Tag Archives: Food

Trip To Remember – The Valley Of Flowers Trek – Part 3

A quick recap from the last blog posts  (post 1, post 2) in this trek series.
We kick-started our journey from Chennai and landed on Dehra Dun via a flight. From there, we hired a cab to reach Rishikesh, our base camp. Then, we traveled to Joshimath by bus and trekked to Ghangaria from Govindghat.

Day 4: 30th July 2019

It was around 7.30 am, we started our trek from camp Ghangaria. A few meters down, the route branched into two. One led to the most anticipated Valley of Flowers (VOF) and another to the Hemkund Sahib. As per the itinerary, we headed towards the former as the latter was scheduled for the next day. With a tiny waterfall, a rapidly flowing river, and flowers all along the way, the route was serene and scenic. Just like the icing on the cake, the misty climate added to the bliss. It was roughly 4km trek with an altitude gain of 1500 ft to the opening of the valley. The rest 3 km into the valley was kind of flat. As the mules aren’t allowed inside the valley, a few porters carried the elderly persons and the kids on their back. The route wasn’t as tough as the last one, which made the trek less demanding and enjoyable.

Once we entered the valley, it felt like heaven. Especially if you are someone who enjoys the tiny wonders of nature. The place felt mesmerizing with thousand of flowers around me. After having my packed lunch around 11 am, I tagged along with the YHAI guide who patiently pointed me to many unique species of flowers around. One of the best experience was running behind the colorful buzzing honey bees and try clicking it while drinking the nectar from the flowers. Must say I got lucky and managed to capture one awesome pic. Undoubtedly, this natural botanical garden was one big feast to my eyes. Below is the little I managed to capture through my mobile camera. Brace for some pic spamming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After clicking a ton of pictures, we reached the second waterfall by 12 pm and started returning back from there. On the way back to the camp, I felt much delighted. Literally, the person inside me was jumping out of joy. Roughly around 3 pm, we arrived back at the camp. We relaxed a bit after having our usual hot soup and snacks. Then, around 7.30 pm, we had our dinner and played UNO after that. That’s how yet awesome day came to an end.

Day 4: 31st July 2019

The day started with a cup of hot tea early in the morning, followed by some hearty breakfast. Initially, we planned to begin our trek by 7 am. But, rain doesn’t seem to agree with our plans. So, we started our ascent around 7.45 am as soon as the downpour subsided. It was almost the same route as yesterday for the first 1 km. Then, at an intersection, we switched to the one that led us to Gurudwara Shri Hemkund Sahib, the summit of this trekking expedition. Situated roughly 15,000 ft above sea level, Hemkund Sahib is a sacred place visited by thousands of Sikhs every year. This leg of the trek was quite challenging as we had to trek 6 km one way with an altitude gain of ~5000 ft. Buddy, Nigilan, and Govi accompanied me for this whole stretch. Considering the altitude sickness factors, we decided to go slow and steady. After a couple of km, we stumbled upon a small tea shop and decided to take a short tea break. To our surprise, we noticed some soaked rice being laid out on a wooden plank for the birds to feed and a few Himalayan Sparrows feasting over them. Such a cute scene it was. With melting glaciers and ice-cold waterfalls, the route was a breathtaking one. Literally breathtaking, as you would feel your lungs screaming for more oxygen as you climb. Again, I got lucky. I somehow managed to click a beautiful pic of a Honeybee sucking nectar from a Himalayan Blue Poppy flower, the state flower of Uttarakhand. The last 1.5 km was strenuous and steep, but with great company, nothing is unconquerable. Finally, after 5 hours of excruciating trek, we reached the summit around 12.30 pm.

