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Showing posts with label LocalFood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label LocalFood. Show all posts

Trek to Laxman Temple/ Hemkund Sahib

Laxman Temple/Hemkund Sahib, at a height of 4300 meters above sea level, lies in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand state. Challenging trekking route and spectacular beauty of the mystical valley has always tempted botanists, nature lovers, foreign tourists and adventure lovers. Valley boast off over 500 species of wild flowers of unparalleled appearance and fragrances.

This is the place where Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru of Sikh community, did intense meditation to please Lord Brahma. Please by the austerity Lord Brahma commanded Guru Gobind Singh Ji to take birth in Kal-Yuga in order to kill demons and protect holy people. Undoubtedly, the Hemkund Trek is a steep challenging trek and you will often hear from the locals there that – “Mountains are for FIT not FAT”. You trek from 9,600 ft to 15,000 ft in just 6 Kms and that’s what makes it a tough trek.

Place remains open to the world from June to October and for rest of the year it remains snow clad. Journey to the Hemkund starts from Haridwar, where you can easily hire a cab for your entire trip. 

 

Drive to Govindghat around 300 Kms, which would take 10 – 12 hours of time to reach depending on the road conditions, please expect land sliding at various points throughout the drive.
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Arabian Sands of Udupi Beaches


After the divine temple run in the first half it was the time to let our souls soak the peaceful and unspoiled ambience of the beaches around Udupi. In Udupi you can never have too much of a beach.  

15 km. from Udupi temple is one of the most serene and pristine beach which you can find in the state of Karnataka. Kaup or Kapu is a village located between Udupi and Mangaluru. Local language spoken here is Tulu and in Tulu language Udupi is known as Odipu.

As we are about to reach the Kapu village, the coast line opens up to reveal beach lines with perfect white sand in front of us from what looked as a misty distance. This is the Kaup beach, with its tropical climate is a hot favorite spot for the locales and everyone who comes to visit the Mangalore Port City. Attractions in and around Udupi promises to keep your spirits uplifted during your visit at this place.

The main attraction at the Kaup beach is the Kaup Light House which was built in the year 1901 on a 27.12m high rock.

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24 hours in Bikaner

A quick escape to the warmth of Rajasthan is just what you need this winter
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Food you can't miss in Old Delhi

Purani Dilli is heaven for food lovers in winter, and for all things sweet, savoury and spicy.

Freshly-baked naan khatai. (Below) The chaat spread; Gobhi samosa and matar kachori; Charcoal-grilled paneer tikka.
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Past perfect in Old Delhi

If you want to see the Delhi of old books and stories, spend a day in Purani Dilli.

The life in the lanes of Old Delhi. (Below) A tea vendor; The happy coexistence; Mirza Ghalib ki haveli.



My first tryst with Old Delhi, its Chandni Chowk, and other lanes had ended in a mutual dislike. All of 10, its chaos, crowd and odours were all a bit too overwhelming or beyond comprehension for me. For the flag-bearers of Delhi-bred Gen X, like me, Delhi was New Delhi, with its broad roads, South Delhi malls and new markets. Old Delhi didn’t fit into my idea of the Capital.
Once I gained some wisdom with age and developed appreciating taste-buds, Old Delhi’s narrow maze-like streets and ways were no less than treasure tracks. From once promising myself to never set a foot in that place again, I gradually turned into a life-time admirer of this part of Delhi.
The trips to Old Delhi with my father became the breeding ground for many stories and experiences. The food elsewhere after that was never to be had without drawing a comparison with the same from Old Delhi.
I still remember that shop in Khari Baoli (Asia's largest wholesale Spice market selling all kinds of herbs, lentils, rice and tea ) where my father and I would go to for buying our annual dose of saffron for kheer and other sweets. To reach his shop we had to climb up two levels of stairs. On the first floor, the Nepalese saffron-seller’s family would ask us a lot of questions to ascertain we were mere buyers and no one else. We would then be allowed to ascend to the second floor and wait for him in a room. He would then come with a lot of keys and open his big safe.
The sheer process of him taking out small plastic containers filled with saffron from around the world, sitting wrapped in cotton beds, would make me feel like living in a fictional world of secrets and unknown places. Armed with enough knowledge about saffron, just when I would think I have become ‘Miss know-it-all’, this largest spice market of Asia would stump me. I would righty guess the aroma of cloves, cardamom or cinnamon in that highly fragrant air. Then suddenly I would find myself standing dumbfounded at some shop. There was always a spice or two that I had never seen. That place introduced me to star anise. A live school beyond comparison! Perhaps why famous poet Mohammad Ibrahim Zauq said:
In dinon garche dakkan mai hai badi qadr-e-sukhan
Kaun Jaye ‘Zauq’ par Dilli ki galiyan chhod kar

