Rabdentse Ruins , Pelling

As I was reading a list of lesser known destinations to visit in India , a picture of  Rabdentse ruins brought back some wonderful memories of my last day in Pelling , Sikkm. It has been two years since my visit to the ruins of the former capital of the kingdom of Sikkim .Most of the people we spoke to said there wasn’t much to see , but I had made up my mind and nothing could dampen my spirits . I remember the drizzle in the forest , the mushrooms , the fronds , ferns , muddy puddles and the exhaustion as we walked towards the ruins.

I have posted a few pictures of the wondrous forest trail earlier , but never quite got to posting about the ruins. So I thought it best to do it today. Better late than never. The walk through the magical forest was the highlight for me , even better than walking around the ruins

DSC_0866

DSC_0869.JPG

DSC_0879.JPG

DSC_0878.JPGDSC_0873.JPG

I wish the ones who told me there wasn’t much to see , knew what they were missing.

Rabdentse tells the story of Sikkim’s glory during the Chogyal rule . Hidden inside a dense forest , overshadowed by the beauty of the majestic Kanchenjunga which attracts most people to Pelling ,the walls of Rabdenstse are more than just stubs . Rabdenstse remained the capital of Sikkim for 123 years and saw six Kings rule the kingdom.

The first structure that welcomes visitors is a Chorten – a stupa .DSC_0892DSC_0895.JPG

DSC_0905

Ruins of the palace , not much remains of what once must have been a grand residence of the king . The ruins are divided into the Northern and Southern wings , one used to be the living quarters of the royal family and the other was where the King met with commoners.

The Southern wing , the stone throne and perhaps the place where  people would have an audience with the king  . It didn’t  look like a throne from a distance , but one of the workers there pointed it out to me. The Marble stone you see is believed to be carried to the site by a single person.

DSC_0908

 

DSC_0920

Remains of the living quarters . They sure knew how to find ‘ a room with a view’.

DSC_0909DSC_0923

DSC_0913

Three stone chortens looked fairly preserved . This is the place where the highest officials would pass important judgments . Am not sure what the significance of the stone slab is , but a closer look revealed this .

dsc_0914.jpg

 

It is also believed that prayers were offered by the royal family at this site everyday. These three stones looked like stoic testimonies to all the grandeur , faith and fervour that this palace and its residents embodied.

DSC_0911

DSC_0925

A final look at the ruins , before I left .

dsc_0919.jpg

Some ruins proclaim the building was beautiful. These do , no ?

Advertisements

Malshej Ghat : Not just a monsoon destination

If all you want is rolling mist , the trill of birds , green pastures with cattle grazing and if you have a high tolerance for volatile weather , then Malshej is perfect . Most websites suggest a trip to Malshej after the initial monsoon spell has washed the rugged Sahyadris clean and the benevolent mountains ( that is what Sahyadris are called ) wear their prettiest greens .

IMG_9427

DSC_0056
Driving towards Malshej

July is when tourists throng to Malshej to take a dip in one of the innumerable waterfalls that bring this place to life . Since we were travelling with our 16 month old , we thought it better to travel before the peak monsoon season and landed there in the second week of June .

DSC_0063.JPG

Thankfully , when most places have long lists of things to do and things to see , Malshej is an exception. Do what you want , see what is there to see – the broken ranges , the dark clouds looming over them , trees dancing in the breeze ( it can get extremely windy ) , drive down to the dam at Pimpalgaon ( about 5 km away from MTDC , Malshej ) , sit and feel at peace . These are things that I did , am sure you will find your own sights to see and experiences to have once you get there .

DSC_0076.JPG

DSC_0082.JPG
Towards the lake . The narow road to get to the lake .

IMG_9493

DSC_0089.JPG

The white particles you see , strewn over the rocky shore, are mollusc shells .

DSC_0145.JPG
Walking around
DSC_0104.JPG
I had my Heidi moment

IMG_9505

DSC_0129.JPG

DSC_0264.JPG

The place behind MTDC , the view from my room.

DSC_0258DSC_0146.JPG

DSC_0271.JPGIMG_9756

On the last evening there ,  I saw one of my favourite images – an old couple walking hand in hand to enjoy a few quiet moments with the mountains. It made me feel happy and hopeful 🙂

For me , Malshej was not about the magic of monsoon , but about my little girl watching the majesty of the mountains in awe , her clapping when she saw a bird fly by and  her giggling when the breeze made her curls tickle her cheeks !

