BLESSED ON TOP

Am leaving you only with images and Silence  through an Enchanting Forest In Mussoorie.

entry
entry
starting point
starting point
thick forest
thick enchanting  forest
steep climb
steep climb
camera trap
camera trap
green mountains
green mountains of deodars, oaks and rhododendrons
pine cones
pine cones and the doon valley
bear hill
bear hill
the flags at the peak of flaghill
Blessings  at the peak of flaghill

If you scream for inputs, will be happy to add details tomorrow.

SKYBLUE

An entire wall at the Polo Heritage Hotel, Jodhpur was covered with these glorious skyblue-violet flowers. There was a wonderful cover , almost as far as the eye could see  with these marvelous sun gazing blooms.

Commonly called the Skyblue clustervine, they are native to Florida, USA.( only the four southernmost counties of Miami etc)

little blue pennies
                                                  Little blue pennies

I was amazed to see a creeper native to tropical America flourishing in the near desert climate of Jodhpur, Marwar.

The skyblue clustervine has beautiful  heart shaped leaves ( see the picture below) adding to the majesty of this perennial climber.

The scientific name Jacquemontia pentanthos is in honour of a French naturalist Victor Jacquemont.

skyblue flowers
                                                            Sky blue flowers and heart shaped leaves

The flowers belong to the same family as the Morning Glory and thus open their petals with the rising sun.

Do check out my blog THE CHAMELEON FLOWERS to know about The Morning Glory as well.

Though the ultramarine coloured  flowers are relatively small  ( less than an inch or 2cms in diameter)  they grow in large clusters.

Being vigorous climbers they can be  glorious covers for a   garden wall , fence or a trellis.

cluster of flowers
                                                                 cluster of flowers

The violet-blue coloured flowers  in vast numbers are a huge attraction for bees in particular.

See the picture below, the camera had spotted a bee stealing the nectar.( top right) .

Do observe how the vine curls and stretches with the unidirectional leaves.

leaves with outstretched palms
                                              leaves with outstretched palms

The pentagon shape of the flowers  or the five petals give it the latter part of it’s name “pentanthos” .

The flowers also have five white coloured  stamens besides a white core.

close up
                                                      Close up of the Pentagon shaped flower 

I wonder why the THE SKYBLUE CLUSTER VINE is enlisted as Endagered in the state of Florida.

It contrast it is  extremely happy in its adopted home of Jodhpur which was also hosting the wonderful musical festival titled THE RIFF.

THE BUTTERFLY BUSH

The Butterfly Bush ( Scientific name :Buddleja davidii) is a beautiful flowering shrub with its origins in the mountains of China.

Bushels of flowers adorn the bush and it forms a splendid natural boundary to the gardens of the JW Marriott Hotel in Mussoorie, located in the lap of the Himalayas.

the hedge or the border of the garden
                                       the hedge or the border of the garden

The sweet fragrance of the abundant flowers attract bees and butterflies in droves and hence the name BUTTERFLY BUSH.

The lavender coloured flowers also give it an alias, THE LILAC BUSH.

A basque missionary of the 19th century Father Arthur David lends his name to this profusely flowering bush. ( scientific name Buddleja davidii)  

butterfly bush
                                                                  Butterfly bush

Found naturally in the mountainous zones of China the butterfly bush has  flowers in several colours , however I was witness to two colours, lilac and white.

On close observation you will see the flowers have an orange centre and  hence the shrub  is also called ORANGE EYE.

orange eye
                                                                  Orange eye

With drop dead looks and the sweetest of fragrances, the deceptive Butterfly Bush is now classified as a NOXIOUS WEED in many countries where it was introduced in the 19th century.

The rapidly growing bush spreads quickly and the profuse number of flowers ensures the plant a steady supply of seeds for self propagation.

The shrub grows back quickly even if cut from the stump and the seeds can lie dormant in the ground for several years. The shrub further ensures it’s survival as the male and female flowers occur on the same plant.

It has become an Invasive weed in countries like New Zealand and United Kingdom where they have been compelled to introduce a leaf-chewing beetle Cleopus japonicus as a biological control agent.

sweet fragrance
                                                       Sweet fragrance of the Lilac Bush

Recalling an old saying ” LOOKS ARE DECEPTIVE”, we should be careful what plants we introduce in our gardens as unknowngly we can upset a delicate ecosystem.

If we plant trees and plants ENDEMIC to the region it will ensure the survival of native species as well.

DAWN TO DUSK WITH MANGANIARS

 Rajasthan International Folk Festival  ( RIFF) is a musical extravaganza  held annually in Jodhpur at the time of Sharad Poornima.

