Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best of Yatra 2011: Flashback

Yes, 2011 is all set to bid us Goodbye!

But before we close down the curtains... It’s time to pause and look back... time to muse over  a pile of reminisces... time to thank for all the good it gave to us and time to pray for peace and a better tomorrow... It's time to relive an entire journey of 365 days in a few moments...


It's time to reflect and rewind, and to walk on the sand dune of memories…

My Yatra Diary... Posts Recap:


Picked out from the archives, a recap of My Yatra Diary... January through December, 2011 compiled together in pictures accompanied with a short excerpt and the link of that article... Hope you enjoy going through it..

JANUARY

Anjaneri mountain in Nashik

There is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather - John Ruskin


FEBRUARY

Magh Mela, Allahabad

Living in a crowded suburb of Mumbai and having experienced the crowds first hand, I have to admit I had never seen anything like what was before me that day. The sheer number of people overwhelmed me...

Holika dahan, Festival celebration in Mumbai

One of the most awaited festivals – The festival of color, HOLI - is finally here! Today is Dhuleti and this post comes amidst all the vibrant fun and frolic, singing and merrymaking that's happening right now in many parts all over the country!

APRIL

Harsil, Garhwal Himalayas

So these stones that you see in the river… These are not ordinary stones, Beti! They are Lord Vishnu. Pray to them with a sincere heart… They will make all your wishes come true!

100 posts completion, picture collage

There are days when you just bring out some old photos, old scribblings, old notes; to do nothing but to sit amidst a bundle of memories that you treasure and would never want to lose…
Badrinath temple, One of the Char Dhams in the Garhwal Himalayas

I stood there outside…starring at the temple for several long minutes...It’s a dream to be at this holy place and God calls only the lucky ones to His abode…The sound of my elders echoed deep in my ears… I felt highly blessed… for I felt like I was among the chosen few…

JULY

Sunrise at the Neelkanth peak in the Garhwal Himalayas

For the next ten minutes or so… we did not move, nor spoke… just stood transfixed and gaped in awe and admiration at Nature’s own wonder miracle unfolding before our eyes …

AUGUST

Lord Shiva Temple in Ambernath during Shravan

Mom, it’s raining so heavy today!
The RainGods are bathing Lord Shiva dear…

As a small child, I remember such instances quite vividly.
For me, it was just the dark clouds and the cool breeze of the rainy season that came along in the months of July-August.
But for her (read my mother) it was a little bit more…
Lalbaugcha Raja Ganpati Pandal in Mumbai

‘Bagha Bagha! Lalbaghcha Raja Disto Aahe!’ (Look! The Lord is now visible! ) It’s just 20 min or so in the queue… A glimpse so soon, How? I wonder. But a single step forward, a slight curve in the queue and yes, its indeed Him!


2.
Ganpati Pandal Hopping in Mumbai

So, pack your bags and bundle up your woes… Get ready to join me, as I embark on a yatra (pilgrimage) of a slightly different kind… The Festive Ganesh Yatra… And let’s together enjoy this spirited carnival!
Mahatama Gandhiji's message in his own handwriting from Sabarmati Ashram
Many years ago, a solitary figure clothed in a loin cloth, firmly holding on to his stick of principles and ideologies, set out on an expedition…
On the 142nd birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, also fondly known as Bapu and renowned world over as The Father of the Nation, just spare a few moments to ponder on His wisdom, teachings and invaluable contributions to the rich history of India…

2.
Har Ki Pauri in the evening, Haridwar

By the time, I climb back again, the sun is all set kissing the horizon and the steps are fully occupied. The chit-chatter amongst the crowd has risen substantially and so has the anticipation for the Ganga arti to commence.

NOVEMBER

1.
A hand made greeting card for mother

Cards, letters, and poems - they were all there... Oh, when and how I had forgotten about them...?! Soon enough, I found myself buried in a heap of memories, going through the scribblings, chuckling to myself, getting reflective over some, while finding others quite childish. I ended up spending the whole afternoon rummaging through the letters that had gathered dust over time and found utmost joy in wiping them off. Ah... Memories!


2.
A cake celebrating 2 years of blogging

Thus, If I witness celebrate this day today by writing this post, it’s only because of You... You have encouraged, supported and contributed to the growth of the diary… You are the reason it has all been possible! I have nothing more to say except a -- BIG THANK YOU!!!

DECEMBER


A constant companion throughout my journey... It was difficult to part with Her and say goodbye at the end of my yatra...




