Crash Tour : Delhi : Day II

If you have read my previous post on Crash Course : Delhi : Day I, then you must have realised that by the end of my first day, I was already quite impressed by Delhi. I had good food, saw interesting places and had a lot of fun.

But Day II is the day when I fall utterly in love with the art and architecture of Delhi and get amazed by the beauty of the city.

Let’s have a round around Delhi, shall we?


Morning time, nice breakfast, good tea. A good start to the day. And it was going to get better. The first monument of the day took my breath away in a go. It was exquisite work of pure art, architecture and engineering. This monument that I so quickly fell in love with, is the tomb of the great Mughal Emperor Humayun. Humayun’s Tomb was a sight to behold.

Commissioned by his wife, I hear. No wonder the Taj Mahal has been modelled on this gorgeous structure. It is no less a symbol of romance than the great Taj. ❤

Entrance to main building  of Humayun's Tomb
Entrance to main building of Humayun’s Tomb
Humayun's Tomb
Humayun’s Tomb

Why this monument is special, is because it represented a leap in Mughal architecture, and together with its accomplished Charbagh garden, typical of Persian gardens, but never seen before in India, it set a precedent for subsequent Mughal architecture.

A paradise garden to lie in for the rest of your death. Sounds nice, right? 😛

_MG_3375
One of the beautiful simplistic style galleries.

But wait till you hear about how awesome and ultra-cool the restoration story of this place is!

Pre 1999: Vandalism and illegal encroachments were rampant at the site of the tomb. Dingy stalls and illegally parked heavy vehicles polluted the entrance. Slum dwellers outside premises. In short, the holy place of rest of the mighty Mughal Emperor had become a messy cesspool.

In comes Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) + Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). With a mighty fund of $650,000 ( thanks to Oberoi Hotels), these people set out to do what was the need of the hour.

Lawns : Replanted. Water channels : Relaid. Rainwater harvesting : Check. Re-vitalising old wells : Done. Removal of 40 cm of cement from the roof : Done. Painting, mending, cutting, cleaning, and hell lot of other jobs. All Done.

And if you wanna know the difference, check out the pre restoration pictures of Humayun’s Tomb on Google. You’ll be surprised, I’m sure.

_MG_5034
Tomb of Isa Khan Niyazi

Several monuments dot the pathway leading up to the tomb enclosure from the main entrance. Prominent among them is the tomb of Isa Khan Niyazi, an Afghan noble in Sher Shah Suri’s court of the Suri dynasty, as the information board outside states. He fought against the Mughals.

Brave soul, I must say.

The tomb is about 20 years predated to the Humayun’s Tomb. The octagonal tomb bears a striking resemblance to other tombs of the Sur dynasty monuments in the Lodhi Gardens, which is where we were to visit soon. The architecture of Humayun’s tomb seems to use a little direction from here as well, like it being situated in a walled enclosure.

_MG_3512
Architecture in the tomb complex of Isa Khan Niyazi

Next on our list, the National Museum impressed me with its vastness. The collection was amazing! Things old and new, from cultures ours and other’s; it literally is like walking through history of art. I hear that the museum has around 200,000 works of art, covering over 5,000 years. Right from archaeology to anthropology, from ancient manuscripts to decorative art, from jewellery to paintings and photographs and what not. This place has it all.

National Museum, India
National Museum, India

Spread over three floors, this place will overwhelm the art, history and not surprisingly, architecture lovers alike. The place is again, octagonal in shape and built with fine detail and planning. I give it a thumbs-up! 🙂

Exhibits in National Museum
Exhibits in National Museum

Due to time constraints, we could only cover the ground floor of the National Museum and moved to our next place on the list : Lodhi Gardens. I never knew it was called ‘Lady Willingdon Park’ during the British Raj XD

Anyways, the current hotspot of morning walkers and lovers of Delhi alike; the Lodhi gardens contain, Mohammed Shah’s Tomb, Sikander Lodi’s Tomb, Sheesh Gumbad and Bara Gumbad, architectural works of the 15th century by Lodhis, an Afghan dynasty, that ruled from 1451 to 1526. As there is little architecture from these two periods remaining in India, Lodhi Gardens is an important place of preservation.

