Motorbiking to Leh Ladakh – An Exhilarating Experience

Ladakh, located in India, is among the most beautiful places on earth. The region, with its administrative centre in Leh, lies in the north of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Since the Indian government opened this high-altitude plateau for tourism, the response from travellers has been beyond usual expectation. As per official reports, till 2009, more than 750000 national and international travellers had visited the region. Much of this splendid region lies above 9000 feet in altitude, and it gets extremely cold here. In Dras, the temperature regularly falls to -45 degree Celsius, making it the coldest place in India.

When and How to Go

Summers are the perfect time to visit this part of the country as the weather remains on the cooler side, though not as cold as in the freezing winters. In Leh, between May and September, the day temperature stays between 16 and 25 degree Celsius while the nights can get sufficiently cold. There are two main approach roads to Ladakh: National Highway 1D from Srinagar and the Leh-Manali Highway, which forms a part of NH 21. To reach Srinagar by road, travellers need to first reach Jalandhar in Punjab and then follow NH 1A. The state is served by three airports, one each in Srinagar, Leh and Jammu and domestic carriers ferry passengers from Mumbai and Delhi. Those, coming by train, can avail the services of Indian Railways till Jammu Tawi and then take buses or taxis from there.

Biking

A way to travel up here, quickly gaining popularity, is by motorbikes. Over the years, a lot of motorcycle clubs have formed all over the country, especially in Delhi that organise regular road trips to this rugged and cold magnificence. Narrow roads, winding through the hillsides, beckon a lot of adventure-enthusiasts who combine their thrill-seeking personalities with their love for biking. At high altitudes, deep ravines and gorges are visible from roads that become perfect spots for taking photographs. The majority of the roads at higher elevations are narrow and often dotted with potholes, making it a bumpy ride that sometimes elevates the joy of biking. Many riders travel all up to Khardunga La, a mountain pass, more than 17000 feet above sea level. Riding on one of the highest roads in the world adds to the already adventurous journey. Due to being a high-tension zone, the area has a lot of military presence and seeing army trucks, meandering along the roads, in a single file is a sight, worth observing.

Note

A vehicle with a powerful engine and one with high fuel capacity should be chosen as the path involves a lot of ascent. Vehicles with low fuel capacity and less strong engines tend to get incapacitated at extreme altitudes. Riders are also cautioned to keep iron chains, arranged in a circle, ready with them. On soft turf and on snow, the rubber-tyres slip and the chains, woven around the wheels, provide the much-needed grip. Another important thing is that when travellers rest for the night, they should leave the engines of their vehicles on. Doing so, keeps them warm and they do not freeze due to the plummeting temperature.

Caution

Going to such extreme elevations carries with it a lot many health hazards, altitude-sickness, being the most common. As people reach Leh, they should spend a day or two there just to acclimatise before going any higher. The usual symptoms of altitude sickness are headache, nausea, weakness and dizziness and as soon as any of them is felt, medical attention should be sought. The Khardung La pass takes travellers to the valley of the Nubra River with its major town of Diskit. It is becoming quite popular with tourists as it is the site of the famous Buddhist monastery. The area lies close to disputed territories of Aksai Chin and the Siachen Glacier. Owing to it, the Nubra Valley too has a sufficient military presence and those, coming from outside India, are required to get special permits to enter it. At an army check-post just before Khardung La, everyone is required to get their permits and official documents like passports and visas checked and hence, travelling along with them is recommended.

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Temples of Rishikesh and Stories Related to Them

Rishikesh, situated in the Uttarakhand state, is a perfect location to play and pray. The state itself is dotted with numerous temples, some them are highly significant for the followers of the Hindu religion. Similarly, Rishikesh, lying on the foothill of the Himalayas is called as the Yoga Capital of the World. It is believed that devotees used to come to this secluded to worship their gods peacefully.

