Tuesday December 11, 2018
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Snowfall in Uttarakhand, a spotless village

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Chopta (Uttarakhand): The clouds kissed the mountain peaks; the sun played hide and seek, peeking out at times from behind those clouds, its rays cutting across the edges of spruce tree that stood tall on the valley, making their way to reach up to me. It kept raining while I was travelling to the hills – and then it snowed.

Taking a break from my routine, I was heading for Chopta, a small town in Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand. Located 8,790 feet above sea-level on NH 58, the picturesque town is surrounded by mountains that offer glimpses of the mighty Himalayan range.

The road would bend and curve at every possible angle it could; the Ganga river was in its majestic colours – sometimes seablue, sometimes robin and at times skyblue; sometimes calm and then ferocious as it wound its way down, my constant companion as I approached my destination from Rishikesh.

On my way came three main confluences – Devprayag where the Alaknanda meets the Bhagirathi and takes the name of Ganga; ahead was Rudraprayag, the confluence of the Alaknanda and the Mandakini; and Karnaprayag, where the Alaknanda amalgamates with the Pindar.

The weather became cold as it was raining, making for a damp and dull environment. It gradually turned cold, with the wind chilling me to the bone benumbing my body – but my travelling spirit was indomitable.

Travelling in local bus gave me a chance to assimilate the local culture of the Garhwal region in which Chopta falls. The ‘pahari’ song being played in the bus and some small talk with the locals provided some relief during the hectic journey.

Though I thought I was successful in defeating the freezing climate, the demotivating rain and the sharp turns in the road were bearable but something heart-breaking was awaiting me.

As I was approaching Chopta after a tiresome bus journey of almost seven hours, soft white flakes began falling. The road and the valley got a white make-over and the hills were enveloped in a white sheet. Within moments, the road and the adjacent area had turned into a white ornament and the hill range looked no less than a necklace.

By the time snowfall stopped, the day had ended and the road to Chopta was blocked. Far in the distance, the sun bid adieu to the day, smashing the dull sky with a splash of red.

Mother Nature mesmerised me with her art of creating an enchanting scenic view. It looked no less than a painting, where every stroke of brush defined how she played with colours, with the sky serving as a canvas.

With a heavy heart, I settled for the night in a small village called Mandal, below Chopta, whose scenic charm hypnotised me the next morning.

The mountain range was standing tall just across the window of my room, glittering as the first rays of the sun touched the snow-clad peaks. The pine, spruce and maple leaves blinked at the sun’s rays and danced to the tune of the cold breeze blowing across the village.

Along with the whispering of the wind, the tinkling sound that a nearby tranquil stream made as it rushed over the stones on its bed, mingled into the atmosphere, accompanied by the chirping of birds to create a rapturous mood.

The dead maple leaves lying on the wet road welcomed me as I crunched them below my feet while I was engulfed by the wondrous beauty of the village. I recollected a few lines from Robert Frost’s poem The Mountain: “When I walked forth at dawn to see new things/Were fields, a river, and beyond, more fields,” while I strolled across the tiny village early in the morning.

Mandal village exudes a pristine charm. Away from the cacophony of city life, the village turned out to be the perfect gateway to sooth my soul.

While I was returning from the village I remembered another Frost poem, The Road Not Taken: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I/I took the one less travelled by”. I could not take the road that leads to Chopta, but the picture perfect Mandal village was no less a surprise to me with its beauty. (Somrita Ghosh, IANS) (pic courtesy: teambhp.com)

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Hindus In Delhi Push For A Temple On The Ruins Of a Mosque

The Supreme Court has delayed hearings into the disputed site but hardliners have vowed to lay a foundation stone next year regardless.

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Supporters of Vishwa Hindu Parishad gather during a rally in New Delhi, Dec. 9, 2018. The group gathered thousands of supporters to demand the construction of a Hindu temple on a site where a mosque was attacked, demolished in 1992. VOA

Tens of thousands of hardline Hindu protesters marched in New Delhi on Sunday, calling for a grand temple to be built on the ruins of a destroyed mosque in a flashpoint Indian city.

Trident-waving devotees clad in saffron filled a huge parade ground in the Indian capital under tight security, where speakers warned Prime Minister Narendra Modi they would not let up until the temple was sanctioned.

Some of Modi’s supporters feel the Hindu nationalist leader has not done enough to raise a shrine at a site in Ayodhya, a city believed by many to be the birthplace of the deity Ram.

The site was home to a medieval mosque for 460 years until Hindu zealots tore it down in 1992, kicking off riots across India that left thousands dead, most of them Muslims.

Its future has been tied up in courts for decades but some hardliners want Modi, who is seeking reelection in 2019, to push parliament to guarantee the temple by law.

World Hindu Congress, Hindu
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“The gathering here is telling you that Hindus won’t sit back until the temple is built, and our wishes are respected,” said Champat Rai, the leader of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) group that organized the protest.

Demonstrators chanting “Praise be to Ram” packed the Ramlila Maidan, a vast ground capable of holding more than 50,000 people, and filled the surrounding streets.

Some carried maces and tridents — weapons traditionally wielded by Hindu gods — and traveled great distances by train and bus to reach the rally.

“We have come here to protect our religion and Hindu pride. We want a temple for our Lord Ram,” Hitesh Bharadwaj, a teacher from Delhi’s satellite city Noida, told AFP.

The hardline VHP has applied pressure on Modi in recent weeks, staging a huge show of force in Ayodhya itself last month.

Hindu, Mosque
Photo credit: theguardian.com

A close ally of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the group is spearheading a push to raise the Ram temple, and is calling for more protests as the premier prepares to go to the polls by May.

The BJP was on the margins until the 1980s when its top leaders, including Modi, backed a growing movement for the construction of the Ram temple.

Its advocates want parliament to introduce a law bypassing legal hurdles blocking the temple before Modi’s term ends.

Also Read: Delhi’s Air Quality Leads To Ban On Trucks And Construction

The Supreme Court has delayed hearings into the disputed site but hardliners have vowed to lay a foundation stone next year regardless.

“We don’t care about the courts. A grand temple will be constructed in 2019,” Sushil Chawdhary, a VHP leader, told AFP. (VOA)