28 January 2005
24 January 2005
tableau of Himachal Pradesh for 26th January, 2005 parade! KULLU WEBSITE As soon as you enter Himachal either from Punjab’s border via Una District from Mehat Pur or from Mandi or via Solan from Chandigarh, there is a feel of different kind, there is a fragrance of different kind which we all start experiencing! Few kilometers and you start passing through various temples. Chintpurni Ji, Jwala Ji, Chamunda Ji from Kangra, Mhow Naag from Mandi, The famous Raghunath Temple of Kullu, Hidimba Temple from Manali, Baijnath Shiv Temple, Jakhu Temple in Shimla, Parashar Lake in Mandi District and temples sorrounding it, ChandarTaal Lake from Spiti area where many great Hindu spirtual masters and Gods passed their Holy periods, you take any name in Himachal and you will find ancient temples. Whether it was Ravanna who got his wish by worshipping at Baijnath Shiva Temple, Pandavas who passed their exile from Kauravas to still visiting almost all of the great saints, Himachal is indeed land of Gods. Once inhabited by Gods this state still seems to be! Village Gods, the smaller yet powerful ones! Every year after months of hardwork in the fields and orchards, there comes the month of Phalgun (mid February to mid March) that marks the beginning of fairs and festivals in the valley. These fairs and festivals are mostly held to celebrate the victory of good over the evil or recall any episode related to the deities. They celebrate the rich cultural and traditional inheritance of the people, which they have been maintaining since epochs. Dusshera is a unique fair held every year in October. It is a beautiful amalgam of history, rich culture and customs. Unlike other regions of India here effigies of Ravana, Meghnath and Kumbhakarana are not burnt. This is how victory of good over evil is depicted. Kullu Dusshera starts usually on the day it ends in the rest of the country. It all started back in 1637 A. D. when Raja Jagat Singh was the ruler of the Valley. One day he came to know that a peasant Durga Dutt of village Tipri owned beautiful pearls, which the Raja wanted to obtain. Durga Dutt tried to convince the Raja by all means that the information was wrong and that he owned no pearls, but all his pleas were in vain. The Raja gave him a last chance. Durga Dutt got so scared that he burnt down his own family and house and cursed the Raja for his cruelty. His curse resulted in Raja's leprosy and as he realized the fact he felt guilty. Kishan Das known as Fuhari Baba advised him to install the famous idol of Lord Raghunathji to get rid of the curse of the peasant. He sent Damodar Dass to steal the idol from Tret Nath Temple of Ayodhya who finally brought it from there in July 1651 A. D. After installing the idol he drank Charnamrit of the idol for several days and was in due course cured. He devoted his kingdom and life for the lord and from then onwards Dusshera started being celebrated with great splendor. Thus on the first fortnight of Ashwin month (mid September to mid October), the Raja invites all the 365 Gods and Goddesses of the Valley to Dhalpur to perform a Yagna in Raghunathji's honor. On the first day of Dusshera Goddess Hadimba of Manali comes down to Kullu. She is the Goddess of the royal family of Kullu. At the entrance of Kullu the Royal Stick welcomes her and escorts her to the Palace where the royal family awaits her at the entrance of the Palace. Thereafter they enter the Palace only when goddess Hadimba calls them inside. After blessing the royal family she comes to Dhalpur. The idol of Raghunathji is saddled around Hadimba and placed in a Ratha (chariot) adorned beautifully. Then they wait for the signal from Mata Bhekhli, which is given from top of the hill. Next the Ratha is pulled with the help of ropes from its original place to another spot where it stays for the next six days. The male members of the royal family leave the palace and stay in the Dusshera ground. More than one hundred gods and goddesses mounted on colorful palanquins participate in this procession. The ceremony feels as if the doors of heaven have been opened and the gods have come down to the earth to rejoice.On the sixth day of the festival, the assembly of Gods takes place, which is called 'Mohalla'. It is an impressive and a rare sight to see the multihued palanquins of Gods around the camp of Raghunathji. People usually dance the whole night through. On the last day the Ratha is again pulled to the banks of river Beas where a pile of thorn bushes is set on fire to depict the burning of Lanka. Some animals are sacrificed and the Ratha is brought back to its original place. Raghunathji is taken back to the temple in Raghunathpur. Thus world famous Dusshera comes to an end in a dignified way, full of festivities and grandeur. The Dhalpur grounds are full of vendors who come from different parts of the country to sell their goods. Various government organizations and private agencies also set up various exhibitions concerning their line of work. At night thousands of people witness the International Cultural Festival in Kala Kendra (an open-air theatre). Kullu Dusshera ends all the fairs and festivals celebrated in the valley.
