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Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Trip to Haridwar-Rishikesh

Initially, plans were made for a trip to Manali or Lansdowne, but things didn't work accordingly & we had to alter our destination to Haridwar-Rishikesh, a shorter trip , from Delhi. We chose this destination, primarily, because one of my friends (Manoj) had to go to Haridwar to perform his dad’s death ritual (to emerge 'aasthi' into the Ganga) and the route to Rishikesh from Haridwar would be the shortest & easiest. Henceforth, we embarked our journey with a set of 5 people on May 25th '10 at 8-9 am in a friends Wagon-R, the team comprised for this trip were; Sisir (with his Wagon-R), Manoj & Sangita (a couple) & Sumi & I.

Started our trip from Delhi.......May 25th.

We reached Haridwar after a 5 hrs drive from N.Delhi, at around 2.00 pm, the sun was shining at its best scorching heat yet we had to complete the ritual at the Ganga to leave early for Rishikesh. Haridwar, due to some reason, I didn't like it cause the place was/is overcrowded, commercialized & dirty. What worsens the environment is touts & hawkers hankering after money in the name of the Gods & ritual, even the 'pandits' demand & negotiate for money on rituals & sacred offerings done. Please Find some pictures below which I/we had managed to capture in the burning heat & in the excessive crowd.

The Ganga river, Haridwar

With friends at Haridwar, L to R: Sisir, Manoj & self

Shivaji statue @ Haridwar

Rishikesh, situated at an altitude of 365 m above the sea level, is a city which falls under the Dehradun district of Uttarakhand in Northern India . It's a holy city for Hindus and a famous centre of pilgrimage & river rafting for tourists. The name of this city is name after lord Vishnu in some way. The sacred river Ganga flows through this city. It is also known as the gateway to the Himalayas and is located about 25 kms away from Haridwar, we reached here at around 4.00 pm, was moderately hot, we hunted for accommodation, got a fair deal in a guest house, one spacious room for 800/- bucks (excluding food).

Rishikesh, a very famous spot for river rafting in India.

In Northern India, while traveling, I found out an experience of two seasons corresponding to lodging price rates viz; Off-season & On-season, these season doesn't correspond to nature but school/academic vacation, when visiting North-Indian places during academic vacations is considered to be an 'On-season' wherein the price rate shoots up twice/thrice in comparison to the deals & Hotel rates found in 'Off-season', this is when the academic institutions are not on vacations (summers/winters/semesters/terms). May be the same rule applies in other tourist places in India but am not sure. So, its best feasible to visit tourist places during 'Off-season' for cost effective purposes.

The next morning after a nice breakfast we headed for a famous spot in Rishikesh called 'Ram Jhula' & 'Lakshman Jhula', both the Jhula's are a very strong iron suspension bridges on
the Ganga river.

The Lakshman Jhula bridge as seen from a distance.

The Lakshman Jhula on The Ganga river, it is said that Lakshman crossed Ganga on jute ropes between the place where the bridge was rebuilt in 1939.

A closer view of the Laxman Jhula, I think it'd be a kilometer long.

The Ram Jhula on The Holy Ganga river.

The entire team...... L to R: Manoj, Sangita, Sumi, self & Sisir

sporting near & under the Lakshman Jhula bridge

These ladies enjoyed the cold splashes of the Ganga river.... at one time, they both fell into the cold Ganga river deliberately, of course in shallow stream.

One uniqueness of the River Ganges, no matter how scorching the sun is, the water is very cold and the moment you dip your foot/feet into the river............. ahhhhh! relief from the heat.... feels like you're under a shaddy tree.

After we were through with the epic "Jhulas" & other sport, we headed to Shivpuri for river rafting, started our rafting from Shivpuri to NIM beach (16kms). We hired a raft for 3000/- bucks for 5 people, a normal raft generally has a seating capacity of 9-10 members with the guide along. The river rafting experience at Rishikesh was something which I'll cherish forever & ever. It was stupendously TERRIFIC to sway with the wild & infuriated waves. In this entire rafting we met around 5-6 nice wild rapids wherein your heart is out of your body when you hear the raging sound of the waves and when your raft stands almost vertical in the air not knowing what's next yet its just the zeal & passion for survival that you keep continuing to raft on and on..... a task to complete successfully in sync with the team, controlling over your fright & emotions..... Oh Boy! what an experience!

The first activity that we did when we hit the rafting point........ we plunged into the water.....oooohhhh! cold!

The river is very cold & deep but thanks to the life-jackets!

The miniature single & double bedded camps @ Shivpuri

Our starting point........ The small shackles in green are the camps for the rafters, as seen from distant.

