Wednesday, November 28, 2007


The Colosseum Rome, Italy

The Colosseum Rome, Italy

The Colosseum at dusk

Colosseum (Flavian Amphitheatre)

The Iconic Symbol of the Imperial Rome.

Built “between” 70 – 80 AD; for fulfilling the sadistic pleasure of the rulers of the Erstwhile Roman Empire; the Colosseum is the biggest structure (it is an amphitheatre) built in the Roman Empire. The size of Colosseum was such (165feet in height and 200 feet in length) that it could easily accommodate 50,000 spectators; all well segregated based on their status. The emperor was seated in separate cabin while Senators and people of high social status occupied the front rows. Ordinary men (who formed the majority) sat behind them and women just behind them.

Colossus with Nero’s head!

The Colosseum Rome, ItalyNero - Roman Emperor image courtsey:

It was Vespacin the Roman Emperor who constructed this elliptical (with perfect oval shape) theatre. Titus Flavius Vespacianus, (69-79) was the founder of the Flavian dynasty the theatre is named as Flavian Amphitheatre after his family name. A giant bronze statue of Colossus was there on the front of the theatre, later Emperor Nero (none other than that gentleman who fiddled when Rome burnt!) replaced its head and with a replica of his own head! It remains as a strange fact that the theatre later came to be known by the name of the statue of Colossus, and later got corrupt to become Colosseum! Eventually this statue was taken away to be melted.

That outlived the Empire.

The Colosseum Rome, Italy Map of medieval Rome depicting the Colosseum

The Colosseum is not just a colossal structure situated at the heart of Rome; it was companion to the history of the great Roman Empire which boldly outlived the Empire facing all strives and tribulations associated with the fall of the Empire. As a venue for some of the most brutal events ever taken place in the history of the world and as a structure standing witness for about twenty centuries; the Colosseum has got a lot of stories to tell, the, existence and fall of the great Roman Empire is just one among them, how many emperors have ruled over it; how many perished, how many executions, how many duels, and how many people were thrown before lions for entertaining the spectators? All stories of extreme power sheer greed.

Commodes the butcher-emperor!

The ‘Shows’ held in this amphitheatre were astoundingly real, duels were fought either to kill or die; most often rivals were not matching; when one was trained and armed gladiator his opponents may either a prisoner of war or a convicted person without any arms. Programs are all prearranged and begin when the Emperor takes his seat; various items are performed as if in a circus. Rich and noble people had trained slaves by name ‘gladiators’ who had to fight duels with those of other owners (a trained gladiator being an asset often he is not let to die; for the pleasure of audience some helpless man is left before him to be cut in to pieces). Emperor Commodes was not satisfied by just seeing it, he took part in fights. For him to fight some wounded convicts or invalids may be sent unarmed to the stage and the armed king enjoyed the pleasure of cutting him in to pieces, the king was always victorious; what a show!

Entertainment unleashed!

The Colosseum Rome, Italy The Colosseum

The Main and final show may be between two gladiators armed with short swords but Convicted persons and prisoners of war were also forced to ‘fight’ well trained and armed gladiators killing them were just a warm up exercise to the gladiators and a time pass to the viewers. Terror on the face of the victim and his helpless gesticulations when seeing death face to face with death were feast to the sadistic crowd. The stage made of wooden planks had underground chambers from where at times wild animals were unleashed all on a sudden there will be applause when wild animals tore the victims in to pieces! Those gladiators who fought valiantly at times gained applause and request from crowd for his release were sometimes admitted by the emperor, and then the gladiator may be given a wooden sword as a mark of release.

A dream turn nightmare,

At times for a joke the emperor will point a spectator -who was enjoying the show- to his guards; that unfortunate spectator will be forced in to the stage to ‘fight’ a gladiator armed with sword! At times may got gorged by a hungry wild lion released before him all on a sudden, there will be suspense what will be taking place. These are just comedies for the spectators who were not ‘invited’ to the stage! Wild animals like lion, tiger, rhinoceros, hippo etc were imported from as far as Africa and India for the ‘show’ and they were starved for days before the show!

Though mock; what a thrill!