However, it is emerging as one of the best destinations to enjoy adventure sport like trekking, water rafting and mountaineering. Rishikesh is modified version of Hrishikesh, which means the one who has conquered all the senses. This town received its name from saints and Yogis who came here for meditation in order to attain salvation. This place is dotted with tourist attractions that have great significance in the Hindu mythology, and are backed by interesting facts. Here are some of the myths associated with this holy town and different attractions.

Name

The first one is related to its name; it is believed that Hrishikesh is another name for Lord Vishnu. As per legends, Lord Vishnu killed the demon Madhu. However, there are few reports claiming that Lord Ram sought penance at this place on advice of the sage Vashishth after killing Ravana. There is other group which believes that Lord Vishnu appeared in front of the Rabiya Rishi at this place after completion of his penance. All these claims are backed by some or the other incidents mentioned in mythological books.

Lakshmana Jhula

One of the most popular attractions of the region, Lakshmana Jhula, has its own interesting story. This iron suspension bridge was built in the early 19th century during the British reign. It is built over the Ganges River; picturesque scene of the majestic mountains along with the water flowing below the bridge is unique in nature. It is believed that Lakshmana – younger brother of Lord Ram – crossed the river with the help of jute ropes at the same site. Tourists can behold the beauty of the spectacular views from this bridge or can head towards the Ram Jhula near this landmark.

The Triveni Ghat

This site is said to be one of the holiest sites in India, where three rivers – Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati meet. This confluence point is visited by millions of tourists every year. As per Hindu mythology, a dip in the waters of this place washes away all the sins. The beauty of this place is worth watching in the evening, when the settling sun changes the colour of water. Apart from this the sound of Vedas and Mantras chanted by devotees as well priests add to the charm of this pace. Priests perform pujas by making leaf boats, using flowers, travellers can get a complete picture of the rituals followed during these events.

Bharat Temple

One of the oldest temples of the country, Bharat Temple was built back in the 12th century. It is said that Adiguru Shankaracharya dedicated this temple to Bharat – the younger brother of Lord Ram. The main attraction of this place is Saligram of Lord Vishnu. This idol has been carved out of a single stone. Apart from this, the Shri Yantra in the inner canopy was installed by the Guru himself. Archaeologists have found old coins, pots and many other things at this place which prove that the existence of this shrine is quite old. Travellers can hop to the 13th storey of the temple to capture view of the temple in the most explicit way. They get an excellent view of sculptures of gods as well as goddesses on this floor of the temple.

The Neelkanth Temple

As per Hindu mythology, the gods and demons churned out the sea and a pot of Halahala (venom) and nector (amrita) came out. It is believed that Lord Shiva drank the pot of venom at this place, which turned the colour of his neck into Blue. This is the reason behind name of this temple Neelkanth – the one with blue neck. People who want to see the Ganga Aarti can go to the Parmarth Ashram. A giant hawan and aarti is organised at the Parmarth Ghat every evening that attracts hundreds of devotees.

Shakti Peeths in Himachal Pradesh

Himachal Pradesh is a state located in North India, bordered by Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab from different sides. Shimla – the state capital – is one of the most popular tourist destinations of the country. People from all across the world come to enjoy the scenic beauty of this place comprising cold mountain peaks and green vegetation. Apart from Shimla, Kangra, Mandi, Dharamshala, Kullu, Manali, Hamirpur, Chamba and Dalhousie are some of the destinations visited by millions of tourists every year. Most of the state revenue is generated from tourism, and this is the reason that travellers find all type of facilities in these regions. Be it accommodation, transportation or souvenir shops, each and every thing, is managed for the convenience of tourists.

For nature and history lovers to adventure and spirituality seekers, this place has something for everyone. There are numerous places where people can find peace and solitude. It is often referred as the Dev Bhumi, which means the abode of gods. As per reports, over 2000 temples are located in Himachal Pradesh, which flaunt magnificent carvings and architecture. Most of them are associated with legends of the ancient times and some of them have an interesting story behind their construction. Here is a list of some of the most revered places in Himachal Pradesh.

