Sunday, March 29, 2009



The Name Laldenga would send fear down our spines due to the separatists demand from Indian Union. In general people visiting Mizoram used to be greeted with a statement, Are you from India ? Knowing the history of Mizos, we may be tempted to ask them are you from China or Mongolia. However sanity has prevailed the agitation which began on Feb 28, 1966 ended in 1986 with the Mizo accord. On 30th June 1986 the accord was signed by CM Laldenga and PM Rajeev Gandhi. Mizoram was declared a full fledged state on 20th Feb 1987. The presence of the missionaries bought about a quick resolution in the interest of the state and people. The military presence is quite high to qwell any signs of insurgency in Mizoram. I was lucky to visit twice Aizwal once before the statehood in 1985 and once again after.

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State Website Declares :

Mizoram is our homeland
It is not given or gotten as a gift
It is not acquired by privilege
Or potential contracts
It is not bought with gold or held by the force
No, it is made with us the sweat of the brow
It is the historic creation
And the collective enterprise of a people
Bodily, spiritual and moral
Over a span of generations.


Innerline permit is required to visit Mizoram, the same can be obtained in Delhi, Kolkatta, Gauhati, Shillong, Silchar, Immigration office at Mumbai, Chennai and other border areas too process application on payment of fees. Rs 20 plus Rs 120 along with 3 passport size photographs.

Road Travel : It can be exhausting to the core with steep curvatures on the hilly terrain. The buses and trucks plying are driven mostly by youngsters with a Sylvester stallone type hairstyle in those days. Travelling by loaded trucks can be treacherous with chances of road blocks and jams due to landslide. For those pressed for time it is best to catch flight direct from Kolkatta to Aizwal or Gauhati to Aizwal.

Customs : The Mizo demographic change is rapid. Earlier it was matriarchal now it is patriarchal. There was no taboo if a women used to get pregnant before marriage, she was not under compulsion to marry. Later she used to decide whom to marry or not. Now the system is changing according to times, with women compelled to marry the one responsible for her pregnancy. There is a bride price to be paid for marriage by the bridegroom. The price settled is kept as a security for the girls future. Earlier one used to find majority of the businesses used to be run by females, now male are taking active part.


Chewing Bubblegum is almost an addiction in these hilly terrains, by young and old alike. Maybe the culture was import of the British and christian missionaries. I remember we got stuck in the road block somewhere enroute to Aizwal, and we had to take rest in a bamboo hut. The porus nature of the platform with cold breeze penetrating the blanket was a real experience. When we woke up in the morning we were served hot mug of tea made out of Milkmaid. We offered money in turn for the boarding and lodging which the natives refused. I carried a pack of bubblegum, which i distributed among the family members, who devoured with ease.

Agriculture :

The world’s best pineapples are grown around this region. I happened to taste one of them in Kolasib, it was so sweet, that I had almost a full size jumbo pineapple for breakfast with salt and spice. Now Tripura claims to produce the worlds best pineapple which is exported to Europe. The other fruits grown are Passion fruit and Orange. Tripura grows litchi, cashews, jackfruit, Tapioca, ginger and turmeric in plenty

( Courtsey State Website )

Blue Mountain: The Highest peak in Mizoram, The Blue Mountain (Phawngpui) is situated in Chhimtuipui district overlooking the bend of the river Koldyne (Chhimtuipui) close on the state's border with Myanmar. The peak 2,157 metre in height and encircled by bamboo groves at the top where there is a level ground of about 200 hectares, offers a grand view of the height hills and the meandering
unadulated valleys. The woods around are home to various species of beautiful and rare flora and fauna.

Pukzing Cave: The largest cave in Mizoram, it is situated at Pukzing village near Marpara in the district of Aizawl district (Mamit). Legend has it that cave was carved out of the hills with the help of only a hair pin by a very strong man called Mualzavata

Milu Puk: In the Mizo language, puk means a cave. Situated near Mamte village over 100 kms, from Lunglei town, the Milu Puk, which is a large cave, was found many years ago to contain heaps of human skeleton.
Lamsial Puk: Sitiuated near Farkawn village in Aizawl (Champhai) district, the cave as a silent testimony to a battle between two neighboring villages in which many lost their lives. The bodies of the fighters from village Lamsial are said to have been kept in the cave.

Kungawrhi Puk: Another cave in Aizawl district, it is situated on a hill between Farkawn and Vaphai Villages. According to the folktales, a beautiful young girl by the name of Kungawrhi was abducted and kept confined in the forlorn cave by some evil spirits when she was on her way to her husband's village. Kungawrhi, however, was later rescued by her husband from the prison of the spirits.

Sibuta Lung: Erected about three hundreds years ago by a tribal chief, this memorial stone is named after him. The memorial offer a story of jilted love and lust for revenge. Having been rejected by a girl he fell headlong in love with, Sibuta went mad for revenge and decided to raise a memorial to himself in a manner which displayed an insane mind. A huge rock awash with the blood of three people sacrificed by Sibuta was carried over a distance of 10 km from the Tlawng river. Darlalpuii, a beautiful young girl, was crushed alive in a pit dug to erect the mausoleum. The memorial was raised over Darlai who lost her life under weight of the stone.

Phulpui Grave: A tale of love and tragedy also hangs by this grave located at Phulpui village in Aizawl District. Tualvungi, a raging beauty in her time, was married to Zawlpala, the Phulpui chief. She was later forced by circumstances to marry Phuntia, chief of another village. But Tualvungi could not forget her first love. She came to Phulpui years after Zawlpala's death, hah a pit dug by the side of his grave and persuaded an old woman to kill and bury there.

