Showing posts with label Tripadvisor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tripadvisor. 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 24, 2018

Sight-seeing: Gangtok

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Gangtok, the gateway to the heavenly North East India and the capital of Sikkim, offers a plethora of  wonders for tourist. From tranquil monasteries and exotic mountains to exciting adventure parks, Gangtok has it all. On an average, sightseeing in and around Gangtok would take two days. The taxi union has fixed the rates of sightseeing, saving you the hassles of negotiation.


Taxi Rate List as of October 2018

The cabbies swear by the rate list and do not deviate. However, what they don’t mention is the fact that all the places in the itinerary cannot be covered in one day. They might give you a list of 7-10 places but it is next to impossible to cover them all in a day because of following reasons:

1. Most of the time the narrow roads of Gangtok are packed with traffic. On unusual days, the waiting time is long as two hours.

2. Places like Rumtek or Hanuman Tok are quite far and the roads are extremely rough causing cars to slow down. Ask your driver to take you to Rumtek first which is 22 km from Gangtok. By the time you’d return, it would be dark and several sight points would shut by then.

3. If your itinerary includes the rope-way ride, you would lose three hours straight. Even if you get a place in the never ending queue, make sure you make it to the ticket counter before 12:30 pm as they break for lunch. Since the cable car ferries only 20 people at once and returns from the ride in 15 minutes, the waiting time is painfully long. It’s wise to skip rope-way from the itinerary and do it separately.

4. Chorten Gumpa and Tibetology Center are next to each other. The Tibetology Center is recommended only if Tibetan Culture excites you or the idea of a museum/school sounds interesting, lest you should spend a considerable amount of time here and miss out on the major sight-seeing points.

Husband and I had planned the day with 6 view points while we skipped Tibetology Institute, Flower Show and Rope-way Ride (which we had done in advance). Here is a virtual tour of Gangtok of what we covered one odd day.



1. Chorten Gumpa

Do Drul Chorten

Do-drul Chorten is a stupa was built by Trulshik Rinpoche, head of the Nyingma order of Tibetan Buddhism in 1945. Inside this stupa lie a complete set of Dorjee Phurba (dagger spike), Kangyur relics (holy books) and other religious objects. Around the stupa are 108 prayer wheels which when rotated in the direction mentioned while reciting the prayer brings good luck. We also met a cat peacefully sleeping behind the prayer bell. The main prayer hall is also open for visitors with prior permission. The stupa site is next to the Tibetology Centre.





Chorten Gumpa has a free entry and you can spend 30 to 45 minutes here. (We were stuck in traffic for one hour before reaching Banjhakri Waterfall)





2. Banjhakhri Waterfall




This is a recreation centre and tourist attraction near Gangtok spread over 2 acres of land. The park is based on a theme of shamanic traditions of the people of Sikkim. (Traditional shamanic healer who worships spirits living in caves around the falls). The park has a waterfall, an artificial lake with a dragon in the centre; gazebos; statues of jhākri and ancestors, sculptures of forest dwellers, Burma Bridge and adventure activities. The paved paths and footbridges wind through the beautiful garden decorated with ornamental trees and flowers.




Entry Fee: Rs. 50, Camera fee: Rs. 10. You will find lot of eating joints in and around the place. (We stayed here for about one and a half hours and reached Rumtek by 2pm)


3. Rumtek Monastery


22 km from Gangtok at an altitude of 4900 feet, Rumtek is the largest and one of the oldest monasteries of Sikkim. Heavily guarded by ITBP, the monastery has a controversial history dating back to 1994. The multi-layered buildings with tiers of white, yellow and oxblood has the throne of Karmapa in a grand assembly hall, where ornate wooden casements hold 1,000 Buddha statuettes and several ancient manuscripts. Home to several monks and the Nalanda University for Buddhism studies, Rumtek also houses the golden stupa with relics of 16th Karmapa. The place is tranquil and full of positive vibes, where you can spend some time meditating.



The ornamental entrance to the main assembly hall


This place is huge and takes about 1.5- 2 hours to explore. The roads to reach Rumtek are in bad condition and takes lot of time to reach. Entry is free. Carry your ID proof with you which is checked at the monastery main gate by ITBP. Weapons, sharp objects, pepper spray or objectionable items are not allowed beyond the second gate. Rather leave them in your taxi. Photography inside the monastery is prohibited. (We left at 5 pm and it had started turning dark)



4. Hanuman Tok




Hanuman Tok is known as the place where Lord Hanuman rested for a while during his search of Sanjeevani Booti. The roads pass through the curvy path of the forest area. Maintained by the Indian Army, the temple on the hill top treats you with a magnificent view of the Kanchenjunga peaks. A visit to this place is a spiritual sojourn.

