Daily Archives: 20.07.2014

Visit the Place de la Concorde, Paris



Visit the Place de la Concorde, Paris

Place-de-la-Concorde-Paris

Paris is known for its unique fashion, culture and romantic views. May be that’s the reason it is called the “City of Romance”. It is home to Disneyland which receives 15 million visitors each year and who can forget its landmark, the Eiffel Tower, a structure that was the world’s tallest building until 1930. There is a place of great heritage, a reforming place for all sorts of street artists and a place for taking pictures with the Eiffel Tower on the horizon. Yes, you guessed it right. Place de la Concorde, located between the Tuileries and the Champs-Elysees, is the largest square in Paris covering area of 84,000 square metres. The biggest attraction here are two fountains called ‘La Fontaine des Mers’ and ‘Elevation of the Maritime’ and visitors keep photographing them over and over again.

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In 1792, During the French revolution, the statue of King Louis XV was replaced by another large statue called ‘Liberte’ which means freedom and the square called Place de la Revolution. A guillotine was installed at the center of the square and in a time span of only a couple of years, 1119 people were beheaded here. Amongst them were many famous people like King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and revolutionary Robespierre. After the revolution, the square was renamed several times until 1830, when it was given its current name, ‘Place de la Concorde’.

How to get here?

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Place de la Concorde has its own metro station. You can catch metro lines 1,8 or 12 to station Concorde. You also have option to walk up from the Louvre and the Tulleries Gardens or down from the Champs-Elysees.

The Attractions

The Luxor Obelisk

Clouds floating behind the Obelisk of Luxor

The Luxor Obelisk is the oldest piece of art in Paris. It is over 3000 years old. It weighs 230 tons and standing 22.83 metres high in the center of the place. It is made of red granite and it has hieroglyphics from the Egyptians that depicts the rule of Ramses II and Ramses III. It simply means that Luxor Obelisk is  an important monument for the world, not just Paris. The Khedive of Egypt, Muhammad Ali Pasha gifted two obelisks that stood at the entrance of the Luxor temple in France in 1829. The first of the two obelisks departed from Alexandria in 1833 and in 1836 King Louis Philippe had it placed in the center of the Place de la Concorde.

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There is a pyramidion placed on the head of Obelisk. The pyramidion is made of bronze and gold leaf and is three metres high. Since 1937, the Luxor Obelisk is classified as a historic monument and the pyramidion was placed under the presidency of Jacques Chirac as a part of the celebration to mark Franco Egyptian relations.  However, the Place de la Concorde has a lot more to see than just the obelisk.

The Fountains

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The two fountains in the Place de la Concorde have been the most famous of the fountains built during the time of Louis-Philippe and came to symbolize the fountains in Paris. They were designed by Jacques-Igance Hittorff, a student of the neoclassical designer Charles Percier at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. The German born Hittorff had served as the official Architect of Festivals and Ceremonies for the deposed king and had spent two years studying the architecture and fountains of Italy.

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‘La Fontaine des Mers’ Fountain is dedicated to the rivers Rhone and Rhine, with a nod towards industry and agriculture while ‘Elevation of the Maritime’ Fountain was built with the seas in mind – the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.  Both fountains display the same structure of a stone basin with two tiered circular Vasquez that support various figures, such as fish or allegorical statues, with spout water out to the basin below.

La Grande Roue

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The La Grande Roue de Paris is a 60 meter high Ferris wheel that entertains both adults and kids. It was erected in Place de la Concorde in 1999 and opened for public operations in December of that year. Very nicely lighted in bleu shades like all the Champs-Elysees, the Grande Roue is a magical place to take the kids and enjoy a different perspective on the City of Romance.

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It was built for the millennium celebrations and was supposed to stay at the Place de la Concorde for only one year. The owner Marcel Campion refused a judge’s order to have the wheel taken down and the wheel was dismantled only in 2002. It again came back to Paris in 2007 and is supposed to illuminate the Place de la Concorde and Tuileries for the end of the year festivities every year. It is opened everyday from 11 am to 12 pm and costs just $14 for adults and $7 for children.

Tuileries Garden

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Tuileries Garden is one of Paris’s most visited gardens because of its central location between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde. It is one of those parks where you can grab a chair for free and sit wherever you like. It also features several fountains, two large basins, numerous sculptures and two museums, the ‘Galerie Nationale du Jey de Paume’ and the ‘Musee de I’Orangerie’, which displays Claude Monet’s large water lily paintings.