The Summit Pic - A mix of physical pain and mental joy

The Summit Pic – A mix of physical pain and mental joy

Finally, we were at the world’s highest Gurudwara, and this place had amazing positive vibes. What made me wonder was, how on this world did they build this Gurudwara, high over the mountains. After depositing our footwears to the kind volunteer there, we all entered the star-shaped Gurudwara and spent some time in their prayer session. In spite of not understanding even a single word, we sat throughout the sermon. To my surprise, they even provided us with some woolen blankets to keep us warm and comfortable. While exiting the prayer hall, we were served Kara Prasad, a sweet devotional offering. Just adjacent to the Gurudwara, located a beautiful lake filled with icy cold water straight from the glaciers. We even noticed a few devotees taking a dip into it, how strong!!. Just next to the lake, there exists a small temple that’s dedicated to Lakshmana, the brother of Rama. What astonished me was their Langar service, in spite of being located in such a high altitude. The hot tea and Kichadi served for the Langar was undoubtedly some of the soul touching food that I ever had.

After done with Hemkund Sahib, we began our descent around 1.45 pm. With continuous drizzling and mist causing low visibility, the downhill was as painful as the uphill trek. We took it slow with a couple of stops on the way for some hot tea and Maggi. Finally, we returned to the camp around 6 pm, totally exhausted.

To our relief, there was a shop nearby with electric massage chairs that eased out our pain a bit. Nothing like a hot water bath after a tiring day, followed by a good sleep. And, that’s how yet awesome day came to an end.

To Be Continued…

Trip To Remember – The Valley Of Flowers Trek – Part 2

Surprised?

Pertaining to a hypercritical life event, I am quite unsure about the availability of my time by the end of this month to write this blog post. So, trying to churn out something before I get super busy. Isn’t something better than nothing?

A quick recap from the last blog post in this trek series.
We kick-started our journey from Chennai and landed on Dehra Dun via a flight. From there, we hired a cab to reach Rishikesh, our base camp.

Day 2: 28th July 2019

We woke up around 4 am as instructed. Being a habitual early riser, it wasn’t hard at all for me. In no time, we quickly packed our bags and lunch for the day. Then we had a quick huddle for instructions followed by flagging off the bus by 5 am. The route was quite scenic with the clouds passing over the mountains, the valleys and the rivers flowing through them. Believe me, there is nothing like the view of breaking of dawn over the mountains. And, that’s the kind of scene I adore a lot.

It was all fine until our driver stopped the bus out of nowhere. Initially, we thought he stopped for nature’s call. But was super shocked at what we saw a few feet away. It was a bus simar to ours met with an accident and about to plunge down the valley. The only thing that was holding the bus from falling down was a thick fiber optic cable and a stone beneath it. Luckily it was just the driver riding the bus empty who somehow managed to escape safely. Then I realized it’s not just the climate on the mountains that’s unpredictable, the roads too. It took almost an hour for the local authorities and workers to slightly widen the road allowing passage of vehicle in a direction at a time. In the meanwhile, we had bread-jam, biscuits, and juice that we packed in bulk from the base camp.

That one bus crash

After a couple of hours on the road, the driver stopped by a Dhaba. Damn, I wouldn’t have stuffed myself with bread-jam and biscuits if I would have been aware of such hot and yummy Parathas that I could get on the way. Again around 11 am, we took a brief stop for some tea. It was such a bliss to drink tea by the riverbank covered by mountains. OMG, the view was breathtaking and even made not so good tea feel worthwhile. Later we crossed the town of Karnaprayag and stopped for lunch around 1.30 pm. We munched on stale Chapathi and Bhindi (Ladies finger/Okra) that we packed from our base camp. Luckily, the nearby shop served some Maggi for rescue.

A yet another 4 hours of tiring continuous bus journey took us to our next camp Joshimath aka Jyotirmath by 6.30 pm. Luckily they served some hot Tea and Pakodas for relief as soon as we checked in. As we freshened up, around 8 pm, some hot Rotis and Potato Curry were served for dinner. After some 12 hours of continuous and tiring bus journey, all I needed was some good rest. I dozed off with a little excitement of trekking after a long gap the next day. That’s how a yet another awesome day came to an end.

Day 3: 29th July 2019

Being an early riser, I woke up around 5 am as usual. As the dawn broke, I stood in a corner and rejoiced the view of clouds slowly moving over the mountains far away. Though it was a bit cold outside, the serenity of the environment brought peace and warmth to my soul. Narcissistically, I thanked my self for giving me such a blissful experience. Then came the hot Tea to add some warmth to the body too. While I was busy clicking some pics, our camp leader pointed to a nearby mountain and asked what do I see. After taking a closer look, I replied, it looks like a face. Then he corrected me saying, they call it the sleeping lady. Damn, how did I fail to notice, it did look like one.

