Daily Archives: 23.07.2015

Potpourri of Ethnicities and Languages-New York



Potpourri of Ethnicities and Languages-New York

New York is the most populous city in the United States and one of the major commercial and financial centres of the country.  The city has also some of the nation’s most iconic cultural landmarks and institutions.  American author Saul Bellow once said,”I think New York is not the cultural center of America, but the business and administrative center of American culture”.It is also the headquarters of many of the world’s primary international organizations making it an important stop for foreign immigrants.  New York has one of the largest expatriate population in the world which attests to the city’s multi-ethnic culture.

In this article I’ll elucidate on the different things a visitor can do in a day on a trip to the marvellous city.

First, let us take a look into New York City’s political divisions.

The Five Boroughs

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New York consists of five boroughs- Manhattan, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens and Staten Island with Manhattan and The Bronx being situated in the north, Brooklyn and Queens in the south and Staten Island far south west.

Manhattan is said to be the city’s most densely populated borough and is home to most of its cultural establishments. Brooklyn, which is comparatively more residential in nature is located just across the East river that separates the two.

The Bronx is New York’s northern most borough and Queens the eastern most. Queens is the largest county among all the boroughs.

Staten Island is an island borough and New York’s least populated region. It is connected to Manhattan by means of the Staten Island ferry service.

 

New York, a bird’s eye-view

The Empire State Building

How else to start the day than to catch a glimpse of the elaborate city! The Empire State Building located in midtown Manhattan is a 442 metre high skyscraper and one of the first high-rises in the country. Hailed as an architectural wonder, this commercial building is home to thousands of domestic and foreign investors. But visitors will find interest in going to the observatory located on the 86th floor of the building from where one can get a good aerial view of the city.

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The Cultural Ziggurats

If you crave paintings and sculpture, then look no more and visit the Museum of Modern Art located in midtown Manhattan, a place where the past communicates with us through the present. With an astonishing collection of contemporary modern arts, this is a must see for all art enthusiasts.  The American Museum of Natural History is another favoured destination. Said to be one of the most distinguished museums in the world and the quintessence in the display of the history of the ages, this museum has appealed to people of all age groups. It has 42 exhibits inside as of now, showcasing kit and caboodle of history, artifacts and science dating from the prehistoric times to the current day. The new Rose Centre for Earth and Space is a treat for astronomy savants. It’s shaped similar to a glass cube alongside a spherical theatre adorned with miniature universal entities from the ceiling. Besides displaying the history of the universe from an astronomical point of view, it has an ecosystem and models of other celestial bodies to its credit.

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Raring to tap your feet and swing to the mood? The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre is a renowned dance company spearheaded by some of the most eminent dancers.  Their unmatched zeal and the ageless music that accompanies their performance will strike a chord with any dance aficionado. The institute’s collections worldwide are a testament to their rapidly growing popularity.  There are theatrical performances by theatres in Broadway, which is also referred to as the Theatre district. Besides this there are also Off Broadway and Off off Broadway shows which are similar to the Broadway shows but with subsequently smaller theatres. Broadway is a wide street in Manhattan that extends from the Bowling Green park to the Inwood neighbourhood and the Bronx.

Your walk to the Broadway theatre will incidentally take you along the famed Times Square which is a major commercial intersection at the junction. One of the busiest crossroads, the Times Square has been coined as ‘The Crossroads of the World’ and is a celebrated tourist attraction.

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The performances on Broadway are regarded to be unrivalled by many. Each year, the best Broadway shows are handed Tony Awards (the equivalent of the academy awards in the field of theatrical shows) to honour the best performances.

Shop till you drop

New York, also nicknamed ‘The Shopping Capital’ has scores of stores and shopping centres distributed throughout the city. From boutiques and flash retail shops to malls and exclusive showrooms, New York is regarded as one of the best one- stop shopping destination in the world.

