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Call from the hills – Uttarakhand [ 6-11 October 2017 ]

September 20, 2017

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Uttarakhand, a State in northern India crossed by the Himalayas, is known for its Hindu pilgrimage sites. Rishikesh, a major centre for yoga study, was made famous by the Beatles’ 1968 visit. Haridwar – considered to be one of the 7 holy cities in India ,  hosts the evening Ganga Arti, a spiritual gathering on the sacred Ganges River at Har Ki Pauri Ghat . The State’s forested Jim Corbett National Park shelters Bengal tigers and other native wildlife. And then there are the famed Hindu temples – Badrinath and Kedarnath. Not to forget the “Queen of Hills” , Mussoorie . And then there is Nainital which  is a Himalayan resort town in the Kumaon region  at an elevation of roughly 2,000 m. set around Nainital Lake, a popular boating site with Naina Devi Temple on its north shore.

I was there during 6-11 October with Mr Agoston Lorincz , a friend of mine from Hungary , covering about 850 kms by road on a 6 -day/5 -city trip that took us to Garhmukteshwar , Haridwar , Rishikesh, Mussoorie and Kanatal .

6 OCTOBER

The trip began at 10 AM  from my home in Noida in  the morning hours gettting to Garhmukteshwar, a small sleepy town in the State of Uttar Pradesh located along the holy Ganges river,  covering the  journey in about 2.15 hrs.

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GARHMUKTESHWAR

Garhmukteshwar is a little town along the banks of Ganges river in the State of Uttar Pradesh . Ganges is considered sacred in India. Thus, people come here for Hindu religious rites including performing  rites related to prayers for ancestors, birth and death. Garhmukteshwar is about 100 kms from Delhi, the capital of India and thus, persons living in Delhi come here for special moments such as mundan  ceremony (the first cutting of hair of a child) and for dispersing the ashes of family members recently cremated .

Places which we visited  in Garhmukteshwar

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The river banks.

Ganga Temple

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The Ganga Temple is one of the ancient temples in India. Almost 101 steps, extending down to the Ganga River, are one of the main features of the temple. There are 85 steps out of original 101 steps present today. The beauty of the temple is enhanced by the white stone idol of Lord Brahma.

Young children  seemed very excited when we stopped to take pictures of them weaving mats .

Mukteshwar Mahadev Temple

This ancient temple is devoted to Lord Shiva, and the temple is one of the must visit attractions in the city. The temple was built by King Shivi and there is a Shiva lingam inside the temple, which was built by Sage Parshuram .

Nahush Koop (Nakka Kuan)

Yajna [ Prayers ]  was performed here by King Nahush. The water in the Well is from Ganga River. Water from the Well is considered to be sacred. It is located within the Mukteshwar temple complex . However, the premises are not very well maintained and water inside the well  looks so very dirty .

Kalpavriksha

Kalpavriksha is the holy tree, renowned as the ‘Tree of Heaven’. The tree was planted at the Vedant Mandir. The tree is said to fulfill the wishes of the visitors. Along with this, the tree is also considered pious and contemplates the religious, spiritual, environmental and medicinal significance.

Trivia :

Garhmukteshwar Ganga Fair, also known as Garh Ganga Fair , will take place on November 4.  Gadhon-ka-Mela is also part of Garh Ganga Fair. In the Fair, more than 50,000 horses, donkeys and asses are sold .

It is believed that taking holy in Ganga here helps in sin redemption and in attaining Moksha or liberation. The spot is an important sacred location for performing prayers dedicated to dead ancestors.

After spending about 2.30 hours in Garhmukteshwar  , we left at 2.45 PM for Haridwar , 175 kms. away , stopping  by for light snacks at the Grand Cheetal which is located on the  National Highway at Shamli,Muzaffarnagar . The dishes that we ordered, viz. paneer pakoras, french fries, grilled chicken sandwiches and freshly squeezed orange juice  , arrived in double quick time . Note, however, that this food joint  is rather expensive .

