Thursday, December 10, 2015

My Madmaheswar (Madhyamaheshwar) Trek

Madhyamaheshwar or Madmaheswar is a part of famous “Panch kedar”. The middle (madhya) or belly part or navel (nabhi) of the bull, considered a divine form of Shiva, which is worshipped at this temple, believed to be built by the Pandavas.

Madhyamaheshwar is located at Mansoona village of Rudraprayag district in Garhwal Himalaya and can be reached by trekking from Ransi village. Ransi is the last motor-able point. Trekkers are requested to take porters from here.


Buddha Madhyamaheshwar
The Legend:

The legend of Madhyamaheswar is an integral part of the legend of Panch Kedar, which is a captivating narration of the efforts of Pandavas to atone for the sins of their fratricide (gotra- hatya) act of killing their cousins, the Kauravas, and Brahmanahatya (killing of Brahmins – the priest class), during the epic Mahabharata war. On advice from sages and their trusted benefactor god Krishna they sought Lord Shiva to pardon them and bless them to attain salvation.

Since Shiva was annoyed with them for their conduct during the Kurukshetra war, he tried to avoid them by assuming the animal form of a bull or Nandi and hid himself in the Himalayan Garhwal region. But the determined Pandavas, after sighting Shiva in the form of the bull grazing in the hills of Guptakashi, tried to forcibly hold the bull by its tail and hind legs. But the bull disappeared into the ground to reappear later in his original self of Lord Shiva at five places; in the form of a hump at Kedarnath, in the shape of bahu (arms) at Tungnath, with his face at Rudranath, his nabhi (navel) and stomach at Madhyamaheswar and his hair (locks) called jata at Kalpeshwar.

The team and planning:

I visited Madhyamaheshwar in October, 2015. This time our team consisted of my senior friend Mr. Avra Ghosh and myself. Avra is a school teacher, a singer and a very good photographer. He is one of the most creative person ever I have seen. We planned to visit Madhyamaheshwar and Deoria Taal in this trip.

Since we were only two like-minded people in the team, we did not book any accommodation in this trip, instead we talked to our friend Mr Lakhpat Singh Negi of Sari village in Garhwal. Lakhpat is the owner of a hotel in Sari village and also arranges everything in this part of Himalaya.

Reaching to basecamp (Ukhimath):

We started from Kolkata on 2nd October and reached Haridwar on 3rd October. Ensuring our lodging in a hotel at Haridwar we went out for a photowalk. It was a successful evening in respect to photography.
Next morning we started for Ukhimath. First we went to Rishikesh Taxi Stand from Haridwar by an auto rickshaw and from there we took a shared car and drove to Rudraprayag. From Rudraprayag we took another shared car to Ukhimath where our friend Lakhpat was waiting for me with his car. His car took us to a budget hotel in Ukhimath. 


Next morning we tried to take some photographs of sunrise. At around 8pm Lakhpat came with his car and drove us to Ransi village where our porter Mr Birbal Panwar (arranged by Lakhpat) was waiting for us. 


Landscape of beautiful Garhwal
The trek:

After breakfast we started our trek from Ransi at around 11am.

Day 1: Ransi (2100 meter) to Bantoli (1800 meter) [8km]

It was completely the trekkes’ choice whether they will stay at Bantoli or Gondar. I suggest to stay at Bantoli. The distance between Ransi to Gondar is 6km and Ransi to Bantoli is 8 km. So it will be better to stay at Bantoli as it will help next day.


On the way to Bantoli
Ransi is located at the bank of Madhyamaheshwar Ganga. From Ransi the trail gradually descends into forests along the river. Small streams of water is visible in the trail. After a sharp turn, a small temple is visible. From this turn if the weather is clear, Chaukhamba is visible.

After walking around 2 km we reached at Agtolidhaar. Agtolidhaar is not a village but there is a shop where a middle age lady runs a small stall of tea and rhododendron juice. We drank rhododendron juice and started trekking. 


Tea and rhododendron juice shop at Agtolidhar
The trail gradually descends into forests. The layers of green hills are pleasure to eyes. After walking 1km, we found a waterfalls. 

The trail gradually descends from here and after walking about 3 km we reached at Gaundhar. Gaundhar is a nice village where we had tea in a small tea shop. As I mentioned earlier, we did not stay here and started towards Bantoli. After trekking about 1km we reached at the bridge that spans Markanda Ganga. On the east side of the bridge, the confluence of Markanda Ganga and Madhyamaheshwar Ganga is visible.


