Culture Bridge: A way of Life

A Small interaction with a 67 year old Zhang: A migrant worker in Beijing who migrated from a small village near Chengde, Hebei province.Beijing

Q1.When did you first come to Beijing? Why did you decide to become a beggar?

A.Many men from my village moved to bigger cities for better jobs and pay. They moved all over the country. The men went to the cities as laborers, while the women went to work in factories. I decided to pursue the trend, though I was too old & frail to continue doing manual labor. I decided to go to Beijing and become a beggar. That was 5 years ago. I feel this is the only job I can do at this point in my life.

Q2.Tell me about your early life?

A.I am a farmer & I’ve a son & 2 grand children.We have a three room own house now. Due to ill health my wife passed away few years ago.

Q3. Did you attend school?

A. I attended 1 year of elementary school, but then dropped out to work on the farm. I can’t read & write.

Q4. Can you describe a regular day in your life? Where do you “live”?

A. I sleep on the ground under the bridge near Liangmaqiao. I wake up at 5 or 6 am and then begin wandering throughout the city. I make it back in the late evening and sleep.

Q5. How much money do you usually make per day?

A. On average, I make 1,500 RMB ($220) per month in total.

Q6. What do you do with your money?

A. I spend very little, no more than 5 to 10 RMB per day on meals. I actually go home each month to visit my family.

Q7. How do you go back home?

A. I sneak onto a train and sleep between the railway cars. It’s a 7 hour train ride.

Q8. Have you ever been caught?

A.Yes, I’ve been caught several times, but the train staff pitied me. Only once have I been required to pay for a ticket, after being caught.

Q9. Do you ever dream at night?

A. My best dream is that a blowing wind carrying tons of money towards me.

Q10. If you won 100,000RMB what will you do with that money?

A. I will go back to my village & start a small business & also solve my health problems.

Q11. If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would u go?

A. I would go to America. Heard that It is beautiful.

Q12. Do you have any plans for the future?

A. I will work here for 2 or 3 more years, then will retire for good.

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Silent Sunday: Landscapes From My Travels with Quotes

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The Poetry on Earth is never dead. -John Keath

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Nature is not a place to visit. It is home. -Gary Singler

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Every single thing that has ever happened in your life is preparing you for a moment that is yet to come……..

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Look at the trees, look at the birds, look at the clouds, look at the stars… and if you have eyes you will be able to see that the whole existence is joyful. Everything is simply happy. Trees are happy for no reason; they are not going to become prime ministers or presidents and they are not going to become rich and they will never have any bank balance. Look at the flowers — for no reason. It is simply unbelievable how happy flowers are. ~Osho

Sunset at aguada fort

The sky takes on shades of orange during sunrise and sunset, the color that gives you hope that the sun will set only to rise again

 

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A traveller without observation is a bird without wings…

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I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy. -Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

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There’s nothing better than dying while doing what you love most.

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Sunset is a wonderful opportunity for us to appreciate all the great things the sun gives us..

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Looking at beauty in the world, is the first step of purifying the mind. -Amit Ray

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Mountains are the beginning and the end of all natural scenery.” -John Ruskin

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“The earth has music for those who listen.” — William Shakespeare

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When nature speaks one have to listen..

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Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody. -Jane Jacobs

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“The sea is emotion incarnate. It loves, hates, and weeps. It defies all attempts to capture it with words and rejects all shackles. No matter what you say about it, there is always that which you can’t.”
—Christopher

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Life is a journey that must be traveled no matter how bad the roads and accommodations. ~Oliver Goldsmith

Tiger’s Nest Monastery(Paro Taktsang): A trek of a Lifetime

Paro Taktsang (also known as the Taktsang Palphug Monastery and the Tiger’s Nest) is a prominent Himalayan Buddhist sacred site and the temple complex is located in the cliffside of the upper Paro valley in Bhutan.

Why Tigers Nest..?

One of the main reasons for my travel to Bhutan was to trek the Tigernest monastery. It is the most iconic Buddhist temple in Bhutan. It is set on an almost vertical cliff about 900 meters above the Paro Valley with fabulous views.

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A view from the top of the cliff..

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Nature always wears the colors of the spirit. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Change of Plan..

