Mountain of light by Indu Sunderesan

This is the recent one that I have read and I enjoyed learning so much about the history.

Kohinoor diamond has got quite a long history and this one mixes facts and fiction about the way it has changed hands. I didn’t like this as much as I liked the Taj Trilogy of hers, but the book kept me hooked, making me switch between browsing over the net for some actual facts and myths and legends, and reading the book. I learnt quite a few interesting things in this process.

Some snippets of what I learnt :

  • There are some legends which tell that Samantaka mani which is referred to in the stories of Sri Krishna and Kohinoor are one and the same.
  • Nadir Shah, an adventurer from Persia, invaded India in search of power and plenty and took possession of this diamond from the King of Delhi by cunningly exchanging turbans. It is now known in history as the Turban Trick’.
  • Ranjit Singh was called Lion of Punjab and he held the Kohinoor with him for a very long period.
  • Ranjit Singh married Jindan Kaur, the daughter of a bishti, and she used to wear the kohinoor on her arm
  • Bombay was given on lease to East India Company
  • Dalip Singh, son of Ranjit Singh, held the Kohinoor for a short period, got separated from his mother, went into the custody of a British couple, accepted Christianity and later converted back into a Sikh, tried and failed to re-enter India and finally died in Paris
  • Colonel Mackenson and Captain Ramsay, nephew of Lord Dalhousie carried the Kohinoor to England
  • There have been numerous fights, plots, wars and schemes to get hold of the Kohinoor and so many lives were lost in the process.
  • It is said that the Kohinoor diamond is cursed, unless worn by a woman…

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    City of temples

    We had the fortune to visit a select few temples in Jammu. Photography is not allowed at any of the places, so we couldn’t capture any photos.

    Bahu temple

    We visited this on the day we landed at Jammu. Having read that Bahu temple is situated in the Bahu fort adjacent to the Tawi river, I had anticipated to traverse around the fort and go back in time. But the temple and the fort are occupying more or less the same space and there’s nothing much of a fort. The Bagh-e-Bahu garden adjacent to this had quite a number of great reviews, but we didn’t enter it owing to lack of time and tiredness. The temple as such is a small one and can be visited if you are in Jammu.

    Raghunath Temple

    We visited these on our second day and I would say you must visit these temples if you are in Jammu. This one is in the Raghunath Bazaar of Jammu. The temple is very huge, very calming and I loved it. This temple is dedicated to Lord Sri Ram, but there are lots of other mandirs inside it and we found some lakhs of saligrams here. Around an hour of time could be easily spent here.

    Ranbireshwar Temple

    This too is quite close to Raghunath Temple. This temple houses a eight feet Shiva lingam and many other lingams too. Devotees fill buckets with water, carry them into the temple, and offer their prayers, by doing the abhishekam themselves. A wanted to do it by herself and we let her do. This is a beautiful temple and I was glad that we could make it to this place too.

    Love that grows by the day

    Rangoli had been a love since childhood for me. For me, the memories of Pongal holidays translate to – going to maternal grandparents, teaming up with aunts, contemplating on which Rangoli to choose, browsing through the rangoli images printed in Eenadu newspapers, discussing the colour combinations and waking up early to conquer and colour the earth.

    All through childhood, we never had the opportunity of staying in an independent house or one with access to the ground in front of home. So any visit to a relative’s place that had a home-front of their own for rangoli, I grabbed the opportunity to try my hands at that.

    Years have passed, but even now, the prospect of making a rangoli, the process of starting with mere dots, turning them into beautiful drawings gives me a huge high. And the itch to pass on this love to my next ones has begun. To add more to it , A and my nieces have always shown interest in art and are quite good for their ages.

    This Dasara, A and my elder niece made this, while I just gave the instructions.

    This Diwali, SIL, A and myself made this

    And this was done by SIL and A

    And now I wait for the New Year / Pongal for the next rangoli season !!

