Thursday, August 20, 2009

Rat-eating plant


Unbelievable carnivorous plants.

British scientists have now discovered a deadly plant that eats rats. This plant was discovered in Philippines by botanists. There are different varieties of this plant. The rat-eating pitcher plant is named to honor the British TV naturalist David Attenborough. The rat-eating pitcher plant was discovered on the Philippines Island in 2007

This plant attracts the rats into its mouth and dissolves them with acid-like enzymes. This dangerous plant is also called the “Venus Rat-Trap”

Source: Google

Image: Google

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Empty one tank and fill up another

Use urine as fuel for your car.

Yes, your car may soon be powered by urine. Scientists from the Ohio University are developing the relevant technology for urine-powered utilities. Cars, homes, and numerous electronic devices are soon to be run on this energy. A nickel-based electrode generates plenty of cheap hydrogen from urine that can be burnt or used in fuel cells. An added advantage is increased cleanliness. And the cost is a fraction of the conventional production of hydrogen from water. As we all know, urine is the most abundant waste on Earth.

A new H2 converter invented now can turn any organic fluid into fuel, which is claimed to be for efficient than both diesel and gasoline. Thus instead of pumping fuel into the car, one can just pee into the gas tank and drive away. Waste from chicken farms could produce energy required to run the farm. Livestock farmers could benefit greatly from this invention.

Prof. Gerardine Botte of the Ohio University who is developing this technology reports that one cow can provide enough energy to supply hot water for 19 houses. One molecule of urea in the urine containing hydrogen and nitrogen bonded together can release hydrogen using a special nickel electrode into the pool of urine. Prof. Botte and her colleagues report they can store this hydrogen and then release it at lesser cost.

When this becomes a commercial viability, it will definitely be a great breakthrough towards greener world that we are all trying to create.

Source: Google

Friday, June 19, 2009

Odd and Strange Plants


The Zombie hand mushroom (photo, extreme left) looks like a dead hand with a bad smell like a dead fish or rat.

The pitcher plants (photo, middle) are carvinorous plants. Their pitcher-like shape attracts insects by their sweet smell and color. The liquid inside traps, drowns, and dissolves the insects.
Next t is the Venus Fly Traps. They catch and eat flies with their wide-open traps that react at speeds of ½ second to capture the flies!!! Earlier seen in South Carolina and North Carolina, its population is much less now. This can be grown at homes also.

The Corpse Flower of Indonesia (photo, extreme left). It stays for two days and will reappear only after 1-3 years.
Source: Google
Image: Google

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Zero-emission car from Japan


Yes, Japan’s Mitsubishi Motors Corporation is to come out with its first zero-emission mini -car. The i-MiEV or the Mitsubishi Innovative Electric Vehicle” is run on electricity and not on petroleum and has no engine or a muffler. It runs quietly. The running cost is just one- third of that of a petrol-powered car or less which looks attractive. While it can run 160 kilometers on a fully charged lithium-ion battery pack that can be charged overnight on a domestic power source, right now, it takes 14 hours to fully recharge the battery aagain. Technological breakthrough in lithium-ion batteries is expected as a normal corollary to this project. Though the cost may be prohibitive now at around $47,000 or 4.6 million yen, it may come down with mass production. Mitsubishi Motors plans to sell this green car initially to corporate and government customers in 2010 and then to the general public. The company hopes to offer about 15,000 units to the general public by 2011. There is no carbon emission from this car at all, a sure way to curb global warming, which is the need of the hour. The Japanese government has offered tax concessions to potential buyers.

The present recession in world economy may not be a limiting factor in the success of this car as the emphasis now is on reducing carbon emissions. Efforts are on in Japan to produce fuel cell cars that produce electricity with hydrogen and oxygen with water being the only byproduct with no carbon emissions at all. The emphasis now is on clean cars that run on biofuel or clean diesel as well as electricity.
Source: Google
Image: Google

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Malaysia’s Batu Cave Temple


Located in then Gombak district of Malaysia 13 km north of Kuala Lumpur, this cave was first discovered over 100 years ago. It is a limestone hill with numerous caves and cave temples. The cave derives its name from the Batu River that flows past the hill. A Hindu temple of Malaysia dedicated to the Hindu god Murugan here attracts over 1.5 million pilgrims during the annual Thaipusam festival During this occasion, ardent devotees go around with their cheeks pierced with sharp instruments apparently with no pain felt at all. Situated above 100 m above the ground level, this temple has three caves and a few smaller ones. The biggest cave has 272 steps to climb and has a 100-feet high ceiling The Dark Cave below the Temple Cave houses a variety of cave animals and admission is restricted. Gallery Cave at the foot of the steps houses statues and paintings depicting Hindu mythology. Quite interestlingly, Malaysia boasts of a fusion of Malay, Chinese, Indian, and indigenous cultures and customs.

Source: Google
Iamges: Wikipedia

Monday, June 15, 2009

India's Magic Observatory


India’s Jantar Mantar, Jaipur, the astronomical observatory will soon be a World Heritage Site. This recognition assumes greater importance as the year 2009 is being declared as the “International Year of Astronomy”.

This facility in Jaipur in the State of Rajasthan in India is the biggest of the five built by Sawai Jai Singh II, the erstwhile ruler of Jaipur. It is an astonishing collection of architectural astronomical instruments. This observatory has 14 major geometric devices for measurement of time, prediction of eclipses, tracking stars and other celestial parameters, and all of them are fixed tools. The largest of them, the Samrat Jantar is 90 feet tall at an angle of 27 degrees. Its shadow tells the time of the day with an accuracy of two seconds. A small cupola on its top is used to predict eclipses and monsoons. Its Giant Sun dial is the largest in the world, 27 meters tall with its shadow moving visibly at 1 mm per second, which is a profound experience for the people. This is already a national monument since 1948 now heading for world recognition.