The Colosseum Rome, Italy A map of central Rome during the Roman Empire, with the Colosseum at the upper right corner

This amphitheatre; the biggest structure built by the erstwhile Roman Empire was a mute witness of all these dramas unfolded within its walls and outside; spanning a period of 20 long centuries. If these real events were more dramatic than drama itself; Colosseum was venue for real dramas in the medieval period. After the fall of the Empire there were no slaves to be thrown to the lions, no gladiators for duels; Romans got bored and looked to the Colosseum for some entertainment; Colosseum had answers let there be real dramas! Mock- wars, sea-battles, ‘executions’, reenactments of fearsome historical events and what else? Bored Romans sighed in relief; those who (may be their great grand children) so far applauded at real events seeing real blood; got at least some mock events to cheer! The walls of Colosseum began to reverberate with the war cries of gladiators and wails of their victims, though mock; what a thrill!

From work-shop to shrine!

Later this structure had the fortunes and misfortunes to be venue for different ball games; far more different roles! It was used as quarters for the members of some religious sects, as fortress, workshop, as a Christian Shrine (it still has its umbilical chord with the Roman Catholic Church) and what else. The early stages of the consumer culture haunted the Colosseum in form of stone robbers who did not spare this invaluable treasure of a structure; for them it was a mass of stones to be robbed! Its walls still bear the gaping holes from where exquisite brass fittings were plucked off.

Doggy days!

Even nature did not leave it unscathed; several earth quakes, lightning fire; all rocked and ruined this unfortunate building. The scars we now see on the structure are the result of collective work of nature and the stone robbers. Colosseum got robbed, bruised, dismembered, down but not out as it was made of sterner stuff. It though bruised is still capable of attracting more tourists and travelers than anything else in Italy, it should be read along with the lines that Italy is the home of most of the classical works among which the bruised structure stands tall as a challenge.

An end to the nightmares,

The whole world has recognized the value of the Roman city and its pride the Colosseum and the Romans will never let anybody loot or tarnish it anymore. The archeological dept of Italy has been good enough to prevent further damages and for the fortunes of the world the present Colosseum is one of the best preserved World Heritage Site in the world.

Missed the bus!

The Colosseum Rome, Italy Original façade of the Colosseum

The Colosseum was built in 70 – 80 AD about 300 years after the original list of the Seven Wonders of the World was compiled (in about 3rd century BC) and by a narrow margin Colosseum missed the bus to get a seat in the list. Had Colosseum existed at that time it sure would have declared one as its architecture and prominence taken in to account. George

Who lives if Rome and Colosseum die?

English poet George Gordon Lord Byron has sung,

While stands the Colosseum,

Rome shall stand,

When falls the Colosseum,

Rome shall fall;

And when Rome falls

-the whole world.

The above lines show the affection people had towards the holy city of Rome and the Colosseum in particular. please remember that Lord Byron mentioned Colosseum neglecting Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica, what else is required for the popularity of this towering and enchanting colossus; the Colosseum!.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Ashoka Pillar of Delhi

The Ashoka Pillar of Delhi

the asoka pillar or the iron pillar of delhi

The iron pillar of Delhi

Delhi’s Iron Pillar

Thy riddle is hard to read!

One thousand and six hundred years old, made of pure wrought iron, weighs six tons, 7.375 meters high, standing bare for all these years in the scorching climate of Delhi, no fungus, no rust, no corrosion, nothing could scar even the inscriptions made on it; this pillar literally stands tall as a wonder for the modern man to witness the greatness of his ancestors; who could do what the space-age scientists not. The Iron Pillar of Delhi (also known as Ashoka Iron Pillar) belongs to the ‘Chandragupta 11 –Vikramaditya’ (between 3rd and 4the century AD) period remains as a riddle even to the modern metallurgists who rack their brains to find out the secret behind the eternal youth of this wrought iron pillar.