Markanda Ganga from Bantoli
This is the lowest point of the trek. Scenic beauty of this place cannot be expressed in literature. We spent more than half an hour here.

From here the rail goes up towards Bantoli which is just 1km away. Bantoli is a beautiful village. We stayed in a local villager's home. 

Day 2: Bantoli (1800 meter) to Madhyamaheshwar (3300 meter) [9km]

We started trekking on the trail into dense forest. The path rises steadily past Khatara (2km) to Nanu (2km). Nanu is a small village. A consistent tug at the calf muscle needs rest. So it is better to stop here for 30minutes. 


Mandani Twin Peaks
From Nanu the forest becomes denser and the trail is steep. It was a well-graded path with changing views of grassy slopes, emerald streams. 


Somewhere between Nanu and Maykhamba
After walking 2km we got very tired and somehow managed to reach Maykhamba. There is a small trekkers’ hut in Maykhamba but we did not stay. Instead, we had lunch at Maykhamba as it was almost 2pm. 


Working lady of Garhwal
From Maykhamba the trail sharply rises into forest and after travelling a distance about 3km, suddenly forest gets ended and a meadow appears. Madhyamaheshwar comes. A north Indian type of temple comes in front of eyes. The holy sound of the bell makes the soul sacred.

Archietecture:

The temple in the north Indian style of architecture, is situated in a lush meadow, just below a high ridge. The temple here contains a superb Har-Gouri statue. There are two other smaller shrines, one for Shiva’s consort Parvati and the other dedicated to the Ardhanarishwara, a half-Shiva half-Parvati image.


Madhyamaheshwar Temple
Bhima, the second Pandava brother is believed to have built this temple and worshipped Shiva here. To the right of the main temple there is a small temple where the image of Saraswati.

Day 3: Madhyamaheshwar (3300 meter) to Buddha Madhyamaheshwar (3300 meter) [3km] and back

Next morning we started for Buddha Madhyamaheshwar before sunrise. It took near about one and half hour to gain the top of the ridge lying to the north west of the temple. 


On the way to Buddha Madhyamaheshwar
Unfortunately we were unable to see sunrise but after walking around one hour we were able to see Mt. Chaukhamba.


Temple at Buddha Madhyamaheshwar
We reached at Buddha Madmaheshwar. This place is a beautiful meadow with three small ponds, small temple and an awesome view of Mt. Chaukhamba and Mt. Mandani. Reflection of Mt. Chaukhamba and Mt. Mandani is the main attraction of this place.


Mt. Chaukhamba and Mt. Mandani
All the four peaks of Mt. Chaukhamba and twin peaks of Mandani are visible from here.

My vocabulary is insufficient to express the beauty of this place. We spent more than 2-3 hours for photography. 


Pilgrim at Buddha madhyamaheshwar
I would suggest the readers of this post to stay here instead of staying at Madhyamaheshwar. For that the trekkers need to carry tents, mattresses and sleeping bags. Please ask your travel agent to arrange them.




After spending 2-3 hours we came back to Madhyamaheshwar and started exploring the spot with camera. Rest of the day we enjoyed the beauty of that place.


Avra is busy in Photography
Day 4: Madhyamaheshwar (3300 meter) to Gaundhar (1900 meter) [11km]

We trekked back by the same trail to Gaundhar. Since Gaundhar is closer to Ransi we decided to stay there. In the evening, we were busy in chit-chatting with local villagers to know their social structure life style etc. It was a nice experience for us to know them.


Arti - A Garhwali Lady
Day 5: Gaundhar (1900 meter) to Ransi (2100 meter) [8km]

We trekked back by the same trail to Ransi. We stopped at Agtolidhar for rhododendron juice as said above. At aroung 11.30 am, we reached at Ransi where our friend Lakhpat Singh Negi was waiting for us with his car. We started our journey for Sari Village from where we went to Deoria Taal.


Tips to the readers:

1. Try to start trek every day as early as possible as the trail passes through forest.

2. Take efficient and responsible porters and behave properly with them. Our porter Birbal Panwar and his brother are very responsible and efficient. Birbal's contact number is - 09917147497

3. Try to stay at Buddha Madhyamaheshwar (instead of Madhyamaheshwar) by pitching tent. Be well equipped with tents, mattresses, sleeping bags and food.

