Gurez Valley: Gateway To The Forgotten Dardistan


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We stood at the highest point of Khandyaal. With Habba Khatoon standing tall as mighty guardian in backdrop and river Kishenganga outlining the LOC, the entire valley looked breathtakingly beautiful surrounded by the thicket of poplars and pine. I was in Gurez Valley, the gateway to forgotten Dardistan.

Far away, on top of the farthest mountain, I could see an army check post. I couldn’t help but kept gazing in that direction. “That’s Pakistan” said Saleem, who accompanied me on my trek to a hidden waterfall that only the locals knew of.

The Kishangange runs through the valley

123 kilometers north of Srinagar, lies Gurez, the ancient land of Dard-Shina tribe and, undoubtedly the most beautiful part of Kashmir Valley. I was on my maiden trip to Kashmir and, this, is my version of Kashmir.

THE JOURNEY – REACHING GUREZ

Wanpora Village in Gurez Valley

I had landed into Srinagar late evening and was scheduled to leave for Gurez the next morning. My homestay owner in Srinagar had mentioned about an encounter between the army and ultras in Bandipora (transit point between Srinagar and Gurez) two days before my arrival and that, chances of me witnessing unfortunate situations in Bandipora were over the odds. He also assured me that I would still be safe.

How I fared during my transit from Bandipora to Gurez is a story for another time. Just that, I did manage to keep my calm when deep down I was shit scared. For now, let me not digress.

The 6-hour journey from Srinagar to Gurez is two-fold. Srinagar to Bandipora (1.5hrs) and Bandipora to Gurez (4.5hrs). There are no direct cabs (shared) from Srinagar to Gurez. You get shared cabs to Bandipora from Batmaloo in Srinagar (cost- INR 120). From Bandipora, the shared cabs to Gurez (to both Dawar and Bagtore) are aplenty (cost- INR 330).

In case you are a person who is not very keen on traveling by public transport, you may hire a direct cab from Srinagar to Gurez, which would cost you around INR 4000 one way. The rates are pretty much fixed by the tourism office and hence, it leaves very little room for negotiation there.

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ESSENTIALS AND PERMITS

A Shina woman returning from potato farm

Because of its heavily guarded status and being located on the LOC, every outsider (read tourist) has to enter his/her details at every army, BSF and JKP checkpoint soon after one crosses Razdaan pass.

For Indian nationals, there aren’t any special permits required to enter Gurez however, one needs to carry national identity cards (PAN Cards do not count) which, you need to show whenever asked for.

Foreign nationals need to acquire permits from the District Commissioner’s office in Bandipora. 

Gurez, as a tehsil, stretches from Tulail in upper Gurez valley till Bagtore-Tarbal in lower Gurez valley. Gurez is the tehsil headquarters.

Whereas entering Bagtore- Tarbal is easy, every tourist needs an additional permit to enter Tulail. Getting a permit for Tulail is a no-fuss procedure. All you need to do is, carry a copy of your identity card along with the original to the local police station in Gurez. The officer-in-charge will give you a written permit and you are ready to go.

HABBA KHATOON – THE PEAK AND THE POETESS

Habba Khatoon at dawn

What Taj Mahal is to Agra, the perfect pyramidal peak of Habba Khatoon is to Gurez. A formidable landmark named after the eponymous peasant-queen-poetess, who is often referred to as “Nightingale of Kashmir”.

Legend has it that her husband, Yusuf Shah Chak, the king of Kashmir was tricked and captured by Mughal emperor Akbar so that the latter could acquire and add Kashmir Valley to his growing empire. Unable to cope with the tragedy, Habba Khatoon wandered near the peak looking for her beloved husband while singing songs of lost love. She finally hid away from the outside world at a place near Jhelum and died of grief. There are quite a few versions of the legend though, as very little of the exact story is documented.

The water from the spring that gushes out from the base of Habba Khatoon peak just outside of Achoora village is said to be the sweetest besides having medicinal properties. The locals call the opening of the spring “Chashma”. “You cannot finish even one glass full of water from the spring. It is bone chilling” said Majeed bhai, who accompanied me and also showed me around.

I don’t know about taste and how intensely cold the water was, but there sure was a nip in the air while we stood by the base of Habba Khatoon, watching the sun set.

