INDIA ECOTOURISM
LOVELY LANSDOWNE ! if u want to romance and get lost in the densed forests,then this cantonment town in Uttarakhand is the ultimate for vacation --Raichak,ultimate place for honeymooners -- Pushkar,india's ecotourism,truly enchanting for the foreign tourists --
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LOVELY LANSDOWNE !

If you want to romance the Himalayas and get lost in the forests of pine and oak,then this cantonment town in Uttarakhand is the place to be.Go on a vacation to relax and rejuvenate !

Situated atop a hill at a height of 1,706 meters in Uttarakhand.Lansdowne is a quintessential British hill station.Set up in 1887 by the then Viceroy of India.Lord Lansdowne ,the town gets its name from him and in the process inherits many imperial landmarks and ethos.Two of the most sought-after visual delights of Lansdowne are St.Mary's church and St.John's church.The former has been restored by the Garhwal Rifles Regimental Centre and boasts of an archive of pre-independence photographs and an audio visual show of regimental history.While the latter is the only church of worship in Lansdowne.Also ,keeping with British and army traditions,the town sets a benchmark for cleanliness.It's clean ,green and pristine !

Lansdowne is also proud of its Regimental Mess,which is believed to be the second best in Asia,complete with old armoury,weapons and hundreds of animal trophies.The hill ,atop which the town is located en route the Kotdwari-Pauri Road,is called Kaludanda.Lansdowne was actually developed as a training centre for recruits to the Garhwal Rifles which has its command office here.

MANNA FOR THE SOUL-

Surrounded by thick forests of oak and pine ,Lansdowne is very charming and an ideal destination for romance or a solo sojourn.A hiliday here would be a great way to relax and rejuvenate as it is cut off from most trappings of urban living.So you will not come across honking cars,blasting music or buzzing shopping arcades.But endless stretches of peace,tranquillity and natural beauty will greet your eyes.

Actually,Lansdowne has something for everybody - from ecotourism to pilgrimage,wildlife and adventure sports,this British cantonment offers a variety of choices to the traveller.A melange of different cultures - Garhwali,Kumaoni,Rajasthani,Islamic,Kannauji,Gorkha and Christian - Lansdowne has an essentially cosmopolitan flavour which compliments its salubrious clime.Whether you a nature lover or a romantic ,the unspoilt beauty of Lansdowne is bound to enchant you.It could be your cherished gataway this future !

FACT FLIE--

How to go : The nearest airport is Jolly Grant at Dehradun,Lansdowne is 125 kms away.The nearest railhead is Kotdwar,45 kms away.One can drive down from Delhi which is 250 kms away

When to go : Summers are warm (March-October )while winters are freezing

Where to stay : Tourist Rest House,Hotel Mayur,Forest Rest House,Army Welfare Board Rest

House ,PWD Inspection House

What to see :The War Memorial at the Parade Ground of the Garhwal Rifles Centre;Tip-n-Top,

which is the highest point in the town;Santoshi Mata Temple ,Regimental

Museum,Bhulla Taal which offers boating facilities;St.Mary's Church/St.John's

Church.The excursions from the city are Tarakeshwar Mahadev Temple and

the Bhairav Garhi Temple.The Temple of Lord Shiva is perched at a height of

1,800 mts and surrounded by thick forests of deodar and pine.During the auspici

ous occasion of Shivratri,a special prayer is held here ! Trekking is another activi

ty one can indulge in.In particular ,the trek to Hawaghat passes through Khyber

Pass along the road to Jaiharikhal which offers panoramic views of the snow-capp

ed Himalayas

A well-known landmark near Lansdowne is Karnva Ashram,14 kms away,where Shakuntala is said to have given birth Raja Bharat,the forfather of the nation.The story of Shakuntala and Dushyant has been immortalized by poet Kalidasa in his epic,Shakuntalam

A Date With Yourself !

Through a gateway of tall trees and paddy filelds stands Ganga Kutir on the bank of the Ganga in Raichak will not just scenic beauty but a healing touch too...

Welcome to the wellness oasis --

A clear autumn sky u can go on gazing at endlessly...refreshing,rejuvenating....and yhis is just the beginning of your journey to Ganga Kutir,an oasis,a short drive away from Kolkata.

 

Diamonds From The Sky

 

As u enter the green paradise,far from the maddening crowd,what welcome you is an ecstatic view of the Ganga flowing a few yeards away,the sparkling waters contrasting beautifully with the blue sky and the greens around.

 

Indulgence, Will U Say ?