Chhingpuii Memorial: Raised to the memory of a young woman called Chhingpuii who was exceedingly beautiful, it is situated between Baktawng and Chhingchhip villages on the Aizawl - Lunglei Road. Chhingpuii, born to an aristocratic family, selected Kaptluanga as her husband from among her many suitors. But her happiness was short-lived, as a war broke out afterwards. Chhingpuii was abducted and killed. A grief-stricken Kaptluanga took his own life. The stone memorial reminds one of the legendary love story of Chhingpuii and Kaptluanga.

Mangkhai Lung: A large memorial stone, it was erected about three hundred years ago at Champhai to the memory of a well-known Ralte chief, Mangkhaia.
Budha's Image: An engraved image of Lord Buddha, with those of dancing girls on either side, was found at a site near Mualcheng Village about 50 km from Lunglei town. The site also has another stone slab on which some human footmarks and a few implements like spearhead and Dao are engraved. The area is close to the Chittagong Hill Tracts which was under which the Buddhist influence a few centuries ago. It is assumed that some visiting Buddhists from the Hill Tracts were responsible for the Buddha engraving.

Suangpuilawn Inscriptions: A stone slab lie by a stream at Suangpuilawn village in Aizawl district with strange words inscribed on it. The inscription remain to be deciphered till date. However, it is believed that the inscription were done by some people who inhabited the area in ancient times.

Thangliana Lung: Captian T.H.Lewin was one of the first Englishmen to come to Mizoram. The District Commissioner of the Chittagong Hills Tracts, who entered Mizoram by way of Demagiri (Tlabung) in 1865, became so popular with the local tribesmen that as a mark of respect, he was called Thangliana which meant 'greatly famous'. He lived with the Mizos for nine years and authored the first Lushai book. His memorial stone at Demagiri remains as evidence of the extent of his popularity with the Mizos.

ACK :  Tourist info courtsey Mizoram Nic.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

ASSAM - Gateway to the North East

The Enigma of ASSAM is mired with mysticism, tantrik cults, teotonic disturbances, Tea Estates, turbulent Brahmaputra, wild life sanctuaries, silk weaving, bamboo crafts, and Bodo agitation.

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The etymology of Assam is subject to many theories and conjectures. The reliable version is that of Asama in the sense of being Peerless or Unrivalled. The Ahoms called themselves Tai, which meant glorious in Chinese or Land of the free. There seems to be a Siamese connection in the form of migration. We can reasonably assume that Ahoms were migrants from Thailand. Assam was also known during the Mahabharat times as Pragyjyothisa in Mahabharat and Kamrupa in the past.


Kamakhya Temple :

The fabled temple visit is a must if one visits Gauhati, otherwise one may be forced to return to the place. During my professional career I had been to Gauhati at least 4 times but every time I postponed the visit. At last on a holiday, that too reluctantly I visited the Shakti temple in all its glory. The mystical power is so true, that I tried to photograph a pregnant sculpture inside the temple that both the times, the camera literally refused to capture the image, the third time I was restricted by the guard who started trailing me. I aborted and surrendered to the goddess of Shakti.

Kamakiya temple is located on the Nilachal hillock which is 8 kms away from Gauhati town. The earlier temple was seems to have been destroyed by Kala Pahar, an Afghani general in 1553 AD. The present temple was built in 1565 by Chilarai of the Koch Dynasty. The temple consists of 3 chambers. During the month of May-June menstruation of Goddess Kamakhya is celeberated. The water in the shrine turns red with iron oxide resembling menstrual flow. During the MC the temple remain closed for 3 days. The festivity is known as Ambubachi. The Devi Kunda or the interior of the temple is fabled to have excess water level owing to the breach of the vaginal pulpit. Kamakhya is one of the 51 pithas.

There is a separate enclosure wherein an alter for sacrifice of animals is undertaken. This enclosure was used initially by the Khasi tribe later it gathered an aura around the sacrifice and myths were associated with the poweress of the Shakti.

Myths & Beliefs of Kamakhya :

The aura of the temple and it fables reaches out far and wide among Hindus. It is believed that Men become timid in front the goddess Devi’s curse can might deprive men of the lineage and bless a barren women to conceive.

Madan Kamdev :

This place is touted to be the Khajuraho of the North East, which is in total ruins. Many of the statues are smuggled and some are in the museums all over the world. Indian Museum @ Kolkatta houses some of the finest specimens salvaged too. There is no record of the genesis of these wonderful architecture, which was originally complex of 24 temples. It is approximately dated towards the reign of Pal Dynasty in 10-12th century AD.

These temples were originally built on the banks of the abundant river of Brahmaputra. The architecture of the temple is in Nagara style. Erotic sculptures were used as ornamentation to the temple façade. A six headed Bhairav, 4 armed Shiva and miscellaneous images are found in the temple.

The main diety of the temple Madan Rati is worshipped even today on full moon day. How the temple became a ruin and the history of the temple is a matter of conjecture and hypothesis. My hypothesis is that massive earth quake and flooding had destroyed the Madana Kama complex of temples. The other possibility is that Kala Pahar destroyed this temple completely. After that the people thought the place bought bad luck to the kings and the subject alike and vacated the land. Nobody wanted to be associated with cursed place and therefore history was deliberately destroyed. The name Kamrup seems to have originated from Madan Kamadev. Located 35 kms away from Gauhati.

Asvakranta Temples :

This temple is located in North Gauhati, which can be crossed over by motor boat or ferry over the Brahmaputra river. The scenic beauty of the river is spoilt by the sand mining on the banks of the river. Lord Krishna slaughtered the demon Narakasura here. The footprint of the Lord is situated on the rocky front. Devotees visit this temple to seek salvation for the departed soul by offering Pind. There are two more temples historical Kurmajanardan and Anantasayi.

