Durga Puja Celebrations in Bengal

The blooming of kash. Pic by Amitabha Gupta

Goddess Durga is the symbol of strength. Her victory over Mahisasur is the victory of Good over Evil. As autumn arrives, the fields get covered with the kash flowers and the sky is at its bluest with white fluffy clouds floating by in abandon. Fragrance of flowers like Shiuli, fills the air as nature decks up like a bride. The people of Bengal get ready to welcome Goddess Durga, who comes down from heaven to spend four days at her paternal home – the Earth. For four blessed days she fills the lives of people with happiness and mirth.

The people of Bengal celebrate Durga Puja with great pomp and show. Huge pandals or temporary structures are made for the four days displaying the rich art and culture of the region. Every idol and pandal  is exquisitely  crafted to create awe among the onlookers.

If festivity is in the air, delicacies cannot be far behind. Bengalis, being ardent food lovers will go to any length to treat their palates with the most delicious food possible. As a result, restaurants and food stalls are totally packed during Durga Puja. Numerous fairs are organised across the state. Various types of  stalls and  rides do big business during these four days.

Pure gold Idol weighing 50 Kgs made for four days. The idol was melted after token immersion.

The Puja which begins on Sasthi (sixth day) continues for Saptami, Ashthami, Navomi  and ends on Dashami (tenth day) when the devotees depart from Goddess Durga as she is immersed in rivers.  The idols are made of river clay and get dissolved in water.  People bid adieu to their beloved goddess with the chants ‘ Aschhe bochor aabar hobe’ which means ‘come next year and we shall again celebrate.’ This symbolises the eternal hope for better things that rings eternally in every soul. 

For the story of the creation of Goddess Durga, refer to my post Mahalaya.

Advertisements

A Trip to Historical Places in Delhi

We reached Delhi by air from Kolkata and arrived at the Indira Gandhi International Airport at 5 pm in the evening. We had booked an SUV for our tour in and around Delhi to make the trip convenient and hassle free. For those who want to hire local taxis, being alert is advisable.

Let me tell you some historical facts regarding Delhi which will help you to understand the place better.

Delhi has been the capital city for numerous dynasties since the time of Mahabharata. It has seen the rise and fall of many dynasties over a period of five thousand years. The legend of Mahabharata talks of the beautiful city of Indraprastha, built by the Pandavas as their capital in the same region. However, according to the historical sources the city of Lal Kot was founded by the Tomara ruler Anangpal in 786 A.D. Prithviraj Chauhanruled over Delhi till 1192 when he was defeated by the Afghan warrior Muhammad Ghori. Muhammad Ghori left Delhi in the hands of his trusted servant and viceroy Qutub-ud-din Aibak, who founded the Slave Dynasty in 1206.

The last sultan Ibrahim Lodi was defeated by the First Mughal ruler Babur at the Battle of Panipat in 1526. While the early Mughal rulers, favoured Agra as their capital. Shah Jahan the great builder, built Shahjahanabad in 1638 which is now known as old Delhi. Mughal rulers- (Babur-Humayun-Akbar- Jahangir- Shah Jahan- Aurangzeb)

The Britishers occupied Delhi in 1803 A.D, and they shifted their capital from Calcutta to New Delhi in 1911. New Delhi was designed by Edward Lutyens. New Delhi became the capital of India after India’s independence in1947.

After checking in at Ramada plaza, formerly known as Ashok Yatri Nivas, in the evening. We decided to visit the Delhi haat, which offers an exotic blend of handicrafts, food, cultural and music performances from all over India. Small thatched roof cottages and the village atmosphere creates a great ambience.

The next morning we decided to visit the historical places in Delhi. We started from Old Delhi and then moved towards New Delhi which helped in managing our time efficiently.

The Red fort

Image result for free red fort images

We started our tour with a visit to the Red fort, which is made of red sand stone. Every Independence Day, the Prime Minister of India hoists the national Flag from the main gate of this fort.

