Himalayas—Abode of Gods

 

IMG_2353.jpgIMG_20150926_073756_AO_HDR.jpgHIMALAYAS–ABODE OF GODS

Himalayas ,Asia ‘s largest mountain range , Indian peninsula’s cap , has always made me stand awestruck.

 

During my school days, studying about Himalayan ranges, I never dreamt that I would be able to explore its vast range. By seeing Hindi movies I have dreamt a lot about the winding roads of Shimla, snowfall, playing around with snow.

 

In 1990 when we were transferred to Delhi, My dreams started materializing & incidentally,,with blessings of God, my first trip to Himalayas itself was to Badrinath, Kedarnath.

HImalayas, 2410 Km, curved stretch is referred as “Abode of God” or Dev Bhoomi. The vastness is so much that one feels the humanity began there.
I believe we worship nature, as humans are an existence of nature.

Himalayas is the starting point of everything, glaciers like Gangotri, Yamunotri,
Hot water springs, pure air , rarest of rare herbs, all in one. That is why Hindus believe the visits of these holy abodes of Gods can never be planned,, it has to be the call of God or God willing one can reach the heights or visit these places.
I am really blessed to visit most of the temples which I am planning to write about.

Hindukush ange: Range:

This region is mostly in Afghanistan , Pakistan, but parts of Kashmir is in this range.
Mughal emperors had this region as their capital but Amarnath, Vaishno Devi are the ones no one could destroy. Amarnath yatra starts from Sonmarg. As the name says the place is a paradise on earth. The shivling formation in the cave is naturally formed when the snow melts in July, August months. This formation is visible only in these 2 months. As the name says Amar, this is the ultimate trip to God.
When one reaches & gets darshan one feels that is the ultimate trip to God.

Vaishno Devi is one of the famous Shakti peeth in which one has go trekking 14 km up the winding hills of Trikuta hills.
The Sakti Peet’s are the places where Goddess Sati’s parts of the body fell as believed. There are 51 shakti Peethas spread around Himalayan region. These temples do not have any idol, but very powerful ones, with Pinda rupams ,i.e no face. Vaishnodevi is the place where the head  of Sati is worshipped in  pinda rup, as maha kali, maya Lakshmi, mahasaraswati..The temple is situated in a cave above the Trikuta hills of Himalayas. By the call of Goddess I have visited at least 7 times by climbing the tough terrain.

Nowadays helicopter facility is available from Katra.

Karakoramrange:

From Kashmir when we go towards Kargil , the Karakoram range starts. It is mostly barren deserts throughout the year covered with snow. Leh, Ladakh fall in this range. Though Buddhism dominates this border area, Sankaracharya has found many Hindu temples which are time unknown. Sikhism is equally found here. Bordering Tibet ,Kailash, Manasarovar can be reached through this route also, though people go through Nepal also..HInduism is so vast & time unknown that in Hindu vedas, & Upanishads Mt.Kailash in TIbet is quoted as Lord Shiva’s permanent abode.
Every stone in Manasarovar is considered as Lord Shiva, the saligrama form. The sight of the mountain itself is worshipped . It is very tough to reach with high altitude cold desert winds.Though I have visited Leh, Ladakh, could not plan Kailash yatra.

The presence of Lord is felt in every part of Himalayas ,we see the vastness & the beauty of nature.As per Hindu philosophy we use the word Sat-Chit-Anant Swarup in Sanskrit. Which means the Truth Felt is ultimate Happiness/Anand.One feels that in the Abodes of God.

Uttarakhand:

 

Uttarakhand region known as Dev Bhoomi or the place of Devas start from Rishikesh.
Ganges the eternal river gets its name from this place. Though the origin of Ganges is a glacier gangotri, it is known in different names & different tributaries join, in the name of alaknanda, mandakini, bhagirathi, etc, etc.
Every Sangam of the river Alaknanda has different names, Devprayag, Rudraprayag, Karnaprayag, VIshnu prayag etc.

