2013年12月11日 星期三

North India Tour 2 Gulmarg (北印度之旅2-古爾瑪)

The temperature fell the 3rd night too. 

This is the houseboat kitchen which prepares all our meals

Mist all over Dal Lake. One couldn't really see far.

To ensure that the house boats don't drift too far from each other, they are tied together with huge ropes land smaller chains like these.

When I took a look at the garden, again, the petals were frosted over.

I never knew that roses could survive the frost.

They're tougher than one would have given them credit for.

The edges of the leaves too were covered with frost.

The frost is just: even fallen leaves are not spared.

The hearts of faded chrysanthemums take on a new look.

The look more like dandelions than chrysanthemums.

Everything is covered by a thin veil of white.

Outlines became starker.

Even the sun seemed veiled.

Individual pine leaves looked more individual.

After breakfast, we were jeeped to Gulmarg, a  mountain riding and ski resort at the foot of the Himalayas some 52 miles away from Srinagar. This is a rest stop. We can see the valley below and the snow cap of the Himalayas.

We've arrived at our destination, a rolling intermontane plain at an elevation of an average of more than 8800 meters above sea level. It's sparsely populated. Less than 700 people live there, 99% of whom are men involved in the tourist industry in one way or another. The name Gulmarg means "Meadow of Flowers" because in summer the entire valley is covered with wild flowers. It's old name is "Gaurimarg", the name of Lord Shiva's wife. Since it's considered a border control area, all people are required to leave by nightfall. Only tourists and those working in the tourism industry may stay overnight. With the abatement of militancy in the area, Gulmarg has quickly become one of the state's most visited destinations. The slopes of Afarwat Hills of the Pir Panjal Range of the Himalaya Chain boast one of the longest and highest ski slopes in Asia. In December, 2004, a skiing project was inaugurated by the Chief Minister there. he total distance covered by ski lifts is now five kilometres and the resort peaks at an altitude of 3,950 m (12,959 ft), accessed by an aerial gondola (telecabine). But the entire hill is guarded by the army at all times but the army, which is seen everywhere in the cities of Kashmir, is seldom seen in the town or the actual hilltop but only done midway on the access road at 3 places: Tangmarg, near an army camp on the road from Tangmarg, and 5 km before entering Gulmarg. According to CNN, Gulmarg is the "heartland of winter sports in India." This resort is famous because of its "Gulmarg Gondola," one of the highest cable car in the world, reaching 3,979 metres. The two-stage ropeway ferries about 600 people per hour to and from the gondola main station in Gulmarg to a shoulder of nearby Mt. Apharwat Summit (4,200 m (13,780 ft)).  The summer is just as busy. With temperatures ranging from 25 to 30 °C, Gulmarg attracts outdoor sports fanatics with its world class golfing, trekking, mountain biking, horse riding, water skiing, and fishing.

A view of part of the Himalayas with coniferous forest at its feet.

A cloth painting on the wall of our mountain station.

Another one: birds and flowers.

 A third: wool embroidery: very primitive folk art.

The mountain station.

In the middle of the horse ride, we stopped by to take some photos.

 The distant hills were covered in mist.

All pines and firs below us. 

My horse took time off to do some feeding

We had an hour long ride, trotting along very slowly for reasons of safety

That the highest point we reached in our ride

The various horse. The Kashmiris have a peculiar way of urging their horse forward: they would puff air through their mouth extremely quickly so that their lips would vibrate to produce tiny muffled explosions of sound.

Some of our horses.

In the distance, we see the snow covered Himalayas.

Another view of the snow-capped mountains.


The sun was high up.

The grass had turned brown.

One of our tour members

A herd of horses resting by the roadside awaiting customers.

One of the horse boys.

