Friday 18 January 2019

Traveloguge of Shillong:Scotland of East,Heaven in Clouds

We started our journey to shillong by online booked tickets of ASTC.Bus left at 8.00 Am from Bus stand in Palton Bazar of Guwahati.Fare from Guwahati to Shillong was fairly reasonable at Rs 145.00 each. The roadway from Guwahati to Shillong is very beautiful as the road passes by various hill tops, the most amazing part of this journey.
Adventurous Shillong
The entire journey from Guwahati to Shillong was an exciting experience. No sooner the City border of Guwahati was crossed; nature suddenly seems to put its best face. All along the road, a sequence of scenery continues to unfold in its true captivatingsplendour, and viewing points are hoisted to vintage heights.

On the way to Shillong, we enjoyed a breakfast at a Dhaba, consisting of the chhole bhature, Aloo paratha and lip locking hot coffee. Shillong is only 100 km away from Guwahati.Bus reached at 11.30AM and stopped at bus stand.
There are many similarities between shilling and Scotland.Shillong’s rolling landscape, sky soaring hills laden with clouds and mist, lush green hill slopes meadows, high roaring waterfalls.On a cloudy day the mist-laden pastures look nothing less than a paradise. 
Breathtaking view from Guwahati to Shillong
In Shillong we find us between the hills, where dresses, scenes of nature, climate, style of buildings, eating habits. Life style, road side views and language all change so much. Which gives a feeling of newness. 
First Day in Shillong
Police Bazar-Shillong
As per our itinerary with excitement to experience some of the grandest waterfalls and Lakes of the region. We stayed in Hotel Heritage in Police Bazaar, at a distance of 250 meter from bus stop.After refreshing and lunch, we moved to Ward’s lake on a shared taxi, which charged Rs 10.00 each. We realized that Maruti 800, Alto, Tata Indica, and Hyundai i10/20 are a common mode of transport 
Ward’s Lake
Ward’s lake a man made, at a distance of 1.6 Km from Police Bazar.Ward’s Lake is a refreshing pool surrounded by beautiful gardens in the heart of the city.
Ward's Lake
 The lake was named after a British officer, Sir William Ward, who was then the Chief Commissioner of Assam.He was the one with the initial plan.Colonel Hopkins who oversaw the Lake completed in 1894.
Ward,s Lake
The serene lake and the cool shades of trees around,makes it a nice spot for sightseeing and boating.lake surrounded by patch of land with some exotic trees.A stylish white wooden bridge suspended in the middle of the lake is the most recognizable feature of Ward’s Lake.
Boating facilities are available in the lake. It has a wooden bridge at the middle. A cafeteria is there to provide refreshment.A fountain dancing to the tunes of song is also there. 
Ward's Lake

We stayed there for about one hour.walked around this lake on the cobble-stone path and admired the colorful floral beds in the garden, relaxed with a cup of hot coffee with Potato chips from cafeteria in side lake complex and back to hotel on foot for rest. It is special to mention that whenever one plans a trip to North East; one must keep in mind that the sun sets here around two hours before the rest of the country.
Police Bazaar of Shillong
First day in Shillong ended with a stroll in police bazar and dinner in Madras Café.Food was not good, but ambience OK.They needs to improve food quality.
 The same area converts into a non veg grilled and smoked food items like kebabs, special chicken,fish and mutton Den by evening. Mouth watering, smoked and grilled chicken on road side stalls were tempting.We could’t kill the urge to feast our tongue. There were lots of fruits available including oranges, bananas, strawberries and pineapples
Police Bazar-Shillong
 Police Bazar of Shillong is a famous shopping haunt. The market is considered ideal for leisure seekers, shopping enthusiasts and food lovers. It is a modern market that has a number of hotels, shops and eating joints, catering to varied needs of every visitor.
Police Bazar- Road side Food Lovers
It is a shopping heaven for girls as they can find indigenous ornaments and apparel here, and experiment with different products of fashion. Police Bazar provides an excellent opportunity for photography.
Police  Bazar-Road Side Food Lovers -Paradise
 Police Bazar is always crowded but one could find the real market with its most vivid products and food items during the winter season.Many streets performances are thus scheduled, the number of food stalks increase during the winters. Always crowded, one can spend hours at Police Bazar.

Second Day in Shillong
The next day as per itinerary with excitement to experience our road trip to tourist attractions near around Shillong.From police bazar we hired two Alto taxi for an adventurous trip @Rs 13oo/= per taxi.This was cheaper than innova and scorpio.