This entire region has best natural beauty, but the terrain is a tough one, that while traveling one automatically feels the driver is God & He takes you reach the temples of Badri, Kedar, Gangotri, Yamunotri.
Adi shankaracharya ,believed as avatar of Lord Shiva(788-820) ,walked throughout this region ,found out the hidden statues of Gods & constructed temples , started puja. Finally after Kedarnath temple was found ,He attained Mukti behind the temple.
After finding out Badrinarayan in the midst of badri (ber) forest shankaracharya was meditating in joshimath, praying for his salvation, Lord Vishnu came in dreams & told him still more work is left & that is how he again started his journey to find Kedar.
Badrinath is in Neelkanth parvat, snow clad Himalayas throughout the year. .But right in front of the temple , natural hot water sulphur spring,piping hot fumes can be found.This is known as Tapta kund.
In Bhagavad Puranas & later in Mahabharata, Badrinath is mentioned. Lord vishnu is in the form of Nar Narayan among the badri bushes.
It is believed that Mahabharata was written at the Mana village near Badrinath by Vyasa Muni. There are places to believe the epics.
The route from Badri to Kedar is a scenic one through Guptkashi, Ukimutt, Chopta, Gopeshwar.
Chopta is a beautiful valley, a mini Switzerland. A trek to Thungnath is worth trying as it has lot of wild flowers, rare birds, animals can be watched.

Enroute from Badrinath to Rishikesh,Valley of flowers is another beauty that people stand awestruck.
From Joshimutt it is 23 KM travel , either by pony, trek or helicopter, to reach Hemkund saheb, which is a Sikh temple where Sikh Guru Govind Singh attained salvation. Sikh followers believe this as their ultimate destination to God.
Valley of flowers is a protected national forest in which one can see variety of wild flowers only in July,August. Brahma Kamalam , a variety of lotus, known as god’s own flower blooms here.
Auli is a beautiful peak to enjoy winter sports, skiing etc. One can reach this spot by cable car or by road from joshirmutt. Excellent place to visit in winters.

Kedarnath: Sitapur is the base camp to reach this temple situated at a height of approximately 11000ft. After the cloud burst of 2013 visible disaster is seen everywhere.But facilities to reach the shrine by helicopter is improved .Gowrikund once the hot water sulphuric spring is washed off & river Mandakini is split into two after the disaster. Kedarnath is the natural rock form of shiv ling, the shape of a
Hump of a Cow.
The story goes after Mahabharata war, the pandavas prayed to Lord Shiva for moksha from the sins of killing own kith &kin in the war. Lord shiva avoiding to give darshan to them hid himself in the form of a cow &tried to pass the pandavas. Bhima spread his legs&allowed the cows to pass through. Knowing this Lord Shiva
Tried go beneath the earth, Bhima caught the hump of the hiddencow & prayed for salvation. So they got. The Kedar Linga is so in the form of a hump. Once AdiShankara found this place of worship, he was not seen,only his Dhanda was found near the temple. That is how Adi guru Shankara is known as avatar of Lord Shiva.
The Kedar temple structure is a proof of ancient Hindu architecture, & the huge rock which saved the temple from devastation in 2013 makes one feel God is there to protect.
After visit to Kedar one can visit Triyug Narayana temple, another ancient one where Lord Vishnu got Shiva & Parvathy married. It is believed that the Agni kund is there time unknown.It is really worth a visit as the whirly, winding curves to reach the place is tough ,& beautiful. Only jeeps from sitapur to be hired.

