Thursday, 26 March 2015

The Losar Festival of Buddhists in Lahaul & Spiti

Chham or the Devil Dance
The Losar festival is celebrated in first month of the Tibetan calendar which falls between mid-November to the first week of December. This three day winter carnival heralds the coming of the New Year festival of the practitioners of Buddhism.

It also marks the beginning of the winter season in Lahaul & Spiti valley. At the time of the Lossar Festival the Buddhist settlements and the monasteries in Lahaul are marked by the most splendid performances. 

The rich imagery and ritual dances that features elaborate masks and costumes form the highlight of the festivities and celebrations. The worth watching traditional 'Chham Dance' is performed in the festival using elaborate masks and costumes to worship the local deity. It is also called a 'Devil Dance' due to the use of weird masks in the dance.

This dance in the form of opera tells the story of the defeat of Langdarma, a cruel Tibetan king who was killed in the 9th century AD. His death lead to the ultimate victory of good over evil. 

The legend goes that the festival originated in the pre-Buddhist period in Tibet, when Bon was the religion of the people. 

This festival was first of all celebrated in the Lhokha Yarla Shampo region of Tibet as an agrarian festival during the time when the blossoms appeared in the trees of apricots.
Generally the festival lasts for three days, but in a strict and traditional Tibetan family it may last even for ten days. 

The Lama Losar' or the 'Festival of the Guru is the first day of the festival. This day is dedicated to the worship of His Holiness the Dalai Lama', who is the spiritual head of the Tibetan people and huge processions are taken out in his honor.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Kamlah Fort of Mandi

The Temple of Baba Kamlahia inside the fort
In India, the historical and ancient fort of Kamlah in Sarkaghat tehsil of Mandi District in Himachal pradesh, is unique in the sense that it has never been conquered. It is about 30 Km from Sarkaghat and is at an altitude of 6000 feet above sea level. The journey to the fort begins from river bed of Chhuighat, a steep hike of 6 Km. Another route from Dharampur is motorable. The road via Kandapattan and Marhi is also motorable.
Large Flour Grinder in the Kamlah fort
The fort was built by Hari Sen, the king of erstwhile Mandi State in 1630 AD. It was later fortified by his descendent Suraj Sen. 
The historians are of the view that Kamlah fort is a coalescence of 6 fortresses with vertical cliffs on three sides. The six forts with which Kamlah comprised were, Kamlah, Chauki, Chabra, Padampur, Shamsherpur, and Narsingpur. These forts provided defence for each other. The only vulnerable side was east, with the fortress of Padampur occupying the strategic outermost position. There was a manned outpost which always kept constant vigil. The crumbling walls of the chamber still bear the testimony to the ancient and the glorious days of the kings and the battles fought. Two large millstones of a discarded flour mill are still lying in the fort complex.
Way to Kamlah Fort
Towards the right of the fort there is a dark cave which was used as a refuge for the Queen, in times of danger. The cave is supported be a huge pillar. During an emergency the entrance of the cave was used to be blocked by boulders. To the left of the fort were the water ponds, which are now choked with thick undergrowth and the debris.

At the top of the fort there used to be a big canon to fire shells at invaders. Today there are two derelict canons lying in the fort premises. Man Singh the ruler if the nearby state called Guler, attacked the fort twice and is said to have taken it. The troops of Maharaja Ranjit Singh also fought to capture it. Raja Sansar Chand of kangra too attacked the fort number of times, but failed again and again. Since the Kamlah fort was the treasury of erstwhile state of mandi, so even the British provided help to Ranjit Singh in his bid to annex the fort.

At present there is a small temple of Baba Kamalahia, at the top of the fort. Though the fort is a protected monument, registered with the Archaeological Survey of India, there seems to be little efforts to preserve its grandeur.

The place is serene and offers a panoramic view of the beautiful mountain ranges. From the top of the fort one can see upto miles around. The view of the snow- covered Dhauladhar ranges is breathtaking.

Call of the wild- Trekking from Narkanda to Kullu

Forest Rest House at Narkanda
There are two trekking routes to Kullu from Narkanda which is 64 Km from Shimla on the Hindustan- Tibet Road. One lies in the inner Seraj valley after crossing the Jalori Pass via Luri Ani route. But the more adventurous trekkers proceed to Rampur Bushahr to negotiate the unconventional route via Bushahr pass in the outer Seraj valley.

