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A Travel Blog from India: September 2012

Friday, 28 September 2012

Back of the Blog - Last of Roadside Trees?

Back of the blog. Here we will share tit-bits and snippets on India Travel which may be useful for a traveller in India. It may be some new information about the place, a new cuisine one can explore, a bit of history, a funny anecdote or a good travel book. Anything connected to Travel in India. 

The major roads and highways in India were always flanked by huge roadside trees. Thanks to benevolence of our Kings from time immemorial, trees have been part of travel folklore. When motorcars were not the preferred mode of transport and people used to walk from one place to another or may be on a cart, these trees not only provided shade to travelers but also fodder for the animals. The great Emperor Ashoka may be the first one who regularised planting of these trees methodically. In one of the edicts he talks about how important are these. You can read that in this wiki link

The Kings and Queens of Karnataka and South India were not far behind. Tipu Sultan and later Wodeyars took lot of interest in planting and nurturing these road side tress. Trees planted by them had become gigantic and huge providing a green canopy over our roads.. 

Unfortunately, in the name of development and road widening, these trees have been felled. All highways - Bangalore - Mysore, Bangalore - Pune and others in Karnataka once upon a time were lined with beautiful trees. Same goes with roads in other parts of the country as well. The road widening has made them barren and lifeless.

However, there are some roads still surviving. Not sure for how long. 

When we were driving to Wayanad/Ooty from Bangalore, we came across a small stretch between Chamarajanagar and Gundlupet which are lined by beautiful Banyan trees with their aerial roots. The canopy of the trees look lovely and it was something to cherish. 

This is how it looks. 

The canopy of trees!!

The aerial roots of the banyan trees
This was how all our highways were once upon a time!!

Useful links

Emperor Ashoka 

Tipu Sultan

Wodeyar Dynasty

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Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Valley of Flowers 2 - Journey with Ganges!

The journey to Valley of Flowers starts is also a "Journey with Ganges" as the sacred river is omnipresent throughout the journey. A journey that leaves you satiated. A journey that is awe-inspiring and mesmerising. A journey with innumerable "Wow" moments.

This journey from Haridwar to Gobind Ghat - the transit station to Valley of Flowers - was the first leg of our trip to Valley of Flowers in Indian Himalayas. This was the overall plan of the trip.

31 Aug 2012 - Arrive in Haridwar
01 Sept 2012 - Drive to Gobind Ghat from Rishikesh. Stay in Rishikesh.
02 Sept 2012 - Trek from Gobind Ghat to Gangaria. Stay in Gangaria.
03 Sept 2012 - Trek to Valley of Flowers. Stay in Gangaria.
04 Sept 2012 - Trek to Hem Kund Sahib. Stay in Gangaria.
05 Sept 2012 - Trek back from Gangaria to Gobind ghat. Leave for Badrinath. Stay n Badrinath.
06 Sept 2012 - Drive from Gobind ghat to Haridwar. Stay in Haridwar.
07 Sept 2012 - Haridwar to Delhi by Night train
08 Sept 2012 - Depart for Bangalore from Delhi.

Our journey to Valley of Flowers started here in Bangalore. The flight from Bangalore to Delhi was uneventful. Thankfully the flight was on schedule. I was surprised when the pilot announced that the temperature in Delhi as 32 degree Celsius. This was at 8 PM on last day of August and it was warm and humid. We are definitely spoilt by good weather in Bangalore!

Our initial plan was to catch night train to Haridwar, which was the rendezvous for the group. There was a goof up in the train reservation and we could not get the confirmation till we left Bangalore. As a contingency plan, we had asked a friend in Delhi to arrange a taxi for us to be dropped in Haridwar. The guy was there to pick us up from the airport and drove us straight to Haridwar.

The journey from Delhi to Haridwar at night was not smooth. The traffic till Ghaziabad or rather Meerut was horrendous. Beyond Meerut, the road was double lane which added to our woes as there was a huge truck traffic. When we reached Haridwar, it was 2 AM. We had asked Hotel Haveli Hari Ganga - where we had already booked our commendation for staying there on the way back - to give us a room to put our head to bed for few hours before joining the group at 6.30 in the morning.

