Tag Archives: Uttarakhand

Malwa Utsav starts in Indore but lot more to do this month!

Malwa Utsav started last night at Indore’s Lalbagh palace. There are still five more days to go and you can certainly catch some action. So has India’s most awaited yearly pilgrimage- Char Dham Yatra, which commenced on 28th April with opening of doors of Gangotri and Yamunotri shrines. But there are host of other events which can prompt you to some quick travel plans. With soaring temperatures, hill stations like Mount Abu and Ooty try to chill out with their annual festivals. Then there are a few church festivals also in Kerala, besides the all famous Thrissur Pooram. Here are some quick ideas for the month of May- first of India’s traditional two months of summer vacations. Time to pack!

Malwa Festival, Indore

Celebrated with great enthusiasm, Malwa Utsav is one of the biggest and most spectacular events of Madhya Pradesh. The festival restores the age old culture and the tradition of India through its various classical dance performances and traditional music. Performers and entertainers from different parts of India charm the cities of Indore and Ujjain for a remarkable five day celebration of art, music, dance, drama and culture. Festival is organised at Lalbagh Palace in Indore. One can say that the festival is a storehouse to the culture, spirit and the essence of the state. There is a huge gathering of locals and tourists coming from all parts of India and across the globe. Well-known artists, excellent performances, colourful ambience and a mélange of various programs form the prime highlights of the festival. In-addition, the festival also exhibits a rich display of art and craft workshops and one can savour the delectable cuisines of different variety. This year more than 400 artists from 19 states will take part in the festival. This year the festival is being held under shadow of plastic ban imposed in Madhya Pradesh from 1st May and also new phenomenon of cashless transactions for the small shopkeepers.

When: 2nd-8th May, 2017

Where: Lalbagh Palace, Indore, Madhya Pradesh.

Thrissur Pooram

The grandest of all Kerala temple festivals this is more than two hundred years old. The Thrissur Pooram features a procession of around 30 colourfully decorated elephants and ensemble of 250 musicians. Other attractions include drum concerts, ornamental parasol displays, and fireworks. The festival is a huge cultural event that runs through the night with exuberant celebrations. Special viewing areas are provided for foreigners at the festival. The temple is a classical example of the Kerala style of architecture and has many murals and pieces of art. Majestic looking elephants adorned with ornate golden nettipattoms on their foreheads, the captivating beats of the thunderous music of the panchavadyam (five traditional instruments), spectacular fireworks, teeming millions intoxicated with the festive spirit – its all this and more that makes the world-famous Thrissur Pooram an unforgettable experience for any tourist.Had been in news recently for its treatment with elephants with issue even landing in court. Still, a festival worth a visit.

When: May 5, 2017

Where: Vadakkumnathan Temple, Thrissur, Kerala.

Ooty welcomes the summers with flowers

 

Photo: indiaeve.com

Every May Ooty comes alive with the Summer Festival. The 121st flower show will be celebrated on May 19th 2017, around 200 countries national flowers will be displayed on this year show. Flower show is conducted every year in the month of may in botanical garden Ooty. In this festival large varieties of flowers are displayed and organised activities like floral arrangements, vegetable carvings, flower rangoli etc. The flower show at the Ooty Botanical Gardens, which will take place on May 19-21, is particularly stunning. There will be nearly 15000 flowers of various types on display. The 59th fruit show at Sim’s park in Coonoor will be on May 27-28. Vegetable show will be on 6-7th May, Rose show on 13-14th May and Spice show on 12-14th May 2017. Other activities include cultural events, boat racing and trekking. There is also a Dog show at South of India Kennel Club (SIKC). Ooty Botanical Gardens covers an area of 22 hectares.It is a treasure house of temperate flora, consisting of flowering trees, beautiful shrubs, colourful lilies, bulbous planets, enchanting orchids, curious cacti and succulents, pleasing pteridophytes, breath taking glass house plans and charming annuals with bright colours.

When: 6th-28th May 2017

Where: Ooty, Coonoor and surrounding areas.

