Monday, October 8, 2012

Madhubani Art - birthplace of Sita

    • Friday, October 5, 2012
    • Triangular Park
      Kolkata, West Bengal, India
    • Sealdah Railway Station (3:40 pm)
      Beliaghata, Kolkata, West Bengal, India
      Sudipta and I met at Park Street and left for Sealdah to catch Ganga Sagar Express (3.40 pm departure).
    • Saturday, October 6, 2012
    • Madhubani, Bihar
      Madhubani, Bihar, India
      We are received by Sudipta of at Madhubani station and we went to the hotel in Madhubani (some of the people attending this festival are put up) for a cup of tea and left for Simri region by Sumo.

      Mithila is an ancient cultural region of South Nepal and North India lying between the lower ranges of the Himalayas and the Ganges River.

      The Gandak and Kosi River are in two sides of Mithila.

      The Ramayana records a marriage between Ram of Ayodhya and Sita, the daughter of Raja Janak of Mithila.

      Mithila region consists of the following districts:

      Begusarai, Bhagalpur, Darbhanga, East Champaran, Khagaria, Madhepura, Madhubani, Munger, Muzaffarpur, Saharsa, Samastipur, Sheohar, Sitamarhi, Supaul, Vaishali and West Champaran.

      The name of the district Darbhanga has been derived from its principal town Darbhanga, which is said to have been founded by Darbhangi Khan. It is also said that the name Darbhanga was derived from Dwar-Banga or Dar-e-Bang meaning The gateway to Bengal.

      The district of Madhubani was carved out of the old Darbhanga district in the year 1972 as a result of reorganisation of the districts in the State. It consists of 21 Development Blocks. Bounded on the north by a hill region of Nepal and extending to the border of its parent district Darbhanga in the south, Sitamarhi in the west and Supaul in the east, Madhubani fairly represents the centre of the territory once known as Mithila and the district has maintained a distinct individuality of its own.

      Sitamari has a past that pre-dates history. When Sita was going to Ayodhya, She stayed and rested here.
    • Simari, Bihar
      Simari, Bihar, India
      We stayed in one of the houses (roof) of the villagers (dadaji - grandfatther of Jyoti Kumari ??) , sort of vilalge chieftain of Simri.

      We were told that maachh ,makhan and paan - these are the identities of mithila : fish is the most popular food habit in mithila ; people like fish as a main dish in any occasion. Chuda ,dahi and chini is also most important cuisine of mithila. People like paan , in every occasion.

      The origins of Madhubani painting or Mithala Painting are shrouded in antiquity and mythology. Madhubani painting has been done traditionally by the women of villages around the present town of Madhubani (the literal meaning of which is forests of honey) and other areas of Mithila.

      The painting was traditionally done on freshly plastered mud walls and floors of huts, but now they are also done on cloth, handmade paper and canvas.

      Madhubani painting has remained confined to a compact geographical area and the skills have been passed on through centuries, the content and the style have largely remained the same. And that is the reason for Madhubani painting being accorded the coveted GI (geographical Indication) status.

      Madhubani paintings also use two dimensional imagery, and the colors used are derived from plants. The colors used were traditionally derived from natural sources like plants, charcoal soot, ochre etc. Black colour is obtained by mixing soot with cow dung.Yellow colour is obtained from turmeric or pollen or lime and the milk of banyan leaves. Blue from Indigo. Red from Kusum flower juice, red sandalwood or rose. Green from the leaves of apple trees, White from rice powder, Orange from palasha flowers.

      Madhubani paintings mostly depict the nature & deity from the ancient epics. Natural objects like the sun, the moon, and religious plants like tulsi are also widely painted, along with scenes from the royal court and social events like weddings. Generally no space is left empty; the gaps are filled by paintings of flowers, animals, birds, and even geometric designs.

      Objects depicted in the walls of kohabar ghar (where newly wed couple see each other in the first night) are symbols of sexual pleasure and procreation.

      Traditionally, painting was one of the skills that was passed down from generation to generation in the families of the Mithila Region, mainly by women.

      After taking our breakfast we attended the work shop of Vidyanath Jha and Chaturang Jha. I was taught by Vidyanath Jha, senior and respected artists of the village, how to draw the Madhubani style of painting.

      After lunch we left to see the palace of King of Darbhanga. We were quite amazed to see that such exquisite palace exists in such a remote place like this. Later we got to know many things about the King of Mithila.

      In the evening we attended the programme organized by We heard the song of Bauls (of Bengal,) drummers of Bajashol of Orissa and some local artists also sang. It was jam packed. However there was no commotion.
    • Sunday, October 7, 2012
    • Simari, Bihar
      Simari, Bihar, India
      In the morning we went for Prabhat feri or singing around the villages by the Bauls.