Since, the trek was organised by Indiahikes, our meeting point was Haridwar railway station. We were a group of 15. We met other members in the group. It was a mixed crowd and the members had come from all the places. Some of them had some experience of trekking and few of them were the first timers. A "Tempo traveler and Xylo" was organised for the group and our journey to Gobind ghat began at 7 AM.

We left railway station and crossed Ganga bridge overlooking Hari ki Pauri on the left. Ganga was flowing fast and ferocious - thanks to copious rains in the last week. From now on, the river was to give us the company in different forms til we reached Gobind ghat.

This is a fascinating journey of driving through the valley of Ganga. "Welcome to Dev Bhoomi" proclaimed the signage by Border Roads Organisation - the people who maintain these roads. Yes, this is a drive in "Dev Bhoomi or Abode of Gods". Surrounded by mountains all around, the road continue to climb slowly. It follows the course of the river which meant that the road has been carved from the mountain with a sheer drop on one of the sides. At many times, we climb up so high that the river looks like a small stream far below. The vistas are spectacular with greenery all around with white cascades of water falls breaking the monotony of green. This must rank as one of the most scenic drives in the country. The terrain is badly landslide prone and we could see that at many places on the way. Fortunately we did not face any road blocks while going though we lost three hours on return.

Let me take you through the picturesque "Journey with Ganges" as we experienced it.

Ganges flowing ferociously. You will encounter Ganges as soon as you depart Rishikesh and the river will give you company throughout.
Panoramic view of Ganges Valley

The road is constructed in such a way that it is at the edge of mountain with river flowing below. Notice the landslide which had occurred in August shutting the road for two days
It is different shades of green everywhere

A village perched high in the mountain

The landscape throughout the journey mesmerises you with waterfalls, tall peaks, colourful paddy fields, pine tress etc. Look at the next few pictures. Of course, Ganges will continue to give company.

Dev Prayag - The confluence of rivers Bhagirathi and Alakananda forming Ganges. Bhagirathi originates from Gangotri and Alakananda from Badrinath. You can notice the colour difference. Alakananda is darker and  Bhagirathi is lighter.
A Suspension bridge over Bhagirathi in Dev Prayag
Panoramic view of Alaknanada valley as we start climbing towards Joshimath
First sighting of snow covered peaks as we approach Joshimath. The peaks are taller and landscape changes into deep valley between Chamoli and Badrinath. This stretch is the best of the whole journey and also highly landslide prone.

Bridge over Alakananda in Joshimath
Panoramic view of Alakananda valley @ Joshimath
The stretch between Chamoli and Gobind Ghat is the most picturesque as well as risky. Notice the road at the edge of valley.

Joshimath town overlooking Himalayas

The peaks
We encountered two landslides on our way back and lost three hours. This was fresh and had happened five minutes before our arrival. Notice the size of boulders!!

Pilgrims from rural India returning from Badrinath relaxing in the sun and waiting for the road to clear.  The women were sitting in one group and men in another. Separately. No intermixing here!!

I clicked this mountain  and the pine trees enveloped by clouds (below) as we waited for the road to clear
Driving in these hills is risky. Never know when the rocks come cascading

The road cleared finally

The rocks which cascade from the top!!

There are some bad stretches too....
We finally reached Gobind Ghat around 6 PM. It was turning cold and the long hill journey had made all of us tired. A hot cup of tea served on our arrival was definitely refreshing.

The next day would be a grueling trek of 14 KMs to Gangaria. Having seen the vistas of Himalayas on the way, we knew we would not be disappointed as we climb to the village of Gangaria.