Balaji Mandir :
Balaji Mandir is just 10 years old temple which is built with modern architecture. The priests are not available after 11 am upto 4 pm, anyways temple is open, and can have nice dharsan..

Nabagraha Temple : This temple is dedicated to the nine planets In olden times, it was said to have been a great centre of study of astronomy and astrology. This is also one of the reasons why Guwahati is referred to as Pragjyotishpur or the city of eastern Astrology. Located 3 km from Rly sation.

Umananda Temple :
The great Shiva temple situated on the Peacock island in the middle of the Brahmaputra in Guwahati attracts devotees from all over the country during Shiva Ratri. One can visit the temple by crossing the river by country boat plying from Kachari ghat. On the north bank of the Brahmaputra, opposite Guwahati, where the third Pandava Arjun is believed to have watered his horse while undertaking journey during Ashwamedh Yajna.

Nepali Temple : This temple is located near Pan Bazaar @ the junction where most of the hotel accommodations are located.


Assam State Museum is 10 minutes walk from the Railway Station.
Opening hours: 10:00 - 17:00 hrs. during Summer 10:00 - 16:30 hrs. during Winter (Monday closed).

Srimanta Sankardeva Kalakshetra

The Srimanta Sankardeva kalakshetra has been set up as a grand exposition of the life and culture of the people of Assam. Named after the greatest Vaishnava saint and the greatest integrator of the Assamese society Srimanta Sankardeva, the Kalakshetra is a multi-Arts complex.

Majuli :

It is the worlds largest river Island which originally had spread of nearly 3 lakh acres now it has dwindled 886 sq kms. The erosion of the river Brahmaputra has taken its toll. There are a number of Vaishnav monasteries. Plenty of migratory birds throng this place. There are tribals living in this isle and it is considered to be a living heritage of colourful costumes and festivity. It is located nearby Jorhat, ( 65 kms ) upper Assam, which has an airport.

Manas National Park

The only Tiger Project in Assam, Manas is one of India's most magnificent National Parks. It is situated on the bank of the river Manas at the foothills of the Himalayas. It is a well known World heritage site with it's unique combination of scenic beauty and rare wealth of wildlife.

Covering an area of 519.77 Sq. Kms, it has a core area of 360 Kms and is situated in Barpeta District. Manas is one of the nine tiger reserve sanctuaries in India. Tigers however are not the only wildlife to be found here. Manas has its own peculiar faunal features, the rarest species of which are Hispid Hare, Pigmy Hog, Golden Langur, Indian Rhinoceros, Asiatic Buffalo etc. Other commonly seen animals are Elephant, Leopard, Clouded Leopard, Himalayan Bear, Wild Boar, Samber, Swamp Deer, Hog Deer etc. Kaziranga National Park

The first and the oldest National Park in Assam situated in Golaghat District, is a World Heritage site. Spread over an area of 430 sq. kms., Kaziranga National Park is the natural home of the one-horned Indian rhinoceros.

Declared a National Park in 1974 the landscape of Kaziranga is of sheer forest, tall elephant grass, rugged reeds, marshes and shallow pools.

The one horned Rhinoceros, Elephant, Indian bison, Swamp Deer, Samber, Hog Deer, Sloth Bear, Tiger, Leopard cat, Jungle cat, Hog badger, Capped langur, Hollock gibbon, Jackal, Goose, Hornbills, Ibis, Cormorants, Egret, Heron fishing eagle etc. all form a part of the very complex ecological balance of the park.
During Winter a large number of migratory birds are also seen here.
The Park can be visited by Jeep, Car or on Elephant back.

Kaziranga is 217 kms from Guwahati and 96 kms from Jorhat by road.The nearest airport is Rowriah(Jorhat). Tourists can either fly to Jorhat or can go by surface to Kaziranga from Guwahati.
The nearest railhead is Furkating.

ACK : Tourism info additions courtsey ASSAM NIC

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


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No where in the world can Sunrise be as beautiful, enchanting and mesmerizing as on Tiger Hills, Just imagine the full moon fading in West, Golden sun glowing in the east and the Himalayan range unfolding in the North. It can only be Darjeeling where the nature unravels in all its glory.

Our one day sight seeing began @ 3.30 am with a journey from Darjeeling town past the historic railway station near the Ghum monastery. Winding past the ghat section roads we reached the hill view point. We were greeted by local women selling steaming coffee. The wind was chilling cold, we were decked with shawls and overcoats covering every pore on our body. At 4.30 the counters were selling tickets Super Delux, Delux, Economy view point tickets. We went for Delux fearing excess crowd in Super category and our guess was right. Being a Holi the moon was at its brightest best, the entire hills were lit as in floodlight sports event was in progress. The valley was howling with gushing wind and the valley of flowers was opening its arms to the rising Sun. The excitement in the air among the crowd with fully charged cameras clicking away to glory on trial basis. We were served hot tea in the waiting lounge and we took vantage position to view the Sun. At long last SUN emerges from a screen of golden bright red background like an emperor of the universe. How I wish the digital cameras could faithfully reproduce the universal spectacle, what we witnessed on 180 degree panaromic screen on the sky was mind blowing . The Himalayan range even though little hazy gave us the view of the Kanchanjunga mountain range.

We reluctantly moved away from this enchanting spot……………if I had a say in the package tour I would have stayed longer. At 6.45 we were the last to depart the Tiger Hill. Down the hill, we were taken to Ghum monastery which is 70 years old Buddhist legacy. There are number of shopkeepers who spread their wares on the railway track selling shawls and other cheap stuff on bargain price.