Lodhi Gardens,  Sheesh Gumbad
Lodhi Gardens, Sheesh Gumbad

Also I must add this little bit : The Bonsai garden there is actually quite a sad place to be, if honest truth be spoken. The plants look like they’re there for just a formality. :/

So next, we enter the complex of Qutub Minar. It soars 73 meters above us all, so tall, you can’t follow the beautiful inscriptions on the structures up to the top as they become indistinctly small for the eye. The tower was to serve the purpose of a minaret from where the adhan (call for worship in Islam) could be issued. The red sandstone of the minar shines beautifully by the setting sun and the blue of the sky adds to its grace. It is covered with intricate carvings and verses from the holy Qur’an.

Standing tall, the Qutub Minar
Standing tall, the Qutub Minar
Qutub and its surrounding architecture.
Qutub and its surrounding architecture.

The nearby standing Iron Pillar, 7 meters in height, is notable for the rust-resistant composition of the metals used in its construction. There is a popular tradition that it was considered good luck if one could stand with one’s back to the pillar and make one’s hands meet behind it. Sadly, good luck be damned. The pillar’s not liking your tradition. Due to the wear and dis-coloration caused by people, it now stands inside a fence.

The Iron Pillar
The Iron Pillar

The oldest inscription on the pillar is in Sanskrit, written in Gupta-period Brahmi script. And it’s much older that the Qutub Minar. I wonder what really is the true history of this pillar and how it ends up standing in a Mughal compound. Hmm.. Interesting.

Lotus Temple
Lotus Temple

Next and the last of the monuments I grace with my presence ( Just Kidding :P), is the Bahai house of worship, the Lotus Temple. Not a misnomer, the temple is literally in the shape of a lotus flower! It also is, a multiple architecture award winning temple. It is also one of the most visited building in the world. Sweet! 😀

The sun setting right behind the centre of the temple made a beautiful halo around the place, giving that spiritual feel to it.


And that brings me to the end of my journey, my crash tour of the city of hearts, Delhi. I hope to visit it again, soon. I’ll check out some new places, eat more and of course, write more 🙂 Farewell, fellow explorer, until next time. :*

BONUS!

Some extra visual treat 😀

Notice how the architecture of ancient Delhi had changed over time:

Qutub Minar 1193. Red Fort 1648. Humayun’s Tomb 1572. National Museum 1960.

Crash Tour : Delhi : Day I

The road was stretching out for miles beyond me with green fields on either sides and the sound of rushing wind was pleasant to the ears at the moment when I decided to close my eyes and take a short nap.

I woke up, still on the road, except that I was in heavy traffic, horns were blaring and bright red and yellow lights pierced my ears. “We’ve almost reached”, declared my dad from the drivers seat, with a bored expression on his face, waiting for the traffic to move.

Such was my sad welcome to the city of New Delhi, in the dark of the night.

My dad dropped me and my friend Ashwin to our hotel in Jasola which was booked by the client we were working for.

Delhi, at first sight, is a constant buzz of traffic noise, jam-packed crowd  and garish lights. It is a pain to travel in Delhi, even with a Metro train which are almost always full. People are always on the run, money and material wealth is of prominence in society. Not necessarily a place for me.

But then again, as with everything else, the city of Delhi also sports another side to it: The beautiful architecture, rich culture, mouth-watering food, the grandeur of the royal heritage and the vibrancy of crowded markets. All of which I discovered in the following article about my crash tour of Delhi, how it left me wanting for more.


Day 1

17/02/14

We got up, got ready and were on our way to explore and document the mighty capital of our country.

Our first visit was to Rajghat, a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. The place was almost empty as it was quite early in the morning. It was beautiful. Well kept gardens flanked the stone footpath that lead to the walled enclosure that houses the memorial. We removed our shoes before entering the enclosure.

Rajghat Gate
Rajghat Gate
Rajghat - Gandhi Memorial
Rajghat – Gandhi Memorial

In the centre of the sanctuary is a black marble platform that marks the spot of Mahatma Gandhi’s cremation, Antyesti (Antim Sanskar) on 31 January 1948, a day after his assassination. It is left open to the sky while an eternal flame burns perpetually at one end, a symbol of the undying spirit of the Father of our Nation.

We crossed over to the National Gandhi Museum, opposite Rajghat. According to my research, the museum first opened in Mumbai, shortly after Gandhi was assassinated in 1948. The museum relocated several times before moving to Rajghat, New Delhi in 1961. It was a walk into history as we stepped into the museum. We were only to visit the Photographic Gallery of the museum due to time constraints. Although I didn’t like the interiors that much, the collection was amazing.

