Beach pilgrimage

With abundance of beaches and sunshine, Tamil Nadu is where tourists come to soak in the sun, frolic in the waves and spend many a languid hour on the sands.  Let’s go on a “beach pilgrimage” instead.
kapaleeswarar-temple


Velankanni Church Chennai


(1) MILES TO GO : Easily, amongst the most crowded beaches in Tamil Nadu, MARINA is Asia’s longest beaches too.  Two temples, the 8th century PARTHASARATHY TEMPLE, with its majestic Rajagopuram, and the KAPALEESHWARAR TEMPLE, a 7th century Dravidian temple, are close to this beach.  USP : The Lighthouse on Marina offers a breath-taking view of the city and the sea.


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Ashtalakshmi_temple


(2) POP GOES THIS BEACH : Competing with the Marina in the popularity stakes, ELLIOT’S, which is lovingly called BESSIE by locals, is big business.  From trinket sellers and parrots which foretell you future to games and horse rides, this beach is entertainment central .  The VELANKANNI CHURCH and the ASHTALAKSHMI TEMPLE could be packed into the beach itinerary.  USP : The SCHMIDT MEMORIAL, erected in memory of a Dutch sailor who lost his life while saving a girl from drowning, is a prominent landmark.  That and the supposedly haunted BROKEN BRIDGE.


Shore Temple


(3) WHISPERING CAVES : The bustling temple town of Mamallapuram boasts of fabulous beaches.  The majestic SHORE TEMPLE looks out to the vast blue and showcases the 7th century Pallava architecture in all its splendour.  Browse through the shops that sell everything from sculptures to clothes, handicrafts, second-hand books, and lure you with promises of rejuvenating massages, healing Ayurveda, and uplifting yoga.  USP : If you plan your trip between December and March, you can the world-famous Mamallapuram Dance Festival.


Fort_Dansborg


(4) REMAINS OF THE DAY : If you’d rather have a beach all to yourself, or almost, then TRANQUEBAR is your go-to place.  Do a quick inspection of the 17th century FORT DANSBORG and then have a run of the museum nearby.  Check out the ancient 14th century SHIVA TEMPLE, steeped in history and mythology.  USP : If your are a seashell fiend, expect to find a scintillating variety here.


Caltra_Our_Lady_of_Lourdes_Church_East_Window_Dedication_2010_09_15


(5) FAITH MOVES WATERS :  VELANKANNI BEACH is one of the more famous beaches of the country, thanks to the Church of our Lady of Health located here.  The architecture of the Church, quite similar to the one at Lourdes, France, has earned it the sobriquet “LOURDES OF THE EAST”.  One can also go to the dargah at Nagore, the Murugan Temple at Sikkal, and the Sri Rangam Temple at Trichy, which isn’t far.  USP : The museum at the Basilica is a splendid draw.


Rameswaram_Temple_Inside


Rameshwaram Temple


Rama Sethu


(6) SITA’S RESCUE ROUTE : A dip in the waters of Dhanushkodi is considered by many.  The place, just 28km away from Sri Lanka, is famous for its mythological importance.  It is said that Lord Rama and His “vanara sena”, together with his brother Lakshmana, Hanuman and Ravana’s brother Vibhishana, built a bridge using floating stones.  They used this bridge to reach Lanka and rescue Sita from Ravana.  USP : You need to clear out of Dhanushkodi by 5.30p.m, after which the sea meets the mainland.  But, don’t miss a train ride on the PAMBAN BRIDGE.  The RAMESHWARAM TEMPLE, with a magnificent corridor arched by 1,200 granite columns, is a must-see.

————— jyothi.prabhakar@timesgroup.com. and purba.dutt@timesgroup.com.

People’s Prez passes away

Abdul Kalam


People’s President APJ ABDUL KALAM passes away.  The MAN WITH WINGS OF FIRE and also the MISSILE MAN and a man who loved little children passes away.  The 84-year-old Former President, who served as the 11th President of India from 2002 — 2007 was a simple man and childlike at heart.

