Majuli, Sonowal Kachari Tribe Culture

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Sonowal Kachari Tribe of Majuli

Sonowal Kachari Tribe have its origin with Mongoloid features, they have no language of their own at present and speak Assamese language.They got the Sonowal name because they were experts in extracting gold dust from the rivers, they also have a good knowledge about the medicinal herbs and using them for many ailments .

Sonowal Kachari Tribal family, Majuli Island

Sonowal Kachari Tribal family, Majuli Island

Believe in supreme power of creator and spirits worshiping the ancestors and sacrificing the animals and birds to please them but accepted the Vaishnave Satras followings in 17th century which is against any such things, each village have a place of worship called the “Namghar”.

They believe that they were the descendants of great Bhaskar Varma, Narakasur, Ban, Bhagadutta, Hadimba, Ghototkach, Bhim, Prahlad and Bali . They worship lord Shiva and performs the Bhouwa dance in praise of Lord Shiva. This dance signifies the beginning of a new life, a clean society and the removing of bad omen.

Bhouwa dance by Sonowal Kachari Tribe in praise of Lord Shiva

Bhouwa dance by Sonowal Kachari Tribe in praise of Lord Shiva

Family and village elders are treated with respect, villagers believe in cooperation and extend help in agriculture and house making in exchange for food and drink.

Sonowal Kachari Tribal Ladies , Majuli Island

Sonowal Kachari Tribal Ladies , Majuli Island

Beetle nut and beetle leave are a part of their life and symbol of welcoming the guests at home, it is an important part of any ritual to include these, their villages are full of trees of beetle nut .

Sonowal Kachari village, Beetle nut trees , Majuli Island

Sonowal Kachari village, Beetle nut trees , Majuli Island

 

Beetle leaves , Sonowal Kachari village, Majuli Island

Beetle leaves , Sonowal Kachari village, Majuli Island

 

In their family system there are clans and sub clans, marriages are forbidden in same and brother clan, they follow monogamy but having more than one wife is not objected, widow marriage is allowed.

Sonowal Kachari Lady at handloom , Majuli Island

Sonowal Kachari Lady at hand-loom , Majuli Island

In marriage it is must to present a hand-loom to the girl, they wear colorful home weaved dresses, dhoti, kurta and Gamsha. They love rice based food with less spices.

Their main occupation is agriculture, dairy farming, poultry and hand-loom cotton and silk cloth, all ladies are expert in weaving .

Sonowal Kachari, mother and child, Majuli Island

Sonowal Kachari, mother and child, Majuli Island

Sonowal Kachari ladies performing Bihu , Majuli Island

Sonowal Kachari ladies performing Bihu , Majuli Island

Kacharis celebrate their festivals with great joy and enthusiasm there are three Bihu festivals, marriage, harvesting or any opportunity is enjoyed with dance.

One can reach Majuli from Jorhat by road to Nimatighat and then 1.30 hrs. ferry to cross the river Brahmaputra to  Kamalabari ghat and the by Jeep / bus to Gramur , it is also a port of call for river cruise M. V. Mahabaahu .

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Majuli, Treasure Island of Assam

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Majuli, Cultural capital and Treasure Island of Assam

Situated in the river Brahmaputra one can reach from Jorhat to Nimatighat by road and then by a ferry sailing for about 1.30 hrs. to reach Kamalabari ghat , one can reach by road from North Lakhimpur a 85 km distance is covered in about 3 hrs. It is the cultural capital of Assam spread over one hundred and forty four villages .

Crossing of River Brahmaputra by Ferry

Crossing of River Brahmaputra by Ferry

It is also a stopover destination for Brahmaputra river cruise M.V. Mahabaahu

According to a popular legend Majuli Island in Assam was created by the rivers Dihing and Bhramputra about 450 years ago as a result of earthquake and floods, It is a place of assimilation of different races and tribes , the Worlds largest river island is also the holy place of Neo Vaishnavite religion flourishing since 15th century , at one time there were sixty five Satras (monasteries) out of which twenty two are still active here carrying forward the unique cultural heritage of Assam, the others have shifted else where out due to the floods and soil erosion.

Mask making at Majuli Island

Mask making at Majuli Island

From May till the middle of September  the rains and flooding waters from Brahmaputra submerges most of the island and when it recedes leaves behind lots of water bodies suitable for fishes to breed and land becomes fertile for the paddy crops, these wetlands then becomes home to more than 80 species of migratory and more than 30 resident birds.

