Monday, 22 September 2014

Guga, Guga Chohan and Roerich at Naggar

It seems I am on a roll in my discover of my Guga ji. Read more about my earlier story on Gogamedi fair in Rajasthan.

I was just reading a bit more on the Guga in Himachal and came across an interesting article in the Tribune on snake gods or nag devtas in Himachal written by one D C Sharma. Read the article here. He talks in the article that there is a temple of Guga Rana in Naggar in Kullu valley and in fact Roerich, the great painter himself painted the idol of Guga.

More research led to me to search for any such painting and finally I found that there in fact is an idol of Guga in the Roerich art gallery complex in Naggar under a tree. It used to be a single idol at some time and now has some more idols along with. I found pictures of Roerich with the idol, which means that way back in 1931, when there were no roads to Himachal. This God travelled from rural Rajasthan to the untouched valleys of Kullu. Amazing !

The pics below are from other websites and an article on the International Centre for the Roerichs




I was also able to locate the painting or paintings which DC Sharma talks about in his article in some art websites. The paintings are now preserved in the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.



It seems that Goga ji or Goga Chohan as it was possibly called was a favourite of Nicholas Roerich. Svetoslav Roerich painting his father along with the Guga idol is an evidence of the fact of how associated Roerich was with Guga.


Though I have been to Naggar before but this connect was never there. I am travelling to Naggar now in the next fortnight and should come back with more news.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Gogamedi fair in Rajasthan

This entry has a personal touch, because the God in veneration of which the Gogamedi fair happens also happens to be my 'Kul Devta' or the family god.

I belong to Himachal Pradesh and my ancestors come from a village named Larha in Naduan Tehsil of Hamirpur District. The village has a temple which we call Googa Temple named after the God Googa. Its widely believed that Googa can cure you of a snake bite if you are brought to the temple and drums played alongwith. People sit in the temple campus called Chelas...they hold chabuks in their hands made up of short chains and bless people curing them of all the evil spirits. The idol of Googa sits on a horse and there are some other gods and goddesses alongwith which sit on horses. You cant miss the horses.

My family and consequently me believed it to be a local devta. Though I found one temple of Googa near East of Kailash in Delhi. I thought somebody from Himachal must have made it. Then later in my travels to Bijnor district of Uttar Pradesh, I found another temple of Googa there...making me wonder how widely the God has travelled from Himachal.

But I was in for a shock last year when one of my friends from the Indian railways poster in Rewari told me that he is busy preparing for the Gogamedi fair as lots of devotees travel there for the fair. I wondered if that was the same Googa as my village. Some checks on the internet later...it was confirmed that what I thought to be a local devta was indeed the Guga Jahar Peer of Gogamedi. Wow man! now I was part of  huge mass of followers of Googa from around India. I took up a resolution to visit the temple but couldnt do it last year. But this year I am Gogamedi returned. Ha Ha.

Planning the trip was a little easy as my railway friend could have helped me in reaching that place. Very minimal information is available on the internet about this fair. There are those 4-5 lines, which are repeated in all the websites. No information on how to reach that place, where to stay etc.

So, I thought why not put it on my travel blog and write my experience as well as how to reach kind of stuff.

The nearest big train station from Gogamedi is Sadulpur Junction, which is about 80kms from Gogamedi. The good point is that the birth place of Googa Jahar is Dadrewa is about 15kms from this place and should definitely be visited if you are going to Gogamedi.


 Another option is to travel to a town called Sirsa in Haryana, from where Gogamedi is 50kms. However, there is just one train from Delhi to Sirsa during they day, while there are three from Delhi to Sadulpur. if you want to hit the road, Gogamedi is about 300kms from Delhi.

Sadulpur is a small town and it will be good to book a taxi in advance. No taxi is available online and hence i had to ask my friend to help. You could try my taxi driver...His number is 09413451545. A return journey to Gogamedi will cost 1800 bucks and if you want to go to Dadrewa as well, it will cost you around 2700 rupees.

Dadrewa is a sleepy little village and is the birth place of Googa with a temple. 




















There is a pond nearby where people take bath, but the water is a bit dirty. People perform some rituals on the pond side burning some coconuts and onions. Its a sight to see people peform these rituals and take bath.



There are some shops which sell Goga memorabilia, prominent being the blue horse of the God, called Javadia. There are a lot of langars for you eat sumptuos food.

You will find many people with the chabuks blessing people. You have to bend down and the person will hit your back with the chabuk and may be with his hand as well. Thats it...you are blessed and devoid of any evil spirits.

Putting a video below of how this blessing is done:

video

There are some old trees inside the Dadrewa temple complex and people had printed their hands on the walls of the temple. Couldnt find out what that ritual was.

A sea of humanity lands at this place on Janmashtami day wearing yellow clothes. Thankfully we visited a few days after Janmashtami and hence it was relatively less crowded. 



