Sunday, May 28, 2017

Beautiful temples across India!

IMAGE: First up we have Vikram Sampat's pic of a temple in Ghumli, a village in Jamnagar, Gujarat.
IMAGE: The ruins of the Sas-Bahu temple near Udaipur by Maninder Sodhi
IMAGE: Srinivasan Vasan's picture of the fascinating Kapaleeswarar Temple at Mylapore, Chennai. 
IMAGE: Kalyan Chakravarthi shared this picture of the Nagalinga at Lepakshi Temple at Andhra Pradesh. It's probably the largest one in the country. 
IMAGE: Pramod Rao shared his pic of the Shanta Durga Temple at Goa. 
IMAGE: The Konark Temple at Odisha shot by Jagadiswar Nayani.
IMAGE: A Hoysala-style temple at Doddagaddavalli, Hassan District, Karnataka. This pic was shared by Srikanth R.
IMAGE: Rathish Balu shared a pic of Murudeshwara Temple at Karnataka. 
IMAGE: As the lights dim out...Sujesh V shared an evening shot of the Padmanabhaswamy Temple at Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. 
IMAGE: Nitin Purohit's magnificent view of the Golden Temple at Amritsar, Punjab.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Deepavali celebrations

" Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya " (from darkness unto light)
'Diwali', also called Deepavali or festival of ligths, is the abstraction of the Sanskrit word Deepavali - 'Deep' means diya (small pots made from clay) or light and 'Avali', means a row - meaning a row of diyas or array of lamps. Thus placing small diyas, candles & lamps inside and around the home marks the festival of lights.

It is traditionally known as the "festival of lights", for the common practice is to light small oil lamps (called diyas) and place them around the home, in courtyards, gardens, verandahs, on the walls built around the home and also on the roof tops. In cities, especially, candles are substituted for diyas; and among the riches, candles are made to substitute for fashionable and classy neon lights. The celebration of the festival is customarily accompanied by the exchange of sweets and the explosion of fireworks. Diwali is an occasion for cheerfulness and togetherness. This is an occasion for young and the old, men and women, rich and poor - for everyone to celebrate. Irrespective of their religious and economic background, the festival is celebrated throughout the country to ward off the darkness and welcome light into life as light is always associated with hope for the future Diwali is celebrated 20 days after Dussera, on Amavasya - the 15th day of the dark fortnight of the Hindu month of Ashwin (Aasho) (Oct/ Nov) every year.

While Diwali is popularly known as the "festival of lights", the most significant spiritual meaning is "the awareness of the inner light".

Central to Hindu philosophy is the assertion that there is something beyond the physical body and mind which is pure, infinite, and eternal, called the Atman. Just as we celebrate the birth of our physical being, Dipavali is the celebration of this inner light, in particular the knowing of which outshines all darkness (removes all obstacles and dispels all ignorance), awakening the individual to one's true nature, not as the body, but as the unchanging, infinite, immanent and transcendent reality. With the realization of the Atman comes universal compassion, love, and the awareness of the oneness of all things (higher knowledge). This brings Ananda (inner joy or peace).

Diwali celebrates this through festive fireworks, lights, flowers, sharing of sweets, and worship. While the story behind Dipavali varies from region to region, the essence is the same - to rejoice in the inner light (Atman) or the underlying reality of all things (Brahman).
Five days

