Traditional folk dance at Waan during Nanda Devi Rajjaat Yatra 2014. Last inhabitated village on Rajjaat route towards Bedini Bugyal, Waan is famous for its Latu temple. Latu is considered to be brother of Goddess Nanda Devi. Here onwards Latu leads the Yatra till Homkund.
The video here is of traditional ‘Jhora’ in Nanda Devi’s praise by men & women in traditional attire. Most special are women ornaments, these ornaments also reflect their social status. Sung in local dialect, group of men first recite a couplet, which is repeated by the women folk. This can go on for hours, the flow of words and rhythm (steps as well) of dance keep on changing, but tempo remains the same.
Normally it is a slow paced dance. People keep on joining or moving out of the sequence as per their convenience. Men and women dance and move in a same circle formation but as two different groups. Men will never hold hands of women during the dance. Such ‘Jhoras’ are now a rarity, seen only in times of Yatra or big religious festivals.
Thousands of people gave an emotional send-off to their mythical daughter Nanda Devi at Homkund at an altitude of almost 16 thousand feet right at the base of Nanda Ghunti peak (in Uttarakhand in Himalayan India), bringing to close a much awaited Nanda Devi Rajjaat Yatra which takes place in not less than 12 years. Called as Himalayan Kumbh and longest religious procession in Asia, this 290 km Yatra started from Nauti near Karnprayag in Uttarakhand on 18th August and ended at same place on morning of 7th September after customary rituals. Nanda was bid adieu at Homkund on 3rd September. Comparing to last two occasions in 1987 and 2000, number of pilgrims as well as the Chantolis (canopies) representing various goddesses in Kumaon and Garhwal region saw a manifold increase. Extending the tradition there were many more Chantolis and flags this time, including many first timers such as one from as far as Martoli region of Pithoragarh.
Whether or not to let the numbers increase in this highly sensitive zone of Himalayas is a matter to be debated and will be debated a lot in coming days owing to last year’s catastrophe in Kedarnath region and this year’s floods in Kashmir, but enthusiasm among people was something not to be missed. Yatra had many other hits and misses. New traditions were made and old ones were broken. Much was left to desire of many. Weather and rough terrain put up a stiff challenge to those who were less prepared. Indeed any trip with a strenuous trek at above 13K ft for five days on trot can’t be easy one for even regular trekkers like me. I could safely say that it was the most challenging trek I ever did in last more than 20 years.
Rough terrain and tough trek
Yatra had many milestones after starting from Nauti and Kansuwa. Important among them were Nandkesari where all mini Yatras coming from other parts of state converge into the main one. Next one was Waan, a village famous for its potatoes and a very important cultural centre, from where actually the Yatra moves into the high altitude zone. Then was Bedini Bugyal, said to be one of the most pristine bugyals of this part of Himalayas where people pay ritualistic homage to their ancestors at Bedini Kund. Then was the mysterious lake of Roopkund strewn around with human skeletons dating at least five centuries back. Jyura Gali (street of death) pass at the altitude of 15580 ft was the highest point of the whole trip. Across the pass, Shila Samundar was literally a sea of rocks, surrounded by snow clad peaks. That was the last camp before sending Nanda Devi to Homkund. Back down, Sutol was the again the road head and also a place known for its Pandav dance.
States of Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have jointly been declared as the best in Comprehensive Development of Tourism at National Tourism awards in India. Awards, considered to be showcase of the Indian tourism industry were given on Tuesday. Two hotels from the city of lakes Udaipur were also among the winners in their categories.
Although the Indian Tourism Minister Chiranjeev stayed away from the awards function because of seemingly larger issue of bifurcation of his state Andhra Pradesh, the Andhra stamp writ large in the Awards. Andhra Pradesh shared the first prize for Best State for Comprehensive Development of Tourism with Madhya Pradesh, while Kerala came second, and Gujarat at the third place. In the Best Heritage City category, Tourism Minister’s own constituency, Tirupati became the winner. Two HMV drivers of Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation were picked up for this year’ s Atithidevo Bhava Award for their act of preventing a robbery on a tourist bus. For another year in a row, Rajiv Gandhi International Airport Hyderabad was adjudged the Best Airport in the country. Other accolades for the state included Best maintained and disabled-friendly monument for Golconda Fort Hyderabad; Best Film Promotion Friendly state, and ‘Best standalone convention centre – Leonia International Centre for Exhibition & Conventions, Hyderabad.
Among the states of the North East and Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), the latter once again bagged the award for Best State for Comprehensive Development of Tourism. After a while, Kerala Tourism once again came back well to win few Awards. Kumarakom Grama Panchayat won the Best Civic Management of Tourist Destination in Catetory ‘C’ city, while the Kerala Tourism website became the winner in Most Innovative Information Technology Website category. The Kochi Muziris Biennale Project of Kerala Tourism was adjudged the Most Innovative Tourism Project. Kumbh Mela at Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh won the prize for the Best Civic Management of a tourist destination
In National Tourism Award 2012-13, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India has also recognised people for their outstanding contribution to the industry through the Life Time Achievement Award. The winners of this Award were Hugh & Colleen Gantzer, writer-photographer couple, who launched the first travel column in a national daily in India in August, 1977, and Aman Nath and Francis Wacziarg, for their pioneering work in creating international consciousness on the heritage of Shekhavati and also restoring some 30 properties across 10 States in India. .