Barney’s has been the preferred choice of clothing critiques and buffs alike ever since its inception in the early 20′s .It houses some of the rarest brands in the fashion industry. Bergdorf Goodman has also been frequented by shoppers.  This nine storeyed  goods store is well known for their luxurious offerings and top notch service with items ranging from decorative home collections to designer boutiques put up for sale. They even have a state-of -the-art salon and an all American cuisine restaurant to top it all. Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Uniqlo, Topshop and H&M are some of the other prominent stores to name a few that are essential visits on anyone’s New York City shopping schedule.

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New York boasts of having some of the finest household names for anything be it Hammacher Schlemmer for the tech savvy’s or Book Culture for the book worms both being situated in Manhattan.

From microchips to vintage dresses to hummers, the fact is that no matter what you desire, it’s there somewhere in this city.

 

The Spirit of New York

The game that has had an emotional binding with the country ever since its debut, Baseball is the most popular sport of the United Sates with The Bronx being home to the New York Yankee stadium, the ballpark of the New York Yankees team. The New Yankee Stadium is an ultra-modern ballpark fitted with major amenities and other facilities to enhance the spectator’s experience of the game.  Every year tens of thousands of fans rush to this historic venue to watch some of the best baseball being played by one of the top teams in the world. This place is definitely worth a visit for those who want to know more about the game and the team. Mentioned along with the Yankees are the New York Mets, their cross town rivals from Queens.

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Food for thought

New York being an ethnically diverse city has a variety of exotic cuisine apart from their native one.

The Le Bernedin and the Nomad are some of the culinary delights that must be cited. Noted for their authentic and mesmerizing seafood, a night at Le Bernedin or the Nomad will never leave you with second thoughts. You can also munch on some of the finest native American cuisine at the Eleven Madison Park in Madison Avenue with its collection of award winning wine collections or the Gramercy Tavern near Broadway which has been a favourite pick among the residents over the years.

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The only downside to dining at these places is the price tag that comes along with every meal. But when it’s a once in a lifetime experience, money won’t be a hassle.

Whether its seafood, Mexican, Italian or Asian there are restaurants representing almost every cuisine on the planet in New York City.

A Walk in the park

Ever thought of sitting down to enjoy the beauty of the bustling city in a serene environment? Where else than the famous Central Park! Known to be a great place for a stroll, the 780 acre man-made park with 50 fountains, 36 bridges and 21 playgrounds is a recreational spectacle. But this oasis of peace is not just limited to strollers. Everyday thousands of people visit the park to skate, climb, run, row or engage in various other activities. At times we can also see marriages being held here. The park also has a zoo, a Diary with vintage souvenirs and information materials, a skate rink and a carousel.  The horse-drawn carriage rides gives us an exclusive tour of the park where one can reminisce the forgotten times.  You could also sit for a bit along the mall and have a quiet tête-à-tête.

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They say New York is the ‘city that never sleeps’. There is always something happening, something going on and something to do in this ever so vibrant city. The account given above has only given us a peek to the everyday life in a truly multifarious and flamboyant metropolis.

Majestic hills and Colourful Beaches – Kanyakumari



Majestic hills and Colourful Beaches – Kanyakumari

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The location of India is very exceptional with the fact that this is the only country which has huge sea beaches on one side and high mountains on the other side. India is indeed a very lucky country to have a junction of shores of three large seas – the Indian Ocean, the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. The union of these three seas is a very rare phenomenon which happened to be in India only. This rare phenomenon is witnessed in Kanyakumari. Kanyakumari lies on the southernmost tip of India and is a town in Tamil Nadu. Kanyakumari is sometimes also known by the name Cape Comorin. Today this little town is the most visited place in any religious trips of people. Even the great personalities like Mahatma Gandhi and Swami Vivekananda also visited the town because of its fame and worship places. There are memorials in Kanyakumari which are named after these two personalities. The geography of Kanyakumari is so unique that we can see sunrise and sunset both at the same shore.

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The famous temple of “Goddess Kumari” is the biggest ancient landmark and is the oldest temple in Kanyakumari. It is being said that this Goddess Kumari worshiped Lord Shiva till the end and asked him to accept her as his wife. The story is quite well known. Thus the temple was named after this Goddess Kumari. The British people named this temple as “Cape Comorin” during British Raj because according to them ‘Kumari’ means virgin. The temple is for sure full of Hindu Priests (Pujaris) who does the Prasad offering tradition, the Kumkums and the Poojas. Everyone has to enter the temple with bare toes in order to offer respect to the Devi. The town is always full of lots of tourists and thus the fare charges of the buses and even the auto rickshaws in the town are not high. Thus roaming around the town is less expensive. So a keen tourist can actually stay in the town for long.