Tribe weavers at Majuli Island

Tribe weavers at Majuli Island

There are three tribes living here the Mishing, the Deori and Sonowal Kachari with altogether different life style.

Tribe ladies in home woven colorful cloths , Majuli Island

Tribal ladies in home woven colorful cloths , Majuli Island

Fishing , Bamboo & cane craft, Weaving, Mask making, boat making, cultivating paddy, rearing silk worms and pottery is the main occupation of its residents, Tourism is becoming quite popular as it is a birds watchers paradise, study of the tribal life style and the Neo Vaishnavism’s no caste based Hindu society .

 

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Mulbek , Ladakh

Mulbek is located on a Srinagar – Leh NH 1 D National Highway 45 km from Kargil and and  Leh is further 197 km , it is at an altitude of 3304 meters from sea , just a kilometer from the town is the famous statue of Chamba  the figure of Maitreya Budha , represents the important part of Gandhara Art , on the main National highway.

Rock cut 9 meters tall statue of “Future Budha” the Maitreya

The scholars believe it to be of 8th centenary but there is a thought it is of a Kushan period about 1800 years old.

Mulbek rock carved Buddha

There is an inscription on a near by rocks  orders from the King  Lde for not to sacrifice a goat at the altar of a deity , there is also an inscription that this order of King is too hard if goat is not sacrificed what will the deity say .

 Shergol It is a  picturesque village of the Wakha river Valley  it  is situated across the river, right of the Kargil-Leh road. This village is full of Popalar trees , orchards of Walnut and Apricots The main attraction is a cave monastery which is visible from a far as a white speck against the vertically rising ochre hill from which it appears to hanging  out. Below this small monastery is a larger Buddhist nunnery with about a dozen residents. The village is accessible by the motorable road that branches off from the Kargil-Leh road, about 5 km before  Mulbek. Shergol is a convenient base for an exciting 4-day trek across the mountain range into the Suru valley. It is also the  base for visiting Urgyan-Dzong, a meditation retreat lying deep inside the mountains surrounding the Wakha River valley.

Nature’s art , Rock called Mother and Child at Mulbek

 Wakha Rgyal tucked away inside the picturesque upper part of the Wakha Valley, up streams of Mulbek.                         Mulbek Gompa : Situated  atop a rocky cliff, Mulbek Gompa (monastery) dominates the valley. It is easy to see why in bygone times this site served as an outpost to guard the caravan route. Like all Buddhists monasteries it is adorned by frescoes and statues .

Shergol Cave Monastery

Rgyal gives the appearance of a medieval settlement of cave dwellings transported in to the modern times with some improvements and extensions. The houses, neatly white-washed and closely stacked, are dug into the sheer face of a vertical cliff that rises high above the green valley . From a far the village looks like a colony of beehives hanging from the  Cliff side

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Kargil , Ladakh

Kargil lies on National Highway 1D which connects Srinagar to Leh , it is on the banks of Suru river , the name is from two words “Gar” means in local language “Any Where” and “Khil” means central place “where any one can stay”. Total population of Kagil 80% follows the Shia faith of  Islam and are inhabited in Kargil, Drass and lower Suru valley, Tibetan Bon Buddhist are mostly in Zanskar valley with small population in Shergol, Mulbek and Upper Suru valley.  There are about 4%  Hindus and Sikhs . Most of the people are of Burig and Balti of Tibetan origin mixed with Dard , Mon and Aryan people.

Kargil City view from Leh-Srinagar Highway

The Tibetan influence is seen in Kargil and Leh people , the Islam came here with Persian influence which has lots Persian words , phrases and even the religious songs in their language , the marriages are solemnize with common rituals of  Buddhist and Islam customs .

Mt. Nun & Mt. Kun from Suru valley trekkers hot spot

It was a transit point of caravans on their way to and from China, Tibet, Yarken and Kashmir till 1949, but since 1974 with the influx of tourists the region has been replaced as center for tourism related activities. Tourists traveling between Zanskar, Leh and Srinagar stop for  a night stay , before proceeding for onward  journey.

People visit Kargil with the memories of 1999 India and Pakistan conflict as it lies very close to the line of control .