Naina Devi Temple

Naina Devi Temple

Naina Devi Temple

India is known for its cultural diversity; hence, people can find popular temples, monasteries, churches and mosques in almost all parts of the nation. Naina Devi is one of the popular temples of the country, located in the district of Bilaspur. As per tell a tales, to avenge the insult of her spouse – Lord Shiva, Goddess Sati burnt herself. This made Lord Shiva furious, who started Tandava (a destructive dance form) after picking up the body of Sati. This could have led to destruction the earth, and to save the world, Lord Vishnu decided to stop this horrifying dance. He used his Chakra, which slashed the body of Sati into 51 pieces. As per Hindu Mythology, a peeth (known as Shakti Peeth) was established everywhere the body part fell on the earth. It is believed that eyes of the goddess fell at this place, and hence, it is called the Naina Devi Temple. It is one of the most visited temples in the region, popular among the followers of the Hindu religion.

Jawalamukhi Temple

Jawalamukhi Temple

Jawalamukhi Temple

This is one of the 51 peeths, and it is believed that the tongue of Goddess Sati fell here. It is dedicated to goddess Jwala, and the name means mouth of flames. Travellers can reach this place by booking a cab or taking the help of transportation from Kangra Valley. It is situated at distance of around an hour drive from the Kangra Valley – known for its picturesque beauty. It is believed that there are nine flames that never stop burning. Travellers from all across the country come to see the aarti session, held five times a day. However, the Shaiyan Aarti – performed in the evening – is the most important one, and attracts the maximum number of devotees. At this time, the idol of goddess is decorated with valuable ornaments and fine clothes.

Mata Chintpurni and Chamunda Devi Temple

Mata Chintpurni

Mata Chintpurni

These ancient religious places are located in the Una district of Himachal Pradesh dedicated to Goddess Chintpurni and Chhinnamastika. The temple received its name from the idol of Goddess Durga without head. It is believed that after Lord Vishnu cut the corpse of Sati into 51 pieces, the feet of Sati fell down at this place. This is how this temple adapted its name Chinamastika, which literally means without head or behead. Followers believe that any wish can be fulfilled if asked from the Sati with a pure heart at this temple. The Chintpurni temple near this place is visited during festive seasons, especially Navaratri.

Chamunda Devi Temple

Chamunda Devi Temple

 

Tourists can also head towards the Chamunda Devi temple situated at around 8 km from Dharamshala. The mythology says that the trunk of the goddess fell at this place. However, there are contradictions regarding this belief, and may say that Goddess Durga killed Chand and Munda (demons) at this place. Apart from paying reverence to the goddess, travellers can also enjoy the festivity at these places.

Areas in Andaman Islands Where You Are Not Allowed To Go

Andaman Islands form a picturesque archipelago in the Bay of Bengal, and most of them belong to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It is one of the seven union territories of the federal nation of India. There are over 570 islands in this territory lying in the Indian Ocean, and around 38 of them are inhabited. Earlier, they were used as isolated prisons by the British, but now, they have emerged as popular tourist destinations of the country, and are referred to as Emerald Islands. The scenic beauty of this place has been captured by many filmmakers and nature lovers. Apart from this, it is a perfect spot for adventure lovers, who can enjoy water sport like trekking, snorkelling and scuba diving amid nature. People looking for a peaceful getaway can easily bathe in sun on the sparkling beaches or take a walk in the tropical jungles. They can go to Port Blair – the capital of Andaman and the only entry/exit point of the archipelago. However, for the safety of travelers and tribes living in the region, there are certain rules that have to be followed by visitors. They also have to take special permissions from the government to explore this place.

In order to retain the charm and natural beauty of this place, visitors are prohibited from hunting animals and birds. After getting necessary permits, they can visit the National Parks, but are requested not to harm any flora or fauna of land or water. Popular attractions of this place include Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park, Chidiya Tapu, Cellular Jail, Mount Harriet Museum and Fisheries Museum. Holidays at this place allow tourists to witness some of the most prized delights of nature. However, people willing to go to Andaman and Nicobar Islands have to get special tribal passes provided by respective authorities. Those who try to trespass are punished severely, and mingling with tribal people is also considered as an offence.

