Travel Guide to explore Mana- The Last Indian Village in a day

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After we completed the beautiful Tungnath and Chandrashila trek, we were tempted to continue on. And thus we reached “MANA”, popularly known as the last village of India from the Indo-Tibetan border. It is a picturesque place surrounded by the Himalayan ranges and a government designated Tourism Village.

It is also around 3km close to Badrinath one of the 4 dhaams and which attracts thousands of devotees.

How I reached from Chopta

The next day around 7:30 AM luckily I got a local Badrinath bound bus from Chopta. It took 7-8 hours to reach Badrinath.

How to reach from Delhi

The easiest way to reach Badrinath or Mana is to get a train till Hardiwar and then take a taxi/bus till Mana which is around 320 kms away.

Best time to visit

The best time to visit is May, June, September, and October.

It is really cold in the winters and extremely risky in the monsoons. So better to avoid that.

Where I stayed

I searched for some accommodation amidst the plethora of basic hotels and Dharmshala and all are equally livable. I zeroed in on one and so can you based on your choice. We billed 1200 bucks for 2 days in the hotel.

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The experience

The weather in Badrinath was chilly as compared to Chopta and it was getting dark too. Quickly after freshening up, I went over to attend evening aarti in the famous Badrinath temple. It was overly crowded but not for the rich ones as there was a VIP line as well which disgusted me.

Located between the Nar and Narayana mountains, along the Alaknanda river and under the shadow of the Neelkantha peak, this sacred place with its sacred ponds and turquoise lakes makes it a must visit destination. This place is named after its preserver Lord Vishnu.

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Legend has it that the Pandavas passed through Badrinath and Mana on their way to Swarga( Heaven). There is a mountain called Swargarohini (Stairway to heaven) which the Pandavas ascended and ended their life.

Coming back, I took bath in the sacred Tapt Kund, a hot spring, bathing after which all the tiredness went away like a breeze.

After successful darshan at the temple, had dinner and slept.

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Waking up the next the next day was awaiting the last but the most beautiful experience of this trip. A visit to Mana.

A straight road from Badrinath, Mana is a heavily guarded border area. There was an option to take shared jeep till the village but I decided to walk down the range as the real fun is walking on the road with brown magnificent hills as the backdrop. For a moment, I felt as if I was in ladakh given the resemblance of rocky brown mountains. Moreover since it was early morning so we could easily make it on time in 1.5 to 2 hours.

Everything here is “Hindustan’s last ….” i.e The Last one of Hindustan.

Top Things to Do in Mana

Vyas Gufa – As per the legends, Ved Vyas lived here while composing the four vedas. A small shrine dedicated to him is believed to be 5000 years old.

Bheem Pul – Said to be created by the mighty Bheem as a bridge across river Saraswati. Just make sure not to lose balance, else you may not have to even climb the treacherous stairway to reach heaven.

There are multiple other spots and you can easily go through them one by one if you have time. Since it’s a small village, it will not take much time.

There are multiple eatery spots as well. Shops selling Ladakhi caps, mana almonds, herbal oils are abundant.

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Trek to Vasudhara falls 

A trip to Mana is incomplete without visiting Vasudhara falls. We were done by 12 PM but in no mood of going back, we headed towards Vasundhara falls after inquiring about with some locals. With the Alaknanda river flowing right along the trek, it was a sight to behold. The road were covered with stones and the path was well-established.

After several breaks we made it in 4 hours as we took several breaks to observe the beauty of the mighty mountains and the ever-changing skyThe trek is worth doing as you can literally see the sky descending down amid the beautiful meadows.

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Unfortunately, we were running out of time we could only afford to spend one hour at the waterfalls. And soon have to return as well due the fear of the dark amidst a mountain.

Tip:- Start the trek on time or early in the morning. Otherwise you will not be able to enjoy the charisma of the falls.

We reached at the entrance of the village by 7 and it was already pitch dark. Luckily one of the jeeps gave us a lift and we reached back safely to Badrinath and slept straight away.

 

We took a bus till Rishikesh the next day and caught our evening Haridwar-Delhi train.Thus ended our beautiful journey and we also earned some punya by visiting one of the Char Dhams.

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HAPPY TRAVELLING.

 

A trekking guide to Chopta and Tugnath

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Morning Views at Deoria Tal

The Mini Switzerland at an altitude of 2700mts is popularly known in India as Chopta and is a place where you can experience the ecstasy of the actual Switzerland without any Visa hassles and is also well within your pocket. Surrounded by dense forests offering majestic views of Snow Clad Himalayan ranges, Chopta is located in RudraPrayag district of Uttrakhand.  You can have a clear and unobstructed glance of Trishul, Nanda Devi and Chaukhamba peaks.

The beginning point of famous treks like Tungnath Temple and Chandrashila Summit, this serene place etches an everlasting impression on your mind. I just could not stop myself from a visit to Chopta as I wanted to run away from the hassles of the city and to gain some much needed mental peace.

My Itinerary

2 Nights and 3 days Deoria Tal (1N) and Chopta (1N) and Trek to Tungnath and Chandrashila peak.

When to Visit

Its almost an all season hill station. I visited it in early October.

