Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lumbini Sacred Destination-(The Birth Place of Lord Budha)

Lumbini is a Buddhist pilgrimage site located at the Nepalese town of Kapilavastu, district Rupandehi, near the Indian border. Lumbini is one of four Buddhist pilgrimage sites based on major events in the life of Gautama Buddha. It is the place where Queen Mayadevi is said to have given birth to Siddhartha Gautama, who in turn, as the Buddha Gautama, gave birth to the Buddhist tradition.According to Buddhist tradition, Maya Devi gave birth to the Buddha on her way to her parent's home . Feeling the onset of labor pains, she grabbed hold of the branches of a shade tree and gave birth to Siddharta Gautama, the future Buddha. The Buddha is said to have announced, "This is my final rebirth" as he entered the world. Buddhist tradition also has it that he walked immediately after his birth and took seven steps, under each of which a lotus flower bloomed. Lumbini is in the foothills of the Himalaya. Lumbini has a number of temples, including the Mayadevi temple. Also here is the Puskarini or Holy Pond - where the Buddha's mother took the ritual dip prior to his birth and where he, too, had his first bath - as well as the remains of Kapilvastu palace. At other sites near Lumbini, earlier Buddhas were, according to tradition, born, achieved ultimate awakening and finally relinquished earthly form. Lumbini was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.
Pilgrimage Attractions of Lumbini:
The Ashokan Pillar - Discovered by the now famous German archaeolgist Dr. Fuhrer, the pillar is the first epigraphic evidence relating to the life history of Lord Buddha and is also the most visible landmark of the garden. The historic importance of the pillar is evidenced by the inscription engraved in the pillar (in Brahmi script). It is said that the great Indian Emperor Ashok visited the site in the twentieth year of is ascendancy to the throne and as a homage to the birthplace,erected the pillar.
Maya Devi Temple- The most important temple at Lumbini is the Maya Devi Temple, which enshrines the traditional site of the Buddha's birth.It a small pagoda-like structure, the image shows MayaDevi , mother of the Lord. Supporting herself by holding on with her right hand to a branch of Sal tree, with newly born infant Buddha standing upright on a lotus pedestal on an oval halo. Two other celestial figures are depicted in an act of pouring water and lotuses bestowed from heaven.
Puskarni-The Sacred Pool: South of the Ashokan Pillar, there is the famous sacred pool- 'Puskarni' believed to be the same sacred pool in which Maya Devi took a holy dip just before giving birth to the Lord and also where infant Buddha was given his first purification bath.
The Buddhist temple: The monastery-of the Buddhist temple is built inside the surrounding complex of Lumbini in the manner of modern Buddhist shrines in Nepal. The prayer hall contains a large image of Buddha. Medieval style murals decorate the walls.

Taj Mahal

A marvel in white.... Taj is the epitome of love. The grandeur called the Taj is perhaps the most photographed, filmed, described and sketched building of the world. Taj Mahal is where fantasy coincides with reality in perfect harmony. An inspiration for innumerous artists over the centuries, the Taj is an ode to love. An epitome of love the world has ever seen which no monument in the world can match. The splendour and the beauty of this pleasant edifice brings one back to experience the magic of this majestic structure. The beauty of the Taj is in its simplicity. It is rare that a person would not fall in love with the pure and simple beauty in white.
Emperor Shahajehan had built many an architectural marvels in his career, but Taj Mahal is the zenith. The world heritage site and the seventh architectural wonder of the world, Taj Mahal is different from the rest. The emperor loved his wife Mumtaz dearly. When in 1631, his wife died giving birth to their 14th child; Shahajehan lost the charm to live. It was then he decided to build a mausoleum for his beloved which the world would remember. And indeed Taj Mahal mesmerizes everyone who visits it.
Shahajehan employed best artisans and architects to work on the masterpiece. Finally, 22 years later, with 20,000 workers toiling day and night stood the world’s most beautiful monument, and was called the Taj Mahal.
It is said that the world is divided in two parts, people who have seen the Taj and those who have not, such is the glory of this great monument. The subtle beauty of the Taj is the main reason that tourists from all over the world come here, again and again.
The structure of Taj Mahal adheres to the Indo Islamic architecture, which flourished in India during the medieval period. It is said that the structure was based primarily on the structure of Humayun’s tomb in Delhi, which was culminated in precision with the building of the Taj.
The mammoth entrance gate built in red sandstone is a beautiful inscribed with texts from the Koran. They are beautifully written in absolutely uniform size from whichever angle you see them. After passing the gate you enter in to the exquisitely laid gardens with symmetrical designs and fountains built in red sandstone with the majestic Taj standing nearly thousand feet away.
The Taj stands atop a plinth with four minarets in each corner. The central dome is huge supported by four smaller domes. The elegantly carved arches and the floral designs, not only intricate, but in perfect symmetry is the highlight of Taj. The exquisite tracery looks more like lace than actual carvings. Earlier precious and semi-precious stones were laid inside the floral designs, a very typical form of craftsmanship known as the pietra dura.
Inside the cenotaph are the two dummy tombs of Shahajehan and his wife Mumtaz; the original ones are in the basement just beneath these. The tombs studded with various precious gems like the Sapphire, Ruby et al were the natural target for grave robbers. The interiors of the chamber have fine floral motifs on in its walls with various shades of marble stones. The most moving feature is the tragic prayer of the emperor which is carved in perfect calligraphy on the tomb which asks for help from the almighty and says, ‘Help us, O Lord, to bear that which we can not bear!’
The Taj overlooks the Yamuna and on a quiet day one can hear the water flowing by. As it stands on a raised platform with the blue sky as its backdrop, it gives an impression of a palace floating in the air. The Taj never looks the same at any time and from any angle. The colour of the Taj changes with every change that takes place in the sky. The golden pink Taj at dawn turns into dazzling white at noon. Giving way to the sultry orange at sunset is the milky blue at night. Viewing the Taj on Full moon nights is a blissful experience. The Taj seems to be bathing in the moon light with its fine designs getting illuminated further. The reflections of the Taj in the water pond in front of it or in the Yamuna waters in the back are some of the breath taking views. And actually the life after the Taj is different with a feeling of fulfillment with no blemishes, a feeling of ecstasy having experienced a beautiful monument, a feeling of contentment having viewed the flawless magnificent edifice.
Situated in the city of Agra, the nearest airport is Delhi. A joint trip to Delhi and Jaipur along with Agra, gives you the famous Golden Triangle trip of India.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Beijijng Summer Palace