In Great Company,

the asoka pillar or the iron pillar of delhi Inscriptions on the iron pillar

The Ashoka Pillar is a plain vertical cylinder like structure up to its 90% of the height, then an inverted bell with flattened pot-like engravings on its top, to crown it all is a platform with Ashoka Chakra Emblem, only that much and no over doings. This pillar is at present placed on a recently built cement platform with iron fencing. The location of the pillar is among the famous Qutub Minar Complex in Mehruli in Delhi. This complex a UNESCO accredited World Heritage Site that houses an array of monuments and buildings built by Qutub din Ayback (the first ruler of the Slave Dynasty) and his following rulers including the British. Along with Qutub Minar and the Ashoka Pillar, there are the Alai Minar, Quwwat ul Islam Mosque, Ala I Darwaza and other numerous archeologically prominent structures. The Ashoka Iron Pillar is not as big as Qutub Minar in size but perhaps more wonderful for its inborn chemistry and history.

Smaller only in size,

The soaring tower of Qutub Minar built in the 12th century is 72.5 meters tall; it is the tallest brick Minaret in the world. Qutub Minar is 14.3 meters wide in the base and 2.7 meters at the top. Its enormous sand stone walls, projecting balconies and inscriptions have made it India’s pride and it remains as a hot tourist destination. The Ashoka Pillar was brought to Delhi from its original destination in the 13th century and installed literally in the shades of Qutub Minar. This in no sense makes this pillar in any way ‘smaller’ than the giant Qutub Minar. The Ashoka Pillar is senior to the Minar by ten centuries and bears inscriptions far more valuable to history about the emperors existed thousand years before the makers of the wonderful creations of the Qutub Complex. These inscriptions hail the greatness and valor of one ‘Chandra’ of the Gupta Empire (believed to be Chandagupta Vikramaditya -2; who ruled India between 3rd and 4th centuries AD.

The Chemistry,

Why this wrought iron pillar is not affected by rust; when in the extreme climate of Delhi even painted and well sheltered iron materials rust quick? For centuries this question has haunted scientists and metallurgists of the whole world. Chemical analyses of its parts have revealed that the iron that makes it; is of very pure quality with less quantity of carbon. It is high in phosphorus and low in sulfur and manganese. They say that the phosphate form a film that is inert to chemicals and protects the pillar from rusting. If so why all other iron structures need painting and preservation; why they do not form a phosphate film? The iron lost by rusting costs several billions to the world and no scientist has any solution other than galvanizing (zinc coating) and painting that needs periodical doings and not 100% effective at all.

One more riddle,

the asoka pillar or the iron pillar of delhi Translation of the inscription in English.

This Pillar was originally located at the Udayagiri (original name Vishnu pada giri) Cave Complex in Saanchi about 50 km from Bhopal (the city where the great gas leak occurred in December 3, 1984 from the Union Carbide plant that killed about five thousand people). Its original location (Udayagiri) was exactly at the tropic of cancer and some astrological reasons are attributed to be there regarding its installation. In the summer solstice day (when the sun reaches its peak) alone the shadow of the pillar fell directly at the feet of the idol of the temple that existed there. It is yet another riddle like the secret of its non-rusting quality one for astronomers and the other for metallurgists!

Ahoka Chakra –a place in the sun,

The pillar bears the Ashoka Chakra Emblem at its top; which has been adopted by the Government of India when its Tricolor National flag was shaped. The ‘Tricolor’ National flag which bears horizontally placed Orange, White and Green, and Chakra Emblem is in the middle of the white band the Chakra (a blue wheel with 24 spokes) represents movement and vitality; Orange; dedication, White; peace and Green prosperity). A nation with Ashoka Chakra on its national flag means a nation on the rolls and by the great fortune of Indians this biggest democracy has always been on the move ever since.

An old Romeo haunted by lovers!

Somehow centuries back; a rumor spread that hugging and spreading hands around the pillar was auspicious and that would fulfill the wish of the hugger. As the news spread; tourists from around the world who visited the site began to hug this pillar, there were scramble to hug this old pillar! The frenzy reached in such a level that people even began to visit this site to hug this pillar alone and such a violent love affair with the pillar grew to create law and order problems forcing the Archaeological Department to ban hugging the pillar (even this iron pillar began to wear and tear due to persistent hugging; now a steel fence guards this pillar from violent huggers!

Statutory Warning ‘Hugging is injurious to health’!