Himachal Pradesh:

Himachal Pradesh, Punjab are also rich its Hindu culture worth mentioning.
The Hidimba temple in Manali speaks the Mahabharata era, Hidimbi wife of Bhima
Though Daramsala is famous for Bhudda pagoda, where Dalailama lives, Kangra valley has all Sakti pitams , when sati’s dead body was cut into several parts by vishnu’s sudarshan chakra.
These temples are in beautiful locations.
Naina Devi- where eyes fell
Jwala Devi-where tongue fell, so fire form.
Chinta Purani -goddess without head
Vajreshwari-the shoulders are worshipped as pinda rup.These temples are in the 7th century sculptures form.

We covered these temples in 3 days from Chandigarh. Manasa Devi, Chamundi are near Haridwar.

Annapurna range:

 

From Himachal,  If we go to Annapurna range of Himalayas which are above Nepal.
The Pashupathinath temple in Kathmandu is one of the oldest identity of Shiva temple with 7th century inscriptions on them. In Mahabharata it is known as Nemuni Desam.
The Bhaktapur , Durbar square is a historical proof of Royal Kings as Hindus & Temples of Krishna, Devi are present in the square. This place was shattered by earthquake in 2013.
Pokhara is a beautiful hill station.
Jhumsum is the base camp for Mukthinath.
The Mukthinath temple is in the form of saligramam, or stone . All stones found in river Kandaki which flows from the hills are saligrama as written in scriptures of Vishnu Puranas.

This part of Himalayas are cold deserts, hardly any vegetation is found.
To reach Jhumsum by a small aircraft is really dangerous . The small aircraft cross sharp mountain peaks, one feel so risky & god willing will save you from death.
The wind speed is so high at Jhumsum that it can take away the planes to a distant. So after 12 pm , no flights take off due to heavy wind and they are tied with a rope.

Muktinath temple is so unique.Vaishnavites consider this as most important of Divya desam, to attain mukti. The Buddhism also says so. Buddha bhikshu is the main priest here. So religion may be different but aim is the one.
Here I have to mention about india’s national integrity, implemented even in 8th century by Adi shankaracharya.when he crossed the length & width of india by foot to identify the temples & their importance, He decided the priest from Kerala Namboodiris would be in Badrinath Temple , the main priest of Rameshwaram temple would be North Indian Pandits,the temple priest of Puri would be from Gujarat & Dwarka priest from Orissa pandas. Till today the tradition is followed.

 

North eastern Himalayas.

Coming to the north eastern part of Himalayas , Buddhism dominates many parts as this range borders China & Bhuddist monks entered india through these ranges. But the Hindu temples of 5th century till 12th century are still predominant & worshipped.

Kamakhya temple of Guwahati is the famous of Shakti peeth where birth part of sati fell as believed.This temple dates back to 350-650 AD & written by Yuanzhang. Assam is known as Pragjotishpur in history as ahoms kingdom is known for Jyotida Sastras. Astrology was formed or developed here with Sun & Navagrahas. There is a temple in Guwahati where Navagrahas are in shivling forms facing the nine directions of earth. Again a proof nature worship.
The temples are in Nilanchal hills.
The Himalayas of Arunachal Pradesh also has equal importance for Buddhism and Hinduism. Bomdila, Tawang dominates Buddhism. Tawang is the china border where. Yuan zhuang came in.Stupendous Hills, unspoilet beauty, north east is pearl in the necklace of Himalayan range.
Tripura, Assam, Manipur mainly has lot of Hindu temples aging back to 4th century.Tezpur shiv ling is huge & time unknown. Tripurasundari temple in Tripura is again time unknown as Tripura name comes from the temple. Vaishnavites dominates these areas. The Kashi hills of Shillong & Kashi tribes are mostly Christians. I am really lucky to visit many places of north eastern Himalayas.

 

I can go on writing, but as earlier said Himalayas & Hinduism go hand in hand throughout the stretch.Hinduism started with nature worship & Gods are connected with sun, moon, stars.
Lord Shiva has Appu(water), Vayu(air), Jyoti,(fire) Linga forms.
Maha Vishnu is considered The protector with beautiful decors on Him to show Life. All Rivers are worshipped as Mata, Mother Earth, feminine form.

