All posts filed under: India

Hallan Valley: Himachal Pradesh’s Another Best Kept Secret

There are some places in the world that keep a piece of you, places that time and again feel irresistible, regardless of your frequent visits there. Hallan Valley in Himachal Pradesh is one such place for me. And its tranquil locale, a friendly atmosphere, and an away-from-the-tourist-trail charm are in fact, the reasons. The first time I happened to visit Hallan Valley, it was a year and a half ago. I was returning from a solo motorbiking trip in Spiti Valley. But as I left Manali for Delhi, and rode about ten or twelve kilometres, towards Kullu (on old Manali-Kullu highway) I came across a dull looking signboard on the left. “Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna“ it read, and pointed toward uphill, with a bit more information about the road length and other mechanical gibberish. I can’t remember what else it said, but the term “Gram Sadak”, that translates to ‘village road’ in English, felt quite assuring. At 10 in the morning, the weather looked perfect to be riding on the Hallan Road (Google for where …

An Ideal Guide To Char Dham Yatra: Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, Badrinath

It is said in Hinduism, that no act can be more righteous and religiously pious than taking your parents on a pilgrimage to Char Dham. And I ended up living that statement, earlier in the year 2017, upon my mother’s continuous request to take her across to the Char Dham — the four holy sites for Hindus: Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath — in the Indian Himalayan state of Uttarakhand. It happened when my mother kept requesting me to a point where any repeated denial felt like a hopeless try. The deal was, however, we were not going to book any of those lame Char Dham yatra tours that cover every experience possible — from fighting for the front seat in the tour-bus everyday, to sight-seeing more tourist places (that fall on route) than something religious, to sleeping in the smelly guesthouses ever — but nothing spiritually uplifting.   So taking no risk of that sort and regretting in the end, we agreed upon following my way — of literally backpacking to all the four sites of Char Dham. For a period …

Padavedu In Tamil Nadu: An Idea Example Of A Progressive India

Throughout all these years of travel, I have learned that every city, every town, has its own charm. You visit Dharamshala, in the Indian Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh, and you get a sense of reverence in its air; Shimla, on the other hand, despite being located in the same state has nothing to do with reverence and only makes sense as a hill resort buzzing with happy vacationers. Similarly, not every destination leave a deeper impression on life. Some do, while some don’t. But my recent visit to Padavedu, a cluster of villages centrally located among Vellore and Thiruvannamalai, in Tamil Nadu, was definitely one of those when you end up learning something useful in life — a kind of experience that helps you grow just as much within, as without. I visited Padavedu on a blog-tip with Srinivasan Services Trust, or SST, to learn a bit about sustainable living and various community-empowerment initiatives run by them. From pottery making to basket weaving, individual money generating activities to community services (like waste management and healthcare and education) SST teaches people …

Revisiting Majuli Island: India’s Largest River Island

I remember back in the summer of 2015, I fell in love with the Majuli Island — a 450 sq km of an untouched land (and India’s largest river island) that appears to have been forgotten by today’s new-age influence and of any technology. Here people still pedalled a manual bicycle to work. Hand manoeuvred boats were preferred over the motored ones. What is often termed as India’s largest river island, Majuli Island, at least to me, revealed itself as a no man’s land where simmering mat of yellow rice fields and water meadows bursting with hyacinth blossoms were more in mass and number than there was life. More than two years later as I revisited Majuli in December 2017, to meet a friend, I figured that Majuli was still pretty much the same. If the rest of India was developing at a rate of 6, on a scale of 10, Majuli was still somewhere in decimals below 1. Roads were still deprived of any concrete. A chaay and a samosa still cost less than 10 Rupees. …

Travelling In Nagaland — Is It Safe?

“Though it’s totally peaceful at the moment and the local rebellion groups have agreed to a ceasefire, nothing can anyway happen to a tourist ever. Ye log, vaise bhi, tourist ko kkuch nahi karta (they mean no harm to tourists)” I clearly remember how brief, but aptly assuring, the answer came to me the first time I inquired about the safety for a tourist travelling in Nagaland. And as I later repeated the same question, almost every two days, every time I saw an army personnel (to be honest, anyone wearing the camouflage army pants!) I got the same answer. “For a tourist, Nagaland is completely safe” And to tell you the truth, I wanted to believe that too — with all the goodness and faith in me. But given what we keep hearing about northeast India and with the indigenous Naga tribes always having maintained a deadly image to the outer world, it was just too tough for me to reconsider, at least without having any first-hand experience. Experiencing The Offbeat Nagaland My first experience …

