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Ladakh Diaries Part 9: Lamayuru

Lamayuru is one of the most ancient monasteries in Ladakh, the oldest surviving structure dating to the 11 th century CE. What makes this monastery particularly fascinating, is its location, amidst what is today called the “moonscape”, for the spectacular natural rock formations, which truly are “out of the world”! As per legend , there once existed a huge lake in this area, populated only by the Nagas (serpents). It was prophesized that there would be a great monastery built here. This prophecy came true when the great acharya Naropa (756-1041 CE) arrived. He emptied the lake, meditated for many years inside a cave, and built the first monastery here. The present structure is a new one, built around the cave where Acharya Naropa is said to have meditated. This legend seems to fit well with the geological formations seen in the area, which suggest this was a paleo-lake, which disappeared around 1000 years ago. Lamayuru is about 130 km from Leh , and the Indus River flows along th

Kumbhalgarh - A glimpse into the past

My last few posts have been about my trip to Kumbhalgarh, and I have written in detail, probably more than required, about my experiences there. I felt that my posts were much too long to qualify as a travelogue, and be of use to people who might like to visit the places I have mentioned. I am, therefore making a fresh effort to write about my trip, this time in brief, giving the relevant details, but nothing more. I hope this literary effort is of use to all of you. Nestled among the mighty Aravallis are many forts of the Rajputs, each one greater than the other, each one relating a story of its own, a story which is part history, part legend, but which gives each of these forts its own unique identity. The Kumbhalgarh fort in Rajasmand district of Rajasthan is one such fort which has its own story to tell. Kumbhalgarh Fort Kumbhalgarh is about 90 km from both, Udaipur as well as Falna. We took the Ranakpur express from Mumbai to Falna, and a cab from the Falna station to Kumbhalgar

Train Journeys- Fun and Photographs

Train journeys can be fun - as I keep telling Samhith. He usually gets bored on trains, and either wants me to read to him all the time, or climb up and down, troubling everyone else, and getting hurt. This time, however, the trip to Kumbhalgarh was different. We had great company in our coach - 4 young boys, about 20-25 years old, with their family, on their way to their hometown near Falna. They were only too glad to play with Samhith, and he kept them occupied! It was certainly the best train journey I have had since Samhith was born. I don’t know their names, but when we got off the train at Falna, I asked them to pose with Samhith for a photograph, and they happily obliged. Samhith remembers their nick-names, with which he called them, and I have the photograph for him to remember them by. It was certainly a memorable journey! I am an avid photographer - not a very good one, but I just enjoy taking photos of just anything and everything. This time, while we were approachin

Kumbhalgarh Trip – Day 5 – The Return to Falna

Our final day at Kumbhalgarh dawned bright and clear. We had decided to leave early in the morning and visit some temples along the way before reaching Falna in time for our train. Accordingly, we were provided with a driver who knew all the temples on that route. Prakash was indeed a well informed driver who had made the temple circuit on many occasions. The Amaj Mata Temple The Amaj Mata Temple was the first temple he took us to. It was not on my list, but he said we would enjoy it. This is a small temple to the goddess on a small hill, remarkably fertile. Just outside the temple is a tank, which is full of water throughout the year. Even though it was early in the morning, there were a number of people filling water from the tank. The temple is the usual kind, with an image of the Devi. Life-size sculptures of two elephants stand guard at the door, and on the side of the temple, under a banyan tree, are the images of the “NavaDurgas’, nine forms of the Goddess --- a simple, but ni

Kumbhalgarh Trip- Day 4 – Parashuram Mahadeo Temple

It was Mohammed’s suggestion that we keep aside a day for the Parashuram Mahadeo temple. Mohammed was our jeep driver for the jungle safari. Since he seemed to know the area well, and agreed to take us there the next day, we agreed to take his advice, and, in retrospect, it is a good thing that we did! We planned to leave by 9:00 AM, after an early breakfast, but Samhith didn’t wake up, and we didn’t want to spoil his holiday by waking him up, so it was past 10:30 that we finally left. The Parashuram Mahadeo temple is a cave on a mountain, which is accessible from both, the foothills as well as the peak. When you approach the temple from Falna, there is a road leading up to the foothills, from where you have to climb up the mountain to reach the temple. From Kumbhalgarh, there is a road leading to the mountain peak, from where one has to walk down a path to the temple. View from the peak- on the right, the saffron flag indicates the location of the temple, and on the left, the buildi

Kumbhalgarh Trip- Day3- A Jungle Safari

There is something about a jungle safari that is exciting and adventurous and at the same time reasonably safe and possible for everyone. Most of the places we have been to, on vacation, have had a forest nearby, and we have always tried out the safari. Traveling with a small kid, it is rather difficult to participate in adventure activities, and a safari is the closest one can come to adventure with a kid. In fact, to Samhith, a jungle safari is a true blue adventure. He can imagine tigers and lions lurking at every corner, and even a monkey is interesting enough for him at this stage. In no safari have we seen any wild animals--- monkeys, elephants and deer being the only animals we have seen. Shankar jokes that there are probably more panthers in Thane than in these forests, and maybe he is right. We did not, therefore, have any great expectations when we decided to go for the jungle safari in an open jeep into the Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary. The road through the forest Ou