Kashmir – Paradise on Earth
Set like a jewelled crown on the map of India, Kashmir is a many face teddiamond, changing character with the seasons – always extravagantly beautiful.Three Himalayan ranges, Karakoram, Zanaskar and Pir Panjal – snow capped, majestic, frame the landscape from northwest to northeast. They are the birthplace of great rivers which flow through the kashmir valley. Raj Taringini the chronology of the Kashmir Kings written by Kalhana eulogises the beauty of Kashmir as follows: “Kasmira Parvati Paroksh; Tat Swami ch Maheswara”. Meaning Kashmir is as beautiful as Goddess Parvati manifest; and its owner is Lord Shiva Himself” And the Mughal Emperor exclaimed “Gar Bar-ru-e-Zamin Ast ; Hamin Ast ,Hamin Ast Hamin Asto. Meaning if there is paradise on this earth : This is it, this is it, this is it.
Srinagar is at once a collection of images: a son-et- lumiere that tells the story of the love of the Mughal emperors for this paradise vale; deep green rice fields and river bridges of gardens in bloom and lakes rimmed by houseboats; at once summer capital of the state,business centre and holiday resort.
Srinagar is as much imagination as it is fact,for every season offers new vistas to this city of great antiquity. Spring breathes life again into a frozen world and the air is heady with the fragrance of a million flowers that blossom on trees, shrubs and creepers.Summer heightens the effect and autumn is poignant in its colours of warm introspection. Winter brings with it snow,sometimes the Dal Lake freezes and beneath a leaden sky, roasted chestnuts turn the atmosphere aromatic with the promise of warmth and comfort.
The river Jhelum and the Dal and Nagin lakes dominate Srinagar and its life and activities.Here lush wild gardens of lotus and waterlily flower amidst bustling lanes.By the lakeside spread the gardens of the Mughals in patterned beauty.And the people move with a tranquillity borne of a history laden pulse of activity.
IF legends are to be believed, the Kashmir valley was once a lake as large as a sea and here lived an abominable demon who was killed after most of the lake had been drained with the collective help of Brahma’s grandson, Kashap and the goddess Parvati.She wasfinally stilled the demon by dropping upon him a mountain and thereby crushing him to death.This legendary mountain is no other than Hari Parbat, Srinagar’s ‘Takht-i- Sulaiman’ hill that forms the famous backdrop to the city.
Best Season : March to October
Temperatures (Average) : 10 to 30 degrees cent. Low Temperatures in winter
Clothing : Light/Medium wollens in summers to Heavy wollens in winter
Languages : Kashmiri,Urdu,Hindi,English
Food: Every sort of vegetarian and non vegetarian food is available in multiple cuisines to suit every budget. Restaurants of all hues and shades are available all along the Boulevard road. and other major spots. Foods suits all budgets and tastes.
Travels : Registered travel/tour operators are available.
Others: Tariffs are subject to change without notice and Cheques are not accepted.
Jammu – The City of Temples
Romantic green meadows, majestic mountains, bewitching lakes and valleys….. yes , Jammu has the uncanny ability to surprise you at every turn. Tucked snugly between glittering ‘Shikhars’ on ancient temples and holy shrines perched atop hill sides, lie the most picturesque scenes you can ever imagine. But, these fascinating places have to be discovered . Quietly, gently, patiently. For when they do reveal their inherent beauty, you will indeed be swept of your feet. in fact you won’t believe your eyes.
Temples And Shrines: Among the temples in the city, the Raguhnath Mandir takes pride of the place, being situated right in the heart of Jammu. It consists of a cluster of temples which makes it the largest temple complex in Northern India. The inner sanctums of the temples contain gigantic statues of Gods and Goddesses and numerous ‘lingams’. It contains representatives of almost the entire Hindu Pantheon, which makes it a rare sight to see. The famous temple of ‘Bawey Wali Mata’ is inside the Bahu Fort, where every Tuesday and Sunday, pilgrims through and jostle one another to worship the Goddess. A little further away, on a hilltop opposite the Bahu Fort, is a lovely sport overlooking the river Tawi, where a temple dedicated to Mahamaya has been constructed.
It is said that if Bawey Wali Mata is the presiding deity of Jammu, the Dargah of Peer Badhan Ali Shah (Peer Baba) is the other shrine that protects its people from mishaps and evil spirits. A friend of Guru Gobind Singh, Per Baba lived all his life on milk alone and was 500 yaers old when he died. On Thursdays, you can find Hindu & Sikh devotees vastly out numbering their Muslim brethrens at this shrine; such is the faith that people have in Peer Baba. Most VIPs make it a point to visit this Dargah when they come to Jammu. The peer Kho ave Temple, overlooking the Tawi river, the Panchbaktar Temple and the Ranbireshwar Temple are the other well-known Shiv temples in Jammu. Each has its own legend, its devotees and specific days of worship. In Ranbireshwar temple, there are 12 Shiv ‘Lingams’ of crystal measuring 12″ to 18″ and galleries with thousands of Saligrams fixed on stone slab. Peer Mitha is another famous shrine in Jammu. Peer Mitha was a contemporary of Ajaib Dev and Ghareeb Nath. Both saints were very famous. ‘Mitha’ means the sweet one for this Peer would accept nothing more than a pinch of sugar from his devotees. Other sinificant temples are the Laxmi Narayan Temple and Panj Mandir in the posh Gandhi Nagar locality of Jammu.