We passed through numerous photographs, caricatures, letters and news articles related to and depicting the life of Mahatma Gandhi and the freedom struggle in India. There was a large collection of objects from his personal life: a stage replica of the Sabarmati Ashram, Gujrat, a boat that Gandhi used to cross the river Mahi in Kanikapur during the Salt March of 1930, the jeep which carried the mortal remains of Gandhi from Birla house to Rajpath, and many other fascinating things.

We headed straight to the Red Fort next, sad about the overcast day which played spoil sport for our photography. Hazy smog meant more trouble as low contrast in distant buildings gave us a difficult time. However, the might of the residence and political centre of the Mughal Emperors of India for nearly 200 years, engulfed us. The history of this place was still rich inside its walls and the beauty well preserved.

RED FORT
RED FORT
Chhatta Chowk

We entered through the Delhi Gate, the south exit of the fort and came up to Chhatta Chowk, where silk, jewellery and other items for the imperial household were sold during the Mughal period. In today’s time, it doesn’t really seem to have changed much, except for the addition of the handicrafts and art shops.

The vaulted arcade of the Chhatta Chowk ended in the centre of the outer court. To the left stood the now-isolated Naubat Khana (also known as Nakkar Khana), the drum house. As we walked futher, we arrived at the inner coutyard which had the Diwan-ai-Am at the other end. The hall’s columns and engrailed arches were fine craftsmanship. In the back in the raised recess the emperor gave his audience in the marble balcony (jharokha). I tried to imagine the sight it must’ve been in the peak of the Mughal empire, when thousands of people would come to the court to attend the emperor’s hearings, the music and the ceremonies.

Diwan-ai-Khas.
Diwan-ai-Khas.

The Diwan-ai-Khas was a spectacle in itself. Constructed of white marble and inlaid with precious stones, it speaks of the royal grandeur and the luxurious taste of the emperors of India. The once-silver ceiling has been restored in wood. At either end of the hall, over the two outer arches, is an inscription by Persian poet Amir Khusrow:

If heaven can be on the face of the earth,

It is this, it is this, it is this.

It truly is. I mean, I wouldn’t mind sitting on that peacock throne (which is isn’t there as it was captured and taken as a war trophy in 1739 by the Persian king Nader Shah, and has been lost ever since) and listening to sufi music while enjoying the breeze and listening to the matters of the state. (Just kidding. It got to be a damn tough job, being an emperor of India.)

Note: Restoration was in progress of the structures, therefore entry was not permitted inside them, except for Diwan-ai-Am.

We did a quick tour of the Hamam, the Moti Masjid and other monuments, and headed out of the walls of the Red Fort, straight to the busy, bustling and mind bogglingly crowded Chandni Chowk, Delhi’s most cherished places from what I have experienced.

Chandni Chowk - Entry
Chandni Chowk – Entry

The first thing that struck me was the presence of a temple right next to a gurudwara, opposite a church and a mosque in close distance. On the streets were people from Hindu, Muslim and Sikh community predominantly and it was all fine. They were all working together and mutual respect is maintained. The market was busy, the people, always on the move. That place was like a beehive.

And it smelled so DELICIOUS! Between the sweet smell from the age-old mithai shops and the chatpata tangy flavour of the Pani-Puri Chat stalls, we reached the world famous Paranthewali Gali. And the olfactory receptors in my nose just lost it. The smell of frying flour, sweet khoya, laal-mirch, lemon, and what not hit it instantly.

Pundit Kanhaiya Lal Paranthe Wala, now that’s a name that commands respect. Not able to resist any further, we sat down and ordered a variety of paranthas like Khurchan (sweet), Tomato (Tangy), Rabri (sweet), Mix Veg (medium spice), Green Pea and Cheese. Along with it we had their lassi which was quite amazing too. It was a great and a memorable food experience.