But try to avoid travelling in the monsoon months of July-August. It can get really messy and dangerous.

All other months carry their own attractions in Chopta.

How I reached

We took an Ordinary bus ride to Guptakashi from Delhi Kashmere Gate ISBT. Soon after sitting in the bus it became overcrowded. But since we did not have much time, we decided to go with the same bus. It was a long ride (approx. 13-14 hours). We dropped at Ukhimath. We enquired further about Sari village and took a shared taxi till Sari village and was within budget.

A Better Route would be to take a comfortable train till Rishikesh/Hardwar from Delhi and take an easily available taxi till Chopta which is about 220 Kms from Haridwar.

Camping Details

I pre-booked a camping package from https://www.euttaranchal.com/  @ Rs 3150 per person. The itinerary was as follows:-

Tour:  (2 Night 3 Days): Deoria Tal (1N), Chopta (1N)

Day 1: Arrive at Sari Village, trek to Devariyatal. Evening snacks and dinner. Camping in Devariyatal.

Day 2: Breakfast, trek down to Sari Village. Arrive in Chopta and enjoy the lunch. Trek to Tungnath and Chandrashilla. Evening snacks and Dinner.

Day 3: Breakfast and Departure.

NOTE:- Transportation cost till Chopta from DeoriaTal was not included in the package, which was disappointing. So here is a TIP from my experience

Don’t pre-book the trekking package and rather book it after arrival to Chopta. There are plenty of homestays, guides and porters available in Sari who can offer you a good deal for both 1 day camping at Sari or 2 days(s) trekking (Chopta + Deoria Tal). You will save a lot of bucks too.

Camping Experience

Day-1 started at 9 AM with a short 2 hour trek to Deoria Tal from Sari. It is an emerald lake at an elevation of 2438 meters which on a clear and sunny day can amaze you with crystal clear reflections of Chaukhamba peaks on its sparkling waters.

It falls under the Kedarnath Must Deer Sanctuary. Hence bonfire was not allowed at night which resulted in pitch darkness at the night. Gazing at stars at such a place in the pitch-dark night can be such an ecstatic and out of the world experience.

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Views on the way while trekking

 

Day-2 took me back to Sari and we reached at around 10 AM. Luckily I met some locals who happily gave me a bike lift till Chopta. I paid them around Rs. 175. The morning was chilly and foggy as was expected in early October. Even though my body wanted rest the trekker within me took me to Tungnath Trek after lunch. So close to the highest Shiva temple in the world, how could I miss it.

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Tugnath Temple

Tungnath is the highest of the Panch Kedar temples in the Rudraprayag region. The famous Kedarnath temple is one of the Panch Kedar temples and is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas. At 3460 mts and just below Chandrashila peak, Tungnath temple is 5000 years old and is the third among the Panch Kedars.

I reached around 4 PM at Tungnath temple which was pretty late for a hilly region like that. After spending half an hour I started ascending towards Chandrashila peak.

Chandrashila means “Moon Rock” and is the summit of the Chandranath Parbat on which the Tungnath Temple is situated. This is akin to the glorified Moon on Lord Shiva’s forehead. Despite extreme tiredness, the feeling of reaching Chandrashila amidst the heavenly panorama of the Great Himalayas is something which is beyond words.

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Sunset in Tugnath

But it was just an ephemeral one as I had to descend to Chopta because it was already dark. The fear of wild animals in the vicinity made the situation a little panicky but with God’s grace, met a family who had a high power torch and we safely reached Chopta. The descend was quite smooth and it took only 1.5 hours from Chandrashila to reach Chopta. We were extremely hungry and tired and hence had dinner and crashed away instantly.

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These flowers were in abudance in Chopta

TIP: – Camp overnight at Tungnath and start for ChandraShila early in the morning to experience the best Sunrise you can ever see against the backdrop of the Himalayas.

Day-3 was destined to take me further to a heavenly place that i had planned to visit from long time. It was a surprise for myself too as it was not a part of my planned journey, which i shall cover in the next article.

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A travel guide to Khajuraho and Orchaa

A glimpse of Orchaa Fort

The heart of Madhya Pradesh, Khajuraho is a land of great antiquity. The ornate temples that adorn Khajuraho are a spectacular piece of human imagination, artistic creativity, magnificent architectural work and deriving spiritual peace through eroticism. Built around medieval times, these temples showcase the architectural excellence of human kind.

When to visit

Khajuraho can be visited anytime between the months of July to March. The city of Madhya Pradesh is a treasure house of ancient cave temples. The best time to explore these prized beauties is the pleasant months. Summers are usually harsh. Heated weather does not let you enjoy the sights. Monsoon in the city are a pleasant time. Moderate rains are available for few days in the season. The lovely months of October to February are the best time as crowds from all over the world visit.

The Khajuraho Dance Festival held every year in February is the best time to plan your trip. At the marvelous backdrop enjoy the rare classical dances of the country.

