Kasaar: Peace, the Bob Dylan – Vivekananda way | The Window Seat

I remember sitting on roof of a local general store in front of Kempty Falls, Mussoorie. As I chilled my spines off my final beer for the night, my mind began exploring for a next stay in Uttrakhand. After travelling to Dehradun, Rishikesh, Haridwar, Mussoorie and Dhanaulti, I already had my complete fill for adventure and mountains. What was absent (and common) in all these destinations was what a nature lover essentially seeks – peace. These were heavily-packed tourist destinations having a distinction on world map. That was when I heard of Kasaar Devi from a locale who had accompained me for the drink. The idea and description seemed apt, I decided to find the reality for myself. I laid rest to my back with my eyes wide open, exclaiming at the mesmerising beauty of the night sky and wandering through thoughts of a tiring unknown journey the following day awaited.

Kasaar Devi is a small village located on one of the narrow ridges of Almora district, 8 kms north of the main town. The place derived its name from the famous Kasaar Devi temple, which is believed to be one of the 108 shaktipeeths in Hindu mythology. In the popular hippie trail to Kathmandu in 70s, Kasaar served as a popular station for hippies from around the world. It was then, this place derived its popular name ‘Crank’s Ridge’. 

As I reached Kasaar, with knowledge and spirits in equal but opposite proportions, I begin searching for an ideal-budget place to stay. Sparsely populated, Kasaar doesn’t offer vast variety of stays to visitors. If you’re looking for a budget stay, Dolma’s guesthouse is highly recommended. A few other budget accomodations like Freedom Café, Hotel Himsagar could be explored along with a number of cafés downhill which provide rooms as cheap as INR 150. Standard stays include Mohan’s Binsar retreat (Great food!), Kasaar Jungle Resort and Imperial Heights resort. You can find variety of food in decent cafés at normal prices.

Although what makes this tiny village noteworthy amongst travellers is not food or stay. Kasaar is famously known as a centre of alternative meditation. Every year, meditators from all globe arrive here for imploring their inner-selves. Kasaar holds the legacy of being the place where people like popular songwriter Bob Dylan, Hindu saint Vivekananda and countless other mystics sought refuge in calmness. One can hear chants of psychedelic hymns as your pass nearby Buddhist Centre. 

So, if you’re a backpacker travelling on tight budgets and crave for untouched nature’s bounty, this place is sure to fill your soul with inner peace. 

Places to visit: 

Kasaar Devi Temple, Buddhist Monastry, Binsar Wildlife Sanctury, Jogeshwar Mahadev Temple. 

How to reach:

Nearest Railway station is Haldwani. Regulars trains move from New Delhi to Haldwani. From Haldwani one can take bus to Almora (90 kms). Shared cabs at nominal prices ply at regular intervals from Almora to Kasaar Devi (only at daytime). If you happen to arrive in Almora at night, you’ll have to book a personal taxi or cover the distance on foot. 

Review: Apple Garden, Pulga 

Looking forward to holidaying in Pulga, Himachal Pradesh? Apple Garden could be your dream spot to stay and chill. Upon entering the Pulga village, you are greeted by a number of cafés on your way across this tiny village. These, coupled by a few homestays, are Pulga’s only means of accommodation and food for travellers. Once into the main village, take a left up-hill. A climb of about 50 mtrs would bring you to the Apple Garden. 

Apple Garden might look like a routine café to the regulars in Parvati Valley but a stay guarantees to distinguish it from the rest. 
The main building is a customary wooden house with a beautifully embellished café. It provides splendid views and can accommodate medium to large groups. Rooms, with tandoor and without, are available at nominal rates. The magnificient wooden house here features a naturally adorned garden in vicinity. If you’re not the one who favours room, go for the deluxe camp. Enjoy warmth of bonfire just outside the camps holding your coffee cup with frozen fingertips. This entire property is layered with a blanket of snow in winter months making the entire scenery breath-takingly delightful. 
Food menu is great, carefully crafted with a vivid amalgam of Indian, Chinese, Mexican, Italian and Israeli cuisines. White penne tastes amazing, so does the cold coffee (if dark is your thing, definitely go for it). 
Apple Garden is a deserving drop in your backpacking-bucket list. Your host to-be at Apple Garden, Pankaj, is a brilliant guide himself for affairs relating to Pulga and around. So if you happen to hit Parvati, you now know a place to definitely go. 

About Pulga: 
Pulga is a small village nestled on one of the narrow ridges of Parvati Valley. It is blessed with unmatched serene beauty. If you’re looking for a run from the heavy crowds of Kasol, your search for a peaceful destination ends here; Pulga is a bliss. 