 

So let me conclude that Hindu Abodes of Gods may have many names but purely nature worship. For our own convenience we have idols & names for identification.

 

 

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Explore Lanka

Srilanka–Ramayana Trail

Srilanka is a small island country in Indian Ocean with rich culture & heritage.

Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism go hand in hand in this country. They follow a three language  formula throughout the country  , all sign boards , names written in Sinhalese, Tamil & English.

We had been planning to visit this little country for a long time , but my time came this June 2017.

I planned my trip after thoroughly keeping in mind that I love nature, culture, and religion , so my trip included places connected with Ramayana epic, Buddhism & the natural beauty of Lanka.

Back in my mind the historical story “Ponniyin Selvan” by the famous author Kalki Krishnamurthy was fresh with lively characters & Lanka as the land of rubber trees.

So all these in mind I customized our tour itinerary with central Province & Colombo. With constraints of time we could not visit Jaffna, in Tamil Yazhpanam. But we met lot of Tamil speaking people, & I could feel their longing to visit India. I can’t forget the Sweet Tamil they spoke.

As we landed in colombo, the airport itself impressed me, clean, small, not much of  formalities for SAARC countries.

 

“AYUBOWAN” they welcome you in different way,  praying for your long life!! Similar to “Ayushman Bhava ” in Sanskrit.

Our first destination was Chilaw Muneeswaran temple and then the Maanawari temple. The first one is a Shiva temple where it is believed Lord Rama prayed to Shiva After killing Ravana, as he believed, Brahmahathi dosham was following him as Ravana was a Brahmin. Maanawari temple is Sakti temple, like our Maryiamman.

Then we proceeded to Dambulla, a town in the midst of Habrana forest area.Here I have to say that we survived a tiresome journey with fruits,like banana, robutta ,as there were not many eateries for vegetarians.

Dambulla  cave temple is one of the UNESCO  world heritage sites.  Initially with Trip advisor views we thought it would be tough to climb.  But now cars reach till the Protected area and there is hardly 1 Km up to climb, but  there weren’t any steps so we found it easier to reach. We had to take careful steps in between rocks. But once you reach top, the view is really awesome, huge single rock & 5 caves inside  covering Lord Buddha’s beautiful postures, mural paintings, Huge sleeping Buddha in a single rock. You just stand awestruck with such natural structures, ages back to 3rd century B.C. Even skeletons of 2000 years old are found here by UNESCO.

The golden temple is down on the road with museum & history of Lord Buddha & Buddhism.

BY this time we were damn tired & checked in to Hotel Dawanna on Habrana road. Hotels are in beautiful locations and cater mostly to foreigners, so neatly maintained with wifi, variety of food e.t.c became normal for a 3 star.

Day:2  Trincomalee, or Triconamalai in Tamil,via Sigiriya.  

Sigiriya again is a huge rock seen from anywhere near by which looks like a lion sitting. It was a steep climb to the top, so we didn’t go up, but took pics & proceeded to Trincomalee. Sigiriya also boasts lots of mural paintings of 2000 years old & depicts Buddhism. Enroute to Trincomalee we saw a huge lake KANTALA LAKE.

The route was so beautiful, that we didn’t feel the long journey. Enroute the chauffeur was showing us the places where LTTE hideouts were totally grounded by army. Trincomalee is a largely Tamil speaking area.

Trincomalee where sea enters land through a cliff in 3 different directions.

Koneswaran temple, Shakti pitam are very old temples found within a cave through the hills. Tamil poets Sekkizhar, Nammalwar sang about these temples in 6th century B.C. Later probably hidden by Dutch, British rulers and the temple was later renovated. While going to temple itself we can find the entrance to the fort written in Dutch.

Natural coast with green sea is a beautiful sight with cliffs around. While coming back we saw another Devi temple with beautiful architecture.  Enroute back visited Marble beach , a beautiful ,clear sandy beach with shallow sea,without waves.

