Kullu valley India digging in

Opening Up the Secrets of Kullu Valley India

Here you are. You’ve just arrived at Kullu valley, India. You’re all geared up to explore the Valley.

You even decided that you want to do things differently  this time…

So, imagine yourself coming to the hotel desk and asking the receptionist for some interesting things you can do and see while you’re around.

Here’s what the guy at the desk (a receptionist, dressed up in a 3 piece suit with his name badge pinned to the lapel) would tell you: “We’ve got a special cultural program tonight at the pool for you. It includes folk dancing and local singing. Would you like me to reserve a table for you sir?”

But that’s not quite it, huh? You wanted to get a chance for something new.

Don’t worry, because here’s what you can do…

(Before reading on, we’ve got a piece of advice for you: there’s a lot of information here that can be really helpful if you’re planning a trip to Kullu Valley in India, so we recommend bookmarking this page)

Move On To Naggar To Get A Proper Base Camp To Your Kullu Valley Experiences

After a short journey to Naggar, which is approximately 20 Km either if you’re coming from Manali or Kullu (the Valley’s capital), you’ll reach Naggar. Now you’re right in the center of Kullu Valley.

It’s time to check into the hotel, freshen up, and ask the receptionist the exact same question.

Jokh Naggar

Here’s the ancient part of Naggar also known as the ‘Jokh’

Only this time, the story is slightly different.

Meet the Locals and Get Involved

Let’s have a short simulation just to illustrate the difference when you come down to the receptionist asking the same question.

“Well…” That’s how he’ll start.

“As you step out this door you’ll be right in the heart of things. If you head to Shiva temple you’ll see a sacred puja (prayer) held every evening. Tonight though, there’s a special puja and the entire village is attending.

 

Villigers attending to the Puja at Naggar

Public Puja ( Prayer) held at the Shiva temple in Naggar, Kullu Valley.

You can just join in. Sit down with the crowd and enjoy the food and music. The Pujari (A Hindu priest) will be chanting some Mantras and everybody (one by one) will come near the temple’s sanctum to get a Darshan from the deity.

Darshan”– what’s that?”

“It’s the sacred sight – the whole purpose of visiting the temple. It’s when you’re looking at the deity and he/she looks back at you. The sight is a special realm of connection between you and the God.

He goes on…

“Tomorrow there’s a party going on. One of the locals is celebrating his retirement and he’s throwing a big party at his house. You’re invited!”

“Who, me?” you’re surprised.  “I don’t even know him… “

“Everybody’s invited! And I don’t only mean people from Naggar, but also folks from all over the valley. There’ll be great local music performances on the balcony. I can’t think of a better opportunity for you to see the local Kullu dances.

“He’s so happy to retire, huh?” You may ask.

“After 30 years in the forest department, you would be too.” Our imaginary receptionist may answer.

“So will you come?”

Do I have a choice?

“Sure! You can go trekking!”

That’s the end of our short simulation.

Now you know you’ve reached the right place to discover the authentic Kullu valley. And Naggar will be your base camp.

So Are You Ready For Some Trekking Adventures?

Naggar is perfectly located for some ‘foot-work’ explorations.  Just put on your trekking boots, and you’re all set to meet face to face with the nomadic societies that live where the alpine parts of the Trans Himalayan ranges begin, herding their cattle in the lush green meadows.

Trekking in Kullu

Endless trekking opportunities to explore the remotest parts of the Kullu valley

Spending a night or two in their huts, looking at the stars, is an experience you’re going to keep for life – guaranteed!

For that kind of experience, this is the trek you should do:

The Chandrakhani trek:

The two day walk from Naggar to the quirky village of Malana (which is worldwide famous for its Ganja) is the most rewarding trek in the lower parts of the Himalayas. Spectacular views with moderate alpine experience combined with pine forest walking. As usual, what makes it brilliant is the fact that it’s all wrapped up with some great local folklore.

To absorb the vibe of the remotest villages in Kullu, here are some more trekking options for you:

Naggar to Sohil ( Via Halan ) :

An easy trek which will add more flavors to your entire Kullu experience. It’s a short forest walk that starts at Naggar and ends at Sohil. It will give you a good impression of the way people live in the lower parts of the Himalayas. You can make it in just one day; however, you should stay the night at Sohil and absorb the village atmosphere. There’re no hotels or guesthouses in Sohil, but you can ask us  to find you a place to stay at there.

Note: Same as the Chandrakhani Pass – you should not attempt this trek without someone who can show you the way.

If you’d like to hear the temple bells ringing and encounter dwelling Sadhus (Hindu monks) searching for the universal truth, then you’d better head on to the Bijli Mahadev temple.

Naggar to the Bijli Mahadev Temple

In order to get to the Bijli Mahadev temple, you can take a bus from Naggar- you’ll reach there within one and a half hour. The bus will drop you 3 Km below the temple, and from there you’ll have to walk up. But why not walk by foot on the old pilgrimage trail straight from Naggar, the ancient capital, to the most important Shiva shrine in the region? And while you’re at it, don’t forget to stop by at Jana waterfalls  for the most authentic and delicious local meal.

The Naggar – Bijli Mahadev trek is an easy two-day trek that takes you along the range that runs above the Beas River. The Bijli Mahadev temple is located exactly where this mountain range begins. This trek is not just about breathtaking views along the way and from the temple itself, but you’ll also get the whole nine yards of a Hindu Yatra (pilgrimage) experience.

We do recommend you break down the distance and spend the night at Mata kuchi forest rest house, which is halfway between Naggar and Bijli Mahadev.

Don’t even think of skipping lunch on the 1st day at Mani Ram’s Dhaba at the Jana waterfalls.

Here’s a more adventurous one…

Hamta pass Trek

The 4 day Hamta pass allures many trekkers because it crams in a perfect combination of open meadows, green pine forests, glacier valleys and spectacular views of the 6000 meters Deo Tiba peak and the 6200 meters Indrasan. Not as easy as the three treks mentioned above, but definitely worth doing! For further details, contact us.

While trekking in and around Naggar, discovering the remotest villages, you may stumble upon some of the Black Magic and shamanic rituals that have always been part of the valley’s religious life.

Encounters with the Mysterious Sides of Kullu

Click the play button to see what we mean.

The person with long hair is the ‘Gur’ – that’s the shaman, or oracle, and he’s getting into a Trance in order to speak with the local gods in the name of the villagers. These shots were captured by Prashant ( Who always knows to catch the moments) on his mobile phone camera.

 

Kullu Valley is known as ‘Dev Bhoomi’, the Land of Gods. Naggar has been its religious center as far back as remembered. As its center, Naggar calumniates most of the important religious activities happening in the valley.

If you stay in Naggar for some time, chances are you’ll stumble across not only the conservative aspects of Hinduism’s daily life practices, but also the phenomena of Shamanism which is abundant in the Kullu Valley.

Kullu Valley holds a long and ancient tradition of a ‘different reality’ religious system. Some of the unique sacred rituals, magic and alternative religious practices, traditional healing techniques and exorcisms practiced can be seen just about everywhere at any time.

To get the full scale, you can check out the beautiful Discovery channel documentary that aired a couple of months ago, called “The Shamans of the Himalayas”.

So, as you can see, there are loads of things to do and see in Naggar and other parts of Kullu valley. We recommend spending at least 7 days here at Naggar in order to have a meaningful traveling experience.

You’ve Got To See The Fantastic Temple Architecture  At Naggar

There are 369 temples in Kullu valley, but the temples in Naggar are considered to be amongst the most sacred. Apart from playing the role of Kullu’s political center, then and now, Naggar is also Kullu’s spiritual center. The temples here display various architectural styles, which are the most spectacular in the valley (though I’m probably biased).

We’ll only mention the most notable and impressive ones here, so you won’t get the “oh they all look the same to me” impression.

Tripasundri Temple

Along with the Hadimba temple at Dunghri , the wooden Tripusundri temple exhibits the finest Pagoda style temples of the western Himalayas. This three story temple is alternately arranged with layers of stone and wood. Locals say that this building technique makes it earthquake proof. Fortunately, we never saw that come to the test. Most of Naggar’s public religious rituals are held at the Tripura Sundri temple. The temple is located just below the Roerich Art Gallery road.