This heaven by the river has been designed by Srilankan architect Channa Daswatte.Resplendent with tiled roofs and artworks from local craftsmen,the architecture has been inspired by rural India.Bay windows offer splendid views of rustic surroundings and the shimmering river.All the walls in the rooms have a touch of rural Bengal with a splash of terracotta artwork.

      In this serene beauty,to rejuvenate the body along with the mind,there's a spa offering treatments and a beautiful library with a selection of books that ranges from soul searching wisdom literature to history.There's a conference room and a bar too,but what comes as a complete surprise is the goshala with two cows and calves !There's a bit of rural Bengal in everything here.Batik painting has been used most innovatively on the ceiling of the restaurant ,just as terracotta has been used to embellish walls.

      A trip here is not just a journey from city to the suburbs but an indulgence and exploration of one's inner self as the breathtaking and peaceful environment can transform anyone into a poet !

 

How to go : Ganga Kutir is about a two-hour drive from Kolkata along the Diamond Harbour Road.Take a right turn from the

                  Sarisa crossing.

 

A Must Do !

For a holistic journey,let solitude be your only partner ,at least for some time.Sit,relax and meditate at the bhavana madua or

the meditation centre,right on the edge of the river.Sit comfortably,close your eyes and be one with nature.Thoughts will come and go and soon there will be nothing to think about.This is the state of complete relaxation and peace where time stands still and the only sound is that of the gently flowing river !  

 

ENCHANTING MOMENTS-------

PUSHKAR is a quaint little town that is home to a fascinating blend of different cultures ---

Pushkar in central Rajasthan is a medieval temple town that dates to the 4th century.At the very heart of it is the sacred lake Pushkar --'lake of the lotus blossom'.So sacred,that a statute of the local administrative body forbids smoking and consumption of alcohol within a 2km radius.

For most of the year ,Pushkar is a quircky but relaxed temple town.Silversmiths and cloth merchants lounge about on white bolsters in their small shop-fronts.There's much to buy and the shopkeepers rarely overcharge.

 

The town is a beautiful mix of architectural styles.Most of the havelis(palaces) and buildings are between 200 and 300 years old,built by local chieftains and merchants.There are sandstone facades with airy filigree,painted havelis with wooden shutters,structures with down-curved Bengal style eaves and carved Dravidian style gopurams.

There are cenotaphs,jharokhas and frescoes -- a whole vocabulary of art and architectural styles within a small area.Circling the town are the rocky Aravallis glittering with mica deposits,and beyond that spread rose fields!Some 800 acres of land around Pushkar are under rose cultivation -- the fragrant desi gulab whose petals are used to extract rose essence.

Wandering the lanes of Pushkar,or people-watching from a roadside stall as you drink masala chai,is an exercise that can absorb you for days.The first thing you notice is the unmistakable influence of the international budget traveller.

The rag-tag Lonely Planet sub-culture is instantly recognisable.The shops selling cheap clothes made of silk scrap,beaded bags and curved chillums.The rooftop cafes that play trance and serve Israeli food.

Here at Pushkar ,the Lonely Planet wallas are the insiders,zipping past on two-wheelers,dreadlocks flying over bronzed shoulders,or lounging at tea-stalls in groups,their women in silk and silver.

 

This very traditional but inclusive little town,has about 15 goribahus --' white daughters-in-law' ;tourists so enchanted by the Rajasthani romance that they've stayed on and married local boys.Now they veil their faces and scour their pots at the courtyard tap, like any Rajasthani woman.Some wear ghaghras,tribal silver and bone bangles up to their upper arms and tend their herds.The tall,handsome tour guides are most likely to steal the heart of a gori girl,with their long hair,pierched earlobes and dashing manner.

But the real Saturnalia happens in November -- a 12 day fair on the dunes.The event is that uniquely Indian fusion of the spiritual with the temporal.Thousands of nomadic herders  from all over Rajasthan converge here to trade camels and cattle ;scores of different tribes each with their own distinctive way of dress -- it's said that in Rajasthan the colours  and patterns of the women's skirts and the swirls of men's turbans change every 24 miles.The herders set up camp at the base of a hill and very soon the place is a carnival with acrobats,palmists,camel races and hundreds of stalls selling trinkets and embellishments for cattle -- saddles,bridles and embroidered blankets.

