Friday, 13 July 2007
We assembled at the hotel dinning room with empty water bottles and equally empty stomachs. A brand new day and a brand new beginning. The host served us omelettes and parathas and we continued to live up to our tradition of exhausting the food supplies of every place that we ate at. We were also served a rare speciality beverage - warm water.
Water bottles and stomachs full, we started our journey back to Leh. The route was scenic and wound around endless mountains, valleys and rivers. North Pullu was a three-hour journey. Onwards, we would be passing Khardung La, the highest motorable pass in the world at 18380 feet above sea level. A day earlier we had clicked pictures there in the snow standing around a board, which clearly mentioned “No Parking”. It sure must be lonely at the top. From Khardung La, we had to reach South Pullu and then a one-hour drive to Leh.
We reached North Pullu at noon. The Army convoy from South Pullu was expected any minute. Needless to say, till it did arrive and pass us, we would have to wait at North Pullu along with other buses and trucks. Quite a few roadside establishments, which partially hid a clear flowing stream, were offering instant noodles for ready consumption. It was almost lunchtime and the singing had made us hungry. Surprisingly our stomachs had enough place to accommodate two to three plates of Maggi Noodles.
The Army Convoy was yet to arrive and it was already 1500hrs. We had passed time eating, drinking water from the stream, chatting up random military personnel and were suddenly out of interesting activities. I decided to play some fast songs in the bus and the group responded by dancing to them inside the bus, the driver responded by switching on the coloured lights in the bus and a large crowd gathered outside the bus wondering why the bus was gyrating like a car in some condom advertisement.
At 1700 hrs. we were informed that the Army Convoy would not be coming as it had snowed heavily near Khardung La and that we could now pass along with the other vehicles at our own convenience. Our bus travelled for less than an hour only to be stopped on the narrow road. The trucks ahead of us in line had stopped for reasons unknown to us. Possibly stuck by excess snow on the road. We had gained considerable height and were thereby drinking lots of water and eating sweets to fight altitude sickness.
By now we had gained expertise in over-eating but the water we drank was beyond our control. The snowfall made it worse and we had to relieve ourselves every few minutes. Soon we were out of water and some of us started showing symptoms of altitude sickness. Headaches, drowsiness, breathlessness, the works. Maybe we’d find some wood to burn outside the bus. The facts of the case were as under:
1) We were around 17000 feet to 18000 feet above sea level;
2) It was snowing;
3) Rocks and three feet of snow covering the road were the only things visible in torch light;
4) It was dark; and
5) The road was hardly 10 feet wide.
So … no firewood.
The bus drivers had a stove and a cylinder. They were glad to be of help and set it up in the aisle. A first batch of two to three guys donned their jackets and gloves and headed out with our empty water bottles to bring snow to melt into water. But the snow solidified in the bottles to form ice. Tiffin boxes were then used to get more snow. The snow was transferred to a partially cleaned steel vessel and heated over the stove. The first batch of warm liquid snow with a lot of impurities and a distinct rubber odour was consumed as fast as a tequila shot.
At the same time we decided to distribute chocolate for to the gang in order to get their energy levels up. The chocolate slab was so cold that it refused to break using bare hands. We had to strike it on the bus handlebars to each time we needed to break a small piece of chocolate. Eating chocolate and drinking water had by now initiated movements in the guts. Nine of us had to go take a dump in the snow. That experience is a separate story in itself.
We were out of water very quickly. I volunteered to go collect snow. I made sure that I collected snow from only the highest places possible to avoid human waste pollution. I was required to make three trips in that cold freezing night. After that I cooked us some water. Somehow it tasted less funny now. Maybe the vessel got cleaner. Maybe the previous team had collected snow from a much lower height. Just drink the damn water and stay alive!
At around 2230 hrs. we heard a knock on our bus door. Apart from the driver’s door and my last seat window, that door was the only opening in the bus that was not jammed due to frost. Two heavily clothed Army personnel informed us that they had come walking from Khardung La and efforts were on to restart the traffic movements. They also informed all guys above 18 years of age to be ready in case the bus needed to be pushed out of the snow. They even sarcastically called Ashwin a ‘Hero’ and asked him to wear some warm clothes and he promptly agreed and did the needful.
The traffic started moving in an hour. Slow but moving. We reached Khardung La at about 0130 hrs. and made it a point to wake up everyone who had wished to visit the souvenir shop on their way back. Our intentions were good but what could we do if the souvenir shop was closed at 0130 hrs. in the morning?
An officer of probably the Ladakh Scouts got into our bus and kept talking into his walkie-talkie. He was to accompany us to South Pullu as our hotel in Leh had alerted the authorities about the delay in our return. The road from Khardung La to South Pullu had absolutely no signs of snow, not even rains. It was much warmer than the other side of the mountain.
After dropping the officer at Sorth Pullu, our driver took us down to Leh by driving straight down the mountain and bypassing the winding road completely. We reached our hotel in Leh at 0400 hrs. Before sleeping the COM informed us that wakeup would be at 0830 hrs. A whole new day would begin in the next four hours.
Water was important. But then another biology lecture had informed me that the human urinary bladder has a maximum capacity of half a litre. And that coupled with the fact that the temperatures were around 10 Degree Celsius, well, we had a problem.
Due to narrow roads and hilly terrain, the bus was anyways on an average doing a 20 kmph. and now these su-su breaks were not exactly helping us increase our average speed. But if you had to go then you HAD to go! There were no two ways about it. But we had to wait at least till the bus was at a convenient place to stop. Also we had to make sure that there were places favourable for the women to go. There were no streetlights or lanes drawn on the roads, so expecting toilet facilities along the road was like expecting a non-coalition government in India.
But as I said before, if you had to go then you HAD to go! So we started improvising. Sleeping bags were used as makeshift cubicles. The women always had to go in groups wherein they took turns holding the sleeping bags and … doing their business. We guys were better off and could all pee at the same time enjoying the scenic views. But by the time the girls returned from their mission we guys would have a newly filled bladder ready to burst again. Timing was of prime importance.
And then again there were some women who I can swear were endowed with enormous bladders. They just never went out to pee. I wasn’t quite sure if it was their anatomy or some other secret procedures they followed, so I made sure that I had water ONLY from my bottle.
We have answered the call of nature at some of the most fascinating places in Ladakh. The view of Pangong Lake was awesome and while I am writing this I suspect I have another theory for it being brackish in nature and devoid of life. I just need to work out the mystery of its shades of blue.
The synchronization experienced during community excrement session while we were stuck in a blizzard at Khardung La is worth a mention. We were covered in woollens and warm attire from head to toe except for our exits and the snowfall made it more adventurous.
The women, I am sure, must have had their own set of adventures while they had to resort to evasive manoeuvres to hide from trucks and other vehicles carrying curious onlookers.
Some places did have toilets but it was rare that they would be usable, forget clean. Some were made such that I think they just installed the pots without any plumbing beneath it. And then there were the Ladakhi style toilets. These toilets are generally just rectangular cavities in the ground with at least 10 to 20 feet of empty space below them. Ladakh is devoid of fertile soil and night soil collected over a year is used to fertilise the fields. I did not use them. I am not a sadist when it comes to poop. Imagine your poop falling 10 to 20 feet below you. What had it ever done to deserve such treatment?
We had problems as a group as regards to toilet facilities, but we managed. We did raise this issue with the Deputy Commissioner of Ladakh, one Mr. Dwivedi, when we met him in Leh. He was very diplomatic in his answers and replied coolly that by the time we visited next, the problem would be solved. He must have known that the same group would never manage to find the time and resources together to visit Ladakh again, ever. And individually, we’d never meet him.
So that was it. That’s what we faced and that’s how we solved the problems. As guys we had lesser sufferings and I am sure that they must feel more strongly towards the issue. But they have got to admit that no facilities meant complete freedom and an experience worth remembering.
Thursday, 28 June 2007
Besides having heard interesting facts about Hemis Monastery that it holds the distinction of being the biggest as well as the wealthiest monastery of Ladakh, I wasn’t really looking forward to this monument. I guess this was the effect of ‘other’ monasteries, which bore a testimony of neglect and apathy, have had on me.
And the fact that Hemis gompa dates back to the year 1630, it’s visualisation as a remnant of a distinct culture and history was something that bothered me.
Once we reached the site I realised that my fascination and enticement towards this visit was at its low. I believe it had to do with the fact that both my body and soul wasn’t in sync with the exhaustive travelling that we had undertaken this fortnight.