      Then after breakfast we went to the house of the artists. We went to the house of Vidyanth Jha, K Jha Devi and Chaturang Jha.

      In fact they are extremely warm and offered tea. In one of the houses were offered a special type of black coloured Roti. We got to know that is doing great work for the artists. After chatting some time we went to the mela ground to finish our art work - we did yesterday. I bought many paintings today.

      Then after taking our lunch we left for station. There we met a person and got to know that Darbhanga Raj, also known as Raj Darbhanga and the Royal Family of Darbhanga, were a family of Zamindars and rulers of territories that are now part of Mithila and Darbhanga district, Bihar, India. Their seat was at the city of Darbhanga. The estate of Darbhanga Raj was estimated to cover an area of 2,410 square miles (6,200 km2), incorporating 4,495 villages within 18 circles in Bihar and Bengal and employing over 7,500 officers to manage the estate. It was the largest zamindari in India and was the best managed estate at the time of abolition of Zamindari. The Raj Darbhanga trace their origin to kayastha at the beginning of the sixteenth century.

      To know more see
    • Sealdah, Raja Bazar, Kolkata, West Bengal
      Sealdah, Raja Bazar, Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Eco tourism tour in Shillong and Cherrapunjee - short tour diary

To know more click the one above : Eco tourism tour in Shillong and Cherrapunjee on Tripline

Eco tourism tour in Shillong and Cherrapunjee

Sat, Sep 29, 2012
·         1
6:10 am  Kolkata, West Bengal, India
By plane , thanx to didi !

7:20 am Guwahati, Assam
I took the Air conditioned bus service from Guwahati airport (having recently begun between the airport and the city) to reach Paltan Bazar. The bus leaves at 7.40 am (fixed time) and reached Paltan Bazar at around 8.30 am. The buses wait just outside the airport and can be seen once you come out of the airport. The fare is Rs 100 and travelling time is approx 50 minutes. Or one can take taxi. Then take combination of transport given below. I have not mentioned the helicopter service for want of safety.

By bus

Very next to the Guwahati Railway Station on the Paltan Bazar side you have the State Transport Bus Station from where you can catch Assam State or Meghalaya State Transport buses to Shillong. Buses run by Assam State Transport Corporation (ASTC) and Meghalaya Transport Corporation (MTC), ply every half an hour from Guwahati to Shillong. The ticket fares vary between Rs.30 to 100 approx, depending upon bus class (ordinary, semi-deluxe and deluxe). 

Many private companies also run buses between two cities but they leave from Paltan Bazar area and cost around Rs. 70. Private buses might be better built but are occasionally crowded and have more stops enroute.

Buses usually take around 4 hours with a mid-way stop at Nong-poh to freshen up and get some refreshments. Nongpoh is also a good place to pick up bamboo pickles and other condiments. But momo in the shady restaurant is Rs 100 ! and bamboo pickles are far too expensive at Rs 150. Obviously I did not buy anything from there.

By Shared Taxi from Guwahati

Shared taxis are available from Paltan Bazar,Guwahati all the way to Police Bazaar in Shillong for Rs 400 per person. Alternatively, rent the whole taxi for Rs1600 from right outside the station. Guwahati to Shillong takes about 3 hours including a food stop.

By SUV- Sumo
(from Guwahati from Hotel Tibet at Guwahati,Paltan Bazar)

These are generally SUV sized vehicles (Tata Sumo & Mahindra Bolero) shared between 10 people( they are the main form of transport around Meghalaya) from Paltan Bazar in Guwahati which is adjacent to the railway station. They take around 3 hours to reach Shillong from Guwahati. The cost for a SUV vehicle is Rs.150. 
I took the SUV. After waiting for more than 30 minutes, the SUV left at around 9.10 am

While traveling from Guwahati , you can see the majestic Umiam Lake (Barapani) surrounded by sylvan hills. Umiam Lake , 17 km from Shillong, offers water sports facilities including sailing, water skiing, water scooter. Umiam Lake or Barapani - is the biggest artificial lake in Meghalaya.

Shillong, Meghalaya

Sightseeing in Shillong (Meghalaya)

Enroute to Cherrapujee/Mawlynnong, you can see Elephant falls and Shillong Peak: An ideal picnic spot, 10 km. from the city, 1965 m above sea level, offers a panoramic view of the scenic country side, and is also the highest point in the State. Obeisance is paid to U Shulong at the sanctum sanctorum at the peak's summit every springtime, by the religious priest of Mylliem State. In the evening the city lights below appear like a star-studded show. The genesis of the name of the city of Shillong is this peak

Ward's Lake: Located in the heart of the city, popular for short garden walks and boating, celebrated its centenary recently. 