Our initial plan was to visit the monastery first in early hours. I always believe the finest exploration always lies with the individual instincts. That’s why I spend considerable time with locals to understand the dynamics of the places planned and local cuisines. Through them got to know that Chelela pass was quite an amazing place and it is one of the must see places in Bhutan. Most importantly it is a 3 hour journey from Monastery. So we added it to our list just the day before we visited this place. When any last minute inclusions ends up to be the best part of our trip then nothing beats it.

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Prayer Flags are colorful rectangular pieces of clothes inscribed with prayers, mantras and auspicious symbols often hung in high passes, mountain ridges in the Himalayas.

On Saturday…

Our First stop, the famous Paro museum. As the Museum gets closed at 11AM on Saturdays, we had to rush with a quick stop at the viewpoint post Museum tour where Paro airport is visible.

Got ready to head towards Tigers Nest…

It all started this way….

Exploration of Tigers nest started with a trek for about 7 KM’s at 12:30pm. With a hiking stick in hand and a backpack on my back we decided to trek anyway. In my backpack, I had water bottles, a hand towel, Medical kit, a camera with 18-55 lens, 50mm & 55-250lens, Iphone, and other accessories.

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While trekking to the summit of Tigernest..

The “Trek of our Lifetime”

We hiked at our own pace. The hike is 14kms to and fro not including nearly 1400 steps which take you to this wonderful monastery. A big waterfall on the way, serene temples, Buddha statues and wonderful views are unforgettable.

 

As it got steeper breathing became more challenging. The thinness of the air was a challenge. This is the reason why you MUST DO THIS TRIP AT THE END OF YOUR HOLIDAY. Good that we went there after 3 days, we acclimatized during our journey around Bhutan and we managed this better as a result. What’s awesome is seeing the monastery getting larger and larger from being a distant icon to looming up and being within reach. From a distance it is meant to resemble the guru Padmasanghava AKA guru Rinpoche (who brought Buddhism to Bhutan in the 8th century) riding a tigress.

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…Rorboyz…

Waterfalls, Caves and Temples..

On our way we had to pass by the beautiful waterfalls, bridge and then reached the Monastery. There you have to lock up your belongings – no bags or cameras allowed in there. There’s a safe box system. Don’t even think of sneaking a camera in ;). Inside you are directed through this labrynthine building containing various caves and temples and a yak butter candlelight room. There is a tranquil and special atmosphere here.

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Closeup View of Tiger’s Nest Monastery. The rock slopes are very steep (almost vertical) and the monastery buildings are built into the rock face. Though it looks formidable, the monastery complex has access from several directions, such as the northwest path through the forest, from the south along the path used by devotees, and from the north (access over the rocky plateau, which is called the “Hundred Thousand Fairies” known as Bumda.

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View of the Taktsang Lhakhang a.k.a tiger’s monastery

This is most unique experience of our Bhutan trip, although I kept saying that to a lot other places in this lovely country. But the experience of walking up the fairly tough path up the mountain, while seeing a breathtaking view of the mountains, valleys, and the monastery peeping up from the fog is sheer magic.

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Yayie!! We are almost there…!!

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Taktsang lhakhang a.k.a Tiger’s monastery as a backdrop

My descend was quicker than expected; but had to be careful at the muddy slippery stretches, but equally dramatic. You feel calm and relaxed from inside after this spiritual journey.

Click here for our video:Travel diaries of Rorboyz

Tips from my perspective:

  1. Timings: 8 AM to 1 PM and 2-5 PM daily, October – March Until 6 PM, April – September.
  2. Start your trek in the morning
  3. Carry enough water bottles, hiking sticks,medical kit etc.,
  4. There’s a cafeteria, One can have a quick bite.

Silent Sunday: Mannemkonda-‘The Palamoor Tirupati’

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Go forth under the open sky, and list To Nature’s teachings. -William C. Bryant

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Joy in looking and comprehending is nature’s most beautiful gift. Albert Einstein 

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It is easier to go down a hill than up, but the view is from the top. -Arnold Bennett

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In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. -John Muir

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Dono Paulo: A Pristine beach with a Tragic Love story

The bay of Dona Paula in Goa lies at the meeting point of the Arabian Sea and the Goan rivers Mandovi and Zuari. Dona Paula is located in the suburbs of the capital Panjim. Originally a fishing village, Dona Paula attracts its fair share of visitors and tourists who come to marvel at its pristine beach, its natural beauty and the romantic legend associated with it.