And while I walked carelessly towards this structure a distant chant caught me anxious. I could hear the beating of drums from the other side of the wall. Synchronised with humming voices it had a captivating effect on me. I walked with hurried steps to locate the source as if I was being drawn towards it.
Once I entered the court of the gompa, I saw a huddle of monks dancing to the tunes of some ancient chants. There were three elderly monks reciting chants from an old manuscript, while the younger ones were following the experienced steps of a monk, who was leading the dance in a circular motion around a flagpole in the yard.
The mesmerising music was a mixture of chants and the sounds, emanating from some unfamiliar instruments, played by these three monks who were closely observing the steps with skilful eyes.
I watched the young monks following every step performed by the monk in the front, who was choreographing his steps to the tune of this tender music. With every movement each word and note seemed to have a greater meaning. The soft and tender chants were so rich in compassionate overtones that their slow movements in accord with the tune seemed soothing.
I saw some other elderly monks amused over the utilities of mobile phones, that the younger monks were carrying, suggesting me of their interaction with the technologically driven, outside world. I was wondering how they have managed to preserve and nurture this 200 yr old tradition. But as I watched them rehearse, I sensed their faithfulness and commitment towards their customs and their daily chores which has become a way of life for them.
Hemis serves as the venue of an annual festival, known as the festival of Tso Chu. It is celebrated every year to commemorate the birth of Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rimpoche.
And during the festival a sacred mask dance is performed by the monks, dressed in colourful robes and wearing masks depicting various characters, who dance around the main tarchen(flagpole) in the main courtyard. The dance takes place on 9th and 10th day of the fifth month of the Tibetan calendar. Like many other religious beliefs it celebrates the triumph of good over evil.
This monastic festival is special during the year of the monkey, which comes once in 12 yrs, as it marks the birth year of Guru Rimpoche, the founder of Tantrik Buddhism in Tibet.
Unaffected and unconscious of the enthusiastic spectators and visitors, clicking pictures up-close, many without a sense of courtesy, the monks continued to practise for this year’s festival. Till one over-excited visitor decided to join them, to dance, for a picture, the monk leading the dance made offensive gestures to express his annoyance!
There was something in the air that enthralled me. I was getting captivated by the soulful music that hummed into my ears. While I walked sheepishly, close up to the monks who were undisturbed by the presence of the strangers, I realised their attentiveness was too high to be bothered by this intrusion into their space and time.
I walked as if I was hypnotised under their spell.
With calculated steps and moves I went and sat right beside the monks who were creating this magical harmony.
Their chants put me at comfort.
The tune was joyous and resonant to my inner being.
My eyes closed and with a sense of unawareness of the environment I was in, the people around me, the place I was in.. I sat quietly to listen to and feel the tones, the vibrancy and rhythms of the chants.
The melodious tune transported me to a place where I felt emotion without having to 'think' new thoughts. For a moment I realised that I was blank. There were no thoughts of the past or future. I was in the present.
It took my mind away from redundant or negative thinking to joyfulness.
This tender, calming and refreshing music seemed to have a healing effect on my body, mind and soul. I felt as if it broke my cycle of thought, enough to allow my natural energy to flow freely again; my body felt warmer; energized.
I felt I was closer to the ‘One’ than I have ever been. I felt I touched onto something, something unknown yet familiar; and it touched me.
I do not know if it was for real.
All I know for sure is that it gave me a rest; uplifted me when I was feeling out of sorts.
It felt as if I sat there for hours.
There was something about this place that made me feel at peace with myself.
Now I appreciate why music has been an integral part of meditation since the very dawn of civilisation.
I have read that ‘Buddha’ simply meant “one who is awakened”. Even though I have not become a Buddha but I guess I understand what it means to be Buddha. With these worthy rewards, the few minutes I spent in this abode were worth enjoying!
Energized and inspired, I moved on.
Friday, 15 June 2007
Wular's ancient name was 'mahapadma-saras', after its presiding deity. The word wular is perhaps the corruption of the sanskrit ullola('trublent' or "with high waves"). At the centre of the lake ia an artifical island,zaina lank. it was built in 1443 by kashmir's celebrated King Zain-ul-Abedin, after whom it takes its name. It is used by boatmen who dread thw waves of the lake in strom though in the dry season it is no more than an island.
FISH AND WATER PLANTS:
This gigantic lake produces water-nuts and large quantities of fish. The people of the numerous villages on the shore eat and sell both.these fish include the sattar gad and the chhari gad,both of which are caught by net and hook; the larger fishes are caught by spears. lotuses are found in plenty.
Water-fowls are found in plenty in the autum season. sea gulls are also found.
The bank of the river is very marshy. the rains,snow and streams bring soil down from the mountains and deposits it on these shores every year.
Thursday, 14 June 2007
Wednesday, 13 June 2007
THE PATH TO PEACE
The idea of Siachen peace park (SPP) has come a long way among mountaineers and conservationists. The IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas (mountains), under the chairmanship of Larry Hamilton, has an informal working group on the SSP
In June 2001, the Himalayan club, the mountaineering Foundation and the Doon School Old Boy’s society, submitted an appeal to prime minister of India just before the summit meeting in Agra with president Musharraf. Nothing came of it.
The question has not been discussed by the Indian parliament, or officially by any government organization, neither in India nor in Pakistan. However, recently, Bittu Sahgal, Editor of sanctuary Asia reported that the Indian Defense Minister had been shown on NDTV News standing at Siachen and telling the interviewer that the “blood feud” that has caused so many deaths in Siachen should end and that the area should be dedicated to binding the countries of Asia.
Siachen should be completely demilitarized and declared a transboundary peace park. The park should be contiguous with the Central Karakoram and Khunjerab National parks in Pakistan. Armies on both the side, along with the state pollution Control Boards, must begin framing and implementing an ecologically sound garbage disposal policy to restore this unique habitat.
Around 169 transboundary parks have been declared around the world and have been declared around the world and have been shown to be successful even along disputed boundaries.
Once the troops are withdrawn, a joint surveillance plan can be worked out together and a clean-up begun.. the glacier would be dedicated to conservation, and both countries would benefit if they were to jointly promote sustainable tourism by regulating treks and expeditions to Siachen.
Wild roses bloom again, the ibex will return and the elusive snow leopard will occasionally reveal itself.
Monday, 11 June 2007
It seemed as if these towering peaks had been constantly teasing me of my insignificance amongst their mighty presence. And then ‘altitude sickness’ teamed up with this thought of unimportance, through fatigue and weakness to a feeling of ‘not fit for’ impression.
After a day full of activity, the hike to ‘Shanti Stupa’ was made optional, as many of us, including me, were still ailing with the symptoms of altitude sickness. The Stupa is located at Changspa, on the hilltop and is connected by a ‘motorable’ road and a steep flight of stairs. We were to scale it by taking the stairs, which was ought to be a tough climb.
"Shanti Stupa was built by the Japanese who harboured the ambition of spreading Buddhism across the world, in 1985 with aid from the Japanese Government. It was inaugurated by Dalai Lama in 1985. Unlike other structures like the monasteries/Gompas and palaces which has more of a Tibetan influence, this structure is different."
Since this yearning to accomplish these heights had reached its zenith, I thus challenged my spirit to take upon this quest.
Once we reached the foothill, I saw a white structure perched in the sky, stretching out towards the indigo sky and then the stairs that led to it. At once it looked easy so for a moment the thought of conquering it without any stops brushed my mind.
But since the trek has been very unpredictable from the beginning, I did shrug this thought off.
I began the ascent with the mantra of being slow and steady and a solitary aim of proving my inhibitions wrong.
After climbing 40 odd steps I was struggling for my breath. So I soon realised that it wasn’t going to be as easy as it appeared. While hiking a black-billed magpie flew right across me without any acknowledgement of my presence. As if this intruder had no real significance in its daily chores. And then I saw more of them hopping and flying from one stone to the other.
It was a sight to see!
All this while I kept pushing myself to keep climbing constantly, encouraging myself not to stop, in pursuit of happiness of a haughty ego!
Looking back I saw people trying to catch up with their breath which did appeal to me for a moment saying, I should stop too. But the voice in the head was too strong to let that happen. So with a sense of achievement I kept walking up the stairs.
With each step taken my legs were getting heavier, I was gasping for more air. My head was drooping, shoulders had dropped down and hands had reached out to my waist. And now I didn’t even wanted to turn back and look at my sense of accomplishment. I cribbed about the fact that this whole suffering was a choice I made.
