Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Taj, the Pride of India

Taj Mahal is the most visited monument in India, and it is not possible for any writer in India to write about his travels and not to visit the Taj. So I dedicate some lines to this wonderful, magnificent, marvelous…monument of the Mughal era in India. Made of white marble, it is one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. And more, it commemorates the love of a Mughal Emperor for his wife.

The Taj is engulfed by a myriad of myths and legends. Not surprising at all for a building of such repute does have such stories associated with it. Such structures of unmatched beauty invariably attract myths to encircle them. I would discuss here some myths associated with this monument.

Black Taj Mahal
A stream of historians holds that Emperor Shah Jahan wanted to build a black Taj on the other side of Yamuna. He intended to make a building which contrasted the white Taj and served as his own mausoleum. This, as said, has been recorded by Tavernier, a contemporary French merchant. Proponents of this theory cite the irregular position of the cenotaph of Shahjahan in the Taj. They also claim that the Mehtab Burj and the wall adjoining it are the remains of the intended plan. Who knows!

Sinking Taj Mahal
Though the architects of this wonderful building tried their best to make it flawless cracks developed into it just after four years of its making. In 1652, in a letter to Shah Jahan, Prince Aurangzeb, the future Emperor, mentioned these cracks. Shah Jahan got the cracks repaired as soon as he came to know of them. However, the cracks reappeared in 1810. In British days, a survey revealed that the plinth of the mausoleum on the riverside is lower than on the South by a few centimeters. This led to the theory that the structure was sinking towards the riverside slowly.

Taj a Shiva Temple
As all know, the Taj is an elegy written in marble, but some people claim that the Taj was once a Shiva temple, then known as Tejo Mahalaya. Emperor Shah Jehan, highly impressed by the elegant building, coerced Jai Singh, the king of Jaipur, to hand over it to him. He then remodelled Tejo Mahalaya as a monument to commemorate his beloved wife Shah Jehan. Professor PN Oak, the author of ‘Taj Mahal: The True Story’ is a major proponent of this theory.

The Italian Architect!
Some historians, particularly from Europe, claim that an Italian jeweler named Geronimo Veroneo was the real architect of the Taj Mahal. Veroneo was an Italian jeweler specializing in designing necklaces and bracelets. The theory of his being the architect of the monument seems preposterous, at least to me. At the widest stretch of imagination, he could have got a bit of a role in its making.

Architect's Hands Chopped Off
A weird theory states that Shahjahan had the hands of his chief architect chopped off to prevent him building another such structure. It is, as I think, just rubbish. There is nothing in history to substantiate it.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Wat Chalong in Phuket

Wat Chalong is the most well-known Buddhist temple in Phuket, and deserves to be included in any itinerary to Phuket. The temple is the largest and the most beautifully carved of Buddhist monasteries in Phuket. The temple is the specimen of the typical Thai arcuitecture. The wat is believed to be built during the reign of King Rama II (1809-1842). However, it was relocated later.

A chedi in the temple complex houses a part of a bone of Lord Buddha. Constructed with the cost of 66 million baht, the chedi is more than 60 meters high. The bone was brought from Sri Lanka in 1999 and was consecrated here ceremoniously.

Revered monks like Luang Pho Chaem and Luang Pho Chuang have been associated with Wat Chalong. The monks were highly regarded for there work in herbal medicine and care for the sick. The monks gave medical help to the injured during the rebellion of 1876. They played a role in resolving the dispute and ending the rebellion. Statues of these monks have been set up in the sermon hall where the Thais seek their blessings.

Once a week, the monks chant Buddhist scriptures in the morning. If you visit the temple at this time, you will have a distinct experience. The weekly days are based on lunar calendar and the monks are final authority in this regard. For finding out the day when the days would be observed, you should check with the monks.

Be mindful of your dress and behaviour while going to Wat Chalong. Remove your footwear before entering the temple complex. Show regard to Buddhist idols and monks when in the temple.

Visit to Sentosa Island

Recently I visited Sentosa Island, the tourist hub in the city state of Singapore. The island, which was once a little hamlet, now poses starkly different. Highly modern tourist attractions have been developed on the island to make it attractive for the tourists. Diligently developed for tourism, Sentosa Island today is the pride of Singapore.
highly worthy of a visit. Both natural beauty and man-made attractions serve the tourists here. The island has been purposely developed for tourism.

I tride to visit all the prime attractions of Sentosa Island including Underwater World, Dolphin Lagoon and 4D Magix. I particularly liked Underwater World which is a thrilling tropical oceanarium. One gets to see astonishing sea life here. At Dolphin Lagoon, you can interact with dolphins. 4-D Magix is a ultra modern four dimensional theatre.

And there are Butterfly Park, Sky Tower, Insect Kingdom, the Merlion statue, Musical Fountain and Fort Siloso, all unique in their own sense. Plus there some quite good beaches too. I enjoyed all these places and wish to visit the little country again.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Trip to Shirdi

Last week, I went to Shirdi with my family, my wife and a daughter. Shirdi is a pilgrimage town located in Ahmadnagar District of Maharashtra province in India. Sai Baba, a revered saint in India, once resided here. Even today, his devotees flock to the town in large numbers. The Sai Temple is the centre of faith for the pilgrims arriving from all parts of India. People have immense faith in the saint.

One could feel the presence of Sai anywhere in Shirdi. Weather is pleasant all through the year. An interesting ritual in Shirdi is the palki (palanquin) of the Sai which is carried every Thursday throughout the town. Hundreds of pilgrims and locals follow the palanquin. Three festivals celebrated in Shirdi with great enthusiasm are Ramnavami, Guru Purnima and Vijayadashmi.

Any visit to Shirdi is not an ordinary travel. It is more of a spiritual journey which fulfils the inner self of a person. The shrine of Sai Baba is known as Samadhi Temple. While having darshan in the temple, one can make offerings like flowers, garlands, coconut, sweets etc in the temple. Apart from the Samadhi Temple, one can also visit Guru Sthan and Khandoba Temple during the visit.