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The Indus River in Ladakh

Indus Valley Civilization’s lifeline originates from the Manasarovar lake in Tibet and its greenish-blue waters flows with all its glory through the Ladakh region in Jammu and Kashmir towards Gilgit-Baltistan and along the entire length of Pakistan to finally drain into the Arabian Sea at the port city of Karachi.


Having aided the rise of the Indus Valley Civilization the Indus (Sindhu in sanskrit) holds a great importance in the history of the Indian subcontinent. In Fact, India in Latin means the “land of the Indus.” Yet only a small part of the river flows through India.

This is the view from the camps set up by the banks of river Indus in Chuchat. The campsite is slightly lower in altitude than Leh and has a dense vegetation of the Sea buckthorn weed. Once gets a stunning view of the Stok mountain range, Thiksey and Leh town in the valley and the soothing sound of the Indus river at the campsite.

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Turtuk

Turtuk Village

Escaping from the monotonous barren mountains characteristic of Ladakh, lies Turtuk Village- India’s last village in the Leh district at the Indo-Pakistan border. In fact, it is geographically a part of the Baltistan region. Turtuk was a part of Pakistan until 1971, but was brought under India’s control by the Indian Army thereafter.

Turtuk Village Ladakh

Unlike most of Ladakh, Turtuk has a heavy green cover which is quite refreshing after having viewed varying shades of only brown for miles.

This tiny village is entirely a Muslim community, with no access beyond the border and with scarce resources. Yet the villagers are completely self-sufficient having made use of every resource available to them right from solar panels to generate electricity to even a natural fridge purely made out of rocks.

Children In Turtuk

While walking through its narrow lanes, one is greeted by cheerful children looking down from windows. Having walked further, one passes by the local weaver, the tailor and a blacksmith.

The Shyok river gushes through Turtuk village and flows into Pakistan to merge with the Indus. A quaint wooden bridge lies over the river, perhaps Turtuk’s most iconic feature.

In a certain corner of this tiny village, lies a small museum, which was once a Royal Palace. Having entered a small room slightly adorned with photographs, ancient items the proprietor of which is an old man with a snake-headed sceptre in his hand who retells the history of Turtuk and a certain Yabgo dynasty. We later find out that he is Yabgo Mohommad Khan Kacho the living heir of the Yabgo dynasty, whose humility has led him to believe in equality between his family and the rest of the villagers.

Turtuk Wooden Bridge

Turtuk village is completely isolated- geographically and culturally for it remains in a certain corner of the country very close to the war-zone and is a home to people who have been cut off with their relatives on the other side of the border.

 

Blog by Esha Volvoikar

 

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Chemrey Monastery

In our quest of exploring the cultural aspects of Ladakh, we set out meet and interact with local organizations and NGOs of Ladakh that worked in restoration and awareness of Ladakhi heritage, culture, art and architecture. That is when we heard about Dr. Sonam Wangchok, a key individual who has researched and studied the heritage and culture of Ladakh.

Chemrey Monastery Ladakh

 

Dr. Sonam Wangchok is a historian and a native of Khardong village in Ladakh. He is the Founder of Himalayan Cultural Heritage Foundation and the president of International Association for Ladakh Studies. It was wonderful getting insights about the heritage of Ladakh and the hearing of the village lifestyle from him. He introduced us to a monk who manages the Chemdey Monastery. Upon his recommendation we set out on the motorbike to visit Chemdey monastery.

Chemrey Monastery

The picturesque location of the monastery makes it an absolute must for anyone who visits Ladakh. At the monastery, we met a very warm and welcoming monk who greeted us with some tea and cookies. He gave us a tour of the of the monastery as we accessed the various sections that depicted the philosophy of Buddhism.

Chemrey Monastery

Dedicated to the Drugpa order of Tibetan Buddhism, Chemrey Monastery is situated 40 km from Leh in Ladakh region and is an important center of Buddhist learning. The monastery was founded in 1664 AD by Lama Tagsang Raschen who also founded Hemis monastery. The monastery is also dedicated to King Sengge Namgyal who was instrumental in the spread of Tibetan Buddhism in Ladakh.

Chemrey Monastery

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Alchi Kitchen

Alchi Kitchen is a warm and welcoming open Kitchen Style family restaurant located at the start of the road leading to the Alchi Monastery gate, We were welcomed by the owner, Chef Nilza. The restaurant has wooden interiors with well-ventilated walls and roof. The traditional kitchen called Chansa, set up in Alchi Kitchen is unforgettable.