Waking up to the views like these

Least I knew, Joshimath is famous for its temples. It’s also home to one of the four Maths established by the Indian saint Adi Shankaracharya. As most of us were interested, we decided to visit a few temples before heading towards our next camp. As planned, we started at 7 am after breakfast. First, we visited the most famous Adi Shankaracharya’s Math (monastery) and the nearby Kalpavriksha (divine tree) where he worshiped. Then we visited the marvelous Narsingh temple.

It was around 10 am when we got dropped at Govindghat, from where our trek would commence. For the ease of trek, we were given a couple of options. First, our bags could be ported directly to Ghangaria camp by Mules. Second, the initial 4 km of the route is motorable and could be covered by Jeep. Only after trekking the 1st 4 km, I realized that I failed to factor in an important aspect while considering the options, and that’s my fitness. By the time we reached the Pulna village (end of the motorable road), I was tired and dehydrated. While everyone else in our gang went ahead on their own phase, it was Nigilan who stuck with me accompanied me the whole route. After having our packed lunch at Pulna, to reach the camp alive, we decided to put our bags on the Mule and continue the trek. The next 6km wasn’t that difficult with moderate ups and downs. At the end of 10 km, we had Maggi and Tea in a shop along the fierce stream of water running down the mountains.

I must say, we literally crawled the final 4km. Blame the super steep stretch and exhausted us. It was the mutual pep talks and serenity of the mountains that motivated us all along the way. The sky was almost dark when we reached our camp at Ghangaria (10,000 ft) around 7 pm. Though our friends were worried about us being late, that didn’t stop them from playing a big prank on us. They almost made us believe that our bags were lost as the Mule fell on the way. After freshening up, we had our dinner and played some UNO. I dozed as my body screamed for some rest. That’s how a yet another awesome day came to an end.

To be continued …

Trip To Remember – The Valley Of Flowers Trek – Part 1

Been a while since I wrote a trek series, the last one was the Sar Pass way back in 2017. It’s not like I went on a trek and didn’t write a word about it. I skipped the trekking trip in 2018 due to my wedding and went on a short trip to Amritsar, Delhi & Agra and honeymoon trip to Meghalaya. So when my friends were planning for the Valley Of Flowers, I jumped on the wagon with no hesitation.

Before marriage, I would simply inform my parent a day prior then pack my bags and go on trips. But the post-marriage scenario is a bit different and it would be worst on my part if I don’t credit my lovely wife here. She really understands my love for traveling and super supportive of me going on this trip in spite of some resistance from my family. So, thanks a lot Banksy, it was one much-needed trip for me.

As they say, any trip is good just as much as your company. So I better introduce the people who made this trip most memorable. To start with, it’s Jayashree (a.k.a Buddy) and Nigilan, yes the same friends from all of my previous treks and many other trips before. Then we had Thiyagarajan (a.k.a Thiyaga), the Thagappa/Daddy of the gang who was part of my first Sandakphu Trek. What’s charm without new people, we had Govindarajan (a.k.a Govi) and Himakar (a.k.a Hima) who are the work buddies of Jayashree.

This time also our trek was with the Youth Hostel Association of India (YHAI) and the main reason for this being their nominal price for the amenities they provide. Though the trek was scheduled for July the planning for the same has started well in advance by Jan. This helped us to register for the trek before the slots get filled, apply for leaves well in advance, and book flight tickets before the price goes sky high.

Day 0: 26th July 2019

In spite of all those advance planning, I was due shopping and packing with just less than a day left. Thanks to the gang for sharing one elaborate checklist which helped to a greater extent. I began my shopping only post afternoon and somehow completed the same by the eve. However, the mammoth task of packing was still pending. Finally, with some extra helping hands from my wife, I finished packing just before midnight. Seems I took the words packing at the 11th hour quite seriously 😀

Finally ....

