Sunday, 10 July 2016
Mussoorie: Cool and exhilarating in summer and then mantled in casual snow for winters; inviting all the year-round; the perfect spot for a magnificent scenery; a quiet walk; an evening out and a cool night’s sleep. It is situated between high mountains to the north and the flat Doon valley below. From a particular hilltop, on a clear day one can see the Ganga and Yamuna trailing their way from the hills into the plains.
The town started to develop during the first decade of the nineteenth century when Captain Young constructed the first building near Mullingar. In 1826, Landour became a sanatorium for British troops, and the entire area covering the township was taken on lease from the Maharaja of Tehri Garhwal for the nominal sum of Rs 1120. The Municipal Board came into being in 1873. In 1880, the ex-Amir of Afghanistan, Yakub Khan was placed under detention here in the Bellevue Estate. During 1884, the Duke and Duchess of Connaught chose Mussoorie as their summer residence. By this time several Indian princes had been attracted to this place and they built their own summer residences here. Gradually schools and public institutions also developed and it became a popular summer resort, first for the princes and Britishers and later for the tourists.
Like Dehradun, Mussoorie too is known for its public schools, many of them started by the Britishers. Prominent among them are the Wood Stocks, Wynberg Allen, St. Georges, Hampton Court etc. If Dehradun is famous for the IndianMilitaryAcademy, Mussoorie boasts of the Lal Bahadur Shastri Institute of Indian Administrative Services.
During summers, the Mall is packed with merry crowds of holiday makers.
Long queues are a normal feature at the booking booths of the ropeway that takes visitors to the 2142 mtr top of the famous Gun Hill for a panoramic view of the snow-clad Himalayas. A morning stroll along the winding Charleville Road takes one to the pine-scented HappyValley and the Tibetan township. Located here is a cliff-hanging Buddhist Shrine with ceremonial trumpets and acolytes reciting ancient scriptures. In the Himalayan twilight, one can also see the twinkling lights of Dehra Dun far off in the valley below.
Tuesday, 3 May 2016
Himalaya is one of the youngest chains of mountains in the world. There are varieties of wild life present in the whole region of Himalayan mountains. The plants are very crucial for many reasons like oxygen, retaining water and maintaining ecological balance in the region. The Himalayan vegetation starts from an altitude of 1500 mtr. up to 4000 mtr. After the altitude of 4000 mtr., the vegetation vanishes due to heavy snowfall causing the damage to all types of plantation. After any high altitude above 4000 mtr., it is very rare to see any type of big plants.
The Himalaya is full of variety of wildlife species. Trees cover large part of the temperate region of the Himalayan national park. The conifer species are spread across a major part of varying altitude. The few example are cedar, blue pine and spruce etc. Each of the upper coniferous belts has its unique oak characteristic which provides acorns to rodents and birds.
White oak: Pinus roxburghii and blue pine
Green oak: fir and spruce
Brown oak: This forms mainly the pure community at the tree line.
The fungi and the lichens on the oak trees become food for animals and the birds. Himalayan yew is found in abundance in the fir forest leading to a cool micro climate.
The most attractive and abundantly found flower rhododendron arboretum can be traced between 1500 mtr. To 3000 mtr. There are four species of maple which can be found between 1500 mtr. To 3000 mtr.
Plant species Altitude (mtr.)
Alder 1,500 – 2,000
Horse chestnut /khnor 1,800 – 3,000
Dogwood 1,800 – 2,800
Pencil Cedar 1,800 – 3,000
Holly / Kaluchha 2,000 – 2,800
Deodar / Cedar 2,000 – 3,000
Maple 2,200 – 3,000
Maple 2,500 – 3,200
Silver fir / Tosh 2,500 – 3,200
Boxwood / Shamshad 2,500 – 3,000
Hazelnut / Bhuti badam 2,500 – 3,200
Birch / Bhoj patra 3,000 – 4,000
Himalayan high altitude fir 3,000 – 4,000
The above trees shall be seen any abundance on the trek routes in the Himalayan routes. Many treks may cover almost all the trees and plants. The beauty of the Himalayan trek lies in its wild life,scenic beauty of valleys, mountains, meadows, lakes etc.