Those Dilli ki galiyan would then treat me the most authentic of recipes and freshest of flavours. For me, no one can still match up to Natraj ke dahi-bade, Chawri Bazaar ki chaat, Nai Sarak ki kachori, Fatehpuri ki kulfi and the rest. Those serpentine lanes and bylanes of Old Delhi might be a chaotic setup for many, for others like me they were and still are a place for exploration. No doubt, even large number of foreigners can be found exploring this charming spot of Delhi. Perhaps there is no other Purani Dilli on this earth.
You just need to visit Mirza Ghalib's haveli, spend some hours wandering in those lanes, soaking in the music that I always found in that commotion, and you would also get mesmerised by Old Delhi. A walk through the rooms where Ghalib spent last days of his life would make you also fall in love with this place all over again.
Mirza Asadullah Beg Khan, famously know as Mirza Ghalib, made romantics out of many with his ghazals and shayari. Though born in Agra in 1797, it was Delhi that saw the best of him after he moved here which was soon post his marriage at the age of 13. His residence in Gali Qasim Jan, Balli Maran, is a heritage site not only for the archaeologists but almost a pilgrimage for his fans and followers. The sheer Mughal era look of the place, with bricks, sandstones and a huge wooden gate, Ghalib's couplets and literature for the company, is a perfect way to end a day at Old Delhi. You can almost imagine the Delhi of Ghalib through his ghazal:
Ballimaraan ke mahalle ki wo pecheeda daleelon ki si wo galiyan,
Saamne taal ke nukkad pe batero ke qaseede,
Gurhgurhati hui paan ki peekon mein wo daad wo wah-wah,
Chand darwaaze par latke huye boshida se kuch taat ke parde,
ek bakri ke mamiyaane ki awaaz,
Aur dhoondhlayi hui shaam ke be-noor andhere,
Aise deewaron se moonh jor kar chalte hai yahan,
Churi-waalan ke katri ki bari bee jaise,
Apni bujhti hui aankhon se darwaaze tatole,
Isee be-noor andheri see gali qaasim se,
Ek tarteeb charaghon ki shuru hoti hai,
Ek quran-e-sukhan ka safa khulta hai,
Asadullah Khan ‘Ghalib’ ka pata milta hai.

And, who knows if you are paying attention you might even find yourself in these lanes, just like these poets did.

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The Seychelles: Here, life’s much more than a beach

The waters and sunsets of these islands will spoil you for life.


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Bishnois of Jodhpur


Visit to Jodhpur has been an amazing one, but somehow internal pleasure was not there. The joy of learning new culture, meeting different people was still to be attained on this trip. It was then came to know about visiting Bishnoi region, located at edge of Thar Desert; a distance of 22 km. from Jodhpur city.

Why? What is so special about this village? Special...Special is the custom here, special is the living philosophy and above all special is the practice of preservation of trees and wild life.

This is the place, Khejarli village where 363 people sacrificed their life to preserve trees. In 1763 Mehrangarh fort was being constructed, gypsum was required in huge quantity to cement the rocks. Gypsum was prepared in those days by heating the rocks, to heat the rocks wood was the only known source. So then king of Jodhpur asked his soldiers to cut the Khejri trees which were abundant in the region around Jodhpur. As the solders reached the region to cut the trees, Bishnois obviously tried to persuade the soldiers from not cutting trees. When soldiers used force to remove Bishnois, these Bishnois simply offered themselves to be killed before cutting the trees by raising slogans of:
सिर साटै रुंख रहे तो भी सस्तो जाँण " 
सिर के बदले  भी अगर वृक्ष बच जाए तो उस बलिदान को  सस्ता ही समझना 
“Even one head chopped in saving a tree is worth and has not gone waste”
It was only when 363 bishnois were killed, the news reached the king. The king then ordered not to cut any tree from then. Picture kept at existing Guru Jambheshwar temple is self-explanatory in this regard:  

A memorial has been built as a remembrance to that act and on the place where the remains of those people who sacrificed themselves have been buried. Bishnois also do not burn the dead bodies of the gone, but bury directly in order to preserve wood, as it comes from trees only. Every year on the anniversary day of that sacrifice, people gather here in huge numbers to pay homage to ones who taught to this world the value of preservation of natural resources. 


There are around 20,000 Bishnois in this area. Bishnoi sect was started by Guru Jambeshwar in 1458 AD. Bishnoi sect is based on 29 principles (Bish – 20, Noi- 9: the name Bishnoi) which emphasize on love, peace and harmony among humans, animals and most important nature. They love fellow human beings and preserve Khejri trees (source of Kair Sangri) and worship Black Bucks. Their dedication to these principles can be seen by this: even if black bucks enter into the field of standing crop, people do not scare them or try to move the herd out of the fields. There is also a temple dedicated to guru Jambheshwar. 