 Lal Qila or Red fort was built by Shah Jahan from 1638 – 1648. It was the royal residence of the Mughals till 1857 when Bahdur Shah Zafar was defeated by the Britishers.

The fort has various structures like the Diwan-i-Aam, Diwan-i-Khas, Nhar –i-Behisht, Mumtaz mahal, Moti masjid and Hyat Baksh Bagh. Tourists can have tea and snacks in the Dawat Khana. There is also a provision of light and sound theatre in the evening which is immensely popular.

Raj Ghat

Image result for free raj ghat images

A visit to the Raj ghat is a must for those visiting Delhi. Situated behind the Red Fort it is a memorial dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi. The black marble platform marks the spot of Mahatma Gandhi’s cremation on 31 January, 1948 a day after his assassination. It is left open to the sky while an eternal flame burns at one end. After paying homage to the great freedom fighter we moved on to our next destination.

Jama Masjid

Jama Masjid of Delhi

Our next stop was Jama Masjid next to Chandni Chowk. Jama Masjid, also known as Masjid e Jahan Numa, was built by Shah Jahan from 1650-’56. It is one of the largest mosques of India and portrays indo-islamic architecture. Attire covering from head to legs is needed to visit this mosque. The courtyard can accommodate 25,000 devotees at one time. The architectural splendour consists of three gates, four towers and two minarets made from a combination of red sandstone and white marble. The numerous eateries around the masjid offering authentic Mughlai cuisine will leave your taste buds tingling.

Humayun’s Tomb

Our next stop was the marvellous monument that houses the tomb of the second Mughal Emperor Humayun. It was the inspiration behind Taj Mahal and was built in the year 1570 by Haji Begum, widow of Humayun. The entire complex with its brilliant Persian architecture and beautiful gardens is one of the most popular tourist spots.

India Gate

India Gate is one of the iconic monuments of New Delhi. It is a triumphal arch, 42 meters high, designed by Edward Lutyens. Located at the centre of Delhi the memorial was built to salute the sacrifices of the Indian soldiers who sacrificed their lives during the 1st World war as a part of the British army. An eternal flame burns in memory of the soldiers.

Qutub Minar

The Qutub Minar was built by Qutub-ud-din Aibak the founder of the Delhi Sultanate. The monument is the tallest minar in India (73 metres) and is made using indo-islamic architecture. The minar has five stories with beautiful carvings from the Quran. The first three storeys are made of red sand stone while the last two are made of marble and sandstone.

Image result for iron pillar of delhi free photos

The Iron pillar near the Quwwat ul mosque  in the Qutub complex, weighs more than 6 tons and is made of 98% wrought iron. It was forged 1,600 years ago and brought to Delhi about 1000 years ago. The iron pillar was possibly made for Chandragupta Maurya according to the Brahmi script on the pillar. The  iron pillar has not rusted till date and as the saying goes, anyone who can touch the tips of fingers encircling the pillar will become a king or extremely powerful. The funny part is that everyone’s fingers almost seem to touch but does not touch the tip of the other finger.

Jantar Mantar

File:Jantar Mantar (Delhi) - IMG 2023.JPG
The Misra Yantra or the Mixed Instrument

It was exciting to visit Jantar Mantar, which is an observatory built by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur and forms a part of a collection of five observatories located in Jaipur, Varanasi, Ujjain and Mathura. The observatory was made in 1724 to calculate time and movements of sun, moon and other planets.  There are 13 architectural instruments of astronomy which can be used to compile astronomical tables. The precision of the instruments are amazing.

The Lotus Temple, The Akshardham temple, The Rashtrapati Bhavan, Lodhi gardens  are also among the must sees in Delhi.  The Delhi trip was one which transferred us to the past glory of medieval India. It was a lovely, enriching experience that will remain etched in our memory forever.

sep20

Connecting with the Real World


Photo by Pixabay

With great advancement in technology, connectivity in all forms has increased by leaps and bounds. Connectivity through transport, media  and  social media have improved making life easier for people across the world. Smartphones have emerged as the biggest contributor in connecting people across the world. Twitter, facebook and whatsapp are a rage in the present age. Everyone you meet is engrossed in connecting with the world through social media day in and day out.

