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.

Indian Temple Colon Panama