Liebster Award

liebster-award

Thanks to Sangeeta for this surprise nomination. I am humbled and overwhelmed. We all love appreciation and I am no different and hence it feels good to receive such an award. Although I have been blogging for a few years now, I had taken a sabbatical and practically discontinued blogging. It has been fun to revive blogging again and bring to everyone my travels.

I am a born vagabond at heart and love to travel. My passion has taken me around some of the most beautiful places in the world and made me a  wiser soul. I have tried to embrace and educate myself with an open mind all that I have experienced. It has helped me to learn and respect the people and  cultures that I have encountered along the way. I am still in the quest of meeting new people and understanding newer cultures and traditions with a keen eye on Geography and History of the places that I travel to.

Here are the simpler rules set by Sangeeta for the Liebster Award: (Note that the award has gone through various permutations over the years.)

  • Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog.
  • Link back to the blogger who awarded you.
  • Copy & paste the blog award on your blog.
  • Let them know you chose them by posting on their blog.

This year’s rules add several items:

  • Tell 11 things about yourself.
  • Answer 11 questions that your tagger has asked.
  • Choose 11 people and link them in your post.
  • Ask 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate.

I will refrain from asking any questions to my nominees and will leave it for them to describe themselves as they deem best.

My Nominees are

  1. Bern of http://ryanphotography.co.uk/
  2. Magdalene of http://lifebydmagdalene.wordpress.com/
  3. Denis of http://denisdanzephotographe.wordpress.com/le-photographe/biographie/
  4. Margie of http://gogreygirl.wordpress.com/
  5. Chris of http://chrisbreebaart.wordpress.com/
  6. Ana and Filip of http://2worldtrippers.wordpress.com/
  7. The Vibe of http://thevibe101.wordpress.com/
  8. Anil of http://exxtracts.wordpress.com/
  9. Linda of http://anaturemom.com/
  10. Michael of http://retireediary.wordpress.com/
  11. Bams of http://photobams.wordpress.com/

I have enjoyed following these blogs and hope they all continue to add more beautiful words and photographs to their blogs.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Nostalgic

This was the last snowfall that we experienced in Milton Keynes, UK. Although I do not miss the weather of UK, the snow makes me nostalgic and transports me to the few years that we spent there.

The first snowfall of the season and then the surroundings transforming itself into a pristine and pure alpine landscape is a beautiful experience. Snow also brought a lot of fun and laughter with the snowman and snow fights. Short walks into the neighbourhood and then the toughest job of all, cleaning and shoveling the snow. The slippery drive to a friend’s place for a steaming cup of coffee and hot ‘bhajjis’ was the best of all. Snow makes me nostalgic for sure.

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Dholavira: Tryst with History

Enroute to Dholavira from Dasada in the Kutch region of Gujarat, we encountered a dry and arid landscape, showing signs of desert vegetation. Dholavira is situated on a ‘Bhet’ which is a high ground that remains dry when the neighbouring landscape is submerged by seawater. It is an island and to reach Dholavira we crossed a causeway. Since it was winter, the water had receded leaving behind a huge pristine salt flat which glistened in the sun as a sparkle of a thousand diamonds. Exhausted from a long drive from Dasada, this sudden revelation of the salt flat extending into the horizon filled us with renewed enthusiasm and like children we clambered down onto the salty ground to gather our handful of salt. The beauty of the unending salt was broken in parts with shallow standing water which was filled with a huge squadron of pelicans. These birds trouped together in the water just like a floating island and as we were admiring them, they decided to fly grazing the water and move to a different part to form another floating island again. For us it was a lesson of harmony and brotherhood.