 

 

Thread Garden , Ooty

The dimly lit room, which has exhibits of Anthony Joseph’s labour of love, is a treat for those who love art , craft and stories . “No machinery , no needles” , he says proudly . I was lucky to meet the man behind the unique technique that he calls four dimensional hand wound embroidery.

DSC_0731

A journey that began in 1988 continues with as much zest and his nimble fingers have found help over the years in 50 pairs of gifted hands that have supported him and matched his passion and perfection in creating each piece .Each artisan goes through three years of training in the time consuming technique .

DSC_0746

DSC_0749.JPG

Lots of research , canvas , threads , glue and wires have gone into making this garden what it is today. More than a hundred varieties of flowers are on display here at the thread garden and one can take home a keepsake from the little store outside .

DSC_0769.JPGDSC_0754.JPG

DSC_0777.JPGDSC_0782.JPG

DSC_0787.JPG

dsc_0789.jpg

Located near Ooty lake , this one is an absolute delight .

Emerald lake , Ooty

The closest I might ever get to the Emerald city in the Wizard of OZ – the emerald lake , Ooty !

In the silent valley surrounded by tea gardens , emerald lake is another pristine place in the Nilgiris. It is an extension  of the Avalanche lake , I was told .

DSC_0933

DSC_0805.JPG

DSC_0925

This is as close as we could get. The access to the lake had been shut for a few days owing to some maintenance work near the dam.

Rose garden , Ooty

I never promised you a rose garden ….

I can never think of a rose without this song playing on loop in my head. He never promised me a rose garden , but if he did , it would have to be as pretty as this one.

The rose garden in Ooty is arranged  in terraces on the slopes of the Elk hill and boasts of having one of the largest collection of roses in India. It is no wonder then , that it won the garden of excellence award for being the best rose garden in South Asia in 2006 . Surprisingly , there weren’t many people in the garden at the time I visited. I was there about an hour before closing time and that’s probably how I managed to dodge the crowd.

DSC_0478
As you enter
DSC_0479.JPG
Just before the drizzle began
DSC_0481
A look at the lower level of the terrace

They save the best for last , I guess , which explains why all the pretty roses are to be found in the lowest level of the garden 🙂

DSC_0506
Enter a caption
DSC_0570
Love !
DSC_0567
In my favourite colour
DSC_0566.JPG
Lady in red

DSC_0562DSC_0542

DSC_0538
Two tones

…And then the rain drops began to kiss those rosy lips . I put the camera in , soaked in the atmosphere and kept wondering , how nice it would have been if he had promised me just a rose !

Upper Bhavani lake

Avalanche forest , Ooty .

The shola forests guard the upper bhavani lake and it is quite a journey to get there to spend a few blissful moments watching this shimmering beauty from a distance. It must have been about 30 km from Fern Hills in Ooty and we commenced our journey at 6 in the morning , not wanting to miss the first trip inside . Private vehicles are not allowed inside the reserved forest area and one has to choose from among two options , a jeep or a mini bus , to take you through the forest upto the lake.

We reached the place at around 7.30 and had to wait for about two hours for the first trip to commence . They waited for a group of 20 to let the first bus in and the jeep service wasn’t functional on that day. The canteen doesn’t open until ten , so if you do plan a trip , make sure to carry a few munchies or have a hearty breakfast before you leave. With my 13 month old quite restless , we decided to amble around and spent an hour in the pine forest just near the entrance of the reserved area. DSC_0827

DSC_0829

DSC_0831.JPG

DSC_0833.JPG

The bus journey is extremely bumpy, but once you’re up at the upper bhavani point , you forget the dread that awaits you on the way back.

DSC_0869

Each group is given approximately 25 minutes to soak in the beauty of the upper bhavani lake . It was my 20 minutes of peace in a very long time , with the baby refusing to leave her dad and excitedly screaming ‘water’ , I left the two behind and enjoyed the magic in front of me .

DSC_0877.JPG

DSC_0880.JPG

dsc_08911.jpg

A glimpse of Toda architecture – Ooty

The Toda tribe of the Nilgiris in South India is a pastoral community . With dwindling numbers , modernization and the loss of land , they have received attention and the Toda lands are now declared a part of the UNESCO world heritage site.

The Todas live in munds in uniquely shaped huts called dogles. These huts are built with bamboo , cane and rattan and thatched with dry grass . They have really small doors , about 3 feet and members have to crawl inside the hut. These small entrances serve as protection from wild animals and extreme weather .