Arrived at 7.30 PM at Jagdamba Dham, a 24-room Dharamshala , Opp: Sai Baba Mandir on Doodhwala Chowk , where we had hot vegetarian  meals , before proceeding to Hotel  Treebo Vibhav Mariott for overnight stay .

HARIDWAR

Haridwar is an ancient city and important Hindu pilgrimage site in North India’s Uttarakhand State, where the River Ganges exits the Himalayan foothills. The largest of several sacred ghats (bathing steps), Har Ki Pauri hosts a nightly Ganga Aarti (river-worshipping ceremony) in which tiny flickering lamps are floated off the steps. Worshipers fill the city during major festivals . Haridwar is considered as one of  the 7 holy cities in India .

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Checked in at  :

TREEBO VIBHAV MARIOTT                                                                                                 Opposite Avdoot Mandal Ashram , Near Singh Dwar, Haridwar .M: 7500635006 .

Treebo Vaibhav Mariott is a 24 room property of recent construction at a convenient location in Haridwar . The hotel has a very nice facade and a apacious lobby . The rooms are quite well furnished with comfortable mattress/ soft pillows and the decorations on the walls in the corridors are simply amazing.  The plus points are the quality of food served in the restaurant and easy accessibility to the owner, Namit Goyal .

However , the hotel management will do well to focus on staff issues as well as housekeeping and  sanitation – the latter  within the hotel premises as well as outside of it – which were noted to be its weak points. During my stay at this property on 6-7 October, I had the opportunity to interact with the owner as well as Treebo Corporate headquarters in Bangalore at regular intervals . I have been assured that these will be looked into and remedial actions initiated at the earliest opportunity.

7 OCTOBER

 

Mansa Devi Temple

This is an ancient Hindu temple perched on a hilltop.  This ancient Hindu temple honours Mansa Devi, the folk Goddess of Snakes and can be accessed via a ropeway .

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Chandi Devi Temple

This is a historic Hindu temple accessible by cable car on the other side of the river along the National Highway offering picturesque mountain top views. A combined ticket of Rs. 330 per  visitor was purchased by us to cover the cost of cable car rides to both the temples  as well as transportation to and fro . River Ganges flowing along one side of the temple enhances its beauty .

Bharat Mata Temple

This is a tall 8-storey temple with shining white body . This is basically a Hindu  shrine dedicated to Goddess symbolizing India as a huge undivided country. A similar temple, although much smaller in size and limited to just one storey, exists in Varanasi . There is a lift to take visitors to the top floor. However, as we noticed a rush in front of the lift entrance, we decided to take the steps upto the 5th floor . Each floor is dedicated to different groups such as religious leaders and preachers , pre-independence time patriots and revolutionaries  ,  Gods and Goddesses , politicians , women leaders and politicians .

Bada Bazar

The bustling Bara Bazaar [ market ] in  Haridwar is a shopper’s stop for the local as well as foreign tourists. Located near Subhash Ghat ,the market  is very famous for  religious as well as ornamental items. Among the most famous items sold here are  Ayurvedic [ herbal ] medicines. What makes these medicines different is that these are all made from original seeds found here, and these are quite effective too. People visit Bara Bazaar especially to get these medicines which are a perfect cure for pains and aches.

Har Ki Pauri 

Har Ki Pauri is a very famous ghat  [ steps ]  on the banks of the Ganges in Haridwar. This revered place is the major landmark in the City  which is visited by thousands of  devotees and tourists during  the year .

Ganges Aarti in the evening 

Ganga Aarti [ worshipping of Ganges river ] is performed  at Har Ki Pauri Ghat  at 18.00 hrs during winters . Tiny flickering lamps  are set afloat on the river with fire burning on cotton wicks immersed in oil  .