Soon after few more steps I realised I needed to stop.
I was panting heavily and my lungs were under immense pressure for that one last gasp pf breath.
And yes I did!
While I was struggling to breathe I saw an elderly ‘white’ couple begin their climb from where we had begun. I smiled with the thought of the time they would take to reach the summit or rather meeting them midway while I start my descent.
Soon with new found strength, to beat them in this quest, I began again with the thought of no-more-stops!
I soon realised I was wrong!
I stopped more than..hmm..I didn’t count. I couldn’t count. All I was trying to do was to breathe. The elderly couple..not only did they race ahead of me but they reached the Stupa without a single break!
‘Firangs!!’.. I mumbled!
Finally with innumerable breaks I finally managed to reach the summit. The elderly couple busy capturing the scenic beauty with their SLR passed a courteous smile as if acknowledging my feat. I did manage to smile back with a sense of achievement, so what if I reached after them. I reached! That itself was an achievement for me then.
Once on top, I saw an open quad from where I could look over the panoramic view of the chain of mountains. The peaceful little village of Changspa with typical Ladakhi houses built along a gushing stream, and the towering Namgyal Tsemo in the distance. I could see the ruins of Leh palace and the victory tower at a distance.
The splendid view from the top alone was well worth the effort.
So I took to the edge of the court and sat quietly to regain myself.
With the setting sun the view was pleasing and scenic!
I could witness the vastness that the mountains around me had in its span.
I could listen to the silence in the chilly wind cutting across me.
I could spot the shades of different colours in the contours of those peaks.
It gave me immense pleasure to look down from where we had begun our ascent; saw some of my buddies still hiking at their own sweet pace.
Looking at the azure sky I took this time to sit and listen to the voices that I normally don’t tend to listen to.
And soon white thoughts dotted the white expanse, edges frayed and drifting aimlessly.
Insubstantial thoughts of the past, glinting to get my undivided attention.
So I gazed upon the things the mind doesn’t forget, as if complaining, that I don’t take note of them.
Then a strong breeze tossed my thoughts around.
And after, all was calm again.
The past was blown away, and I was free.
A journey through 580 odd steps and I was free again!
And although this journey has ended, I'll never forget what I've learned along the way, or how I learned to take it day by day.
An egoistic soul..!!
after a few initial poems and some basic writeups ... there seem to be a huge influx of copy-pasted material. i derive immense pleasure in announcing that the same or similar information is available all over the net and you have thereby not aided in any particular way.
it is preferable that you compose and post personal experiences.
Sunday, 10 June 2007
As instructed, the entire gang reached the dormitory in Manali to get ready to leave for Kalka. The bus that got us to Manali from Leh and its irritating crew of driver and cleaner (neither did the driver drive properly nor did the cleaner clean that well AND we were certain that both were drunk!!) were responsible for the journey to Kalka.
Manali – Kalka, we were told, was a twelve-hour journey, which was scheduled at 1900–1930 Hrs. so as to facilitate our boarding the Paschim Express (departure time 1010 Hrs. 31st May 2007) to Mumbai.
But to our surprise (rather shock), the old man declared that we had an extra hour to continue “interacting with the locals”. The bus apparently was delayed by an hour due to unknown reasons. Overjoyed by this rare opportunity, the gang got busy in “interacting with the locals” and ended up buying all kinds of stuff that was available cheaper in Mumbai.
Captain’s Log: 30th May 2007, 1900 Hrs.
Bags packed and ready to leave the gang was directed to reach a certain bus stop, a five-minute walk from the dormitory. Confusion and later chaos regarding the existence of this very bus stop was thereby very natural since despite walking for over twenty-minutes, the said location was nowhere to be seen. Also, the bus had been further delayed due to traffic on its way back from Manikaran (that’s what the travel agent conveyed).
Captain’s Log: 30th May 2007, 1945 Hrs.
The C.O.M. made us walk to the bus station. Some five-minute walk that was. But still no bus. Traffic? Maybe, maybe not! Was it going to come? It was nearing dinnertime. The twelve-hour journey was not supposed to include time taken for dinner. Our feet were aching. The inaction made us cold and the t-shirts we were wearing made it worse. Our warm clothes were already packed at the bottom of our bags.
Captain’s Log: 30th May 2007, 2230 Hrs.
The drunken travel agent was pleased to inform us that the bus and its crew had already left for Leh. But we were asked not to worry as he had arranged for taxis. Thirty-two of us and a lot of luggage. Eight of us in each of the four taxis (we presumed them all to be ten seater jeeps). Taxi No.1 Qualis, Taxi No.2 Sumo, Taxi No.3 Qualis and Taxi No.4 Maruti Omni!! (That too 5 seater including the driver!!) A careful “size-wise” distribution of the gang and its luggage ensured that despite certain discomfort all the members, drivers and luggage fit in the four cars.
Captain’s Log: 30th May 2007, 2245 Hrs.
The drivers tank up their vehicles but inform us that due to certain “taxi union” problems, we would leave at 2300 Hrs. and via a different route, passing through Nagar. “No problems… just get us to the station in time.” Akul’s walkie-talkie set springs into action. One handset with Akul himself in the last car (Qualis) and one with me in the first car (Maruti Omni, a.k.a. ‘Nature Club One’ as the C.O.M. was in it) crackled to life as soon as the journey started.
The gang was told that the guys sitting next to the drivers were to remain awake. A task next to impossible. Especially after a day that began with a trek to Jogini Falls, then a walk in the Manali Nature Park, an extended “interaction with the locals” and finally the four-hour wait for transportation. Also not much energy to stay awake, as we were yet to have dinner. But we had to stay awake. Sleeping in the seat next to the driver could mean the driver feeling sleepy too. How do we crack this riddle??
“Oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo Huzurrrrr … tera tera TERA suroooorrr…” Sleep?? What that be?? With Himesh Reshamiya blowing his nose away to glory even sleeping pills would prove ineffective. Now that we were forced to stay awake and also to listen to Himesh’s songs I couldn’t help realise that our drivers were driving to the beat. Every hairpin bend in the road was negotiated on a ‘Dhichchick Dhoof’. It didn’t take us long to figure out that keeping the first and the last car informed of which exact song Himesh was singing in that particular car was an ideal way of using the walkie-talkie as well as keeping ourselves entertained.
The drivers drove their individual vehicles at a constant speed. A constant unwavering speed of 75 Kmph. Up, down, right, left, curves, straights, potholes and smooth roads all manoeuvred at a constant steady speed. The road desperately tried to slow us down and if not that to at least challenge the skill of our drivers. But our drivers showed one-upmanship by negotiating the curves while chatting on their cell phones or by taking off their sweaters while steering with their knees or even switching off the lights and driving in the pitch dark. Knowing that the regular road was not a good enough workout, our drivers even drove over a suspended wooden bridge over a wild river, which was strictly meant for “Pedestrians Only!”
Captain’s Log: 31st May 2007, 0300 Hrs.
We had passed Sundernagar (proposed dinner halt) long ago. Some women felt nauseas as the curvy roads and the high speeds churned their guts. However, lack of food in their bowels was resulting in mere spitting. There was also a theory making rounds that it was Himesh who was responsible for these irregular bowel movements.
I was receiving continuous messages on my radio handset that people were hungry and need to eat and some needed to stretch their legs. Roadside policemen seemed confused as to my identity as and when they saw me talking on the radio while zooming past them in our taxi. At around 0330 Hrs. I spotted a roadside dhaba and after due permissions from the C.O.M. instructed our driver and the others to stop for a meal. A hot and tasty plate of Rajma-Rice followed an initial cup of chai. Who paid the bills is to date a mystery for me.
Captain’s Log: 31st May 2007, 0730 Hrs.
Our drivers had got us within six kilometres of Kalka and took a quick and well-deserved break on the outskirts of the city. The weight of our eyelids were unbearable. Moreso because Himesh had now given way to spiritual songs, which our drivers thought were best played in the morning.
Captain’s Log: 31st May 2007, 0815 Hrs.
We reached Kalka Railway Station almost two hours before departure and profusely thanked the skilful drivers and their remarkable machines, not to mention Himesh Reshamiya who had entertained as well as kept us and the drivers awake and thereby alive.
Saturday, 9 June 2007
On another note, I think we should finalise the book's name....I vote for 'strangers in the mist', though other suggestions are still welcome :)
Nice to see more stuff flowing in...
Hope it continues..
