Temple of the Emerald Buddha - Amazing Thailand

This series is based over my reflections upon visiting Thailand.

Shahjahanabad (Const 1648 CE)- The Legacy of Delhi Series (Vol 8)

'Shahjahanabad' is the eighth post in a series of 9 articles on the former capital cities which were built in the historical region of Delhi. Read on to know more..

Hill Fort of Kumbhalgarh, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Know more about this incredible World Heritage Site here..

The Immortal Kumbh Mela - Mahakumbha of 2013

Believed to be the largest congregation of mankind in the world, read my series of posts to know how it feels like to be amongst a magnitude of people

Guru Dongmar Lake, one of the highest in the world

Few destinations have the ability to change your life; Sikkim being one of them. Check out the series 'Sikim Soujourn' to find out why ?

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Magnificent Desolation of the Tibetan Plateau - Sikkim Sojourn Part 10

The Khangchenyao Ranges


When you are sitting in the SUV and move towards the heart of the Himalayas, you see the greenery gradually melt away, giving way to barren lands, barren hills where the air is cold, the air is thin. Gradually, you begin to realize yourself, you begin to realize your existence, and you realize that you are in the domain.. in the territory of Mother Nature. You understand that this is a place where you do not toy with the nature but the nature toys with you. While making every movement, while taking every breath you understand (to your delight) that this is a place which you cannot master, just respect.

 This vast expanse of nothingness stretches through the entire Tibet region

 Army outposts monitoring the border (Beyond these ridges you can see the international border with China)
 
When I moved through the valley where unpaved roads ran parallel to the heavily mined border with China you realize you are at the outermost edge of India. People have come and gone. Lines have been drawn and re drawn, but the image remains the same, it is immortal unlike us. The land keeps challenging us just as it challenged all of our ancestors.

 Snow capped crags(mountains) overlooked us on the other side of the valley

 
This land has seen many a people walk across its chest to visit the turquoise speck of water(Guru Dongmar Lake) across its brown horizon and it will continue to see people walk across it. It will continue to challenge everyone. If you win you can get a glimpse of serenity, harmony, and through it a glimpse into your inner soul.

These features obstructed our view of China and China's view of us, but we did not take the risk of climbing this hill (an easy task) because of the fear of landmines

 The ancient road which we took to our destination has existed since ages (Picture taken from inside the SUV)

The way to Cholamu Lake (Highest Lake in India)
  
Next stop Guru Dongmar Lake (Taken from inside the SUV)

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sikkim Sojourn Part 9 - On the way to Guru Dongmar Lake

After breakfast at a home-stay in Thangu we resumed our trip to Guru Dongmar Lake. For the first time in my life I was going to cross the greenery of the world and go to the nothingness beyond it. My mind was filled with anticipation as to what would I see. These pictures will show you the area where the greenery ends and the desolate landscape of the higher Himalayan plateau or the Tibetan plateau takes over-


 Tall trees and dense vegetation gave way to grass and moss covered soil


 A fine example of boulders hanging over the road, ready to fall anytime. I can say with confidence that the trip to Guru Dongmar Lake will not exactly be the most safest one that you have ever taken.


 From afar it might look like a bus but it actually is a temporary construction built possibly by the army


 A road rarely taken. The telegraph poles are meant for army communications.

As you have been seeing my previous posts and now in these pictures the trees gave way to shrubs, shrubs gave way to grass.. The soil became more and more loose. In this region we came across the Indian Army’s Café, it is certified as the World’s Highest Café. After our permits were checked by the army men we resumed our journey. The pictures will reveal what I saw at the edge of all vegetation and habitable areas.


 The road to desolate landscapes of Himalayas


 Grass covered hills


 Loose soil with rocks under it are what you will find in mountainous areas

 Crags or mountains like these kept overlooking us all our way
  

 This was the last natural color(apart from green) I saw before the land turned brown everywhere
 
Observe the whiteness on the sides of these hills which might have been caused by repeated accumulation of snow and melting of it over centuries !

 A tributary of the important Teesta river which is shared by India and Bangladesh. The source of this tributary is the Cholamu Lake (5 kms away from Guru Dongmar Lake and the highest lake in India)

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving Day - The most defining American festival !

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.
- William Arthur Ward



Thanksgiving Day, is the day when one express gratitude for all the kindness they have received. The day signifies commemorating (the first Thanksgiving offered at Plymouth, Mass. in 1621), symbolism (the meal includes dishes which were consumed on the first Thanksgiving, expression of gratitude (for the kindness received) and love and bonding between families.

A Vintage Thanksgiving Day Card
Author - Dave, Source - Flickr

The festival (celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States) is a holiday celebrated mainly in the United States of America and Canada (apart from Liberia and Norfolk Island). Both the country's festivals have different origins. Originally the Thanksgiving began as a tradition of celebrating the harvest of the year. As per the longstanding traditions of the holiday in the United States, the celebration often extends to the weekend that falls closest to the day it is celebrated.