With our tummies full and satisfied, we travelled to the next monument of great importance of our country, India Gate. Now I don’t need to write much about India Gate, everyone knows it as the war memorial to 82,000 soldiers of the undivided British Indian Army who died in the period 1914–21 in the First World War. The Amar Jawan Jyoti built in1971, following the Bangladesh Liberation war, is a small simple structure, consisting of a black marble plinth, with reversed rifle, capped by war helmet, bounded by four eternal flames, situated beneath the soaring Memorial Archway. This structure has served as India’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

A jawan at duty at Amar Jawan Jyoti, India Gate.
A jawan at duty at Amar Jawan Jyoti, India Gate.
India Gate
India Gate

The architecture of the monument is truly awe-inspiring, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. I remember I used to visit India Gate with my parents as a child to enjoy the cool breeze in summer nights, enjoying ice-cream, marvelling the beauty of the place and running around the well kept lawns. And the might and sight of it during the Republic Day parade as the Prime Minister arrives and pays respect to the martyrs every year on 26th January that we watch live on Doordarshan.  It truly is a sight to behold.

The Rajpath, considered as one of the most important roads of India, is where the annual Republic Day parade takes place on 26 January. The avenue is lined on both sides by huge lawns, canals and rows of trees. The road speaks of the authority that it leads to.

Rajpath
Rajpath

And so it did lead us to the Rashtrapati Bhavan which was sadly and frustratingly for us, all covered in smog and haze and the overcast sky made for depressing lighting conditions.
But that did not stop me from gaping at the sheer smartness of the place.

The North and the South block on either side of street were result of beautiful English architecture and excellent care taken by the Government of India. All those people inside these high profile buildings. Running the whole country of India. I felt really small there, in a strange way. Proud, yet small.

NORTH BLOCK, Rashtrapati Bhavan, Rajpath
NORTH BLOCK, Rashtrapati Bhavan, Rajpath
SOUTH BLOCK, Rashtrapati Bhawan, Rajpath
SOUTH BLOCK, Rashtrapati Bhawan, Rajpath

Sadly the permissions to enter the Rashtrapati Bhavan couldn’t be arranged on time, so we obviously weren’t allowed to go inside.

So next, we move to Connaught Place , the hip place of Delhi. Everyone knows it, everyone loves it. And for a reason. It’s a shopping hub, food hub and commercial hub for all classes of people. Palika Bazaar, below CP, the first underground market of India hosts 380 numbered shops selling a diverse range of items; however, the market is dominated by electronic items and clothing.  I found out over wiki that Palika Bazaar is estimated to have some 15,000 people within its confines at any given time!

Connaught Place, Delhi
Connaught Place, Delhi

It also has a reputation for a wide availability of illegal products such as pornography, stolen goods, fake designer products and pirated CDs, software and movies. I do remember going there to buy pirated GTA CDs and other PC Games and they would turn out to be blank or corrupted XD

Palika Bazaar
Palika Bazaar

Historically too, CP is quite important. The former location of the headquarters of the British Raj, the area’s environs occupy a place of pride in the city and are counted among the top heritage structures in New Delhi. It was developed as a showpiece of Lutyens’ Delhi with a prominent Central Business District. But sadly, due to negligence of common public, the white towers and walls of CP are painted red with paan stains. People litter around the area inspite of public dustbins present in abundance. It’s indeed a place worth keeping clean.

The next on our list, we arrived at Jantar Mantar. This is a place that really interests me. Aside from looking epicly cool, the primary purpose of the observatory was to compile astronomical tables, and to predict the times and movements of the sun, moon and planets. The 13 astronomical instruments built in 1724 have seen considerable degradation since then. Restoration efforts are being taken right now as it a heritage monument of India and of great importance to the scientific and architectural history of the nation.

The Agra Yantra consisting of Niyati Chkra in the middle flanked by two small Samrat Yantras.
The Agra Yantra consisting of Niyati Chkra in the middle flanked by two small Samrat Yantras.

As you can see from the picture above, the juxtaposition of an old historical monument inside the commercial heart of the city is of much interest for me. The two glass and concrete skyscrapers in the background are of extreme contrast to the old architecture.

The Ram Yantra at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi.
The Ram Yantra at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi.

Even though I couldn’t see the Ram Yantra in full action telling me the zenith and the altitude of the sun due to the gracious overcast sky ( I must’ve been cursing it for a while now ) , the design and aesthetic just blew me off. This is my faviorate image from this trip.

The Sacred Heart Cathedral is one of the oldest Church buildings in Delhi. The architecture was designed by British architect Henry Medd and was based to Italian architecture. We did not spend much time here but the interior of the Church was quite impressive to me.