As you ascend the stairs, a distant prayer or bell greets your ears, filling you with positive vibes.



Entry is free. The roads have no streetlight and are frequented by wild animals. Avoid visiting after dark. (We reached the temple around 6pm and headed to Ganesh Tok)




5. Ganesh Tok


A small temple dedicated to Lord Ganesh offers a bird’s eye view of the town below. Built in 1952-53 by Shri Appa B. Pant, the former Political Officer of Sikkim, the site has been beautified to provide superb view of the town and distant rolling hills and snowy peaks. This is a humble temple place with no extravagant carvings or designs yet feels beautiful, especially during evening. The temple is not wheelchair friendly and requires a flight of stairs to mount.





6. Tashi View Point  
Tashi View point- Courtesy TourmyIndia

It was pitch dark by the time we reached Tashi View Point. It is an elevated place to view the city dotted by colourful greens and bright hues. Had we reached on time, we could have enjoyed sunset view. But we made the best out of the opportunity and captured the twinkling city view at night. Personally, I think Tashi View Point isn’t that great. I am sure there are several other elevated places to watch the city.

Apart from the above, Gangtok sight seeing also includes Lingdam Monastery, Himalayan Zoological Park, Saat Kanya Jharna and Saramsa Garden, which we had to skip owing to shortage of time. In case your itinerary has Rumtek Monastery, it is recommended to go there in daylight. The roads would be riskier and worse in evening and you may not want to run into any trouble on the streets without lights.



P.S: This trip of mine was in Oct 2018.



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, September 15, 2018

Heritage Transport Museum- The first of its kind in India




History and heritage have always been of my prime interest since childhood. Delhi gave me loads of opportunities to discover the rich heritage of Indian History through the magnificent monuments and preserved artifacts. This time it was Heritage Transport Museum where I  witnessed the grandeur of mediums of transport that has evolved across centuries. Being one of its kind and the only transport museum of India, you cannot give it a miss. Bring this on your do-do list in NCR and tick it off your bucket list like I did.



A brief history- The brainchild of Mr. Tarun Thakral, Heritage Transport Museum was opened to public in 2013 highlighting how transport changed its course in different era and how it influenced our life. You can read more about the same on its website.

The three acre space has four levels, with each housing an extra ordinary variety of transport mediums, paintings, collectibles and audio-visuals. The audio guided tour throws light on the history and usage of the displayed items. Here is a visual tour of the museum for you in brief.



The Basement has vintage cars, artifacts from roadside shops, fuel and gas station, display of transport used in Bollywood movies and more..



Fiery red beauties

Remember this from Dil To Pagal Hai?


Yesteryear's fuel station- A remake 

A rusty old van found near Ramgarh, picked in as is condition



The ground floor houses  initial history of transport, luxurious train, Horse/camel carts, carriages, tucks, buses, artwork by artists, souvenir shop, small pantry.

Wheels- From where it all started 




                   This terracotta toy, named a bird card was found during the Indus Valley Civilization. This proves that people were                                                  aware of the use of wheels and drew inspiration from the real world.






Set up of railway station from the past

Jodhpur Salon, the predecessor of Palace on Wheels



First Floor
- This houses bikes, scooters, legacy of Hero bikes, cycles, auto and interesting "jugaad" of few states.






Jugaad from Gujarat

"Jugaad" from Haryana


The second floor exhibits a small aircraft, marine transport, a library, the legacy of Maruti, Ambassador, works of artists, childhood nostalgia, toys.


Twinning with Ambassador. Well almost :)

Peek a boo


A smiley tribute to Maruti

The outer premises has traffic signals, truck bonnets and bus from the British time on display.











Note-

Timings- 10 am to 7 pm. Closed on Monday.
Entrance fees- Rs 400 adults, Rs 200 for children. Free for kid below 3 years
How to reach- While driving from Gurgaon, cross Kherki Daula toll, stay on the flyover. Take left on Torau Road. Keep moving straight. The museum will be on left.




The entire experience is enhanced by audio guide (The gadgets would be provided to you at the entrance)
Wheelchair friendly- Yes (With slope ramps and elevator)

Pantry- Grab a bite if hungry. Otherwise expensive. (No other restaurant or eating joint nearby). Advisable to carry food with you and keep in your car. 

Souvenir shop-  From stationery and books to mugs, wallets and coasters, the shop has a great variety but is too pricey. (I did not find it worth)

This is great place for history enthusiasts, car and bike lovers, artists, photographers, kids, elders Basically for all age group. No body would be disappointed here. The 400 INR that you spend here are totally worth it.

P.S: My visit to the museum was in September 2018.
The post also made it among the top popular post on Indiblogger.

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