The First day is called Dhanteras or Dhantryaodashi, which falls on the thirteenth day of the month of Ashwin. The word "Dhan" means wealth. This day has great importance for rich community. It is believed that sixteen year old son of King Hima according to his horoscope was doomed to die on the fourth day of his marriage by a snake-bite .So, on that particular fourth day of his marriage his worried wife lighted innumerable lamps all over the place and laid all the ornaments and lots of gold and silver coins in a big heap at the entrance of her husband's boudoir. And she went on telling stories and singing songs through the night. When Yam-the god of death arrived there in the guise of a Serpent the dazzle of those brilliant lights blinded his eyes and he could not enter the Prince's chamber. So he climbed on the heap of the ornaments and coins and sat their whole night listening to the melodious songs. In the morning he quietly went away. Thus the wife saved her husband and since then this day of Dhanteras came to be known as the day of "Yamadeepdaan" and lamps are kept burning throughout the night in reverential adoration to Yam, the god of Death.
On the first evening of Diwali, many Hindus light a single lamp, a diya, and place in front of the house. The first day is of great importance to the rich community of India Houses and Business premises are renovated and decorated. Entrances are made colorful with lovely traditional motifs of Rangoli designs to welcome Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. To indicate her long-awaited arrival, small footprints are drawn with rice flour and vermilion powder all over the houses. Lamps are kept burning all through the nights. Believing this day to be auspicious women purchase some gold or silver or at least one or two new utensils.
The Second day is called Narka-Chaturdashi or Chhoti Diwali that falls on the fourteenth day of the month of Ashwin.

The legend related to this day is about the King Bali of the nether world that mighty power had become a threat to the gods. In order to curb his powers Lord Vishnu in the guise of a small boy visited him and begged him to give him only that much land which he could cover with his three steps. Known for his philanthropy King Bali proudly granted him his wish. So with his first step Lord Vishnu covered the entire heaven and with the second steps the earth and asked Bali where to keep his third step. Bali offered his head and putting his foot on his head Vishnu pushed him down to the underworld. But for his generosity Lord Vishnu allowed him to return to earth once a year to light millions of lamps to dispel the darkness and ignorance and spread the radiance of love and wisdom. This is a day when Hindus arise earlier than usual. The men, especially, will rub their bodies with perfumed oils before bathing. Afterwards, clean clothes are worn; some people wear new ones. In the morning and in the evening, mixes of bright and loud fireworks are set off in an atmosphere of joyful fun and noise. Houses are lit with oil lamps in evening. This creates an enchanting magical atmosphere.

The Third day of the festival of Diwali is the most important day of Lakshmi-Puja, which is entirely devoted to the propitiation of Goddess Lakshmi.
This day is also known by the name of "Chopada-Puja". The day of Lakshmi-Puja falls on the dark night of Amavasya. Lakshmi represents good fortune, wealth and beauty. Hindus invite the goddess to enter their homes and bless them with good health, happiness and good fortune. Diyas are lit to welcome the goddess into the homes and lives of the worshippers. Even poor people who cannot afford the oil to light too many diyas will make sure that at least a single diya is lit so that Lakshmi may bless them. Pictures of Lakshmi show her either standing or sitting on a Lotus flower. Another way of welcoming the goddess Lakshmi into people's homes is by drawing Rangoli patterns on the floor of the entrance of each house. A Rangoli is a sign of welcome. Some Hindus draw one daily as a way of welcoming guests. On the day of Diwali, the whole house is lighted with oil lamps. In addition to the lighting the fa├žade and the sides of the house, one lamp is always placed in areas which are dark. For Hindus who are in business and trade, the settling of accounts marks this day. This is another reason why the goddess Lakshmi is so important during this festival. She is worshipped in the hope that in the new 'Financial year' of trading, she will bring prosperity.

Birth of Lakshmi: According to the Puranas, the goddess of Wealth, Prosperity and Luck Lakshmi was born from the churning of the Milk Ocean, along with other magical beings and objects including Amrita, Kamadhenu, Chintamani, Halahal and others.

The Fourth day is called Padwa or Varsha Pratipada that marks the coronation of King Vikramaditya and Vikaram-Samvat was started from this Padwa day. Govardhan-Puja is also performed in the North on this day.