Saturday, 16 April 2016
|Sir George Everest|
Sir George Everest was British Surveyor General of India from 1830 – 43 who spent much of his time in Mussoorie, Uttarakhand in India. The name given to the highest peak in the world is after Sir George Everest. Sir George was the successor of Col. William Laubton, the great Yorkshireman, under whom almost the major part of the subcontinent was mapped by Survey of India.
Sir George bought the Park Estate in Mussoorie located on the western edge of town in 1833 and lived here for almost a decade before retiring to England. This beautiful building was later changed to a cowshed. The Survey office of Sir George was located near Castle Hill Estate in Londour, which was acquired by the government few decades ago. The office remains neglected and needs renovation to get back to its past glory. Everest has also lived in a smaller house (now a ruin) overlooking the Doon valley, called Logarithm
Interestingly, the Mount Everest name has very little to do with Sir George. After Everest’s retirement in 1843, the work of Survey of India was continued under Andrew Scott Waugh. Till 1852, the Mount Everest was not considered the highest peak in the world but was considered much lower than Kanchenjunga (8,586 mtr.). The altitude of Kanchenjunga was declared in 1840 and it was only in 1852, the survey measured Everest’s elevation as 8,839.81 mtr. The peak XV (Mt. Everest) got the pride of being highest peak in the world in 1852.
Andrew Scott Waugh wanted the peak to be named for after the name of his predecessor – Sir George Everest. Some geographers argued and expressed reservations, that the local name of the peak should be retained – Chomolungma in Tibetan. But after considerable time and debate, 1865 the mountain was given the official name as Everest and Sir George got immortalized.
Friday, 1 April 2016
In our last post on Dronagiri mountain and the mythical wonder herb SanjiviniButi, we had described how Lord Hanuman had ripped out one of the hilltops above the Dronagiri village and carried it away to Lanka so that the Lankan royal physician Susena could himself identify the SanjivinuButi and administer it to the mortally wounded Laxman.
That was about the SanjivaniButi, but the interesting traditions and myths surrounding Dronagiri village do not end there. We had the opportunity to meet one of the inhabitants of Dronagiri village and he was able to enlighten us about the myths and traditions of his village. Here we recount what he told us for the benefit of our readers.
It seems that when Hanuman reached Dronagiri, he sought directions from the local people about the hill-top where the SanjiviniButi could be found, but none of the men-folk were ready to disclose this secret. Hanuman then approached an old woman and recounted the plight of Laxman and Ram to her, again requesting that the hill-top be pointed out to him. The old woman was a kind soul and without saying anything she pointed a finger in the direction of the hill. We all know that thereafter Hanuman lifted the whole hilltop to Lanka when he couldn’t identify the particular herb himself.
Local tradition takes an interesting turn at this point. Since the concerned hilltop happened to be the right shoulder of Dronagiri ParvatDev, the local deity, the residents of Dronagiri no longer worship Lord Hanuman. Also, because ParvatDev was betrayed by a woman, till this day no woman may enter the temple of ParvatDev as per local tradition and they have to perform puja from a distance. The prasad of ParvatDev is also not distributed among the womenfolk of the village.
It is a fact that without exception, all villages in Uttarakhand have their own local deities. Thus it is not without reason that Uttarakhand is also known as Devbhoomi, the Land of Gods. For the most part these local deities are considered to be manifestations or avatars of Goddess Durga, Lord Shiva or Lord Vishnu. But in many places the local deity’s identity is linked to some prominent local natural spectacle or formation. Dronagiri ParvatDev is a great example of one of these.
