rama. The temple is claimed to be 10,000 years old. It is one of the oldest existing temples of India. Raghunathji temple is built of huge stones, meticulously placed one over the other, in a pyramid shape. The temple was destroyed during an earthquake in 1803, and was later rebuilt by Daulat Rao Scindia. The temple compound also hosts Annapurna Devi temple, Hanuman temple, Shankaracharya temple and Garud temple.  Another temple is of Chandrabadani, which is dedicated to the Goddess of power. As per legends, Sati, a consort of Shiva, who had committed suicide due to insults heaped on Lord Shiva by her father and Lord Shiva had picked up her body and started the tandava, the dance of destruction.  Finding no other way to stop Lord Shiva, the Gods decided to decimate the body of Sati into pieces, as the Gods cut off her body parts, her torso fell at this place. Her weapons got scattered in the locality. There are some old statues and lots of iron trishuls (tridents) outside the temple. A fine view of the Sirkanda, Kedarnath and Badrinath peaks can be enjoyed from here.  The other main temple is that of Dashrathshila, which is supposed to be the place where Dashrath, father of lord Rama, performed penance. A small water stream, Shanta, is named after the daughter of Dashratha. The seat of Dashrath is one a small hillock called Dashrathachal Peak.  Besides these temples, there are many other smaller temples, like the Baital Kund, Brahm Kund, Surya Kund, Vashisth Kund, the Indradyumna Tirth, Pushyamal Tirth, Varah Tirth, Pushpavatika, Baitalshila, Varahishila, the shrines of Bhairava, Bhushandi, Durga and Vishveshvara, and a temple dedicated to Bharata. A bath at Baithalshila is claimed to cure leprosy. 
Here is a short video of the destination -

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Rejuvenating in Rishikesh

Rejuvenating in Rishikesh
Ganga aarti being performed at Rishikesh
         I had last visited the Garhwal region, especially the Chardham route way back in 2007 and thereafter have been busy visiting other regions.  I had briefly visited the Garhwal region during my trip to Chakrata in January, 2011 and thereafter visited Lansdowne and Khirsu in January, 2012.  Whereas, the first trip was from Dehradun side, the other one was through Kotdwar side and only during the return trip from Khirsu, I traversed briefly through Rishikesh while returning back to Delhi.  So in effect, it was a journey to this part almost after 10 long years, especially after the tragedy that befell this region in the summers of 2013.  During this trip, I found that the region was much changed, as expected, but a journey to the hills of Uttarakhand is always welcome, as it provides solace to the tormented souls.  Thus, begins my first blog for the New Year, with a visit to the Dev Bhoomi or Land of Gods.  We started from Delhi on 30th December, 2017 for the brief tour that included visit to Chopta and the first halt was at Rishikesh, about 241 odd kilometers from Delhi.  The journey, to begin with, was not without a bit of drama, as near Meerut a Roadways bus overtaking our car from the left hand side pushed it towards the main road and as is in vogue in the state of Uttar Pradesh (I sometimes jovially refer to it as ‘ulta’ - meaning opposite in English - Pradesh) wherein all kinds of vehicles ride on the National Highways, a small truck like vehicle with heavy metal girders built around its front side scrapped past the front mudguard of our car, thereby dislodging it in its entirety.  We had to spend more than an hour to find a suitable mechanic to repair it.
Ganga aarti that was performed way back in 2008
Offering prayers after completion of Ganga aarti
Rishikesh  is situated 27 Kms. upstream from Haridwar on the foothills of Shivalik hills where the holy River Ganga makes her first footfall, just before entering the great plains in India.   Rishikesh township is also the entry point for three districts of Uttarakhand State of India, namely Dehradun, Tehri Garhwal and Pauri Garhwal. It is also the gateway to the famed Chardham Yatra The town is located at an average elevation of 372 meters from sea level. Rishikesh and the nearby town of Haridwar are well-connected through road and rail with many North Indian cities including Delhi, Jaipur, Varanasi, Amritsar, etc. The place is associated with lord Ram who is said to have done penance here on advice of sage Vashistha before embarking on his mission to kill Ravana.  There are several other mythological beliefs associated with this ancient place, the other one being that after long penance by sage Rabiya Rishi, god named Hrishikesh (another incarnation of Lord Vishnu) appeared before him and the place derives the name from and gradually it became Risikesh.  Another mythological event associated with this destination is that Bharat brother of Lord Ram also performed penance and hence a temple dedicated to him stands in this township.  However, the visit by the famed Adi Shankracharya during the 9th century AD gave fame and name to destination as a spiritual doorway to the kingdom of the Gods and it is the entry point for the famed Chardham Yatra that attracts lakhs of tourists from all over India and the world.
Parmarth Niketan Ashram across the River Ganga that holds elaborate Ganga aarti
Ganga River upstream of Rishikesh
Panoramic view of Rishikesh
The other attractions of Rishikesh, apart from the mythological importance are the existence of many temples, ashrams etc. in and around it and to detail some –
Neelkanth Mahadev temple
Neelkanth Mahadev - is 32 Kms from Rishikesh and is connected by Taxis which run on shared basis as well as can be hired individually.  The place derives its name from the mytholigical event of Samudra Manthan wherein the venom/vish generated during the manthan / churningwas gulped down by Lord Shiva and held in his throat (Kanth in hindi) because of which his body turned blue (Neel in hindi) and hence the place is known as Neelkanth.  The temple situated here boasts of South India style architecture and has a huge silver Shivling situated inside.