The first lag of the trek from Rampur Bushahr to Sarahan via Arsu is a distance of 25 Km through beautiful scenery which enthralls the onlooker. Even the tortuous path up to Arsu is carpeted with lovely flowers. During the months of May and June, the carcass and scarlet clusters of sumach are ablaze among the fields. The tall pines, lofty furs and mighty deodars kiss the sky. In the fruit orchards the cherry, apricot, peach and plum blossoms are splashed against mountain slopes as if by some merry artist.

Sarahan is a spot of unalloyed natural charm cradled by enormous emerald meadows and singing streams, which give it an exotic appearance. A night’s rest at civil rest house rejuvenates the weary limbs.

This Sarahan at the outer Seraj valley of Kullu district is not to be confused with the Sarahan in Mahasu district on the upper link of the Hindustan-Tibet Road and another Sarahan on Shimla-Nahan Road in Sirmour district of Himachal Pradesh. 

This Sarahan is ensconced in the mountains of outer Seraj area of Kullu. It is not a tourist spot. One has to travel from Shimla along the Hindustan Tibet Road to the town of Rampur Bushahr and then across the raging Satluj to the Kullu district. The last lag of the journey is the large village of Nirmand up to Bagi Pul. From here the trek begins with a steady climb along a small stream.

The scenery of Sarahan casts a seductive spell on lovers of nature. It is a quite alluring place far from the maddening crowd.

A similar experience awaits the trekker beyond Sarahan en’route to the 12000 feet high Bashleo pass. A 12 Km descent takes one to Bathal, another spot of great scenic beauty. The slopes along the route are lined with fresh green foliage and the grazing grounds used by the Gujjars who tend their cattle. The sight is a tapestry of colors and gaiety against the rich background of lush green forests.

The entire route is dotted natural work of rock outcrops with multi-colored flowers peeping out along with clumps of rhododendrons. The trekkers exhilarate in negotiating hairpin bends. Crossing the Bashleo pass from the outer to inner Seraj valley is a unique experience, and its top provides a panaromic view of Pir Panjal range.

The descent of Bathad on the steep mule track is treacherous.  But the masses of blue purple, iris splashed over the hill sides, buttercups, daisies, sorrel, wild rose and a host of other flowering plants make the trek a rare pleasure. A cold bath in the Bathad rivulet is indeed refreshing.

The people of the area who seem to have few needs and therefore few worries lead a simple life. They are god- fearing, credulous and superstitious. But they are contented with their lot and are lively, good- tempered, truthful and honest. Their weather beaten faces proclaim poverty and the deplorable socio- economic state of the region.

Since food is scarce and the arable land limited, the people ward off  the danger of over- population by practicing the law of primogeniture. Hence polyandry is a social and economic necessity and the parents are reluctant to educate their children and make them work in the fields instead.

The path followed from Rampur virtually cuts one off from all that is known to be sophisticated, and it is only at Banjar at a distance of 16 Km that one finds the signs of civilization. The road becomes jeep-able and the melodious sound of the running brook and the soothing verdure provides an unforgettable sight.

Banjar is a beautiful spot nestled in the interlocked ranges of high hills. It is a good market town that caters to the needs of the sub-urban hilly area.

The visitors like to linger on here and this is what seems to happen with the weary trekkers when the grey half light of the morning flirts with them through the blinds of the cosy civil rest house. The last trek to Lrji and Aut is of 22 Km.

The Banjar-Larji is a verdant valley with Tirthen, the tributary of Beas, flowing through it. Mangalore and Bali are the flourishing villages on the way. Aut is the gateway to the Kullu valley and at every step the Beas river reveals the changing beauty of this heavenly region.

Bajaura and Bhuntar are the places of special interest between Aut and Kullu. Some 32 Km from Bhuntar, the hot springs of Manikaran are an important tourist attraction. A jeep-able road along the Parbati river leads from Bhuin forest rest house to Kasol, a place which is known as mini Isreal as number of  tourists are always found nestling there. The distance of Manikaran from Kasol is about 5 Km. Kasol is an oasis of beauty in wooded wilderness of the Parbati valley. It is a quite and a charming place ideal for those in search of tranquility. The nearby Pin Parbati range provides a delightful backdrop. For the tourists wishing to get away from the monotony of routine chores, veritable it is a veritable paradise.

The turbulent Parbati River inspires awe and only Byron is needed to capture and recapitulate its might and beauty in the words of sublime poetry. The waters of the hot springs spurt out under pressure. The rice placed in a muslin bag can be cooked in less than 20 minutes. The water which contains not sulphur or iron is famous for its healing powers.

