INFINITE CHARM

Children are always charming and in Ladakh the Charm is heightened to the Power of Infinity.

Do read up the blog titled “The 3 Idiots” on the Rancho School located near Leh,Ladakh.

steps of kids
Step by Step

This sweet charming kid rests against a colourful wall in the Monastery . His expression changed once he  became aware of the camera.

inside hemis
Camera makes even children conscious

The Coy Girl was shy and kept covering her face with the white stole till patience paid off and I captured this image within the Hemis Monastery outside the Upper Residence of His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa.

hemis and coy girl
Within the Hemis Monastery

This charming and extremely young Buddhist Child is on his way to becoming a Monk.

pic pls
Charmed by the Camera 

I was fortunate to sit amongst children near Leh, Ladakh and capture some delightful moments which I am sharing in this blog.

birth to old age
Cycle of Life

THE HIMALAYAN MONASTERY

The Beautiful and Amazing Hemis Monastery is hidden within the folds of the Himalayas , 40 kms from Leh in Ladakh, India.

Am sharing snippets of the  Awesome Hemis Monastery and the surroundings through pictures in a series of blogs.

You can check out http://www.drukpa-hemis.org for details on this Monastery and thus shall not repeat the same.

The featured Image and the picture below  are the first glimpses of the Hemis Monastery ( building in yellow) which is discretely located and practically invisible till you are literally at it’s doorstep.

hidden in the hills
Hidden in the Lap of the Himalayas

This picture was taken from the main courtyard of the Monastery where the Winter Hemis Festival is held  annually in February.

It is only now I realize the colour yellow is from the silken banners.

from within
Reach out and touch the Himalayas

Beautifully integrated into the landscape, the construction can be a lesson for modern architects.

behold
Behold  the Beauty

The Hemis Monstery is located at a Height of 13000 feet and does leave you gasping for breath in awe.

HIMALAYAN SUNSET

Pictures were taken at the Shanti Stupa in Leh, Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir,India.

These Breathtaking Views need no words, so am Zipping Up.

Enjoy yourselves and witness the Setting Sun during the Freezing Winter Month of February in Leh.

golden
Golden Pagoda looks over Leh, Ladakh
leh view
Sun Sets over Leh Ladakh

 

leh at sunset
Crimson Clouds over a Monastery as the Sun Sets
golden pagoda
Gold From Clouds to the Pagoda

FOOD FOR THE GODS

Mountains of Food resembling the Himalayan Hills in the background were lined up before His Holiness during the Winter Festival at Rancho School,Shrey, Ladakh. ( do read the previous blogs titled EMPTINESS,SEA OF MAROON and THREE IDIOTS)

juices

Banner reads”Live To Rejoice”

The Food was Blessed by the Spiritual Leader His Holiness and then distributed amongst the Devotees at the End of Each Day.

piled high
Unique Bread baked in Ladakh

Many Monks were seated on the Dias and chanted from Buddhist scriptures. Mountains of Biscuits and Food are Piled Up High in front of them.

monks
Praying with Food

Graceful Dance  performed before His Holiness, the Spiritual Leader of the Hemis Monastery, seated on a High Pedestal.

The entire festivities are part of the Birthday Celebrations of His Holiness.

food
The Nuns dance around Food in front of His Holiness

The attire and form of Worship are Unique to the region and has probably mutated over centuries to adapt to the way of Life in Ladakh.

THE THREE IDIOT SCHOOL

Movies have a Huge Impact on our Lives.

This statement is underlined and highlighted many times over at THE RANCHO SCHOOL at Shrey, Ladakh.

A huge blockbuster of a movie titled THE THREE IDIOTS highlights the creative educational practices followed at this Himalayan School in the desolate landscape of Ladakh.

The school is managed by the Hemis Monastery which was founded in the 11th Century. The Naropa Temple ( seen in the picture below from the Rancho School) is dedicated to Naropa, the founder of the Drukpa lineage of the Hemis Monastery.

temple overlooks the school
The Rancho School and the Naropa Temple

The school was closed during the Winters when I happened to visit the Region.

himalayan playground
Himalayan Playground

The Rancho School Coffee Shop doubles up as a restaurant or Dining Area during the Winter Festival which coincides with the Birthday of His Holiness . ( do read the previous blog titled SEA OF MAROON)

The building blocks of the entire school are Locally available Stones and not Bricks.

The entire school  premises are powered by Solar Energy .

rancho coffee shop
The School Coffee Shop

The School is surrounded by the Lofty Himalayas , Buddhist Temples and Stupas.

The picture below was taken from one of the Hostels at Rancho School.

 

himalayan view
Buildings integrated into the Beautiful Landscape

The Rancho School makes Movies come to Life.

Domestic tourism  from other parts of India to Ladakh  increased 500% after the movie rocketed to the top of the Charts.

