4 May 2010

PostHeaderIcon Konark Sun Temple

Orissa unlike many other parts of India has the prized distinction of possessing an uninterrupted series of temples illustrating the history of the welldefined Challenge (former name of Orissa) from its very inception to decline. And the Sun temple of Konark
marks the highest point of achievement. This world famous Sun temple of Konark also spelled as 'Konarak' or 'Konaraka' is situated on a lonely sea shore of the Bay of Bengal and is 20 kilometers north-east of the holy city of Puri. Standing on the desolate sand-dunes this famous temple is remote, grime and desolate. Its silence brokes only by the soft lapping of the distant waves and the occasional roar of the breakers. The Sun temple of Konark should not be judged merely as an isolated, individual monument of glory onits own rights, like the Taj Mahal, but should be studied also as the grandest art-epic of an entire people, the Oriya, the small Indian sub-race on the east coast of India, who tried to give shape to their national dreams and aspirations, in ceaseless experiments of noble buildings for a period of over 16 years. Konark is undoubtly the last wonderful chapter of a long and varied national history of creative work. But it is the most tragic of all the monuments of Orissa, though the grandest of them all, like the brightest flaming of a lamp before it dies out, presenting to the on-lookers the saddest asemble of beauty and bereavement, desire, desolation, ambition and frustration - a book in stones, of magnificent human endeavour and defeat.

This marvelous temple deserves the title "a poem in stone". Gorgeously conceived as a colossal chariot drawn on tewlve pairs of exquisite wheels by a team of seven richly-caparisioned horses in spirited gallops and symbolizing the Sun-god himself as if emerging from the depth of the blue expanse, the temple, of epic imagination and vastness, is the supreme realization, through ceaseless architectural experiments, of the creative upsurge that fired the architects of Orissa since the seventh century AD. The temple was built by King Narasimha Deva I (AD 1238-64) of the Eastern Ganga dynasty, rulling over Kalinga sometimes in the middle of the 13th century. Today the main sanctum is in ruins, but the Dance Hall and Audience Hall are intact. The most amazing fact is that the number twelve is closely related to this temple.Twelve-hundred massons being engaged by king for sixteen years to complete the project. It is said that the ambitious king spent twelve years revenue of the old Orissa state. There are twelve pairs of wheels in the platform of the chariot like temple, which are taken as the twelve months of a year. There is a story which tells that a boy named as "Dharmapada" of age 12 year, who was the son of chief architect of Konark, jumped from the top of the temple to save the life of twelve-hundred workers after setting the finial of the temple, which the workers couldn't set.

Narasimha Deva and his planners and architects, his master- builders and massons, dreamt of huge horse-drawn chariot, the processional car the vehicle of the Sun god Surya who rode the high heavens in it from down to dusk, from the east to west.

Today no temple bells break the silence of the Sun-god Surya, no priests chant their prayers in devotion. No faithful devoties wends his daily way to the temple portails to pay homage therein. And yet, once in every year, during Magha Saptmi, the ancient tempel walls resound to the chanting of many voices and the tramp of a million feet, as like some migratory birds, instinctively and unearringly winging their way homewards to their nesting lands, thousands of devout pilgrims plod slowly onwards to the temple of the Sun to pay their homage to the deity within. For one full day the air vibrates with the sound of religious favour. But as the night drops her sable pall on the light of the day, the pilgrim departs and once more the ancient stones swiftly sink into silence and solitude.

The black granite of its structure, begrimed and dimmed by the passage of ages, earned for it the name of the Black Pagoda from the 17th century Europian sailors who must have seen it afar from the sea, alone and mystery laden in its loneliness, black in comparison to the white brilliance of the Jagannath temple on the sea-washed shores of Puri, only a few miles away.

The fame of this temple as a wonderful monument had spread so much far beyond the limits of Orissa in the 16th century that the great Vaishnava saint Chaitanya's (A.D. 1486-1533) as well as Abul-Fazl, the famous chronicler of the court of Akbar (AD 1556-1605). He wrote-"Even those whose judgement is critical and who are difficult to please, stand astonished at its sight". Nobel Laureate Poet Rabindranath Tagore felt that, "The language of man here is defeated by the languageof stone".

Like the personality of all men of genius, Konark remains an eternal enigma. It generates questions, leaving no clue whatsoever for answers. It looks as though it was a deliberate design of it great makers to produce onlyone total cumulative effect in the spectators and that of wonder , astonishment, and amazement. and they have succeeded in their objective almost miraculously.

