Friday 31 December 2010

Happy New Year 2011

I wish you all a very happy and peaceful 2011.

May you have fun and frolic as these ice skaters throughout 2011.

Friday 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas

Wish you all a Merry Christmas

(The above video was taken during a Christmas Fair in London)

Saturday 11 December 2010

Rural Life in Chakrata

Rural life in the hills has always enchanted me. Here are a few shots of the area in Uttarakhand near the town of Chakrata

A Village Beauty
While walking on a trek met this woman who was sitting outside her home and who invited me to sit and rest and chat with her for a while. She must have been in her fifties or even sixties but still retained the beauty of her earlier years. Look at her tattooed hand. Most women, and even men, in rural areas earlier had parts of their bodies tattooed. Only in the urban areas this is a new trend and that also once it caught their fancy because the western civilization was doing it.

Multi-tasking Hearth
The concept of multi-burner gas ovens is a recent phenomenon, at least in India. But five things can be cooked at the same time on the hearth in the picture above!

A local dish
The dish above is made after drying and grinding of 'khurmani' a dry fruit from the peach family which is then dried in the sun for several days. And it is grounded in this stone grinder lying out in the open.

A Stone Grinder

A Traditional Tile Roofed House
 Most houses in this area have slate tiled roofs and are normally at least two storied and sometimes more than two storied as well. The ground floor, normally, houses the animals like cows, goats, sheep and other such domestic animals and the first floor is used by the family for cooking, living and sleeping purposes. This serves two purposes. First the animals can be given good shelters as well as place for the fodder. Secondly, the heat generated by the animals also keeps the floor above warm in winters.

A Natural Storage Space
I noticed that several villagers keep the hay on the trees. This keeps the hay from getting spoilt if lying on the ground and also keeps it safe from stray animals eating it.

Tuesday 9 November 2010

Diwali - Love it or Hate it but you Can't Ignore it (contd...)

Continuing with my previous blog post here is a small video of the fireworks - sometimes it looks and sounds like a war.

And just after a couple of hours it leads to pollution levels rising to an unbearable proportions.

Sunday 7 November 2010

Diwali - Love it or Hate it but you Can't Ignore it

Houses Lit during Diwali

What I like during Diwali is the lighting done in residential and commercial areas. What specifically I don't like during Diwali time is the traffic chaos on all roads starting a few days before Diwali, and the chaos building up closer to this festival.

Another View of the lighting during Diwali
There are other festivals around Diwali time like Dhanteras and Bhaiya Duj which lead to more festivities and more chaos!

Saturday 16 October 2010

Lakhamandal- An Architectural Delight

Lakhamandal is a small place in Uttrakhand where  a temple of Nagara style was built in the 12th -13th Century AD and is devoted to the Indian god Shiva.

The Shiva Temple at Lakhamandal
 A large number of sculptures and architectural remains are also spread in the nearby area though only this temple has survived. 

Another view of the same temple
The Archeological Survey of India has unearthed several lingams (phallus) of various sizes indicating that this was an important site about 800 years back.

A sculpture at Lakhamandal

The place also has mythological importance and it is believed by many that a palace was built of 'Lakh' (shellac) to kill the Pandavas.

The Village of Lakhamandal with the temple in the background
The place also houses a museum which has recently been opened but is not very well maintained.There are for example no details mentioned about the period of the sculpture or any other detail. It was also not very well lit inside.
A typical house in the Village of Lakhamandal

Little windows in the houses!
Lakhamandal is approximately 45 kms if you are coming from Chakrata side. Incidentally, once I had crossed Chakrata town I did not see another vehicle till I reached this place. So one has to be sure that your vehicle is in good shape and the petrol tank is full. The road, though metalled, is not in very good shape. And though there are several villages enroute, surprisingly, there is no bus service in this part of Uttarakhand. Compared to this one can get a state road transport corporation bus in almost all remote areas of Himachal.

Monday 27 September 2010

This Can Happen Only in India

Recently I was travelling from Chakrata in Uttrakhand towards Kharapathar in Himachal and I stopped for tea at a small tea shop in a small village Kwasi, in the Mandi Parishad of Uttrakhand (also known as Uttranchal).

What I saw there was a foundation stone inaugrated by the Agriculture Minster of the Uttrakhand State about the ropeway from Kwasi to Banyana and Khatua villages.

Foundation Stone of a Ropeway

Next to it I saw the ropeway but it was being used by the locals as a clothesline to hang their clothes to dry. I went near it and found that there was no machinery inside.

The Ropeway without the Machinery!