    Some more delicacies of Jammu

    In continuation of Part 1

    Kachalu chaat

    We read positively about this, but our experience was a disaster. We tried this at the entrance of the Bahu fort, but it was voted down by every one of us

    Kaladi kulcha

    This is one of the best dishes that we got to taste in the Jammu belt. Soya paneer is called kaladi here, this is roasted mildly and is placed with spices in the middle of a kulcha, which too is roasted with butter. Kaladi kulcha from the pan melts in your mouth and tastes awesome, pushing all the famed burgers behind. And the price can’t be more economical, it’s priced at 40 !!

    Chole and Soya kulcha

    These are the other variations of the above kaladi kulcha with kaladi replaced by chole and soya respectively. A loved chole to the bits. Chole was a hit with most of us too, but Soya was approved by a select few.

    Paneer pakora

    In spite of how many ever times you might have tasted this, you have got to try the paneer pakora of Jammu. They are simply divine, with utterly soft paneer and crisp covering.

    Gulgule

    After reading a lot about this, we tried to locate this on our first day, but failed in doing so. The next day, other cousins succeeded and were so sweet to get us the parcel for us to try them out. And yes, they did taste good when we had them after dipping in Lassi.

    The Paratahas

    The pictures speak all that’s needed…

    Delicacies of Jammu

    I enjoyed the street food of Jammu so much that it reminded me of our food voyage on the Mall road of Shimla.

    Thanks to the Internet, we have started our journey with a big list in our hands, constituting the dishes to be tried out.

    Not of any specific order, here I present you with the lip smacking delicacies that we tried out !

    Rajma Chawal

    You find this item in almost every menu in and around Jammu. And if it’s not there, then they must have thought it to be implicitly understood to be part of menu. Keeping that aside, I was never a big fan of Rajma. They were just some lentils who made a decent dish, was the opinion I had about them. But Jammu proved me wrong and made me want to have this again and again. With the spices in mild quantities, good amount of ghee, this for sure served as a comfort food. Some places served it as curry placed on top of rice, but I liked this version better.

    Anardana chutney

    V was eager to try this from the time preparations for the trip had begun. Fortunately we got to taste it as soon as we landed in Jammu. Hotel Swastik in Raghunath Bazaar served these dishes and I liked the peculiar taste of it. Although it wasn’t rated much by V and others, I would definitely have it again, given a second chance.

    Makki di Roti / Toda and Saag

    The saag was divine. Toda was appreciated by others, but it didn’t fit my taste buds. The combination of a hot butter roti and saag can be a perfect meal to end any day.

    Dogri Thali

    Doesn’t it look like heaven on a plate ? What else could one ask for ??

    To be continued in Part 2 of the series…

    The BIG trip

    Travel is something that excites me. The whole process of researching about a place, taking notes, planning what to see , what to do and what to buy, visiting new places, meeting new people, trying out new cuisines, breaking out from regular routines, creating loads of memories, capturing countless photographs, and on and on, this is so recharging.

    Around six months ago, at the end of May, when V’s elder mama proposed of a family trip to Vaishno Devi, to be carried out in the end of October, I was in two minds. A pilgrimage as a group of seventeen was exciting, but to a place of such high altitude and such dense crowd, and of which I had the least knowledge, I was worried. Nevertheless, we agreed to be a part of the trip and tickets were booked. Accommodation was also taken care of. And I put all my apprehensions about the travel aside very conveniently for the months to come.

    As the travel date came nearer, the butterflies of my stomach subsided, the quest for all sorts of information began. We formed a group over Whatsapp, discussed what to wear, what to see, what to eat and all sorts of whats.

    And the trip did happen well treating us with loads of experiences and memories to cherish…

    Stay tuned to read more about our Jammu – Katra – Vaishno Devi trip

    Quartet

    Cooking tips to coding styles

    Kids antics to parenting strategies

    Book reviews to saree designs

    Reminiscing memories of hostel days to formulating plans of post-retirement….

    These were our topics of discussion, trivial to complicated, everything under the sun.

    A lot has been changing from the times we met each other at college, worked as colleagues, parted ways and have become colleagues again, but the occasional meet-ups like these fills me with a feeling that nothing amongst us had changed.

    Moments spent over freshly squeezed mosambi juice, homemade chocolate, garam chai and a bowl of pasta will keep my energy levels charged until the next one happens !!!