Posts Tagged ‘india’

Ranthambore Fort

Posted: March 29, 2016 by obsesessivetraveler in India, rajasthan
Tags: , , , , , ,

Ranthambore Fort is a UNESCO world heritage sire and the second largest fort after Chittorgarh in Rajasthan. Its location had a strategic advantage for trade between North India and Central India and despite several attempts; it remained unconquered throughout its history due to the particular angle at which the gates had been constructed to camouflage it as a part of the hill, making it impossible to spot from the adjoining forest.

How to Reach?

The Fort is located within the Ranthambore National Park but you are allowed to reach here on your own private vehicles. Alternately you can also reach here through taxis operating through the union and thus has fixed tariffs. There are 2 entrances to the fort now: one opposite zone 3 or 4 and the other from Ganesh Temple. The Fort is at a height of 481 m above sea level and one as to climb a number of steps to reach the fort or hire a palki ride.

Time Required:

Depends on one’s pace and how much time one wants to spend listening to the guide but at least 2-3 hours is recommended. Since I had covered it in between safaris, I had to hurriedly cover it in 2 hours with a guide.

 Etymology:

Its name is derived from 2 adjoining hills- Rann and Bhore and the valley in between is Tham. The fort covers the entire Bhore hill and overlooks the valley and the Rann Hill at the Ganesh temple.

 History:

Ranthambhore Fort was constructed and ruled by Prithvi Raj Chouhan’s descendants, starting from the reign of the Chauhan Rajput King Sapaldaksha in 944 AD.

The most prominent ruler of the Fort was Rao Hammir, the last ruler of the Chauhan dynasty (1282 – 1301 AD). From 1299 to 1301 AD, Alauddin Khilji’s (the ruler of Delhi) army tried to siege the fort but was defeated and was finally able to capture it in 1301 by deceit. A traitor- Ranmal hung a black flag of defeat over the fort even though they had defeated Khilji’s army. All the married women committed jauhar and the unmarried women committed suicide by jumping in the pond. When Hammir returned to see this he killed the traitor and then himself. The traitor’s head is kept as a sculpture at the entrance of the fort with a sword mark running across the middle. Ranthambore was then ruled by Ulugh Khan on behalf of Khilji.

In the next three centuries the Ranthambore Fort changed hands a number of times, till Akbar, the Mughal emperor, finally took over the Fort and dissolved the State of Ranthambore in 1558. The fort stayed in the possession of the Mughal rulers till the mid 18th century when they handed it over to the Jaipur state.

Architecture:

The walls of the fort are about 7 kilometers in length and include an area of nearly 4 square kilometers. The Ranthambore fort is surrounded by massive stonewalls which are strengthened by towers and bastions. The stone for the masonry was mined from inside the Fort and the mines were later turned into ponds for water storage. There were 7 Main doors from start to end, of which few survive. The fort had many buildings inside but now only a few survive, mostly:

  1. Hammir’s Court
  2. Badal Mahal ,
  3. Dullah Mahal,
  4. 32 Pillared Chhatri (Cenotaph) of Hammir
  5. Jain temple,
  6. Mosque: Interesting to see mosque within the fort of a Hindu king but believed to be added later by Khilji
  7. Ganesh temple: Still active and attracts worshippers from all around. Loads of langur monkeys around the temple
  8. Barracks and step-well.

Interesting Facts:

  1. The Fort offers some breathtaking views of the forest and the lake below around which several crocodiles and alligators can be spotted with a good lens.
  2. In the forest adjoining the fort, there are several mango trees which are believed to have grown from the mangoes eaten and thrown by Khilji’s soldiers as mango trees are not inherent to the area.

raanthamb_368Pond next to Ganesh templeraanthamb_403chhatriMosquemahaltraitor's headraanthamb_345raanthamb_342

Kareri Lake Trek

Posted: September 14, 2015 by obsesessivetraveler in himachal pradesh, India
Tags: , , , ,

Dates of trek: 4,5, 6 Sep 2015

Day 0: Overnight bus from Delhi (ISBT) to Dharamshala: Time taken 12 hours. Cost: INR 1000. Booking website: hrtc.gov.in/

Day 1: Dharamshala to Ghera village (1306 metres): 20 km away cab (Alto): INR 800

Ghera to Kareri Village (1746 metres): 2.5 hours

The road after Ghera is in a state of disrepair and hence there is no option but to start trekking from Ghera itself although many sites say you can take a cab till Kareri village. We got a lift from a pickup truck till some distance further, which was quite a bumpy ride and we had to hold on to the truck for our lives.

