Bardsey Island

Bardsey Island


Bardsey Island (Welsh : ( YNYS ENLLI), the legendary ISLAND of 20,000 SAINTS, lies 3.1km off the Llyn Peninsula in the Welsh County of GWENEDD.  The Welsh name refers to the  Island of the Bards, or possibly the island of the Viking Chieftain  ——– Barda.


Bardsey Island


The island has been an important religious site since St. Cadfan built a monastery in 516.  In Medieval times, it was a major centre of pilgrimage and, by 1212, belonged to the Augustinian Canons Regular.  The monastery was dissolved and its buildings demolished by Henry — VIII in 1537, but the island remains an attraction for pilgrims to this day.


Bardsey Island


Bardsey Island is now as famous for its wildlife and rugged scenery.  A bird observatory was established in 1953, largely due to the island’s position of important migration routes.  It is cited as a nesting place for Manx shearwaters and choughs, its rare plants and habitats undisturbed by modern farming practices.  It is one of the best places to see grey seals and the waters around the island attract dolphins and porpoises.


Bardsey Island

The spirituality and sacredness of the island, its relative remoteness and its legendary claim to be the burial site of King Arthur, has given it a special place in the- cultural life of Wales, attracting artists, writers and musicians to its shores.

Bardsey Island apple


BARDSEY APPLE :  A gnarled and twisted apple tree, discovered by Ian Sturrock, growing by the side of PLAS BACH, is believed to be the only survivor of an orchard, that was tended by monks who lived there a 1000 years ago.  In 1998, experts on the varieties of British apples at the National Fruit Collection in Brogdale, stated that they believed this tree was the only example of a previously unrecorded Cultivar :  the Bradsey Apple ( Welsh : AFAL ENLLI).  The Cultivar has since been propagated by grafting and is available commercially.  Since its discovery, it has led to a resurgence in many other Welsh apples being discovered and propagated.


Bardsey Island lighthouse


BARDSEY LIGHTHOUSE : stands on the southerly tip of the island and guides the vessels passing through St. George’s Channel and the Irish Sea.  It is the only square lighthouse maintained by Trinity House.  It is built of ashlar limestone and is not plastered inside and out, but painted in red and white bands on the outside.  The lighthouse tower is 98ft high and is unusual among Trinity House towers of this period in being square in plan  Unlike many other lighthouses, it retains its original gallery railings which are of iron and bellied i.e. curved out in width at their crowns towards the top.  The lighthouse is unusual in lacking any sort of harbour or quay facilities.  As it is on an established migratory route, the tower has many bird casualties and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Trinity House have tried to help the problem by providing perches on the lantern top and flood-lighting the tower, although this does not seem to have helped.


Bardsey Island birds


The island was declared a National Nature Reserve in 1986.  It is a favourite bird-watching location.  Thousands of birds pass through each year on their way to their breeding grounds.  Chiffchaffs, gold crests and wheatears are usually the first to pass through, followed by sedge warblers, willow warblers, whitethroats and spotted flycatchers.  About 30 species of birds regularly nest on the island, including ravens, owlets, oystercatchers and the rare chough.  Hundreds of sea birds, including razorbills, guillemots, fulmars and kittiwakes, spend the summer nesting on the island eastern cliffs, the numbers reflecting the fact that there are no land predators such as rats or foxes to worry about.  The island is one of the best places to see grey seals.  In mid-summer, over two hundred can be seen sunbathing on the rocks and bobbing in the sea, and about fifteen pups are born each autumn.  Their sharp teeth and strong jaws are perfect for breaking the shells of lobsters and crabs which dwell in the waters.


Bardsey Island wildlife


The seas around the island are rich in marine life.  There are forests of strap seaweed.  In the rock pools are sea anemones, crabs and small fish, and in deeper waters, the rocks are covered by sponges and sea squirts.  The yellow star anemone, found offshore, is more common to the Mediterranean.

200 grey seals, 300 sheep and just 4-year-round humans, makes the island’s sheep-to-person ratio larger than even that of New Zealand.  Mobile reception, if you can get it, comes from Ireland, which lies 55 miles west across the Irish Sea.

