ART PEACE

tapping the creative 'right' side of my brain

Archive for the tag “mountains”

Out of this world

All meanings, we know, depend on the key of interpretation. –George Eliot

A view from the Griffith Observatory, LA. Saw a cloud out there in the mountains.

Was it smoke from the volcanic mountains, first of all are there any volcanic mountains near Los Angeles??

Or some scientific experiments… shhhhh …. or maybe aliens just dropped by near Vegas desert.

Guess I will never know…. earth is a mysterious place and earthians definitely are no less

DP Photo Challenge: Out of the World

Diversity Trip – McLeod Gunj

From Jammu we reached Pathankot and from there took a bus to Dharamshala. More than 10 hours for 230 kms, the State Government should do something to improve the public transport.

Reached McLeod Gunj at around midnight – surprised to see some shops and restaurants open – checked into the hotel and called it a day.

Woke up to the view of the Dauladhar range and to the chirping of birds.

A warm tea is all I need to start my day.

I had listed out around 10-12 places\things to do but once we were out on the streets I didn’t feel like working on my checklist. Dropped everything and went with the flow – which included again a pot of ginger tea and brunch – had a toast and pancakes for almost almost 2 hrs. Tibetan culture was getting onto me and I was enjoying it. One other reason could also be because my legs were still all dead and McLeod Gunj is no plain area. All the streets are at least at an inclination of 30-50%. I moved the streets of McLeod Gunj like a tortoise with a grim smile on my face. I was very particular I wouldn’t be an impulsive shopper anymore, however if the universe has different plans for you then what can you do.

Slowly crawling all over the place we reach the Namgyal Monastery, the abode of Dalai Lama. This is a quiet monastery nothing fancy plain and simple architecture. What I saw there was quite thought provoking for me.

In my perception till then – a monk was someone who had given up worldly pleasures and meditating to get nirvana. However when I saw the their daily rituals and their way of life – these monks got me curious.

On entering the Namgyal Monastery, I saw monks doing their traditional Buddhist philosophical debate. The debate happens between a Challenger, standing and asking questions and the Defender, sitting and answering them. The debaters are seeking to understand the nature of reality through careful analysis of the state of existence of things. There is a dramatic clapping which is done by the Challenger only. In their understanding of the gesture, the right hand represents method, meaning especially the practice of compassion, and the left hand represents wisdom. Bringing the two hands together represents the joining of wisdom and method. At the moment of the clap, you hear the left foot stomp down and that represents slamming shut the door to rebirth in the lower levels.

All around you, you see smiling Tibetans chanting “Om Mani Padme Hum” and counting through the rosary beads in their hands. And one fascinating thing I came to know about the Namgyal Monastery and for that matter all the other  monasteries there was that they all have Tantric colleges which teach monks the essentials of sutra and tantra. For a monk an average day consists of two hours of ritual, two hours of sacred arts, three hours of philosophy classes, two and a half hours of debate, and several hours of meditation and personal study and the students who completes a 13 year course successfully gets his\her degree of Master of Sutra and Tantra.

If you ever go to a monastery never miss the evening prayer routine, it is heavenly.

Statue of Buddha Sakhyamuni

Guru Padma Sambhava

Guru Padma Sambhava, a great Indian Sidda, who went to Tibet in the 8th century. He helped the King Trisong Deutsen in building the cathedral of Samye  by subduing all the enemies of the Dharma. He also gave tantric teaching in Tibet, also known as  the “Father of Buddhism”.

Magnificent statue of 1,000 Arm Avalokiteshvara of whom the Dalai Lama is believed to be the human embodiment, next to him – Maharishi Patanjali.

This statue of the Buddha of Compassion exudes the very spirit of selfless love and the very essence of compassion, its thousand arms stretching forth in all directions, bringing hope and salvation to all beings from their treacherous and myriad sufferings in the pitiful and tragic pit of samsara.