Forts And Palaces: On the opposite bank of the Tawi river at an upland plateau, is situated the majestic Bahu Fort. Looking at the Fort, one can imagine the wars fought, invasions prevented and yes even the grandeur the royal family must have enjoyed once upon a time. Today, the Fort is surrounded by Lush green terraced gardens, waterfalls, and followers of just about every kind and color. A favorite picnic sport for the city folk, you can hear a lively chatter all day long on weekends.
The Amar Singh Palace is a sight to behold. This grand Palace reminds one of a dreamy French castle, with sloping roofs and tall towers. Now open to tourists, the Amar Mahal which has been converted into a museum, houses the city’s finest library of antique books and paintings. An entire series of miniatures on the epic Nal-Damayanti can be seen in the museum.
Ladakh (The Roof Top Of The World)
The itinerary of the average tourist to Ladakh begins with a tour of Leh , ancient capital and present day principal township of Ladakh. It invariably includes day return visits to a selection of monasteries located along a stretch of the Indus valley, between the spectacular monastery of Lamayuru in the west and the prestigious establishment of Hemis in the east. Some take to trekking along the lateral valleys, especially in Markha, but few venture out of the confines of the Central Indus Valley which represents Ladakh’s heartland.
However, during the last decade a gradual change in the tourist’s perception of Ladakh has come about, thanks to growing mystique of the Himalayas and a burgeoning interests in adventure tourism worldwide. As a result of this change in perception there has been a steady increase in the number of tourists to the Western flank of Ladakh which comprises several river valleys. Chief among these are the spectacular valleys of Suru and Zanskar, nestling along the foothills of the main range of Greater Himalayas ; the smaller lateral valleys of Drass and Wakha Mulbek, as also of Chiktan (Still in the restricted zone) constitute important subsidiaries. Drained and formed by the southeastern tributaries of the high Indus, these valleys constitutes the district of Kargil.
An emissary of king Ashoka brought Buddhism to Ladakh as early as the 3rd century B.C. Beginning with a belief that rejected idol worship, and worshipped the Buddha in a symbolic from, Buddhism eventually began giving shape to the Buddha and depicting him in statue, murals and paintings. Of these, Ladakh has a rich variety. The ancient Buddishist monasteries, or gompas, hold immemorial treasures: frescoes, images, tankhas, and rare manuscripts.
Ladakh has 12 main monasteries and some 5,000 lamas. Most of the famous monasteries are easily accessible from Leh.
Ladakh’s biggest monastery, it is 49 Km from Leh on the Leh Manali road. The monastery contains quite a few gold statues and stupas decorated with precious stones. It has superb collection of tankhas, including one which is supposed to be largest one in existence and is exhibited only once every 11 years.
Thikey Monastery :
En route to Hemis Gompa, the Thikey monastery provides a panormic view of the green Indus valley from its vantage point atop a hill. It has chambers full of statues, stupas and tankhas. There are 60 resident lamas and allegedly nunnery.
Shey Palace And Monastery:
Also on the way to Hemis Gompa, and 15 Km from Leh, is the summer palace of the erstwhile Raja of Leh. Set upon a hill, and houses the largest golden-topped victory stupa, the monastery has a 2 storied statue of the sitting Buddha, wrought of copper and gold, that leaves the sense breathless. Since the monastery is exclusive.
Just 3 Km from Leh is the monastery, that has a formidable collection of miniature statues of pure gold and a number of exiting paintings. It is well – Lit and may be visited in the evening as well.
Just before Leh on the Srinagar – Leh road , on the hilltop overlooking the Indus, the Spituk monastery boasts not only of some prized tankhas, but of a chamber with enormous statues of Kali, whose faces are unveiled but once a year. The chamber contains an ancient collection of face masks too. It is recommended that you visit the monastery on the puja day.
The monastery of the red sect of the Buddhists. Fiang Gompa lies 20 Km short of Leh on the Srinagar-Leh road. The monastery possesses some exquisite statues and tankhas.
Alchi & Likir Gompa:
These two monasteries are to be found near Saspol on the Srinagar-Leh road. They house a great deal of gigantic clay statues of the Buddha in various forms. The primary attraction of theses monasteries is however, their 1,000 year old wall painting, which make a visit more than a worthwhile.
On crossing Fatu-La, the highest point on the Srinagar-Leh road, if you take a winding that descends into the Indus valley, a sudden bend in the road will reveal a strange village with a monastery atop it. This is Lamayuru , Ladakh’s oldest monastery. These are fascinating caves carved out of mountainsides.
The village of Mulbekh, on the way to Namika-la, has a unique sight: a huge image of the Buddha carved out of rock on the right side of the road. Its monastery is perched on the high rock over the village and the valley. It has some prized relics.