Monday, June 30, 2014

Niti villagers, Descendents of Pandavas of the Mahabharat

She said  "We are heading to Hemkund  along with the Pandavas to visit Laxman temple".I was puzzled.I felt, Yes. Of course I smelled the fragrance of  Mahabharat all along the Uttarkhand. But, how on the earth Pandavas have descended here after 5000 years ? Their claim of  traveling with Pandavas was something beyond my imagination.
I was coming down from Ghangaria to Govindghat after visiting the Valley of flowers and the Hemkund Sahib.Ghangaria is the base camp to visit Hemkund and Valley of flowers. It is a 13 kms walk from Ghangeria to reach motorable road in Govindghat. 
During y morning walk Sun was playing hide and seek
 I wanted to cover this distance as early as possible so that I can visit Badrinath which was originally not part of my itinerary.
People from Niti Vilalge
 Amidst the general trekkers, devotees to Hemkund sahib  on this path, a large  group of people arrested  my attention. And I almost stopped walking and started observing them with curiosity.
The group was looking different from the crowd due to their attire. Women wore saree with a jacket kind of a blouse and black skirt. Men were wearing white robe and pajama and yellow stole around their waist. Some of them were wearing garland and very  few  men and women were riding  horses. All of them wore head gear and lot of jewelries.
My porter  was also  not around to know about them. He was far ahead of me. I managed to talk to a lady in garland. I asked her, where are they heading to. She said that they are going to Hemkund Sahib to visit Laxman  mandir(temple) and she moved ahead. 

Arjuna and Yudhistira on horse from Niti Village
 My inquisitiveness was soaring. I again stopped another  lady from the group and I  threw her the same question. The reply was  “ we are going to Hemkund Sahib with Pandavas."
  She continued  "the lady with whom  you just spoke is  Kunti and the one on the horse is Arjuna. Didn’t you see Yudhistira in the front ? The young girl who is going along with Kunti is Subhadra, wife of Arjuna"
Lady who was kind enough to talk to me from the Bhotia tribe from Niti village

As I kept listening to her, she shed little more light about them. The group was from the village Niti in Chamoli district,Uttarkhand,India. Niti village is one of the last villages located towards Indo China border . They consider them selves as the descendants of Pandavas of  Mahabharat. They belong to Bhotia  tribe  and  they believe Pandavas of Mahabharat as their deities. They worship them. They even assign the role of each of the characters of Pandavas and their family to their people and treat them as deities. Every year, on the full moon day of August-Sep they visit Laxman temple in Hemkund Sahib. They walk from Niti till Hemkund. This is the festival time for them and they wear their best jewelleries and travel along with their deities –Pandavas To Laxman Mandir at the altitude of 15,200 ft to pay their tribute to god. There is a legend that Pandavas before starting their journey to heaven( Swargarohan) had visited this place and it has become part of Niti village’s tradition to visit this place every year on full moon day during Aug – Sep. There is another legend that Pandu father of Pandavas had done penance at Hemkund then called as Lokpal.
Entire villagers walk up to Hemkund on full moon day of September
 For those who are new to Indian culture, two lines on Mahabharat.It a national epic of India, narrating the story of cousin brothers Kaurava and Pandavas. Victory of Pandavas over Kauravas with the help of divine lord Krishna is the central theme of Mahabharat.The story has flown in to all the social and psychological layers of Hindu mind.People give names to their kids based on Mahabahrat. All the Indian languages have at least one big epic on Mahabharat.
Mahabharat is not just a history to them but is a  tradition. The Mahabhath which is an anthropological curiosity to many scholars is a living drama to be enacted by the current generation of the people of Niti.
I am a stanch lover of Indian mythology. You can imagine what kind of excitement had hit me. I started wondering if they believe they are the decendents of Pandavas, then does that speak a logical answer to the birth of Pandavas ? Do they practice polyandry  system ? I tried to find more about them. Even google didn’t provide any more details.
Parva- Novel by S.L Bhyrappa on Mahabharat
This reminded me of Parva, a Kanada novel written by S. L Bhyrappa narrating the  Mahabharat on modern realism perspective. It has been translated to English and many other Indian languages. In that he weaves a story of Pandavas birth as -  Kunti and Madri wives of Pandu conceived babies from the tribal heads living in the upper Himalayas with the permission of Pandu. It is a landmark novel exploring the  human side of Mahabharat.
My inquisitiveness about Niti village  is ever growing. I have added Niti to my bucket list to explore the stories around.
 Have you come across any such stories during your travel ? Pls share

