Saturday, December 19, 2009

Prime Minister Manmohan at Copenhagen Summit

On Friday at Copenhagen, India stood firmly on the side of the developing world, the small island nations and the Least Developed Countries, as they will be the worst sufferers of the disasters of climate change, as the Copenhagen Climate Summit reached its final hours, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said global regimes tackling climate change must take sustainable development into account.

He announced the cuts India will be going ahead with regard to the targets for the years 2020 / 2022, and outlined clean technologies, strategies to limit deforestation and increase forest cover, implementing solar energy resources based energy solutions and overall strategy to combat climate change, regardless of what the rich countries are committing. Watch the video for the key areas he addressed.

Earlier Manmohan Singh said, "As we embark on future negotiations, we'd do well to take stock of what we have learnt in the last two years. I draw 3 lessons: First, the vast majority of countries don't support any renegotiating or dilution of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in particular the principles of equity, the common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities to act against climate change…”

Manmohan Singh emphasized the importance of the Bali Action Plan worked out in 2007, saying, "The plan commits us to enhancing the implementation of the convention (UNFCCC). To settle for something that would be seen as diminished expectation and diminished implementation would be a very wrong view to emerge out of this conference."

On Kyoto Protocol, under which rich countries have to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, he said it should ‘continue to stand as valid legal instrument. Parties (countries) have to stick to their commitments.’

On India, the Prime Minister said, "as we're among countries most likely to be severely impacted by climate change", and he explained the steps taken unilaterally by India; ‘the eight missions’ including the ambitious solar mission under the National Action Plan on Climate Change, and ‘the reduction in emissions intensity per unit of GDP by 20 per cent by 2020, compared to 2005’.

"We will deliver (on these actions) regardless of the outcome of this conference, but we can do even more if a supportive global climate regime is put in place," he said, and continued, "It is a difficult task. I hope we can all play positive and constructive roles to bridge differences for an equitable outcome. India won't be found wanting in this regard."

Saturday, December 5, 2009

River Ganges at Haridwar

Here is one of the most beautiful photos of the River Ganges at Haridwar, a highly revered holly place in India. It is one of the most visited and cleanest places on the route of the meandering Ganga, a favourite destination for tourists from around the world and India. Haridwar is situated quite close to New Delhi with International Airports and many hotels for foreign tourists. From New Delhi Haridwar is just a few hours by taxi and other means of transport, and it is situated in the beautiful Himalayan foothills.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Home security systems

Sometimes news of break-ins and destruction of property and life disturb me very much, even though the affected persons are unknown to me. The reason is quite simple. Such unforeseen tragic incidences can happen to anyone, anytime, and anywhere, if their homes are not well-protected by installing the best home security systems. Some people either do not care about home security or may be using systems that either do not work, or outlived their utility. Such systems are as good as having no security systems at all.

I know that ADT alarm system is very popular in North America. I tried to find out why most of the homes, commercial and government establishments use ADT home security. It did not require the knowledge of rocket science to find out why a particular system is better than other. They have the latest systems not only to ward off burglary, but also to detect fire, smoke, carbon monoxide and other causes of serious hazards. Their trained professionals and interconnected monitoring centers keep a watch on your home and family 24 hours a day, every day. If anything goes wrong concerning your home they alert the local authorities including the police and you. ADT monitoring ensures that your home is secured always, whether you are at home, away on work, or on a holiday.

They offer easy-to-use home security equipments, ADT alarms, keychain remote and the digital keypad and their affordable monthly monitoring fees make home security easily available for any household. In case you want to understand more, their customer-friendly security consultants are just a phone call away, ready to guide and help you.

There is good news that they have special security promotions for the people in Chicago Illinois area. At very low rates, they monitor burglary, fire and medical emergencies and help you protect your family and valuables. All it takes to find out the latest the security offers is a call to ADT Chicago home security expert who will guide you through the offers currently available.

After all the experience of over a century, technologically advanced home security equipments and their highly trained security professionals assure you of the best you can do to secure your home.

Ganges River Dolphin: soons or shushuk

The Ganges Dolphin

Ganges Dolphin, originally uploaded by thomasb2.

Ganges River Dolphin (known as Soons by locals in India shushuk in Bangladesh) is a subspecies of river dolphins mainly found in Bangladesh, India and Nepal. A similar subspecies the Indus River Dolphin is found in Pakistan. These are found in the Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers and their tributaries and the Indus River and its tributaries Beas River and Sutlej River. The Ganges river dolphin is recognized by the government of India as its National Aquatic Animal.

These river dolphins have long pointed noses like all river dolphins with their teeth visible in the upper and lower jaws even when the mouth is closed. Adult female dolphins are larger than male dolphins. The species feeds on a variety of shrimp and fish including carp and catfish.

These river dolphins have been adversely affected by the use of the river systems by humans in by polluting them intolerably. Pollution by fertilizers, pesticides and industrial and domestic effluents are responsible for the death of many fishes and dolphin populations. Though they are protected species, they are caught by fishermen and their oil and meat are used as a liniment, as an aphrodisiac and as bait for fishing. Both the subspecies are listed by the IUCN as endangered on the Red List of Threatened Species.

The Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary in Bhagalpur District of Bihar, India, a 50 km stretch of Ganges River from Sultanganj to Kahalgaon, is the only protected area for the Gangetic dolphins. Now only few hundreds of the river dolphins are remaining and half of Gangetic dolphins found here.

Classified as “endangered” in the 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species & included Schedule-I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, they are among the oldest creatures in the world along with crocodiles, sharks and some turtles.

The Buriganga in Bangladesh, Dhaka's lifeline from times immemorial and where Gangetic dolphins were abundant in the past, is now threatened by pollution and encroachment, with about 80% of Dhaka's sewage flowing into the river untreated. The flow of water in the Buriganga is very low except during the monsoon season, when it is flooded. Here when the water quality is not at its worst, river dolphins can still be sighted.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Manmohan Singh meets Barack Obama

US President Barack Obama toasted Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the lawns of the White House at the first state dinner of his presidency to celebrate the "friendship" between India and the US. "Aapka Swagat Hai (you are welcome)," said Obama in Hindi.

A.R. Rahman’s live performance of 'Jai Ho' from the multiple award-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire resonated in the Whitehouse marquee during the predominantly vegetarian dinner. Indian dancers performed to the music of A.R. Rahman. The 300-plus strong guest list at the state dinner included some of the most powerful and talented Indians and Americans. Actors Alfre Woodard and Blair Underwood, legendary director and producer Steven Spielberg, Hollywood filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan, Indian music composer and singer A.R. Rahman, writer Jhumpa Lahiri, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, author Thomas Friedman and new age guru Deepak Chopra were some of the celebrity guests. Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Obama's aides like White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, senior advisor and assistant to the president for Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs Valerie Jarrett were among those present at the gathering. Indian billionaires Ratan Tata and Mukesh Ambani, Indian-Americans like Indra Nooyi, Anish Goel, South Asia expert in Obama's National Security Council Rajat Gupta were the other notable guests.