Tirupasundri temple at Naggar

The beautiful Tirupasundri temple at Naggar

Krishan Temple

Dedicated to Krishna, the temple is located up hill above town and offers spectacular views over the southern parts of the Kullu valley. This beautiful Shikhara (tower) temple is probably the only Krishna temple in Kullu Valley. Nobody can really tell when it was built; however, the locals link the temple to the great epic of the Mahabharata.

Now, grab yourself a kettle of chai at the village below and climb up to the temple before sunset.

Behind the temple, there’s a balcony where you can just chill while looking at the sunset over the Himalayan Mountains.

Gauri Shankar Temple

This Shikhara (tower) style temple is dedicated to Shiva, and dates to the 11th -12th century AD. It is considered the last monument of the ancient Pratihara Dynesty  which ruled the northern parts of India between the 6th-12th Centuries. The stone temple’s walls are decorated with dancers, birds and musicians. Images of the goddess Gauri and Shankar are enshrined in the temple’s sanctum.

So, get your camera ready and hit the evening Puja while you’re there.

Now let’s go on to some of the villages around Naggar.

“The True India Lies In Its Villages” (Mahatma Gandhi)

While discovering Kullu’s remote villages, this observation by Gandhi becomes very vivid.

Naggar is surrounded by endless valleys, all dotted with tiny villages. Visiting its remotest villages is the best way to absorb the special vibe of the valley, or in other words, to penetrate into its soul.

Jana Village

Less than an hour drive from Naggar lays the Jana waterfall . More than any other village in the region, Jana preserves the distinct characteristics of traditional Kullu. Yet, most people tend to skip it for some reason. Most visitors come to visit the waterfalls and turn around. Make sure you’re not one of them. Jana Village still holds the old fashion lifestyle; the typical Kullu house architecture, traditional farming methods, traditional clothing and above all – warm hospitality. You’ll probably get invited for a cup of Chai at somebody’s house. Don’t pass on it!

So hop on the bus which passes next to Sonam hotel every morning at 7:45 for a one hour ride.

Rumsu

If you’re in the time travel business, you should try to climb up to Rumsu Village which is located 3 km from Naggar on the Roerich Art Gallery road. The absolutely gorgeous wooden Hindu temple, situated in the village center, is the finest example of kullu’s temple architecture.

Sohil 

A 30 minute ride from Naggar on the local bus to Haripur. Add 25 more minutes by foot and you get to Sohil. This pastoral village is locked between two enormous mountain ranges that keep it isolated from the rest of the valley. It was isolated enough for a few hippie families that settled in it permanently 20 years ago. Strange blend, but as it’s often said, India has a wired capacity to populate all sorts of things…

Pangaun Village and the Pangaun Monastery

You may be surprised to know that you don’t have to go to all the way to Ladakhif you want to see Buddhist Lamas. There are some beautiful, lesser known, Buddhist monasteries in Kullu in which you won’t get blinded with camera flashes. The small Niyngma sect monastery  near the Pangaun Village is definitely a must see if you’re interested in Buddhism. Do not miss the fantastic walk in the apple orchards towards the sleepy village of Pangaun.

Here’s A Bonus Point For You: The Best Moms In India for Less Than $1

If we must admit it, Himalayan food won’t be the thing you’ll tell about to your friends back home. And that is an understatement. If you want great food, you’ll have to go down to south India 

But sometimes, there are surprises. Simple ones, nothing fancy, and they are usually discovered when you follow the tips of the locals. One of these surprises has been a small Dhaba situated just below the Tripura Sundri temple in Naggar.

It’s called Asha’s Momo Dabha. Most people in Kullu Valley will tell you that Asha makes “the best Momos in India and even better than in China”. She’s been running this small place for 15 years now and serving one dish only- guess what it is? Momos. It comes in 5 pieces plates with a chili sauce on the side.  Okay, let’s put it this way: it’s addictive!

Now Over To You

Have you been to Kullu valley? Are there more hidden gems that we should know about? Leave a comment and let us know.

Kullu Valley is one of India's best travel offers

Explore Kullu Valley- The Authentic Way (And Take a Small Literary Detour)!

Here’s an unfortunate fact for you During your next visit to India, Kullu Valley might be your greatest miss. You may head back home after passing through it without even knowing you’ve just missed the best traveling experience India can offer.

Now, there’re two reasons why you’re going to cross paths with Kullu Valley (if you’re planning a trip to India between April – October)

One being that Kullu is the main gateway to Ladakh and to Spiti Lahol.

The second is that you’ve been advised to stop by Manali, Kullu Valley’s No. 1 tourist attraction.

So, there’s that. Now please – do yourself this favor and give this amazing area the chance it deserves.

 Instead of starting off with the obvious ’10 top travel destination in Kullu Valley’, let’s kick it with a really fresh twist, like a really imaginative reference to a great piece of Russian literature!

Nicolai Gogol

Nicolai Gogol

Didn’t see that one coming, did you?  

Gogol’s Praise of the Mundane

In his masterpiece Dead Souls, the Great Russian novelist Nikolai V. Gogol  describes one of the most memorable moments ever written in modern literature, in our opinion at least.

It starts with the moment of a traveler’s homecoming after a long and tedious journey on the roads.

… At last espies a familiar roof and lights in the windows, and then he enters the familiar rooms, hears the joyous cries of the servants running out to meet him, the happy excitement of the children and his wife’s comforting, quiet speeches, interrupted by ardent embraces… and so on.

Home sweet home, huh?

But then Gogol takes a twist in the tale.

He starts by telling us how fortunate and great is the writer who can pass by all the mundane and trivial, all the raw and everyday-like, only to extract and depict

       “… The characters who manifest man’s lofty dignity, the writer who out of the maelstrom of images that spin past him every day has selected but a few rare exceptions… has never descended from his heights to his wretched and paltry fellowmen and, without even touching the ground, is completely absorbed in his remote and exalted images.

Here comes Gogol’s great moment of self-realization, of total exposure. The whole reason why we’re suddenly discussing Russian literature in a post about travels in India.

Check out the following:

… And different is the destiny of the writer who dares summon forth all that is constantly before our eyes, yet that which indifferent eyes do not see: all the terrible, shocking mire of trivia which enmesh our lives, the full depth of the cold, fragmented, humdrum characters… the writer who has dared with a bold stroke of his remorseless chisel to display them in full and vivid relief to the eyes of all men!

Wow, Gogol was not kidding around here…

What Gogol basically says here is – give mundane a chance. Just forget for a second about romantic images of great expectations, about a once in a lifetime experience, about escaping the everyday and other such promotional slogans. God is in the details. And so is India.

Connecting the dots already?

So let’s get back to it. India it is.

Soaking yourself in the mud of life is the only way to write, to live and (in our case) to… Travel.

The same way Gogol didn’t want to compromise on his literature, you shouldn’t compromise on the authenticity of your travelling either.

So let us just say that if Gogol had to plan a trip to Kullu Valley, he would have probably told you that it all boils down to one of these two options…

Which Option Do You Prefer?

1. Travel safely to the ‘Top 5 Highlights’ destinations. This way, you won’t miss on anything in the books or on what your travel agent has told you. All those places will be staged for you, wrapped up in a shiny cellophane paper and be handed over to you as a nice souvenir. Looking up towards the starts (touristy highlights) can be done from everywhere; it doesn’t matter where you are.

Or…

2. Play wild with your choices as a traveler and mingle with the mundane. Come down to Ground Level. Dig in and engage with locals, see how they live: in their houses, their fields, their schools, their shops and markets, their temples, their restaurants. Only this way you’ll realize the ‘little things’, the subtle things that make a place what it is. This and nothing but this can expose you to their story, even if it does turn out to be “an exalted image“.

So, which one is it?

Faces of Kullu Valley

Engage with the locals and not with ‘travel agents’…

For a Well Rewording ‘Ground Level Exploration’ In Kullu Valley, What You’ll Need Is a Good Base Camp

Digging in Kullu valley is an outstanding opportunity for you so observe a very special kind of belief system which includes shamanic rites, black magic traditions and all sorts of esoteric religious practices. Surprisingly, it has all been integrated with the orthodox Hindu religious practices.

The spectacular Kullu temple architecture as a backdrop for the religious scene makes the experience even more enticing.

You’ll get to see how people survive in the remotest regions on earth – farming their lands and managing to maintain a self-sustained economy under the roughest conditions you can possibly think of.