The contour of Kullu Manali is pleasantly broken by a number of transverse ridges and mountain streams. Manali is a tourist dream. The thick log cabins piercing the sky right from the banks of Beas river and the lovely wooded walks up the Hadimba Devi temple, Vashist Kund and Jagat Sukh attract the visitors from far and wide. The soft pine scented air, lingering shadows, a thousand hues sprinkles over fluffy clouds by the setting sun can rejuvenate the sagging spirits.

The visit to Manali is incomplete without a visit to Rohtang Pass, the gateway to Lahaul and Spiti. On the way the trekkers come across undulating terrain and tiny hills. The hills are stern and their sides are furrowed with precipitous water courses. The pyramidal masses of granite rocks look formidable. From Rohalla onward the ascent is tough and perilous. But the effort is compensated by a close view of the snowy ranges which conjure up visions of the fairies smiling coyly at the viewer.

What lends special charm to Rohtang Pass is the sight of snow covered peaks towards North, vast exposures of the plains in the South and the majestic meandering Beas coning out of the Bead Kund.

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Kareri Lake- Trekking in Dharamahala

Kareri lake
The Dhauladhar Ranges of Himachal Pradesh in India, possess abundant beauty, waterfalls, lakes and thick virgin forests. The higher Ranges of Dhuladhar are mainly inhabited by the tribes known as Gaddis, or shepherds, who graze their flocks in the summer and come down to the plains in winter, when the peaks get covered with snow. The paths used by them come as handy for the trekkers, who come to explore the magic of wonderful mountains. 
The Kareri is little known lake in Dhauladhars. It is also called the Kumarwah Lake. Situated at a high altitude of 10,000 feet above sea level this shallow, fresh water lake is a trekker’s paradise in the Dhauladhar ranges. The base of the lake is visible in sahllow and clear waters as the snow feeds the waters of the lake which flows out in a small rivulet called Nyund along which the track leads to the lake.
The lake is a base camp for further trekking into the Dhauladhar ranges up to Chamba and Bharmour through the Minkiani Pass at 13944 feet and Baleni Pass at 12172 feet.

Kareri Lake is not connected by a road. It lies at a distance of about 14 Km from the Kareri village of the Gaddis from which the name of the lake has been derived. The village has an approach road from Satobri. The Satobri village is connected by a road from Forsythgang about 6 Km from Dharamsala. About 7 Km from Satobri lies a place called Gehra, from where a steep climb for 3 hours is encountered by the trekkers. The track passes through thick forests, before one reaches Kareri. There is a forest rest house which was built in 1922 by the British.

After spending a night at the village, one sets out for the lake. There is a shorter route also which cuts straight across the mountain. It is a hard climb and is a little dangerous too. The preferred longer route is easy and more enjoyable. One can see the small houses interspersed with the small stair like fields.

Half way to lake is a Lieund nullah, which could be crossed through Rope Bridge. The journey is extremely tiring and it is advisable to carry the eatables. 
The lake appears like a bowl, to be bound on three sides by high cliffs. It is surrounded by lush green meadows and has small huts in its vicinity. The lake has been reduced in size, though the water is deep at several places. The lake remains frozen from December to April in winter and the surrounding areas get covered by a thick mantle of snow.
There are small huts of the shepherds or the gaddis called Kothis on one side of the lake. They graze their flock in the adjoining pasture. On a small hillock overlooking the lake is a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and Shakti. The trekkers have an option to bring the tents, or stay either in the temple complex or in the Kothis of the gaddis.
This lake once rivaled Khajjiar and Rewalsar in Himachal Pradesh, in beauty and picturesque surroundings, but is now lying neglected. Barring a few trekking expeditions organised by the Mountaineering Institute, there are very few visitors. The lake could be restored to its original size by removing the silt and debris from the lake.

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Monday, 24 November 2014

Shimla-Jubbal Trek

1.Giri Ganga Temple, Khara Pathar, Himachal Pradesh
Shimla is an excellent starting point for trekking expeditions. Theog, a place about 32 Km from Shimla offers routes for Rampur Bushahr on the Hindustan Tibet Road and for Mussoorie via Dehra- Chopal- Chakrata and via Jubbal- Tiuni- Chakrata. It is advisable to follow the latter route as it is more conventional and popular. Excellent transport facilities and modern rest houses along the way have made this mountainous terrain more accessible and convenient.

