Sunday, November 12, 2017

Visiting temples on way to Ranikhet (A photo blog)

Visiting temples on way to Ranikhet 
(a photo-blog – photos shot using mobile phone only)

Sunset across the Kumaon hills
A cloud lit up by the setting Sun in the Kumaon hills
As the clouds descend ominously
I have to visit my pad in Ranikhet region Kumaon in Uttarakhand to get it cleaned and maintain it.  This time around I roped in a few friends of mine and we embarked upon a short journey and for a change.  I did not carry my Camera kit and decided to undertake the journey and record photos using only my mobile phone.  The photo blog, I believe will do the creative writing this time around and places being shown can be searched in my blogs or over the internet –

Garjiya Devi Mandir is situated at a distance 12 KM away from the township of Ramnagar of the famed Corbett Park.  The temple was constructed in the year 1940 only. Originally discovered in the year 1840 by rulers of Ramnagar, Katyuri, this temple is protected and reconstructed many times by the temple management till now, thus offering an awesome infrastructure and attracts immense number of pilgrims each year.  It is believed that Girija is another name of Goddess Parvati, called because of being the daughter of king of mountains, The Himalayas. The Shakti residing in the Garjiya devi temple Uttarakhand is calm and peaceful avatar of Maa Paarvati. Visiting this place gives one a chance to please both Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.
Panoramic view of the Garjiya Devi temple
A snake twisted around the temple bell of Garjiya Devi temple
As the Ram Ganga River flows past the Garjiya Devi temple
Binsar Mahadev Temple - The manifestation of Shiva worshipped in the temple known as Bineshwar, a name which the British later corrupted to Binsar. It is a unique place nestled amongst the pine forests and a quiet place for meditation and picnic.  Bineswar Temple or Binsar Mahadev Temple is situated at a distance of 19 kms from Ranikhet district of Uttarakhand State. Built in 10th century A.D, the temple is known for its fine modern architecture. The temple was built by King Pithu in memory of his father Bindu, hence this temple is also known as Bindeshwar temple.  According to the legend of the temple, it was built in a single day. Women come here on the day of Vaikunth chaturdashi and it is belevied that desire of a child is fulfilled, if they pray all night with lamps in their hands.  The temple also has ashram nearby, dedicated to Binsar Mahadev.  Even though the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, it houses the idol of Lord Ganesha, Lord Hanuman, Goddess Har Gauri and Goddess Maheshmardini . The idol of Maheshmardini is engraved with texts in Nagarilipi which dates back to as early as the 9th century. Every year on Vaikunth Chaturdashi and Kartik Purnima, a two days Binsar Mela is organized at this temple which occurs in the months of June.
Panoramic view of the famed Binsar Mahadev temple
The pine forest surrounding the Binsar Mahadev temple
Hairakhan Temple – Is situated at a distance of 4.5 km from Ranikhet Bus Stand, The Haidakhan Temple is situated in Hairakhan Baba Ashram at Chiliyanuala near Ranikhet. This temple has been constructed in memory to Baba Haidakhan, who is believed to be the incarnation of Lord Shiva, to whom this temple is dedicated and is one of the best places in Ranikhet to visit. This temple proudly displays a tall statue of Lord Hanuman and Lord Shiva. Hairakhan Babaji, simply called Babaji or Bhole Baba, was a teacher who appeared near the village of Hairakhan in Nainital district and taught publicly from 1970 to 1984. His followers maintain that Hairakhan Babaji is a Mahavatar, a human manifestation of God. He left his mortal remains in 1984, at an early age.  Sri Hairakhan Wale Baba established this beautiful Ashram between 1970 and 1984 and many new buildings were erected in recent years. There are also five guest houses, a small shop, the main temple, the Italian temple and Sri Babaji's Kutir and the Sri Baba Research Hospital.  Navaratri is celebrated with great enthusiasm here with yagnas on all the 9 days. Satsang of bhajans happen every evening during the Aarti and people start dancing on their own. Many devotees from abroad visit this temple to have their marriage in Indian tradition. One can meditate in the peaceful surroundings.
View of the famed Hairakhan temple in Chilyanaula
Panoramic view of the cloud covered valley as viewed from Hairakhan temple in Chilyanaula
Kainchi Dham - Kainchi is a beautiful ashram located in secluded mountain of the Kumoan Hills in Uttarakand. The temple was first inaugurated in June 1964. It is approximately 38 km from Nainital. Many hundreds of people visit the temples here every day, during the season.  It was some time in 1962 when Maharajji called for Shri Poornanand of Kainchi village while he himself waited sitting on parapet wall by the road side near Kainchi. When he came, they refreshed the memories of their first meeting which they had 20 years back in 1942. They discussed about the place around. Maharajji wanted to see the place where Sadhu Premi Baba and Sombari Maharaj had lived and performed Yagyas. The forest was cleared and Maharajji asked for the construction of a Chabootara (rectangular platform) covering the Yagyashala. Maharajji contacted the then "conservator of forests" and took possession of the requisite land on lease.  The Hanuman temple is built over the platform mentioned above. His devotees started coming from different places and a chain of bhandaras, kirtans, bhajans started. The Pran-Pratishtha of idols of Hanumanji and others was performed on 15th June in different years. Thus, 15th June is celebrated every year as Pratishtha Divas Each year, during the famous June 15th bhandara.  The place is of international repute boasting of followers like Steve Job & Mark Zuckerberg.
View of the valley above the famed Kainchi Dham temple
Panoramic view of the famed Kainchi Dham temple