Day 1: 27th July 2019

With our flight from Chennai to Dehradun via Hyderabad scheduled for departure at 11.15 AM, all of us reached the airport around 10 am and checked in on time. Nigilan was the only exception as he told he would be flying directly from Bengaluru via Mumbai. After roughly an hour in the sky, we reached Hyderabad airport. To our surprise, Nigilan was there at Hyderabad Airport awaiting us. In the meantime waiting to board the connecting flight, we munched on some overpriced airport restaurants. It was around 4.15 pm when we touched down at the Dehradun Jolly Grant airport. I was super excited to set foot on a state that I have never been to. Happy to cross one more from my list. From there, we hired a prepaid taxi and headed straight to our base camp at Rishikesh.

Upon arriving at the base camp, we completed our registration process and were allocated rooms. While repacking our stuff, we all realized that we missed packing a few small items. So, we decided to pay a visit to the nearby market for some quick shopping. After done with shopping amidst some surprise rains, we felt hungry and decided to have something light like a snack. Our search narrowed on a newly opened restaurant that served hot samosas, Kachoris, and fresh Ghewar. Back to the base camp, we separately packed the extra clothes and deposited the same before having our dinner. Before heading to the bed, we were all instructed by our camp leader to wake up and get ready by early morning 5 am. That’s how one awesome day came to an end.

 

 

To be continued …

The Stained and Strained Collars

The International Workers Day or Labour Day is just around the corner. As much as the significance of the day, this short, quick and dirty blog post also aims to celebrate the working class across the world.

“Uzhaippali Illatha” song from the movie “Uzhaiplai” is always the first thing that would strike my mind every time I think of the Labours Day, followed by the famous Triumph of Labour statue by Marina Beach. I am yet to hear another song that glorifies the significance of the workforce as much as this one.

Whenever we think of this day, we mostly relate it to the blue collar workers, the stained collars who do the manual labor. Undoubtedly, they are the most suppressed workforce throughout history. We tend to often sympathize them when we learn about their hardships. But, what we fail to do is to empathize and that includes me too.

A week back, I was a bit furious with a delivery person for canceling my order and with the other not delivering my lunch on time. Then a couple of days back, a few relatives dropped by home for lunch. So, my family tasked me to pick up food from the same restaurant where I ordered last week. I felt burned out just for one trip to the restaurant and back in the hot Chennai sun. It took doses of juice and a long afternoon sleep to completely recover from the fatigue. At that point in time, all I could think off was the delivery guys whom I was furious with. Probably, next time when someone comes to deliver in the hot sun, I would give them something cool to drink or give them some extra tips. Among all their struggles to make their ends meet, these little things might put a smile on their face and keep them going.

With enough being said on the suppressed sect, let me jump to the depressed sect. Yes, If you have guessed it right, I am talking about the white collar workers, the strained collars who are tied to their desk forever. Typically, we tend to oversee their strains. Maybe cos they don’t have to do any physical labor. Maybe, cos they dress neat and work comfortably in an AC office. But, on the flip side, they are the ones who suffer the maximum from the mental health problems as a result of workplace stress. Lack of work-life balance and physical activities put them under the high risk of inducing major lifestyle-related conditions such as depression, insomnia, hypertension, diabetes, and heart diseases.

Self note: So, my dear desk clinging friend, it’s high time you keep a check on your mental as well as physical health.

Wish the stains wash away and the strains loosen up and relax. Happy International Workers Day.

Trip To Remember – Amritsar, Delhi & Agra – Part 4

A quick recap from the blog post in this series. Taking off from Chennai, we landed in Delhi. From there, we embarked upon a journey to one of my dream destination, Amristar via train. Visiting the golden temple was definitely one of the blissful experiences in my life. Then, a long day well spent roaming around Delhi visiting the Lotus Temple and the Akshardham Temple. The last thing I could remember was sleeping on the couch in the hostel’s common area exhausted.