Forest Areas

Travellers are prohibited to go to the forests either with guides or on their own. There are several reasons for this; most important among them being the comfort of tribes. The aborigine tribes living in the forests of Andaman Islands are facing extinction and have been listed in the endangered list. They prefer privacy and are quite sensitive about it; hence, an attempt to mingle with them may result in unwanted incidences. Apart from this, the government also requests visitors to stay out of their way.

Restriction Regarding Timings

Tourists are asked to stay in their hotel after the sunset. Staying in forest areas or beaches is strictly prohibited, and people are not allowed here. They also cannot light bonfires as it is a punishable offence along with setting up tents or hammocks along beaches or in forests.

Beach Rules

All corals and seashells are examined by the officials of Fisheries Department before travellers can take them along. They are not allowed to collect dead corals spread across the sea as well as touching or breaking them. While swimming in the crystal blue waters of the Indian Ocean, tourists are advised to take care of the warnings of lifeguards. Entering in restricted areas can prove to be a dangerous act, and apart from fines and punishments, they may also have to face dangers of the sea and health hazards. Hence, it is suggested that they take help of lifeguards in any doubtful situation. However, swimming during monsoons is prohibited as the level of danger rises significantly in these months.

Special Permits

Indian tourists need to apply for permissions regarding the visit with the government and provide an identity card. Whereas, foreign visitors have to provide their passports, which goes through a thorough scrutiny and is then stamped by immigration authorities. They need to take the permit at the airport or harbour from immigration officers present there. These permits are valid for 30 days, on which extension of 15 more days can be availed. However, they have to apply for extension three days before the expiry of the permit. The immigration authority is quite strict on these rules, and they also carry random checks at different attractions; hence tourists have to carry it with them all the time. Adhering to these rules and regulations will smoothen the travel, and allow travellers to enjoy the beauty of this place without worries.

Rising tourism in Leh and Ladakh- Braving the Cold

Ladakh, in the extreme north of India, is among the coldest places on earth. During winters, temperature here falls to as low as -40 degree Celsius and summers are also predominantly cool. Despite the freezing cold, for over 30 years, people have been visiting it. Until 1979, Ladakh existed as a single district and in the mentioned year, it was split into the districts of Leh and Kargil. The number of visitors to this unhindered wilderness is rising and a big chunk of travellers who come to Jammu and Kashmir, venture into this plateau as well. The major areas or regions, which are the most popular among visitors, are Leh – the administrative capital of the Leh district, Dras in Kargil and the valleys of the Shyok, Nubra and Zanskar rivers. In the past, traders from Tibet, across the Himalayas, kept the region always bustling with life, but the Chinese government after capturing Tibet, closed the borders.

 

Trends

 

In the mid-20th century, the plateau remained closed for locals due to the escalating tensions between India and Pakistan. A significant point of this conflict came in 1948 when the Indian Army held on the Siachen Glacier, lying in the north-west of the district. The Indian government finally opened the area for tourists in 1974, perhaps to provide a better livelihood to the mountain-dwellers. In the same year, about 527 people came here, with those from outside the country numbering at 500, making up the majority. Since then the trends have changed vastly and in contemporary times, the Leh District is recording gigantic rise in numbers. According to data collected from local authorities, between 1988 and 2001, 17000 people visited the town on an average annual basis.

 

The highest number in one year during this period is pegged at 25000 in 1988. Owing to the spread of terrorism in the state, Leh in 1991 witnessed an all-time low of less than 10000 visitors. From the next year up till 1999, the number kept increasing gradually and held firmly consistent between 10000 and 20000. Another significant lull came in 1999 in the wake of the infamous Kargil War. Since 2003, the tourist count has again picked up and has been rising steadily. As per reports, in 2010 and till August 2011, the numbers stood at 77800 and 148588, respectively. Many different factors, ranging from elevating peace, better infrastructure and more advanced technology can be attributed to the recent upheaval.