Here are the videos we had shot of the journey

Journey with Ganges - 1

Journey with Ganges - 2

Journey with Ganges - 3

Journey with Ganges - 4

Journey with Ganges - 5

Journey with Ganges - 6

Journey with Ganges - 7

Journey with Ganges - 8

Journey with Ganges - 9

Travel tips

a) Don't be in a hurry to complete this journey. This has to be savoured slowly.

b) Start your journey from Haridwar or Rishikesh. It is recommended to hire a taxi or drive your own vehicle which will give you independence to stop and enjoy the vistas of Himalayas.

c) If you are driving, make sure you are following etiquette of hill driving strictly. If traveling in hired taxi, do not unnecessarily disturb the driver and make sure that driver does not engage himself on cell phone while driving.

d) If you are driving, concentrate on the road and don't look at the sceneries.

e) Along the way, you encounter many confluences of tributaries of Ganges. The places are called by last names "Prayag"

f) The complete distance can be covered in one day. However, if you want to explore the places on the way which have their own charms and interesting places, you can break journey in Rudra Prayag.

g) The route is prone to landslides, especially in monsoon months of July - September. The journey is very picturesque during monsoon with greenery, water falls, roaring rivers. But at the same time, be prepared for road blocks due to land slides.

h) The most picturesque part of the journey is between Chamoli and Gobind Ghat and then onwards to Badrinath.

i) Make sure you have a good binocular which will help you enjoy the nature better.

j) There are dhabhas and also some "resorts" on the way. Though food is not an issue, condition of rest rooms is lot to be desired.  If possible stop at Gharwal Mandal Vikas Nigam resorts for bio breaks. They are best bets.

k) If you get stuck in an emergency report to nearest Border roads organisations detachment or army camp.

Postscript - I have attached the pictures which were taken on the way back as well to keep it aligned with the subject. Since we were travelling independently on the way back, we were able to enjoy the journey better as we could stop at many places. Details about Rishikesh and Haridwar will be covered in separate posts later.


a)  Gobind Ghat - Transit station for start of trek to Valley of Flowers

b) Gangaria - A small village which comes to lfe fro four months when the Valley of flowers and Hem Kund sahib is open. Base camp to explore both the places.

c) Prayag - Confluence of rivers

d) Dhabha - Roadside hotels serving snacks and meals

e) Gharwal Mandal Vikas Nigam - State owned tourism organisation of the state of Uttarakhand

We will continue with our journey to Valley of Flowers.........

You may like to click on the following posts on our journey Valley of Flowers here

Valley of Flowers 7 - View from the Sky!

Valley of Flowers 6 - Trek to Hemkund Sahib!

Valley of Flowers 5 - Colourful flowers of the valley!

Valley of Flowers 4 - Trek from Gangharia to Valley of Flowers

Valley of Flowers 3 - 14 KMs trek to Gangharia!

Valley of Flowers 2 - Journey with Ganges!

Valley of Flowers 1 - A paradise on earth!

Did you like this post?  Please share it with your friends. 

If you need help in planning a trip to Valley of Flowers, you are welcome to write to me at poorna62@gmail.com.

Happy to help.

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Sunday, 23 September 2012

Back of the Blog - Savouring Pineapples on way to Shillong

Back of the blog. Here we will share tit-bits and snippets on India Travel which may be useful for a traveller in India. It may be some new information about the place, a new cuisine one can explore, a bit of history, a funny anecdote or a good travel book. Anything connected to Travel in India. 

You get some of the best pineapples in Meghalaya state in Eastern India. These pineapples are huge and juicy.

When you drive from Guwahati to Shillong - a picturesque three hour drive - look out for small shops selling pineapples on the roadside. Pick up a big one and ask the lady selling it to cut it for you - it is generally ladies who do business in Meghalaya - and she will do it smilingly. Khasis, the tribe inhabiting this part of Meghalaya are friendly and jovial people.

Yours truly - in jacket - selecting the juicy fruit
So next time when you drive on this road, don't forget to taste the pineapple.

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Friday, 21 September 2012

Valley of Flowers 1 - Paradise on earth!!

