Showing posts with label Incredible India. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Incredible India. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Touring Sikkim's largest monastery: Rumtek




Visiting temples or monasteries rarely make it to my priority list unless they are exceptional. Never had I thought about seeing any monastery on my trip to Sikkim. However, after reading about the unique History and having heard a lot from the locals, husband and I made quick plan to visit Rumtek; the largest and most popular monastery of Sikkim.


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22 km from the capital, Rumtek stands  at an altitude of 4900 feet against the backdrop of the beautiful Himalayan Range. Made in mid 1700, Rumtek is home to hundreds of monks with a long history of clashes over stewardship of the monastery and its contents. Heavily guarded by ITBP, the monastery is under strict surveillance 24x7.
The heavily guarded entrance 

P.S- Weapons or sharp objects are restricted to entry. Use of camera/mobile phones are allowed in the outer premises, not inside the assembly hall.

The pillar of good luck

A pillar stands across the main temple in the center of the courtyard where tourists engage themselves by throwing coin on the top of the pillar. The coin if perches the pole is said to bring good luck.




Rich and vibrantly colored murals in the traditional, Tibetan painting style grace the entrance of the main temple. Here, on each side of the door, stand life-size images of the four guardians of the universe: Virudaka, Virupaksha, Dritarashtra, and Vaishravana, protecting the four directions, respectively. (photography is allowed only till point)







The assembly hall leaves you breathless. The spacious and intricately decorated Main Shrine Hall is supported by robust red pillars. Long, round silk banners and ancient thangkas hang from these columns. One side of the main hall houses a complete set of religious scriptures dating thousand years ago. The ornate details and paintings on the walls are truly mesmerizing. (Photography is not allowed here). 


The main assembly hall is surrounded by the monks' quarters and through them leads a path towards the Golden Stupa and the Nalanda Institute of Higher Buddhism Studies. The Golden Stupa contains the precious relics and holy remains of His Holiness the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje. You can meditate or pray here and feel the positive aura surrounding you. (Photography is prohibited here)


The Nalanda Institute is a center dedicated for Buddhism studies.


Nalanda Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies



You can buy souvenirs at the little shop near the Nalanda Institute's complex or capture nature's bliss around. I was impressed to see how the authorities conserve nature and make the most of the resources available. City dwellers need some serious learning from them.


Road conditions: 
The road condition is extremely bad in patches. Since the ride is bumpy and uncomfortable, the slow drive will elongate the journey. Recommended to visit Rumtek during the day or else the bumpy roads are not visible in the dark due to absence of street lights. Apart from few settlements and shops, the entire road is isolated.

Timings- 10 am to 5 pm everyday

Total time to spend: 1 to 2 hours

P.S- This trip of mine was in October 2018.
This also made it to Indiblogger's Featured Post and Indiblogger's Top post.


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Saturday, November 10, 2018

Adrenaline Rush - Zero Point, Sikkim




Sikkim is an incredibly beautiful state and every place in this state exudes an enigmatic grandeur. One among them is Zero Point. Husband and I were fascinated to visit this place as we were intrigued to know how it feels at the last outpost of civilization in knee deep snow.  My late father-in-law had served in NEFA valley. Hence husband wanted to see a similar place where his dad was posted. Zero Point undoubtedly topped the list. A big salute to Indian Army which operates in harsh conditions, guarding the Indo-China border 24*7.




A day before your visit to Zero Point or Yumesamdong, your driver/travel agent would have submitted your documents in advance, which are checked on the day of visit. Zero Point is usually not included in North Sikkim itinerary and travel agents charge Rs 3000 extra for this trip, clubbing Yumthang Valley with it. Your homestay would provide you with packed breakfast (usually bread butter/jam) since you would have to leave early morning.

The distance from Lachung to Zero Point is 51 km and roughly 30 km from Yumthang Valley.
(We first went to Zero Point and stopped at Yumthang Valley on returning from Zero.)