On making further enquires I was told that though a few years back the machinery was installed and the ropeway was functional but only for two months after which the machinery got stolen! How can this happen without the connivance of the local government officials and a few locals as the machinery is huge and one cannot be just put in one's pocket and walk away.

Tuesday 21 September 2010

A 'Green' Snake

A 'Snake'

I saw this lovely plant which almost looked, at the first glance, like a snake about to strike at something. This was while I was trekking from Kharapathar towards Giri Ganga (a place which is supposedly the source of the river by the same name originating near Kuppar peak. Later on the river merges in the Yamuna river.

Thursday 22 July 2010

Cliff Swallow at Chakrata

Recently when I was trekking from Chakrata town (Chakrata is in Uttrakhand state of India) to the Tiger Falls, a distance of approximately 12 kms (to and fro) I stopped at a tea stall (the only one on the route) I saw this mud structure hanging from the walls of the shop and I thought that may be it is a termite nest.

The Nest which looked like a termite nest from far

To my surprise I saw a bird going and vanishing in this structure -

The Cliff Swallow

When I went closer I saw that it is not a termite nest but a mud nest which had a opening where the bird had disappeared. Then I realised that it is a mud nest made of thousands of mud pellets and the bird is probably called the Cliff Swallow. For building their habitat they need a nearby mud source. The food is insects which they capture in flight.

The Nest of the Cliff Swallow

Friday 18 June 2010

Sunrise at Chakrata

Recently I went on a holiday to Chakrata in Uttrakhand. The weather was nice. I got up at 4:30 in the morning to look at the sunrise (which was beautiful). Unfortunately, in the mountains almost immediately after sunrise the sun becomes very bright and harsh.

Sunrise as seen from my hotel room in Chakrata

Saturday 29 May 2010

Suru Valley, Ladakh

Among the most beautiful places that I have visited, Suru valley definitely ranks amongst the top few. The Suru valley is in Ladakh province and more specifically in the Kargil district. The valley gets its name by the Suru river. The valley is full of wild flowers, poplars and willows and giving them a stark contrast are the snow capped peaks and massive glaciers. This area also has the two highest peaks of Jammu and Kashmir (the Indian part) - Nun and Kun.

The current of the Suru river is very fast and the water is icy cold. I was chilled to the bone after crossing it!

Friday 14 May 2010

Bon Monastery in Himachal

Bon Monastery, or Yung Drung Ling, is about 18 kms from Solan in Solan District of Himachal Pradesh. One needs to take a minor road at Ochhaghat that is Narag-Sarahan road. This is the second oldest monastery in the world for the Bon religion. Bon religion is different from Buddhism and is much older that the latter.

The Bon Monastery Complex

The Main Temple

An interesting variation from the Buddhist tradition is that in Buddhism you always go clockwise when you circle a temple while praying whereas in the Bon religion you go anticlockwise.


Inside the Main Temple

Huge Conch used during prayers

An interesting motif!

Made of Butter!

Decoration on the wall

A Tankha Painting

Another Temple Complex of Bon

Another Building at the complex

The complex houses a well built library having scriptures of Bon religion. It also has a school where the students study the Bon religion.

Decorated roof with Bon motifs

The whole complex is quite beautiful is is definitely worth visiting. However, there is no place to stay here and one has to probably go and stay in Solan. There are no eateries also that I could see.

Saturday 6 March 2010

Wildlife in Rajgarh

Rajgarh is a small town located in the Sirmour district of Himachal Pradesh in India. I spotted some wild life there and some of the pictures I am sharing here.

Vultures in their majestic flight

A Scorpion

A Snake

A beetle on a wild flower

Monday 25 January 2010

Around Rajgarh in Himachal Pradesh

I had gone to Rajgarh in Himachal on a vacation in October 2009 and here are some interesting photos of that trip.

Photo: River Giri, a tributary of Yamuna

The point in the photo above and below this text is about 20 kms before Rajgarh on the Solan-Rajgarh road. There is a small temple also near the bridge here.

The water of river Giri was quite clear in October

A traditional House in a village the Rajgarh area

One can see corn (and sometimes chillies) being dried on the roofs of several houses which give them a colourful look to the houses.

Pine Trees with creepers

Forests above the Rajgarh Town

Overloaded Bus

I saw that majority of the buses on the Rajgarh route were overloaded and people were commuting on top of the buses.

Sunday 10 January 2010

Wild Flowers of Rajgarh

had gone to Rajgarh in Himachal in October of 2009 and came across several wild flowers when I went around Rajgarh for day treks. I don't know most of the names of these wild flowers. They looked lovely in the wild.

Flower 1

Flower 2

Flower 3

Flower 4

Flower 5

Flower 6
Flower 7

Flower 8

Wild Fruit

Flower 9