PostHeaderIcon Khajuraho Temples

Khajuraho temples, also known as the temples of love are located in Madhya Pradesh. The temples were built by Chandela Dynasty, the descendants of moon god. It is believed that built in between 950 AD - 1050 AD century, Khajuraho had 85 temples of which only 20 are remaining. This is the largest group of temples and the second biggest tourist destination of India after Taj Mahal. The temples are famous for the exquisite work of art and sculpture on the walls that depict the inner human feelings. The temples are devoted to love and its expression.

The Khajuraho has group of temples of two religions - Hindus and Jains. These temples have been broadly categorized under three groups - The Western group of Temples, Eastern group of temples and The Southern group of temples.

Other nearby attractions
Though the major attraction that invites the tourists is the temples of Khajuraho, but there are other tourist attractions around like Ranesh Falls; Bhandhavgarh; Panna National Park, 30 Km from Khajuraho; Pandav falls on Ken river; The Dhubela Museum, on the Jhansi-Khajurao road, houses the weapons, paintings, and sculptures of the Bundela kings as well as a wide variety of sculptures of the Shakti cult; and Kanha National Park, the one described in Jungle Book, by Rudyard Kipling.

How to reach
Khajuraho is accessible by air, by train and by road.
By Air : Khajuraho has an airport that is linked with daily flights from Delhi, Agra and Varanasi by Indian Airlines. Flight takes 35 minutes from Delhi to Agra and 40 minutes from Agra to Khajuraho. and 45 minutes from Varanasi to Khajuraho.
By Rail : There is no direct train to Khajuraho. The most convenient station is Jhasi, which is linked to Delhi and other major northern cities. Another convenient railway head is Santa.
By Road : There are regular bus services to Khajuraho from Satna, Harpalpur, Jhansi and Mahoba. The on road distance of Khajuraho to certain places accessible by road are:
» Agra 391 km
» Santa 117 km
» Jhansi 176 km
» Bhopal 350 km
» Gwalior 280 km
» Indore 480 km
» Jabalpur 210 km

For local transport, cycle rickshaws, tongas, and taxis are available.

PostHeaderIcon Wildlife in India

The Indian peninsula is a continent in itself, whose geographical diversity has encouraged the flourishing of a whole range of wildlife with over 350 species of mammals and 1200 species of birds in the country. While there is an overlap in the habitats of many species, each region has something special to offer - the hangul is restricted to the valley of Kashmir in northern India, the rhino is found in North-East states of India and pockets along the Brahmaputra river area, the black langur in the western ghats, and western India is the home of the last remaining Asiatic Lions.

Two of India's most impressive animals, the Bengal/Indian Tiger and the Asiatic Elephant are found in most regions, The tiger originated in Central Asia and migrated over the great Himalayas to the dense tropical forests, adapting itself well to the plains.

A herd of elephants in the wild is a breathtaking sight. These huge mammals are respected by all animals, including the Tiger. Widely distributed throughout India, the Indian Elephant is slightly smaller than its African counterpart. Generally, only the males have tusks. Today, most of India's wildlife finds refuge in over two hundred sanctuaries and parks around the country. The following section gives a brief description of some of the more important of these. The accommodation often needs to be booked in advance, either by direct application to the hotel, resthouse etc. concerned, or through the local State TDC or the controlling authority of the respective park. Brochures giving further information may be obtained from Government of India Tourist Offices.

PostHeaderIcon Food of India

Religious Influences
Although a number of religions exist in India, the two cultures that have influenced Indian cooking and food habits are the Hindu and the Muslim traditions. Each new wave of settlers brought with them their own culinary practices. However, over time they adopted a lot of specialties and cooking methods from the Indian cuisine and blended the two to perfection. The Portuguese, the Persians and the British made important contributions to the Indian culinary scene. It was the British who started the commercial cultivation of tea in India.

The Hindu vegetarian tradition is widespread in India, although many Hindus eat meat now. The Muslim tradition is most evident in the cooking of meats. Mughlai food, kababs, rich Kormas (curries) and nargisi koftas (meatballs), the biryani (a layered rice and meat preparation), rogan josh, and preparations from the clay over or tandoor like tandoori rotis and tandoori chicken are all important contributions made by Muslim settlers in India.

