The Modern Motorcycle Diaries – Alaska to Argentina

500Days 22countries 8259 Miles& 1man journey from Alaska to Argentina on a Kawasaki KLR650 in the sights and roads of a motorcycle journey, a one man video documentary of the craziest, most beautiful and intense roads the Western World has to offer.
Follow Alex Chacon from Texas, as he navigates through the dangerous and exciting Pan American route through the Americans on motorcycle, an Epic continuance to the famous motorcycle diaries with Ernesto Che Guevara.

Panda Breeding & Research Center Chengdu,Sichuan

The Giant pandas are found only in Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. In total there are fewer than 1000, of which 80% are distributed within the territory of Sichuan province._MG_2753

Located just 10km (6miles) away from Chengdu, the Panda Breeding Research Center has been created and imitated the pandas’ natural habitat in order that they might have the best possible environment for rearing and breeding. It cares also for other rare and endangered wild animals with an area of 92 acres, 96% of which is verdure. Giant pandas, lesser pandas, black-necked cranes, white storks as well as over 20 species of rare animals are fed and bred there throughout the year. Verdant bamboo, bright flowers, fresh air, a natural hill scene and a beautiful artificial view are merged indigenously at the base.

The necessary facilities for giant pandas have been completed and include a fodder room, sleeping quarters and a medical station. Additionally there is a Giant Panda Museum together with research laboratories and a training center. A great number of plants and as many as ten thousand clumps of bamboos and bushes have been cultivated to provide for the giant pandas’ diet and habitat.

The Giant Panda Museum was opened in 1993 to further scientific education and to improve public awareness of the protection of both wild creatures and their environment. This is the world’s only thematic museum for rare and endangered animal species. The three main exhibitions are in the Giant Panda Hall, the Butterfly Hall and the Vertebrate Hall. The exhibits include all kinds of precious pictures, more than 800 materials and show more than 2140 different samples gathered in Sichuan. These include examples of animals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and insects as well as fossils and models. The resources held in store at the museum include up to ten thousand samples as well as a library of thousands of books and documents. This excellent and comprehensive museum provides a wonderful venue for all who are interested in seeing something of the propagation and protection of the region’s natural bio-diversity.

MY EXPERIENCE:

This is definitely the Highlight of our Chengdu trip. A fantastic place to see adorable giant pandas of all ages, doing what they do the best – eating and sleeping. They are crazy creatures with the teeth of a carnivore and a mind focused on food and sleep. You learn how to relax just by observing them, practically lying around surrounded by bamboo simply chewing and chewing and chewing._MG_2887We loved this place! We came to Chengdu just to visit this place and I was little worried that it wouldn’t be worth the side trip(Leshan & Emeishan). According to my plan, We should’ve arrived early in the morning,But we arrived  the park at 10:00am  & we were not disappointed at all._MG_2741My first experience was watching Some Scientists playing with the Cubs while making a documentary.And what a funny and entertaining animals they are… We spent around 30-40 mins while watching those cubs play.

_MG_2828While heading inside we saw a mother and a cub playing. We could have watched these two, for hours. Panda’s are undeniably adorable; perhaps this is why we spent 20mins watching the same pandas sit eating bamboo. The panda’s look completely at home munching on bamboo and are thoroughly entertaining._MG_2817In the Giant panda hall, We watched an interesting video at the Panda Story Cinema, showcasing natural history of giant pandas, including the birth of giant panda cubs, panda breeding in captivity, and the conservation of giant pandas – well worth a watch. We also visited the interactive Panda Scientific Discovery Centre – informative._MG_2948The research center is a very beautiful place, clean, well organized with excellent facilities -Lovely environment and easy access to all the animals!! The pandas live in a pleasant place. They are very tender, friendly and lovely. They always eat, play and sleep. We were there to visit for just half day, but ended up spending most of the day here and enjoyed !

Slide show :

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My suggestion: Is that go there as early as possible, as the Pandas are fed around 9:30am (the park opens at  7:30am) because we observed that the giant pandas were less active or asleep after 11.30 am.

