Thursday, May 31, 2012

Monastic Mountains of Sikkim

Visiting Himalayan Mountains is always a beautiful experience. Their culture, lifestyle, religion and beliefs are completely different compared to the non-mountain regions. They believe a lot in 'nature' and they protect mother nature all the time. That is the reason we see flags everywhere on these mountains. They write their prayers on those flags and they tag them everywhere so that when the wind blows, the prayers are spread all across the mountains. This is a common sight all across the Himalayan Mountains. Its the land of monks and monasteries. I visited many monasteries last year in Nepal and it was a beautiful experience. 

Sikkim is also a land of hundreds of monasteries. Sikkim is supposed to have more than 200 monasteries in its tiny geographical area. Sikkim's second-largest religion is Buddhism, which accounts for 28.1% of the population. We visited a couple of beautiful monasteries on those mountains. 

Prayer wheels everywhere

Its the monks land

Prayer flags blowing the prayers written on them all the time across the mountains and valleys

24 Kms. from Gangtok, a drive through beautiful countryside takes one to Rumtek Dharma Chakra centre built in 1960'S by his holiness the late 16th Gyalwa Karmapa. It houses some of the worlds most unique art objects, ancient manuscripts and icons. It is located at an altitude of 1500m and is currently the largest monastery in Sikkim. It is home to the community of monks and where they perform the rituals and practices of the Karma Kagyu lineage. A Golden Stupa contains the relics of the 16th Karmapa. Opposite that building is a college, Karma Shri Nalanda Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies. Monasteries in the Himalayan region of Sikkim, India, Nepal, and Bhutan were asked to send two monks each to study at the institute. When they completed their studies, they would return to their monasteries to teach, or stay to assist in the work at KSNI.

The Rumtek Monastery, Sikkim

Rumtek Monastery, Sikkim

Colorful walls, windows and pillars at the Rumtek Monastery

A colorful door at the Rumtek Monastery
Ranka Monastery / Lingdum Monastery

Visit to this monastery was most beautiful. This is a very peaceful place and one can spend more time photographing or just going around the place. At the entrance there is a long line of prayer wheels and is customary spinning these prayer wheels out there. The set up is so beautiful that the huge valleys look magical as a backdrop to this place. 

The peaceful Ranka or Lingdum Monastery, Sikkim

Monk kids having some fun time at the monastery

The entry to the Ranka Monastery

These were seen on every corner of the building

Ranka Monastery looking West with the back drop of huge valleys

Viewing south from the Ranka Monastery

(click on the pictures to enlarge them)

Copyright 2012, Srikanth Parthasarathy

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

North-Eastern Panorama

As always, what I do like capturing during my travels are some panoramic shots of the places I visit. So, even this time, I tried capturing some wide angled shots of the huge valleys of North-Eastern Himalayas. Those high altitude serene lakes of Sikkim Himalayas and the huge valleys of Kalimpong mesmerized me enough to capture  them as much as I enjoyed them seeing through my eyes. The only disappointment was that most of the time I had my macro lens ON to capture those beautiful orchids and I missed a lot on spectacular misty landscapes of Neora Valley National Park. Well, sometimes those disappointments are absolutely bearable. And those beautiful landscapes I witnessed through my eyes and could not enter my lens will remain in my eyes forever for sure. It was my dream to visit North-Eastern Himalayas and I've lived my dream for 10 days in my life. I treat it as my first installment towards a major commitment in the future! The following pictures may not even properly justify  the actual scenery, but you will definitely get a glimpse of them! 

Farming fields of Gangtok Valley. The view is looking west of Gangtok on the way to Ranka Monastery 

Gangtok town looking East

Gangtok town as seen from Hotel Mayur viewing West.

Gangtok valley in the night
A beautiful lake at 14000 ft near Baba Harbajan Mandir, East Sikkim. Its called Memencho lake or Kupup lake

The famous Chaangu lake or Tsongmo Lake at 12400 ft. East Sikkim

Tsongmo lake at 12400 ft. There were many beautiful Rhododendrons in bloom around the lake

Beautiful valleys of Darjeeling and Kalimpong. This view was on the way to Darjeeling.