There are also the nomads (not ‘Nomads’ as in the titles for traveling websites or blogs) who roam the upper parts of the region and herding their cattle along the alpine meadows.

Nomads on the upper parts of Kullu valley

Nomads on the way to the Chandrkhani Pass

To get it all in full scale, you’ll have to spend some time in the valley and not only to cross path with it. We recommend a stay of at least 7 days to get a glimpse of what’s happening. But for that you’ll need a good base camp.

Now, sorry to let you down, but Manali just won’t do the work. It has completely lost the Kullu vibe.

You’ll need a place which right at the center of the valley; A place that managed to keep the special atmosphere of the valley yet can still provide solid tourist services.

Don’t worry, we’ve got something for you!

So stay tuned because we are about to tell you soon ( very soon ) where your Kullu experience must begin…

Over to You

Are you a Galaxy traveler who’s after the top destinations or you preferring Ground level explorations?

Pangaun Monastery Kullu

The Beauty Which Guidebooks Often Miss – Pangaun Monastery

Here’s a question for you:

If I would tell you about a place to visit which is not mentioned in the Lonely Planet or any other guide book, would you consider it not worthy?

I met a guy few days ago who answered YES.

This post is for those who would answer NO. 

It might be easy to say ‘no’ right now when you’re sitting in front of the computer but when you’re out there, on the road it’s getting tougher. 

Why? Because we all want to play it safe.

Your holiday clock is ticking and what has been verified by the major guidebooks is probably worthwhile visiting, while the rest is presumably a waste of time (that you don’t have).    

Apart from that, the guide books give you some sense of security. They all provide detailed information on where to sleep, what to eat and where, how to reach there, and how to go back. It is fundamental and reassuring.

But there’s a price for that.

It is the lack of being exposed the authentic layers each place you’ll be visiting. Whether you like it or not, travelling with highly authoritative guidebooks can get you to read them not as suggestions but as imperatives. And you are not alone here. Everybody’s travelling with guidebooks even if they have a local guide with them who knows the places much better than any book.

So here’s a suggestion which is not mentioned in the guidebooks. It has been left deep down under the radar of guide books and at the shadow of the major tourist attractions surrounding it. 

It is called Pangaun Monestary. It is a Buddhist Monastery (Gompa) in the Indian Himalayas in the state of Himachal Pradesh.

Inside the Pangaun Monastery

Oil lamps at the front hall inside the Pangaun monastery. Photo by Elad Greenberg

Here’s Why you should visit Pangaun Monastery

Pangaun monastery is one of the lesser-known Buddhist monasteries in the Indian Himalayas. Here you won’t find endless lines of tourists for the 6 a.m. Puja like at the Tikshey monastery in Ladakh. With no flashes from cameras and no TV teams from some geographical channel, the Pungau monastery is isolated in its peacefulness.

This monastery is probably one of the most awe-inspiring beauties I’ve seen. It hangs on a steep cliff above the Beas River between vast areas of apple orchards. Out at the monastery’s main courtyard, you’ll find spectacular views over the Beas River and Kullu Valley.

Add to this the kindness and the hospitality of the nuns and monks and you’ll get a must-see location, simply because it will warm your heart.

A Little Background About The Pangaun Gompa and the Nyingma sect

This peaceful Gompa (Monastery) belongs to the Nyingma sects; that is, one of the four main sects of Tibetan Buddhism.

The Nyingma school, is the oldest of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism. It was founded in Tibet during 742-797 CE. The tantric masters Shantarakshita and Padmasambhava were the first to introduce Buddhism in Tibet.  According to Tibetan Buddhist mythology, that changed when Padmasambhava challenged the local gods of Tibet and converted them to Buddhism. The gods agreed to become dharmapalas (Dharma protectors). From then on, Buddhism has been the principal religion of the Tibetan people.

Padmasambhava is said to have had twenty-five disciples, and from them a vast and complex system of transmission lineages developed.

 

Splendid views from the Pangaun Monestary

Splendid views of Kullu valley

The Chinese invasion of Tibet and the 1959 uprising caused the heads of the major Nyingmapa lineages to leave Tibet. Monastic traditions re-established in India while Lama Thubten E-vam Dorjey Drag has been settled in Himachal Pradesh.

Until recent time the Nyingma was the only school of Tibetan Buddhism that never aspired to political power in Tibet. Although the Nyingma School never had a head, in exile a series of high lama have been appointed to the position for administration purposes.

The Alternative way of the Pangaun Gompa

Unlike most monasteries, with the Pangaun both nuns and monks study in the monastery. They all live in small units (condos) above and below the monastery, cooking their own food, and maintain separation between their duties to the community and their own personal lives, at least to some degree. The fact that the nuns and the monks are living outside of the monastery creates a special atmosphere reminiscent of a small Tibetan village.

Most of the Lamas originally belong to Kinnaur district, and they all need to pay tuition for studying in the Gompa. This is rather uncommon for Buddhist monasteries, which are mostly financially supported by donations.

The wheel of Dharama at the main terrace

The wheel of Dharama at the main terrace

 

The Gompa was founded at the mid 60th by the Guru Kinbo Tupden who had come to meditate at the caves above the nowadays Gompa. It didn’t take long for many followers to come close and settle down near their spiritual master.

The religiously tolerant attitude prevalent in Kullu valley was perfect for many Tibetan people to come over and make this place their home. Patlikhul the major town between Manali and Kullu was blasted with Tibetan people back then.

How to reach Pnagaun Monastery?

Either if you’re coming from Manali or from Naggar you first need to get to Patlikul. It is the nearest town to the Pangaun Monastery and located exactly in between Manali and Kullu.

From Patlikul’s bus stand you can grab a taxi for a 6 km drive. It should cost you around 200 Rupees. The taxi will drop you just above the monastery and from there you’ll have to walk in the small allies down to the entrance of the monastery.

 Don’t worry about the way back. You can send the taxi driver back you’ll be returning on a different way.

Much better way…

A Special Bonus For Those Who Will Be Visiting This Unique Gompa

Behind the Gompa there’s a small trail that will drop you off at the Manali- Kullu Road. It’s a carousal gate at the back of the main building. If you can’t find it just ask one of the Lamas they’ll show you the direction to this backdoor. The Lamas use it when they go to Patlikul, to bring food and other supplies to the monastery.

The 1.5 km fantastic trail is a real candy. It’s a nice and easy walk downhill passing through apple orchids. It’s the kind of walk that will make you feel like you’ve just been dropped into the story Alice in Wonderland.

Within 30 minutes you’ll hit the Manali – Kulu main road, from where you can grab any bus that passes through – they’re all go to Patlikul. The 10 minutes ride will cost you 5 Rupees.    

 Now over to you

Have you been ever visited a place which hasn’t been covered by guidebooks and asked yourself: how the hell did they all miss it?

The Chandrakhani trek

Explore The Indian Himalayas With The Super Easy Chandrakhani Trek

One of Bart Simpson’s best rules is: “If it’s too hard doing it, it simply ain’t worth it

I’m a big Bart Simpson fan; therefore, I tend to carefully check what I should or shouldn’t do, based on this very specific guideline.

And when it comes to outdoors activities, such as trekking, I become much more strict about enforcing this rule.

Now, picture yourself standing atop a soaring Himalayan mountain. You are surrounded on all sides by monstrous mountain chains. From where you stand, massive white glaciers can be seen capping them. As your eyes sweep down the mountains, you’ll hit the imaginary line at 3000 meters. This is the beginning of the mountains’ ‘green dresses’. A mountain’s ‘green dress’ consists of the vast area of vegetation (pine, deodar, and chestnut ) that covers its lower parts. You’ll even notice that the dress is decorated with white strips all the way down to the foot. Those are waterfalls.

It’s breathtaking! Flawless.

Crossing the chandrakhani pass

Here’e where the Kullu Gods hang out

But hold on…

You may say now, I’m not a trekker, right? I’m not the kind of guy who’d spend a whole day in a trekking store, searching for the latest technology in tents. And you probably never regarded yourself as a tree hugger like many trekkers seem to.

I’ve got a surprise for you… me neither.

What I’m about to tell you here is about a trek which crams in the very best of the Himalayan trekking experience. And, it’s doable. So easy that you can do it just wearing your heels. (Almost! But sport shows will be just fine).