Bardsey Island is today known as the “Island of 20,000 Saints”, as the island’s largest population resides underground (dead).  As late as the 19th century, long after the Monastery had gone, Bardsey Island bustled with 140 residents.
Bardsey Island is a place of simplicity, that is away from the 21st century.  It is an extraordinary place to visit  ——- one of such peace, silence and natural beauty, that even for those who are not believers, coming here feels like a pilgrimage.
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Tame the tongue

The Bible says lots about the human tongue.  Four groups of meanings are predominant : (a) as an organ of speech; (b) by metonymy, for “language” used by the tongue; (c) by extension, to denote the whole person or personal traits; and (d) to indicate tongue-shaped objects.
First, in a biblical letter, Saint James cautions us about the use of our tongues for loose talk.  He writes: Just as a whole forest can be destroyed by a small fire, so the tongue is a fire that can stain the whole body.”  He continues, “All beasts can be tamed, but how difficult it is to tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil, deadly poison.”  He commends wise people who use their tongues “to praise God and bless others.”
tame the tongueSecond, tongue refers to language.  Unlike India, which is multi-lingual, most nations are delineated along linguistic boundaries.  Their citizens are “of one tongue”.  Indeed, the word “tongue” derives from the Latin LINGUA, meaning “tongue”.  The Biblical “speaking in tongues” means “speaking many languages”.  Glossolalia is the “gift of tongues”  —— a gift of God’s Spirit ——- whereby prophets speak many languages, sometimes unintelligible to others.  By truthfully interpreting such tongues, one discerns what God plans as good for us.
Third, tongue can denote the whole person or personality types.  Of arrogant and boastful people, it is said, “Their tongue struts through the earth.”  The psalmist writes, “Your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharp razor, you who practise deceit.  O deceitful tongue.”
Finally, the Bible refers to “tongues of fire”, “tongues of gold” and “tongues of the sea”, when speaking of tongue-shaped objects.  The spit of land protruding into the Dead Sea was simply called “The Tongue”.
The Bible says : “The tongue speaks of fullness of the heart.”  Though our words might be aimed at abusing others, they actually rebound on ourselves and reveal our own bad character.
—————-  Francis Gonsalves. 

Bells across the snow

O Christmas, merry Christmas,
Is it really come again,
With its memories and greetings,
With its joy and with its pain !
There’s a minor in the carol
And a shadow in the light,
And a spray of cypress twining
With the holly wreath tonight.
And the hush is never broken
By laughter light and low,
As we listen in the starlight
To the “bells across the snow”.
O Christmas, merry Christmas,
 ‘Tis not so very long
Since other voices blended
With the carol and the song !
Christmas bellsIf we could but hear them singing,
As they are singing now,
If we could but see the radiance
Of the crown on each dear brow,
There would be no sigh to smother,
No hidden tear to flow,
As we listen in the starlight
To the “bells across the snow”.
O Christmas, merry Christmas,
This never more can be,
We cannot bring again the days
Of our unshadowed glee.
But Christmas, happy Christmas,
Sweet herald of good will,
Wit holy songs of glory
Brings holy gladness still,
For peace and hope may brighten,
And patient love may glow,
As we listen in the starlight
To the “bells across the snow”.
———- Frances Ridley Havergal.   

Silent night

The true celebration of CHRISTMAS is an invitation to “inner silence”, where we learn to live with opposites.
A Jewish Rabbi, teaching the Talmud to a group of students, asked them what they saw on the page.  All said that they saw the “words ” on it.  None of them had noticed the “white spaces that separated the words”.  Were it not for these spaces, the words would become unintelligible.  What is more, he pointed out, these spaces formed the background and the context I which what was written could be understood.
Christmas paintingGod has been described as a sphere whose circumference is everywhere, but whose centre is nowhere.  We are enfolded by the Spirit and it is the context in which we live our daily lives.  Most of the time, however, our activities are so closely juxtaposed, that like words not separated by spaces in between them, they seem meaningless.  Our proximity to one another as we jostle for space in public transport systems only ends up as our being a juxtaposition of solitudes.
Social networking affords us the opportunity not only to be more connected to others, but more disconnected from the core of our being.  For those who still, somehow, manage to make the time, the spiritual becomes an ‘add-on’ that often fails to load since the basic operating system is out of sync and out of date.
The “spiritual” is embedded in our collective subconscious.  The Christmas story is about our being awakened to its presence, like Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the Magi, who are characterised by their state of wakefulness.
Individuals have always been conscious of the presence of the Divine.  The history of religions reveals that there has been a progressive deepening in the understanding of God’s presence.  It has evolved from God’s presence in nature, controlling its various elements and reflecting his glory in creation to a localised presence in temples of worship.  The celebration of Christmas draws our attention to the fact that God is not only with us but also within us.  We do not have to ‘go into his presence’.  The outward journey to places of worship and pilgrimages to holy place are meant to direct us to the journey inwards where we experience his real presence with us.  It becomes the source, meaning and purpose of everything we say, everything we do.  God is the context in which we live our lives.  The written word begins its existence only when it is placed on a page.  It owes its being to the space that surrounds it.
Creation is the revelation of God’s silence —— the space between the words ——- in which his presence is felt and experienced.  The poet Kabir laughed when he was told that the fish in the ocean were thirsty.  We often thirst for God’s presence, unaware that we are surrounded by it.
Contrary to what we might expect, the true celebration of Christmas is an invitation  to inner silence.  It is a silence in which we recognise our connectedness by being enfolded within it.  The journey into the world of silence is a journey that takes us back from the world of dissipation into wholeness.
By its very nature silence cannot be exploited.  The power of silence is its ability to mediate the irreconcilable.  In the realm of silence, irreconcilable differences can co-exist without tension, because silence is non-judgemental, and differences travel toward one another with no need to swallow or disintegrate or demolish each other.  Silence frees us from the expectation that we can understand and resolve the myriad irreconcilable elements of existence.  Journeying into the ‘womb of silence” in meditation, we discover the capacity for co-existence : we learn to live with opposites.
May the silence of that first Christmas night be the harbinger of peace on earth to all people of goodwill.
————– CHRISTOPHER MENDONCA (Speaking Tree)