How to reach : Pulga has to be trekked on foot from Barshaini which is the last point on road network in Parvati valley. Barshaini is a 2 hour drive from Bhuntar Airport via Kasol. It can be reached by Himachal Road Transport Buses or by private coaches. 

Chapter Kalga: the himalayan stories

The best incidences in our life happen by accident. One such accident occured when I was sipping my coffee at Aunty’s cafe in Barshaini, googling for my next stop in Parvati Valley. The cafe seemed more like an old wooden box with the fragnance of Indian curries locked in. I had already paid visit to almost all major villages in vicinity and was thinking of heading back home. Halfway down the coffee cup, lady who owned the cafe enquired, “Bhaiji” she said, in a crisp Nepali accent, “Kaha Kaha ho aaye?”, translating to where all have you been around. I bothered not to tell her as it was my maiden trip to Parvati lands and I was a bit reserved to people asking random questions. “Kalga gaye?”. Have you been to Kalga, she added, with a smile that looked so permanent on her face. I nodded in disaproval. She handed me a card that read ‘Holy Cow Cafe’ and strongly suggested a visit. From the small window of her cafe, I peeped and looked towards a small village made up of a few wooden huts on the opposite side of river. It was Kalga, she informed. I couldn’t help but show more intrest in what looked like a rather more peaceful settlement then ones I’ve earlier been. I grew curious, a calm breeze waved my senses. “Kya hai wahan dekhne laayak?” I asked, shedding away my restraints a little. Her answer made me rather amused and more curious, “Sab kuch hai” (Everything). She continued to smile. I paid my bills, gathered my belongings and left immediately for Kalga. 

Kalga is a small village located approximately 18 km north of Kasol, in Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh, India. A road from Bhunter lead us to Kasol, followed by Manikaran and Barshaini. Barshaini being the last point of that road and the last point where buses regularly run. From Barshaini, one has to cross the river and trek uphill for about 20 minutes to reach Kalga. 

Kalga is situated on top of a hill with relatively flat terrain. Upon arrival, Kalga is a fair treat to eyes as one is welcomed by Apple orchids, beautiful farms, tidy wooden houses and some great picturesque surroundings. White coloured flowers adorn the whole village in springs and it looks like a perfect replica of what heaven may look like. The local people are helpful and greet every visitor that passes through their farms with an astounding smile. Sounds of river flowing tumultously, combined by the giggles of kids, chirping by mountain birds and the feel of fresh air, makes up worth more than all the effort put in the trek. 

There are a handful of cafes in Kalga that provide cheap and comfortable stay. Food, as everywhere else in Parvati is delicious. Other than that, Kalga has a few dozen houses and two departmental stores keeping amneties of daily use. The primary occupation of people is farming and livestock breeding. A very few tourists make up to this point (untill now), most of whom are Israelis. 

THINGS TO DO : Go strolling around the small mud lanes, play cricket with village boys, or let your imagination handle it, Kalga offers you great amount of freedom and inner peace. Holy Cow Cafe is a must go place if you happen to drop here. Pulga and Tulga are villages in vicinity with Pulga having pretty decent cafes to visit and stay. Rest assured, I’ve been here more than a couple of times and Kalga never fails to surprise. 

HOW TO REACH : Though Kalga is not accesible through roads, nearest route is Manikaran-Barshaini road. Buses from all major metros of North India ferry tourists upto Bhunter via Chandigarah-Bilaspur-Mandi. From Bhunter one can easily find buses and taxis upto Barshaini. Nearest Railway Station is Chandigarh. Nearest Airport is Kullu Domestic Airport, Bhunter. 

Imagine yourself being on top of a hill, with a handful of people around. People who form nice company to sing songs with, and chit-chats over experiences. Or you could just gaze up at the night sky, cozying in your quilt, with a warm coffee to sip and literally no one to disturb your gaze! Kalga truely dissapoints no one and is an experience of a lifetime. 

Manali : How your favourite childhood dream is not equally fascinating today

Manali is one of the few stops in mountain state of Himachal Pradesh that has turned out to be a  household name. From honeymoons to full-family trips, people from all parts of the country visit the mountain clad beauty for a stay in cozy hospitality this town offers. Whether it is about escaping the summer heat, or celebrating a snowy new year, Manali always retains a favourite spot in visitors’ cookbook. But is Manali still the same abode we grew up listening praises of? Is Manali the very same ‘India’s best hill station’ as many still entitle it? This blog tries to answer these questions and tries to find if we need to revisit our summer trip plans! 