So this is the end of my Day I of Crash Tour of Delhi. I hope you guys had a fun and informative time reading it. If you have any suggestions, critiques or comments, feel free to put it in 🙂

The Day II of the Crash Course will be coming out soon. Keep a watch! 😀

Winter Trek to Chopta-Tungnath

My heart was broken and I was weeping.

Now, this must be the most random start of a travelogue that you must’ve been reading. The thing is, I was homesick. It had been 8 months since the start of term at college in Pune and I hadn’t visited home.

Home is the charming beautiful city of Dehradun.

So.. I finally agreed to bunk college for a couple of weeks and planned a trip with my friend Ashwin and sister Shruti to Chopta Tungnath.

In the month of February.

I hope you get what I did there. Snowwww!! 😀

So. Background check done.

Now we move to

Day 1

07/02/15

Our first stop was to be at Mumbai from where we were to catch the train to Delhi.

Yaayy!!! The adventure begins!
Yaayy!!! The adventure begins!

We left for Mumbai at 8 and reached there by 12 and dropped off Ashwin’s car to his dad. We all had an amazingly heavy and tasty lunch with his dad and set off to the Mumbai Central Station by cab.

Now Mumbai is a place that interests me immensely. Mumbai for me is this huuuge vast space which grows in all directions. It’s amazing to see the people just running. And in that collective rush of this city which millions of people call home; the dream city, there are a billion stories. The people have stories, buildings from chawls to skyscrapers have stories. The sea has stories, and so does the food. “It’s chaos, it’s maniacal. It has so much energy. You enter it and you feel the need to do something, the need to go forward.” Says Ashwin, my gyaani partner. But it is true. The city pushes you forward. It may break you in the process if you dont have the strength to take it, but those who pull through leave the rest behind. Lost in those brilliant images, running in front of my eyes through the cab window, we reached the Mumbai Central Station. We met Shruti di there and exchanged greetings. After an hour and a half of wait, we boarded our train August Kranti Express at 5.40 and left for the city of hearts, Delhi.

The train journey was a pleasant one. Hospitable railway staff served us food and drinks (soft ofcourse) every couple of hours and we happily munched our way while sharing stories and theories with each other.

Day 2

08/02/15

Next day we woke up to nice coffee and bread omelette breakfast and finally got off the train at Hazrat Nizamuddin junction at around 11. We got out of the station and the familiar roar of taxi drivers, auto rickshaw drivers, coolies, hotel representatives; all auctioning their service, hit our ears. We were led to a taxi by a Sardarji and after a lot of disapprovals and negotiations over taxi rates and union fees and us getting out of the taxi and back, we finally decided on 500rs fare for him to drop us to Kashmiri gate ISBT.

That was a hilarious and fun ride. Sardarji was in full angst of Honey Singh and Mika and how they were awaaras who used to roam ‘vella’ everywhere 😛 Sardarji was also apparently a Punjabi dancer. A serious one. And had done a lot many shows back at home in Punjab. Amidst complaining about the sudden heat in Delhi that day that caused him to sweat inside his thermal innner, and being disturbed with the news that we guys havent watched P.K. , he dropped us laughing and amused at ISBT.

We caught the U.P. Volvo bus to Dehradun and were on our way by 12.45 pm.

Our traffic jacked bus ride was made not much but bearable by the stunts of our bus driver who seemed to not give a damn about road traffic rules or situations. Racing political rally cars to off-roading through a forest at night; he took it on.

The journey lasted for 9 long hours due to several traffic jams along the way. But we reached Dehradun at last and the chill of the winter greeted us. And my dad and brother too. After a delicious dinner from Doon Durbar (It’s an awesome place to hog for tagda non vegetarian fans. Do check their food out), we got home and soon retired for the night.

Day 3

09/02/15

Shopping day! After the blissful encounter with the Dehradun shopping prices,  Ashwin and Shruti both over excited, raided the army supply shops in Paltan Bazaar and emerged victorious with bags full with boots, jackets, sleeping bags, and other cool stuff.

We spent the evening in Barrista Cafe,  English Book Depot.

Yes, it’s a book shop inside a coffee shop. And its lovely.

The smell of your favourite coffee combined with the new book that you just bought from the large variety that EBD offers is just the perfect leisure time you can have for your bookworm self.

We finished final packing by night and set our alarms for 4 am for the next day. And then we sank into our blankets for the rest of the night.