Hike from Ghera to Kareri village takes roughly 2-3 hours and the trail is pretty straight forward passing through Sari Village and one river crossing along the way, although there are options of using the so—called longer motorotable road or the much-touted shortcuts with steep stairs most of the way. We took a mix and match of the two routes and reached the village in 2.5 hours. We had lunch at Kareri at a local’s place and hired him as a guide along with tent for INR 700 per day.

 

Kareri Village to Camp:

After the village, the trail is a wide road still under construction but easy to tread on. Parts of the road had overgrowth so it appeared to be a scene from a Harry Potter movie. The welcome surprise for us were these temporary tea shops that had been set up for trekkers on account of Janmashtmi on 5th Sep, thus we got tea at regular intervals during our trek.

After the road there is a dirt trail for some time which gives way to boulders and stones acting like stairs that form majority of the trail. A number of times you would be required to skillfully hop over large boulders to cross the various streams of Nyund River, that flows almost all along the trail. Thus there is no dearth of fresh water supply throughout the trail.

There are warnings about bears and leopards, but we did not encounter them. We did get stung by bees on our way and by the poisoinous shrub that locals call “bichhu buti” and seem to be growing almost throughout the trail. Brushing past the leaves of the shrub causes severe rashes and itching. Ironically the sheep of the region feed on the shrub!!

We camped at the dedicated camp site, roughly 4 kms before the lake.

 _DSC0047 _DSC0035

Day 2: Kareri Camp to Lake (3034 meters):

Next morning we started late and covered the remaining 4 kms in roughly 2 hours, arriving at the Temple overlooking the lake just in time to enjoy the Janmashtmi langar.

Kareri Lake is a high altitude, shallow, fresh water lake fed by melting snow from Dhauladhar range, but dam has been built on the side of the temple to prevent water from overflowing. A few Gaddi kothis (Shepherd’s temporary dwelling place) are present on the other side of the lake and they live and graze their livestock there when there is no snowfall and after snowfall return to their village- Naholi. Post lunch we just hiked around the lake and enjoyed the views. At night the night sky was just mesmerizing, of course could not be captured by the camera. So the sight of the sky strewn by stars, of nebula clouds and of shooting stars every 15 minutes remains only as an indelible memory.

 

Day 3: Kareri Lake to Mcleodganj:

We descended about 19 km in 5 hours and caught a cab to Mcleodganj from Ghera (cost: INR 1000) and my feet were numb post that with blisterds. We enjoyed a great meal at Mcleodganj before catching our bus back to Delhi.

Local Guide Contact Details (highly recommended): Purushottam: 09736986581 (stays at Kareri village itself and can arrange for tents, sleeping bags etc)

 

Farukhnagar

Posted: July 26, 2015 by obsesessivetraveler in Delhi NCR, India
Tags: , , ,

Farukhnagar is a small town close to about 50 km from Gurgaon that was earlier famous for salt production. The monuments- Sheesh Mahal, Baoli (step well) and Jama Masjid were built by Faujdar Khan, governor under the Mughal empire in the 18th century.

I had discovered this town when I had visited Sultanpur bird sanctuary and while passing by I had spotted these old structures that caught my fancy and had to revisit the place to explore.

I have a fetish for stepwells and this stepwell got me hooked, although the recent restoration is an eyesore as usually all restorations are. There is no entry fees to the place and there were no other visitors, so I just sat there and sketched undisturbed for a while, after which we attracted few locals who very only too keen to show us around. But we just excused ourselves and left.

