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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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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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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Pandukeshwar on way to Sri Badrinath

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Pandukeshwar is a small village 283 km from Rishikesh, 20 km from Joshimath , from Govindghat  it is 4 km,  Sri Badrinath Dham is about 25 kms from here. This place is also known as Yogadhayana Badri It is a winter seat of Sri Badrinath the Udhwa , there are two temples, the other one is the Vasudeva temple from here all the rituals are performed and when the summer comes the main idol of Udhwa is carried in a procession to the Sri Badrinath dham .

Pandukeshwar Temple

This village holds very important place in the legends of Mahabharata . It was established by King Pandu who had two wife , Kunti and Madri , while hunting King Pandu killed a male deer in mating , these deers were actually a Rishi Kindama  ( sage ) and his wife, the Rishi Kindama  before breathed last cursed Pandu that when ever he will approach a women with a desire to make love he will also die , King Pandu after reaching home narrated the story to his two wife and then denounced his kingdom, handed it over to his blind brother Dhrishtrastra , Pandu never wanted to die childless and expressed his desire to Kunti , she informed him about a boon which she had from Rishi Durwasa and used it to be mother of  Yudhistar by lord Dharma , Bhim by lord Vayu and Arjun by lord Vishnu, then she the taught Madri who had twins Nakul and Sehdev by lord Ashwin Kumars , thus the Pandvas were born here.

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Yatra Chardham Uttrakhand in Winters

Yatra Chardham in the Uttrakhand also called the Chota Chardham is a journey of four places or Dhams done from spring to autumn months, and as per the Hindu calender, from Akshaya Tritia till the Bhai Dooj ( April end /May first week till October end / November second week) . During this time, all the roads and trekking routes are accessible and free from any Snow.

During the Winters when all Dhams are closed due to snowfall in the higher  reaches of the Himalaya , the main deities for worship are brought down at the temples located in the villages for the uninterrupted  daily Puja and rituals, one saves on the long uphill treks which are difficult for the Senior Citizens. Hotels are less expensive and temples are not crowded. One can spend as much time to perform the puja and dhyan. The usual Yatra Chardham is of 14 days in summer months from Delhi by road but same journey can be done comfortably  in 10 days in winters

 Ma Yamuna is worshiped at village Kharsali seven kms before the Yamunotri main Temple,  just across river Yamuna at Janki Chatti, it is a picturesque village which has the oldest Lord Shani temple. 

Ma Yamuna stays with her brother Lord Shani during the winters.

Shani Dev , Naag Devta Temple at Kharsali

Ma Ganga is worshiped at village Mukhwa near Harsil. A lesser known and ignored fact about Harsil  is that Harsil is a place where many rivers meet which forms a Maha Prayag like Vishnu Ganga, Jalandhari, Pawan Ganga, Hatya Harini, Kheer Ganga , Kakora, Tilangana and  Bhim Ganga pouring their waters into the main River,  Bhagirathi. 

Harsil’s Mayank Parvat  has mention in Kedarkhand a chapter in Skandh Purana. This place is also famous for Ashram of Maharishi Markandaeya, who composed the Durga Saptshati at Mukhwa

Ma Gangotri Winter Seat , Mukhwa Village , Uttrakhand

Lord Kedarnath ( Lord Shiva) is worshiped at Gupt Kashi  Ukhimath, located on the banks of  Mandakini river, where, during the winter months, the Idols are brought in from the main temple of Sri Kedarnath .

Lord Kedarnath Winter seat , Ukhimath

At Gupt Kashi it is said  “जितने पत्थर उतने शंकर ” (All the stones are Lord Shiva) 

One can visit and offer prayers at places associated with Sanatan HinduMythology, at Guptkashi namely Ardhnarishwara, Manikarnika Kund ( Pond)Love legend of Anirudha (the grand son of Lord Krishna ) and Demon King Banasura‘s daughter Usha and then killing of Banasur, Grave of Nala of epic Ramayna,

One gets a beautiful view of Chaukhamba , Kedarnath and Neelkantha peaks.