4. Arachnophobiacs please think twice before this trek, even I was scared to see big spiders.

5. Please respect local villagers and their customs.

Reference:

1. Paye Paye Pahare by Mr. Pradip Dey Sarkar,Boiwala Publications, 2002
2. Across Peaks & Passes in Garhwal Himalaya by Mr. Harish Kapadia. Indus Publishing
3. Outlook Traveller Gateways - Uttarakhand

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A weekend at Lamahatta

Although this is the tenth time, I felt the same lub-dub inside me like the first time when the train reached New Jalpaiguri (NJP) station. As most of you know that NJP is the last EMU station before Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong and entire Sikkim, so to me and my team members NJP is the gateway of heaven.

This time our team consisted of 3 members – Mr. Jyotirmoy Chraborty, Mr. Sourav Kamal Guha and myself. All of us are in service industry. We three are like minded people. North Bengal and Sikkim are our favorite places for holiday.

This trip was a long week end trip where three of us were interested to enjoy win a relax mode. Though we all are hard core trekkers but this time we decided to travel less but to stay surrounded by natural beauty. We chose Lamahatta so that we can see Kanchenjunga Range from the balcony with a coffee mug and there is some greenery, even we can trek a bit also, if we find interest.

Lamahatta
The trip:

We took a shared car from New Jalpaiguri for Tista Bazar. Tista Bazar is a junction where the road is bifurcated for Kalimpong and Sikkim. We had breakfast at Tista Bazar and asked our hotel to send a car for us.

After 20minutes a car picked us up from Tista Bazar and e started our journey towards Lamahatta. We crossed Chhota Mangwa Bridge, Peshok Tea Garden starts from here. The journey was very romantic due to the scenic beauty. We reached at Sunset point. Sunset point is a couples’ park from where the confluence of Tista and Rangit rivers is visible. After a short break we started for Lamahatta and it took 15 minutes to reach Lamahatta. We had booking in Lamahatta Tourist Lodge.

Lamahatta Tourist Lodge is a well maintained tourist lodge and consists of well mannered staffs. This lodge is owned by an ex. Service man Captain. He is a nice gentleman and possesses a strong personality. He has a huge experience in battle field and loves to tell the stories by enriching them with humor. Listening to him with a cup of coffee is a great experience.
We freshened up and had a delicious diner. It was a gloomy day. Since there was no hope to see Kanchenjunga family, so we decided to go to Mamata Park which is located just the opposite of tourist lodge and named after honorable chief minister Ms. Mamata Bandyopadhyay who inaugurated the park. The park is nothing but an amusement park with full of orchids and flowers. There is a short hike of one kilo meter that leads the tourists to the holy lake. We took the trail and reached to the lake. The lake is small but the scenic beauty of the place impressed us. The lake is clean and surrounded by lush greenery. Suddenly I found a full bloomed rhododendron which was most unlikely because that was not the season of Rhododendron. The season is March-April and it was the end of January. We were lucky enough to see bloomed rhododendron in January.

This place was so calm and quiet that we spared two hours by sitting beside to the lake. It was the time of sunset, we wanted to stay there more but suddenly a villager came and asked us not to stay anymore as the forest is very near to the place and any time beer or leopard can come.

As the Samaritan asked us, we came back to our hotel by the same trail via Mamata Park and planned to visit the lake and forest next day.


Holy lake, Lamahatta (Lamahatta Lake)
In the evening we met the army captain with coffee. He shared some of his experiences. It was really a great experience.

Even the next morning was a cloudy one. We understood that there is no chance to see snow peaks. We had early breakfast and trekked to the lake. We took a break of 30 minutes and started walking towards the forest. The greenery and cold air refreshed our mind. After trekking a bit more we found a small meadow. The meadow is so romantic that we spent some time. The cacophony of migratory birds like yellow pane wood pecker, hill mayna, finches made our ears sacred. My team mate Sourav has the hobby of birding. He helped us to identify the birds. Suddenly we found a new type of bird. Later Sourav said that it was Yuhina. So Lamahatta is a place for birding. It is a paradise for bird photographers.