Laxman Jhula -There are many mythological tales associated with this bridge. According to myths, the bridge got its name from Hindu Lord Rama’s brother Laxman, who crossed the river Ganga at the same site with jute ropes.  Situated about 4 Km from the main Rishikesh town, Laxman Jhula, a 450 feet long hanging bridge across the river Ganga at a height of 70 feet, is one of the most popular sightseeing destinations in Uttarakhand. 
Panoramic view of Ram Jhula
Ram Jhula - Yet another suspended bridge in Rishikesh is the Ram Jhula. The bridge serves as the connection between the Shivanand Ashram and Swarg Ashram. It is dedicated to Ram, Lakshmana's elder brother.
Trimbakeshwar temple alongwith Laxman Jhula
Trimbakeshwar Temple - is among the spectacular temples situated in Rishikesh. Also known Tera-Manzil temple, it has built up 13 stories and is the largest temple of Rishikesh. Its ornate and symmetric architecture, nearness to Lakshman Jhula, and panoramic view one gets from temple’s top, make it extremely popular among tourists. Tera-Manzil is also famous amongst the tourists for its beautifully crafted idols of various Hindu Gods and Goddesses, coupled with its collection of various traditional artifacts. While devotees are driven by their devotion enthusiastically climb up the 13 storey, whereas the other not so religiously committed tourists take up the challenge, so as to relish the scenic view of the town and the majestic Himalayas from the 13th floor, especially at sunset.