Day 4 – 31st March 2018

We woke up around 3 am and departed to Agra by cab around 4 am. Both Alex & Ali got other plans, but Daniele & Justin paired with us for this trip. Sincere thanks to countless movies and songs references as the symbol of eternal love. Not to mention, the numerous portraits and souvenirs I see in the houses I visit. All these got me curious about this place and always wanted to visit there since my childhood. No introductions needed and yes, you guessed it right. It’s none other than one of the seven wonders of the world, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Taj Mahal.

The Taj Mahal, meaning “Crown of the Palaces” is an ivory-white marble mausoleum on the south bank of the Yamuna river in the Indian city of Agra. It was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, to house the tomb of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It also houses the tomb of Shah Jahan, the builder. The tomb is the centerpiece of a 17-hectare (42-acre) complex, which includes a mosque and a guest house, and is set in formal gardens bounded on three sides by a crenellated wall. – Wikipedia

We started quite early with an intention to catch the sheer beauty sun raise over the dome of Taj Mahal. But, unfortunately, we marginally missed it as we reached Agrad only by 7 am. The 230 km long drive along the Yamuna Highway was bit consoling as I got to catch up with some sleep.

Silhouette of the beauty as seen from the Yamuna Highway

No wonder it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. In spite of being there quite early in the morning, we had to wait in a long queue for tickets and security check before entering the premise. It felt overwhelming to see tourists around the globe traveling all the way to catch a glimpse of this beauty. In the meanwhile waiting in the queue something interesting happened. One of the CISF officers managing the security check casually enquired about our whereabouts. After a few mins of conversation, it turned out that his in-laws were the neighbors of Remya and they started discussing the common people they know. Such a small world, isn’t it?

Ticket to the paradise. With QR code.

A few steps ahead welcomed us the gigantic and tall Grand Gate, made of red stones with beautiful marble works. My excitement skyrocketed as we passed the main gateway.

In no time, I got lost in quite a familiar view composed of gardens, fountains and pathway leading to a giant white mausoleum. The same view that got featured in millions of photos, postcards and wallpapers. That’s the mighty Taj Mahal, I told myself for a reality check.

The most familiar view – The Poem Of Eternal Love On White Marble

Here comes the best part. When you go near and realize that it was nothing like what you have imagined all your life. Actually, it was much more huge and majestic than what I have imagined. OMG, the large main dome and the tall minarets, I stood there awestruck by its splendor. My thoughts weren’t around either Shahjahan, not Mumtaz or their eternal love. Rather on the hard work of those awesome artisans, craftsmen and builders who worked relentlessly to create this marvel.

Up close the beast with the beauty

White marbles and intricate inlay works made it look like a poem. As they say, the poem of eternal love on white marble. Our curiosity made us stand in the long queue that leads to the inner chambers of the mausoleum where Shahjahan and Mumtaz rest forever.

The Gang – Smiles on, in spite of a tiring day

By noon we were out of the super crowded Taj Mahal campus tired and hungry as always. After done with our lunch at a nearby restaurant, we headed straight back to Delhi. Wait, there is no way I am leaving Agra without getting some mouthwatering Agra ka Petha.

Back to Delhi, my self and Kavin took a short trip to Connaught Place (CP) to meet her friends in a resto-bar. Back at the hostel, we had a relaxing evening at the rooftop garden with fellow hostelers. Finally, a well-rested night in the last 5 days and that’s how an awesome day came to an end.

Fun time – Clicked using Danielle’s Polaroid

Day 5 – 1st March 2018

Woke up, packed our bags and checked out of the hostel. Then straightaway rushed to the airport to catch our morning flight en route to Chennai. It was one hell of a trip and was quite sad that it came to an end. Back at the Chennai airport, I decided to end my trip with a Biriyani as a tradition. While Remya, Shashi and Shalini decided to head back home, Kavin joined me for some yummy Biriyani. With multiple choices, we narrowed upon Sukkubhai Biryani that’s known for its Beef Biriyani and it’s proximity to the airport added to our advantage. On our way to the restaurant, Kavin surprised me with an awesome northern light painting and a hand-painted bookmark. Thanks a ton, Kavin, means a lot.

Oil painting and Bookmark

 

After munching on the succulent Beef Biriyani I headed back home and that’s how yet another awesome trip came to an end. Definitely, it’s a trip to remember.