Buddha Purnima at Bodhgaya

Buddha Jayanti, also known as Buddha Purnima as it falls on the full moon day, celebrates the birthday of Buddha. It’s the most sacred Buddhist festival. Actually Buddha Purnima is day of his birth, his enlightenment and his death as well, making it a very rare day. It’s the most sacred Buddhist festival. Activities include prayer meets, sermons and religious discourses, recitation of Buddhist scriptures, group meditation, processions, and worship of the statue of Buddha. Across all monasteries in India including major Buddhist pilgrim centres like Dharamshala, Sarnath and Bodhgaya and predominantly Buddhist regions such as Sikkim, Ladakh, and Arunachal Pradesh as well. At Bodhgaya, the Mahabodhi Temple wears a festive look and is decorated with colorful flags and flowers. Special prayers are organised under the Bodhi Tree (the tree under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment).

When: May 10, 2017

Dhungri Fair, Manali

Hadimba temple is one of the most famous sight-seeing destinations at Manali in Himachal Pradesh. This mythological goddess from epic Mahabharata has this only temple to her credit in India. This temple is revered by locals and other ‘gods’ of the nearby villages alike. Every year her birth anniversary celebrations are held for three days in summers as per hindu calendar. More than a dozen ‘gods’ from the valley come here in procession to take part in the celebrations. Many events are held which make it a big cultural event. There is lot of dancing, singing, and sports activities. Whole of Manali will anxiously wait for this festival as they believe that after this festival normally tourist season will start peaking at this hill station. Many tourists from all over the world take part in this festival.

When: May 14 to 16, 2017.

Where: Hadimba Temple, Manali, Himachal Pradesh

Summer festival at Mount Abu

The only hill station of the Aravali ranges welcomes tourists for the summer with a festival. The summer festival is held every year during the month of May on Budh Poornima. The festival celebrates the warmth and cheerfulness of the people of hill station, who welcome the tourists from the depth of their hearts. Mt. Abu Summer Festival kicks off with ballad singing, followed by regional folk dancing. The festival also offers sports such as boat racing on Nakki Lake, and a roller skating race. It concludes with a fireworks display. The highlight of the festival is the Sham-e-Qawwali musical show, which features some of the most renowned qawwals from various parts of India. The hospitality of the people, their colorful culture and exotic locations made this festival a-never-to-be-forgotten experience. The festival begins with a ceremonial procession, which starts from the RTDC Hotel Shikhar and gather at the Nakki Lake Chowk followed by folk performances of Rajasthan and Gujarat states. The grand finale of the festival display dazzling fireworks. This two day colorful festival is organized by the Rajasthan Tourism, Municipal Board, Mount Abu & District Administration. Both the days of festival are interesting because of various competitions that take place the whole day. Skating Race, skater’s Show, CRPF Band Show, Boat Race, Horse Race, Tug of War, Panihari Matka Race and Deepdan add to the excitement of the celebration.

When: 9th-10th May 2017

Moatsu at Nagaland

Moatsu Festival is celebrated by the Ao tribe of Nagaland. Moatsu is celebrated in the first week of May every year. Various rituals are performed during this period. The Aos observe Moatsü Mong after the sowing is done. The Moatsu festival provides the Aos a period of recreation and entertainment after the stressful work of clearing fields, burning jungles and sowing seeds, cleaning up the Tsubu (Wells) and repairs and construction of houses by elders of the Putu Menden, stretching over a week. This tribal festival is marked by peppy songs and dances. The whole festival with full of merry making and fun is observed only for three days from 1st to 3rd of May. During this festival one of the symbolic celebrations is Sangpangtu, where a big fire is lit and men and women sit around it. Men & women putting on the complete best attire and the womenfolk serve the wine and meat. The natural customary practice of the forefathers was competing in making the best rice-beer and rearing the best possible pigs and cows to be slaughtered during the festival. The women weave the best of traditional garments and adorn themselves with all their finery. They join the men in dancing, eating and drinking and composing warrior songs. Singing songs in praise of the lover and the village as a whole is done and the older men encourage the young people to be bold and heroic to defend and protect them from enemies as head-hunting was practiced during their fore-fathers time.

When: 1st-3rd May 2017

Perunnal at Edathua Church

Nestled on the banks of River Pamba is the Edathua Church, a massive church that resembles the churches of medieval Europe. Established in 1810, the church is dedicated to St. George and is famous for the annual perunnal or feast which starts on the 27th of April and concludes on the 7th of May. During the perunnal, the statue of the saint, decked in gold, is taken out on a procession and is placed on the dais in the centre of the Basilica. The devotees turn up in hordes from far and wide to join in this procession and offer their prayers. Cultural performances are held on all days and a spectacular display of fireworks form an integral part of the festive occasion. Edathua Perunnal is actually one of three church festivals that takes place in Kerala during these days.