Photo by Tracy Le Blanc

Whatever is happening in life and around, must be posted on the net. Right from cooking, travel, to losses and gains in life, every bit of the information must be declared to the world. They must be liked, shared and commented upon be as many people in the list as possible. Such things were unthinkable in the past. People were free to meet whosoever they wanted and whenever they wanted to. Population was less and people were glad to have visitors, as it was enjoyable to entertain guests. But even in these intrusions into privacy, private matters remained strictly private. It was considered improper to tell others what one did and what one ate, or how well off one was or wasn’t. There are people who are less fortunate than others and it is improper to make people feel distressed over the lack of fortune in one’s life.

Photo by bruce mars

The selfie age has emerged as an age of selfish thoughtless people. People who are too self-engrossed to think over anything other than their own petty issues.  Selfie addiction has seen addicts take innumerable selfies in a day and posting them for comments and likes by people who are as self engrossed as themselves  and  do not care a bit about others but their own looks and lives. The selfie addiction has seen cases of hallucination, in which people find themselves looking at their  smartphones every now and then, imagining message tones even when there are none. 

Addiction to smartphones is such that the present generation is unable to focus in their work with full potential. Several fatal accidents have occurred due to recklessness during taking selfies. Half of the valuable time and energy is spent in useless scrolling through social media peeping into the lives of others; only to develop a complex about their own lives by comparing the lack of innumerable things which others possess, but they don’t. Surprisingly, the comparison stops at good things. Nobody is interested in the sufferings, pains and problems that others have to endure. 

Photo by rawpixel.com

It is difficult to face the reality, look into one’s eyes and find a solution to the numerous problems that crop up in day to day life. It is easy to escape from reality and spend time engrossed in the virtual world which is now taking the place of reality. People, especially the young generation prefers to connect with their friends through the social media even when they are within their affinity. Scenes of friends and family sitting together and surfing through social media or the net has become a common sight. There is no confrontation, no responsibility, and no labour to bog one down and make life difficult. There is also an adequate release of Dopamine to make one feel good.

Photo by Kaku Nguyen

The end result of lack of responsible behaviour will however be reflected in the next generation, who are being brought up in a misbalanced manner of overindulgence and neglect. They are pampered with unnecessary elements on one hand; while on the other they are deprived of the essential care and nurture, which will help them to become a balanced person to live a happy life.

Photo by Muhammad Rahmat Yulianto

The kite teaches us to fly high, while staying connected to the ground. Otherwise we are lost.

Therefore the need of the hour is to connect with real people over games and conversations which will make people stay grounded and face the difficulties of life with élan and ease.  It is also necessary to connect with nature, because the farther we move from nature the greater our problems will be.  So, one must stay connected in the real sense. Talk and spend real time with family and friends to improve the quality of life, and really be there for people who mean the world.

                    

Simple Living, High Thinking

Simplicity has a beauty of its own.

The art of simple living is a forgotten art. There once was a time when leading a relaxed life was the norm. Life used to be the same for generations.  The peasant’s  son would be a peasant and a blacksmith’s  son a blacksmith.  Talent in profession was often inherited and hence easily acquired.  The outputs were also of exceptional quality as the techniques were time tested. The furniture or sculpture would be flawless; as, the minutest details were emphasised on by the trainer who was usually the father, grandfather or some acquaintance.

Leisure was ample, manufacturing being a time consuming job was limited to requirements.  Possessions were handed over by generations and were much valued. Extras being limited did not pollute the land which beamed with health and reflected it back on its inhabitants.

In short, life was simple. Less things, meant less hassle and less stress. With the change in times, we have lost the mind-set to live a simple life and enjoy the journey called life. The society has developed an atmosphere where a relaxed life almost seems like a crime. If a person likes to live a life of ease he would definitely go into depression, as the world around him is moving at an extremely rapid pace. The work accomplished per day has multiplied ten times over in the last three generations. Most of the time, the work is simply done because it will fetch money to spend on new acquisitions.  It would also mean that the old acquisitions will have to be discarded as there is hardly any space or need to keep them all.

