Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The backwaters of Srinagar

On our first day in Srinagar we decided we'd take a shikara into the town.  This took around 2 hours of paddling and we went right by the large 18th century Hari Parbat Fort - which now is closed to the public as it is used by the military.  

We had originally intended to come to Kashmir a year ago, but we had to cancel our plans because of the flooding.  There was still a lot of evidence of flood damage and areas that had still not been cleaned up, but generally the backwaters were lovely.

After we got to Srinagar we decided to walk up to the Shiva temple on top of the Shankaracharya Hill.  It was 5.5 kms all uphill, and at the top were 180 stairs that had to be climbed up to the temple itself. There were great views from the top - but unfortunately we don't have any as we had to leave phones and cameras at the police checkpoint at the bottom of the steps!

The Shiva temple is on top of the hill to the right.  You can just about see it in this photo.

Monday, September 28, 2015

A week in Kashmir

It has been 33 years since I last came to Kashmir, and just like then I stayed on a houseboat this time too.  I came here for a week with Lex and Jenni at the end of September.  We stayed on the Nagin Lake, which was very peaceful and had amazing views.  We had severals days of driving to other parts of Kashmir and some days exploring Srinagar itself.

Some of my favourite times here were simply spent sitting on the back deck of the boat watching the sky.  We always got great sunsets (even though we were facing east, as the reflections on the water were lovely) and the week we were there it was full moon and we got to watch it rise over the hills too.  Some of the tops of the mountains in the distance were already covered with snow.

People get around the lake by boat - and they come to you bringing a variety of wares - for example every morning the flower boat would come by.  In the evenings we mostly had visits from the leather bag and the papier mache hawkers.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

From my balcony: black kites and pink collared parakeets

It's great that I have a chair to swing in on my balcony.  I really enjoy the Saturday and Sunday morning birdwatching sessions.

Bandra People: the Wallahs

The juice wallah
I've started to become brave and take photos of people as I go on my walks.  Mostly they don't mind at all - some even pose.  This series is about the "wallahs".  A wallah (or wala) is a Hindu word that means a person employed at a particular thing.  So for example you can have a rickshaw wallah, a person who drives a rickshaw, or a tobacco wallah, someone who sells cigarettes.  These photos are the wallahs of Bandra Bandstand.

The peacock feather wallah - wonder what you are supposed to do with these? 
The flower garland wallah

The windmill wallah 
The green coconut wallah

Dahi Handi and Human Pyramids

This year because we are now living in Bandra we didn't have far to walk to see the annual Krishna Janmashtami festival - also known as Dahi Handi (dahi means curd and handi means earthen pot in Hindi).  This festival involves making a human pyramid to break a pot filled with curd (and also sometimes prize money) tied high above the street.  In our street alone there were 2 of these pots, and there was a huge one in a neighbouring street.

This festival celebrates the birth of the Hindu god Krishna and is based on the legend of Krishna as a child stealing butter by forming human pyramids with his friends to get to the pots hung from the ceilings of the neighbourhood houses and so steal the butter.

Teams of people get ready for this festival weeks before by practicing pyramid formation.  There are a large number of people at the bottom who hold up the pyramid.  In the middle are the people who are responsible for keeping the pyramid in balance, and at the top are the lighter people (usually children) who try to break the pot.