Bomb Shell splinters holes fired from Pakistan

The Suru river flows through Kargil , Suru valley extends till the Pensi-la where there is a famous peaks of Nun and Kun , Karaste kar is a small village on Leh highway where 9 meter tall rock carved statue of Maitriya Buddha attracts the tourists from far places . There are other magnificent Stupas and rock carved statues to be seen in Suru valley . Most of the trekkers take a hike to  the Nun- Kun view saddle (3810mtr. ) in the Parkachik ridge. It is a  3 hours of walking along the slopes  overlooking the fertile valley below.

Pakistani post was captured and pushed behind this peak

The road connection from Srinagar is open from May till November , rest of the year there is a heavy snow in the Zoji-la , this area is cut off by road in winters from rest of India , the Indian Air Force  operates few flights to help the local people to come in out of the valley. summers are warm with cold nights , Drass which is 56 km from Kargil is coldest inhabited place in India. The only  road link to Zanskar  is from Kargil .

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Drass Valley , Ladakh

Drass is a small town on Srinagar – Leh National Highway 1D , 147 km from Srinagar and 60 km from Kargil at a height of 3230 meters from sea level  , it is also called the Himalayan gateway to Ladakh , it starts from Zoji-la and extends till Kargil , it is the second highest coldest inhabited place after Siberia on earth , the temperature goes down till minus 60 degree centigrade in winters , in the local Baltic language Dras means ” the Hell” There are heavy snow fall and storms from November to April May . During spring and summer, the valley transforms into lush green Meadows splashed with a variety of fragrant wild flowers

Drass River originates from the Machoi glacier near the  Zozila Pass. The river is joined  by many other rivers and streams flowing in from snowfields from the nearby mountains. The river Shigar flows in from the north drains and joins it in the Drass valley.

The Puga Valley is famous for its hot water springs ,visitors come to this valley for a bath in these springs as this is known to help people suffering from rheumatism and skin diseases , Drass is a convenient base for a 3-day long trek to Suru valley This trek passes through beautiful upland villages and wild flower  meadows on both sides of the  Umba  – La pass ( 4,500 meters )

 

Dras War Memorial at the base of Tololing Ridge

The town got famous after the 1999 Kargil War when it was being shelled by infiltrators till the Indian Army recaptured the three heights, namely Tololing, Tiger Hill and The Three Pimples overlooking National Highway 1D that passes through Drass.

 

View of Tiger Hill from Srinagar – Leh Highway 1D

 

Tiger Hill view from Srinagar-Leh Highway 1D

Its inhabitants are mainly of the Dard origin , an Aryan race that migrated from Central Asian steppes. They speak Shina ,belongs to the Indo-European linguistic family. Their ancestral sport, horse-polo that the Dard plays with particular zeal, resembles our modern polo . The  people inhabiting these regions faces  the harshness of the valley’s winter; negotiate the formidable pass to transport a trader’s merchandise. The citizens of Drass can be described as the guardians of Ladakh’s gateway.

Tourism is being promoted in this region by organizing the Polo matches among the villages and teams from outside the valley. Polo stadium is named  after an army officer Lt. Conolel Vishwanathan who sacrificed his life to push the Pakistani intruders out of this valley in 1999 .

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Chaturbhuj Temple of Love Khajuraho Madhya Pradesh

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Chaturbhuj Temple is situated in village Jatakari ,Khajuraho, built in 1100AD , the Chaturbhuj (Lord Vishnu ) means the one with four arms . It is peculiar temple in three distinct characters which differentiate it from other temples of Khajuraho .  It houses the tallest stone carved idol among all the Temples in Khajuraho , only temple in Khajuraho with no Erotic figures, it is also the only important temple in Khajuraho that faces west . 

Chaturbhuj Temple of Love Khajuraho

Standing over a platform with entrance from the West , it is normally  not seen in the Hindu temples but rest all the architecture needs are taken care of like the Mandapa , Garbhagriha and the Shikhara , there are images of Ganga can be identified with the presence of Crocodile and Yamuna can be identified with Turtle , there is a beautiful image of Lord Shiva in his Ardhnarishwar ( half man , half woman) carvings along with the heavenly life .

Main entrance , tallest statue among all the temples at Khajuraho

The main idol is suppose to be of Lord Vishnu but the close observation gives impression of three bodies in one , head with Jata ( hairs) of Lord Shiva , the four arms carrying Lotus, Conch , one arm showering the blessings and the other is giving the Abhay ( fearlessness ) , the standing pasture with one leg resting on toe is a Lord Krishna dancing style ( Incarnation of Lord Vishnu) , near the main idol there are images of Sura – Sundari .