Its a very different affair in Gogamedi though, with shops spread over 4 square kilometre area around the shrine and parking places beyond that. Shops primarily include eateries and memorabilia. People come from places as far as Punjab and UP and even Himachal. A sight to catch is when people come in processions playing the dhol/drums and with colourful flags in their hands. Watch one procession here:


video


Getting inside the temple could be difficult affair. Even on the light day that I reached, I had to stand in queue for an hour to get inside the sanctum sanctorum. The main temple is just a room with a white mazaar/grave of Googa Jahar Veer.




People rub sandalwood or chandan on the grave. All that you get to do there is to bow your head, rub the sandalwood and move. No time to pray. Just keep moving. I prayed while walking. As you come out you may see the shrines of some lesser known saints - Pandey ji and Ratan ji.

I may point out here that Googa Jahar Veer is also known as Googa Jahar Peer...dont know whats the right word, though I saw Jahar Veer written everywhere. Incidentally, its a secular place and people from all religions come here including Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims, though I found very less Muslims when I was there.

As for the fair it has also become commercialised with Giant wheels, Maut ka kuan and women dance shows. There is also a camel fair but it was night when we reached there and got scared of the camels...so came back. But it must be interesting.


video



I found it relatively safe for women as well. The temperatures were just fine around 23th of August in the evening with minor sweating, though it was lot hotter and humid in the morning. 

Didnt find any place to stay there, though I had planned to go back in the night. There was a charitable hotel I found right next to the shrine which named Nohar, with free AC rooms, but didnt have the time to explore that. Very poor people come to this shrine and in groups. They camp in tents around the huge fields near the shrine and cook their own food. A reason why you will find a lot of people selling firewood in the fair.

It was a memorable experience for me to visit the headquarters of my kuldevta. Jai Guge di!






Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Thugs...the pub, not the people

I happen to be in the gang of the most prestigious group of walkers in Delhi...if I may say that...i.e KLOD_B matlab Knowing and Loving Our Delhi Better. leking uske baare men alag entry hogi.

So, my fellow KLODB walkers have often bragged about this pub and it was the favourite place for the gang to catch some beer after an old Delhi walk. Unfortunately, I have always missed it.

So, one fine day I went there with my friend. By the way, before I tell you the story let me tell you that the claim to fame of this bar (apart from its name Thugs)





is the ambience... which is of Bollywood villains. So right from Gabbar Singh to Mogambu...you will find all on the walls.



To isliye mera jaana zaroori tha aur hum pahuch gaye. I knew that its a little rustic...but the ambience seemed to be decent.

A valet parked the car for me. Its right on the main road if you drive from Delhi Stock Exchange to Delite Cinema parallel to Ram Leela Maidan.

The menu card also is a little different. Rum with cola is called Kalia and Bloody Mary is Mona Darling.

But thats what it has...otherwise its the usual drinking station with I would say... limited menu and not so inspiring crowd...unless you join in.

Service is ok.

But definitely a place to visit for the filmy guy
s.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Para-motoring in Sohna near Gurgaon

Was looking out for some interesting movies on book my show and there were none for the week. Just went into the events section and found something called Flyboy. Read that its about para motoring. Didnt know what that meant. So googled para motoring and found it to be interesting.

There was the phone number of a person there. Called the person and fixed up for a slot the next day early in the morning at 6 am. He asked me to give him a call at 5 to check if the wind condition was right. Next day morning it was windy and when I called him up he said it wont happen that day. A few days later, the same procedure was repeated and he asked me to come in.



The site is about 30 kms from Gurgoan on a road that chips off from Sohna. Its right next to the Westin Resort and Spa. The site is nothing but a patch of fenced land where you can do your thing. A small outdoor lounge is there for people who are not so keen to go up in the air.

I was curious to see how it works. But in some time it was all clear. Two people sit on a cycle kind of a thing with a huge fan behind it and a parachute which takes the air from the fan. It takes off like an aeroplane and lands in the same way.

Goes to quite some height, lets say about a 1000 feet up. I have always wanted to fly a plane but off late I realised that the slower moving air borne vehicles are much more fun because you get to see around whereas in a fast moving plane...you miss out on that.

Here's how you go up




For about  a 20-25 minute ride it costed me 3200 rupees. They said it was a discount and the actual rate is around 5k. Dont know if thats true. But it was sheer fun prompting me to try out para gliding at Beed-Billing in Himachal. But thats another story.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Keylong and Rohtang

I started my professional journey at a rather remote place, Keylong, a tiny town in the high altituted Western Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh province of India. I used to work on a project to conserve endangered medicinal plant species and culture in that tribal area. No doubt I visited numerous villages around and have an attachment for the place.