Photo: navrangindia.blogspot.in

Others are, Palayur Church Festival (6-7 May 2017 at St. Thomas Church, Chavakkad in Thrissur) and Puthupally Perunnal at St George Orthodox Church, Puthuppally in Kottayam District. Among these two the St. Thomas Church at Palayur near Chavakkad is believed to be one among the seven churches established by St. Thomas, the apostle of Christ. The annual festival at the church lasts for two days and is attended by thousands. With vibrant pageants, orchestra, and fireworks, the festival resembles the Hindu festivals held in and around Thrissur. Established in 52 AD and with a history spanning two millennia, the church is definitely worth a visit.

When: April 27-May 7, 2017

Where: St. George’s Church, Edathua, Alappuzha. Cochin International Airport is about 85 km from Alappuzha.

Belief and adventure at Chardham Yatra

The most popular pilgrimage in India, Chardham yatra is going to begun in its full swing with the opening of doors of the famous Badrinath temple after a six-month winter break on 6th May. The doors of Kedarnath shrines will be opened for pilgrims three days earlier on 3rd May this year. With all the four shrines located above 10,000 feet in Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, the temple doors remain closed in October-November owing to low temperatures and heavy snowfall, and are reopened in April-May. The pilgrimage season of six months witnesses hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and tourists travelling to Dehradun, Haridwar or Rishikesh for an onward journey to the four shrines, making it the economic backbone of Garhwal region. However, there was a dip in footfall in 2013 following the natural calamity in the region. According to government figures, while the number of tourists visiting the state in 2012 and 2014 stood at 2.84 crore and 2.26 crore respectively, the figures stood at 2.09 crore in 2013.

When: 28th April 2017 onwards

Sipi Fair, SIpur, Mashobra

One of the unheard festivals in the list and bit weird too, but great occasion to understand the local culture and flavour. Two kilometre from Mashobra, a Shimla suburb lies Sipur which is known for its centuries old Sipi Fair. The fair is named after Seep, a local deity. The legend has it that the temple existed here prior to the deity’s visit to this place. According to the locals the place commands profound religious and mystical significance. No one spends the night here. The depth of the faith can be gauged from the fact that the visitors even dust their clothes before returning to the homes so that even a minute particle of the dust, a property of Seep deity , is not carried away. The tradition to visit the Sipi Fair is centuries old. It also finds special mention in the periodicals published during British regime .The place earlier belonged to the erstwhile Koti state. The star attraction of this fair is deity’s visit from the nearby hamlet Deothi .The deity pays as much as three visits to this place throughout the year.The venue also become a makeshift market during the fair when the stalls of goods are decorated to attract the visitors.

When: May 2017

 

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Dhanaulti is more serene than its famed neighbourhood

While getting down from Mussoorie, just around the so-called Mussoorie Lake area the traffic jam was really scary. It was abnormal and the jam of vehicles going towards the ‘Queen of Hills’ stretched for more than two kilometre on that winding hilly road. I knew that scenes would have been almost similar or worse in the Kempty falls area in the other side of the city. Although, contributing to this chaos was the fact that summer holidays were about to end in the north and weekends are the favourite times for the north Indians to hit the hills, specially the nearby ones. But still, I was more than relieved on our decision to avoid Mussoorie for this brief sojourn. More so, that we witnessed this traffic chaos when we were coming downhill and luckily escaped that when we were going to Dhanaulti a couple of days back.

Dhanaulti1

I have always felt that Dhanaulti is far better place to relax than Mussoorie, however popular among masses later one would be. Mussoorie lost its favourite charm may be few decades ago. It is overcrowded, highly commercialised and at times suffocating. So first-timers will certainly have a lure to the big name but regular ones will certainly like to avoid it and move towards greener pastures, still away from the gaze of the maddening crowd. Dhanaulti is a place like this and will perhaps remain so atleast for the another decade.

Dhanaulti2

On altitude front, Dhanaulti  (2286 metres)is higher by good 281 metres than Mussoorie (2005 metres). Hence, better weather amidst less crowd. Not too far as well, just 24 kms ahead of Mussoorie (an hours drive) on the Chamba road. Quiet and serene amidst alpine forests of Deodar, Rhododendron and Oak. This tiny himalayan resort is placed on a ridge with valley on both the sides. Hence it has limited space to expand, which goes in its favour.