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There were an estimated 5,000 devotees present there on either sides of the Ghat chanting ” Har Har Gange” in unison when we went there . Note that all vehicles must be parked at the ” Double Parking ” area , some 350 m. from Har ki Pauri  ( Rs. 100 ) .

 

Ganga is just not a river for Indians . Ganga is supposed to liberate humans from the sins that they may have committed if they take a dip here in the river  . It is therefore revered and respected by Indians .

8 OCTOBER

We went for an early morning dip in the Ganges river which was quite a divine experience .

We checked out from the Hotel at  9 .15 AM . Before proceeding to Rishikesh , however , we visited two “cave temples” Shiva Temple and Shri Vaishno Devi Gufa Temple , in  a street lined up with several temples . At the Shiva temple, it was a very strange and scary experience for us crawling inside a dark cave for some distance  to get to the deity at the end of it .

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We also spent time looking at the deity of Narasimha , half-animal , half-human, one of the Avataars of Lord Vishnu .

RISHIKESH

Rishikesh is located in the Himalayan foothills along Ganges river .  The City is renowned as a Centre for studying Yoga , Meditation and Ayurveda and is, therefore, known as the “Yoga Capital of the World”.  Several Temples and Ashrams   [ Centres for spiritual studies ] are located in Rishikesh . In the evening, an almost supernatural breeze blows down the valley, setting temple bells ringing as sadhus (‘holy’ men), pilgrims and tourists prepare for the nightly ganga aarti (river worship ceremony) . Trekking , white water rafting , biking , paragliding , bugee jumping , kayaking are some of the popular adventure sports activities here.

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Arrived in Rishikesh at 12. 30 PM and checked in at :

HILLVIEW APARTMENTS  

B1/B2 , Tapovan Heights, Deecon Valley Complex, Near Tapovan Police Chowki Rishikesh 248008  . Phone : 9650933556 .
Hill View Apartments is 1 kms away from Laxman Jhula. We were accommodated on the second floor in a well furnished studio apartment which is really suited for families staying for 2-3 days who can cook their food by themselves . There is a water stream flowing right below the Apartments. However,  it is not easy to get there by yourselves  . We had to phone the caretaker – a young man named Pramod Kumar – upon reaching the Tapovan Police Chowki to come and escort us to the property which is in a residential colony with construction of several buildings going on in the vicinity .

Places which we visited in Rishikesh

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Lakshman Jhula

Believed to have been completed in 1929, the Laxman Jhula is a popular suspension bridge situated 23 metres  feet above the River Ganga and 150 m. long. The Jhula connects two villages, Tapovan and Jonk, crossing the river from west to east. Lakshman Jhula acts as an adjoining bridge across River Ganga, along the old route to the sacred shrines of Badrinath and Kedarnath. The construction of various grand temples and ashrams  around the Jhula has made it one of the most visited places in Rishikesh. It was reported that in peak tourist season, it could take upto one hour to cross the Jhula .

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Lakshman Jhula Market

Lakshman Jhula Market  is one of the best areas for shopping while in Rishikesh . There are several  shops for clothes, jewellery, precious stones, books, religious books, spiritual items and  souvenirs .

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Beware of these monkets prancing about around the Jhulas . This simian  snatched a banana right out of my handbag while was I was entering the Lakshman Jhula for crossing to the other side of it .

Ram Jhula

Positioned in Muni Ki Reti, Ram Jhula is one of the most popular attractions of Rishikesh. This bridge was constructed later than the Laxman Jhula, in the year 1980. Both these bridges are quite similar in design and steel construction.  Ram Jhula is placed a few miles downstream from Laxman Jhula and links Swarg Ashram on the western bank of River Ganga to the Sivananda Ashram on the eastern bank .

Ganga Aarti ceremony at Triveni Ghat

The Ganga Aarti at Triveni Ghat is an evening prayer performed at 6.30 P.M. on the banks of the River Ganga. It turned out to be a major highlight of our visit to Rishikesh in  the presence of  a large number of devotees and visitors.