... we go through life often wondering, sometimes doing, but never truly knowing who we are, where we come from, and where we're going from here. do we really meet when we meet? do we speak when we speak? do we hear when we hear? do we see when we see? do we feel when we feel? or do we merely pass as ghosts among shadows?
as travelers we have been to places, hoping to learn, to experience, to make a difference. we sometimes think, we sometimes hope that we might make a difference, but somehow life keeps us away from doing so. such is the tragedy of the human condition... while it is always one of hope, it is rarely changed.
as observers, the question we must ask is whether our observations are deep reflections of our own souls... if we see who we are in what we see; and we see who we are not in what we see. even then, that understanding, that reflection from our most personal stance cannot stop us from engaging reality. reality is in itself an illusion... as false and yet as true as an illusion can be, for it is nothing more than the sum of perceptions that together form the shared human condition.
history is written on the fault-lines of reality, and in few places in the World are the fault-lines as pronounced as in Kashmir, where the aspirations of those who are pro-India, pro-Pakistan, and pro-independent Kashmir are intertwined with the physical realities of partition and occupation and the insurgency.
every time one steps out of the warm comforts of Mumbai--or any other metro, for that matter--out of one's home and the various areas of varying affluence, one is reminded that there is another India. this was never as obvious as in Kashmir though, where the very notion of India was challenged occasionally.
our journey took us from the uneasy quiet and beauty of Srinagar, to the imperious serenity of Leh, to the bustle of a Manali splitting at its seams, and many other places along the way. we met the common folk, bus drivers, students, politicians, military and police officers and the occasional monk, and gained different perspectives from all.
through these interactions we developed perhaps not the definitive take on Kashmir and Ladakh, but we certainly developed an interesting perspective--a thesis, if you will--on the region as it stands today. we may have met as strangers in the mist--not knowing, not seeing, not hearing, not feeling; but we parted company as fond travelers on a journey that few seldom experience. it is that experience we bring here. this is our story.
The journey to Gulmarg is half the enchantment of reaching there-- roads bordered by rigid avenues of poplar give over to flat expanses of rice fields interspersed with quaint villages. Depending on the season, nature`s colours could be translucent green of spring, summer`s rich emerald, or autumn`s golden hues, when scarlet chillies festoon windows of village homes. After Tangmarg, the climb to Gulmarg begins through fir-covered hillsides. At one point, known simply as View Point, travellers generally stop their vehicles for few minutes to look out to a spectacle of snow-covered mountains, almost within touching distance.
Gulmarg was a favourite haunt of Emperor Jehangir who once collected 21 different varieties of flowers from here. Today Gulmarg is not merely a mountain resort of exceptional beauty- it also has the highest green golf course in the world, at an altitude of 2,650 m, and is the country`s premier ski resort in the winter.
Origin of the Name of Gulmarg Originally called `Gaurimarg` by shepherds, its present name was given in the 16th century by Sultan Yusuf Shah, who was inspired by the sight of its grassy slopes emblazoned with wild flowers. Gulmarg means "Meadows of Flowers".
History of Gulmarg British discovered the hill resort of Gulmarg in 1927 during their colonial rule in India. Gulmarg is a hill station in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. The town had witnessed militancy in the 1990s, but after a ceasefire between India and Pakistan in 2003, the town is now peaceful.
Geography of Gulmarg It is a large meadow located at 34.05° N 74.38° E. It is about 3-sq-kms in area and has has an average elevation of 2690 metres (8825 feet). It lies 56-km south west of Srinagar.
Climate of Gulmarg The climatic conditions are pleasant throughout the year. In summers one has to wear light woolen clothing but in summers heavy woolen clothing is required. The best season to visit the city is April-June.
Economy of Gulmarg Economy of the state is generally poor. The main source of earning is tourism. There is a need to explore the opportunities in Gulmarg in such a way that it can provide employment not only for the skiers but also for the entire State. The economy otherwise was very poor, now due to tourism and selling of natural gifts like saffron, apples walnuts, and many more, an attempt has been made to move a step forward.
Origin of the Name Srinagar
According to the history of words, the word Srinagar is composed of two Sanskrit words, namely, `Sri` meaning abundance and wealth and `Nagar` that means city. `Sri` is also the name of a goddess of Hindus. A legend as incorporated in Nila`s Nilmatapurana states that the Kashmir valley initially was a vast lake. A Hindu sage named Kshyapa drained out this water and there emerged the beautiful valley of Kashmir. It is said emperor Ashoka when laid the foundation of his capital of the region, named it `Srinagari`. Later many emperors came and changed the name according to their preferences but later original name `Srinagar` was retained.
History of Srinagar
Once a part of Mauryan Empire, the city was founded by King Pravarasena-II more than 2000 years ago. Ashoka introduced Buddhism in Kashmir valley and the adjoining regions around the city became centers of Buddhism.
Early Rulers: In the 1st century the region was under the control a Kushans .The rulers of this dynasty strengthened Buddhist tradition. Vikramaditya of Ujjain dynasty and his successors ruled the regions just before the city fell to the controls of Huns in 6th century. The Hindu and Buddhist rulers lasted till 14th century after which Kashmir valley and city came under the control of several Muslim leaders including Mughals. Akbar established Mughal rule in the valley and city.
Annexation of Kashmir Valley: When the disintegration of the Mughal Empire set forth in 1707, infiltrations to the valley from the Pathan tribes increased and they ruled over for several decades. Raja Ranjit Singh in 1814 annexed a major part of Kashmir valley, including Srinagar to his kingdom and the city came under the influence of Sikhs. Subsequent to the treaty between the Sikh rulers and the British in Lahore in 1846(treaty of Lahore), inter alias provided British suzerainty over the Kashmir valley. British kept Gulab Singh as an independent and sovereign ruler, and Srinagar became part of his kingdom, and remained princely state of undivided India for years together.
Post India Independence:
After, India`s independence, certain tribes of which maximum was pathans actively supported by Pakistani forces, invaded the valley to gain control, by armed forces. This was done even though Maharaja Hari Singh had assurance of British Government backed with international laws that all rulers of such states were free to remain independent entities, or to choose to annex either to India or to Pakistan. Hari Singh allegedly signed a covenant in 1948 with the Government of India, which ensured integration of his kingdom into newly formed Republic of India. Various historians, especially British historian Alaister Lamb, dispute the claim that the Maharaja signed any agreement at all.
Geography of Srinagar
Srinagar lies between two hills, the Hari Parbat and the Shankar Acharya (also known as Takht-i-Suleiman). The city had experienced several natural disasters. Before the nineteenth century, Srinagar had been destroyed and rebuilt six times. Two major fires, in 1892 and 1899, devastated large portions of the city. There have been eleven major earthquakes in the city since the fifteenth century.
It is located on both sides of river Jhelum,which is also called vyath in Kashmiri.The river passes through the city and meandering through the valley,moves onwards and deepens in Wular Lake. The city is famous for its nine old bridges,connecting two parts of the city. Hokersar,the capital of Indian Kashmir ,14 kilometers from srinagar,is a world class wetland including lake and marshy area.It is the most well known and accessible of all the wetlands of kashmir.Thousands of migratory birds come to Hokersar from Siberia and other regions in winter season. Such wetlands in Kashmir play a vital role in sustaining a large population of wintering ,staging and breeding birds.
Geographical factors govern transport and means of communication in Kashmir. Although there has been great progress in transport and communication system in the valley, man is still the swine of burden in some mountainous areas. In the valley roads are the main means of transportation for wheeled traffic. The Government of India, in order to make the traffic possible between the valley of Kashmir and the rest of the country even in the coldest weather of the year, has constructed two tubes of Jawahar Tunnel near Banihal at a height of 2200 meters above sea level Rivers in the valley of Kashmir are also navigable. On the higher altitudes, where roads are not so common, mules and ponies are also used as means of transportation. There is also Air transport from Jammu to Srinagar and Ladakh.
Climate of Srinagar The city has mild summers during the months April-June and cold winters of November-February.The city generally gets heavy snowfall from December to Februaury. Temperature lies within 29.5 degree centigrade to -1.9 degree centigrade. Best time to visit is the months from April to June.