Sunday, October 8, 2017

A sojourn with nature & culture in Kumaon (A Photo blog)

A sojourn with nature & culture in Kumaon
(A Photo blog)

As the clouds envelope the valley
            This summer like the past few years, I again retreated back to my pod in the lap of the Kumaon hills and enjoyed a few days of bliss in the nature.  Like previous year, when I experienced the magic of ‘Jagar’ and had detailed the same in my blog then, this year too there was a brief interaction with the Kumaoni culture in form of various marriages that I got invited to during my brief visit.  I was also witness to cutting of huge trees that were posing problems to residents, especially threat of falling on houses during rain storms that were due shortly and I was able to record it in my mobile phone alongwith Jagar and a thunderstorm, whose videos I shall be sharing in this photo-blog.  Let the images & moving images do the talking in this blog of mine - 

In the lap of  nature - a butterfly sucking nector

On an Oak tree - Oriental White eye

Coal Tit singing away to glory on a Pine tree

Tipped on an wire - Grey Bushchat (Male)

On the Pine tree trunk - Chestnut belied Nuthatch

As the band begins to play - it is the time for the rituals to start

Sisters lead the celebrations of marriage

Ceremonial gifts for the bride to be packed

Now all the family members join in the celebrations - invitees of the village enjoy

Tucking in some more gifts for the bride to be

Sisters perform the 'Kajal' application on brother's eyes and doting mother stands by his side

Mother blesses her son as per the rituals

All hands raise in blessing - a colorful & joyous occassion

Mother releases her son from the 'debt of mother's nurturing' 

The ceremonial journey to bride's place starts in a Palanquin 

The bridegroom brigade re-assembles near the marriage pandal

Ceremonially ready to receive the bridegroom at the marriage venue
As the clouds drift across the valley

As the thunderstorm intensifies at night

Felling of tree by Forest Department

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Himalayan ranges from Badan Khet of Timila village (A photo blog)

Himalayan ranges from Badan Khet of Timila village
(A photo blog)
Sunrise as viewed from Badan Khet, Village Timila
         After having visited my pad in the month of January, when I had visited Padampuri & Sitlakhet also and as narrated in my earlier blogs, I had some work and had to visit my pad in Bdan Khet of Timila Village in March, 2017.  The day we reached the place, I found that it was all cloudy and covered with no view of the Himalayas.  But I also did not get time to explore much as I was busy with other chores.  However, during the ensuing days, I not only got some good views, but was able to stitch a panorama of the Himalayan ranges visible from the village.

