Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wild Life sanctuaries

Wild Life sanctuaries
In spite of a comparatively hostile terrain, Rajasthan surprisingly is the abode of a number of mammals and birds. Its vast size and latitudinal variations above the sea level of 1,700m provides it with varied vegetation. It provides semi green forests of Mount Abu to dry grasslands of the desert, and from the dry deciduous thorn forest of Aravali to wetlands of Bharatpur.

The sanctuaries attract herds of species from all over to their temporary habitat that provides comfortable subsistence. During the season, the whole place echoes with enchanting sounds and fascinating visuals against the sprawling meadows of flora. Rajasthan is the haven of the tigers and many endangered species.

The leopard also called the panther here is found in forests and in open degraded forest areas with rocky outcrops adjoining towns and villages. The sneaky predator finds easy prey of unsuspecting village dogs, asses, calves and goats. There five lesser cats besides the two big cats. Besides a host of fauna there is a handsome variety of avian life too. Wetlands at Koeladeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary at Bharatpur are a bird watcher’s delight.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Banjara wall hanging

This marvellous art form emanated from one of the most colourful and vibrant tribes of the country. Banjara attire reflects the romantic aura and the free spirit of the Lambadas or the Banjaras or the Gypsies as they are variously called. Staying in communes, they still strive to preserve the fascinating traditions of their ancestors. Tattooed women, their hands weighed down by ivory bangles, create captivating mirror work. Banjara Apparel, with excessive mirror work and pleasing colour combinations, perfectly balanced and blended,is a treat to the eyes. The Choli and the Skirt intricately embroidered with beads and shells, attract the attention of many a foreigner. Despite their gradual absorption into the mainstream of life, the Banjaras still continue to keep in touch with their age-old customs, traditions and beliefs, An off-shoot of Banjara needlework is the fantastic range of artistic piecces like bags, belts batwas, skirts, blouses, bed apreads, sofa backs, cushion covers and many more utility objects that meet the changing tastes and requirements of present day connoisseurs. Such is the beauty and variety of Banjara works of art specifically on garments that it has also captured the imagination of the fashion world.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Pitalkhora Caves

Not as well known as Ajanta yet also interest are the rock-cut caves of Pitalkhora in the Satamala range of the Sahyadri hills. There are thirteen caves, set high up on the hill, overlooking picturesque ravines. Many of the caves contain carvings and paintings that date from the 1st century B.C. to the 5the century A.D. They were discovered after Ajanta and are first mentioned in a publication of 1853 where Caves 3 and 4 are described.

Many of the carvings as well as the paintings have been damaged by the weather and vandals. The caves appear to be of the early Hinayana period of Buddhism and are contemporary to the other rock-cut Buddhist temples in western India. They were probably excavated and carved during the Satavahana-Kshaharata regimes. There appears to be a subsequent period of desertion and re-occupation much later in the 5th century A.D. during the Vakataka rule. In the Hinayana Buddhist period no images of Buddha or Bodhisattvas (celestial beings personifying the virtues of Buddha and attending to the needs of the people) appear in places of worship and none can be seen in the caves of Pitalkhora except for the paintings in Cave 3, which belong to the later phase of occupation.

Because of their locations the caves have been divided into two groups. Caves 1-9 face north and east and are adjacent to each other. These are in Group I. On the other side of the hill, facing southwards are Caves 10-14 which make up Group II.

Pitalkhora Caves
Many of the caves have crumbled and are badly damaged. Cave 1 looks like a huge natural opening. There are indications of cells and door supports and it may have formed an extensive Vihara or monastery.

Caves 2, 3 and 4 share the same forecourt and are presumed to be of the same period. The dividing wall between 2 and 3 has disappeared, 2 was a Vihara and has an interesting rock-cut drain which prevents water from flowing into Cave 3 which was a prayer hall.

The best paintings are in Cave 3. These appear on the pillars and side walls. 37 pillars used to separate the aisle from the hall and these were donated individually as inscriptions on the 10th and 11th pillars, on the right, indicate. The donors of both these pillars were residents of Paithan. Steps lead down to a basement containing several carvings. Rare crystals and other reliquaries were found in the stupa here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Dalhousie (2036 m) is a hill station full of colonial charm that holds lingering echoes of the Raj. Spread out over the five hills (Kathlog, Potreys, Tehra, Bakrota and Balun) the town is named after the 19th century British Governer General Lord Dalhousie. It was popular with the British Army personnel in 1860's. The town’s varying altitude shades it with a variety of vegetation that includes stately grooves of pines, deodars, oaks and flowering rhododendrowns. Rich in colonial architecture, the town preserves some beautiful churches. St. John church is the oldest one built in 1863, St. Francis was built in 1894, St. Andrew in 1903 and St. Patric in 1909.

There are also magnificent views of Chamba valley and the mighty Dhauladhar range with its awe-inspiring snow covered peaks filling an entire horizon. By road Dalhousie is about 550 km from Delhi, 52 km from Chamba via Banikhet and 43 km via Khajjiar and the nearest railhead at Pathankot is 85 km away.

In & around Dalhousie the visitable places are:

Subash Baoli: Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose spent a large portion of 1937 contemplating here. A nice secluded place.