Botanical Garden :A secluded but captivating spot with plethora of indigenous and exotic plants and is located just below the Ward's Lake. 

Lady Hydari Park :A popular charming tourist draw, the adjacent mini zoo is an added attraction. 

Cathedral of Mary Help of Christian at Laitumkhrah, it attracts devotees and visitors alike. 

From Shillong one can hire Tourist Taxies from the Taxi Stand at Police Bazar, Shillong. 

One can also catch the Shuttle Sumos to Sohra/Mawlynnong from Bara Bazaar. Presently they charge Rs.70/= per person to Mawlynnong. Since today is the Market day in Pynursla, only Sumos upto Pynursla is available. That turned out to be a big problem for me.

Pynursla, Meghalaya, India

I reached there at around 2.30 pm . The SUV left at around 1 pm from Shillong.

When I reached Pynursla, I quickly had my lunch and got to know that the next Sumo will leave at 4.30 pm ! In fact the connecting Sumos from here are infrequent. There I met a local guy Sukher - He is also waiting for connecting Sumo to go to his village Mawlynnong. 

He showed me around the market of Pynursla. Here I was treated like a foreigner. Normally nobody comes here ! I have noticed everybody here chews bettle nut. Yes everybody. He showed me some of the items are coming from Bangladesh (Syhelt) . One of the being Danu or Danon Milk ! There I tried something like catterpillar like creature on his insistence !! It looks blackish ! Apparently it is burnt. Later I learnt it is called Khniang phlang in Khasi worm, which is actually a grassworm !

Then we tried the famous local dish called Jadoh (Jadoh is the generic name for the Khasi rice steamed with pork). Then it is time to go to Mawlynnong.

Mawlynnong, Meghalaya, India

When we reached there it was already dark(6 pm). The condition of road is very bad, since they are making the road wider which goes upto Bangladesh border (Sylhet) via Dawki.

Allen arranged for my stay at the homestay of Mr. Lursahi. Although he was not there, his two daughters were there. All of them knows good English. Given the remoteness of the village, it was quite unusual. Actually later I got to know that they learn Khasi (in Roman script) and English (first language), even in Govt schools.

Sukher showed me around the place even though it was dark. In fact we went to meet the newly built sky view and met the owner of the hotel. In fact we went to the top of the sky view.

I had some long discussion with Sukher about various problems they are facing. I got to know there is no bank here. He however uses internet through mobile ! One has to travel a long distance (to be precise pay Rs 100 to and fro), just to withdraw money. However one person (BC) comes there every Sunday to collect money. I told him the importance of mobile money in a remote place like this. (There is no Airtel network here! ).

I had my dinner at the homestay - which is almost a typical Bengali dish ! The daughters of Mr Lurshai is really nice and all speaks good English, which makes everything so simple. From the homestay you can hear the prayers from the local church. There are two churches in this small village. One is a Presbyterian church and other one is owned by CNI (Church of North India ). There around 80 families in this vallage.

It has been crowned as the cleanest village in Asia. One cannot help appreciate the neatness of the village and it has influenced the adjoining the villages like Riwai. One can see the basket (made of cane) all around the village - used as garbage bin. They even fine tourists who litters this place !

·        Sun, Sep 30, 2012   

Mawlynnong, Meghalaya, India

I left early in the morning to see one of the living root bridges. One is one the way to Pontung. It takes about 15-20 min. walk to reach the village Riwai ( on the main road) from Mawlynnong. The walk towards the bridge is almost nature study class. I saw many types of butterfly.

From Riwai village you have go down for almost 10-15 minutes to reach the root bridge. 
Firstly there are two types of living root bridges 
1. single decker and 2. the double decker 

Both these types are there in the Nongriat Village. There are in fact 3 single decker and 1 double decker bridge in the Nongriat village.
There are 2 living root bridges here in Riwail/Mawlynnong. The other one is on the way to Bangladesh. There is a road which goes up to Bangladesh. You have to walk around 1.5 hours to go there. I had to skip the plan for want of time.

