Friday, August 25, 2017

Joshimath in Images

On our way to Badrinath, we stationed at Joshimath. Joshimath is a popular city in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand located at an altitude of 6150 feet above sea level. This is the base station for travellers going to Badrinath, Guru Gobind Ghat or the Valley of Flowers. 

The town Joshimath has got its name from the "Akhanda Jyoti" (light)  that is shining ever since the time of Adi Shankaracharya till today in the Jyotirmath (monastery) established by Adi Shankaracharya. 

Jyotirmath is the Northern Monastery of one of the four cordial institutions established by Adi Shankaracharya; the others being those at Shringeri, Puri and Dwaraka. The heads of these maths are called 'Shankaracharyas'.

Lord Narasimha is the main deity in the temple of Joshimath which is believed to be established by Adi Shankaracharya. During the time of winter, the Utsava Murthy (festive idol) of Badrinath is brought here to worship.

The image below is going to be the new abode of Lord Narasimha in Jyotirmath. It was under construction when we arrived. It is a beautiful structure with marble stones but can't match the beauty of the ancient one. Anyway, Lord Narasimha is about to move into his new house very soon.
Jyotirmath of Adishankaracharya is established in between some of these beautiful mountains.
If you have followed my previous updates, you would have understood by now why there is no tree on these mountains.
Yes, you guessed it right. These mountains are covered in snow most of the year. It just got cleared when we arrived in the month of May. 
The weather is quite unpredictable in these parts of the World. Within few minutes the clouds gathered around the hills and rained heavily. As a result of that we had to stay indoors for a long hours.

Early next morning we visited the place where the Akhanda Jyoti is kept. You see the hut under the big tree? It is where the Akhanda Jyoti is shining for more than 2000 years. 
The huge tree with a broad trunk standing tall and broad is the famous Kapataru or Kalpavriksha is a 2000 plus year old tree. It has great importance in Hindu, Jain and Buddhist systems. It is the longest living trees that we find across the world. 
It is under this tree the great Adi Shankaracharya did his tapas for most of his life. There is a cave beside this tree where he used to live. Shankaracharya is believed to have lived between 788-820 BCE. The aura of this tree is worth experiencing.
You see how young the tree looks from a distance? Had an amazing experience visiting this giant.
Having the feel of this divine tree we headed for our next destination to Badrinath. So, see you again with yet another update on Badrinath.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Amazing views of Tungnadh, Chandrashila, Chopta and Ukhimath

After strenuous trek of Kedarnath, we began our journey to the next destination 'Chopta'. On the way to Chopta we visited 'Ukhimath' the home of Lord Omkareshwar. 

This beautiful sight welcomes you on reaching Ukhimath. According to popular legend, Anirudh the great grandson of Lord Krishna got married to Usha the beautiful daughter of Asura King Banasur. Hence, the place was known as Ushamath.
With passage of time, Ushamath has become Ukhimath. It is one of the Pancha Kedars and is the home for Kedarnath and Madhyamaheshwar during winter.
During winters the festive idols of Kedarnath and Madhyamaheshwar are brought here and worshiped in this ancient temple of Omkareshwar.
Seeking blessings of Omkareshwar, we moved to Chopta. Chopta is a beautiful small village around 30 kms away from Ukhimath with lush green meadows and evergreen forests unexplored by many tourists.  This is considered as a mini Switzerland as it is completely covered by snow during winters. Chopta is said to be a home for different kinds of birds. We have seen several photographers with their big lenses moving around and waiting in patience to catch the glimpse of these birds. 
It is an amazing place free from all sorts of pollution. Completely silent and serene. After our lunch we laid chairs outside our rooms at the view point of this scenic location seen above and enjoyed the nature at the very best. 
This amazing view of the moon caught my attention in the evening with clear sky.  The moon looks so beautiful and so close in these mountain regions. 
We learnt that Sunrise view at Chandrashila peak will be awesome as it is the highest peak in the region where you can have a 360 degree view of the mountain ranges around. Chandrashila is 5 kilometers steep trek from chopta. As the fatigue from Kedarnath yatra is still afresh, only three of us decided to trek early in the morning as the rest stayed back. We got up around 2-30 early in the morning and began to gear up with our warmers, camera and torch ready. Stepping out of the room I noticed that my friend Virupaksha is struggling to shoot something in the extreme dark outside. On going close to him I saw this wonderful sight of the moon shining Gold. I haven't seen moon in this color before. It was a heavenly feeling. In no time I understood that it was the re-flexion of the rays of rising Sun. The rays fell on the moon before falling on the Earth. Awesome view never experienced before. These wonders of nature are possible only at higher altitudes and this is why Himalaya is considered as the heaven on Earth. 