2. Hatkoti Town
The route from Kothkhai to Jubbal is a trekker’s delight. One climbs from and altitude of 5270 feet to more than 9000 feet, crosses the Khara Pathar and then descends to Jubbal at a height of 6205 feet. The road distance from Khotkhai to Jubbal is 32 Km, but there is a 22 Km long mule track which goes by Darkoti. The route from Darkoti to Khara Pathar lies along a steep gradient. 

A backdrop of pine and deodar trees present a magnificient view set against the rice fields carved in myriad geometric forms. About 5 Km from Khara Pathar lies the source of river Giri Ganga which flows through the Khotkhai-  Gumma- Chaila valley before joining Satluj.

3. Photo of Jubbal Palace. This palace which was once the abode of the royal Jubbal family has been turned into a heritage place now 
Jubbal the seat of erstwhile Jubbal Kingdom is a beautiful hill town, boasting of all modern facilities. The royal palace with its exquisite wood carvings speaks greatly of its rich cultural heritage of the region. 

1. Photo Credit- Wikimedia Commons by Manoj Khurana
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2. Photo Credit- Wikimedia Commons by Snjsharma
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3. Photo Credit- Wikimedia Commons by Snjsharma
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Sunday, 16 November 2014

Old houses - The Cultural heritage of Himachal

Old style home

Himachal Pradesh is economically not prosperous, but it has the privilege of preserving the rich cultural heritage of India. The honest, laborious and simple rural folk have their peculiar manners, exhilarating folk lore, exquisite folk dances, unique folk ways and enchanting folk songs. 

The sacred religious sanctuaries, simple unsophisticated arts and crafts, jubilant fairs and festivals impart rich color and texture to their culture. 

It is because of the reason that several historical races, cultures and religious faiths have found refuge in the lofty mountains of the world from time to time and the Himalayas are no exception. Whereas in the plains the elements of true Indian culture has been wiped put. The hills and vales of Himachal continue to preserve its heritage.

Photo Credit- John Hill
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Kinnaur-The Typical Marriage Ceremonies

The Bride of Kinnaur
The district of Kinnaur is a part of the State of Himachal Pradesh in India. Set midst the mighty Himalayas, the rough and rugged terrain of Kinnaur has a beauty of its own. The beautiful valley of Baspa and the weird dale of Hangrang, offer endless sights and sounds of nature with enchanting mystery. The natural beauty feeds and evokes the adventurous and the aesthetic mind, whereas the devout people find pleasure in the pilgrimage to Kinner Kailash.

Four different types of marriages are solemnized in Kinnaur namely.
1. The Janetang or Janekang (Normal wedding)
2. The Dam Tangshis or the Bennabg Hachis (love marriage)
3. The Darosh or the Dab- Dab (Marriage by force)
4. The Har (Enticing away someones wife)

The marriages in Kinnaur as in many other places are more the contract marriages of convenience, than the result of preference based on mutual love, esteem and affection. 

The elders propose and conclude the bargain. The marriage here is called Rejha. In this type of marriage the engagement takes place, when the boy and the girl are still of tender age. The engagement ceremony is performed by offering of Khatak (a piece of cloth), a bottle of liquor and other presents.

On the attainment of marriageable age, the father of bridegroom and other relatives go to the house of the bride and settle the day for the marriage, and the Rinchot (the amount to be paid to the family of bride) too. Rinchot may vary from fifty to one thousand rupees, according to the resources of the family of the groom.

The Rinchot is to be paid before the marriage as the money is supposed to be spent for the purchase of ornaments etc for the bride. The expenditure is taken into account and is refunded if the wife leaves her husband.

However the most unique form of marriage is Darosh and Har. In the former the wife is waylaid and kidnapped by the would be spouse. This happens with or without the consent of her parents. Sometimes an intimacy may develop between a boy and a girl and when the boy finds that the parents of the girl do not agree to their union, he abducts her. With the help of his friends he may carry her to his house. It is expected from the girl to struggle and make sincere efforts to escape, and if she succeeds she can be proud of it.

In Darosh, it is necessary to maintain that the first man to claim the girl is the one who gets to marry her. This is essential from the point of view of the parents of the girl, who at times may have objections about the would be groom, but not his family. The parents of the bride may insist that they would send their daughter, provided a particular boy of the family marries her.
The Bride of Kinnaur wearing traditional ornaments and dress

These kinds of marriages are quite common especially among the lower classes, who want to marry their daughters into the wealthy families.