Walking through the trail we saw a deer. Next we saw a bifurcation of the trail. One is going towards forest and another one towards main road. We took the second one and reached at 10miles. From there we walked to our hotel. We were very hungry so we had lunch even before getting freshens up.

After lunch, we spared some time with local villagers and then visited to Lamahatta monastery. It is not a big monastery only one Lama is there who is in search of enlightment by keeping mum for five years. It was the second year. Though we could not meet him but there was some spiritual feeling in the monastery. We were feeling like blessed when we were inside the monastery.

After coming from Lamahatta monastery Jyotirmoy proposed to visit the forest again but by taking the short cut from 85 miles. We called a car from hotel and went to 10miles. We went to the bifurcation that we saw in the morning and took the way for the forest.

It was about to sunset, we were walking towards the forest. After sunset we decided to feel the silence and darkness. We switched off our mobile phones and stopped making noise. It seemed like we three were out of the civilized world. We were inside an unreserved forest and surrounded by pine, rhododendron trees. It was pitch black and there was no noise except the sound of fresh air. Suddenly we felt a wave of cold air and some abnormal sound of walking. We got alert and enlighted lighter. There was nothing. Again we started enjoying the silence. But after sometime we were feeling uncanny. Jyotirmoy said it was better to go back to hotel. He was absolutely right. It was dark and we were inside an unreserved forest. We came back.

Next morning, the weather was a bit clear. The trip was great but still I could not see Mt. Kanchenjunga and its family. This is the first time I could not see Kanchenjunga from North Bengal or Sikkim. This was the last day of our tour. We were trying to get some candid of local people.


Little nepali girl

After checking out from hotel, when we were waiting for car for NJP suddenly Sourav asked as to look back. I followed his direction and found Mt. Kanchenjunga and the entire family. So even this time Kanchenjunga showed me its face.

By that time, our car had come and we came back to NJP.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Bihar Sharif – The silent speaker of Sultani era in Bihar

Bihar Sharif is a sacred place at Nalanda District in Bihar and can be considered as a worth sightseeing during Rajgir, Nalanda, Patna tour.




The tourist attraction for this place is Bari Pahari and Bari Dargah. Apparently these two are two mausoleums of two great people – Sayed Ibrahim Mallick Baya and Makdoom Shah Sharfuddin.

Bari Pahari – The tomb of a Sufi army general:

Before discussing the current tourist attraction, let’s do a quick time travel to 14th century when the entire India was under the empire of the great emperor Md. Bin Tughlaq but Bihar was autonomously ruled by Bundela Rajput family. Even the proud rajput family did not agree to pay the tax to the Delhi Sultan.

Sultan Tughlaq sent his general Sayed Ibrahim Mallick who was born in a Sufi family. He was a descendant of Hazrat Ali Murtaza (Karram'Allah Wajhahu) and when the Abbasyds persecuted his ancestors, they escaped to Ghazni. He was born and educated in military training in Ghazni and came to Delhi to serve the role of army general for Sultan. 

After a fierce battle the “Raja army” lost the battle by well trained Sultani soldiers, the rajput king Raja Baithal was killed and Bihar got included into Md. Bin Tughlaq’s Kingdom.

The conquest of Bihar was a remarkable achievement and the happy Sultan honoured the Sayed Ibrahim Mallick by the title “Madrul Mulk” (Administratior & king of sword and wealth). From then Sayed Ibrahim Mallick or Mallick Baya was the governor of Bihar till his assassination in 1353 CE (753 hijri). During his era Islamic culture was taught in Bihar and the poor villagers got attracted to the religion Islam.

 After his death he was buried in a hill top and his tomb (domed red brick structure on top) is known as “Bari pahari”. The mausoleum can be seen from far.

Beside Mallik Baya’s tomb, there are ten graves of his family members. A park has been developed beside Bari pahari. People can get a great panoramic view of entire city from here. Although it is suggested to go to Bari Pahari before sunset otherwise they cannot enjoy the beauty of this place. In fact, our team was a bit late, so we could not get photograph.

Bari Dargah – The tomb of a Sufi saint:

Bari Dargah is a grave of a revered saint Makdoom Shah Sharfuddin (also known as Makdoom-ul-Mulk). Legend has it that he was such a strict ascetic that he ate only 7kg grains in his life.
He had a unique type of teaching. He used to write letters to his disciples to advise them about spiritual matter. The letters were compiled in a book “Maktabat-e-sadi”.