Lord Badri Vishal Winter Seat Pandukeshwar , Uttrakhand

 

Lord Badri Vishal is worshiped at Pandukeshwar  during the winters, this place is 18 kms from Joshimath and very close to Govind Ghat. Pandukashwer is also associated with King Pandu father of Five Pandavas of Mahabharata

After the curse from a Sage, ( Rishi) Kindama, mistakenly killed by King Pandu, spent his life here and his queens Kunti and Madri gave birth to the five Pandva brothers, Namely Yudhishthir, Arjun, Bheem, Nakul and Sahdev (in order of their ages, elder first).

Yudhishthir, Arjun and Bheem were born from Kunti and Nakul, Sahdev were born from Madri.

All these places hold equal importance in Sanathan Hindu Mythology, as the main Shrines of Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath. These places have been the winter seats for these gods for generations.

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Orcha, Fort and Palace

Orcha a small sleepy town on the banks of river Betwa but it was once the capital of the mighty Bundelkhand  State of Madhya Pradesh .

Orcha , Madhya Pradesh

Founded by the King Rudra Pratap Singh, a Rajput ruler of Bundelkhand , was the first king of Orcha and built the Fort in 1501 AD ,  a warrior tribe, whose  ancestors  one young Rajput prince  sacrificed his life for a  Goddess, Vrindavasini, in return, the Goddess blessed  that he and all his descendants would come to be known as the ‘Bundelas’, meaning, ‘those who gave blood’   the Orchha Bundelas came to be known as the chief of the Bundela clan.

Orcha Fort & Palace

The succeeding rulers, the most notable was Raja Bir Singh Ju Deo who built the exquisite Jehangir Mahal, in the 17th century, to celebrate the visit of Emperor Jehangir to Orcha,  a tiered palace crowned by graceful Chhatris. The whole Mahal is decorated beautifully with different geometric patterns and paintings of peacocks and flowers which represent the finest flowering of the Bundela school of painting. From here the view of soaring temple spires and cenotaphs is spectacular.  the mother of Jahangir was also a Rajput, Jodha. It is with this in mind that the Rajput king of Orcha had built the Jahangir Mahal.

Ceiling Paintings Raja Mahal Orcha

The Durbar-e-Khas, or the Durbar Hall, is situated on the first floor of the palace and is surrounded by high battlement walls. It is well fortified, and right above it are a number of musket holes through which the enemy was shot at. The Diwan-i-Am is an assembly hall where the king often held meetings with his council of ministers.

Jahangir Mahal Orcha

Rani Mahal  is famous for its lovely paintings and unique architecture. Rani Mahal, was the royal residence of the Queen of Raja Madhukar Shah. A great devotee of Lord Ram, the queen decorated her bedroom with murals featuring scenes from the epics. The exquisite paintings of Bhim and a bird flying with elephants are really fantastic.

Wall and ceiling paintings Orcha

The Rai Praveen Palace was constructed by Prince Indrajit Singh for his beloved  of three stories. The walls of the central hall on the second story bear many paintings depicting the several moods of the Rai Praveen. The palace is combined with a garden divided into two parts wall and which is popularly known as Anand Mahal Bag (Garden). The Rai Praveen was a great beauty whose main accomplishments were dancing, horse riding and poetry. The famous poet Keshavdas has compiled Kavi priya to honor Rai Praveen and praised her beauty.

In the Laxminarayan Temple and Raj Mahal, vibrant murals encompassing a variety of religious and secular themes, bring the walls and ceilings to rich life. Long tapering structures of temples and places act as the major landmark of this small town .

Raja Rudra Pratap started the work on Raja Mahal but after his death in 1531, his son Bharath Chand did the main portion of the palace but it was completed Raja  Madhukar Shah , one of the finest examples of Mughal architecture. It has the typical “jali” or lattice work at the entrance , a square shaped palace, divided into two beautiful courtyards. The outer courtyard has some beautiful arches, while the inner ones have some of the most beautiful paintings.