As per Vishnu-Puran, the people of Gokul used to celebrate a festival in honour of Lord Indra and worshipped him after the end of every monsoon season. But one particular year the young Krishna stopped them from offering prayers to Lord Indra who in terrific anger sent a deluge to submerge Gokul. But Krishna saved his Gokul by lifting up the Govardhan Mountain and holding it over the people as an umbrella. This day is also observed as Annakoot meaning mountain of food. In temples especially in Mathura and Nathadwara, the deities are given milkbath, dressed in shining attires with ornaments of dazzling diamonds, pearls, rubies and other precious stones. After the prayers and traditional worship innumerable varieties of delicious sweets are offered to the deities as "Bhog" and then the devotees approach and take Prasad. Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped in every Hindu household. In many Hindu homes it is a custom for the wife to put the red tilak on the forehead of her husband, garland him and do his "Aarathi" with a prayer for his long life. In appreciation of all the tender care that the wife showers on him, the husband gives her a costly gift. This Gudi Padwa is symbolic of love and devotion between the wife and husband. On this day newly married daughters with their husbands are invited for special meals and given presents. Diwali celebration is a very happy occasion for all.

The Fifth and final day of Diwali Festival is known by the name of "Bhaiya-Dooj" This day is
observed as a symbol of love between sisters and brothers. It is believed that on this day Yamraj -the god of death visited his sister Yami and she put the auspicious till on his forehead, they ate talked and enjoyed together and exchanged special gifts as a token of their love for each other and Yamraj announced that anyone who receives tilak from his sister on this day will never be thrown. Since then it became imperative for the brother to go to his sister's house to celebrate Bhaiya Dooj.

Some Beliefs about Diwali.

The Defeat of Narkasur by Lord Krishna:Lord Vishnu in his 8th incarnation as Krishna destroyed the demon Narkasura, who was causing great unhappiness amongst the people of the world. Narkasura was believed to be a demon of filth, covered in dirt. He used to kidnap beautiful young women and force them to live with him. Eventually, their cries for rescue were heard by Vishnu, who came in the form of Krishna . First, Krishna had to fight with a five-headed monster who guarded the demon's home. Narkasura hoped that his death might bring joy to others. Krishna granted his request and the women were freed. For Hindus, this story is a reminder that good can still come out of evil.

Austerities of Shakti: According to the Skanda Purana, the goddess Shakti observed 21 days of austerity starting from ashtami of shukla paksha (eighth day of the waxing period of moon) to get half of the body of Shiva.
This vrata (austerity) is known as kedhara vrata. Deepavali is the completion day of this austerity. This is the day Lord Shiva accepted Shakti into the left half of the form and appeared as Ardhanarishvara. The ardent devotees observe this 21 days vrata by making a kalasha with 21 threads on it and 21 types of offerings for 35 days. The final day is celebrated as kedhara gauri vrata.

Why do people play cards on Diwali?

It is believed that goddess Parvati played dice with her husband, Lord Shiv on this day and she decreed that whosoever gambled on Diwali night would prosper throughout the ensuring year.This tradition of playing cards- flash and rummy with stakes on this particular day continues even to day.

The message of Deepawali

According to the Vedic culture, the message of Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya (from darkness unto light) is given through the festival of Deepawali to all peoples of the world. During the night of Deepawali the myriads of little clay lamps (dias) seem to silently send forth Deepawali messages: Come let us remove darkness from the face of the earth. This is not the work to be done by one dia or by one individual. It requires collective effort. In the diffusion of light the question of high and low is forgotten. This is the lesson taught by both small and big dias.

The second message of the burning dias is to destroy the difference between rich and poor- the destruction of discrimination based on poverty and wealth. The burning dia, whether in a palatial bungalow or in a grass hut, is a symbol of this unity. The wall of separation based on economic status cannot prevent the penetration and spread of the light of the dia.

The third message of the burning diias of Deepawali is to kindle the extinguished lights of our neighbours. Let us find out what is needed- whether there is a shortage of wick or oil- and just by a little help the neighbour’s lamps can be lit. One dia can light several others. A little charity can bring joy to countless others.

The row of lamps teach yet another lesson and that is of unity as exemplified in Satyam, Shivam Sundaram- Truth, Joy and Beauty.