Visiting Longwa, In Mon: My Highlight In Nagaland

Want to explore rural Nagaland, and experience the life of headhunting tribesmen? Visit Longwa, in the district of Mon. Nagaland has always been a mystery to the outside world, with a very little being known about this as-often-termed ‘godforsaken’ place. Considered as the ‘wild east’ Nagaland is home to some 16-odd headhunting tribes, who, until very recently, valiantly fought off any intruders. They would chop-off their enemy’s head and ostentatiously hang it on the entrance of their house as a showpiece, with a simple belief that more heads one claimed the better is his reputation. And to tell you the truth, this was prevalent in many places in Nagaland until late 20th century, before the British missionaries came and finally turned the entire state into a big Christian community. Though of course, Nagaland, as we know it today, is only a remaining shadow of its once fierce self, and much of the south of the state has already been fairly developed, in the north, however, one can still find tribespeople in exotic attire who continue to live a traditional lifestyle (minus the headhunting ritual ofcourse). And in search …

Khonoma, Asia’s First Green Village: In Pictures

In the world of ever-changing realities, we all secretly crave for some stillness in life, and with that, for visiting someplace that has been technologically forgotten and kept isolated from the real world. During my visit to Nagaland, I ended up visiting one such place — the village of Khonoma, often regarded as Asia’s first green village, can be anybody’s long-nurtured dream of losing themselves amidst nature’s serenity. Located 20 km from Kohima, Khonoma is easily accessible and offers an unusual rural-Nagaland charm. Readily available taxis (in Kohima) take around 500 Rupees per trip allowing tourists to visit Khonoma on a quick one-day or a half-day trip, while at the same time, a few tourist homes offering enough options for slow-travellers to spend a few days, or a week, in the village. What Makes Khonoma Special Rural Nagaland is beautiful and friendly. The only is, it doesn’t have the infrastructure for tourists — a prominent reason why many people visiting Nagaland return home without visiting anything beyond Kohima and other popular big towns like Mon and Mokokchung. This …

Pfutsero: Visiting The Highest Inhabited Town In Nagaland

Somewhere not much deeper in Nagaland, as I took a sip of my morning tea (in the unsung town of Pfutsero) watching the clouds playfully swirl around the green-lush mountains, I heard my last night’s Naga friends lovingly tending to their vegetable gardens at a distance below. The mist descended heavily on our postcard village of Pfutsero, as a group of men approached me with their massive 14-inch grass machete knives, avoiding any eye contact. The valley echoed with the laughter of women and children. A periodic bwak of chicken was moreover noticably prevalent. This may not be the most beautiful place I’ve seen in the world, said a voice inside me, but it was surely something closer to that – where people live beautifully, eat well and be merry! The town of Pfutsero was never on my agenda, and well, neither were many other places I ended up visiting during my three-week backpacking trip in Nagaland. The biggest motivation for visiting Pfutsero was, however, the fact that it is technically the highest town in Nagaland and also the coldest. In …

Hornbill Festival: In Pictures

Where the stories of Nagaland’s impressive past and an immersive culture is unfortunately slowly dying today, the best way, at least for a tourist, to get closer to its people and their culture, on a fast track, is by attending the 10-day carnival of the Hornbill Festival. Celebrated every year, between 1 and 10 December, Hornbill Festival is where all Naga tribes (16 in total) come together and exhibit their wears, enact their daily life and re-create their energetic festivals at one place. Imagine spending a year travelling through rural Nagaland, witnessing their way of life and celebrations, and then think about bringing it all together in one go. That’s hornbill festival for you. And bringing The Hornbill Festival 2017 in pictures, all at one place, here’s what I have for you: A tribesman from Khiamniungan tribe getting ready for a performance, as he fixes on his helmet. Their traditional attires consist of bright red and bright deep blue coloured dresses, and the ornaments are made of cowries and conch shells Despite most of the tribesmen attending and performing at hornbill festival, being …

Planning A Three Day Visit For The Hornbill Festival & Kohima

The land of colourful festivals, indigenous tribes, intricate art and craft, and strange food, Nagaland has always been a place of mystery and attraction for people. With over fifteen odd headhunting Naga tribes, this tiny bit of India, today, speaks for its once fierce self — the rare place that never saw a colonial raaj in its history, unlike the rest of the country. Where the stories of Nagaland’s impressive past and an immersive culture is unfortunately slowly dying today, the best way, at least for tourists, to get closer to its people and their culture, is by attending the 10-day carnival of the Hornbill Festival. Celebrated every year, between 1 and 10 December, Hornbill Festival is where all Naga tribes come together and exhibit their wears, enact their daily life and re-create their energetic festivals at one place. Imagine spending a year travelling through rural Nagaland, witnessing their way of life and celebrations, and then think about bringing it all together in one go. That’s hornbill festival for you. My Visit To Hornbill Festival My visit to Hornbill …