In the worst case, when back home, you can always brag about your Himalayan trekking adventure.

And, who knows, maybe it will be the beginning of a new love…

Anyways, it’s called the Chandrakhani trek.

About the Chandrakhani trek  

Basically, if I had to describe the Chandrakhani trek in one sentence, it would be this one: What goes up must come down.

Chandkhani campsite views

Outstanding views from the Chandrakhani campsite

That’s it.  As simple as that.

Like Sisyphus, who was compelled to roll an immense boulder…Up and down the hill. Unlike Sisyphus, you’ll only do that once (probably in your life) and you will have the privilege of treating yourself with a cold beer when you’re back in town.

The trek begins from the village of Naggar, located about 21 km from the town of Manali. The Chandrakhani Pass trek involves a circular route from Naggar to Chandrakhani Pass, and back to Naggar via Malana.

Reaching the Chandrakhani Pass, and standing above the clouds with a panoramic view is a divine experience.

Some people in the region interpret the name ‘Chandrakani’ as ‘Moon shaped’ while others say that it means ‘Moon Growth’.  But, let’s leave this philosophical debate for them, maybe when you reach the Chandrakhni pass you’ll be able to contribute your own viewpoint to the discussion.

Endless legends and stories abound about this trek. One of the most famous is that a long time ago Jalmu, the main deity of Malana was wondering up in the Chandrakhani pass holding a basket full of Gods. The basket was opened and a strong wind blew the gods out in the open. Since then, the Valley is known as the valley of Gods.

The Chandrakhani pass is also known as the assembly ground of all the Kullu gods. They sure knew how to pick a hell of a place for meet-ups. With spectacular views of the Deo Tibba peak Pir Panjal and Parbati mountain ranges, whatever they talk about is surely inspirational.

Altitude sickness isn’t a concern, as the highest point in the trek is 3,450, and you’ll be descending in the same day.

Okay, so let’s get into the details…

How to prepare for the Chandrakhani trek with less than 30 min

1)      Organize a guide from Naggar. Ask your hotel /guesthouse owner to arrange that for you. He’ll find someone in no time. Remember: A guide is someone who shows you the way, and nothing more.

2)      On the day you’re leaving, buy 2-3 sandwiches and some snacks from the bakery.  Because there aren’t any shops on the trail, you’ll need a lunch pack. Dinner you can order at the campsite on day 1 and in Malana/ Naggar on day 2.

3)      Packing list: 2 T-shirts, something warm to wear at night, long sleeve trousers, 2 pairs of socks, toothpaste and tooth brush, sunscreen, raincoat ( if you are trekking in July-Aug), money in a water proof bag.

That’s it; you’re good to go.

Day 1: Stairways to Heaven

On Day 1  ( Naggar to Chandrakhani 6-7 hrs. walking.) Sadly, there’re no good news for the beginning of the trek. Why? Because, from your very first step up to your campsite there’s massive legwork required. The trail starts on the road below Rumso village, which is 4 km from Naggar. You can go there by car. The stairway will lead you to Rumso. Have a cup of chai (tea), and a look around – especially at the old wooden temples. From Rumso, the trail takes off through a thick pine, deodar, and chestnut forest, going up for several hours.

The trail then breaks out to the alpine meadows at higher altitudes. It’s your first true reward for the effort you made: the view from these meadows of the Kullu valley, Manali, Pir Panjal, and Bara Bhangal ranges is spell-binding.

Walking along the trail now to the Chandrakhani base camp, where you’ll be sleeping in a shepherd’s hut, is a delight. The trail passes through some magnificent U-shaped valleys . It is so beautiful that it almost makes you not want to reach the nearby campsite.

nomads below the Chandrakhani Pass

Nomads near the Chandrkhani basecamp are trying to sell us chees and butter

What is a shepherd’s hut? It’s a small bricks hut. The floor is made of stiff mud, while the top of it is covered with mattresses. At the center there’s a Tandoor (an iron fireplace) to keep the place hot. It’s very basic, and super effective.

The shepherds are nomadic people moving with their herds (cows, buffalo, sheep ) to high areas in the summer, searching for lush meadows. When the season is changing, and the whole area turned to white, they move down to the lower parts of the valleys until the next summer.

It’s been a long day for you.  But here comes the good part…

Climbing for 6-7 hours is not easy. But now the fantastic views towards  to the north and the Chandrakhani Pass in the east is well-rewarding. You must have a cup of chai before ordering your dinner and sitting down on the hut’s ‘porch’; just relax and enjoy this special place a few hours before the sun will set. The guys will be starting up the Tandoor to warm up the hut.

Day 2: Crossing the spectacular pass of Chandrakhani and going down to Malana village

Day 2 Chandrakhani to Malana (6 hours):

No more climbs today! Some smug folks may tell you how much they prefer going uphill to downhill. I never bought it, and you shouldn’t either. Today is an easy day, because mostly you’ll be walking down hill after crossing the scenic Chandrakhani pass.

On the way down to Malana

On the way down to Malana

After having breakfast at the campsite, you’ll be taking off for a 1hour walk up to the Chandrakhani pass. You’ll pass through beautiful alpine meadows, abundant with medical flora. The Kullu District of Himachal Pradesh is a well known medicinal plants hot spot in the western Himalayas, while Chandrakhani is one of the richest with medicinal herbs in the entire valley.

Reaching the Chandrakhani pass, you’ll immediately understand why the local Gods have chosen this place as their favorite. Satisfaction guaranteed!

The Deo Tibba and the Pir Panjal peak are towering to the north, the Parvati valley laying peacefully below, and the immense Parvati range looms upwards.

Old Malana Villiage

Old Malana Villiage

After walking on the ridge between the huge boulders for less than hour, you’ll steeply descend to the unique, and secluded town of Malana. 2-3 hours from the pass, you’ll hit Malana. This is the end, my friend!

 

Make sure you’re wearing long trousers today because the path is covered with thick vegetation and loads of nettles

 

Now it’s time for getting back to Naggar; here’s what you should do:

1)   Go down from Malana to the main road on the other side of the river.  It’s approximately 2 km.

2)   Grab a taxi to Jeri. From Jeri’s bus stand you can catch either buses or taxis depending on your budget to Bunthar.

3)   From Bunthar (again depending on your budget) taxis and buses are available. If you’re not on a short leash, then hire a taxi straight to Naggar. If you are, then you’ll have to take a bus to Patlikul via Kullu. From Patlikul any rickshaw driver will be more than happy to have you on board for the 6 km ride, and drop you of at Naggar.

Now when you’re back to Naggar, sitting on the Ragini’s rooftop restaurant ( best one in town), finally having a beer, there’s nothing better than to sum up the entire Himalayan experience with the remarkable insight of Bart Simpson ( again ) :

Bart simpson

 

 

“I don’t know! I don’t know why I did it, I don’t know why I enjoyed it, and I don’t know why I’ll do it again”

 

 

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The Jana waterfalls story

The Incredible Story of The Jana Waterfalls: From Zero to 150,000 Tourists Annually

If you’d ask me why I love travelling,I would say it’s because I am crazy about the stories. Travelling allows us to be exposed to stories all the time. Eventually, when we look back at the colorful mosaic of our journeys, the story is what holds all the pieces together.  It is the glue.

A story is a medium of communication and engagement with the local culture. It makes you listen. It reminds you that what you see are real people with real voices. In other words,they’re not just objects on the other side of our camera lens.

Sometimes it seems that recalling stories (or listening to them) is a little bit like browsing a huge photo album. You just scan them, page after page, mechanically.

But there’s the BANG factor…

There’s always an Image lying in the massive pile thatclicks those buttons and forces us to stop. It’s almost irresistible.It gets straight to the heart.

Hearing stories is just the same. Sometimes, very rarelythough, you get to hear a story thatclicks those buttons.

But that is exactly the kind of story I heard when I was at Jana waterfalls in the KuluValley in Himachal Pradesh.

So, here’s the story of a successful entrepreneurship in the dense forest of the Himalayas.

