Nathang falls on old silk route circuit in East Sikkim. This valley is very close by Nathula pass leading to Indo China border.

That day as we got out of our vehicle at Nathang , the little village at about 13500 ft altitude looked at us with it’s drowsy eyes. It was cold and cloudy . Almost no body was out on streets. little wooden houses sat huddled together as if in an attempt to counter the biting chill in the air.

Gautam had to go about in the area for few minutes to ascertain our homestay and then we entered the narrow lane between two houses, walking on the frozen layers of snow . Heaps and mounds of snow were all around homes.

 

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Way to our homestay.

 

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Entering the doors of homestay we were engulfed in the warmth of welcoming smiles of hosts and the cozy, comfortable indoors. Neat, clean rooms, bright colored comforting beds. linens and spotless western style toilets …… homestay in that little village on high altitude . surrounded by rough terrain was a very pleasant surprise.

Except night, I spent most of my indoor time in the kitchen of the home talking to the lady of the home and basking in the warmth of the indigenous room cum food warmer. It was a long, knee length high rectangle table with tin surface.  On the lower surface of the table ,almost in the middle an iron furnace was fixed. logs were burning in it. On the upper surface there was hole at the mouth of furnace but it was covered with an iron lid. A long cylindrical pipe arose from the table and went out of the roof, a chimney to carry out the smoke.Warmth around the table was very comforting. Moreover I got to share lots of family, community , life in general kind of things with the lady.  How easily can we open ourselves to the strangers… perhaps  the comfort of anonymity makes it easier to share. But you know the amazing part is that while conversing you never feel that you are stranger to each other. It’s easy to strike the chord, when you open your heart wide. And then I believe that one who is  closer  to nature is  simpler . Luxuries and material comforts do contaminate human thought process.

 

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Welcoming smile of lady of the home

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Those cozy warm moments in the kitchen

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This is the indigenous warmer I talked about above. That is the chimney pipe extending out from the table surface. dinner preparation are on.

 

 

From my room window I could see the far off mountains and snow but day light receded fast as hoards and hoards of grey, white clouds descended in the valley. Wrapped in the furry blankets of cloud as if valley too was getting ready to take rest.

Early. very early in the morning I parted the curtain of window and was excited to notice the signs of a bright morning.  Nudged others to get ready and after a piping hot cup of tea in the warm kitchen ventured out to walk in the valley.

The valley is guarded by mountains from all sides and have stretches of grasslands, Valley is totally devoid of any kind of tree. There are few streams crisscrossing the valley and there are cute wooden small bridges across the streams. We wandered around as if in a vast plain of nothingness. Except those few dogs no body was to be seen. Wind though chill was comforting. Those were the moments of uninterrupted interaction with mountains, with sky  stretched over.  a small shrine atop a ridge, beckoned,prayer flags fluttered in the air….. and… and you feel as if that noisy world full of chaos didn’t exist at all.

 

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under the blessed shadow of blue horizon above head, guarded by tough, mighty mountains and the prayers in the air.

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Sometimes to find yourself, you need to travel through wilderness, nothingness.

 

Pictures by Sunder Iyer and Shubham sunder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Padamchen is a small, beautiful village surrounded by lush. dense jungles. At the height of about 8000 ft, the village is perched on hilly slopes. I found it to be one of the most serene, quiet, soul stirring place on old silk route.

From the balcony of our homestay we could see small patches of fields and some trees sloping down and resting on the tops of the trees, who stood there, feet firmly planted somewhere deep down in the valley. Beyond that long stretch of green, mountains rose to reach high in the sky, layers and layers of mountain ranges. And on this perfectly set stage  entered those feather feet blithe dancers, soft white clouds. At a moment they rushed in large group swirling, rivuleting, bursting with energy and in a blink of eyes stage cleared. High, elegant, strong mountains stood vibrating under the impact of stupendous , energetic performance.  And then from far off corner drifted in another group slowly, gracefully, rhythmically. They floated in the outstretched arms of hill,nestling in the comfort of their solidity. The lightness of their movement, the softness of their mudras as if can be touched. We stood their mesmerized by the magnificent, exquisite show of feathery clouds. Then some fluffy ones entered flying on their wings and sat perched on the tips of peaks , as if savouring in the vistas and then slowly moved away to their far off destinations. and then there were some, almost transparent, soft light filtering into their being. They entered with hesitant steps, as if not ready to face the world and then quietly dissolved into thin air. We soaked in this uninterrupted show till the darkness descended from sky and coloured everything around uniformly. What a beautiful, uplifting and liberating experience it was!

 

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In praise of these wonderful clouds, lines from P. B.Shelly —

I am the daughter of Earth and Water,
And the nursling of the Sky;
I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
I change, but I cannot die.
For after the rain when with never a stain
The pavilion of Heaven is bare,
And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams
Build up the blue dome of air,
I silently laugh at my own cenotaph,
And out of the caverns of rain,
Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,
I arise and unbuild it again.”

 

 

Snuggled in the cozy warmth of blanket that night I slept in the lap of clouds and got up to a refreshingly fresh bright morning. It had rained in the night.