What People came looking for in 'My Yatra Diary...' this Year... Some Facts, Stats and Figures:

1. Top 12 Search Results for My Yatra Diary... in 2011 -

Google analytics stats - pages overview
Pages Overview Summary for the year

1. ISKCON Temple Delhi - 6318 Pageviews
5. Khatu Shyamji Temple, Rajasthan - 3271 Pageviews

2. Top 12 keywords for My Yatra Diary... -

Google analytics stats - Traffic stats overview
Traffic Sources Overview for the year

1. iskcon temple delhi - 619 Visits
2. Salasar balaji temple - 429 Visits
3. ganpati decoration - 411 Visits
4. kabirvad - 396 Visits
5. valley of flowers - 315 Visits
6. harsil - 303 Visits
7. sai baba - 265 Visits
8. pilot baba - 248 Visits
9. char dham yatra map - 211 Visits
10. trimbakeshwar - 195 Visits
11. iskcon temple - 192 Visits
12. khatu shyam temple - 186 Visits


And Finally...

Mother Teresa Inspirational Quote on Happy New Year

Happy New Year Everyone!
Keep Blogging And Keep Smiling :)
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Monday, December 26, 2011

A Final Postcard from the Himalayas: Complete Char Dham Yatra Summarized

Traveling in the Himalayas was...

...Conversing with my friends; the gurgling streams, the sloping valleys, the towering mountains...


Nature Himalayas

...Surrounding myself with natural beauty all day long… Oh! What a blessing it was!


Nature Sunshine Himalayas

...Taking delight in myth, history and faith mixed in equal parts… just like savoring a delectable dish whipped out by a Top Chef exclusively for me...


Char Dham - Faith History and Myth collage picture

...Listening in to the silences and dipping myself in a world entirely different than my own...


Sunshine Garhwal Himalayas

Traveling in the Himalayas was...

Falling in love...

Nature Garhwal Himalayas

once again... That I will be back here someday...

Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends,
but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers.
The mind can never break off from the journey. - Pat Conroy


The Complete Char Dham Yatra Posts Compilation

The complete Char Dham Yatra series saw close to 40 posts scattered over 7 months, covering 2 of the 4 coveted dhams of the circuit - Gangotri and Badrinath. Thus, to help easy navigation and simple reading, I am bundling up all these posts here so that we have all of it in one single place.

Before the Trip - Planning phase and Mumbai to Delhi


The Entire Trip of 5 Days in 42 Posts

DAY 1: On the road from Haridwar/Rishikesh to Uttarkashi (Night halt)


DAY 2:

Part I - Exploring the town of Gangotri -The temple and other places.


Part II - Back to Uttarkashi from Gangotri


DAY 3: Travelogues describing the journey towards the second dham, Badrinath. Night halt at Birahi.



DAY 4:

Part I - Badrinath and around the town


Part II - Exploring the town of Badrinath and Visiting the Badrinath temple


Part III - Other Places to visit when in Badrinath


DAY 5: Back to Rishikesh and then to Mumbai

Part I - On the Way from Badrinath to Rishikesh


Part II - Rishikesh travelogues

Trip Concludes 


Photo posts


Thank You for your Wonderful Company!

Today, as I write this last post in the Char Dham series... I feel happy, content and a bit tired too, a feeling quite akin to the feeling that we get on our arrival from a long journey back home.

It's been close to seven months since I started penning The Char Dham yatra here. When I had started out, I had never imagined it to go this long. But then the place had so much to explore, so much to discover, so much on offer and so much to take back that I really cannot be blamed. I wanted to document most, if not all, of what I had seen, what I had experienced, what I had come across... in detail... I had wanted to relive an entire experience... And today, I cannot really say which out of the two, the real and the virtual one, has been more fulfilling for me.


Thank you very much for accompanying me here and making it just as memorable as the real one! I have enjoyed every moment spent with you and I do hope to have your company in my future yatras as well :)
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Monday, December 19, 2011

Random Photographical Memories from the Himalayas: Dhabas, Sadhus, Garhwali caps and more...

After photographic memories of Waterfalls, Snow, Trees, Faith, Roads and River Ganga; here are some more that I can remember sorted a bit randomly this time.

1. Dhabas

While traveling in the hilly himalayan regions, over-stuffing yourself with food is a big no-no but skipping meals altogether is never an alternative either. This is where small shacks like these sprayed intermittently all across the routes are a boon, providing a lot of relief to the hungry traveler.


A dhaba in Chaurangikhal town enroute to Gangotri

A dhaba in Nagaur town enroute to Srinagar
@Nagaur

A local dhaba in Badrinath town
@Badrinath town a stone's throw from GMVN's Hotel Devlok

A dhaba in Chaurangikhal town enroute to Gangotri

Devoid of any names or luxuries, these kinky roadside shacks or dhabas serve you with fresh and tasty food at real cheap prices. And the best part of it all, is that you can actually peep into their kitchens and watch all the cooking live while pampering your taste buds at the same time; and believe me this really does spice up the entire experience!