A Poor Himachali Farmer Who Had Cracked the System (Big Time)

When I first came to see what all the fuss about Jana waterfalls was about, I was awfully disappointed. I just couldn’t figure out why this place attracts so many people when there are much more impressive waterfalls in the Himalayas…

I was wandering around a few Dhabas (local restaurants) near the waterfall trying to understand, looking allover to find out what else was there. When I realized that there’s nothing more, I finally sat down to have a lunch in the Dhabaright next to the waterfall pool.

Man, the food was damn good!

That was a relief. I didn’t come all the way just for nothing.

I got a lead. The first piece of the incredible story of the Jana waterfall puzzle wasrevealed in my mouse.  It was a local festival made of forest herbs that had been picked up in the woods and put on my plate.

When I was having a chat a few days later with Mani Ram, the guy who owns the Dabha,I asked him how he was able to prompt this place to become such a successful tourist attraction.He mentioned the food tweak.

Other people mentioned Mani Ram’s persistence as the main reason for the success of the Jana waterfalls as a tourist attraction.

A start up in the dense forest of the Himalayas – The story of Jana waterfalls

A start up in the dense forest of the Himalayas – The story of Jana waterfalls

So here’s how a Himachali Farmer Succeeded Where the Sharpest Folks in the Industry Sometimes can’t…

Twelve years ago, Mani Ram was a farmer. Like many other Kullu farmers, he had a little apple orchard and small pasture fields for his cows.

But then he decided to change the course of his life.

He managed to pull off what the sharpest folks in the tourism industry are all craving to do, and that is to create a new tourist attraction. It took him 12 years to bring approximately 120,000 annually to Jana waterfalls. He anticipates that next year the number will rise to 150,000 tourists.

You can imagine that Mani Ram never graduated from Harvard Business School, he never worked a single day in a travel agency company to learn some tricks,and he had not even a single rupee in his pocket for an initial investment.

If he would have come to the bank to get a loan for opening a restaurant in a place where bears and leopards are the only potential customers, I assume that he would have been kicked out the door.

He didn’t even have the time to work full time on his ‘Jana waterfalls’ because he was so occupied in his daily war to survive. All the people in his village thought Mani Ram was crazy to pursue his vision.

What Was in Jana Waterfalls Before You Started the Whole Journey?

“Twelve years ago,Jana waterfalls was just a spot where local farmers from Jana (the nearby village) came with their herds to rest. It was all jungle.”

Jungle is a general term used all over India to describe uncultivated land. In this case, it’s a dense pine forest whichis very typical to the lower parts of the Himalayas.

“It was also a place for people to stop the on the old road from Naggar, the ancient capital of the Kullu district, to the famous Bijli Mahadev temple,” he continued.

Okay… how, then, does a farmer who is working so hard to make his living decide to open a ‘start-up’ in a place where there is simply nothing there?

“See,” he said “from time to time I used to see some foreign tourists trekking on this route going to visit Bijli Mahadev temple, which is 24 km away and above Kullu City. Although I wasn’t able to speak with them because I don’t speak English, it was obvious that some tourists do come here.”

“One day a group of five Western people had stopped by the waterfall pool. They had been trekking from Bijli Mahadev. We had a bit of a talk. Suddenly one of them told me: ‘You know, Mani Bhai( brother,) if there was a small Dhaba for the passers and goers it could have been real nice’.”

I didn’t take it seriously at the moment he mentioned it. The genius of his suggestion struck me later on.

It wasn’t an easy decision. We had absolutely no time to commit to such a project. You know, we were very poor. We were ‘Ketibadi’.

Ketibadi means literally “farmers” in Hindi. But it means much more. About 80 percent of the population resides in rural areas, and they rely on subsistence farming for their livelihoods. Household food insecurity and poor nutrition are basic problems in these areas where about half of the children under five years of age are malnourished.

Most of the rural households have little or no access to primary health care, education, safe drinking water and sanitation.

“Working in the fields leaves you almost no room for new initiatives that are not directly concerned with survival,” he continued.

At the beginning, I opened just a small hut and my wife made food for those who came in. She’s a great cook!

The incredible food in Jana waterfalls

The magic of the Jana waterfalls. Absolutely delicious!

What did your friends in the village think about the fact you were opening a Dabha?

He smiled.”They thought I had gone crazy!”

“But I kind of connected the dots.”

The dots? I asked

“That my wife is a great cook; that there some people coming here and we can rest everyday in the same spot- near the Jana waterfalls – thus we can earn some extra rupees while we’re there.”

Were you thinking at that point in time that the Jana waterfalls would become such a big tourist attraction in Kullu?

“Absolutely NOT! We were focusing in one thing and one thing only- feeding the few who came with all the heart. Serving the best food we could. And still, this is what we do.”

The Power of Words-Tweak

“In the beginning, we were just serving the best food, which was natural for us since it was the only food knew how to make. It’s a traditional food, and most of its ingredients are being are grown here in this area. The herbs we’re using are being picked up from the woods above us.

But then we realized that what was obvious for us was an attraction for them. And it was all summed up in one phrase – Local food.

Once were aware of that, the number of visitors rose dramatically.

“Actually, as you have noticed, the waterfall is not the center of attention here. It is the local food that we make. But ‘Jana waterfalls’ is a far better title that will bring people to this place. Still, sitting and have lunch right next to the waterfall is great experience like it has been for many years, even before the locals had have come here.

Mani Ram may not have been to business school, but he sure can add the numbers and accurately analyze every single component in his business.

He knows exactly how many have visited the place each year. He knows the annual growth curve. He can tell you also how long they stay on average. And, he knows what should be done to get more tourists to come.

Jana waterfalls in Kullu valley

“It’s all about the road conditions,” he says. If the government would have invested money in the roads, then more private cars could have get here easily. Before the elections they keep on promising, but afterwards nothing really happened. It’s all up to us.”

Now in Jana waterfalls there are a few more Dhabas, some local fabric stalls, and taxi services to and from Jana from the nearby village of Naggar. There’s even rock-climbing attractions for those who what to challenge themselves. 

“The big change,” Mani Ram says, “had happened 4-5 years ago. The numbers jumped from 40,000 tourists a year to 100,000 the next year.

The word about our local food is widely spread now. People are integrating the Jana waterfalls to their vacation holidays in Kullu Valley and Manali way before they even come to the region.

And what is the secret for this success?

Whatever you do- do it with all your heart! (And of course, it’s important that God will help you a little bit…)

What about the future? Where do you see this place taking off to?

Here, he points his finger toward a beautiful meadow just next to the water stream.“I want to build a camping site for the trekkers. With a nice campfire in the center of it. What do you say, ha?!”he asked me.

Frankly, this guy knows ten times better than me what is the best thing to do. So the only possible answer I could have said was – “For sure!” It is looking amazing, though.

And do you know how many trekkers are coming here? That was a rhetorical question, because after 45 minutes of conversation with Mani Ram I had already figured out that there isn’t a single piece of data he doesn’t know about.

“1000 a year” he said. “But next year there’ll be more.”

So now you know the story of Jana waterfalls. You know that when you get there, you’ll get a super local Himachali dish made with love.

And you will also know that that there’s always a story out there!

Here's what they don't want you to know before travelling to India

5 Things to Know Before You Travel to India (But No One Will Tell You)

Here are 5 Things You Should Know But No One Will Tell You Before You Travel To India

The truth must be said.

There are some dark secrets within every industry that very few are willing to reveal.

Why?

Because it’s bad for the business.Also, in the tourist industry in India, there are some things that travel agents prefer not to get into details of.

It’s not about lying or deceiving (at least we hope so), but it’s about providing disinformation or ambiguous information that eventually can turn your trip into a failure.

The following issues have been constantly repeated by many tourists who’ve been traveling in India.  

Let’s get in to it…

1.  Did anyone tell you that you that driver probably didn’t sleep before you hopped in his car?

There’s almost no such thing as renting a car in India for a self drive. Even if you could, you don’t want to. Let me describe the roadconditions in India and the car maintenance in one word: Chaotic!

So if renting a car is part of services included in your trip, than you’ll get it with a driver.

Driving in the Himalayas

Driving in the Himalayas

But here’s the scary thing.

Most likely while renting a car in India, you’ll get a driver who hasn’t slept for quite a bit. Why? Because in India, there’re noregulations that limit the driving hours per day. As long as your money pops in to your travel operator’sbank account,who gives a damn how many hours the driver had slept before picking you up?

It gets even worse when you think of the huge distances in India it takes to travel from one place to another.   It can get pretty scary to travel that far with a driver who has barely slept.