The bridge is really very strong and quite amazing to say the least. A gigantic rubber tree (Ficus elastica tree) rests on a boulder on one side of the stream. This tree produces a series of secondary roots from higher up its trunk and can comfortably perch atop huge boulders along the riverbanks.They have been trained by the villagers to span across the stream and have penetrated the earth on the other side. The roots take the place of steel ropes. Rocks placed between roots have embedded themselves to form a solid footing for the bridge.In order to make a rubber tree's roots grow in the right direction (over a river), the Khasis use betel nut trunks, sliced down the middle and hollowed out, to create root-guidance systems.The thin, tender roots of the rubber tree, prevented from fanning out by the betel nut trunks, grow straight . When they reach the other side of the river, they're allowed to take root in the soil. It takes around 20-25 years to make this bridge! After spending some time I decided to go back to see the sky view and walk around the village.
Then I saw the sky view - which is nothing but a watchtower made of bamboo,made by the locals, and one can go up to the top to have a wonderful panoramic view of the village and also the Sylhet,Bangladesh. Apparently it is 85 ft high. I did not think it was that high. There are two at the moment in the village.The workmanship is really very very impressive and interestingly no synthetic rope is used to tie the bamboos. Bamboos are tied together with the help of cane ropes to make a sky pathway.Not even a single iron nail is used her ! From Kavita's blog I got to know that this structure is designed by a 45years old school teacher named Rishop Khongthongreh . Though the structure looked rickety it is very strong but it needs renovation every year. ( )

The older one charges Rs 20 as entry fee. I did not get up the new one today (since I went up yesterday). Then I walked around the village with the son of Mr Lurshai, Ronald. We went to see the famous Pitcher Plant tree. 

Rahul Dravid came to this village in April 2012.


I was given lift from Mawlynnong by a senior judge of Supreme (?) court, since it was Sunday and none of the cars/Sumos were available, by his pilot car ! On Sunday everybody goes to the church ! That is why there is no vehicle ! He was kind enough to give me the lift after listening to my passion for travel !I got down here and took a sumo go to Mawjrong.

Mawjrong, Meghalaya, India

Today being Sunday none of the cars were available. This is the place to go to Kong Thong.
I took a car to get down at Sohra-rin village. From there I was picked up by Heprit ( by his famous scooter - owner of the guest house.

In fact rather than staying in Shillong one can relax the entire week or most of your days in Sohra (Cherrapunjee) or Mawlynnong

My personal suggestion is 2 nights Cherrapunjee, 1 Night Mawlynnong, 1 night at Shillong.

Cherrapunji‎, Meghalaya

Cherrapunjee (Sohra) 56 km from Shillong, situated in one of the rainiest rain-belt in the world, 1,300 m above sea level. It is a very pleasant drive to see roaring water falls leaping into deep gorges, including the famed Nohsngithiang Falls (Seven sister falls). 

The beautiful waterfall-Noh ka likai is at Cherrapunjee (not on the route). The lovely town is also famous for its limestone caves and orange honey in and around Cherrapunjee.

In fact Mawyram has beaten Sohra as the rainiest place in India. The rainiest place in The world is in Colombia.

On the way to Cherrapunjee, I saw one falls and had some tea with Heprit at that place.When we reached sohra it is already quite late at 6.00 pm. I kept my luggage in his guest house cum residence.

I had some beef curry in one of the tea stalls near his guest house. Herprit took me to the tea stall with his scooter.

Today I met one of his friends who used to stay near Kong Thong and decided that we have to skip the singing tune village at Kong Thong, since the earliest Sumo to Kong Thong leaves only at 2 pm from Mawjrong. So by the time we reach there ( 2 hrs by car 1 hr by trek ) it will be dark and unless we catch the first Sumo at 6 am tomorrow, I am going to miss my flight. 

I have talked to Allen that we are skipping it for want of time and we will go there next time. He promised that he will make plan for us next time when we come.

·         Mon, Oct 01, 20120

Tyrna, Meghalaya, India

The living root bridge at Tyrna needs trek from Cherrapujee, for which you can also stay at Laitkynsew (where the Cherra Holiday Resort is located. ) which is 15 km from Cherra centre.

After having my breakfast at the Tea stall , my frined Heprit took to me to this place (around 9.30 am) with his scooter. The going rate is around Rs 300 by auto rickshaw. We took some pictures along this picturesque route and finally I got down at Tyrna for onward journey to Living Root bridge or Jinking Jri in Khasi.

Nongriat - home to Living root bridges

To get to this village you have to be in contact with a guide who normally charges you around Rs 800 for both up and down treks. I however went alone without any guides!

Initially ask a villager to get the right direction. Once you reach the falls will see two long root bridge (single decker) will take around 1 hr to reach there. You may assume that this is the only living root bridge there. Somebody needs to guide you at this stage to go to the double decker bridge .

However for double decker bridge you have to trek another hour , passing through 2 scary hanging wire bridges, to finally reach double decker bridge. In fact, I found that the root bridge is much more stable than the rope bridges we crossed earlier. I took the lunch (maggi and omlette - bcoz that is all you can get ) at that place. There is an entry fee to enter the bridge. I did go to the guest house on the other side of the bridge. In the whole trek I saw the only one trekker, from Bangalore who came with a guide.

