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Impressions from a visit to the Kashmir Valley - Part 4

The four ponies we were on - all had their own individual character. The one I was riding 'Shera', and the one my wife was on - 'Mastani' - both were Amarnath yatra horses and used to carry heavy riders. Shera was circumspect in crossing little streams, and would take one gingery step first, and then do the crossing. Mastani, however, was a little more adventurous and would leap across, making Lakshmi worry for her balance and safety.

But the real heroes were the ponies bearing my children. They seemed to be extremely well trained, and were enjoying themselves a lot, leading from the front, going away in a different direction, and then responding to their minders' calls, and coming back to join us. We were initially worried for the kids' safety because the minders just let those two horses do their own thing, and stayed with our horses. The children did not seem to worry though, and let the horses do as they please. So, these two horses did a bit of show jumpi…
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Impressions from a visit to the Kashmir Valley - Part 3

Gulmarg can be the world's most visited winter sports destination. If only..
At the Thajiwas glacier (Sonamarg), the snow at the lower reaches is hardened (very old snow), and one needs to trek up for about 500 metres to find relatively fresh snow one could play with or do a bit of sledge ride.

Though we had booked the sledges and the helpers were willing, it seemed inhuman and a bit embarassing to ask them to drag us up the snow hill. So, up we went, and eventually made it to the top, after a couple of funny slips and falls in the snow. The view was magnificient, and the helpers ensured the kids have as much fun as they wanted to.

We came down after a couple of hours, and trotted back on the horses to Sonamarg. On the way back, we passed by a meadow where a Cricket match was going on. You won't believe it, but most of the kids were playing in whites. The teenager walking with my horse asked me where I am from. And when I said Hyderabad, he immediately said: Sun Risers ! Rash…

Impressions from a visit to the Kashmir Valley - Part 2

Even as the luggage was being taken to our room on the house boat, Imtiaz enquired if we would like to have some Kashmiri Kahwa. And it was love at first taste for me 😊

(Link to Part 1 here.)
We then embarked upon a leisurely shikara ride on the lake - taking in the sights, listening to the music from the transistor radio on board, the kids doing some river surfing, and finally the inevitable shopping for hand loom dresses, ponchos, dry fruits and saffron. The floating markets of Dal Lake are a veritable paradise for shoppers.

Imtiaz waited till we finished our dinner, and then showed me the itinerary he had put together for us. His family have been in the house boat business for at least five generations, and the one we are staying in is a brand new house boat, costing the family upwards of Rs. 2 Crore, as the cost of walnut wood and the artisan charges have gone through the roof in recent years. With the tourist season not really picking up yet, they are heavily dependent on word-o…

Impressions from a visit to the Kashmir Valley

"Is duniya mein do cheez ka bharosa nahin - Mumbai ka fashion, aur Kashmir ka mausam" quipped our taxi driver when I mentioned that it was quite a pleasant weather. He picked us up around 3:30 PM from the airport, and zoomed through the relatively empty roads towards Dal Lake. We were coming from metro India - if the car can go at 40-45 kmph, we take it as an almost empty road.

That's a good one, I thought - though it felt like I have heard this quip before. May be in Mumbai or in England, where the weather could change in just a few minutes, especially during springs and summers.

This was a much anticipated holiday trip for the family. The kids were thrilled that they would be living on a house boat for a few days, and have looked up both Sonamarg and Gulmarg on the Internet, to see the images of people playing in the snow. My mind however was on the security situation. I read several travel advisories, and tourist diaries, and even asked a couple of questions on Inter…

Gandhi, and the origins of the Hindu Mahasabha

Haridwar, 1915, Kumbh Mela. The usual Cholera outbreak at the Kumbh was consuming thousands of pilgrims. Meanwhile, on 13 Feb, a little away from the bathing masses, an umbrella organization of the various provincial Hindu Sabhas was being established. The formation of this umbrella organization was not a sudden decision though. At the Indian National Congress session in 1910 (Allahabad), the delegates passed a formal resolution to establish the All India Hindu Mahasabha, and a draft constitution was supposed to be prepared. In parallel, another group of Congress delegates, vexed with the Minto Morley Reforms of 1909 that created separate electorates for Muslims, tried to form their own Hindu Mahasabha. They too couldn’t get much work done.World War I began soon after. The Punjab Hindu Sabha took the lead in 1913, and proposed that by the 1915 Purna Kumbh at Haridwar, all the Hindu leaders should arrive at a consensus and establish an umbrella organization. Alm…

Dharmic Nationalism, Gorakhnath Math, and Ram Janmabhoomi

The Nath Tradition and Dharmic Nationalism
The Nath Sampradaya (tradition) has historical references only since the 12th century CE with Gorakshanath/Gorakhnath or may be from 9th C. with Matsyendranath yogi. The Naths started calling themselves by that name only after the British rule started in India.
However, the Nath tradition, by virtue of being one of the Shaivite traditions, and the syncretic influence of Buddhism and Jainism, is but a newer name (new, as in the medieval era) for the ancient Sidda tradition. The codification and practice of Hatha Yoga is attributed to this tradition. They consider Shiva as the Adi Nath (the first guru). If you are connecting this with Jaggi Vasudev’s Adi Yogi statue, and Hatha Yoga courses, you are making the right connection.
The Siddas/Naths have spread throughout the country since ancient times, but due to the bewildering variety of languages, cultures and socio-economic conditions, the names morphed, the rituals differ ever so slightly, and…