Lutherkirche

Lutherkirche


LUTHERKIRCHE (Luther Church) is one of four main Protestant Churches in Weisbaden, Germany.  It was built from 1908 — 1910 in JUGENDSTIL (the Art Nouveau style) and in accordance with the WEISBADENER PROGRAMM, on a design by Friedrich Putzer.  With 2 great organ players and good acoustics, it is also a concert venue.

In 1903, because of an increase in population, it was decided to build a 4th Protestant Church in Weisbaden.  The city already had 3 Protestant Churches   ———– the MARKTKIRCHE, the BERGKIRCHE & the RINGKIRCHE.
The LUTHERKIRCHE is located off the GUTENBERGPLATZ.  It has a white plaster façade. The most notable features are the 50m high tower and the expansive roof, 20m high, with a ridge rising to 37m, which is supported by a steel construction of a type that was “unusual” at the time.

lutherkirche2


The TYMPANUM, above the main entrance, is a “mosaic” of the Cross, which features 2 key lines of Martin Luther’s hymn ——– A Mighty Fortress is our God / The Word they still shall let remain.  On the Cross is the CHI rho and it is flanked by the Alpha & the Omega., symbolising Jesus Christ as the beginning and the end of the world and all creation.


Lutherkirche_chemnitz


The LUTHERKIRCHE forms a “unified” architectural  complex with 2 Parish houses.  The inner space of the Church has 3 parts of the Church services ——— ALTAR ( for the Eucharist), PULPIT ( for the Sermon) and ORGAN( for the music), arranged next to each other in the centre and the participants, in the service, are arranged around these 3 elements.


Lutherkirche


The Church has 1.200 seats, spanned by a RIB VAULT, supported by 4 columns.  The interior is shaped like a long oval, sloping down lightly over the altar space.  JUGENDSTIL ornamentation decorates the wood panelling on the walls, the ceiling and the MATRONEUM.  All the windows and paintwork, as well as the “bridal staircase” were made by Otto Linnemann (de) of Frankfurt in 1911.

The Church has 2 great Organs, one behind the altar built by Walcker in 1911 and the other opposite built by Klais in 1970.

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.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


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.

Care for the Earth

Let’s reflect on our “common home” —– the Earth and our relationship with Her.  Pope Francis opines: “We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing  and its human roots concern and affect us all.”  So, let’s ask : What am I doing to make our home –the Earth — a paradise for everyone, everywhere ?
decayed_earth_009Pope Francis laments that “the earth is beginning to look like an immense pile of filth” due to many reasons : pollution, wastage, a throwaway culture, selfish exploitation of the earth’s resources and lack of concern for the poor, who are worst affected and least equipped to cope with ecological crises.
“It’s good for humanity and the world at large when we better recognise the ecological commitments which stem from our faith convictions.  The religions of Mother India can collaboratively inspire us to care for Mother Earth.  The adivasi-tribal religions celebrate mother nature and foster an all-embracing sense of the sacred in their myths, culture, festivals and lifestyles.
The Vedas look at all beings ——- living and non-living ——- as subsisting by the same spiritual power.  The whole universe becomes EKANEEDAM (one home) and one must transcend one’s AHAMKARA (ego) to enter into transcendental consciousness of the “Ground of all beings”.
The Quranic concepts of KHALIFA (trusteeship) and TAWHEED (the unity of all creatures) instruct Muslims to shoulder their vedasresponsibilities as guardians of Khuda’s creation, so as to bequeath a green earth for future generations.
Buddha preached an ethic of DHAMMA (universal harmony, embracing not only human beings but all creatures.  This engenders universal love with KARUNA (compassion), METTA (friendliness), MUDITA (gentleness) and UPEKHA (equanimity) towards all beings.
Ecology and economics have the same root, OIKOS, that in Greek means “home”.  To care for our earthly home, we need creative, committed and collaborative “homework” among entrepreneurs, economists, politicians and policy-makers worldwide.  If what Pope Francis calls “integral ecology” becomes a reality, then all of creation will joyously sing LAUDATO SI (Praise be with you)
———- Francis Gonsalves (professor of Theology)