Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Celebrating the Festival of Lights: Happy Diwali

I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.
- George Washington Carver

On this auspicious day of Diwali, let's lighten up our day...

Mountains, cloud cover and sunrise in the Garhwal Himalayas
(6.50 Am - Sunrise view while on the Joshimath - Badrinath Highway)
How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains! - John Muir unlocking the windows of our heart and permitting the spirited songs of radiance to seep in through…

Mountains and sunrise in the Garhwal Himalayas
(7.41 Am - Sunrise view at Gangnani, while enroute to Gangotri)
What humbugs we are, who pretend to live for Beauty,
and never see the Dawn! - Logan Pearsall Smith touching it's beauty, by feeling and breathing it...

Sunrise at the Neelkanth Peak in the Garhwal Himalayas in Uttarakhand
We can only appreciate the miracle of a sunrise,
if we have waited in the darkness. - Unknown having faith in this source of guiding light and following it's path to see where it shall ultimately lead us...

Sun, mountains and sunrise in the Garhwal Himalayas
Sun peeping out from behind the cloud cover just before sunset in the Garhwal Himalayas
(Top Image: 3.00 Pm - Haridwar to Uttarkashi Highway
Bottom Image: 7.15 Am - Enroute to Srinagar)
Put your heart into being a bright light. - Mother Teresa feasting on it's grandeur and interpreting it in our own innocent ways…

Sun peeping out from behind the clouds just before sunset  in the Garhwal Himalayas
(4.45 Pm - Nature shot, Enroute to Mana Village from Badrinath)
Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them,
and try to follow where they lead. - Louisa May Alcott sparing a few moments... for our own selves,
And by soaking in these magical moments called Nature...

Sun, mountains,cloud cover and sunrise in the Garhwal Himalayas
Sun peeping out from behind the clouds just before sunset  in the Garhwal Himalayas
(Both Images: 7.15 Am - Srinagar to Rishikesh Highway)
A setting sun still whispers a promise for tomorrow - Jeb Dickerson

Come, let us together spread this divine light of love and lighten up this festive season, not only for us but for everyone around as well...

Beautiful colors of Sunset  in the Garhwal Himalayas
(Top Image: 5.10 Pm - Sunset on the Joshimath to Srinagar Highway)

I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in. - John Muir

Wishing you all, My Dear Blog Friends,
A Very Happy Diwali
And a Peaceful and a Prosperous New Year :)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Photographical Memories from the Himalayas: Trees

How one year has whizzed by... The journey to the hills is long over but my heart still pines for it…  To somewhat satiate this hunger of mine, please allow me to paste a few captures, in a short series form, from the just concluded virtual char dham yatra of ours...

Amid these few photographs from our mountain journey and the accompanying soothing words by some great men, I hope you will find for yourself the same amount of peace and serenity that I had found while I was actually there...

You will find something more in woods than in books. 
Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters. - St. Bernard

A tree in one of the Rishikesh Temples along the Haridwar Highway
Huge pine trees in the Garhwal Himalayas, Uttarakhand

Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world. - John Muir

Scenary on the Rishikesh-Haridwar Highway

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
- Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Huge pine trees in the Garhwal Himalayas in Uttarakhand

Trees are the earth's endless effort to speak to the listening heaven.
- Rabindranath Tagore

A tree shrub in the Garhwal Himalayas in Uttarakhand

The trees are God's great alphabet:
With them He writes in shining green
Across the world His thoughts serene.- Leonora Speyer

Nature view in the Garhwal Himalayas, Uttarakhand
Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore. There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf.
- Albert Schweitzer quote

A huge tree in the Garhwal Himalayas in Uttarakhand
A tree stands tall on the Char Dham route in the Garhwal Himalayas in Uttarakhand

A woodland in full color is awesome as a forest fire, in magnitude at least, but a single tree is like a dancing tongue of flame to warm the heart.
- Hal Borland

Tree Patterns in different hues and shades in the Garhwal Himalayas in Uttarakhand

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings,
Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.
The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy,
while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.- John Muir

A single flower blooms in Mana Village in the Garhwal Himalayas in Uttarakhand

Rivers and rocks and trees have always been talking to us,
but we've forgotten how to listen. - Michael Roads

Tree Patterns in the Garhwal Himalayas in Uttarakhand

You must not know too much or be too precise or scientific about birds and trees and flowers and watercraft; a certain free-margin, and even vagueness - ignorance, credulity - helps your enjoyment of these things.
- Walt Whitman

Pine tree in the Garhwal Himalayas in Uttarakhand

I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do.- John Muir

Nature with trees and mountains in the backdrop in the Garhwal Himalayas in Uttarakhand

In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful. - Alice Walker

Monday, October 17, 2011

My Tryst with the Evening Ganga Arti at the Har Ki Pauri Ghat in Haridwar

What better place there can be to conclude our Char Dham Yatra - virtually or otherwise – than at the feet of the Lord Himself…?