The other four Jantar Mantar structures are located in the west central India, one each at Delhi, Varanasi, Ujjain and Mathura all constructed during the period 1724-1730 AD and all of them were made in masonry.

The Delhi Jantar Mantar, also a great masterpiece of Indian architecture was used to observe the Sun, moon and the other planets, but after its erection in 1724, it functioned only for seven years. While the huge sundial with its 27m-high arm at an angle of 27 degrees tracked the Sun, the remaining structures here tracked the various starts and planets. One structure here called the Mishra Yantra determined the longest and shortest days in the year. Interestingly, in December, one pillar overshadowsd the other and in June, no shadows are cast at all. This is the best preserved among all the five ones. The Ujjain and Varanasi observatories are in a state of neglect and decay. is a project initiated by Cornell University Professor of Arts, Barry Perlus. For more information, please contact him at
Also visit

Images: Google
Images: Wikipedia

Sunday, June 14, 2009



Global warming. Heed the warning. No procrastination, Concrete measures please.

Global temperature is forecast to rise 4 degrees by 2100 Around 200 million people are likely to be displaced from their homes by 2050 due to environmental reasons. The clear warning is that unless carbon emission is brought down drastically, global warming will become more hazardous endangering the world’s habitat and economy. As per NASA satellite images, nearly 94%of Rwanda’s Gishwati forest has disappeared mainly due to subsistence harvesting and cultivation by refugees after the notorious 1994 genocide now leaving only 600 hectares out of its original 100,000 hectares!!!

What is urgently required is a political goal to reduce carbon emissions 80% by 2050, but this needs to be transferred into quick results. Also the high level of carbon emissions does call for tougher law to reduce it to safer levels. Various studies do clearly emphasize the need for the nations to agree on this issue in order to avoid a rise of more than 2C in average temperature. Having agreed upon the urgency of the situation, you have to have appropriate technology and regulatory authority in place to assess and monitor carbon emissions from various sources.
While China, a rousing giant of global warming seems willing to limit its carbon emissions, this Asian giant may accord first priority to developing its economy. But it is considering imposing a pro rata carbon tax on coal and fossil fuels such as gasoline, jet fuel, and natural gas. Interestingly, China is committed to making the upcoming Copenhagen Climate Change Conference later this year a success.

Japan plans to cut its carbon emission by a modest 8%. Australia may postpone its planned carbon emissions trading scheme due to possible pressure from the opposition and industry though it is likely spend huge sums on tackling carbon emission issues.

Two billion tons of carbon generated by the US coal power plants constitutes about 27% of all its greenhouse gas emissions, and frighteningly this level is likely to go up by third by 2025!!!.

India can well cut 227 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in its power sector by reducing transmission and distribution losses as well as closing down the low-efficiency coal plants.

Source: Google
Images: Google

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Big Buddha on Lantau Island, Hongkong


Traditional Buddha or the Tian Tan Buddha at Ngong Ping, Lin Lantau Island of Hong Kong is a large statue of Buddha completed in 1993. A major Buddhist center, this is a major tourist attraction and is one of the five large Buddha statues in China. Here Buddha sits on a lotus throne. This statue is 34 meters tall and weighs 250 tonnes and is visible from 40 km away. A circular walkway for the visitors to climb the 268 steps to reach this statue is provided. The site also offers a small winding road to accommodate vehicles for the handicapped. While the raised right hand represents eradication of affliction, the left hand rests on the lap indicating a gesture of giving dhana or gift. While all other Buddha statues elsewhere face south, this Big Buddha faces north. Several small statues surround the Big Buddha.

There are three floors below this; The Hall of Universe, The Hall of Benevolent Merit, and The Hall of Remembrance. Another famous feature inside the site is the relic of Gautama Buddha consisting some cremated remains. Interestingly, there is a bell with Buddha’s images carved and this bell rings every 7 minutes or 108 times a day representing release of 108 kinds of human vexations.

Source: Google
Images: Google

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Save Earth. Act Now or Perish!!!


"Climate change is silent human crisis”, says Kofi Annan, the former UN head. Yes, look at the grim situation that confronts us. Here are the warnings from the experts.

Death of 300,000 people every year due to climate change, threats in the form of disease, starvation and conflict mainly due to damage to crops and homes that will around $125 billion every year. Further, floods, heat waves and forest fires will cause half-a-million deaths annually by 2030 and cost $300 billion globally. Developing poor countries like Bangladesh and Sudan will suffer more floods and drought. All these potential dangers call for a budget of $25 billion a year as compared to $14.2 billion in 2006. Further $50 billion a year will be needed to help poorer countries adapt to global warming as the poorer nations suffer more due to climate change as compared to fewer people suffering from floods in the rich countries.

Further potential damages? Recent study of Antarctica reveals that a huge ice shelf has become unstable due to global warming. And UK is planning to restrict tourism in the Antarctica. Arctic ice is now thinner than ever. Oceans may not be able to absorb increased greenhouse gases. Sea levels could rise by 10 feet by the end of this century. Migrating birds will have to fly 250 miles more due to global warming. Many animal species could become totally extinct due to rise in global heat. Natural disasters caused by climate change will affect about 400 million people within six years as warned by Oxfam of UK. Nobel Laureates warn the climate change to be as severe as nuclear warfare.