The lights of Deepavali are displayed at the entrance doors, by the walls of houses, in the streets and lanes. This means that the inner spiritual light of the individual must be reflected outside. Passersby may thereby be prevented from stumbling on their way to reach their destination.
The lights of the dias on earth beckon the lights in the firmaments to descend upon earth and establish the heavenly kingdom of God for the welfare of the human race.

Feeding empty stomachs, lighting blown-out dias and providing cheer and joy amongst the downtrodden is to enter the true spirit of Deepavali. This is the true prayer to Lakshmi Devi.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Barcelona is the capital city of the autonomous community of Catalonia in the Kingdom of Spain.

Barcelona is the capital city of the autonomous community of
Catalonia in the Kingdom of Spain.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

'German Bakery'

"What’s in a name?", said William Shakespeare. A lot apparently, if you own a bakery and name it German Bakery. The name 'German Bakery' has become a brand in itself, which is why you will find a lot of food joints christened German Bakery at various places in India. 

According to an article in The Hindu, the first German Bakery was set up in 1985 at Anjuna beach in Goa by a German named Klaus Goodzet and Ram Gopal Karkee. Later, they set up India’s second German Bakery at Koregaon Park, near Osho Ashram, Pune. That was the last branch of German Bakery - they never expanded their operations to any other city. Hence the fact that the various German Bakery outlets in India are not even remotely related to each other.
But don't get disheartened. Even if they aren't related to each other, all the German Bakery outlets in India are standouts in their own way and live up to the name created by the first two German Bakeries. Take a look at 9 of the best German bakeries in India.

1. German Bakery, Anjuna, Goa 

9 German Bakeries You Have To Visit At Least Once In Your Life
This German Bakery is also known as the original German Bakery as it was the first German bakery in India. It is a must-visit if you are in Goa and globetrotters swear by it. Tucked away in a secluded corner of Anjuna, German Bakery, Goa, is a quintessential example of Goa's susegad hippie culture.
Surrounded by trees, this place is like a secret garden offering organically grown food and fresh juices. It's also popular for live music and performance art, especially on Wednesdays.
Must haves: The pasta with prawns, Penne Alla Tirisina in seafood tomato and  Avocado Prawn Pasta Cocktail, "Black Forest cherry-torte" aka German Black Forest cake. avocado sandwich teamed up with tiramisu and lemon cheese cake
Word of caution for first time visitors: Try not to rely on Google maps to find this place, It's better you ask the locals for the address. (Like we said, 'secret garden')

2. German Bakery, Pune

9 German Bakeries You Have To Visit At Least Once In Your Life
Located in the plush neighborhood of Koregaon Park near Osho gardens, German Bakery Pune left its infamous blast incident far behind and came out in an all new avatar in 2013. The management of the bakery changed from the previous owner to Mr. Kunal Udane. "For me, just starting the bakery again after the blast was the main aim," says Udane. He has also opened new branches of the bakery at Law College Road and Lonavala. This place is a common hangout for students due to a lot of colleges in the area including Film and Television Institute of India.
Must haves: Fish and chips, kheema pav

3. German Bakery, Lonavala 

9 German Bakeries You Have To Visit At Least Once In Your Life
Located on the old Mumbai-Pune highway, opposite Kumar Resort, this one's a perfect place for tourists from Pune and Mumbai who end up at Lonavala for a quick outing.
"The idea was to cater to our patrons in Mumbai. Lonavala gets a lot of visitors from Mumbai and Pune, so we thought the location was perfect," shares Udane, who opened this bakery on 14th February 2015. He adds, "The blast in Pune happened on 13th February, so the idea to open another branch on 14th February was to send a message across of love and positive spirit."
Udane is also planning to expand to other cities, so keep your fingers crossed, guys - you might have the original German Bakery in your city soon!
The menu here is similar to German Bakery Pune, but the only addition here is that there is alcohol available.
Must haves: Moongilicious - a cocktail made with coffee, chili garlic fish

