Sunday, 29 March 2015

Living Languages & Many Tongues



There are about a dozen countries in the world with more than 200 living and spoken languages, including indigenous languages. They are as follows – Congo 215 languages, Brazil 228, Australia 244, Cameroon 281, Mexico 288, China 301, USA 420, India 454, Nigeria 539, Indonesia 707 and Papua New Guinea 838........ 

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Language is a means of communication. Human being is a social animal and needs to communicate and interact with other humans; and this is what separates us from other species. According to Ethnologue, a research project that tracks living languages across the globe, India is the most diverse with over 450 active languages. Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Nigeria have more active languages.

Identification of a language can be controversial as some experts identify language on purely linguistic grounds while others also include social, cultural and political factors.

Indian constitution recognizes 22 languages as the official languages of the country. There is a demand to include 38 more. The peculiar thing about India is that even one language changes in style, tone and words after every few kilometers.


There are about a dozen countries in the world with more than 200 living and spoken languages, including indigenous languages. They are as follows – Congo 215 languages, Brazil 228, Australia 244, Cameroon 281, Mexico 288, China 301, USA 420, India 454, Nigeria 539, Indonesia 707 and Papua New Guinea 838. There are many countries like Philippines where more than 4-5 languages are spoken and Tagalog is predominantly spoken amongst the Filipino population.

Besides, there are many countries with two or less languages – Cabo Verde 2 languages, Iceland 2, Saint Lucia 2, Samoa 2, San Marino 2, Vatican 2 and North Korea 1. Since earlier days, English and French were considered lingua franca, language, a means of communication in a vast area by different people.

A country as vast and diverse as India, Hindi is considered the national language though it is not officially so. Since the British ruled India for over 200 years, English acts as a link language amongst Indians and plays an important role in all spheres of life, be it mere communication, business, law, legal matters, etc. A state like Karnataka, the state language is Kannada, but in north Kanara, Konkani is spoken. In south Kanara, Tulu, Konkani and Beary are spoken. In Coorg, Kodgu and Coorgi are spoken. In Bhatkal, near Mangalore, the Muslims speak a language with a lot of Arabic words. In Andhra Pradesh, now divided into Telengana and Seemandra, Telgu is the state language, a different Urdu with a sprinkling of words of surrounding areas, is spoken with a south Indian accent by the Muslims here. Similarly, the Marathi spoken in western and coastal Maharastra is different from what is spoken in Vidarbha region of Maharastra. A similar pattern is noticed across India in different states of the union. 

It is said most of the Indian languages have derived from the ancient language Sanskrit, considered to be the mother of all languages. In Karnataka, a village near Mandhya still converse in only Sanskrit. And in some regions with a very few people speaking in some of the old languages, many of these old languages are not active and dying to be lost forever. They will be extinct and lost to mankind.
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Indonesia has world’s largest Buddhist temple

The Borobudur Temple, located on the Indonesian island of Java, is the largest Buddhist temple. Built in the 9th century during the reign of Syailendra dynasty, the temple was constructed with approximately 56,000 cubic meters of volcanic stone, has around 504 Buddha statues and is decorated with 2,672 relief panels. It was restored with UNESCO’s help in the 1970s.

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Picture post:
Lake Palace, Udaipur, Rajasthan, India
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Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The Velankanni Basilica






Tamilnadu is famous for its numerous ancient temples, believed to be over 3000 in number with a rich and long history, but it is also home to the Roman Catholic shrine dedicated to Mother Mary and is a major pilgrim centre. The Velankanni Basilica, commonly referred to as Our Lady of Good Health or Sacred Arogya Matha Church, is renowned to have miraculous healing powers and attracts over 20 million devotees from all over the world every year. The town was among the worst hit by the tsunami in 2004, but the shrine was safe and not touched by the nature’s fury.....

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Most people may have heard about Velankani in Tamilnadu in south India but wouldn’t know much about it. With the fine blend of history and divinity it has become a part of spiritual tourism in India. It is a divine place for the faithful and devoted Christians. Not only do the Catholics from all over, but people of other faiths too believe in the goodness and revere the church as Our Lady of Good Health. There are numerous stories of the miraculous power of the church.

On the shores of the Bay of Bengal, on the east coast of India is the quiet district of Nagapattinam, it is home to the most revered of all Marian sanctuaries in the world. The Velankanni Basilica, commonly referred to as Our Lady of Good Health or Sacred Arogya Matha Church, is renowned to have miraculous healing powers that attracts over 20 million devotees from all over the world every year. Christians believe in visiting it at least once to see the holy place for blessings and fulfillment of their prayers.

