Gauri Kund is an important place on the begning of trek to Sri Kedarnath , here is a hot water spring which is connected with Lord Shiva’s wife Parvati also known as Gauri. Legend is that Ma Gauri wanted to marry the Lord Shiva and please him she did lots of penance and Yogic practice, during this period she lived here and it was in this place lord Shiva accepted her ,they were finally married at Triyugi Narayan, which is about 15 km from here, this place is also said to be where Ma Gauri made Lord Ganaesha out of soap suds, gave life and placed at the entrance when Lord Shiva was stopped by him he was beheaded and when came to know the facts placed the elephants head on the body to give him the life. devotees take bath in the hot spring before starting their trek to SriKedarnath. Just as the Kedarnath temple closes in the winter so is this temple and images are taken to the nearby village for the daily rites and puja.
In the olden days pilgrims use to stay a night at Gauri kund have a bath in the hot water spring perform the puja and next morning proceed to Sri Kedarnath but now mostly they proceed same day to save the time.
One can see the rate chart here for registering and performing puja at Sri Kedarnath Shrine.
Rate chart at Gauri Kund for Puja at Sri Kedarnath shrine
During the floods in 2013 this places had maximum impact of flood water and yatra was suspended for one year from Gauri Kund . This year 2015 the trek ( Yatra) is repaired and expected to be operational from April trek will start again from here to Rambara 07 km on the right bank of river Mandakini then cross the bridge over Mandakini river trek 06 km on left bank to reach Limchuli, from here almost a plain trek 3.5 km to Sri Kedarnath .
Palki, Mules and Pitthu porters are also available from here, it is advised to hire these services through the office of Zila Panchaayat very next to the gate from where the trek starts. they issue the receipt for the money paid and give a token number of porter who is registered with them.
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Thikse Gompa ( Monastery) is 19 km from Leh at an altitude 3600 meters from Sea , it is a Tibetan Buddhist Monastry establised in early 15th Centenary of Gelugpa School . It has a resemblance of Potala Palace in Lahsa . It is a Twelve Story structure , built as a Fort Monastery it is the largest structure in Ladakh , its position is such that is gives excellent East and West view of Indus plains , Matho Gompa in the East, Royal Palace of Stok across the Indus and Shey Palace to the West have excellent views
Thikse Monastery Ladakh
The main attraction is fifteen meter tall Maitreya Buddha statue largest in Ladakh besides Buddhist art stupas, Thangkas, wall paintings and arms. Sherab Sangpo one of the Six disciples of Tsongkhapa founder of Gelugpa school carried bone powder and drop of blood of his Guru Tsongkhpa and a small statue of Amitayus as a gift for king of Ladakh in early 15th Centenary in 1433 with the help from King a small monastery in a village of Stagmo, to the north of the Indus river was shifted to this place , legend is when Sangpo after the prayers, offering kept in a plate were taken away by two crows, later it was found the offerings with plate were lying at a stone in an undisturbed condition , it was taken as a divine directive to build a monastery here . Thikse became prominent second to Hemis Monastery in Ladakh . Around 1770 the Lama of Hanle dictated that the elder son will be the King of Ladakh while the younger brothers will serve as Lamas at Thikse and Spituk Monasteries
Thikse , Beautifull roof
The main attractions are the Bhavachakra the wheal of Life has insignia images of a snake, a bird and a pig that signify ignorance, attachment, and aversion . Next to this is the main assembly hall for prayers , a number of old manuscripts and hand painted collection of books along with 225 volumes of Tangyur warped in silk are kept , it also have a Eleven headed Avalokitesvara with Padmasambhava . There are murals of Mahakal and Dukar In the center of hall is a seat for His Holiness The Dalai Lama and on right is the seat of head of the monastery .
Two stories tall Maitreaya Budhha Statue at Thikse
A temple dedicated to Tara with 21 images , a small shrine of protector deity of Thikse the Cham-spring , an image of the Buddha with two of his disciples and the deity Yamantaka can be seen. In the courtyard murals of Tsong Khapa, the Buddha , the Padmasambhava , Palden Lahmo and Mahakal are there.