Lord Chaturbhuj , Features of Lord Shiva and Lord Krishana

Beauty of this temple is seen  at sunset the sun comes streaming in and falls on the figure, lighting it in such a way that it appears to be full with life.

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Harsil and The Maha Prayag at Bhagirathi River

Harsil is a small sleepy village and important Cantonment of Indian Army situated at a height of 8300 ft. on main road to Gangotri, 73 kms from Uttarkashi, it was once on the old caravan route of India to Tibet most of the people are of Bhutia origin and use Harsil as winter base, more importance is due to village Mukhwas where the statue of Goddess Ganga is brought and worshiped during the winters when Gangotri’s main temple is inacceseble due to snow, it is on the left banks of river Bhagirathi and the Mayank Shikhar. Importance of this place is due to less known fact  that it is a confluance of Seven rivers and a temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, many Saints and Sanayasis preferred to meditate here

Harsil is a small sleepy village and important Cantonment of Indian Army situated at a height of 8300 ft. on main route to Gangotri, 73 kms from Uttarkashi, it was once on the old caravan route of India to Tibet most of the people are of Bhutia origin and use Harsil as winter base, more importance is due to village Mukhwas where the statue of Goddess Ganga is brought and worshiped during the winters when Gangotri’s main temple is inaccessible due to snow, it is on the left banks of river Bhagirathi and the Mayank Shikhar. Importance of this place is due to less known fact  that it is a confluence of Seven rivers and a temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, many Saints and Sanayasis preferred to meditate here, Godess Ganga’s temlpe the Gangotri is further ahead 23 Kms. from here.

Deodar Forest in Harsil

 Deodar Forest in Harsil

 

Mayank Peak, Harsil

Mayank Peak, Harsil

The Story and History

According to the  Kedarkhand, a chapter in Skandha Puran, it was here Lord Shiva was helped by Lord Vishnu to kill the demon Jalandhar who was brother of Goddess Lakshmi, Lord Vishnu’s wife, Demon Jalandhar’s wife Vrinda went into the deep forest and started praying to protect her husband but Lord Vishnu followed her and disguised himself as Jalandhar started living with Vrinda, when Vrinda recognized him she cursed Lord Vishnu that someone deceitfully abduct his wife in his next incarnation, she entered the pyre after this, Lord Vishnu was so obsessed with the beauty of Vrinda that he painted the ashes from the pyre and started roaming all over the Lokas, then his worried Devatas were guided by Godess Parvati with the assistance of Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Saraswati, they gave some seeds to them and directed them to  spray those seeds on the ashes of  pyre, on which Vrinda had given up her life.

Three holy plants manifested from that pyre  Amla, Tulsi and Malti. Later on Tulsi and Malti attained to the  Vishnuloka, by the virtue of their respective penance. Later Tulsi became the wife of demon Shankhachuda, he wanted conquer the Indraloka which resulted in a war with lord Shiva who was finding it difficult in wining over him due to the Tapasya of Tulsi. On being instructed by goddess Parvati, Lord Vishnu met Tulsi in the guise of her husband  Shankhachuda, so that the breach of Tulsi chastity could help lord Shiva to kill Shankhachuda, who derived his power from Tulsi’s chastity and virtuosity. When Tulsi recognized Vishnu she became very angry and cursed lord Vishnu to become a stone. She was crying inconsolably. Lord Vishnu contemplated on Shiva as a result of which he appeared. Lord Shiva blessed Tulsi that she would become the beloved of Lord Vishnu. Due to Tulsi’s curse, Lord Vishnu attained the form of Shaligram which is a stone and because of lord Shiva’s blessings. Tulsi leaves started being offered to the Shaligram in the process of its worship. Vishnu also known as Hari who is lying as stone (Shila), This place is called Harsil, this black Shaligram is visible in winters when there is less water in Bhagirathi because of snow.

Jalandhari is sister of goddess Lakshmi and demon Jalandhar, was on her way to meet her sister  Lakshmi and brother-in-law Vishnu, upon reaching here when she came to know about Visnu becoming Shaligram, she melted and met Lord Vishnu in form of a river who was lying in Bhagirathi.