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DAWAR – THE CITY CENTRE

The first sight of Kishanganga as the cab pulls over into Gurez

As my cab took the right turn from Kanzalwan to enter Gurez, I breathed a sigh of relief for having left Bandipora way back. My fellow passengers in the cab were native Gurezis, who, like many others, had shifted their base to either Bandipora or other Kashmiri towns in search of better lives. They kept sharing anecdotes about each and every place we passed by.

The perfect teal blue water of Kishanganga, the old world charm of quaint villages and warmth of Gurezis (as the locals of Gurez are referred) would simply sweep your heart away. Most of the action happens around Dawar, which is the city center in entire Gurez. In rest of the surrounding villages, it is business as usual for their residents.

CRICKET IS GOD – HERE TOO!

Tulail has retained the authenticity of Dard culture to much extent. A typical log house in Sheikhpora village in Tulail Valley

My visit to Gurez coincided with time while the 2018 Asia Cup was being played. People wrapped up their work early and assembled in small restaurants in Dawar to watch teams play. The cricket fervor managed to grip everyone here too. You can see people’s loyalties divided between India and Pakistan when respective teams of the arch-rival nations are out to play each other on the field.

Only that, the TV screens remain intact by the end of the game and everyone moves on with their mundane lives without giving much weight to a game over human relationships.

LINE OF CONTROL – UP AND CLOSE

One of the houses at the edge of LOC in Chorwan village

How close can you imagine getting close to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK)? Well, so close that you can even see people on the other side of the border carrying out their regular chores.

Even after being the most heavily militarized zone of the world, Gurez has an assured certainty and calmness in its demeanor compared to most parts of Kashmir that are rather conflict-ridden. The LOC that runs through this sector of Kashmir retains peace throughout, except for a rarest of a rare case of an infiltration attempt. Chorwan in Gurez, Tarbal in lower Gurez valley and Chakwali in upper Gurez valley which is also known as Tulail valley are last villages in respective zones that form the Line of Actual Control (LAC). None of the civilians are allowed to step beyond these villages.

17 kilometers beyond Chakwali is the famous Kabul Gali, the road that led to ancient silk route in Gilgit- Baltistan, which, in the present day, is a part of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir or Azad Kashmir, as they call it.

I wasn’t allowed to go towards Tarbal the day I had been to Bagtore due to some search operations being carried out by the army and BSF. The camp at Chorwan was peaceful in comparison to Tarbal. The army officials are very helpful so, do not hesitate to talk to them should there be any need.

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OH FISH! – THE TROUT

The Rainbow Trout

The 150 km long Kishnganga river that runs through Gurez is famous for world-class trout. Especially, rainbow trout. I visited the only fishery of Gurez just outside Khandyal village. They had trouts of every size and it was an amazing thing to watch them.

You can buy trout from here and request the cook at your guest house to have it prepared.

TULAIL – BEAUTY BEYOND WORDS AND PICTURES

The landscape turns barren as you proceed into Tulail. Sheikhpora village in Tulail Valley

“Aap Tulail zaroor jaana. Aapka waha se waapas aane ka mann nahi karega” (You have to go to Tulail. You won’t feel like returning back from there) were the suggestions from all fellow travelers in the cab to Gurez.

As they say, the best has to be kept for the last. What you see with your naked eyes is far more mesmerizing than what’s captured through camera lenses.

Tulail valley is, in the literal sense the lost land. It doesn’t even show up on Google map. I was bowled over by the beautiful landscape and villages with log houses that line the river. The residents of Tulail have managed to retain their ancient Dard culture and traditions. Almost everyone still speaks in native Shina language which, is not much spoken in Gurez. Whereas Gurez and Bagtore have greener pastures, Tulail, on the other hand, is about barren peaks and few green pastures, pretty much similar to Ladakh.

You should extend your Tulail trip till Chakwali, the last village near LOC. I kept looking vacantly at the razor wire fence that marked the line of control while my cab continued switchbacking on the rugged roads from Tulail to Gurez. How the Dards and army help one another in their survivals sets a perfect example of a sustainable symbiotic relationship.

