Thursday, 27 February 2014

The Gandhara Art in Chandigarh

Have you ever heard people talking about anything else about Chandigarh besides the Rock Garden, Sukhna Lake and Rose Garden?

Buddha, 2 C AD

Well, you will be surprised that Chandigarh can boast of a museum that contains Gandhara Art sculptures. Somehow this fact is never advertised in all the publicity materials. Chandigarh was lucky to have these as originally all these were located at the Central Museum in Lahore but due to partition of India even the artifact of this museum were divided and India got some of the the Gandhara sculptures along with the miniature paintings. The building of Government Museum and Art Gallery of Chandigarh has been designed by Le Corbusier (yes the very same person who designed Chandigarh). The same campus also host two other museums- The Chandigarh Architecture Museum and the Natural History Museum.

Bodhisattva, 2 C AD

The Gandhara Art is a mix of Greco-Buddhist art and the origin of this is that when Alexander died his generals setup several kingdoms and around 1 AD several foreigners who came to Gandhara region (from Kabul to Rawalpindi) converted to Buddhism and therefore the art that developed is a mix of Greco-Roman and Indian art. Another interesting thing is that the first statue of Buddha was made only after a lapse of 500 years or so after his death and therefore no one knew how he looked and all statues are imaginations. Infact the early Buddha statues showed him with the mustaches which disappeared in the later ones.

Padmavati, the Jain Goddess, 12 C AD

Several statues (not Gandhara) have been placed artistically outside the building itself increasing the ambiance of the place.

Chandigarh is also known for being the only planned city with wide roads and no congestion on the streets.

So next time when you are heading to Chandigarh do check out this place.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Travel on my mind

Whenever I have to make a decision to book flights- be it domestic or international - it becomes a herculean task for me to decide how to look for the best route, suitable timings of the flights and on top of that how to book cheap air tickets as I am of the opinion that I would rather take a cheaper flight and spend the money thus saved on hotels and other travel expenses.

View of London from the sky

Also it is very important to plan your travel well in advance especially when you have to fly abroad as the earlier you book a ticket the better and cheaper would be the price. Also normally weekend flights would cost you more than the weekdays so if you are not specifically bound by the dates choose for the weekday flight.

Even now most of the Indian travellers still go physically to a travel and tour operator thinking that these agencies would be able to get them the best deals possible. But how wrong they could be! Now there are innumerable online sites, including those of the Airline carriers themselves as well as several metasearch sites which offer much better rates and you can book the flights from the comfort of your home. The advantage of a metsearch site over the airline sites is that for airlines you have to go one by one to their respective pages and then do mental arithmetic as to the best options available whereas the metasearch sites give you information of multiple airlines on the same page with comparisons. As I am already planning on a vacation in the summers I found one such site which is very user friendly where I found that flights for Malaysia from India are as cheap as less than Rs 9000. And one can also book hotels from the same sites with plenty of options available.

So what are you waiting for? If you intend to travel start booking your tickets now.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Jangchub Rabtenling Monastery, Himachal

I recently visited Jangchub Rabtenling Monastery which is run by the Mahabodhi Society and is probably one of the smallest monasteries that I have seen in Himachal.

Jangchub Rabtenling Monastery, Himachal

This monastery is located on the Kandaghat-Chail road in the district of Shimla in Himachal Pradesh. The monastery is located amidst agricultural fields with nice view of the surrounding hills and mountains.

The entrance to Jangchub Rabtenling Monastery

I have been told that it functions more as a nunnery but I did not see any nuns around but there were two lamas with whom I interacted. There is an impressive gate at the entrance with Buddhist motifs.

The four harmonious friends

In one of the drawings one could see and elephant on whom a monkey is riding on top of which there is a rabbit and at the topmost end is a bird. This probably is a story of the four harmonious friends in the tales of Buddhism.

A giant statue of Buddha at Jangchub Rabtenling Monastery

On this site there are couple of huge statues of Buddha and its incarnation and one huge prayer wheel.

Prayer wheel at Jangchub Rabtenling Monastery

When you reach the monastery you are greeted by two very friendly dogs who want to play with you.

Hem Thakur playing with the dogs

On the first floor of the monastery there is a small room for prayers and on the second floor there is another statue of one of the incarnations of Buddha.

Jangchub Rabtenling Monastery

Inside the prayer room on the second floor are various very interesting masks which I presume are used during the dances held periodically.

The masks at Jangchub Rabtenling Monastery

It is comparatively a new monastery and very few people visit it either due to lack of knowledge or due to the fact that it is not on the main route to Shimla. I had stayed with the Hail Himalayas during this trip.