: The garden is well manicured with a railway loop and war memorial honouring the Gorkha soldiers who laid their life defending the territory against enemy invasion since Independence. One of superhit movie of Rajesh Khanna Aradhana was shot on this location, with the song Mera sapno ki Rani …….

Tenzing Rock :
Don t forget to try your hand at Rock climbing, it looks so easy and fills one with spirit of adventure and scaling heights cost Rs 20/- Generally this point is used by the defense personnel for their rock climbing practice session. The are able to ascend with a timer of 44 secs and photography is prohibited of the army practicing. On the other side civilians are allowed to climb with secure ropeway for fun sake.

Tibetian Refugee Self Help Centre : One gets to see photo exhibits, Crèche, Basket making, Weaving, Carpet making etc which are all Tibetian profession. A relic of the tibetian culture in terms of location has been maintained. There is a small Monastery with their roller type drums for prayer. The crèche for children is maintained on rotation

basis, where the elders work and their children are taken care by one housewife on rotation basis. Photo jour

Tea Garden tour :
Drink one of the finest garden fresh tea @ Rs 3/- and if you like it buy it cost vary between 200 to 400 bucks per kg.

St Joseph School and Ropeway : The school building architecture is a fine specimen of British architecture. Ropeway has been discontinued due to accident.

Himalyan Mountaineering Institute : Tenzing Norkay who conquered the Mt Everest on May 29, 1953 was the first director of the HMI. This area is under security cover, and therefore one has to walk up leaving the vehicles parked on the road. The centre has finest collection of climbing gears and exhibition filled with photos and exhibits of equipments used for ascent of snow clad mountains. Training courses are conducted for upto 40 years old.

Padmaja Naidu happens to be first governor of W.Bengal. The zoo houses Siberian tigers, Red Panda, Wolf, Snow Leopard, etc.

This is an excellent evening picnic spot for people and visitors of Darjeeling, my accident we discovered since I went to purchase Guide book at Oxford book depot. Governors Bunglow is also located nearby.

We found that the Museum was closed by 4 pm.



OBSERVATORY Hill : Skipped

Lloyd Botanical Garden : Skipped

Sidrapong Hydel Project : Skipped.

Buddhist Monasteries : 2 monastery skipped Bhutia, Makdhog only Ghum shown.

Japanese Peace Pagoda : Skipped.

Dhirdham Temple : Skipped.

Shrubbery Nightingale Park

Monday, March 23, 2009

Shillong,Where the clouds kiss Khasi Hills

Where the clouds gently touch the Jaintia hills, orchids blossom, khasi virgins dance in unison, caves meander furtherest, uranium deposits are found, smoke bellowing from Jhuming, Pineapples taste sweetest and Umiam lake is the deepest.

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Khasi Tradition and Morals :

The British divided the tribes of two hills into Jaintias and Khasis, to further their supremacy over the innocent tribals. Both the tribes are larger part of the Khasi community. The ethics and morals of Khasis have been subject of study which enshrines the following :

Tipsot : Know what is right and Just

Tipbriew : Know man and Know God

Tipkur : Know and respect your kinsmen

Tip Burom Know the etiquette of life

Khasis believe that one should earn by righteousness and hard work – ban kamai ia ka hok

Shillong is located on East Khasi hills at an average height of 4908 feet altitude. It remained the summer capital of Assam till 21st January 1972, when officially Meghalaya state was formed. Assam capital was moved to Dispur. Meghalaya is popularly known as abode of the clouds, with an outdated label of wettest place on the planet –cherrapunji.

In 1835, the British took over Meghalaya under their colonial rule from the Tribals. They offered them contracts for limestone and good return for their forest produce. Missionaries got into the virgin territory to spread the gospel of Jesus. The British legacy lingered with large populace even after their departure.

Tourism circuits in Meghalaya can be divided into the following sectors :

Khasi Hills : Shillong Circuit :

Lady Hydari Park which is in the heart of the city, Wards lake too is adjescent to the park. Cathedral catholic church is one of the oldest church in Shillong with a beautiful paintings on stained glass.

Don Bosco centre for Indigenous culture promoting the fusion of tribes in their exhibition centre. It is seven storeyed representing seven sisters, now Sikkim is included in the group. The exhibition has exquisite collection of artifacts, mannequin of tribes, costumes, jewelry, weapons, and all other interesting facets of tribal life of North. The best part of the exhibition is the film show on tribal dances, how I wish it were live shows. We particularly crave to witness the Hojagiri gymnastic display and gyrating of hips in Shakira style. Hips don’t lie.

Golf course is one of the wettest course spread over 18 holes. It is considered to be Gleneagle of the East. It was established initially as 9 hole course in 1898 and later in 1924 converted into 18 hole course by Captain Jackson and Rhodes.

Shillong Peak :
The entire landscape of Shillong Khasi kills are seen, if the skyscape is clear one can see the cheerapunji range and jaintia hills too. It is definitely a great Sunrise point and sunset point, when Jhuming is not practiced.

Water Falls : If there is rainfall, water falls emerge at every nook and corner of the mountain ranges. The prime water falls in the vicinity of Shillong are Spread eagle falls ( Shillong Cantonment ) Sweet Falls ( 8 kms ) Elephant Falls ( 8 kms on Cherrapunji route )

Tripura Castle :
Built in the early 1920’s by Maharaja Bir Bikram, who came to Shillong at the age of 10 for martial training. The Castle is built in Tripura style architecture unlike the British style, Castle is a misnomer in that sense. The palace signifies the collection of treasure trove of the Manikya dynasty which includes hunting tropies, tiger skin, autographed photo graphs of Rabindranath Tagore, Benito Mussolini, Franklin, Roosevelt and Adolf Hilter. Two works of Tagore are based on Manikya dynasty Rajarshi and Mukut.

