Growing vegetables at Dal Lake in Srinagar, Kashmir, and selling them in houseboats is a feast for the eye.
Pir Panjal mountains overlooking Dal lake
The Indian state of Kashmir is known for its charming beauty. It is surrounded by three mountain ranges of the Himalayas- Karakoram, Zanaskar and Pir Panjal, running from northwest to northeast.
Srinagar, the summer capital of Kashmir (Jammu is the winter capital) and the “Venice of the Orient”, is built around Dal Lake. The sparkling quiet waters of Dal surrounded by snow-capped mountains on its three sides, undoubtedly mark it as one of the most beautiful lakes of India. It is also the second largest lake in the state of Jammu and Kashmir with numerous gardens and orchards all along its shores.
Lotus flowers at dal lake
The lake covers 18 square kilometers, and is divided by causeways into four basins, called Gagribal, Lokut Dal, Bod Dal and Nagin.
Clusters of green vegetation gently floating on the surface and the undulating pink and white lotus flowers add charm to the environs, while beautiful white breasted kingfishers greet you cheerfully amidst the prayer calls from the lakeside Hazratbal Mosque.
It is one of the largest annual pilgrimage in the world with an estimated 50–60 million devotees walking barefoot through forests abounding in wildlife – a spiritual journey that underscores universal brotherhood, regardless of caste and creed.
Though the pilgrims comprise mostly the Hindus, Christians and Muslims undertake the journey in increasingly larger numbers, and climb up the Sabarimala range of hills to pay obeisance to Lord Ayyappa. Before this arduous journey, however, they seek the permission and blessings for a safe journey at the Vavar mosque at Erumeli.
By the turn of nineteenth century, Buddhism was all but gone from the land of its birth. This article describes how archeology helped resurrect the buried mounds of evidence and lists a few places connected with Buddha's life.
"Discovery" of Buddhism
Buddhism disappeared in India in the 11th century, due to the many invaders who destroyed thousands of monuments. The Buddha was all but forgotten in the land of his birth.
Buddhism was rediscovered owing to the work done by government-sponsored Archaeological Survey of India, founded in 1871. Alexander Cunningham, the first Director-General, brought Buddhism to the forefront and established its study as a separate discipline.
Assisting Cunningham in his archaeology work were the accounts left by two Chinese monks: Fa Xian’s Record of Buddhist Countries in the 1840s and Xuanzang’s Record in the 1850s. Between the two of them, they had mapped out the whole of Buddhist India, with all the main sites, their locations, their importance, their histories, and details of the monasteries and the monks who inhabited them.
One such Buddhist site uncovered by Cunningham is at Sarnath, the spot of the Buddha’s first sermon after his enlightenment. The Mahabodhi Temple as we see it today in Bodh Gaya was restored by him. Another of his discovery is the spot where Buddha died. Under his supervision, the statue of reclining Buddha picturing the Nirvana was found amidst stupas exactly as Xuanzang had described it 1,200 years before.
Helping to tie up the information about Buddhism were the hundreds of stupas that were excavated at various sites. These carried inscriptions, most important of which were the Ashoka's edicts. Ashoka gave up military conquest to undertake Dharmavijaya
— victory by righteousness and truth, and provided royal patronage for the propagation of Buddhism both within and beyond his empire, into Asia and Greece.
A rail journey through the clouds by the renowned Darjeeling Himalayan Railway to visit Darjeeling, which offers a breathtaking view of four mountain peaks – the Everest, Kanchendzonga, Makalu and Lhotse.
Darjeeling is one of the oldest hill stations in India.
During the British Raj, Darjeeling's temperate climate attracted the ruling British headquartered at Calcutta who frantically sought to escape the summer heat of the plains. But they found the 3-day journey to Darjeeling, covering a steep distance of 600 kilometers interspersed with rivers to be too difficult. Although they could reach Siliguri from Calcutta by train, they had to use horse drawn carts or tongas to go further to Darjeeling. Interestingly, the main road connecting Siliguri and Darjeeling is still known as the Hill Cart Road.
Train leaving Siliguri
The British then built the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway between 1879 and 1881 and is about 88 km long. It takes 6 hour to reach Darjeeling by the toy train from Siliguri Junction through a breath-taking and gorgeous terrain to Darjeeling.
Nicknamed the "Toy Train", the train is powered by a steam engine and runs on a track made narrow to help the train go through safely the sharp turns of the hills. It requires four men to operate the engine, two inside the engine and two to pour sand on the track in order to increase the grip of the wheels over the track.