Dhanaulti3

Dhanaulti has two Eco-parks, “Amber” and “Dhara”. They have been developed recently by the Forest Department of Uttarakhand with the help of local youth. Dhara is just before the town towards Mussoorie while Amber is just after the town on the Chamba side. They are the prime place for the tourists in Dhanaulti to engage themselves. The adventure sports facility is available for visitors in the form of walking over the flying fox and burma bridges and riding horses. There is also a facility for visitors to plant a sapling of tree species in the memory of their beloved, which is called as memory sapling plantation. There are few other adventure sport spots nearby run by private operators and resorts.

Dhanaulti4

No big hotels but a few descent ones in the mid-range and in the budget range. Dhanaulti Heights is owned by Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam Limited and has the best location, space and the rooms in whole of Dhanaulti. Mussoorie Forest Department is running Eco-huts for the tourists come to enjoy serene landscapes of Dhanaulti. These are built by green technology and are Eco-friendly. Personally, I feel that these eco-huts are the best ones and they are cheaper than the GMVN rooms.

Eco huts right in front of the GMVN rest house- Dhanaulti Heights
Eco huts right in front of the GMVN rest house- Dhanaulti Heights

As I said, eco parks are the favourite pastimes in Dhanaulti. They have mini adventure zones. ‘Amber’ also has a dedicated place for Yoga and meditation. You can walk upto the top of the hill in the park for some fabulous views of the step farming and then valley on the other side. Its really beautiful up there. Worth spending few quiet hours. There is also a maggi and tea shop for the tourists.

Area has many walking trails and apple orchards. One can go for many mini treks. Their are pony rides available. But Surkanda Devi temple (five kilometres from Dhanaulti towards Chamba) is best place for a short trip nearby. There is a small uphill trek of around two kilometres for the temple. Temple is located at an altitude of 9995 feet. Surkanda is the most revered deity of the region.

It takes around an hour to reach the temple. The trek starts from Kaddukhal village on the main Chamba road. Its an easy to moderate trek. Still there are ponies available for the climb (Rs 400 per person, one way). Even for those who are least interested in temples, this is trek worth doing for its sheer beauty. Being highest point in the region, you can have a 360 degree view of the area. But that’s nothing, in clear weather you can have one of the best views of Garhwal Himalayas from here. I have been here in February once and it was spellbinding.

You can see the images from that trip by clicking here.

And actually even Dhanaulti has a very commanding panoramic views of snow-clad Himalayan ranges. Their are many mountain-view spots specifically for that.

In Dhanaulti, weather changes very quickly, as I said it is on a ridge. Windy at times because of this and often you are in the clouds. The misty landscape makes excellent background for the evening strolls. That’s when you are most relaxed.

Dhanaulti is a nice place to be. Interestingly, with many winter adventure activities developing here, its turning out to be a round the year tourist destination.

Weighty traditions – Golden views!

DSC_7413It is said that ornaments worn by women in Uttarakhand have much resemblance to states like Rajasthan. But, as is the practice these days everywhere else, in Uttarakhand too women wear jewellery mostly on functions, marriages and religious occasions & festivals.

Traditional jewellery of Uttarakhand are very intricately designed. There are two major parts of these ornaments- a nose ring (this is called ‘nath’ locally and almost in every part of the north). It is more popular in the Kumaon region. But they are worn in Garhwal region as well. It is at many times attached to the similarly big ear rings. Overall it becomes very heavy but they wear them with relative ease.

Another major ornament is a big necklace like jewellery called locally as ‘Galoband’. Galobands made of gold will be smaller and bigger ones will be often silver made. Many traditional family jewellery will be passed on to the next generation. Jewellery is often worn very boldly during functions and festivals. They are also the symbol of social and economical status. More the work, higher up in the strata are you so considered.

So here is a gallery of women of Uttarakhand during a religious function for Nanda Devi at a himalayan village Waan in remote area of the state, some time back.

We find it heavy, but you want to see these women dance with all this jewellery on, then see the video below on my YouTube channel-

Some cool travel ideas for this hot May!

Summer in the northern part of India seems to be peaking a bit early. Such a weather instigates desperate search for cooler vistas. With annual summer vacations just round the corner, we bring you our choice of top ten ideas for the month of May- first of India’s traditional two months of summer vacations. Many festivals around and a few adventures to calm you down. Go ahead.

