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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Devi Jagadambi Temple of Love Khajuraho Madhya Pradesh

Devi Jagadambi Temple also known as Jagadambika Temple , built by the Chandela rulers between 1000 AD to 1025. AD  originally it was dedicated to Lord Vishnu as the East facing door, the prominence given to the Lord Vishnu on the doorway to the sanctum.

Devi Jagdambika at Temple of Love Khajuraho

 

Few believe it a Parvati Temple and that Ma Kali image  ( Jagadamba) is actually an image of Parvati, painted black . The temple is on the same platform  the Kandariya  Mahadev but  small in height . The Garbhagriha is having a huge image of the Goddess (Devi) of the Universe (Jagdambi),

 

Devi Jagdambika with Kandaria Mahadev Temple , Temple of Love Khajuraho

It has  only one set of balconies, only one Mandap and no inner Pradakshina , It has some of the beautiful images in sculptures  . Apart from the normal female figures applying make-up and preening themselves, there are a number of lovers embracing and assigned to honor love and conjugal harmony, with figures of the divine couples and others depicting every mood of love , a mischievous woman tugging at lover’s beard .

Lady wearing thin skirt and body decorated jewels , gazing into a mirror

A woman with her beautiful back turned to the onlooker she is preoccupied in gazing at her beauty in the mirror, her scarf falling over her  shoulder most provocatively.  Images of Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva and Lord  Brahma embracing their consorts. The south side has an image of Varaha, depicted with a human body and a Boar head, emerging from the primeval waters carrying the earth Goddess Bhudevi on his arm. She has placed her hand affectionately on his snout as if to pat the Boar and thank him for rescuing her.

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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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Khajuraho Temples of Love Madhya Pradesh

Khajuraho a small town in Madhya Pradesh State once use to be the cultural capital of Chandela Rajputs of Central India from the 10 to 12 centenary , the world famous temples also the UNESCO World Heritage Site, were built during 950 AD to 1150 AD by the Chandela artisans .

There is a airport in Khajuraho one can reach here by Air from Delhi and Varanasi , There is a overnight train from Delhi , One can also reach here by taking trains  from Delhi , Agra, Bhopal , Mumbai, Nagpur, Bangalore , Hyderabad , Trivandrum to Jhansi and then a three hours road journey to Khajuraho on way one can visit the Orcha famous for Ram Raja Temple and wall and roof paintings at Orcha Fort .

Originally 85 such temples were built spread over in a 20 sq. km area but now only 25 temples are in good shape , after the decline of Chandelas the local villagers maintained the temples , with time the dense forest cover and weather took the toll and outside world even forgot these temples , in 19 Centenary these temples came in the notice of British Officers but it came on a world tourist map with the efforts of Mr. Shyam Sunder Poddar who visited this place  and his  fore sight saw the importance of this place , he built a hotel which started receiving guests  in 1969 and then Indian Airlines started the first flight from 15 Feb 1969 , his son Mr. Kanti Poddar trained the local people how to deal with the Foreigners , today Khajuraho is a the most visited site after the Taj Mahal in India .

Lakshmana Temple , Khajuraho

People wonder how and what was the purpose these temples were built , the legend is , the Hem Raj the Raj Purohit ( Royal Priest) of  King of Benaras had a beautiful daughter name Hemvati , once she was bathing in the river at a full moon night when The Moon fell in love with her and came down Hemvati got embraced by Moon and got pregnant , she asked the Moon that how she will face the world as she was  not married , The Moon told her that she will have a brave son and she should leave this place and move to Khajuravatika  the Garden of Dates , son who was named Chandravarma

State Emblem of Chandela Rajputs , Khajuraho

The boy was talented , brave and sharp , at  the age of 16 he killed his first Tiger. He was made the king  and his progeny, called Chandel’s . They are regarded to be Chandravanshi  i.e., the descendants of Soma (Sanskrit literal meaning: moon).

Kandharia Mahadev Temple Khajuraho

After some time  Mohoba and then Kalinjar became the Political capital and Khajuraho remained as cultural capital .