There is a temple of Lord Vishnu on the banks of river Bhagirathi built by Raja Ram Brhamchari in the year 1921 AD (Shaka Samvat 1978), to the east is Lord Shiva’s temple and in the north is Maa Bhagvati’s temple, the rituals of puja are being performed since then by his family, at present Dr. Nagendra Ravat performing it for the last 35 years every day without fail it starts with a holy dip at Bhagirathi river and until puja is over which takes about 4-5 hrs. not a single word is uttered other than the mantras / shlokas until the first meal of the day is taken.

Lord Vishnu Temple at Harsil

Lord Vishnu Temple at Harsil

 

Lord Shiva Temple, Harsil

Lord Shiva Temple, Harsil

The Confluence of 10 Rivers

The Seven rivers are Tilangana, Jalandhari (demon Jalandhar’s sister), Vishnu Ganga or Kakora, Lakshmi Ganga, Him Ganga and Pawan Ganga pour their water in Bhagirathi at this place, little up stream 3 kms is a place called Dharali where Bhim Ganga, Kheer Ganga and Hatya Harini rivers join the Bhagirathi in all there are ten rivers which join and form Bhagirathi in this area hence it is called the Maha Prayag.

According to legend when one of the Pandva’s brother Bhim was bringing the Chaman Rishi to light the holy fire at Aswamegh Yagna on his way to quench the thirst of Rishi he hit his Mace (Gada) at a place from where the water came out, this stream is called Bhim Ganga, bathing in  the river Hatya Harini absolves the sins of killing some one by mistake or otherwise (Barham Hatya Dosh).

River Jalandhri at Harsil

River Jalandhri at Harsil

Around Harsil

Just below the Mukhwa Village is Maharishi Markandeya ashram who created the Maha Mritunjay Mantra it is here he created the Durga Saptashati, there are 700 shlokas (verses) in thirteen chapters, in the praise of Maa Durga and killing of demons, here there is a white temple of Maa Annapurna and Lord Shankar, 1 km ahead is Maa Durga’s temple.

Dense Deodar forest, apple orchards, Waulnut, Chestnut and Wild Flowers are in abundance in this area, Harsil is connected to Baspa Valley by Lamkhaga Pass which opens into Chitkul, Kinnaur of Himachal, one can have a views of peak Bander Punch 6316 mtr.  and peak Srikanth from Dharali village.

A View of Banderpunch Range from Harsil

A View of Banderpunch Range from Harsil

 

Maharishi Markandaey Ashram in White and banks of River Bhagirathi near Harsil

Maharishi Markandaey Ashram in White at banks of River Bhagirathi near Harsil

Harsil is well-connected by a road and there are regular helicopter landings during the months of May , June  Late September till mid October , land slides are common in monsoons otherwise one can reach here throughout the year.

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Uttarkashi on way to Gangotri, Uttrakhand

Uttarkashi on way to Gangotri is a district’s head quarters situated on the banks of river Bhagirathi at a height of 1352 meters above the sea level, it is on a main route to Gangotri which is about 100 kms.  from here, Uttarkashi means the Kashi of North, it has got the religious significance as it lies on the confluence of rivers Varuna and Asi next to the Varun Parvat , Ghat near the confluence is called Manikarnika Ghat .

Kashi Vishwanath Temple  is an ancient temple situated in the center of town said to be established by Rishi (sage) Parshuram , it is said that the idol here has emerged on its own at this place and in Kalyug lord Shiva will move here ,  just above the shivling is drawn a Shri Yantra. The temple structure was built out of stone by King Pradyuman Shah over 350 years ago and reconstructed in the year 1857 by the Maharani Khaneti , wife of Raja Surdarshan Shah .

Kashi Vishwanath Temple at Uttarkashi

Ma Shakti Temple is just opposite to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple  where a huge 6 meters tall  and 90 cm  base Trishul (trident)  which said to be  thrown by Ma Durga at Demons. It is made of Iron on top and Asht Dhatu at bottom , it is worshiped as form of Shakti.

Ma Shakti Temple at Uttarkashi

Parshuram Temple

It is dedicated to the sage Parshuram also known as Lord of weapons , one of the incarnation of Lord Vishnu and also with the blessings of being immortal , he was sent to this place to repent the guilt of killing his mother Renuka , it is also his place of meditation ,  this temple dates back to 8th century .

Nehru Mountaineering Institute was established in the year 1965 to introduce the young Indians to the adventure and Mountaineering. It conducts regular courses and expeditions in the Himalayas.

