Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Angkor Wat & tourism in Cambodia





Angkor Wat in Cambodia was first a Hindu temple and then later it was gradually turned into a Buddhist temple. It is located in Angkor, north of Seim Reap and was first built by Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century in Yasodharapura, the capital of the Khmer Empire. The Angkor temple Ta Prohm was used as the set for the famous movie Tomb Raider. And world was surprised to see this massive temple.

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Angkor Wat is a temple complex in Cambodia and is the largest religious monument in the world, on a site measuring 162.6 hectars. It is at Angkor (earlier known as Yashodapura), north of a modern town Seim Reap in Cambodia. The construction was started by Khmer king, Suryavaram II and completed by Jayavaram VII. It is one of the largest religious monuments ever constructed. Angkor Wat was built in the first half of the 12th century (113-5 BC). The construction took over thirty years to build the massive temple at Angkor, the capital of Khmer empire.

Angkor Wat is the prime example of the classical style of Khmer architecture - the Angkor Wat style - due to which it got its name. By the 12th century Khmer architects had become skilled and confident in the use of sandstone (rather than brick or laterite) as the main building material. Most of the visible areas are of sandstone blocks, while laterite was used for the outer wall and for hidden structural parts. Traditional method was used in the construction. The binding agent used to join the blocks is yet to be identified, although natural resins or slaked lime has been suggested.

The temple has attracted attention above all for the harmony of its design. According to Maurice Glaize, a mid-20th-century conservator of Angkor - the temple attains a classic perfection by the restrained monumentality of its finely balanced elements and the precise arrangement of its proportions. It is a work of power, unity and style.

Architecturally, the elements characteristic of the style include: the ogival, towers shaped like lotus buds; half-galleries to broaden passageways; axial galleries connecting enclosures; and the cruciform terraces which appear along the main axis of the temple. Typical decorative elements are devatas, extensive garlands and narrative scenes. The statutes of Angkor Wat are considered conservative, being more static and less graceful than earlier work. Other elements of the design have been destroyed by looting and the passage of time, including gilded stucco on the towers, gilding on some figures on the bas-reliefs, and wooden ceiling panels and doors.

It is said that towards the end of 12th century, Angor Wat gradually transformed from a Hindu centre of worship to Buddhism which continues to the present. Angkor Wat is unusual among the Angkor temples in that although it was largely neglected after the 16 century it was never completely abandoned. Fourteen inscriptions dated from 17th century discovered in Angkor area testify to Japanese Buddhist pilgrims who had established small settlements alongside Khmer locals. At that time, the temple was believed by the Japanese visitors as the famed Jetavana garden of the Buddha, which originally is located in the kingdom of Magadha in India. The best known inscription tells of Ukondafu Kazufusa who celebrated the Khmer New Year at Angkor Wat in 1632.


For many years, no westerner had visited this area nor stepped into the temple, until one of the first western visitors to the temple was, Antonio da Madalena, a Portuguese who visited in 1586. And he said – It is of such extraordinary construction that it is not possible to describe it with a pen, particularly since it is like no other building in the world. It has towers and decoration and all the refinements which the human genius can conceive of.

In the mid-19th century, the temple was effectively rediscovered by the French naturlist and explorer Henri Mouhot, who popularized the site in the west through the publication of travel notes in which he wrote – One of these temples, a rival to that of Solomon, and erected by some ancient Michel Angelo might take a honourable place beside our most honourable place beside our most beautiful buildings. It is grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome, and presents a sad contrast to the state of barbarism in which the nation is now plunged.

Originally constructed as a Hindu temple dedicated to God Vishnu for the Khmer Empire; it was gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century. The temple design is of classical style of Khmer architecture and has become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on its national flag, and it is the country’s prime tourist attraction. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site. And restoration work has helped in preserving this national treasure.

Angor Wat combines two basic plans of the Khmer temple architecture – the temple-mountain and the galleried temple. It is designed to represent Mount Meru, home of the devas in Hindu mythology within a moat more than 5 kms long and and outer wall 3.6 km long, are three rectangular galleries, each rising above the other.

At the centre of the temple stands a quincunx of towers. Unlike most of Angokian temples, Angkor Wat is oriented to the west. The temple is admired by the tourists for the grandeur and harmony of the architecture and the numerous devatas adorning the walls. The original name of temple was Vrah Vishnuloka or Parama Visnuloka in Sanskrit and Barom Visnulok in Khmer, which means the sacred dwelling of Vishnu. 