20 January 2005
14 January 2005
Kalka Shimla Railway
The toy train from Kalka makes its way to snow-bound Shimla on Sunday. Photo by Anil Dayal.24th Ja., 2005 KALKA SHIMLA RAILWAYS SHIMLA, the capital of Himachal Pradesh, and the erstwhile summer capital of India in the days of the British, had accidental and humble beginnings in the mid nineteenth century. The Gurkhas, after a major debacle at the hands of the Sikhs in the Battle of Kangra in 1804, began to settle down in the hills around Shimla. The British then established a cantonment at Sabathu, near present day Shimla, around 1816, and the first "house" built was the log hut constructed for the Commandant. In 1821, the new garrison commander, Captain Charles Pratt Kennedy, built himself a more pretentious residence which became the first permanent house of Shimla. The Captain was later entrusted control over all local hill matters and designated Deputy Superintendent of Sikh and Hill Affairs. Over time, Kennedy, an apparently hospitable man, had visitors to stay who, liking the place, built houses for themselves. By 1831, Shimla had become "the resort of the rich, the idle and the invalid" with upward of sixty houses scattered over the hills around. In 1827, Lord Amherst, the Governor General of India, spent the summer at Shimla after a tour of the North. His successor, Lord William Bentinck, also repaired thither, after which the township became the summer headquarters of the Government of India. But the journey from the plains to the summer capital was tedious. The mode of travel was the "jampan" - a sedan chair, fitted with curtains, slung on poles borne by bearers - or ponies, with luggage carried by coolies or mules. Besides the discomfort suffered by the travelers, the real torture was for the 15,000 local men who were requisitioned from their villages to haul the sahibs, mem sahibs and baba log up the hills for a pittance. The next step was to construct the "Grand Hindostan and Tibet Road" from Ambala in the plains through the hills so that wagon trains, drawn by bullocks or horses, could replace the human portage. The journey from Ambala to Shimla was in two parts, 70 kilometers in the plains to Kalka and then 96 kilometers up the hills. Kalka soon developed into a busy town on the foothills of the Shivalik Mountains, serving as a transit station for the journey to the hills. A railway line from Delhi to Kalka via Ambala was constructed by the Delhi Umbala Kalka Railway Company (DUK) during 1889 and 1890 and operations were commenced on March 1, 1891. The management of the line was entrusted to the East Indian Railway Company (EIR) who were able to register a net profit in the very first year of operation. The Government of India purchased the line in 1926 and transferred the management to the state controlled North Western Railway. After partition, this section became part of the newly formed East Punjab Railway and was amalgamated with the Northern Railway on April 14, 1952. The idea of a line to Shimla was first mooted in 1847 and the earliest survey was done in 1884. However, the contract for construction was signed by the Government and the DUK Railway Company only on June 29, 1898. The 96.54 kilometer line, built on a 2 feet six inches gauge, was opened for traffic November 9, 1903.Because of the high capital and maintenance cost, coupled with peculiar working conditions, the Kalka - Shimla Railway was allowed to charge fares that were higher than the prevailing tariffs on other lines. However, even this was not good enough to sustain the company and the Government had to purchase it on January 1, 1906. Spectacular scenery along the whole route, and the marvels of it's construction, keeps the traveler on this line spell bound. On leaving Kalka, 656 meters above sea level, the railway enters the foothills and immediately commences it's climb. KSR runs through 102 tunnels, some of which have hoary tales to tell. For instance, the longest tunnel at Barog, named after the engineer in charge of construction, bears the blood of it's creator who apparently committed suicide after making a mistake in laying the alignment. This tunnel is 1143.61 meters long and remained the second longest tunnel on Indian Railways for a long time. It is a straight tunnel, passing through fissured sand stone. Another tunnel at Taradevi, cutting through a hill on the peak of which is a famous temple, tells of the local superstition of the day that the Goddess would never permit it's construction. When construction was half through, great excitement arose from reported sightings of a huge serpent in the tunnel that had emerged to stop the work. Anti climatically the reptile turned out be a long iron pipe running along the tunnel to convey fresh air. The section has 864 bridges, only one of which is a 60 feet plate girder span and a steel truss. The others are viaducts with multi-arched galleries like the ancient Roman aqueducts. Bridge No. 493, historically known as the "Arch Gallery", situated