View of the surroundings from Jangchub Rabtenling Monastery

Also read:
Bon Monastery in Himachal
Ki Monastery
Rewalsar- An Important Buddhist Centre
My Stay at Hail Himalayas
Birds at Katnalu Creek, Himachal
Sunrise at Madag
Shiva Waterfall Trek, Himachal

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Cenotaph of Bakhtawar Singh of Alwar

Alwar town of Rajasthan is not far from Delhi and one can make even a day trip to the place. It has some interesting monuments that can be seen.

Cenotaph of Bakhtawar Singh

One of them that I visited was the Cenotaph of Maharaja Bakhtawar Singh of Alwar. It is a big and beautiful structure that has the architectural mix of Mughal and Rajasthani architecture. The memorial was built by his son Maharaja Vinay Singh in 1815. The platform and the ground floor of this double storey structure, according to the plaque erected there, is made of Karauli sandstone whereas the upper floor is white marble. The ceiling of the main cenotaph is decorated with scenes depicting themes from Ramayana and Bhagwad Geeta.

Also known as Moosi Rani ki Chattri

As one of the queens of Bakhtawar Singh, by the name of Moosi, performed Sati on his funeral pyre therefore this place is also known as Moosi Rani ki Chattri. I saw many locals performing prayers while others came and sat in its shade to get some rests and to view the City Palace and the Water Tank both of which are next to the cenotaph.

Also read other stories about Alwar:
Bala Quila – Alwar’s Way of How Not to Promote Tourism
Siliserh Lake near Alwar, Rajasthan

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Shiva Waterfall Trek, Himachal

I have always maintained that the best way to explore any place is to go by foot and therefore while staying at Hail Himalayas I got this opportunity to go to the Shiva waterfall so how could I have said no?

Huge cactus plants

Now the trek is not very long from Kanechi village to the waterfall and back and I would rate it as an easy grade trek most of the way except for the last bit of climb to the Ashram and then climbing down to the waterfall which I would grade as moderate.

The Katnalu Creek with the Bhardwaj Ashram in the distance

Several times I go for solo trekking but this time I had the excellent company of Mr Hem Singh Thakur and Mr Jeeval Prabhakar. I say excellent as Hem has superb knowledge of the local flora and fauna and he was instrumental in increasing my meager knowledge in this area to some extent.

The trek started with sparse vegetation but as we went along the foliage also increased. There were huge cactus plants growing to heights of 10 to 12 feet on the way. The trek path crisscrosses the Katnalu creek and you keep crossing the creek time and again balancing yourself on the stones in the stream to cross over.

Shiva Waterfall

In winters as the water is less crossing is not too much of a problem but I am sure in Monsoons you would have no option other than wetting your feet several times during the trek.The waterfall is almost hidden from the view till you come quite close to it by a dense crop of trees. The last bit of going down from the Bhardwaj Ashram to the waterfall is very steep and but for the wires attached could even be risky.

Almost hidden Shiva waterfall

But once you see the whole waterfall it is very refreshing to the eyes. The waterfall must be about 80 feet in height and forms a small pool at the bottom before rushing further down. And most of the time when the sun is out you may get to see the rainbow being formed at the waterfall. After staying at the waterfall site we headed up back to the Ashram and there the Sadhu offered us tea which we had with great relish despite the fact that it was too sweet.

The trekking path amidst the jungle

During the whole trek one comes across several bird species and the area can be considered a treasure trove for the bird lovers. I also noticed a smaller second waterfall (also partly hidden by vegetation) much closer to the campsite which is much smaller than the Shiva waterfall but still beautiful.

A second waterfall closer to the Kanechi village

For those from the city who are not much used to trekking or for those who do not have much time at their disposal this is an ideal trek.

Also read:
My Stay at Hail Himalayas
Birds at Katnalu Creek, Himachal
Sunrise at Madag

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Old Calton Cemetery

Cemeteries can be beautiful places to visit where the environment is serene and it is never too crowded and it also gives you a glimpse of the local history.

Old Calton Cemetery with the Calton Hill in the background

One such cemetery I visited is the Old Calton Cemetery in the town of Edinburgh in Scotland. It is walking distance from the famous monuments of the Calton Hill, considered the Athens of the North. The Calton Hill is visible from the Cemetery and if one has gone to the Calton Hill then the Cemetery is also visible from there.
Erected in memory of David Hume in 1778

The Calton Cemetery is nearly 300 years old and is the resting ground of some of the famous personalities of Edinburgh. Prominent among these is the philosopher David Hume who is considered an important figure in the history of Western Philosophy.

Another view of the Calton Cemetery

Besides him other important persons buried here are the historical painter David Allan, actor William Woods, publisher William Blackwood and clergyman Robert Candish, among others.

Old Calton Cemetery

The Old Calton Cemetery really gave an insight into the history of Scotland mainly of the 18th and 19th Century.

Also read: Edinburgh's Calton Hill - Athens of the North