The festival is a celebration of the rich tradition of Folk Music in the remarkable and  colourful state of Rajasthan, India. RIFF is  set in and around the grand and imposing  Meharangarh Fort which dominates the landscape of the city of Jodhpur.

The festivities or musical performances are held almost round the clock from Dawn till the wee hours of the next day in the Rocky Desert surrounding the magnificent Mehrangarh Fort.

This year the RIFF brought into limelight.a fascinating community of musicians , the MANGANIARS. A community of artists from the The Thar desert of Jaisalmer and Barmer.

The Sun rises to the soulful music of  musicians at Dawn during the festival at Jaswant Thada.

dawn
Dawn with an invocation to the Gods

The Manganiars follow the traditional Oral format of education and their children learn Music  from the moment they are born ,  similar to a fish learning to swim.

Learning by rote from Guru to student , there are no written verses or musical notes to follow. They just follow the rhythm.

Hearing the Manganiar children perform  in a Baithak ( interactive sit down) were the most memorable moments during the 5 days of  this remarkable festival.

Striking perfect notes and singing in praise of Lord Krishna , the children brought tears to my eyes as each note strung the chords of my heart.

The spellbinding gestures and facial expressions  of these child artists completed the musical masterpieces to perfection. Watch for yourself in the following photograph.

children
The young Desert Musicians

The curtains were brought down by an awesome galaxy of Manganiar artists spanning three generations.

The majestic ramparts of the Meharangarh Fort reverberated  to the magic of music resonating through its walls.

The powerful voices of the  magical Manganiar artists rises in musical harmony in praise of the Maharajas of Marwar. The children were at ease  though it was their first performance on stage.

The splendour of their music was well matched by their traditional Colourful turbans or Saafas .

3 generations
3 Generations of Manganiars

Sharad Poornima is a full moon night when the moon is the brightest and largest in Northern India.

It also announces the arrival of winters ( sharad is winter in Hindi) and also  the time when this lovely festival is held in Jodhpur.

Festivals in India generally follow the Lunar calendar and the weather religiously follows as well.

The RIFF provides a wonderful platform to the  extraordinarily gifted Manganiars.

Music is the soul of these travelling desert musicians and their only means of  livelihood as well.

The  enchanting musicians of the desert, The Manganiars sing at Dusk as the moon rises from the horizons of Jodhpur

dusk
Dusk  , Sharad Poornima and THE MANGANIARS

What can be more enchanting than listening to the soulful music of the Manganiars in the lap of nature under the gaze of a Full  Moon.

RIFF you had me enchanted.

ENCHANTING HIMALAYAS

Am leaving you with enchanting  images of THE HIMALAYAS as seen from the Jaburkhet Nature Reserve, FLAGHILL, Mussoorie, Uttrakhand, India.

Be Spellbound.

Wonderful Landour, Mussorie
Wonderful Landour, Mussoorie
Through the limbs of Himalayan Oak trees
Through the limbs of Himalayan Oak trees

Breathtaking Himalayan ranges unveiled from the peak of Flaghill.

Glorious snow capped Gangotri Range
Glorious snow capped Gangotri Range

The beautiful trek to the Jaburkhet Nature Reserve  was organized by JW Marriott , Mussoorie as part of the Walnut Trail.Thank you.

ENCHANTED BY THE RAIKA

The ship of the desert or Camels are naturally adapted to the way of life in a desert.

North Western Rajasthan is  the natural home to these enchanting creatures of God.

Numerous folk tales recite the tales of how the camels came to inhabit Earth.

Goddess Parvati ( the consort of Lord Shiva) is fabled to have sculpted the Camels from clay and the Lord is supposed to have infused the breath of Life in them.

The story goes on to say they initially had 5 legs, but were then unable to walk, so Lord Shiva folds the fifth leg and pushes it into the chest, this then forms the hump  and leaves a mark as well.

A couple of camels
                                                                     A couple ( pun intended) of camels

The story continues as the Camels create mayhem by going about their merry ways and eat up all the foliage. The Lord Shiva then creates the RAIKA (also called Chaamad) from his body( chamdi or skin )  to tend to camels and thus  restore order.

The Raika are a unique community of camel herders and breeders who survive to this day in the colourful state of Rajasthan in India.

The following picture shows three Raika men in traditional attire with their musical instruments at the extravagant annual musical festival  RIFF held at Jodhpur.

The backdrop is that of a hand painted Phad which tells the epic story of a local deity  Pabuji.

( more on this in a separate post)

raika in thought
                                           Three Raika men in traditional attire 

The Raika firmly believe they were born for only one purpose, that is to take care of Camels.

Their lifestyles and future are thus delicately bound to Camels.

With modernization and mechanization, the demand for Camels as a means of transport has sharply declined.

Spinning yarn from Camels hair and making Carpets and other textile products is one of several ways for the Raika to survive.