Yes, the final few minutes of the Char Dham Yatra of ours, saw us at the Har ki Pauri Ghat – the most venerated spot in the holy town of Haridwar. Literally, it means Lord Vishnu's (Har Ki) footsteps (Paudi), but it is today synonymous with the prolific event of Kumbh Mela, (that takes place four times every 12 years at 4 different sites, Haridwar being one of them) and for the highly enthralling evening Ganga Arti that holds the charm to captivate thousands of pilgrims from all over the world.

This highly prestigious event of Haridwar or Ganga arti was the one thing I was very much craving to attend. Add to it the fact that I had already  been eluded by it twice before, in Varanasi and Allahabad, only made matters worse by increasing my yearnings even more. Even this time around, the situation being a bit dicey with the timings of our train departure (8.00 PM) and the Ganga Arti (6.45 PM) clashing with one another, our attending the event was highly dubious and a final call on the same was going to be a real time decision only…

A Photologue on the Evening Ganga Arti at the Har Ki Pauri Ghat, Haridwar

5:30 PM - At about half past five in the evening, crowds have already begun to gather. Steps are being occupied thick and fast by devotees pouring in from all corners of the town. Priests sit on raised wooden planks calling out to pilgrims to perform various pujas for the well being of their family and near and dear ones.

Priests sitting on raised wooden planks at the Har Ki Pauri Ghat in Haridwar
Priests sitting on raised wooden planks at the Har Ki Pauri Ghat, Haridwar
Priests looking out for devotees at the Ghat

Temple bells tinkle periodically to give out a sweet melody…

A Temple on the banks of River Ganga in Haridwar
Main Ganga Temple on the banks of har Ki Pauri in Haridwar
A temple on the banks of the River Ganga at the Har Ki Pauri Ghat in Haridwar
Ancient Temples dedicated to Mother Ganga and Lord Shiva
at the Har Ki Pauri Ghat

The chants, the prayers and the melody of devotional hymns reverberate in the air creating a pulsating drone...

Devotees take part in various rituals at the Har Ki Pauri in Haridwar
Priests sitting on raised wooden planks and performing certain rituals at the Har Ki Pauri Ghat in Haridwar
Groups of people offering their prayers to Mother Ganga

A heady blend of intoxicating aroma arising from incense sticks and fresh flowers wafts freely through the soft yet humid atmosphere,  giving the entire setting a magical ambiance...

Har Ki Pauri Ghat, the main ghat in Haridwar
Leaf Diyas and a traditional pooja thali (prayer plate) on sale for the devotees

By and large, all the groups assembled at the steps maintain a very peaceful atmosphere.

Pilgrims gathered at the Har Ki Pauri Ghat in Haridwar for the Evening Ganga Arti
A crowd of devotees assembled at the Har Ki Pauri Ghat for the Ganga Arti

The ghats, in contrast, are abuzz with activity.

Crowds gathered at the Har Ki Pauri Ghat in Haridwar for the evening Ganga Arti
Pilgrims engrossed in various ritualistic activities
at the Har Ki Pauri Ghat in Haridwar

Many can be seen splashing water onto their faces and heads, while others are busy floating leaf diyas (candles) in Her waters and some just find content by standing transfixed with hands folded and heads bowed down in prayer.

A devotee lights a leaf diya to set afloat on the River Ganga at the Har Ki Pauri Ghat in Haridwar
A Man lights a leaf diya on the steps of the Ghat

Wiggling my way through the swarm, I reach Her shores and kneel down. I lower my hands in the cold yet comforting waters and feel the sense of Her soothing touch deftly caress the tip of my hands. Tiny ripples tumble gently over giving me a strange feeling of kinship possibly developed from our coupled travels so far. Young and bubbly in Gangotri, soft in Harsil, considerably mellowed in Rishikesh and now here… In a split second, Her various avatars from days gone by flash in front of me taking me back into a nostalgic journey but before I can dive deep, Her whooshing sound wakes me up bringing me back to reality  and reminding me to take pleasure in the moment as this is to be our last summit together… and while She is an eternal traveler with a long road ahead of her, mine is soon to end. I have to now head back home…

A diya floats atop the River Ganga at the Har Ki Pauri Ghat in Haridwar
A diya floats on top of the River Ganga

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.

