Archive for December, 2006

Bhubaneshwar, Puri

December 31, 2006

We arrived in Bhubaneshwar early in the morning and went straight to the hotel.  This was a Hilton Hotel very much organized with American style and taste and we felt right at home.  Bhubaneshwar is the capital of a state called Orissa on the east side of India.  The Bay of Bengal is the ocean that hugs the beaches.

This area has a tremendous history for Buddhists.  In 240 BC, a mauryan emperor Ashoka fought a very fierce battle 10 kms south of this town, (nearly 150,000 were killed) was very upset with the bloodshed and convertedto Buddhism and helped promote it all over India and abroad.  He sent emissaries to Sri Lanka, China, Burma, Japan, Korea and made Buddhism a state religion.  His empire overed most of what is modern India.  After that empire collapsed several years later, the country was pretty much broken up into smaller kingdoms until the British consolidated it in 1857.

Over the centuries, the rulers of Bhubaneshwar hae brought 10,000 Bramhins and build many temples for Lor Shiva. Over 7000 temples were built in a period of 6 centuries.

About 70 kms from Bhubaneshwar, is the famoue temple built in  honor of the sun.  This temple at Konarak now declared as a UNESCO heritage site.  The entire temple is built in the shape of a horse drawn chariot.  There are seven wheels (3.5 m in diameter) named for each day of the week.  Each wheel has very intricate carvings and can also be used as a clock by observing the shadow of a element at the center of the wheel.. They said the accuracy is within 3 minutes.

The carvings on the sand stone rocks are spectacular.  They cover a wide range of topics including erotica, daily life of the people in the period, animals (I even saw a Giraff – must have had contact with Africa), elephants working, Lions etc.  The attention to detail is pretty spectacular.  The size of stones used to build the temple is about 10 ft long 3 feet high and 3 feet deep.  I have some wonderful pictures to share with you when we return.

After a few hours here, I went to Puri the home of Jagganath (our word Juggernaught comes from here).  Every year in June/July period in this famous temple are placed on specially built charriots and pulled down the main street (3 kms), and brought back after a week.  The interesting thing is that the charriots are all made of wood, and are built in a 3 month period by the descendents of the families that originally built them.  These days they just donate their labor for food and do not accept any salary.  The orginal families received land as compensation and this is still owned by the same families.  After the procession of the diety (called Ratha Yatra), the charriot is torn down and the wood given away to the poor. The wood is not used again.  It is a very unique temple indeed.

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Varanasi

December 31, 2006

We arrived in Varanasi (Benares) on Sunday the 17t of December. By this time, we had organized a private tour for the rest of our travels in India at the strong advice of my nephew in Mumbai.

Varanasi is a very old city (some people say 5000 years old).  It is the confluence of 3 rivers Varna, Assi and the Ganges.  In this region Ganges flows south to north for about 40 kms and this is considered very auspicious.  We were met by a fine guide at the airport and driven to the hotel on the banks of the Ganges called Palace of the Ganges.  It was a very nice hotel, but Jeannie continued to be sick.  So the next morning (Mon Dec 18), I went on a boat ride on the Ganges to view the sun rise and see the Ghats.  Ghats are basically small regions of steps (typically 20-60 steps)  fom the street level to the water surface.   A lot of people come to bathe on these Ghats -it is said that all your sins are forgiven if you bathe in the waters of the Ganga in Varanasi).  We went on the boat for 30 minutes, saw a lot of palaces built by Maharajas from Rajasthan, each outbuilding the other.  On two of these Ghats they allow cremation.  They said about 30-40 people are cremated daily.

Later in the morning, I went to Saranath – a very important place for Buddhists as this is the first place where Gautama Buddha gave his first sermon.  I saw a lot of pilgrims from Viet Nam, Cambodia, laos, China, Japan and Korea.  The area has been dug up by the Archeology department of of the Government of India and is indeed preserved very well.  It is said at all the major places of worship, there is some personal item of Buddha (a piece of hair, a tooth etc).

