Monday, 28 April 2008

Hola Mohala in Anandpur Sahib

A view to the main temple in Anandpur Sahib.

Anandpur Sahib is the second holiest place in Sikhism and every year it hosts a grand festival celebrating the Sikh religion. This festival called Hola Mohala was the actual reason for our easter trip out of Delhi and thus we were excited to finally go there. However, our excitement dampened a bit when we found upon our arrival that the grand display of Khalsa (militant Sikh order) martial arts, which we wanted to see, had been held the day before. But we still ended up seeing and experiencing a lot on this the last official day of the Hola Mohala festival.

Decorated main street of Anandpur Sahib.

Jeppe, Nitoli and some new friends.

Young guys disregarding safety precautions during a thrill ride

Novelty hat salesman

Although filled with religious significance, Hola Mohala also has a much more worldly side to it. It's very much about partying and having fun, which means there are also thrill rides and many other non-religious activities going on. So we had a good time wandering around town observing the joyous activities. Some of the highlights of our day include eating at the large communal dining hall of Anandpur, visiting a local family and watching a bizarre show in the so called "death drome".

Jeppe and Nitoli enjoying a free and delicious (although spicy) meal at the communal dining hall.

The dining hall filled with a capacity crowd.

One of the things I love about Sikhism is that it is very hospitable and inclusive. You always feel welcome and unlike Hinduism and Islam you are never charged anything for access to any holy Sikh places. On the contrary you are offered free board and food. Donations are welcome of course, but they are completely non-pushy about it. We also felt the hospitality of Sikhs when a young man came up to us and invited us to his home. Normally I would be sceptical of such invitations fearing to be conned, but I quickly became convinced that there was nothing fishy in this case. And the visit turned out great - the paternal figure of the family was a retired professor, who spoke excellent English and was eager to engage us in conversation. We even enjoyed a musical performance.

The three of us with the whole Singh family in front of their house.

The young man, who invited us home plays devotional Sikh songs with the neighbour's son, who didn't utter a single word there. But he can express himself through music.

Last but not least we were shocked to experience the death defying stunts in the so called death drome. I literally felt sick to my stomach seeing these young men risk their lives for mere pennies, but still my morbid curiosity wouldn't allow me to leave ahead of time. We had long conversations about what life circumstances motivate people to chose such a profession.

Car and motorcycle in the death drome. No tricks here, the car really is driving round like that and the guy in the yellow shirt is the driver of the car.

Spectators staring in fascination. I would never allow my children to witness anything that scary and dangerous, but things are different in India.

Three cars simultaneously. Crazy!

A view from the main temple to the fairground. It's the death drome in the left side of the picture.

And finally a grand view of the whole spectacle seen from the death drome.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Happy Holi in Shimla!

Happy Holi-victim in the hills.

The day on which we took our nice hike to the Viceregal Lodge also happened to be Holi, the Indian festival of colour. Even though our walk was mostly in the nature, we saw many people coloured by the powder which is thrown around on Holi. This was my third Holi in India - I also experience this nice festival in 2006 and 2007.

Village kids playing Holi.

Apparently this group only had purple colour.

Another Holi-victim, this one at the Viceregal Lodge.

Yet another.

Even I didn't escape the colouring, although no one dares colour Nitoli. The dog, who followed us the entire day, we named Rocky.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Hiking to the Viceregal Lodge

Hiking through the forest near Shimla

From Shimla we went for a lovely hike to the Viceregal Lodge, where once the Viceroy of India would spend his summers. We didn't go the straight way, which is paved, but rather took a 10-12 km. detour which took us through the Glen, past Chadwick Falls and up to Summer Hill.

Living in an enormous city like Delhi. it's amazing once in awhile to get away from any human inhabitation and just enjoy unspoiled nature - so it was a really good trip.

The viceregal lodge seen from our hiking route.

On the way out of town you see many colonial-era buildings, many of which, including this one, have been converted into government offices.

Chadwick Falls, nearly dried up since it's been long since the monsoon rains.

We went to the bottom of a canyon near the Glen, with a lovely stream running through it, creating many miniature falls such as this one.

Another idyllic miniature waterfall.

Typical forest scenery at lower altitudes where broad-leaved trees dominate.

As you move higher vegetation gets a bit more more sparse and dominated by pine trees.

Enjoying a well-earned lunch rest at a small village, with a shop serving cold coke and Maggi noodles.

Typical Shimla-landscape.

Finally made it to the Viceregal Lodge, which today hosts the Indian Institute of Advanced Study. It was built in 1888 and had electricity from the very beginning.