The Aarti , walking distance from Ram Jhula , is conducted on the lines of the one in Dasashwamedh Ghat in Varanasi with 5 young men in saffron robes moving fire lit torches in different directions , paying a tribute to the river Ganges flowing in front of them . People lit diyas, put them on flower-filled leaf boats and release them in the holy waters of the river. These illuminated lamps in the evening provide a beautiful view.  We bought flower filled leaf boats lit with camphor from an old lady standing nearby  [ @ Rs 10 each ]  in order to be a part of the religious custom. The religious hymns recited in praise of the Ganges helped in rejuvenating our mind and soul.

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Maharshi Mahesh Yogi  Ashram

The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram is located in a calm and peaceful and  spot within the Rajaji National Park . It got the world’s attention when it briefly housed the band members of the legendary English rock band The Beatles in 1968.  It was reportedly  in 2012 that a bunch of travelling artists, including Canadian artist Pan Trinity Das, painted the walls with pop art and beautiful black-and-white portraits of The Beatles, alongside those of prominent spiritual leaders like the Dalai Lama.

Nature walks, bird watching, and a visit to the Ashram are on offer for an entry fee of Rs 150 for Indian nationals, and Rs 600 for foreigners. However, as we were informed by locals that a steep climb was involved upto some distance , and that the premises were not in very good shape, we decided not to enter . Instead, we rested for a while after a long walk to the Ashram from  Ram Jhula exit in hot weather, quenching our thirst with chilled lemon drink/ Jal Jeera from  a vendor stationed at the entrance to the Ashram  . For return, we engaged a SUV at Rs 300 to get back to the entrance point of Lakshman  Jhula .

bistro-nirvana

Bistro Nirvana  – Bypass Road , Green Valley Cottage [ Swiss Cottage area, Tapovan ] . Phone: 97580 68993.  This new joint has a shaded patio and elevated tables with cushioned bench seating with a nice ambience, both indoors as well as outdoors .  The theme is bamboo and the restaurant offers multi-regional cuisine – Mexican, Middle Eastern, Continental abd North Indian .  For ourselves,  we ordered Flafel, Pita and Humus which was served alongwith Israeli salad and was noted to be very delicious . The restaurant seems to be very popular with foreign tourists . However, the approach to the Restaurant is rather narrow making it difficult for  vehicles to navigate if they confront each other in opposite directions .

For dinner, we preferred to go to in the same area  to Roadside Bistro Restaurant , right at the entrance to it . For meals , plain chapatis/nan  with dal and mixed vegetables/curd were ordered, while the restaurant owner played old  Bollywood songs of 60s and 70s of our choice for our enjoyment .

9 OCTOBER

We departed from  Rishikesh at 9.45 AM  for Mussoorie . On the way we stopped by at Ellora’s Melting Moments, a famous bakery  located on 29-A Rajpur Road, Dehradun .

After relishing  delicious vanilla/pineapple and mango pastries and shopping for some Choorans , we left for Mussoorie  at 1 PM.

SHAHASTRADHARA

Meaning 000s of water streams, Shahastradhara is a delightful place to spend some time at while passing through Dehradun on your way to Mussoorie. You cannot but be enchanted at the sight of water streams flowing from all over , especially among the branches of tall trees. You can notice many travellers with their children having a nice time with children taking a bath in the pond.  There is also a small Guru Dronacharya temple which can be reached by climbing a few steps along the path in one corner of this attraction.

It is said that spring waters at Sahastradhara have a high sulphur content. By taking a bath in these waters, skin diseases can be cured.

We reached Mussoorie at 4.30 PM  after covering a distance of approx. 25 kms . driving along narrow winding roads up the hills .