On our way back we instantly planned to visit Minneriya national park. We hired a open jeep with the help of Mr.Dazil our chauffer. We took an entry pass for the jeep ride. Though it was a very hot afternoon, we hoped against hope to see some animals. Initially we sighted just a few peacocks and langoors. But once we reached a huge waterbody in the forest we spotted crocodiles, and lots of cranes around. Further down we could see plenty of elephants, families and families around the water body, grazing grass nearby, drinking water, cooling themselves. It was a stupendous sight. Cute little ones following parents, mammas protecting kids, teaching them how to eat, walk, drink. What a lovely sight seeing them !!.

Had a wonderful day, on our way back a single huge elephant followed our jeep on the highway.  The driver said it is usual sight there, it stopped on aside , waited for vehicles to move , then crossed the road to enter forest. !!!

We reached our hotel to find out we were the only guests that night. So we were served special menu made to order, near the pool side. It was really an unforgettable special treat.

Day-3. Kandy.

Kandy, a journey of 3 hrs from Dambulla and the second largest city in Lanka. Well connected by road and rail. A hamlet city with multiple culture, many wooden manufacturers, gems wholesale, as Srilanka is famous for wood and gems especially Blue sapphire.

We were first taken to the gems museum, to show how the mines are identified and manually sending people to cut the mines & sieve them. Of course I ended up purchasing lots of semi precious stones. Then there was a cultural show, organised every evening in a hall with entry tickets, to depict the kandy dance, fire walk, tribal dance etc.

Next day we visited wooden manufacturers, how natural wood dusts are converted to bring colors,  with the help of lime and certain leaves added to them. Beautiful natural colours are used in show pieces, furniture, but found them very expensive . Next was, the temple of tooth relics of  Buddha. The temple is huge with two floors. With temple bands played at the time of opening the temple reminds  similarity of Kerala kottu Vadhiyam. The temple brings sanctity to the whole town. Here , when I saw ladies wearing different type of saree to work, I was appreciating them,my over enthusiastic chauffeur took me to a saree shop , arranged a lady to show me how to drape saree in that style, I was more than happy to pose!!. It was a really lively experience.

Day-4 Enroute Nuwara Eliya.

Beautiful thick forests on both sides, the route was excellent , reminds me wordsworth’s poetry “The woods are lovely dark & deep, but I have miles to go before I sleep.”

We stopped in one of the Ayurvedic , herbal farms where cinnamon, cloves , nutmegs & many more spices are grown in natural manures.  Ayurvedic practising doctors use them to make oils, creams, balms & Lanka govt helps them.

Visited tea gardens , tea factory, and it was different, Ceylon tea called orange pekoe, pekoe, etc. Black tea is famous here. After visit to tea gardens ,tasted black tea, but wanted our taste of tea with milk of course. It was like a hill station climate throughout  and therefore never felt tiring. On our way we saw plenty of avocado trees, a beautiful waterfall of two tires. To reach the waterfall we had to go down at least 500 uneven steps. But it was worth it.

We reached Nuwara Eliya by the evening, and visited Victoria Botanical garden. Nuwara Eliya is known as Little England with English climate, colonial type of houses, even British times post office, bungalows are still maintained with care, beauty. Night stay at Oak Ray Summer Hills was a beautiful stay with different ambience. Situated on a steep hillock, there are cluster of rooms at different levels, adjacent to each other. We chose the higher ones which has beautiful view of terrace farms, though tough to climb stairs. But I always like to feel the beauty of a place, so I liked them.

Day -5 Excursion to Ella, via Sita Amman temple.

