EMPTINESS

Ladakh has a unique barren and serene Landscape.

The region is classified as an High Altitude Desert or a Cold Desert.

The vast barren Vista compels you to look inwards.

Buddhism is a Way of Life in Ladakh and seems to blend in beautifully with the Barren, Simple and Tranquil surroundings.

gateway to buddha
Gateway to Buddha

A drive from Leh to Shrey ( a village which is home to Rancho School made famous by the Bollywood blockbuster 3 Idiots)  reveals the vast tracts of EMPTINESS.

the vast emptiness
To the Himalayas over tracts of NOTHINGNESS

There are kilometers of Land with nothing but Rocks and Barren Hills, a Land stripped Bare. An unusual but Divine Vista to behold.

An Emptiness that peers into your Soul within.

Flat roofed homes indicate that precipitation( rainfall) is rare or totally absent.

cold desert
Rocks strewn all over

A tiny tot of a  Buddhist temple breaks the monotony of the Brown Barren Himalayas laid bare by the powerful  Rays of the Sun.

Sunrays are intense in the high altitude  Air of Ladakh and quickly melt the Snow on the Hills exposed to the Sun.

barren hill and a small temple
Snow survives only in the Shadows

Temples and Monasteries are built on Hills and Hillocks and can be seen from miles all around.

The Pagoda style is Strangely seen only on Temples and not on Homes which are largely flat roofed.

I think I surprised the cyclist while taking this picture.

Temple on hill
A Temple in Ladhakh reminds me of a Lighthouse

Do read the earlier Blogs CHARMING LEH AIRPORT, SIGNS OF BUDDHA and FROZEN to connect to this absolutely mesmerizing region of India.

Stay on Board as we reach the now famous  RANCHO School to celebrate the Birthday of HIS HOLINESS. You will be swamped in a Sea of Maroon.

Watch out for the next post.

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THE MANDOR LOTUSES

The Mandor Gardens are home not only to Beautiful Monuments ( do see my previous blogs Magnificent Mandor and Amazing Mandor ) but to these gorgeous flowers as well.

An Egret in flight  and Water Hen ( foreground)  share space with these wondrous flowers which inhabit the waterways at The Mandor Gardens.

waterhen and egret in flight
The Lotus Waterways of Mandor

A close up reveals the Dinner Plate sized leaves which provide shelter to Fish and other aquatic animals.

They in turn attract water birds like Egrets and Herons for whom they are  food under the dinner plate.

The Flowers rise above the water levels with the rising Sun. One lotus is still struggling to make space for itself.

baby pink.jpg
Baby Pink Lotuses

This architects of the past were probably inspired by the Lotus while creating this memorial to the Kings and Queens of Marwar.

the inverted lotus
Mandor architecture Inspired by the Lotus

Besides the baby Pink Lotuses there are many which are Purely White and have not even a tinge of Pink.

water hen and lotuses
Snow White Lotuses

The buds of the Lotus emerge from the water supported by sinuous stalks and bloom as the Sun rises.

the bud amongst leaves
A Solitary Bud

This post was created at the request of a fellow blogger.Thus keep sending your views as the interaction inspires to seek and search for beauty in our surroundings.

BREAKFAST WITHIN A MOUNTAIN STREAM

The JW Marriott at Mussoorie laid out one the most fabulous breakfasts I have experienced in a very long time.

I would like to state at the outset that this blog is NOT commissioned by anyone and is written like all my posts of my own freewill. I share joyful memories and this was one such wonderful experience.

As part of their  One Year Celebrations they organized a memorable breakfast experience in the Lap of Nature.

Starting from the JW Marriott Walnut Grove Resort & Spa, Mussoorie was organized  a small refreshing trek to a Himalayan mountain stream.

The Griffon at the entrance of the Resort invites us for a delightful adventure.

the griffon
The Griffon is the mascot of the Marriott group of Hotels

Impeccably organized with walking sticks for everyone we had to walk down this valley to the river .