The place was very busy as the Dalai Lama was in town and making a presentation that evening.

From Benares, we took the train to a city called Bhubaneshwar about800 kms away.  This was a very difficulty journey as the there had some mishaps and we were on the waiting list without a confirmed seat.  We had some interesting adventures traveling on this train.  It had been overbooksd and every seat was taken.  I will describe it to anyone who wants to hear about it individually as this was not the best experience of our travel.  We arrived in Bhubaneshwar the next morning at 5 AM.

New Delhi

December 31, 2006

We arrived in Delhi on Tuesday 12th of December.  It was quite chily here reaching 6 deg C when we landed.  Due to some miscommunication, my niece was not at the airport, so we were a little lost.  Thanks for the mobile, we were able to get hold of her, and she gave directions to get to her house to the cab driver.

My niece who is 54 lives with her second husband and her mother.  She has two daughters from her first marriage who live in Chennai with their fathe.  Chennai is the name used now instead of Madras.

My sister-in-law (wife of my oldest brother who passed away in 1994) is in her late 70’s and has been ill with a cold, and other complications and some heart problems.  My niece’s husband is also not very well, he is very weak with a serious condition of his colon.

Shobhana, my niece is a very energetic, enthusiastic woman.  She has boundless energy and works with her husband out of their home on a project that I will describe in a separate blog.

Shobhana paid a lot of attention to Jeannie who was quite sick by the time we arrived in Delhi – cold, caughing with severe chest pain, phlem settling in her lungs etc.  We took her to a doctor the next day who prescribed her antibiotics and jeannie was pretty confined to bed for most of the stay we had in Delhi.

Shobhana and family live in a nice apartment on the ground floor with their dog.  She really pays detailed attentionto the needs of everyone, and retres to go to work at 9:30 AM and remains there until  6:00 PM, except she joins everyone for lunch.  She is the CEO of a non profit organization.

I was able to go the Baha’i House of Worship about 20 kms away by a rickshaw and spent some time there offering prayers for our Baha’i community, people who have passed away in the past year such as our daughter Patty, husband of a long time friend Russell King of Santa Paula and of course Sharon Cameron.  I also said some prayers for our cluster as well as our community.

The gardens around the House of worship are taking shape and look very nice.  It seems to attract a lot of visitors (20-30,000 a day).  Many forigners on a trip to India, local school children and the resdents of India.  They are guided by youth from all aroubd the world.  I saw and spoke with a young girl from Houston area, here on a 1 month visit welcoming people in English or perfect Hindi.  She said she meomorized her speech in a few days.  There were youth from Malaysia, Singapore, many European ountries as well.

The House of Worship is very serene and has a nice calming effect on you in sharp contrast with some of the temples we have visited.

We were able to visit the House of Worship again on Saturday Dec 16, and this time Jeannie was able to join me.  We also went to the Baha’i House, the old head quarters of the NSA of India.  (This is the same building you saw in the movie Gandhi – the scene where he joins the muslim leader to talk about the demands made by muslims.  At the Baha’i House, we met the Key person in charge for External Affairs for the NSA of India.  We had a very nice visit where Shobhana and her husband were also present.  Shobhana expressed interest in the books for children developed for Junior youth, and linked with the Baha’is involved in the program in Delhi.  Later she wrote to me saying that they will be collaborating in this progra.

Delhi has 30 devotions every month.  (not always one every day, but sometimes severala day spread around the city).  Delhi has a population of 8-9 million.  It is a lot cleaner today than the time we saw it in 1981 or 1986.

Because of Jeannie’s health, we had to cancel a revisit to the Taj Mahal.

Back on the blog again

December 31, 2006

We have been doing a lot of traveling since the last post.  We have been to 8 cities on a whirwind tour of India in the last 18 days.  I will write on each of these separately.

We had limited access to the internet.

Megha

Back on the blog again

December 31, 2006

We have been doing a lot of traveling since the last post.  We have been to 8 cities on a whirwind tour of India in the last 18 days.  I will write on each of these separately.