Besides the stepwell, there is also a chatri and the palace. But this time I did not take my camera so only reproductions I have of the place is the sketch of the stepwell that I reproduce here.But even the other places are worthwhile so if you get a chance do go and explore.
Farukhnagar stepwell_black

Flower Show, Gurgaon

Posted: June 19, 2015 by obsesessivetraveler in Delhi NCR, India
Tags: , , ,

Almost every city in India has an annual flower show. Gurgaon holds it annually at Leisure Valley Park in the spring month of March. It is worth a visit as the colors and variants of flowers at display are exquisite and also the flower arrangements. The entire park is decked up in various colors, a visual treat for sure!_DSC0286

_DSC0281

_DSC0290

_DSC0293

_DSC0295

_DSC0296

_DSC0299

_DSC0303

_DSC0304

_DSC0307

_DSC0310

_DSC0316

_DSC0317

_DSC0320

_DSC0322

_DSC0326

_DSC0328

_DSC0329

_DSC0333

_DSC0336

_DSC0340

Hampi

Posted: February 18, 2013 by randommuzings in India
Tags: , , , ,

537025_10151280436856129_263327754_n

I’ve wanted to visit Hampi ever since I had heard about it 5 years ago and had even made plans to travel there several times but somehow they never materialized. This year I had firmly resolved to visit Hampi and I’m so glad that my new year resolution was achieved in Jan itself. The intoxicating mix of history and nature, respite from any connectivity and the sun boring into your very soul left me completely dizzy!

Location and Getting there:

Designated as a World heritage Site by UNESCO, Hampi is a Deccan Plateau town full of ruins located on the banks of the Tungabadhra River in Karnataka. It is about 350 km from both Hyderabad and Bangalore and about 300 km from Goa. Trains are available to Hospet from all three cities mentioned above. The road is good from Bangalore and Goa and takes about 6-7 hours but very bad from Hyderabad.

I had planned to reach Hampi earlier from Bangalore several times but there plans had never materialized so this time I travelled from Hyderabad and too an overnight train from Hyderabad to Hospet.

History: Although Hampi finds a mention even in Ramayana and was a part of many kingdoms post that, it rose to prominence as the capital of the Vijayanagara Empire from AD 1343 to 1565. Interestingly the Vijayanagara Kingdom was founded by two Sangama brothers- Harihara and Bukka, who had been prisoners of the Delhi Sultanate and were appointed by the Sultanate as kings in the Deccan Plateau to gain control of the south. But soon they broke their allegiance to the Muslim Rulers and started the golden era of Hindu reign of 23 kings, which peaked under the reign of Krishnadeva Raya. Krishnadeva Raya had laid the foundation to most of the temples that exist as edifices today but lost the city in 1564 due to an attack by the Mughals.

Architecture: In Fountainhead Ayn Rand has described the protagonist- Howard Roark, an ingenuous architect, designs a building that emerges from the rocks and appears to be only a natural extension of the rocks. All the temples at Hampi seemed to be have been designed and then carved with the same ingenuity that they feel to be a part of the barren rocky landscape. A model of the proposed temple was carved out of rocks first and then the main temple was constructed based on the model. The model was just a smaller version and was not so intricately carved. The model has been preserved for some of the temples even today.

Apart from the temples, there are watch towers all over the terrain, palaces, King’s court and bazaars. The world’s best diamonds were mined in the Deccan plateau and Hampi had been the only diamond trading bazaar in India, which had attracted traders from all over the world. In fact there was also a Sule bazaar (Harlot Street).

Shasur Gompa

Posted: September 13, 2012 by randommuzings in India
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“We did not have any written records of the history of this monastery and have tried to collate it through the details and stories we could find and have complied it into a book that is available at the monastery and at Keylong”, the monk at Shasur monastery explained. We stood looking at the board at the gompa entrance that summarized to say that the monastery had been constructed in the 16th century by Lama Dewa Tyatsho of Ladakh (an emissary of Nawang Namgyal- the king of Bhutan) and later renovated by Lama Dewa Gyatsho Gompa. The name Shasur was derived from the local name of the “blue pine” trees around the monastery. “It has also been revamped Indian government and relocated from its earlier position much higher up on the mountain.”