Only men are allowed to enter the top floor of the monastery the Lamokhang temple above the temple local boys from the villages near by are students , among them few are chosen as Lamas , there is also an Nunnery located within the precincts of the monastery is managed by the Monastery Administration. In Ladakh, nunneries were held in a grossly inferior status , In the 1990s, awareness was raised on the status of the nuns to ensure a shift in their functional role of servitude and to one of true spiritual practice the Chief Lama, Thiksey Rinpoche of this Monastery was important in the positive developments in the betterment of nuns.
Gustor Ritual is celebrated every year from 17th to 19th day of Ninth month of Tibetan calander which falls in October/November . Scared Mask Dance or Cham Dance is performed as a part of the ritual . Morning prayers are followed by chanting of Buddhist sutras , people from far villages gather and meet the other villagers, a trade fair is also held where locals barter trade items .
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Zoji – La is a high altitude pass 11575 ft from sea level on Indian National Highway NH-1D , connecting Kashmir valley from Sonmarg to Ladakh Valley , it is 9 km long the second highest pass on Srinagar – Leh highway always covered with snow it is closed in winters due to heavy snow fall.
Zoji-la , frozen river and Leh – Srinagar highway
The pass links a Valley of Kashmir with Ladakh. For many centenaries various trade routes took merchants to China, Tibet, and Central Asia. Renchen Shah of Leh moved into Kashmir via this pass and was the ruler of the territory in the 14th century. Mirza Haider Doughlat also marched on through this pass to raid Kashmir. The previous name of the pass was Shurji La, which stands for the mountain of Lord Shiva.
Rock called the India Gate , entrance to Kashmir valley Zoji-la
Zoji-la , at a height of 3,528 meters, which is the lowest drivable pass on the Great Himalayan Mountain Range. It witnesses violent winds because of the conical shape and severe snowfall. Over 60 risky landslide spots have been identified on this route. Every year the young enthusiast motor cyclist from all over India cross this pass with a high adventure spirit to visit the Ladakh from Kashmir side.
Historically this pass till 1815 was in control of Amir of Afghanistan as Punjab Hill States, it came under Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s Flag of a Sikh state , in 1846 after the Anglo-Sikh war the East India Company and Sikh Empire had a Treaty of Lahore , as an indemnity the Sikh State could not pay then Rs.1.2 Million , the Dogra King was allowed to take Kashmir by paying Rs. 750 Thousand to East India Company , Gulab Singh became the first Maharaja of a new state of Jamu & Kashmir. After the partition in 1947 India signed the accession document with Maharaja Hari Singh to be part of India.
It was here in 1947 when Pakistani army who had reached till Srinagar had a surprise to see the Indian army’s Battle Tanks and artillery guns , had to withdraw from this area , since then the Zojii-la pass is under the controls of India .
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It was a special day, I had arrived from Jaipur to Delhi and was all set to depart for The Land of Gods and Goddesses, Uttarakhand. I was so excited in the train while travelling towards Delhi and couldn’t wait to start my journey. I reached Delhi and packed all my bags, took my camera, recharged all the batteries, emptied the memory cards and I was all set to leave. We left Delhi after lunch in our Scorpio Jeep driven by my father, who loves long drives especially in Himalayas, so I couldn’t even ask him for the wheel not even on the plain roads and spoil his ‘long drive‘. So I sat besides him and we departed from Delhi.
The Start of The Great Himalayas
Journey from Delhi to Haridwar was on NH-58 and that was our resting place, we spent a night there to begin our actual journey in the mountains as the plains end at Dehradun, in our original we had to take a road to Chamba but we took the road to Barkot, a longer route, we knew it’d take longer but we were excited to explore the other side too. There were beautiful waterfalls, bumpy broken roads, fallingrocks, landslides, rubble over the roads. One can never cross these roads on a low rider vehicle. We had our Scorpio so it was an ease for us. Although we had to survive the jerks and vibrations which felt like as if my backbone rifted apart all together. We went past Dehradun and the Rajaji National Park stopped on the way to have some tea and breakfast. Went past Mussourie and The Kempti Falls, those are really beautiful falls but the natural beauty seems to be getting destroyed by the people. We didn’t stop for a second there and carried our journey further and got on to NH-123 and were heading towards Barkot.