Fortunately the authorities have not still placed a board nearby stating ‘hugging is injurious to health’ as smoking and drinking are! Bureaucrats if have any ideas of placing such a board beware; they should show the model as stopping hugging altogether not just the Romeo-pillar! This pillar is very old and if its gets some comfort by hugging of beautiful Juliets why ban it? The author rightly think the secret of longevity of this pillar is not phosphate and magnesium but the hugging it got from enchanting womenfolk (serotonin produced during love is help for longevity –a fact even scientists agree!) A request to the visitors if authorities prevent you from hugging; do it each other and make the pillar a happy witness and you a more refreshed tourist as well! Wishing a longer and happier life to the pillar!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Porcelain Tower of Nanjing

The Porcelain Tower of Nanjing China

The Porcelain Tower of Nanjing (Bao’ensi = Temple of Gratitude) ChinaPorcelain Tower of Nanjing

Bao’ensi = Temple of Gratitude

Not so long ago,

This Buddhist Pagoda known as the Porcelain Tower does not exist now; yet in history this magnificent tower that radiated sunrays and functioned as a center of pilgrimage stands tall among world wonders. As per records this Buddhist Pagoda was constructed by a Chinese Emperor by name Yung le in the 15th century. It was located on the South Bank of Yangtze River in Nanjing Territory in China. This tower was 260 feet high octagonal (with eight corners) in shape with 97 feet in diameter. At the time of its construction it was the largest building in China. It existed up to the middle of the 19th century and the outside world came to know of its existence through the European travelers visited the area.

A war and one victim!

The Porcelain Tower of Nanjing (Bao’ensi = Temple of Gratitude) ChinaPorcelain Tower of Nanjing Map

At present the details furnished by those travelers (among them there were historians mathematicians, sailors and explorers) are the only sources through which modern man can get a peep hole in to one of the Seven Manmade Wonders that existed for four centuries and got destroyed in course of time. 1843 book of Granville Gover Loch has reference about this tower. ‘Plan of Civil and Historical Architecture’ (published in 1721) by Fischer von Erlach has given a beautiful illustration of this Buddhist Pagoda standing in a valley with beautiful hills in the back-ground.

Manmade and man-destroyed!

This Buddhist Pagoda had to face two damages the first was a bolt of lightening that struck in 1801 and its top got ripped off; this god made disaster could be repaired but the manmade disaster in the shape of Taiping Revolution was detrimental and marked its end. The rebels who took control of the area (1840-1850) smashed the stairs to stop others from using it as a platform. Some American sailors visited the area have reported to have seen a hollow structure. Later the rebels destroyed (1856) even the remaining parts of this beautiful structure in vengeance. The remnants of the structure were lying uncared for years and recently the Chinese Government has taken interest in the rich ancestry of their nation and started to rebuild the structure in the same style.

Those shining four centuries!

In its golden times the Porcelain Tower was covered with superior quality white and shining porcelain bricks interlaid with colored stones; during days that reflected sunrays bathing the entire area in light and during nights numerous (reported to be 140 in number) lights were hung to illuminate the beautiful pictures (imprinted by glazes and stoneware) of flowers, animals, landscapes and Buddhist images. Its large spire originated from the eighth floor stood all the way up to the roof. It is believed that the spiral staircase had 140 steps that matched with the number of the lamps that illuminated the outer wall.

The structure of all East

The Porcelain Tower of Nanjing (Bao’ensi = Temple of Gratitude) ChinaThe Porcelain Pagoda, as illustrated in Fischer von Erlach's Plan of Civil and Historical Architecture

Ever since its construction as a shrine it was a pilgrim centre for the Buddhists and it still pulls crowds. The recent endorsement as one of Seven Manmade Wonders of the World has added its attraction to the site. This temple has been exclaimed as a sublimely elegant example of Buddhist Architecture by those who have seen it in first person and the French Mathematician Le Compte who happened to visit the site during the early 19th century has rightly written “The best contrived and the structure of all the east”, this remark contain all.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Leaning Tower of Pisa - La Torre de Pisa - Italy

Leaning Tower of Piza

Leaning Tower of Pisa image

A humble tower and too many detractors!

Like all other structures the Tower of Pisa was also built to stand straight, but the fate of this particular one is to stand leaning for all its life. This lean turned out to be the tower’s identity and the credit of the Whole Pisa city. There were opinions from detractors that this structure was originally built to lean which were subsequently proved wrong after testing the ground soil and other details. There are more accusations against the leaning tower like a useless structure, it pauses danger to tourists etc. Unmindful of all these this tower is keeping on leaning and pulling crowds to the city of Pisa and bringing its cash registers ringing.

