Hey,this photo is © Harnam Singh

Category : Blogs

11 Jul 2017

Nirasha :- A Daughter from mountains

‘A step forward in the journey,

Hope shining bright for a new day,

As she looks to the light;

The sun casts her shadows far behind.’


As the first rays of a golden-red sunrise glint on the mountains, warmth gently pushes away the night’s cold air. Bird’s chirps echo in the valleys and a few mountain rabbits scurry out of their hiding to grab their morning meal. The still of the night is replaced by the stirring of life and the start of a new day.

The residents of this tiny town in the Himalayas welcome the warmth of each new day. Living high in the mountains life is hard, the soil is unyielding and the weather conditions are unforgiving. Sunlight is often considered a luxury, up here the clouds reign and snow covers the barren land for close to six months of the year.

Prem Singh is one of the many shepherds in the hamlet. Growing up in the mountains, he has known no other life. At over 50 years of age, he still treks difficult trails daily, to get his sheep to the best herbs high in the mountains. Life is hard and predators abound. Prem Singh keeps a sharp watch on his flock; not one sheep will go missing on his watch.

A soft footstep sounds as the dawn breaks. A young girl, of  sturdy  built, emerges from the tiny home with two pots in either of her hand.  She heads off to the field to milk the sheep; pulling her heavy sweater tightly around her body. The early morning cold in the Himalayan villages, can chill the bone. As her olive-green eyes look around cautiously, they catch your attention. Nirasha smiles softly. In her tiny village, there are few strangers, and even fewer visitors. So unforgiving is the climate, so out of reach the location. So, unforgiving her name. Nirasha, ‘the disappointment’.

Prem Singh wanted a boy. His first was a girl and then the second. “No worries,” said the villagers, “this happens. The third will definitely be a son. God is great.” The third and fourth were girls too. Prem Singh was distraught. Prem Singh followed every ritual the elders suggested. The fifth child came along and Prem Singh was heartbroken. A little girl again. He refused to even look at her and simply spat out her name. Nirasha. Three more daughters followed. Prem Singh was convinced he named his daughter well. Nirasha,the centre of disappointment of his hopes for a male heir.



As the sun rises higher up in the sky, Nirasha basks contently in the small patch of sunlight that seeps through the clouds, as she folds clothes. She and her sisters want to finish their daily chores as quickly as they can so that they can run and play in the open mountain fields. There, the sun shines brightly on the vast meadow and the flowers dance in the light. Such is the playground of fairies and children of the mountain.

Nirasha’s mother watches her girls as they work hard, lifting loads of hay for the cattle to feed, carrying buckets of water on their petite shoulders and helping their father keep the home fires burning. Her eyes sometimes well up with tears, as she misses her two oldest daughters; both married. The third and fourth have been temporarily adopted by a kind-hearted local school teacher, so that they can complete their education. She wonders what the future holds for all her younger girls. She worries especially for Nirasha. With a name such as that, which boy would want to marry her? Nirasha’s mother was brought up in a very conservative home. A home where a woman wasn’t encouraged to think for herself or have any dreams of her own. She saw her husband only the day they got married; after the marriage ceremonies were done. Her own mother told her two things: to always keep her eyes lowered and to give birth to a boy child. The first she could manage out of practice, but how was she to know to achieve the second?



Like a bud emerging out of parched land, Nirasha too shines as a beacon of hope for her parents. The burden of an undesirable name does little to dampen her spirits. She has devoted all 16 years of her young life to being the perfect child to her parents. Her younger sisters Aanchal, Neha, and Tamana look up to her for guidance and she looks to them for companionship. Aanchal is Nirasha’s best friend and confidante. They share their future dreams, unspoken love, and even quiet giggles over the posters of Bollywood heroes at the market.

Nirasha loves the mountains. The wide expanse of nothingness and the unending horizon always promise new beginnings. She has seen glimpses of city life through stolen glances at the local barber’s television set. The rusty little box shows people rushing, women wearing pretty clothes, children playing with gadgets she doesn’t understand and so many lines of shops selling trinkets at which she wonders in awe. Will she ever be in a big city one day? She looks at Aanchal and they exchange an innocent smile. Aanchal suddenly leaves Nirasha’s hand and beckons her to a race to their nearby playing spot in the valley.

Nirasha has dreams of a better life. Unfettered by the name given to her, she sees a future stretching beyond the boundaries of the mountains that surround her home. She studies hard and wants to be a school teacher. She wonders often how much longer her parents can afford her education and thinks if she tries harder, she might go to college on a scholarship. An early marriage might clip her wings and destroy her dreams. She has much to live for and many things she wants to do for her parents. And most importantly, for herself.