He passed away at the age of 121 in 1379 CE. His mausoleum is known as “Bari Dargah” where people of all religions can pray together. The common belief is that if you pray sincerely here, the saint will fulfil your wishes.

Earlier the mausoleum over the grave was ordinarily built but recently it has been renovated.  Now it has one tomb and four Minars. All the minars and the tombs are capped by golden plates. The finial decoration is very impressive.

All the tourists are requested to change shoes before getting into the main gate of the dargah. From the gate the main dargah is near about 3 minutes walking. An idgah has been recently built in the boundary of the dargah. The moulabi of the dargah usually explain the history of the grave.



Floral decoration of Bari Dargah, Bihar Sharif

There is a lake behind the tomb which is known as Makhdoom Talab.


Going:

Bihar Sharif is on NH31. Busses are available from Patna, Rajgir, Nalanda, Bakhtiyarpur. It is better to hire a car. Nearest rail station is Bihar Sharif but most of the trains do not hault there. Bakhtiyarpur  Junction is the nearest popular rail station.

Staying:

Though there are some hotels but it is better to stay at Rajgir or Patna.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Kakolat Waterfalls - A hidden treasure of nature

Kakolat Waterfalls is a hidden natural beauty of India or in other words it can be said as a stunning little hidden treasure.


Kakolat Waterfalls

Although the photo of Kakolat Waterfalls can be found in Rs. 5 Indian postal stamp, but a very few people (except people of South Bihar) know about this falls.

Politically located at Nawada district (33 Km from Nawada) of south Bihar (Bihar-Jharkhan border) this falls is physically situated at picturesque Kakolat hills, surrounded by dense forest and can be reached by car from Patna, Gaya, Rajgir. Nearest tourist spot is Rajgir. So, it can be considered as a sightseeing of Rajgir.

Since there is no other way of communication it is suggested to take a car from Rajgir/ Gaya and drive through NH 31 (Ranchi-Patna highway) and turn right from Fatehpur More. The journey up to Fatehpur More is very romantic as the road condition is very good. But from Fatehpur More the road is gradually poor up to Ektara Village. From Ektara Village the road is miserable up to the foot hill of Kakoat Hills. After 20 minutes journey in this road the gate of Kakolat Waterfalls comes.

Leaving the car at the gate walking gets started. The guides lead the the tourists from the gate. After a small hike of 5 minutes through eye soothing greenery Kakolat Waterfalls is seen where the sheer beauty of mother nature is cascading marvelously. 


The waterfalls cascades down from a height of 150 feet and formed a natural reservoir below. The perennially cool water of the falls is so refreshing that almost every tourist/ picnickers take a bath in the reservoir. 

Mythology associated with Kakolat Waterfalls:

Once upon a time there was a handsome and good looking king who was very proud of his beauty and physique. His bad habit was to humiliate other people who were not good looking and ill. One day he came across Ashtabakra Muni and insulted him in a cruel manner. At the very beginning Ashtabakra Muni remained calm and tried to avoid the king but the king repeatedly insulted him. At last the Muni got angry and cursed the king so that the king turned into a python – Agasura. After a long spell the king got liberated by bathing in this falls and he proclaimed that the people who took a dip there would never be reborn as snake.

Another legend says that pandavas visited this falls during their exile.


Discovery of the falls and tourism:

On 1811, this falls was discovered by Mr. Francis Buchanan and he claimed that the density of the reservoir was very dip. But after repeated stone throwing, the dnsity became gradually lower s that now people can bath easily.

After its discovery now days it has become a picnic spot and tourim has been developed based on it. The natural beauty of this area is very refreshing.

Either considering these legends or just for the refreshing cool water people who come here takes a dip in the reservoir. There are separate changing rooms for men and women.

People can take small hikes from this falls but it is strongly suggested not to disobey the guides as the forest is a bit restricted area from political point of view.

Cultural Events:

Apart from the tourism, a big religious event accompanied with a fair of three days is held in this place during “Chai Sankranti” (Mid April). Many devotees come here to take a dip.

Going:

Train to Rajgir/ Patna/ Bakhtiyarpur followed by a car can reach you to Kakolat Waterfalls.

Staying:

No hotel is available near Kakolat Waterfalls. The tourists need to stay in Rajgir/ Patna.