Monday, July 28, 2008

Golden Temple of Dambulla Srilanka

Dambulla Cave Temple (Golden Temple of Dambulla) Sri Lanka

Temples of Bagan, Myanmar (Burma)

bagan temples

Bagan Temples and Pagodas

A city of ten million temples

Bagan is located in the Mandalay area on eastern bank of Ayeyarwady River at about 160 km from Rangoon (Yangon) Burma. Though small in size it is really big in its cultural heritage with countless temples most of them in various stages of decay and many still in ship shape and performing. Perhaps the only place that can be compared to Bagan in this regard is Angkor Vat of Cambodia in the sheer size and architectural magnificence. Angkor Vat temples are covered in thick forests and are only partly visible only from a height; whereas the ruins of Bagan are far greater in number and lie exposed in the tropical sun and are easily accessible.

Bagan; its rise and fall

As Burmese rulers used to shift their capital as per the wish of the ruling regime; Bagan got two chances to be the seat of power during 9th and 12th centuries; it is during these terms all these structures were built. A D 1287 came in the shape of the legendary Mongol conqueror Kublai khan who ripped those beautiful structures apart and did as much damages as he could before his retreat! As the town got deserted robbers took away whatever were left by the Mongols.

A man-made disaster!

bagan temple

Temples in Bagan

In 1975 when a massive earth quake hit the town and did much damage to the structures the ruling military junta of Burma (Myanmar) reacted by rebuilding some of them with modern materials like concrete and beautified them with enamel paint! A request from the UNESCO to list them as World Heritage Sites -so that they could be resurrected with the experts in the field- was blatantly ignored by the ruling regime. Thus Burma had to suffer one man-made disaster that followed a natural disaster.

At present

At present all the remnants of the structures of the ‘ten million temples’ lie scattered in 16 sq miles of land, looted, desecrated and getting damaged in sun and rain. About a thousand temples remain in good condition and some of them are functioning visited by devotees of which 10 temples that are immensely popular and remarkable in their make and hence covered in this article.

Sulamani Temple

bagan temple myanmar

The Payathonzu Temple is built in the Mon style

It is also known as the ‘Crowning Jewell Temple’ (in Sanskrit sula means trident and mani means jewel) and was built by King Narapathi Sithu in 1181, in style its construction is akin to the Thatbyinnu temple and has influenced the style of Dhammayangvi temple. This temple got damaged in the 1975 earth quake and was repaired. Sulamani Temple is also known for the beautiful frescoes and idols that decorate its interior.

Dhammayangvi Temple

The Dhammayangvi Temple is the largest structure of all the surviving temples of Bagan. It was built by the Bagan King Narathu who ruled a brief spell between AD 1167 and 1170. Its style of construction resembles to that of Ananda Temple of the same area. This temple was built by King Narathu (1167 – 1170).

Ananda Temple

pagan buddha

A Bagan Buddha, 12th century

This temple is 51 meters in height and was built exactly like the Nandamula Cave Temple in the Himalayan ranges India. The only difference is that the Ananda Temple is a bit smaller than the cave temple. It originally built during 1091 AD under king Kyanzittha but the gilding works that adorn the temple was done recently in 1990. As per Buddhism there are four Buddhas (prophets who have received divine revelations); the Gautama Buddha is the last of them There are four gigantic statues of the four Buddhas each looking to each direction (Kakusandha facing north, Konagamana facing east, Kassapa facing south and Gautama facing west).

Manuha Temple

Built in AD 1067 by Manuha; a Mon king of the Thaton country who was captured and held captive by Anawrahta. The most notable thing with this temple is that statues occupy whole area of the temple giving no space to the priests and devotees. Three huge Buddha statues in sitting posture and one gigantic Buddha in reclining posture; all idols virtually filling the entire space of the halls are the specialties of this temple.

Shwesandaw Temple

myanmar local

Its was built by king Anawrahta in 1057 AD, it is considered as most sacred among the numerous temples of Bagan by the Buddhists as the holy hair of Buddha has been enshrined in its stupas. This temple also has been called Ganesha Temple as during the ancient times four idols of Ganesha (the Hindu god with the head of elephant; considered very auspicious) were placed in its four conrers.

Mahabodhi Temple

As its name suggests it is a replica of the Bodhi Temple of Bodhgaya India. It was built by King Nataungamya between 1210 and 1234. (it was at Bodhgaya Gautama Buddha got enlightenment while meditating under a banyan tree; Bodhgaya is about 105 km away from Patna the capital of Bihar a state of India. There is still an old temple built by Emperor Ashoka with an equally old banyan tree. This premise is considered sacred by Buddhists and the seeds of this tree had been taken and planted in ancient Buddhist’s centers like Burma and Sri Lanka (Mahabodhi tree at Buddhist temple at Anuradha pura). This temple is decorated with numerous Buddha idols placed in niches.

Shwezigon Temple

ananda temple bagan

Gate tower of Ananda Temple

Its work was begun by King Anawrahta who made Bagan his capital but it had to be completed by King Kyanzittha in 1089. The Shwezigon Temple is religiously the most important temple among all the structures in Burma as some bones and hairs of Buddha is kept in this place. During Nadaw a Burmese month (Nov – Dec) devotees from all parts of Burma visit this temple

Gawdapalin Temple

The Gawdapalin Temple has a dome topped with a golden crown reaching sixty meters in height stupa. This beautiful temple that stands with grandeur on the bank of Ayeyarwady River was built by king Narapatisithu in late 12th century; it was badly damaged in the earth-quake which rocked the Mandalay region in 1975; it was rebuilt and at present it remains as one of the well kept temples in this region.