2. Haathi Pahad


Not as mythical as the Nar Narayan mountains, but equally fascinating nevertheless.


Hathi Pahad in the Garhwal Himalayas in Uttarakhand
Hathi Pahad - The Elephant shaped mountain!

I wonder what tales it’s got to tell…?

3. Over Steaming Tea/Coffee

Sipped on a lot of them throughout the journey wherever I found them.


Cofee and hot milk in Gangotri
Hot cups of coffee and milk @the lane leading to the Gangotri temple

If you are my kind, who is not very accepting to shivers and quivers, then don’t miss your cuppa whenever you spot one. Will surely leave your tongue warm and prepare your body to take on the icy chills!

4. Sadhus and Sages

Orange clad, saffron robed men are everywhere, not only in the pilgrim towns of the Char Dham circuit but also enroute, on the highways and on the roadways! Many of the sages walk the entire way up to the hills from the plains on foot, basically doing the entire pilgrimage as a ‘padyatra’ meaning ‘pilgrimage on foot’.


A sage on a Char Dham padyatra in Garhwal Himalayas, Uttaranchal
A sadhu on a Char Dham padyatra in Uttaranchal
A sage on a Char Dham padyatra in Garhwal Himalayas, Uttarakhand
@At various points enroute to the Char Dhams

These ascetics leave the plains, making their way forward by camping over several days probably even months, to reach their destination. After completion of their padyatra, some of them decide to stay put for meditation in the upper reaches of the Himalayas while the rest of the pilgrim town is shutting down activity for 6 months of the year!

5. Local Takeaways

Handmade woolies, caps, sweaters and shawls – the town people have great dexterity in their hands and they weave magic with it! Have a look...


Woolen hand made sweaters and shawls in Gangotri, Uttarakhand
Woolen hand made himachal caps in Gangotri, Uttarakhand
Garhwali caps and other woolies @the lane leading to the Gangotri temple

Woolen sweaters in Badrinath, Uttarakhand
Sweaters and jackets @the market in the Badrinath town

Hand made woolies in Mana Village in Badrinath, Uttarakhand
Local woolen souvenirs @The Mana Village

The most amazing aspect of all these articles is that not only are they available for cheap, after some amount of bargaining of course, but they also come with a promise –

A promise to keep you warm with memories of the place long after you are gone…
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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Photographical Memories from the Himalayas: River Ganga...

River Ganga holds a lot of charm and fascination for most believers and I am no different. I managed to catch up with Her many a times throughout the Char Dham Yatra of mine... Turning a few pages to see where and in what form...

"Of purifers I am the wind, of the wielders of weapons I am Rama, of fishes I am the shark, and of flowing rivers I am the Ganga"
- Shri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita 3:14

River Ganga as seen from Asia's Highest Bridge in Bhaironghati in the Garhwal Himalayas in Uttarakhand
River Ganga viewed from Asia's highest bridge @ Bhaironghati

"Food from the devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Ganga water, the mind engaged in the Lotus Feet of Lord Vishnu and the day of Lord Hari, named Ekadasi, these are all pure and thus holy."
- Conversation between Markandeya and Bhagiratha, Skanda Purana

River Ganga at Badrinath - Srinagar highway in the Garhwal Himalayas in Uttarakhand
River Ganga at Badrinath- Srinagar highway in the Garhwal Himalayas in Uttarakhand
River Ganga glistens @ Her source in Gangotri

"India is great, the Himalaya are great, but the region in the Himalayas where Ganga is born is especially great because that is the place where She (River Ganga) exists in confluence with Narayana." - Skanda Purana

River Ganga at Harsil in the Garhwal Himalayas in Uttarakhand
River Ganga @ Harsil

"Ganga always extends her unto those that are devoted to her with humbleness of heart. She unites those that are so devoted
to her with every kind of happiness."
- Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva, Chapter 27, Verse 100

River Ganga during the Char Dham Yatra in the Garhwal Himalayas in Uttarakhand
River Alaknanda @ Badrinath

"That end which a creature is capable of attaining by penances, by Brahmacharya, by sacrifices, or by practicing renunciation, one is sure to attain by only living by the side of Bhagirathi and bathing in her sacred waters." - Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva, Chapter 27, Verse 26

River Ganga during the Char Dham trip in the Garhwal Himalayas in Uttarakhand
River Ganga @ Gangotri Highway

"Mountains of sins accumulated by a sinner in the course of his millions of transmigrations on earth disappear at a mere touch of the sacred Ganga water.  Cleansed will he be also, who even breathes some of the air moistened by the holy waters." - Brahmavaivarta Purana

River Ganga at Devprayag in the Garhwal Himalayas in Uttarakhand
"One who has studied the Bhagavad Gita just a little, drunk even a drop of Ganga water, has worshipped Murari (Krishna) just once, does not meet with Yama (the lord of death)." - Bhaja Govindam, Verse 20, Adi Shankaracharya