The Dona Paula Beach is a pristine beach with a tragic love story to its name. It was named after the Portuguese Viceroy’s daughter Dona Paula de Menezes. This young, innocent girl fell in love with a local Goan fisherman. Of course, this match was unacceptable to the Viceroy who forbade his daughter Dona Paula to ever see her young lover again.DONO PAULO (1)

Distraught with love and sorrow, Dona Paula could not bear a life without her lover and threw herself off a cliff into the unforgiving Arabian Sea. Left with nothing but his daughter’s memory, the Portuguese Viceroy named the area Dona Paula, as an eternal tribute to his stubbornness and forbidden romance & love.

Today, there is a black stone statue of the young Dona Paula and her Goan lover on a rocky promontory jutting into the sea with a sweeping view of the Marmagoa Port in the background.

 

When you are in Dona Paula, you must visit the ruins of the Cabo Fort, erected in 1540. The Cabo Raj Niwas is one of the most elegant governor’s residences in the whole of Goa.There is also a 180 year old English cemetery, open to the public along with a chapel, which has a memorial tomb of Dona Paula de Menezes with her history engraved on the tombstone.

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According to a local myth, Dona Paula is entombed in the Cabo Chapel, the residence of the Governor of Goa and is supposed to be seen during a full moon emerging from the moonlit waves wearing only a pearl necklace.

In Dona Paula, you also have the National Oceanography Institute which was opened in 1960 to study the local Goan marine life alongwith the Marine Biology Museum. A little further (around 9 kms from Dona Paula) is the famous Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, in the island of Choro by the side of the Mandovi river and named after the famous Indian ornithologist. The Bird Sanctuary is spread over an area of 2 sq km and is a delight for bird lovers.

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The Dona Paula beach itself is one of Goa’s best beaches for water sports such as windsurfing, water skiing, para sailing, motor boat rides etc. There are also several organised water sports facilities on offer in Dona Paula. 

Source: Google

Mahadev Temple: ‘The Emperor of Temples’

The 12th Century Mahadeva Temple at Itagi in Koppal District with splendid sculptures is said to be one of the finest examples in the country with respect to the magnificence and decorative details. The Mahadeva Temple at Itagi was built circa 1112 CE by Mahadeva, a commander (dandanayaka) in the army of the Western Chalukya King Vikramaditya VI.  Itagi is about 22 miles (35 km) east of Gadag and 40 miles (64 km) west of Hampi.

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Western Chalukyan art speaks volumes about the taste of the Chalukyan Artisans.

The well-executed sculptures, finely crafted carvings on walls, pillars and the tower make it a good example of complete Western Chalukyan art which speaks volumes about the taste of the Chalukyan artisans. An inscription dated 1112 CE in the temple calls it “Emperor among Temples” (Devalaya Chakravarti).The temple has a special place on the tourist map of Karnataka. The monument and sculptures that adorn the walls of the temple have a rich architectural value. This temple is dedicated to Hindu God Shiva.

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Aesthetic Sense is found in this beautiful temple..

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An inscription dated 1112 CE in the temple calls it “Emperor among Temples” (Devalaya Chakravarti)

One can have a glimpse of the high-towered Mahadeva Temple and a cluster of small temples around it while travelling on Koppal-Yelburga Road. It takes a few hours to watch the remnants of the temple and the architectural skill that glitter in daylight.

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Towards the north of the Shivalinga, there are five temples, of which two are dedicated to Murthinarayana and Chandraleshwari, parents of Mahadeva. There are 13 temples with Shivalingas around the main temple.

The east-faced main temple comprises a shrine with an antechamber, a closed hall with porches on either side of it towards north and south, and openings on either side with pillared halls. The temple roof is supported by 68 carved pillars. Of them, 26 are on the floor and the rest on the stone bench surrounding the hall and carrying the sloping eaves.

The carved columns are symmetrically arranged. The slabs on the central part of the ceiling have “Makaras” which spring from the jaws of “Kirtimuka” masks.

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Sojourn in time..