Who built it?

Work for this structure started on August 9, 1173, there is some dispute regarding the architect of this slanting tower which was intended to be the bell-tower for the Cathedral of Pisa. The generally accepted opinion points to the names like Guglielmo, Dioti Salvi or Bonanno Pisano. The styles adopted by these architects with their other works have been subject to study and since no conclusive decisions have been arrived at.


Leaning Tower of PizaLeaning Tower of Pisa image courtsey:

This tower (official name Torre Pendente di Pisa) is located in Piazza dei Miracoli, Pisa Italy; is an 8 storied tower, it is 55.86 meters (183.27 feet) in height and its famous (notorious) slant is 5.5 degrees. That means that its the top is away from its base by 4.5 meters. The width of the wall at the base is 4.09 meters and that at the top is 2.48 meters altogether there are 294 steps that lead to the top. The first floor is supported by pillars with classical capitals. This entire tower is estimated to weigh 14,500 tons. Its foundation is just 3 meters in height and built in loose and unstable soil (reason for the slant).

Work calendar

The Construction of the Tower of Pisa is a two centuries old saga and closely related with the history of Pisa; which was not in good relation with its neighbors like Florence, Genoa etc. Wars between these neighbors were frequent and construction works were to be deferred more than two times. Detractors of this tower say that the construction of this tower itself was to boast before these neighboring counties!

August 9, 1173 work started.

1178, Third floor completed and the tower began to lean and the work got halted for about a century.

1272 work resumed under Giovannido Simone. He compensated the tilt by making one side longer there by giving the tower a curve.

1284 Work had to be again halted as in a war the Pisans were defeated by Genoans in the battle of Meloria.

1319 The seventh floor was completed.

1372 Bell chamber was completed by Tommaso di Andrea Pisano, he is said to be responsible for adding the Romanesque style (The architectural style equivalent to the Norman, prevailed in Europe from 5th to 9th century characterized by round arches, massive vaulting, heavy piers, columns and walls with small windows).to the tower.

The bell chamber contains seven bells one each representing a musical note.

1655 The largest bell was installed in the chamber.

1838 – 40, major renovation undertaken.

1934 Benito Mussolini got the base of the tower filled with concrete to straighten it up, in fact this work made the tower to sink further.

January 7, 1990 Entry to this tower was closed to the public and massive strengthening works undertaken, the bells were removed to lessen the weight.

December 15, 2001 reopened for public after work and it was certified that the tower will remain stable for about 300 more years.

One of the Seven Wonders of the Medieval World.

Leaning Tower of Piza

Leaning Tower of Pisa Map courtsey:

This wonderful tower; approved by UNESCO as World Heritage Site; ‘that keeps on tilting without falling’ it also has been selected as one of the Seven Manmade Wonders of the World. One may be shocked to read that this world heritage was on the verge of destruction during the Second World War. Nazis took hiding in it and it was discovered by the Allies, by the fortune of the whole world the American officer deputed to deal with the affairs did not call for the cannon fire. Virtually the existence of this World Heritage Site hung on a single word from that unknown officer who deserves the status of a world war hero.

Taught the world about mass and gravity.

galilio Galileo Galilee image courtsey:

(Galileo Galilee; Feb 15, 1564Jan 8, 1642).

The Leaning Tower of Pisa has one more tryst with history as Galileo Galilee also a native of Pisa used this tower to prove his theory by dropping two cannon balls of different weights and established before the public that mass of a material does not affect acceleration due to gravity (things of different weights if dropped will fall in the same speed). Before this experiment the whole world thought that heavier fell in greater speed if dropped. This Tower of Pisa has seen much events since its construction and survived 9centuries keeping the world in tender-hooks about will fall and will not fall, let us hope it stands for ever sp that generations to come may also have a tender hook, will it or will it not?!!!

Monday, November 19, 2007

7 Natural Wonders of the World

7 Natural Wonders of the World

But on his grace!