According to a legend, the construction of Angor Wat was ordered by Indra to serve as a palace for his son Precha Ket Mealea. And according the 13th century Chinese traveler Zhou Daguan, some believed that the temple was constructed in a single night by a divine architect.

A further interpretation of Angkor Wat was proposed by Eleanor Mannikka. Drawing on the temple's alignment and dimensions, and on the content and arrangement of the bas-reliefs, she argues that the structure represents a new era of peace under King Suryavarman II: as the measurements of solar and lunar time cycles were built into the sacred space of Angkor Wat, this divine mandate to rule was anchored to consecrated chambers and corridors meant to perpetuate the king's power and to honour and placate the deities manifest in the heavens above. Mannikka's suggestions have been received with a mixture of interest and skepticism in academic circles. She distances herself from the speculations of others, such as Graham Hancock, that Angkor Wat is part of a representation of the constellation Draco. The Angkor Wat temple's main tower aligns to the morning sun of the Spring Equinox.

The true history of Angkor Wat was pieced together from stylistic and epigraphic evidence accumulated during subsequent clearing and restoration work. There were no ordinary dwellings or houses or other signs of settlement, including cooking utensils, weapons, or items of clothing usually found at ancient sites. Instead there is only the evidence of the monuments themselves. An exploration commission began drawing up a list of principal monuments. Subsequent missions copied inscriptions written on Angkor buildings so scholars might translate them and learn something of Angkor's history. By 1885 they had worked up a chronology of the rulers and developed the outlines of a description of the civilization that had produced the temple complex. In 1898 the French decided to commit substantial funds to Angkor's preservation. Centuries of neglect had permitted the jungle to recapture many of the more significant structures, and unless efforts were made to free the buildings from the embrace of huge banyan and silk-cotton trees, they might soon be crushed and lost for ever.

The 20th century saw considerable restoration of Angkor Wat. Gradually teams of laborers and archeologists pushed back the jungle and exposed the expanses of stone, permitting the sun once again to illuminate the dark corners of the temple. Work was interrupted by the Cambodian Civil War and Khmer Rouge control of the country during the 1970s and 1980s, but relatively little damage was done during this period. Camping Khmer Rouge forces used whatever wood remained in the building structures for firewood, and a shoot-out between Khmer Rouge and Vietnamese forces put bullet holes in a bas relief. However more damage was done after the wars, by art thieves working out of Thailand, which, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, claimed almost every head that could be lopped off the structures, including reconstructions.

The temple is a powerful symbol of Cambodia, and is a source of great national pride that has factored into Cambodia's diplomatic relations with France, the United States and its neighbour Thailand. A depiction of Angkor Wat has been a part of Cambodian national flags since the introduction of the first version circa 1863. From a larger historical and even trans-cultural perspective, however, the temple of Angkor Wat did not become a symbol of national pride but had been inscribed into a larger politico-cultural process of French-colonial heritage production in which the original temple site was presented in French colonial and universal exhibitions in Paris and Marseille between 1889 and 1937. Angkor Wat's aesthetics were also on display in the plaster cast museum of Louis Delaporte called musée Indo-Chinois which existed in the Parisian Trocadero Palace from 1880 to the mid-1920s.

The splendid artistic legacy of Angkor Wat and other Khmer monuments in the Angkor region led directly to France adopting Cambodia as a protectorate on 11 August 1863 and invading Siam to take control of the ruins. This quickly led to Cambodia reclaiming lands in the northwestern corner of the country that had been under Siamese (Thai) control since AD 1351 (Manich Jumsai 2001), or by some accounts, AD 1431. Cambodia gained independence from France on 9 November 1953 and has controlled Angkor Wat since that time. It is safe to say that from the colonial period onwards until the nomination as UNESCO World Heritage site in 1992, this specific temple of Angkor Wat was instrumental in the formation of the modern and gradually globalised concept of cultural heritage.

In December 2015, a research team from University of Sydney had found a previously unseen ensemble of buried towers built and demolished during the construction of Angkor Wat, as well as massive structure of unknown purpose on its south side and wooden fortifications. The findings also include evidence of low-density residential occupation in the region, with a road grid, ponds and mounds. These indicate that the temple precinct, bounded by moat and wall, may not have been used exclusively by the priestly elite, as was previously thought. The team used LiDar, ground-penetrating radar and targeted excavation to map Angkor Wat.