Panjpulla: It means five bridges. It is a picturesque spot with water flowing under the five small bridges. A samadhi of Sardar Ajit Singh, uncle of Bhagat Singh, adds to its importance. A small fresh water spring Satdhara is close by.

Bakrota hills: Visit for a brisk walk round the hills and have a view of snow clad peaks. It is 5 km from Dalhousie.

Kalatope: It is a picnic spot and a wild life sanctury, 10 km from Dalhousie and offers a fine view of the countryside.

Bara Pathar: It is 4 km from Dalhousie enroute Kalatope. In village Ahla here, there is atemple of Bhulwani Mata.

Dainkund: It is 10 km from Dalhousie. On a clear day this tall peak (2745 m) affords a birds eye-view of the hills, verdant valleys and the Beas, Ravi and Chenab rivers threading their silvery passage down to the plains.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Lu-ju Wu-fu Temple

Nan-kan Shieh of the Pinbu indigenous tribe used to reside in the area near Fu-tou Mountain, Wu-fu Village, Lu-ju Shiang. This area was the earliest settled area in Taoyuan County. According to legend, when Koxinga led his army to fight in northern Taiwan in the 16th year of Emperor Yung-li's reign (1661), his army was stationed here. His soldiers brought holy relics of Marshall Shien-tan with them, but forgot them in the camp. Then people discovered light emanating from this place. They believed it indicated the presence of a god, so they built a simple structure on the spot and worshiped there. Over time, more and more pilgrims came to pay their respects.

Lu-ju Wu-fu TempleThis temple wasn't built until the 10th year of Emperor Chien-lung. The temple was first named Shien-tan Temple or Marshall Temple. Marshall Shien-tan refers to Gon-ming Chao, a loyal vassal during the Shang Dynasty. People respected him and called him Marshall Shien-tan Marshall. This area was prosperous owing to the god's blessing, so people called him Marshall Kai-tai (literally translated as Development of Taiwan).

This temple underwent renovations several times and became larger and larger each time. After reconstruction in the 6th year of Emperor Tung-chi Emperor (1867), this temple was named Wu-fu (literally translated as Five Fortunes) Temple. Sen-ji Pavilion was erected at the same time to promote literacy. This temple was last renovated in 1924. Now the temple is 3-rooms wide at the front and has three main buildings and two patios. Its wooden construction, woodcarvings, stone carvings, and Indochina pottery are marvelous. You may like to study it thoroughly. This temple has a long history and is classified as a grade three ancient site. It is now being repaired. It will be opened again in the near future.

Lu-ju Wu-fu TempleThe Sen-ji Pavilion in front of the temple is a 2-story building made of bricks. The opening of the furnace is on the bottom level. On both sides of the building are the stone tablets bearing the donors' names. There is a "Messenger's Cave" in the back hall. There are a lot of big snakes in the cave known as "heavenly snakes". People feed the snakes with eggs. The temple sponsors a parade on March 15 and birthday celebration for the master god on the 16th. These celebrations are fabulous activities for the temple. The temple also sponsors evidence ghost-month celebration on July 15, and floating lantern on the 14th, to be hosted by five major villages of Lu-ju Shiang. The activities are fabulous. Visitors are welcome to join the celebrations.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Shell Beaches in India

Shell Beaches
The entire coastline of Andhra Pradesh is a good place for a shell collector's exploration tour, starting from Bheemunipatnam near Vishakhapatnam down to Mypad In Nellore District.

Situated 8-kms away from Vizag is another golden, unspoilt beach, Rishikonda, which attract tourists to visit its picturesque beach surroundings and make most of their beach holiday. The beaches of Pondicherry also provide a virgin setting; the golden yellow sand of the beach area is unpolluted, making this place and noteworthy pleasure and relaxation spot.

Mangalore's two beaches Taneerbhavi and Panambhoor are a delight to visit, or check out the coastal pilgrimage beach centres of Ganapatipulle in Maharashtra. One is rewarded with a varied choice of shells over here. Beyt Dwarka in Gujarat has some fine stretches of beach, though crowded by pilgrims; you can always find a quiet spot to relax.

Malpe in Karnataka is another coastal pilgrimage beach centres with a sheltered harbour making it a quiet beach retreat, just 6-kms away from Udupi, the temple town, renowned for a fascinating idol of Lord Krishna. Close to Malpe is Ullal, yet another beach resort, the silvery beaches of which command breathtaking views of the sunset, especially, when viewed through the Casuarina groves. Marwanthe beach is a very family kind of beach where one can come to in the evenings to just relax and let the smooth breeze caress you and tease your hair.

Still, the foremost shell collector's destinations are the islands of Lakshadweep and Andaman & Nicobar. The natural beauty has stayed unspoiled, as each island and beaches of Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar has existed since time immemorial, with little influence from the outside world.

Other Shell Beaches:
  • Calangute Beach, Goa
  • Beaches of Andaman & Nicobar Islands
  • Beaches Of Lakshadweep Islands
  • Diu Beach, Gujarat
  • Benaulim Beach, Goa
  • Ganapatipule, Maharahstra
  • Bheemunipatnam Beach, Andhra Pradesh
  • Malpe Beach, Karnataka