Sunday, August 28, 2011

How I Want You Green!!!

Absolute green is the most restful color. --Wassily Kandinsky. Russian-born French Expressionist Painter...
Green is the prime color of the world, and that from which its loveliness arises. -- Pedro Calderon de la Barca...

When we first see the color green we think of Life. Green means growing, The natural greens, from forest to lime, are seen as tranquil and refreshing, with a natural balance of cool and warm (blue and yellow) undertones. Green is considered the color of peace and ecology.

Green is the color of nature, fertility, life. Grass green is the most restful color. Green symbolizes self-respect and well being. Green is the color of balance. It also means learning, growth and harmony.

Green usually favored by well balanced people or for the debonair occasions. Green symbolizes the master healer and the life force. It often symbolizes money. It was believed green was healing for the eyes. Green contains the powerful energies of nature, growth, desire to expand or increase.
The color green is thought to bring a feeling of tranquility and is also known for its good luck. Research has shown that the color green can actually improve a students reading ability. When a transparent green sheet is placed over reading text it will increase the readers speed and comprehension. It may be because of a calming and relaxed state that the color of green puts us in. Many television shows will sit waiting guests in a "Green room" to relax and relieve their stress.
Color is energy, if you’re wearing the Greens, you’ll definitely look dynamic.

Green can have a calming effect. In home decoration, plants are often used to bring green into the surroundings. Green, along with blue are considered cool colors and symbolize spring.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Interesting Facts about INDIA : Baba Harbhajan Singh: story of a dead Soldier

True soldiers are immortal", this popular saying appears true in the case of "Baba" Harbhajan Singh. Yes, in Indian Army the Ghost of "Baba" Harbhajan Singh who died during the 1962 China - India War still does his duty on Nathula Pass in eastern Sikkim, India. The story goes like this......

"Baba" Harbhajan Singh was a soldier in the Indian Army & worked in the Dogra Regiment during 1962 China-India War. This soldier died near the Nathula Pass in eastern Sikkim - India while on duty. Baba Harbhajan Singh got drowned in a glacier during the 1962 China-India War. He was searched for everywhere & he was found five days later and was cremated with full military honours. Legend goes like this that Harbhajan Singh led the Search Party to his body, and later, through a dream, instructed one of his colleagues to build and maintain a Temple/Shrine after him. A shrine was built at his Samadhi in the hills.

Baba Mandir is of three rooms, the central room has a large portrait of the Baba along with other Hindu deity and Sikh Gurus. To the right of the central room is the room of Baba. The room has every household belongings required for daily activities, from clothes, shoes, slippers and a neat sleeping bed, it is all well maintained. The uniforms are neatly ironed and shoes polished ready for use. Opposite to this room is a small room that has an office cum store room. The room is filled with water bottles, unused slippers, tooth brushes and other items offered to Baba. The followers believe that the water kept in the Mandir after a week would turn into holy water and cure every ailment. People believe that the slippers kept here would help patients with gout and other foot problems and so on. That devotee who cannot visit the shrine sends letters to Baba that is opened by the associate of Baba. These letters usually have the request for the Baba to help solve personal problems and the gratitude for being helped.


(Source of the photo: Wikipedia)

Every October 4 a special ceremony is organized by the Indian army out here to honour the role of Baba Harbhajan Singh as well as for those soldiers of Indian army who laid their lives for the safeguard of the country. Every Sunday and Tuesday throughout the year puja is observed at Baba Mandir where free meals are distributed among the devotees. These are the best days to visit Baba Mandir for any visitors.

In the camp at Nathula Pass, a camp bed is kept for him and his boots are polished and uniform is kept ready every night. The sheets are reportedly crumpled every morning and boots muddy by evening. The Ghost soldier continues to draw a salary and takes his annual leave also. Legend also has it that in the event of a war between India and China, Baba would warn the Indian and Chinese soldiers three days in advance.

Baba Harbhajan has been guarding the international boundary of the two Asian giants the China and India over the last three decades. Even the army men on the other side of the international wall confirm that they had seen a man riding a horse all alone patrolling the border. Chinese do also worship him & during the flag meetings between the two nations at Nathula Post, the Chinese Soldiers have also set a chair aside for the saint.

A small sum is also sent to the mother of this Ghost Soldier each month. Ghost Soldier's name still continues in the army's payrolls, He has also been given all due time bound promotions. Baba used to get his salary from the defence funds that were send to his family but due to some reason it has been stopped now and the donation collected from the offerings made by the devotees are send to his home by the army official.  Over the years the shrine of Baba Harbhajan has obtain huge devote across all frontiers. Baba is respected and worshiped by every army men in Sikkim. They believe Baba would forecast accident in the valley much ahead of the happening. Though it may look weird but it is true & Indian Army still honours this soldier like that.

