Homestays in Ladakh are an excellent way to interact and understand more about the local culture and the daily lives that the people lead in this environment. We were on trek from Likir to Khaltse in Ladakh, the starting point for which was the Likir village, an approximate 60 kms North West of Leh. An easy trek, one of the highlights was the homestays, across the villages we crossed en-route. The locals as always were very hospitable, warm and friendly. Almost every household has a room for ‘guests’. The kitchen doubles up as a living room, or maybe its the living room which doubles up as a kitchen, but either ways, that is the place where everyone gets together for meals and hot cuppa of butter tea. And when it snows heavily n the winters, the kitchen cum living room then also works as the bed room. The say the warmth of the kitchen fire is what makes this the coziest corner in the house. We believe that too.
In the pic: Home stay in Ladakh
Legend of the ‘Paanch Kedar’
As per the epic Indian mythology, the Mahabarata, the Pandavas defeated and killed their cousins — the Kauravas in the epic Kurukshetra war. They wished to atone for the sins of committing fratricide(gotra hatya) and Brāhmanahatya (killing of Brahmins — the priest class) during the war. Thus, they handed over the reigns of their kingdom to their kin and left in search of the god Shiva and to seek his blessings. First, they went to the holy city of Varanasi (Kashi), believed to Shiva’s favourite city and famous for its Shiva temple. But, Shiva wanted to avoid them as he was deeply incensed by the death and dishonesty at the Kurukshetra war and was, therefore, insensitive to Pandavas’ prayers. Therefore, he assumed the form of a bull (Nandi) and hid in the Garhwal region.
Not finding Shiva in Varanasi, the Pandavas went to Garhwal Himalayas. Bhima, the second of the five Pandava brothers, then standing astride two mountains started to look for Shiva. He saw a bull grazing near Guptakashi (“hidden Kashi” — the name derived from the hiding act of Shiva). Bhima immediately recognized the bull to be Shiva. Bhima caught hold of the bull by its tail and hind legs. But the bull-formed Shiva disappeared into the ground to later reappear in parts, with the hump raising in Kedarnath, the arms appearing in Tunganath, the nabhi (navel) and stomach surfacing in Madhyamaheshwar, the face showing up at Rudranath and the hair and the head appearing in Kalpeshwar. The Pandavas pleased with this reappearance in five different forms, built temples at the five places for venerating and worshipping Shiva. The Pandavas were thus freed from their sins.
The Tungnath temple is the highest of the ‘Paanch Kedar’
In the pic: The Tungnath Temple, on the Chopta Valley trail at an approximate height of 3,500 mts
The Kullu-Manali valley more or less runs along a perfect North-South line as per any given map. The eastern side of the valley is flanked by the CB range, while the western side is flanked by the Bara-Bangal range. The Saurkund Lake is on the western flank, high above Manali at a height of 13,000ft. The lake is snowed in for almost 4-5 months in a year, and is accessible from May to November depending on the weather conditions.
To reach it one has to trek for about 3 days from the nearest village called Sankchar. This village is probably one of the highest villages in Manali at 9,000ft. Sankchar and its neighboring villages are decked with acres and acres of apple orchards. A walk through them in August (the apple harvest season) is not complete without plucking juicy, crunchy green apples and sinking your teeth into them…bliss!
In the pic: The Saurkund Lake at an approximate height of 13,000 ft.
Admired by the young and old, trekking is the best option to explore the most remote nook and corners of the Indian highlands! It is a spellbinding experience to stand atop a pass and looking down at two valleys completely different and yet so similar or to cross small villages where people still live with no electricity, roads or telephones and where children come running towards you greeting “Namaste!”. It is an unforgettable event to walk through a mountain shepherd’s barn and his flock of hundreds of sheep and goats grazing on the lush green meadows. It is an occurrence of being spiritually touched while visiting monasteries in the harsh environment of Ladakh or simply getting awed by some of the most fascinating views of the mighty Himalayas.
In the pic: Sunrise over the Chopta Valley in Uttrakhand