Virupaksha temple – Sojourn into the past

Virupaksha Temple is one of the oldest and famous temples in Karnataka, situated at the historical city of Hampi, the former capital of the Vijayanagara Empire, lies on the southern banks of the Tungabhadra River, to the north of the Hemakuta Hill. To know more about Hemakuta hills 

Virupaksha temple, Hampi

Testaments to the greatness of Vijayanagara empire-Eastern gopura

It is dedicated to Lord Shiva, worshipped here as Virupaksha (Virupaksheshwara), as the consort of Goddess Pampa. Hence the temple is also known as Pampapathi Temple. The presiding female deities are Pampa, who is believed to be the daughter of Lord Brahma, and Bhuvaneshwari.

A view from Hemakuta hills

A view of Virupaksha temple from Hemakuta hills.

This Temple is a perfect example of the Vijayanagara Style of architecture. The main entrance of the Hampi temple is through the chariot street in front of the temple, popularly called the Hampi Bazaar which is considered as the largest of the bazaars of Vijayanagara. The temple complex lies  within a long rectangular enclosure divided into 2 large courts. The lofty eastern gopura gives access to the outer court, while a smaller, inner gopura in the east leads to the inner court containing the main vimana with its subsidiary shrines. This area in general has been an important pilgrimage centre for the worshipers of lord Shiva.The northern gopuram, known as the Kangiri Gopuram, is a five storey and decorated with beautiful pilasters. The inner eastern gopuram is a three storey structure.

Gopuras of Virupaksha Temple, hampi Karnataka

Gopuras of Virupaksha Temple-From Left to right in Clockwise direction Eastern gopura,Inner gopura or Krishna devaraya gopura  & The northern gopuram, known as the Kangiri Gopuram.

The eastern tower rises to a height of 52m and is a well proportioned, nine storeyed structure.Literary evidence has it that Proluganti Tippa, a commander of Devaraya II (AD 1422-46) has built the gopura, was later repaired by Krishnadevaraya in 1510.

Virupaksha temple, Hampi Karnataka

The splendor and grandeur of mighty Vijayanagara empire

A Nandi is positioned near the opening. Near to it is a huge stone urn with decorations. Towards the end you can see a pair of metal bells and a large leather clad percussion instrument.

Nandi statue Virupaksha temple, Hampi

Nandi statue

From the East gopura, one enters a large courtyard which has several sub shrines and a large no. of mandapas called the Phalapuja mandapas. The small 3 storeyed inner gopura in the east, which leads into the inner courtyard, is named after Krishnadevaraya.The most striking feature of this court is the central pillared hall known as the Ranga Mandapa added to the temple complex in 1510 AD by Krishadeva Raya.Two mythical lion like creatures forms the balustrade for the entrance to this elevated open pavilion. As you enter the pavilion on your right is an inscribed plaque with Nandi image on top probably explains the royal patronage the temple enjoyed.

Sasanam, Virupaksha temple, Hampi

Description from left clockwise direction.This inscribed plaque with Nandi image on top probably explains the royal patronage the temple enjoyed.*Stories on walls-Ramayana on walls. *Sanskrit inscriptions

This hall with 5 aisles and 38 pillars is used for temple rituals including the marriage ceremonies. The highlights include rows of pillars shaped with rampant lion like mythical creatures (Yalis) standing on Makara(A mythical creature). Warriors seem riding on these ferocious looking creatures. Also portrayed here are some of Lord Shiva’s manifestations, the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu (Dashavatara) and scenes from Great Sanskrit Indian epic Mahabharata depicting Arjuna’s shooting the fish device to win Draupadi’s hand. 

The mural panel on the central portion of the hall is one of the few remains of this form of Vijayanagara art. Most of it is based on godly themes except the one at the eastern end. Here the founder sage of the empire, Vidaranaya, is portrayed moving in a procession.

Virupaksha temple, Hampi Karnataka

The mural panel on the roof of the hall is the typical Vijayanagara art

The ardha mandapa is seen to the west of the ‘ranga mandapa’ and its entrance is flanked by a pair of huge four-armed ‘dvarapalas’ (guardians of doors). A Vijayanagara structure, the ardha mandapa is decorated with bas-reliefs in its exterior walls and the central ceiling with a multi-petal lotus design.There are some monkeys who seem to live in the temple, They didn’t to beg for food, so they probably won’t bother you but I’ve had experience with aggressive monkeys in other temples so be forewarned.Virupaksha temple, Hampi KarnatakaThe temple elephant is massive, almost too big to fit under the temple roof, but is incredibly friendly if you bring a banana or two you can get a free smooch.