‘It will be okay’ or ‘This is how things are getting managed here’ or,God forbid (though I have heard this too),the ‘It’s all about karma’ kind of attitude will get you nowhere!

Make sure over and over again with your travel agent that you will get a driver who has enough sleeping before you hop in his car. And I’m talking about at least 8 hours before starting the engine up. No discounts, no bargaining.

Be specific and assertive and make sure that your tour operator knows that planning a tour program for you must include 8 hours sleeping for the drivers.

2. Did anyone tell you that your driver might have had few drinks last night?

Yes, you heard me right. A lot of drivers in India tend to drink quiet heavily at nights. “it makes us fall asleep”.There’s nothing wrong with having some drinks, but when your driver is waking up with a hangover and the smell of alcohol, then it’s a getting out of line. It is unsafe. And it won’t make your trip better.

So unless you really enjoy having long rides on the roughest roads you can possibly imagine with stoned drivers, make sure to point out to your travel agent that this is absolutely unacceptable.

Should or should we not visit the Taj Mahal while we travel In India

750 Rupees for foreigners while Indians pay 20 Rupees

3. Did anyone tell you that chances are that your hotel room will probably not worth the price you paid?

It’s a fact that India is short with mid-range hotels. What happens then is that because of lack of competition, hotel owners do not feel the urge to provide the best service for their guests. That is a nice way of saying that even the basic maintenance every hotel ought to provide is much less than the standards you know. By ‘basic’ we mean a clean room, clean bed sheets, working air-conditioning, hot water in the showers, somebody to answer the phone when you need him, and that kind of stuff.

The result is that you will pay much more than the actual value of the room.

Why invest money in keeping the hotel clean and comfortable, with all its facilities properly functioning,if you can charge the same price for the rooms without doing so?

Some guesthouses have better rooms than mid-range hotels. Let’s put it in other words: the difference between $10-$12 guesthouse rooms to a $50-$55 mid range hotel can be annoyingly minor.

In the high range hotels segment the story is totally different. You will probably get much more than what you are used to for the same budget.

What we suggest you to do is to choose your hotel carefully.TripAdvisor is a great tool to get a general idea of the hotel. Or, you can always search for recommendations about the hotels before booking it.

4. Did anyone tell you that you will have to pay more for most of the services/products you will buy in India only because you are foreigner?

It’s a tricky one: you may accuse me of being too naïve because overcharging tourists is common all over the world. But trust me, in India it’s different. Why? Because it’s official! It is a policy that is authorized by the government. You want to enter a heritage site in India like the Taj Mahal, for example?  No problem, but you’ll pay 750 rupees while Indians pay 20 rupees. The same thing is true for all the heritage sites in India, as well as to wildlife sanctuaries,and the list goes on and on.  It is irritating because it has no justification whatsoever.

5. Did anyone tell you exactly when will be the best time to visit a certain region in India?

Weather is one of the key elements that determine how successful your trip will be. In India, the weather factor is crucial because it may completely change your entire trip. Some areas in India are super vulnerable to weather effects, and beside the fact that bad weather can cause changes in the original plan, it’s simply not fun to deal with.

There is nothing fun about being a prisoner in your hotel room because of the monsoon showers that never stop.

There is nothing fun about going back on the same road because a landslide blocked your road. And there is no funin getting stuck in a place where the temperature is over 40 degrees Celsius.

Starching up the season a bit as part of a tour promotionjust to get more tourists coming (and more revenues) is something that you should be aware of.

Be sure to check and double-check what the weather will be like at the time you plan to travel to a certain region in India. When it comes to the Indian climate, even2-3 weeks difference can have serious consequences for your trip.

Now we’ve told you some of the things that some people in the industry would be happy to leave in the fog.

Now it’s your turn.

Did you have any experiences while travelling in India that sound similar to what we have mentioned here?

Have you found any other information that might help others to plan their trip better? If you have, we’ll be happy to share!

Hadimba temple manali

Blood Offerings, The 2013 Version- Hadimba Temple Manali

For many of us India, presents overwhelmingly visual impressions. It is beautiful, colorful and sensuous; captivating, intriguing and puzzling.

My last visit to Hadimba temple in Manali had it all. I witnessed a unique Hindu ritual that has been under controversy even within Indian society for ages.

This rite is not exclusive to this region. You may see it throughout India, but it was the first time for me.

Read more

spiti

History and Geography of the Spiti Valley India

Spiti, originally pronounced “Piti”, means “The Middle Land”, reflective of its position between Tibet and India.  The Spiti Valley is a desert mountain valley nestled in the Indian Himalayas. It borders Tibet, Nepal and Pakistan and constitutes the north-eastern part of the Himachal Pradesh Indian state. The capital, Kaza, is situated along the Spiti River at an elevation of about 12,500 feet (3,800 m) above mean sea level.

Spiti Valley

 

The diversity of this area can be seen in the dialects spoken; moving from one valley to another can bring an entirely new language, and sometimes multiple dialects are spoken in the same valley. Spiti is historically linked with the region of Lahaul. Historically, Spiti was part of Western Tibet (Nariss Korssum).  Nariss Korssum was divided in the 11th century by the king, Nimagon, amongst his three sons.  Therefore, Spiti and Zankar were formed into a separate kingdom. However they often paid tribute to Ladakh, Chamba and Kullu. In later times, Spiti and Zanskar were incorporated into Ladakh, governed by a hereditary wazir, known as a Nono. The Nono was assisted by five Gyatpos who were elected by the people of their Kothi. Spiti was independent after the Ladakh-Tibet war of 1681-83; however, Man Singh, the Raja of Kullu, invaded and took control of this region.

In the 18th century, control was regained by Ladakh. amd administration continued to be primarily presided over by the Nono and locals. In 1846, the East India Company took control of Spiti after the defeat of the Sikhs in 1846. From 1846 to 1940, Lahaul formed part of the Kulu sub-division of Kangra district, but the Nono was still entrusted with local administration. In the late thirties, kuth brought unprecedented prosperity to the people, and their consequent awakening created a formidable challenge to the power and influence of the Nono. Accordingly, the government considered implementing the standard administrative system. In 1941, Lahaul and SPiti were formed into a sub-tehsil, and a naib-tehsildar was posted at Keylong to take over. This system remained in effect until June of 1960, when the Lahaul and Spiti district was formed with Kaza being the center of government.

Lahaul and Spiti are surrounded by high mountain ranges. The lowest point is 11,000 ft, and villages are found as high as 14,000 ft. The region is sparsely populated and poor in cultivatable lands and natural resources. Rainfall is limited by the high mountains, and the monsoon season has little effect.  The Rohtang Pass, at 13,054 feet (3,979 m), separates Lahul and Spiti from the Kullu ValleyLahaul and Spiti are cut off from each other by the higher Kunzum Pass, at 15,059 feet (4,590 m). A road connects the two divisions, but is often inaccessible during winter and spring because of heavy snow. The valley is likewise cut off from the north for up to eight months of the year by heavy snowfalls and thick icing conditions. A southern route to India proper is periodically closed for brief periods in the winter storms of November through June, but road access is usually restored a few days after storms end, via Shimla and the Sutlej valley in the Kinnaur district. This region is one of the least populated in India for a reason.

 

 

A perfect background for a masterpiece

8 Filming Locations in India That Will Make Your Travel Glamorous

It was exactly 100 years ago this week that Dadasaheb Phalke released his first film Raja Harishchandra. This was not only Phalke’s first film, but it was the first film in India to hit the big screens.

Dadasaheb Phalke, father of Indian cinema

Dadasaheb Phalke, father of Indian cinema

Who would have thought that this film would give birth to what would become the world’s largest film industry? When you go to a theater in India to see a movie, you can’t help but be absorbed in the vibrant and lively vibe in the building. The energy flows inside the theater is different than anything else you’ve seen. This vibe, in India, is sacred. Indians call it Tamasha (entertainment); the more of it, the better. For a culture so vibrant and well-versed in telling colorful tales, the advent of moving pictures was tailor made to the Indian DNA. The theater has become a hall for expressing emotions where the audience is not only watching the movie but also taking a vital role in it. Cinema Theaters in India are the noisiest in the world. If you don’t cry, laugh, shout, clap your hands, boo, whistle while the movie is playing, you’re simply not getting the full experience.

