January 2019


While visiting Munsiyari we came to know about two kunds, Thamri and Mehsar kunds. We didn’t go to Mehsar however trekked to Thamri kund. Trek to Thamri kund starts at Betulidhar, a place about 8to 9 kilometer before Munsiyari. It is also near to the gate from where trek to Khalia top starts. It is said that Khalia top is the best place to enjoy sun set and sunrise. However it is said to be a long , steep trek and then to and fro on the same day is not possible. Mainly groups of bikers mark it as a must to be place in their itinerary to Munsiyari.

So finally we zeroed in on Thamari. The trek is about three to four Kms one way. We started from kumayon mandal guest house after breakfast. A small Hanuman temple is at the base of trek.

We visited Munsiyari in the month of September. Worst of rains had passed but days still tended to be cloudy sometime. That day too clouds were hovering in the horizon but it still was very pleasant.

For me, a walk among the tall trees on the narrow pebbly path on hills  is always a welcome retreat to my own being. While treading slowly, stopping in between to imbibe the gracious silence I feel the calm spreading within. This trek too started like that. The trek was neither too difficult nor too steep hence was enjoyable.

 

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Well, while walking on that path I remembered John Muir,

“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul. ”    

John Muir

 

We had company of one local person who on the way told us about importance of certain trees – one that is considered holy tree and its leaves are used to decorate devi- sthanam in homes during certain local festival, two trees that have entwined with each other to become one. He told me that most of the couples definitely get their pic clicked under the benevolent shadow of these trees as a good omen to their companionship. His local touches definitely made the journey more interesting though for most of the part I travelled in my own company.

 

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 The offbeat journeys are must sometimes, just to know where we belong.

 

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I love to lose myself to find my very own me….. Ah! I know I say it repeatedly but then, that’s how I feel.

 

On the way glimpses of snowclad peaks of Panchchuli, the undulating mountain ranges behind the forest looked enchanting. How unapproachable yet how arresting they looked. The cool authority of mountain ranges is always assuring.

 

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I know there is a path which leads to their heart but I love to maintain that distant relationship with them. It keeps the mystery alive and I can still feel them spreading within me.

It is an exhilarating experience to stand there on top after reaching the destination and watching the pond studded like a precious emerald in the green sparkling grass around it. I took my time to start descending up to the waters. A group of sheep had started return journey to their camps after quenching their thirst. It was a happy sight to watch the senior members of the group to trace their steps back to prod the younger and careless ones to move with the group when they stopped in the mid or tried to stray from their usual path.

 

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The kund is surrounded by Alpine and cedar jungles.  Silence there is almost echoing. Rustling of leaves, distant calls of birds- and the jungle hums to its own rhythm.

We went down and saw ruins of a building, a high gate type of structure laden with overgrown vegetation on one side of the kund. Ah! That fading page of history kindles the ambers of imagination.

There are remains of another structure on the bank of the kund. A platform type of structure on which a very small place of worship has been created by local people. We were told that local, religious fair takes place here annually and people visit here to pay their obeisance to Almighty.

 

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You can create me in any form, I am within you.

Yes, there are folklores attached to this kund. One of these is about two birds that flew down to it to guard it from being polluted . It is said that they keep the pond clean. Don’t know about the real reason but despite being surrounded by jungle, vegetations and being visited by cattle, animals and human beings the water of kund was sparkling clean. It has definitely been preserved beautifully.

 

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Though to and fro trek itself does not take much time but then the way to trek, the area around kund has lot to offer and one can spend as much time as one wants. It is a beautiful place to get yourself aligned with the sanctity of nature, the rhythm of silence.

All the pictures by Sunder Iyer.

Since childhood I have memories of many Banyan trees. Among these many are some which are really really big and are known as Akshya vat. Vat is Hindi of Banyan. It is commonly known as Bargad.

The first Banyan tree of importance in my memory is one in Company Bagh of Kanpur. Kanpur is the city of my growing up days and the Company bagh there on the Mall road at that time used to be very different than what it is now. It was very dense and we never used to venture inside it beyond that historic well, which was a memorial to large number of unknown freedom fighters. We used to watch this big Banyan tree from outside the boundary wall . If my memory serves me correctly, even in bright summer days we could see dark room kind of spaces between the pillared stems/ roots of the tree.