Dr. Manmohan Singh said the two countries must find new pathways of international cooperation that respond more effectively to grave challenges confronting the world, and said, "A strong and sustained engagement between our two countries is good for our people and the world. We are embarking on a new phase of our partnership".

Indian Dancers perform at the White House

Indian Dancers at White House
P112409PS-1624, originally uploaded by The White House.

Indian dancers perform at the State Dinner hosted by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in honor of Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and his wife Mrs. Gursharan Kaur, in a tent on the South Lawn of the White House on November 24, 2009. The dancers performed to musician A.R. Rehman's live song 'Jai Ho' from his Oscar-wining score for the blockbuster "Slumdog millionaire".(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Please note the terms of usage of the photo as appended below the photo: This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with President Obama

In honor of Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of the Republic of India and his wife, Mrs. Gursharan Kaur, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted the first official State Dinner of the Presidency at the White House on November 24, 2009.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Planning for the best all inclusive holidays

Having a memorable holiday is the best way to unwind and re-energize our body and mind, apart from spending quality time with family and friends, or whoever are our companions on such a trip. In fact , most people meticulously plan their holidays, be it to the Himalayan hill resorts, Guatemalan highlands, Maldives, or some of the most popular and romantic destinations in Spain, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, or some other long haul holidays.

While on holidays, we need the services of tour and travel operators, hotels, car rentals, travel insurance and many more holiday-related services. We can’t afford to get trapped anywhere because of any problems with these services. So, we use the services of experienced professionals in travel and holidays. Even those having too much of money and preferring the best in hospitality services look for bargain holidays as no one wants to waste money and get poor services. So, one of the best that I came across to help you plan and book your holidays is Global Holidays.

Their website features over 20 million discount holidays and flights to hundreds of various destinations around the world. You can check availability of immediate cheap holidays or holiday packages after many months, compare prices, and book your requirements online, on phone, or by visiting their office. Most of their offered packages are either low-priced or discounted as they have tie-ups with the all the major tour operators and airline networks, etc.

A visit to their site and their travel blog is one of the best ways to educate you on the options available and facilities in your dream holiday destination. They have highly experienced professionals to answer your questions on your holiday options.

Global Holidays holiday search and booking engine offers the best in technology and services offering the widest choice of cheap holidays and holiday bargains, with over 110 million holiday combinations for you to choose from.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Everest Climbing Routes: Southeast Ridge

Mount Everest (also called Sagarmāthā / Chomolungma or Qomolangma / Zhumulangma / Zhūmùlǎngmǎ Fēng), the highest mountain on Earth (8,848 meters or 29,029 ft), has two main climbing routes, the southeast ridge from Nepal and the northeast ridge from Tibet. The southeast ridge is technically easier and is the more frequently used route. It was the route used by Sir Edmund Hillary (New Zealand mountaineer and explorer) and Tenzing Norgay (aka Sherpa Tenzing, a Nepali Indian Sherpa mountaineer who later settled in India) in 1953 and the first recognized of fifteen routes to the top by 1996.

The ascent via the southeast ridge begins with a trek to Base Camp at 5,380 m (17,700 feet) on the south side of Everest in Nepal. Expeditions usually fly into Lukla (2,860 m) from Kathmandu and pass through Namche Bazaar. Climbers then hike to Base Camp, which usually takes six to eight days. Climbing equipment and supplies are carried by yaks, dzopkyos (yak hybrids) and human porters to Base Camp on the Khumbu Glacier. When Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay climbed Everest in 1953, they started from Kathmandu Valley, as there were no roads further east at that time.

Climbers spend a couple of weeks in Base Camp, acclimatizing to the altitude in order to prevent altitude sickness. During that time, Sherpas (Sherpas are an ethnic group, who migrated from eastern Tibet to Nepal within the last 300 to 400 years) from the most mountainous region of Nepal, high in the Himalayas) and some expedition climbers will set up ropes and ladders in the treacherous Khumbu Icefall. Seracs, crevasses and shifting blocks of ice make the icefall one of the most dangerous sections of the route. Many climbers and Sherpas have been killed in this section. To reduce the hazard, climbers will usually begin their ascent well before dawn when the freezing temperatures glue ice blocks in place. Above the icefall is Camp I at 6,065 meters (19,900 ft).

From Camp I, climbers make their way up the Western Cwm (Cwm, pronounced as coom, is Welsh for a bowl shaped valley/cirque) to the base of the Lhotse face, where Camp II or Advanced Base Camp (ABC) is established at 6,500 m (21,300 ft). The Western Cwm is a relatively flat, gently rising glacial valley, marked by huge lateral crevasses in the centre which prevent direct access to the upper reaches of the Cwm. Climbers are forced to cross on the far right near the base of Nuptse to a small passageway known as the "Nuptse corner". The Western Cwm is also called the "Valley of Silence" as the topography of the area generally cuts off wind from the climbing route. The high altitude and a clear, windless day can make the Western Cwm unbearably hot for climbers.

From ABC, climbers ascend the Lhotse face on fixed ropes up to Camp III, located on a small ledge at 7,470 m (24,500 ft). From there, it is another 500 meters to Camp IV on the South Col at 7,920 m (26,000 ft). From Camp III to Camp IV, climbers are faced with two additional challenges: The Geneva Spur and The Yellow Band. The Geneva Spur is an anvil shaped rib of black rock named by a 1952 Swiss expedition. Fixed ropes assist climbers in scrambling over this snow covered rock band. The Yellow Band is a section of inter-layered marble, phyllite, and semischist which also requires about 100 meters of rope for traversing it.

On the South Col, climbers enter the death zone. Climbers typically only have a maximum of two or three days they can endure at this altitude for making summit bids. Clear weather and low winds are critical factors in deciding whether to make a summit attempt. If weather does not cooperate within these short few days, climbers are forced to descend, many all the way back down to Base Camp.

From Camp IV, climbers will begin their summit push around midnight with hopes of reaching the summit (still another 1,000 meters above) within 10 to 12 hours. Climbers will first reach "The Balcony" at 8,400 m (27,600 ft), a small platform where they can rest and gaze at peaks to the south and east in the early dawn of light. Continuing up the ridge, climbers are then faced with a series of imposing rock steps which usually forces them to the east into waist deep snow, a serious avalanche hazard. At 8,750 m (28,700 ft), a small table-sized dome of ice and snow marks the South Summit.