He had join Army on the post of sepoy and after post death promotions, late soldier Baba Harbhajan Singh is today honoured the rank of Honorary Captains. Ghost Soldier gets two months annual leave every year, Every year on September 14, a jeep departs with his personal belongings to the nearest railway station, New Jalpaiguri. A First Class berth is booked in the train in his name and his portrait, uniform and other belongings are brought by army officials to his native village Kuka in Kapurthala district for availing of his leave.

Despite the blessing of the Baba the army at Nathula border is in high alert when Baba goes on an annual leave from September 15 to November 15 every year. Even leaves for other army men during the months are cancelled and extra cautions are sought after.

Now what you call of this weird but true story happening in Indian Army. Interestingly, one of his old colleague Mr. Pyara Singh of Jallandhar District of Punjab has put a Court Case against Indian Army & Ministry of Defence for allowing such weird Dead worship of a person who was dead long-long ago.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Majestic Mussoorie : Imperial Travel

Howsoever materialistic you thought you were, you are destined to melt. Melt into worship, melt with awe and melt with wonder! In Mussoorie you see what you came for: the glorious, the green, the strong - Himalayas.... and suddenly Your guilt vanishes! Your past is irrelevant! Your future does not matter!!!

The road from Delhi to Dehradun is familiar, indeed. I have figured that no matter what you do, it always takes 7 hours to reach there, give or take 10 minutes.  This is the time when, summer visitors thronging towards Dehradun/Mussoorie... And like all other good tourists, we also make sure our plans of noon spend in book stores/restaurants/local attractions and night merge in playing indoor games while watching beautiful lights over the hills.

Next day we started from Dehradun for Mussoorie. You’ll get many small dhabas on your way to Mussoorie. With a ravenous appetite from the fresh mountain air, we eat a large breakfast and sip coffee looking out at the pine and deodar covered hills in the foreground.

A steep rise from Dehradun, overlooking the Dun valley from the heights of the Shivalik Himalayas and existing quietly away from the maddening crowds, discovered by the British as a repose during the hot northern summers, made home by the author Ruskin Bond, lies the two-century old Mussoorie. Disruption of the ozone layer has not disrupted her.

While at Mussoorie, we enjoy hanging out at Mall road. The little Mall is very short lived. Walking down this road, you would reach the end within fifteen minutes. Keep walking till the last point and take the lane going steeply down to your right just after the point where the multinational ice-creamers Baskin Robbins have decided to magnanimously treat tourists to their thirty-one flavours of frozen delights. During ice-cream break, you can also smell nice, crisp, buttered "parathas" near by... and then suddenly you mind reminds you... Itsss Lunch time...

For book-lover like me can also visit Cambridge Book Store at the mall road, where the owner is the typical old-style bookstore owner, who is great to chat with and where the books are stacked so close together one on top of the other that only one person at a time can go through the narrow rows in between.

After lunch, we go down to see the Kemptee falls. The fall tumbles down great heights to land on the rocks below that have almost disintegrated to sand. You bend down and touch the clear, cold water, and can also raise a cupped palm full of it to your lips.

After spending magical days and glorious moments in Mussoorie, we have to return with heavy steps and a heavier heart. While coming back Again and again, I turn back to see the glimpses of the mighty Himalayas. Again and again I shiver, something tingles my cheeks and something surges through the back of my head. Again and again, Keats sings in the distance--- "A thing of beauty is a...".

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Royal Traveling; Welcome to the land of Rajas :: "Rajasthan"

We have spent two days in Jaipur. Jaipur also called "the Pink City" – it so named because the city was painted pink to welcome a prince to the city in the 1700’s and it has been pink ever since (more orange to me, but I was told I must call it pink, no matter what I think). 

I can recommend some of  the famous place which according to me deserves a must visit.

Victory Tower where we had a great view of the city. It was very nice to see all the funky buildings some of them are old.. and some of them are very very old, view is great although less pink than we imagined. From there we went to Jantar Mantar – a park where a lot of astronomical equipment that the king Jai Singh had constructed in the late 1700’s. I found it to be very cool – but my companions did not care much for it. It was crazy to see these huge cement pieces that could (and still can) tell time and predict celestial events.

Afterwards we headed up to Amber (pronounced Amer) fort. This is a fort outside the city. It was a very nice fort, particularly from the outside. We enjoyed checking it out and seeing the inside. There was even an underground tunnel connecting it to another fort. It was definitely worth the visit. One option to get up to the fort is to walk or you can take an elephant up. We were there in the afternoon and the elephants were already gone for the day. amazing views and a beautiful wall/room decorated with tiny mirrors.