There are many other attractions in Paris but if you don’t have a very tight schedule then you got to stop and Place de la Concorde as it is beautiful and historically significant.

Brihadeeswarar Temple, Thanjavur (Tanjore)



Brihadeeswarar Temple, Thanjavur (Tanjore)

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A stupendous work done during the Chola dynasty, a thousand years ago, the Brihadeeswarar temple in Thanjavur district (formerly known as Tanjore) is a masterpiece of architecture. Located in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu, this temple finds its place in the World Heritage sites declared by UNESCO. The temple is also known as Peruvudaiyar Kovil and Rajarajeswaram temple. The sculpted brilliance depicted through its architecture, sculptures, paintings and its hugeness, was a tribute given to Lord Shiva by the then king Rajaraja Chola I (Arulmozhivarman). A symbol of his power and his relationship to the universal order, this temple was the prime location for all the worships during his rule. The entire monument is made out of granite and is a 66m tall structure which soars into the sky. A one of its kind temple, and considered as the temple of the temples, Brihadeeswarar temple is the largest temple in south India.

Temple Complex

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Protected by the high walls of more than 15m height, the main temple is located at the center of this rectangular boundary. These boundaries also house the Nandi, a pillared hall, an assembly hall and a number of sub shrines. A rectangle formed by two squares constitutes the area of the main temple. The main tower which represents mount Meru, is built on the rare side of the rectangle and has 16 tiers. The Kumbam (kalash; the tip of the temple) mounts the gopuram (the pyramidal structure on top), which has been made from a single piece of granite rock and has been carved magnificently. The Karuvarai (innermost sanctum or garbhagriha) shelters the lingam which is 3.7m tall. This entire structure has been placed on a plinth. At the end of the main rectangle, there is a porch which is supported by 20 pillars and has three stair cases that lead the visitors downstairs to the huge Nandi statue. The walls of the inner sanctum display the 108 karmas that are dance poses by Lord Shiva himself and have been delicately yet precisely sculpted throughout.  The exterior walls of this temple also show evidence of the mesmerizing skills of the sculptors and the painters as well as the architects of that era.

Beauty and Beliefs

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It is believed that the king, Rajaraja had thought about this architectural marvel when he was in Sri Lanka. With the view of establishing his universal rule and to show his people the power he possessed, the temple was constructed to these heights for the portrayal of the same. Built in a single granitic stone, the entire Gopuram; weighing more than 80 tons was pushed by elephants on a mud slope that started a few kilometers away from the actual site. It was then placed in position. The prime deity being Lord Shiva, it is one of the temples which have the deities of all directions (also known as Ashta-dikpaalakas or Guardians of direction) in one temple. Situated in the respective corners of the temple, there were idols of the Gods of all eight directions. As of now only four remain intact (Agni, Varun, Vayu, Isaanya). It is also believed that the temple has been so constructed, that the shadow of the gopuram never falls on the ground; at least not in the entire premises of the temple.

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Another fascinating thing about this temple is the inscriptions on the temple walls. Written in ancient Tamil, these narrate the passion of the king who built the temple. Also, the astounding paintings or murals are a beauty in itself. With different colors and figurines, the murals showcase the heroic deeds of Lord Shiva when he killed the demons. The murals portray even the demonic women as beautiful, which is really spectacular. The other tales portrayed by the frescoes are the journey of Saint Sundarar and Chera king to heaven and the battle scenes from the war of Tripantaka between Lord Shiva and the Asuras (demons). Unfortunately, due to the continuous exposure to smoke from lamps, these majestic artworks have been damaged to a large extent. The soot has deposited on the murals covering them up in black color. The archaeological Survey of India has tried to replace them with the 400 year old paintings given by the Tanjore Nayak, and are exhibited in a different hall.

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Apart from the sacred sanctorum, the temple also has a shrine with a picture of Ganpathi (Lord Shiva’s son) in it. On the left side of the main temple is a 6m wide statue of the Nandi (Lord Shiva’s vehicle, a bull). Built in a single stone, even this is one of the sculpted beauties, with the artistic delicateness that has been portrayed through the minute details sculpted precisely.

Marking its 1000 year completion in the year 2010, the Government had organized Millennium celebrations and now the temple also finds its place on the stamps and coins released in the same year. A two day fest in September had converted the city into a festival hub, where people could experience the greatness of the temple. As a part of celebration, the temple also hosted the Bharatnatyam Yajna.