Since the 1990s, Angkor Wat has become a major tourist destination. In 1993, there were only 7,650 visitors to the site and by 2004, government figures show that 561,000 foreign visitors had arrived in Siem Reap province that year, approximately 50% of all foreign tourists in Cambodia. The number reached over a million in 2007, and over two million by 2012. Most visited Angkor Wat, which received over two million foreign tourists in 2013. The site was managed by the private SOKIMEX group between 1990 and 2016, which rented it from the Cambodian government. The influx of tourists has so far caused relatively little damage, other than some graffiti; ropes and wooden steps have been introduced to protect the bas-reliefs and floors, respectively. Tourism has also provided some additional funds for maintenance and in 2000 approximately 28% of ticket revenues across the whole Angkor site was spent on the temples, although most work is carried out by teams sponsored by foreign governments rather than by the Cambodian authorities.

Since Angkor Wat has seen significant growth in tourism and attracted visitors over the years. UNESCO and its International Co-ordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor (ICC), in association with representatives from the Royal Government and APSARA, organised seminars to discuss the concept of "cultural tourism". Wanting to avoid commercial and mass tourism, the seminars emphasize the importance of providing high quality accommodation and services to benefit the Cambodian government economically, while also incorporating the richness of Cambodian culture. In 2001, this incentive resulted in the concept of the "Angkor Tourist City" which would be developed with regard to traditional Khmer architecture, contain leisure and tourist facilities, and provide luxurious hotels capable of accommodating large numbers of tourists from around the world.

New Domains

The prospect of developing such large tourist accommodation has alarmed and encountered concerns from both APSARA and the ICC, claiming that previous tourism developments in the area have neglected construction regulations and more of these projects have the potential to damage landscape features. Also, the large scale development of these projects have begun to threaten the quality of the nearby town's water, sewage, and electricity systems. It has been noted that such high frequency of tourism and growing demand for quality accommodations in the area, such as the development of a large highway, has had a direct effect on the underground water table, subsequently straining the structural stability of the temples at Angkor Wat. Locals of Siem Reap have also voiced concern that the charm and atmosphere of their town have been compromised in order to entertain tourism. Since this local atmosphere is the key component to projects like Angkor Tourist City, the local officials continue to discuss how to successfully incorporate future tourism without sacrificing local values and culture. And not affecting the environment of nearby areas and locals. However Angkor Wat continues to draw a lot of tourists from around the world.
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Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Indian Constitution




26 November is commemorated as the National Constitution Day. The Indian Constitution was drafted by the Constituent Assembly having 284 members, with BR Ambedkar, Chairman of the drafting committee. And he was considered as the chief architect of the constitution. It’s considered to be the most complete constitution. It was effective from 26 January 1950. Indian citizens and politicians vouch by the Indian Constitution....



The Constitution of India or Bhāratīya Saṃvidhān as it known in Hindi is the supreme law in India. A Constitution is a set of rules and regulations guiding the administration of a country. The Constitution of India is the supreme law of India. The document lays down the framework demarcating fundamental political code, structure, procedures, powers, and duties of government institutions and sets out fundamental rights, directive principles, and the duties of citizens.

It was adopted by the Constituent Assembly of India on 26 November 1949 and became effective on 26 January 1950. The constitution replaced the Government of India Act, 1935 as the country's fundamental governing document, and the Dominion of India became the Republic of India. To ensure constitutional autochthony, its framers repealed prior acts of the British parliament in Article 395. India celebrates its constitution on 26 January as Republic Day.

Constituent Assembly of India meeting
 in 1950
The constitution declares India a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic, assuring its citizens justice, equality and liberty, and endeavors to promote fraternity. The original 1950 constitution is preserved at the Parliament House in New Delhi. The words "secular" and "socialist" were added to the preamble in 1976 during the emergency.

The constitution was drawn from a number of sources. Mindful of India's needs and conditions, its framers borrowed features of previous legislation such as the Government of India Act 1858, the Indian Councils Acts of 1861, 1892 and 1909, the Government of India Acts of 1919 and 1935, and the Indian Independence Act 1947. The latter, led to the creation of India and Pakistan, divided the former Constituent Assembly in two. Each new assembly had sovereign power to draft and enact a new constitution for the separate states.