During the recent years Yoga has made a mark on the World map, but Rishikesh has been the Yoga capital for many years now.  The self-styled yoga capital of the world surely lives up to its name. Unlike what many believe, Rishikesh didn’t step up on the yoga pedestal when the Beatles arrived here. In fact, Rishikesh, often referred to as the Gateway to Himalayas, has been the base camp for ascetics and sages travelling to and from the Himalayas, after having spent years learning yoga and meditation from their gurus in the white wilderness. However, the coming of Beatles sure put Rishikesh on the international map.  Rishikesh is home to - numerous ashrams that offer yoga classes and lodging at a nominal fee, yoga teacher training retreats which are thronged by international yoga practitioners who want to advance their practice and become certified teachers, and luxury yoga and Ayurveda resorts that offer extended wellness holidays interspersed with yoga , organic diets and high-end spa treatments.  Almost all ashrams in and around Rishikesh have been built by some religious guru or his foundation. Most ashrams offer classes on classic yoga and meditation. They even offer lodging and satvic food to travelers.  Nestled away from the chaotic mundane life, premium yoga resorts offer not just change of scenery but a luxurious wellness holiday - where yoga meets 5 star ambience, Ayurvedic massages, and therapeutic and beauty spas. Guests get an opportunity to unwind, detoxify and explore the surroundings. These resorts are a perfect getaway for those looking for a healthy and rejuvenating holiday; and for those wanting to experience yoga. The town is peppered with a number of ashrams, world renowned centers for spiritual studies and lessons on meditation. Some of the most popular and much visited ashrams in Rishikesh include Paremarth Niketan, Sivanand Ashram, Yoga Niketan, Omkaranand Ashram, Vanprastha Ashram, Shankaracharya Nagar Transcendental Meditation Centre, Vithal Ashram and Yoga Study Centre. 
Commencing with the rituals of Ganga aarti at Shatrughan ghat in Rishikesh
Ganga Aarti – Another aspect that has now made an impact on Rishikesh is the performance of Ganga aarti at various ghats & ashrams across the township situated along the banks of holy River Ganga.  Earthen and dough lamps floating in small leaf boats on the river banks, coupled with the chanting of sacred hymns reverberating in your ears and flickering flames emanating from the hand held brass lamps inspire a feeling of awe and reverence stirring ones’ heart & soul.  With the mighty Sun taking the final bow for the day, as it appears to dip into the holy Ganga River – it is a site to behold, which is both invigorating as it is soothing. Spiritually inclined or not, attending the Ganga aarti at Rishikesh is a memory that is etched in the hearts of the onlookers for a lifetime.  As the sun sets, priests start chanting sacred hymns while rotating huge oil lamps burning bright with large flames. The devotees can be seen putting earthen lamps wrapped in leaves in the holy river. Mirroring the night sky littered with sparkling stars, the entire bank is lit up with earthen lamps, where somewhere in the background music can be heard playing as the priests and devotees sing Sanskrit hymns in praise of their dear Goddess, in a mellifluous chorus.  The Ganga aarti can be witnessed at the Triveni Ghats and at Parmarth Niketan Ashram every day at dusk. Everyone is welcome to attend the aarti. However, visitors are expected to respect the sanctity of the ritual and the place. At the Triveni ghats, local priests conduct the aarti. The aarti at Parmarth Niketan is slightly different, as ashram residents, especially children who come there to learn the vedas, conduct it. A havan and hymn singing precede the aarti. Visitors looking to experience the aarti should arrive at the chosen venue an hour before dusk to book a spot from where they can witness the spectacular ritual with ease.  A surreal experience, the Ganga aarti evokes different emotions in different people. And irrespective of the visitors’ background and knowledge, its power is universal. 
One of the many adventure sports offered in & around Rishikesh - Rafting
Rafting – Taking advantage of its’ unique position, being situated at the foothills of the Himalayas, as the Ganges snakes down the Himalayas into the Indian planes, it offers perfect white rapids for rafting. Flanked by snow and tree covered mountains, the rapids are of varying intensity; perfect for novices as well as rafting pros.  Plunging from the Himalayan glaciers, the River Ganga promises adrenalin-gushing adventure and complements it with a superb view.  River Rafting in Rishikesh is for everyone. From short rafting tours to rafting journeys laced with activities like mountaineering, rappelling, and camping, Rishikesh has something to offer to all adventure seekers desire. Tourists looking for a thrill in their holiday can take a half-day rafting tour at rapids of grade level I & II, while the pros can spend an entire weekend camping and exploring each of the 16 rapids. Tour operators offer all-inclusive packages for adventure seekers including rafting, camping, mountaineering and more in a 3-night stretch. Most tour operators can be found online and offer good deals.  Rapid is most tame at Brahmpuri that has Grade II rapids.  The stretch between Kaudilya and Rishikesh at about 36 kms is the longest stretch and is home to grade IV & V level rapids, making it the most difficult stretch in the entire rafting route.   Each rapid has a unique and interesting name. There are the benign ones like Sweet Sixteen and Double Trouble, which can be enjoyed by the entire family. Then there are the likes of adrenalin pumping Golf Course, The Wall, and Roller Coaster, traversed by rafting junkies. Amongst these, the Wall, which falls in the Kaudilya-Rishikesh stretch of the rafting zone, is considered the most dangerous and challenging rapid. 