What seems intriguing for visitors like us, is business as usual for the residents, who live on the edge of uncertainties. And, yes! I sincerely did not feel like coming back from Tulail. 

Also, I ended up staying in Gurez for 8 days instead of 4 days that I had planned earlier. More about life in Gurez Valley coming up in next post.

 

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Some Bewitching Range Treks In Sahyadris During Monsoon

The first few things that come to the urban mind when one mentions monsoon is waterlogged roads, slush, puddles, and of course, greenery.

But if you are a trekker and you stay around Mumbai and Pune, monsoon means gearing up with plans for exploring newer trails every weekend. Trekking in Sahyadris during monsoon has become best weekend getaways for me for the past 4 years.

Range treks are the best way to venture out on the search for newer trails this monsoon during the upcoming extended weekends if adventure is your forte. Sahyadris offer the best topography for trekkers along with the historical significance of each hill fort and trade route. Not to mention the rich flora and fauna of the region that would leave you bewitched.

What are range treks?

Sunrise from Ratangad

Range treks are the treks wherein you cover a particular part of a mountain range within the span of 2 – 10 days. The number of days is in proportion to the distance that needs to be covered and keeping in mind the difficulty level of the terrain. All range treks demand high endurance levels since you need to trek for anywhere between 5 – 13 hours per day during these treks. Hence, range treks are only recommended for people with good endurance levels.

Listing down 5 highly recommended range treks that you should go for this monsoon. I am sure these treks in Sahyadris will make your love for mountains more strong. The routes are given from Mumbai.

 

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Tung To Sarasgad via Savashini Ghat

Duration – 3 days | Difficulty Level – Moderate | Endurance Level – High | Distance covered – 40- 50 Km

Route: Mumbai- Lonavala- Tung Fort- Korigad- Tailbaila- Savashini ghat- Sudhagad- Sarasgad- Pali- Karjat- Mumbai

View from Savashini Ghat

One of the most popular range treks in Sahyadris with best scenic views to offer while you move through the changing landscapes and beautiful valleys that overlook the city.

The trek starts from Tungwadi, near Lonavala, which is the base village of Tung fort. Day 1 of the trek is relatively easy as you traverse from Tung fort towards Korigad via Peth, Shahapur. The entire hike takes around 5- 6 hours to be completed till you reach Tailbaila village.

Day 2 demands the highest endurance levels during this trek right from the start. An arduous hike of 6- 7 hours takes you to top of Sudhagad via Mahadarwaja route after traversing through Savashini ghat. You spend the night on top of Sudhagad fort.

The experience of traversing through Savashini ghat is one of its kind with breathtaking views of Tailbaila, Sudhagad and Navghar dam.

Tung to Sarasgad – Traverse

Last day involves an easy descend from Sudhagad to Thakurwadi via ladder route and reach Pali (base village of Sarasgad). The distance from Thakurwadi to Pali is covered using local transport. A hike of 1 hour leads you to the top of Sarasgad. You may wish to explore the Ganesh temple in Pali before the start of the trek. Spend some time exploring the fort and descend.

Cost of the trek: INR 2,500- 3,000/-

 

Siddhagad To Bhimashankar

Duration – 2 days | Difficulty Level – Beginner to Moderate | Endurance – High | Distance covered – 40 Kms

Route: Mumbai- Uchale- Siddhagad machi- Siddhagad Balekilla- Damdamia Hill- Bhattiche Raan- Bhimashankar- Khandas- Karjat- Mumbai

Siddhagad to Bhimashankar

The entire range trek from Siddhagad to Bhimashankar is within the Bhimashankar wildlife sanctuary region. This is a moderate trek except that the climb to Siddhagad is a tad bit steep and demands good endurance levels. The trek can be completed in 2 days with Day 1 being strenuous.

Day 1 of the trek takes you from Uchale base village to Siddhagad Balekilla. Descend from Siddhagad Balekilla is followed by climbing the Damdamia hill and crossing Bhattiche Raan (a huge plateau on the sanctuary). The walk from Bhattiche Raan takes you to Kondval and from here you are transferred to Bhimashankar via local transport. You trek for around 10- 11 hours on day 1.