It was a glorious day and the walk down to the stream though steep was very exciting.

destination
                                       The  river winds its way through the mountains

The  fabulous venue was a mountain stream in a desolate Himalayan valley .

The first breathtaking view of a beautifully laid out table within the stream had me gasping for air.

It was after all an awesome view. Have a look.

the layout first look
                                           The dining area set  in the midst of the river

The dining tables and chairs were set within the rivulet and the trees formed a perfect natural  canopy .

We were to literally have breakfast  in the Lap of Nature.

in the midst
Magical setting

The sunlight filters through the leaves and reflects off the gurgling waters of the mountain stream.The trees had stretched their arms out as they arched over the cool waters of the river.

The team  of JW Marriott led by their F& B Manager Prateek  had created a magical breakfast destination.

Bravo to them all for visualizing and executing a dream destination for breakfast.

gurgling mountain stream
                                                                  The gurgling waters of the river.

The layout was fabulous as you can see for yourself in the picture that follows.

It was a feast for the Kings. The Chef had arranged a banquet in the midst of this delightful mountain stream.

the fabulous layout
                                                   The fabulous layout

Jeremiah had rolled up his jeans to his knees to negotiate the path from the banks of the river to the dining tables in its midst.

a close look with jeremiah
                                                             A closer look at the Inviting table.

The ladies take their seats and a lovely breakfast unfolds.

The most memorable and unusual dish was the piping hot Garwhali Paratha

( freshly made Indian bread ) with black masoor  daal ( a lentil) as a filling.

Do check it out when you stay at this property.

ladies take a seat
                                 Ladies take a seat and cool their heels in the chilly mountain stream

I look up at the mountains around us and see one of the waiters make his way all the way to the top of the Hill . What an effort for the entire staff, hats off to them.

The team at JW Marriott had surpassed themselves . The labour of love was evident in every detail from selection of the venue to the delicious food they served.

looking up
                                                                               Looking up

Sharing this Joyful experience through this blog  has made me relive the entire experience once again.

Thank you to all at the JW MARRIOTT.

THE VILLAGE OF CORN

The Himalayas are all about experiencing the Joy of Nature. When man adapts and moulds himself to nature the Joy is enhanced manifold.

A perfectly organized trail by the nature loving staff of the JW MARRIOTT Walnut Grove Spa Resort ,Mussoorie to a CORN VILLAGE  located in the Himalayas was just that, a memorable experience.

The trip beautifully integrated an experience of the local Gharwali way of life with the thrill of a joyful ride on a motorcycle .

The  extremely  skilled driver on  a Royal Enfield bike enabled me to  have an uninterrupted and breathtaking  360 degree view of the enchanting  landscape.

Royal Enfields are the mode of transport

Royal Enfields are a great mode of transport in the Hills

It was indeed wonderful to go on a motorcycle as the fresh and cool  mountain air  rustles up your hair and massages the face as well.

Corn ( or Maize)  is the third most important crop after rice and wheat  in the hills and forms the staple diet of the  village folk as well.

The Gharwalis ( as the locals are called)  over the ages have perfected the art of drying the corn within their homes.

September to  October is the time for harvesting Corn ( Scientific name: Zea mays) in the Hills of Mussoorie, Uttrakhand and thus the perfect time to visit  Bhatoli the CORN Village.

An enchanting view of the stepped farms of the Hills.Can you spot the Corn on the roof?

Himalayan Village of Corn
Himalayan Village of Corn

Homes in the hills have been traditionally made of Wood. The sturdy  though now endangered Himalayan White Oak ( Quercus leucotrichophora)  covers most of these Hills and has been a source of timber for generations.

This traditional carved wooden  door welcomes us to the  quaint village of CORN.

a 100 year old beckons

A 100-year-old wooden door  old beckons

The first  stunning view of corn bunched up and hung upside down leaves me gazing in awe.It stunned my camera too which simply stopped working thereafter.