River Ganga in the Garhwal Himalayas, Uttarakhand
River Ganga @ A village enroute to Srinagar

"Thousands of man's sins get destroyed by the holy sight of the Ganges, and he becomes pure by the touch of the water of the Ganges, by consuming it, or just by pronouncing Ganga." - Garuda Purana

River Ganga in the Garhwal Himalayas in Uttarakhand on the Char Dham Yatra Roadway
Confluence of Rivers Alaknanda and Mandakini
@ one of the Prayags - Rudraprayag

"One may, by putting forth one's best powers, count the stones that occur in the mountains of Meru or measure the waters that occur in the ocean, but one cannot count all the merits which belong to the waters of Ganga."
- Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva, Chapter 27, Verse 97

River Ganga in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand
River Ganga @ Rishikesh

"By holding that sacred stream, touching it, and bathing in its waters, one rescues one's ancestors to the seventh generation." - Mahabharata

River Ganga at Har Ki Pauri Ghat in Haridwar
River Ganga @ Har Ki Pauri in Haridwar

"God is the color of water. Water doesn't have a color."
― James McBride

A constant companion throughout my journey... It was difficult to part with Her and say goodbye at the end of my yatra...
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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Photographical Memories from the Himalayas: Roads...

When planning a trip to the Himalayas, one of the major concerns that plays in the mind of the traveler is the ‘Condition of the Roads’. Road conditions can easily make or mar your trip depending on their moods. Smooth, rough, rocky or bumpy – you are sure to get a taste of all of it as you keep moving along. So no matter, how hard you try to plan around it, the unpredictability of the Himalayan roads is something that, can be said, is best left to the Gods!

Based on our experience, here’s what you can expect, the next time you plan a trip to the hills!


Snaky Sharp Rough roads: 


Tossing, jolting and bumping you - these rutted, uneven and narrow routes not scare only you on your way, but your near and dear ones back home too.

Bad condition of roads encountered in the Garhwal Himalayas during the Char Dham Yatra
Damaged and dangerous rock strewn road conditions in the Garhwal Himalayas during the Char Dham Yatra
Damaged and dangerous landslide road conditions in the Garhwal Himalayas during the Char Dham Yatra
Damaged and dangerous landslide road conditions in the Garhwal Himalayas during the Char Dham Yatra
Rough and Bumpy terrain of the Himalayas

CloudBursts:

Look at the after-effects of the hidden side of nature! It's hard to believe an entire town existed here before losing it out to the anger of the rain Gods...

Cloud Burst Patch of Roads encountered in the Garhwal Himalayas during the Char Dham Yatra
Aftermath of a cloudburst - Enroute from Rishikesh to Uttarkashi

Landslides:

These can hold you up for days but if your stars are bright, then chances are that you might get away with just a few hrs delay by taking a different route to reach your destination.

Landslide hit road area in the Garhwal Himalayas during the Char Dham Yatra
The barren valley lies open with huge crags and narrow tracks,
making it difficult to traverse

Construction Work in Progress: 

Today, if the Char Dham Yatra is no longer seen as being nightmarish or terrifying, then a major credit of it goes to the dedication and laborious efforts of some hardworking people like these - The BRO (Border Roads Organization) employees. May God bless these noble souls who work tirelessly so that people like us can keep our appointments with the Lords and travel safe. Hats off to them!

Construction works going on, on damaged and landslide roads in the Garhwal Himalayas during the Char Dham Yatra
BRO Workers executing the road clearance work

Smooth Moments of Terrain: 

Roads are not always rough and rocky as shown above, or in TV programs or even in guidebooks. It does have its moments of calm and quiet. Passing through sparsely inhabited valleys, idyllic habitations and silent remoteness, these sure take you into a world unknown... a beautiful world full of Himalayan wilderness.

Smooth terrain in the Garhwal Himalayas
Roads in the Garhwal Himalayas during the Char Dham Yatra
Silent moments adding to the rugged beauty of the Himalayan travel

Final Thoughts on Himalayan Roads:

Whatever, the condition of the roads, highways or routes may be;

There is something so exhilarating and thrilling when you travel through the middle of a town as historic, significant and gorgeous as the Char Dhams;


– Meeting nobody, doing nothing, reminding yourself of the momentous past, drinking in the magnificent present –

Snake roads encountered in the Garhwal Himalayas during the Char Dham Yatra
Uneven roads with beautiful views encountered in the Garhwal Himalayas during the Char Dham Yatra
Road conditions hardly matter when you have
such beauty glaring at you from all ends, isn't it?

...that no amount of the supposed terrain fears can and will ever stop you from getting down to planning another one of your trips to the valleys of the Gods!
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