Day 2 is easier on your feet as it includes only descend from Bhimashankar to base village, Khandas. The overall trek for last day is completed within for 3-4 hours. Do not forget to explore the Gupt Bhimashankar when on this trek.

Cost of the trek: INR 1,500- 2,000/-

 

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Ratangad To Harishchandragad

Duration – 3 days | Difficulty Level – Moderate | Endurance – High | Distance Covered – 45 Kms

Route: Mumbai- Samrad- Ratangad (Trimbak darwaja)- Katrabai- Kumshet- Pethechiwadi- Pachnai- Harishchandragad- Khireshwar- Shahad- Mumbai

Rani Mahal- Ratangad Fort

The entire route of this trek is simply mesmerizing and filled with thrills as you get to traverse through valleys, cross mountain pass, almost swim in a river, walk across the paddy fields, witness ancient architecture and if lucky, you may also get to view the “Indravajra” (circular rainbow) from top of Konkankada (Konkan cliff) at Harishchandragad.

Day 1 trek starts from Samrad, the base village of Sandhan valley. You climb to the Sandhan cliff and trek to Ratangad via Trimbak Darwaja (gate) via the Nedhe (a needle hole on a rock). The day 1 is easy and the trek can be completed in 3 hours. You stay put on top of Ratangad fort for rest of the night.

Day 2 is most arduous as you start descending from Ratangad via Ganesh darwaja early morning, cross the Katrabai mountain pass, head towards Kumshet for lunch and also need to cross the Mula river. The water currents in the river are strong during heavy showers and you might see yourself crossing the river with the help of ropes and by making a human chain. This part of the trek is most thrilling.

After you cross the Mula river, walk towards Pethechiwadi. You are transported to Pachnai (base village for Harishchandragad) by local transport.

So, you trek for close to 8 hours on day 2.

Harishchandragad

The last day starts early morning with ascending towards Harishchandragad via Pachnai. The ascend via Pachnai is the easiest route to trek to Harishchandragad and can be completed in 1 ½ to 2 hours. Explore the Shiva temple on top which is also considered to be an 11th-century architectural gem, built as per Hemadpanthi architectural style. Pay a visit to the 5 ft tall Shivalinga that’s submerged under water inside the Kedareshwar cave and is supported by a single pillar since rest 3 pillars have already broken.

Do not miss exploring Konkankada and you might just be lucky to have a glimpse of “Indravajra” (the circular rainbow- the Brocken Spectre phenomenon). You descend either via Khireshwar or Pachnai as per the convenience of the group.

Cost of the trek: INR 2,000- 3,000/-

 

Lonavala to Bhimashankar (Lo-Bhi)

Duration – 2 days | Difficulty Level – High | Endurance –High | Distance covered – 75 Kms

Route: Mumbai- Lonavala- Valvand- Kusur- Talpewadi- Padarwadi- Bhimashankar- Khandas- Karjat- Mumbai

Wild Flowers on Lo-Bhi Route

The trek from Lonavala to Bhimashankar is actually on an ancient trade route that passes through steep falls of Konkan valley, dense meadows and flower beds, huge plateaus, numerous streams, waterfalls and trails where you can get lost if taken a wrong turn. One of the most arduous and difficult range treks, but also one of the most beautiful trails you may experience while trekking in the Sahyadris.

Day 1 is the most arduous as you trek for 13 long hours starting from Lonavala to Valvand village bypassing Kondeshwar and reach Kusur plateau. The Kusur plateau is a huge plateau and is the highest point on this route. It is here on this plateau, that one tends to get lost since there are several trails but not one trail is marked. So, one wrong turn and you lose hours in figuring out the right path. The first-day trek ends in Padarwadi village.

Day 2 takes you through lush green fields of Padarwadi to Bhimashankar. The Bhimashankar wildlife sanctuary is a marvel on its own during monsoon due to the unparalleled beauty that surrounds. It takes around 5- 6 hours to complete the trek. You may either choose to return from Bhimashankar by local transport or descend by foot, which requires an additional trek of 3- 4 hours.