There was a time, when the occasional pitying glance from a neighbour at the local market or understanding look shot across by a relative would have been enough to upset Prem Singh a few years earlier. Now, he returns the look with eyes filled with pride. He has known much sweat and toil all life long, now his life is filled with the blessing of being surrounded by loving daughters. Daughters are no less than sons, Prem Singh has realised over the years. Bound by societal pressures and age-old beliefs, he often regrets the times he ignored his young girls, wishing for them to turn into sons . Prem Singh feels it’s time to change Nirasha’s name. He cries bitterly at the pain she might have gone through.Nirasha has been his hope, his strength and courage. His Asha. Prem Singh realises often that he has known more strong women in his life than men: his mother, his two sisters, his wife, and now his daughters. Each with an iron-clad will to survive, protect, and love.


As the sun sets on yet another day, Nirasha walks home slowly tired from the day’s effort in the field and from playing with her sisters in the mountains. Her mind races with thoughts of the future and she knows in her heart it will be a bright one. There’s already talks of her teachers being happy with her grades at school and how she might get an opportunity to attend college in a big city. The future shines as bright as the first rays of the sun at dawn. And the sky’s the limit. Nirasha felt ready to take on the world.

Content written by:- Joanna D’souza

02 Mar 2017

Mandi Shivratri fair at Mandi: A legacy of many generations

Full Screen View Recommended

Mandi Shivratri fair at Mandi: A legacy of many generations

The end of February every year sees Mandi erupt in grand celebration in honour of the Hindu god Shiva. Maha shivratri begins on the 13th day of the Magha month of the Hindu calendar. This festival celebrates the marriage of Lord Shiva and goddess Parvati and marks the triumph of truth over ignorance and light over darkness.
The first known grand celebrations of Maha shivratri, in Mandi, date back to the 16th century under the rule of Raja Ajbar Sen. Raja Ajbar Sen built the Madhav Rai Temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu and the Bhootnath temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The specific beginnings of this festival as a week-long fair, started with one of the next rulers of Mandi, Ishwari Sen. He was captured by rival forces and later rescued. On his return to his kingdom, he invited all the deities of nearby villages to celebrate the occasion. This invitation happened to coincide with the festival of Maha shivratri in the Hindu calendar. From that time on, the festival is celebrated every year with equal vigour.
Mandi has been at the forefront of Shivratri festivities in India. People travel from across the country to witness the grand celebrations which are graced by the presence of deities. Over 200 deities are brought in from towns surrounding Mandi and worshippers can pay obeisance to the god of their choice. The deities are carried on ‘rathas’ or chariots, some of which are made of real gold and silver. Devotees mark the occasion through prayers, hymns, fasts and meditation.

Content Written by :-  Joanna Bhusari

27 Jan 2017

Traversing Himalayas in enticement- A Trip to Kaza


Full Screen View Recommended

Awakening to the real thought of travelling takes a lot of courage. To perceive the true concept of ‘Travelling’ is something not every one of us can encounter.
Meanwhile, I will let you know about my trip to Kaza; let me introduce myself to you. Bringing myself as ‘Harnam Singh’, an ardent photographer who always tends to take a life as a challenge has a definite love for mountains and nature, and why not, it possess a heart-touching ethereal beauty.
‘Craving to see the different shades of nature,
I kept wandering the laps of Himalayas,
With an undying love for travelling,
I couldn’t stop myself from shoveling’

Becoming wanderlust has always been on the top of my priority list and this was it- KAZA!
Kaza, a mesmerizing sits on the eroded flood plain of the Spiti River and is the biggest settlement you’ll encounter in this empty corner of the planet. It feels a bit like a small frontier town with an easygoing pace. Jagged mountains rise on either side while the river coils across the valley floor like twisted locks of Medusa’s hair.
Packing my bags I didn’t realize my destination because I just wanted to travel. I urged to travel – not to escape, but to learn and give myself time to connect with the most important gift of our lives. Initiating my trip from Mandi, Himachal Pradesh I left for Rampur.

Day1- Sarahan (Rampur)
Without any pre-planning, I reached there and tried to manage my accommodation in local Dharamshala. The roads to Sarahan compose pictures of pastoral perfection, and beautiful landscapes all the way.
Main Attractions:  Bhimkali Temple, Shri Ragunath Temple, visibility of the peaks of Shrikhand Mahadev
Cost of Accommodation at Dharamshala:  Rs.100 Per Day
Food Available:   Availability of food Thali worth Rs.70/- in the local market.