Hilly topography, harsh weather and proximity to China perhaps made it impossible to build roads. You would experience sharp turns and jerks throughout the road journey. Nonetheless the beautiful untouched nature around makes up for painful ride. The breath-taking sight leaves you mesmerized. After all its the journey that matters.




As you ascend higher, vegetation starts diminishing and rocky terrain becomes more prominent. The roads tend to get very slippery and extremely dangerous during snowfall. Ask your driver to drive slowly and very carefully on this route even when not snowing. Rash driving is not an option here. Give way to Army trucks whenever you see. Army personnel wave at passing vehicles as a gesture of wishing happy journey and making you feel good. Waving back to them is a nice gesture.

On the way, don’t forget to stop at ‘Jalebi Point’ for yummy snacks which are made by Indian Army personnel. Their motto is to bring a smile to faces and not let anyone go hungry.
P.S- Food items at Zero Point are expensive and the hygiene is not really trustworthy.  Advisable to refuel yourself at this stop. Hot samosas and jalebis felt absolutely amazing as we famished. (Remember our breakfast was just bread butter?)  

The super bouncy ride comes to an end at the Zero Point Parking. At 15000 feet above sea level, the place is covered in snow most of the year. When it hasn’t snowed, it would be biting cold.


We were at loss of words with the exhilarating beauty of the place. The Sun hid behind the greyish clouds and the chilled winds kissed our skin. Wood-fire at a nearby tea stall made us feel colder and we pulled our jackets tighter. The white blanket of snow seemed to beckon us as our body tried to adjust in the sub-zero temperature. Thankfully we did not feel uneasy because oxygen level isn’t low here unlike Gurudongmar Lake. While we felt ecstatic being surrounded by snow wondering what was China doing behind those gigantic mountains, our heart went out to Indian Army that braves these challenges everyday just to keep us safe. A heart-felt thanks and grand salute to them.


Enjoy hot snacks at the little shacks here, play with snow, enjoy nature at its "whitest most" and take home good memories. A usual protocol is to leave within an hour lest the parking should be full or  weather conditions worsen. Avoid Zero Point during rainy season.

Overall the place has nothing except for being an important landmark before China. However the exotic beauty of this place keeps you charmed.

Travelling to such places often changes your perspective about life and lot of things. The distance between life and death could be a thing as small as a wrong step on the hills or slipping on the rocks. We could somehow re-live the conditions what dad had endured during his service in NEFA. Our trip to Zero Point was also in his commemoration.  

P.S- This trip of mine was in Oct 2018. In case you have queries on planning your trip to North Sikkim or Zero point, feel free to reach out at shilp3005@gmail.com or leave your query in comments below. 

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Inside Rangji Temple, Vrindavan






The holy town of Vrindavan, is home to ancient history dating centuries ago. The karamabhoomi of Lord Krishna, Vrindavan hustles with people all year, irrespective the weather. Among several temples dedicated to Lord Krishna, I found a temple from the South Indian origin, the Rangji Temple. Driven by curiosity, husband and I could not stop ourselves from visiting this beautiful temple, much different from others in Vrindavan. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, Rangji Temple is a beautiful concoction of the north and south Indian architecture.






Rangji Temple History- Build in 1851, this is the largest temple of Vrindavan that houses Lord Vishnu, Lord Ram, Goddess Sita, Lord Lakshman, Lord Venugopala and Lord Ramanujacarya. The main priests are South Indian Brahmins. Only Hindus are allowed inside the temple, and non-Indians are given access to the first two gateways only. With the outer walls towering at a height of 773 feet and width of 440 feet, you can imagine the vastness of the space enclosed within.

Here is my photo blog on the beautiful Rangji Temple- 


One of the gateways










Priests in the main prayer hall


Smaller temple inside the premises
 

Gold plated pillar towering at 50 feet, this is called the Dhwaja Stambha


 A kund in the temple premises




The dwelling spaces of the priests and elderly


Walkway of the ashram


How to reach- Vrindavan has a major monkey menace. Hence exploring the place on foot is not advisable. Hire a rickshaw or shared auto to reach Rangji Temple which is close to Gandhi Chowk.