A devout Muslim and among the most respected people of India, who contributed immensely, both as a scientist and as a President.  Mainly focussing on Research in Defence and space arena, he later involved himself in India’s Missile Programme, and came to be known as the “Missile Man of India”.  He played a crucial role when India tested its nuclear weapons at Pokhran in 1998, when the Vajpayee Government was in power.  Kalam was quoted as saying that like most of the technology he spearheaded, he himself was “Made in India”, having never been trained abroad.
He secured the backing of all political parties.  With his appointment, Kalam became the first scientist and first ever bachelor to occupy the Rashtrapati Bhawan.  He has been awarded the coveted civilian awards : Padma Bhushan (1981) and Padma Vibhushan (1990) and the Bharat Ratna (1997).  He is a recipient of several other awards and Fellow of many professional institutions.
He was a connoisseur of Carnatic Music, he would play the veena in his leisure hours.  Four of Kalam’s books —– Wings of Fire, India 2020 — A Vision for the New Millennium, My Journey and Ignited Minds —- Unleashing the Power within India —— have become household names in India.
He believed and epitomised the adage : SIMPLE LIVING & HIGH THINKING.  Rest In Peace, dear President.

Red pill…anyone?

Shihanspeaks

The past few days have been challenging. Possibly right up there with the toughest times in my life. I have been fighting…and fighting hard. Sometimes it feels like a losing battle, but then I manage to get hold of myself. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy…but I didn’t know it was going to be this hard as well…

Ok. If you have reached this line, without calling me to check on me already, remind me to delete you from my list of 3 am friends. I know I sounded depressed, and in a way, this is close to clinical depression. I have, for the past few days, been undergoing what is known as a partial digital detox.

For the uninitiated, digital detox is, in simple terms, working on getting rid of our overwhelming addiction to our devices, especially the smartphone. Take a moment to look around you…while walking…

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On the verge of extinction – 2

continued from Part 1, which you can read here : On the verge of extinction


HASANKEYF


(13) HASANKEYF, Turkey : This ancient town along the River Tigris has a history that stretches back 1000s of years, but that might come to an end in 2015, with the completion of a dam that will likely flood it, affecting about 50,000 people.  Controversy around the project and loss of International funding have deterred Turkey from continuing construction, with the promise that artefacts will be re-located and the townsfolk compensated.


battersea_power_station_sunset


(14) BATTERSEA POWER STATION, London :  The area surrounding one of London’s most “iconic” buildings, is now a construction site of 1,300 apartments, a hotel and 350,000 sq.ft of retail and restaurant space.  The chimneys of the power station are currently being demolished and replaced..  Even though the developers must respect the building’s status as being of special architectural or historic interest, Grade 11*, new high-rise blocks will soon obscure some of the most dramatic views of the station.


Machiya House Japan


(15)  MACHIYA HOUSES, Tokyo : The oldest among these traditional townhouses date back to the 17th century, but they are disappearing rapidly to make space for modern buildings. : their maintenance is difficult and construction of new ones has been prohibited since the end of World War -2.  After the World Monuments Fund put them on its “watch list”, a private company has started refurbishing some of them as “tourist accommodation”.


PICASSO MURALS Oslo


(16) PICASSO MURALS, Oslo :  Picasso’s first attempt at concrete murals adorn the walls of 2 government buildings in Oslo, called H-Block and Y-Block.  Both were heavily damaged during the ANDERS BREIVIK bombings in 2011, and, given the high cost of repairs —- estimated to be $70million —- a proposal has been made to demolish them and re-locate the murals.  But the public opinion is divided, as the artwork was designed specifically for these buildings.


Robinhood Gardens London


(17) ROBIN HOOD GARDENS, London :  This “streets in the sky” housing estate, in East London, is yet another example of British BRUTALIST architecture in Britain.  Demolition has already started at the site with a “last-ditch bid” on-going to stop it.  Previous attempts to get the structure listed as a “historical landmark” have failed, notwithstanding the support from several famed architects, including ZAHA HADID.