Har is a Sanskrit word meaning to take away. It is an another form of an interesting and famous form of marriage. The Har form of marriage in Kinnaur occurs, when a married women falls in love with another man and decides to marry him. She leaves the house of her husband and simply goes with her lover. The lover or her future husband and her father has to return the Rinchot money to her former husband and has to pay an additional amount on account of Izzat or respect. The acceptance of the amount by the former husband sets the women free and the previous marriage is deemed to have become annulled.

However a gradual change is being seen in customs and traditions, and some of the above mentioned social customs may disappear one day.

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Thursday, 30 October 2014

Manimahesh – A Pilgrimage to Holy Lake

Mani Mahesh Lake
The Mani Mahesh Lake is situated about 26 Km from Bharmour in the Budhil valley and is one of the main pilgrimage centers in Himachal Prasesh. The lake is situated at an altitude of 13000 feet meters above the main sea level at the foot of Kailash peak at 18564 feet in Chamba district. Every year on the 8th day of the light half of the moon in the month of Badhon or August, a fair is held at the lake where the people come for a holy dip from far off places.

Lord Shiva is the presiding deity of the fair because He is believed to live in Kailash. A rock formation in the shape of Shiva Linga or the phallic symbol on Kailash is considered to be the manifestation of Lord Shiva. The snowfield at the base is called the Chowgan or the playground of Shiva where he sports with his wife Parvati.

Mount Kailash is considered to be invincible as no one has so far been able to scale the peak despite the fact that much taller peaks have been conquered several times. There is a story that once a gaddi or a shepherd tried to climb the mountain with his herd of sheep. The series of minor peaks below the principal peak are believed to be the remains of the ill- fated shepherd and his flock.
There is yer another legend according to which a snake also attempted to climb this peak and was turned into a stone. The people believe that one can have the view of Kailash, if the god is pleased. In case of bad weather, when the peak is hidden behind the clouds is a sign of the displeasure of god.

At one corner of Manimahesh lake is a marble image of Shiva, which is worshiped by the pilgrims who visit the place. After bathing in the holy water the people go round the circumference of the lake three times. The lake and its surrounding present a majestic view. The quite waters of the lake carry the reflection of snow capped peaks that tower over the valley.

Manimahesh is approached from different routes. The people fron Lahaul & Spiti district come from the Kugti pass. Some from Kangra and Mandi districts come via Kawarsi or Jalsu Pass. The most common route is from Chamba, which runs through Bharmour. At present the buses ply up to Bharmour and the jeeps carry the passengers to Hadsar, beyond which the pilgrims have to trek for 13 Km to reach Manimahesh.

Between Hadsar and Manimahesh is another important halting place known as Dhancho, where the pilgrims usually spend the night. There is a beautiful waterfall here, which has an interesting legend behind it. It is said that on being pleased by the devotion of Bhasmasur, the Lord Shiva gave him a boon that whomsoever he touches, would be reduced to ashes. Bhasmasur, taking advantage of the boon decided to do away with the Lord himself. He chased and followed Lord Shiva. The latter entered this waterfall and took shelter behind the caves in the cascading waters. Bhasmasut could not cross the waterfall and started waiting for the Lord to come out. Then Lord Vishnu came to the rescue of Lord Shiva in the form of a beautiful woman. Bhasmasur became interested in the women, but the latter engaged him in a dancing competition. Lord Vishnu as a woman placed the hands on head during the course of dancing. Following these dancing steps, Bhasmasur also imitated her and was immediately reduced to ashes. Since then the waterfalls are considered to be holy and the pilgrims bathe in it before moving on to Manimahesh.

It is widely believed that one can visit Manimahesh only if the Lord so wishes. One may plan a trip but unless He so desires, the plan may not materialize.

Fron Dhancho the people take different routes to Manimahesh. One is through Bunderghati or the Monkey peak and the other is through Bhairavghati, while the third one is through the newly built bridle path. The first two routes are tough and dangerous and only the locals can dare to attempt them. During the fair the route generally remains packed with devotees. The pilgrims sing devotional songs to make the journey less arduous and to enthuse those whose strength seems to be falling.
The next destination is Gauri Kund or the pond of Gauri, the consort of Lord Shiva. It is just a kilometer short of Manimahesh. It is a small pond where Gauri Parbati takes bath. There is also a small pond where Lord Shiva is believed to take bath. Those who die during the journey are cremated at the Hadsar village. 