Origin of Thanksgiving Day -
                                                        The origin of the first celebration in the United States was recorded at Virginia in 1619 (prompted by the colonists' leaders on the anniversary of the first settlement). But the feast for Thanksgiving in 1621 at Plymouth (in Massachusetts, New England) was prompted by a good harvest and is considered by many as the actual event which inspired the celebrations.

A roast turkey is a symbol of major celebrations. Its presence on the dining table at Thanksgiving Day is customary. Traditionally(but not necessarily) the head of the family carves out portions for the rest of members at the table.
Author - Patrick Fitzgerald Source - Flickr

In the year 1620, a boat filled with more than one hundred people sailed from Europe to settle in the New World. This religious group had begun to question the beliefs of the Church of England and wanted to separate from it. The Pilgrims settled in what is now the state of Massachusetts(New England). Their first winter in the New World was difficult. They had arrived too late to grow sufficient crops, and without fresh food, half the colony died from disease. The following spring the Iroquois Indians taught them how to grow corn (maize), a new food for the colonists. They showed them other crops to grow in the unfamiliar soil and how to hunt and fish.

Home Made Roasted Turkey, just out of the oven
Author - Shoshanah Source - Flickr

In the autumn of 1621, bountiful crops of corn, barley, beans and pumpkins were harvested. The colonists had much to be thankful for, so a feast was planned. They invited the local Indian chief and approximately 90 Indians. The Indians brought deer to roast with the turkeys and other wild game offered by the colonists. The colonists had learned how to cook cranberries and different kinds of corn and squash dishes from the Indians.In the following years, many of the original colonists celebrated the autumn harvest with a feast of thanks.

How the Date of the Celebration was decided -
                                                                                                                     After the United States became independent, the Congress recommended an annual day of thanksgiving for the whole nation to celebrate. George Washington suggested the date November 26 as Thanksgiving Day. Then in 1863, at the end of a long and bloody civil war, Abraham Lincoln asked all Americans to set aside the last Thursday in November as a day of thanksgiving.

But in the year 1939 US President Franklin D. Roosevelt changed the date and set it one week earlier as he wanted to help business by lengthening the shopping period before Christmas. Congress ruled that after 1941 the 4th Thursday in November would be a federal holiday proclaimed by the President each year.

Home Made Cranberry Sauce
Author - Shoshanah Source - Flickr

How Thanksgiving Day is Celebrated - 
                                                        Thanksgiving is a time for tradition and sharing. Even if they live far away, members gather for a 'family reunion' at the house of an older relative. All give thanks and pray together for the good things and blessings that they have got. Families enjoy watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade held in New York on TV across the country. Some families also participate in a Turkey Trot Run or Have a Mini Pumpkin Hunt amongst other activities.


In this spirit of sharing, charitable organizations offer a traditional meal to those in need, particularly the homeless. On most tables throughout the United States, the food eaten at the first thanksgiving have become traditional.

A slice of Pumpkin Pie. A traditional meal at Thanksgiving will always include a Pumpkin Pie
Author - Paul Sullivan Source - Flickr

The Parade's -
                                  Annual Thanksgiving Day Parades are held across various cities amongst which the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (New York), America's Thanksgiving Day Parade (Detroit) and the 6abc Dunkin Donuts Thanksgiving Parade (formerly known as Gimbels Thanksgiving Day Parade) (Boston) are the oldest.
Author - Ian Gampon, Source - Flickr

A Thanksgiving Day is considered incomplete without a Turkey
Author - martha_chapa95 Source - Flickr


Thanksgiving Day Feast -
                                                                Turkey, corn (or maize), pumpkins and cranberry sauce are symbols which represent the first Thanksgiving Feast. Now all of these symbols are drawn on holiday decorations and greeting cards. The use of corn meant the survival of the colonies. "Indian corn" as a table or door decoration represents the harvest and the fall season.

A usual Thanksgiving Day meal consists of Roasted Turkey, bowl of Cranberry Sauce(perfect accompaniment with turkey), Yeast Rolls, A Walnut preparation for dessert
Author - Cheryl Source - Flickr

Other commonly served preparations in the Feast include Winter Squash, Yams, Mashed Potatoes, Corn on the Cob, Deviled Eggs, Green Bean Casserole, Peas and Carrots, Bread Rolls, Cornbread (in the south and parts of New England), or Biscuits, Rutabagas or Turnips; and a Salad. 

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Author - M Anima Source - Flickr

There are also regional differences as to the stuffing or dressing traditionally served with the turkey. Folks in the South generally make their dressing from cornbread, while those in other parts of the country make stuffing from white, wheat or rye bread as the base. 

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I wish all my readers a very Happy Thanksgiving ! Enjoy your weekend !