Prominent items on display in the Heritage hotel are Buffet table in the restaurant, Statues, Oil Paintings, Caned sofas. The King died in 2006 and now his son Yuvraj Pradyot is staying put in the palace, which has underground bomb shelter too. If one wants to experience the “ Kings way of life “ visit during the off season. The hotel provides hot water from 6 am to 9 pm along with room heaters. There is no buffet breakfast in this hotel.

Birla Sadan :
A beautiful landscaped garden with guest house is maintained by Birla’s, wherein permission is restricted. The residents of Tripura castle are given complimentary tour by the hotel staff. The garden has plenty of collection of flora. Free Entry

Don Bosco Pastrol Centre : Adjescent to the Birla Sadan is the Pastrol centre of Don Bosco where religious congregation takes place. Seminars are conducted wherein Rs 450 is charged for entire stay with food and accommodation. Free Entry

Trekking route to Shillong peak : One can under 2 hour return trek starting from pastrol centre under the guidance of hotel staff of Tripura castle.

Horticulture Breeding farm : A govt. farm breeding plants and flowers for sale and exhibition. It is just located outside the perimeter of the Tripura Castle. Free Entry

: One of the restricted areas, but with entry permission is allowed only for visiting tourists. They do not charge any fees for the wonder display of Air force heritage. One can witness freighter plane Caribou which was used in Indo-Pak war 1971 wherein Gen Niazi was captured and transported by this plane. Please don t forget to buy souvenirs as donation to the Air force society. This museum is situated enroute to Cherrapunji just 8 kms from the city.

RHINO MUSEUM : It is a small exhibition once again with a free entry.

Enroute to Shillong from Gauhati is the deepest fresh water lake in India, the normal depth of this lake is 3318 feet, currently the level is 100 feet below normal. Water sport is available and there is an island where meetings and conferences are held. The danger in drowning, it is said there is no chance of recovery of the body, because of the under current. If at all you all venture, do wear your life jackets securely for it may be a remote chance of survival in case of mishap. The drinking water to the city is supplied from this lake plastics are totally banned.


One can undertake shopping of artifacts from Bara Bazaar, Jail road and Police Bazaar. There is a huge parking complex for vehicles opp. Centre Point. Meghalaya Tourism Office is located just by the side of Centre point.

Cuisine :

Meat of different kinds are available cooked in Khasi style. One can have different preparations including Chowmeen, Momo, etc. Vegetarian options are few and far. Delhi Chaat counter serves vegetarian dishes.

There is army patrolling the streets of Shillong, and even escort services on the highway is prevalent. Once in a way trouble erupts in terms of agitation. It is better to avoid late night roaming on the streets, markets in general close by 7.30 pm. Share taxis are available for tourists. The locals don t take appreciate some outsider running taxis with white board. So check while booking your taxi whether it is yellow or white board.


Nartiang : The remanents of the summer palace is just 2 kms away from the market place. Nartiang is 65 kms away from Shillong. There is a Hindu durga temple located in the vicinity of the palace. This temple was built by the Jantia king upon his conversion to Hinduism. Initially the temple was built on Khasi residential style with thatched roof but later converted to Corrugated Tin roof to protect from water seepage. During the Jantia kings reign Human sacrifice was in vogue which were rolled down into a tunnel which lead to the Mytang river bed.


Monoliths & Megalithic Menhir exist throughout the length and breadth of Meghalaya. The largest collection of Dolmens and Menhirs are found in Nartiang. The tallest Menhir is erected U MAR Phalyngki in commemoration of his victory in the battlefield. They date back to 1500 AD to 1835 AD. Even the British graves followed the style of these Menhirs with a slight twist.

These caves are located 60 km east of Jowai. The total length of the caves totals to more than 21 kms with 100 meters depth. Till today very few caves are explored, it would be an adventurers delight, with lot of precaution. The Mawswami caves near Cherrapunji is a poor replica of the Belum Caves in Andhra. The Umlawan cave is inter-linked to two other caves Kot-Sati and Umskor caves.


On banks of Myntdu river stands a historic monument dedicated to the Jaintia patriot who died as a Martyr for cause of Liberation. He was hanged in public on 30th DEC 1862. His final parting prophetic words were “ If my face turns eastward when I die, we shall be free within 100 years, if it turns westwards, we shall remain enslaved forever “


Garo Hill circuit is full of mystic, convenient to be covered from Assam via Goapara or Bok, travel in hilly terrain within Meghalaya could be exhausting. With no proper inter-linkage or alternative one may have to check out routes through Bangladesh if plain could be most Ideal.

South Garo Hills :

Balpakram :
This place is declared a NP and resembles the Grand Canyon, where the spirits of the dead dwell as per legend. Even Lord Hanuman seems to have visited this area to fetch the curative herb for injured Lakshman.

Siju Cave : This cave is know as Bat cave and located close by is the bird sanctuary. The are exquisite limestone formation along with water pools, further a DI chamber will make one fill with awe. Outside on the hillock there is a fabulous rock formation.

NengKong Cave
: It measure 5.33 kms in length, one of the longest cave in the Indian Sub-continent. The other cave is Dobakkol which is 2 km long. Get Ready to explore.

Baghmara Reserve Forest : It is inhabited by Elephants, Langurs and bird species.