A SEA OF MAROON

In the first blog on Leh, Ladakh titled CHARMING LEH AIRPORT, I had mentioned certain signs which forecast what was to be unveiled in the hours and days to follow.

The posts SIGNS OF BUDDHA , EMPTINESS and FROZEN unraveled Three such Symbols, this post is the fourth in the series.

On reaching the Naropa Temple ( Famous for the Hemis Festival or Kumbh of the Himalayas) and the Rancho School ( made famous by the Bollywood movie 3 Idiots) at Shrey, Ladakh   I was greeted with a SEA of MAROON.

Buddhist Devotees  draped in shades of Maroon had reached Shrey in thousands to celebrate the Birthday of His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa.

welcome
All paths led to His Holiness

An Awesome and Stunning  Gate crowned by two Dragons around the Buddhist Circle of Dharma . Unfortunately my illiteracy prevents me from reading the script on the Golden Gate.

dragon gateway
A Beautiful Gate at the Entry to the  Naropa Temple Complex

The Grey Wall is the Boundary between the Naropa Temple and the famous Rancho School. Both of which are managed by the Hemis Monastery which in turn is headed by the Spiritual Leader His Holiness of Drukpa Lineage.

The Himalayas look upon the Celebrations taking place in the valley below. The Birthday Celebrations coincide with the Winter Festival held at the Hemis Monastery.

happy birthday

The Dragon Flag is the Symbol of the Hemis Monastery

Devotion and Faith help thousands of Monks and Devotees brave the Icy Chill of Winters at Ladakh as they sit in the open , under the gaze of the snow capped Himalayas, listening to their Spiritual Leader His Holiness the G. Drukpa .

maroon and himalayas
The Barren landscape is awash in a Sea of Maroon

Despite an extremely hard and tough life all you see in Ladakh are Happy and Cheerful Faces.

Was the Secret of Happiness their faith in Tibetan Buddhism  or the Colour Maroon they adorned , or both ?

maroon all over

If you recall the initial picture in the CHARMING LEH AIRPORT showcases  cheerful Buddhist Monks in Robes of Maroon greeting us.

Who says you cannot see the Future ? Travel with Mukul and Behold the Faithful.

SIGNS OF BUDDHA

As mentioned in my previous blog CHARMING LEH AIRPORT the camera had captured symbols or SIGNS which had foretold what was to be revealed in Leh, Ladakh.

The First Sign and it is the Featured image as well  in the previous post is  a car with Buddhist Prayer Flags.

The featured Image is of a small Stupa or Temple covered with Stone Art and seen near our  final destination , The Mahey Retreat Hotel .

The short drive form the Airport to the Hotel revealed that Ladakh was indeed the Land of Lord Buddha.

All the images that follow were taken from the car during the course of a drive taking us to our Hotel from the Airport at Leh, Ladakh, Jammu& Kashmir, India.

Leh palace and temple
LEH PALACE ON THE LEFT BELOW THE SNOW CAPPED HIMALAYAS

A large Prayer Wheel seen alongside one of the major avenues leading to the LEH PALACE and FORT built in the 17th Century.( see the picture above please)

Do observe a Dog sits patiently on the steps leading to THE PRAYER WHEEL.

the prayer wheel and the dog
A PRAYER WHEEL

Buddhist Symbols, the  Unique Script of Ladakh ( similar to the Tibetan script)  ,  and Frescoes adorn this little building which I could capture only partially.

buddhist symbols
The Himalayas provide a beautiful backdrop to a Buddhist Building enroute

This  small Stupa was spotted during the drive as well. Do observe the Prayer Flags.

 

a small stupa
Stupa and Prayer Flags

Leh sure has a unique and distinctive flavour. I was loving it, hope you do so as well.

Watch out for the the unraveling of the other signs mentioned in the previous blog as well.

ARDH KUMBH AT HARIDWAR

The ARDH KUMBH at Haridwar takes place once in 6 years and millions express their faith by thronging the banks for a dip in the Holy Ganges.

Hindu Mythology states that the Holy Ganges descended from Heaven into the flowing locks of Lord Shiva  ( see the picture below) , from where the Goddess Ganga gently flows onto Planet Earth via the Himalayas.

A larger than life statue of Lord Shiva blesses all the pilgrims who arrive at Haridwar ( Doorway to the Lord)

mahadev
Har Har Mahadev

The Aarti ( Prayers) to the The Goddess Ganga  is held every evening at Har Ki Pauri,   ( At the the feet of the Lord)  , Haridwar.

However this evening is special as it on the  eve of  an Auspicious day ( Mauni Amavasya) when a dip in the Ganges is considered extremely beneficial.