A shallow gully on our way down the mountains. On our way down, we found many Kashmiri girls/women carrying firewood on their head. Our tour guide told us that such women would walk up to 15 kilometers go up the mountainside to pick up firewood and then walk back to their homes once every few days. Not easy being a Kashmiri woman.

back to the town below

This is the everyday India: people in small shops sitting or standing ,waiting for customers the whole day in their tiny shops whose shop front is rarely more than 6-10 feet wide

or if they're less wealthy, pushing their home-made trolley selling agricultural produces or garments. In front of the man by the kerbside is a small weed basket. Inside that is a small metal bowl filled with ashes and smouldering charcoal. If they wish to keep warm in winter, they would put their hands around the surface of the weed basket and when they're walking, they'd keep it under their "phirans" or robe of woolen,camel hair fabric. Our tour guide joked that in winter, all Kashmiri men become "pregnant" because of the bulge around where they keep their hands around the "heater" in front of their belly under their "phirans".

A man doing some calculation in front of the apple cart with a pocket calculator whilst his companion and the stall owner looks on.

A banana stall. What is he thinking of?

We passed by a bridge on our way back

I took a look just before lunch at the row of houseboats on our side of Lake Dal.

The banks on the opposite side of the lake.

Reflection of a houseboat on the surface of the lake.

One of the Kashmiri shikaras, the Kashmiri version of the Venetian gondolas, paddling towards my houseboat and wanting to sell his wares fruits, drinks etc.

Another lake boat moving silently by. I really like the sense of calm I experienced there. 

Tiny floating leaves were all around our houseboats.

After lunch we were taken to the only surviving Hindu temple in Srinagar. We were told that when the Muslims took over Srinagar, they destroyed all Hindu temples there. These are rams and ewes kept in front of the temple grounds awaiting ritual slaughter later.

The path leading up to the temple.

The town below.

The temple bell.

The temple dome. A typical small Hindu temple usually has a garbhagriha  (from the Sanscrit word "garbha" meaning "womb" and "griha" meaning house or chamber),  i.e.the interior of the sanctum sanctorum ( the innermost sanctum of a Hindu temple) where resides the murti (idol or icon) of the primary deity of  a Hindu temple.  Only pujari  or 'priests'  are allowed to enter the temple. In temples with a viman or aspire, this chamber is placed directly underneath it, and the two of them form the main vertical axis of the temple. These together may be understood to represent the axis of the world through Mount Meru. The garbhagriha is usually also on the main horizontal axis (usually east-west) of the temple. In those temples with a cross-axis, the garbhagriha is generally located where the axes cross each other. Generally the garbhagriha is a windowless and sparsely lit chamber, deliberately created thus to focus the devotee's mind on the tangible form of the deity within it. Entrance to the garbhagriha may be restricted to priests who perform the services there.The garbhagriha is always square and sits on a plinth, its location calculated to be a point of total equilibrium and harmony as it is representative of a microcosm of the Universe. In the centre is placed the image of the deity.The present structure of most Hindu temples is a two-storeyed vimana with a square garbhagriha and a surrounding circumambulatory path, an ardha-mandapa and a narrower maha-mandapa.
In the Dravida style, the garbhagriha took the form of a miniature vimana with other features exclusive to southern Indian temple architecture such as the inner wall together with the outer wall creating a pradakshina (or parikrama  or "the path surrounding something" in Sanskrit, and is also known as pradakshina ("to the right"), ie. the circumambulation of sacred places in Hindu or Buddhist temple, sacred rivers, sacred hills or a cluster of temples and doing a parikrama is a symbolic prayer and may include various pradaksina paths ) around the garbhagriha. The entrance is highly decorated. The inner garbhagriha or shrine became a separate structure, more elaborately adorned over time. Most Hindu temple structures include various pradaksina paths around the shrine of the temples by keeping time as a common form of prayer in India and the stone pathway around the shrine is called pradakshina path. There could be one surrounding the main deity, other paths could be broader being concentric to the main path. However, it is not uncommon to find non-concentric parikrama paths in a single temple structure. At times the outermost parikrama path covers the whole village/town/city, thereby implying that the length of the path can stretch eg. parikrama done around sacred fire (Agni – the fire God), Tulsi plant(Ocimum tenuiflorum) and Peepal tree.Parikrama of Agni or Agni pradakshina is a part of the Hindu marriage ceremony. Some of the parikramas are Narmada River, Govardhan hill, Vrindavan, Vraj Mandala, Panchkosi, Lili, Chitrakoot hill, Varanasi, Mathura-Vrindavan Yugalabandi in Kartik. Typically, parikrama is done after the completion of traditional worship (puja) and after paying homage to the deity and is supposed to be done with a meditative mood.
There's a legend about Lord Shiva and his two sons about how important pradakshina or parikrama: Lord Shiva asked his two sons to circumambulate the universe to gain worldly knowledge. His second son Shanmuga spent decades going around the world on his peacock but his first son Ganesha walked a full circle around his father and justified his action by stating that the World was contained within Lord Shiva, his father. In Shiva temples, the devotees start the pradakshina as usual from the front and go clockwise till they reach the gomukhi (the outlet for abhisheka water) from the Sanctum Sanctorum. As usual the clockwise perambulation is maintained outside of the Bali stones. The drainage outlet for the ritual ablution offered on the Shiva Linga with water, milk, curd, coconut water, ghee, ashes (bhasma)etc. is not to be crossed. So the worshippers have to return in anti-clockwise direction till they reach the other side of the drainage outlet to complete the circle. During this anti-clockwise perambulation, the devotee should tread a path inside of the Bali stones. The Bali stones are always to be kept the right side of the devotees. After reaching the drainage outlet, they have to return to the front in the clockwise direction keeping the path outside the Bali stones. Thus one pradakshina is completed.
Since 1986, it has become common to hold a Vraja Mandala Parikrama in October–November  every year. It follows the same route taken by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu during his visit to Vrindavan. Devotees achieve full experience of twelve forests of Vraja, over a period of one month and visit holy tirthas (pilgrimage centres) of Vraja (also spelt Braj). Vraja Mandala comprises twelve forests, known as vans, and twenty-four groves, known as upavans. The twelve forests are Madhuvan, Talavan, Kumudvan, Bahulavan, Kamavan, Khadiravan, Vrindavan, Bhadravan, Bhandiravan, Belvan, Lohavan, and Mahavan. The twenty-four groves are Gokul, Govardhan, Barsana, Nandagram, Sanket, Paramadra, Aring, Sessai, Mat, Uchagram, Kelvan, Sri Kund, Gandharvavan, Parsoli, Bilchhu, Bacchavan, Adibadri, Karahla, Ajnokh, Pisaya, Kokilavan, Dadhigram, Kotvan, and Raval all of which are stated to share in Lord Krishna’s absolute nature.
The temple structure reflects the symbolism of the Hindu association of the spiritual transition from daily life to spiritual perfection as a journey through stages. Moving their body  in a clockwise direction around a Hindu deity symbolizes moving closer towards the world of spirit of the Hindu god, who is supposed to be the centre of sacred spiritual energy of the deity.