Economy of Srinagar
Srinagar is the main center of the economy of the Kashmir Valley, and has remained tourist destination for centuries. The city remained on the itinerary of the Mughal ruling elite, and several Mughal emperors and their consorts had visited the city, and several Mughal gardens in and around the city indicate their close association with Srinagar. After the colonization of India by Europeans, the ruling elite as well as rich Indians used to visit the city and nearby locations during summers to avoid heat of the plains and during winters to enjoy the snowfall. Another significant segment of the economy include handicrafts, weaving of woolen shawls and dress material and woodcarving. Srinagar serves as one of the collecting point from where fruits and handicraft products are taken to several parts of Indian subcontinent. Srinagar also has specialized markets and retail shops. The hinterland of Srinagar is the most populous part of the Kashmir valley, and crops like wheat and paddy are cultivated for local consumption. Orchards produce a number of fruits, particularly apples.
i included pre & post independence history, incase y'all need it
Friday, 8 June 2007
Caressed by the clouds,
Kissed by the sun
Dusted gently with snow
How many tales to tell
How many mysteries to unravel
Unparalleled Beauty, Unrivaled strength
River & Lake, Forest & Desert
Slope & Valley, Sentinel and Protector
Jewel in India's crown
Guarded and Armed,
Revered and respected
Holy of Holies
House of mortals
Home of sages
Abode of Gods
Witness of the past
Testimony to the future
Statement of the present
Just one Mountain
*Plz feel free to change the name.. really couldnt think of anything else*
I thought the Indian army was doing a pretty good job in curbing, if not completely stopping, militancy. Since the situation became calmer, I finally got my chance to visit Kashmir. My excitement, however, didn’t last long. As we pulled in opposite the Dal Lake where we were to stay, I could only see house-boats and ‘shikaras’ covering the lake, leaving no place for the lake to breathe. Even though the rest of Kashmir had the scenic beauty I hoped to see, the place was becoming increasingly commercial in nature. Besides that, being surrounded by the army was not exactly what I had expected.
Something that had a more strong effect on me, and perhaps on the entire group, was our interaction with the Kashmir University students. The army ‘gundaraj’ had taken over their lives. They all seemed to have anger and frustration building inside them against the army. Each one seemed to have had personal experience of the army torture. One of the boys said to us, ‘You have 24 hours in a day; we don’t get that sort of time. We cannot compete with you.’ He had been harassed by the army when he was studying at 11 in the night and was told to switch off the lights. It’s just not this invasion of privacy, but these students are also caught by the army men and frisked at least 5-7 times in a day. We got irritated by just the one time that we were asked to go through checking when we entered Srinagar. The army convoy movements prevent them from reaching college in time and at times they don’t make it at all. The army was terrorising them now.
I was quite shocked by what I heard. Imagine what life would be if we had to go through it in Mumbai! A city that never sleeps asked to switch off lights at 11. Army men standing at a distance of every one kilometre, scrutinising each person passing them by. Life would be hell.
I had expected them to love India as much as I do. But the whole story here was different. They wanted to be relieved of the army dictatorship. They felt detached from the rest of India. They were ‘Kashmiris’.
I always took freedom for granted, never understood its worth. People tend to value things that they don’t have. The Kashmiris value Freedom. I won’t be surprised if in future we hear of these students taking up arms against the Indian army.
Something needs to be done. Something needs to be done now, before it’s too late.
The road to Ladakh is from the beauteous vale of Kashmir, and passing through rich rolling downs with their meadows of wild flowers, it ascends and enters the Zojila pass with walls of snow and ice, coming out Ladakh, stark and dramatic, a sea of bare mountains that change colour in the changing light-beige, earth red,slate-blue,dull mauve and a deep dark purple. Starting patches of greenery break the bleak landscape-wherever there is water at the base of the glacier.
Here in the quaint civilization sheltered from the winds of change, timelessness prevails; nestling amidst the rugged rock and towering granite surrounded by cultivated patches that look like pure jade, and ancient lamaseries carved into hillsides are heart throbbing.
There are a lot of incidents and experiences that I have carried with me from this journey and have no words to describe them.
Ladakh -- a distant land of austere beauty where people live simply and love life. A land where people coexist with one another and with nature in harmony and peace. A land where community ties are strong yet individuality flourishes, and spirituality is an inextricable part of everyday life. Perhaps it would not be sentimental or naive to suggest that such a culture, although it lacks the material and technological advances of the West, represents the ultimate flowering of our human potential, the pinnacle of what we as human beings can aspire to become -- and that in the future of Ladakh will be reflected the fate of our species as a sustainable presence on Earth.
Indeed a tour to Ladakh with an earnest will to explore honestly could be a much more rewarding experience than usual holidays one would have taken to be just free from the work-and-live busy cultural life. Only a personal visit to this land of will answer ones inquisitive mind. So, Welcome and live for your self the experience that is talked about here.
I will never forget this summer; from the moment that everybody met up at station to the time when we said our goodbyes I have had some of the best times ever. Experiencing the Ladakhi culture first hand is something that I will always remember. Going to Leh was amazing, and I had a brilliant time, and it was a great place to get to see. This really was a once in a lifetime experience.
03 JUNE 2007.
The sky smiles upon you,
Giving you a myriad shades -
I see the light, turquoise and the deep.
And then, there are these clouds that hover atop,
Lending you a white and grey.
The tall, burly mountains direct your flow,
Your waves lash at their feet,
Calm yet teasingly cold.
Their heads crowned by snow,
Their bodies wear robes of green and lilac and blue.
They look so stark, speak so loud,
You dance to the music of their sounds.
You hide nothing from me, for I can see through you,
The coloured stones, big and small, red and white,
They lie flat at the bottom, grinning at the sun.
The gulls flirt with your ripples,
They touch, kiss and fly,
You might never see them again.
Just like me, they might never return.
Yet, you lend me your wondrous view,
Hence, an ode to you!
Answer to Aditya's 'silly question', photos are being collected and sorted through, to go into the book. Also, the production team has a prospective publisher, but that's only if WE do a good job at the content.
I'm glad to see massive contribution form the research party. Kudos!
One thing that worries me the most is the lack of structure in what we are doing. I think we, at the content, should now start writing sections of the book. The research team has provided us with the feed. I'm sure we'll need more, but that can be detected only once we start. The experiences will then fit into the picture.
We can decide more on this when we meet tomorrow.
P.S: Good to hear from Aayush :P
Monroe Forester once said, “Hope is always available to us. When we feel defeated, we need only take a deep breath and say, "Yes," and hope will reappear.” That bright sunny afternoon, hope reappeared before my eyes as I caught my first glimpse of an ink blue sheet of liquid, the mighty and picturesque Pangong Lake. An hour by the lake and I found myself closer to paradise than I had ever done before.
A drop of the ocean encompassed between natural pyramids of sandstone, the visit to the Pangong Tso was indeed an enlightening and spiritual experience. Memories of that divine afternoon now lay on my shelf in the form of one smooth pebble which I picked up amongst the countless shiny stones, natural gems, crystals, rocks, and slates that decorated the banks of the Tso.
just beffore the deadline :)
Thursday, 7 June 2007
They have stood here for years, sheltering so many creatures and watching over so many people. They tower over these hills, sashaying softly as they hum a strange tune to themselves. As I sit and look up at them, they appear gentle and welcoming and compassionate. They whisper among themselves and laugh kindly at the motley group that has assembled in their midst.
I hope that these trees I walk under can sense how much in awe I am of them. How much I admire, respect and love them. I hope they understand that there are some compassionate humans too. People who see them for the great beings they are.
I wish sometimes that the trees would talk out aloud. But as I look around me now, I think their beauty lies in their quiet murmuring.
Maybe some of their secrets were never meant to be known. Maybe mankind isn't worthy of being told those secrets.
But maybe if I listen very carefully, I may catch a slight strain of a hushed whisper...
The trees whisper to one another
But what do they say to you?
Do they show you their deepest secrets?
Do they sigh and mourn their losses?
When the sunlight filters,
Through glittering leaves,
And the trees sway
To the whistling breeze,
Do you see eternity in this forest?
Timelessness, serenity, peace?
Can you see life
Brimming in this wood?
Of all that is good....
Of one soil,
But between you and me,
A world of difference exists.
Hate threatens to engulf us all,
And peace remains surreal,
A dream so distant,
That you and I cannot reach it.
But I understand you,
I know that hope dwindles in your heart,
I believe you when you tell me
That you have been wronged.
They came to protect you,
And now they hunt you
On earth that is your own.
I see your sorrow,
And I feel my shame,
For we are of one nation,
But our lives are worlds apart.
And I did not choose to see,
Before you showed me,
How you struggle with every day.
I understand your anger,
You resentment, your hate,
Life holds little value
For those who murder and rape.