After a hot cup of tea we were out on the clean tar road to explore the neighbourhood. There was no one else except us on the road and in the silence chirping, tweeting of birds on the road side trees could be heard very clearly. Padamchen is reckoned as bird watcher’s, bird photographer’s paradise. Later on I met a lone cow herder on the road and he told me that a group of enthusiastic bird photographers was staying in a guest house for last two-three days. Different kinds of calls emerging from trees told us that there were many species of birds residing there but tracing them in the dense foliage was difficult. Though we could see few while they flew from one to another tree.

From the point at the end of straight road where it turned and climbed upwards we could get a magnificent view of valley and mountains beyond. Those few red, yellow. orange roof tops nestled midst the green wilderness looked inviting. A cloud floated by brushing them gently as if cooing in their ear that another new dawn is knocking on the threshold.

The lone little figure emerged from the greenery below, a school bag on the back. The boy was hardly six or seven years old. Standing there he called his friend but perhaps he from down told that he was not coming . Young fellow started on the road slowly. I asked him. ‘school? so early?’ ‘ no . tuition..and he is not coming.” I had my all sympathy with him. But later on saw a unique scene on that lone road of Padamchen. Saw  same child walking with a young lady, who had an open book in her hand. She was teaching boy some spellings etc . Behind them at a certain distance was another young man with two little girls and he too was teaching them while walking on the road. This certainly looked liked a good plan…fresh air, calm morning and a lesson on time management.

 

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The kid walking to his tuition class

 

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Raushni, the smiling beauty too was off to her school.

 

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Lessons on the road…spelling revision session.

 

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Our hosts at Padamchen

 

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Every face has it’s own story

 

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 Corns hanging outside the hut of our hosts.

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This kind of bowl emitting fragrant smoke  from morning till night is found outside almost every home. Every morning with fresh material it is lighted and hung at a corner at the entrance. I simply loved the idea. You can interpret it in any way you want — prayers for all, welcome gesture for every guest, thankfulness to God. It definitely added to the holy, pious aura of the place.

All the pics — Sunder Iyer

Talacauveri is said to be the origin of mighty river Cauveri. It is around 48 Km from Madikeri. The source of the river does not look like as one would have imagined, a gurgling, foaming stream gushing down the hills . At the place there is this spring originating from Brahmagiri hills. An enclosure is built around it and same is connected to a small pond where pilgrims take the holy dip. The pond is surrounded by concrete steps and wide platforms from all sides.The spring runs underground from here and becomes visible after a few kilometers to flow as a river. Green hills from three sides stand there in silent reverence.

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A view of the temple premises from hilltop
There is a shrine dedicated to Kaveriamma just in front of the pond. Ascending few more steps one reaches a wide open courtyard encircled by covered verandahs from three sides. In the courtyard are two temples, one of Lord Shiva, and another of Lord Ganesha. Lord Shiva here is known as Agastyeshwara. Ganesha, Muni Agastya and Cauveri…..that made me remember a mythological tale related to these three. If I remember correctly Agastya Muni brought waters from Shiva’s abode Himalaya on Brahma’s advice to make it flow as a river in Southern India to end the water woes of that part of our country. He was carrying  it in his kamandal and Ganesha in the form of a crow toppled the kamandal and the river Cauveri flowed. Or was it that in anger Agastya muni had arrested Cauveri river in his kamandal and then Ganesha in the form of crow toppled it to let the river flow.

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The Temple premises
Talacauveri is a holy place for the people of Kodagu. It was told to us that on Tulasankranti day that is the first day of the tula masa, which usually falls on mid of october, water from spring gushes up at a predetermined moment. Thousands of pilgrims flock here on the day to witness the fountain head rising . This sudden spurt of water is known as Thirthodbhava and the belief is that Goddess Parvati emerges as Thirthodbhava. Pilgrims carry this holy water back to their homes. People observe the sacred tula snanam on the banks of Cauvery on this particular day. People of Kodagu believe that on this day Cauveri reaches every water body of the region be it well, pond or lake. Those who can’t reach the banks of Cauveri carry water from the nearby water body to their home.
This place of origin of the river is about 1300 meter above the sea level. from here beautiful view of the distant blue hills and green valley can be enjoyed but the view from the hill top after ascending  near about 400 stairs is heavenly.
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The blue canvas
The place is very well maintained. As the steps leading to the hill top can be reached only after crossing the temple courtyard, we have to walk bare footed but who cares for that when one feels like floating in paradise.
While climbing the steps I stopped in between and glanced all around . With every few steps  the view became more ethereal. And once on the top…Ah.. I could have spent my entire life there standing and imbibing the beauty, the feel, the solitude.
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The Verandah of clouds
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White fluffy clouds rolled all over the hills, pushing, nudging one another, somersaulting on velvety emerald expanse. Somewhere from womb of valley rose tall columns of clouds. The Master painter was at His work spilling pure white clouds on bright blue canvas overhead. Swiftly changing shapes of clouds created mesmerizing patterns.
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Deep down in valley a tiny water body sparkled like a gem between grove of green trees. A solitary hut tucked midst greenery, a lone cart walking languorously on ribbon like road, hushed silence pervading the surrounding, filled my heart with a sense of gratitude.
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This was a glorious moment, a moment to celebrate being a part of this magnificent world, a moment to be thankful for experiencing the pure joy and contentment of just being.
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 Feeling Blessed
In every walk with nature one recieves far more than he seeks.
-John Muir
All pictures by Sunder Iyer