Annually over 20 million pilgrims visit the shrine from all over India and abroad, and an estimated 3 million people visit the shrine during its annual festival falling on 29 August to 8 September every year. The 11-day annual festival concludes with the celebration of the Feast of the Nativity of Mary on 8 September.



Velankanni is popularly known as the Lourdes of the East. As per the legend, the origins of this church can be traced back to 16th century and its founding is attributed three miracles – the apparition of Mary and Jesus to a slumbering shepherd boy, the curing of a lame buttermilk vendor, and the survival of Portuguese sailors devastated by a violent storm in the sea.  It is built in the Gothic style, was modified by the Portuguese and then further expanded later to take in the influx of pilgrims. The church building was bestowed the status of a basilica in 1962 by Pope John XXIII.

The vision of Mother Mary is believed to have appeared to the shepherd, and she had asked him for some milk to feed the infant Jesus. The followers believe in the chastity and purity of Mother Mary and her miraculous healing powers. Perhaps one of the greatest miracles was seen in the year when the great tsunami hit the eastern coast of India destroying life and property all around; however the shrine was untouched and unscathed by the nature’s fury though it was not very far from the devastated area.

The church is located about 350 km south of Chennai and it is easily accessible by rail, road and air. Nagapattinam, 15 km away from Velankanni, is well connected via rail transport to all major cities in India through Chennai and Trichy. Tiruchirapalli International Airport is situated at a distance of 165 km from the church.

Also read:  Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church, Goa

The Story of Milagres Church, Mangalore








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Hornbill Festival: 

Hornbill festival is held in Nagaland during December. The festival is packed with plenty of folk performances and rock shows by local artistes. It's also dubbed as the Festival of Festivals. It's a ten days event where various tribes of Nagaland come together to celebrate their colourful and rich culture. If you're a music lover, then the Hornbill International Rock Contest hosted every year featuring up-and-coming bands across the country. It also showcases the rich traditions of Nagaland across various local tribes.


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Picture Post:

Sri Krishna Temple, Udupi, 
Karnataka in India
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Sunday, 1 March 2015

The Pre-historic Art Gallery



Not many people may have heard of Bhimbetka or the rare paintings. Bhimbetka is 45 km from Bhopal, in Madhya Pradesh in India. The Bhimbetka Rock Shelters are a glimpse into a Paleolithic civilization. The oldest painting at Bhimbetka goes back 30,000 years. The name Bhimbetka comes from the Hindu epic Mahabharata. The Pandav Bhim, as legend goes, had rested here during his travels. However UNESCO decided to grant it a World Heritage Site status as late as 2003.


The Bhimbetka Rock Shelters are an archaeological site of Paleolithic civilization, exhibiting the earliest traces of human life on the Indian subcontinent. It is located in the Raisen District, 45 km south of Bhopal at the southern edge of the Vindhya hills, in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh; it is near Abdullaganj town and inside the Ratanpani Wildlife Sanctuary. South of these rock shelters are the rangers of Satpura hills. At least some of the shelters were inhabitated by Homo erectus more than 100,000 years ago. Some of the Stone Age rock paintings found amongst the Bhimbetka rock shelters is approximately 30,000 years old. They were declared a World Heritage Site in 2003.

The name Bhimbetka is associated with Bhima, one of the Pandavas in the epic Mahabharata. The word Bhimbetka is said to have derived from Bhimbaithka, meaning – the sitting place of Bhima. The entire area is covered by thick vegetation with abundant natural resources with perennial water flow, natural shelters, rich forest with flora and fauna, and it bears a striking resemblance to similar rock art sites as in Kakadu National Park in Australia, the cave paintings of the Bushmen in Kalahari Desert and Upper Paleolithic Lascaux cave paintings in France.


 Bhimbetka has over 750 caves with only fifteen open to visitors. Etched on the walls are paintings, most of them depicting sample sketches of animals, both domestic and wild, including bison, tiger, rhinoceros, elephant, wild boar, monkey, antelope and peacock. There is also a depiction of hunting scenes and battle. The more recent paintings depict dance resembling the formation of the Gond tribes that inhabit the region. A mixture of vegetable dyes, animal fat, manganese, red stones were used for the paintings. It was only in 1957 that Indian archeologist VS Wakankar discovered these caves. They lay hidden deep in a forest, and it is the reason for their late discovery and preservation.

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Picture Post:

Penha De Franca Church across river Mandovi, Goa in India
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