He handed over the camera and said, Ram I am trying to shoot this but its too dark and its not coming. I took the camera and had few shots at it and succeeded in capturing these mind-blowing images.
You can see the difference in the color of first and second image below. Within few minutes the color of the moon changed like Sun.
It appeared more and more beautiful in few minutes. We lost in the beauty of this wonderful sight in a dark and breezy cold morning. By the time we realized that we need to go now it was already 3-00 Am and the sunrise time was 7-20 Am as informed by the locals.
So we began our trek on the dark path surrounded by dense forest of deodhar trees with our torch lights on. There was complete darkness and silence. Adding few miles we saw some light following us and coming closer we found few other enthusiasts heading for Chandrashila. Apart from the torch lit path nothing was visible. By the time we walked three kilometers the darkness of the night has began to shed away. We sensed that the Sun is about to rise and we decided to walk slowly without halting as walking quicker was making us breathless. Realizing the time is running fast and Sun is about to rise, I asked Virupaksha the quicker among us to go ahead and capture the Sunrise if he could. By the time I reached Tungnath around 6 AM I saw the sun reflecting on the opposite mountain. Chandrashila was just one kilometer ahead and appeared to be a daunting task as I was getting thirsty and no water left. It took me almost an hour to reach the top of Chandrashila. One of my friend gave up and returned from Tungnath. Virupaksha climbed 15-20 minutes ahead of me but missed the Sunrise already by more than an hour. Though we made it on time, the sunrise took place around 6-20 Am and not 7-20 Am as we were told. Anyway, we had no regrets as we were able to have a 360 degree view of these beautiful Himalayan peaks around. 
You can see sun falling on the snow clad mountains in the misty morning.
Spent an hour on top of Chandrashila enjoying the view and capturing some of these beautiful images of Himalayan ranges.
Chandrashila is a summit of Tungnath. It literally means "Moon Rock. The rock shines like a moon throughout the year and hence the name.
It is located at a height of about 12,500 feet above sea level. Man always love to climb to taller peaks as it satisfies his ego on reaching the top of it. I very well experienced this feeling. When I was at Tungnadh, Chandrashila was 1 kilometer steep climb, my purpose was served as the Sunrise was over but the urge to climb that 1 kilometer drove me in-spite of the fatigue. There was a sense of calmness once I reached the top. 
Chandrashila provides a spectacular view of Himalayas. Nandadevi, Trishul, Kedar, Bunderpoonch and Chaukhamba all can be viewed from here.
You can have a view of the Himalayan ranges as long as your vision goes. It looks like the peaks are touching the clouds in the sky at far end.

One side of the Chandrashila you can have the view of amazing snow top mountains and on the other side you will find beautiful green top mountains.
You see the naked mountains here; they are covered in snow most of the year. Therefore no plants survive on them except the grass for few months of the year.
Did you see the flag on the top of the peak? It is the summit of Chandrashila.
And this is the path to reach that summit. I shot this image while trekking down to Tungnadh.
This looks like the peak that Mowgli of Jungle book stands and look at the view of the mountains.
On my trek to Tungnadh, I found this beautiful deer. Looked shy and scared.
Enjoying the food of grass here on the top. There was plenty of grass here. 
It got scared as I moved closer. Don't worry I am not going to harm you. 
It was so beautiful that I went on clicking her images moving closer and closer. I understood why Sita in Ramayana must have insisted Rama to catch the deer for her. Very attractive. Oh No! It sensed danger now and started moving down.
It walked all the way down on a vertical surface and disappeared after a while.
You see how dangerous is the path in the below image? It walked down through this path.
Do you see this ">" symbol on the hill below? It is the footpath made by visitors climbing the hill to Chandrashila. Only one person at a time can walk on the footpath.
Coming further down I captured the same mountain and here it looks like this. Some kind of beast isn't it?
These beautiful rock formations stand tall behind the ancient Tungnadh temple.
Look at this carefully, they look separated and yet united.
Don't they appear to be alive and speaking to you? Telling their stories, how they stood tall facing extreme conditions over thousands of years!
Mountains appear differently from different angles and they always have some kind of form resembling to something in the nature.
This place is fully covered with snow during winters.
This wonderfully built natural structure stands tall behind the ancient Tungnadh Temple. Mind blowing isn't it?
This was the only plain top I have seen in the area with lush green grass on it.
Here we go to the famous Tungnadh Temple.
Tungnadh Temple is one of the oldest and highest of all Shiva temple which is located at an altitude of 12000 feet above the sea level on the Tungnadh mountain of Himalayas. 
It is third of the five Kedars built by the Pandavas. It is a 1000 year old temple and remains closed during winters as the snow covers the temple completely. 
We visited the temple on 9th of May 2017 and it was fortunately an opening day of the temple after winter. You can see the decoration of the temple with flowers. The local villagers gathered and garlanded the temple beautifully.
Surprised to see the temple being decorated with paper flowers. We then realized that no flower grows here to a far distance. They must have got some of these flowers from far villages across. 
You can see the divine sight of the temple with the sun rise behind.
The feel and energy you experience in some of these ancient temples is electrifying. Words are not sufficient to describe the feeling. One must go and experience.

After the darshan of Lord Tungnadh, we had our breakfast and trekked back to Chopta. On the way back we saw few wild peacocks, huge sized rabbits as plenty of grass was available for them and birds living in burrows of the soil as you don't find any tree here. Reaching Chopta we packed our luggage and got ready for the next trip to Badrinadh. So keep watching the space for an update on Badrinadh. Till then bye and thank you all for patiently watching and reading my blog.