            I have described the geographical location of this little village in my earlier blogs in detail, but for the benefit of the new viewers I am describing it again.  It is situated on a ridge on the State highway running from Ramnagar (Corbett National Park) to Ranikhet and in between Bhatrauch Khan and Tarikhet, just about 3 Kms. before reaching Tarikhet, while coming from Ramnagar side and is about 14 Kms. from Ranikhet Market.  Placed on a spur of a mountain ridge, the entire valley is open as far as eyes can see and was once the fruit basket of the region, with Apples growing in the region.  But with the climate turning warmer and migration of the people from villages, now hardly any apples grow here, but it is resplendent with Plums, Apricots etc. during the fruiting season.  The scenic beauty of the destination is sublime and as I was unable to find much data about the pictographic description of the peaks that are visible from here, I did some research and am presenting my take on the mountain peaks in the photographs that I am posting in this blog –
The Chaukhamba peaks panorama

The Gangotri peaks panorama
The Hathi & Ghoda peaks panorama
Some unidentified peaks panorama
The Kedar peaks panorama
The Trishul & Nanda Devi peaks
In case any of my readers/viewers have a different opinion about the peaks they are free to post in the comments to correct me.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Sitlakhet – a destination of snow & solitude

Sitlakhet – a destination of snow & solitude
Snowfall at Sitlakhet
The name ‘Sitla’ in Hindi means ‘Cool’ and ‘khet’ is ‘farm land’, so the trans-literation of name would be ‘Cool farm land’ or more appropriate would be ‘farms in cool climes’ and during my recent visit I found that it does fits its literal translation.  Sitlakhet is an unspoiled nature’s treasure trove nestled on the lap of a hill, the top of which is occupied by the famed Shyahi Devi temple, overlooking the valleys below it and bestowing it with a nature’s gift unparalleled in the annals.  Perched at an altitude of 1785 meters i.e. the exact elevation of the Tourist Rest House or TRH for short at Sitlakhet, managed by KMVN, which translates to around 6000 feet above MSL (Mean Sea Level).  However, the famed Syahi Devi temple would easily be touching 7000 feet above MSL.  If you search the net for the destination, it would throw up results in name of ‘Anant Rasa’, a resort being run by the famed photographer from Nainital, Sh. Anup Shah.  The place also houses a camping site run by the ‘Discovery Channel’.  The entire verdant valley is cocooned in dense forest of Oaks, Silver birch, pines et al and is nature’s treasure trove in all its splendour. 
Taking a selfie en-route at Mukteshwar
The small market of Sitlakhet
Tourist Rest House run by KMVN at Sitlakhet
            We had started from Padampuri late in the afternoon, as the train was delayed and we had taken a break to have some snacks etc. as detailed in my previous blog.  We headed on the road towards Dhanachuli, but just before reaching Dhari, the driver took a detour through a village road and he took the diversion at Boranshi, being a short cut that runs through small hamlet named Chaukhuta and reaches Kasiyalekh and therefrom through Gangachor to the junction called Bhatelia.  From Bhatelia the road leads towards Mukteshwar and this distance is about 20 odd Kms.  The weather had turned inclement as we commenced with our journey from Padampuri and by the time we approached Mukteshwar, it had started snowing and the children got excited and alighted from the Car at the forest checkpoint to click a few photographs.  The road distance from Mukteshwar to Almora is about 32 Kms. via Sheetla – Khawarbpul.  Having gone past Almora, we headed downstream towards Kosi, a further distance of 10 Kms. and therefrom having crossed the bridge, we headed towards the road leading past the ITBP Camp and the barrage built on Kosi River for supplying drinking water to residents of Almora.  After having gone past a small hamlet named Deoli we reached another nondescript little village named Kharkuna wherefrom the road bifurcates and the straight one towards the right hand side leads on towards Dhali and onwards to Sitlakhet, the total distance being about 27 Kms. from Kosi bridge.  Thus, it was a long haul of almost 80 Kms. that took about three & half hours’ drive because of the weather & road conditions.  As it was getting late, I decided to explore availability of boarding in the TRH and got one as it was in the middle of the week and it usually gets its guests on weekends.
Snow on a tuft of grass
As it snowed intermittently from the evening in Sitlakhet 
The morning after the snow fall in Sitlaket
The author out for a shoot 