Pilgrims gathered at the Har Ki Pauri Ghat in Haridwar for the evening Ganga Aarti
Sea of pilgrims at the Har Ki Pauri Ghat in Haridwar Moments before the Evening Ganga Arti begins
Waiting moments just before the commencement of the Ganga arti
at the Har Ki Pauri Ghat in Haridwar

I take a vantage point somewhere and spend a few quiet moments in retrospection. The bells, the temples, the waters, the devotion, the faith, all the elements in the atmosphere work in unison to nourish the mind, body and soul.

The Har Ki Pauri Ghat in Haridwar just before the Evening Ganga Arti
Spend a few solitary moments with the Mother before parting...

Men in blue uniforms roam around asking for donations, the proceeds from which shall purportedly go towards the Ganga arti. Lights have come on and the river is twinkling with reflections, curious eyes are everywhere. The prayers should begin in any time now.

6.45 PM - The arti still hasn’t begun. But we have a train to catch and can’t wait any further... We need to track back and take leave.

Sight of The Har Ki Pauri Ghat in Haridwar
With Your permission, we leave dear Mother...
Bidding Adieu..

As we make our way back through the markets towards our car for the Haridwar station, strikingly loud chants of ‘Ganga Maiya ki Jai’ resound in the atmosphere. I feel a pinch in my heart, why does this have to happen to me again and again, somehow I console myself and move on... Time to get back home and plan another one of my yatras

Previous posts from this trip -

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Temples in Haridwar - Mansa Devi, Chandi Devi, Daksh Prajapati Temple and Bhim Goda Tank

Chandi Devi and Mansa Devi Temples

There are two very famous Siddhapeeth Devi temples in HaridwarMansa devi Temple at the top of the Bilwa mountain and Chandi Devi Temple atop the Neel Mountain. Both of these are dedicated to different forms of Goddess Shakti (a form of Goddess Durga) and offer excellent views of the town as well as the valley.

Entrance lane to the Mansa Devi Temple
The lane leading to the Mansa Devi temple - The base of the Bilwa Mountain

Cable car chairs all the way upto the Mansa Devi and the Chandi Devi Temples in Haridwar
Udan Khatola or Cable car ropeway to reach
the Mansa Devi or Chandi Devi temples

View of the Haridwar city from the Cable car chair to the Mansa Devi and the Chandi Devi Temples in Haridwar
View of the Haridwar city from the Cable car chair while going upto the Mansa Devi and the Chandi Devi Temples in Haridwar
Views from the Udan Khatola Cable Car

A convenient way to reach them is through the Udan Khatola or cable cars for which you will have to pay a nominal amount of charge. Tickets are available at the base of the hill. Round trip tickets are cheaper than the single round fare. If you are planning to visit both the temples, then combo tickets are also available at the counters. However, alternatively one can even decide to walk all the way to the temples (approx 1-1.5 km trek distance).

Bhim Goda

Bhim Goda Tank in Haridwar
Bhim Goda Tank with a temple in the background

Located in close proximity to the Har Ki Pauri Ghat in Haridwar, this tank bears significance from the Mahabharta period. It is said that while Pandavas were on their journey from Haridwar to the Himalayas, Pandava brother Bhim had made this tank with a single powerful blow of his knee. Inspite of the place having such a historic relevance, it is sad to see this place lying in a mismanaged and a poor shape today.

Daksh Prajapati Shiva Temple

Daksh Prajapati Shiva Temple in Haridwar
The Daksh Prajapati Temple

Daksh Prajapati Shiva Temple in Haridwar - Lord Shiva holding His consort Sati
An image of Lord Shiva holding His consort Sati in the temple compound

Associated with Lord Shiva, His consort Sati and Her father Daksh Prajapati, this temple also known as Daksheshwar Mahadeo Temple is a major historic spot in Kankhal, around 3 kms from Haridwar. This is the same place where Goddess Sati is believed to have immolated herself following an insult of Her Husband by none other than Her father Daksh Himself.

Related Posts from the Archives:

Friday, October 7, 2011

Haridwar - Shopping in the Markets, Where to Eat, Where to Stay

Haridwar situated on the right bank of the River Ganga is among the seven sacred cities of India. All journeys to the spiritual towns of Uttaranchal start from Haridwar which literally means the Gateway to God ('Hari' meaning God and 'dwar' meaning Gate). The city is a four hour journey on the well constructed highway from Delhi and 1 hr drive from Rishikesh. This is also the place where 'Amrit Kalash' or 'The Nectar of Immortality' is believed to have fallen thus making it one of the sites where one of the largest spiritual gathering – The Kumbh Mela – is held once after every 12 years.