 Air Force Museum Shillong
The Air Force Museum, located in 7th mile, upper Shillong.The museum is a part of the Indian Air Force Eastern Command in Shillong. It displays the technologies used by the IAF Eastern Command, their missiles and aircraft, portraits of air chiefs, and defence photographs of the Indo-Pakistan and Indo-China war. Helicopters that were used in the ‘60s by the Indian Air Force for the bombing of Eastern Pakistan are displayed outside the museum.

Air Force Museum-Shillong
 A section of the museum also displays the uniforms and badges of army personnel. Information related to the posts of the IAF personnel, along with awards, ranks and medals are also displayed in the galleries of the museum.The museum is an excellent insight into the culture and history of the seven sisters’.
Air Force Museum-Shillong
Elephant Falls:
From Air Force Museum, we drove to Elephanta Falls at a distance of 3.00KM through clean, green cantonment area.On way we saw tea plantation gardens.This fall is very near to city, this caused it always over crowded. The taxi stopped at a parking lot surrounded by souvenir shops and small tea hotels.
These stalls were selling tea/coffee, buttered corn, momos boiled eggs/omelette and souvenirs. Photographers were there to print out instant pictures of tourists with options of wearing Khasi dresses and then posing for pictures. 
Notice board--description of this Elephanta Fall name history
 The Elephant Falls was very picturesque.As I reached the first fall,I found a notice board that narrated: The original Khasi name of the falls was ‘Ka kshaid lai pateng khohsiew’ (three steps water falls). Because of the fact that the water falls in three steps.
A beautiful view of Elephanta Fall
 The British renamed the falls because there was a rock resembling an elephant near the left side of the main falls.However, that rock was destroyed in an earthquake back in 1897.
 The bottom tier was the most impressive. In silence, I was hearing the sloshing sound of the waterfall.The walking path gently descended from the entrance. You have to ride down quite a steep flight of steps.It’s a top down descent and climbing down 150 rather slippery steps is not an easy task. The last and the third waterfall is the tallest. Elephant Falls is characterized by clear water flowing over dark jutting rocks with no particular forms.
The Final view of Elephant Waterfall at bottom-below about 175 feet from top
Shillong Top
Located at a distance of 10 km from city we reached here after a 20 minutes drive from Elephant Falls. Shillong Peak/Top is the highest point of Shillong and offers panoramic views of the city, the waterfalls, the Himalayas, the lush green surroundings as well as the Bangladesh plains.
A view from Shillong Top
It is situated inside air force base and features a radar station.Due to security reasons, heavy checking is done at the gates.ID cards are must for entery.Photography is not allowed till reach the point.Entry fee for tourist is Rs. 30 per head.It is a treat to visitor’s eye and camera.
 The peak is at height of 1962 m, above the sea level.To reach here; we passed through deep and dark wood and zig-zag road.We were inhaling fresh and virgin air in our lungs.
A Panoramic  View from Shillong Top

We climbed a flight of stairs to have a view of a wooded valley, cloud and mist.The wide horizon offered a panorama of crowning glory.Shillong was visible amidst Pine Oak, orchid and rocks.It was an incredible experience. I wish I could stand there for ages to witness the colour of nature’s wonder.

Lady Hydari Park
In return journey from Shillong Top we stopped at Lady Hydari Park at a short distance of 2.5 km from Police Bazar. Lady Hydari Park is a lush green belt that stretches up to a kilometre in the heart of Shillong. It was quite clear that “The Lady Hydari Park”is maintained with great passion.This garden is an ideal place to spend some peaceful time to relax in between nature.
Lady Hydari Park-Shillong
Named after the first lady of the province, Lady Hydari, wife of the Governor of Assam.Meghalaya forest department is the administrative authority of this park and looks after its maintenance. The Park is best known for beautiful bed of roses that blossom here in various colours. 
A Mini Zoo in Lady Hydari Park-Shillong
The park has a a special play area for kids that offer swings like sea-saws,slips and other small rides for children.Besides all this the park has a wide variety of local flowering plants and orchids, and is landscaped in Japanese style.It has a small zoo and white pelicans playfully floating in water ponds were treat to visitors eye. 
Lady Hydari Park-Shillong

Pelicans playing and floating in pond in Lady Hydari Park-Shillong 
By the time we reached our hotel, we were exhausted yet energized; we had breathed the untouched undiluted, glimpsed the elegance and felt the frenzy of raw nature all together.