A study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology shows a 7.4C rise in temperature would result in severe collapse of ecosystem as well as the economic system worldwide. Severe natural resource crunch will be the inevitable consequence causing large-scale migration and water wars.

In spite of all these potential dangers, it is feared that domestic politics in many nations may not allow immediate and effective measures to combat climate change.

According to Professor Steven Chu, the US Energy Secretary, climate change is a "crisis situation" that calls for a wide range of measures. The Obama administration encourages energy efficiency forms of renewable energy such as wind, wave and solar. Painting roofs white to deflect sun’s rays thereby saving substantial energy and money on air-conditioning. The Internet can be effectively employed to pass on the message across the entire world. In his opinion, the US and China should move first and fast in this direction and set example to the poorer nations. China is now a rousing giant of global warming. More fuel-efficient and less carbon-emitting cars and energy-efficient bulbs in the place of frosted lights can do wonders, but many nations do not act with urgency that the situation demands.

Lightening roof and roads in urban areas could effectively and easily offset the warming effect of all the cars all over the globe for 11 long years. The European Union proposes to replace frosted light bulbs and with more energy-efficient bulbs.

Is this thinking not a hope for mankind? Let us al think and act responsibly.

The solution? Rapid and massive steps as well as urgent and significant policy action by the nations.
So let us all wake up to the clarion call by Mr. Annan and keep the temperature rise below 3.6 degrees.

Source: Google
Images: Google

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Visayan Spotted Deer of the Philippines


Classified as endangered, the Visayan Spotted Deer or the Philippine Spotted Deer is a small short-legged deer found in the forests of the west Visayan islands in the Central Philippines, and is one of the rarest mammals in the world. Easily distinguished by its distinctive pattern of buff-colored spots across its dark brown back, this deer is about 125 to 130 cm long, 70 - 80 cm tall and weighs about 25 - 80 kg. Its skull is narrow compared to its length and its face is pointed. A young/baby Visiyan deer is called a ‘fawn or ass”. While the females are called “doe, hind, or cow”, the males are called ‘buck, stag or bull.” A Visayan Spotted Deer group is a “herd”. Its normal habitat is open forest and dense thickets. It is mainly nocturnal usually wandering at dusk to feed on leaves, twigs, and grasses, and usually found in small groups of three to five.

The present estimated population of the Visayan Spotted Deer is less than 300. Hunting is a great threat to this rare and endangered species. Even though some legal protection is now afforded to it, the difficult terrain of its habitat renders this protection a difficult task. However, these are now held in captivity in the Philippines Conservation Center as well as a few zoos in Europe. The poor state of the Philippines economy is a risk factor for the survival of this species.

The Visayan Spotted Deer is also called the Prince Alfred's sambar.

Source: Google
Images: Google

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Petronas Twin Towers and the Kuala Lumpur City Centre


Designed by the Argentinean-American architect Cesar Pelli and completed in 1997, the 1483-feet 88-storey twin-tower built on the erstwhile Selangor Turf Club grounds together with the Kuala Lumpur City Center or KLCC in short is an awe-inspiring sight revealing a beautiful blend of modern architecture and Islamic culture. A public park and gardens with wading pool are major attractions here. The towers are tapering connected by a sky bridge. The towers were opened on August 28, 1999. The identical towers are linked by a bridge at the 41st floor, creating a dramatic gateway to the city. The towers provide office spaces in each floor ranging from 14,000 to 22,000 sq. ft. Major attractions of the twin towers are a curtain wall of glass and stainless steel sun shades for efficient lighting, a double-decker elevator system with a sky lobby transfer point on the 41st floor that can accommodate the huge crowd that visits the towers daily. A shopping center of about 70 acres of public parks and plazas is another attraction here. Presently, this tower houses Malayasia’s government-owned oil company and numerous multinational companies. It is interesting to note that this tower stands at the end of the projected high-tech business zone or the Malayasia Multimedia Supercorridor. A concert hall and a business reference library function here.

Supporting the fight against global warming, this Twin Tower switched off its lighting for one hour on March 28, 2009 in support of the Earth Hour. All avoidable decorative lights and non-essential lamps are being switched off frequently.

Source: Google
Image: Google

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Kaziranga National Park and the great one-horned Indian rhino


Kaziranga in the North-East India is the homeland and shelter for the famous one-horned Indian rhinoceros as well as other wild lives. Lying across the mighty Brahmaputra river and covering an area of 430, the Park is already a World Heritage Site since 1985. The one-horned Indian rhinoceros that roamed the north Indian plains in the wetlands of the Indus, Ganges and the Brahmaputra centuries ago now survives only in the north-eastern Assam and in the neighboring Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh.

Rhinos are of five kinds. The white rhino and the black rhino are seen in Africa while the Indian rhino, and Sumatran rhinos are Asian rhinos found in North Pakistan, north-east Indian State of Assam, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh. Weighing about 2000 kg, the Indian rhino has only one horn while the African rhino has two. Also the skin of the Indian rhino falls into deep folds at the joints as though it is a coat of armour. While the rhinos are vegetarians, the Indian rhinos mostly eat grass, fruits, leaves, and crop. Tall elephant grass available in the Park is its favorite food. Its thick lip helps it to reach the tall grass and to pull out the aquatic plants by the root. They roam about usually in the mornings and evenings avoiding the heat of the day. They live for about 40 years. Two-thirds of the world’s one-horned rhinos are hosted here.