A common cheer " BOLO GANGA MAYA KI - 'JAI!' prevails & echoes in the Ganga..... Dunno, how many times Mother Ganga washed my face with the lullaby of the wild waves.

A lil tired while rafting.........

The jumping point........ a jumper seen plunging into the water.

The commercial standing shops by the river found midway while rafting.

cool, calm & serene.......... don't be duped!

The ladies giving a pose at the starting point of the rafting.

After crossing all the rapids....... you're given to jump off the boat to sport & swim, Sisir, the only one from our group who knew swimming, enjoyed his heart out.

The Ahom Chronicles

Upper-Assam, apart from being considered: literate, aristocrat, fierce, royal, brave, polite etc., The beauty of Upper -Assam lies in the magnificence of the (our) ancient Ahom remains & monuments, Please find some of the priceless monuments in pictures on my way to Dibrugarh and around Upper-Assam.
The Colosseum Rang Ghar, 3 kms away from the Sibsagar town, is a unique double-storied amphitheater resembles the Roman Colosseum from where the Ahom Kings watched Elephant races, Bull fights & other sports. Built by an Ahom King- Pramatta Singha (AD 1774-1750).

The huge Talatal Ghar is close to Rang Ghar & is the largest of all the monuments built by the Ahom Kings on the bank of the 'River Dikhow'. There's a belief that there used to be a secret underground tunnel from 'Kareng Ghar' to 'Talatal Ghar'

The majestic Kareng Ghar, 15 kms away from Sibsagar town, is the remains of the royal palace of the Ahom Kings. This monument is four-storied. There's a belief that there used to be a secret underground tunnel from 'Kareng Ghar' to 'Talatal Ghar' in Rangpur which is many kms away across the 'Dikhow river'.

The beautiful Charaideo, located around 30 kms away from Sibsagar town off the Sibsagar-Simaluguri road, was the first capital of the Ahoms founded by Sukhapa. It contains sacred burial grounds of Ahom kings and queens and is also the place of ancestral Gods of the Ahoms. The tombs (Maidams) of Ahom kings and queens at Charaideo hillocks are comparable to the Pyramids of Egypt and are objects of wonder revealing the excellent architecture and skill of the sculptors and masons of Assam of the medieval days.

On the way to Sibsagar..... A very famous carving of the Ahom Chief, Borphukan (commander-in-chief) leading his troops at a war against the Bongals (foreigners)

The inscription on the headstone underneath the depiction of the Borphukan-troops-war-lead statue

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The Ahom Kingdom & their "Tai" language (A brief review)

The Ahom in originality is an offshoot of the Tai-Yai or the Shan tribe from Thailand who came to settle in the upper Bramhaputra valley of Assam in 1228 and ruled the whole B.V of Assam till 1826.

In the early 13th century, Sukaphaa, a Shan tribe prince began his journey with about 9,000 men and women, they crossed the Patkai Hills & reached the Bramhaputra valley where they started their establishment “The Ahom Kingdom” from 1228 -1826 & ruled for almost 600 years, successfully, resisting Mughal extensions in NE India, but fell under the defeat of the Burmese Invaders around 1826-27 and a few years later around 1838, the British annexed ‘the Ahom kingdom’ from the Burmese invaders holding their rule until 1947. ( Burma , herself was invaded by burmeses invaders such as Kublai Khan and the Chinese)

Tai-Yai or shan people, they started their migration from Thailand to Kamrup (now known as Assam or Axom). They moved through the river valleys of myanmar , crossed patkai hills, entering the upper bramhaputra valley. On the way, they met stiff resistances from various tribes such as; the Naga, Pyu, Singhpo etc. but made through their way. In the Bramhaputra valley they came into contact with tribes like Moran, Kachari, Deori, chutia etc
(* The Kacharis’ had already established their kingdom in Dimapur by 11th century)

The ‘shan’ people spoke ‘tai’ language but the “Tai” people with the first generation of small population gone and exposure to various tribes & Hindu Aryan culture with many other blended communal societies, like the Muslims, Tibetans, Burmese etc) were not able to persevere and preserve their ‘tai’ language and religion. Over time, the Ahom state (Kingdom) adopted Assamese language, best to say the Ahoms adapted themselves with the social and political suits of Assam, kings and other high officials were converted to Hindu dharma. As a result of all this the ‘tai’ language is now extinct which is really very sad to learn being from an atom ancestry. However, some traditional & cultural practices such as matrimony, religious observance, food-fads etc., are still observed and followed with highest zeal and fervor. Linguistically ‘tai’ language has gotten extinct but the tradition and culture is still kept alive. Assam was named after “Ahom” prior to this, it was called Kamrup.

(N.B: In the recent years the Tai-Ahom people are trying to retain and revitalize their old Tai language)