Cost of the trek: INR 1,500- 2,500/-

 

Naneghat To Bhimashankar

Duration – 4 days | Difficulty Level –High | Endurance –High | Distance covered – 95 Kms

Route: Mumbai- Mumbai- Vaishakhare- Naneghat- Jivdhan- Ghatghar- Amboli- Dhakoba- Durg fort- Durgwadi- Ahupe ghat- Bhimashankar- Khandas- Karjat- Mumbai

Naneghat

This is one of the most challenging among range treks in Sahyadris due to the tough terrains that you need to trek through. This trek takes you through most interior parts of Sahyadris while you traverse through trade routes, mountain passes, and forts, covering a distance of 95 Kms within a span of 4 days.

Day 1 is a strenuous trek for 13 long hours. You see yourself trekking from Vaishakhare, base village of Naneghat to Amboli. Naneghat is a mountain pass that served as an old trade route between Kalyan and Junnar during the Satvahana reign (250 BCE). The trail that leads to Naneghat is one of the best trails that you may experience especially during monsoon.

Trekking to Jivdhan fort from Naneghat is followed by traversing towards Amboli sums up your day 1.

The white carpet

Day 2 takes you to Dhakoba fort from Amboli. It is from this fort that you get a 360-degree view of the Malshej region wherein you can spot Naneghat, Ahupe ghat, Durg fort and Gorakhgad fort and a spectacular view of vertical cliffs of Konkan area. On this day, you cover 2 forts, Dhakoba and Durg. The trek from Amboli to Durgwadi, the base village of Durg fort, is completed in 8 hours.

The third-day trek takes you to Bhimashankar via Ahupe ghat. Day 3 can be completed in 8 hours as you reach Bhimashankar by dinner time.

The last day is much easier since it includes descending from Bhimashankar via Ganesh ghat and can be completed in 3- 4 hours.

Cost of the trek: INR 3,300/-

 

Important things to carry:

Good quality trekking shoes (Most recommended for Sahyadri trekking- Action trekking shoes)

Good quality haversack with proper shoulder and back support

Poncho / Raincoat / Windcheater

Hydra-bag / Water bottles

Energy bars/chocolates / chikkis (a sweet made of jaggery and groundnuts), Glucose, Enerzyl powder

Head torches with extra batteries

Powerbanks

 

P. S – Trekking is a disciplined activity. All the above-mentioned treks must be done under the guidance of experienced trek leads.
P. P. S – This article was originally written for and published in Tripoto

Raghurajpur – The Village That Narrates Stories Through Art

On the southern banks of river Bhargavi, around 20 mins driving distance from the holy city of Lord Jagannath in Odisha, lies tiny and quiet village of “Chitrakars” (artists). The art form that these artists master in, is the uncommon form named “Pattachitra” where “Patta” means cloth/canvas in Sanskrit and “Chitra” means painting. 

I am in Raghurajpur, the heritage village in Puri district of Odisha in India.

In the year 2000, Raghurajpur was chosen to be Odisha’s first heritage village and every household in the village has minimum 2 artists. The paintings depict stories and themes from Hindu mythologies, mostly Ramayana and Mahabharata. The canvases are prepared from layers of cotton cloth, with gums and coatings made out of natural ingredients. The paintings are done on these cotton canvases in addition to tussar silk, coconut shells, beetle nuts and palm leaves.

Paintings on beetle nuts

As I enter the village, the artists invite to see their work and no, it’s not at all about pure business here. The invitations are not for the sole purpose to woo potential customers but also to share their knowledge about the art-form, their faith, and culture. I am mesmerized by the intrinsic and colorful murals on the outer walls of each house. Not only the walls, the paintings also make way to the doors and windows. The village houses around 100 families with a minimum of 2 artists in each family. Overall, there are 300 artists in Raghurajpur.

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A painting depicting Krishna immersed in “Raas-Leela”

I walk my way through the narrow lane that is lined by houses on its either sides. There is a small school at the end of the village. My guide directs me to the last house near the village and an artist comes out to greet us.

He introduces himself as Bhaskar Mahapatra. The paintings and handicrafts displayed in his living room speak volumes about his work. On asking, he mentions that he has been painting for more than 30 years now and has trained his wives and 2 daughters too. As I look across the room, something gold seizes my attention- a fresh painting on a black tussar silk cloth kept for drying. The painting is of Durga killing the demon Mahisasura. I kept staring at the beautiful artwork.