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B. R. Ambedkar, Sanjay Phakey, Jawaharlal Nehru, C Rajagopalachari, Rajendra Prasad, Vallabhbhai Patel, Kanaiyalal Maneklal Munshi, Ganesh Vasudev Mavalankar, Sandipkumar Patel, Abdul Kalam AzadAbul Kalam, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Nalini Ranjan Ghosh and Balwantrai Mehta were key figures in the assembly, which had over 30 representatives of the scheduled classes. Frank Anthony represented the Anglo-Indian community, and the Parsis were represented by H. P. Modi. Harendra Coomar Mookerjeee, a Christian assembly vice-president, chaired the minorities committee and represented non-Anglo-Indian Christians. Ari Bahadur Gurung represented the Gorkha community. Judges, such as Alladi Krishnaswamy Iyer, Benegal Narsing Rau, K. M. Munshi and Ganesh Mavlankar were members of the assembly. Female members included Sarojini Naidu, Hansa Mehta, Durgabai Deshmukh, Amrit Kaur and Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit.

Jawaharlal Nehru signing the
constitution
The first, two-day president of the assembly was Sachchidananda Sinha; Rajendra Prasad was later elected president. It met for the first time on 9 December 1946.

26 November is commemorated as the National Constitution Day. The Indian Constitution was drafted by the Constituent Assembly having 284 members, with BR Ambedkar, Chairman of the drafting committee. And he was considered as the chief architect of the constitution. It’s considered to be the most complete constitution. It was effective from 26 January 1950. Indian citizens and politicians vouch by the Indian Constitution.

Interesting facts about the Indian Constitution:
*The longest constitution in the world – The Indian Constitution is the longest of any sovereign country in the world. At the time of its commencement, it had 395 articles in 22 parts and 8 schedules.

Constituent Assembly- Dr BR Ambedkar
Chairman of Drafting Committee
presenting the final draft of Constitution

*Handwritten by Prem Behari Narain Raizada – The original Constitution of India was handwritten by Prem Behari Narain Raizada in flowing italic style with beautiful calligraphy. Each page was beautified and decorated by artists from Shantiniketan.
*200 amendments later – The Constituent Assembly, which first met on Dec 9, 1946, took precisely two years, 11 months and 18 days to come up with a final draft. When the first draft was prepared and put for debate and discussion; over 2000 amendments were made before it was finalized.
*Safely stored away – The original copies of the Indian Constitution, written in both Hindi and English, are kept in special helium-filled cases in the Library of the Parliament of India.
*Known as ‘A Bag of Borrowings’ – The Indian Constitution has drawn from constitutions of various nations around the world such as France, the USSR, Germany and more. For this reason, our constitution is often known as a bag of borrowings.


The Indian constitution is the world’s longest for a sovereign nation. At its enactment, it had 395 articles in 22 parts and 8 schedules. At about 145,000 words, it is the second-longest active constitution – after the Constitution of Alabama – in the world.
The constitution has a preamble and 448 articles, which are grouped into 25 parts. With 12 schedules and five appendices, it has been amended 103 times.







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Strange New Year Traditions

*In India and other places a giant old man made of hay, etc and dressed in old shirt and pant is burnt at the stroke of midnight, signifying the end of the old year and the beginning of the New Year.
*In Bolivia, Venezuela, men wear new underpants on New Year’s eve – red underpants for love and yellow for money.
*Spaniards eat 12 grapes at midnight; each grape symbolizing one month of year.
*The Filipinos wear polka dots and arrange round fruits on the dinner table. Polka and all things round signify coins, hence prosperity.
*In Scotland, the townsmen walk around with giant fireballs hoisted on long poles (resembling the sun) to purify the coming year.
* The Danes break glass dishes on the doors of neighbours and friends.
*Estonians eat seven times on the first day of the year to ensure abundant food throughout the year.
*Unmarried Irish girls place mistletoe leaves under the pillow to catch a good husband.


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Chittorgarh Fort, Rajasthan
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Bharata, My Brother
by Anil Kumar Naik

- Foreword by Shri Asaranna Swami,
Durga Parmeshwari temple, Kateel, Karnataka.

Price: Rs 200 + P&F Rs 50

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Saturday, 2 November 2019

Hyperloop – futuristic travel!






 In December 2017, Hyperloop One’s pod reached a top speed of over 38 Kmph on its test track in the Nevada desert, north of Las Vegas. The targeted speed is 1,223 Kmph. Propulsion is required for only 5 percent of the track. Once the top speed is reached, a pod can glide for 100 miles without the application of any energy.

It can go to a maximum speed of approx 1000 Kmph. It’s about approximately twice faster than the bullet train and about ten times faster than the traditional rail. A real game-changer is mass transportation. A futuristic travel mode!