Timings:
Summers- 5:30 to 10:30 am and 4 pm to 9 pm
Winters- 6-11 am, 3:30-8:30 pm


P.S: This trip of mine was in Jan 2018
Also this post made it as the top post on Indiblogger home page. 

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Saturday, August 18, 2018

Mathura Vrindavan Foodtrail






Going on food trails has always been exciting for me, especially while travelling to new places. Soaking in the culture is an essential part of my travel experiences. Food is an obvious and important part of any culture and tasting local cuisines is hence a must do in each trip. Keeping aside the hygiene factor for once, let me boldly state that you would find the true essence of local cuisines in roadside dhabas or street vendors. They are the ones who have kept the specialty and authenticity alive. Here is my food trail experience was on the streets of Mathura and Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh.

My first food experiment was in the market at Sri Krishna Janmbhoomi Temple, the very place where Lord Krishna was born to Devki and Vasudev in Kansa's captivity. I started my chaat spree from a tiny stall named Paras Chaat Bhandar. The honest vendor served great assortment of chaat and ofcourse was reasonably place. Each bite burst with spices in my mouth. Tangy and chilly, I must say that the chaat palate in U.P is the best in India. Infact I had developed a liking for chaat in childhood after I tasted in U.P. 



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A scrumptious chaat meal is always followed by desserts and what's better than hunting for sweets in Mathura. Being the birthplace of Lord Krishna, Mathura is known for excellent milk based sweets After all they were the favorites of the Lord. I went searching for peda. Made of khoya (milk residue), sugar and flavoured spices, peda of Mathura is popular across the nation. India's best pedas are found here.

I went searching for sweet shops in the market close to Shri Krishna Janambhoomi Temple. and there was no dearth of sweet shops. Apparently every second shop in Mathura is named Brijwasi Sweet Shop. 





I ditched all shops in the vicinity. My hunt for good pedas ended in a peda shop near Dwarkadhish Temple. The brown ones are pure khoya which have shelf life of 2 weeks and the white ones (covered) have punch of cloves and they last for 2 months. Pedas just melt in your mouth and I could not restrict myself to just one.


Also, as I said chaat from Uttar Pradesh is the best in India, one cannot afford to miss the crispy kachori here. Stuffed with daal or onion and spices, these crispy bites are served with potato gravy or sweet sauce. The best part, they are served in bowls made of palm tree leaves. Being close to the temple vicinity, most of the shops prepare food without onion but there is high on spices. The fresh preparation on a chilled winter morning was an appealing sight. However I resisted the temptation.   



The following day of my visit to Govardhan Temple, nothing could separate me from sweets again. This time, the sweet shop was a footwear deposit stoppage since the main temple had no footwear counter. I bought peda prasad from here as well.



A sweet shop close to Govardhan Temple was my stop to taste rabri rasmali and khoya rasmalai. I am still drooling.

                                

Vrindavan, a town close to Mathura is another place with Lord Krishna's legacy attached with it. Lord Krishna was brought up in this town away from his biological parents. Home to several temples, Vrindavan too is famous for milk products and one cannot give a miss to lassi. Served in eco friendly kullad (clay glass) the thick creamy lassi is a filling quencher. This was from a tiny shop in the crowded lanes of Vrindavan.




My evening snack comprised aloo tikki chaat in the lanes of Banke Bihari Temple. Chaat never disappoints you in Uttar Pradesh. Trust me!





UP's main cuisine is hot and spicy which is cooled off by sweets. The spicy level can upset your stomach if you are not used to spices like me. Thanks to my stars I managed to stay put and braved the hotness of the cuisine. 


P.S- This trip of mine was in Jan 2018.
The post also made it to the top on Indiblogger and feature on the homepage.

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