Now here’s how cinema and travel become friends – Good friends…

Cinema in India is an obsession and you are about to step into the film sets of some of Bollywood’s cornerstones. We are about to start a journey to some of the most beautiful film sets that almost every Indian has seen on the screen. Places that have become a part of Indian’s cultural identity.

Location #1 – Rancho’s School Ladakh

Movie: 3 Idiots starring Amir Khan

The most successful Bollywood film ever, Raju Hirani’s 3 Idiots has become a massive success throughout India. Critics are gushing; audiences (across gender and age) are packing into theatres in hordes, declaring that there is no better film. Film directors like Raju Hirani and other up and coming ones such as Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee and Vishal Bhardwaj have been changing Bollywood’s mind set and have carried the Indian film industry into a new territory.

Druk White Lotus School in Shey, Ladhak

Druk White Lotus School in Shey, Ladhak

The film 3 Idiots states a bold massage: India’s higher education system is idiotic. If nothing is done about it very quickly, India will become the vision put forth in 3 Idiots. Although the core massage is troubling, the film is still super fun to watch, especially when the filming locations they’ve picked up are outstanding like the small village of Shey, a 30 minute drive from Leh in the Himalayas. In the movie it is the school which Rancho and Amir Khan set up for the local kids. After the movie was released, the school became so popular that the locals actually officially changed its name from Druk Padma Karpo Institute to Rancho’s School. But even before the movie, this school had a lot of accolades to its credit. It was the first earthquake proof building in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The school runs entirely on solar energy, and it has won the best screen building and best Asian building in the world architecture award. The structure represents the concept of a Buddhist Mandala , and all the materials used to build the school were sourced locally. 3 idiots has brought fame to this extraordinary school in Shay village in Ladakh and has put this gem in the spotlight.

3 Idiots If you’d like to volunteer in the school click the link and make a difference!

Happy seventies -The age of the angry young man. A new king steps in the ring; ladies and gentlemen please welcome Amitabh Bachchan.

Location #2 Nandi Hills, Karanataka

Amitabh BachanMovie: Coolie

The stunning performance of Amitabh Bacachan, the King of Bollywood, in the film Coolie has turned the film into another landmark of Indian cinema, but there is even more stunning fact that every Indian knows about this film. While filming a fight sequence in movie, Amitabh was knocked down by the film’s villain Puneet Issar, due to bad timing, seriously injuring him. In the accident, Amitabh was nearly killed. It’s impossible to imagine Bollywood without Amitabh Bachchan. In the spirit of the incident, we have chosen the location from the movie where the song Accident ho gaya (accident has happened) that was shot in beautiful Nandi Hills near Bangalore.

The mysterious Nandi Hills -Bangalore's Gateway

The mysterious Nandi Hills -Bangalore’s Gateway

The scenic hill station Nandi Hills is the birthplace of the Arkavathi and Palar rivers, 60 km from Bangalore. Forests, ancient forts, and temples are all part of this beautiful Bangalore getaway.

Location #3 Ramanagara, Karnataka 55 km from Bangalore

Movie: Sholay

Sholay is one of Bollywood's classics

Sholay is one of Bollywood’s classics

Another major role Bachchan played is in the film Sholay, regarded by many to be the first major blockbuster of Bollywood. In it, Amitabh Bachchan plays a is notorious criminal alongside Dharmendra. Sholay has gone beyond being just a film, and today it is part of a culture, a collective memory, a reference point. Even to this day, the film is still referenced in other films, and even in advertising. It has provided a metaphor which is used everywhere. Phrases from the movie have even popped up in political speeches and in conversations amongst young people who were not even born when Sholay was made. This is a Bollywood classic . Ramanagara is surrounded by rocky terrain – an ideal location for “Wild West” genre, but it is also great place for one day treks in nature and loads of rock climbing adventures are available.

Sholay film set at Ramangarh

Sholay film set at Ramangarh

Location #4 Nani Taal (Lake) Uttarkhand

Movie: Kati Patang

But it was not only Amitabh Bachchan who had conquered the hearts of the Indians. Rajesh Khanna another pillar of Bollywood has made his entrance to the show biz industry and will always be remembered as the “original superstar” forever. The 1970 movie Kati Patang, based on Cornell Woolrich’s novel ‘I Married a Dead Man’ has become one of Bollywood’s cornerstones.

Nani taal lake_Kati Patang

 

The 70s not only marked changes of the content and themes of films, but also the entrance of mega female superstars such as Asha Parekh, who had played alongside with Rajesh Khanna in Kati Patang. Here we’ll head to Nani Tal (lake) in Uttarkhand where the beautiful song ‘Jis Gali me’ was filmed. The best time to visit Nani Taal would be during the festivals, which are taking place in Nani Taal. Escape Festival of Art and Music is a real gem so if you are in the area while the festival is about to begin you should defiantly include it in your plans.

Location #5 Dargah Sharif, Ajemr Rajasthan

Movie: Jodhaa Akbar

Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai

Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai

This time we head off to the 16th century’s epic tale of the marriage between the great Mughal Emperor Akbar to a Rajput princess, Jodhaa. The controversial epic story has become a Bollywood blockbuster starring Hrthik Roshan and the gorgeous Aishwarya Rai. We take you now to the place where Akbar, played by Hrthik Roshan, made one of his toughest decisions as an emperor of the Muslim empire – to marry a non-Muslim wife. The filming took place in a Sufi Shrine called Dargah Sharif in Ajmer Rajasthan. The shrine belongs to the 13th century’s most famous Sufi saint who had introduced the Chishti’s Sufi order to the subcontinent. The best time to visit the Dargah is when the Urs festivals are taking place between May to June. This is an annual festival which commemorates the death anniversary of Muiddain Chishti .During Urs, in honor of the saint Urs, Qawwali concerts are held reciting Chishti’s own works and those of other saints.

Sharif Dargah in Ajmer Rajasthan

Sharif Dargah in Ajmer Rajasthan

It attracts a large number of devotees to the shrine. The dargah, which is visited by Muslim pilgrims as well as Hindus, Sikhs is as a symbol of intercommunal harmony. This is why the Jodhaa Akbar’s movie production chose this place for the filming location for Akbar’s courageous decision.

Location # 6 Pangong Lake, Ladakh

Movie: Dil Se

A perfect background for a masterpiece

A perfect background for a masterpiece

Despite its failure in the box office, the film Dil Se won accolades from many critics, and just as many awards . This controversial film (some call it poetry) is a masterpiece! Shah Rukh Khan, one of Bollywood’s mega superstars is in the lead role. The lake is at altitude of 4,350 m and 134 km long. 60% of the lake is considered to be under Tibetan territory, whereas the rest of it belongs to India. It is 5 hours drive from Leh but you’ll have to obtain a special permit (Inner line permit) in order to visit the lake. Any travel agent in Leh will be able to get it for you. On the shore of the Pangong lake was the filming location one of the famous songs ‘Satrangi Re ’ (seven colors). The film is said to be a journey through the 7 shades of love that are mentioned as a principal in ancient Arabic literature. Those shades are defined as attraction, infatuation, love, reverence, worship, obsession and death. The choreography of the song ‘7 colors’ on the Pangong bank brings the whole 7 emotions to the extreme.

Location #7 Wai , Maharashtra

Movie : Dabangg

Dabangg_salman Khan

Dabangg (Audacious) is a 2010 Indian action film, directed by the talented Abhinav Kashyap starring Salman Khan. If you don’t know whoSalman Khan is, don’t tell this to any Indian you meet! Dabangg is in the Bollywood’s top 5 highest grossing Bollywood films list and Salman Khan is the most popular Bollywood star.  The small village of Wai has a complex of more than 100 temples this is why Wai is called ‘Dakshin Kashi’. It is located on the banks of Krishna River and has 7 famous Ghats (A series of steps leading down to a body of water, particularly a holy river) down to the water. Because of the pastoral atmosphere and the relatively short distance from Mumbai Wai has become a very popular filming location for many Bollywood films.