The Victoria Bridge of Mandi

The Panoramic View of Victoria Bridge at Night

The Victorian Suspension Bridge over the river Beas was built in 1877 A.D. It connects the Jawahar Nagar or Khaliar and Old or Purani Mandi areas to the main town. It was built at the cost of one lakh rupees or about $ 1700, during the regime of Raja Bijai Sen in 1877. He built the bridge with the help of the British Government which had granted protection to the state under a treaty after the Sikhs had invaded Mandi in 1840. The ropes of the bridge had been embedded with concrete under the rocks.

Before the construction of this bridge in 1877, the people used to cross the Beas river by boats. During the days of Raja Sidh Sen (1684 to 1727 AD), a number of boats used to remain anchored on the bank of the river as the water discharge was more as compared to present times.

The wife of Raja of Bhangal, was the daughter of Raja Sidh Sen. She had come back to Mandi due to the strained relations with her husband.  Raja Sidh Sen invited his son-in-law to Mandi and made him a captive. After some time the Raja of Bhangal attempted to escape from the prison in a boat, but the ferrymen recognized him. He was re- imprisoned and was thereafter murdered. The rulers of Mandi state could not build a bridge over the Beas for centuries.

The Victoria Bridge handled all traffic from the Pathankot to Kullu, Lahaul-Spiti and Leh till the construction of new bridge on the Beas in 1984. In 1987 the rocks holding the ropes of the bridge were reinforced by boring long holes into the rock which were plugged with steel rods and the cement was injected with high-pressure sophisticated machines provided by the Beas Satluj Link Project.

The bridge was strengthened by the BSL authorities and reinforced at regular intervals to bear more load. The BSL authorities also utilized the bridge for carrying small machines. For a long time only empty buses and vehicles were allowed to cross the bridge and the passengers were requested to get down. A man wearing a placard on his back used to walk before the bus to ensure its low speed. The construction of a new road above the foundations has affected the life of this bridge. 

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Bhuri Singh Museum of Chamba

Bhuri Singh Museum

The Bhuri Singh Museum is one of the oldest museums of India. It is a storehouse of many antique art objects belonging to different periods of history. It gives a panorama of art, culture and theological myths, giving impression of age old traditions of the erstwhile state of Chamba in Himachal pradesh. 

The museum was established in 1908 by Raja Bhuri Singh, on the request of Dr. J.P. Vigel, a swiss national, and the then superintendent of the North Circle of Archaeological Survey of India. Because during his holidaying, Dr. Vogel had visited many places in Chamba, and discovered several stone inscriptions in the entire area. 

A new building has now been built at the place of old one. The old building before becoming a museum, was a discotheque, consisting of four spacious halls and a verandah running outside the entire complex. With an increase in number of collections the new building was built.

The museum was inaugurated by Mr. R.E. Young husband, the then Commissioner of Lahore. It was on his suggestion that the museum was named after Raja Bhuri Singh.
There were about 1000 collections of artifacts at the time of inauguration, but now the number has swelled to more than 500. The collections cover all aspects of art and culture including copper plates, plaster replica, manuscripts, traditional costumes, lithographs, weapons, coins and paintings etc.

The paintings in museum depict all themes of Hindu mythology, characterized by minuteness and brilliance of colors. The Pahari paintings are the primary attractions, which were donated by Raja Bhuri Singh from his own art collections of Akhand Chandi palace.
In order to add more articles the efforts of the connoisseurs are in progress. The two Naga sculptures of 10th and 11th century are the new additions. Besides a 16th century wooden panel, with a doorkeeper or dwarpala carved on it has also been acquired.

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Shimla- The Erstwhile Capital of India

The Panoramic view of Shimla

Shimla is the Capital of an Indian state called Himachal Pradesh. The town has the privilege to remain the Summer capital of British India. 

It has several places of historical importance. It is a favorite destination of domestic and foreign tourists. The Naldera golf course of Shimla is very famous and the tourists throng the skiing slopes of Kufri in winter. 
The state has launched a plan to develop a National park at Kufri. Quite often the film producers are attracted to shoot the films in the backdrop of the scenic beauty of Shimla. 

For further reading--- Travel to Shimla

Photo Credit- Wikimedia Commons by Abhineet Khorana

Trekking in Himachal Pradesh


Trekking invariably means trekking in the mountains and Himachal Pradesh is a trekker’s paradise. It has its own delight and dangers- its own joys and hazards. The unhurried absorption of the passing scenery is no less joyful than the greatest satisfaction of scaling some of the highest snow covered peaks.