between Kandaghat and Kanoh stations, is an arch bridge in three stages, constructed with stone masonry that stands good even today. Bridge No. 226, between Sonwara and Dharampur is an arch gallery bridge having 5 tier galleries of multiple spans, constructed with stone masonry and bridging a deep valley surrounded by high peaks. The railway has a ruling gradient of 1 in 25 with 919 curves, the sharpest being 48 degrees. Climbing from 656 meters, the line ends at 2076 meters at Shimla. Road links for other scenic spots in these hills also take off from the Kalka - Shimla Railway. First, there is Kasauli, a British day cantonment town, small, quiet but picturesque. Home to a Louis Pasteur Institute that manufactures the anti-rabies vaccine and a Central Research Institute that makes vaccines against typhoid and cholera and antidotes against snake bite, Kasauli can be approached by road from Dharampur Station. Another famous hill station in the area is Chail. Piqued by British snobbery, the Maharajah of Patiala built his summer capital here as a rival to Shimla. Accessible from Kandhaghat or Shimla, Chail is at a height of 2150 meters. The Maharaja's Palace, built in the 19th Century, together with the Cottages of his staff are today a beautiful holiday resort. Chail boasts of the highest cricket ground of the world, over looking the Sutlej Valley, with a spectacular view of snow capped Himalayan ranges. Today Northern Railway offers several options for travel between Kalka and Shimla. A Shatabdi type Super fast luxury Express train, called the Shivalik Deluxe leaves Kalka every morning at 05:30 hours, reaching Shimla at 1015 hours. On the return journey, it departs Shimla at 17:30 hours, arriving Kalka at 22:15 hours. Breakfast on the outward journey and dinner on the return are provided as part of the fare. The train connects the Howrah - Delhi - Kalka Mail. During the holiday season, from May 1 to July 15, September 15 to October 30 and December 15 to January 15, a Rail Motor Car leaves Kalka at 11:35 hours to reach Shimla at 15:40 hours. On the return journey, it leaves Shimla at 11:30 hours to arrive Kalka at 16:20 hours. The Rail Motor Car connects the New Delhi - Chandigarh - Kalka Himalayan Queen Express.
05 January 2005
Communitech COMMUNITECH Penn State graduates served HP in 2002! CommuniTech is a unique community service initiative at the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Pennsylvania. It is a non-profit student organization that seeks to "bridge" the digital divide both locally and globally. CommuniTech is one of the most active student-driven community outreach groups on Penn’s campus. Currently, its membership is fifty strong, and together they energetically and intelligently tackle the challenges of bridging the digital divide one project and one person at a time. As society becomes increasingly integrated with technological breakthroughs, there is a danger that underprivileged individuals will be left behind and as a result will be further disadvantaged in their pursuit for equality. Within universities there is a wealth of technical talent. Given this pool of expertise we believe that students can play a pivotal role in helping society benefit from technology and ensure that they do not get left out of modern innovation. CommuniTech's portfolio of projects is extremely comprehensive. Projects have been in the areas of software and hardware including: computer lab installations, refurbishment of machines, websites, and databases. A brief sampling of projects follows. In the summer of 1999, CommuniTech [at that time, known as Puente] installed Ecuador's first public elementary school computer lab and connected it with another CommuniTech-installed lab in West Philadelphia. In the summer of 2000, CommuniTech built a 40 PC technology center in the heart of Pune, India that offered free technical training to those who couldn't afford it. In 2001, CommuniTech launched an ecommerce site for the Philadelphia Brandy Wine Workshop that allowed artists to sell their prints online. In 2002, CommuniTech installed computer labs in several West Philadelphia classrooms and offered training to both the students and teachers. Overall, more than a thousand people have benefited from CommuniTech's work. The CommuniTech student leaders believe in measurable and tangible performance. We strive to improve our operations, grow our membership base and ensure the sustainability of the work that we do. Long term sustainability of all of our projects is one of the core missions of the group.
04 January 2005
Centre okays ski centre at Solang
Pratibha Chauhan --- Tribune News Service
http://www.tribuneindia.com/2005/20050101/himachal.htm#1 Shimla, December 31Decks have been cleared for setting up the first ski centre and ropeway at Solang, near Manali, as the Union Ministry of Forests and Environment has given clearance to the project aimed at making Himachal Pradesh an international destination for winter sport enthusiasts.