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There is always huge crowd gathering in the place named Vivekanandapuram. This place is upheld by the Ramakrishna Mission and is the only peaceful area of Kanyakumari. The beautiful sight of the sunrise and the sunset can be seen from the beaches of Vivekanandapuram. The boarding and housing arrangements are provided in this place. Some other places of Kanyakumari are the Thiruvalluvar Statue, the Vivekananda Rock and the Kanyakumari Devi temple. If you want to visit this temple with less trouble then you should not prefer to visit this temple during the peak months (December and January) when the crowd is very high. One should be aware of the touts in the temple.

The popular “Vivekananda Rock” which is hundred meters away from the shore has two Mandaps: one is for the Swami Vivekananda itself and the other one belong to a Holy Foot. It is believed that this foot print is made of the rock on which the “Goddess Kumari” did her Tapasya (penance) on one leg. Thus a print of her leg was preserved in the memorial of her penance. People are not allowed to click the pictures of the tall statue of Swami Vivekananda which is in the Rock memorial. The probable date of his year of death and the date when the Samadhi was made were mentioned on the bottom portion of the statue. People should be very particular about the entry timings which are from 7:30 am to 4 pm. After 4 pm entry was denied in the temple.

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The Thiruvalluvar Statue in Kanyakumari was named after the Tamil saint, poet, and philosopher Thiruvalluvar. Many rocks were merged together and a huge statue was carved out of the joined rocks, which was then titled the Thiruvalluvar Statue. An epic philosophy was written by the great saint “Thirukkural”. The philosophy contains 133 chapters. Thus, the statue was made 133 feet long to represent these chapters. Tourists were allowed to climb the statue. The architecture of this enlightening piece is worth praising. This piece of work inspires the people to live a honest and principled life. The view from the topmost point of the 133 feet long statue is magnificent.

Even Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation, couldn’t resist the charm and the beauty of the place and visited the place to endure its spectacular beauty. A place called Mahatma Mandapan was named after Gandhiji and is the place where the sangam of the three seas happen. When he died his ashes were kept wrapped in a stone and were placed there. This place is very magical. It is said that the sun rays falls on the stone kept at Mahatma Mandapan on 2nd of October only, which is the birth date of Mahatma Gandhi. The most beautiful church of India is in Kanyakumari. The church is known as Our Lady of Ransom Church. The whole church was architecture in Gothic style. The church is having blemished glass windows and three huge towering pinnacles. The church appears to be off-white and is almost 153 feet high.

Another interesting thing in Kanyakumari is the South Indian food. The visitors have to eat typical South Indian food served on a leaf. The favorite items of Tamil people are dosai, iddlis, vadas, sambhar and they will include coconut in every dish. You will find coconut everywhere in Kanyakumari. The food is very different and still is quite tasty. There are many wholesale and retail shops in Kanyakumari. People can buy a lot of interesting and cheap items from there. The quality of their products is very fine and finished. In short, the whole tour of Kanyakumari is not just about visiting temples but is a lot about the friendly and refreshing environment the place provides.

Buckingham Palace – The Royal Residence



Buckingham Palace – The Royal Residence

Buckingham Palace served as a official residence and  governing centre of Britain’s sovereigns since 1837. This palace is situated in the city of Westminster. The palace is used for both state event and royal hospitality .It served as the venue for many royal ceremonies , state visitors and all are held by royal household. Its rooms are used by the Queen, member of royal family, guests and servants. Buckingham Palace is equipped and decorated with incredible works of art that form part of the Royal Collection, one of the most amazing art collections in the world today. The Palace is used much as a working building and the centre of Britain’s constitutional monarchy. It has the offices of those who involve in day to day activity and duties of The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh and their current family members.Each year from august to Septemberthe state rooms, used for official work and state ceremony, are open to the public as part of the Palace’s Summer Opening.