Trek only once in Himachal and you will never wish to spend your holiday in any other way. The meadows covered with flowers of every variety and the changing hues of its glaciers would create in the trekker and overwhelming desire to return again and again. The wide open spaces with range after range of mountains, the pine and cedar forests, rivers passing through the fields and valleys and above all the camping under the starlit sky are the things that make the soul come alive. The moments spent in communion with nature redide in the memory for a very long period.

Besides the private operators of trekking tours, the H.P Tourism Development Corporation Ltd., also organizes several treks regularly under the National Himalayan Trekking Scheme in collaboration with the Youth Hostel Association of India. They provide all trekking amentities. The main trek routes are as follows. 

1. Kalpa- Sarahan- Sangla

1. The Sarahan- Sangla Valley Trek

The Sarahan in Sangla valley is about 175 Km from Shimla in Himachal pradesh. It falls in the ruggedly beautiful, mountainous and romantic land of kinnaur, the home of legendary Kinner tribe. 

The Sangla valley is one of the most beautiful and enchanting in Himachal Pradesh, with green fields and meadows full of flowers and fruit trees.

The soccer ground, reputed to be the highest such ground in the world, serves as a base camp at Sarahan. Sarahan commands an enchanting view of green valleys, rolling fields and several high peaks including the famous Srikhand Mahadev. 

A mixture of Hindu and Buddhist architecture, the ancient temples of Bhimakali are the great attractions for the tourists and the pilgrims. 

The trek fairly leveled in the beginning descends to Chora, on old Hindustan-Tibet Road. The road was constructed in 1850, and it revels the fantastic view of the river below. 

2, The Sar Pass Trek

2. The Raison- Kasol- Sar Pass Trek

India is a land blessed with natural beauty and its hill state Himachal Pradesh is no exception. The mountain ranges of Himachal attain an altitude from 500 meters to 6500 meters above sea level. This has provided an ample fertile ground for a wide range of flora and fauna.

Trekking in Himachal is not only a fun but it is a memorable experience too. Recently in kullu district the Raison- Kasolsar trek has been included in trekking programs. 

From Raison the trekkers take a journey to Grahan. Then they travel ahead to Mang Thach, a village about 9 Km from Garahan. Next day the trekkers trek up to Nagru (7 Km ), then they have to cross two high passes The Baskari pass (13,000 feet) and Sar pass (13,800 feet). Both these passes are higher than the legendary Rohtang pass, the hardest pass of this journey. 

3. Paris Peacock Papilio paris at Kasol(6500 ft.) in Kullu districy of Himachal Pradesh, during Sar Pass Trek.

3. Raison- Kasol- Chanderkhani Pass

Raison on the Kullu- Manali Highway is the common base camp for the Chander Khani Pass as well as for the Sar Pass trekking programmes. This place situated on the banks of Bead River is and ideal place for such adventure activities.
It is about 140 Km long track which is covered in 14 days. The trekkers stay at the camping site for two days to get acclamatised and to learn the elementary rock climbing techniques.
After the first halt at Jana (9 Km) and Mati Kocher (14 Km), the trekkers cross the 10,032 feet high Bringta Pass and reach Jari in the Parbati valley on the sixth day. Jari nestles on the hillside shelf juat above the Parbati River and opposite the Malana valley.

4. Old House at malana
The view from this spot of the upper Parbati valley and other valleys and streams which diverge from it is more impressive than that presented by the Beas valley. Jari to Kasol is and easy walk of 8 Km, which provides an exquisite scenery. Towards Pulga and Tosh nullah is a mountain range of rugged grandeur and a dense huddle of rocky peaks of varied shapes and sizes. The trekkers also visit Manikaran which is famed for its hot water springs and ancient temples. It is also a favorite resort for the pilgrims coming from different and distant parts of India.

5. No pilgrimage or the Sar Pass Trek would be complete without mentioning this holy river Parvati. It was lovely feeling to spend a few days alongside this love abode of Parvati as its transparent, abundant & turbulent waters mesmerize any body as she passes through deep valleys. The camp at Kasol is just located besides it. As it meets a smaller & calm Beas at Bhunter, about 30 40 km. downstream below Kasol, it becomes Beas. 