1. Malwa Festival, Indore, Ujjain

Malwa-FestivalCelebrated with great enthusiasm, Malwa Utsav is one of the biggest and most spectacular events of Madhya Pradesh. The festival restores the age old culture and the tradition of India through its various classical dance performances and traditional music. Performers and entertainers from different parts of India charm the cities of Indore and Ujjain for a remarkable five day celebration of art, music, dance, drama and culture. Festival is organised first in Indore and then in Ujjain for five days at each place. One can say that the festival is a storehouse to the culture, spirit and the essence of the state. There is a huge gathering of locals and tourists coming from all parts of India and across the globe. Well-known artists, excellent performances, colourful ambience and a mélange of various programs form the prime highlights of the festival. In-addition, the festival also exhibits a rich display of art and craft workshops and one can savour the delectable cuisines of different variety. This year the Ujjain leg of the festival will be falling during the Simhastha, adding another colour to the occasion.

When: 5th-17th May, 2016

2. Kottiyoor Festival, Kannur

Kottiyoor-FestivalThe Kottiyoor festival is unique as it involves two temples – Akkare Kottiyoor and Ikkare Kottiyoor, on the opposite banks of River Bavali. Situated in Kannur district, the annual Kottiyoor festival is celebrated for twenty-eight days and it falls during the months of May and June. Here, the Neyyattam ritual on the first day and the Thirukalasattu ritual on the concluding day are attended by hundreds of devotees. At Akkare Kottiyoor, there is no formal temple structure. The deity is believed to be a swayambhoo lingam (self-created idol of Lord Shiva) and is seated on a small heap of stones called manithara. The Akkare Kottiyoor Temple remains open only during the festival days. Nearest railway station is Thalassery which is about 57 kms from here.

When: 20th May 2016

3. Ooty welcomes the summers with flowers

ootyEvery May Ooty comes alive with the Summer Festival. The 120th flower show will be celebrated on May 27th 2016, around 200 countries national flowers will be displayed on this year show. Flower show is conducted every year in the month of may in botanical garden Ooty. In this festival large varieties of flowers are displayed and organised activities like floral arrangements, vegetable carvings, flower rangoli etc. The flower show at the Ooty Botanical Gardens, which will take place on May 27-29, is particularly stunning. This year, the special attraction will be 35 new varieties of Dalia. There will be nearly 15000 flowers of various types on display. The 58th fruit show in Coonoor will be on May 21-22. However, the vegetable, rose and spice shows organised annually during the first and second week of May has been cancelled due to Tamil Nadu assembly elections this year. Other activities include cultural events, boat racing and trekking. There is also a Dog show at South of India Kennel Club (SIKC). Ooty Botanical Gardens covers an area of 22 hectares.It is a treasure house of temperate flora, consisting of flowering trees, beautiful shrubs, colourful lilies, bulbous planets, enchanting orchids, curious cacti and succulents, pleasing pteridophytes, breath taking glass house plans and charming annuals with bright colours.

When: 27th-29th May 2016

4. Buddha Purnima at Bodhgaya

Buddha-PurnimaBuddha Jayanti, also known as Buddha Purnima as it falls on the full moon day, celebrates the birthday of Buddha. It’s the most sacred Buddhist festival. Actually Buddha Purnima is day of his birth, his enlightenment and his death as well, making it a very rare day. It’s the most sacred Buddhist festival. Activities include prayer meets, sermons and religious discourses, recitation of Buddhist scriptures, group meditation, processions, and worship of the statue of Buddha. Across all monasteries in India including major Buddhist pilgrim centres like Dharamshala, Sarnath and Bodhgaya and predominantly Buddhist regions such as Sikkim, Ladakh, and Arunachal Pradesh as well. At Bodhgaya, the Mahabodhi Temple wears a festive look and is decorated with colorful flags and flowers. Special prayers are organised under the Bodhi Tree (the tree under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment).