From the South Summit, climbers follow the knife-edge southeast ridge along what is known as the "Cornice traverse" where snow clings to intermittent rock. This is the most exposed section of the climb as a misstep to the left would send one 2,400 m (8,000 ft) down the southwest face while to the immediate right is the 3,050 m (10,000 ft) Kangshung face. At the end of this traverse, there is an imposing 12 m (40 ft) rock wall called the "Hillary Step" at 8,760 m (28,740 ft).

Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first climbers to ascend this step and they did it with primitive ice climbing equipment and with ropes. Nowadays, climbers will ascend this step using fixed ropes previously set up by Sherpas. Once above the step, it is a comparatively easy climb to the top on moderately angled snow slopes - though the exposure on the ridge is extreme especially while traversing very large cornices of snow. With increasing numbers of people climbing the mountain in recent years, the Step has frequently become a bottleneck, with climbers forced to wait significant amounts of time for their turn on the ropes, leading to problems in getting climbers efficiently up and down the mountain. After the Hillary Step, climbers also must traverse a very loose and rocky section that has a very large entanglement of fixed ropes that can be troublesome in bad weather. Climbers will typically spend less than a half-hour on the "top of the world" as they realize the need to descend to Camp IV before darkness sets in, afternoon weather becomes a serious problem, or supplemental oxygen tanks run out.

Mount Everest, which is part of the Himalaya range in Asia, is located on the border between Sagarmatha Zone, Nepal, and Tibet, China.

Adapted from: Wikipedia

Golden Mount Everest at Sunset

Mount Everest photos
Mount Everest at Sunset, originally uploaded by Shift 1.

North Face of Mount Everest at Sunset

Photo of North Face of Mount Everest
Sunset on Mount Everest, originally uploaded by larryhe.

Mount Everest: view from the base camp

Monday, November 9, 2009

Phewa Lake in the Himalayas

Photo of Phewa Lake
Himalaya "in" Fewa lake., originally uploaded by teocaramel.

Phewa Lake (also written as Phewa Tal or Fewa Lake) is a lake in the landlocked Himalayan country of Nepal located to the north of India, in the Himalayan mountain ranges. Fewa Lake, the second largest lake in Nepal, is in the Pokhara Valley near Pokhara and Sarangkot, and at an altitude of 784 m/ 2,572 feet. The area of the lake is approximately 4.43 squire km. The deepest spot is at 62 feet. The reflection of Mount Machapuchare (or Machhaphuchhare) of the Annapurna series of peaks can be seen on its surface. There is the Barahi temple situated on an island in the lake. It is a tourist attraction, especially the north side of the lake, mainly made up of shops, hotels, restaurants and bars. Larger and better hotels, shops and other facilities can be found in Pokhara city.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Ho Phra Keo: the Temple of the Emerald Buddha

Emerald Buddha idols
Oldest temple of Vientiane, originally uploaded by B℮n.

Ho Phra Keo or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (formerly known as Wat Phra Kaew) is a former monastery and royal temple of the Lao monarchs. Built in 1565 by King Saya Setthathirath of the Kingdom of Lane Xang, it housed the Emerald Buddha, carved from a type of jade. The temple was destroyed during the Siamese invasion of 1828 and rebuilt between 1936 and 1942. ‘Surrounding the temple and its exquisitely kept gardens are 10 staircases, each intricately and symmetrically carved in the shape of dragons, adding to the distinct structure and design’, the author of this photo adds.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Jessica Simpson in Bollywood

American singer and actress Jessica Simpson has arrived in India for shooting on location for “The Price of Beauty” that will air on VH1. Reportedly she has won millions of new fans in India while filming her reality show in the country.

The Dukes of Hazzard star Jessica Simpson was in Mumbai wearing a traditional Indian bindi on her forehead and intricate henna tattoo (Mehendi) on her left hand. Simpson’s The Price of Beauty will also feature Bollywood actress Neha Dhupia, with whom she was spotted partying at a Bollywood bash in Mumbai's exclusive Vie Lounge over the weekend. Dhupia will be the Indian beauty ambassador on Simpson's show and accompanying Simpson during her stay in Mumbai.

The show takes Simpson all over the world ‘to meet women, study local fashions, dietary fads and beauty regimes’ and she would be exploring what all women do to look beautiful.

“I have always believed that beauty comes from within and confidence will always make a woman beautiful, but I know how much pressure some women put on themselves to look perfect," Simpson said in a recent press release for the show. "I am really looking forward to discovering how beauty is perceived in different cultures and participating in some of the crazy things people do to feel beautiful. I know we will all learn a lot on this journey and I am so excited that VH1 is coming along on what I’m sure will be a wild ride,” she added.

Bollywood inspired themes seem to sell well in the West, especially The United States, if the number of Hollywood celebrities heading for Bollywood is any indication. The list includes Sylvester Stallone (in a cameo playing himself in Kambakkht Ishq), Steven Spielberg (who recently announced joint venture worth US$ 825 million with Anil Ambani), Julia Roberts who is currently filming Eat, Pray, Love in different parts of the country and Kylie Minogue who recently made her Bollywood debut in the movie Blue (in the song Chiggy Wiggy).

While in India Simpson is expected to indulge in therapies that help her regain peace of mind and meet Bollywood musicians.


As MTV 2004 Video Music Awards performer Simpson poses for a picture at ISC Miami (USCG photo by PA2 Anastasia Burns, taken on August 29, 2004) and picture of Jessica Simpson taken during a USO/DoD Celebrity Tour at Eagle Base 14 November 2001.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hijron ka Khanqah

photo of Hijron ka Khanqah
Hijron ka Khanqah, originally uploaded by varunshiv.

Hijron Ka Khanqah is a monument of the fifteenth century (Lodi period), located in Mehrauli in New Delhi, India, maintained well by the Hijras of Turkman Gate in Old Delhi. The literal meaning of Hijron ka Khanqah is a “Sufi spiritual retreat for eunuchs”.

Hijra is a term generally used in North India for eunuchs. They are a well organized bisexual community and they are considered a religious cult. They dress like women and mostly behave like them. Their presence in special occasions like marriage functions and childbirth are considered auspicious by many people. They are often invited to dance and sing during such occasions.

At Hijron Ka Khanqah there is a large patio where white colored tombs are seen. Of the many tombs there, the main tomb held in reverence is said to be of a Hijra called Miyan Saheb.

Gomateshwara, the tallest monolithic statue

The colossal statue of Gomateshwara or Bahubali is situated at Shravanabelagola, the ancient religious town in Hassan district of Karnataka, 158 km away from Bangalore. This gigantic statue of lord Bahubali, carved out of a single block of granite standing majestically on top of a hill, is the tallest monolithic statue in the world. It is 17 m/55 ft (approximately) high and is visible from a distance of 30 km. It was built in the 10th century AD by Chavundaraya, a minister of the Ganga King Rachmalla (975-986 AD).