Second day itinerary of shillong ended with a high dinner in Eden Restaurant in Police bazar.Here we feasted us with Chilli Garlic Fish, Chicken in Hot Garlic Sauce, Butter Tandoori Roti.The value of money was very good and it was not expensive.
Eden Restaurant in Shillong

Loved the taste and the dishes quantity.It was a memorable dinner in Shillong, as here we got foods of North Indian recipe.After dinner, we walked on roads and to get more energy we consumed sweets from Delhi Misthan Bhandar.

Posted and photographed by Engr Maqbool Akram, with help of some materials and photos from other sources available on net, with thanks.

Sunday 13 January 2019

Story of Cursed Abandoned Village Kuldhara in Deserts of Jaisalmer

Follow me as I am going to explore the haunted, abandoned and cursed village Kuldhara at a distance of 65 Km in deserts of Jaisalmer.Jeep was passing on dusty road with sand duens on both sides.After one hour travelling, I was at entrance gate to ruined Kuldhara village which stands desolate and an uncanny silence prevails all around.
Jeep driver Jogendra was my guide.Today all that remains are huge heaps of bricks and the odd tourist who weaves through the silent, dusty lanes of this once lively settlement. This village was abandoned by its people 200 years ago.

Legends and stories are a wonderful way to attract visitors to a place.A curse and haunting Story is a sure way to get visitors to that place.
I was in Jaisalmer and seeing Salim Sigh ki Haveli built in 1815 by Salim Singh, the prime minister of the kingdom when Jaisalmer was the capital. My guide told, that Salim Singh was not a soft and kind hearted.  Actually He was Zalim, a cruel man of his time.

Guide narrated a fairy tale-like story of how Kuldhara came to be abandoned, cursed and haunted; forgotten, and then discovered after almost 2 centuries. It was a story that was fascinating in every aspect!
Love has power to win the world.One can bestow his enemy with love. Contrary to it, love for lust is such a volcano which burn all in its way.Destruction and only destruction.

This blog is on that love and a curse which destroyed the village Kuldhara Beyond the fort and the sand dunes, the folk tunes and the camel safaris.
The Legend---Cruel Salim Singh-Prime Minister of Jaisalmer

Love has power to win the world.One can bestow his enemy with love. Contrary to it, love for lust is such a volcano which burn all in its way.Destruction and only destruction.

The Maharaja of Jaisalmer was only a titular head of the state at this period, and the Diwan (Prime Minister)-Salim Singh, was the most powerful authority.He had the actual power which he misused to the fullest extend. According to native folklore, Salim Singh, was well known for his lecherous eye, and evil disposition.

On day his eyes fell on a beautiful girl, who was most probably the daughter of the chief of Kuldhara. Enchanted by her beauty, he asked to marry her, but his proposal was refused by the chief as the Diwan was from a lower caste.
The Diwan was furious and gives a 24-hour ultimatum to the girl’s father to change his mind or else…continuously tormented by him and faces his threats of extracting multiple taxes from the villagers.The brave, self-respecting village folks unanimously took the decision. They packed up all their belongings, abandoned their homes and left Kuldhara overnight.

The brave, self-respecting village folks unanimously took the decision. They packed up all their belongings, abandoned their homes and left Kuldhara overnight.
The Paliwal Brahmins Settled in Kulhada
The Paliwal Brahmins were natives of Pali.Depressed by the oppressive ruler of Pali; they migrated to the area of Kuldhara in the then state of Jaisalmer in 1291. It is believed that each new Paliwal family was gladly received into the 84 villages nearby Kuldhara with a brick and a gold coin from every other family in the village. The brick was used to build a house while the gold was used to start a business or a farm.
 Kuldhara was an excellent township, pretty big, well planned with structured settlements, and straight-wide streets which ran in grids with houses on either side. There were about 600 households in the village, most of which were double storeyed, well designed and aesthetic, most probably designed to avoid heat storms of the desert.
Paliwal Brahmins left village Kuldhara to remain inhibited and cursed.
However, before they left, they cursed that the village would remain uninhabited for times immemorial and those who attempt to dwell in these villages shall be death. If anybody tried to dig out their wealth and belongings, they would live to regret their act and suffer.

As the whole community moved out, their hearts were filled with sorrow, and the thought of inhumanity and atrocities increased their pain and suffering. Many years before, human skeletons were found scattered in an alley off the road. It is also believed that the Paliwals left their villages in 1825 on the day of Raksha Bandhan. To mourn the unfateful event, they do not celebrate the festival anymore.
That curse stays till date because the town is barren and uninhabited.
The houses are almost in the same condition as they were left behind by their inhabitants. As I climb up the steps of one such home, I can see the entire expanse of the village. Lanes and brick homes, equidistant from each other, are neatly laid out.