Day 4

10/2/15

Packed up and loaded we left Doon at 6 am to witness the most amazing sunrise behind the mountains of Rishikesh studded with a necklace of emerald-green waters of Ganga shining to the touch of the first sun rays.

The beautiful sangam (meet) of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi rivers to form the mighty Ganga river.
The beautiful sangam (meet) of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi rivers to form the mighty Ganga river at Devprayag, Uttarakhand.
Aloo paratha
Aloo paratha
Bun Omlette
Bun Omlette

Breakfast presented itself in the form of Bun Omelet and Aloo parathas, hot and delicious prepared by a dhaba-wala at Byaas.

 We passed through the towns of Srinagar, Rudraprayag and Ukhimath on our way. Srinagar is the second education hub of Uttarakhand after Dehradun. Variety of colleges, government and private can be seen around the town.

We also witnessed the restoration work  going on after the Kedarnath floods. Buildings sunk into the ground till their first floors, the levels of river rising due to deposition of ruins and silt. Dad told us that more than 500 buses and more cars are beneath the ruins now. More than 10,000 people died. It sent chills through me to think of the scene that might have been there.

The Sunken Biulding
The ITI building in Srinagar that sunk in the 2013 Kedarnath Floods.

We saw the ‘Dhari Devi’ Temple around which the controversy happened. The dam had to be built so the temple was relocated against the warnings of the local villagers that the goddess protects the mountains and if she’s removed from her position, calamity will strike.

And it did.

Call it coincidence or fate, it was powerful enough to bring the temple back to its base position with a bigger and a better temple!

Temple of Dhari Devi, being reconstructed.
Temple of Dhari Devi, being reconstructed.

As we spotted the snow covered peaks, our excitement started building up. By the time we were about 10-15 kms away from chota, the road started becoming more slippery, with more snow on its banks. The way however was open, thanks to the new decision of the Uttarakhand Government to make the Char-Dham Yatra and all other tourist attraction open all year round to promote Winter Tourism.

Ashwin, doing some epic badassery with his steadycam system.
Ashwin, doing some epic badassery with his steadycam system.

The sight had us astounded. The fresh air smelled so delicious and sweet. And the cold breeze was a relief from the heat that the rest of India was struggling with.

We reached Chopta by 5 pm and the temperature there was quite freezing. My dad, who has visited the place about 5 years ago was surprised to see the hotel open and the restaurant ready to serve. According to him, that time there was nothing here except snow and a guy with one room open for accidental relief. You can check out his post here.)

After we had played enough in the snow and had our tummy filled with food hot and tasty, we set up our sleeping bags under the additional cover of thick blankets on the bed to pass out for the night.

Day 5

11/02/15

Eating breakfast and packing and getting ready took a lot of time in the morning, resulting in our departure for our foot trek to Tungnath temple at 10.30 AM.

Me, climbing up the trek.
Me, climbing up the trek.

As we got acclimatised to the breathing pace and high altitude, we started picking up speed, but since each of us had minimum 20-30 kgs of luggage each, it was rather slow. We had planned to camp at Tungnath overnight so we had to carry a lot of weight with us.

Note: Camping at Tungnath trek during off-season is not allowed due to safety reasons and permissions have to be acquired from the forest department if you’re planning to do so.

Tungnath Mountain Range
Chaukhamba Peak as seen from Tungnath Range

The view was astounding as the snow sparkled and shone into our eyes in the afternoon sun like a million tiny stars dropped down on earth. It was breathtaking. Like, literally. Serene and quiet, one could listen to ourselves; struggling with our breaths, listening to our heart beat, feeling the warmth of the exhaustion, the chill of the wind on our faces.

Beautiful views dominate your visual experience.
Beautiful views dominate your visual experience.

But there was a minor (to put it subtly) glitch in the way. Ashwin, who unfortunately did not have the right shoes for the activity, slipped and fell to the ground, cramping his leg extremely bad. And I, with my nil experience of snow and trekking fell along. So my dad and my sister went ahead and found a small hut on the way and decided to camp there for the day as we were in no way capable of going forward. It was about 1.30 PM and we had covered only 1 and a 1/2 kms.

The small hut was our camp base for the night.
The small hut was our camp base for the night.