On the 9th and 10th days, the trekkers visit Rashol village across the 10,692 feet high Roshul Jot or pass and reach Malana after walking through the steep rocky path. Situated in a Mountain fortress a small conservative community of about 700 people stepped in superstitions and still practicising the ancient ceremonial rites and practices of abroriginal ancestory. It is said that Malana is the oldest existing democratic society in the world, where the villagers take part in managing the affairs.
6.Base camp at Kasol
After a day’s halt the trekkers travel up to Kiksha Thach (16 Km) at the base of Ali Ratni peak by passing through some of the wild and uninhabited valleys of Kullu. On the last two days the participants cover almost 40 Km and reach the base camp at Raison after staying at Nagrun and Ramshu and crossing the 12,000 feet high Chander Khani Pass. A particularly striking view of Deo Tibba nearly 20,000 feet overlooking the Malana Glen as well as the other snow capped peaks on the Spiti border can be enjoyed from the top of the ridge. 

2. Photo Credit- Wikimedia Commons by J.M.Garg
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3. Photo Credit- Wikimedia Commons by J.M.Garg
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4. Photo Credit- Wikimedis Commons by Asheesh123sharma
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5.Photo Credit- Wikimedia Commons by J.M.Garg
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6. Photo Credit- Wikimedia Commons by Surajhaveri
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The Bhimakali Temple at Sarahan

Bhima Kali Temple at Sarahan
The Ancient Bhimakali temple is situated at about 120 kilometer from Shimla at the banks of river Sutlej. It is one of the 51 seats of goddesses in India, where the left ear of Sati Parvati is believed to have fallen. The temple belongs to the family goddess of the erstwhile ruling clan of Rampur. 

The templwe also finds mention in Puranas, the ancient holy scriptures of Hindus. The image of goddess is very beautiful among the images of Hindu gods.The temple was built during the reign of Yadavas. Thousands of people throng the place every year during the annual worship.

The courtyard in the ancient temple of Bhimakali is paved with flat stones, now washed by the rains. A door of intricate silver design and a series of steps lead to the second courtyard. Another flight of steps bring one to the innermost rectangular compound. In the courtyard stand two peculiarly structured shrines of Bhimakali. Each shrine is a square tower of wood and stone with engraved wooden balconies running around the four sides of the upper storey. The roofs rise in pagoda style and the larger lower roofs are surrounded by smaller and more ornate roofs which taper into spires of shining gold.

The shrine on the right is more ancient and after the earthquake of 1909, it had begun to tilt dangerously. The tilt is still plainly visible. This led to the construction of newer and more beautiful shrine. The idol of goddess Kali is a fine silver figure with a glint in the eyes.


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Sunday, 19 October 2014

Kufri- A Hill Resort at Shimla

 The view of Himalayas from Kufri
A Few days ago, I revisited Kufri, a hill resort about 16 Km from Shimla. It is situated at a height of about 8600 ft above sea level. The place remains covered in snow in winter and in summer it provides relief from the hot climate of plains. It gives a panoramic view of Great Himalayan Ranges, which always remain covered with snow.

In local language, the name Kufri means pond. The place was developed by the Europeans, during the British rule in India. At that time Shimla was the capital of British India and ir remained as such till 1947.

Kufri was a place where the Tibetans took shelter after they fled from Tibet after the annexation of Tibet by China. There is a Tibetan market at Kufri, where locally manufactured woolen goods and household goods are sold. The old houses at Kufri has given way to new buildings. 

The winter sports club at Kufri was formed in 1952, and the skiing competitions were organised here. Kufri became famous in sixties when the winter sports were organised there, in 1968. But due to the decline in snowfall, the venue of sports has been shifted to Narkanda, another beautiful place about 80 Km from Shimla.

Kufri has a wildlife sanctuary and a mini zoo. For those who love solitude, the place at a distance of about 2 Km from Kufri rewards the trekkers with a picturesque landscapes.
The temples dedicated to Nag and Kali have also been built here by local devotees.

Photo Credit- Wikimedia Commons by Shahnoor Habib Munmun

The Maids of Honor by Velázquez

The Maids of Honor
Diego Rodríguez de Silva Velázquez (1599- 1660), was a Spanish painter. He led a brilliant life and enjoyed the favor and patronage of the Court. The duties of Count occupied great importance in his life. 

His paintings, the “Maids Of Honor” and “Tapestry Weaving” are most significant contributions. 

In “Maids of Honor”, the whole background is occupied by three elegant and charming figures. The little infants still in their rich robes and the two maids of honor ready to serve. In the shadow are two dwarfs and a large dog. The painter is himself there and painting a portrait. In this painting his art has the effect of magical invocation of truth and life.

Photo Credit- Wikimedia Commons byDiego Velázquez (1599–1660)