Sita Amman temple is around 4 to 5 Kms from Nuwara Eliya. This is the place where Hanuman met Sita, as believed. Kambar in Tamil wrote” Kanden,Seethaiyai”. Around a thick forest  a Single tree stands alone , & a beautiful waterfalls set as a picture perfect backdrop. The temple must have been built later, in Tamil Nadu style .  Behind the temple at the picturesque backdrop, statues of Sita, Hanuman are kept by Sri. Sri. Ravishankar recently. There are 3 small ponds near the waterfall, said to be used by Sita to take bath.

After visiting this we proceeded to Ella, 65 Kms from Nuwaraeliya .Ella is beautiful picnic spot in the mountains, a beautiful Ella falls with loud sound of water attract everyone passing by. Once we reach the falls which is a little tough terrain, it is so nice to keep your feet in full flowing water and sit there forgetting time, people…in Ella Falls, it is believed that king Ravana’s fort was once behind the rocks..

After spending half a day there  we came back to Nuwara Eliya. On our way we stopped in a restaurant for tea, our chauffeur took us to a small shop  full of sculptures, wooden souvenirs. We came to know that the man sitting and working is  born without legs. How creative his hands are,  when God has not given legs, his hands speak a lot. Bought few souvenirs & came back to hotel. By this time we  were tired of lakes &  gardens. So avoided a boat ride and decided to walk on the street to window shop.

Day-6: With sweet memories of Nuwara Eliya, started a long journey to Colombo. Enroute during lunch time stopped in a place called Pinnavale, again forest, river . This place is famous for elephant orphanage. One can see elephants in camps, they are taken for a bath around noon time. It was cute sight , the families taking bath together, mammas scrubbing kids’ back!!!. Lovely sight on the river. After a long bath, with police protection, they walk back to their camps. It was great sight and appreciate how the govt. helps in protecting them. Overall Srilanka itself is well organised country, good roads, well maintained, clean, people follow rules, respect tourism a lot. Though with lots of insurgency before, now they are really more disciplined  than India.

We reached Colombo by evening, spent time visiting a famous monastery, Buddhas in gems, seemed to be a rich monastery. Visited the Independence square, which more or less looked like India gate of Delhi, but very large in size. Though there are traffic jams in evenings, people stay patiently following lanes, was a great sight for we Bangalore people!!. Reached Hotel Ocean. Excellent hotel, all rooms facing Indian Ocean,on the Marine drive. A rare sight, railway line along the coast, road  by side, without even a barricade. Harbour was very near, so sighted  few anchored ships . It was beautiful sight at night.

Our day 7 was just some shopping &  a small gems museum. Reached airport by noon.  Had a great a South Indian lunch at market place reasonably priced. With lots of inhibitions we started, but with lots & lots of love & pleasant memories, we left the country.

Overall a small Asian country with disciplined people , abundant natural resources, they have a promising future for a fully developed nation.

Attaching few photos taken during our trip.IMG_20170620_121506

Easycooking in microwave.

There  are many brands, versions, models in microwaves, but If you ask a simple question of How do you use it for everyday cooking , the instant reply is for heating refrigerated food, or as simple as reheating.

But I use it almost for all types of cooking apart from cakes, pizzas, like daily breakfast, meals .So let me share a few, and you can venture more than this.

  1. Rava kesari, or Suji ki halwa as known in north India

Recipe: Ingredients needed: Suji or rava- 1 cup,sugar-1 cup

ghee-1/2 cup, cashews few.kesar food colour.

Take a glass bowl , add just 2 spoons of ghee, rava, cashews, keep in microwave for 2 mints.

Take out & mix nicely with a spatula, till it mixes well& fried.

Now add sugar & water till the mixture is immersed fully, say 1 cup.add colour.

Again microwave for for 5 mints, closed. Keep it inside to rest for few more mints, take out & mix nicely adding the remaining ghee.

That is all, instant tasty kesari Bhath ready.

Impress your guests with an instant tasty sweet.

I make it even for big get togethers. No tension of lumps, no standing near gas & mixing, making the arms strain.

Enjoy cooking in microwave,

more to come !!

 

 

 

 

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