4. German Bakery, Kasol

9 German Bakeries You Have To Visit At Least Once In Your Life
This one is also known as the Moon Dance Cafe due to the cafe connected to it. The cafe and bakery have a lot of Israeli food items; Kasol is also known as mini-Israel as most hotels, restaurants and local business banners and boards are in Hebrew, and almost all locals can speak the language. It is a common sight to see Israelis roaming the streets all year long. Moon Dance, just west of the bridge, stands tall among the many traveler restaurants serving similar 'three Is' (Italian/Israeli/Indian) menus for its great baked goods, strong coffee and excellent value breakfasts in the sunny courtyard.
They have both indoor and outdoor seating with great music, making the place a perfect trippers' paradise.
Must haves: Au gratin, hummus, French toast, cinnamon roll, apple crumble pie, crepes, falafel and shakshuka.

5. German Bakery, Leh

9 German Bakeries You Have To Visit At Least Once In Your Life
This one was started in 1992 by Mr. Singh and a German named Norman. Mr. Norman taught bread making to Singh's head chef and went his way leaving Singh to run the cafe. Since then, Mr. Singh has been running the bakery and it has managed to gain a lot of popularity among locals and tourists in Leh.
The bakery gets its name Pumpernickel from a type of rye bread which is the specialty of this bakery. It is heavy and slightly sweet and takes three days to bake. Since it’s very nutritious and remains fresh for days, people going on hikes and treks take this bread with them.
The only sad part about this bakery is that it only opens from the June through to mid September when the tourist season is on.

6. German Bakery, Panckula, Chandigarh

9 German Bakeries You Have To Visit At Least Once In Your Life
This one is the most underrated among the other German Bakeries in the country. Set up from a small shop in the crowded market street at Sector 15, it is quite popular for its takeaways. Don't judge the bakery by its humble appearance - although the bakery has no frills, it stands out for its taste and pricing.
German Bakery, Panchkula, is right adjacent to two schools, so students make for the majority of customers here. This is another reason why German Bakery has played smart with its pricing and menu. Almost all the snacks here range between Rs 10 - Rs 50. No wonder it's a popular joint for students to pig out at. Although there isn’t any seating area, they have put high round tables outside the shop where you can stand and eat.
Must haves: Aloo Patties, Pizzas, Paneer Kulcha, Grilled Sandwiches, Choco-Chip and Truffle Puddings, dry cakes and muffins.

7. Appetite German Bakery, Delhi 

9 German Bakeries You Have To Visit At Least Once In Your Life
Located in the busy market place of Paharganj near Delhi railway station, this one is a home away from home for Delhites. It's a favorite among locals and tourists who stay in the hotels in the vicinity of the bakery. Thus, just like other bakeries around the country, you'll see a lot of foreigners hanging around.
They not only serve exquisite dishes and bakery products but have also kept in mind the local taste and have a typical North Indian lunch and dinner menu as well.
This makes for a perfect place to devour your butter chicken followed by tasty desserts.
Another reason this place stands out is high speed wifi - yes, that's very important nowadays. So one can just sit with their laptop sipping on Honey Ginger Lemon Tea (the most popular item here) and spend some quite time.
Must haves: Honey Ginger Lemon Tea, Chicken carbona, Chicken steam momo, Mexican Lasagna, Dutch truffle.

8. German Bakery, Tamil Nadu

9 German Bakeries You Have To Visit At Least Once In Your Life
Located in the quaint little town of Mahabalipuram, this one's your secret portal from the south to Nepal. The moment you step into Namaste Restaurant and German Bakery, you'll be transported to the snow-clad mountains of Nepal due to its ambience. There are statues of Nepali gods, the Nepal flag hangs, paintings, and a Nepalese staff, which gives you the feeling that you are in a cafe in Nepal.
The bakery is located very close to the roads but due to barely any traffic, the honks don't really bother you when your gorging on your delicacies.
Must haves: Apple Strudel, Lemon Cake, Cinnamon Roll and Masala Chai.