There is no end to the wonderful things in this universe; some of them manmade and the others made by the god almighty, this article deals with the latter. There are so many of them and to select only seven out of these countless wonders; is a tall order in itself. As a prayer recited in Indian homes goes means in English some what like this...

“How wonderful the ocean is! the heaven and the living world!

I bow before thee thinking of all these wonders you have made”

This simple prayer reflects the surprise one feels when see the world as a third person.

No narrow views.

Various organizations have conducted polls to elect the top seven natural wonders and come out with varied results, in such a poll regionalism influences choice of the people. Here we have come out with a list of locations purely based on real merits as well as popularity without giving any chance to narrow and self interested views.

Click on the Links / Images to navigate to full Articles.

1. Grand Canyon, Arizona USA.

the grand canyonThe Grand Canyon

Our first choice is the Grand Canyon as it is the most unusual formation on the face of the earth. A gigantic rupture existing in the state of Arizona, US with a width of 29km and an average depth of about 1.5km spanning a total length of 500km along the Colorado River. As per the scientists the running waters of the river licked away the upper surface of its base to create the canyon of that size; which would have taken millions of years, now the Grand Canyon is hot tourism destination for domestic and international tourists where thousands of tourists this gigantic mouth of the earth with awe. Click here to read the full article...

2. Mount Everest, Nepal, Asia.

the mount everestThe Mount Everest

Known locally as Sagar Matha (meaning forehead of the sky); the Mount Everest which has a height of 20002 is highest location on earth. It is located between Nepal and Tibet, from time immemorial this mountain is an object of worship as the abode of god by the people who lived around it. Everest always posed a challenge to adventurers round the world. In an attempt to climb over it many bold people perished; more had to return back in despair. In 1953 a team led by Edmund Hilary (an Australian) and Tensing Norgay (a native belonging to the Sherpa Tribe) could reach at the top. Click here to read the full article...

3. Great Barrier Reef, Australia.

the great barrier reefThe Great Barrier Reef

The gigantic 2000 km long Barrier Reef located in the mid South Pacific Ocean in the coast of Australia; formed by the activity by hundreds of billions of Sea Anemones for several million years. More than serving as a natural wall protecting the islands from violent sea waves this barrier serves as a great ecosystem harboring thousands of types of plants and animals. Of late the world has recognized the importance of this natural wonder and UNESCO has certified it as a World Heritage Site. Click here to read the full article...

4. Victoria Falls between Zambezi and Zimbabwe, Africa.

the victoria fallsThe Victoria Falls

Local people call it Mosi oa Tunya meaning thundering clouds. River Zambezi flows quietly through the African Plains and unexpectedly tumbles down in to the deep gorge giving birth to the largest water curtain in the world 360 feet in height and 5577 feet in length with a deafening sound. It was the great explorer of all times the Dr. David Livingstone who brought to the out side world about the existence of this great fall. Click here to read the full article...

5. Harbor of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Latin America.

harbour of rio de janeiroHarbour of Rio de Janeiro

At the East Coast of Brazil where the Atlantic juts in the shore creating a bay (Guanabara Bay) with 143 km in circumference. Its mouth guarded by two big, steep, and naked mountains, The Sugar Loaf and the Corcovodo Mountains. The Rio de Janeiro city that is adjacent to the bay is one of the most thickly populated parts of the world. Once this bay was dotted with numerous islands; all those were siphoned away for landfill. Click here to read the full article...

6. Paricutin Volcano, Mexico, Latin America.

paricutin volcanoParicutin Volcano

A volcano that sprung from a corn field owned by Dionisio Pulido a Native Indian in February 20, 1943. The volcano engulfed the entire village of Paricutin and adjacent San Juan forcing people to vacate. As it was born recently and that too in a populated area it has served as a laboratory to the scientists. This volcano is 424 meters in height and located at a height of 3170 meters above sea level. It erupted for a second time in 1952 killing three people (by the lightening due to the fumes). Click here to read the full article...

7. The Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis).

the northern lightsThe Northern Lights

The wonderful colorful designs appear in the arctic skies during September to October and March to April. This phenomenon kept ancient people in tender hooks and they kept fabricating stories about it. Kristian Birkeland was the scientist who solved the mystery that surrounded the Aurora. For him Aurora is the result of collision and energy exchanges between charged particles showered by the sun and those of the earth’s magnetic field. Click here to read the full article...