Dodi Tal a fresh water lake is about 21 km trek from Uttarkashi. Nachiketa Tal is 32 km from Uttarkashi and then  a 3 km trek from Chaurangi .

At Ujeli many ashrams are located . Kuteti Devi Temple is located across the river Bhagirathi , Joshiara village  is famous for its Lord Shiva temples.

Uttarkashi is an important place on Chardham route as it on the way to Gangotri , most of the pilgrims stay a night here either before or after visiting Gangotri.

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Dev Prayag on way to Yatra Chardham

 

Dev Prayag is the first Prayag ( confluence ) it is 70 km from Rishikesh at a height of 830 meters from sea , it is here the river Alaknanda and Bhagirathi meets,  forms the name Ganga to flow towards Rishikesh into the plains of North India. It is one of the Panch Prayag (five sacred confluences) in the hills and is an important place of pilgrimage for devout Hindu. It is a beautiful village, on the lower side is the Prayag and on the upper side of village is a pyramid  shape stone built temple dedicated to Raghunath Ji Legend is that King Dashrath and lord Ram worshiped here and the temple is built at this place. just before the confluence on Bhagirathi river is the Brham Kund and on Alaknanda is the Vashistha Kund . It is also said that Leprosy is cured if the affected person takes a bath on a rock called Baital shila on the banks here.

It is also famous for the astronomy observatory with age old instruments used for astronomy calculations established by Acharya Pt. Chakradhar Joshi in 1946, having two Telescopes and latest equipment along with a library with a collections of books and manuscripts as old as 17th centenary, it also has the ancient equipment like Surya Ghati, Jal Ghati and Dhruv Ghati, it is situated at a mountain called Dashrathanchal

There are few more temples worth visiting are Danda Naggaraja  (the Snake Lord ) and Chandrabadni temple.  Dhaneshwar Mahadev temple and Mata Bhuvneshwari temple

The cuisines of Devprayag are also rich and famous as Devprayag. Dishes like Singori and Bal Mithai , Singori, traditionally made with khoya wrapped in form of a cone with Maalu leaves. The khoya absorbs the fragrance of Maalu leaves. Bal Mithai is a brown chocolate-like fudge, made with roasted khoya, coated with white sugar balls.

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Leh , Ladakh by Road , Preparations and Precautions

Every year the motorbike and Jeep adventure lovers wait for the Manali – Leh highway to open, it opens around the end of May every year, there were heavy snow falls in the high passes this year , at may places the BRO ( Border Road Organisation ) had to clear the 60 ft . of snow from the highway .

Ladakh by road

Ladakh by Road

To reach Leh by road there are two options first one is  Srinagar – Leh which opens early May. From Srinagar one has to cross Zoji La pass ( 13000 ft/4000 mtrs.)  , Drass Valley ( 10990 ft/3230 mtrs.) one must visit and pay his / her respect to the martyrs at Kargil war Heroes memorial it is on the highway at the base of Tololing , one can have the best views of Rhino Knob , Tiger Hill .

Tiger Hill , Leh-Srinagar highway

Tiger Hill , Leh-Srinagar highway

Drass is the second highest coldest inhabited place on earth , Kargil , Mulbek , Namik – La ( 12198 ft/3827 mtrs.) Fotu – La pass (13478 ft./ 4104 mtr.)  and then to Leh , total distance is 450 kms.

Ladakh by Road

Ladakh by Road

The Second route Manali – Leh opens end May , passes through the two mountain ranges Pir Panjal and Zanskar with some of the highest  mountain passes in the world , there are many ice cold small streams originating from the Glaciers melts, where drivers skills are at test to negotiate through fast flowing streams ,   starts from Manali , Rohtang – La ( 13054 ft./ 3979 mtrs.) Tandi ( 8430 ft/2570 mtrs.) , Keylong , Jispa ( 11020 ft./3360 mtrs.), Darcha , Baralacha – La Pass ( 16500 ft./5030 mtrs.) , Sarchu ( 15100 ft./4600 mtrs.) , Gata Loops ( 22 hairpin bends) , Nakee – La Pass , Lachulung – La Pass ( 16616 ft./ 5065 mtrs.) , Pang , Tanglang – La Pass ( 17480 ft./5328 mtrs.) , Karu , Leh ( 11483 ft./3500 mtrs.) total distance to be covered  490 km full of not even thought of surprises and scenery .