MozambiqueIslandFortress


(18) ISLAND OF MOZAMBIQUE :  A unique blend of Portuguese influence and local architecture has granted the inclusion of this fortified city on UNESCO’S World Heritage List in 1991.  After destruction caused by a typhoon in 1994, it was also included in the World Monument Fund’s “watch list”, a warning confirmed last year due to new threats from an anticipated growth in tourism and the necessity for a sensible conservation plan.


Portland public services building


(19) PORTLAND PUBLIC SERVICES BUILDING, Portland, USA : This 15-storey municipal office block was completed in 1982, but due to structural problems, it already needs renovations to the tune of $175million.  An early example of “post-Modernism” in a major city, it attracts diverging opinions, with many supporting its proposed demolition to make space for something new entirely.  Yet, in 2011, it was included in the US National Register of Historic Places.


Little Green Street


(20) LITTLE GREEN STREET, Kentish town, London : Immortalized by the KINKS in their 1966 video for the song DEAD END STREET, this is one of London’s few “intact Georgian streets” –It hasn’t changed much since 1780.  The dozen houses in the cobblestoned thoroughfare are protected historical buildings, but the land behind them is sought after by developers to build a new “gated complex”, which would turn the delicate 2.5-metre-wide street into a “truck route”.


Pompeii-Street


(21) POMPEII, Italy :  This world-famous Roman site is slowly crumbling to pieces : rainstorms have become harbingers of destruction as water has never been drained properly and the soil is now highly unstable.  With 3 distinct walls and an entire building coming down in just the last 5yrs, Italy’s UNESCO Commissioner has recently declared that “Pompeii is destined to collapse entirely”.


PRESTON BUS STATION


(22) PRESTON BUS STATION, Lancashire :  Opened in 1969, the massive bus station in the Northern England city of Preston, is an “iconic” example of BRUTALISM, a movement named after the materials, not the aesthetics —— it originates from the French —- BETON BRUT or RAW CONCRETE.  Avoiding demolition in 2013, the building is now the subject of an international competition to turn it into a YOUTH CENTRE.


MELNIKOV HOUSE


(23) MELNIKOV HOUSE, Moscow : Designed by famed Russian avant-garde architect —————- Konstantin Melkinov —– this iconic “cylindrical” building, finished in 1929, was for long his private residence and stands in stark contrast with traditional Soviet structures.  Now inhabited by the designer’s grand-daughter, it is risk of collapse due to excavation works for a nearby underground parking lot, which have already caused cracks in the structure.


Royal_Palace_Caserta


(24) ROYAL PALACE at CASERTA, Italy : The “world’s largest palace” (by volume) ——- over 2million cubic metres ——- this 18th century UNESCO HERITAGE SITE was commissioned by Bourbon King Charles — 111, to rival France’s Versailles.  It has appeared in STAR WARS and MISSION IMPOSSIBLE films.  But the structure has faced chronic neglect : a roof section collapsed in 2014 and renovation plans have been slowed down by bureaucracy.


House of Wonders


(25) HOUSE OF WONDERS, Zanzibar :  In 1883, when it was built, this was one of the most modern buildings in East Africa : the 1st to have electricity and an elevator.  Situated in STONE TOWN, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000, it is today a museum of Swahili culture, but work needs to be done to preserve its structural integrity, after a corner of the structure collapsed in 2012.

Go see these magnificent and iconic structures ——- before it’s too late :  threatened by neglect, the elements, changing architectural trends or ruthless developers, they are all FIGHTING A HARD BATTLE FOR SURVIVAL.