He is also referred to as Chenrezig, his teachings are contained in the mantra – OM MANI PADME HUM

Mani\Prayer wheel –  these are devices for spreading spiritual blessings and well being. Rolls of thin paper, imprinted with many, many copies of the mantra(Om Mani Padme Hum), printed in an ancient Indian script(Sanskrit) or in Tibetan script, are wound around an axle in a protective container and spun around and around. Tibetan’s  believe that chanting or spunning of the mantra invokes the spiritual power and blessing of Chenrezig(Tibetan name)\Avalokiteshwara.

You can just see so many people just repeating this mantra around you irrespective of time or place.

Other beautiful paintings inside the monastery

After spending ample time in Namgyal it was time for Gyuto Monastery. This brightly colored monastery with the majestic Dauladhar mountains in the backdrop is also a Tantric school.

We were just in time for the evening prayers.

I refrained myself from taking pictures but just when I did this guy caught me….

Calling it a day with another pot of tea and lazy-lengthy dinner. I bought a Tibetan Pain oil in the market and massaged myself back to walk like a human.

Day 2

Now because I can walk freely it was time for some more trekking again 🙂 …Going to Bhagsu Nag temple and Bhagsu waterfalls. In India wherever you go you are bound to have a temple nearby and a story connected to it.

Bhagsu Nag story: It is said that Bhagsu was a king, or a local chief, and his region was plagued by drought. He set out, promising his subjects that he would bring water. His search brought him to these mountains, more specifically, to a lake – the Nag Dal – which belonged to the serpent king. Bhagsu himself had magical powers. He managed to transfer the water from the lake into a kamandalu (water receptacle), and started on his way back home.  The serpent king returned home that night to find his lake empty. Needless to say, he was irate, and he set out to find the one responsible. He caught up with Bhagsu here, and there was a terrible fight. Bhagsu was lethally injured, and the kamandalu fell, releasing the water, which flowed down the mountain. Realizing that his end was near, he surrendered to the serpent king, asking only that the water be allowed to flow on, so that his people would be relieved from the drought, and that his name be associated forever with this place. The serpent king relented, and henceforth, the water flowed free, and this place came to be known as a combination of both their names – Bhagsu Nag.

Bhagsu Nag Temple

Bhagsu Waterfall

And the trail

There is another side to this beautiful and peaceful place, as the road winds up from Dharamshala you start seeing signs of “Free Tibet” and stories about the enforced disappearances posted all over the place. In 1959 Dalai Lama had to flee Tibet following the Chinese invasion of Lhasa, Tibet. Since then Dharamshala, India has become a home to Dalai Lama and to the many refugees who are escaping Tibet and arriving India. It has also become a center for the “Free Tibet” movement. For more history click here.

Day 3

The quaint 150 year old Anglican St John’s Church, this one is set amidst tall deodhar trees and built in neo-Gothic architecture.

I wonder what it would be like to live here. Below is the Naddi Village and the view they get to see everyday.

Naddi Village

View of the Dauladhar mountains from Naddi

The trip is never complete without a little activity.

Paragliding

And finally the sun sets in the mountains and it’s time to move on….

OM MANI PADME HUM

Himalayas – Badrinath

So, where was I in my Himalayan tour Part 1 – we reached Haridwar, took a cab to Sonprayag, took the back breaking horse ride to Kedarnath and trekked back. I was exhausted way over my limits, but the plan was to cross those limits and to push those limits and extend them 🙂

Triyuginarayan Mandir

Triyuginarayan Mandir

This is Triyuginarayan Mandir, with Sumeru Parvat(mountain) in its backdrop.

Story : It is said that Lord Shiva’s marriage to Sati was solemnized here in the presence of Lord Vishnu. Legend has it that the eternal fire which burns inside the temple never extinguishes. This place is way off the track some 14kms trek from Sonprayag but you get a very beautiful view of the valley and the step farmings, the girls of this area were exquisitely beautiful – I had to mention them 🙂

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View from the top – Sonprayag

Sonprayag lies at the confluence of the rivers Basuki and Mandakini. Somewhere there is also the hotel that we stayed in. Now we are headed towards Badrinath, fully determined to reach there by nightfall.