The End.

Trip To Remember – Amritsar, Delhi & Agra – Part 3

A quick recap from the blog post in this series. Taking off from Chennai, we landed in Delhi. From there, we embarked upon a journey to one of my dream destination, Amristar via train. Visiting golden temple was definitely one of the blissful experiences in my life. Then, departed to our next destination, Agra via Delhi.

Day 3 – 30th March 2018
It must be around 12 am the information board just outside Hazrat Nizamuddin station notified that our train to Agra was delayed by more than an hour. In the meanwhile, we decided to relax with some tea in a nearby shop. The main reason behind our visit to Agra was none other than the most famous Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world. Our train was scheduled to arrive at Agra quite early in the morning, we checked for the opening visiting hours on the official site. I noticed something that momentarily broke my heart, highlighted in red, it read, Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays for general viewing. It’s a moment of realization and how true when they say The devil is in the detail. Just missing a tiny detail has put the whole pan jeopardy. As a result, we were cluelessly stuck at a railway station in the outskirts of Delhi, that too in the midnight.

So, we decided to shuffle our plans to roam around the Delhi that day and catch up with the Agra plan the next day. As Shashi suggested, we called the hostel that we booked for the next day to check if they could be of any help. How lucky, in spite of being a popular and a busy one, to our surprise, they had a few empty beds to spare to squeeze us in. It was around 2 am when we reached the most awesome Madpackers Hostel, New Delhi. If you are traveling to Delhi and keen to meet interesting travelers plus a great place to stay without burning much cash, this is the one to go for. After a long and tiring day, you would have expected us to knock ourselves off on the bed. But to the contrary, we went up to their relaxing rooftop garden and chilled out with some drinks that we got at the Delhi airport. Close to the dawn, Remya and Shalini decided to catch up with some sleep. On the other hand, Shashi, Kavin & I woke up all night chit chatting and even took a morning walk in search for some hot tea.

Back to the hostel, post munching our complimentary breakfast we sat down at the common area to plan for the rest of the day. That’s where we met Danniele & Justin, 2 friends from the USA and Alex & Ali a couple from Germany all planning for the same. So, we teamed up on the common cause to explore Delhi. To our comfort, the Hauz Khas Delhi Metro Station was just a walk away from our hostel. To cut down on the cost, we bought the One Day Card at a Rs 150/- (Rs 100 + Rs 50 refundable security) which gives us unlimited metro rides for the day.

Delhi Metro Day Card

About an hour of traveling in the crowded Delhi Metro and a short walk from the Kalkaji Mandir Metro Station, we arrived at our 1st destination for the day, one of the prominent landmarks in Delhi, The Lotus Temple. It’s a Bahá’í House of Worship, primarily the place of worship of the Bahá’í faith, a religion teaching the essential worth of all religions, and the unity and equality of all people. So, this temple is open to all humans irrespective of their religion, caste, color or qualification. Surrounded by the garden, stood a beautiful Lotus shaped structure. No wonder this temple has won numerous architectural awards for its unique Lotus shape with 27 pure white marble-clad petals. Inside the temple is a large auditorium with tall ceilings where no one is not allowed to talk. I totally got immersed in my own silence and the peace that surrounded that place. Though no photographs were allowed, I did manage to click a few. For me, this place conveys a strong message of peace in unity. It was already around 3 pm when we came out of the temple.

After munching on some snacks and tender coconut, we resumed our journey to the next and the last destination of the day. Yet another hour of a ride in the metro, we reached the Akshardham station. By then we all were a bit tired and super hungry as we were yet to have our lunch. We just managed with some short bites that we could source from the station kiosk as we had to rush to our next destination that was due closing in a few mins. A few mins of walk from the station took us to the famous Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple.