———— Jacopo Prisco (CNN)

This & That…

(1) To the mind that is still, THE WHOLE UNIVERSE SURRENDERS ————– Lao-Tzu.
(2) OPERA is when a guy gets stabbed in the back and, instead of bleeding —- HE SINGS.  —– Ed Gardner.
(3) Why can’t you trust atoms ? Because THEY MAKE UP EVERYTHING.
(4) A NICE GUY will be nice to everyone.  Why? Because he wants everyone to like him, as he thinks he has many flaws and he is not good enough and does not have any self-esteem and self-worth, so he has to be nice.  Nice guys will always suffer all their lives, as they will be pleasing others all the time and will tire themselves completely.  A GOOD GUY has his self-worth, does good for everyone, but WILL NOT PLEASE EVERYONE.  He is there to do good, and does the right thing.  I would say, “Don’t be the nice guy, be the good guy.” —— Hrithik Roshan.  ( Better to be a nice good guy —- Rohit Ghai)
life positivity(5) What goes bzzz —– h-o-n-e-y-bzzz-bzzz ? SPELLING BEE.
(6) HOLI is somewhat akin to the ancient festival of SATURNALIA, where slaves and masters exchanged places for a day.  It led to a much-needed catharsis, a blowing off of steam as well as a reminder to all of their essential humanity. ———Swati Chopra.
(7) Life is for the living/ Death is for the dead
Let life be like music
And Death a NOTE UNSAID. —-Langston Hughes.
(8) The quest for “permanence” is the bedrock of man’s suffering and we have to come to terms with the fact that “everything in life is in a state of flux”———Mahesh Bhatt.
(9) The beauty of a woman isn’t in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries or the way she combs her hair.  The beauty of a woman must be seen in “her eyes”.  Because that’s the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.  True beauty in a woman is reflected in “her soul”.  It is the “caring” that she cares to give, the “passion” that she shows.  And, the beauty of a such a woman, with passing years, ONLY GROWS. —- Audrey Hepburn.
(10) Don’t part with your illusions.  When they are gone. you may still exist, but, YOU HAVE CEASED TO LIVE. — Mark Twain.
(11) A clown is like an “aspirin”, only he works “twice as faster”.
(12) It is said that the Sufi is one who possesses nothing except the name of God and service of humanity.  It is this spirit of “complete surrender and simplicity” which endears the Sufi to one and all, especially the “commoner”.


fragrance of ife


(13) The purpose of life is not to be happy.  It is to be USEFUL, to be honourable, to be COMPASSIONATE, to HAVE IT MAKE SOME DIFFERENCE THAT YOU HAVE LIVED & LIVED WELL. —–Ralph Waldo Emerson.

(14)  Our body is full of water, but whenever it hurts, “blood” comes out, and our hearts is full of blood, but whenever it hurts, tears” come out.
(15) Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because YOU DESERVE PEACE.
(16) If you have a MAGNETIC PERSONALITY, and, yet, people don’t get attracted to you, it’s not your fault ………… THEY HAVE IRON DEFICIENCY IN THEIR BODIES.
(17) Latest joke doing the rounds in Bengaluru : To succeed in work-life, you have to cross the three most difficult bridges : K. R. Puram Bridge, Marathalli Bridge and the Silk Board Bridge.
(18) Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for HE WAS BORN IN ANOTHER TIME . —– Tagore.
(19) Don’t be afraid to take a “big step” if indicated.  YOU CAN’T CROSS A CHASM IN TWO SMALL JUMPS. —– David George.
(20) DOING what you like is FREEDOM.  LIKING what you do is HAPPINESS. .