Now where would these things, which cannot be kept in the house go? Naturally they would end up as trash in mountains of garbage that are being  piled up upon Mother earth without any fault of hers. These piles are non bio-degradable, and will not vanish with time. Each and every item that we buy with our hard earned money; sacrificing health, relations and priceless time, will end up in creating trash for the world.

The more you have, the more occupied you are. The less you have, the more free you are.

Mother Teresa

We will be leaving behind a world without fresh air water or anything worth living for. The diversion from simplicity is taking us to a destination where we don’t want to go. Yet, we are helpless… being socially pre-conditioned with an absurd set of expectations.

The huge skyrises, sleek cars, flyovers, industrial buildings will become an eye sore when they are obsolete and old. Many couples dread bringing children to this uncertain world. Yet, everyone contributes to the trash mountain in his or her own way…Every year, every month, every minute of the day.

It is the other living beings, the plants and animals, who are the major sufferers in spite of living the simplest life possible.  They do not waste water, add to carbon footprints, yet they have to die or become extinct because of effects of climate change.

The best things in life aren’t things.

The solution to a bleak future is adopting the lifestyle of Mahatma Gandhi, ‘Simple living and high thinking.’ Eating simple food, doing physical work, reading a lot, doing good for the world; will not only keep us healthy and happy but will act as a balm for the earth’s malady.

Industrial and infrastructural development is not the only form of development.  True development will be eco-friendly and reverse the harm done in every sphere of the earth. This will only be possible if we lead a simple life and take from the earth only that much, which is essential for life. We cannot and should not go back to lifestyle of the olden days, but for the sake of our own well being, we should adopt the minimalist approach towards life.

Development is fine and necessary but it should not go beyond rationality. Every freedom comes with some duty. We should also remember out duty towards the earth, where we are merely the guests of time. If simplicity of life can bring about wellness for all. We are all winners. If we don’t spend much on unnecessary things we would also save a lot. Saving a lot would result in stress free life, resulting in good health.

One small positive change can bring about a chain of positive changes, and the end result will be bliss for all. Let the chain begin, by adopting a simple and happy  lifestyle, which will be a boon for the generations to come.

Live simply, so that others may simply live.
Teresa

Chandrayan – 2, A Lunar mission by Indian Space Research organisation

Chandra – means moon in sanskrit. Chandrayan – the mooncraft

Chandrayan- 2, created by ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation), is the 1st space mission to conduct a soft- landing on the moon’s South Polar Region, a region that is yet unexplored.

The moon being our closest cosmic body for space discovery is the best testing place to demonstrate the technologies required for future deep- space missions. It will also provide an invaluable linkage to Earth’s early history. The moon also contains an undisturbed historic record of the inner solar system environment. The Chandrayan -2 mission will therefore bring forth valuable data regarding space research. It will also look for evidence of water molecules below the lunar surface and atmosphere.

Chandrayan – 2 mission was approved by the then Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh on 18th September, 2008. It was launched on 22nd July, 2019 at Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Second Launch Pad. The lander Vikram was programed to soft land on moon’s South Polar Region on 7th September, 2019. and conduct scientific experiments for 1 lunar day, or 14 earth days. The orbital experiments were to continue thereafter for 1 year.

The lunar South Pole has long remained undiscovered, something that this mission is about to change. The South Pole is much larger than the lunar North Pole and there is an exciting possibility of presence of water in the permanently shadowed areas of the region. It also has craters that are cold traps and may contain a fossil record of the inner solar system. This mission will not only give a clearer picture of the earth’s past but will also pave the way for future deep space missions.