Virupaksha temple, Hampi Karnataka

Temple elephant

Behind the main sanctum, there are few steps which leads to the rear exit of the temple complex. Just before the exit on the right side you would find a dark chamber with a slit on the wall.An interesting feature is that the inverted shadow of the main tower falls on the western wall of the temple through a small hole behind the sanctum.

Virupaksha temple, Hampi

A kind of pinhole camera effect created with stonework.

 Many shrines and pillars dating back to the 12th century are found in the inner prakaram. The Suryanarayana shrine has a southern form of the deity and the Mukhi Narasimha shrine of Chalukyan sculpture.

Virupaksha temple, Hampi Karnataka

This statue of lion is the characteristic of Chalukyan sculpture

Adjacent to this is the Tarakesvara shrine with the figure of Lord Shiva with Goddess Parvati seated on his lap. In the south-west corner is a Goddess Saraswathi shrine with a small black stone image of a two-armed seated goddess playing on a Veena (A stringed musical instrument). A black stone figure of the six-armed Mahishamardini is in the western corridor.

  Check out the Slide show:

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My Experience:

I still remembered that morning, I went to the terrace of our guest house along with Charan and saw the majestic Gopura of Virupaksha temple..I always had imagined this temple and when I actually see this it turned out to be even more beautiful than I had imagined. It was fascinating and we were awestruck with the scene which we saw and experienced. Interesting feature was the inverted shadow of main gopura falling on the western wall. we were amazed by it. we spent around 20mins discussing about that. This place is an architectural marvel. I am really looking forward to visit this place again with my family. Stay tuned for more updates on the temples of Hampi…

Hemakuta Temples, Hampi

Hampi

Hampi is a village in Northern Karnataka state. It is spread across 26sq kms. It lies in the remains of the splendid medieval city of Vijayanagara, the city of victory. It was the capital of the powerful Vijayanagara empire from AD 1343 to 1565,which was ruled by the powerful kings like Harihara II, Devaraya II, Krishna devaraya who showcased their immense might in the grandiose monuments they constructed. It is listed in the UNESCO world heritage site.Virupaksha temple from Hemakuta hills, Hampi Karnataka

Hemakuta hills:

This hill is spreaded generously with a large number of temples, archways and pavilions. The whole of the hill was fortified with tall wide stonewalls, the ruined remains of which can  still be seen. Once you have reached the top (about 15 minutes climb), it’s almost a flat expanse of rocky sheet with occasional ups and downs.Hemakuta Hill is one among the best places in Hampi to witness the sunrise and sunset.Hemakuta hills, Hampi KarnatakaMyth is that, on this hill Lord Shiva (the god of destruction) did penance before marrying a local girl Pampa. Shiva was impressed by her dedication for him and consent to marry her. Hema in Sanskrit language means gold. The name of the hill thus connects with this legend.Also this is the place where Siva burnt Kama (the god of lust) with his third (fire) eye. Hemakuta hills, Hampi KarnatakaIn helping Pampa to marry Shiva, Kama distracted Shiva from his penance. This attracted the wrath of Siva and eventually killed Kama by fire. Later Rathi (goddess of passion and Kama’s wife) pleaded for the life of Kama. Siva brought him back to life but only in character not as a physical being. Hence a number of temples in this area are dedicated to Lord Siva, the major one being the Virupaksha temple at the north of this hill. This place packed with the largest number of pre Vijayanagara temples. Atop is the Moola Virupaksha Temple with a pool infront, considered to be the original Virupaksha TempleVirupaksha temple from Hemakuta hills, Hampi Karnataka HEMAKUTA Temple Most of them are dedicated to worship Shiva. These smart looking compact temples with pyramid-like roofs resemble that of the Jain temples.A number of temples located on the northern end of the hills are made in the Trikutachala style.

That is, three shrines positioned perpendicular to the next face a common central hall. The outer walls of the temples are plane with the horizontal chain of floral motifs carved around. The fluted foundation and the curvy eaves overhanging are other typical features on the wall.You can find a series of such temple complexes scattered all over the hill top.