I can see in your eyes
How they are breaking your spirit,
How your heart is shattered
By the shreds of the world you see.
And though we are born of one soil,
Only your blood seems to stain our land.
But somewhere within your soul,
I hope that you can see
How my heart bleeds
For a cause you call your own.
That when the time comes,
No matter what side of a border
You call your own.
You will still be
My fellow countryman.
Someone I call my own.
• 3,200 m (10,499 ft)
Kargil is a town, which serves as the headquarters of Kargil District in Jammu and Kashmir of India. It is located 60km and 204km from Drass and Srinagar to the west respectively, 234km from Leh to the east, 240km from Padum to the southeast and 1047km to Delhi in the south.
As of 2001
People in Kargil are of mixed Dard and Tibetan descent. The inhabitants of Kargil were adherents of Tibetan Buddhism until the 14th-15th centuries when Muslim missionaries began to proselytise to the local people. Today, 90% of Kargil's population are Shia Muslim, 5% Sunni and 5% Tibetan Buddhist. The architecture of older mosques in Kargil combines Tibetan and Iranian styles, while newer mosques architectural styles tend to follow those of modern Iranian and Arabic styles.
The western parts of Ladakh comprising the river valleys, which are drained and formed by the Himalayan tributaries of the high
This region formed part of the erstwhile
Drass is a tiny town in the Kargil District of Jammu and Kashmir, India. The town, reportedly the second coldest inhabited town in the world shot into prominence in the summer of 1999 following Pakistani backed incursions into the Jammu and Kashmir. The Kargil War saw the town being shelled by infiltrators and the war ended with Indian Army recapturing the areas surrounding the town and the kargil district.
Inhabitants of Drass are of Dard descent, an Indo-Aryan race believed to have originally migrated to Ladakh from
Drass (3230 m), 60 km west of Kargil on the road to
Indo-Pakistani wars and conflicts
1947 – 1965 – 1971 – Siachen – Kargil
The Kargil War, also known as the Kargil conflict,(I) was an armed conflict between India and Pakistan that took place between May and July 1999 in the Kargil district of Kashmir. The cause of the war was the infiltration of Pakistani soldiers and Kashmiri militants into positions on the Indian side of the Line of Control, which serves as the de facto border between the two nations. Directly after the war, Pakistan blamed the fighting entirely on independent Kashmiri insurgents; however, documents left behind by casualties and later statements by Pakistan's Prime Minister and Chief of Army Staff showed involvement of Pakistani paramilitary forces. The Indian Army, supported by the Indian Air Force, attacked the Pakistani positions and, with international diplomatic support, eventually forced a Pakistani withdrawal across the Line of Control (LoC).
The war is one of the most recent examples of high altitude warfare in mountainous terrain, and posed significant logistical problems for the combating sides. This was the first ground war between the two countries after they had developed nuclear weapons. (India and Pakistan both test-detonated fission devices in May 1998, though the first Indian nuclear test was conducted in 1974.) The conflict led to heightened tensions between the two nations and increased defence spending on the part of
On leaving Kargil town, the road plunges into the ridges and valleys of the
http://www.incredibleindia.org/newsite/cms_Page.asp 7th june 07
Location - Strategically located, the State of Jammu and Kashmir constitutes the northern most extremity of India. Situated between 32.17 degree and 36.58 degree north latitude and 37.26 degree and 80.30 degree east longitude, the total area of the State is 2,222,236 sq. kms including 78,114 sq kms under the illegal occupation of Pakistan and 42,685 sq kms under that of China, of which Pakistan illegally handed over 5,130 sq kms to China. The State is bounded by Pakistan, Afghanistan and China from the West to the East.The State is well connected with rest of the country by air, rail and road. The Indian Airlines and private airlines operate regular flights to Srinagar, Jammu and Leh.The National Highway 1-A connects the capital cities of Srinagar and Jammu with rest of the country. There are daily passenger trains connecting Jammu with most of the major cities of the country.The State ranks 6th in area and 17th in population among the States and Union Territories of India. The State consists of 14 districts, 59 tehsils, 119 blocks, 3 municipalities, 54 towns and notified area committee, 6,477 inhabited villages and 281 uninhabited villages.
It has four geographical zones of Sub-mountain and semi-mountain plain known as kandi or dry belt, The Shivalak ranges, The high mountain zone constituting the Kashmir Valley, Pir Panjal range and its off-shoots includingDoda, Poonch and Rajouri districts and part of Kathua and Udhampur districts. The middle run of the Indus river comprising Leh and Kargil.The State of Jammu and Kashmir is the northern most state of India comprising three distinct Climatic regions viz. Arctic cold desert areas of Ladakh, temperate Kashmir valley and sub-tropical region of Jammu.There is a sharp rise of altitude from 1,000 feet to 28,250 feet above the sea level within State's four degree of latitude.The climate varies from tropical in Jammu plains to semi-arctic cold in Ladakh with Kashmir and Jammu mountainous tracts having temprate climatic conditions. The annual rainfall also varies from region to region with 92.6 mm in Leh, 650.5 mm in Srinagar and 1115.9 mm in Jammu. A large part of the State forms part of the Himalayan Mountains. The State is geologically constituted of rocks varying from the oldest period of the earth's history to the youngest present day river and lake deposits.
Kashmir abounds in rich flora. The Valley, which has been described as the 'Paradise on Earth,' is full of many hues of flora and fauna. The most magnificent of the Kashmir trees is the Chinar found throughout the valley. It grows to giant size and girth. The tree presents itself in various enchanting colours through the cycle of the seasons among which its autumnal look is breath-taking. Mountain ranges in the Valley have dense deodar, pine and fir. Walnut, willow, almond and cider also add to the rich flora of Kashmir.The dense forests of Kashmir are a delight to the sport-lovers and adventures for whom there are Ibex, Snow Leopard, Musk deer, wolf, Markhor, Red bear, Black bear and Leopard. The birds include ducks, goose, partridge, chakor, pheasant, wagtails, herons, water pigeons, warblers, and doves. In the otherwise arid desert of Ladakh some 240 species of local and migratory birds have been identified including black-necked crane.The Ladakh fauna includes yak, Himalayan Ibex, Tibetan antelope, snow leopard, wild ass, red bear and gazelle.A major portion of J&K State consists of the western Himalayas, which besides many lofty mountain ranges with varying heights of 3,000 to 6,000 metres and above, also abound in rivers, lakes, passes, glaciers, plateaus and plains. The number of streams, brooks, hill torrents and rivers is also fairly large. The most important rivers are the Indus, Chenab, Jhelum and Ravi.
Important Facts : Jammu & Kashmir Capital :Summer (May-October)-SrinagarWinters (Novemenber-April)JammuLanguages :Urdu, Kashmiri, Hindi, Dogri, Pahari, Ladakhi,Area :2,22,236 Sq Kms.
Kashmir has four distinct seasons, each with its own peculiar character and distinctive charm. These are spring, summer, autumn and winter.
Spring, which extends roughly from March to early May, is when a million blossoms carpet the ground. The weather during this time can be gloriously pleasant at 23oC or chilly and windy at 6oC. This is the season when Srinagar experiences rains, but the showers are brief.
Summer extends from May until the end of August. Light woollens may be required to wear out of Srinagar. In higher altitudes night temperatures drop slightly. Srinagar at this time experiences day temperatures of between 25oC and 35oC. At this time, the whole valley is a mosaic of varying shades of green - rice fields, meadows, trees, etc. and Srinagar with its lakes and waterways is a heaven after the scorching heat of the Indian plains.
The onset of autumn, perhaps Kashmir's loveliest season, is towards September, when green turns to gold and then to russet and red. The highes t day temperatures in September are around 23oC and night temperatures dip to 10oC by October, and further drop by November, when heavy woollens are essential.
Through December, to the beginning of March is winter time, which presents Srinagar in yet another mood. Bare, snow-covered landscapes being watched from beside the warmth of a fi re is a joy that cannot be described to anyone who has not experienced it. Some houseboats and hotels remain open in winter-these are either centrally heated or heated with ‘bukharis’, a typically Kashmiri stove kept alight with embers of wood, quite
Gulmarg's legendary beauty, prime location and proximity to Srinagar naturally make it one of the premier hill resorts in the country. Originally called 'Gaurimarg' by shepherds, its present name was given in the 16th century by Sultan Yusuf Shah, who was inspired by the sight of its grassy slopes emblazoned with wild flowers. Gulmarg was a favourite haunt of Emperor Jehangir who once collected 21 different varieties of flowers from here. Today Gulmarg is not merely a mountain resort of exceptional beauty- it also has the highest green golf course in the world, at an altitude of 2,650 m, and is the country's premier ski resort in the winter.