Chandrayan – 2 attempted to soft land Lander Vikram and Rover Pragyan in a high plain between two craters, Manzinus C and Simpelius N at latitude of about 70o  South. However, at 1:51 am, Saturday, The lander Vikram went incommunicado just minutes before it was to land on the lunar surface. the communication was lost 2 km away from the moon. The lander had hard landed very close to the scheduled touchdown site. On Sunday the orbiter found the lander and clicked images of it in a tilted position but still intact. Though the signals remained elusive, efforts were on to establish communication.

ISRO Chairman K.Shivan announced on the 7th , that 90- 95% of the missions objective has already been achieved. The orbiter will now have a life span of over seven and half years and not a single year as there is still a lot of fuel left. Isro may later decide to lower the orbiters altitude to get better views of the lunar surface.

Pragyan rover pic from Isro site.

This mission is a remarkable example of ISRO’s technological sufficiency as it completely depends on home –grown technology.

  • The launcher used was GSLV Mark III, (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle). The GSLV Mark III is ISRO’s most powerful launcher, often hailed as ‘Bahubali’(The strong armed one).
  • The orbiter is placed in a 100 x 100 km lunar orbit.
  • The Lander, Vikram,( named after Vikram A. Sarabhai the father of Indian space program) was designed to execute soft landing on the lunar surface and was supposed to communicate with ISDN (Indian Deep Space Network) at Byalalu, as well as with the orbiter and the rover.
  • The rover – Pragyan (wisdom in Sanskrit)– was a 6 wheeled robotic vehicle that could travel upto ½ km and use solar energy. It was programed to conduct in–situ payload experiments.

The technology and algorithm are all proudly indigenous.

The ISRO and its missions have come a long way from the days when rocket parts were transported using bullock carts. It is a wonderful representative of the will to overcome all underpriviledges and emerge shining. In its ingenuity and self sufficiency, the mission of Chandrayan -2 proudly displays the fact that, as we reach for the moon, our future lies beyond the stars.

Pictures from Chandrayan- 2 form ISRO site.

Ref: Isro; TOI.

JOY IS FREE

'Real happinesss is cheap enough, yet how dearly we pay for its counterfeit'
Hosea Balou
Happiness is enjoying little things in life.

We look for happiness here and there,

       In crowds , solitude, everywhere.

We search for it in lessons learnt,

     Our trials leave, no stone unturned.

Not knowing what we really need,

     Endlessly we fulfill our greed.

But, happiness lies in little things,

    Kindness, smiles and sweet nothings.

A merry morning, or summer rain,

   Fills us with peace and leaves no pain.

So look for joy in birds and trees

For, good things in life are always free.

Happiness is the best make up.
Drew Barrymore.

HOMAGE TO THE NOBLE SOULS

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.”
Plutarch

      

The mind is eternal;
And lives forever…..
For the thoughts it gave birth to
When it was alive.

Great people leave their impressions,
In the minds of others.
For their goodness,
For their uniqueness.

Even when they leave their body;
People bow down to them,
Of their own free will.
Respect automatically flows.

It’s thoughts, and the deeds….
Which are the outcome of the thoughts,
That make up our lives.
Which ends with a bang or a hiss.

Losing a great mind;
Is a loss to humanity.
I bow down to such mind,s
And pray for everlasting peace of their  souls.

“And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
All lovely tales that we have heard or read;
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.”
John Keats

10 Effective tips to improve concentration

“Take up one idea, make that one idea your life. Think of it, dream of it, Live on that idea let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.”

Swami Vivekananda
Concentration works like magic

Concentration is a vital aspect of any major achievement, along with consistency and perseverance. Swami Vivekananda, a great patron of humanity, went to America to speak at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in 1893. There,  he met a couple of boys trying to shoot some egg shells blobbing on the river. The boys were unable to hit their targets because of the choppy water. Swami Vivekananda watched their game for a long time. The boys invited him to give it a try. Vivekananda took the air rifle, aimed at the eggshells and shot twelve eggs shells with twelve shots. The boys were amazed, and asked him if he was a professional. Vivekananda surprised them by saying that he had never shot before. He was able to do so because he concentrated, only on his shooting…such is the power of concentration.