In addition, this park is the home for large breeding populations of elephants, wild water buffalo, and the swamp deer as well as an important bird area recognized by the Birdlife International. The Kaziranga National Park is a birding paradise too. A children’s park is an added attraction here. Suitable accommodation is available for the tourists here.

The credit for the development of this park goes to Mary Victoria Leiter Curzon, wife of the Viceroy of India in 1905 whose initial efforts culminated into a great national park today. It is quite interesting to note that the centenary anniversary of this Park was attended by the descendants of the Baroness and Lord Curzon in 2005.

Guides accompany the tourists inside the park. Elephant as well as jeep drives are available for the travelers. The Park is accessible by road, rail, and air. A day’s outing is enough to see the variety of other species like the wild buffalo and the wild boar, the crested Serpant, the fishing eagle, a variety of water-birds like the parridges, geese, the Bengal Florican, storks, and pelicans.

Source: Google
Images: Google

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tabo Buddhist Monastery, India


Also called the Ajanta of the Himalayas, this Monastery of international repute from an altitude of 3280 meters in the Tabo village of the Spiti Valley of Himachal Pradesh, India offers wonderful sights. It is one of India’s national historic treasures. Built by the scholar Richen Zangpo in 960 AD, this monastery was an institution for advanced learning. Numerous ancient murals from the 11th century adorning this monastery are indicate substantial growth in the Tibetan art between 11th and 12th century AD. Clay statues of Buddha in Kashmiri painting are also seen here.

The historical significance of this monastery is its role in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. A sleepy village, Tabo was catapulted into prominence in 1996 with His Holiness Dalai Lama’s teachings here and the Kalachakra initiation. Even since, he has been a frequent visitor to the monastery. His next visit is in July 2009 to consecrate the new Kalachakra pillar. Presently 45 monks residing here continue to study and practice Buddhism. Interestingly, the youngest is 6 years old. By tradition of the Spiti valley, the second son becomes a monk.

The nearest airport is Kulu Manali at a distance of 250 km from Tabo. Simla and Pathankot are the nearest railheads. Access by road is also available. For more information, one can visit their official web site

Source: Google
Images: Google

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Substitute for aviation fuel


Global warming is assuming dangerous proportions necessitating quicker remedial measures by various nations and the alarm bell is ringing, but there is hope. Research by a Michigan Tech University-based team highlights a whopping 84% reduction in carbon emission can be achieved by the use of Jet fuel from camelina seeds from the Mediterranean , which provides an ideal alternative to quickly reduce carbon emission by aviation with no loss of fuel performance. This was once used as industrial oil after the industrial revolution. The camelina seeds naturally contain a high quality edible oil content and low saturated fat. Also this plant requires very little water and less fertilizer and is a good rotation crop with wheat. Jatropha is another alternative crop in this direction. The State of Montana expects to provide its entire crop of 2009 for aviation fuel. Algae and switchgrass are already being considered as biofuel crops.
Source: Google
Image: Google

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Reduce carbon emission now and save Mother Earth


Yes, the climate change is the greatest threat now. The threat from carbon emissions is assuming greater proportions due to unmindful activities by man. It is estimated that an average citizen in the industrialized nations creates an alarming 50,000 lbs of carbon per year by lighting and driving. Let us understand that the carbon emitted by us continues to linger in the atmosphere for long without breaking down, and it is this carbon that warms up the atmosphere. The carbon accumulated so far since the beginning of the industrial era is the deciding factor to judge how long we are safe and how fast we have to take remedial steps as this has now become an urgent issue.

The developed countries have by their inventions and discoveries generated more carbon emission and hence are more accountable to arrest the trend faster. The limited resources of the emission controlling agencies are being exhausted mostly by the developed nations that create more damage to the earth leaving very little resources for the developing nations. Apart from reducing their carbon emissions drastically, the developed nations owe a moral responsibility to assist the developing nations in their task of fighting their deadly carbon emissions by providing funds and relevant technology. A modest estimate of the funds required by India, China, and other G77 nations alone is about $150-300 billion. But remember man’s survival is now directly linked to controlling the emissions. Though south-east Asian nations are more vulnerable to global warming, it could benefit much by lower carbon emissions by implementing immediate remedial measures to halt this danger of global warming. By the end of this century temperatures in south-east Asia will rise significantly resulting in water shortages, decline in rice production, and disappearance of forests. Further, rising sea levels will drive out millions of island dwellers and coastal communities, and there will be a surge in dengue, malaria and other diseases.

Australia has an energy-intensive industry structure, a coal-based electricity generation industry and coal and gas as export mainstays. It proposes to cut its 2000 level emissions by between 5% and 15% by 2020 and go still further if there is a global agreement on limiting the carbon levels. The government will provide AUD 50 million to establish a climate fund. But political considerations seem to override the urgency of emission control measures. These are just examples of some nations. More exhaustive study of all the nations around the world will be quite shocking and alarming.

Hence, various nations have to decide whether their priority is to improve their sagging economies first by infusing trillions of dollars or to spend so much money on global warming.

Warnings have now been issued by the experts. Restrict the carbon emissions to 190 giga tonnes by 2050 in order to escape irreparable consequences. There is no scope for any reduction in this estimate. If we can achieve this, there is hope to avoid the average world temperature rise of more than 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial era. Last year the world emitted 9 giga tonnes of carbon by burning fossil fuels. The rate of emission is going up by 3% every year. The clear warning here is that at this rate, the entire carbon budget available to us now will be exhausted by 2029. And the truth is uncontrolled emissions drastically reduce the chances of survival of mankind. The urgency is assuming greater importance now due to uncontrolled and unrestricted carbon emissions.