Manali is a busy town in the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh, India. Located 40 km north of the district headquaters, Manali can be reached by road from Chandigarh via Bilaspur-Mandi-Kullu. Thanks to the heavy tourist turnout, regular buses ferry tourists from almost all major metro cities in North. 

So where is the problem with Manali? The problem lies in the same heavy tourist turnout every year. Every year, tourists come around in large numbers to enjoy a week or two in Manali. The numbers increase manifolds in summers when people seek refuge in mountains from the scorching sun across the country. Manali, being the tourist sweetheart, attracts an overwhelming amount of visitors, just to overcrowd the streets further. 

This has lead to heavy commercialisation of this place-electronic shops, routine cafes, cloth market, eateries, Manali looks like just another Indian tourist town. The heavy commercialisation has taken the very natural charm of Manali from it leaving back large marketplaces and luxurious hotels. 

The markets are becoming a costly affair with every passing day because everything from eatables to garments have adjusted their rates to the tourist fanfare. Garbage and rotten food can be seen around the main town even after hard work the people of Municipal Council put in to retain cleanliness. In the end period of June, the streets are so full with people, one might hardly get a place to walk freely on the main Mall Road Square. People, who are rather more intrested in clicking selfies then admiring the scenic beauty and attaing mental peace the place once used reverbrate. 

It definitly concludes that you might want to alter you travel plan if it includes Manali. Himachal Pradesh is an abode of sceneic beauty and many new destinations await to be explored. 

The haunted lanes of Kuldhara

The vast deserts of Thar are full of stories. Stories of valor, hard work, irreplicable courage and unmatched sacrifices. But along with the folklores of great proud men and women, there are a few mystries that have remained unsolved over time. Stories that are percieved as haunted by common people. 

One such tale is of the ancient town of Kuldhara. 

Kuldhara is a clutter of abandoned villages 30 kms south to Jaisalmer. It beholds a thousand odd houses, a few temples, a small fortress, a lake, a seasonal river that flows throught it. Despite the sorry state of houses and other buildings in Kuldhara, the magnificient architechture of those times on yellow sandstone is still evident. Once on the terrace of village headman’s house, one can easily makeout the neatly laid houses, lanes and vastness of the village. 

But today, sadly, all of it is in shambles. In a glimpse, Kuldhara is a devastated ruin that lies beneath the scorching sun. But what led to the extinction of a town that was once bustling with culture and activities? Where are the people who made and inhabited this great town vanished? 
A popular folklore tries to answer these questions. It is said that Kuldhara was once a large town with many nearby villages dependent on it. It was headed by village chieftain who was a ‘Paliwal Brahmin’. It is said that about 200 years ago, the evil diwan of Jaisalmer state, Diwan Singh, set his eyes on the chieftain’s daughter. Diwan Singh warned him of a massacre if he refuses to lend the hand of his daughter in marriage. Fearing of the worst possible outcomes, the entire populace of Kuldhara is said to have migrated to distant lands overnight. Leaving behind no jewels, no belongings, but only empty homes and a curse- that whosoever tries to inhabit their ancestral village would die! Since then, no indivisual spends a night in Kuldhara fearing wrath of the curse. Locals who have tried to do so have heard horrible noises, disturbances and unusual negetivity around. 

A team of Paranormal Society of Delhi visited Kuldhara and are said to have experienced unsual activities. Diluting shadows, distorted voices and sudden temperature drops were some of the many irregularities that the team experienced. One of the team-member said he felt a touch on back of his shoulder only to turn back and find no one! It could seem like the script of a bollywood drama but the Paranormal Society of Delhi really had a terrible night at Kuldhara. 

In mornings, Kuldhara is just another tourist spot, managed by the Archaeological Survey of India. The government of Rajasthan is planning to convert Kuldhara into a full fledged tourist spot with all facilities for tourists. Although, even the gaurds at the village gates warn against staying in night. 

HOW TO REACH : Kuldhara can be reached by road from Jaisalmer-Sam road by driving 20 kms on the main road and then taking a right to rugged village road leading straight to Kuldhara. Many taxi options are available from Jaisalmer. 

EXPLORE : Kuldhara is near to the popular desert circuit of Jaislmer and one can visit nearby Sam sand-dunes for great desert experience and parasailing. The heritage city of Jaisalmer is also worth a one time visit (atleast). 

The local kids at Kuldhara will narrate you the whole story of Kuldhara in 10-20 rupees and the narration style will surely give you a chill off your spine!