Paradise - An ideal or idyllic place or state, Garden of Eden (Oxford Dictionary)

Imagination run wild when we hear the word paradise. Or is it just imagination? Does Paradise really exist?

Yes, it does. It is very much within India. It is called "Valley of Flowers". In Garhwal Himalayas in India.

It was in 1931 that Frank S Smythe, a British mountaineer with his team of Mountaineers descended into what is known as Bhyundar valley after their Mt Kamet expedition. Let us hear what happened in their own words

" Dense mist shrouded the mountainside and we had paused, uncertain as to the route, when i heard R L Holdsworth, who was a botanist as well as a climbing member of the expedition exclaim : "Look!" I followed the direction of his outstretched hand. At first i could see nothing but rocks, then suddenly my wandering gaze was arrested by a little splash of blue, and beyond it were other splashes of blue, a blue so intense it seemed to light the hillside........

Lower where we camped near a moraine, were androsacs, saxifrages,sedums,yellow and red potentillas, geums, geraniums, asters,to mention but a few plants , and it was impossible to take a step without crushing a flower.........

The Bhyundar valley was the most beautiful valley that any of us had seen. We camped in it for two  days and we remembered it afterwards as the VALLEY OF FLOWERS

(From "Valley of Flowers by Frank S Smythe, Natraj Publishers, Dehradun, India)

We had planned to visit this place few years back. Landslides and road blocks put a stop to our plans.

Some how it did not materialize for couple of years.

It was in June this year that the bug of Valley of Flowers bit us again. Arjun of Indiahikes, a good friend also was instrumental to make us visit this place. Indiahikes is a young and enthusiastic team which is popularizing trekking in Himalayas. we strongly recommend them and we had very good experience with them.

Here is their website with all details

Eventually it happened.

We visited the "Paradise" on 03 Sept 2012.

This is the story our journey to Valley of Flowers, Hemkund Sahib, Badrinath.

I am going to narrate it in next few days taking you from Bangalore in South India to Indian Himalayas.

Before we start, a sample of what is in store as we embark on our journey.

Ganges river flowing deep in the valley on the way to Gobind ghat from Rishikesh
Morning sunlight caressing the peaks - Seen on trek from Gobind ghat to Gangaria

One of the many lovely falls you see on the way from Gobind Ghat to Gangaria

Milky streams of Pushpavati river in Valley of flowers
Beauty that can not be described - One of the myriad varieties of flowers
Beauty that can not be described - One of the hundreds of varieties of flowers

Peaks of Garhwal Himalayas as seen from Mana village - The last village on Indo-China border
For more details of our trekking experience to Valley of flowers please click on these posts below:-

Valley of Flowers 6 - Trek to Hemkund Sahib

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Thursday, 20 September 2012

Bhojpur - Temple with tallest Shiva linga in the world!

When you travel in India, you always come across some hidden gems. Places which are not on regular tourist circuit but they leave you with a feeling of fulfillment. Bhojpur in Madhya Pradesh is one such place. Not many visit Bhojpur which is off Bhopal. When we were on the road trip to Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh last year, Bhojpur was on the top of "Must see" places. We had heard about the unfinished temple for Lord Shiva which would have been one of the largest in the country if completed.

Bhojpur is at a distance of 35 KMs from Bhopal. The road is good and once you come out of 
hurly-burly of city traffic, you will enter the peaceful environs of Betwa basin. Betwa is an important river in Central India. 

We notice a small hillock with a huge red granite structure on top of it from a distance as we drive towards the place. The first sight of the temple tells you what to expect – the massiveness. Bhojpur is a nondescript village. Few shops on the way to the temple welcomes us as we park the vehicle.

We won’t get disappointed when we go closer. Our jaws drop when we see the massive Shiva Linga on a large platform. It is really tall. Bhojeshvara temple built by Raja Bhoja in 11th century.  It houses the tallest Shiva Linga in the world – taller than the one in Brihadeeshwara temple in Tanjavur in South India. The incomplete dome could have been the largest and is supported by four massive pillars. The main entrance is embellished with exquisite sculptures of Yakshis. The side walls have intricately carved balconies.