The hyperloop train in its current version was conceptualized by billionaire inventor Elon Musk, who publicized it in 2012, open-sourced it and encouraged others to take the ideas and develop them. Hyperloop One, is now called Virgin Hyperloop One. Hyperloop One’s first-generation pod combines a carbon fibre shell around a custom-built levitating chasis. The aeroshell is made of carbon fibre panels. The material is much lighter and stronger than steel. The levitating chasis is made of aluminum and houses the propulsion system and magnets for levitation and guidance. Its design is similar to a Formula 1 car. It is built like a shell to be lightweight but strong.

It is not operational anywhere in the world as yet but feasibility studies are underway. Hyperloop is conceptualized to operate in vacuum or low pressure tunnels on columns or underground. At 1000 kmph, it is likely to be the fastest mass transportation system in the world. It is designed to consume relatively less energy, thus making it cheaper and environment friendly.

Plans are underway to connect Mumbai with Pune through Hyperloop. The estimated cost of the route is around Rs 20,000 crore, which officials say works out cheaper than other forms of high-speed on-ground travel. The system will have a capacity of 150 million passengers per year, saving more than 90 million hours of travel.

Can high-speed, energy-efficient travel improve the quality of living in Indian cities? A Mumbai-Pune hyperloop of 140 Km is planned and likely to be operational by 2024. This will reduce the time taken to cover the distance between the two cities from three hours to just 25-30 minutes. Such a system may soon become a reality, as announced at Mumbai at the investment summit Magnetic Maharastra held some months ago. Besides, a US-based company has also proposed to evaluate construction of five Hyperloop lines in India – Bangalore to Chennai, Mumbai to Chennai via Bangalore, Bangalore to Thiruvanthapuram, Mumbai to Delhi and Mumbai to Kolkata. Feasibility studies are also proposed in Andhra Pradesh, connecting the new state capital Amravati to Vijaywada and Vishakhapatanam.

Imagine hopping on to a car shaped pod in Mumbai and being zipped away inside a 140-Km long vacuum tube and reaching Pune in 25 minutes. For the harried citizen facing traffic jams and crowded roads, this would be a boon. This may push the convectional mode of transport to just old memories.

The magical concept that can transport people and goods in pod like vehicles propelled through vacuum tubes with magnetic levitation, Hyperloop will be magical and exciting energy-efficient and emission-free high speed high speed travel. Hyperloop is a futuristic idea and if implemented, change the way we travel. However, the initial capital cost and investment is likely to be very high, with long term gains in energy and operational costs.

According to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Maharastra government, Prithvi Sankar, Business Development head, Hyperloop India; hopes to complete a ten Km long test track on the Mumbai-Pune route within two years, to assess the feasibility of this technology in India.

R Branson, Chairman of Virgin Hyperloop One (VHO), said his company had signed an intent agreement with the state government to develop a hyperloop route between Pune Central, the proposed Navi Mumbai International Airport and Mumbai, beginning with an operational demonstration track. He said that the near supersonic mode of on-ground passenger travel could cut travel time considerably. The hyperloop mode uses technology in which a vehicle in a special tunnel floats above the track, using magnetic levitation, at a top speed over 1000 Kmph.

With Hyperloop test tracks and trial runs being undertaken all over the world from the US to South Korea and UAE to Slovakia, many experts believe that India could be among the early adopters of this technology.

However in a country like India, as in most infrastructure and development projects, land acquisition is a major challenge, followed by the large cost factor. If these hurdles are overcome with proper compensation to land owners and allocation of funds for this new project, it will be a game-changer in long distance mass transportation.



Rama & Thailand ?

You must be aware, centuries ago, the influence of Hinduism and Buddhism spread to Far East and South East Asian countries like Cambodia (earlier known as Kambhoj), Thailand, Indonesia, etc. Did you know that in Bangkok, has a Sri Ayodhya road and Rama-I road. There are more such interesting facts.

Bangkok itself was established as the capital of Thailand by King Rama –I, the founder of the Chakri dynasty. It is evident from the history of Thailand that many generations of Thai Kings have identified themselves with Rama, who was regarded as an ideal ruler. And therefore, successive kings of the dynasty, have continued to hold the title of Rama with their names. The present king, His Majesty Bhumi Pol Adulyadej, is called King Rama –IX.

Alongwith Buddhism, the Hindu epic of Ramayana (known as Ramakin in Thai version) has excerised powerful influence over the Thai people. There is another Ayodhaya situated about 90 km north of Bangkok. Now lying in ruins, this ancient city, known as Ayutthaya in Thai, was founded as the capital of Thailand in 1350 by King Rama Thibode.


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Picture Post:

Bappanadu Durga Parmeshwari Temple,
 Mulki, Mangalore, Karnataka
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