 

Factors

 A) Roads

 

The biggest factor in the growth of tourism in Ladakh has been the improvement in the infrastructure. One of the only two National Highways to link the region with the rest of India is numbered as 1-D. It had always been an important route as it was used extensively for trading between India and Tibet. After the Dogras took the region from the Sikhs, the former people improved the road, allowing caravans to pass. The British government in 1873 sanctioned around INR 2500 for its upkeep. Following the Indo-China war of 1962, the local government started building National Highway 1-D, reaching Kargil by 1964. It was for ten years used exclusively by the army and after it being opened for civilians in 1974, Ladakh has become closer to the country.

B) Internet and Motion Pictures

 

Holiday packages, being offered by the multitude of travel agencies, are also an important factor contributing to the increment. Internet has become one of the indispensable utilities and nowadays, it is filled with travel portals offering all kinds of holiday packages. A stiff competition among the companies to dominate the market has led to the cost of such packages falling continuously. These packages take care of everything like booking of international flights, making reservations in hotels, getting travellers to Ladakh, sightseeing and getting them back. They have made the place easily accessible to all and thus has contributed significantly in the upheaval of tourist activities.

 

The region has been featured in loads of Indian motion pictures, which has further elevated the amount of visitors. Kashmir, especially Srinagar has been used as location in Indian films since the 1950s and in the latter part of the first decade of the 21st century, various attractions of this rugged land are also being used to shoot. A notable recent motion picture is 3 Idiots that featured its final scene at the Pangong Tso Lake, at a height of about 4350 metres above sea level. The part in Bhag Milkha Bhag, depicting the training of the athlete, was also shot in the area.

 

Enjoying Art Forms in Goa during the Stay

Goa is the tiniest state of India, lying in the Konkan region. Millions of tourists visit this beach destination every year, and this place is often synonymous with the tourism in the country. Divided in North and South districts, it is the ultimate place to enjoy peaceful vacations or fun-filled weekends. This place is dotted with numerous stunning sights and historical monuments. The geography is a perfect amalgamation of plateaus, mountainous regions and coastal plains. Tourists can see glimpses of Roman and Portuguese architecture in the churches and other man-made wonders of this region. One glimpse of this state gives an insight of the cultural richness and interesting traditions. It is also regarded as a pilgrimage centre for the believers of Christianity.

Celebrations in Goa

Most of the tourists come to this place to enjoy their vacation. The months of November and December are busiest as the Christmas and New Year celebrations of this state are popular all across the globe. Tourists can enjoy the most happening party on one hand, followed by a serene walk by the sea. These parties include performance by renowned names in the music industry. Special performance in parties or full-fledged concert by these artists can be enjoyed during a stay here. Apart from this, classical programs are also part of the culture, and tourists can be a part of them to know this place in a better way.

Dance Events in Goa

This state is quite rich in culture, heritage and arts. The performing arts of this place are unique and have been point of interest of many travellers. The unity in diversity of the Goan heritage can be easily spotted in the dances performed by artists. The overall view is colourful and ethnic, depicting the mix of Indian and Western influence on the art form. Over a period of time, various dances and musical events have evolved as result of the fusion. They all grew parallel with the classical dance. Here is a list of dances, which have been a part of the state since years.

Local Performing Arts

Dekni

Dekni

The first one in the list is Dekni, performed exclusively by women. Its background music is inspired by both the East and West; hence has contemporary as well as ethnic components. Unlike other Indian classic performance, it is devoid of religious context and came into existence as a result of social gatherings. It includes elements of Kunbi, Dhalo and Fugdi – folk and tribal dances, respectively. Kunbi is perhaps the only form, in which Portuguese influence is absent as it has been practised even before their arrival.

Lamp Dance

Lamp Dance

Lamp Dance is the speciality of Goa, performed by trained women during Shigmo – the spring festival. It needs a lot of practice as balancing lamps on the head is a part of the whole act.