Here is the link to the video of performance of Ganga Aarti in Rishikesh -

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Visiting temples on way to Ranikhet (A photo blog)

Visiting temples on way to Ranikhet 
(a photo-blog – photos shot using mobile phone only)

Sunset across the Kumaon hills
A cloud lit up by the setting Sun in the Kumaon hills
As the clouds descend ominously
I have to visit my pad in Ranikhet region Kumaon in Uttarakhand to get it cleaned and maintain it.  This time around I roped in a few friends of mine and we embarked upon a short journey and for a change.  I did not carry my Camera kit and decided to undertake the journey and record photos using only my mobile phone.  The photo blog, I believe will do the creative writing this time around and places being shown can be searched in my blogs or over the internet –

Garjiya Devi Mandir is situated at a distance 12 KM away from the township of Ramnagar of the famed Corbett Park.  The temple was constructed in the year 1940 only. Originally discovered in the year 1840 by rulers of Ramnagar, Katyuri, this temple is protected and reconstructed many times by the temple management till now, thus offering an awesome infrastructure and attracts immense number of pilgrims each year.  It is believed that Girija is another name of Goddess Parvati, called because of being the daughter of king of mountains, The Himalayas. The Shakti residing in the Garjiya devi temple Uttarakhand is calm and peaceful avatar of Maa Paarvati. Visiting this place gives one a chance to please both Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.
Panoramic view of the Garjiya Devi temple
A snake twisted around the temple bell of Garjiya Devi temple
As the Ram Ganga River flows past the Garjiya Devi temple
Binsar Mahadev Temple - The manifestation of Shiva worshipped in the temple known as Bineshwar, a name which the British later corrupted to Binsar. It is a unique place nestled amongst the pine forests and a quiet place for meditation and picnic.  Bineswar Temple or Binsar Mahadev Temple is situated at a distance of 19 kms from Ranikhet district of Uttarakhand State. Built in 10th century A.D, the temple is known for its fine modern architecture. The temple was built by King Pithu in memory of his father Bindu, hence this temple is also known as Bindeshwar temple.  According to the legend of the temple, it was built in a single day. Women come here on the day of Vaikunth chaturdashi and it is belevied that desire of a child is fulfilled, if they pray all night with lamps in their hands.  The temple also has ashram nearby, dedicated to Binsar Mahadev.  Even though the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, it houses the idol of Lord Ganesha, Lord Hanuman, Goddess Har Gauri and Goddess Maheshmardini . The idol of Maheshmardini is engraved with texts in Nagarilipi which dates back to as early as the 9th century. Every year on Vaikunth Chaturdashi and Kartik Purnima, a two days Binsar Mela is organized at this temple which occurs in the months of June.
Panoramic view of the famed Binsar Mahadev temple
The pine forest surrounding the Binsar Mahadev temple
Hairakhan Temple – Is situated at a distance of 4.5 km from Ranikhet Bus Stand, The Haidakhan Temple is situated in Hairakhan Baba Ashram at Chiliyanuala near Ranikhet. This temple has been constructed in memory to Baba Haidakhan, who is believed to be the incarnation of Lord Shiva, to whom this temple is dedicated and is one of the best places in Ranikhet to visit. This temple proudly displays a tall statue of Lord Hanuman and Lord Shiva. Hairakhan Babaji, simply called Babaji or Bhole Baba, was a teacher who appeared near the village of Hairakhan in Nainital district and taught publicly from 1970 to 1984. His followers maintain that Hairakhan Babaji is a Mahavatar, a human manifestation of God. He left his mortal remains in 1984, at an early age.  Sri Hairakhan Wale Baba established this beautiful Ashram between 1970 and 1984 and many new buildings were erected in recent years. There are also five guest houses, a small shop, the main temple, the Italian temple and Sri Babaji's Kutir and the Sri Baba Research Hospital.  Navaratri is celebrated with great enthusiasm here with yagnas on all the 9 days. Satsang of bhajans happen every evening during the Aarti and people start dancing on their own. Many devotees from abroad visit this temple to have their marriage in Indian tradition. One can meditate in the peaceful surroundings.
View of the famed Hairakhan temple in Chilyanaula
Panoramic view of the cloud covered valley as viewed from Hairakhan temple in Chilyanaula
Kainchi Dham - Kainchi is a beautiful ashram located in secluded mountain of the Kumoan Hills in Uttarakand. The temple was first inaugurated in June 1964. It is approximately 38 km from Nainital. Many hundreds of people visit the temples here every day, during the season.  It was some time in 1962 when Maharajji called for Shri Poornanand of Kainchi village while he himself waited sitting on parapet wall by the road side near Kainchi. When he came, they refreshed the memories of their first meeting which they had 20 years back in 1942. They discussed about the place around. Maharajji wanted to see the place where Sadhu Premi Baba and Sombari Maharaj had lived and performed Yagyas. The forest was cleared and Maharajji asked for the construction of a Chabootara (rectangular platform) covering the Yagyashala. Maharajji contacted the then "conservator of forests" and took possession of the requisite land on lease.  The Hanuman temple is built over the platform mentioned above. His devotees started coming from different places and a chain of bhandaras, kirtans, bhajans started. The Pran-Pratishtha of idols of Hanumanji and others was performed on 15th June in different years. Thus, 15th June is celebrated every year as Pratishtha Divas Each year, during the famous June 15th bhandara.  The place is of international repute boasting of followers like Steve Job & Mark Zuckerberg.
View of the valley above the famed Kainchi Dham temple
Panoramic view of the famed Kainchi Dham temple