Alchi Kitchen Chansa - Ladakh

Seeing our interest in the heritage of Ladakh, Nilza who is a resident of Alchi volunteered to take us around the monastery and shared very interesting insights into Ladakhi Lifestyle, the influence of Buddhism and the folktales told to her in her childhood.

Alchi Heritage Walk - Ladakh

She brings out her passion for her native land in her delectable food. She loves to experiment with local spices and flavors and adds her own interesting flavors to the otherwise bland Ladakhi cuisine.

We were served some steamed rice, dal and bitter gourd. The dal preparation was quite special as she introduced some celery and cardamom in dal bringing out a very interesting flavor. Some of the interesting dishes one must at Alchi Kitchen are the Chutagi, Stuffed Khambir, Ladakhi Skew and Ladakhi Omelette. Nilza has participated in number of food festivals and events across India. We truly had a memorable time in this beautiful village of Ladakh.

With at Alchi Kitchen

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Mundgod Tibetan Experience

We were invited by the team of Re-imagining Doeguling initiative to walk us through their project of preserving the Nalanda traditions and catalyzing development in the area by empowering local Tibentan community. We gladly obliged and took a morning train to Hubli and took a cab from Hubli to Mundgod after noon. We entered the arch in the middle of the forest, and the placed opening into a quiet Tibetan settlement flanked by Monasteries built over vast expanses. Mundgod is a town located in Uttar Karnataka district at 132 km from Karwar and 210 km from Panjim, Goa.

We were warmly greeted by Karma Yangdup, a senior resident of Mundgod whose family fled from Tibet during the Chinese invasion. The Doeguling settlement comprised of several families that shared a similar background as the the Tibetans were forced to flee owing to the communist polices the were not acceptable to the Tibetans, since it took away all their rights from social, ritual and economic life.

The Government of Karnataka provided 4,000 acres of forest land for the Tibetans to settle here. Mundgod area was selected for their settlement for many reasons like the sparseness of population and presence of forest land. The initial reason for the establishment of the Tibet Colony in Mundgod was to develop the area and bring more land under cultivation. The other factors were the climate of the area was more suitable to Tibetans as it received rain for all the six months in a year and even the summer is also reasonably cool.

Initial Tibetan population of the Doeguling Tibetan settlement in Mundgod comprises eleven villages, of which two villages named (Drepung and Gandm) are exclusively for monasteries. These eleven villages are settled over different locations. Mundgod is an excellent center of monastic education. Karma took us to visit the Gadem Jangtse Monastery and explained the incarnations of Buddha and the ongoing rituals and offerings in the monastery. Some of the other notable monasteries in Mundgod are Drepung Loseling Monastery, Ratoe Monastery, Kargue Monastery Tschen Damchasling Monastery, Sakya Monastery and Drepung Gomang Monastery.

We visited the Ratoe monastery on the next morning. Ratoe Monastery is unique in its architecture that is eco-friendly and follows the Terawada sect of Buddhism. Another unique feature of Ratoe monastery is the rain water harvesting techniques implemented throughout the premises where rain water collected during monsoons compensates for the summer months. The monastery has cozy and comfortable guest rooms that are available for visitors and tourists who come to explore the settlement. The monastery was built and designed by a monk named Nicky who is also popularly known as ‘The monk with the camera’. Nicky build the Ratoe monastery by selling his photographs he clicked during his travel.

Mondgod Tibetan settlement focuses on reviving the Nalanda Buddhist traditions and spreading the Buddhist teachings and philosophies to rest of India. The main aim is to ‘Spreading the Tibetan Buddhism’ and highlight how the Tibetan Buddhist settlement at Mundgod in Karnataka State is carrying out its activities. It is because of their efforts, that the Tibetan Buddhism is growing popular and has brought many changes in the society. Mundgod is a repository of Tibetan life and culture. It showcases the lifestyle and ambitions of the Tibetan refugees and reflects the gradual transformation of a traditional society into modernity and has been referred to as ‘Mini Tibet’.

 

Blog by Murali Shankaran

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Fontainhas Sketch Walk

Sketching activity in Panjim hit a new high on 1st December 2017 as the Urban Sketchers, a dedicated sketching group from Pune walked around Fontainhas Heritage area and spent hours making spectacular sketches of all things heritage. The Sketch walk event organized by Make It Happen, an organization that curates immersive travel experiences by engaging with local communities.

After successfully introducing a sketch crawl event in Bangalore, Make It Happen was delighted to connect with the Urban Sketchers, who were looking for a tailor designed experience around sketching in Goa.