Vastu , Geometry, Archetecure and Art at one place Temples of Khajuraho

The Khajuraho temples were built over a span of 200 years, from 950AD to 1150AD .  Khajuraho has no forts because the Chandel Kings never lived in their cultural capital.

One of the Erotic art plate on Temple Outer Wall , Khajuraho

The erotic sculptures were crafted by Chandela artisans.  Today, the temples serve as fine examples of Indian architectural styles that have gained popularity due to their explicit depiction of sexual life during medieval times.

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Tungnath on way to Sri Badrinath

Tungnath  temple situated at the highest spot at the height of 3680 meters from the sea at Chandranath Parbat , 3 km trek from Chopta 2700 meters from sea,  it is dedicated to lord Shiva it is more than one thousand years old and of high importance of being at the highest elevation in the world and one of the Panch Kedars of lord Shiva, legend is when Pandva brothers were searching lord Shiva who went in hiding at Guptkashi and when Bhim recognized him among the bulls , lord Shiva dived in the earth , at Kedarnath his back in the form of hump is worshiped , here at Tungnath  lord Shiva’s arms appeared and are worshiped in that form it  is a swambhu limgam ( self manifest). Head appeared at Rudranath , naval at Madhayamaheswar and Jata (hair) at Kalpeshwer. 1.5 km from here Lord Ram meditated  at Chandrashila peak and Demon King Ravana also meditated here. From Chandrashila peak one can have a beautiful view of Trishul , Chaukhamba and Nanda Devi peaks

Tungnath Temple

The Lingam here is in form of a black rock tilted slightly on left , other idols are of Ma Parvati, The Nandi bull idol is facing the lord Shiva at the entrance , Lord Ganesha idol is on the right side of the entrance , the other idols are of Rishi Vyas and Kal Bhairav . There are also images of five Pandva brothers, the temple is said to be built by one of the Pandva brother Arjun who worshiped here. The temple style is similar to Kedarnath and Guptkashi temple.

This temple was discovered by Adi Guru Shankracharya in eight century. In winters the temple is closed and symbolic of the main deity is shifted to Mukunath near Ukhimath .

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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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Helicopter Service Yamunotri, Gangotri Do Dham

Traditionally the Yatra Chardham as per Hindu system starts the parikama clockwise i.e. starts from Yamunotri to Gangotri and then to Sri Kedarnath last is the Sri Badrinath the Yatra for the year 2016 starts from 10th May the Akshya Tritya of Vikram Samvat . 

The road journey which covers Yamunotri and Gangotri from Rishikesh takes Five days of not only difficult driving in the Himalayas but also danger of falling rocks and road blocks due to heavy traffic on the roads during the Yatra period from May till mid June . Helicopters carry 4-5 person at a time depending upon the maximum carry load of 300 kg.

Yamunotri Temple and Yamuna coming down from Kalind Glacier

Yamunotri Temple and Yamuna coming down from Kalind Glacier

 

Opening of helicopter service  has reduced the journey time to  few hours and Do Dham Yatra is completed in two days . Helicopters carry 4-5 person at a time depending upon the maximum carry load of 300 kg. with a night stop at beautiful place , Kharsali a village which is having the oldest Lord Shani temple next to the helipad  or Harsil  which happens to be the Maha Prayag of Eight  rivers in to Bhagirathi ( Jalandhari, Vishnu GangaLakshmi Ganga, Pawan Ganga, Telangna, Bhim Ganga, Kheer Ganga , Kakora and Hatya Harini) ,  an age old  temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu and a temple dedicated to Ma Durga at a place where Maharishi Markandey wrote the Durga Saptshati are worth a visit.

The flight operations are from Dehradun a 45 minute flight for  Kharsali ( the starting point for 6 km trek for Yamunotri ) , the Yatris can do the trek , perform pooja at Yamunotri and return in 4-5 hrs at the helipad one can visit the oldest temple of lord Shani Dev at Kharsali village, one can stay a night at Kharsali or fly same day for Harsil a 40 minutes flight . Jeep/ Car will take you to a 26 km drive to the Gangotri temple , on way are Bhairo temple and the deepest gorge in Asia , after performing the pooja return to Harsil for a night stay and Dinner

Mayank peak Harsil

Mayank peak Harsil

 

Next morning after breakfast transfer to the helipad for return flight for Dehradun  a 45 minutes flight . All above arrangements are also available ex Delhi .