The Buffalo is considered sacred and the temples have art form on the exterior walls that pay obeisance to the sacred animal . Women are not allowed even within the compound of the temple and I understood how fiercely they protect their customs and traditions when I visited the Toda village near Stepehen’s church in Ooty. The Toda lady was very apprehensive of me going anywhere near the temple and kept telling the driver to tell me that I must not touch even the compound wall.

There is a model Toda temple built  right at the top of the Botanical garden , a little outside one of its rusted and almost falling apart turnstile gates. There is only one sign board to indicate that something like this exists and no directions so you’re left to find it yourself. On the day that I visited , there must have been thousands of people in the garden but not a soul on the way to the Toda temple and I almost gave up finding it . A government officer on the way to a construction site near the Toda temple showed me the way and was kind of enough to accompany me to the top . Once on top , it felt like another world .

DSC_0447
Model Hut in the Toda Village – Botanical garden

 

DSC_0446
Wall art adorning the exteriors . The art above the little entrance resembles a buffalo head
DSC_0444
Close up of the thatched roof
dsc_0439.jpg
The really small entrance
dsc_0441.jpg
closer look at the arch

IMG_4358

IMG_4359

A couple of smooth boulders outside the Toda hut caught my attention . Since there was no one there to explain the significance , nor was there any board with information about the same , I read it up online and found out these are used by men to prove their strength at the time of wooing women for marriage.  Interesting !

DSC_0440
Stones in front of the temple for the show of strength
DSC_0998.JPG
Toda village near St Stephen church
DSC_0986.JPG
Am not sure what that little thatched hut in the background is used for
DSC_1000
This , I was told , is a modern day home of a Toda family , built in the shapeof dogel . It was just outside the Toda village

I wish there was more information about their lifestyle and culture available near the model village, however , am happy I got a glimpse of this beautiful and rustic architecture.

 

Nilgiris : The home of the queen

Ooty or Udagamandalam is aptly called the queen of hill stations. She’s a beauty adorned with emerald lakes ( there is one actually by that name a little away from Ooty) , wears corsages of varied hues , is guarded by sturdy pines and the air of her royal abode is redolent of eucalyptus .

We zeroed in on Fern Hills to ditch the crowds and it was absolutely serene . The new garden , spread over approximately 40 acres , is developed by the Karnataka department of horticulture in the state of Tamil Nadu . A fine collaboration in times of conflict between the two states.

The Siri Horticultural Garden is amazing and I loved ambling around the various sections . Flowers in full bloom , a section for succulents , a maze garden , topiary and the sound of silence – the garden has it all . Will post about the garden in detail later , but for now let’s meet the queen .

Ooty !

DSC_0043DSC_0932

DSC_0224
View from the hotel 

 

DSC_0237
Home in the hills ! The hotel we lived in @ Fern Hills

Reis Magos , Goa

On the banks of the river Mandovi , in a village named Reis Magos , near Panjim in Goa , stands the Reis Magos Fort right next to the church with which it shares its name. I was expecting it to be crowded owing to its proximity to the bustling capital city , but we were the only ones inside the fort.

dsc_1239.jpg
Reis Magos Church

Reis Magos in Portuguese means ‘ Three wise men’ . This is the oldest fort in Goa . The once impregnable fort was used as a prison and a hospital before it began falling apart and was abandoned in 1993. The restoration that began in 2008 has restored parts of the fort and transformed it into a cultural center. It’s a short trek to the fort , but there is a free van pick up for senior citizens and parents with infants.

The first thing one sees as one enters the fortress is the death hole.

IMG_7313
Death hole

The death hole was used to shoot or pour hot oil on enemies who had breached the gates. A little ahead is the  hole in the wall that was once a solitary confinement cell.

DSC_1212
The solitary confinement cell
DSC_1213
Inside the fort 
DSC_1214
This is currently an information center
DSC_1215
Wooden model of the fort 
DSC_1217
Remnants
DSC_1219
Laterite walls
IMG_7332
View from the cannon gallery
IMG_7330
The village cemetery and the church roof top 
IMG_7343
Prison cells
IMG_7344
Something interesting from the loads of information on display
IMG_7341
TOP – The frontpage of the TOI the day Goa was liberated 
IMG_7348
Taken through the glass panels installed so one can get a glimpse of the view without the fear of a steep fall !
IMG_7356
Walking down 
IMG_7358
Time to head back

In the above picture you can see a banyan tree that began to grow as a parasite on a coconut tree that stood there once and eventually strangled it. The dead coconut tree caught fire in 2008 , the banyan tree was held in place with steel ropes and is now supported by a concrete pillar . What stories this place has to tell !