Sketching can be an eye opener as you notice the architectural designs and minute details of the buildings which we’ve seen almost all our life. Each person has their own perspective about the same element and these elements can be made memorable by sketching. Photography helps us capture moments but sketching gets us connected to the places.

The rich aesthetics amazed all the participants and the details made in all the sketches etched a whole new essence about Goa in their memories. Amongst all the hustle in the world today, there are a very few people who still want to keep their hobbies and passions alive and we got a whole bunch of them.

Here is what Sanjeev Joshi, founder of Urban Sketchers group had to say during the event, “The basic manifesto of Urban Sketchers is that you to draw at the location to get the feel of the place while you sketch. The atmosphere, the people, the smell and this being the older part of Goa I can smell fish in the houses, cakes in the bakery, all that will go in my memory as a sketch”

Another participant shared his experience at a renowned Goan musician’s house, “We went to his house, and he sang for us, I sketched him, he is a fantastic guy and he talked about Goan culture and heritage. You require time to absorb the space, and interact with people. I really liked the way the event is organized”.

 

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Christmas Evening in Fontainhas

Christmas in Goa is always special. But what is even more special is the evening feast in Fontainhas celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Nativity. This celebration is exclusive to Fontainhas and is not observed elsewhere in Goa.

In 1938, a statue of mother Mary was found in Fontainhas and was considered very auspicious. With that day began the celebrations on the evening of December 25th. The feast is celebrated by the Fontainhas ward with Carol singing, litany, live brass band, food and drinks and all feast arrangements are made by the local community.

Being an organization that curates immersive travel experiences by engaging with local communities, Make It Happen sought to curate an experience around an exclusive feast on a Christmas evening. We had a gathering of interested guests at the Panjim, General Post Office on the Christmas evening. The evening was kick-started through an introduction about Fontainhas and Panjim by Anthony Gaskell. The guests were then taken for walk that had pits stops at important sites of heritage and architecture.

After a walk into Fontainhas, the guests were led to a grotto behind a well close to the St. Sebastian chapel. Chairs and tables were laid out and the place was stunningly decorated in color and light. The brass band set the tone for the evening as arrangements were in progress for carol singing and litany.

The carol singing had trumpet and violin accompaniments, which is reminiscent of the good old days of Goa. After the prayers, it was time to sit back and enjoy drinks and food with friends, neighbors and folks that form the true essence of heritage in Fontainhas.

An evening like this could give a very different perspective of Christmas celebration in India and our aim was to have guests from around the world experience a very exclusive evening filled with heritage, nostalgia and festive mood that Christmas brings along.

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Argentine Tango Social

 

Travel Socials were set in motion in Goa by Make It Happen through the introduction of Angentine Tango Dance social experience, on the 11th of December 2017 at the Aura Luxury Retreat in Mandrem.

 

With Argentine Tango, we wanted to showcase the Latin influence in Goa and what better way than to immerse yourself in an art form that is engaging and interactive. The event was ably led by Maxie Miranda, a Goa based internationally renowned guitarist, singer, and dancer who specializes in Tango Argentino, a dance form that gained prominence in the 19th century.

 

Focus of the event was to get all guests to participate by dancing in pairs. Maxie began with a brief introduction about Argentine Tango by explaining it’s origins and demonstrating the basics like movement and posture. As the guests warmed up to some dancing, we were smoothly introduced to sequential moves that we had to practice with our dance partners. The evening only got more and more engaging as Maxie slid minor improvisations and got the whole gathering to dance on the floor.

Our objective in having an evening like this is to have individuals and travelers from different cultures interact and share their perspectives. We are glad to have a successful event as the evening was one to remember while we drove back home after learning a bit of dance and meeting wonderful people.

 

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Tibetan Settlements in India

Buddhism is a religion that encompasses many beliefs and traditions. It is really hard to make out a difference between Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism as the Tibetan sect is a part of it. Tibetan Buddhism, which can also be called as Lamaism is the Buddhist sect that is mainly found in Tibet. They believe in the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama. Mahayana, Foundational Vehicle, and Vajrayna are the three vehicles that Tibetan Buddhism is founded upon.

Sham Valley trek - Buddha statue

 

Tibetan people’s origin is that they are the descendants of the human Pha Trelgen Changchup Sempa and rock ogress Ma Drag Sinmo. It is thought that most of the Tibeto-Burman-speakers in Southwest China, including the Tibetans, are direct descendants from the ancient Qiang.

 

 

 

Tibet is rich in culture. Tibetan art is deeply religious in nature, a form of sacred art. It spreads over a wide range of paintings, frescos, statues, ritual objects, coins, ornaments and furniture.