9. German Bakery, Rishikesh

9 German Bakeries You Have To Visit At Least Once In Your Life
Located at the Laxman Jhula, you can see the scenic view of the holy Ganges and the Rishikesh temple from here. The bakery is a part of  a cafe called Devraj Coffee Corner which is often filled with pilgrims and foreigners enjoying their treats.
It's a haven for all those who cannot adjust with the local food - you get all the food items here which make you miss home a little less. Apart from that, the bakery is one of the few places where locals sneak in to feast on the sinful pastries.
Must haves: Iced coffee, Lasagna, avocado salad and crepes.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

7 Exercises to Help Alleviate Knee Pain

7 Exercises to Help Alleviate Knee Pain

If your knees are giving you problems when getting out of bed, you are not alone. Statistics show that nearly 50 million Americans feel the same way. In fact, knees are the most commonly injured joints in the body - which shouldn't come as much of a surprise, considering their everyday use, causing wear and tear. Simply walking up the stairs, for example, puts pressure on the knee joints equating to four times your body weight. But, it's never too late to alleviate knee pain. Just as a rusty door hinge can revert to its original glory with care and maintenance, your knees can be trouble free too.
knee pain
The key lies in exercising muscles surrounding the knee joints - the quadriceps (front thigh muscle), the hamstrings (back thigh muscles), the abductors (outside thigh muscles) and the adductor (inside thigh muscles). Exercising the muscles around your knee will keep them strong and less susceptible to injury. Exercising often, will also help keep your joints from stiffening, providing you with needed support, making movement easier and therefore reducing pain.
The following, simple exercises will both help you stretch and strengthen the knee area.
Straight-Leg Raise (Lying)
Knee Pain
Here's How: Bend one leg at the knee, keeping the other leg straight. Lift the foot just off the floor and hold it for a slow count of 5, then lower. Repeat 5 times with each leg. For effective results, repeat this exercise in the morning and at night. You may also do so in bed.
Step Ups
Knee Pain
Here's How: Start at the bottom step of a staircase. Lift your left foot up on the above stair. Bring it back by your right foot. Then lower your right foot, bringing it back to neutral. Repeat, this time raising your right foot to the above stair, back to neutral, then lowering you left foot. Hold onto the banister if necessary and continue to repeat this exercise until you tire.

Knee Squats
Knee Pain
Here's How: Hold onto a chair. Squat down until your kneecap covers your big toe. Return to standing. When you are first starting, complete 10 repetitions. Then, as you improve, try to squat a little further, just be sure not to bend your knees beyond a right angle.
Leg Cross
Knee Pain
Here's How: Sit on the edge of your bed. Cross your ankles over and push your legs upwards, until your thigh muscles feel tense. Hold for 10 seconds, then relax. Switch your legs and repeat. Do 4 sets with each leg.
Leg Stretch
Knee Pain
Here's How: Sit on the floor, with your legs stretched out in front of you. Slowly bend one knee, until you feel a comfortable stretch. Hold for 5 seconds. Then straighten you leg as much as you can and hold for another 5 seconds. Repeat this exercise 10 times for each leg.
Straight-Leg Raise (Sitting)
Knee Pain
Here's How: Sit comfortably in a chair. Be aware of your posture. Straighten and raise one leg. Hold for a slow count to 10, then slowly lower your leg. Repeat 10 times with each leg. If over time you find this easy, try the exercise with light weights on your ankles, toes pointing towards you. Do this exercise every time you sit down.

Knee Pain
Here's How: Sit on a chair. Without using your hands for support, stand up, then sit back down. Ensure that each movement is slow and controlled. Repeat this exercise for a total of 1 minute. Over time, as you feel more comfortable, try to increase the number of sit/stands in 1 minute and try the exercise from a lower chair, or the bottom steps of a staircase.