Acknowledgement : Don Bosco Museum, Meghalaya tourism website

Don Bosco Musuem

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sikkim, a himalayan heritage

Enter the land of the Yaks, Glacial Lakes, Hot Springs, Tibetian & Nepali Cuisine. A land enriched with flora and fauna, which was original inhabited by the Tribes of Lepcha and Bhutias. Now they are vastly outnumbered by the armymen and business men from all over the country. Nepalis are the majority population in the state today. A demographic transformation indeed. Tourism is the mainstay of Sikkim.

Sikkim signifies SU means New and Khim means Palace or House, which refers to the first palace built by Phuntsong Namgyal ( 1604-1670) who was the first official King of Sikkim. Guru Rinpoche in the 9th century predicted that a good Samaritan will be crowned as the king in 1642. Three Lamas went in search of the fabled King. They encountered a man churning milk and he offered the Lamas as good will gesture milk and food and even gave them shelter. So impressed by his selfless service the Lamas concluded that he was the chosen man to be crowned as the King. He was crowned on a stone slab near Yuksom which is close to Gangtok. The Lamas converted certain tribal people into Buddhism, Lepchas and Bhutias are the main inhabitants of Sikkim, with Lepcha Dzongpon as the governor.

History reveals that Bhutan tried to invade Sikkim but driven away by Tibetians, Nepalese too tried to raid Sikkim which lead to the Gorka war of 1814 which was successfully repelled by the British troops. Chogyals were puppet king from thereon under the sovereignty of the British Empire.

In 1947 a popular referendum declared that Sikkim will not join the Indian union. Sikkim was given a special status wherein Indian Govt took over the Defense and external affairs and retained autonomy of the monarchy. But the popular uprising witnessed the dismantling of the monarchy in 1975. On May 16th 1975 after a popular mandate Sikkim became the 22nd state of the Indian Union. China tacitly agreed provided that India acknowledges that Tibet is part of China. In 2000 the 17th Karmapa Urgyen Tingley Dorjee escaped from Tibet and sought refuge in Rumtek Monastry Chinese were flabbergasted that their puppet rebelled and eventually made truce with India and recognized Sikkim as part of Indian Union in 2003. India had accepted Tibet as part of China in 1953 under the Indo-China Bhai Bhai slogan. On the 6th of July 2006 Himalayan Nathula Pass was opened for cross border trade. A visa is required to enter into China which is issued for 4 months costing Rs 1800 unofficially.


Sikkim is blessed with many Hot springs, which are having curative and therapeutic value. The most famous among spots are located in Yum thang, Borang, Purchachu ( Reshi ). The springs have high sulphur content and boil upto 50 degree centigrade.

Rangeet and Teesta river are the lifeline for Sikkim, but sand mining seems to taking place with rampant frequency, which may destroy the ecology of the river bed.

A number of hydro-electric power projects are established in the valleys, which ensures there is sufficient power supply to the state. This may ultimately ruin the ecology if it is not properly managed.

History of Sikkim :


Sikkim is blessed with the Himalayan belt which is conducive for diverse floral breeding. Orchids, Figs, Laurel, Bananas, Bamboo, Oaks, Chestnuts, Maples, Magnolias grow in plenty.

Fauna includes Snow Leopard, Musk Deer, Red Panda, Barking deer, Langur, Himalayan Black Bear and civet cat. All the varieties are beautifully showcased in the Padmaja Naidu Zoo at Darjeeling.


Liquor is highly subsidized in Sikkim in lieu of the hilly terrain. Majority of the tourist carry their favourite brand which is available at half the price of the plains. Signature for example which costs almost Rs 700 is sold at Rs 378 MRP. The film actor Danny Denzgompa owns a distillery, which sells beer under the brand name of HIT. The per capita consumption of liquour is the highest in Sikkim due to cold climate.


Noodle based dishes are popular fare in Gangtok. Many varieties such as Chowmein, Thukpa, Wonton, along with Momo which are generally steamed with centre filling of vegetables, pork, beef or mutton is available in plenty.

Momo This is popular Tibetian dish served in restaurants around Sikkim. It is also known as dumplings which constitutes fillings of either meat ( chicken, mutton, beef or pork ) Momo are generally steamed and served hot along with soup and spicy chutney or sauce.

Thukpa Basically a noodle soup with vegetables, served piping hot in most hotels in Gangtok.


Local share taxis are available in the form of Maruti van, outside state vehicles are not permitted to ply within Sikkim. One has to essentially hire the locally registered vehicle or Taxi with Sikkim registration. This may be a strategy to ensure employment of local youths. Maruti van travel is not recommended for hill route travel, it is bound to be most uncomfortable at the end of the day. Kindly avoid this vehicle, and prefer Indica, Alto or Jeeps. Maruti van is heavily used for local travel, invariably the tyres are worn out or bald which poses another risk, watch out for drivers driving in neutral, for saving petrol, it can end up as risky to passengers life in the event of engine seizing downhill.


Rumtek Monastery, Tsongmo Lake ( changu ), Nathula Pass, Baba Mandir, Hanuman Tok, Ganesh Tok and Tashi view point. Ideally depending on the weather condition one should begin the trip by visiting Tashi point to view sunrise and the Kanchenjunga view point. Generally the Sunrises at 5 am in the eastern part of India during summer. Please ensure with the holiday providers that Nathula pass is included. Special permit is required to enter both Baba mandir and Nathula pass. If one is on individual or small group, Nathula pass and other points mentioned about is covered by paying Rs 600/- per pax, bigger groups can bargain harder. Many tour operators try to cheat the tourists by deleting Nathula pass since it requires early morning departure by maximum 7 am since the pass is opened between 9 am to maximum 12 am. Return permitted max by 2 pm at check post as per understanding with Chinese authorities. Weather changes into extremely cold after 2 pm in the Changu area. If it is bright and sunny in the morning than it invites cold wave in the noon. Better to be equipped with wollen sweaters and header along with gloves and face mask.

