Saturday 8 December 2018

Things to do in Mcleodganj: The Kora Circuit

I have been visiting Mcleodganj since the year 1987 but somehow had been unaware of one important facet of the Buddhist tradition – the Kora. Kora is a form of pilgrimage wherein you circumambulate a holy site (Parikrama in the Hindu tradition). In Mcleodganj Buddhist, young and old, take the Kora circuit around the hill that has the residence of Dalai Lama and the monastery and therefore considered holy. Surprisingly it is little known.

The Kora in Mcleodganj

This tradition on circumambulation is common in both Buddhism and Bon. However, in Buddhism the walk in a circle is clockwise whereas in Bon it is counter clockwise. Two famous Kora are the Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar.

Huge prayer flags on the Kora route, Mcleodganj

The route in Mcleodganj is well paved and away from the town’s honking traffic amidst pine and deodar forest. The route has stringed prayer flags small and large. Buddhists believe that the fluttering of the flags carries the prayers written on them onwards.

The Kora route has benches placed all along for people to take rest

If one gets tired then one can sit down on one of the benches lined up along the route. The older people do sit down to take rest and chant prayers.

Prayer wheels of all sizes on the Kora route in Mcleodganj

The path is lined with prayer wheels in different sizes. Some are made of metal; others are of wood. Some are very small and look antique as if they have been brought from Tibet while there are others that maybe be 8-10 feet in height. The prayer wheels are always on the right side of the devotee.

A Tibetan lady at the prayer wheels on the Kora in Mcleodganj

On the Kora route there are stones carved with the Buddhist prayer Om Mani Padme Hum. The stones are in various sizes and some of them are brightly painted.

Artistically carved stones with Om Mani Padme Hum written on them on the Kora in Mcleodganj

Apart from the serenity and the beauty of the path, the dense forest is a paradise for the birdwatchers. I saw several birds and one could spend several hours just observing them.

Kora route in Mcleodganj is a Birdwatchers paradise 

Langurs come down the mountains in winters and one comes across them in this area. Unlike monkeys they do not trouble people. They are busy with themselves.

Langurs preening each other on the Kora route in Mcleodganj

I liked the Kora circuit so much that I performed the Kora twice in three days. I thank my Tibetan friend who introduced the Kora to me and took me around explaining things on the first visit.

Prayer flags and prayer wheels on the Kora in Mcleodganj 

This route is, fortunately, little known to most tourists and therefore not crowded.  There is something special about it.

Wind carrying the prayers written on the flags

The cleanliness is impressive. Jute bags function as dustbins.

The serene Kora route in Mcleodganj

All in all the best part of McLeodganj, for the devout as well as the curious tourist.

Also read:
Bon Monastery in Himachal
Places to visit in McLeodganj: Bhagsunag Waterfall
McLeodganj, Dharamshala, Himachal
Why I love to go to McLeodganj
Skywatch Friday - Sunset at McLeodganj, Himachal
Places to visit in McLeodganj: The Church of St John-in-the-Wilderness

Monday 30 April 2018

My Experience of Digital India: A Case of UCO Bank

UCO Bank is one of the Nationalised Banks of India

I worked at a location near Chandigarh for about a year and my organization’s salary account was with the local UCO branch. After a year, I moved to NCR Delhi. At that time, I did not close my UCO account, as the final salary was yet to come in my UCO Bank account. Once all my financial transactions were complete, I decided to close my UCO Bank account, as there is no point in maintaining several bank accounts. In addition, one has to mention all bank accounts (irrespective of whether it is operational or not) when you are filing tax returns.

Since all banks are nowadays connected with each other digitally, I went to a local branch of the UCO Bank in Gurgaon. I went there sharp at 10 AM which is the timing of their customer dealing but had to wait for at least half an hour for the ladies and gentlemen of the bank to start dealing with customers. Then I was in for a shock when they told me that I cannot close my account like this and I will have to physically go to the branch where I have the account to get it closed. This despite the fact that I was carrying all documents to prove my identity as well as Original Pass Book, unused chequebook etc.

Well I did not give up. A friend of mine was going back to the place where I had worked and he had his account in the same bank branch. Therefore, I gave him an application for the Bank Manager along with the Pass Book and the unused chequebook so that my account can be closed. He called me from the bank and said that the bank is not accepting the documents. I called the Manager from my registered mobile number with the bank asking them why my account cannot be closed despite presenting all documents and that the person carrying the documents also is an account holder with the bank. The manager told me that I have to be physically present to close the account. They expect me to “physically” make a round trip to 700 km spending two days and five thousand rupee only in order to close an account.

I did what any sensible person would do. I withdrew whatever little money I had in the account by making some purchases. Now the UCO bank can do whatever they want to do with the account with Rs 4 that is now left in the account!

Digital India with rules from colonial times!

Sunday 25 March 2018

Places to visit in Manali: Jogini Waterfalls

At the Jogini Waterfalls

During my last trip to Manali I stayed at Vashisht which is about 3 km from Manali. It is less crowded and has better views of the mountains. But it was only when I had gone to Old Manali that I noticed from far off there is a big waterfall above Vashisht.

View of Jogini Waterfalls from Old Manali

So I decided to go trekking there. The trek to the lower base of the Jogini waterfall is an easy one from the Vashisht temple. Beyond the temple you pass through the narrow lanes of the village and then once you come out of the village the walk is very pleasant among the pine woods and small rivulets.

The trek to Jogini falls goes through beautiful Pine forest

There are a few eating joints also on the way till the Jogini shrine. The shrine and the area are considered holy by the locals. To reach the lower waterfalls there is a slight climb after the shrine.

The Jogini shrine near the waterfall
Majority of the locals and tourists come only to the lower Jogini waterfalls as it is easily approachable.

The lower Jogini Waterfall
At the lower Jogini waterfall I met a gentleman who runs a hotel in Manali who discouraged me to go the upper Jogini waterfall stating that it will take me at least 45 minutes of hard climb to reach the top as I am a city dweller. Fortunately I did not heed to his advice and went up the path.

The lower Jogini waterfall as seen from above while climbing higher up
The trek from the lower waterfall to the upper comes in the category of a moderate climb. On this stretch there are no kiosks and no water till you reach the waterfall so it is advisable to carry your own water and eatables. While climbing one can see the lower waterfall as well as the scenic view of the valley and the Beas River and the snow clad mountains. There are plenty of wild flowers blooming making your trek more pleasant.

The upper Jogini Waterfall
I reached the upper Jogini waterfall in another twenty minutes and was mesmerized by the view. Unlike the lower Jogini waterfall the upper one falls over an overhanging rock and therefore has a free fall.

Rainbow at the Jogini waterfall
As it was the second half of the day the sun created beautiful rainbows on the falls. The spray from the waterfall also cooled me after the climb. I spent about an hour there soaking in nature at its best and then it was time to head back.