Ram Raja Temple , it is the only place in India where the Lord Ram is worshiped as a King in a Palace receives the Guard of Honor every day , Raja Ram is seated in a Padama Asan with the left leg crossed  on to right thigh ,  has a sword in his right hand and a shield in the other , Mata Sita is on the left  brother Laxman on the right , Maharaj Sugreev , Narsingh Bhagwan and  Durga Maa are also present in the darbar on the right side ,  Hanumaan ji and Jamwant ji are praying just below Mata Sita.

Chaturbhuj Temple , Raja Ram Idols were to be kept here

 

Originally the Chaturbhuj temple was built to place the Idols of Lord Ram but when Idol  was brought from Ayudhya it was kept at the Queens Palace  the Ranibas or the Rani Mahal to be installed at Chaturbhuj Temple which is right next to the palace  but next day it could not be removed and since then Lord Ram is being worshiped as Raja Ram  at the palace .

There are fourteen Chatries or memorials  constructed as a mark of respect for the imperial blue blood of the mighty rulers of Bundelkhand dynasty. The royal tombs of MaharajasChhatris are placed on a elevated platform three floors buildings are open on all sides, have domes or pinnacles.

Royal Family cremation site , Chattries banks of River Betwa

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Yatra Chardham – Sri Kedarnath

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Sri Kedarnath Dham  is situated at a height of 3584 meters above the sea level on the head of river Mandakini surrounded by snow capped mountains , it is a plateu having the most popular Hindu pilgrimage in the Chardham. The temple here is dedicated to Lord Shiva and worshiped here of his back which is conical  in shape. This place is accessible from April till October , rest of the year the idol is kept and worshiped at Ukhimath near Guptkashi . Out side the main entrance there is a big stone statue of Nandi Bull facing the temple , upon entering the hall there are statues of five Pandava brothers , Lord Sri Krishna , Vidharba the guard of Lord Shiva. It is said that one who pays the visit here and bows his head is relived of Sorrows , it was from here onward towards the Swargarohan the Pandwa were blessed and relived of guilt and sorrow of killing their relatives in the Mahabharata war.

Sri Kedarnath Temple main entrance

Legend

This land was once ruled by the King Kedar who is also father of Vrinda , she had worshiped for sixty thousand years , to honor him this region was called as Kedarkhand. It is said the  Pandu the Pandva King died here while trying to  love  Madri .

When Bhim tried to stop the Lord Shiva who had disguised as bull had a fight with mace which hit the Lord Shiva , Bhim having guilt of hurting the Lord massaged the body with Ghee , today the pilgrims follow the ritual by applying the Ghee at the triangular Jyotirlinga along with offering of Bel leaves and milk in the puja .

Their existed a temple of Mahabharata time before this temple was constructed  in Eight centenary by the Adi Shankracharya .

Adi Shankarachrya took samadhi at this place in Sri Kedarnath Dham

When to travel

This temple opens along with the other temples of Chardham on Akshya Tritiya and closes on Depawali for winters , mid June till August is monsoon period , there are land slides and roads blocks quite common and during this period journey is not recomended.

What to see

The main place is the Sri Kedarnath temple , just behind it is the Adi Shankaracharya Samadhi , little above at a small distance on the left side of the temple is the Bhairo temple . Chorbari is a crystal clear snow water lake about a kilometer trek from Kedarnath with floating ice in the water. Vasuki Tal  is 6 km at a height of 4150 meters in the snow caped mountains , one can have a beautiful view of Chaukhamba peaks from here.

Where to stay

There are many guest houses and dharamshalas here but all are with basic facilities only.

How to reach here

There are Buses and trains available up to Hardwar or Rishikesh connections from all over India , one can also reach Dehradun by air onward journey could be performed by buses, cars and jeeps , opening of Helicopter service is a big relief for old age people , the helicopter service is available till Kedarnath from Guptkashi ( Phata) and Dehradun . There is a good road till Gaurikund from here the 14 km trek can be done by walking or hiring the mules or palkis .

Delhi to Rishikesh                      230 km

Rishikesh to Guptkashi            201 km

Guptkashi to Gaurikund            32 km

Gaurikund to Sri Kedarnath      14 km

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