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Friday, June 27, 2014

Sydney Skyline - Skywatch Friday

As they say, the best vantage point to get Sydney's  bird's view is from the top of the Harbor bridge. Is that for free ? No. It costs a whopping few hundred dollars to climb it. Time allowed for you to stay on top is only a couple of minutes. The other option is Pylon Lookout. This is another view point in Sydney. This also costs few  dollars. One more option is to get 360 view from the Sydney tower and dine there. There is  money involved here as well. I was wondering which one to choose from the last two options. 
View capturing botanical garden and connecting harbors
 Meanwhile, I got a chance to visit  the city’s one of the highest rental spaces for site selection. As I stepped in, I was stunned with the view in front of me. Located on the 36 floor of that building, this corner of the floor was offering a seamless view of Harbor bridge, Opera and Botanical garden stretching till the horizon.The panoramic view of Sydney capturing most of the harbors under its sky was a captivating view. 

Some pictures for you. I clicked them from inside the office space through the  facade glass. Reflection of the glass was inevitable.Hope  still you enjoy…

View of Opera House from not so attractive angle

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Karnataka less travelled- II, 400 years old tree

There are heritage buildings and monuments. Do you know there are heritage trees as well? I didn’t know until I saw this tree in Banavasi. Pilale tree as they call it in kannada local language, is a sprawling  tree spread across more than 2 acres of land amidst the paddy fields stands. It's botanical name is Ficus microcarpa.Standing there from the last 4 centuries, this tree is an abode for several birds and variety of flowers.

Pilale tree from the paddy fields
This Mahavriksha (Mammoth tree) as they call it in the village, is located 7-8 kms away from Banavasi in the village Jade in Shimoga district of Karnataka. It is located in the border of Uttar Kannada and Shimoga districts. We need to walk across the paddy fields for 10 minutes from the main road to reach the tree. 
Branches and branches
 Its branches are too many to count, cutting across each other to form a complicated structure, difficult to explain using my geometrical sensibility. We have a word parampara in Sanskrit meaning coming one after the other without any break. Similarly, these branches are  earth facing. To use a similes it has created a forest with one tree.
Bushy tree
It doesn’t look like a big tree from outside. It looks more of a bush. Off shoots of the branches have multiplied giving the shape of an epic bush to the Mahavriksha.  It is still growing horizontally beyond 2 acres. I was told that the Government is talking to farmers to take up the land around the tree to protect the heritage  tree.
Growing tree
 It was a hot sunny day. Carrying Viha and walking in the field was exhausting. Farmers working in the field asked ‘are you going to see the temple?’  I simply nodded. Brahma Kumar our guide who always was very enthusiastic to show us new places  explained that there is a temple within the  forest tree and villagers consider tree belongs to god. He was from Vanavasika guest house.
When we reached this massive tree we experienced  a sudden change from the hot sun to cool breeze inside this tree forest.

 I wanted to take a walk along the circumference of the tree which apparently takes 30 minutes to cover. As we started walking appreciating the tree, a man with a loud music in his phone enters and walks along with us. He says this land belongs to him. Somehow I was not comfortable to go deep inside the epic tree area with this unknown man. Being a solo traveler, I never go against my hunches. He offered to show temple of a local deity located at one end of the tree. But I thanked him and came out of the canopy. I didn’t want to take risk with kiddo around.
Recently, this tree has been declared as one of the Heritage trees by the Government of Karnataka  under the Bio diversity act of 2002. There are 10 heritage trees in Karnataka. Some are as old as 600-800 years. To protect these  age old trees and pass it on to  next generations is the reason behind calling them as heritage trees. These trees are breathing life from centuries. They have all rights to live for long as long as they can!  I was told Karnataka is the first state to take such an  initiative in the entire country.

Have you ever come across any such granny tree ?I would love to hear.

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