The project, first of its kind in the country, is to be set up at an estimated cost of Rs 14.20 crore by Ski Himalayas Ltd. Work on the project will begin soon as clearance has been granted for use of 1.87 hectare forest land falling under the project area. An agreement has been signed between the Tourism Department and Ski Himalayan Ltd for a period of 40 years. The Chief Minister, Mr Virbhadra Singh, will lay the foundation stone of the project on January 2 at Solang. The tentative completion period of the project is 14 months. Interestingly, only four trees will have to face the axe for the coming up of the ski lift and the remaining forest area would be untouched.
The project will not only enable holding of international ski events on the Phatru slopes but also likely to give a place to Himachal on the international tourist map. Barring China, there is no other country in South East Asia which has ski centre of this level. “With a French company, Poma, undertaking the development of the ski slopes as per international standards the skiable run will extend from the present 300 m to 2.5 km,” said Mr Amitabh Sharma, Managing Director, Ski Himalayas.
The state government will get Rs 30 lakh as a licence fee from this project. Though Solang has emerged as a favourite destination for winter sports’ lovers but there was no major attraction for tourists here except for skiing. The ski centre will have a gondola lift and a full-fledged resort. There will be two restaurants both at the top terminal at a height of 3,000 m and at the base located at about 2,600 m.
Local sports enthusiasts, including some skiers, who have made a mark at the international level are very upbeat about the project. They feel that not only will they now get an opportunity to practice as per international standards but major events can now be held at Solang. In fact, on completion the ski centre will get certification from the Federation of International Skiers, currently having its headquarter in Norway. As the state government is making all possible efforts to rope in private investment in promoting tourism, the coming up of the ski centre is likely to give a major fillip to the tourism industry in the state.
03 January 2005
ARPANA Arpana embraces the simple hill folk of Himachal as its own family. The glorious magnificence of the mountains conceals extreme deprivation and struggle for surviving. Responding to the clarion call of the valley, Arpana came to Himachal. Some kind people helped make available an abode of service, and a small clinic was set up in the living room. The dispensary at Upper Bakrota was opened due to the need and appeal of village folk around Dalhousie.
Student Home in Solan
http://www.aimforseva.org/Projects/himachal/regional_himachal.html Student Home in SolanOn February 6, 2002, AIM for Seva opened "Seva Niketan", a student home in Solan, Himachal Pradesh. Seva Niketan opened with 16 children, grew to 30 within the first year and plans on increasing its enrollment to 50 children before the end of the third year.Seva Niketan is an unique institution where free residential facility is provided to deserving students to enable them to pursue their studies without interruption. The aims and objectives of this institution is to uplift the quality of life of people through proper education which is balanced academically, morally and spiritually. The motto is to help them to help themselves and become an asset to, rather than a burden on, the society. The student home provides an opportunity for those students who would otherwise drop out by the time they reach the 8th / 9th grade due to the lack of a nurturing home environment. For example, five of the students come from broken or single-parent homes, where the opportunities for pursuing their studies is very stunted. The Solan student home is providing such children with quality educational care in a home-like atmosphere.The student home functions primarily as a residential facility, as most of the students have been admitted in the local private schools. Dedicated teachers regularly coach the students in major subjects taught in the public school. To facilitate a well-rounded educational curriculum, the students are also provided classes in music and singing on the weekends. Each day, moral and spiritual values are highlighted during prayer sessions, and bed-time stories. In Seva Niketan, the students are encouraged to take part in various extra-curricular activities to bring out the best in them. Under the supervision of our staff, they take care of cleaning their own rooms and even washing their own clothes. This facilitates self sufficiency.Seva Niketan will help children grow into confident and responsible citizens in a comfortable atmosphere that is conducive to learning. As part of the cultural regeneration program, the children will be made aware of their Indian heritage and they will inculcate the right samskaras (impressions) to help them lead a healthy and happy life. Further, they will be trained in vocational disciplines so that they can earn a comfortable living in this competitive world.A typical summer day begins at 5:30 a.m., with prayers, exercises and pranayama (breathing exercises) followed by cleaning their rooms and other daily chores. After bathing, by 7:30 a.m., all are ready for their studies. (It must be noted that due to constraints of resources, they get their hot bathing water after igniting wood in a special device called hamams every morning, which delays the morning schedule by 30 