The most striking aspect of this spiritually tinted town is that it leaves a unique impression on every pilgrim. For some it is a religious soul stirring expedition, others say it’s a tad too crowded and a bit contrived, some say it’s fascinating with all its mystical flavors and deep historical antiquity... For me, it's a town that has a magnetic pull,
a town that is intriguingly charming, a town that is so very close to my heart...

Well, because no matter which part of the town I am in, it tells me a story that is deeply rooted in my ancestral history... Because almost every lane I walk into, I can see those priceless impressions of the footprints of my grandparents… Because every gully (alley) I turn into, it resonates with lovely memories of my dad’s childhood days that the place has so lovingly stacked up for me... Because; I love that glint in his eyes and the zest in his voice when he fondly narrates them all to me...

Markets of Haridwar

In the evening lights, the town looks like a jumble of colors – houses, shops, bazaars, snarling traffic and dhabas – all drenching you in a thick coat of religious fervor and enthusiasm.

Markets of Haridwar
Festooned Markets of Haridwar on the occasion of Diwali
Markets of Haridwar

Hundreds of shops selling souvenirs, sweets, food, music cassettes and CD’s, books and other religious paraphernalia were put up for sale. As we wandered down the meandering gullies (lanes) of the city along with the bustling crowd that was sifting around, we realized, that this place called the Bara Bazaar was not just a shopping place but also a tourist attraction.

A CD cassette shop in the market lanes of Haridwar
A CD and cassette shop in the lanes of Haridwar

There are lots of things that you can pick up from here like jholas (bags), beads, woolies, etc and expect some great bargains on them too but this is what we bought back home…

Pickle and churan shop in the market of Haridwar A variety of pickles on display in a shop at Haridwar
A shop displaying a wide variety of different pickles and churans (digestives)

Red Chilly pickle on display in a shop at Haridwar
Big Red Chilly Pickle! Yummy it was… All over now :)
Recommended buy from my side the next time you are in the city.

From the Markets

My Pick: Big Red Chilly pickle
Where: Bara Bazaar

Where to Stay in Haridwar

There are a lot of ashrams for staying along with many good hotels (Hotel Suvidha is one where I have stayed before). It is better to book in advance to avoid any last moment hassles. Rates are low during off-season.

Where to Eat in Haridwar

1. Bhagwati Chole Bhandar

Bhagwati Chole bhandar, a popular local eating joint in Haridwar
Bhagwati Chole bhandar - A popular local eating joint in Haridwar

I like the buns here but their other offerings like bhatures, kulches and even chaval (rice), each served with hot and spicy chole (spicy chickpeas curry, a popular north Indian delicacy) are equally tempting. Also do not leave without gulping down the special tari (the gravy that floats atop the chole) at the end of your meal. And be sure to come here before 6 p.m. or the joint will be closed.

My Pick:   Chole Tari and Bread buns
Where:   Upper Road, Near Kotwali (Haridwar Police Station)
Timings: 11.00 Am - 6.00 Pm

2. Jain Chaat Bhandar

Jain Chat bhandar - A popular eating joint of Haridwar
Jain Chaat Bhadar another joint serving good local North Indian street food fare

Serves a variety of street side stuff like gol guppas, dahi vadas, aloo tikiyas and kanji vadas but I would recommend you to try out their spicy and tangy papri chaat, sure leaves a tantalizing aftertaste!

Famous Kanji vadas of Jain Chat Bhandar of Haridwar
The kanji vadas soaked in tangy mustard flavoured water are good too...
light, soft and fluffy!

Papri chaat - A Popular North Indian fast food in the lanes of Haridwar
But My Favorite... Papri chaat
Crunchy, crispy and mushy at the same time,
teamed with sweet tamarind and spicy green chili chutneys
and a host of other flavorful masalas thrown in - I love it!

My Pick:      Papri Chaat
Where:       A narrow lane off Moti Bazaar leading towards Upper Road
Phone No:  09837061452 / 09219601805

3. Dibiya Fresh Fruit Chaat

And last but not the least, something to reduce that guilt of taking in so many useless calories...

Fruit chat in the gullies of Haridwar
Round off your street food love affair with a healthy option
Dibiya's Fresh Fruit Chaat

My Pick:    Mix Fresh Fruit Chaat
Where:    Outside Bhatinda Dharmashala,
              Opp. Shivalik Hotel, Near Laltaro bridge
Timings:  After 5.00 PM

Tips for Travelers

Be very very careful with the beggars and the sadhus. Trust no one as there are many who are always on the lookout for ways to fleece the tourists. Auto rickshaws are available in plenty but the best way to explore the town is by cycle rickshaw or on foot.