The heritage  wooden home in the centre is  now gradually being replaced by brick and concrete homes.

old home made of wood
An ancient wooden home decorated with corn

As I  walk through this Organic and incredibly clean village I realize why it is called the CORN VILLAGE.

corn dries out
Corn dries out

Colourful sunbathing Quilts give the Corn company  in this house adorned by two dish antennas.

Quilts

Sunbathing Quilts

While wooden homes have been replaced by brick and mortar ( pucca homes as they are called in Hindi) , some traditions like drying the corn, thankfully  remain.

Do notice the spotless alleys.

new homes

new homes

Another breathtaking view of a house with corn hung from the roof and the hills in the background.

the side of the large house
Drying corns forms a beautiful trim of the roof

A far distance from its Mexican Origins , Corn has overrun this house in the scenic village of Bhatoli.

engulfed by corn
engulfed by corn

Signing off as I sit down for a typical Gharwali lunch and Chapatis ( Indian Bread) made of Corn flour.

A marvelous trail planned to perfection by Prateek and Vaidehi of JW Marriott Walnut Grove Resort & Spa, Mussoorie. The bike ride was a steal.

A wonderful outreach by the luxurious Hotel  to the friendly and hospitable villagers who spread out a welcome feast.

Hope you have read the earlier posts ( THE SECRET TRAP and THE MUSHROOM TRAIL) , all part of the WALNUT TRAIL.

Be not impatient friends, the Walnuts will follow as well. Keep following.

THE DEMONS

What is in  a name?

 A lot In India, miles of History , myths and fables which would give Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and the Avatar a run for their money.

Mahabaleshwar is a small town located in the hills  within the Western Ghats and 120 kms from Pune.

Mahabal literally means of GREAT STRENGTH. Atibal means EXCESSIVE STRENGTH.

Thus begins the story of two Demon brothers/ Rakshas ( Hindi) or Asuras

( symbolising evil) ,    Mahabal and Atibal.

Both the demons were brothers and as the names suggest extremely powerful and strong. Obsessed and drunk with power they wreaked havoc on all of humanity.

The God of Atibal
                                                            The entry to the  Atibaleswar Temple

Invoked by the prayers  of  the oppressed, LORD VISHNU slays the mighty Atibal after a prolonged and exhausting battle.( moral being that even great strength can come to naught if misused )

Now a shift to the present. There is a temple even today  called ATIBALESHWAR ( see the picture above)  near a far larger and revered MAHABALESHWAR temple in Kshetra Mahabaleshwar.

The architecture of the  temple is however unique and makes it stand apart from other temples of the Kshetra Mahabaleshwar.

Built like a Pagoda it even has the edges tweaked upwards. Have a look

Unusual to say the least
Unusual to say the least

Furthermore, mysteriously it is dedicated to Lord Siva, not Lord Vishnu.

The Nandi (the name of Lord Shiva’s vehicle in the form of  a BULL)  clearly indicates the ruling deity is LORD SHIVA.

Inside the temple premises

Inside the temple premises

The entire temple is made from a volcanic black stone . A characteristic of most temples of the region.

What is highly unusual  and surprising is the interiors are pitch black. Not a ray of light penetrates the thick black walls.

What is hidden inside?Was the temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu in former times ?  Have I read correctly?

The Nandi from inside the Atibaleshwar temple
The Nandi from inside the Atibaleshwar temple

It rains incessantly during the monsoons  in Mahabaleshwar and you can probably see this in the pictures as well. The rains are wonderful as they keep the tourists away too.

This statue is rather unusual and a presentation I have never seen in any other temple in India.

Cow with a calf
                                                                                Cow with a calf

It is indeed a mysterious temple and raises many unanswered questions.

The location of the  exit is equally strange and seems to be an improvisation to facilitate a thoroughfare.

The Exit and a beginning for some plants
                                                                      The Exit for us but a beginning for  plants

I  have to go back to Mahabaleshwar to tell you the story of the demon Mahabal and the other mysteries that cloak the Kshetra Mahabaleshwar.