Carbon emission can well be controlled by simple methods like developing clean energy like wind, solar and biomass and reducing the current use of coal, oil, and natural gas. Reforestation is another effective method. So let us all adopt the motto “Reduce what you can, Offset what you can’t” as advocated by which is engaged in the task of saving the earth. Please visit the site Very simple suggestions are made for us to follow. Let us not at least destroy the EARTH that we did not create.

Source: Google
Images: Google
Images: Google

Monday, May 4, 2009

Ajanata and Ellora Caves of India


Ajanta Caves (Photo, left)

The Ajanta caves located in the hills in Aurangabad, India and dating back to 200 AD to 650 AD are cave shrines cut out of rock by hand, outstanding examples of ancient Indian architectural heritage. There are 29 caves at here, which were accidentally discovered by a British Army officer John Smith in 1819. Five caves were temples and the remaining 24 caves served as retreats for about 200 Buddhist monks and artisans, who carved out impressive figures on the walls of the caves depicting ancient stories. Several human and animal figures are carved out of the rock. As the caves were forgotten for over 1200 years and remained isolated, not much damage to the architecture has been caused by man. This site is now a World Heritage Site recognized by UNESCO.

Ellora Caves (Photo, right)

The Ellora caves or structures are located about 30 km from the Indian city of Aurangabad and they represent the epitome of Indian rock-cut architecture. Out of nearly 100 caves dug side by side in the wall of a cliff, 34 cave monasteries and temples are the favored tourist attractions. The Ellora caves exhibit excellent specimens of cave-temple architecture carved during 350 AD to 700 AD. A clear assimilation of Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism is quite apparent. The 12 caves to the south are dedicated to Buddhism, 17 in the center to Hinduism, and the remaining 5 to the north to Jainism. The interiors are exquisitely adorned. The Buddhist caves display the nobility, grace, and serenity of Buddha. Dwarfs sporting colorful pageants dancing and singing are carved in the Vishwavakarma cave here. The Ellora caves were in proximity to the trade route and so were never lost to oblivion. A planned tour of the caves must include caves #10 16, 21, 32, and 34 to get a glimpse of the three religions.

Both the Ajanta and Ellora caves are maintained by the Archeological Survey of India.

Source: Google
Images: Google

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Fuji-San (Mount Fuji), Japan


Mount Fuji is Japan’s highest mountain at 3776 feet high. It is a dormant stratovolcano currently classified as active with a low risk of eruption that last erupted since 1707. It lies on the border between Yamanashi and Shizouka. The Japanese worship as a sacred mountain. A visit to the base of the Mount Fuji can be done on a one-day trip from Tokyo. . When the sky is clear, it is visible from Tokyo. There is the Fuji Five Lake located at 1000 meters roughly above the sea level and is an ideal place to see the Mount Fuji. Its symmetrical cone is a well known symbol of Japan. Numerous writers have written about Mount Fuji and numerous paintings are available. It is very cold and the cone is mostly covered by snow for several months of the year. The highest temperature is 17.8°C. Around 200,000 tourists climb this mountain each year mostly in July and August via numerous routes. This is relatively a young volcano having attained its present shape 5000 years ago due to volcanic activities.

Image: Google
Source: Google

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Porcelain Tower of Nanjing, China


Also known as the Porcelain Pagoda and the Temple of Gratitude, this tower was one of the Seven Wonders of the Medieval Ages and one of the tallest buildings in China at that time. Designed by the Chinese emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty during the 15h century as a Buddhist place of worship, this tower lost the top three stories in 1801 due to lightning, but was restored in 1834. Again in the 1850s, the Taiping Rebellion smashed the Buddhist images as well as the inner staircase, which had served as an observation post. Reportedly nine stories high, this tower was decorated with images of humans, dragons, lions, and other entities. Numerous Buddhist images also decorated the tower. The top of the roof had a golden sphere. Originally, its base was 97 feet in diameter octagonal in shape with a height of 260 with 136 spiral steps to climb. The porcelain bricks of the tower used to reflect the sun’s rays during the day to keep it cool. Reportedly many lamps were hung to illuminate the tower at night.

Granville Gower Loch has mentioned elaborately about this Tower in his book “The Closing Events of the Campaign in China” as it existed in the 1840s. Emperor Yongle had originally planned a tower of 13 stories with a height of 330 feet. It is interesting to note that this tower is under reconstruction now.

Source: Google
Images: Wikipedia

Monday, April 27, 2009

Angkor Wat, Cambodia


Angkor Wat has been recognized as one of the wonders of the world by a poll organized by the Swiss-based New7Wonders Foundation. This poll aimed at identifying the Official New 7 Wonders of the World Finalists. The winners were announced on July 7, 2007 in Lisbon, Portugal after voting by more than 100 million people. The Angkor Wat is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Angkor Wat lies 5.5 km north of the modern town of Siem Reap (13°24'N, 103°51'E). A number of ancient structures exist here. Angkor Wat (or Angor Vat) is one of the two important monument of the south-east Asia. The other one is at Bagan in Burma (now Myanmar). The Angkor Wat, the world’s largest sacred temple was built in the early 12th century by the Hindu king Suryavarman II reflecting the Khmer architecture. The grandeur and harmony of the structure and the various guardian spirits on the walls are admirable. Strangely, the temple is oriented to the west rather than the east. The water moats, concentric wall as well as the temple mountain all symbolize the Hindu cosmos.