Set amid two hills and aqua green lakes, Shravanabelagola is a Jain religious centre with an unbroken tradition from the 3rd century AD. The neighbouring areas have Jain settlements and several statues of Jain Tirthankaras. Visitors can have a beautiful view of the surrounding areas from the top of the hill.

Gomateshwara, also known as Bahubali, was the second of the one hundred sons of the first Jain Tirthankara, Lord Rishabha, who was the king of Podanpur. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and tourists from all over the world visit the statue once in 12 years for Mahamastakabhisheka rituals.

According to legends, envious of the prosperity, power and fame of Bahubali, his elder brother Bharat wanted to conquer his kingdom. As war would destroy both the kingdoms, the ministers of both sides began negotiations and decided upon a personal fight between the brothers to settle the matter. The last part of the fight was to be fought by hitting the opponent’s head with fists. Bharat, taking the first blow, knocked Bahubali almost to the ground. The next turn was that of Bahubali who was known for the strength of his arm capable of killing Bharat with a single blow. But realizing that fighting his elder brother for material gains was not righteous, he did not hit him but tore at his own hair. Thus he gave up his kingdom and took up the path of ascetic life and meditation.

According to custom, monks who accept monastic vows must bow to all others who took such vows previously. If Bahubali went to Lord Rishabdev for permission to take monastic vows, he would have to bow down to all his 98 younger brothers, who had renounced worldly life before him. His ego did not permit him do that, and hence could not attain the supreme knowledge.

On understanding about his folly, his sisters approached him and prayed to give up his pride and ego. As Bahubali realized his mistake and shed his pride and ego, he attained divine knowledge, truth and enlightenment. After this, Bahubali went to his father who welcomed him and Bahubali began preaching and showing people the right path.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

At the feet of Gomateswara

feet of Gomateswara statue
Surrender, originally uploaded by вαℓα¢нαη∂∂єя $к.

This image was captured by the original author when the priest bent down to offer his prayer to the idol (statue) of Gomateswara at Shravanabelagola temple, 158 km away from Bangalore, India. One has to climb 500 steps to see this 55 feet high beautiful statue. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, devotees and tourists from all over the world flock to the statue once in 12 years for an event known as Mahamastakabhisheka.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A view of the Thousand Pillar Hall

The Thousand Pillar Hall (Aayiram Kaal Mandapam) of Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple actually has 985 carved pillars, not exactly 1000 pillars as the name suggests. Each pillar is carved out of stone in the style of Dravidian sculpture. This hall was built modeled on the 1000 pillared hall of Nellaiappar Temple at Tirunleveli, the first largest Shiva Temple in Tamil Nadu.
The Thousand Pillared Hall was built by Ariyanatha Mudaliar (in 1569), the Prime Minister and General of Viswanatha Nayak of the first Nayaka of Madurai (1559-1600). At the entrance of the hall (Mandapam) there is a statue of Ariyanatha Mudaliar seated on horse-back.
The hall is famous for its Temple Art Museum where exhibits of as old as 1200 years are displayed. Just outside this hall there are the Musical Pillars, each of which producing different musical notes when struck.
Meenakshi Amman Temple is a historic Hindu temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati (in the form of Meenakshi), in the holy city of Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Corridors inside Rameshwaram Temple, Tamil Nadu

Creative Commons License
Rameswaram Temple Inside by Mathanagopal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.

This is the largest temple corridor in India, the grandest part of the Ramanathaswamy Temple. The 1219 m pillared corridor consisting of 3.6 m high granite pillars, richly carved and well proportioned, built by various rulers over a period of time starting from the twelfth century. The perspective presented by these pillars run uninterruptedly to a length of nearly 230 m.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sumatran Tiger, Indonesia

Sumatran Tiger ; bathing, originally uploaded by tropicaLiving.

Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae), the smallest of all surviving tiger subspecies, is found in the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. Its stripes are narrower than the stripes of other subspecies of tigers and it has a more bearded look with a mane. It has webbing between its toes that makes Sumatran tigers very fast swimmers. The Sumatran Tiger is genetically isolated from other mainland tigers. According to estimates, at present there are only 100-400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild natural habitats.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Bengal Tiger in Kerala

tiger, originally uploaded by Sreejith Kodoth.

The author who loves wildlife photography, clicked this photo when he was working with Kerala Government's Forest Department.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lord Shiva: Nageshwar Temple

Nageshwar Mandir is a Lord Shiva temple, and Nageshwar Jyotirlinga is believed to protect devotees from all poisons. There are many legends about Nageshwar. One of them is related to Daruka who lived with her community of demons in the forests near Dwaraka. The demons used to harass sages and they approached an enlightened sage Orvamuni. He cursed the demons for their destruction, and a war between the gods on demons followed.

To save the demons, Daruka used her special powers (boon) she had got from goddess Parvati and shifted the entire forest to the sea. From there they continued troubling the sages and once they captured the Shiva devotee Supriya, who made all other captives recite the powerful Om Namah Shivaya mantra of Lord Shiva. But when the demons decided to kill Supriya, it disturbed the Shiva-Parvati devotee Daruka. She prayed to Lord Shiva who appeared here and freed all from the demons. But Parvati granted a boon to Daruka that she would rule the region. Lord Shiva agreed to this and with Parvati stayed there, Shiva assuming the form of Jyotirlinga with the name Nageshwar and Parvati becoming Nageshwari.

According to Hindu scriptures, King Yadu of Yadu dynasty was married to a Nag girl. Skanda Purana mentions that the King Raivat of Kushsthali was an incarnation of Takshak Nag. Often Dwaraka is also named as Kushsthali in Hindu scriptures. Some historians think that the Aryans made the Nags a religious community and established Nageshwar Jyotirlinga.

The present temple was renovated by Late Gulshan Kumar, starting the work in 1996, before his assassination. The entire project cost of Rs 1.25 crores was born by Gulshan Kumar Charitable Trust.

Nageshwar Temple is visible from a distance of 2 km. A huge 125 feet high and 25 feet broad attractive statue of Lord Shiva in meditation pose greets devotees from outside the main temple. At the main entrance is a hall or Sabha Mandap. The main Jyotirlinga is situated under the Sabha Mandap floor, with a silver replica of Nag (snake) placed there. Behind the Jyotirlinga there is an idol of Goddess Parvati. Only male devotees wearing dhoti can enter and perform pooja/prayers at the Garbhagriha.

The morning Arti begins at 5 AM and the temple opens for devotees from 6 AM. Devotees can have a Sringar Darshan at 4 PM, after which entry to Garbhagriha for devotees is closed, though the rest of the temple closes only at 9 PM. During Holy Shravan, Navaratri, Diwali, Kartik Purnima and Mahashivaratri the temple remains open for longer hours.