A drive past the Tsongmo lake with snow clad mountains makes one feel as if one is visiting the Alps or Swiss mountains.


Lovely mementos can be purchased from Baba mandir defense stores such as Cowboy hats, Designer necklaces, Bangles, Badges, Photographs, Shawls, Wall Hangers, Mugs, etc. The profit goes to the defense personnel. Other artifacts can be bought from M.G. Market, Handicraft Emporium and New Market. Liquor too can be added to the shopping basket. All shops close around 8 pm.


It is ideal to lodge oneself near M.G.Road, a number of good hotels are available such as Hotel Tibet, Mayur, Hilltop, Suyong, Blue poppy is the last one down the hill. The tariffs vary between peak season and off season. As much as 50% discount is given during off season.


Gangtok is experiencing for the first time water shortage despite perennial river of Teesta. Roads are under various stages of repair towards Baba mandir. Mining and rapid construction activity is taking its toll on the ecology. A day may come that tourism needs to be restricted to conserve the ecology. Plastics are totally banned in Sikkim.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Kolkata ( Calcutta ) City of Joy

The spirit of survival against extreme humid weather, traffic conditions on the road, and earning livelihood on day to day basis for common man on the street of Kolkata brings out the best. The city of Joy, signifies the undying spirit of human endurance. Kolkata presents a totally different picture underground inside the metro. One gets to travel faster without smoke pollution, traffic hinderance and reaches their destination virtually in a jiffy. The automatic door closure, announcement and low fare makes Metro travel real affordable. The ticketing system is advanced with swipe card facility, with one way travel. The metro is more refined to handle the volume with less staff. Checking by security is at the entrance itself, photography is restricted.

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Ideal place for tourists to take a lodging is near Park street, Mirza Ismail street, Kyde Street, J.N. Road which is commonly known as the Esplande area. Chowringhee Lane, Shakespeare Sarin, New Market, Shahid Minar are all in the vicinity of the Esplande. There are plenty of options for tourists in terms of accommodation starting with YMCA, Peerless Inn ( star hotel ), Kennelworth, ( star hotel ) Empress DEE ( star hotel) and multitude of budget accommodation too.
Majority of the tourist destinations such as Shahid Minar, Indian Museum, Birla Planetarium, St Pauls Cathedral, Ravindra Sadan, Netaji Museum are all located in close proximity, literally walking distance from each other. On Mondays all these spots are closed for tourists, so better to avoid travel on Monday to Kolkatta. Sight seeing trips are arranged by West Bengal tourism @ Rs 200 per pax, from 8.30 am to 6.30 pm, which begins from Dalhousie. Taxis would charge Rs 600 to 800 per day depending on the no of spots to be covered.

Marble palace
is closed on Monday and Thursday. It is enroute to Dakshineswar temple. Across the hoogly river the Belur Mutt of Ramkrishna Mission is located. One can cover by ferry boat across the river, with Rs 7 per trip per pax. Kalighat temple is on the metro track, it can be conveniently covered by Metro rail. There is a lovely Digambar Jain temple at Belagaichi station, just before the Dum Dum station.

Shopping : New Market, Chowringhee Lane etc are the ideal shopping places. There is an element of bargaining, one has to do it for realizing the best value for money. There are plenty of items which can be purchased, leather goods, jute products, cotton sarees, bangles, leather belts, cutleries, artifacts made out of bamboo, etc.

Cuisine : Sea food is the speciality of Bengali cuisine, there are lot of local varieties such as Hilsa, Rahu, Katla, which are all river water fish or pond fishes. The lobsters too are yummy. One of the best buffet is served at Peerless Inn. If one wants budget affair, one can try joints connecting to Mirza Ismail street, even Regent is a good option with reasonable rates. I tried a sea fish with less bones, with brinjal added to the curry, which tasted lovely. The hotel Radhuni is budget affair with foreigners too patronizing the joint. For vegetarians Gangaur is recommended. The best veg. thalis are available in an AC environs costing Rs 100 + taxes.

One of the favourite desert of Bengalis are Rosgulla, which is really a energy provider, it is advisable to consume the same in the morning so that one can be fuelled up for resisting the entire humid day. This I discovered when I was a bachelor. Misti Doi is another sweet yoghurt served in a earthen pot with different flavours, ideal for diabetics with low sugar content. There are other deserts such as kheer, ras malai, Srikand and various combos of milk products sold on the streets and exclusive counters. K.C. Das happens to be a branded seller in the segment.

Local travel :
Kolkatta is the HQ of the famous Birla Ambassador car. Yellow taxis are seen all over Kolkata. The charge around Rs 8 per km, with traffic jams long distance meter is hiked by waiting charges at signals and traffic jams. Metro train is the most convenient and quickest means of travel in the city. Apart from these Tramway, Local buses, cycle rikshaws, etc are other popular means of travel.

HISTORY OF Kolkata :
Mushirabad was originally the capital of W.Bengal, which is around 60 miles north of Calcutta. In 1690 Job Chamok an agent of the East India company selected Kolkata for trading centre. The three villages along the banks of the river Ganges namely Sutanuti, Govindpur and Kali Katta were selected as an ideal spot to set shop. These villages were bought from the local landlords and the Mughal emperor in turn gave the British freedom of trade for a sum of Rs 3000.
Fort Williams : This historic Fort was built by EIC under the supervision of John Goldsborough. The construction of the fort seems to have begun in 1695 in a phased manner with two separate enclosures planned. One to undertake trading activity another to house soldiers in the barracks. Old fort was completed in 1706 by several extensions. Currently the Fort is under the jurisdiction of the Indian army, entry is restricted.