Though modern engineers estimate that a massive construction such as the Angkor Wat would normally take about 300 years, this temple was constructed in about 40 years. Enormous amounts of sandstone (over 5 million tons) were used. Carving of the surfaces, columns, and lintels is a prominent feature of this architecture. Scenes from the Indian literature such as warriors following an elephant-mounted leader as well as celestial dancing girls are abundant. The great city and the temple were covered by forest till the 19th century, but French archeologists began restoration work from 1907 to 1970. The Archaeological Survey of India too undertook restoration work between 1986 and 1992.

In the year 1296, the Chinese diplomat Zhou Daguan wrote elaborately about the Khmer society in great detail, which is a source of great information on this.

Angkor Wat is now attracting more tourists. Various international agencies are working in close union to preserve this temple. It is now a part of the World Heritage Site. The German Apsara Conservation Project as well as the World Monuments Fund are involved. Several temples at Angkor have been restored and are very popular now. About two million tourists visit this place annually.

This temple figures on the national flag of Cambodia.

Source: Google
Images: Wikipedia

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Get the Best in Life


Be a Leader and not a Boss.

The Boss drives his men, but the Leader inspires them.

The Boss depends on authority, but the Leader on goodwill.

The Boss evokes fear, but the Leader radiates love.

The Boss says “I”, but the Leader says “We”.

The Boss shows who is wrong, but the leader shows what is wrong.

The Boss shows how it is done, but the Leader shows how it is to be done.

The Boss abuses men, but the Leader uses men.
Source: From Mrs. G. Vijaya Mani, Teacher, India
Images: Google
Images: Google


Life is a Challenge. Accept it.

Life is a Struggle. Meet it.

Life is a Game. Play it.

Life is an Art. Admire it.

Life is an Adventure. Overcome it.

Life is a Promise. Fulfill it.

Life is a Song. Sing it.

Life is a Duty. Perform it.

Life is a Drama. Act it.

Life is a Journey. Complete it.

Life is a Sorrow. Face it.

Life is Love. Enjoy it.

Life is an Opportunity. Utilize it.

Life is a problem. Solve it.

Life is a Beauty. Worship it.
Source: From Mrs. G. Vijaya Mani, Teacher, India

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


This is just a simple way to keep everyone happy and convinced. Try.

Discussion throws light; an argument throws heat.

Discussion comes from an open mind, but argument proceeds from a closed mind.

Discussion is an exchange of knowledge while argument is an exchange of ignorance.

Discussion is an expression of logic; an argument is an exchange of heated tempers.

Discussion is an exchange of ideas whereas argument is an exchange of words.

Discussion leads to better understanding of the problem while argument complicates the problem.

Discussion tries to prove what is right while argument tries to prove who is right.


Source: Mrs. G.Vijaya Mani, Teacher, India
Images: Google
Images: Google

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Amazing Dads


Giant water bug with eggs on its back

Darwin frog

Animal and bird dads of many species in this world perform enterprising and caring roles.

First, the giant male bug also called the toe- biter commonly found in the standing freshwater or gently running waters with aquatic vegetation in the North and South America and East Asia. This is often mistaken for a cockroach or a beetle. Eggs are laid on the wings of the males and hatched there. The eggs are exposed to the sun by the male to prevent fungus and improve their viability. A series of skillful movements by the male improves oxygen diffusion. Hatching takes about three weeks, but this decreases as the temperature rises. The males cannot mate during this period. It is the male that invests much time and energy in reproduction.

Look at the tiny one-inch Darwin’s frogs, the amphibians of the temperate forests of southern Argentina and Chile named after Charles Darwin and is mentioned in his world voyage, "Voyage of the Beagle". The breeding season starts in Spring and continues into summer. The female lays about three to seven eggs and leaves the male for about 20 days. The male then takes the eggs into its vocal sac, which hatch there into tadpoles and remain there for a bout 70 days till they turn froglets. During this process, the male’s chest is puffed with the growing tadpoles. The tadpoles eat the leftover yolk from their eggs and the food of the male available through the skin of his vocal sac. The new froglets then of the father’s mouth and swim away. Scientists evince keen interest in this unusual method of reproduction.

Among birds, the female Emperor lays one egg, which the male penguin incubates while the female goes back to the sea. The male keeps the egg warm in its feet covered by its stomach in a “brood pouch” for 72 days during the Antarctic winters. He feeds the young one with a milk-like product from a gland in his esophagus. During this feeding, the male loses half his body weight.

Source: Google
Images: Google

Monday, April 13, 2009

Seven Wonders of the Medieval World


The seven representative sites in this list are the Stonehenge, Colosseum, Catacombs of Kom el Shoqfa, the Great Wall of China, the Porcelain Tower of Nanjing, Hagia Sophia, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Interestingly, many sites in this list were built much earlier than the Medieval Ages.
Stonehenge in Salisbury, England is a UNESCO Heritage site since 1986. This famous prehistoric monument has earthworks surrounding circular standing stones believed to have been erected around 2500 BC. The Stonehenge is owned and managed by the English Heritage. Professor Mike Parker Pearson, head of Stonehenge Riverside Project believes that the Stonhenge was a burial ground maybe from 3000 BC and might have continued so for the next 500 years when the giant stones were erected.