The best time to visit is from August to September. The nearest (146 km) airport is Jamnagar. Nageshwar is situated between Okha (14 km) and Dwaraka (16 km). Visitors have to stay either at Dwaraka or Okha from where buses and taxis are easily available. Nageshwar is also on the circuit of Dwaraka Darshan tours of local tourist bus services. For nominal rates, Dwaraka Darshan offers a sight-seeing trip of five to six hours covering Nageshwar Jyotirlinga, Gopi Talav, Bet Dwaraka, Rukmini Temple.

The distance between Dwaraka and Nageshwar is only 16 km. Dwaraka, the ancient capital of Lord Krishna, is well connected with the other parts of India by railways, with more than seven long distance trains and many shorter distance trains. There are regular Government Transport buses and private buses between Ahmedabad and Dwaraka, taking nine to ten hours to reach Dwaraka. Night buses and sleeper coaches are also available.

Okha is the last stop for Dwaraka on railways and road routes. The distance between Dwaraka and Okha is 30 km. Distance from Dwaraka: by train to Ahmedabad = 471 km, Vadodara = 571 km, Surat = 700 km, Vapi = 798 km, Mumbai (Bandra) = 962 km, Puri = 2752 km, Jammu Tavi = 2154 km. Distance from Dwaraka by road to Ahmedabad = 457 km, Somnath = 230 km, Rajkot = 232 km, and Jamnagar = 144 km.

Many visitors prefer the Dwaraka-Porbandar-Somnath route, on the coastal road famous for its scenic beauty. Porbandar, the birth place of Mahatma Gandhi, is 75 km from Dwaraka. Devotees first visit Harsiddhi Mataji Temple (Harshad Mataji Temple) on seashore before Porbandar. Somnath is about 150 km from Porbandar. Private buses start from Dwaraka at 8 AM in the morning and reach Somnath at 2 PM covering Mool Dwaraka and Harsiddhi Mataji temple.

Dwaraka city has all the basic amenities for tourists and devotees. Power cut is rare. There are good hotels, guest houses and even community living accommodation (dharmashalas) at cheap/affordable rates. Food in North Indian, South Indian, Gujarati, Rajasthani and even Chinese styles are available in most eateries, including hotels and restaurants.

Lord Siva at Nageshwar in Gujarat, India

Nageshvara Jyotirlinga is one of the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines mentioned in the Shiva Purana. There are many shrines in India which are believed to be identical to this Jyotirlinga. The major three such shrines are the Nageshwara temple near Dwaraka (Gujarat) the Nagnath temple in Aundha in Maharashtra, and the Jageshwara temple near Almora in Uttarakhand. It is believed to be the first Jyotirlinga on earth.

Shiva Purana says Nageshvara is in the Darukavana, which is an ancient epic name of a forest in India. Darukavana finds mention in Indian epics like Kamyakavana, Dvaitavana, Dandakavana, etc.

According to legends, the Balakhilyas, a group of dwarf sages, worshipped Shiva in Darukavana for a long time. To test their devotion and intentions, Shiva came to Darukavana as a digambara (nude) ascetic, wearing only Nagas (serpents). The wives of the sages were attracted towards him and ran after the ascetic, leaving their husbands. The sages got very disturbed, frustrated, lost their patience and cursed the ascetic to lose his Linga. The severed Shivalinga fell on the earth and whole world trembled. Brahma and Vishnu came to Shiva and requested him to save the earth from destruction and take back his Linga. Shiva consoled them and took back his Linga (Vamana Purana Ch.6 and 45).

Then Shiva promised his divine presence in Darukavana as Jyotirlinga for ever. Later, Darukavana became the favorite place of Nagas, and Vasuki worshipped Shiva here for long, and thereafter the Jyotirlinga came to be known as Nagnath or Nageshvara.

Also, there is a narrative in the Shiva Purana on the Nageshvara Jyotirlinga. It says a demon named Daruka attacked a Shiva devotee, named Supriya, and imprisoned her along with several others in his city of Darukavana. This place was a city of snakes and Daruka was the king of the snakes. On the insistence of Supriya, all the prisoners started to chant the holy mantra of Shiva and instantly Lord Shiva appeared and vanquished the demon and later started to reside here in the form of a Jyotirlinga.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Houseboats in USA and other countries

In the late 1940s when people were looking for staying on water for longer periods of time, recreational houseboating started in the United States. Lake Cumberland in Kentucky is considered the birthplace of houseboating in the USA. Seattle, Washington, is home to a large collection of floating houseboat neighborhoods, particularly in Lake Union and Portage Bay. Renting houseboats has also become very popular.

Houseboats have been used for commerce too. On the Northern Neck of Virginia, Chesapeake National Bank had a floating bank branch called the Boat 'n’ Bank. Sausalito, California, has one of the most noted collections of float homes that have been owned by famous musicians, film stars, authors and other celebrities.

Houseboating on Lake Powell is a popular vacation spot where the Glen Canyon Dam impounds water from the Colorado River to form 2,000 miles (3,200 km) of shoreline. Near Las Vegas, Lake Mead, the largest manmade lake in North America, New Bullards Bar Reservoir in the Sierra Nevada foothills near Nevada City, California, and Lake Shasta in the mountains just outside of Redding, California, are also popular spots for houseboats. Houseboating is also common in Lake Cumberland, Lake Amistad, Trinity Lake, Lake Mohave and Lake Mead National Recreation Area. In New York, houseboats have become a major feature of the Great South Bay on Long Island.

Many thousands of people live afloat in Great Britain. Houseboats, called canal narrowboats are used as homes, and also as rented holiday accommodation In the United Kingdom, mainly used for recreation. There are hundreds of converted ships, barges and boats being used as homes by many families. The various moored houseboats stretch from Broadness Creek and Benfleet Creek in the lower part of the London Port Health Authority District up to Twickenham in the upper part.

Houseboats in Canada, generally motorized and used for recreation, are popular in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. The town of Sicamous, on Shuswap Lake, British Columbia, is said to be the ‘Houseboat Capital of the World’.

There are many motorized, pontoon-based houseboats with two or more bedrooms In Australia on Murray River and in the coastline of Queensland. They are either privately owned residences or for hire, for instance, as in the safe passages of the Coomera River and The Great Sandy Straits near Fraser Island, the world's largest sand island.

Houseboats are used to accommodate tourists on the Mekong River, Laos, where they are referred to as 'slow boats'. They are either made up of wood or steel.

Houseboating is a developing holiday activity In New Zealand. Whangaroa Harbour, a land locked harbour, on Northland's east coast provides houseboating facilities.

Some of the finest and costliest houseboats of Europe can be seen plying along the canals of Amsterdam in The Netherlands, which even have houseboat hotels.

Situated in the neighborhood La Estrella, in Maraca Ibo, Venezuela, there is a big house called La Casa Barco, built by a former captain of the Venezuelan Navy in the last century. The building, floating on water, resembles a real ship with its anchors, lifeboats, and radars. La Casa Barco has now become a city icon for tourists.