Leaving the scenic beauty of Sarahan behind, I took the local bus of HRTC and headed towards this little town of Himachal Pradesh which is surrounded by towering mountains on all sides and is set on the banks of the Baspa River that surges through the valley.
Main Attractions: Kamru fort, Naag temple are the main attractions of the valley. Also temples and scenic beauty will allure you.
Cost of Accommodation: Very minimal
Name of guest house: Forest Department Guesthouse (It is better to stay here, as online booking is easily available). Also, the prices of Govt. guesthouses are very low; hence you can find one easily.
Food Available: Food eating outside is pretty costly, so it advisable to have your meals in the guesthouse itself.
The cost was very low due to the good healthy interaction with a known person who used to reside in my hometown, Mandi.

Day3- Chitkul
With an urge to learn something more about Himachali Culture, I wanted to see the deep roots, and such environment can only be best depicted in villages. Hence, I headed towards Chitkul, a village in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh. It is the last inhabited village near the Indo-Tibetan border. The Indian road ends here.
Main Attractions:  Mata devi temple, Indo-Tibetan check post
Cost of Accomodation:  Rs 500 per day, Local Govt. Quarters (Only for people residing in Himachal)
Rs 650-700 per day, ( for people residing outside Himachal, excluding food meals)
Mode of Transport: You can hire a taxi, take a lift from somebody or else travel through local bus. (Distance 28kms from Sangla)
Food Available: Advisable to eat in hotels, apart from it you can easily find the restaurants.

Day4- Reckong Peo
Paving the undefined paths for myself, I reached to Reckong Peo.  ‘Not every place can touch you’, came into existence when I myself couldn’t connect to Reckong Peo. To my personal experience, I felt that Reckong Peo has been maintained like more of a city and the lifestyle which I was looking for was unavailable, hence I cancelled my pre-planned scheduled of staying at Reckong and went to Rogi.
Main Attractions:   Kothi has a temple that is dedicated to Goddess Chanadika Devi( 3 kms from Reckong Peo)
Travelling through the last bus I reached Rogi Village, but then due to unavailability of any accommodation I headed towards Kalpa after taking this alluring shot of ‘Three Majestic Peaks’.
Main Attraction: Visibility of shrine of Mt. Kinner Kailash (due to the low visibility sometimes it gets difficult for people to view it), Suicide Point
With an absence of transport, I took lift from some unknown people of Hyderabad and reached kalpa.

Day5- Kalpa
A small town that resides near Satluj river bank and   above Recong Peo in the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh.
Main Attractions:  Buddhist Temple
Cost of Accomodation:  Rs700/- per day in hotels or guesthouses
Food Available: Rs 200-300/-
After visiting Kalpa, I left for Pooh as my bus for Nakko Village was late. Taking the lift with an unknown person, I reached Pooh.

Day6- Pooh Village
A beautiful village, which is renowned for its natural beauty, green fields, apricot orchards, vineyards and almond trees. Pooh welcomed me with the ringing bells of marriage, and there it was! Yes, a marriage was happening around the place I stayed. Running with the local guy of Pooh, I went there and started focusing on the enthralling bride through my camera, representing the culture of Kinnaur.
Main Attractions:  Village itself is an alluring attraction.
Cost of Accomodation: Rs 500 per night, Rest House
Food Available:   Food is available in restaurants but covers extra charges.

Day7- Nakko Village
A place where the monks have created their ‘real’ lives.  It lies in the sensitive restricted zone along the border with Tibet, which requires an Inner Line Permit to travel through. That, coupled with its remote location and limited tourist infrastructure, makes it a little-visited but rewarding destination.
Main Attractions: Nakko Lake, Monastery
After meeting good and sober people near the local bus stand of Nakko Village, I took a lift with those people and next day I left for Chango along with them.
Day 8- Chango
My solo trip was getting full of excitement as I was able to realize the true worth of travelling solo. Entering Chango, I attended a marriage with the same people with whom I travelled from Nakko. That was again an addition to an amazing experience!
Chango is the last village of Kinnaur and is famous for apples and orchids.
Main Attractions: Chango’s entire village, Monastery
Cost of Accomodation: Rs 600/- per day, Guesthouse
Food Available: Local Dhabas near the guesthouse

Day9- Tabo
It is a small town of Lahaul and Spiti District on the banks of Spiti River, Himachal Pradesh. It is also the sub-divisional headquarters of Spiti. The town is surrounded by the expressions and vitality of Dalai Lama which came into existence after he expired.