When: 21st May 2016

5. Simhastha Kumbh, Ujjain

UjjainThis Kumbh Mela is one of four Kumbh Melas, held in different places in India, that are known as the largest religious gatherings on earth. The Simhastha Kumbh is an unrivalled celebration in India. The most popular legend regarding the origin of Kumbh Melas is the Samudra Manthan or ‘churning of the ocean’. Gods and demons competed ercely in the churning in search of the divine nectar of immortality. During this epic battle to capture the Urn (Kumbh) containing the nectar, drops of the precious liquid fell on four places – Haridwar, Prayag (Allahabad), Nashik and Ujjain. The Ujjain Kumbh is celebrated when Jupiter ascends into sun sign Leo’s quarter or the Simha constellation of zodiac, which is why it is called ‘Simhastha’. The Simhastha is special in Ujjain as it is the seat of divine Mahakal – the Lord of all times. The ritual of bathing in the holy waters of Kshipra began on the full moon day of the Hindu month of Chaitra (March-April) and will continue on various dates until the full moon shows up in the following month of Vaishakha. There are nine bathing dates in May- 3rd, 6th, 9th, 11th, 15th, 17th and then on last three days of the festival- 19th, 20th & 21st May 2016.

When: April 22 to May 21, 2016.

Where: Shipra river, Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh

6. Summer festival at Mount Abu

Mt__Abu_SunsetThe only hill station of the Aravali ranges welcomes tourists for the summer with a festival. The summer festival is held every year during the month of May on Budh Poornima. The festival celebrates the warmth and cheerfulness of the people of hill station, who welcome the tourists from the depth of their hearts. Mt. Abu Summer Festival kicks off with ballad singing, followed by regional folk dancing. The festival also offers sports such as boat racing on Nakki Lake, and a roller skating race. It concludes with a fireworks display. The highlight of the festival is the Sham-e-Qawwali musical show, which features some of the most renowned qawwals from various parts of India. The hospitality of the people, their colorful culture and exotic locations made this festival a-never-to-be-forgotten experience. The festival begins with a ceremonial procession, which starts from the RTDC Hotel Shikhar and gather at the Nakki Lake Chowk followed by folk performances of Rajasthan and Gujarat states. The grand finale of the festival display dazzling fireworks. This two day colorful festival is organized by the Rajasthan Tourism, Municipal Board, Mount Abu & District Administration. Both the days of festival are interesting because of various competitions that take place the whole day. Skating Race, skater’s Show, CRPF Band Show, Boat Race, Horse Race, Tug of War, Panihari Matka Race and Deepdan add to the excitement of the celebration.

When: 19th-21st May 2016

7.  Moatsu at Nagaland

MoatsuMoatsu Festival is celebrated by the Ao tribe of Nagaland. Moatsu is celebrated in the first week of May every year. Various rituals are performed during this period. The Aos observe Moatsü Mong after the sowing is done. The Moatsu festival provides the Aos a period of recreation and entertainment after the stressful work of clearing fields, burning jungles and sowing seeds, cleaning up the Tsubu (Wells) and repairs and construction of houses by elders of the Putu Menden, stretching over a week. This tribal festival is marked by peppy songs and dances. The whole festival with full of merry making and fun is observed only for three days from 1st to 3rd of May. During this festival one of the symbolic celebrations is Sangpangtu, where a big fire is lit and men and women sit around it. Men & women putting on the complete best attire and the womenfolk serve the wine and meat. The natural customary practice of the forefathers was competing in making the best rice-beer and rearing the best possible pigs and cows to be slaughtered during the festival. The women weave the best of traditional garments and adorn themselves with all their finery. They join the men in dancing, eating and drinking and composing warrior songs. Singing songs in praise of the lover and the village as a whole is done and the older men encourage the young people to be bold and heroic to defend and protect them from enemies as head-hunting was practiced during their fore-fathers time.

When: 1st-3rd May 2016

8. Love the nature at Matheran Green Festival

Matheran Green FestivalFor the month of May, the lush vehicle-free forest of Matheran will come alive with this green initiative focusing on nature and conservation. This is India’s first forest festival. In the misty mountains of Matheran’s reserve forest, visionaries, makers and believers from all walks of life are joining hands with the real artist –  nature, to create solutions with the common goal of leaving behind a better planet than the one we inherited. Architects, designers, artists, musicians, writers, directors, engineers and scientists will all join together to share their perspectives and contributions through different mediums. These include public art, photography, cultural performances, food, music, poetry and film. In addition, there will be tree planting and more than 50 different workshops. Matheran which means ‘forest on a forehead (of a mountain)’ is a hill station in the Indian State of Maharashtra. It is the smallest hill station in India located in the outskirts of major cities Mumbai & Pune. This is an eco-sensitive region, declared by Ministry of Environment & Forest, Government of India, is the only automobile-free hill station of Asia. Last year the festival was an five day affair. This year it has been extended for the whole month.