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Yatra Chardham – Hardwar

Yatra Chardham pilgrimage in Gharwal Himalayas Uttrakhand is a devout wish of a Sanatan Hindu since 8th century the establishment of temples or Dhams by the Adi Shankarcharya to make the Sanatan Dharma more strong which was loosing its prominence because of influence from the Jainism and Buddhism which originated from India and had patronage from many kingdoms in the Indian sub continent also because of the strict disciplined form of Sanatan Dharma described by the Brahamins, all these places were rediscovered and reconstructed  by him  which we see as on today, one wonders as to how a man could have reached here and these temples were constructed at  the places with limited resources and the area which are accessible only for about 5 months in a year . Most of the pilgrims visits the main shrines and ignore the other places which are equally important and part of our Purans and Mythology, I will be introducing my readers to these places and associated legends with it.

Hardwar – Har Ki Pauri

Hardwar Har-ki Pauri

This is the place visited by all the pilgrims , a holy dip in the river Ganges here is considered to be absolving of all the sins, legend is, as a result of Churning of Sea by the Asuras and Devs, the Amrit ( Ambrosia) came out and there was a dispute as to who should have it, in between the Garuda took the urn  from the battle field and flew away, the four drops fell on earth at places Ujjain, Nasik, Prayag (Allahabad) and Hardwar , it is at this place in Hardwar the devotes take a bath on the banks of holy river Ma Ganga.

Chandi Devi Temple

It is the most ancient temple of India didicated to Chandi or Chandika , it is said that Ma Parvati assumed the  form of Chandi as a attractive beautiful women to attract the Demon brothers Shumbh and Nishumbh who wanted to marry her, she had to kill the demon chieftains Chanda and Munda before killing the two brothers, after the battle was over the Ma Chandi took rest at this place known as Neel Parvat , near by there are two peaks known as the Demons Shumbha and Nishumbha peaks, here  is another  temple dedicated to Ma Anjana mother of lord Hanuman .

Mansa Devi Temple

It is said that Chandi Devi and Mansa Devi are two forms of Ma Parvati and the temples didicated to each one is always be in close vicinity . The Mansa Devi ( Wish) temple is across the river Ganga on a Bilwa Parvat , Mansa Devi is sister of Nag devta Vasuki and it is a form of Shakti emerged out of the Muni (Sage) Kashapya. It is a Sidh Peeth and people tie a thread to get their wishes fulfilled and return to untie it .

Maya Devi Temple

The ancient name of Hardwar is Mayapuri , the Maya Devi is the Adhisthatri deity of Hardwar , it is said that the Naval and heart of godess Sati fell here and it is a Shakti peeth. It is one of the oldest temple built about one thousand years ago, The goddes Maya with three heads and four arms is in the center the other deites are Ma Kamakhya on the right and Ma Kali on the left .

Saptrishi Ashram

It is said that seven Rishis (sages)  Kashyapa, Vashisht, Atri, Vishwamitra, Jamadagi, Bharadwaja and Gautam. meditated here , the river Ganga never wanted to distrub the meditating Rishis thus splited into seven streams .

It is from here the Yatra Chardham starts with a holy dip at river Ma Ganga and ends with the Aarti at Har Ki Pauri.

 

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Ghantiyali Mata Temple Tanot Jaisalmer Rajasthan

Ghantiyali Mata temple is situated on main  Jaisalmer – Ramgarh – Tanot highway , 110 km from Jaisalmer ,  just 09 Km. before Tanot , situated between the beautiful yellow Sand Dunes .

Sand Dunes at Gantiyali Mata Temple Tanot Jaisalmer

Sand Dunes at Gantiyali Mata Temple Tanot Jaisalmer

It is considered must  to visit this temple first before Ma Tanot Temple . Ma Ghantiyali is sister of Ma Tanot and showed miracles at the same place before the temple was established and then in 1965 AD war with Pakistan.