Sunday, October 8, 2017

A sojourn with nature & culture in Kumaon (A Photo blog)

A sojourn with nature & culture in Kumaon
(A Photo blog)

As the clouds envelope the valley
            This summer like the past few years, I again retreated back to my pod in the lap of the Kumaon hills and enjoyed a few days of bliss in the nature.  Like previous year, when I experienced the magic of ‘Jagar’ and had detailed the same in my blog then, this year too there was a brief interaction with the Kumaoni culture in form of various marriages that I got invited to during my brief visit.  I was also witness to cutting of huge trees that were posing problems to residents, especially threat of falling on houses during rain storms that were due shortly and I was able to record it in my mobile phone alongwith Jagar and a thunderstorm, whose videos I shall be sharing in this photo-blog.  Let the images & moving images do the talking in this blog of mine - 

In the lap of  nature - a butterfly sucking nector

On an Oak tree - Oriental White eye

Coal Tit singing away to glory on a Pine tree

Tipped on an wire - Grey Bushchat (Male)

On the Pine tree trunk - Chestnut belied Nuthatch

As the band begins to play - it is the time for the rituals to start

Sisters lead the celebrations of marriage

Ceremonial gifts for the bride to be packed

Now all the family members join in the celebrations - invitees of the village enjoy

Tucking in some more gifts for the bride to be

Sisters perform the 'Kajal' application on brother's eyes and doting mother stands by his side

Mother blesses her son as per the rituals

All hands raise in blessing - a colorful & joyous occassion

Mother releases her son from the 'debt of mother's nurturing' 

The ceremonial journey to bride's place starts in a Palanquin 

The bridegroom brigade re-assembles near the marriage pandal

Ceremonially ready to receive the bridegroom at the marriage venue
As the clouds drift across the valley

As the thunderstorm intensifies at night

Felling of tree by Forest Department