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Ohh… the scenic and beautiful valleys and step farms, as “Winter is coming” there were almost no tourists in the area which made our journey even more beautiful and relaxing, but there were no restaurants open too !!! YAY

Orange orchard

So we resorted to stealing some oranges from someones backyard, when they saw us – we begged for some oranges and finally they let us borrow some. Hmmm….. now I know what beg-borrow-steal actually means 🙂

I was very adamant about getting to Badrinath on the same day, had no idea we would lose day light by 5:15 PM itself and the route would be scary -scary-scary. Somehow we reached … Thank God. The town looked deserted, everyone had left the town and moved down for the winter. We got a room, some hot water and hot food and finally called it  a day.

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This is the first thing I see when I removed the drapes in the morning, I had no idea we were in the middle of the great Himalayan range. Badrinath is 10270 ft above sea level.

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Our Hotel Yoga, Badrinath

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I gazed at the wrinkled and rough hewn nirvana quiet mountains with a sense of awe.

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Badrinath Dham

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Ohhh… I forgot to mention about the early morning not so pleasant experience, I got up – got amazed by the view – got back to reality – went into the bathroom – turned on the tap – no water – called the reception only to be told that the water may have frozen in the taps because of the low temperatures. Now I understand why people migrate to the hills during this season. We got two buckets of hot water to do what we had to do. This is the first temple in my life to which I went without taking a bath… hmmm

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Now look at this – is this a joke!!! A hot spring right outside the temple and the taps in the hotel are choking.

Badrinath

By the time we came out my feet and hands were numb. I hope God is watching me and will reward me appropriately, and he did – the shack cafe – the only place open for breakfast, and the only thing on the menu was Maggi. Steaming Maggie with hot tea – that’s all I need for now 🙂

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Mana Village – the last village on the on the Indian side of the Indo-China border.

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Vyas Panthi – This is where the great epic of Mahabharata was written

Saraswati-

Can you see the small stream, that’s the Saraswati River, it is still thought to be a mythical river – which no longer exists. Maybe it no longer exists in its full glory but hey!! its still there.

There are two versions of why Saraswati exists only in the Himalayas

The Story: According to the Brahma-vaivarta Purana: When Ganga-devi cursed Saraswati-devi to become a river here on Mrtyuloka(earth), one of the conditions was that she would only remain on earth as long as rishis and other great sages performed tapasya on her banks. Since we are now in Kali-yuga, there are no longer these great souls performing austerities, so she vanished.

The tour guide’s version: In the above picture we saw Vyasa Panthi – it is the place where Ved Vyasa was reciting Mahabharata and Ganesha was writing it down, Vyasa got disturbed by the gurgling sounds of Saraswati’s water and asked her to slow down. But she wouldn’t listen so he cursed her to go obscure. So today you can see Saraswati only here in the Himalayan region of Mana Village where she originates and after that she goes underground only to emerge at the Triveni Sangam in Illahabad where Khumba Mela takes place.

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Keshav Prayag – Confluence of Saraswati and Alaknanda

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Now it was time to leave the abode of gods and return to lower grounds where the devilish minds are at work.

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Karna Prayag – Confluence of Alaknanda and Pindar Rivers and the last of the panch prayags.

I was supposed to take a dip in these Panch Prayag’s to attain Moksha but given the temperature of 8 degrees Celsius I’ll have to find other ways of attaining Moksha.

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On our way back to Rushikesh we could see villages and towns preparing for Diwali – the festival of lights

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Rushikesh – situated at the foothills of the Himalayas, besides Ganga river. It is famously known as the place for studying yoga, meditation and for temples and ashrams. To me it looked like the whole town’s having a hippie party.

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River Ganga – view from Lakshman Jhula

Haridwar Rushikesh

Evening Ganga aarti at Haridwar – the mesmerizing chanting of the mantras during the beginning of the aarti was the best way of concluding this trip.

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Haridwar market place

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A short visit to the Patanjali Yog Peeth on our way back.

Next time I go to Himalayas, I don’t want to be time bound and just let my instincts guide me.

Om Namah Shivay!!!

Himalayas – Kedarnath

So it’s the festival season in India, with Dussehra and Diwali coming back to back we decided to plan trips bag to bag.

The first one was to Gujarat – which I have already bragged about, the next one was to Garhwal, Himalayas which was a very spontaneous trip as we booked all tickets on the go…. during this trip we used all possible modes of transportation – flights, trains, local buses, luxury buses, three wheeler autos, rickshaws, ponies and our legs.