Ghantiyali Mata Mandir , Tanot , Jaisalmer

Ghantiyali Mata Mandir , Tanot , Jaisalmer

How did the temple come at this place? According to a legend , a village nearby was overrun by a rival community and every one was killed except for one pregnant lady who was away at her mother’s village , this lady gave birth to a son , after few years when this boy grew up, started inquiring about his family and father , mother narrated the whole story to his son. This young boy was full of anger and pledged to take a revenge.  One day this young boy took his sword and left his house to take his revenge , after few days, thirsty and tired, when he reached this spot, he saw a little girl who served him with a pot of water , the boy thanked her and asked her who she was, as there was no village nearby. The little girl told him that she knew about his arrival and blessed him  ” his mission will be successful “. The boy said she is not aware of for what mission he has left his home , the little girl replied that “she knows every thing “ she also instructed him that he will kill only one person . The boy reached his destined village where he saw a marriage celebrations was on , he quietly killed one of the guest and went in hiding , when guests saw one of their member is killed , in the confusion they accused the host villagers and in fighting killed each other . This boy’s mission got accomplished and returned to the place in search of the same little girl , not finding her there he wanted to kill himself as a gratitude ,  little girl who was Ma Ghantiyali appeared and instructed the boy to make a temple and let the people know about her.

Broken Idols by Pakistani Army in 1965 War

Broken Idols by Pakistani Army in 1965 War

Second miracle happened  in 1965 AD during India’s war with Pakistan. The Pakistani army had invaded and captured the temple , they left a few soldiers here , and then proceeded to capture Ramgarh further ahead , few of the Pakistani soldiers at temple started vandalizing the temple and the idols. Some of there fellow soldiers objected  and they killed many of their fellow comrades , it is said when some soldiers who tried steal the gold and silver ornaments from the temple, they somehow became blind. The remainder soldiers marched towards Ramgarh to join their army, nearing Ramgarh the Pakistani soldiers who were already there misunderstood their men as Indian soldiers and approaching soldiers misunderstood that there are Indian soldiers at Ramgarh and in firing from both side killed each other .

 

Ghantiyali Mata Temple Tanot Jaisalmer

Ghantiyali Mata Temple Tanot Jaisalmer

The management to look after for day to day affairs , Aarti and other arrangements are with the Border Security Force (BSF) of India , there no villages or shops nearby ,  one can spend a night here only after the permission from the BSF .

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Shalabhanjika , Monalisa in Stone , Museum , Gwalior Fort

Shalabhanjika  is a price less  stone statue of a lady of World fame Ancient India art work recovered from Gyaraspur near Sanchi and Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh now kept in the museum of Gwalior Fort under high security , special permission is required from the Archaeological Survey of India to visit this particular  chamber.

There were two such sculpted statues installed at the entrance of Sanchi Stupa , during the raids of Mugal King Aurangzeb’s army  one of it was destroyed and this one was thrown in the forests of Gyaraspur, later to be recovered in 19th Century . In early 1980 a  Visitor French Tourist Group named it Monalisa in Stone

Shalabhanjika , Museum , Gwalior Fort

The beauty of this stone statue is the creation of very clear strange smile on a face by the sculpture , it is probably sculpted during 10 – 11 th  AD , the waist holds lower garment across her broad hips and her full bloomed body which  has a bare torso  with a  pearl necklace around her neck , a long necklace falling between her breasts and then one chain going down up to her naval . Eyes and bowed eyebrows , sharp nose , ear rings , her hair with bun decorated with jewelry and precious stones . The lady seems to be standing under a Saal tree holding a branch . She is also known as the Tree Goddess . The Sanskrit name Shalabhanjika means “A lady breaking Saal branch”

Shalabhanjika

Shalabhanjika are found mostly at the entrances of Stupa . The sandstone beams across the gateways were held up by bracket figures like this, representing female tree spirits called Yakshika . In an ancient  Indian fertility rite, beautiful young girls were said to usher in spring by kicking a tree trunk while breaking off a branch, so as to arouse it into blossoming. the Shalabhanjika Yakshika serves as a fertility symbol associated with the spirit of the tree and earth to ensure the auspiciousness of the site where the Stupa is built.

 

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