The Faithful assemble in thousands along the banks of the Holy River  eagerly awaiting the Sun to Set and the Aarti to commence.

millions throng the banks
Thousands throng the banks for the evening Aarti

The River shimmers in anticipation and the perceptible religious fervour reaches a climax as the lights are turned on and first of the Lamps are Lit.

setting the water afire
The Oil lamps are Lit and the Prayers Commence

The heat from the lamps warms my cheeks as the flames from the Oil Lamps reach the  Black Skies and the  mammoth crowds sing in Unison in praise of the Goddess Ganga under a Moonless Sky .

Lo, Behold the magnificent AARTI at the Har Ki Pauri in Haridwar, Utrrakhand, India.

lamp on fire
The Ganges Shimmers in the Light of the Oil lamps

The Ardh Kumbh has commenced at Haridwar and will continue till April 2016. It is an experience of a lifetime I would not wish to miss.

The mammoth crowd magically disappears within minutes of the conclusion of the Aarti at Har Ki Pauri, leaving the River alone to reflect the lights of the temples.

 

shimmering waters
Reflections in the Ganges

There is a website you can access to see the Auspicious dates or you can go on any suitable day to behold the spectacle at Haridwar.

Do watch the Power of Faith during the Ardh Kumbh.

MAA GANGA

Maa Ganga or Goddess Mother Ganges is the Holiest of Rivers for Billions of Hindus living on  Planet Earth.

Revered and Worshipped, the featured image shows the preparations for an Evening Aarti  ( Prayers ) on the Ghats of the Pristine and Enchanting River Ganges at Rishikesh , Uttrakhand, India.

As per Mythology and folklore The Ganges has Magical and Curative Powers to cure both the body and mind.

Rishikesh, located 250 kms North of Delhi and 25 Kms from Haridwar and Dehradun is nestled in the Himalayas and  exemplifies this belief totally.

It has become a major destination or Hotspot for Meditation , Yoga and Ayurvedic Medicine.

ganges at rishikesh
The River Ganges with the Ram Jhoola connecting the banks in the background

The famous Parmarth Ashram at Ram Jhoola, Muni Ki Reti is a major destination for Yoga buffs across the world and has over a 1000 rooms.

The Himalayas and beautiful Ghats add to the charm of this peaceful and serene destination.

temples and the ganges
The spires of Temples and Ashrams on the banks of the River Ganges 

The evening Aarti  ( Prayers) held daily on the banks of the River Ganges  is a sight to behold for both  believers and non believers.

Sadhus or Holy Men clad in Saffron pay their respects to the Holy River by chanting Har Har Gange.

sadhus
Sadhus pray their respects to Maa Ganga

Rishikesh is accessible by Road, Air and Train and November to February are months when the town is calmer and not bustling with tourists.

Discover yourself in the Lap of  Mother Ganga.

ANONYMOUS

The India Art Fair is annually held in January at the NSIC grounds, Okhla  in New Delhi.

It was an amazing opportunity to see some fabulous works of Art brought together under one Roof.

The threads that bind the four works of art selected by me for this blog are:

  1. The Artists of all the paintings are Anonymous.
  2. They are all almost 200 years old dating to the 19th Century.
  3. All of them are expressions of Faith and reveal tales from Hindu Mythology.

The Colourful and detailed featured Image of Maa Durga ending the terror of the Rakshas ( Demon) Mahishasur portrays so many symbols and tales that it would take me years to understand and pen them down.

The large almond shaped  eyes are a signature of the artists of Bengal and Maa Durga is portrayed as such to date.

The painting below beautifully illustrates Lord Shiva with his wife Parvati  seated on their vehicle the Bull, Nandi. Mount Kailash in the the Himalayas is his fabled abode which is depicted in the picture below.

lord shiva and maa parvati
Lord Shiva with his consort Goddess Parvati

An unusual potrayal of  Goddess Parvati depicted as Mother with her younger son Lord Ganesha.

The crown in the painting seems to be an influence from the Mughal Period  and is repeated in all the pictures above as well.

Maa Durga is an incarnation of Goddess Paravati who assumes a Fierce and Powerful form armed with various weapons to end the Evil of the Demon Mahishasura.

Symbolism and  Philosophy  is deeply entrenched in all the depictions and portrayals in the paintings.

Maa and Ganeshji
Mother and Child

The painting of the Goddess Saraswati below  is distinctively different from those above.

The headgear and attire are more in tune with depictions from Southern India. The style was made extremely popular by the famous artist Raja Ravi Verma from Travancore ( now in modern day Kerala).

The attention to detail is simply mind blowing as the Jewellery is visible through the extremely fine and translucent Saree that drapes the Goddess of Wisdom.

The Veena ( musical instrument in her hands) , the string of White Pearls and the Vedas  ( Holy Books ) symbolize the Goddess of Fine Arts and Knowledge.

 

Maa Saraswati
The Goddess of Knowledge , Maa Saraswati

All the paintings show the fascinating minds of the Anonymous Artists who have unfortunately been lost in the Mists of Time.