            After having checked into the four bedded room, we ordered for some bread pakoras and coffee and as the evening started setting in, the cook Ganesh asked for the dinner order, as the TRH is at an isolated location and Sitlakhet itself is a very small hamlet and thus, in order to procure non-vegetarian or any specific vegetarian food, one has to book well in advance, so that the procurement may be done from either Kathpuriya, Majhkhali or Ranikhet.  Accordingly, we placed our orders and just as we had started enjoying Pakoras & Coffee it started snowing at Sitlakhet.  As the evening slowly merged into the night, the intensity of the snowfall increased with every passing minute, but the children were enjoying the experience immensely.  News came in late in the evening that the person entrusted with the job of procuring our order from the nearby road head was struck in the snow and thus, the order may have to be revised.  The staff of three that runs the TRH had lighted a small bonfire to keep themselves warm and as the electricity got disconnected due to the snowfall, we made a beeline for the space behind the kitchen where the fire wood had been lit, to keep ourselves warm.  However, at around 8.00 P.M some good news poured in that the person assigned the task of procuring Chicken had finally made it to the TRH and we could therefore, relish our next order of hot Chicken soup, that was prepared quickly and served piping hot and for dinner we got served ‘Garlic Chicken’ preparation with rotis/hand baked breads.  The cook Ganesh has some exceptional culinary skills and enjoys his work, which in turn results in some lip-smacking snacks and/or main course meals.
The Shahi Devi temple complex at Sitlakhet
Close up of the Himalayan ranges as seen from Sitlakhet
Panoramic view of the Himalayan ranges as seen from Sitlakhet
Panoramic view of Almora from Sitlakeht
        Bereft of electricity and with a solitary candle light flickering in one corner of the room, we all retired for the night in the cold climes of Sitlakhet and being tired over the day’s journey, all of us fell asleep quickly.  I was the first one to wake up in the morning and immediately peaked outside, although the sunlight was all around, yet the sunlight was only filtering through in patches, as the clouds were in motion in the deep blue sky above.  I got up quickly, completed the morning ablutions and moved out to get some shots with my camera.   As the cloud cover became thinner with passage of the day, by 9.00 A.M. a lot of birds started chirping all around and I had a fabulous time shooting to my heart’s content.   Later in the morning I moved towards the market and headed towards the Shyahi Devi temple.  However, the road that leads to the temple top is neither paved with concrete nor is its surface tarred and hence the vehicles run only for the first half of the journey of three Kms. i.e. one & half kilometres and the remaining half has to be completed on foot by trekking.  Due to the snowfall the vehicles too were not plying or going up the trail and it was not possible to trek up to the temple in the slushy & snowy conditions and therefore, I had to give up any hope of making it to the temple top, however, for the benefit of the readers I am providing with a link to the photographs of the temple -
Himalayan Yellow finch enjoying the Sun after nights snowfall
Return of the Himalayan Griffon - flying high in Sitlakhet
            Not being able to accomplish my target of visiting the temple, I returned back to the TRH and after having partaken the B’fast that is part of the tariff charged for the room, we headed for my pad and en-route went past many a small hamlets till we reached Kathpuriya, which is another small hamlet on the State Highway from Almora to Ranikhet and at a distance of 10 Kms. from Sitlakhet.  On the way I struck up a conversation with the driver of the taxi hired by me Mr. Chandan Singh, who is a local resident and resides near the temple at the hill top and he informed me that Sitlakhet had abundant water being blessed by Shyahi Mata and a natural spring takes care of all local requirement of water and also supplies water to Almora township.  He also informed me that the temple was surrounded by about seven Deodar trees, which appear in shape of two tigers when seen from Almora or other nearby hilltops.  Another small snippet that he provided was the fact that a small village, about 2 Kms. from Sitlakhet called ‘Khoont’, is the ancestral home of the legendary freedom fighter & politician Late Sh. Gobind Ballabh Pant.  As we reached Kathpuriya, one enters the state highway running from Almora to Ranikhet, one has to turn left and head towards Majhkhali and thereafter reach Ranikhet, which is about 18 Kms. from Kathpuriya.  From Ranikhet we rambled down to Ganiadoli, where we made some purchases for daily needs/use for our home and then headed further via Tarikhet to our final destination to our home in Timila.  Thus, ended the winter vacation break journey for the year.
Here is the link to the video for the destination -

© S Roy Biswas