Location # 8 Lodi Gradens , Delhi

Movie : Fanna

Once again we meet Amir Khan now with Kajol

Once again we meet Amir Khan now with Kajol

Amir Khan, whom you’ve already met above in the first movie 3 Idiots, is now in the key role of a much smaller film as a Delhi tour guide who falls in love with a blind girl, Kasmiri, who is Muslim . The movie had raised some difficult political issues concerning Hindu Muslim relationships in India. It is a beautiful film that you should definitely watch. The relationship between the two characters is woven into the background of Delhi and takes you to a magical journey. Following those moments in the movie we’ll be going to the vast Lodhi gardens inside the busy metro ado is a perfect escape to bring some sanity back.

Escape from the city rush

Escape from the city rush

The 15th and 16th century’s gardens have been beautifully maintained and preserved. There are some various medieval monuments as tombs and mosques, belong to the Lodhi dynasty that give the gardens a mystical charm. Apart from the historical structures, Lodhi gardens are environmental like impressive. The gardens have a variety of plants and trees some huge Neem , Deodar and Chir trees , as well as herbal plants. The beauty is that Lodhi gardens are just 10 minutes walk from Khan Market where you can grab a cup of coffee and disappear in the greenish gardens.

So we have been visiting some of Bollywood’s most beautiful filming locations and some of Bollywoods legends who entered to India’s hall of fame. Now you should watch those movies maybe it will open your appetite to discover more of the 35 mm Indian adventure.

Everywhere cinema is part of the culture. In India however the cinema experience is somewhat different. Although It tends to be rather unfamiliar for the westerner eyes and feel this unfamiliarity could be a challenge which invites you to dig deeper.

 
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Knowing Hindi phrases can get you all over India

79+4 Essential Hindi phrases that every traveler must know

Traveling in India could be painful if you don’t have in your arsenal some knowledge of the local languages. If you think most Indians speak English you’er wrong. Most people in India do not speak English.

Knowing Hindi phrases can get you all over India

Even the Buddhist lamas in Ladakh speak fluent Hindi. Speaking Hindi can help you in most places in northern India

Be sure that at some point of your travel you’ll need to communicate with people who do not speak English. I’m highlighting the ‘need’ because this Hindi phrases kit is about the essentials. We don’t go too far with getting you deep into the Hindi Language, although we would love to!

What we do want to ensure is that you stay hungry because the food was too spicy.  Or you won’t be missing your train because you couldn’t figure out the directions, or getting a lousy room in your hotel, emergency situations – that sort of things.  Nothing more, and it’s a lot!

For further Hindi phrases and glossaries we’ll provide you some links to some resources further down the post.

We picked Hindi because it covers a lot of regions in India but we’ll get to other languages too.

In the meanwhile here’s why you should stick around and learn our Hindi essential tool Kit:

  1. You will have handy ready made phrases for any situation travelers face when the travel in India.
  2. You will easily pull the right things to say out of your tool kit because we made the phrases super easy to remember.
  3. You will immediately understand what the locals will be answering or telling you! Why? Because we made the phrases in a way that the reply will be short and sweet.
  4. And one more thing…you will get a lot of LOVE from the locals for your efforts and that alone can get very beneficial for you in unpredictable ways…

So let’s get started: 

Some Basic Hindi phrases 

What’s your name? aapka naam kya hai? 
My name is….. mera naam …………hai 
I’m fine thank you main thik hun 
How are you? Keise hein aap? 
Nice to meet you aapse milkar badi khushi hui
How’s your family ? aapke parivar keise hai
See you later phir milenge
Where are you from? aap kahan se hein?
I’m from…… mein ……..se hun
I don’t know mujhe pata nahin 
I don’t understand main nahin samjha/samjhi ( m/f ) 
What is the time? kitane baje hai
How is the weather there? Vahan ka mausam keisa hai? 

Finding the Way (orientation)

Can you tell me how to reach ……? Kya aap ……. ke jane ka rasta bata dijiye? 
Where is ………? ………….kahan hai? 
Where am I? main kahan hun 
What is the name of this place? Yahan ka naam kya hai?  / is jagah ka naam kya hai?
Can you show me where ……… is? Kya aap ………….  ka disha dikha dijiye? 
I’m lost main kho gaya/gai  hun ( m/f) 
Will you come with me? aap mere sath chalein? 
Which road goes to ………. kaunsa rasta ………. jata hai

 In The Restaurant (with special column for keywords)

We want to order (food ) hum khana maangna chate hein
We are hungry Humein  bhook lagi hai
We are thirsty hamein  pyas lagi hai
Can we get the menu? menu de do
Is it spicy? Kya yeh mirch masala vala hai?
We do not eat spicy mirchi walla khana nahin kha sakte hein
Would you recommend? kya acha hoga?
I’ll have ………. mujhe ………. de do
The food is great Khana badiya hai
I didn’t like the food khana achcha nahin laga
Bring us the bill bill de do
There’s a mistake in the bill Bill me ek galat hai
We haven’t ordered ……. Yeh ……..hamne nahin liya

 Some keywords for this section

Bottle / Botal Bowl  /  katori Breakfast / nashta Dinner / rat ka khana lunch / din ka khana
Sweets / motaa Fork / kanta Knife / chaku Spoon / chamach Plate / plet
Salt / namak Suger / chini Rice /chaval Vegetarian /  shakahrai None Veg /mansahari

Health Issues and Emergencies

I’m having a headache Mere sir me dard hai
I’m having a stomach ache mere peth me dard hai
Do you have something for the stomach kya aap ke pass pet ke liye kuch hai?
I need something (medicine/ pill)   for my stomach mujhe peth ke liye koi davai chaahiye
I’m not feeling well Meri tabyat kharab hai
I’m cold mujhe bukhar hai
Please call the doctor Doctor bulaaye
Where is the nearest hospital? Yahan ke sab se nasdik hospital kidhar hai?
Help me mujhe madad chahiye
Call the police! Police ko bulao!
I lost my luggage Main apna saman kho gya

 Shopping

How much it cost? yeh kitana ka hai? 
Please give us a discount discount  karo
This is to expensive yeh bahut mehenga hai
Can you show me that yeh dikha do 
I like that acha laga
I don’t like that acha nahin laga
Do you have any other? Iske alava kuch aur hai? 
Do you have… Kya aap ke paas….hai
I’m Just looking sirf dekhna aaya/ aai  hun  (m/f)
I’d like to buy…… muj…..chahiye 
I’ll be back main vapas aaunga/ aaungi  (m/f) 
I’ll think about it iske bare me soch lunga/lungi (m/f) 

 

Here are some keywords for this section:

Market   /  bazaar Shop   /  dukan Money  /   paisa Change /  change Cloths   / kapde Shirt  /    kamiz
Trousers  /  patloon Skirt /   skrit Black   /kala/ kali  ( m/f) White  / safed White  / safed Red  /  lal

 In the Hotel

How much is for a night? Ek Rat ke liye kitna ka hai?
This is too expensive yeh bahut mehenga hai
Please give us a discount Thoda discount karo
We are going to stay here for …. nights hum yahan par…… rukenge
Where is the best restaurant in the area? Yahan ke aas paas sab se achi restaurant kahan hai?
Where can I find internet? Internet khan milta hai
The room isn’t clean kamra saaf nahin hai
The room is too small kamra zyada chota hai
Do you have a room service room service hai
Are you receptionists are here all time? Kya aap log din-raat yahi par hein
Do you have a safety box in the hotel? hotel me safe box hai?
Which floor is the room kamra kounsi manzil par hai?
Do you have rooms available? Aapke paas koi kamre hein?
Is there hot water? Kya garam pani chalta rehata hai?
Is there room with balcony? kya aapke pass ek kamera jisme balcony hai?
Can you wake us up in …. o’clock kya aap hamein ….baje jagah sakte hein?

Trains

Where is the train to……? …….wali kahan hai   e.g. Delhi wali kahan hai?
On which platform is the train to ……..? …….wali  kounsa platform ka hai?
What time is the train departs? Train kab nikalti hai?/ Kitne baje jati hai?
How long will it be delayed? Us-se kitni der hui hai
What time is it reaching? Kab aaegi?
Kab aaegi? ticket kharidna kahan par milti hai?
This is my seat yeh meri sit hai
How long is the trip to ……. …….tak kitana samay lagta hai?

 

Other free resources for basic Hindi phrases:

 

That’s it.

Do you think that we might have forgotten something important? Add to the comment box below more phrases that may be helpful for travelers and we’ll hook them in!

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