Science Tourism in India Ep. 01: Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir
The first episode in Science Tourism in India series takes you to the crown of India, Ladakh, and the Jammu & Kashmir region while we explore various sites.
Welcome to the Science Tourism in India Ep. 01: Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir. It takes you to the crown of India, Ladakh and the Jammu & Kashmir, region while we explore various sites. Science Tourism in India is a series that showcases key locations around the nation that can be visited for knowledge in science and technology, and history. Each episode has a YouTube video, which is followed by a blog.
Hemis National Park
The largest national park of India, Hemis National Park, is situated in Leh district of Ladakh union territory. The region receives almost no rainfall throughout the year and therefore is home to dry forest flora. The park is known for a large population of snow leopards and a variety of birds. Along with the dry environment, the high altitude makes it a perfect site for rich indigenous wildlife. There are around 16 mammals and 73 bird species found in the park.
Hemis is situated 50 km from Leh city, reached by private vehicles or public taxis. The cars are usually not allowed inside the park. Therefore, visitors need to walk and trek various rough roads inside. There are multiple trekking routes inside the park as well.
When to Visit
Mid-June to Mid-October | Visitors may need special permission
After talking about the land-based flora and fauna, let's move on to aquatic life. Bagh-e Bahu Aquarium in Jammu City is the largest underground aquarium in India. It houses over 400 varieties of both freshwater and marine life. You literally enter a fish into the premises as the entrance is shaped like a Fish Mouth, while the exit is in the Fish Tail's shape. The center also consists of a museum, a public gallery, a multimedia conference hall, state-of-art equipment, and a laboratory. Therefore, the aquarium serves as a tourist spot and assists aquatic life researchers from the region.
The aquarium is located on the banks of the Tawi river in the heart of Jammu city. It is straightforward to reach the place using public and private transport.
India Astronomical Observatory
Along with the largest national park and underground aquarium, India's crown is also home to its highest observatory. The Indian Astronomical Observatory, located at Hanle, houses four operational telescopes. The first facility, a 2-m optical infrared telescope, saw the first light back in September 2000. The Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) operates the telescope through ISRO satellite links, which enable operations in sub-zero temperatures. This telescope was later named after the noble-laureate Chandrasekhar as the Himalayan Chandra Telescope.
Over the years, various collaborations resulted in the setting up of new facilities. The High Altitude Gamma Ray Telescope (HAGAR) is a joint undertaking of IIA and Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), with seven telescopes set up in 2008. Later, Bhaba Atomic Research Center (BARC), TIFR, IIA, and Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics established the Major Atmospheric Cerenkov Experiment Telescope (MACE) with 21m collector. Recently, IIT Bombay established the GROWTH-India telescope, which is the country's first fully robotic research telescope.
The GROWTH-India telescope is part of the international GROWTH network and can be operated remotely. I have been fortunate to be able to get observation time at this facility during my Astrophysics course at IITB.
You may need permission to visit this facility. Visitors will need a private vehicle as the observatory is one of the only attractions in Hanle.
Ladakh is a unique region. The whole area can be divided into five tectonic plates. This rare phenomenon poses an opportunity for an occurrence of a variety of geology artifacts. The Ladakh Rocks and Minerals Preservation Study and Museum Leh Trust have collected many of these rare species of rocks and minerals. The majority of these species are from the Ladakh region, including Emerald, Aquamarine, Meteorites, and Calcite Rose.
A review on Trip Advisor made this place a must-go for me. The tourist relives his time with the owner, who was both hospitable and knowledgeable.
Not only because the specimens are gorgeous but also because the owner, Punchok, who invite me to have a cup of tea and explained the project, knows about the scientific side of it.
It is near Sankar Gompa in the city of Leh. You can visit around the year.
Anyone visiting Jammu and Kashmir makes sure to visit this tourist attraction. The crown jewel of Srinagar, Dal Lake, is an urban lake in the middle of Srinagar. The reason it finds a spot in this list is quite exciting.
The reason behind the formation of the lake is still unknown. One of the theories suggests that thousands of years ago, a meteor struck at the location. Over the years, the site was filled with water, much like the Lonar Lake in Maharashtra. @astro_neel suggested various papers that indicate results pointing towards this theory.
Moreover, there are numerous botanical gardens and Mughal architecture around the lake's 15 km perimeter, which make it a key tourist destination. One such important site is the Pari Mahal.
'Pari Mahal or The Angels' Abode, is a seven terraced garden located at the top of Zabarwan mountain range over-looking Srinagar and south-west of Dal Lake.' Mughal Prince Dara Shikoh built this palace for his abode and study place. A library and an observatory made it a perfect spot for performing and teaching astronomy.
High Altitude Research Laboratory
BARC's Astrophysical Sciences Division operates three facilities around the nation, in Mt. Abu, Srinagar, and Gulmarg. The High Altitude Research Laboratory manages a low energy Neutron Monitor in Gulmarg, situated a few km away from Srinagar. At the same time, the Srinagar facility pursues Radiation Application studies and Instrumentation Development activities. I found not much information about the site. Most probably, visitors will need special permission to visit.
Satish Dhawan Centre for Space Science
Recently, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Central University of Jammu for setting up a centre. The centre would enable an extension of ISRO activities in the northernmost region of India. The responsibility of managing and maintaining the centre will be posted to the University. Once, the centre is set up, I hope there would be a museum or public relations section to facilitate knowledge dissemination in the region.
Other National Parks
There are many other national parks in the Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir region. I have listed some of them below. Visitors may need permission to most of them.
Thanks for reading the Science Tourism in India Ep. 01: Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir blog article. I would be posting the second episode quite soon. Let me know what all places I can add to the series in the comments below.