  • Tantric influence Most of the typical Tibetan Buddhist art can be seen as part of the practice of tantra. A surprising aspect of Tantric Buddhism is the common representation of wrathful deities, often depicted with angry faces, circles of flame, or with the skulls of the dead. These images represent the Protectors and their fearsome bearing belies their true compassionate nature.
  • Bön influence The indigenous shamanistic religion of the Himalayas is known as Bön. Bon contributes a pantheon of local tutelary deities to Tibetan art. In Tibetan temples (known as lhakhang), statues of the Buddha or Padmasambhava are often paired with statues of the tutelary deity of the district who often appears angry or dark.
  • Tibetan rug making is an ancient art and craft in the tradition of Tibetan people. These rugs are primarily made from Tibetan highland sheep’s virgin wool. The Tibetan uses rugs for almost any domestic use from flooring to wall hanging to horse saddles. Traditionally the best rugs are from Gyantse, a city which is known for its rugs. Tibetan rugs are big business in not only Tibet, but also Nepal, where Tibetan immigrants brought with them their knowledge of rug making.

There is a rich ancient tradition of lay Tibetan literature which includes epics, poetry, short stories, dance scripts and mime, plays and so on which has expanded into a huge body of work – some of which has been translated into Western languages. Tibetan literature has a historical span of over 1300 years. Perhaps the best known category of Tibetan literature outside of Tibet are the epic stories – particularly the famous Gesar epic.

Tibetan art is deeply religious in nature, from the exquisitely detailed statues found in Gonpas to wooden carvings and the intricate designs of the Thangka paintings. Thangka paintings, a syncretism of Indian scroll-painting with Nepalese and Kashmiri painting, appeared in Tibet around the 8th century. Rectangular and painted on cotton or linen, they usually depict traditional motifs including religious, astrological, and theological subjects, and sometimes a mandala.

Following in the footsteps of the 14th Dalai Lama more than 150,000 Tibetan refugees have fled to India during the past 50 years. He left with his initial entourage following the abortive 1959 Tibetan uprising. He was followed by about 80,000 Tibetan refugees.

 

In 1960, the Government of Mysore (as Karnataka was called at that time) allotted nearly 3,000 acres (12 km2) of land at Bylakuppe in Mysore district in Karnataka and the first ever Tibetan exile settlement, Lugsung Samdupling came into existence in 1961. A few years later another settlement, Tibetan Dickey Larsoe, also called TDL, was established. This was followed by the establishment of three more settlements in Karnataka state making it the state with the largest Tibetan refugee population. Rabgayling settlement was created in Gurupura village near Hunsur, Dhondenling was established at Oderapalya near Kollegal and Doeguling settlement came into being at Mundgod in Uttara Kannada district, all in Karnataka. The Bir Tibetan Colony was established in Bir, Himachal Pradesh.

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Eternal beauty of Khonoma

Khonoma village in Nagaland, is estimated to be 500 years old. The land was infested by an aromatic plant locally known as Khwuno. Khonoma’s fame chiefly comes through its standing as a warrior village and gallantry in warfare. The village is inhabited by about 3,400 people with about 580 households. By nature they are hospitable and loving which thereby make them friendly and sociable towards any visitor.

 

Khonoma Village is gifted with a very rich bio-diversity and natural resources. Over 400 species of local tress have been identified through local experts in this tropical rain forest. The forest is also an ideal place for trekking, enjoying nature and doing research work as it is very rich in birds, reptiles, amphibians, orchids and many rare species of flora and fauna.

Villlage Khonoma has seven traditional gates. These are also related to many taboos and beliefs while at the same time holds high esteem, respect and admiration. All gates are carved depicting various pictures like – full moon, spears, hornbill feathers etc.

Terhunyi- This festival falls in December. This festival is a celebration of thanksgiving for a rich harvest and is celebrated for 10 days. The festival is also an occasion for the youth to display their strength and skills in various sports like wrestling. Each day has its own unique events and grand celebration.

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Places of interest:

  • Khonoma Dzukou- Dzukou literally means ‘cool water’. This beautiful valley of eternal charm lies at the south-west of Khonoma village. Ideal place for trekkers and nature lovers in July-August.
  • Terhuotsiese – It literallymeans the place where the stone was erected by spirit. This area serves an ideal place for picnickers. Facing the main sitting square stands a peculiar stone in the shape of an owl.
  • Thelukhriezie and Khonoma war memorial – This sloppy mountain that stretches down to touch the villages at its base was said to have magical charm. Today, a tower is erected at the top of this hill to commemorate warriors.