THE DOORWAY

Dwarka ( dwar in hindi )  literally translated means the DOORWAY .

DWARKA is an ancient city steeped in mythology and is located at the western edge of India and overlooks the vast ARABIAN SEA.

It is supposed to have been built thousands of years ago and was once  a thriving port city.It was the Door to the Seas.

A lighthouse reminds us of trading ships  laden with silk and spices once docking here from faraway lands of the Pharaohs in  Egypt.

The lighthouse represents  the western edge of  INDIA.

The lighthouse
The lighthouse

Dwarka finds a unique place in Hindu scriptures. It was the magnificent and prosperous capital of Lord Krishna thousands of year go.

Going back to 2500 BC , Dwarka is repeatedly mentioned in historical references  as well as in Hindu scriptures.

Recent Explorations and surveys of the sea bed near modern Dwarka  have revealed the existence of a  city (much like Atlantis) retaken by the sea.

The temple at Dwarka is an important site of pilgrimage for Hindus and is one the four CHARDHAMS , each located at the four corners  of the county.

the sadhu
the sadhu at sea

This temple is called Samudra Mandir or the THE SEA TEMPLE.

Gazing out towards the endless waters of the ARABIAN SEA is a unique and  humbling experience.

samudra temple
Samudra temple at Dwarka

I peered through a small window inside the temple and watched the waters swirl and  crash against the rocks below as the River Gomti submerges itself into the Sea.

This temple is located at the confluence of the River Gomti and the Arabian Sea in Dwarka.

through the window
The Arabian sea glimpsed  through a peephole in the temple

I sign off with this heavenly view.

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE DIVINE

Jagdish Temple is the EPICENTRE  of  historical Udaipur.

All the bye lanes, including the way to the Bada Pol ( gate) entrance  of the City palace  radiate from here. Even the lanes leading to the lake and the ghats originate from the Jagdish Temple Chowk ( crossing)

You can be witness to  the life of the common citizen of Udaipur from here.

For the Royal experience you need to walk for 2 minutes from the temple to the CITY PALACE. The walk is lined with shops , some of which house vast, I repeat vast and gorgeous treasures of ART.

The pictures that follow are a peep into the activity of  commoners.

Take time to ponder over this photograph. There is some activity in every corner of this picture.

Jagdish Chowk
The Epicentre:Jagdish Chowk

At the level of the street or the  footsteps of the stairs leading to the temple is this elderly lady sewing a garland of flowers.

Do notice the metallic Lota ( an ancient  Indian vessel used for storing water) placed  on the right of the basket.Have written on the LOTA , please check it out, very intriguing.

Saying it with flowers
Lost in her world of floral garlands

Colourful painted guards, peacock feathers  and Mobile phones form the second level up the flight of stairs.

The usually white  marble steps are coloured pink due to  the festival of Holi being played here this morning.

Watch out for the feast for the eyes, THE ROYAL HOLI in the blogs to follow.

multi tasking
Multi tasking

The mother and daughter duo soak in the sun after being drenched in the waters of HOLI.

The second level
Women on Top

The spire of the 450 year old  Jagdish Temple rises over the sanctum sanctorum.

If you are fortunate you could  hear Rustic Folk music as villagers sing and dance spontaneously in front of the main deity.

Jagdish is one of several names for LORD VISHNU.

There are many historical incidents, myths and fables about this temple.Stories of politics and intrigue are whispered in hushed tones.

The Spire of the Jagdish Temple
The Spire of the Jagdish Temple

The view of the epicenter, THE JAGDISH TEMPLE and the Havelis ( now lovely  hotels) of Udaipur viewed from the lake.

Personally have  experienced many emotional moments  in the temple.

temple from the lake
Temple viewed from the lake

As you walk around the lanes you may lose your bearings.

The Spire  of the temple, which is visible from every direction , will restore your sense of direction. ( there is an intentional philosophical punch in the sentence)