Baralacha La

Since 1974 when restrictions were removed to visit Ladakh, every year thousands of people travel to experience this part of India which is also known as Little Tibet , there are vast barren lands golden yellow, black and grey mountains , green patches near  crystal clear  Lakes and rivers . All this is available from May to October / November only , rest of the year most of these roads and high passes are under the thick blanket of snow. Days are warm when there is sun light but there is cool breeze from the snow mountains around  keeps the temperature around 10 degrees centigrade , weather changes are fast and unexpected , there are no rains as the entire area from Rohtang onward is  Rain Shadow area , the Monsoon clouds hardly enters this area, it does not mean that there are no rains , occasional drizzles are there  , the night temperature is at many places even drops to sub-zero and there are strong winds . weather is dry and ultra-violet rays which may have a bad effect on the skin , during the day the bright sun and rays reflecting from the snow effects the eyes. Most of the travels do not experience the Acute Mountain Sickness and there is no set rule who will be effected but if precautions are taken care of one can minimize its effect .

Driving on this terrain is an ultimate challenge for a human body and the machine , selecting a vehicle , understanding of machine and body is very important  People 17-70 years of age with normal health can travel on this road , one must prepare well in advance before starting for this journey to enjoy the unspoiled beauty and well preserved rich history & Culture of Tibetan Buddhism of  Himachal and Ladakh Himalayas  .

Pangong Lake , Ladakh

Pangong Lake , Ladakh

Four wheel Jeep / SUV any vehicle with high ground clearance  or a Motor Bike (350 cc) are best suited for this trip , these custom made vehicles are available on rent per day basis or one can purchase from Delhi , there are clubs and few selected travel agents all over India who organizes  the logistics for this highly adventurous and beautiful journey in the months of June , July , August , September , October every year when the roads passing through the high passes are clear and with less snow.

High ground clearance SUVs at Pangong lake

To enjoy the beauty and adventure in this land one is to take few precautions and preparations , if one is taking his/her own vehicle then it should be of high ground clearance and preferably a 4 wheel drive , must have one extra tank for the fuel ,  extra Tyre , air pump , tool kit , Tyre puncture repair kit ,  strong ropes in case of emergency it can be towed , if driving a motor bike then extra pairs of clutch and brake wires , one must bear in mind that due to low oxygen the efficiency of machine reduces and one should not put extra burden on machine , the bags should be water proof or they must be warped with a water proof sheath .

Personal clothing should be comfortable , woolen shirts , trousers , gloves ,woolen cap , colored and plain eye protector glasses, comfortable ankle leather boots and woolen socks, wind proof jacket, raincoat are recommended . there are Glacial melt streams one is to avoid getting wet there , if got wet change the cloths and shoes with dry ones.

There are two levels of mountain  driving at this route .

 High Altitude 2500 mtrs./8000 ft. to 4000 mtrs./13000 ft. (one night stay is must at this altitude for acclimatization)

Very High Altitude 4000 mtr./13000 ft. to 5500 mtr./18000 ft.  (avoid sleeping first night at this altitude )

Normal first aid kit and one must understand the symptoms of  Acute Mountain Sickness ( AMS) to whom it can effect or not there is no thumb rule  but any where when one feels heavy head / head ache , giddiness , Fatigue , Nausea , Nose Bleed, Pins and Needles , Swelling of hand, face and feet , High pulse rate ( 110). The best way is to drink adequate  liquids, 3-4 liters a day – clean  boiled and filtered or treated , tea/coffee/soup/juice etc.  avoid smoking and taking alcohol , avoid greasy / oily food , take rich carbohydrates . 48 hrs. before the  journey take DIMOX tablets , The usual dosage is 125 mg twice a day for a few days,  must consult the doctor for the potency of medicine , people use camphor smelling , chew Mint  or Polo while travelling , the Ladakhi local remedy is to chew one clove of garlic as soon as one feels  the heaviness , usually occurs following a rapid ascent and can usually be prevented by ascending slowly, It commonly occurs above 2,400 mtrs. / 8,000  feet ,one should not ignore or take lightly these symptoms, at places there are army medical help  available and oxygen is provided to bring the person to normal state. In the first 24 hours at high altitude reduces the symptoms of AMS.  The air is dry cold and chilly , it takes away the moisture from the body ,  best way to protect is to cover  properly , use a high neck , full sleeves woolen  shirts , avoid T-shirts and have warm water to keep the body warm and maintain water and  balance . Never travel alone .

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