Concentration is the ability to take the mind off from all distractions and focus it on a single thing. It helps in increasing the effectiveness and productivity of a person. Concentration increases with practice. Just as exercise builds up muscles of the body, similarly, practicing meditation and attention building techniques will help in improving concentration.

1) MEDITATION

“Meditation can turn fools in to sages but unfortunately fools never meditate.”

The best method to improve concentration is through meditation. Meditating for concentration involves closing the eyes and focusing on one single thing. It maybe your breath, a single sound, or focusing on the centre of the forehead without letting the mind wander. Meditation should be done initially for a few minutes and increased with practice.

2) PLACE FOR STUDY

The place for study should be without any audio/visual distractions. The area should be peaceful and calm. Digital equipments should not be kept in the study room; if they are required, notes regarding the same must be made and a separate time must be kept for referring through the digital media. This will ensure that time allotted for a particular topic is not wasted.

3) DURATION

Study plans must be made for 30 to 45 minutes time slots. Each time slot must be followed by a break time of 5 minutes. Some activity like a walk, a snack, listening to music, or simply taking rest will help in retaining concentration.

4) DIET

‘Our belly rules the mind.’

We are what we eat. To function efficiently the brain needs a nutritious diet. Drinking plenty of water, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, almonds,walnuts, green tea, dark chocolate, help in improving concentration.

5) EXERCISE

Good things follow when you sweat

‘In a healthy body, lives a healthy mind.’ For developing concentration, it is important that the brain receives adequate oxygen through blood circulation. Walking in nature for 30 minutes would ensure a stress free mind and a healthy body. Keeping in touch with nature helps in relieving tension and brings about calmness of mind.

6) SLEEP

“Let her sleep for when she awakes ,she will move mountains” – Shakespeare

In spite of a busy schedule and a packed time table, getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep is a must to increase efficiency and concentration. Sleep helps in restoring the memory and relaxing the mind. Sleep also helps in improving the immune system which is essential for performing well during exams.

7) PLAN

A detailed plan for every subject and topic is necessary to be able to focus on priority topics. The plan would help in knowing how much time is available for which topic. A regular routine and time would train the mind to increase concentration at that specific time.

8)TECHNIQUES

There are various techniques to increase concentration. Like putting a black dot on a paper and looking at it for 5 minutes at a stretch. Time slots may be increased with practice. Focusing on a gong or a single sound also helps in increasing concentration.

9) THE 5 MORE RULE

To increase concentration span the 5 more rule may be followed. Whenever you find that concentration is wavering and you cannot focus on studies use the five more rule. It means whatever you are studying or doing, do five more of it. Gradually the concentration span will increase and you will be able to do a little more of your work.

10) AVOID MULTITASKING

Multitasking leads to distraction. It is important to focus on a single task to get the maximum output. Whenever you feel like there is something else which is to be done, write it down in a sheet as a reminder, so that the work can be completed during the break time. That way the task on hand would be completed and the other work will also be remembered and completed at a later period.

Attention is like a muscle. The more you use it the better it gets. Training the mind to focus on a single thing helps in greater efficiency and effectiveness. It is better to focus on one thing at a time. To increase interest in a topic glancing through the chapter and the question answers at the end is advisable. You can also go through audio or video uploads of the topic to get an idea of the content. Reward yourself on completion of a task with something you like. Take power naps to boost your concentration and memory. Distractions will occur. Use spider web technique to avoid being distracted. If a spider’s web is stimulated it will attend to the stimuli to see whether an insect has been trapped. If the stimuli is continuous it will not pay attention. Similarly if you train your mind that there will be distractions, and you must ignore them, the mind will cease to be distracted and concentration will increase. Learn to say no to distractions and don’t try to please everyone. When you don’t feel like studying at all and are unable to concentrate, take a break and be kind to yourself, your mind will reward you with better concentration when you need it the most.

“Arise awake and stop not until the goal is achieved.”

Swami Vivekananda

A Trip to Darjeeling.

DARJEELING.