Keylong is flanked by four monasteries at the adjoining mountains tops; Khardung (12th century), Shasur monastery (17th century), Tayul Monastery (literal meaning- ‘The Place That is Chosen’) and Guru Ghantal. We chose to trek to Shasur Monastery but unfortunately the sun in its most extreme form decided to accompany us that day. We started climbing up the road but to take shelter from the sun we took short cuts up the mountain. We lost our way and ended up at a farm. Shagun there gave us water and then guided us the way.

After dredging for 3-4 hours we finally reached the Gompa and were greeted by an effable monk, “We can climb up in 1.5 hours in summers but once the snow sets in climbing up only takes half an hour.” “How come?”, we gasped. “In winters we can climb from anywhere but now we can’t climb through the fields.” “Fields?” All we could see was grass growing on the mountain. “Yes, grass is the crop that they would be collecting as fodder for the cattle for the next few months.” That had never struck me. I had been scolded for walking over grass but that was mainly for aesthetic reasons. I never thought that grass could be a scarce resource and had to be stored!!

The monastery is a three storeyed building with elaborate wall paintings representing the history of 84 Buddha’s, numerous thangkas including a 15 ft thangka that is displayed during festivals and several statues notably that of Namgyal.  This monastery conforms to the Drukpa form of Tibetian Buddhism. There are 101 volumes of Kangyur text that are read by monks over 6 days.

“You have just missed the famous Tseshe festival in June wherein people throng the gompa to watch our (monks’) mask dance called Chham dance or devil dance. Even I have just arrived from Darjeeling 20 days ago along with 4 others as there are few monks remaining at Shasur and we need at least 7 to be present here. 4 monks have gone to the village for a funeral where they would be chanting prayers for the deceased for 4 days and 3 monks are needed here for the morning and evening prayers.” It is believed after the death of the body, the personality goes into a state of trance for four days and during this period (called First Bardo) the verses chanted by Lamas can reach the dead person. Most places around Keylong they preserve the dead body for these 4 days and burn it only after the First Bardo is over. The monks sleep next to the dead body for 4 days! Ouch!!

He went on to explain their way of life, their organized treks to holy places, their plans to set up a school to teach people Tibetian as most people did not know the language and to encourage more people to become monks.

At 4.30 they struck the bell many times to inform the villagers that the evening prayers were about to begin. We listened enchanted to the use of various musical instruments and the chanting sound. I felt at peace. At 5.30 we left the gompa in order to reach the town before dark. Along the way we could hear the chanting prayers for quite a distance!

Keylong

Posted: August 30, 2012 by randommuzings in India
Tags: , , , , , ,

Keylong (altitude: 3350m), the capital of Lahaul, is such a small town that on reaching there we wondered as to what will we be doing there for the next couple of days. In comparison even Leh seemed much larger. It is mostly a transit city, where tourists usually halt for a night or two, enroute to Leh or Spiti or Manali. Even the vegetation here (mostly shrubs) is transitioning from the lush green pine forests of Manali to dry arid vegetation of Leh or Spiti. Agriculturally it houses the crops of peas, hops (for beer), potatoes and barley.

For us as well, Keylong was not meant to be the final destination. When we reached Keylong, our first reaction was that we will head out to Kaza after a day but we just couldn’t part from Keylong, mainly because of the people.

In Himanchal, I usually always bank upon the guest houses provided by state government. At Keylong also I chose to stay at Himachal Tourism (HT) bungalow- a colossal property at the highest point of the town. It was named “Chandra Bhaga Resort”, after the local name of Chenab here. I later learnt that the land for this property was acquired in 1992 for the construction of a Heli-ski resort as per a pact between Indian government and USSR but then USSR dissolved and the pact never saw the light of the day. So finally in 2002 the resort as it stands today was constructed long with the adjoining circuit house for a staggering figure of about INR 4 crores (only construction cost). The room rent here is INR 2,000, which seems high for the region but on staying there you realize that you get every penny’s worth including breakfast and dinner. The ground space facing the resort that as per the original plan had been reserved for a helipad, now houses tents that have been shifted here from Sarchu. The HT Volovo buses from Manali to Leh include an overnight stay at Keylong in those luxury tents (within a price of Rs 2000).