On Lake Kariba of Zimbabwe houseboats have been in use since the creation of the lake in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It is considered one of the most luxurious ways to experience the Zambezi river basin and its wildlife, as a lot of wild animals come down to the river for drinking water and to cool themselves down.


Kerala and Jammu & Kashmir are the two states in India famous for houseboats. Houseboats are commonly seen in the backwaters of Kerala. These are large exotic barges used for leisure trips and a major tourist attraction. A typical Kerala houseboat is 60 to 70 feet long and about 15 feet wide at the middle. The hull is wooden and the roof is made of bamboo poles and palm leaves. Most of these are rented out to tourists, and they provide all kinds of facilities, including food and beverages as in hotels.

The houseboats in Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir, are mostly stationary, in the Dal Lake and Nageen Lake, and rented out to tourists. Some of these house boats have up to three bedrooms, apart from living rooms and kitchens. They provide the unique experience of living in a freshwater lake, in cedar-paneled elegant bedrooms, with all the conveniences of a luxury hotel. About a thousand houseboats are moored along parts of the Dal Lake and Nagin Lake and the Jhelum River.

Like hotels, houseboats vary in the levels of luxury and they have been graded by the Department of Tourism. Luxury houseboats, like a luxury hotels, have fine furniture, good carpets and modern bathroom fittings, while the lowest category houseboats, like low-budget hotels, are cheaply furnished. All houseboats, regardless of category, have highly personalized service. The cost per day of hiring a houseboat includes all meals and free rides from the houseboat to the nearest jetty and back. A standard houseboat provides a balcony in the front, a lounge, dining room, pantry and three or more bedrooms with attached bathrooms. All houseboats not moored to the bank of the river or lakes provide a Shikara as a free service from the houseboat to the nearest jetty.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Dal Lake, Srinagar, Kashmir

View the moored houseboat on right hand side of the photo. Shikaras can also be seen plying in the Dal Lake.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Thiruvathira is observed, mostly in Kerala, India, on the full-moon day of Dhanu Masam, on the day of the Thiruvathira star (Alpha Orionis). According to legends, this is the day Goddess Parvathi met Lord Siva after her long penance. It is believed that observing Thiruvathira vratham or Thiruvathira nonbu (fasting during thiruvathira) would ensure that a woman's husband would have a long life. Women, including little girls, would get up early in the morning during the whole of Dhanu masam and go to a Kulam (pond) or a river to take bath. They usually go in a procession singing various songs. Also they sing and play while taking bath. After bathing, they go to the temple dressed in their finest clothes.

The practice of gifting bunches of bananas to the elders is observed in some parts of Kerala. During this season, huge swings (oonjal) are erected in the vicinity of most of the houses. These swings are hung from the branches of tall trees. The swings are made of ropes hung from the branches of trees with wooden planks for the seat. After lunch, the Thiruvathirakkali dance is performed. The accompanying songs (Thiruvathirapaattu) are written in Malayalam and are set in a specific meter. The dance form is also called Kaikotti Kali (dancing while clapping hands, also spelled Thiruvathira Kali) and is also performed during the festival of Onam.

Elephants for Onam procession 2009 at Cochin

Onam, the most popular festival of Kerala, falls in the month of Chingam (August/September), marking the annual visit of the legendary King Mahabali, who once ruled Kerala. Onam is closely linked to Kerala's culture and tradition.

According to the legend, Kerala witnessed its golden era during the rule of King Mahabali. Everybody in his kingdom was happy and prosperous. There was no shortage of anything, people lived a truthful and contended life and there was equality among them. Mahabali’s popularity was not liked by Gods who wanted to bring an end to his reign as they felt challenged and insecure. Lord Vishnu appeared as Vamana and deceitfully defeated Mahabali. However, Vishnu granted him a boon that he could visit his people every year with whom he was so attached. So, Onam is celebrated every year to welcome Mahabali.

Competitions, dance performances, sports, etc. are organized during Onam celebrations. Some notable features of Onam are Vallamkali (Snake Boat Race), Talappanthukali (a ball game), Ambeyyal (Archery), Kayyankali, Attakalam, Kaikotti kali, Thumbi Thullal, Kummatti kali, Pulikali, etc.

On Thiruvonam day, King Mahabali is believed to visit every Malayalee home to meet his people. So, homes and surroundings are cleaned and decorated with flowers and traditional lamps. Sumptuous feasts are prepared in every household.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Gurudwara Katalgarh Sahib

Gurdwara Katalgarh Sahib (Chamkaur Sahib or Gurdwara Qatalgarh), Punjab, India, lies to the west of Gurdwara Garhi Sahib and is the main shrine at Chamkaur Sahib. This Gurdwara marks the site where the fiercest battle took place on 7 December 1704 between the Mughal army and the Sikhs.

During the battle of Chamkaur in 1704, in which the Guru and 40 Sikhs fought against the Mughals, both of Guru Gobind Singh's sons Ajit Singh and Jujhar Singh died at this spot. When the Sikhs in the fort at Chamkaur were being martyred one by one, the Sikhs did not want the Guru's sons to go to battle, but Guru Gobind Singh declared that all the Sikhs in the fort were his beloved sons.

Guru Gobind Singh watched his two sons achieve eternal peace through martyrdom and prepared himself to follow his sons and attack the Mughal army but his Sikhs passed a resolution that the Guru and the two remaining panj piare should escape under cover of darkness while the remaining Sikhs would hold the fort and delay the attackers. The Guru had to yield to the will of his Sikhs.

The original Gurdwara, constructed by Sardar Hardial Singh of Bela in 1831, was replaced during the 1960's by a new complex. The main building, Mariji Sahib, is an elegant three-storey domed structure standing on a high base. The large divan hall contains an eight meter square sanctum. Another vast hall nearby is called Akal Buriga. It was used for the daily congregations before Mariji Sahib was constructed. To the west of Akal Buriga is the old Baoli Sahib, still in use. The Guru ka Langar, community kitchen, is north of Baoli Sahib and Akal Buriga. The Gurdwara also houses the offices of the local managing committee administering all historical shrines at Chamkaur under the overall control of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC). In addition to the daily services, largely attended assemblies take place on the first of each Bikrami month and on important anniversaries on Sikh calendar. A three day fair called Shahidi Jor Mela is held on 6, 7 and 8 Poh, usually corresponding with 20, 21 and 22 December, commemorating the martyrs of Chamkaur.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Planning your holidays to Ibiza

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tigers vanish from Indian tiger reserves

Panthera tigris tigris - Royal Bengal tiger
Tiger and tiger cub in Pilibhit Tiger Reserve
Tiger reserves in India - Map of India

There are 37 tiger reserves in India. But two of the tiger reserves, Panna in MP and Sariska in Rajasthan have visibly no tigers now. There is no reliable information available on the number of tigers in seven other tiger reserves. These seven tiger reserves also will go into the list of tiger reserves without tigers if immediate steps are not taken. This information came out at the All India Meet for Tiger Reserve Directors in Sariska.