Mahamuni Paya

It is a crowd puller temple of the entire Mandalay region with a four meter tall idol cast in bronze that is covered with golden leaves; devotees bring golden leaves and decorate the idol for the fulfillment of their wish. It is said thus the weight of the idol has been doubled for the time due to this gold leaf adoration! The idol was originally situated in a temple in a village by name Rakhaing (located in the present Bangladesh). King Bodawpaya of Mandalay seized the image and brought it home to be placed in this temple. Women are not allowed to tough the sanctum sanctorum.

Bupaya Pagoda

There is dispute regarding the time of its construction one school of thought is that it was built in AD 200 by King Pyusawhti; as style of construction seems more advanced it is believed that it must have been built in around AD 1000. The large inverted bell shaped dome with golden coating is a really beautiful thing to watch. This small pagoda which was almost completely destroyed in the 1975 earth-quake was rebuilt to the present shape.

Disastrous aesthetics

that byin nyu bagan

Thatbyinnyu Temple

There are thousands of temple in the Mandalay region of Burma; a large number of them are irrecoverably damaged and many in critical condition. Rebuilding of the temples as a World Heritage Site by experts in the field is an urgent requirement. The present government is not willing to entrust the work to the UNESCO authorities making the work impossible. It is hoped that good sense would prevail upon them one day and those once marvelous structures will rise from their deathbed to fascinate the world!

Monday, July 7, 2008

A Beginner's Guide to World Travel

A Beginner's Guide to World Travel

A Beginner's Guide to World Travel
Whether we like it not

Traveling; whether we like it or not is an unavoidable part in daily life, there are people who spent their whole life time savings on a fortnight’s trip and return satisfied. Human being in its initial stages were vagabonds who lived on hunting and gathering food wherever it was available; whatever be the distance traveled.

Stone- age; lot a happy lot!

Those stone- age fellows were a happy lot; who had nothing to worry about troublesome things called a home or a farm. That vagabond still lingers in your genes and compels you to go places leaving the comforts of home; friends and native place.

Care your purse!

Traveling is expensive and often an invitation for real trouble; the issue is to lessen the expenses and avoid troubles as far as possible. It is said that while you travel you keep your open purse inverted; it is so money consuming; how that can be plugged? Let us see.

Why travel?

Man is no frog in a deep well; traveling; whatever be the risks involved is a thrilling and fruitful exercise; human life is a short-lived phenomenon; one day of travel in an unknown land is enough to get a thousand day’s pleasure in living in one’s home. Children should be taken along as it is kids who gain more from a travel the most. Men (especially kids) are wired to see and enjoy unknown places, culture, costume, and life-style; even reading hundred books don’t get that much first hand knowledge of seeing and hearing direct.

Early planning

No passport? Go and get it first.

Collect all information available about the destination (traveling too many places in one go is sheer waste as your pleasure get spread too thin); web sites, travelogues, books and maps are inexpensive sources to get a preliminary information.

Choosing the time and season of the place of visit are important things as your long awaited trip may get drenched in rain or may caught trapped in extreme conditions without even a drop of water to drink.

Choose the travel agency after consulting your friends regarding their quality of service, rates of accommodations and reach. Compare their rates with other agencies and bargain for discounts.

Pervious reservations in lodges and travel agencies save a lot of money as well as assure seats at discounted rates.

A small booklet on the local languages will be of immense use; the author remembers a Japanese visitor knocking doors to use toilet as he was in urgency.

If reservations in rooms, transportation are assured early start getting sanction for leave from your boss and avail any leave travel funding if available.

Chick list

It can be a whole family affair to prepare a check list for what is to be taken for the trip; luggage should comply with the regulations of the airlines. Reach in a consensus regarding materials that can be avoided.

A shoulder bag that can contain the following,

1, Passport and statutory papers for the visit,

2, Receipts and brochures received from the travel agencies as well as their franchisees or branches closer to your destination,

3, Local currency as well as some dollars (most merchants prefer dollars to local tenders) in small denominations save money while making payments,

4, A telephones index diary with all the names of your friends and relatives especially those who have visited the destination before or familiar with that place, An even better idea is to find yourselves a couch.

5, Credit cards (duly charged) that is valid at the place of visit,

6, Medicines which are to be routinely taken and that may be of use in contingency like first aid kits, a torch, needle and thread, shaving set, toiletries etc,

7, Good travel guide book would be immense use; can be had from the travel agency at no cost. An index of hotels and other accomodation is a must have.

8, Political and Route maps. you could download any street map from Google Maps.

Medium sized bags,

On family trips each kid can be entrusted with a medium sized bag loaded mostly with his own things; weight to match kid’s age.

Big bag,

A bigger bag (wheeled one is better) with bed linen, bath towel, night gowns, spare foot-wears, dress, books, kids’ food, water, fruits, pocket knife, mosquito repellents, woolen jackets (for cold places) etc. Store some snacks and cookies will prove helpful where there may be places without clean hotels.

While traveling,

Reaching the place of visit,

Select full body covering dress in tropical areas as hot sun and pests can do much damages to white skin. Tourists often fall prey to touts at the tourist spots, get information from the hotel itself regarding spots and call a vehicle from their list a good driver is a better guide. Be lavish while giving him some tip if service is good. Register complaint if there is any meanness on his part.

While walking watch the touts who hang around and suddenly approach you with helps or requests; just neglect them and walk off, if any help needed ask to any friendly person for directions;

Home sweet home!

The real pleasure of the trip lies in the safe return to the home and in relaxing after a bath, one may be a bit poorer but a lot wiser.

Home is the hunter home from the hills;

And the sailor home from the seas!

Happy Travelling.