The journey to Gulmarg is almost nearly as enchanting as reaching there-- roads bordered by rigid avenues of poplar give over to flat expanses of rice fields interspersed with picturesque villages. Depending on the season, nature's colours could be the translucent green of spring, summer's rich emerald, or autumn's golden hues, when scarlet chillies festoon windows of village homes. After Tangmarg, the climb to Gulmarg begins through fir-covered hillsides. At one point, known simply as View Point, travellers generally stop their vehicles for a few minutes and look out a spectacle of snow-covered mountains, almost within touching distance.General Information
Area : 3.5 km long; 1km wide Altitude 2,650 m
Gulmarg is 56 kms from Srinagar
Alpine lake at Penzila Zanskar
About 20 kms south-east of Rangdum stands the Panzila axis, across which lies Zanskar, the most isolated of all the trans-Himalayan valleys. The Penzila pass (4,401m) is a picturesque tableland surrounded by snow-covered peaks. As the Zanskar road winds down the steep slopes of Penzi-la to the head of the Stod valley, the majestic " Drang-Drung" glacier looms into full view. A long and winding river of ice and snow, "Drang-Drung" is perhaps the largest glacier in Ladakh, outside the Siachen formation. It is from the cliff-like snout of this extensive glacier that the Stod or Doda tributary of the Zanskar River rises.
Zanskar is a tri-armed valley system situated between the Great Himalayan Range and the Zanskar mountains, the three arms radiating star-like towards the west, north and south from a wide central expanse. Here the Zanskar River comes into being by the confluence of its two Himalayan tributaries, the Stod/Doda and the Lingti-Tsarap rivers. It is mainly along the course of this valley system that the region's approximately 14,000 strong, mainly Buddhist population, live.Spread over an estimated geographical area of 5000 sq kms of mountainous territory, Zanskar is surrounded by high-rise mountains and deep gorges.It remains inaccessible for nearly 8 months a year due to heavy winter snowfall resulting in closure of all access passes, including the Penzi-la. This geographical isolation and the esoteric nature of Buddhism practised here have enabled its inhabitants to preserve their identity, so that to-day Zanskar is the least interfered with microcosms of Ladakh. Closer observation of the lifestyle evokes admiration for a people who have learnt to live in perfect harmony with the unique environment.
Main article: Geography of Ladakh
Map of the central Ladakh region
Landscape in Ladakh
Ladakh is India’s highest plateau with much of it being over 3,000 m(9,800 ft). It spans the Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges and the upper Indus River valley. Historical Ladakh includes the fairly populous main Indus valley, the more remote Zangskar (in the south) and Nubra valleys (to the north over Khardung La), the almost deserted Aksai Chin, and Kargil and Suru Valley areas to the west (Kargil being the second most important town in Ladakh). Before partition, Baltistan (now under Pakistani administration) was a district in Ladakh. Skardu was the winter capital of Ladakh while Leh was the summer capital.
The mountain ranges in this region were formed over a period of 45 million years by the folding of the Indian plate into the more stationary Eurasian Plate. The drift continues, causing frequent earthquakes in the Himalayan region.[θ] The peaks in the Ladakh range are at a medium altitude close to the Zoji-la (5,000–5,500 m or 16,000–18,050 ft), and increase towards south-east, reaching a climax in the twin summits of Nun-Kun (7000 m or 23,000 ft).
The Suru and Zangskar valleys form a great trough enclosed by the Himalayas and the Zanskar range. Rangdum is the highest inhabited region in the Suru valley, after which the valley rises to 4,400 m (14,436 ft) at Pensi-la, the gateway to Zanskar. Kargil, the only town in the Suru valley, was an important staging post on the routes of the trade caravans before 1947, being more or less equidistant, at about 230 kilometres from Srinagar, Leh, Skardu, and Padum. The Zangskar valley lies in the troughs of the Stod and the Lungnak rivers. The region experiences heavy snowfall; the Pensi-la is open only between June and mid-October. The Indus river is the backbone of Ladakh. All major historical and current towns — Shey, Leh, Basgo, and Tingmosgang, are situated close to the river.
The Ladakh range has no major peaks; its average height is a little less than 6,000 m (19,700 ft), and few of its passes are less than 5,000 m (16,400 ft). The Pangong range runs parallel to the Ladakh range about 100 km northwest from Chushul, along the southern shore of the Pangong Lake. Its highest range is 6,700 m (22,000 ft), and the northern slopes are heavily glaciated. The region comprising the valley of Shayok and Nubra rivers is known as Nubra. The Karakoram range in Ladakh is not as mighty as in Baltistan.[ι] North of the Karakoram lies the Kunlun. Thus, between Leh and eastern Central Asia, there is a triple barrier — Ladakh range, Karakoram range, and Kunlun. Nevertheless, a major trade route was established between Leh and Yarkand.
Monthly average temperature in Leh.
Ladakh is a high altitude desert as the Himalayas create a rain shadow, denying entry to monsoon clouds. The main source of water is the winter snowfall on the mountains. Recent flooding of the Indus river in the region has been attributed either to abnormal rain patterns, or the retreating of glaciers, both of which might be linked to global warming. The Leh Nutrition Project, headed by Chewang Norphel, also known as the 'Glacier Man', currently creates artificial glaciers as one solution for this problem.
Phyang Gompa, Ladakh, IndiaThe regions on the north flank of the Himalayas — Dras, the Suru valley and Zanskar — experience heavy snowfall and remain virtually cut off from the rest of the country for several months in the year. Summers are short, though they are long enough to grow crops in the lower reaches of the Suru valley. The summer weather is dry and pleasant, with average temperatures between 10–20 °C (50–70 °F), while in winter, the temperature may dip to −15 °C (5 °F). The proportion of oxygen is less than in many other places at comparable altitudes because of lack of vegetation. There is little moisture to temper the effects of rarefied air. Ladakh lies in the Very High Damage Risk cyclone
Karakoram is a mountain range spanning the borders between Pakistan, China, and India, located in the regions of Gilgit, Ladakh and Baltistan. It is one of the Greater Ranges of Asia, often considered together with the Himalaya, but not technically part of that range. Karakoram means "black gravel" in Turkic, as many of its glaciers are covered in rubble.
The Karakoram is home to more than sixty peaks above 7,000m (22,960 ft), including K2, the second highest peak of the world (8,611 m, 28,244 ft). Most of these peaks are in the Hunza of Pakistan. The range is about 500 km (300 mi) in length, and is the most heavily glaciated part of the world outside of the polar regions. The Siachen Glacier at 70 km and the Biafo Glacier at 63 km rank as the world's second and third longest glaciers outside the polar regions.
The Karakoram is bounded on the northeast by the edge of the Tibetan Plateau, and on the north by the Wakhan Corridor and the Pamir Mountains. Just to the west of the northwest end of the Karakoram lies the Hindu Raj range, beyond which is the Hindu Kush range. The southern boundary of the Karakoram is formed by the Gilgit, Indus, and Shyok Rivers, which separate the range from the northwestern end of the Himalaya range proper.
Due to its altitude and ruggedness, the Karakoram is much less inhabited than parts of the Himalayas further east. European explorers first visited early in the 19th century, followed by British surveyors starting in 1856.
The Muztagh Pass was crossed in 1887 by the expedition of Colonel Francis Younghusband and the valleys above the Hunza River were explored by George Cockerill in 1892. Explorations in the 1910s and 1920s established most of the geography of the region.
Marcel Ichac made a film entitled "Karakoram", chronicling a French expedition to the range in 1936. The film won the Silver Lion at the Venice film festival of 1937.