 Hemakuta hills, Hampi Karnataka

These are the largest and the most elaborate ones.

One can easily count at least three dozen structures in the vicinity. These are in fact one of the oldest clusters of temples in Hampi, much older than the empire itself.The whole area looks more like a gigantic sheet of rock with undulation. When you move further south you can spot the two storied southern gateway to the hilltop. This area too has a number of temples built in the pre-Vijayanagara style architecture.

Hemakutta hills, Hampi KArnataka

The two storied southern gateway to the hilltop.

The whole of Hemakuta Hill area is encircled with an ancient fortification. Though broken at many places, you can still make out the boundary line circling the hill.Stay tuned to get more information on Hemakuta Hills.

Hemakutta hills, Hampi KArnataka

Diwali -Festival of Lights


Wishing you and your family a very Happy Diwali  and a year filled with happines,success and prosperity. On this occassion I would like to introduce you all about the history, significance, origin of Diwali, Lakshmi pooja and how it is celebrated in AP.

Deepavali or Diwali, popularly known as the “festival of lights,” is a five-day Hindu festival which starts on Dhanteras, celebrated on the thirteenth lunar day of Krishna paksha (dark fortnight) of the Hindu calendar month Ashwin and ends on Bhaiduj, celebrated on the second lunar day of Shukla paksha of the Hindu calendar month Kartik. Dhanteras usually falls eighteen days after Dussehra.diyas

Diwali is one of the most important festivals of the year and is celebrated in families by performing traditional activities together in their homes. Diwali involves the lighting of small clay lamps filled with oil to signify the triumph of good over evil.These lamps are kept on during the night and one’s house is cleaned, both done in order to make the goddess Lakshmi feel welcome.Firecrackers are burst because it is believed that it drives away evil spirits. During Diwali, all the celebrants wear new clothes and share sweets and snacks with family members and friends.

Another custom involves decorating homes with paper figures & lanterns

Another custom involves decorating homes with paper figures & lanterns

The festival starts with Dhanteras on which most Indian business communities begin their financial year. The second day of the festival is called the Naraka Chaturdasi. Amavasya, the third day of Diwali, marks the worship ofLakshmi, the goddess of wealth. The fourth day of Diwali is known as Kartika Shudda Padyami. The fifth day is referred to as Yama Dvitiya, and on this day sisters invite their brothers to their homes.

Several significant events associated with Diwali:

The return of Rama after 14 years of Vanvas (exile). To welcome his return, diyas (ghee lamps) are lit in total of 14.images

•  The killing of Narakasura: Celebrated as Naraka Chaturdashi, one day before Diwali, it commemorates the killing of the evil demon Narakasura, who wreaked havoc. In different versions, either Krishna or Krishna’s wife Satyabhama killed Narakasura during the Dwapara yuga.satyabhama

Other events associated with Diwali include:

Return of Pandavas after 12 years of Vanvas and one year of agyatavas .exile-n-return

Diwali celebrations are spread over five days, from Dhanteras to Bhaiduj. All the days except Diwali are named according to their designation in the Hindu calendar. The days are:

1. Govatsa Dwadashi : Go means cow andvatsa means calf. Dwadashi  means the 12th day. On this day the cow and calf are worshiped. The story associated with this day is that of King Prithu, son of the tyrant King Vena. Due to the ill rule of Vena, there was a terrible famine and earth stopped being fruitful. Prithu chased the earth, who is usually represented as cow, and ‘milked’ her, meaning that he brought prosperity to the land.

2. Dhanatrayodashi or Dhan teras  : Dhana means wealth and Trayodashi means 13th day. This day falls on the 13th day of the second half of the lunar month. It is considered an auspicious day for buying utensils and gold, hence the name ‘Dhana’. This day is regarded as the God Dhanvantari Jayanti (Birth Anniversary) , the Physician of Gods, who came out during Samudra manthan, the churning of the great ocean by the gods and the demons.IMG 1243

3. Naraka Chaturdashi: Chaturdashi is the 14th day This was the day on which the demon Narakasura was killed by Krishna – an incarnation of Vishnu. It signifies the victory of good over evil and light over darkness.We wake up before dawn, have a fragrant oil bath and dress in new clothes. Light small lamps all around the house and draw elaborate kolams /rangolis outside of homes. We perform a special puja with offerings to Krishna or Vishnu, as he liberated the world from the demon Narakasura on this day. It is believed that taking a bath before sunrise, when the stars are still visible in the sky is equivalent to taking a bath in the holy Ganges. After the puja, children burst firecrackers heralding the defeat of the demon. As this is a day of rejoicing, many will have very elaborate breakfasts and lunches and meet family and friends.