In the campus there are lot of peacocks here in the temple roam around freely. Peacock is the only bird which reproduces when the female (peahen) swallows the tear of mail species. Tear come out after peacock get tired dancing in the rains/ monsoons. Till the time tear comes out, peahen calmly stands by the side of peacock.

Let’s go close to the life style of a Bishnois. They still live in traditionally house built with the cow dung and mud, no need to use fan as the interiors are very cold in the peak scorching summers too. They also have their traditionally built refrigerators out of husk, cow dung in which they keep and store food items. Food is cooked on chulhas, only the dried branches of trees, which have fallen to the ground by themselves are collected for cooking. You can see tea being prepared on a Chulha. Bishnoi Ladies are very hard working; they get up early do household work and help man in fields also. 

I got a chance to have tea made on chulha (earthen furnace). Bishnois welcome the visitors with opium tea. Though opium is banned, but bishnois have permission to cultivate for their religion and customs associated to it. Here is the apparatus for preparing opium tea. Opium is put into the long tube and tea is distilled slowly through the opium. 


Such is the harmony here that ladies can afford to roam around in forests without any fear. This is a place where animals and birds can live without fear. One can find a lot of migratory birds like Siberian cranes here in the local water bodies and Guda Lake. Local water bodies are not encroached by any means by the locales and are reserved only to serve birds and animals.

Living on the edge of desert is not easy, but Bishnois have created a wonderful self-sustained ecosystem and are not dependent on external means for their daily requirements. We in cities might not value water so much, but the importance of water preservation is exemplified by these simple people. Hats off. Khejri tree is a prominent plantation in this region. A tree which grows/ survives/ flourishes by only rainwater. No extra water is required. Sangree is obtained from this tree, which is one of the most consumed vegetables here.



While moving around on narrow but well built roads, we were often coming across freely roaming chinkaras, black bucks and other animals. Amazed by the culture, we moved ahead to see the craftsmanship of these people, check out:



  • Pottery work; beautiful toys, images of Gods/ Goddesses, piggy banks, lanterns and utensils are much sought after. Crocodile visible in the back is also hand made by potters here. Prepare one crocodile is very time consuming and generally takes 2-3 months to make one.


Block Printing: Bed sheets with a rich mix of colors is prepared by traditional methods. these bed sheet go with number of steps and then finely a beautiful bed sheet form. You are free to buy bed sheets, good thing that they will show you bed sheets as many as you want to see, but will not insist slightly even to purchase even one. 

Bishnoi family was kind enough to show us the Dari weaving facility and told us the intricacies involved in the process. This is a community co-operative where most of the community members take part in Dari weaving. It ensures livelihoods for all of the families in this village. By this time, we were very hungry and excited as it was the time to have our lunch with a bishnoi family. Menu was Bajre ki roti, kair sangree ki sabzii, Yellow Dal and Besan ki Kadhi. Every dish was yummy and much tastier than any exotic meal in any restaurant or hotel. 


For explorers there is also an option of staying with the Bishnoi family, in their houses:

The Safari time of 6 hours in villages of Guda Bishnoiyan, khejarli and kanai passed like a second. But the take back experience of this place was awesome and worth for every moment. Take one day for Bishnoi safari and continue your journey to Jaisalmer or Bikaner.

For Information: This was the place where actor Salman Khan had killed the Black Buck, the act which was condemned widely. Black bucks are worshiped here as re-incarnation of their Guru Jambheshwar. As told by locales, had the vehicle been stopped by them, matter would have been very serious, justice might have been done there itself.

These days we keep hearing about people fighting all over the world for more resources. But after coming here, I firmly believe that peaceful co-existence is not that difficult if we learn to be happy within our means. People here are happy in whatever they have, but what makes them different is the pride in their culture and legacy. At this moment, Colossal Palaces and Forts do not look so great as compared to a Bishnoi house.

Remember: Needs can be fulfilled, but GREED cannot be. There are sufficient resources for everyone on this earth. Keep exploring Guys...
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The Blue City of Jodhpur...

City of Jodhpur, also known as Blue City has been a travelers delight since times. City of Jodhpur has something which is very unique to Jodhpur only. Mighty Mehrangarh Fort and royal grandeur of Umaid Bhawan Palace has made Jodhpur frequently being listed as most extraordinary places to visit and stay, most recently in 2014 by Lonely Plant. Check Mehrangarh Fort on top of the Hill:


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