 

Women of the Kalbeliya tribe, a tribe of snake charmers dance sinuously around campfires ,dressed in their swirling black and silver skirts.Three days before the full moon ,exotically dressed nomadic women arrive to take a dip in the Pushkar Lake during the auspicious Purnima.At dusk the lake is a firmament of floating diyas sparkling on the petal-strewn waters,and bells ring out for the evening aarti.Over 2,00,000 people ,besides the animals ,arrive for the event.For 20 years now foreign tourists have been coming to the fair to wander amazed amongst the disdainful camels and the giggling peasants women in embroidered backless blouses -- their luxury Swiss tents as much a part of the encampment as the carved camel-carts of the nomads.

Pushkar is the exemplar of exotic India  -- one of those mystical points on Earth where many meridians intersect ,a crossroads for ancient paths and new -------------

READY RECKONER----

 

Getting there : Pushkar is 154km(3 hours by broad )from Jaipur and 400km from Delhi.The nearest airport is Sanganer.Taxi fare from here is roughly Rs.1,000 in the off-season.During the Mela however,it could be double.Ajmer is the nearest railhead.Pushkar is 11 km (half an hour ) from here.

Best time to visit : Best time to visit is between October and March.The main dates for the fair this year are from November 10 to 13,though the festivities extend to about 12 days.Accommodation must be booked in advance.

TRAVEL TRIVIA ----

The Ramavaikunth Temple is one of Pushkar's largest and most intricate temples.It was built in the 1920s and has beautifully sculpted images of no less than 361 different deities.The ornate outer gopuram over the entrance is said to have been built by a team of masons specially brought from South India. 

 

Nothing Like NAKO--

Breathtakingly beautiful and peaceful,this holy lake in the upper reaches of KINNAUR is simply irresistible

Leave Kalpa to make your way to Nako,a high altitude lake in Pooh in Kinnaur in Himachal Pradesh.About 3,662 m above sea level,the placid lake is like an oasis fringed by willows and poplars.U will be passing through a hamlet called Rekong Peo as u drive downhill to Puari.From Puari u can take NH 22 or the Indo Tibetan Road which is a rough ride through barren,dusty roads but there is one bright spot,the beautiful Sutlej which could be your constant companion all through the journey.And yes, you need a special permit to go to Nako and Tabo which is available from Jangi.

The road gradually becomes narrow and steep,bringing you closer to the mighty Himalayas.After a near seven-hour drive and covering a distance of about 179kms,u reach Nako,a small village whose claim to fame is the lake.

 Welcome To Lake Land --

It's a bit of paradise up there - you have the scenic lake and the twittering birds for company.And of course a spectacular azure sky.For ornithologists there couldn't be a better destination as this place is home to the Himalayan pleasant and the monal.The lake also offers fishing opportunities but the variety of fish is restricted because of high altitude.Nako is a holy place for Buddhists.There are four Buddhist temples nearby as also a footlike impression of saint Padmasambhava.There are some beautiful murals inside the temples.

Country Road Take U Home --

The road to Tabo is challenging - steep and narrow with sharph curves and bends.There is a shorter route but it is best avoided as it's prone to landslides.And you may often have to take breaks to allow sheep and goats to pass by.If you are hungry you can try roadside momos and noodles.After Chango u can go downhill for 15kms to Sando where u can see river Spiti.From Sando it is a 30 km drive to Tabo,through a small village called Hoorling.U will arrive at Tabo,a small town in the lap of the Himalayas which is best known for its monastery,built in 996 AD.Originally called Chogshkhor(doctrinal circle),it is a complex housing nine temples,23 chortens,a monk and a nun's chamber.

In Winter,the frozen Nako Lake becomes a skiing hot spot for tourists

FACT FILE ----

How to go : Nako is 117kms from Kalpa and Shimla is 244kms from Kalpa.It's almost a day's journey from Shimla by road and you can take breaks at Kalpa or Sarahan

When to go : September to November

Where to stay : The Spiti at Kaza (phone no:01906-222752)The Tourist Lodge (contact HP

Tourism at 0177-2552561/2658302);Banjara Camps Kaza Retreat.At Kalpa

tourists can stay at The Kinnaur Kailash Cottage (phone-01786-226159);

The Tourist Complex (contact HP Tourism) and other hotels

What to see : The Nako Lake and Buddhist temples.At Tabo the monastery is highly revered as one of the best in the Himalayas ,after the Tholing Gompa in Tibet.Except for the main temple,most of the paintings belong to the Gelupa ascendancy.Thousands of years ago,Tabo was the meeting place of Indians and Tibetans

Tabo is known as the Himalayan Ajanta.Its exquisite murals and stucco sculptures bear a striking resemblance to the paintings and sculpture of the Ajanta Caves

HOT TIP ---

Carry packed food and plenty of water to avoid dehydration .Take precautions for sudden bouts of breathlessness

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