Do notice the leaves at the back of the gorgeous  turban of the elderly Raika.

the spinners
                                                                  the spinners

The extremely intricate relation between nature,  animals and man is highlighted by the lifestyles of this amazing and  enchanting community called THE RAIKA.

A closer look at the Bobbins shows how the Raika  use the twigs of the desert  trees and camel’s hair.

bobbins and textile
                                                               bobbins and  lovely textiles 

The gorgeous but large turban is made from 10 yards ( 9 metres) of cloth.
This large cloth acts as a protection against the scorching heat of the desert , as a tether for camels and also as protection against angry camels.

The elderly Raika has Camel’s milk in his hand in a practical and environment friendly container, the leaf of the Aak Shrub.

raika with camels milk
                                   Elderly Raika with camel’s milk in hand

The desert is an unusual forest and the preservation of water is a compulsory adaption for all forms of life.

The Aak   ( Hindi and Sanskrit ) bush  , Apple of Sodom  ( English) ,  Calotropis procera ( scientific name) ) is used extensively by the Raika .

The leaves of the Aak have been  used extensively by the Ayurvedic school of medicine  for centuries and are supposed to be a great antidote to snake bites and a cure for jaundice as well.

The Raika thus always keep the leaves  tucked away in their extensive headgear.

the leaves
                                                       The leaves of Aak

The leaves of the Aak  make ideal containers to drink Camel’s milk.  They are large , leathery and do not permit liquids to seep through them.

The flowers of the Aak are revered  and garlands are made from them and offered to Lord Shiva.

Lord Shiva is also supposed to have absorbed the poison from the churning of the Ocean and saved all living beings from its effects.

The milky sap of the  Aak bush also contains some of the most vicious poisons  like Calotropin.

Much like Lord Shiva, the Raika have learnt how to transform the naturally occurring poison into a cure for numerous ailments.

the leaf container
                                         The beautiful container made from the Aak leaf 

The Raika are a living enigma and a wonderful  example of Mythology coming to life.

Their beliefs and way of life are a wonderful example of maintaining harmony with nature even under adverse and harsh circumstances.

raika with camel milk container
                                         Raika with an earthern camel milk container

The Raika are a truly amazing community but struggling to survive and preserve their ancient customs and way of life.

Have experienced only a small glimpse of the Raika at the RIFF at Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur.

I believe there is a CAMEL FESTIVAL which celebrates this community in  early November in Pali district of Rajasthan.

Keep reading as more posts will follow.

TEAR DROPS OF JOY

Fuschia (fyus-chia) is an attractive  colour which is similar to Magenta.

These lovely pendulous flowers in the driveway of JW MARRIOTT, Mussoorie bear the name  Fuchsia  ( mark the correct spelling) and adorn  the colour Fuschia  as well.

Growing profusely in the shade I call these magnificent flowers TEAR DROPS OF JOY.

chandelier of fucshia
                                           Drooping  flowers  of Fuchsia look like little bells

The flower is called Fuchsia ( fook-sia) in honour of the 16th Century German Botanist Fuchs.  ( sorry, but  that was the name of the scientist) It is rare for the scientific and common name to be same, this lovely flower shares this honour. Scientific name is Fuchsia hybridia.( there are however over a hundred species and the last name could change).

Do observe the colour of the stems as they turn Fuschia as well.

fucshia deep purple JW
                                       Fuchsia  with deep purple petals

This is obviously another species of this wonderful flower within the lovely garden of Prateek’s home and part of the Brentwood Sanctuary, Mussoorie.

Please do read my previous posts ( THE WALNUT TRAIL, THE SECRET TRAP, THE CORN VILLAGE( http://www.travelwithmukul.wordpress.com) and THE MUSHROOM TRAIL ) to connect the dots.

The buds look like a Lady’s Ear Drop, which is also another common  name for these stunning flowers.

The petals and  sepals seem to be in conflict as one gazes downwards and the other reaches out to the Sun.

fucshia white centre
                                              Fuchsia with white petals

These gorgeous flowers are native to Central America and cannot bear the harsh summer heat of the plains of India. Hence they are relatively rare to see in this country.

They however love the Himalayan mountain air and were adorning the gardens of the Hotel  like little chandeliers.

They also bear an edible berry ( the fruit of the Fuchsia) .  Do try it and let me know how it tastes.

fuschia purple centre
                                           Fuchsia with fuchsia  coloured  petals

Bearing testimony to the phrase  ” LOOKS ARE DECEPTIVE”, a species of this gorgeous looking flower is an invasive weed in many parts of Australia, New Zealand and many Islands of the INDIAN OCEAN.

Fortunately they brought me only  TEARS OF JOY.