Leaving the causeway, we entered into the ‘Khadir bhet’ and couple of kms of dusty road later, we finally descended upon the area where a 5000yr old history had been recently discovered. Dating back to the 3rd millennium BC and covering an area of 100acres, this ancient fortified Indus Valley city is shaped as a parallelogram and is surrounded by two monsoon channels of Manhar and Mansar. The excavations in Dholavira revealed the most important city of the Harappa Civilization in India. With afternoon temperatures soaring and the sun beating on us, we explored this ancient town in awe. The brick and stone structures told us a story of urban planning which is mind-boggling. This town consisted of a Citadel, a Middle Town and a Lower Town. There are clear indications of two ‘stadia’ and a series of reservoirs connected with an intricate system of drainage. A signboard has been discovered with 10 letters and is regarded as the oldest signboard in the world but is yet to be deciphered. As we scaled up the Citadel to inspect its plans, we came upon a view to behold. Standing at that height, the Great Rann of Kutch was visible as a white blanket as far as the eyes could see and we could only imagine our ancestors standing atop this hillock to admire their surroundings. For a good 2hrs we were lost in the discovery of this ancient town. Each turn we took fascinated us and told us a story in urban planning that was far ahead of its time. The most important lesson we learnt was that of water management. If only we applied such storm water and rain water harvesting and preservation techniques, we would not face water scarcity in today’s urban settlements.

Meandering through the ruins, we ended up at the exhibition centre where a lot of the excavated materials have been preserved and displayed. A graduated scale, a number of seals, beads of semi-precious stones, gold and terracotta, terracotta figurines and some vessels and pottery constituted the display. Dholavira gives us a record of a city from its birth to maturity to its decay in about 7 stages. After its decay, it has never been inhabited again. It also tells us a story of different ethnic and tribal communities living in harmony and following their own practices.

These excavations here have answered more questions on the mysterious people of the Indus Valley Civilization than ever before and yet many more questions remain shrouded in the depths of this grand civilization. We finally left Dholavira with much admiration for our forefathers who were masters in urban planning.

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Vigeland’s Sculptures in Frogner Park, Oslo

Gustav Vigeland, the master Norwegian sculpture artist created sculptures from blocks of granite and metal and we encountered some of his masterpieces in Oslo’s Frogner Manor and Park. His breathtaking creations follow life and its cycle in the most simple yet intriguing manner. The simple depiction of emotions in the sculpted faces are as diverse as the rainbow and the enormity of the figures forced us to reflect on our own existence in the universe.

I was most amazed with the numerous depictions of father and son and children. The family which is the building block of all society seemed to be what Gustav Vigeland was most influenced by. His portrayal of the raw emotions between man woman and child is amazing and heart touching.

The highlight of the park is the Monolith and the figures of the Monolith are all intertwined with each other in the most amazing way reaching towards the sky and is thought to depict man’s ultimate desire to be one with the Supreme Being.

The Fountain—In the center of the basin, six giants hold the large saucer-shaped vessel aloft and from it a curtain of water spills down around them. The figures of the fountain are said to depict the cycle of life — from death (plants and trees) to the birth of new life.

The granite structures were amazing—36 groups in granite depicts the Wheel of Life and we loved every one of the figures that we encountered. This group of sculptures depict man’s journey from the cradle to the grave.

This is the world’s largest sculpture park to be designed by a single artist and was the highlight of our visit to Oslo. Without doubt it is the most important tourist attraction here. Gustav is also famed for designing the Nobel Peace Prize Medal.  Born is 1869, Gustav Vigeland hold a very special place among the Norwegian sculptors for his creative imagination and his enormous capability to produce some of the most stunning sculptures ever.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Curves

These curves created in the 14th Century AD by Sultan Ahmed Shah I was built in the center of the then newly built town of Ahmedabad where people gathered for their religious prayers and social milieu. Called the Jami Masjid, it stands today within the walled old town of Ahmendabad. Some scholars consider this mosque as the most imposing and magnificent mosque of the East.

Built with yellow sandstone, this mosque is designed in the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture and has 15 domes supported by 260 pillars. The roof of the central domes are curved like lotus flowers influenced by the Jain temple architecture. Influenced by Hindu temple architecture, some of its pillars are curved like hanging bells showing perfect harmony of religions in those times. In the center of the courtyard stand a tank of religious ablutions.

Originally intended for the usage of the Sultan and his royal family, this curved wonder became the pride of all people and is still today used for religious prayers. Jami Masjid today is visited by many from within the country and abroad and appreciated for its smooth and flowing curves.