Thus every night a loaded bus arrives, carrying 41 travelers. Each night there is a lot of activity- eating, drinking, gossiping but early morning at 4 am the bus would depart and then the place would be shrouded in complete silence. Soon each of the hotel staff was like a family member and along with them we also sub-consciously waited for the night bus to arrive and heard them depart every morning.

We reached there on 16th Aug and on the occasion of Independence Day there was a two-days fair wherein people had come down from Manali and set up stalls for food and clothing. There was a cultural program where people from all adjoining districts were singing and dancing and the program went on till 10.30 pm that is beyond midnight in the hills. I was tempted to go down and watch but there was no light in the town at all and we were not carrying any torches. So we stayed at the hotel, chatting with the passengers of the bus that had just arrived. We were enjoying our freedom and they were enjoying theirs!!

I later sat on the porch of the hotel staring at the night sky. I haven’t seen so many stars in my entire life, not in Leh, not even on the screen at Nehru Planetarium. There were so stars in every corner of the sky that to a city dweller like me it appeared artificial. Too bad that I did not have the remote shutter control to capture it on my camera but of course some experiences are only for the mind to remember!!  I just lay there for eternity, staring at the sky, capturing the image in my mind!!

Manali-Rohtang-Keylong

Posted: August 29, 2012 by randommuzings in India
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Manali to Keylong is just 115 km- a journey that can ideally be covered in 5-6 hours but of course enroute one has to pass the deadly Rohtang Pass. We took a shared cab (Tata Sumo) that charged Rs 250 per seat and was carrying 10 passengers and a driver. So well stuffed we began our journey at noon. In 1.5 hours we were at Rohtang but had to stop here for the next 3 hours.

Rohtang in the local language literally means “A pile of corpses” and is considered to be the deadliest pass of all and we soon learnt why.  Rohtang is under continuous rain or snow. Between May to September, it is mostly continuous rains that cause land slides, hence blocking traffic.

From October to April, there is continuous snow and hence the road remains closed, cutting off Keylong from the rest of the world. The people dwelling beyond Rohtang in Lahaul and Spiti are thus classified as tribals by the government and hence enjoy rebated food and free medical facilities. The tribal status, however, will be lost once the 14 km long Rohtang Tunnel gets constructed that will bypass the Rohtang Pass and make Lahaul-Spiti accessible all the year around. I hope it doesn’t happen for a few more years as then Keylong as I saw it will be lost.

When we reached Rohtang, the road was blocked due to land slides. All vehicles that had left since morning were qued up before us. For the street vendors, it was good business as people munched the food as there was little else that could be done.

The locals alleged that to increase their business, the horse keepers had released some water that had increased landslides in the area. They then volunteered to taken people for a ride on the horses to a popular point closeby with a small permanent glacier from where they claim that the China border is visible, which of course is not true.

The journey after crossing Rohtang was smooth. On the other side of Rohtang, Beas ditched us but Chenab took its place.  In total it took us 9 hours to reach Keylong from Manali.

Lahaul Trip (Aug 2012)

Posted: August 29, 2012 by randommuzings in India
Tags: , , , , , ,

This is probably the most impromptu trip I’ve undertaken so far. I had applied for leave quite sometime in advance due to convenience and was then trying to fit in a travel plan. My initial plan was Tibet through Nepal but that requires a group China visa which can only be obtained for 5 Indians traveling together. We were just 3 people at best. Next I dawdled over Bhutan and Greece but both didn’t materialize due to monsoons and my 20 year passport respectively.

So when my leaves  started i had no travel plans. I didn’t want to cancel approved leaves and neither spend it at home. So my friend and I just packed our bags and left for my safest abode- Himalayas. Since I have covered the popular destinations way too often, we left for Manali in a Volvo and thereafter head out someplace. Leh I had been only the previous year so was not too keen on going there so soon. Kasaul was an option but then Lahaul Spiti was more appealing. So we set off absolutely unprepared on this trip that turned out to be quite memorable!!

Itinerary:

Delhi to Chandigarh: 290 km via NH1

Chandigarh to Manali via Rupnagar: 280 km via NH21

(Parallel to River Beas)

Manali to Keylong via Rohtang: 115 km via NH21

(Parallel to River Chenab)