Why this blog is called "Gallimaufry".

gal-uh-MAW-free\, noun.

Originally meaning "a hash of various kinds of meats," "gallimaufry" comes from French galimafrée; in Old French, from the word galer, "to rejoice, to make merry"; in old English: gala + mafrer: "to eat much," and from Medieval Dutch maffelen: "to open one's mouth wide."

It's also a dish made by hashing up odds and ends of food; a heterogeneous mixture; a hodge-podge; a ragout; a confused jumble; a ridiculous medley; a promiscuous (!) assemblage of persons.

Those of you who know me, will, I’m sure, understand how well some of these phrases (barring the "promiscuous" bit!) fit me.

More importantly, this blog is an ode to my love for Shimla. I hope to show you this little town through my eyes. If you don't see too many people in it, forgive me, because I'm a little chary of turning this into a human zoo.

Stop by for a spell, look at my pictures, ask me questions about Shimla, if you wish. I shall try and answer them as best as I can. Let's be friends for a while....

17 August 2007

On the trail of the Buddha

Spiti has much to offer to travellers in search of enlightenment. And even if you aren't searching for enlightenment, but only interested in the art & architecture of this wonderful faith, there is much to satisfy you here.

Om Mane Padme Hum - the sacred mantra can be seen everywhere. Carved on rocks piled on the roadside. Painted in lime on the slopes of the mountains. Pasted in little slips of paper on doorways. This faith is alive and benevolent.

Chortens or Stupas:

The chorten is one of the earliest forms of Buddhist architecture. In Buddhism, the body, speech and mind are considered the primary components of a person. Where the Buddha is concerned, paintings or statues represent the body. The sacred texts of the Buddhist cannon and tantras represent enlightened speech, and finally, the stupa or chorten represents the enlightened mind of the Buddha.

The mud chorten shown in the picture above islocated in Tabo & the concrete one is in Kibber.

These lovely copper chakras are located outside every monastery. These are rotated clockwise s an act of devotion.

Tenzin, the friendliest lama on Buddha's earth, informed me that the Zimshung is the room where His Holiness the Dalai Lama conducts prayers when he visits the Kyi monastery. The little yellow band all around the window (it's only partially visible in this picture) indicates that this is the room in which he usually stays at Kyi.

There was also a room called the Kuntung. It contained a marvellous large silver chorten inlaid with coloured precious stones. However, since the lamas were at prayers, it did not feel right to photograph the room.

Scriptures I saw in the Zimshung at Kyi monastery.

I noticed this wonderful ornamental structure atop the roof of Kyi monastery. Since the lamas were all at prayer, there was no opportunity to ask them what it symbolises. (There were six other such ornaments).

More about Kyi tomorrow.

8 August 2007

Strange encounters.... Let the pictures speak for themselves!

I told someone I wanted to see the wildlife in Spiti. Here's what I found...

Edelweiss! Edelweiss!

Edelweiss, edelweiss,
every morning you greet me.
Small and white, clean and bright,
you look happy to meet me.
Blossom of snow, may you bloom and grow,
bloom and grow forever.
Edelweiss, edelweiss,
bless my homeland forever.

There is little of Tyrol in Spiti, except a tiny distant cousin made immortal by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein in The Sound Of Music. I found this woolly little flower blooming in abundance beyond Kunzum La, the faces of its star-shaped flowers open to the sun & nodding contentedly in that semi-arid soil.

7 August 2007

10 Reasons To Love Spiti

  1. Bleak mountains
  2. Walkers’ paradise
  3. Chandrataal
  4. Gompas, gompas, gompas and a chorten or three to fulfil you for a lifetime
  5. Friendly lamas & zomos everywhere
  6. One lonely mummy at Geo
  7. Cold air that slices through you
  8. Wild flowers which don't care where they grow
  9. Chocolate croissants at places you least expect
  10. Did I mention Chandrataal?


Digression: wandering from the main path of a journey; turning aside (of your course or attention or concern); a message that departs from the main subject.

This blog has so far been only on Shimla. But late in July, I went travelling through Kinnaur & Spiti. This was a God-sent (or shall I say, government of India-sent) opportunity to re-visit the place of my dreams - Chandrataal.

Over the next few days I hope to post pictures of some of the places I saw on my way. I would like to talk about so many things I saw on my way - the constant play of sun and clouds, of light and shade, the aridity, the fertility, the cold, the warmth, the deserts, the lakes, the firendly lamas & zomos, the gompas, the innumerable chortens, the lonesome mummy at Geo, the tsampo, the salty tea, the improbable chocolate croissants discovered at Kaza, the laughter, the sheer joy of being on the open road....

This sight of the sun rising slowly over the mountains at Recong Peo reminded me of a Roerich painting.
The sublime view of the mountains is balanced by the sheer ugliness of the town with its higgledy-piggeldy buildings, open drains and the fine sheen of dust that seems to cover everything!
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