As I continue talking to Bhaskar, I come to know that he has been a national award winner for his painting named “Tree of life” and the said painting was gifted by Mr. Prime Minister, Narendra Modi to the French President.

Bhaskar introduces me to his wife and also shows work done by his daughters. The paintings done on palm leaves are absolutely stunning. He also shows me his painting tools and brushes. The special brush prepared from mouse hair, the iron pin used to make carving on the palm leaves are quite impressive.

Ramayan – On Palm Leaf

During early years, only men and young boys worked on the paintings and women were only used to prepare the canvases. However; as time went by, even women of the family started learning and indulging in making art pieces. Children start learning the craft from a very young age. A single pattachitra work takes around 5- 15 days to be completed fully depending on the intricacy of the work. Some pieces may take many months to be completed. Bhaskar was once commissioned a work that took 3 years to be completed. Such is the detailing that goes into the artwork.

The cost of the artworks start from INR 20 and can elevate to any level depending on the detailing and intricacy required.

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A mix of powder paints and acrylic paints goes into making huge canvases

I was tempted to buy some handicrafts as souvenirs for friends and family. I ended up buying 20 bookmarks made out of palm leaves for my entire clan. Each bookmark was priced at INR 30.

Pattachitra is an art- form, roots of which can be traced back to 12th century AD. The artisans of Raghurajpur have been successfully keeping the art alive along with matching their pace with ever-changing technologies too.

How to reach?

Raghurajpur is located off Puri Bhubaneshwar highway, on NH-316, near Chandanpur, 14 km from Puri. Can be reached by road both from Puri and Bhubaneshwar. Take a right turn from Chandanpur market and drive straight for 1.5 Kms.

10 Avatars of Vishnu


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Spiti Valley- 10 Awesome Experiences In The Magical Cold Desert


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“Surely the gods must live here, this is no place for men” – Rudyard Kipling had said this about Spiti years ago. “And, his words were an absolute truth” is what I mumble to myself while the rickety bus makes way along the non-existent roads of this cold desert.

As you enter Spiti, the road becomes one of the most treacherous ones. This is how Spiti would welcome you- being harsh and cold.

Spiti may not be an unknown territory anymore, however, it will remain an enigma till the end of time due to the sheer liveliness in its simplicity even after remaining disconnected to the outside world for the most part of the year. 

I am listing experiences that will not let you want to return to the madness and pollution of your city.

Spot a snow leopard at Pin Valley Reserve

Enroute Pin Valley

An unexpected green belt within the otherwise desolate lands, Pin Valley Reserve is the dwelling place of some arresting animals like Siberian Ibex, Blue Sheep, and Snow Leopard. The Snow Leopards are a reclusive species and can seldom be sighted. You have to be lucky and patient enough to wait for their sight though. A visit during summers gives you chance to spot many rare birds like the golden eagle, snowcocks, chukors, ravens and other species of Himalayan birds.

You may like to volunteer with the Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) and Snow Leopard Trust and participate in programs dedicated towards conservation of snow leopards in Spiti.

Trek to Chandrataal and witness a perfect mirror-reflection of Lahaul valley

Chandrataal- Picture Credit- Vikram Singh

The most enchanting place to be at, after a tiring yet wonderful trek. A night camping under million stars is something you would definitely not want to miss when you are at Chandrataal. Local food at Chacha Chachi Chandra Dhaba nearby is a must.

The owners of the dhaba are warm and welcoming. They also provide tents for accommodation by the Chandrataal lake.

Read More: Do’s And Dont’s Of Chadar Trek And Why One Should Go For It?

Drive through the historic bridge between Kibber and Chicham

Chicham Village

The only fastest way to reach Chicham from Kibber until late 2016 was a ropeway built across the 400 feet Parilungbi gorge. This ropeway was built in order to avoid the 2- 3 hours’ trek to reach Chicham. Crossing the gorge on this ropeway was equally breathtaking and daunting.

Last year, Spiti bid goodbye to the ropeway to welcome a 120-meter long bridge, construction of which was long pending. This is a boon for the villagers, who had to go through a lot of hardships to commute to and fro Kibber. The bridge was opened for vehicular traffic in August 2017.