The Colosseum or Roman Coliseum (photo, left), a marvel of Roman architecture and engineering and one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions is an amphitheaterin the heart of the city of Rome. It is elliptical in design. With a seating capacity of 50,000, this served as a gladiatorial games, mock sea bottles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous bottles, and dramas from Classical mythology. Interestingly, the Colosseum is also depicted on the Italy's five-cent euro coin.

The Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa is a historical archeological site. historical archaeological site located in Alexandria, Egypt consisting of a series of Alexandrian tombs, statues as well as objects of the Pharonic funeral, but with the passage of time, the Roman, Greek and Egyptian cultures had impacted these Catacombs as evidenced by the Roman clothes and the hair styles. A circular staircase was used to carry the deceased bodes leads down to the tombs. A very gruesome feature of this site is the Hall of Caracalla used for mass burial of humans and animals killed by the Emperor Caracalla.

The Great Wall of China (photo, right) was built between the 5th and the 16th century BC to protect the northern borders from Xiongnu attacks. This consists of a series of stone and earthen fortifications built by various dynasties during this long period of about 11 centuries. This UNESCO Heritage site stretches over 6700 km in total and was guarded by over one million men. An estimated 2 to 3 million Chinese had died during its construction extending over 11 centuries. The Great Wall concept was revived again during the Ming Dynasty following the Ming army's defeat by the Oirats in the Battle of Tumu in 1449. The Ming had failed to gain a clear upper-hand over the Manchurian and Mongolian tribes after successive battles, and the long-drawn conflict was taking a toll on the empire. The Ming adopted a new strategy to keep the nomadic tribes out by constructing walls along the northern border of China. Acknowledging the Mongol control established in the Ordos Desert, the wall followed the desert's southern edge instead of incorporating the bend of the Huang He. While some efforts are being made to preserve this Great Wall, urgent repair is needed at many places along this wall though no comprehensive survey has even been carried out. It is feared that about 60 km of the wall in the Gansu province may collapse very soon due to damage from sandstorms.

Next, the Porcelain Tower of Nanjing also known as Bao'ensi (meaning "Temple of Gratitude") on the south bank of the Yangtze river. A 15th century monument designed by the Chinese emperor Yongle, this pagoda was built with white porcelain bricks that reflected the sun’s rays during the day. Glazes and stones worked into the porcelain produced a mixture of green, yellow, brown and white designs of animals, flowers and landscapes on the sides of the tower. Several images of Buddha decorated the tower. Originally built on an octagonal base, this tower had a height of 260 feet with nine stories with a staircase of 130 steps. A golden sphere marked the top of the roof. It was destroyed 400 hundred years later during the Taiping rebellion. The tower lost its top three stories due to lightening in 1801, but was subsequently restored. The tower is under reconstruction now.

Turkey’s Hagia Sophia was a patriarchal basilica, then a mosque and now a museum in Istanbul. Its massive dome reflects the Byzantine architecture. In 1453 after the capture of Constantinople, Sultan Mehmed II converted the building into a mosque. Various items such as the bells, altar, iconnostasis, and sacrificial vessels from the erstwhile Church were removed and various Islamic features were added by the Ottomans. For almost 500 years, this served as a mosque, and was converted into a museum in 1935 by the Republic of Turkey.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is the freestanding bell tower of the cathedral of the city of Pisa. Although intended to be a vertical structure, it began leaning to the southwest shortly after the construction reached the third floor due to flawed designs. It is 186 feet in height and has 294 steps. The seventh floor was constructed in 1319. Each floor has a bell. The largest one was installed in 1655. The tower is now undergoing surface restoration to repair damages due to corrosion and blackening due to aging.

Source: Wikipedia
Images: Wikipedia

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Seven Wonders of The Ancient World


Numerous sites have been catalogued over the ages in various lists as the Wonders of the World. These sites are both natural as well as man-made constructions that fascinate us. An attempt is made here to bring out these compilations one by one.

The first is the list of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World that identifies seven most remarkable man-made classical antiquity sites. These sites were popular among the Hellenic sight-seers around the Mediterranean rim. The number 7 according to the Greeks represented prosperity and plenty.

The historian Herodotus (484 BC–ca. 425 BC) and the scholar Callimachus (ca 305–240 BC) brought out the first list of the ancient world, but their writings have not survived except as references. The Great Pyramids of Giza (also called the Khufu’s) is one of the oldest and the largest of the three pyramids, The Statue of Zeus at Olympia made by the Greek sculptor Phidias (photo, right), Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (photo, left) in Turkey (only foundations and sculptural fragments remain), Mausoleum at Halicarnassus in Turkey, which is a tomb built for Mausollos, a Persian governor by his wife Artemisia, the Colossus of Rhodes (Grece), the large statue of the Sun god destroyed by an earthquake in antiquity, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria on the small offshore island of Pharos in Egypt figure in this list. The earlier list had mentioned the Ishtar Gate as the seventh wonder, but this seems to have been replaced by the Lighthouse of Alexandria.

The Greeks had categorized these sites as “miracles” and not as Wonders. The list that is known to us came up during the Middle Ages.

Source: Google
Images: Google

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

India’s Wonder, “The Sun Temple” of Konark


India’s Nobel laureate Rabindranatha Tagore says about this temple, “Here the language of stone surpasses the language of man.” Very true indeed.

This is a UNESCO-declared World Heritage Site. This 13th century temple also called the Black Pagoda is located on the deserted stretch of the Orissa coast overlooking the Bay of Bengal at the northeastern corner of the city of Puri. This is about 65 km from the capital city of Bhubaneswar. This was built by King Narasimhadeva (AD 12136-1264) of the Eastern Ganga dynasty.