4. Lakshmi Puja : Lakshmi Puja marks the most important day of Diwali celebrations, We worship Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and Ganesh, the God of auspicious beginnings also known as the remover of obastacles, and then light deeyas (little clay pots) in the streets and homes to welcome prosperity and well-being.

5. Bali Pratipada and Govardhan Puja : Lord Krishna defeated Indra and by the lifting of Govardhana hill to save his kinsmen and cattle from rain and floods. The day commemorates the victory of Vishnu in his dwarf form Vamana over the demon-king Bali, who was pushed into the patala. download

6. Yama Dwitiya or Bhaiduj: on this day, brothers and sisters meet to express love and affection for each other. It is based on a story when Yama, lord of Death, visited his sister Yami(the river Yamuna). Yami welcomed Yama with an Aarti and they had a feast together. Yama gave a gift to Yami while leaving as a token of his appreciation. So, the day is also called ‘YAMA DWITIYA’. Brothers visit their sisters’ place on this day and usually have a meal there, and also give gifts to their sistersbhaiya-dooj-2012

Goddess Lakshmi Puja

Diwali marks the end of the harvest season in most of India. Farmers give thanks for the bounty of the year gone by, and pray for a good harvest for the year to come. Traditionally this marked the closing of accounts for businesses dependent on the agrarian cycle, and is the last major celebration before winter. Lakshmisymbolises wealth and prosperity, and her blessings are invoked for a good year ahead.Those who worship Lakshmi receive the benefit of her benevolent mood, and are blessed with mental, physical and material well-being.

As per spiritual references, on this day “Lakshmi-panchayatan” enters the Universe. Vishnu, Indra, Kubera, Gajendra and Lakshmi are elements of this “panchayatan” (a group of five). The tasks of these elements are:

  • Lakshmi: Divine Energy (Shakti) which provides energy to all the above activities.
  • Vishnu: Happiness (happiness and satisfaction)
  • Kubera: Wealth (generosity; one who shares wealth)
  • Indra: Opulence (satisfaction due to wealth)
  • Gajendra: Carries the wealth
  • Saraswati: Knowledge

Celebrations in Andhra Pradesh:

Diwali is one of the seven most important festivals of Andhra Pradesh. It is very popular with children who celebrate Diwali because of the excitement of bursting firecrackers.

The evening sky of Diwali is a colourful sight to watch.

The evening sky of Diwali is a colourful sight to watch.

There are some traditional customs followed such as buying new clothes for this festival. Buying new home or vehicles is considered auspicious. Special sweets are made too.  Meat and alcohol are generally not consumed.  Some areas host local stage story telling called Hari Katha.

Performing Harikatha

Performing Harikatha

Some areas may put a huge Narakasura dummy made with fireworks. This will be burst by a person dressed as Lord Krishna or, more accurately, a costume of Satyabhama, the consort of Lord Krishna, who actually killed the demon Narakasura; an event that is celebrated as Diwali for generations. maxresdefault

People clean/white-wash or paint/decorate their homes as it is a very auspicious day; to welcome the goddess of wealth and prosperity i.e. Lakshmi devi to their homes.Homes are lit up with hundreds of diyas and colourful Diwali Rangolis (link) adorn the doorways. After all this preparation all the members of the family perform the Lakshmi pooja.

Diyas

Diyas

Sales of expensive silk saris, jewellery, ornaments, and household goods increase. From the poor to the rich, everyone indulges in the largest shopping spree of the year. Sweets, which are an integral part of any festival in Andhra Pradesh, are prepared or purchased from shops.

Acting as a Brand ambassador of Diabetes..:P bought so many sweets to distribute to our near and dear friends & relatives

Acting as a Brand ambassador of Diabetes..:P .We have a tradition of gifting sweets  to our near and dear friends & relatives

The festival is full of messages depicting one or more aspects of human life, relationships, and ancient traditions