I recently viisted it after a gap of about 10 years and the place still is the same unlike many other places in the world where things have physically changed. The bazaar of Keylong boasts of some 20-30 shops selling day to day needs. The hotel Tashi Deleg belongs to a local gentleman Mr Tashi, who happens to be a good friend. Its a good option to stay if you want to stay close to human habitation as the HPTDC hotel Chandrabhaga is a little away from this town.

I reached the place within a fortnight of the Rohtang Pass opening and could get some amazing shots of the Rohtang Top. Being at Rohtang is always an excitement when you are in this area. Rohtang decides if you can cross it or not as you never know when it will snow and it will get closed. You can also get stuck on the pass if there is heavy rain or snow and then you will have an experience of a lifetime there - I have had one...but thats for another blog entry I guess.

Right now I just want to show you the video I captured with snow on the top.



Also I took the Himachal roadways bus while going and some pics of the bus on its way and at the Pass. Here you go:


The buses parked at Kothi (as they start the drive up towards Rohtang from Manali)(above)


Just after the pas opens the space available on the road is just enough for the bus to sneak through...which sometimes lead to jams especially on the top if their is traffic from the opposite side. Cops do try to manage it but it could take hours especially due to the tourist traffic. (Above the bus stuck in a micro jam at the top)



After you cross the pass, all buses stop at Khokhsar the first habitation on the other side of the pass and a police check post.  Above the bus at Khokhsar.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Parking for Villagers only - Hauz Khas Village

Was at the Hauz Khas village a few days ago after many years.

It has transformed over the years with unique shops and European style cafes. I was there to visit the unique Kunzum Cafe...more about it later.

While I wasnt intriqued by any of the shops trying to be European or Indian...just to be different...what really intriqued me were the sign posts at places saying...parking for villagers only. In India rarely do the two words 'parking' and 'village' go together until its the Commonwealth Games village or Asian Games Village.

Wonder if the 'villagers' referred on the sign post are people who own shops there or are we talking about the real villagers of Hauz Khas.








The only place which attracted my attention and called me in was a village style temple in the middle of this cosmopolitan space - A temple of Lord Hanuman. In went the Musafir...to pray. A Huge plot and in the midst is this tiny temple of Hanuman...wow...what peace in Hauz Khas village. Put this on the must visit list.



After this I went to the Kunzum Cafe...a place for travellers in Delhi and a place to hang out and get to know Delhi. Nice place run by a maverick who truly believes in the spirituality of travel. Bought some of his books and listened to an American artist performing there. Must visit place for people travelling to Delhi from any part of the world.

You can sit and chat here with people about the city.




Sunday, 17 February 2013

Kasmur Dagah

 It seems to be Dargah season for me these days. Was travelling to Nellore in Andhra Pradesh. Happen to meet one Mulla Sahab and asked him if there are any dargah's around. He promptly named the Kasmur Dargah and the Rahmatabad. Kasmur was just 25 kms away...so thought of giving it a shot after a days work.

Checked Google maps and found that I had to take a country road from Venkatachalam, which is 15 kms from Nellore on the highway towards Gudur. Took a bus to Venkatachalam and asked the bus conductor to drop me at Kasmur Road.

Got down at Kasmur road and took the lone auto going towards Kasmur. Kasmur is actually a small village hamlet in the countryside. The auto from the highway took 20 minutes to cover about 10 kilometres amidst paddy fields.


The dargah area is a largish market selling food items and a number of small items associated with dargahs i.e pics of Mecca Madina, chaadars and some other secular stuff. There were hardly any visitors to the dargah. It seems that the place is abuzz during the Urs only.

The main gate of the Dargah is a mini charminar. The main gate below


































Went straight inside the dargah. The sanctum santorum was not the usual dargah style. It was rather a huge balloon kind of thing on top of the dargah. Perhaps so many chaddars have been put that its seems like a bloated been bag...see if you can get that from the  pics I clicked.


Also, present were a couple of devotees, who seem to be talking to the Peer of the Dargah i.e Baba Mastan (Hazrat Kaleem Ulla Shah Qadri) You will find this at many dargahs...where devotees get into a 'zone' where they start communicating directly with the Peer. I have seen this at Ajmer also.



Another very interesting thing about this dargah is that its open air. There is no roof to the mazaar. Its just in the middle of a courtyard...thats it. Perhaps Babaji wanted some fresh air. In India, I know of another temple in Himachal called the Shikari Devi in Mandi district...out there also the temple doesnt have any roof and there's are many stories around it.


Found some living quarters of very poor people behind the dargah. There is a huge lake just behind the dargah...but I dont think its maintained...found a lot of filth there.

Didnt really connect with the supreme at the Dargah...but was happy that I made it to the place. May be that was what the supreme power wanted me to see and experience there.

Apparently, you get rid of jinns and balayas if you visit this dargah...I am sure there were none with me...I walked out clean anyway.

P.S - I read online that amongst the celebrity devotees of this Dargah is AR Rahman...may be this place is close from Chennai...thats the reason.