Darjeeling, (meaning the land of thunderbolts) is a hill station in the foothills of the lower Himalayas. Darjeeling is immersed in a beauty that has mesmerised visitors for time immemorial. Ruling over India, the British had made Darjeeling the summer capital for its pristine beauty and snow clad mountains.

We decided to visit Darjeeling during February as the winter beauty of Darjeeling leaves one breathless. The best time to visit this hill station in West Bengal, (India) is Feb-Mar and Sep-Nov. It is best to avoid visiting during June-July as the area is prone to landslides during the monsoon.

We took the Darjeeling mail 10:05pm from Howrah station near Kolkata and reached New Jalpaiguri station(NJP) at 8:00 am after an overnight journey of 570kms. From NJP there are two options to reach Darjeeling – 1) The toy train, and 2) By road.

THE TOY TRAIN


TOY TRAIN WITH STEAM ENGINE OF 1881

The toy train was established in 1881, and is enlisted as one of UNESCO World Heritage sites. A ride in the toy train is one of the unforgettable experiences of one’s life. The panoramic view throughout the ride of the breathtaking hillsides will leave everlasting pictures in the mind. One can visit the Ghoom monastery or enjoy local delicacies in Kurseong while sightseeing. The Batasia loop is a famous railway loop that offers an amazing view of the mountains. It goes around an open air Gorkha memorial, with a beautiful garden.

As we were not able to purchase tickets for the toy train we booked a SUV for reaching Darjeeling. There are also buses, shared jeep or vans available from NJP. It took us 2 h 55 min to reach Darjeeling via Matigara- Kurseong Rd, one can also go through NH10 which takes 3 h 12 )min.

If you wish to travel by toy train (diesel engine), it leaves NJP at 9:00am and takes about 7 hours to reach Darjeeling. From Darjeeling to Kurseong steam Engine toy trains are available.

On reaching Darjeeling we stayed at The Darjeeling Tourist lodge which offers a stunning view of Kanchenjunga. There are heritage hotels like the Windamere, Cedar inn, Ramada, Hermitage which are upscale hotels and offer a good view of the Kanchenjunga. There is also numerous mid range and budget hotels and home stays available. After enjoying a hot lunch and taking some rest, we decided to take a walk around the Mall.

The Mall

The mall road, Darjeeling.

The mall road is a mountain walkway with serene mountain scenery where one may enjoy a leisurely morning or evening walk. The Darjeeling mall is a loop of about a kilometre, starting from Chowrasta going around the Observatory hill and returning to the mall itself. The mall road is shaded with trees with rhododendrons scattered along the slopes adding to its beauty. Walking along we saw a huge white building with a golden dome. It is the Bhanu  bhavan  or the Ranga Manch. It is an auditorium which is used for public functions. Opposite to the Ranga manch is St. Andrews Church dating back to the British era (1843). The Raj Bhavan which is the summer residence of the governor of West Bengal is also a landmark along the mall road. There are three viewing areas on the mall road for viewing the beauty of Kanchenjunga. We took a stroll along the road while children enjoyed pony rides. Coming back to the Chowrasta we enjoyed piping hot tea, local alu bhurji and roasted peanuts.

Glenary’s

Glenary’s resturant, a landmark in Darjeeling

The walk along the Mall and shopping at the Chowrasta had made us hungry so we decided on having dinner at the Glenarys. The Glenary’s is owned by the Edwards family in Darjeeling and is over 100years old. It has a wonderful Bakery and café and a restaurant. The food is excellent and view exquisite.

The Tiger Hill.

A view of the majestic Kanchenjungha from Tiger hill.

After a nights rest we woke up in the dark for viewing sunrise from the Tiger hill. We had booked an SUV for the entire day, which took us to the Tiger Hill which is about 12 kms from main Darjeeling. We trekked up a little to find that a lot of tourists had already arrived before us. In the biting chilly morning we enjoyed steaming Darjeeling brew sold by ladies carrying huge flasks. We were lucky to have a clear weather, we watched mesmerised as the sun spread its golden rays in various hues across the majestic Kanchenjunga.