North Indian Food
A typical North-Indian meal would consist of chapatis or rotis (unleavened bread baked on a griddle) or paranthas (unleavened bread fried on a griddle), rice and an assortment of assessories like dals, friend vegetables, curries, curd, chutney, and pickles. For dessert one could choose from the wide array of sweetmeats from Bengal like rasagulla, sandesh, rasamalai and gulab-jamuns. North Indian desserts are very similar in taste as they are derived from a milk pudding or rice base and are usually soaked in syrup. Kheer is a form of rice pudding, shahi tukra or bread pudding and kulfi, a nutty ice cream are other common northern desserts.

South Indian Food
South Indian food is largely non-greasy, roasted and steamed. Rice is the staple diet and forms the basis of every meal. It is usually served with sambhar, rasam (a thin soup), dry and curried vegetables and a curd preparation called pachadi. Coconut is an important ingredient in all South Indian food. The South Indian dosa (rice pancakes), idli (steamed rice cakes) and vada, which is made of fermented rice and dal, are now popular throughout the country. The popular dishes from Kerala are appams (a rice pancake) and thick stews. Desserts from the south include the Mysore pak and the creamy payasum.

PostHeaderIcon India Religion

In India, religion is a way of life. It is an integral part of the entire Indian tradition. Secular India is home to Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and other innumerable religious traditions, Hinduism is the dominant faith, practiced by over 80% of the population.

The Hindu religion had its origin in the concepts of the early Aryans who came to India more than 4,000 years ago. It is not merely a religion but also a philosophy and a way of life. Hinduism does not originate in the teachings of any one prophet or holy book. It respects other religions and does not attempt to seek converts. It teaches the immortality of the human soul and three principal paths to ultimate union of the individual soul with the all pervasive spirit.

The essence of Hindu faith is embodied in the Lord's Song, the Bhagavad Gita: "He who considers this (self) as a slayer or he who thinks that this (self) is slain, neither knows the Truth. For it does not slay, nor is it slain. This (self) is unborn, eternal, changeless, ancient, it is never destroyed even when the body is destroyed."

Jainism and Buddhism
In the sixth century before Christ, Mahavira propagated jainism. Its message was asceticism, austerity and non-violence.

At about the same time, Buddhism came into being. Gautama Buddha, a prince, renounced the world and gained enlightenment. He preached that'Nirvana' was to be attained through the conquest of self. Buddha's teachings in time spread to China and some other countries of South-East Asia.

Arab traders brought Islam to South India in the seventh century. After them came the Afghans and the Moghuls, among whom the most enlightened was the Emperor Akbar. Akbar almost succeeded in founding a new religion Din-e-Elahi, based on both Hinduism and Islam, but it found few adherents.

Islam has flourished in India through the centuries. Muslim citizens have occupied some of the highest positions in the country since independence in 1947.

Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism in the 15th century, stressed the unity of God and the brotherhood of man. Sikhism, with its affirmation of God as the one supreme truth and its ideals of discipline and spiritual striving, soon won many followers. It was perhaps possible only in this hospitable land that two religions as diverse as Hinduism and Islam could come together in a third, namely Sikhism.

Christianity reached India not long after Christ's own lifetime, with the arrival of St. Thomas, the Apostle. The Syrian Christian Church in the south traces its roots to the visit of St. Thomas. With the arrival of St.Francis Xavier in 1542 the Roman Catholic faith was established in India. Today Christians of several denominations practise their faith freely.

In the days of the old Persian Empire, Zoroastrianism was the dominant religion in West Asia, and in the form of Mithraism, it spread over vast areas of the Roman Empire, as far as Britain.

After the Islamic conquest of Iran, a few intrepid Zoroastrians left their homeland and sought refuge in India. The first group is said to have reached Diu in about 766 A.D.

The total number of Zoroastrians probably does not exceed 130,000. With the exception of some 10,000 in Iran, almost all of them live in India, the vast majority concentrated in Mumbai. The Parsees excel in industry and commerce, and contribute richly to the intellectual and artistic life of the nation.

Jewish contact with the Malabar Coast in Kerala dates back to 973 BC when King Solomon's merchant fleet began trading for spices and other fabled treasures. Scholars say that the Jews first settled in Cranganore, soon after the Babylonian conquest of judea in 586 BC. The immigrants were well received and a Hindu king granted to Joseph Rabbaln, a Jewish leader, a title and a principality.

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