Well you can find out more about Khajuraho on the web, what I am about to tell you is the ease through which you can make this journey in a short span of 3-4 days and get transported to the medieval age as if you yourself are dancing alongside the beautiful sculptures engraved on the temples.

How to reach Khajuraho

My journey began with boarding the overnight Khajuraho-Hazrat Nizamuddin Express which starts at 08:30 PM from Nizamuddin.

Take a reserved auto from the station costing around Rs 150-200 to reach at your Khajuraho hotel.

Stay Options in  Khajuraho

I booked Hotel Gupta Palace from booking.com @ a cheap price of Rs 700 per night. You can choose your stay option right from Oberois and Taj to cheap budget hotels.

TIP:- Choose a hotel which is in the market as it would be in close proximity with all the temples. Mine was near to the Western Group of Temples.  

How the days unfurled

You can hire a scooty or you can roam around on foot.Roaming around on foot is totally doable. 

Day 1took me to my first destination was Jain group of temples. 

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One of the Jain Group of Temples

  • Jain group of temples

The main Jain temples includes the Parshvanath Temple around 954 AD, the Ghantai Temple around 960 AD, and the Adinath Templearound 1027 AD. The Jain temple complex was recently developed, with shops and a small museum displaying Jain images salvaged from the vicinity. 

  • Eastern Group of temples

My next stop was just a KM towards the east called the Eastern Group of temples. Temples comprising the Khajur Sagar and the old village of Khajuraho.  The temples are Brahma temple, Javari Temple and the Vamana temple. Enroute the village is a modern whitewashed structure with a large orange – red statue within. The statue is still worshiped but is one of the oldest images to be found in Khajuraho.

It was evening already and we reached the main market where there is a plethora of fast food options to consider from.

After a presumptuous evening snack, I went over to see the Evening Light and Sound Show at the western group of temples. I must say I was enchanted and transfixed which A MUST DO.

Day-2 started with the Western Group of Temples, which is the largest conglomeration of temple complex in Khajuraho. You have to purchase A.S.I ticket to enter the temple complex.  

  • Kandariya Mahadev Temple: This is without any doubt the largest and most magnificent temple in Khajuraho.
  • Devi Mandap : Opposite the large Lakshman Temple are two small shrines. The one directly opposite is called Devi Mandap, its cemented peaked roof an indication that it has been renovated during the last century.
  • Varaha Mandap: This open pavilion stands to the south of the Devi shrine on a high platform.
  • Lakshman Temple: This striking temple stands facing the varaha and Devi mandaps. It is one of the three largest temples of khajuraho and the western group of temples and is considered to be the earliest ( c.AD 954 ) to have been built by the chandella rulers.
  • Devi Jagadambi Temple: This is much smaller than the magnificent Kandariya Mahadev Tenlple. lt has a cross plan with only on set of balconies, only one mandap and no inner pradakshina patha.

 

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One of the Western Group of Temples

It took around 5-6 hours to properly visit the temple complex. If you are an architecture buff, you should spare an entire day for the same. There are government guides available for Rs 1000 as well. Tired in the evening I just decided to call it a day and indulged myself in lip-smacking pastas, pizzas and desserts. 

Day-3 was an impromptu visit to Orchha  ( Really glad to make that visit ) – It is just 172 kms from Khajuraho and hence can be visited along with Khajuraho. As I had my return tickets from Jhansi, I checked out from Khajuraho and took a local train to Jhansi.

A reserved auto from Jhansi railway station to Orchha took Rs 350. Its just 16kms from Jhansi and about 30 mins auto ride.

We stayed in the Temple view homestay and it costed Rs 300 per night. It was a very popular homestay among tourists from around the globe. The hosts were extremely helpful and generous.

 

This fort served as a capital for Bundela family. Local guides are available and you can hire them at will.

 

It’s a small town and everything can be covered on foot. After a roam around in the fort, I decided to attend the aarti of the famous Raja Ram Temple.It is a sacred Hindu pilgrimage and receives devotees in large numbers regularly and is also commonly known as Orchha Temple. 

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Against the backdrop of Jehangir Fort

 

In India this is the only temple where Lord Ram is worshiped as a king and that too in a palace.

Day-4 started with the Cenotaphs of the Bundela family kings. I visited the riverside cenotaphs of the Bundela kings overlooking the Betwa river. 15 cenotaphs to the Bundela Kings and members of their clan are located on the southern banks of the Betwa river. Most of the cenotaphs are designed in PANCHAYTAN style.The sunset from the other side of the river across the bridge is breathtaking a sight to be cherished forever.

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The last destination on my trip was Chaturbhuj temple. It holds a significant value since it gives the view of Orchaa fort specifically of the Bundela queen’s room. The temple was originally built to deify an image of Rama, as the chief deity, which however was installed in the Rama Raja Temple inside the Orchha Fort complex. At present an image of  Radha Krishna is worshiped in the temple.

Plan to attend the evening light and sound show at the fort. Enjoy a bicycle tour alongside the Betwa river. Or, you can also indulge in river rafting in Betwa river.

Boarded the 4 PM train to Delhi from Jhansi and bid adieu to a place which had etched a long lasting memory on my mind.