Yatra.com, India’s leading online travel portal won three awards at the India Tourism Awards for its outstanding performance as a tour operator in 2012-13. Organised by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, Yatra.com was felicitated for ‘Outstanding performance as a Domestic Tour Operator (Rest of India)’, ‘Outstanding performance as a Domestic Tour Operator in Jammu and Kashmir’ and ‘Outstanding performance as an Inbound Tour Operator – Cat C’. Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur, won the award for the Best Hotel in Five-Star Deluxe Category while the Best Heritage Hotel in Grand category went to Fateh Prakash Palace, Udaipur. ITC Maurya, New Delhi, won the award for Best Eco-friendly hotel.
The Indian Ministry of Tourism presents National Tourism Awards to various segments of the travel and tourism industry every year. These awards are presented to State Governments/Union Territories, classified hotels, heritage hotels, approved travel agents, tour operators and tourist transport operators, individuals and other private organizations in recognition of their performances in their respective fields and also to encourage healthy competition with an endeavor to promote tourism.
When it comes to a perfect vacation, given a choice, people all over the world would love to travel with their dream partner. Yatra.com in their recent survey on winter holidays, asked travellers which celebrity they would want to be accompanied by for their dream holiday.
The 31 year old, 6ft plus youth icon, Ranbir Kapoor, recognised for his versatile acting abilities and his passion for cinema, came out on top for being the most desirable male celebrity to holiday with stealing 19% of the votes. Interestingly, Ranbir played a role of a travel show host in his recent film ‘Yeh Jawani Hey Deewani‘. Following closely with over 25 years of acting behind him, the most sought after hero, one of the hottest hunks of Indian Cinema, and termed as the most bankable actor of all time, Salman Khan, came in second place with 17% votes. The Ram-Leela hot bodied actor, Ranveer Singh came in third with 14%, and famous for his overall personality as well as his chutzpah on the field, Virat Kohli came in next with 13% votes. The fifth position was occupied by Hollywood teen heartthrob, Robert Pattinson closing in with 9% of the votes in the Yatra.com survey results.
Moving on to the female category, Katrina Kaif with her beautiful looks, and huge number of box office hits took the top spot for being the most sought after celebrity to take as a companion on a holiday with 20% votes. Actor-Singer, ex Miss World Priyanka Chopra came in second with 15% votes, Deepika Padukone and Kareena Kapoor followed with 14% and 12% respectively. There was a 3 way tie for the fifth position between Aishwarya Rai, Mila Kunis and Scarlett Johannson with 9% votes each.
The others who made it to the top ten in the Yatra.com survey included Shahrukh Khan(8%), Aamir Khan(8%), Taylor Lautner(6%) and George Clooney(6%). In the women’s category Chitrangada Singh (7%) and Megan Fox (5%) also made the cut.
Yatra.com’s survey was done with 15,000 Indian travellers. Yatra.com is India’s leading online travel company,that provides information, pricing, availability, and booking facility for domestic and international air travel, railway reservation, hotel bookings and holiday packages. It offers a host of travel services designed to make business and leisure travel easier. Based in Gurgaon, India, Yatra.com is a one-stop-shop for all travel-related services. A leading consolidator of travel products, Yatra.com provides reservation facility for more than 12,000 hotels in India and over 300,000 hotels around the world. Company claims to be doing 20,000 domestic tickets and 1000 hotels and holiday packages booking a day.
The top domestic destination choices for Indians this season include Goa, Kerala and Andaman and Nicobar islands. Indians are still keen to travel this winter in spite of there being no respite from high airfares or the rupee valuation. Findings from a survey by Yatra.com, among India’s leading online travel portals has revealed that 69 per cent Indians are still keen on travelling this winter.
India is the most preferred destination this winter season with three fourths of the respondents willing to take their year-end holidays within the country. Rest one-fourth respondents would like to plan their vacations abroad to destinations like Dubai, Europe and South East Asia. While about 59 per cent of the respondents are looking forward to a relaxed holiday at some exotic location (with more than 44 per cent keen to go with their families), 20 per cent are planning to spend quality time with their loved ones on a romantic getaway.
Majority of the respondents, around 46 per cent, would prefer holiday packages to weekend breaks and road trips. Interestingly, despite the rising cost of travel, 22 per cent of the respondents are willing to travel but will do so by cutting down on their shopping spends followed closely by 21 per cent who will choose to travel with a budget carrier and 20 per cent who have said that they don’t mind reducing the duration of their holiday. This is a strong indication of the sentiment of travellers this season who will travel although with minor alterations to neutralise the rise in costs. The survey was conducted among 15,000 individuals, and revealed that the typical travel budget this winter will range between Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 50,000 per person with majority of the respondents preferring to go for a 5-10 days holiday.