A portion of the Karakoram, disputed between India and China, has been re-created as a scale model by the Chinese government
The Indus River (Urdu: سندھ Sindh; Sindhi: سنڌو Sindh; Sanskrit and Hindi: सिन्धु Sindhu; Persian: Hindu; Pashto: Abasin "Father of Rivers"; Tibetan: Sengge Chu "Lion River"; Chinese: 印度 Yìndù; Greek: Ινδuσ Indus) is the longest and most important river in Pakistan and one of the most important rivers on the Indian subcontinent. Originating in the Tibetan plateau in the vicinity of Lake Mansarovar, the river runs a course through Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir, India and Northern Areas, flowing through the North in a southernly direction along the entire length of country, to merge into the Arabian Sea near Pakistan's port city Karachi. The total length of the river is 3200 km (1988 miles). The river has a total drainage area exceeding 450,000 square miles. The river's estimated annual flow stands at around 207 cubic kilometres. Beginning at the heights of the world with glaciers, the river feeds the ecosystem of temperate forests, plains and arid countryside. Together with the rivers Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej, Jhelum, Beas and the extinct Sarasvati River, the Indus forms the Sapta Sindhu ("Seven Rivers") delta in the Sindh province of Pakistan. It has 20 major tributaries
The ultimate source of the Indus is in Tibet; it begins at the confluence of the Sengge and Gar rivers that drain the Nganglong Kangri and Gangdise Shan mountain ranges. The Indus then flows northwest through Ladakh-Baltistan into Gilgit, just south of the Karakoram range
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Image:Panamic village, nubra valley.jpg
Panamic Village, Nubra Valley
Nubra Valley is situated about 150 km north of Leh, the capital town of Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir, India. The common way to access this valley is to travel over the Khardung La from Leh where one will first encounter the Shyok Valley. To enter the Nubra valley, one must cross over the Shyok River via a small bridge and pass through a military checkpoint. An "Inner Line" permit is required to pass. The Nubra valley contains the small towns of Sumur and Panamik. Sumur has a Buddhist gompa or monastery while Panamik is noted for its hot springs.
There are two villages accessible to foreigners in the Shyok Valley - Disket and Hundar. Disket is home to a busy and dramatically positioned gompa. Hundar is one of those rare places on earth where you can see in one place the splendid beauty of a desert with bactrian camels (two-humped), sand dunes, rolling mountains and snow peaks.
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The Nubra River is a tributary of the Shyok River, which flows into the Indus River. It flows in the Ladakh area of Jammu and Kashmir.
http://www.jktourism.org/cities/ladakh/site-see/valley.htm# June 7, 2007
The Nubra Valley Circuit
Leh-Khardung-la-Khalsar-Tirit-Tegar-Sumur-Panamik and return.
A Bactrian camel in Nubra valley
The name Nubra is applied to the region comprising the valley of the river Nubra and that of the Shayok, both above and below their confluence, where they meander in many shifting channels over a broad sandy plain, before flowing off to the north-west to join the Indus in Baltistan. The Shayok and Nubra rivers drain the east and west sides of the Saser sub-range of Karakoram. The route from Leh crosses over the Khardung-la, the highest motorable road in the world. The line of the road is different from that of the old pony-trail, longer and actually higher (18,300 ft 5,578 m). The view from the top is amazing. One can see all the way south over the Indus valley to the seemingly endless peaks and ridges of the Zanskar range, and north to the giants of the Saser massif. For several kilometres, on each side of the pass, the road, covered by deep snow in winter, is rough. For the rest of the way the road is good. At the confluence of the two rivers there is no dearth of water, but the sandy soil is not suitable for agriculture, which is confined to the alluvial fans where side streams drain into the main valley. The valley floor itself is covered with dense thickets of a thorny shrub, which the villagers use for fuel and for fencing, though there is now less need for this than there was in the days of the caravan trade with Central Asia when up to 10,000 horses a year are said to traverse the distri ct. The villages are large and prosperous, and have thick plantations of willow and poplar. The altitude is a little less than that of Leh, varying between 10,000 ft (3,231 m) at Hundar, and 10,600 ft (3231 m) at Panamik. Summer temperatures vary between 15oC and 28oC.The main village is Deskit, which has a bazaar comprising of single line of shops, and a gompa situated on a rocky spur above the village with a commanding view. From Deskit, the route follows the course of the Shayok to Hundar, past an area of rolling sand dunes, with their contours liable to shift with every gale. There is a small population of the shaggy double-humped Bactrian camels, which in the old days were used as pack animals on the Central Asian trade route. During the past 50 years, they have been bred for transport purposes in Nubra. Today visitors to Nubra can use these animals for going on camel safaris.
Bactrian camels among the sand dunes of nubra
The other circuit proceeds up the Nubra River, taking in the pretty villages of Tirit, Lukung, Tegar and Sumur. Nubra's other major monastery. Samsta-ling is situated on the mountainside just above Sumur. This was the route taken by the trade caravans. Panamik, the last village on this circuit, was at that time a busy centre, being the last major settlement before the caravans entered into the mountains of Karakoram and the Kun-Lu. Here they halted for a few days to make final preparations for the journey across the mountains, or to recuperate on the way back. The Government maintained a granary to sell food grains for the men and even for the horses. But this arrangement was insufficient for the amount of the traffic, and the villagers made huge profits, selling grain and fodder and letting out their fodder-fields for the horses to graze in. Today, Panamik is a sleepy village, its inhabitants quietly going about their work in the fields. On the mountainside above the village, hot water bubbles out of the earth in thermal springs, reputed to have therapeutic qualities. Across the river, clinging to the mountains, are a few trees rooted among the rocks surrounding the tiny Ensa gompa.
the Pangong Lake, situated at an altitude of 14,000 ft (4,267m). It is a long narrow basin of inland drainage, hardly 6 to 7 kms at its widest point, and over 130 kms long, and bisected by the international border between India and China. Spangmik, the farthest point up to which foreigners are permitted, is about 7 kms along the southern shore from the head of the lake. It presents a spectacular view of the mountains of the Chang-chenmo range to the north, their reflections shimmering in the ever-changing blues and greens of the lake’s brackish waters. Above Spangmik are the glaciers and snow-capped peaks of the Pangong range. Spangmik and a scattering of other tiny villages along the lake's southern shore are the summer homes of a scanty population of Chang-pa, the nomadic herdsmen of Tibet and southeast Ladakh. The Pangong Chang-pa cultivate sparse crops of barley and peas in summer. It is in winter that they unfold their yak wool tents called rebo, and take the flocks of sheep and pashmina goats out to the distant pastures.
http://www.jktourism.org/cities/ladakh/site-see/valley.htm# june 7th
View of Suru Valley near Kargil
About 15,000 sq. kms. in area, Kargil district has an agrarian population of approximately 120,000 people, who cultivate the land, along the course of the drainage system, wherever artificial irrigation from mountain streams is possible. About 85 % are Muslims, mainly of the Shia sect, Islam having been introduced to the original Buddhist population around the middle of the 16th century by missionaries from Kashmir and Central Asia. Their descendants, locally titled Agha, are mostly religious scholars who continue to hold sway over the population, even as the age-old traditions of Buddhist and animistic origin are discernible in the culture. Many elements of the ancient supernatural belief systems, especially many traditions connected with agricultural practices, are still followed with subdued reverence.
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The Eurasian plate, shown in green
The Eurasian Plate is a tectonic plate covering Eurasia (a landmass consisting of the continents Europe and Asia) except that it does not cover the Indian subcontinent, the Arabian subcontinent, and the area east of the Verkhoyansk Range in East Siberia. It extends westward to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. If only the part west of the Ural Mountains is considered, the term European Plate is sometimes applied.
The easterly side is a boundary with the North American Plate to the north and a boundary with the Philippine Plate to the south, and possibly with the Okhotsk Plate and the Amurian Plate. The southerly side is a boundary with the African Plate to the west, the Arabian Plate in the middle and the Indo-Australian Plate to the east. The westerly side is a divergent boundary with the North American Plate forming the northernmost part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It is the 3rd largest tectonic plate.
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The India or Indian Plate is a minor tectonic plate. Part of the major Indo-Australian Plate, it contains the subcontinent of India and a portion of the basin under the Indian Ocean.
About 90 million years ago, in the late Cretaceous Period, the India Plate split from Madagascar off the east coast of Africa. It began moving north, at about 15 cm/yr (6 in/yr), and began colliding with Asia between 50 and 55 million years ago, in the Eocene epoch of the Cenozoic Era. During this time, the India Plate covered a distance of 2,000 to 3,000 km (1,200 to 1,900 mi), and moved faster than any other known plate.
The collision with the Eurasian Plate along the boundary between India and Nepal formed the orogenic belt that created the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalaya Mountains, as sediment bunched up like earth before a plow.
The India Plate is currently moving northeast at 5 cm/yr (2 in/yr), while the Eurasian Plate is moving north at only 2 cm/yr (0.8 in/yr). This is causing the Eurasian Plate to deform, and the India Plate to compress at a rate of 4 mm/yr (0.15 in/yr).