Goff

Goff

To get a closer look at the lifestyle of locals, travellers can go to see the Goff. It is performed by Goans after the crop is harvested in order to celebrate the occasion. The techniques involved in this performance may take months to learn. In the first half, braids are made using colourful cords, and in the second half artists unravel it while doing rhythmic movements inspired by Gujarati tribal dances. Songs played during the entire performance are dedicated to the Lord Krishna.
Dance drama and plays also feature elegant dance forms, some of which are Jagar, Dhangar, Muscle and Ghode Modni.

Jagar

Jagar

Gawdas – known as original settlers in Goa – perform Jagar and Dhangar.

Dhangar

Dhangar

Apart from this, Dashavatar, which means ten incarnations, is also a major genre associated with Lord Vishnu. Some people say that this form takes instances from Kuchipudi and has originated from it while the other group believes that it has evolved from Yakshagana. It is part of a play, in which the theft of Vedas is the subject. Main characters include Goddess Saraswati, Lord Brahma and the Sankasur demon.

Romat dance

Romat dance

Romat dance performed as a result of the thanks-giving observation is one of the most vibrant sights. It is more of a procession carried by people of Central and Northern Goa that features ceremonial umbrellas, huge banners, festooned stick and people dancing on beats of Dholas and Tashas (drums). The electric cultural mix of Goa is different from rest of the country, and is unique in its own way. Travellers can experience an exhilarating vibrancy, rhythmic charm and colourful variety by visiting this place.

The History of Andaman Islands

Andaman is a group of islands, situated in the Bay of Bengal, off the coast of India. Their mean elevation is equal to that of the sea, with the highest point being 2402 feet above sea level at the summit of the Saddle Peak. Together with the Nicobar Islands, they form one of the seven Union Territories of India. The largest city and the capital of this archipelago is Port Blair. Before undertaking an Andaman tour package, visitors may want to learn about the history of this island group. Based on archaeological studies, it is estimated that the region has been inhabited since the last 2200 years. However, cultural and genetic studies reveal that they may have been inhabited since the middle Palaeolithic Age, more than 30000 years ago. It has been theorised that during the great coastal migration some 200000 years ago, people from the African continent migrated to India and came here. The theory about the name of the archipelago says that it was derived from the word andoman, which is the Malay corruption for Hanuman – the Hindu deity.

Medieval

Many ancient people like Ptolemy probably knew about the area and had a different name for it. Al-Ramhormuzi, a Persian explorer, has mentioned the region as being manifested by cannibals in his book Ajaib-al-Hind. In the 11th century, Rajendra I of the South Indian Chola Empire conquered this territory and used it as a strategic naval base to launch attacks on Sumatra. The first Europeans here were the Danish, who arrived on December 12, 1755. Due to the repeated malaria outbreaks, the territory was repeatedly abandoned by the colonisers. Kanhoji Angre, a Maratha admiral, made it his naval base and fought the British from here during the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

Colonial and WWII

The British in 1824 established a colony, what is now known as Port Blair in the Chatham Island. During the First Burmese War, it was a major stopover for the colonial armed forces. Through the next 20 years, sailors who shipwrecked here were killed by the natives. The 1857 rebellion urged the authorities to construct a prison on the isles to keep political activists. During WWII, the Japanese occupied the region and atrocities were conducted on prisoners and residents. Subhash Chandra Bose of the Indian National Army came here and hoisted the flag of Indian independence on 30th December, 1943. After the war ended, the Japanese left and gave the territory back to Britain.

Tsunami and Aftermath

The British government in 1947 and 1948 decided to employ inmates to develop the fisheries, timber production and agriculture in the area. In return, the prisoners were to allowed to set foot in their native Indian mainland. The colonial regime decided to relocated Anglo-Indians and Anglo-Burmese people to this area so that they could form a nation of their own, but this was never accomplished. Independent India took it as its own in 1950 and in 1956, declared it as an Union Territory. On 26th December, 2004, the Indian Ocean tsunami, following the underwater earthquake, lashed the coast. However, the task of extensive restoration took place and the place was brought back to its glorious form. Andaman tour packages can be availed during any time of the year to explore the charm of this destination.