We had limited access to the internet.

Megha

Visit to Jaipur

December 11, 2006

We got to Jaipur yesterday morning and relaxed in a hotel that used to be part of a palace of the local Maharaja before 1947.

This morning, we saw a lot of Jaipur called the Pink City in India. It has nearly 3.5 million residents, and pink sand stones are used everywhere.

In the morning, we went to see town and passed a famous facade of the buildin that everyone looks at and is much photographed. Then we went to the top of a hill by taking an elephant ride. (Yes, you read it right). On top of the hill was a brilliant palace built in 1720’s, and is now part of a museum. It has the influence of hindu, moghul and isalmic architecture. It also has been influenced by knowledge learned from Europe on glass, mirrors (concave and convex).

We were told it gets very hot in the summer here (120-128 deg F). Winters are mild 40-70 deg F. They get about 10 inches of rain a year. This town is at the edge of a desert.

After lunch we went to see Jantar Mantar, an amazing set of instruments laid out on the ground and is an astronomical observatory. You can time from it using the position and length of the shadow, calculations are geared to GMT, northern and southern hemisphere effects are accounted for. This was a result of a king who was well versed in 15 languages including Farsi, Arabic, Uzbk, sanskrit, Hndi among others. The claim is that it can tell time to within 2 seconds. Many scientists have come to check this out and pronounced that the accuracy quoted was realistic and everyone is amazed.

Earlier we saw a arts and crafts coop and Jeannie spent some time there looking at precious stones, rings etc. I will let her speak for her observations.

Jeannie was telling me after she read about the observatory mentioned above in a magazine we get called Aramco, it was high on priority to cme to Jaipur and see it for herself. Now she has realized her ambition.

Take care all of you and we hope you are enjoying my scribble here.

I know pictures are difficult to post as the wireless system is not ye fully operational here in India. It is coming pretty fast though.

If any of you want to reach us here is a mobile I have thanks to my nephew.

Number country code 91
Then dia 0 99081 83886.

That will ring my mobile.

Megha

Udaipur, Jodhpur

December 10, 2006

From Mumbai – we flew to Rajasthan on Dec 6th..

We are now in Rajasthan – the land of the many Maharajas whose little knigdoms all got consolidated into one state after independence. Many of the Maharajas are now businessmen converting their many palaces to hotels.

Udaipur is a very nice city full of lakes and has a population of 500,000 people. We were staying in a nobleman’s quarters who would come to see the Maharajas over the centuries. Our hotel was by a lakeside and had a wonderful view.

This town is an old twon with very narrow streets. Those of you who have seen old Jerusalem would relate to this.

We spent time looking at a palace where the Maharajah still lives. We got a good glimpse of the majesty of this Maharaja. His family had ruled the area uninterrupted for 78 generations.

The palace we saw was magnifiecient. We will share many of these pictures with you when we return.

he next day, we went o look at some clothese and had some shirts made overnight. These shirts fit me perfectly; Jeannie had outfit made for her as well.

We left Udaipur on Dec 8th by car (about 300 kms) and on the way we stopped at a very unique Jain temple. This temple was built about 500 years ago with white marble found in the area. This is the same marble that is used to build Taj Mahal. The carvings at this temple are out of sight.

Later that day we arrived in Jodhpur. We spent a day visiting a giagantic fort, a memorial for the king, toured the town of about 1.5 million.

The place we stayed at Jodhpur was a palace surrounded by small cottages. We stayed in one of those cottages.

On Sunday moring (Dec 10th), we left Jodhpur to Jaipur the capital of Rajasthan. We will be here for two nights and fly to stay with my niece in Delhi. I will post more from Delhi.

Megha

Mumbai – Elephanta caves

December 10, 2006

From Goa, we landed in Mumbai on Saturday Dec 2 and we were met by a nephew who runs a marketing company in Mumbai. We stayed with him for 4 days. He was a wonderful and gracious host.