Learn Tibetan history and culture in the monasteries of Spiti

Ki Monastery- Picture Credit- Amrita Chatterjee

When in Spiti, you have to live in a monastery, be it for a day. The experience of a monastic life can only be up close when you live among the monks.

Hike up to the Ki Monastery that sits on a hilltop. Visit the monastery complex of Tabo that houses 9 shrines. This complex is also called “Ajanta of the Himalayas” due to old frescos and murals on its walls. Please also make note that photography is prohibited in Tabo monastery.

The monasteries of Komic and Dhankar are also a great place to be, however; females aren’t allowed inside the prayer hall of these two monasteries during prayer hours. The knowledge about this practice made me pretty upset though. 

An interaction with the lamas of these monasteries will reveal a lot about the Tibetan culture, rituals, their holy scriptures and the importance of their disciplined life. It is also must that the second son of every family goes for monastic studies.

The confluence of the Pin and Spiti rivers from top of Dhankar gompa is a sight to revere and I would recommend to not miss this.

Visit the mummy of Gue, a testament to sacrifice

The Temple of Gue

Another incredible thing to witness about legends of Spiti is visiting the mummy in Gue village. The mummy is believed to be of lama Sangha Tenzing and dates to be around 600 years old. Legend has it that the lama had given up his life to save his village from scorpion infestation.

The mummy was excavated from an old tomb after an earthquake in 1975 and is well preserved inside a temple in Gue.

Feel elated while you ride to world’s highest motorable village

Komic

Besides many secluded villages perched at foothills of its barren mountains, Spiti also boasts of inhabiting world’s highest motorable village- Komic, situated at a towering altitude of around 15,027 feet above sea level. The monastery of Komic is 500 years old and hills surrounding Komic are home to ancient fossils.

Though the road to the village is motorable, a hike to Komic will make you cherish the beauty of changing landscapes.

Get overwhelmed by the commendable hospitality of the Spitians

Relish the home-made Thukpa

The hospitality of Spitians is unmatched and incomparable. Hitchhike with the locals, stay in their homestays, cook local food, have pancakes for breakfast, accompany their kids on the discovery of new trekking routes and learn to identify fossils.

The people in Spiti are incredible hosts and guides too. They take you in as their own and that sense belongingness is phenomenal. Happiness radiates through the hard lines of faces that toil in the harsh environment.

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Stargaze from the Tabo helipad and have a night to remember

The road to self-discovery

When in Tabo, it becomes an absolute necessity to sit under the stark sky and witness constellations and galaxies from the helipad. You will always want to come back to Spiti to experience the same. Leave all your worries behind and bask in the tranquility of the valley.

Send love from the world’s highest post office

World’s highest post-office at Hikkim

Spiti has the honor of being home to world’s highest post office in Hikkim and highest petrol station at Kaza. Keeping such operations run smoothly at such high altitude is really commendable.

Do make sure to send yourself and close ones postcards from the world’s highest post office.

Visit the untouched villages of Spiti and connect with the disconnected

An unexplored village of Spiti

Spiti has many villages that are yet to be explored. The most recommended way to reach these villages is to either hitchhike or trek. Some of the villages that would take your breath away are- Tashi Delek, Rama, Sai Chilling, Mudd, Gete, Lingti, Chhatru, and Hane.

Mudd is located within the Pin valley reserve and you may stay back at this village while on your way back from Pin valley.

The Lord overlooks

Been to Spiti? What were your unique experiences?
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Nasir Hussain – The unsung hero behind Yaadon Ki Baarat, Teesri Manzil, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak and many more


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Zee Classic presents the ‘Nasir Hussain Film Festival’ from 7th January, every Sunday at 12 noon

Best known for his evergreen movies, Teesri Manzil, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak and Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, Nasir Hussain was amongst those few in the industry who seldom gave a flop. Father to director and producer Mansoor Khan, uncle to the perfectionist Aamir Khan, Nasir Hussain was a writer, producer and director par excellence. Commemorating his contribution to Indian Cinema, Zee Classic, with its proposition Woh Zamana Kare Deewana, has curated over a month-long festival titled ‘Nasir Hussain Film Festival’. Starting 7th January, the festival will showcase his greatest hits including Yaadon Ki Baarat, Hum Kisise Kam Naheen, Teesri Manzil, Zamaana Ko Dikhana Hai, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak and Manzil Manzil, every Sunday at 12 noon.