The Ghoom monastery

Ghoom monastry

Our next stop was the Ghoom monastery, built in 1850. The clay statue of Buddha was made with clay brought form Tibet. The two huge lamps are kept burning throughout the year. The intricate work and paintings are worth watching. There is a serene spiritual ambience, which leaves a lasting impression in the mind.

The Dali Monastery

The Prayer Room.

After visiting the Batasia loop and enjoying the serene view, we went to the Dali Monastery. The Dali monastery was built in 1971, and is the residence of the supreme head of the Kargypa sect of Buddhists. The structure and paintings of this monastery are awesome. The prayer room has five cylindrical golden drums, which elderly monks were rotating and offering prayers. The chants create a spiritual atmosphere in which one can immerse oneself.

The Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park.

A zoo amidst mountains.

The 67.56 acre zoo was made in 1958 at a height of 7,000 feet. The zoo is a breeding centre for endangered species like Siberian tiger, Himalayan wolf, snow leopard, red panda. There are about 60 species of orchids and some oak trees are more than 100 years old. All the animals and birds looked bright and healthy in the natural surroundings. The huge trees and mists floating around created a mystical atmosphere.

Everest Museum.

 After looking around the zoo we went to the Everest museum situated within the complex of The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. The museum displays a chronological history of the attempts on Mt. Everest. The display starts from 1852 when Radhanath Sikdar measured Mt. Everest for the first time. It was named after Sir George Everest the then survey General of India. The personal gears and equipments show how difficult it was for early climbers to mount the Everest. The equipments of Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary, the first Everest conquerors are also on display.

Bengal Natural History Museum.

The Bengal Natural History Museum showcases animal and bird life in the Darjeeling hills. The stuffed animals, fishes and birds looked so fresh that they seemed to be artificial.

Tenzing Rock.

Our next stop was The Tenzing rock which is a fun place for amateur climbers. A pair of natural rocks is used for practising climbing. People are assisted as they climb up and down the rock. It is a great place to boost up your skills as a rock climber. Although initially it seemed impossible we actually managed the daunting task with some help.

Happy Valley Tea Estate.

Tea estate in various shades of green.

This emerald green tea garden gave us the feel of life in the tea gardens. It is spread over 177 hectares and is situated 3 kms north of Darjeeling. The estate produces hand rolled tea which is as exquisite as it is expensive. We bought some tea for ourselves as well as gifts for friends and family.

The Darjeeling Ropeway.

It is another popular tourist Destination plying from ‘North Point’ in Darjeeling town and ‘Singla’ on the banks of the Ramman river. The journey was exciting and offered us beautiful views of the valleys and hills in Darjeeling.

The Peace Pagoda.

Abode of peace.

Our last stop was the Darjeeling Peace Pagoda which is designed to help people around the world to unite for World Peace. It houses the four avatars of Buddha. It is situated in the slopes of Jalapahar hills and offers a peaceful and spiritual surrounding; which the hills, trees and mountain mists enhance. The driver dropped us at the mall where we enjoyed mouth watering, piping hot momos which are hard to resist. After a stroll and a lot of shopping of woollen garments, we wound up for the day.

The stay in Darjeeling was made even more appetising with the local delicacies like steaming hot momo and Tibetian Thupka. These are must haves in Darjeeling along with Darjeeling tea which is low in calorie and high in caffeine giving you energy to climb the slopes. As we drove down to the plains, the mist covered mountains seemed to beckon us for another visit.

Questions That Arise

Faith restores peace.

Why do the corrupt pray so hard?
Why do they thrive if they are bad?
Why do the good, even if they pray,
Hardly ever find their way ?
Why are the kind thought to be weak?
Why does the world hurt the meek?
Why do the cunning always win?
In spite of being drowned in sin?

The gentle people of this world;
Must speak up for rights and be bold,
Take strong stands and fight for right ;
Fight for justice, with all their might.
Till faith and peace, regains the throne
And belief in goodness is reborn.

Sumita Tah