When: 1st-30th May 2016

9. Belief and adventure at Chardham Yatra

Char DhamThe most popular pilgrimage in India, Chardham yatra is going to begun in its full swing with the opening of doors of the famous Badrinath temple after a six-month winter break on 11th May. The doors of Gangotri and Yamunotri and Kedarnath shrines will be opened for pilgrims two days earlier on the auspicious occasion of Akshaya Tritiya on 9th May this year. With all the four shrines located above 10,000 feet in Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, the temple doors remain closed in October-November owing to low temperatures and heavy snowfall, and are reopened in April-May. The pilgrimage season of six months witnesses hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and tourists travelling to Dehradun, Haridwar or Rishikesh for an onward journey to the four shrines, making it the economic backbone of Garhwal region. However, there was a dip in footfall in 2013 following the natural calamity in the region. According to government figures, while the number of tourists visiting the state in 2012 and 2014 stood at 2.84 crore and 2.26 crore respectively, the figures stood at 2.09 crore in 2013.

When: May-September 2016

10. Sipi Fair, SIpur, Shimla

Sipi FairOne of the unheard festivals in the list and bit weird too, but great occasion to understand the local culture and flavour. Two kilometre from Mashobra, a Shimla suburb lies Sipur which is known for its centuries old Sipi Fair. The fair is named after Seep, a local deity. The legend has it that the temple existed here prior to the deity’s visit to this place. According to the locals the place commands profound religious and mystical significance. No one spends the night here. The depth of the faith can be gauged from the fact that the visitors even dust their clothes before returning to the homes so that even a minute particle of the dust, a property of Seep deity , is not carried away. The tradition to visit the Sipi Fair is centuries old. It also finds special mention in the periodicals published during British regime .The place earlier belonged to the erstwhile Koti state. The star attraction of this fair is deity’s visit from the nearby hamlet Deothi .The deity pays as much as three visits to this place throughout the year.The venue also become a makeshift market during the fair when the stalls of goods are decorated to attract the visitors.

When: May 2016

 

Roopkund : Mystery under the watery grave!

It is one of the greatest mysteries of our times. It has been chronicled so much by historians, sociologists and scientists, alike that one can find internet abuzz with the different stories and theories. Hence makes not point for me to try to tell the history, at least not more than this that lake is usually called the ‘Mystery Lake’, since centuries old human skeletons and remains of horses are found here. By most accounts, these skeletons are almost 1200 years old. But besides this, Roopkund is also one of the most fascinating treks in Uttarakhand Himalayas, so much so that it always ranks among the top 10 treks in Indian himalayas. Hence it was always in my wish list for years, that ultimately got fulfilled.

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Roopkund in this reference also becomes a mythological place and it indeed has quite religious importance for the region. This lake is located at an altitude of 5029 metres (16,499 feet) making it an high altitude himalayan lake. But lake is not big though. This area is uninhabited, surrounded by rock-strewn glaciers and snow clad mountains, making it a very popular trekking destination for both summer as well as winter treks. Area remains covered under snow for most part of the year from November to April. Even in summers, we can find glacial snow around the lake.

Trek to Roopkund might be popular but is not easy though owing to altitude as well as rough weather and tough route. Roopkund is situated in Chamoli district of Garhwal, in the lap of Trishul massif. Deep virgin forests, gurgling rivulets, breath-taking campsites and miles of surging meadows gratify the soul of adventurers. The region is dominated by Mount Trishul (7120m) and makes for another pilgrim for the faithful Lord Shiva devotees, on the walk up to the lake we camp at the Himalayan meadows of Bedni Bugyal & Ali Bugyal and cross the Roop Kund ridge which is a an extension of one between Sutol and Wan and forms the divide between the catchments of the Badni Ganga and the Nandakini River. Nanda Rajjat Yatra that takes place once every 12 years also goes to Roopkund.

Roopkund can be trekked from many routes. You can take Lohajung- Didna Village- Ali Bugyal- Ghora Lotani-Bhagwabasa-Roopkund-Bedni Bugyal-Lohajung route. Lohajung can be accessed by road easily. But its a challenging but very enjoyable trek.

Owing to its mythological and religious importance, many locals come here to pay homage to their deceased elders as well.