There are many others!

The most painful thing in such selection is exempting some sites that are equally miraculous but there are only seven could be chosen. The rest of the wonders are not at all forgotten or ignored. They all will be covered one by one otherwise it would be injustice and negligence on the part of a writer.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Harbor of Rio de Janeiro

Harbor of Rio de Janeiro Guanabara Bay

Harbor of Rio de JaneiroHabour of Rio de Janeiro image courtsey:

There is some error in the name; Rio de Janeiro means River of January, but it is on the shores of Guanabara Bay. The Portuguese sailors who came early were in a naming spree; found a calm water body within 20 miles of the shore they took it for the mouth of a river and named it Rio de Janeiro -the River of January as they discovered it in the month of January. Now the bay is Guanabara Bay its original name called by the natives and the huge natural harbor functioning within the bay and the nearby city all are ‘Harbor of Rio de Janeiro’. It is the capital of the Brazilian state with the same name -Rio de Janeiro.

The Harbor of Rio de Janeiro

Harbor of Rio de JaneiroHarbour of Rio de Janeiro Map courtsey:

In the South-East coast of Brazil the Atlantic Ocean juts in to the land giving birth to the Guanabara Bay which is a narrow alluvial strip that connects two big mountains; the Sugar Loaf and the Corcovado Mountains. Within these boundaries lies the Guanabara Bay that is 143 km in circumference that can house as many ships as the authorities wish; because it is so vast! No one can count the number of ships and yachts that has parked and those on the move in the colorful and bustling bay, which was once this bay was dotted with numerous islands. It’s status as a world wonder is amply justified when the sheer size and the safety of the vessels offered by the two gigantic mountains that stand as sentinels for the protection for the entire bay; all made by god almighty!

A bay under threat

Harbor of Rio de JaneiroHarbour of Rio de Janeiro image courtsey:

The rapid expansion of the port and development activities taken place in the near by City of Rio (which in the process of encircling the bay) put tremendous pressure for land (which is at extremely high premium) in the surrounding areas of the bay. Shallow banks of the bay are being filled for land use. The requirement of sand for the purpose was met by the islands which were siphoned off to the banks for meeting land filling; until all islands vanished from the bay. At present the bay is almost filled with ships, almost like a crowded parking lot and its pristine waters getting polluted from the effluents of the ever growing city and the vessels that float all around.

Sugar Loaf and the Corcovodo.

The mouth of the bay is protected by two tall mountains standing like sentinels, the Sugar Loaf and the Corcovodo Mountains. The Sugar Loaf is a naked mountain and the mould that grows on the rocks would have given the reason for getting it this strange name is provided with cable car to facilitate tourism. The Corcovado in Portuguese means hunch back and the profile of the mountain is in accordance. It is on the Corcovado Mountain the ‘Christ the Redeemer Statue’ is placed. During Carnival time the ‘Suvacado Christo’ Band parades in the Botanical Garden starts from beneath the stretched arm of the Redeemer Christ Statue (Suvacado Christo means Christ’s armpit)

Christ the Redeemer.

When the Harbor of Rio de Janeiro itself is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, The Statue of Christ the Redeemer, the 38 meter giant of a statue that stands upon the Corcovado Mountain - which it self is 710 meters high- also is one of the Seven Manmade Wonders of the World! The only difference being when the Guanabara Bay is a god-made wonder Christ the Redeemer is man-made. When god made a port; man made a god! A World Wonder itself is rare but one such overseeing another World Wonder is rarer still.

A pilgrim spot.

The Corcovodo hill is famous for not only its Christ statue but is a well known tourist spot also; visited by millions of people from all around the world as well as domestic people. There is a small chapel adjoining the statue and where the Holy Mass is held regularly. Standing at the top of the Corcovodo hill one can see the panoramic view of the City of Rio (Rio de Janeiro). It is a real sight indeed! In fact before joining the crowd of the maddening Rio catching a vision of it from the Corcovodo is a must, one can either climb the steps or take rail that will reach up to 90% of the hill.

City of Rio.