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Disclaimer:- The pictures in this post have been clicked by and belong to the photographers who hold their(pictures) rights and permit conditional use. They do not endorse the author or the blog.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sikkim Sojourm Part 8 - Glimpses from Thangu

Settled in a Green Valley with wooden houses having slanted roofs and a stream flowing besides it, 
Thangu looks just like the drawing of a simple village which we all used to make in Kindergarten when we were children

Thangu is a tiny village while on the way to Guru Dongmar Lake. It is nestled at a height of 14000 ft. It is the last settlement before the Indo China border. An ideal place to stopover and acclimatize for the journey (in high altitude terrain) ahead this village has a mountain stream which passes by right next to it. The village is dotted with prayer flags and in the picture you can see the temple of the village as well. Small shops selling chocolates (very good in helping you to deal with altitude related problems) and biscuits abound. 

 The village temple perched over the line of houses. Notice the row of white colored prayer flags 
on hill slopes
While we stopped at Thangu for breakfast I slipped out of the room to take some snaps of the last village before India's international border with China. The Guru Dongmar Lake for your information is just 5 kms or 3.1 miles from the border.

Thangu is a small picturesque village predominantly agricultural in nature. The people are from the Lepcha tribe who are considerd to be the original inhabitants of Sikkim. A stream flows from the village and looks not only beautiful but also provides the village with water. As always I will let my photographs do the explaning :-



Inside a usual Lepcha household having breakfast. Notice the wood fired cooking stove which is also doubling up as a heater for the little one.


Another view of the house this time without the people. Notice the wooden interiors and the white sheet with religious inscriptions printed over it hanging besides the wall. Apparently the people of Thangu take their religious beliefs seriously.


The following pictures will give you a glimpse of what I saw around Thangu:-


From here(Thangu) onward we saw less of trees and more of rocks


A view of a snow capped mountain from the village. The mountain is at least 6000 meters high 


An old village structure obstructed my view of the mountain while I was taking its snap. On close inspection I realized that this might have been a religious structure built according to traditional Sikkimese architecture(notice the bamboo poles between the walls). 
A structure which would have seen Thangu in its older days and must have been in use during then. 
It would have been great to have been able to talk to it. 


You can understand the enormity of this mountain feature by taking a look at a road at the lower end of the picture which resembles more like a snake

These were the pictures I took from Thangu. Once we left Thangu the green cover of the land began to melt away giving way to a barren landscape. Despite being all brown in color this will be my most favorite segment as I enjoyed the thin air, clear skies and a quiet ambiance. Read all about it in my next blog Road to Guru Dongmar.... 

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Sikkim Sojourn Part 7 - To Thangu and Beyond.....


After a gap of a month and a half I am returning to my series 'Sikkim Sojourn'. The unfortunate earthquake in Sikkim was a prominent factor for the gap but now I have decided to bring the series to a culmination. I clicked quite a few pictures which I feel you and the world might want to take a look at. I am sure some of them will leave you pleasantly surprised. The places I found on my journey to Thangu and beyond is something you will rarely find on a map or anywhere else. This was the inspiration for me to name my blog as the 'Path Rarely Taken' because very few people know about these places and even fewer visit them. 

During my journey to Guru Dongmar Lake we had a stopover in Lachen (2750mts/9022 ft). We had to start early morning around 7 am in order to get to the Guru Dongmar Lake. We needed to do so because after 1 pm the Tibetan Plateau ( a part of North Sikkim) witnesses extreme windy conditions and also because it is a condition imposed by the Army. According to my guide the gales of wind are strong enough to make dust and fist sized rocks fly in the air and therefore it is not safe to move at that point of time. The pictures follow - 


Prayer flags dot the landscape of Sikkim (Notice the settlement on the side of the hill)

Green Green Green everywhere....


Observe another settlement between the rolling hills

 From Lachen to Thangu(4267mts/14000ft) on our way to Guru Dongmat Lake lie 2 Army Posts where our permits are checked before allowing us to travel further. One check point is before Thangu and one after it. The check point after Thangu is also an Army run cafe. 
Perched at approximately 4572 meters or 15000 ft it has been certified as the highest cafe in the world. The army men re check your permit, ask you to sit for 10 minutes in the cafe(it is compulsory) while you are served coffee and chocolates (you pay for them of course ! ) and observe you for any symptoms of altitude sickness in which case they ask you to turn back. 
And yes, please do not expect hospitality over here. Naam kya hain tera ?(Your name ?) and Idhar khadaa ho ja ! (Stand at a side) are the common verbiages used gruffly in the cafe... Refer to them as 'Sirji'(Hindi for Respected Sir) as I did and chances are that they will ignore you. Photography is glared upon and as I did not want to take a chance I did not take any pictures. But that said the Army men do a good job and they have tremendous goodwill amongst locals in Sikkim. Some more pictures -
 

One of the first snow-capped crags I set my eyes upon



 Sneak peak of the first army check post (Our guide is in the picture)


Clouds settle on the peaks which overlook the Army Post


Thangu

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(to be continued..... Glimpses from Thangu)