IMG_7362
The art gallery just before the exit

There are seven galleries , each dedicated to an artist or theme. I loved these by Mario de Miranda .

IMG_7363

IMG_7364

IMG_7367

So this is Reis Magos , a lot of history , a fort with an awesome view , a quiet place to spend a few hours and some lovely pieces of art.

Fontainhas – Quaint and colourful Goa

The old Latin Quarter in Panjim city , pretty heritage homes in happy colours , windows that are lined with shells , people speaking Portuguese as fluently as the local language (Konkani), serene lanes that invite you to explore , early morning walks through the winding lanes with church goers and school children eager to chat and help, remnants of Portuguese architecture and the little fountain from which this place derives its name – Fontainhas ! It has been a little over three months since my stay in Fontainhas and a post long over due .

DSC_0919
Afonso Heritage home

I have always lived at home in an obscure village in Goa and this was the first time I was in Goa but staying away from our ancestral house. I decided it was going to be a beautiful heritage home converted into a warm inviting guest house – Afonso Guest house. This was our first trip with our nine month old baby and the place had to be sparkling clean with a touch of homeliness. That’s exactly what we found inside this bright yellow immaculate home away from home. To add it to it , the freshly baked bread by the owner for breakfast was the cherry on the cake .

DSC_0937
The blue house next to the chapel
DSC_0938
The chapel next door
DSC_0947
Home and hues
DSC_0969
Pretty nooks and corners

As we rambled for the next few days , we saw colours everywhere .

DSC_0972
Check out the rooster , the balcao ( verandah ) ,tiled roofs
DSC_0925
Another heritage home owned by Linda – the owner of Viva Panjim

DSC_1063

IMG_7131

 

Most homes are brightly painted , have red tiles on the roof , are surrounded by lots of plants and the names of streets and house owners are displayed on Azulejo tiles (Portuguese ceramic tiles).

DSC_0934
Street names on Azulejo tiles
DSC_0949
House names on tiles too
DSC_0911
And flooring too !

My chats with the owner, Aunt Jeanette, revealed that back in the day it was mandatory for every home to be freshly painted after the monsoon season, however , the rules are not so stringent today .

IMG_7160

IMG_7159

The main street here is the St. Sebastian Road , named after the St Sebastian Chapel – the only white structure towering amidst a burst of colours.

DSC_1033
The Chapel . Looked forlorn to me amidst all that colour 

Next to the Chapel is a page out of a fairy tale , a wishing well , with roosters perched on top , begging for some love ( a fresh coat of paint may be !) . Defunct and lots of weeds growing inside , how it got its name am not quite sure , but even though the it resembled an ageing woman with disheveled hair and in need of some grooming , it had a charm of its own.

DSC_1053
The wishing well
DSC_0945
Am calling these the rainbow stairs 

The rooster which is an important part of Portuguese architecture can be spotted on roofs of homes and uniformed police figurines also adorn the exteriors of some homes . I read that the latter signifies the home belongs to a freedom fighter , but there was no way to verify it.

DSC_0941
Rooster perched on the wishing well
DSC_1045
Rooster on roofs
DSC_0998
Cop like figures places on exteriors of some homes

DSC_1059

 

Shell lined windows made me sing ! They looked so pretty , so ingenious and let in the right amount of light .  An owner of a pretty cafe told me how it is now illegal to be selling these shells and heritage homes that are renovating can only salvage a few that hey have or source it from other heritage homes that are being demolished to make way for modern ( not so pretty ) hotels .

dsc_0963.jpg
Shell lined window pane – Afonso home

DSC_0979

DSC_1031
Pretty , no ?

The place is fab , the people are warm and the food is super too . Viva Panjim is a good option for some authentic Goan cuisine but the real super deal and steal for me was the little cart that dishes out beef delicacies – tongue , rolls , chops , curry , croquettes ! You cannot miss this one right next to the  Library ( another bright yellow structure ).

IMG_7276

 

On my last day here , I walked to the other side in search of what remains of the font after which this place is named . This is all I saw with no information or sign board in sight . I walked back , this time slower , wishing I had more time to spend here .

I couldn’t sign up for a heritage walk but have no regrets . Wake up early , talk to the locals and they will tell you stories of the past and how their beloved Fontainhas is a font of happiness , love and colours .