The walls of the inner hall are adorned with rich sculptures. The pentagon-shaped sanctum sanctorum and its outer walls have beautiful carvings. The 15-foot high main tower of the temple has carvings and projecting cornices.

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Beautifully carved…

The Mahadeva Temple is also known for its erotic sculptures. The temple has a “puskarani (teertha)” on its front side, which is still used by the villagers.

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Puskarini..

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The pillars in this hall bear similarities to the porch pillars at the Dodda Basappa Temple at Dambal and the lathe-turned pillars (whose rounded sections are lathe-turned) at the Kasivisvesvara Temple at Lakkundi.

The Mahadeva temple is officially protected as a national monument by the Archaeological Survey of India. This Temple has a history that is older than Hampi. The temple and its surroundings have been neglected for the past few centuries. The sculptures around the temple are in shambles. Hope Karnataka government takes proper care in protecting these Chalukyan architectural wonders.

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Art historian Henry Cousens called this monument the “finest in Kannada country after Halebidu”. These Western Chalukya monuments, regional variants of existing dravida (South Indian) temples, defined the Karnata dravida tradition. 

Discovering Telangana: A Fort Less Visited ‘Khilla Ghanpur’

On a bright Sunday morning, when we hit the roads to explore places around Mahabubnagar little did I know that it would mark a beginning to quite a few things in my life…. like my first outing with my new buddies while pursuing post graduation, my first time properly exploring Palamoor and getting lost in its mesmerizing beauty and then writing about it in my very first blog!!

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The secluded green valleys of Khilla Ghanpur hold Palamoor’s best kept secrets

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A quick weekend getaway to Khilla Ghanpur is best enjoyed when the sky is overcast, which makes the 30-km journey from Mahbubnagar delightful.

So we started our journey after finishing quick rounds at the Hospital we work at, around 12 noon ( yes you guessed it right, we are Docs!) and picking up some snacks and drinks for our journey to The Khilla Ghanpur, located at a distance of around 26km from mahabubnagar. We managed to cover the distance in about 30 mins with loads of enthusiasm and predictions about the place as we didn’t have much idea about it. Ghanpur is a small village and the roads were pretty narrow so we decided to park the car at a safe spot and start our trek to discover the fort. We managed to reach the top in another 40 mins with an amazing drizzly weather to increase the beauty of the hike.

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The varied hues of Nature and fresh air rejuvenated our senses.

It was a magnificent view indeed from the top of the rocks with remnants of fort wall, and a lovely pond underneath. We passed through a giant fort door, saw some great Flora and Fauna an absolute treat for a nature lover to finally reach the top. We were a little distracted in between though by a group of wild monkeys far away making gruesome noises. All this was soon forgotten after reaching the hilltop and capturing the scenic beauty of the less trodden fort in the memories forever!!

 A brief insight into the history of the fort

The Ghanpur Fort is a hill fort built on a rocky hill by King Gona Ganapa Reddy in early 13th century. He ruled this area as a feudatory to Kakatiya rulers. Gona Ganapa Reddy is son of Gona Budda Reddy who was famous as the poet of Ranganatha Ramayana, a pioneering Telugu Literature. Khilla Ghanpur also known as Ghanpur, Ganapuram, was named after Kakatiya king Ganapathi Deva. Since this Ghanpur has a Khilla (fort). The name “Khilla Ghanpur” became much more popular. There are several towns in Kakatiya kingdom with its name as Ghanpur.

Khilla Ghanpur  was built by joining two mountains by Recharla Padma Nayakulu and Gona Ganapa reddy in 1224 A.D. This fort has witnessed many wars between Bahamanis, Vijayanagara Kings, Bijapur Kings and Qutub Shahi Kings etc. The cannons which still exist have been kept on the top most side of the fort.The fort is spread on rocky and hilly area of 4 Sq kilometers and though its dilapidated  there are several remains of the walls and building blocks inside the fort. The fort has beautiful rockscapes and greenery with 2 ponds which were used as drinking water supply for the fort army.

People believe that there are two secret tunnels inside of the fort. One is connected with the village at the bottom of the mountain and the other one is connected to the Panagal fort. After Buddapuram war,this fort has witnessed a historical wedding of  Kakatiya’s last king Pratapa Rudra with Gona Ganna Reddy’s daughter.