The heavily carved temple represents a huge chariot of the Sun god drawn by seven spirited horses carved on twelve pairs of exquisitely decorated wheels. Two lions crushing a war elephant guard the entrance. The Nata Mandir or the Hall of Dance at the entrance was used for dancing by the temple dancers. Human, divine, and semi-divine figures in various postures are carved out here. Intricate carvings are seen both inside and outside the temple. Originally the temple had three parts, sanctuary, porch, and the detached Hall of Dance.

The Sun Temple belongs to the Kalinga School of Indian Temples with characteristic curvilinear towers mounted by cupolas. The design conforms to the earlier styles of the country’s eastern region. The temple suffered heavy structural damages from repeated attacks by various kings. It is believed that in AD 1626, the then king of Khurda took away the Sun and Moon images to Puri for safety from the approaching Muslim armies. They can be seen inside the Puri Jagannath temple. Bereft of the presiding deities, this Sun Temple seems to have lost its sanctity. Subsequent natural calamities like floods and gales did cause serious damage.

Konark lay directly on the path of a total solar eclipse of 1980.

Legend says that the 12-year-old son of the chief architect solved the technical issues in the construction of this temple, but died mysteriously shortly thereafter.

Presently in ruins, the Sun Temple museum houses some of the sculptures maintained by the Archeological Survey of India.

Konark beach is a popular tourist destination, though the waters are deceptively calm. Its main attraction lies in its views of the temple. Konark is located at 19°54′N 86°07′E / 19.90°N 86.12°E / 19.90; 86.12[1]. It has an average elevation of 2 m (7 ft).
Source: Google
Image: Google

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

An Ancient Indian University, The Nalanda


An ancient seat of learning, The Nalanda University of India

Recently recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of India, this University is about 55 km south of Patna in Bihar and was a Buddhist center of learning for about 700 years from 427 to 1127 CE. One the world’s first residential universities, this ancient University occupies an area of 14 hectares. Originally built by Gupta emperors, some additions were subsequently made by the great Mauryan Emperor Ashoka. Buddhist emperor Harshavardhana and other dynasties like the Pala kings also patronized this. At the height of its glory, this University had accommodated more than 10,000 students and 2000 scholars mostly from Korea, Japan, Persia, China and Greece. Science, astronomy, medicine and logic were taught here in addition to metaphysics, philosophy, Yoga, Veda, and Buddhism. Foreign philosophy was also imparted here. Buddhist influence was clearly evident.

The library of Nalanda University had three great buildings called the Sea of Jewels, Ocean of Jewels, and the Delight of Jewels. This was a great repository of Buddhist knowledge, but was set ablaze by the Muslim invaders.

Buddha is believed as having stayed here several times usually in a mango grove. He had visited Nalanda during his last visit through the city of Magadh. Sariputta, the right-handed discipline of Buddha was born. After his death here, Emperor Ashoka (250 BC) built the Sariputta Stupa in his memory. The famous Nagarjuna had taught here.

Nalanda means giver of knowledge. The Chinese pilgrim-monk Xuanzang also mentions this in his works. The famous Chinese traveler and monk Hieun Tsang had stayed here during the 7th century and provides valuable information about this University. He came here as a student and was stayed back as a teacher for 12 years.

This great University’s decline started after the attack by Khilji in 1193 when thousands of monks were burnt or beheaded.

Some ruins still remain, but 90% of the site still remains to be excavated. The Nalanda Museum display many items excavated.

Efforts are afoot by the international community to revive the Nalanda University near the ancient site and funds are being provided for this project by a consortium of nations including Singapore, China, Japan, and India.

Of interest, Taxila or Takshasila was a similar University in the Punjab province of Pakistan.

Nalanda was identified by Alexander Cunningham with the village of Baragaon.

Source: Google
Image: Google

Friday, April 3, 2009

The great Padmanabhapuram Palace, India


The great Padmanabhapuram Palace, India.

A magnificent wooden palace of the 16th century, this historical fort is located about 50 km from Trivandrum in South India. It extends over an area of about 7 acres at the foot of the Veli Hills of the Western Ghats. Emperor Ravivarma Kulasekharaperumal of the erstwhile Travancore in 1602 AD who constructed this palace dedicated it to Lord Padmanabha and surrendered his sword to the God and functioned as His servant and ruled the State on behalf of Lord Padmanabha. He made the city the capital Travancore.

Individual structures inside this fort are linked by corridors. The King’s Council of Chamber or the Mantrasala is a very cool place with colored mica and dark atmosphere inside. Lattice work is seen here. The Mother’s Palace or the Thai Kottaram has an inner court and a small room called the Chamber of Solitude or the ekantha mandapam with excellent wood carvings.

A relatively new construction, the Hall of Performance or the Natakasala was added by the emperor Swathi Thirunal himself a great musician of fame. It has solid granite pillars and gleaming black floor. A wooden enclosure with peep holes served as a viewing platform for the royal household to sit and watch the performance below so as to avoid public gaze. A multi-purpose four-storied building served a variety of purpoes. The top floor or the upparikka maliga had scenes from the ancient literature as well as scenes from social life of that age.

The king’s bedroom has a bedstead made from 64 different herbal and medicinal woods (see photo, right), a gift from the Dutch merchants. Most of the rooms here stored swords and daggers, the chief weapons of those days.

There is a 300-year-old clock, which still keeps time. A guided tour of the palace leaves lasting impressions. A must for tourists.

Source: Google
Images: Fort: Google
Images: Medicinal cot: Wikipedia



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