MUSSOORIE

Mussoorie is located at an altitude of  2006 m. Established in the Himalaya foothills by a British Army officer in 1820, the “Queen of the Hills” stands above the rest with its deep woods, favourable climate and Doon Valley views. Its name is derived from the berry-covered Mansur shrub found in abundance around this trekker-friendly area. Vestiges of its colonial past are still reflected in the architecture of several structures in the city.

Checked in at :

Mahindra Club Resorts , Avalon , Rockcliff Estate , Guncliff , Mussoorie 248179.  Phone : 0135-2632972/3. On arrival at the Library Point , the vehicle has to be parked there only  ( Rs 200/ day ) as movement  of  vehicles inside the Mall Road is not permitted . You have to either engage a porter [ Rs 100 ] or a hand pulled rickshaw [ Rs 50 per rickshaw] to take your suitcases upto the Resort pick up point, some 300 m. away on the Mall Road . A SUV waiting at the pick up point takes you up the hill to the Resort .

The Resort is located in a big complex with rooms and apartments at  different levels , each level having a different colour code. The rooms are very well furnished , complete with tea/coffee maker, heating arrangements and full complement of toiletries and offer amazing views of Doon valley. The Panorama restauurant located at the lobby level serves different kinds of delectable cuisine to satisfy all tastes .

10 OCTOBER

Cloud’s End

Cloud’s End is situated at a distance of around 6 km from the west of the Library.  The name of the site is derived from its location, lying on one of the ends of Mussoorie. The path to reach this place is covered by thick and dense forests. Further, a 2 km path from this place takes tourists to the Benog Wildlife Sanctuary. We can witness variety of species of flora and fauna, while following the path to get to the Cloud’s end .

The site can be reached by travelling through the Hathipaon Road from Happy Valley   . Although the distance is short, the drive can take upto 45 minutes due to a narrow and rough approach road which can cause inconvenience to the visitors .

Kempty Falls

Located on the way between Dehradun-Mussoorie road, Kempty Falls is a beautiful location to take a dip in the water falling from an altitude of 4 metres . It is a perfect place to take a short swim or fish.

Kempty Falls, one of the most renowned waterfalls in Uttarakhand, offers a mesmerizing panoramic view as the water falls from a great height. The pond formed at the bottom of the falls make an excellent spot for swimming, fishing, and bathing. Quite famous among the tourists as a picnic spot, this perennial waterfall is crowded almost throughout the year.  There is also a cable car ride at the Kempty Falls sight seeing point . However, as advised by a woman selling bhuttas by the roadside, instead of going down, we walked  100 metres ahead and climbed several steps from the left side of the road under repairs .

Company Bagh

Company Bagh situated in the Happy Valley area of this beautiful town, is located at 3 kms from the Library point .

The Garden houses a large variety of flora and birds, making it popular among nature lovers. Housing 800 different species of flowers, the garden has a nursery, which offers a wide range of saplings for sale.

Some of the popular flowers present in the Garden include Dahlias, Begonia, Pansy , Roses and Petunia.  There is also a Museum containing wax statues of several leaders  and celebrities .  Apart from this, the garden also houses a huge China tree, which offers shade to tourists visiting the garden. Creating a replica of colonial gardens, the place has a lush green carpet of lawns and a fountain rwhich is located in its centre and waterfalls at the back of it . Tourists can enjoy boating in an artificial lake, which has been  recently constructed within the Gardens . A charge of Rs 19 is payable for admission into the Company Bagh .

After completing our visit to  Company Bagh, we shopped for woollen shawls at one of the shops located at the entrance to it .

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Gun Hill

It  is one of the popular tourist attractions of Mussoorie, possessing historical significance dating back to pre-independence. It is believed that a canon was fired from the place at a fixed time on every afternoon. This firing at the hill provided an idea of time to the local residents of the destination and they adjusted their watches accordingly.