(click on the photographs to enlarge them)

Copyright 2012, Srikanth Parthasarathy

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Day in Gangtok

I just returned from a terrific trip to the north-eastern; huge valleys of Sikkim Himalayas. Gangtok city itself was a treat to watch with the backdrop of the mighty Kanchenjunga peak. Although weather did not permit us to see the mighty peak on most of the days, we could get a glimpse of it (luckily) on the last day. The following pictures were as viewed from our room at Hotel Mayur. We never got tired of looking through the window for this view all through the day. 

It gets brighter as early as 5 am

Sunny afternoon at Gangtok

Evening colors at Gangtok

Gangtok in the night

(click on the pictures to enlarge them)

Copyright 2012, Srikanth Parthasarathy

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Mandalpatti: A degrading paradise

Or, should I say, A lost paradise?

From a long time, I wanted to go with my friend to this place which I had visited last year and explore more flora. The place is full of orchids and a lot of other interesting flora. So we planned to go on a Sunday during the mid April. I had thought that because its summer time, not many people would visit the place. Later we discovered that I was completely wrong. It was full of people. It was discouraging to see so many people at the peak who had come there for sheer enjoyment. Some were ignorant about the environment and some others were helpless but to watch people spoiling the place. That there is a neat road all the way to the top of the peak, it is even more easier to reach the place. Last year they were widening the road and this year I saw it was completed and there were two other new roads that connected the main road to the peak. Earlier it was accessible only for jeeps and the 4X4s I guess; but now its easier for any vehicle to go to the top. 

Firstly I do not have any idea on why is there a need for the new roads? and secondly, why is government/forest department taking such destructive decisions? Just to collect 20 Rs per person at the forest check post on top of the peak, they create such facilities? I would say the cost of destruction to the habitat will be much more than the money they collect from tourism. Not just that, last year I had seen only one coffee/ tea shop on the way to the peak. It was actually a house but they were serving drinks and snacks. This year the number of small coffee houses/shops were 5. All of them were new and the old one had reformed itself to look like a neat restaurant. It was so disturbing to see them occupying the forest area and creating such facilities for tourists. Because of them, there will be so much litter; usage of plastic and tons of garbage at the peak. I'm sure that all of them are illegal shops and no one would've given permission for them. Or, a corrupt official would've given go ahead. Very soon, it will not be a surprise or a shock if we see a resort on the way to the peak!

We saw good number of orchids and a variety of flora and fauna. A wild hare jump-running was a beautiful sight for sure. The habitat around the peak was absolutely mind-blowing and those wilder patches of sholas were looking spectacular. I was recalling somebody saying that wherever 'tree ferns' are found, the habitat will be very rich. We saw some majestic tree ferns and some interesting trees at the peak. We did not stay for long at the peak because of too many people. 

Bulbophyllum fimbriatum 

Sholas at the peak

Viewing Kotebetta to the East

Tree Fern sp

Tree ferns 

Oberonia sp

Beautiful fern

We thought of going near the river at the base of the peak and explore the place. When we reached there we were discouraged again by seeing the number of people. The stream was full of people having fun taking bath and playing in it. This was not the case when I visited last year. There were no people even during the weekend. I was totally shocked to see the rate at which number of people are visiting this place. Without wasting any time, we left from the place. 
Gardenia sp?
Elaeocarpus sp
Mandalpatti is such a breathtakingly beautiful place in the Coorg region of the Western Ghats. But its getting degraded everyday. Habitat is getting destructed everyday because of the sheer ignorance and much greed. Its also a part of the region that is considered as one of the biodiversity hot-spots. There are so many endemic species of wild flora and fauna that makes this place a special one in the globe. But still, its getting a fatal treatment from the humans around. One hardly realizes that enjoying nature and protecting nature has to go hand in hand. Destructing a paradise at the cost of one's pleasure is a coward act. Very soon we will realize that we have lost it all. And that we are a subset of nature, we will perish sooner if we do not care for it.  

For more pictures visit my flickr page here.

An act of evil is the death of wonder ~ Joe Meno