One of the huge drawbacks of that place is that they don’t allow you to carry mobile phones, camera or any gadgets inside the temple. So, we had to stand for more than an hour in a long queue to deposit our mobiles and bags in their cloakroom. It’s quite safe as the mobile phones and valuables are photographed prior depositing. Finally, we entered the temple complex after passing a security check that involved frisking. There stood a marvelous marble structure that felt worthy of going through all the trouble. This magnificent temple made of pink stone and white marble is a result of more than 300 million man-hours of hard work by 11,000 artisans and volunteers. I was totally awestruck by its sheer beauty. The intricate patterns and sculptures are definitely a treat to our eyes. Though not a big fan of temples, I must really thank Shashi for recommending this place. The below pics are from the official temple site. I don’t own them.

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Then came the best part of the day, the water fountain show, AKA The Sahaj Anand Water Show. It was such an immersive experience mixing multi-color lasers, video projections, underwater flames, water jets and surround sound. I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it. After the show, we had our dinner at the temple food court. To my surprise, our foreign friends loved the masala dosa.

I was totally exhausted when we reached back to our hostel after riding the last metro of the day. I even dozed off on the common area couch as Remya gave me a nice massage and that’s how a yet another awesome day came to an end.

To Be Continued …

The Golden Temple Saga – Trip To Remember – Amritsar, Delhi & Agra – Part 2

Don’t be surprised for publishing the post a little earlier than usual. Also, this post is predominantly just about one place and it’s totally worth it.

A short recap from the last blog post to bring you up to the speed. Inspired by the below song, I convinced 4 of my friends to travel along with me all the way to Amritsar. On our 2nd day of the journey, we visited the most famous Attari – Wagha Border between India and Pakistan. And, it was one remarkable experience.

By now, you all might have guessed the place. It’s none other than the Sri Harmandir Sahib, famously known as the Amritsar Golden Temple. From the local sources, we got to know that the Gurdwara is less crowded during the early hours of the dawn. Kavinnila  (a.k.a Kavin) and I were super excited and planned to start as early as 4 am. On the other hand, Shashi, Remya and Shalini was super tired after a crazy day, so they decided to opt out for some more rest and join us later.

As planned, we started a little later than 4 am. As our hostel was just in walking distance from the Gurdwara, we didn’t have any trouble reaching there. It’s a hard rule that men and women who enter the temple must cover their head by wearing a scarf or a turban. On our way to the temple, there was a respectable old man who offered me a headscarf and even tied it on my head. Later, he DEMANDED DONATION for the same. It’s quite unfortunate that there are people capitalizing situation like these. If you are visiting the temple, kindly don’t entertain such people. There are tons of head scarfs placed in bins just outside the Gurudwara for free.

One could get easily awestruck by the glittering structure against the background of the dark sky. And, I am no exception. Just before the main entrance, there is a place where you can safely deposit your footwear for free. A continuous stream of water flowing through the entrance cleanses your foot before entering the temple premise. OMG, I have never been to such a peaceful and calm religious place. I felt the tranquility of the place subdue my usual excitement. And, quite short of words in precisely expressing that feeling. The main temple sits in the middle of Amrit Sarowar (Pool of Nectar), a holy tank where devotees take bathe. We went around the Parikrama (Pathway surrounding the tank) clicking some pictures before joining the queue leading to the sanctum. I am not even exaggerating, the devotees here are the most self-disciplined ones I have ever seen. Firstly, there are no separate queues except the one dedicated for elderly and physically challenged people. Irrespective of their caste, creed, gender, social and economic status, the rest of the folks share the same queue. In spite of thousands of devotees waiting in the line for hours, we didn’t find even a single person trying to push others or trying to get ahead or even speak loudly. Probably, we are the only uncouth ones in the crowd who are incapable of zipping their mouth. You would be amazed to see that there isn’t anyone except just an elderly guard near the entrance of the sanctum to control the crowd. All the time spent in the queue I enjoyed the devotional songs with marvelous deep voices played there. To my surprise, while entering the sanctum, I spotted a group of musicians performing live. That’s some incredible stamina and serious devotion performing continuously without any drop in their energies. A few moments passed entirely lost in the charm and resonating music of the place. Again, the blissful experience is hard to explain with words. It’s two storied structure with its walls & ceiling filled with pleasing decorative artworks. The devotees quietly find a spot for themselves to sit, read their holy text and meditate. Again, there is no one to control or manage them. Further, we reached the terrace just to get lost in the breathtaking view from there. We were offered Karah Prasad, a sweet made of whole wheat flour, Ghee (clarified butter) and sugar on our way out of the sanctum.

