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

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Jaisalmer Fort, Wonder of India


The Jaisalmar Fort, Rajasthan, India.

Recently declared as one of the Seven Wonders of India, this fort is one of the largest desert forts of the world and the second oldest fort in Rajasthan. Built by Raja Rawal Jaisal, a Rajput ruler in 1156 AD and witness to many battles, this fort stands on the Trikuta Hill amidst the vast sands of India’s Thar desert. Its yellow sandstone walls (see photo) are a tawny lion color during the day and this becomes honey-gold at sunset. This sight is a real feast for the eyes. The Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray was so impressed by this sight that he honored this sight by his detective film Sonar Kella based on this fort. It has crenellated sandstone walls 30-feet high and has 99 bastions most of which were built between 1633 and 1647 AD. Evidence of subtle fusion of Rajput and Islamic architecture is clearly visible here.

The Raj Mahal or the Royal Palace, ornate Jain Temples, the Laxminath Temple and the four gateways the Ganesh Pol, Suraj Pol, BhootPol, and the Hawa Pol are the main attractions inside the fort.

Interestingly, this strategically located city escaped direct Islamic invasion. Its strategic importance was revealed during the 1965 and 1971 wars between India and Pakistan. But this wonder of the nation, a rich heritage now cries for better and immediate attention to maintain its splendor and safety. International heritage foundations insist on reduced water usage to preserve this fort. Efforts to restore and preserve this fort are under way, but more involvement by the government and the public is urgently called for.



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