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The highlight of the lake are the skeletons indeed. We can find bones strewn around. Though these bones are of historical and archeological importance, but being at such a tough place, there is no way to regulate how people coming here treat these bones. The popularity over the years have drawn many adventure tourists from around the world to this place. But once here, these bones become things to play for them. In these times of selfies, many tourists pick the bones and put them at convenient place to take photographs. Weird and spooky, but that’s how it is.

But at the end, a place worth a visit for every body who loves trekking. Overlooking the Roopkund is Jura Gali pass, a high altitude pass to crossover to the other side towards the Homkund or the base of the Nanda Ghunti and Trishul peaks. Many trekkers will cross this pass after Roopkund on the lines of Rajjaat Yatra.

Ali Bugyal – Most beautiful but might be least visited meadow!

Bugyals are the meadows in the lower himalayan region- lush green, out of nowhere on the top of the mountain or on its edges, surrounded by heavy forest of pines and deodars. All of sudden tree-line ends and meadow begins. Uttarakhand has many of them in its higher reaches. Many of them are very popular and few quite obscure & less visited. Ali Bugyal perhaps lies in the later category.

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Ali Bugyal is near Didina village in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. Said to be arguably the largest meadow in India, Ali has often remained forgotten to its nearest cousin the Bedini Bugyal, which is perhaps among the most popular meadows in India.

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Locals also say term Ali is one of the most beautiful meadows in India and having seen it, I don’t doubt this claim. It is indeed very beautiful and charming.

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Ali is very close to Bedini Bugyal. Bedini Bugyal is most popular and visited as it falls on one of the most challenging treks of Uttarakhand to Roopkund (the world famous mysterious skeleton lake). Ali is almost three kilometres from Bedini, very close indeed.

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The only drawback Ali had over Bedini is that it is off route and secondly, it doesn’t have a natural source of water as Bedini has- a big pond right on the top. There are a few streams but quite downhill.

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Ali Bugyal is said to be a skier’s paradise with vast and descent slopes. A potential yet to be explored here.

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A view of various other hitherto unexplored bugyals nearby.

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There goes another story related to fate of the Ali Bugyal. It is been said that actually all the facilities that Auli (near Joshimath) was handed over as a Ski resort were actually meant for Ali. But as both places are pronounced similarly, just a typo led everything to Auli instead of Ali. Hence Auli got developed as world famous resort and and Ali went into oblivion.

Some other images of the Ali Bugyal, its fascinating slopes and the bugyali horses-

On a clear day, Ali Bugyal, located at an altitude of about 13,000 feet gives some fascinating panoramic views of the nearby ranges and many far off places. But on any day, the view here is magical. See for yourself-

A lake with nine corners – Naukuchiatal

One of the many lakes the lower himalayan region of Nainital is famous for- Naukuchiatal (नौकुचियाताल) is one of the biggest among them and perhaps most serene. The only lake comparable to this in serenity will be the Sattal. Located at an altitude of 1220 metres, this is also the deepest lake in the region. Fed by underground perennial spring, this lake is an all the year round spot to be. Might not suit those bubbly-shubbly north Indian tourists who prefer to have some ‘happening’ spot, but will certainly be liken by all those who want to spend some quite quality time in the lap of nature.

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This lake is within a beautiful valley offering tremendous opportunity for angling and bird watching. Off late many adventure activities like paragliding, rowing, paddling or yachting have also come up at this place. You can enjoy calm boating as well. So serene is the atmosphere here that, many writers and artists have made this region as their second home. One of the finest places to revitalise mind and soul and go for your creative pursuits. Appealing sights of paddocks and terraced fields make this place a perfect and pleasing destination. A nice promenade through the tree-flanked banks of the lake is a miraculous experience. This lake also has some association with a few mythological and religious folklores. As said, lake has nine corners but it is impossible to see all of them in a single ground view. Above all, Naukuchiatal is also an idyllic location to watch some rare butterflies and himalayan birds.

Naukuchiatal has many descent places to stay and The Lake Resort is perhaps best of them as per location as well as facilities. There is also a Club Mahindra Resort and few other descent properties. There is KMVN guest house right at the lake. As always KMVN guest house has the best view in the town. A few images rom the Lake Resort which also holds a now famous film festival here every year.

This lake is approximately 4 kms from Bhimtal. While coming from Kathgodam side, once you cross Bhimtal and start climbing towards Bhopal, there is a turn to right which takes you to Naukuchiatal.