minutes). By 8:30 a.m. a full meal is enjoyed and everyone prepares to leave for school by 9:15 a.m., carrying their lunch boxes along with them.Their school starts at 9:50 a.m. and is over by 4:00 p.m. They return to the student home at around 4:30 p.m. and are given tea and snacks. They play for a while and at 6:00 p.m. they gather for songs and stories. By 7:00 p.m., they are back to their studies, completing their homework, clearing doubts and memorizing lessons under the supervision of student home staff. They are given dinner at 8:00 p.m. and at 8:30 they have time for play among themselves. At 9:00 p.m., they review lessons taught in the class and by 10:00 p.m. its time for their hard earned rest.On May 12th, 2003, Seva Niketan also started a free coaching / tutorial center at the student home for children of Class V (both boys and girls) coming from poor families. Currently, eight children are receiving tuitions at the center.AIM for Seva is planning to expand the student home facilities with more residential quarters and a larger kitchen. As the student home continues to expand its activities and enrollment, more furnishings and equipment will be required. We welcome donations of furniture, carpets, kitchen equipment, musical instruments, storybooks and other books for learning, toys, and indoor & outdoor games' kits. Educational books and magazines for children in Hindi and educational toys are also welcome, as are warm clothes for children (over ten years old) and warm blankets. Also, donations of food provisions and notebooks will be much appreciated. Every penny and every grain donated goes a long way in improving the lives of these children. India Office All India Movement for Seva c/o R. Venkatramani Arsha Vidya Gurukulam Anaikatti Post Coimbatore 641-108 Tel: 0422-265-7150 email@example.com USA Office All India Movement for Seva c/o Janet Falk PO Box 639 Saylorsburg, PA 18353 USA Tel: (570) 402-1244 Fax: (570) 992-9680 firstname.lastname@example.org
02 January 2005
The Prashar lake near Sundernagar in district Mandi The beautiful Prashar Lake is located high in the mountains, 40 Km north of Mandi. It is here that the sage Prashar is said to have meditated. On the lake’s edge is a three - steroid pagoda -like temple dedicated to the sage. Capped with a roof of slate tiles, the temple has a wealth of wood carving. An old temple, it is said to have been built by Raja Ban Sen of Mandi in the 14th century. An entire panorama of snowy mountain ranges is visible from this location.
01 January 2005
The Janjehli valley in the interior of Mandi district in Himachal Pradesh. A Very Very Happy New Year! THE journey to Janjehli, a little village in the Himalayas is an enchanting and fascinating experience. Situated at a height of 2150 metres in Thunag tehsil, Mandi district, Janjehli is a trekker’s paradise. With no frills of modernity here, it is a refreshing break from routine and packaged holidays. From Shimla, Janjehli can be approached via Karsog. It lies 85 km from Mandi. After passing Chail Chowk, you come across a village called Bagsiad, which is considered a gateway to the Janjehli valley. Janjehli, with its lush green meadows surrounded by lofty pines and deodars and a rivulet presents an enchanting view. On the left side of the village are orchards. There are two guesthouses there, one belonging to the H.P. Forest Department and other to the P.W.D. Locals say that Britishers were so fascinated by Janjehli that they had thought of making it the summer capital instead of Shimla. A British officer had approached the Raja of Janjehli for seeking permission to make it their summer capital. The king, however, turned down their request. Janjehli’s height of 2150 metres makes it an ideal summer retreat. Apart from providing some excellent souvenirs like seraji pulas made of hemp and household wares made of walnut wood, it is also famous for its honey. Twelve-kilometres from Janjehli is Shikari Devi, famous for its roofless temple, the only one of its kind in northern India. A peculiar aspect of this temple is that it has remained roofless in spite of numerous attempts made by the locals to construct a roof. Locals attribute this phenomenon to some unseen spiritual force. Janjehli offers interesting one-day treks.You can undertake a 16-km trek from Janjehli to Karsog. It can be covered in about eight hours. About 6-km from Janjehli, you come across Bulah, an open ground with lush green meadows. It looks strikingly similar to Gulmarg. On your way you will come across a number of natural springs. After Bulah, the next stop is Rajgarh followed by Gurah and finally you reach Karsog. In the evening you can trek back to Janjehli. Another one-day trek from Janjehli could be to Budah Kaidar, at a height of 9000 feet. A trek to Magru Galu, a high mountainous pass can be exciting, too. From Magru Galu you get a beautiful view of Pandoh and Mandi. The fourth trek from Janjehli could be to Rampur, which is 40 km away. The first halt comes at Chetu followed by Cheeura, Swad, Loori and finally you reach Rampur. Yet another adventurous expedition can be undertaken to Gadagushaini and Banjar which is again 40 km from Janjehli. A number of foreign tourists visit Banjar which is famous for its wildlife sanctuary. You can even camp en route. Although Janjehli’s scenic beauty makes it ideal for its development as a summer resort what is required is construction of more roads and tourist bungalows. Janjehli is 29-km from Kulu, which is well-connected to Delhi by road and air.