This was a particularly fun experience for me. We cleared out all the snow from the floor of the hut and put on dad’s mini gas stove that he keeps for such times. Since we had no water there, the obvious solution was adopted.

Melting snow to form water.
Melting snow to form water.

We filled our stomachs with aloo paranthas that were packed from the hotel and Knorr soups and Coffee for the evening. Setting up the tent beside the hut was a task since there was a direct drop just 2 ft away from the hut. Soon, everything was set up and we were up chatting till midnight while we recorded some time lapses and then drifted off to sound sleep on the cold hard ground.

Day 6

12/02/15

Next morning, it was decided that Ashwin should return back to the hotel as his cramps were not getting any better and he was extreme pain. So he took what was not needed and headed for the downward trek. On his way, he had his own share of adventures, mis-adventures and fun moments which I will save for later right now.

My sister, having escaped a drop dead fall on ther right, where the railing has disappeared under the snow.
My sister, having escaped a drop dead fall on ther right, where the railing has disappeared under the snow.

That left us three: Me, my dad and my sister to go forward on the trek. I had recovered from my fall last night and was in a decent shape. We set off again by 10-10:30 AM and tried to be as fast as possible. I had to take a lot of breaks as the climb got steeper and altitude got higher. My dad however, was quite fast and full of energy, owing to his various expeditions and treks on snow and ice before.

As we climbed up, the view got better and better and I had a difficult time trying to take all that in in one glimpse. The world stretched 360o around me. It was a pure experience. No words could describe my elation.

The mountains got us mesmerised.
The mountains got us mesmerised.

Tungnath is the highest Shiva temple in the world and is one of the five and the highest Panch Kedar temples. Located at an altitude of 3,680 m (12,073 ft), and just below the peak of  Chandrashila, Tungnath temple is the highest Hindu shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is believed to be 1000 years old and is the second in the pecking order of the Panch Kedars. It has a rich legend linked to the Pandavas, heroes of the Mahabharata epic.

It was around 2 PM that we spotted the Tungnath temple watching us from above, empty and tranquil. It took us all our strength and courage to walk that last climb to the temple. We were utterly exhausted and completely drained and thirsty.

Portrait of my dad at the base of the Tungnath temple.
Portrait of my dad at the base of the Tungnath temple.
Tungnath Temple
Tungnath Temple

But all for forgotten when we set foot at the temple. That place was just EPIC. It was peace you couldn’t imagine still existed in the world that is running 27×7. It was desolate, but not unhappy. It was a bright and cheerful day.

View opposite Tungnath temple.
View opposite Tungnath temple.

We took off for the downward descend at about 3.30 PM after taking enough photographs to try and capture the essence of what it was.

We soon realised the new difficulty that we were to face all our way back : the melting snow. Harsh late afternoon light brought with itself warmth that melted the snow and made it slippery. It became a task in itself to avoid falling. But as we learn from bruises and mistakes, I learnt how to walk on snow and balance oneself, how to arrange our luggage and clothing and a few other things about my craft as a photographer.

As the sun painted the mountain gold.
As the sun painted the mountain gold.

We spotted the hotel from a distance of about a kilo-meter away by 5 something; the sun was a bright orange in the evening sky and it had painted the snow gold. It was stunning! It was as if we were standing on a mountain of gold and it was shining in its full glory. By the time we reached the hotel, my legs were shaking visibly intolerably and my strength was on its last. That night, the food tasted delicious like no other time, the bed was soft like no other kind and the sleep was pure like no other love.

Day 7

13/02/15

Village Cricket at a village in Uttarakhand
Village Cricket at a village in Uttarakhand

We left Chopta by around 10-11 AM and drove slowly, enjoying the views retreating behind us. We stopped at a village to watch the cricket match going on with live commentary and proper kits. It was the most entertaining game of cricket I ever saw in action! XD

Omkareshwar Temple, Ukhimath.
Omkareshwar Temple, Ukhimath.

We also stopped by the Omkareshwar Temple in Ukhimath. During the winters, the idols from Kedarnath temple, and Madhyamaheshwar are brought to Ukhimath and worshipped there for six months.

We reached back to Dehradun by 8PM due to a little delay on the way due to bad roads after Byaas. I met my mom and shared with her all the exciting bits and parts of our journey, showed her some pictures and after a hearty home-cooked meal, went to sleep with dreams of the mountains far away.

Here are some personal pictures from the trip.