After the fort we stopped at the Water Palace or Jal Mahal. This palace sits in the middle of a lake – with three floors below ground level in order to help the royal family stay cool in the hot summers. People can not actually visit it – but it can easily seen from the road side, while returning from there we saw signs for Pizza Hut! (So obviously, we went).

Next day we went to Central Museum or the Albert Hall lies in the Ram Niwas Garden. It is a vast and verdant garden housing a zoo, a greenhouse, an aviary, a museum and a sports ground. Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh II built it in 1868. The Albert Hall has been converted into the Central Museum which proudly displays Rajasthans art and culture and outlines the Rajput morality.

The hall was named after Albert, the consort of Queen Victoria's husband. Alberts son the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) laid the foundation stone in 1876. It was designed and devised by Colonel Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob (1841-1917).

It now houses an exquisite collection of metal ware, decorative wares, miniature portraits, sculptures, paintings, natural history specimen, an Egyptian mummy among various other objetart. Rajasthani village life is also displayed through costumes, pottery, brass-ware and woodwork. The Durbar Hall, usually locked, houses several stunning carpets including the magnificent Persian Garden Carpet, one of India’s finest art treasures. It was made in Kerman, Persia in 1632 and represented the garden of paradise based on a quadrangular design. The museum also has some melancholic specimens on display like a horse skeleton, a human skeleton, and a stuffed cobra.

Hawa Mahal or Hall of the Winds or City Palace is another spectacular building. Hawa Mahal consists of five tiers of corridors on the inside, with pierced screen windows that overlook the street below.. At the top of the minaret is open space with all-round view of the city. Standing up there, I can see the sprawl of Jaipur, the Aravali Hills spreading to the east limiting the growth of Old City, and the plains to the west where the new city is growing quickly.

Pink city was built over a period of almost 3 centuries and still glows in radiance of its rich cultural heritage. Your travel to Jaipur in Rajasthan is sure to leave you absolutely mesmerized and keep you asking for more..

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Legend Of Taj III :: "Black TajMahal"; The Story of a Second Taj

There have always been some beliefs, legends and myths related to the famous historical monuments all over the world. And it is nothing surprising that most visited travel destination in India, the Taj Mahal in Agra, is engulfed with myths and legends.

The Taj Mahal is one fine example of how to plan and successfully apply symmetry into the proceedings. Every inch of Taj Mahal is a breathing example of it, except for one thing: the cenotaph of Shah Jahan himself, which appears to be an afterthought as it was added much later and disassembles the symmetry of the burial chamber as it is bigger in size when compared to the cenotaph of Mumtaz Mahal.

Ever wondered why is this the only unsymmetrical thing in the entire Taj complex?

The legend has it, that Shah Jahan decided to construct another Taj Mahal in black marble  on the other side of the river Yamuna and to connect the two by a bridge. This structure was intended to be his own tomb. It has been recorded by Tavernier- a French merchant: "Shah Jahan began to build his own tomb on   the other side of the river but the war with his sons interrupted his plan and Aurangzeb who reigns at present is not disposed to complete it".

Some scholars believe that Shah Jahan had never meant for himself to be buried along with his wife but was planning something big. Something that if was seen in actuality, would have been literally beyond the scope of words. Scholars believe this "something big" to be another Taj Mahal, but built in black marble instead of white. Tavernier who visited Agra in 1665 first mentioned the idea of Black Taj in his fanciful writings. And considering Shah Jahan's obsession with symmetry, the idea certainly seems plausible.The Mehtab Burj and the wall adjoining it opposite the Taj Mahal are generally said to be the grim remains of the proposed plan.

Further addition for the same is as some scholar suggests that the blackened marbles in Mehtab Bagh that lie on the other side of the river are actually grim remains and foundations of an abandoned plan. On the other hand, other section of scholars totally dismiss the theory of Black Taj as it was discovered that the black marble remains in the Mehtab Bagh are not natural black but have become black over the course of time due to staining and wear and tear. Also, Mehtab Bagh was built by the first Mughal Emperor Babur, years before construction of Taj Mahal even started.

Based on Islamic tradition, a husband’s coffin is placed to the right of his wife, with faces towards Mecca. The cenotaph of the emperor Shah Jahan was later added to the monument, so it was squeezed next to the empress’ coffin.  His cenotaph stands to the left of his wife’s and is a little higher than hers too. This is one of the major flaws which catch the eye in the otherwise perfect Taj.
Legend says that Shah Jahan’s son Aurangzeb added this to the Taj, rather than building a separate mausoleum for the emperor to destroy the faultless design of the Taj Mahal.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Legend of Taj II : "A Journey Inside the Taj Mahal"

My last post based on the exterior review and the history of Taj. Famous as Temple of Love; The Taj Mahal, a graceful architectural structure of India is renowned for its symmetry.