The following are a few awesome pics clicked by Kavin.

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Sri Harmandir Sahib, Golden Temple – This Beauty

The Karah Prasad didn’t completely solve our hunger problems, so we headed straight searching for the Langar Hall.

Langar is the term used in Sikhism for the community kitchen in a Gurdwara where a free meal is served to all the visitors, without distinction of religion, caste, gender, economic status or ethnicity. – Wikipedia

So, no one returns from a Gurdwara hungry. Might be the effect watching umpteen number of documentaries on the Golden Temple Langar, it became a dream to have a meal there, cos it’s no ordinary Langar. Following are the amazing facts that make it more special[Source].

  • It’s the world’s largest community kitchen.
  • On an average, 1,00,000 meals are served every day, absolutely free of cost.
  • More than 90% of the workforce involved in preparing and serving the Langar are volunteers.
  • On an average, The kitchen consumes around 1800 kgs of pulses, 5000 kgs of wheat flour, 1400 kgs of rice and 700 liters of milk daily.

Just at the entrance of the hall, the volunteers handed us a plate, a spoon, and a bowl. After waiting amongst 1000s of devotees, we were allowed into a large dining hall with carpets laid in parallel rows to sit down and eat. With not much difficulty, we found ourselves a spot amidst a large crowd. Then, they served us, Roti (flat bread), Daal (lentils), Sabzi (vegetables) and Kheer (dessert). OMG, the food was not only yummy but felt soulful and wholesome. Once done eating, we handed our plates and cutleries to another set of volunteers stationed at the exit of the hall. It’s quite amazing that the Langar is run entirely out of donation from the Sikh community across the globe. Their philanthropical mindset and natural willingness to serve people is highly commendable. I came out of the Gurudwara with both my soul and stomach filled. I am never a religious person, but the vibes this place gave me is beyond any typical place of devotion. It was a long dream come true for me and definitely, a moment to remember for the rest of the lifetime. Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh.

A few meters walk from the Golden Temple took us to yet another significant landmark, not only in Amritsar but also in India’s struggle for independence. It’s Jallianwala Bagh where the sorrowful Amritsar massacre took place. On 13th April 1919, Reginald Dyer a British army Colonel ordered open fire at unarmed innocent civilians who gathered to celebrate the festival of Baisakhi which resulted in the infamous Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. Around 1000 died and 1500 injured in this Mishap. One could still see the bullet marks on the wall and the Martyrs’ Well where many jumped to save themselves from the shooting. The place also houses a small museum to provide more detailed info on the incident. This place reminded me of the sacrifice made by many that lead us to the path of freedom that we enjoy today.

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The Memorial

It was already past 1 pm when we got united with the rest of the gang after visiting the Jallianwala Bagh. We all were hungry by that time and unanimously decided to have lunch at a nearby Dhaba. There is no way we would miss the famous Amritsari Kulcha while being in Amritsar. The Dhaba served a yummy Kulcha with some Chickpea Curry and a sour chutney which I loved. From there we reached our hostel, freshened up, packed our bags and headed straight to the railway station to catch Amritsar – New Delhi Shatabdi Express that’s destined for Delhi.

Wait, the day didn’t end here. A couple of interesting things did happen. The first one was a sheer coincidence. We again shared the compartment with the same family that traveled with us from Delhi to Amritsar. The next one was a pleasant surprise. A Postcrossing friend Mr.Piyush came all the way to Ludhiana railway station to handover me some awesome postcards when our train halted there. The best part was, my phone was in silent mode and didn’t hear the ring when he called. The train just started moving when I returned his call. As the train was already in motion, he came running and handed me the envelope. That’s an extraordinary gesture to show towards a person whom he oddly knows. Thanks, Piyush. It means a lot to me.

Phew, That’s how yet another incredible day came to an end.

The next day had some serious twist and turns for us. But you got to wait until the next blog post in the series.

To Be Continued …