Now this village Kuldhara is maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India as a heritage site. As the sun sets across the sand dunes, the gates of Kuldhara are closed by the locals of the neighbouring villages.
But how a bog population of Kuldhara vanished in a single night, with no one noticing them remains a mystery. The dull fate of this village and story behind its walls still haunts many.

Wednesday 9 January 2019

Travelogue of Guwahati: The Door to Seven Sisters Paradise

Traveling has always been my tempting weakness.This time to break out of the monotonous grinding lifestyle,I decided to explored the tranquility, beauty, calm, and the purest form of nature in,“The Paradise of Assam and Meghalaya”.Our first stop was Guwahati:The door to seven sisters Paradise.North East owing to its rich natural beauty and the fact that it hasn’t yet become a commercial tourist-choked destination. Guwahati, except Sikkim, is the door to all the North Eastern States of Tripura, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya and Nagaland.
We landed by an Indigo Flight at Guwahati airport at around 3.30 PM.At Air port I booked ,from pre hired taxi counter for our guest house.The counter boy charged Rs 300/=for destination.To our surprise the distance was hardly 3.8 Km and we reached there within 15 minutes.We were cheated by “pre hired taxi counter boy”.
I must mention that the people of North East India have been demanding for two time zones for India, from a long time. We, from the rest of India don’t understand this much. But soon after landing at Guwahati, I realized how just and true their demand is. It was dark by 5 pm and pitch dark a little bit later.
Whenever one plans a trip to North East, one must keep in mind that the sun sets here around two hours before the rest of the country.It is said that North East is wet ,due to an early Sun set in comparison to rest of India.
After getting energized with tea and some snacks, we were ready to explore City life of Guwahati by night.Taxi driver stopped in Paltan bazar.
Palton Bazaar of Guwahati
While roaming on streets of Guwahati, I realized that it is not a small town, but fairly big and growing. Real estate business seemed to be booming like any other city in India. The city lies in the plains of Assam sandwiched between the hills of Meghalaya on one side and the mighty Brahmaputra on the other side, leaving it without much room to grow.
One of the busiest market places of Guwahati, Paltan Bazaar is one place you cannot escape as a traveler. Home to Guwahati railway station and the bus terminal.Paltan Bazaar is also known for its row of hotels guest houses, and big mallas.This place always remais crowded.
 Due to the railway station and the bus terminal, Paltan Bazar is one place in Guwahati that never sleeps. North eastern tribal garments and articles made of clay and wood in the roadside establishments. Paltan Bazar is home to many restaurants and dhabas serving Indian and Chinese food items and you will never feel the hunger pangs after all the walking and haggling.
With strong influences from its neighbouring states and countries, Assam has developed some unique foods that you rarely find anywhere else in India.You’ll find Tibetan-, Burmese- and even Bangladeshi-inspired dishes at street food stalls all over Assam, and even some very interesting indigenous recipes.
Kamakhya Temple  
We were ready for whole day roaming in Guwahati.Guwahati is dotted with a number of ancient temples.The most famous among these is the Kamakhya Temple. Kamakhya is the renowned Goddess of Desire whose famous shrine is in the heart of Nilachal Hill.Kamakhya temple is considered most sacred and oldest of the 51 Shakti Peethas on earth.It is the centrepiece of widely practiced, powerful Tantrik Shaktism cult in India. The temple sits atop the Nilachal Hill about 800 ft above sea level.
The approach road to Kamakhya Temple was filled with colorful products that commercialise religion. Whether they result in devotion and peace, I do not know, but they did result in great photo subjects for my camera.