First stop Delhi, the capital – there is lot going on in the capital but the only thing that caught my attention was the sad plight of the birds as a result of the urbanization and deforestation.

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Delhi was just a stop over for change of trains after which we headed to Haridwar from where our actual journey begins to the magnificent Himalayas. We started from Haridwar to reach Sonprayag by evening, the whole 250 kms stretch is through the ghat roads – winding roads, meandering rivers, green hills and beautiful landscapes.

We will be going towards the source of the many rivers which fertilize the farmlands downstream.

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Shiva protecting the town of Haridwar

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Garhwal, Himalayas

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Devprayag– where the river Bhagirathi and Alaknanda meet to become Ganga

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This is the famous Dhari Devi temple in the middle of Alaknanda river – the local lore is that it houses the upper half of the body of the goddess Dhari which changes its appearance during the day from a girl, to a woman and by evening to an old lady. We didn’t stay to witness the transformation but enjoyed the beauty of the nature and took some amazing shots and pushed off.

OK, before I go any further I feel the need to mention one thing, this was more of a pilgrimage cum tourism tour for us, the whole area which is also known as Devbhoomi(place where gods live – and the locals do believe that they still live here in the mountains) is filled with so many temples and significant sites full of legends and folk lore that it was hard not to stop at each of these spots to admire its beauty and listen to the stories. I’ll be sharing a few of them with you too 🙂

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Rudraprayag – confluence of rive Alaknanda and Mandakini

I couldn’t get a better shot here as there was a group performing final rituals for somebody who had passed away, so we just went to the temple near by and moved on from there. Story related to this place – Narada meditated and learnt music from Shiva.

We end the day with some sumptuous meal and went to sleep early.

One tip that I can give your here is: eat less while driving on ghat roads, the continuous movement of the car along the curve roads can be nauseating.

Day 2

Today we will start from Sonprayag to reach Kedarnath, fabled to be the abode of Lord Shiva. , this is a 18 kms trek. We were getting ready to trek but due to the cold climate and snow in the mountains opted for a pony ride.

The 4 hour long pony ride … Ouccchhhhh……..it still hurts my back when I think of it.

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This is what we- I mean the pony and me  🙂 had accomplished after 2 hrs.

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Looking down upon the rocky slope, I could hear the sound of the flowing and emerging waters which filled me with a peace I hadn’t felt in a long time.

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The final destination is somewhere there …. !!!

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Luxury in the lap of wild nature

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As pleased as I was, my pony was also pleased to have flat ground and turf before them. For us the journey is not yet over, we still have to cover over a kilometer to reach the temple.

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The dry river bed which emerges from the mountains.

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Kedarnath Dham – situated at the started point of River Mandakini

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Lone Ranger – the ranger is carrying parts with which they build houses up in these mountains. There was a better route along the river bank which got washed of in 2013 flash floods, so now until some other alternative is found these rangers carry the heavy wooden parts up the terrain.

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The descent down was another task in itself, it took us 6 hours by foot to finally reach base and God was I happy to see my comfy and warm bed.

OM Namah Shivaya

 

 

 

 

 

Shortcuts

Mt Batur, Bali Indonesia

How do you guys feel about taking short-cuts? Be it while crossing the road, accomplishing a task or for bigger things in life.

I take short-cuts every now&then – only to realize again and again they are beneficial in the short run and are short-sighted too.

A few months back when I had booked my trip to Bali, I also decided to climb my first volcanic mountain. As I had no experience and thought I needed stamina, I abandoned my time taking and slow yoga asanas (but still I did my pranayamas religiously) and replaced it with the quick resulting cardio. I don’t know where it all went wrong – I have gained a few pounds, my body is all stiff, I had severe muscle aches, my craving for food increased and I get easily tired.

I have done enough trekking and climbing hills without any preparation like this and I was fine. But this short-cut called cardio didn’t work that well for me and now I am back to my yoga, no more short-cuts for a while 🙂

On the brighter side – I pampered myself with too many massages during that time 🙂 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

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