The existence of this temple even after 1000 years, in itself is a wonder. Open from 6.00am to 8.30pm the temple is crowded throughout. But if you really want to experience what greatness is, then the wait is worth it. The temple in true sense leaves your eyes wide open and your heart astounded.

Get Clicked with the Best: Madame Tussaud’s, London



Get Clicked with the Best: Madame Tussaud’s, London

From meeting your favourite celebrities, to world leaders; from the royals of United Kingdom to the world famous sports persons that you love, you can meet them all right here in the very heart of London, at Madame Tussaud’s wax museum. Known for its beautiful wax sculptures of famous personalities, the museum has rapidly become a popular tourist attraction in London.

Set up in 1884 by wax sculptor MarieTussaud, this delightful museum in London was the first Madame Tussaud’s museum to ever be built. Since then it has opened several branches worldwide in cities such as Amsterdam, Hong Kong, New York, Shanghai, Washington DC, Bangkok, Berlin, Hollywood and Las Vegas. These intricately made life-like wax statues provide wonderful photo opportunities for tourists. You can come here and get a photograph with the most famous celebrities, sports persons, political leaders and more. You can also enjoy the other attractions such as the Spirit of London ride and the Chamber of Horrors zone. So come prepared to be wowed and amazed by this museum.

Party

The Party Zone

In this Party zone you are the VIP guest invited to stand on the red carpet alongside Hollywood’s elite actors and actresses. You could stand alongside A-listers like Kate Winslet, and Collin Firth or hang out with the Hollywood’s hottest men like Brad Pitt, Leonardo Dicaprio and Taylor Lautner. So come along and meet these stars and get pictures that could be cherished for a lifetime.

Bollywood

The Bollywood Zone

Being the largest film industry today, Madam Tussaud’s Wax Museum honours the top most Bollywood icons such as Madhuri Dixit, Amitabh Bachan, Hrithik Roshan, Aishwarya Rai Bachan and Shah Rukh Khan. These extremely well made wax statues will amaze you with their lifelike qualities! Take pictures with these Bollywood divas and share them with your friends and family.

Film

The Film Zone

In this zone you can meet all of Bollywood and Hollywood’s greatest stars. From Marilyn Monroe to Charlie Chaplin and from Shrek and Tinkerbell to Indiana Jones! You can meet them all and make sure you take plenty of pictures here. These wonderful wax figurines and statues will surely leave you in awe.

Sports

The Sports Zone

If you are into sports and want to get photographed with your favourite sports idols, then this is the place to be! Come and get clicked with leading sportsmen like David Beckham and Sachin Tendulkar. This interactive and fast-paced zone will enthral you as you compete with your favourite sportsmen.

Royals

The Royals Zone

In this zone, show off your elegance and poise right alongside the royal people of the UK. Past and Present Kings and Queens await your presence here! Hurry and get clicked with the Royal family, the charming Prince Harry and Prince William as well as the lovely Princess Diana. Surely you wouldn’t want to miss the chance of meeting them when you come to London. You can also be photographed with the late Henry VIII, and Queen Elizabeth the first amongst many other past Kings.

Culture

The Culture Zone

In the Culture zone you could meet with the brilliant Albert Einstein or get photographed with Shakespeare, the king of literature. You can get photographed with Picasso as you compare your creativity, or with Charles Dickens as you talk about your favourite books. The extremely lifelike wax statues of some of mankind’s most wonderful people should definitely be on your photo list!

Music

The Music Megastars Zone

This is the place where you can run into the best of the best, and the most popular and iconized musicians of all times. Whether it is Elvis and Beatles who were the favourites of the older generations or young Justin Timberlake and Beyonce who rule the pop world today, there Is a statue for every music lover out there.

Scream

The Scream and the Chamber of Horrors

Of course, what museum full of wax statues of people is complete without a horror chamber. Over here, you must get ready to either scream your lungs out or be brave and make your way through a prison that holds unhinged inmates who want nothing more than to penetrate your nightmares and make a place for themselves there. So grab the closest hand to you and begin this journey at Scream, nestled deep within the Chamber of Horrors.

Spirit of London

The Spirit of London

The infamous black cabs of London are waiting for you here, so hop on with your partner and enjoy the historical evolution of this capital city from your cab. This black cab will take you through the different historical periods of this beautiful city. You will travel through the Tudor ages in London to the Victorian era and finally to the modern day London that we all know and love.