Near Kempti Falls, Mussourie
The Alternate Route
This was a really tiring journey and we all were getting irritated as we had taken a long route due to which we reached about 5 hours late. But this tiring journey was full of Green Mountains, Valleys, Lovely River Banks, Waterfalls and hardly any cars on the road. We reached Barkot and gave second thoughts to continue our journey after seeing the direction board in the picture below which said Yamunotri to the left and Gangotri to the right. Stopped for few seconds and discussed about it, we chose Gangotri as it was planned as it was already late. All this time my mother was praying to the god that, we reach safely to the destination and back home, we both (me and papa) were getting irritated from that too but didn’t pay any minute attention towards that and she was so scared all the time that she was reminding papa to blow horn at every turn that we drove through.
The Barkot Bend
The Last City: Uttarkashi
We were following River Bhagirathi all this time and were back on to NH-108 by entering into a tunnel which was built inside a mountain and lead directly to Uttarkashi, as the dark appeared slowly our average speed started declining. After Uttarkashi, there was no big city and we had to travel a long journey of about 75Kms to Harsil. After Uttarkashi, we were heading straight to Harsil, on the way we went past Maneri and the Maneri Dam Project which was built upon River Bhagirathi and the water was flowing out of the small gate at very high speed which was creating mist in the atmosphere and just stopped by to take some photographs, it was dark when we left Maneri. So with no further delay we moved on, the weather started to go down. I was just holding tightly to the handles and whatever I could hold onto to save myself from spinal pains.
Landscape along the River Bhagirathi
The Maneri Dam Project at Maneri, Uttarakhand
It was so dark, we could hardly see anything besides the road and the oncoming traffic whose frequency was like one car in 20 minutes. Those 75 Kms felt as if we were never going to reach Harsil that night. These 75 Kms on the plains seem just an hour drive but in the mountains it takes about 3-4 hours approximately on broken roads with rocks and pebbles all over. It was okay till now as the car stereo was playing nice music, the stereo mouth fell off due to the jerks and refused to join back as it broke off. After that it was a total silence in the car and still 50 Kms were left. I was just staring at the dark and the tiny lights on the mountains blinking all over the place, these were all small villages settled all over the mountains.
The Route Map
I was just watching the road and eventually we reached Harsil, our final destination for that day and we spent a night at nice cottages in The Harsil Retreat, owned by Mr Rajiv Mehta. We had dinner and went to sleep. It was really a tiring day but I didn’t felt anything by looking at the beauty of The Great Himalayas.
Woke up early in the morning and had a bath with hot water, clicked photographs, had breakfast and departed for the sacred land Gangotri. The road from Harsil to Gangotri was plain with less landslides and rocks, it was clear at most places as it is maintained by the Army and Border Roads Organization. On the way to Gangotri, which was 25 Kms from Harsil and was a 1 hour drive, we saw the 10 rivers meeting into River Bhagirathi and a beautiful and is one of the deepest gorge in Asia and ‘one of its kind’ bridge which is built over this gorge. The vegetation was pine and deodar trees all over and we could see pine cones everywhere on the roads and the sideways. Finally we reached our final destination, Gangotri, The Origin of The Holy River Ganges
Anuj is currently pursuing his Engineering Degree in Computer Sciences and has a keen interest in travelling to different places round the year. He also writes blogs and articles in many online blogs. Connect with him on Facebook (htttp://www.facebook.com/anujrajput) and Twitter (@AnujRajput)
While traveling in Himalayas in Uttarakhand you will come across these Gujjars camping near the roads with their families and cattle, they are different from the tribes of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Nepal. They travel all along the length of Himalayas and Shivalik Range from Himachal Pradesh to Nepal. Continue reading…
When friend Anil Rajput knew that I was planning on two options for this summer holiday, Conoor in Tamil Nadu and Leh, his shocking expression was ….”What comparison! You must go only to Leh!”.
I was desperate for a date with Leh for the last four years, but my travel team was giving me the most impossible rates and dates. Anil came to my rescue and made our dream-plan, a reality!
Our Delhi friend Anjali quickly decided to join us and more the merrier it was!
With a lot of anticipation spiced up, wife Jayashree, daughter Nishkamya and I set off from Chennai by the evening SpiceJet to Delhi. Night halt was at Anjali’s place and catching up with years and years of talk, we then hit the Delhi airport at 4am for the Go Air check-in. Prompt to take off, we had a very comfortable touchdown at the Kushok Bakula Rinpoche Airport at Leh, on the dot at 8.15 am. I am sure you are aware that it is the highest altitude commercial airport in India at some 3500 metres. Jayashree rightly quipped, “There is no great height for the plane to descend here at Leh!” Continue reading…