Some of the beautiful Landscapes:

So that’s a take on its past but right now it’s a quiet and serene place which was a treat for the wanderlust in me and my buddies.

After spending a wonderful evening, when the sun was setting, we headed back to our car as the clouds were also getting darker indicating more rainfall. We Had dinner at our local favorite hotel 97 on the way back and reached our place to end the eventful day.

Guest post by Dr. Meghana Subhash

Temple Travelling: Kadiri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Temple

Kadiri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Temple is located in Anantapur district in Andhra Pradesh, India. It is said that devotees who offer prayers here get relieved of their sorrows, sufferings and sins. IMG_9467

History:-
The town got its name from Khadri, in Sanskrit, meaning Indian mulberry. It is believed that Lord Shri Khadri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy came out of this tree. The main deity in this temple is Ashta Bahu Shri Narasimha who has eight hands clawing open the body of Hiranyakashipu.  This was one of the ten avatars or reincarnations of Lord Vishnu.

Kadiri

The specialty of this temple is that after the daily obeisance known as Abhishekam is performed; the Lord Narasimha is seen to be sweating despite being wiped clean by the temple priests.

Narasimha means ‘Man Lion’ as that was the form taken by Lord Vishnu to kill Hiranyakashipu who could not be killed otherwise. It is merely a mention on how truth can overcome evil despite the difficulties. He is envisioned as a half man with the torso and lower body and the face and hands, that of a lion.

Kadiri

The scriptures say that Lord Vishnu, in one of his incarnations as Lord Narasimha , in his rage descended down on to earth as Ugrarupa to kill Hiranyakashipu, who wanted to avenge the death of his brother Hiranyaksha . Hiranyaksha was killed by one reincarnation of Lord Vishnu as Varaha. He took the people to task and tortured the sages and the common people for praying to Lord Vishnu. The sages appeared before Lord Vishnu to end this terror. In the meanwhile Hiranyakashipu got a boon from Lord Brahma after praying fervently for a favour. The boon was that it would be impossible for any human to kill him. Ultimately, Lord Vishnu had to reincarnate as Narasimha to kill Hiranyakashipu, as he was about to kill his own son for showing allegiance to Lord Vishnu.

It is said that Lord Narasimha emerged from the Khadri tree to act his part in killing Hiranyakashipu at this place. The temple was built by one Ranganayudu, a Palegar of Pathariapattanam.

The Rangamantapam has been ornately carved with scenes from the Ramayana and further down, the Lakshmi mantapa has depictions of the Mahabharatha. There are inscriptions on what the rulers have given to the temple. The carvings and scriptures have started fading due to the vagaries of climate and weather.IMG_9463

Infotips: The temple opens at 6:30am until 12:45pm and then it will be closed at 12:45am and  it starts at 16:30hours in the evening and continues till 20:30hours in the night. The temple remains closed from 12:45 to 4:30pm in the afternoon.

Tasty Tuesday: Juicy Jamrul fruit

Commonly known as Water Apple or Java Apple in the rest of the world, Bengal knows this fruit as the good old Jamrul.  It originated from the region between Malaysia and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, where they grow as wild trees in the coastal forests. But it has now been introduced in many Asian countries including India.Kalighat Kali temple, Kolkata, West Bengal (8)

 This evergreen tree of the Myrtaceae family grows to a height of 5m to 12m. The fruit in itself is watery and slightly sweet. It has very thin skin with colorless juice. The fruit contains one or two seeds or no seed at all. The attractive fruits resemble bell-shaped berries.

When mature, the fruit will puff outwards with a slight concavity in the middle. The color of the fruits ranges from white to pale green. There are two types of Jamrul fruits one having white fruits and the other with pink fruits.

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There are two types of jamrul fruits one having white fruits and the other with pink fruits.

Java Apple must be plucked carefully, because bruised fruits rots easily. The fruits are generally served uncut and eaten fresh. In some places the fruits are used to make pickles.

Medicinal value:

Their astringent flowers are said to stop fever and diarrhoea and they have low energy value. The carbohydrate level in ripe Jamruls is about 4g per 100g but there is fair amount of Vitamin C in it.

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This Water Apple comes into bearing after three to five years of planting in the field and the plants bear fruit for about 20 years.

The red hard wood of the Water Apple tree is used for constructing huts in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.