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Getting to witness one total solar eclipse in a lifetime is a blessing. Getting to see a total solar eclipse, followed by an annular solar eclipse six months later (without much of a hassle) is what I call a true double blessing. And that’s what some people in India are getting this year.
In July 2009, the path of totality passed through central and north India. Even though it was monsoon time, and the totality occurred almost at sunrise, many lucky ones got a good glimpse of totality from places like Kashi and Sasaram. Now, on January 15th, the annular eclipse path is going through the southern tip of India. January being one of the best months for sky watching in south India, and the fact that the eclipse occurs during mid day, I hope, will make it another Great Indian Eclipse!
Why is the Sun not getting covered completely by the Moon, even though it is passing directly in front of the Sun? The answer is simple: the Earth is near the point where it is closest to the Sun, making it look larger (comparatively) than the Moon. So, instead of a total eclipse, we have an annular eclipse where a ring of the Sun is seen around the black shadow of the moon at the maximum eclipse.
On a side note: In India, it is considered to be auspicious to visit a holy place (generally with a river, ocean, lake etc) during an eclipse and take a dip in water after the eclipse is over. The last total eclipse passing through Kashi* gave those religiously minded people to visit Kashi for the eclipse for a dip in the holy river Ganga, and this annular eclipse gives them a reason to go to Rameshwaram* and take a dip in the ocean! Both Kashi and Rameshwaram are very ancient cities with a long history, both have shrines of Shiva (Jyothirlinga)and a pilgrimage to Kashi is not supposed to be complete unless a devote visits Rameshwaram!
The statue of Ugra Narasimha (Narasimha, the ferocious) in Hampe (or Hampi) was erected in the year 1528 AD. This was commissioned by Sri Krisnadeva Raya.
In the year 1565, after the war of Talikote between Vijayanagara and combined force of Bahamani sultans, tragedy befell on this statue just like most of the monuments in Vijaya Nagara. Today the place goes by the name Hampe or Hampi.
During the 1980s, the Department of Archeology took to some restoration and reconstruction of the statue after excavations revealed many broken pieces of the statue around it. It was also speculated that the statue depicted Lakshmi Narasimha, instead of Ugra Narasimha as it was believed earlier.
However, there was a court stay order on the restoration (if my memory serves me right), and Lakshmi did not come back to take her place on Narasimha’s lap. So, to this day, he remains somewhat ‘ferocious’ Narasimha.
Here is a collage showing how the statue looked around 1900 AD, and how it looks today.
To be accurate, the title should have been the ‘Road from Paradise’, for that is the road you will drive if you drove from Paradise, CA to Quincy, CA. Drive, I did, to Quincy. But not from Paradise, but from San Jose, CA area last weekend.
It was a leaf-peeping trip. California is not blessed with the typical fall foliage that the east coast of USA is known for. Not that I worry about it – because the absense of fall color also translates to more tolerable winters, and not having to scrape the snow off the windshield To make the long story short, this day trip to Quincy, CA in Plumas county was to enjoy the sights of the fall.
Most of the fall color wonders in CA occurs on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains, bordering the state of Nevada. On the more popular passes on the western side of the mountains (like the highway 50, 80, 120, 140 etc) the vegitation is mostly coniferous, and hence evergreen, which means no fall foliage. Except in couple of passes like the Feather River Pass and the Yuba River Pass.
I knew this was a long road. At least 5 hours of drive – one way. So we made an early start @7 am. 3 + hours of drive brought us to the small town of Olivehurst, CA with a non descript main street. One Pizza Parlor. One gas station. One hardware store. And a break for us to eat our ಉಪ್ಪಿಟ್ಟು. And yes, there was some good fall color on the parking lot, sort or preface for things to come.
Maple leaf turning golden in Olivehurst, CA
California state highway 70 going from Oroville, CA to Quincy, CA is also called the Feather river canyon. The road meanders next to the north fork of Feather river, crossing countless bridges, and a few tunnels. There are several small dams on the river. There is a big dam one at Oroville too. We skipped seeing that, but I belive we crossed it’s backwaters.
A view of North Fork of Feather River.
From Oroville to Quincy, it is about 75 miles. The first 25 miles are uneventful. You go up about 2000 feet, and then come down about the same. The road is one lane each side. But the traffic was very light.
Bald grey hill
Even before we could spot any color, one of the sights seen from miles was a grey bald hill, with trees burnt from a forest fire sometime back. I was rally hoping that our drive would not be fruitless, after watching this hill for a while.
Finally, color starts showing up!
All along the Feather river canyon, you will see a railway track close by. I have no clue where the rails lead to. But we spotted several freight trains on our drive. So they should be leading somewhere
After a while. color started showing up everywhere! Some of these pics were taken from inside the car, and that explains the blurriness. Entire hillsides were drenched in color.
Color, color, and more color!
The road has it’s own quota of curves. But not as bad as some other sierra roads. It is in good state of repair. One thing is it does not snow much in Feather river canyon. Actually it is the lowest pass that crosses the Sierra from west to east. But at some really nice spots, there was no place to pull over the car and take pictures
More Curves, and More Color!
Finally, we made it to Quincy by 1 pm in the afternoon. Quincy is a sleepy town, (or should I say a village? I don’t know), but is the main town of Plumas county. It has a college and even an airstrip.
We found some nice picnic benches in front of the elementary school. My son later tells me that the building also houses the Plumas county board of education. Very nice place for our ಹುಳಿಯನ್ನ and ಮೊಸರನ್ನ!
Quincy Elementary School. The board says it was built in 1905!
Rainbow tree in front of Quincy School, and (perhaps the only?) grocery store
A street in Quincy, alive with color
Red sandwiched between yellow
A street in Quincy -Trees, and cars, and electric lines!
Good bye Quincy!
The weather was near perfect. Not cold, but with a tinge of cool air. After a good lunch, it is time to head back home. On the way back, I noticed the colors at some places were much brighter due to the changed angle of sunlight.
Orange clad hillside
Another curve on the Feather river
Almost exiting the Feather river valley.
The colors will be here for another week or ten days. After that, all there will be bare trees and bleak landscape. May be something like below.
First trace of winter?
I have read that Feather canyon is beautiful in spring too- thanks to hundreds of waterfalls that line the hillside. I sense it would be great, because I saw remnats of many small falls on the roadside. I hope I will do that drive sometime. No, definitely not next year. After having to go through myriad “are we there yet?”, “why not turn back and head home right now?” from my kids I want to give them a break. April 2009? May be. My kids will be little more grown then. Also I am sure the questions will be different. “Did we come here to see these little waterfalls, where you can’t even swim?”