Main Attractions: Tabo Caves, The Chamber of Picture Treasures, Tabo Monastery.
Accomodation:  Availability of mid-ranges lodges, plenty of home-stays, and a memorable once in a lifetime opportunity to live in a Buddhist monastery guest house.

Day10-Day20 – Kaza
“Tough roads lead to beautiful destinations”, and this was it. It was KAZA!
My ‘always wanted to visit Kaza’ came true and there I was standing around the most scenic and ethereal beauty anybody can ever feel and watch.
As soon as I reached, I directly went to Nyngma Guest House.
Owner Name: Urgianchheringh Bonphoth (known as ‘UC’).
It’s a land full of spirituality and peace. A place where monks will let you enroll in a state full of inspiration and self-realization.
Places I visited in and around Kaza:
1st Day at Kaza:
•    Sakyatangyud Monastery  located in side valley, 4 kms from the town.
•    Local Market
2nd Day at Kaza:
•    Key Monastery
•    Kibber
•    Tashi Gang
•    Gette

3rd Day at Kaza:
Hiring a bike, I went to:
•    Dhankar Monastery – Reaching Dhankar was equivalent to entering into the phase of vibrancy. I hired a bike on rent from Kaka to reach Dhankar Monastery.
Main Attractions: Monastery and Dhankar Lake
Rent of Bike: Rs 1600/- (exclusive of petrol)

4th Day at Kaza:
•    Komik Village
A village famous for Tangyud Monastery. It is believed that the monastery has ‘Matrey Buddha,’ or ‘the future Buddha,’ which looks after the wellbeing of the people of Komik Village. It is also famous for being the highest motor able Buddhist monastery in the world, visited by bikers and travel enthusiast from all over the world.  It is also Asia’s Highest Village.
Main Attractions: Delightful Vistas of the valley, Monastery, entire village
Mode of Transportation:  Along with UC, he dropped me to Hikkim. Only single mode available, is a taxi.

5th Day at Kaza:
•    Hikkim Village

Moving ahead with the journey, I reached at Hikkim Village which is situated at towering altitude of around 14,400 feet above sea level. Hikkim is also credited to have the World’s highest post office. At the first glance, you might mistake Hikkim for being an extension of Langza or Komic as this village too is bowl-shaped and equally tranquil.

Mode of Transportation:  Hire a taxi from Kaza or a bike.

•    Langza Village – 2 Days Stay
Visiting Himachal is not easy my friends. Not everyone can do that efficiently. Coming to Langza was not easy either. This village is famous for fossils and huge statue of Lord Buddha at the cliff.

Main Attractions: Entire Village, Wildlife- Snow Leopard, Red Foxes, Blue Sheep availability (You need to visit to the interior to search for them) Statue of Lord Buddha.

Place for Homestay:  Anjan Homestay ( Here, I stayed for two days). Absence of any transport made me walk on the roads from Langza to Kaza, ( a long walk through the belt of 15kms).

•    Kibber Village

7th Day at Kaza:
•    Lanlung Village- The Lalung Monastery – also known as Sarkhang and Golden Temple – is situated at a height if 3658m and is accessible via Kaza and Komic. The word Lalung means ‘land of God’ and the village of Lalung is located at the foot of the Tangmar Mountains which supposedly transforms in colour depending on the mood of the deities.

Accomodation:  Local homestays with local people of lanlung (also you can find the hotels, but with limited access)
Mode of Transportation: You can hire a taxi, or a bike.
•    Took some rest in Kaza, and went to Mandi through bus via Manali.

Total expenditure: Rs 15,000/-

Personal Recommendation while you travel Kaza:
•    Hire a shared taxi, or bike for travelling around Kaza. Else walking on foot is the best option you can afford.
•    Try looking for the government guesthouses as they are reasonable and well-maintained.
•    Also indulge yourself with the local people of the surroundings, because nobody better than them can let you explore the Kaza within.

You see, to every place you visit, not every place connects you. But the one that connects you will take your heart away and so does Kaza did it. A penny plain town of Himachal Pradesh which will definitely drag you to the state of homespun and purity.
If you are also searching for that one place, that could connect you and take your vibes away, definitely go for KAZA!

Content Written by:- Jolly Rawal