Situated in the western outskirts of Haidian District, the Summer Palace is 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) from central Beijing. Having the largest royal park and being well preserved, it was designated, in 1960 by the State Council, as a Key Cultural Relics Protection Site of China. Containing examples of the ancient arts, it also has graceful landscapes and magnificent constructions. The Summer Palace is the archetypal Chinese garden, and is ranked amongst the most noted and classical gardens of the world. In 1998, it was listed as one of the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

Constructed in the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234), during the succeeding reign of feudal emperors; it was extended continuously. By the time of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), it had become a luxurious royal garden providing royal families with rest and entertainment. Originally called 'Qingyi Garden' (Garden of Clear Ripples), it was know as one of the famous 'three hills and five gardens' (Longevity Hill, Jade Spring Mountain, and Fragrant Hill; Garden of Clear Ripples, Garden of Everlasting Spring, Garden of Perfection and Brightness, Garden of Tranquility and Brightness, and Garden of Tranquility and Pleasure). Like most of the gardens of Beijing, it could not elude the rampages of the Anglo-French allied force and was destroyed by fire. In 1888, Empress Dowager Cixi embezzled navy funds to reconstruct it for her own benefit, changing its name to Summer Palace (Yiheyuan). She spent most of her later years there, dealing with state affairs and entertaining. In 1900, it suffered again, being ransacked by the Eight-Power Allied Force. After the success of the 1911 Revolution, it was opened to the public.
Composed mainly of Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake, The Summer Palace occupies an area of 294 hectares (726.5 acres), three quarters of which is water. Guided by nature, artists designed the gardens exquisitely so that visitors would see marvelous views and be amazed by perfect examples of refined craftwork using the finest materials.

Centered on the Tower of Buddhist Incense (Foxiangge) the Summer Palace consists of over 3,000 structures including pavilions, towers, bridges, and corridors. The Summer Palace can be divided into four parts: the court area, front-hill area, front-lake area, and rear-hill and back-lake area.

Front-Hill Area: this area is the most magnificent area in the Summer Palace with the most constructions. Its layout is quite distinctive because of the central axis from the yard of Kunming Lake to the hilltop, on which important buildings are positioned including Gate of Dispelling Clouds, Hall of Dispelling Clouds, Hall of Moral Glory, Tower of Buddhist Incense, the Hall of the Sea of Wisdom, etc.

Rear-Hill and Back-Lake Area: although the constructions are fewer here, it has a unique landscape, with dense green trees, and winding paths. Visitors can feel a rare tranquility, and elegance. This area includes scenic spots such as Kunming Lake and Back Lake , which presents a tranquil beauty, Garden of Harmonious Interest , built by imitating the layout of Southern China's classical gardens, and Suzhou Market Street, endowed with a strong flavor of the water town Suzhou.

Court Area: this is where Empress Dowager Cixi and Emperor Guangxu met officials, conducted state affairs and rested. Entering the East Palace Gate, visitors may see the main palace buildings: the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity served as the office of the Emperor, the Hall of Jade Ripples where Guangxu lived, the Hall of Joyful Longevity, Cixi's residence, the Garden of Virtue and Harmony where Cixi was entertained, Yiyun House , where once lived the Empress Longyu, and Long Gallery, which measures the longest in Chinese gardens.

Front Lake Area: covering a larger part of the Summer Palace, opens up the vista of the lake. A breeze fluttering, waves gleam and willows kiss the ripples of the vast water. In this comfortable area there are the Eastern Bank and Western Bank, Seventeen-Arch Bridge, Nanhu Island, the largest island in Summer Palace, Bronze Ox, an imposing statue beside the lake, and Marble Boat, built in western style with elaborate decorations . On the western bank float six distinct bridges amongst which the Jade-Belt Bridge is the most beautiful.