Siraj-ud-daula had easily defeated the british in the first battle of plassey in 1756, where the famous incident of Black hole took place. The reasons for the Nawab’s anger against the British was they avoided paying taxes since they cited exports and not internal trade. British started intervening in internal affairs of the Nawab administration. The British fearing the French support started additional fortification without the consent of the Nawab. The British favoured Marwari businessmen instead of Bengali community which triggered the war. The divide and policy seems to have been discovered along with bribery of opponents most trusted general.

Black Hole incident occurred in June 1756, wherein an alleged 146 British Prisoners were crammed into an underground cellar measuring 18x15, and only 23 soldiers lived to tell the story of their imprisonment. 123 british soldiers died due to suffocation and starvation. This incident became the trigger for British to enhance its military presence in India and begin their colonial rule. The number of soldiers who died seems to have been exaggerated to bring in additional reinforcements from England.

The victory in the battle of Plassey was a fluke for the British, who were vastly outnumbered. A sudden thunderstorm took place on a hot and humid morning of 23rd June 1757, which left the French cannons exposed whereas the British covered the same. After the rainfall ceased, British fired the cannons in the midst of the Nawabs troops killing their Commander Mir Madan, which triggered off panic in the ranks of the Nawab’s army.

Robert Clive in his impeachment speech in 1773 on charges of corruption exclaimed “ An Opulent city lay at my mercy, I walked through the vaults which were thrown open to me alone, piled on either side were jewels and other precious metals, Mr Chairman alas By God….I stand astonished at my own moderation “

Kolkata was officially named the capital of the British empire in 1772. The growth of Kolkata was rapid during 1797 to 1805 with city being considered as city of palaces. Miss Emily Eden ( after whom Eden Gardens is known ) exclaimed “ Trust me, Calcutta is the finest place in the world, I know there are towns with far larger and grandeur buildings, but then they are not half as clean as Calcutta. It is so beautiful, just like a newly married bride( bride like city ) . I have been standing on the roof of the house for last half an hour for air, and, as it was midnight, had an opportunity of seeing all the gay company - returning from an entertainment at the government-house; and I assure you I never witnessed any thing that could compare with the splendour exhibited

: The monument was conceived on the lines of Taj Mahal to commemorate the death of Queen Victoria in January 1901. Lord Curzon placed before the public a proposal to have a fitting memorial in honor of Queen Victoria, by building a grand monument. The foundation stone was laid by King George V on January 4th 1906 and it was formally inaugurated in 1921. Sir William Emerson designed the building keeping in mind the architectural brief of building a huge monument, with grandeur and landscaped garden with lake. The entire building cost was accumulated on voluntary donations from the public, which amounted to 1 crore and 5 lakhs of rupees.

The initial plan of the Victoria Memorial was to ape the Taj Mahal, even the white marble stones were sourced from Makrana, Rajasthan. Emerson initially wanted the memorial to be designed on Italian architecture, but later was convinced that Taj Mahal type of monument would suit as an ideal memorial for the late Queen. The zeal with which Lord Curzon conceived the memorial fizzled out after his return in 1905 to England, with subsequent Governor generals in lieu of shifting of the capital from Kolkata to New Delhi in 1912.

“If the Memorial's impact was diminished by delay, it was still a splendid gesture. Emerson's design was much enhanced by the sympathetic ornaments added by others. Vincent Esch's major contribution was the redesign of the foundations on innovative principles for which he was renowned, but he also supervised the production of the allegorical sculpture groups over the entrances and designed the elegant bridge on the north side, and the gates to the gardens. The gardens themselves were laid out by Lord Redesdale and Sir David Prain; their spaciousness and restraint emphasize the building's majesty. In the central hall, scenes from the life of the Queen were painted by Frank Salisbury, and the marble statue of the young Queen is by Sir Thomas Brock. A more elderly Queen in bronze by Sir George Frampton, sits enthroned on Esch's bridge, between narrative panels by Sir Goscombe Jhon. In the paved quadrangles and elsewhere around the building, other statues were added to commemorate, Hastings, Cornwallis, Clive, Wellesley, and Dalhousie.Cornwallis, Clive, Wellesley, and Dalhousie.The Queen may have enjoyed their company, but whether these statues delivered an impartial history lesson, as Curzon had intended, successive generations may judge for themselves. Curzon himself seemed to consider impartiality achieved by the exhibition within, but equally approved the unambiguous message of the external ornaments.

"Much might be said about the external sculptures, one of which on the north side depicts a lion's head with water flowing out of it and passing into four troughs representing the four great Indian rivers - the Ganges, the Krishna, the Indus and the Jumuna - thus symbolising the life-giving work of Britain in India."

Ack : Victoria Memorial official Website, West Bengal Tourism and Marg Publications


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Bangalore, Karnataka, India
Basically i am down to earth, take friendship to its logical end. It is my endeavour to create a wealth of co-operative ventures. Basically being a marketing man i have the acumen to spot winners. I am privileged to travel the length and breadth of the country, courtsey my father, who was with Indianoil, my employers such as Nutrine, Kurl-on, Hindustan Pencils, Prestige, Crystal, Bell Ceramics, Pentel, Sezal, Commander. Currently i am involved in Tourism, Booking Air Tickets, Agent for Jungle Lodges and Resorts Limited and Taj Group of Hotels and a numerous hotels across India. Depending on the needs of a traveller i would recommend the destination and accommodation best suited to their budget. Humour takes me on. Let us have a win win situation for all. I love travelling for sake of adventure, photography and discovering the heritage. Life is a journey and let us enjoy our drive. Come share your travel experience on indiabackpacker.