Situated at a height of 40 metres above The Mall, the location presently houses a water reservoir of the destination. Tourists can witness snow capped peaks of Himalayas and The Mall on either side of the place. [ cable car ride from Jhulaghar @ Rs 100/pax . ] . As it is very  close to Club  Mahindra Resorts , we viewed it from the top of the Resort itself .

 The Mall

The Mall is a long stretch of road between Picture Palace and The Library. Almost all the shops and restaurants are lined up on this road. You can eat different kinds  of food  in several  restaurants all along the Mall Road and shop for gifts and souvenirs from  one of the many shops located all along .

The Mall  is a delight to shop and there is a Tibetan market as well in it .  You can see the city of Dehradun from The Mall and there are benches all along the road where you can sit and enjoy the view.

We departed from Mussoorie at 3.30 PM , stopping by at Dhanaulti for an  hour25 kms from  Mussoorie. Dhanaulti is a land of hidden treasures. With very few travellers aware of the degree of beauty, the raw trails are almost untouched. Trek, pony rides along fruit orchards and water streams appearing from nowhere keep the travellers   busy .

Surkanda Devi temple at Dhanaulti  is dedicated to Goddess Sati . The Temple is perched at an exhilarating altitude of 3030 m above the sea level. Though the distance of the temple is just about 1.8 kms from the road, the climb is very stiff and tiresome given the incline. Ponies @ Rs 800 per one way trip are required to be engaged which take 30 minutes to get to the temple from where one can have a 360 degree view of the mountain ranges . Due to shortage of time at our disposal , we decided to consider visiting the temple on our return journey .

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A short break at Dhanaulti , relishing freshly prepared hot maggi noodles mixed with several vegetables and a mango based drink at this wayside eating joint  helped us in relaxing for a while in a very pleasant weather . 

KANATAL

A few decades ago, there used to be a lake by the name of Kanatal, now it dried up and hence the name, Kanatal, literally meaning ,”one eyed lake” in Hindi . To make it memorable, the place was named Kanatal . 40 kms from Mussoorie .

Checked in at :

Mahindra Club Resort Kanatal : 11 Km Stone, Chamba Mussoorie Road P.O. Kanatal . Phone : 8393011177 / 8393011166

Nestled amid Shivalik ranges and lush green pine forests, Club Mahindra Kanatal offers well-appointed rooms with free wired internet at all public areas with the ” Green Terasse” restaurant on the lobby level serving sumptuous meals . The staff is very courteous and efficient and check in  process took no time at all .

We soaked in the experience of getting close with the mountain wilderness by staying at this Resort which is perched on the slope of hills with spellbinding views of Everest from the balcony of the room.

11 OCTOBER

There is  a trail just opposite  to Mahindra Club Resort and it is understood that it  takes about 45 minutes to reach the end of the trail from where one can get a nice  view of the majestic mountains. There is an entry fee of Rs 100 here , however, due to shortage of time, we could not enter this trail.

Checked out from the Resort at 9.45 AM  to proceed to Dehradun . Stopped by for meals at the 4-storey Pacific Mall  on Rajpur Road which is very elegant and houses several shops selling branded goods . For ourselves,  we ordered Makki Ki Roti+ Sarson ka Saag and Lachha Parantha/Amritsari Nan with Dal Makhni/Raita and rice , downed with Kesar Lassi at the Food Court on the 3rd floor .

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At the Three Pyramids Restaurant right opp: Pacific Mall where we had a hot cuppa Coffee before proceeding to the Railway Station .

Boarded the Shatabdi Express train [ No 12018 ]  from Dehradun Railway Station at 5 PM  which arrived at New Delhi Railway Station at 11.20 PM , marking the end of an exciting/ fun filled 6-day travel to the State of Uttarakhand in the pleasant company of Mr Agoston Lorincz. I hope to see him again in not too distant a future .

 

 

 

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2 Comments
  1. So Long… Uttarakhand bhi itna bada nahi hoga!!

  2. In fact, kafi bada hai . Need at least 10 days to see a good part of it .

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