The butterfly effect

Our smallest words and actions have the power to stir the world.  Ever met someone and walked away feeling like you had a great conversation, without having spoken a word ?  Sometimes you don’t say anything, and yet everything is said.  Such moments, though rare, have the potential to stay with you a lifetime.  They have a beauty beyond this world ——- one certainly beyond words.
It’s all about the connect.  We connect with each other at different levels, in different ways.  Words. Acts.  A gaze.  Sometimes, the changing quality of the silence.  With some it’s enough to just be connected, what is done or not done, said or left unsaid is not meaningful.  With others a thousand conversations are not enough.
butterfly-effect-chaos-theory1The critical point is that such connects needn’t be just between close ones, nor do they need to last forever.  Could you imagine that a fleeting connect with someone could have a major impact for the Universe ?  The Universe seems to work in strange ways.  We are all connected in such a manner that we cannot escape the slightest move of another.  In Shams of Tabriz’s 40 Rules of Love (Elif Shafak), the 26th rule is, “The universe is one being.  Everything and everyone  is interconnected through an invisible web of stories.  Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all in a silent conversation…….. One man’s pain will hurt us all.  One man’s joy will make everyone smile.”
Heard of the Butterfly Effect ?  The scientific theory that the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil could set off a tornado in Texas by creating tiny changes in the atmosphere that could accelerate or even prevent the tornado.  Call it the Domino Effect or the Ripple Effect, but the point is the same as in Shams’ 26th rule.  We cannot escape the consequences of our actions or words, because “words that come out of our mouths do not vanish but are perpetually stored in infinite space, and they will come back to us in due time.”
Lorenz_Butterfly_by_uk_daveWe witness this in everyday life with amazing impact.  Consider this —– you wake up one morning to a smiling husband offering you morning coffee.  You feel good, sing through your shower and are appreciative of colleagues at work.  Your colleagues feeling appreciated goes home happy, cooks an extra special meal and serves it with a smile.  The bonhomie at the table carries through to the next morning when a well-fed, happy family steps out to spread happiness.  You just made the world a better place.
Now look at it from another perspective.  Your husband wakes up grouchy, fights with you.  Agitated, you shout at the driver.  Irritated, he drives aggressively and infuriates many others.  Your colleague, receiving the brunt of your anger, spreads the ill will at home and her unhappy family steps out next morning to spread further animosity.  You just made the world a worse place.
Heard the story of Polish Prime Minister Paderewski and Herbert Hoover ?  Paderewski, also a legendary pianist, helped a couple of students study further.  Later as Prime Minister, when he received relief for a starving Poland, he realised that his country’s benefactor was one of the students he had helped, Hoover, now the head of the US Food & Relief Administration.  A massive Ripple Effect indeed.
We cannot pass by that person who needs our help, nor be rude to anyone without far-reaching consequences.  A kind word spoken is a kind word heard.  We have the power to make a difference by just being responsible and aware.
Understanding the power of the Butterfly Effect is a great way to feel empowered.  How could you be inconsequential in any way whatsoever, when a little movement or word from you could have such world-stirring effects ?
 

Costa Brava

costa-brava

COSTA BRAVA (Spanish : WILD or RUGGED COAST) is a “coastal gem” in north-eastern Spain, and it stretches from BLANES, 60km northeast of Barcelona, to the French border.

The coast was named COSTA BRAVA by Ferran Agullo in an article published in the Catalan newspaper La Veu de Catalunya in September 1908.  He referred to the “rugged” landscape of the Mediterranean coast which runs from the river TORDERA, near BLANES, to BANYULS with the name COSTA  BRAVA.  COSTA is the Catalan and Spanish word for “coast”, while BRAVA means “rugged” or “wild”.  This term was officially recognized and promoted in the 1960s, as it was deemed suitable to promote tourism in the region.

Spain Costa Brava


Before Costa Brava became the official name, other names were suggested : COSTA GREGA (Greek Coast), COSTA del CORALL ( Coral Coast), COSTA SERENA (Serene Coast), COSTES de LLEVANT (Levant Coasts) or MARINA de L’EMPORDA (Emporda Marine) .


costa_brava_15


The combination of a very good summer climate, nature, excellent beaches and a favourable foreign exchange rate, which made Spain a relatively inexpensive tourist destination, was exploited by the construction of a large number of hotels and apartments.  Tourism rapidly took over from fishing as the principal business of the area.