Speaking at an interactive session on the fate of Indian Royal Bengal tiger, Indian Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh asserted on July 28 that innumerable instances of poaching of wild animals, particularly the majestic striped felines like the tiger, pose a serious threat to India’s entire ecosystem. He said instead of trans-locating the tigers, poaching needs to be curbed.

"Between the years 2002 to 2004 around 23 tigers were poached in Sariska National Park. At present we have trans-located three tigers from Ranthambhore. But trans-location is not the solution. We have to fight against poaching. Today poaching is the biggest threat," Jairam Ramesh said.

National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) Member Secretary Rajesh Gopal admitted that one of the tiger reserves, Indravati in Chhattisgarh, where “tiger protection efforts in the past 20 years have failed”, should be denotified.

The other tiger reserves facing the extinction of tigers are Simlipal in Orissa, Palamau in Jharkhand, Manas in Assam, Namdapha in Arunachal Pradesh, Dampa in Mizoram, Buxa in West Bengal and Valmiki in Bihar.

The Royal Bengal tiger (scientific nomenclature: Panthera tigris tigris or Panthera tigris bengalensis), is the most populous subspecies of tiger mainly found in India and Bangladesh, in addition to parts of Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar.

There were 40,000 tigers in India at the beginning of the last century. In 2006, when the last tiger count was made, about 1411 wild tigers were reported by the Government of India's National Tiger Conservation Authority. Since then about 100 tigers have died because of poaching, natural reasons and man-animal conflicts.

In the last few months not even one of the 12 tigers believed to be in Buxa in Jaipalguri district (West Bengal) was spotted.

Manas had 40 tigers in 2006 but the tiger population is dwindling due to deforestation and poaching. Four tiger deaths were reported in 2009 from Manas.

Valmiki in Bihar had 10 tigers in 2006. This year poachers from Nepal have been very active in the reserve that has seen very poor conservation efforts.

Simlipal in Orissa had 40 tigers in 2006, but in 2008-09 it was reduced to two tigers per 100 sq km from the ideal two tigers per 10 sq km; poachers have been caught on camera killing prey.

Indravati in Chhattisgarh has made no estimate of tiger population in the last nine years. In 2000, the reserve had 100 tigers. But now doubts are being expressed about possible killing of a substantial numbers of tigers by Naxalites to raise funds.

Palamau in Jharkhand had no census of tigers in 2006. Poaching is rampant in the vicinity of the tiger reserve.

Namdapha in Arunachal Pradesh had 12 tigers in 2006, but no tiger was spotted in the past 12 months.

The above is part of the impressive statistics presented at the All India Meet for Tiger Reserve Directors. There are reports about India facing difficulties in controlling illicit trade in tiger organs, tiger bones, tiger skin and products and this has been brought to the notice of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) time and again, according to reports.

India is the home to about 50% of the world's tiger population. The Bengal tiger is the second largest subspecies after the Siberian tiger. The tiger species Panthera tigris is the national animal of India. The tiger subspecies Panthera tigris tigris is the national animal of Bangladesh.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Ranganathaswamy Temple at Srirangapattana

Srirangapattana, also spelled Srirangapatna, anglicized to Seringapatam during the British Raj, is a town in the Mandya district of the Indian state of Karnataka. It is located near the city of Mysore and is of great religious, cultural and historic importance.

The name is related to the famous Ranganathaswamy temple which dominates the town Srirangapattana. It is one of the most important Vaishnavite (Hindu) centers of pilgrimage in South India. The temple was built by the Ganga dynasty rulers in the 9th century. The structure was strengthened and improved upon architecturally about three centuries later. The temple is a medley of the Hoysala and Vijayanagar styles of temple architecture.

Solar eclipse through the domes of the Golden Temple

Photo: Solar eclipse seen at Golden Temple
PD*30215688, originally uploaded by Casalotti.

This is a view of the partial solar eclipse seen through the domes of the Golden Temple, Amritsar, India, on 22 July 2009. Some parts of India witnessed one of the most spectacular celestial phenomena of total solar eclipse of the 21st century. Amritsar, however was off the path of the totality of the total solar eclipse, that started being visible in Western India. In India, the eclipse was visible at its best in Varanasi, Uttarpradesh, India, as most other places on the path had cloudy weather obscuring the sight.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Excitement in Taregna, the Total Solar Eclipse Village

Taregana (or Taregna literally means song of the stars), 35 km off Patna, the capital city of Bihar in India, has overnight turned into a much sought after tourist destination thanks to the total solar eclipse on22 July 2009.

The phenomenon will be best glimpsed from the humble environs of Taregna, which according to NASA is the best place to view the Total Solar Eclipse.

Taregana’s association with astronomy is perhaps as old as astronomy itself. Taregana is one of the two places used by Indian astronomer-mathematician Aryabhata (sometimes spelt as Aryabhatta) for his celestial studies.

It is believed he was the first to state that the earth revolves around the sun after a long research in his observatory tower at Taregnadih, the mound near Taregna.

According to the NASA forecast based on satellite imagery, ‘the sky over the region (Taregna) is likely to be less cloudy than at other places in the 250 km wide path of the total solar eclipse. So it may offer one of the best views of the celestial phenomenon’.

The Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation has set up a special counter at Taregna to provide all possible facilities to the visitors. All the concerned Government departments have been assigned tasks of setting up temporary public toilets, repairing the road, providing round-the-clock power supply as well as bringing out a pamphlet on the village.

It will be a memorable day for residents of Taregna because many scientists, researchers, observers, journalists from the world over and even Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar are expected to arrive here to watch the total solar eclipse. The mood is quite upbeat and festive in this Bihar village.

Most school students of the village have been taught about the importance of Taregna in view of the total solar eclipse and its historical connection with astronomy.

There was a total solar eclipse of 4 minute duration, visible from the Mediterranean seaside town Side in Turkey and some other Middle Eastern countries during March, 29 2006.

The 22 July 2009 solar eclipse will be the longest solar eclipse of this century with the maximum phase lasting for 6 minutes 39 seconds. The next total solar eclipse that can be viewed from many parts of India will occur only on June 3, 2114, according to astronomers.

The longest total solar eclipse in this century on Wednesday, as swaths of India and China are plunged into darkness, will be viewed by millions of people in Asia.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple in Singapore

Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple in Singapore

Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is a Hindu temple located in the middle of Little India in the southern part of Singapore.

The Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is dedicated to the Hindu Goddess Kali, the fierce embodiment of Shakti and Lord Shiva's wife, Parvati. Kali has always been a very popular Goddess in the Indian State of Bengal, the birthplace of the laborers in Singapore who built this temple in 1881. Images of Kali within the temple show her wearing a garland of skulls and ripping out the insides of her victims (demons), and Kali sharing more peaceful family moments with her sons Ganesha and Murugan.

The Temple building is constructed in the style of South Indian Tamil temples (South Indian Dravidian style of architecture) common in Tamil Nadu, as opposed to the style of Northeastern Indian Kali temples in Bengal, where worship of Goddess Kali is widespread.

Sri Mariamman Temple, the oldest temple in Singapore

Sri Mariamman Temple on 2 Dec 2005

Sri Mariamman Temple on 2 Dec 2005

Old Gopuram of Sri Mariamman Temple on a postcard of 1901

Old Gopuram of Sri Mariamman Temple on a postcard of 1901

Sri Mariamman Temple is Singapore's oldest Hindu temple, as old as Singapore itself. The temple is a National Monument and a major tourist attraction. Sri Mariamman Temple is managed by the Hindu Endowments Board, a statutory body under Singapore Government.

Sri Mariamman Temple was founded in 1827 by Naraina Pillai (also spelled as Naraina Pillay) eight years after the British East India Company established a trading settlement in Singapore. Pillai, a government clerk from Penang, arrived in Singapore with Stamford Raffles in May 1819. Pillai soon established himself in business and became a leader of the Indian community in Singapore.

By 1827, Pillai built a simple temple made of wood and attap palm (Nypa fruticans) and installed a small idol of the goddess Mariamman, the South Indian mother goddess especially worshipped for protection against diseases - the early Singapore was mostly jungle and diseases were rampant. Later in 1843 the present temple was constructed, similar to Sri Meenakshi temple in Madurai, India. According to the Hindu Endowments Board, the existing deity in the principal shrine of the temple is the original installed by Pillai in 1827. The temple was also known as Sithi Vinayagar temple, Gothanda Ramaswamy Mariamman Temple and Mariamman Kovil.

The elaborate plaster sculptures and ornamentation of the temple were created by skilled craftsmen brought from Nagapattinam and Cuddalore in South India. The original three-tiered, slimmer gopuram was constructed in 1903. The present six-tiered gopuram was built in 1925.

Recent additions include a new elevated gallery for spectators during the annual fire walking festival (Thimithi). Another major addition is a three storey annex building with a fully equipped auditorium and facilities for weddings, multimedia presentations, corporate meetings, seminars and cultural events.

The temple was the Registry of Marriages for Hindus, the priest of the Sri Mariamman Temple being authorized to solemnize Hindu marriages in Singapore. Today, in addition to its religious services and functions, the temple promotes various social, cultural and educational activities.

Built in the South Indian Dravidian style of architecture, the most outstanding feature of Mariamman Kovil is its impressive gopuram (entrance tower). It has six tiers covered with figurative sculptures of Hindu gods and goddesses and other Hindu mythological figures. The gopuram tower tapers upwards to a moulded ornamental ridge.

The sculptures are all of plaster, which allows for fine detailing. They are painted in a variety of bright colors, which adds to the visually spectacular quality of the gopuram.

The shrine of Draupadi, the second in importance in the temple, is central to the annual fire walking ceremony held about a week before Deepavali (the Festival of Lights). To the left of Draupadi are the five Pandavas from the Mahabharata epic - Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Sahadeva and Nakula. They are presided over by Lord Krishna. The temple compound also contains a Lingam sculpture and Yoni sculpture.

According to visitors to Sri Mariamman Temple ‘are advised to dress conservatively as this is a place of worship’.

Location: 244 South Bridge Road, Chinatown, Singapore 058793

Tel: (65) 6223 4064

Getting there: Take the MRT to City Hall Station (EW13/NS25) and from there take SBS Transit bus 103, 166 or 197 or SMRT Bus 61 from North Bridge Road.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Tallest Shiva idol in the world at Murudeshwar Temple

Murudeshwar Lord Shiva idol is the tallest Shiva idol in the world. It is a recent attraction of Murudeshwar and is erected beside the temple. The idol rises 123 (37 m) feet into the sky and it is visible from a very long distance from the Arabian Sea.

It took about 2 years to build. The statue was sculpted by Shivamogga's Kashinath and several other sculptors, financed by businessman and philanthropist Mr. R.N. Shetty, at a cost of approximately Rs. 50 million. The idol is designed in such a way that it gets sun light directly and hence appears sparkling.

"Murudeshwara" is another name of Lord Shiva. Murudeshwar temple is in Bhatkal Taluk in Uttara Kannada district, Karnataka, India. It is at a distance of 165 km from Mangalore. A lot of devotees of Lord Shiva and tourists visit this place. It is bounded by the Arabian Sea and rolling hills of Western Ghats. Murudeshwar is the finest beach with the temple, restaurants, guest houses, resorts and beautiful gardens in the coastal Karnataka.

The Arabian Sea is an intrinsic part of the landscape of Murudeshwar. The sea surrounds the temple on three sides. Two life-size elephants sculpted in concrete stand guard at the steps leading to the temple. There is a huge fort behind the temple, said to have been renovated by Tippu Sultan, the ruler of Mysore.

Murudeshwar’s history dates back to many thousands of years (Threthayuga), according to legends and mythology. The temple which embodies a Shiva Linga is believed to have erupted when Ravana, the demon King of Lanka, flung the cloth covering the Atmalinga at Gokarna while lifting it. Lord Shiva, following a complicated sequence of events, declared that Murudeshwar should be one of his five holy places.

You can visit Murudeshwar throughout the year, as the climate and other conditions remain more or less the same any day of the year. Places near Murudeshwar are Bhatkal (16 km), Idagunji (20 km), Gokarna (65 km), Karwar (120 km), Kollur (63 km), Jog Falls (90 km), Manjuguni (90 km), and Udupi (100 km). It is easily accessible by road from any of these places, or Mangalore. The Konkan Railways and other express trains plying on the Mangalore - Goa - Mumbai route make a stop at Murudeshwar. The nearest airports are at Mangalore and Goa.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, Little India, Singapore

From the photographer: "I don't have any more Sunday church shots to post. However, Sunday is not just for churches. I know it is also a special day for our Indian friends out there especially in Singapore. It is a big day out for many of them. So hopefully this works OK here, as I am not sure if I should post this. Anyway here goes one of the most beautiful Indian temples in Singapore".

Indian temple built in marble at Jaipur

Indian Temple in China Town

Indian Temple in China Town, originally uploaded by MeloVillareal.

This a photo of the gopuram of Sri Mariamman Temple, the oldest Hindu temple in China Town, Singapore. Originally constructed by Indian businessman Naraina Pillai, the temple is as old as Singapore itself. It is a National Monument of Singapore and a major tourist attraction.