There are two categories of local deities, there are those who are aloof and can only be worshipped. And then there are the more social ones who actually interact with their devotees through a human intermediary called a paswa. Dronagiri ParvatDev is in the latter category and during certain festivals and times he interacts with his devotee through the paswa. What is most interesting is that the paswa, who otherwise is a healthy able-bodied person, loses the use of his right arm as long as the spirit of ParvatDev is in him. The right arm just goes limp from shoulder downwards and he carries out all his activities such as distribution of Prasad etc with his left arm exclusively. It may be recalled that Lord Hanuman had ripped off a mountaintop from Dronagiri which happened to be the right shoulder of ParvatDev.
The residents of Dronagiri village will return around early May once the snow starts melting. We at Dream Mountain will be organizing a trek to this fascinating village and its surroundings sometime in the latter half of May 2016. Those who are interested in joining us can register their interest with us at Dream Mountain.
Wednesday, 16 March 2016
With the advent of spring, the snow starts melting at higher reaches of mountains in Himalaya. The adventure takes a shift towards high altitude which are above 4000 mtrs. The trek enthusiast start pondering the trek conditions of different trek routs. The few famous trek routs are Kuari pass, Nanda devi sanctuary trek, Gaumukh trek etc.
Wednesday, 9 March 2016
Uttarakhand Health Minister recently announced that he had made an appeal for funds to the Union Health Minister to enable the State government to start seriously looking for the mythological SanjivaniButi. We have no idea how seriously Delhi is pondering on this proposal but this is not the first time that attempts have been made to identify this mythological miracle herb.
Those familiar with the Ramayana will recall that during the battle of Lanka, Laxman was mortally wounded by an arrow shot by Ravan's brother Meghnad. The Lankan royal physician Susena advised that the only way to save Laxman was by administering him some lifesaving herbs that were available only in the Himalayas The herb SanjiviniButi was one of them.
Hanuman was asked to get the herbs but not being a physician himself, he got confused on reaching Dronagiri hill with its profusion of different exotic herbs. So he did exercised the only logical option of carrying away the whole hilltop so that Susena could himself identify the required herbs. Laxman was saved but this story of the life-restoring SanjiviniButi continues to exercise our interest and imagination to this day.
But coming back to our Health Minister's statement, we need to remember that AcharyaBalkrishna of PatanjaliYogpeeth, Haridwar has already made the claim that SanjiviniButi has been discovered and identified by a Patanjali team which visited Dronagiri village in the Himalayas for that purpose in end 2008. However, the Patanjali team was careful to couch its claims in ambigious language to convey that what the team claims to be the Sanjivinibuti is the nearest that may be interpreted to be the mythological miracle herb. The Uttarakhand government had also sent a team to Dronagiri to search for the elusive miracle and it too came back with ambigious reports.
The inhabitants of Dronagiri village on the other hand, appear to be immune to all the excitement that is exercising the minds of the rest of the world. For them life goes on as usual in the idyllic village and they are satisfied in the knowledge that the village enjoys the benevolent gaze and protection of DronagiriParvatDev, the local deity. Of course even today they nurse an atavistic grudge against Lord Hanuman for carrying away their hilltop,because unfortunately that particular hilltop snatched away by Hanuman happened to be one of the shoulders of the ParvatDev and for that reason Hanuman is not worshipped by the inhabitants of the village.
Dronagiri village is indeed blessed by ParvatDev by way of spectacular location and surroundings. The mountainsides above the village are rich in high-altitude herbs and a herbologist's paradise! Locals claim that it is common to see the monal(State bird of Uttarakhand) and the bharal(State animal of Uttarakhand) in the fields surrounding the village. Dronagiri is also on the way to the ChangaBanga peaks.
At a height of around 12,000 feet, Dronagiri village is totally snowbound during winters and its inhabitants move to their winter villages(in winter, as you would have guessed), and return back to Dronagiri in early May. This year, Dream Mountain is scheduling a trek to Dronagiri area around end May or early June. The trek package will include stay in Dronagiri village, visit to base-camp of ChangaBanga, visit to Nandi Kund, exposure to local dance and culture and an introduction to the local traditional knowledge in exotic himalayan herbs.
Those interested to join in the trek can check for our detailed programme which will be announced here. (http://www.dreammountain.net/fixed-trekking-departures/)