Pica d'Estats (3143m)


The Costa Brave is the sum of amazing sensations from Blanes to Portbou.  Nature plays a staring role in the form of 3 natural parks : 3 distinctive settings, 3 areas of great biological importance.  The coastline will also take your breath away with the beauty of its superb beaches and heavenly coves nestled among cliffs, not to mention typical Mediterranean towns such as CADAQUES or CALELLA de PALAFRUGELL and unique beauty spots such as the Bay of Roses, Banyoles Lake and the Botanical Gardens of SANTA CLOTILDE, PINYA de ROSA, MARIMURTRA & CAPROIG.


CADAQUES SPAIN


The Costa Brava also boasts an array of cultural assets : sites that display the wonderful legacy of Salvador Dali in EMPORDA, the Monastery of SANT PERE de RODES or the CASTLE of PERATALLADA; medieval towns such as TOSSA de MAR, PUBOL or PALS; the ruins of EMPURIES, a major archaeological site providing a fascinating insight into how the ancient Greeks and Romans lived; the traditional ceramics of LA BISBAL and GIRONA’S Old Quarter, featuring a superb historical gem, the Jewish Quarter.


Bay of Roses Spain


In 1998, the coastal towns of Costa Brava signed a Charter called the CATA de TOSSA, which undertook to pursue environmental protection, along with tourism.  This recognized the value of the region’s wide range of natural habitats.  The MEDES ISLANDS, off the coast of L’ESTARTIT, are in Spain’s first marine reserve and provide a home to a wide range of fish and aquatic flora.  The nearby wildfowl reserve on marshlands at AIGUAMOLLS de L’EMPORDA also saved land from the potential ravages of development.


Aerea_estany_de_banyoles


MEDES ISLANDS : The small archipelago of the Medes, located in the heart of the Costa Brava, in the town of TORRDELLA de MONTGRI and close to the mountain of the same name is composed of 7 islands that are characterized by its rich marine ecosystem.  The proximity of the coast and the River Ter, these islands provide a great amount of organic matter, allowing the variety of flora and fauna typical of the Medes.  Some examples of this variety are the colony of gulls, the peculiar terrestrial vegetation, algae or coralline seabed where you can go diving.


Santa_Clotilde


ALBERA MASSIF :  Declared area of outstanding natural beauty, the landscape presents one with the largest concentrations of megalithic monuments in Catalonia, with small Romanesque Churches that make this area one of the most rich heritage and history of the surrounding region of the ALT EMPORDA.  And the ALBERA MASSIF presents transition vegetation between the species of the PYRENEAN mountains and the Mediterranean, as well as fauna, characterized  by great diversity, between the mountain areas and the wetland Catalonia.


the ruins of EMPURIES


LAKE of BANYOLES :  This area of great landscape and geology covers the whole of the coast called the LAKE OF BANYOLES.  With an area of 107hectares and a “feature-eight”, and is one of the largest in the IBERIAN PENINSULA.  The most important lakes of this system are its origin and source of the feed water through seepage of rain in some parts of the GARROTXA through subterranean flows caused.  LAKE OF BANYOLES and the collection of small ponds, present throughout the year and chemical processes of thermal stratification.  In addition to these features, concentrated around the lake is a wide variety of flora and fauna.


Castello_d'Empuries


ISLAND OF TER : The island of River Ter is a natural area of great ecological value for its biodiversity and for its potential as a setting for environmental education, both for students and for all those who love nature.  The area is protected by municipal regulations and by the condition WILDLIFE REFUGE.  Fauna include otter, genet and various species of butterflies typical of aquatic environments and a variety of birds such as night heron, kingfisher and lesser spotted woodpecker among others.  In total, about 200 species have been observed.


raya


The main rivers that pour their waters into the Costa Brava are : MUGA, FLUVIA. TER & TORDERA.  The climate is typical Mediterranean  ——– mild and temperate characterized by hot dry summers and moderately cold winters.  In the 1950s, the Costa Brava was identified by the Spanish Government and local entrepreneurs as being suitable for substantial development as a holiday destination, mainly for package holiday tourists from Northern Europe, especially the UK and France.