The Mosque and the Jawab

To the left of the Taj is a mosque made of red sandstone. It is common in Islam to build a mosque next to a tomb, as it sanctifies the area and provides for a place for worship. This mosque is still used for Friday prayers.

The platform in front of the Mosque is of red sandstone. A highly polished small marble piece is so fitted that it serves as a mirror and one can see the mausoleum reflected in it. The floor is of material which is exceedingly fine and sparkling and appears velvet red in shade.

On that 539 prayer carpets have been neatly marked out with black marble. All over there is exquisite calligraphy and the name Allah and quotations from Quran inscribed. The ceiling is painted in a strange, hypnotic design. The roof supports four octagonal towers and three elegant domes.

An identical mosque is also built to the right of the Taj and is known as the Jawab (answer). Prayers are not held here as it faces west i.e. away from Mecca, the holy city of the Muslims. It was built to maintain symmetry.

Interior of the Taj

In the center of the  a lofty central chamber are the cenotaphs of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. Shah Jahan's cenotaph is to the left and is higher than that of his beloved which rests immediately below the dome. 

The cenotaph of Mumtaz Mahal stands in the center of the marble screen, it has inscribed on it in Persian with texts from the Quran. The cenotaph has the single epitaph inscribed on it - "Marqad Munavvar Arjumand Ban Begum Mukhatib bah Mumtaz Mahal Tanifiyat ferr sanh 1040 Hijri" (Here lies Arjumand Bano Begum called Mumtaz Mahal who died in 1040 AH or 1630 AD).

The cenotaph of Shah Jahan is inscribed in Persian - "Marqad Mutahar Aali Hazrat Firdaus Ashiyani Sahib-qiran Saani Saani Shah Jahan Badshah taab surah sanh 1076 Hijri" (The sacred sepulchre of his most exalted Majesty, dweller of Paradise, the second lord of constellations, the king Shah Jahan, may his mausoleum ever flourish, 1076 AH (1666 AD).

Above the tombs is a lamp, the flame of which is supposed to never burn out. Marble screen of trellis work surrounds the graves.The acoustics of the building are superb with the domed ceiling being designed to echo chants from Quran.

The octagonal screen made of marble panels called 'Jali', with borders of inlaid marble surrounds the two cenotaphs in the central chamber. Each of the jali, including the larger doorway and north face, were carved from single slabs of marble. Designs based on floral patterns create an enchanting woven effect through which one can catches glimpses of the cenotaphs inside.

Considering the above, the placement of Shah Jahan’s cenotaph is the only asymmetrical sculpture in the whole building. The Story of a Second Taj will be my Next Post.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Legend of... "Taj"

Uniqueness makes everything different and special. The Mughals are eminent for their knowledge and passion for architecture. There are many magnificent and majestic monuments have been built by Mughal in India and Taj Mahal is one of them.

Taj Mahal which means Crown Palace is one of the Wonders of the World; it is situated in Agra on the banks of the river Yamuna. Measuring love is one of the toughest and almost, impossible tasks of the universe. No one can measure the depth of one’s love and feeling but while visiting Taj Mahal, you can do this.

You can see Taj from the roof of many nearby hotels. Many of them have conveniently placed (over priced) restaurants on their rooftops. The glimpse of the Taj, while having lunch is spectacular.

Story behind the Taj
It was built by the Mughal Emperor Shahjahan as a Mausoleum in memory of his beloved wife, Erc├╝mend Banu; famously known as Mumtaz Mahal (meaning Ornament of the Palace). Around 22000 workers completed the Taj in about 22 years from 1632 to 1654 AD.

For accommodation of the workers, a small town, named after the deceased empress – ‘Mumtazabad’, now known as Taj Ganj, was built adjacent to it. The material was brought in from all over India and central Asia and it took a fleet of 1000 elephants to transport it to the site. Its construction works began period of 22 years employing 2000 workers

Visit twice a day
You must plan to visit the Taj at least two different times during the day (dusk and dawn are best) in order to experience the full effect of changing sunlight on the amazing building. It is also utterly stunning under a full moon.

Mark of Eternal Love
The exceptional beauty of the Taj is such that it never fails to enchant its visitors. No photograph does justice to the aura of the real Taj. Its true grandeur needs to be seen to be believed. You must explore the symbol of the world’s most famous love story. Come and enjoy the mystic charm and magic of the Taj Mahal.

In next post, I would love to share another side of Taj... based on people theories and the Legend of Taj.