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A Queen among Stepwells—Rani-ki-Vav

A couple of stepwells visited, including Adalaj near Ahmedabad, India, and we thought what could be more beautiful than that. How can Rani-Ki-Vav be any more impressive to be on the tentative list of the UNESCO World Heritage Site? As we drove to Patan to visit Rani-Ki-Vav with the scorching sun upon us, we had our apprehensions. Doubts gained more ground as we crossed the well-manicured lawns of the site. The green grass tempted  us to stop and enjoy the beauty of the lawns under the shades of the trees. But we trudged on to where people seemed to be gathering. As we approached and laid our eyes on the structure, we missed our heartbeats to the breath-taking beauty of what lay in front of us. It was almost magical and we seemed to have arrived to witness historical architecture at its best. The magnificence of this structure left us spellbound.

The Kutch region is dotted with these stepwells mostly built in the 11th and 12th century. Built as places for social gatherings and rest areas for the weary travellers, these step wells also had religious and spiritual significance as water was highly regarded by the people. It was also a place for cultural mingling and ‘melas’.

A step well is different from a regular well in that it is usually covered with well-ventilated terraces and pavilions. Rani-ki-vav is no different. This step well was built by Rani Udayamati in memory of her husband King Bhimdev I of the Solanki dynasty who ruled from Patan, then the capital of Gujarat. It was commissioned in 1063. The vav or well was silted under the floods of the River Saraswati and it was discovered only in the 1960s again. Around the late 1980s it was excavated by the Archaeological Survey of India and most of its intricate carvings have been found in perfect conditions.

Rani-ki-vav originally consisted of 7 stories and they were built with 4 compartmental multi-storeyed pillared pavilions. Of these only 5 stories have been preserved and unearthed by the Archaeological Survey. The vav measures about 64m long, 20m wide and 27m deep.  The walls, corridors and pillars all depict imposing and elegant sculptures. Of the original 800 only 400 sculptures have survived which is enough to depict the opulence in architecture of the Solanki Dynasty. The 10 incarnations of Vishnu called ‘Dasavataras’ is the central theme of these carvings. A brilliant carving of Sheshashayi-Vishnu, in which Vishnu reclines on the thousand-hooded serpent Shesha, is sure to make your jaws drop. Numerous apsaras, sadhus, gods and goddess all made of stone speaks highly of the Solanki artisans.  There is also a 30kms long tunnel which opens to a small gateway below the last step. This tunnel connects to the nearby town of Siddhpur and was used by the King as an escape route. Today this tunnel is blocked by fallen stones.

The architecture and carvings of Rani-ki-Vav themselves are a testimony to the finest historical specimens. It indeed deserves to be on the tentative list of the World Heritage Sites. As a document from the past, it speaks volumes of the grandeur of the Solanki Architecture. Rani-ki-vav is the Queen among the stepwells in Gujarat.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: The Sign Says

The Earth has been interpreted by man with lines and distances to understand its enormity. The geographical significance of such lines like the Equator or the Tropic of Cancer are enormous and such imaginary lines have been the building blocks of many a studies.

The Prime Meridian passing through Greenwich near London divides the earth into two hemispheres of East and West. Standing over the 0° meridian here, the significance of time and distance measurement dawned upon me and I salute the earliest geographers who delved into measurement, astronomy and geography. If not for them, we would still not have mapped and understood our earth better.

The tip of the continents and landmass has always fascinated us. Standing here at the tip of New Zealand, closest to the continent of Antarctica and overlooking the Southern Ocean, the traveler self in me wanted to explore the icy continent across the ocean.

While travelling in the Kutch region of Gujarat in India, we crossed the Tropic of Cancer twice. It is the line that demarcates the tropical from the temperate zone. Climate and vegetation are diverse between these two geographical areas and they have a profound influence over the people who inhabit them.

The ‘Polarsirkelen’ or the Arctic Circle passes through Norway. While travelling by train from Trondheim to Bodo we crossed over the circle into the Arctic Zone. The train slowed down enough for us to click some pictures but unfortunately we were not allowed to de-board. The Arctic Information Center and the symbolic latitudes and longitudes on the earth can be seen in the above pictures.

There was a significant change in vegetation as we crossed over the Arctic Circle. The taller trees gave way to very small bushes and more of moss and lichen like vegetation. The cloudy cover with a drizzle of rains added to the romanticism of the fact that we had crossed over the Arctic Circle. Our smile say it all for our quest of the Arctic Circle and beyond had been achieved. Our final destination in Norway was Bodo which is nestled in the Arctic Zone and here we experienced a way of life unlike we have ever seen before.

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