Born in 1926 to a conservative family, Nasir Hussain had a keen interest in movies and theatrical works. However, his father who was a history teacher was apprehensive of Nasir Hussain’s passion but that did not deter him from doing what he loved the most. When he moved to Lucknow to pursue his BA, he actively began writing short plays for radio and at times even played minor roles. Film producer Sashadhar Mukherjee impressed by Nasir Hussain’s writing credentials hired him for his Filmistan studios in 1948 and there was no looking back for Nasir Hussain.  The same producer inspired Nasir Hussain to start directing and his first movie was Tumsa Nahin Dekha with Shammi Kapoor in 1957.

An important anecdote from his days at Filmistan is that when Hussain decided to direct his debut film Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957), he wanted Dev Anand to play the leading role. But since Dev Sahab turned down the role, Sashadhar Mukherjee wanted him to take Shammi Kapoor. Hussain was sceptical about this suggestion. Shammi Kapoor himself was considering quitting films when Tumsa Nahin Dekha was offered to him. But as luck turned out, Tumsa Nahin Dekha clicked in a big way at the box office and there was no looking back for both Hussain and Shammi Kapoor.

Zee Classic brings the best of Nasir Hussain who is often touted as the man of firsts. Nasir Hussain created the first Bollywood Masala film with Teesri Manzil in 1966 and introduced musical romance with Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak. Writer Salim Khan who contributed to the movie Teesri Manzil said, “Nasir Hussain was the individual who gave romantic heroes a comic twist.”

Nasir Hussain always maintained that it was more interesting to show the process of the hero and heroine falling in love run through the film rather than have the hero and heroine in love and that is what makes his films special. His films made the process of boy wooing girl and winning her over a most enjoyable affair.

With such a strong element of romance in his films it is but natural that his films were known for their superb music. Each and every composer did some of their best work for him be it OP Nayyar (Tumsa Nahin Dekha, Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon), Shankar-Jaikishen (Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai), Usha Khanna (Dil Deke Dekho) and of course RD Burman who did all of Hussain’s films following Teesri Manzil (1966). In fact The Nasir Hussain-RD Burman-Majrooh Sultanpuri team created musical history together through Teesri Manzil, Baharon ke Sapne, Pyar ka Mausam, Caravan, Yaadon Ki Baarat, Hum Kisise Kum Naheen and Zamane Ko Dikhana Hai.

For all the music lovers, you may recognise Nasir Hussain better, for he is the one whose songs are most remembered. Still guessing?  O Haseena Zulfonwali, O Mere Sona Re, Chura liya hai tumne jo dil ko if not the original, the remixes will ring a bell. Adding to this list are, ‘Aye Mere Husafar’ or ‘Papa Kehte Hain’!

His son Mansoor Khan took over the reins and Hussain continued to write for Mansoor’s films like Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988) and Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander (1992). Among his firsts is also the cult movie Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar which highlighted the issues of competition, failure in love and a strong desire to fit in, that every teenager faces even today.

To entertain viewers with unheard stories of Nasir Hussian and enhance their movie-viewing experience, Zee Classic has also curated special features revolving around the life of the legendary filmmaker. It includes views of stalwarts of Indian cinema like Salim Khan, Javed Akhtar, Juhi Chawla, Ayesha Jhulka, Prem Chopra, Dalip Tahil, and Lalit Pandit amongst others. These special features along with additional exclusive interviews will be showcased during the telecast of movies on Zee Classic.

‘Nasir Hussain Film Festival’  Date Time
Yaadon Ki Baarat 07-Jan 12 noon
Hum Kisise Kum Naheen 14-Jan 12 noon
Teesri Manzil 21-Jan 12 noon
Zamane Ko Dikhana Hai 28-Jan 12 noon
Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak 04-Feb 12 noon
Manzil Manzil  11-Feb 12 noon

 

Watch ‘Nasir Hussain Film Festival’ starting 7th January, every Sunday at 12 noon only on Zee Classic