The Nilachal hill believed to be a 'Khasi' sacrificial site earlier, now has a group of ancient temples on the top; the largely eminent of them is the Kamakhya temple. The temple of Goddess Shakti or Kamakhya is the oldest and most revered centre for Shakti worship leading to the spread of the Tantrik Hinduism sect.
Legend has it that this is the spot ‘where Sati used to retire in secret to satisfy her passion with Shiva, and it was also the place where her yoni fell after Shiva danced with the corpse of Sati.The middle chamber leads to the sanctum sanctorum of the temple in the form of a cave, which consists of no image but a natural underground spring that flows through a yoni-shaped cleft in the bedrock.’ 
Traditionally, it is believed that prayers accompanied by the sacrifice of an animal tend to get heard better…so a courting couple prays with a pigeon offering:
And so the population around the temple, included pigeons and goats and buffaloes amidst bridal groups, colorful priests, tantrics–making it a visual treat and friendly to camera.
Umananda Island (Peacock Island)
Next ride was for Umananda Island (Peacock Island), the smallest river island in the midst of river Brahmaputra flowing through the city of Guwahati.The British named the island Peacock Island for its structure. Umananda Temple is a late 17th century Shiva Temple located at Peacock Island in middle of river Brahmaputra.
 Hired three wheeler dropped us at Kachari Ghats behind the high court and the planetarium. We find our way to the ferry dock for a ride to Peacock Island.I involved myself in mesmerizing charm of Brahmaputra river scenery.After a 15 minutes ride we touched the rocks of island.I ascended over rocky stepped top of hill. Brahmaputra River was flowing below the hill, High court building was visible from here and breathtaking scenery.
It is not surprising that so many people find their way here to experience the sublime tranquility of the place. Love is in the air, perhaps it is an effect of the arrow of love Kamdev shot on Shiva to make him fall in love again. Many couples visit the island in search of some solace. Others enjoy the unmatched beauty of the island from the river banks of the city.
Mythology Umananda Island
According to mythology, Shiva created the island for his wife Parvati's happiness and pleasure. Shiva is said to have resided here in the form of Bhayananda. According to a myth, Shiva burnt Kamadeva with his third eye on Umananda when he interrupted Shiva's deep meditation.
According to the Kalika Purana, it was believed that Goddess Urvashi, who brought nectar for the pleasure of Kamakhya, resided here. Therefore, the island on which this temple is constructed is also known as Urvashi Island.
A walk along river Brahamputra
Th One of the most sought after sightseeing activity in Guwahati is to enjoy a walk along River Brahamputra.It seems impossible to visit this city and yet not lose yourself for a few minutes by the majestic Brahmaputra River. Typically, a lot of people start their day at the banks of the river while sipping chai or energising with a fresh workout. 
Statue of Ahom general Lachit Borphukan with soldiers and cannons. built over a concrete pedestal in Brahmaputra
A 35-feet-high statue of Ahom General Lachit Borphukan is erected in the middle of the Brahmaputra near Machkhowa in Guwahati. The soldiers and the cannons are made of fiberglass. The total size of the pedestal on which the statues rest is 12 by 12 by 1.5 meters and it stands on a well 8.5 meters wide. The main statue stands four feet above the pedestal while the soldiers are placed below Lachit.The pedestal is placed five meters above the High Flood Level (HFL) of the river and 50 meters below water.
Lachit Borphukan (1622-1672) was the Commander-In-Chief in the famous battle of Saraighat.
He refused to let the Mughals rule the North-East. He saved Ahom kingdom from Mughals. A greatest warrior in the history of North East India. The Mughal army had been assigned from Dhaka and had set up a camp on the north bank of the Brahmaputra at Hajo, now in Kamrup district of lower Assam.
Much weaker, the Ahom Army defeated the Mughal Army by brilliant uses of the terrain, clever diplomatic negotiations to buy time, guerrilla tactics, psychological warfare, military intelligence and by exploiting the sole weakness of the Mughal forces—its navy.
2nd River Brahmaputra Art Festival’ to showcase artists from 25 countries
At some distance from Alfresco Park on bank of river Brahmaputra,where I was walking, heard musical band with a  large gathering.As per curiosity,I walked there.I was amused that a grand occasion was there: 2nd River Brahmaputra Art Festival’ to showcase artists from 25 countries was going on.I  loaded my camera to capture that moment.It was showcase illustrious artists from at least 25 countries. 
The 39 year-old young Indian artist who displayed his art works in various national and international exhibitions said, “It took years to expose my creative soul to the world audience. Besides attending exhibition in different festivals, River Brahmaputra Art Festival is a sort of dream comes true with a unique feeling and emotions. 
Deka studied fine art in Khairagarh, Chhattisgarh. After finishing his course he shifted to Mumbai in search of a better platform. Poverty instills fear, stress and sometimes depression; strained childhood pushed him to make extra effort in life. Deka has been flourished with experiences participating exhibitions held in London, New York city, Moscow, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Egypt.
By Sun Set, this traveling to Guwahati:”The Door to Seven Sisters Paradise” was near to end.I was short in time, only on day for Guwahati as next destination was Shillong.It is not possible to explore the charm and beauty of Guwahati in one day.
For travellers who love nature and adventure, Guwahati is an ideal place and has much places to visit, some of these are: Deepor Beel Wildlife Sanctuary. Saraighat Bridge. Assam State Zoo, Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, Tea gardens, Alfresco Grand cruise in mighty Brahmaputra River.

Travelogue of Guwahati: The Door to Seven Sisters Paradise, written, photographed and posted by Engr Maqbool Akram with help of Wikipedia and materials available on net with thanks.