There were windows everywhere

These are the holders of the candles used in worship.

Offerings to the Hindu god.

On both sides of the temples are two halls, one showing the history of the temple and the other holding holy pictures of Hindu gods.

The temple does not appear to be particularly well maintained. But it has a kind of abstract beauty.

One of the pictures outside of the side temple. We were not allowed to take photos inside.

Another one of such pictures.

She looks happy

She has many hands: as many as may be needed to work miracles for her followers?

Another one. He has a snake around his neck. Must read more about their myths to understand what it's all about.

Another temple bell with some ceremonial cloth to shelter it.

A small altar outside of the temple museum.

Aromatic candles on sale for worship.

Leaves of the trees around the temple were turning brown.

One of our tour members who adores cats. We find lots of stray dogs running around in the streets but rarely any cat. She was so overjoyed to have found one finally. 

The side of the stairs leading up the temple.

The temple had extremely high walls

It's built like a fortress

with guard towers on each side.

The afternoon sun bathes everything in gold.

We were next taken to visit a carpet factory. Some prayer mats we saw with beautiful and intricate patterns.

 The salesman who would agree to give me a good discount only if I were to trade in the down jacket I was then wearing with him! He lived in Chung King Mansion whilst he was in Hong Kong!

Parasols on the banks of Dal Lake opposite some houseboats.

Sunset again.

Back at the park near our houseboats.

This is our local guide.

He came over to our houseboat that evening specially to show me what he was talking about when he was trying to explain to me earlier in the day what the Kashmiri men we saw in the streets of Srinagar had under their "phirans" .