Elephanta Caves – About 11 kms from Mumbai icon called the India gate (built to welcome King Geroge V in 1914), we took a ferry to the island, climed a few steps before we were both carried up to the cave area.

The caves here are for hindu God Shiva. The portugese discovered and annihilated some of the statues. This is also a world historical monumant.

They have also detailed carvings and majestic caves.

A Gallery in Mumbai – We went to an art gallery in downtown Mumbai and saw some wonderful modern paintings.

Goa

December 10, 2006

We set out to Goa from Aurangabad by air.

After transferring in Mumbai and getting on a different plane we arrived in Goa mid afternoon. The place we had booked is a resport next to the beach. The rooms were quite comfortable. They don’t always have hot water – you have to turn on the switch and wait for 15 minutes before you can get hot water for a shower.

We walked to the beach (the Arabian sea). A restaurant on the beach is where we had dinner every evening. It is an open resaurant with a roof of hay over your head but no walls. I suspect it is closed during monsoon (4 months) as it rains a lot in Goa. Roughly 125 inches. Needless to say the countryside is very lush.

We both had an aurvedic massage to relax us. This is part of Kerala Aurvedic center that is famous in India. I learned that Kerala is where Aurveda has been really popularized.

We spent 4 days, resting, relaxing; one day we went to the main town in Goa.

I know that some of you may be under the impression that a lot f hippies came to Goa and stayed here, and had many nude beaches etc. All this has been cleaned up. Goa has about 35 beaches 1-2 kms long and receives constantly visiors from Europe. The week we were there there were 10 chartered flights from London. Goa has a easy going attitude like you would find in Hawaii.

We were usually served breakfast on a lawn with Indian or European food. Goa has a lot of remnace from the Portugese days. Portugese ruled the area for over 350 years until 1961 and it is now a state in its own right rougly the size of Hawaiian islands in area.

Megha

Auragabad – Ellora and Ajanta

December 9, 2006

The main reason to come to Aurangabad was to see Ellora and Ajanta.

Ajanta – is a series of caves (about 30 of them).  Buddhist monks started to carve these caves from a granite mountain over a period of 700 years.  The oldest cave goes back to the second century BC and oldest is about 6 century AD.  Each cave is roughly 40-50′ square and is supported by columns with incredible detail in carvings.  The caves are about 10-12 feet all.  Indide there are a number of carvings of Buddha in various forms such as lotus position, upright position etc.

The first two caves are very interesting.  The first cave has the most interesting and famous painting of Buddha.  It is damaged, but you can see the essential painting.  The colors used are all vegetable colors, and this famous picture is a UN World Heritage site.  The cave is not illumined and you are not allowed to take pictures with flash.  We could only see and marvel at the picture.  We have some professionally done photographs we can share when we get home.

To get to see the caves we had to climb up almost 500 feet.  After about a 100 feet, my knees gave up and I had to be carries to the cave site in a chair by for people.  I was ony able to see 4 caves while Jeannie went on to see about 12 caves.  It is just breathtaking.

Ajanta is about 150 kms from our hotel in Auragabad.

Ellora –  Ellora is a little more easier to navigate and consist of 35 caves similar to what I described above.  The first 12 caves are Buddhist, the next 19 caves are Hindu and the last few caves are from a religion called Jainism.  The focus here is detailed carvings on the columns supporting the caves which are about the same size as the one we saw earlier.  One Hindu cave is a spectacular for its beauty and homage to Lord Shiva, and resembles in many ways the abode of Lord Shiva in the Himalayan moutains called Kailash.  The Jain temples offer a completely different perspective as weel  More on that later.

Hotel in Aurangabad –  We stayed in a Hotel that was very nice.  It had nice rooms and a very welcoming entrace with two statues of elephants.  They had a swimming pool, a massga center,  exercise room etc.  I think it cost $ 100 a day.  Room service was excellent.

One day we were both sick and had to send for a doctor on call with  the hotel.  We recovered after some medication.