So firstly you have to get to shillong and then from Shillong to Cherrapunjee preferebly by shared taxi to have more glipmse of the Hills . Its however better if you hire the vehicle yourself where you can stop click and go wherever you want.

From cherrapunjee go to tyrna village by taxi or auto rickshaw (Rs 300 *2) and then u have to trek all the way down to the living root bridges mind you from my experience to trek up and down to the living root bridges is a hell of a lot of and effort and sweat .You have to climb down 2 hrs straight pass the 3000 stairs, the rugged footpath then the 2 scary hanging wire bridges. There is a guest house on the other side of the bridge. If no rooms are available then locals are hospitable and may host at a very nominal rate - if you plan to stay there one day. 

You can explore the awesome areas , waterfalls, natural swimming pools etc. 

Then climb back up in the afternoon where it will take u at least 2 and half hour . So the timing has to be calculated nicely for a good trek otherwise you'll end up being miserable.You have to take rest in between.

So try to Cherrapunjee by 10am or so then Reach Tyrna village by 11 pm then trek down to Nongriat you should be reaching back to Tyrna by around 4 pm and make sure you carry lots of water.

Cherrapunjee Holiday Resorts

Laitkynsew, Cherrapunjee, Cherrapunji‎, 793003, India  •  03637 264218  •  

On the way back to Cherrapunjee I saw that one of the roads going towards the most fmous resort of Cherrapunjee.3

Cherrapunji‎, Meghalaya

After reaching Cherrapunjee we had some tea from one the tea houses there and chatted some time with the local. I realized it is class less society unlike rest of India. The Khasi society is divided by castes. 

Then we went to Mawsmai Caves (limestone cave - Stalagmite and Stalactite - like the one near Araku valley,Andhra Pradesh - but its height is very low and you to be very fit to enter this cave and it was a bit claustophobic ) by paying entry fee of Rs 15 each.

After that we went to see the beautiful seven sister falls. We skipped the Nakalikhai falls since it is bit further away from that place and it is already becoming dark. According to my friend it is similar to the seven sister falls.

After coming back to the guest house I chatted with Heprit's brother who works in Deptt of Post in Shillong. I got to know the Garos have a completely different language and they are asking for a separate state, unlike Jaintia (they also have a different language). But the population of Jaintia is very low. The population of Garo people is around 12 lakh. The total population of Meghalaya is around 29 lakh. There are some Bengalis, Assamese,Nepali and also Biharis in Meghalaya). There are some Bengali families in Cherrapunjee. He said during peak monsoon season people do nothing , since it rains continuously. It is bad for business. That is why I found many vacant land in Cherrapunjee. There is a Ramakrishna Mission school here which is the best in Cherrapunjee and they have in fact studied there and they(RKM) are also into lot of humanitarian work.

I also got to know that role of man in Meghalaya is bit dicey. Herprit says they(man) are neither here, nor there . He tells me if he marries the youngest daughter in her family and then he is destined to live with her parents until she inherits the family house. 

According to him things are slowly changing and the prevailing system is somewhere in between patriarchy and matriarchy. They generally follow matriarchy. Timothy Allen writes 'Here a matrilineal system operates with property names and wealth passing from mother to daughter rather than father to son - but some men are campaigning for change....If you want to know how much the Khasis favour women just take a trip to the labour ward at the hospital.....If it's a girl, there will be great cheers from the family outside. If it's a boy, you will hear them mutter politely that, 'Whatever God gives us is quite all right.'

Herprit tells me rather sadly that people in Delhi thinks we are junglee . It appeared to me it is actually the opposite. I was saddened by his remark since I thought it is racist on the part of North Indians to do that. Khasis seemed to be a modern society. Had they been in the middle of India, it probably evolved into a very modern society.

I had some sumptuous dinner today. I went to sleep early since I will take early morning jeep to go to Shillong.

Kongthong - Khat-ar-Shnong Rd, Mawjrong,

I had to skip this village for want of time, instead I went straight to Shillong (2 hrs) .

·         Tue, Oct 02, 2012
·         Shillong, Meghalaya
I reached in 2 hours time and immediately got a running Sumo to go to Guwahati.6

3:40 pm  Guwahati, Assam, India
I reached Paltan Bazar,Guwahati in 3 hours time and got the AC bus to go to the airport. However getting the AC Bus was not easy, as it does not pass through Paltan Bazar.

·         7
6:50 pm  Kolkata, West Bengal, India
To see the route click here

See this documentary :

Chronological order