Superheroes

The Marvel Super Heroes Zone

The startlingly wonderful wax statues bring these superheroes to life! Take pictures with the best of the best. After that enjoy a classic 4D movie experience with the Marvel Superheroes! Equipped with powerful effects of water, wind and tremors, this experience will make you feel like a part of the movie. In this 360 degrees theatre you can get together with the Hulk, Spiderman, Iron Man and Wolverine and fight against the villainous bad guys right here in London.

Prayers are Answered: Haji Ali Dargah, Mumbai, India



Prayers are Answered: Haji Ali Dargah, Mumbai, India

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Haji Ali Dargah is a mosque located in the Southern part of Mumbai. It is one of the most famous religious places in Mumbai. It is also one of the most popular and prestigious landmark of India. It is situated in the middle of the Arabian Sea and is about 500 yards away from the Mumbai shoreline. It floats like a sacred mirage off the coast in Mumbai and contains the tomb of the Muslim Saint Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari. There is a Masjid too at Haji Ali along with the tomb of the Saint. A long cause way is built in order to reach the Dargah. It is also an example of the beautiful Indo Islamic Architecture. This structure was initially built on a set of high rising rocks and in the early 19th century after the trust was legally formed as an entity in 1916 it was given its present day shape.

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HISTORY

The Haji Ali Dargah was built in the year 1431 in the memory of Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari who before making his pilgrimage to Mecca gave up all his worldly possessions. He travelled the world in the early 15th century and then settled in the present day Mumbai.

According to the myths about his life it is said that once he saw a poor woman on the road crying and holding an empty vessel. When he asked her as to why she was crying, she replied that she accidentally spilled the oil from the vessel and her husband would beat her up if she went home with that empty vessel. So the saint asked her take him to the place where she had spilled that oil. Upon reaching there, he jabbed a finger into the soil and the oil came out. The woman overjoyed with that filled her vessel and went back home.

Later, the saint kept getting the same disturbing dream where he had injured the Earth by his act. Full of sorrow by that thought, he soon fell ill and told his followers to cast his coffin carrying his body into the Arabian Sea instead of burying it somewhere when he was dead. His followers followed his instructions and left his body into the sea. The coffin carrying his body floated back to the shores and was stuck in the string of rocks. And thus, the Dargah was constructed at that very spot.

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ARCHITECTURE

The Haji Ali Dargah is a blend of the Mughal and Indo Islamic architecture. It is built using the same marble ‘Makrana’, which Shah Jahan had used to build the Taj Mahal. The Haji Ali Dargah occupies 4500 sq meters of space and it is 85 feet tall in height. While entering the Dargah complex the very first thing that you will notice is the marble courtyard with the central shrine and the mosque which is decorated using the red and green sheets. The artistic marble pillars and the mirror work in kaleidoscopic patterns makes the mosque very attractive and a beautiful sight to witness. On the mirrors of different colours there are ninety nine names of Allah inscribed on it in Arabic. The Dargah has typical white domes and minarets. But as the Dargah is very old it has started corroding at various places due to the saline winds so the Dargah trust is trying to rebuild the structure at various places that are corroded.

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WORSHIP AND MUSIC

The Dargah can be visited only during the time of low tide. During high tides the water covers the cause way that is built for people to reach the Dargah making it impossible to visit it. According to the Muslim tradition, Haji Ali Dargah has two praying rooms one for ladies and another for men. Once inside some visitors frequently kiss the dressings of the tomb. The Dargah is a famous pilgrimage site for Muslims. However, Non Muslims are allowed to visit too. Thousands of people come here every day and visit the Dargah. People of all caste, creed and religion visit this place in order to gain the blessings of Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari and for the fulfilment of their wishes. Some pray for health while some for wealth, children, etc and all have their wishes being granted here.

The number of visitors increases on Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Lakhs of people visit the Dargah on the second day of Ramzan Eid and Bakri Eid making the pathway appear like a sea of humanity. Sometimes, especially on Friday’s special Sufi musicians come to the Dargah in order to sing and perform. They sing devotional music called Qawalli here at the Dargah. On certain important events like the death anniversary of Peer Haji Ali and the birth anniversary of Prophet Mohammed the food is distributed amongst the visitors, devotees and Fakirs.

Entrance

Apart from visiting the Dargah and seeking the blessings you can also enjoy the local stalls outside the complex on the pathway which will give you a chance to indulge in some delicious local specialities such as Mughlai Biryani, Kebabs, Hyderabadi fast food and chat. Thus Haji Ali Dargah is one of the most visited and most popular attractions in Mumbai.