Though it was a weekend, there was very few people around which was good for us. A small group of kids from local school had come for a picnic. The place was quiet and serene.

Let us take a pictorial tour of the place.

Bhojeshvara Temple from a distance
The entrance to Sanctum - Santorum. Notice the height of the roof and incomplete status.
Lord Shiva in the form of Tallest linga. Notice the size of pillars supporting the roof.
Beautiful Yakshis on the entrance panels
Notice the size of the pedestal and the size of Linga
Beautiful carvings on the roof

Don't miss this place when you plan your India travel. If you are there in Bhopal next time don't miss to visit Bhojpur.

Getting there

Bhojpur is at a distance of 35 KMs from Bhopal which is the capital of Madhya Pradesh state in Central India. Bhopal is well connected to other parts of India by air, train and bus. It is recommend to hire a taxi from Bhopal to visit the place as local bus services are irregular.

Best Time to visit

The months immediately after monsoon should be the best. This means September. The place will be green and soothing and the red granite structure provides a nice contrast to surroundings. Otherwise the best time would be from October to March. Winter months of December - January will be very cold in the morning. If planning to visit during summer months of April - July, make sure you visit the the place early in the morning or late in the evening. Day temperatures in these places soar to 45 degree centigrade in summer months.

Stay options

There are no stay options in Bhojpur. Make Bhopal as the base to explore. Bhopal has stay options suiting all budgets.

Travel tips.

a) The best time to visit the temple is early in the morning or during sun set. One will be able to enjoy the tranquil atmosphere surrounding the whole place.

b) Make sure that you take a loot at the exquisite sculptures at the entrance and on the ceiling of the temple. Since the roof of the temple is very high, a binocular would help.

c) If you have time on hand explore Jain temples, ruins of Raja Bhoja's palace, Rock shelter popularly known as "Parvati's cave".

c) It is recommended to pack your food as we did not see any good eating places. However you will be able to get some good chai.

d) It is recommended to have Bhojpur a part of a day trip which extends to Bhimbetka, a UNESCO World heritage for rock shelters which are renowned anthropological ruins.

You may also see the related link on Lord Shiva in this blog

Thanjavur which has second tallest Shiva linga in the world - Thanjavur Brihadeeswara Temple - Big, beautiful, Divine!

Maheshwar - Lord Shiva's quiet abode on Narmada

Useful Links


a) Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh - Name of states in India

b) Shiva - Part of trinity of Hindu gods. God of destruction.

c) Linga/Ling - A form of Shiva worshiped in temples

d) Raja Bhoja - Name of the king who ruled Central India in 11th century.

e) Brihadeeshvara temple - A Chola temple in South India. A UNESCO World heritage site.

f) Yakshi - Fairies in Hindu Mythology

g) Parvati - Wife of Lord Shiva

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Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Back of the Blog - Sculptural marvels in Badami

Back of the blog. Here we will share tit-bits and snippets on India Travel which may be useful for a traveller in India. It may be some new information about the place, a new cuisine one can explore, a bit of history, a funny anecdote or a good travel book. Anything connected to Travel in India.

Badami-Aihole-Pattadakal in the state of Karnataka in South India is a marvelous heritage of cave temples, outstanding Chalukyan temples, and great sculptures. I chanced upon these pictures from our album which are nothing but the finest form of art and embodiment of the finest form of sculpture in Badami. Take a look at he panoramic view of Bhoothanatha temple from the top of the hill. The setting is just beautiful!

Trivikrama statute

This is the show stopper - 18 handed Nataraja

Panoramic view of Bhoothanatha temple from the top of the hill
Related posts on this blog

Badami, Aihole & Pattadakal - A Chalukyan heritage


a) Trivikrama - One of the ten Avatars of Lord Vishnu Wiki on Trivikrama

b) Nataraja - Lord Shiva in dancing form Wiki on Nataraja

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