Rio is the largest port city in the Latin American Continent, and a magnet in attracting world tourists, merely looking at it from the Corcovodo itself is thrilling then what would be becoming one among the reveling crowd; forgetting all; losing oneself in the maddening crowd; in a city of real joy. Rio is the land of Carnivals, celebrations, Samba and bold women who dare to wear the most revolutionary attire! See Brazilians whose hardened muscles (black, white and all hues) flex while they dance to the tune of the violent samba, where people forget day today worries in the frenzy of sheer celebrations. Making money is not the issue, but celebrating it; is, if not convinced come to Rio the City of joy during the Carnivals and see how to celebrate life. You only live once but come to Rio and live it twice.


Harbor of Rio de Janeiro Carnival in Rio

The Carnivals had its origin as parades in Samba Schools and grew in size and magnitude to become the greatest show on earth, Sambadroma stadium is one of the biggest of its kind in the world. February and March (prior to Easter) is the time of these celebrations and plane-loads of tourists arrive to witness the revelation. All the seats and rooms are booked very much in advance (a seat may cost $ 80 to 100 officially and double that procured from a tout. As huge and weird floats pass by carrying the aggressively dressed ‘Samba Queens’ people cheer, sing and dance as if in a trance, nothing is impossible as it is time to rejoice! Those who could not get or afford a ticket can join in the numerous ‘Street Parties’ held at hotels, where drunken balls and revelries are frequent (law and order generally look the other way). Carnival time is the season of touts, pick-pockets, whores and pimps, the gullible visitor in search of some ‘pleasure’ will have to foot the bill in tears, while the smart Alec make hay in the Carnival sun!


Brazilians love and adore their body far more than others; they keep it fit so that they can go to beach with pride. Beauty parlors and boutiques are abundant beside the beaches. Rio has the credit of having world famous beaches like Copacabana and Ipanema to which the tourists can enter free. Copacabana is a lively one with people playing beach volley ball, surfers gliding along (this beach is popular for surfers) and others relaxing in the sand while Samba playing in the background. Visitors are advised to apply sun-screen lotion lavishly to avoid possible sun-burn as the sun is quite hot. There are numerous peddlers hawking tourists’ requirements. The Ipanema beach is generally frequented by the rich young and fashionable people is a world apart.

Samba Music.

Samba is more than a music to the Brazilian, it is the essence of all the pleasures of his life that make him feel like heaven while living even a life of penury. It is believed that the Samba had its origin in Angola, Africa; but the Brazilian version of it has evolved in Rio de Janeiro from the influence of the immigrant population from Bahia a place in Brazil. Samba even outlived the onslaught of Rock, and the Jazz to prevail its numero uno position for the Brazilians and whole world as well.

Pele telephone.

It was in 1917 for the first time ‘Pele telephone’ a recorded version of Samba was published by Ponga and Mauro Almeida. It was a resounding success and it marked the beginning of Samba coming out of the black favelas (slums occupied by blacks) to gain acceptability in the society. The advent of radio literally made Samba a world phenomenon. Getulio Varges the Brazilian dictator even made Samba Brazil’s official music. While on the path of growth Samba got branched in to various versions like Common Samba, Pagode, Partido Alto, Samba Concao, Samba Enrido etc. Samba with drum orchestra is a main attraction of the Carnival.

Foot ball.

Harbor of Rio de JaneiroThe João Havelange Stadium.

Football is Brazil’s national weakness, during season all alleys turn to virtual football ground and elders watch and cheer the playing skill on their children with awe. Rio de Janeiro is home to mega football clubs like America, Bolafogo, Flamengo, Fluminense, Vasco etc. When Brazilian team wins a match it is national celebration to the whole Brazil and Rio in particular. The Maracana Stadium where major football matches are played is the biggest in the world while Pele (known as the black pearl) the football legend prevails as the greatest Brazilian ever born.

Too many to pull him up.

Football, Samba, Beaches, Carnivals and bold women what else to make life a pleasure filled dream run, Brazilians have all these. When football season recedes there arrive the carnivals and between these two there are the beautiful beaches where lovely dolls play beach volley ball and the Samba prevailing over his head, all these combined take the helpless Brazilian to cloud nine. There is only one string to pull him back to earth the ‘bold’ women, without whom an overwhelmed Brazilian would have risen up the skies like a hydrogen balloon, god bless!