The second Big Banyan I saw is the famous Great Banyan Tree in Indian Botanical Garden, Howrah. The botanical garden is also commonly known as Botanical garden of Kolkata or Acharya Jagdish Chandra Bose Indian Botanical Garden. This botanical garden has many attractions but presently we will limit ourselves to the Banyan tree only. This Banyan tree is said to be more than 250 years old. Though no specific date can be successfully attributed to it’s origin but its reference can be found in writings of early nineteenth century. As the tree is in premises of one of the premier institute  where various kinds of botanical researches take place, all the factual information regarding it are available. The great Banyan tree has survived two major cyclones of 1864 and 67.

This single tree in itself is like a small forest. While walking on the wide road towards the tree, from a distance you find it hard to believe that there stands a single tree. It covers an area of about 1.6 hectares.We were told that the main trunk of the tree does not exist now. It was infected with some kind of fungus and to save the tree it was removed . However the giant tree still stand there supported by thousands of  aerial roots turning into subsidiary stems. Proper care is being taken care of  the aerial roots going down properly into the earth so that the huge, magnificent tree can be preserved for posterity.  A brick wall of small height was erected to mark the increasing area gradually being covered by the tree.

 

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The Big Banyan tree in the Botanical Garden At Kolkata– as we saw it from the road leading to it.

 

Few more shots of the trees . It really felt like walking through a forest.

 

And the third Banyan tree which I recently found out still stands in obscurity. Local people are aware of it but it is not being preserved and being taken care of properly by any concerned authority.The huge tree stands surrounded by many mango orchards from all sides. The mango orchards are owned by different individuals. If the tree is given freedom to grow it might cover areas of those orchards. Still local people rever and worship it. As the religious activities are gradually picking up around it, unplanned construction in between its area is increasing which definitely restrict it’s growing with abundance and mar it’s natural beauty too.  Various signs forbidding to put names on its branches have been put there but still almost every stem of the huge magnificent tree bleeds with engraved names.  despite these few saddening facts the Akshya Vat is a magnificent sight to behold.

This Akshay Vat is about 30 kilometers from the city of Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, India. The tree is in Manjhi village of Mall Block. The Pujari residing near the tree told us that the tree is said to be about 200 years old. Though there is no authenticated proof of that but believe me the vestibules between the prop roots turned into stems, far and wide stretched arms of the tree and the reigning silence take you to the times bygone.

In the center of the tree is a very thick cluster of many trunks. Many branches are sloping outward in all the directions and are in turn supported by entwined prop roots gradually thickening into new trunks. lovely passages and arched vestibules are formed by tapering branches and multitudes of trunks. Overhead stretches the thick canopy . It is a bright, sunny January day but this part talks in shadowed whispers. Big, thick trunked mango trees standing all around Akshay Vat in meticulously lines somehow reminded me of lines in prayer grounds. A villager  cycled away on the dusty road behind the tree, two boys sauntered in  the mango orchard, a bird called somewhere and the sentient atmosphere seeps deep down me.

The magnificent tree standing rapt in all around quiet, aerial roots hanging and once in a while few of them moving slightly with the wind felt like a wise old sage  with long beard lost in deep meditation. As I moved under it and looked upward , the green overhead canopy of leaves felt like showering blessings, keeping evils away.

 

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A panoramic view of Akshay vat of Manjhi village, Lucknow

 

All pictures@ Sunder Iyer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This time let us travel back to our childhood. I literally did that while visiting this village in north India. Candy floss, cotton candy, fairy floss, by whatever name you call it, still invokes the feelings of wonder in children. At least it certainly was doing so in that village. Just look at the face of this girl, her expressions says it all. The joy of watching the sugar turning into a fluffy ball, the expectation of a magic to unfold is so apparent.


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My memories from my childhood brings back a bit fading image of a thin man with a box of transparent glass hanging from a wide belt on his shoulder. Ah, those glistening balls of baby pink and lemon yellow. No stick was attached to them and as the man walked on the street the box shook a bit with his movement and so did flicker the shining of the balls. More than the taste, holding that fluffy feather weight ball on palm and watching it sparkling in sunlight transported me to joyland. At that time perhaps the machine of turning sugar into the fluffy ball had not been devised or may be those were the times when everything was not so bare and open hence the feeling of wonder was intact.

I found this candyman with his machine on a hand cart, preparing the floss infront of children.And the best part was that feeling of wonder ,of magic unfolding has not lessened with the time.

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the sugar in the container about to be turned into floss

 

 

 

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And..HOW? is writ large on those innocent faces…

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Uff! wait is too much,

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finally the joy of holding it in hands…

As I grow older I really feel that the joys, that childhood has given me are the best ones.

I will love to end this post by a quote by Elizabeth Lawrence–

“There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again.”

So relish and enjoy the child within you. A very happy new year to you. This one is my first post of 2019 here.

All pictures by Sunder Iyer