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Buckingham Palace comprises of 775 rooms. These include 19 State rooms, 240 bedrooms, in which 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices rooms and 78 bathrooms.  The building is 108 metres in length at front, depth is 120 meters (including the central quadrangle) and 24 metres high. The building which form the core of today house was originally build for the  Duke of Buckingham in 1705. The site was a private ownership for more than 150 years, it was occupied by  George III in 1761 as residence for Queen Charlotte and known as the Queens house. In the 19th century the Palace was reconstructed mainly by architects John Nash and Edward Blore ,theybuild another three wing around central core building. Buckingham Palace became the official royal residence  of the British monarch on the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837. The last major additions in Palace structure were made in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the East front, which consist of  the well-known balcony from which the royal family traditionally  greet crowds outside. Once,in World war II  the palace chapel was destroyed by a German bomb, the Queen’s Gallery was built there and opened to the public in 1962 to exhibition of art from the Royal Collection.

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The Main rooms of the palace are contained on the piano nobile behind the west-facing garden façade at the back of the palace. The centre of the state rooms is the Music Room, its large convey the feature of the façade. Border of the Music Room are in Blue and the White Drawing Rooms. At the centre of the suite, there is link to all the state rooms.  The Gallery is full with numerous works including some by Rembrandt,Vermeer and van Dyck, Rubens  , other rooms linked from the Picture Gallery are the Throne Room and the Green Drawing Room. The Green Drawing Room serves as a big corridor to the Throne Room, and serve as the ceremonial route to the throne from the Guard Room at the top of the Grand Staircase. The Guard Room have white marble statues of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, in Roman costume. These rooms are used only for ceremonial and official entertaining, but they are open for the public every summer. Beneath the State apartments there lies a group of slightly less grand rooms called as semi-state apartments.

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These rooms are linked with the Marble room and serve as less formal work and private meetings. Some of these rooms are named and decorated after the visit of some famous person like room no-1844 which was decorated in that year for state visit of Emperor Nicholas I of Russia and Room no-1855 for visit of Emperor  Napoleon III of France .  The blue and red Chinese Luncheon Room is constructed from parts of the Brighton Banqueting and Music Rooms, but its chimney piece was designed by W.M. Feetham. The wallpaper of Yellow Drawing Room  was supplied in 1817 for the Brighton Saloon, and the chimney piece of this room has European concept , consist with designing in the for of dragons, designed by Robert Jones. In this wing a famous balcony stood at the centre, with the Centre Room behind its glass doors. This is a Chinese-style saloon commissioned  by Queen Mary, she work with the designer Sir Charles Allom, created a more “beautiful” Chinese theme in the late 1920s, and the lacquer doors were brought from Brighton in 1873.At each end of gallery  the Chinese Luncheon Room and Yellow Drawing Room are located , with the Centre Room  placed at the centre.

At the back end of the palace there is a large garden with its lake, it is the largest private garden in London. The Queen host her annual garden parties each summer and also some big parties at royal milestone like jubilee. The garden is 40 acres in area including a helicopter landing area , a lake, a tennis court. Every year  50,000 invited guests are hosted at the garden parties,receptions and other events. The Forecourt of palace is used for changing of guard and it is a major ceremony and tourist attraction. The Buckingham Palace is the symbol of British monarchy and a major tourist attraction in Britain.

The landmark of Orissa, The Jagannath Temple



The landmark of Orissa, The Jagannath Temple

The Jagannath Temple is situated in Puri city of Orissa, India. Puri is a coastal town of Orissa and lies to the south-eastern part of the country. The term ‘Jagannath’ is a Sanskrit term and it means “the Lord of the Universe”. The Jagannath temple is a very famous Hindu temple and all the worshippers of Hindu Lord Krishna and Vishnu mostly visit this temple. This temple is one of the four most important pilgrimage temples of Hindus which they call the ‘Char Dhams’. All the able Hindu devotees are obligated to visit this temple once in their life. The temple is most known for the annual chariot festival which is known as ‘Rath Yatra’. In this festival, the three main deities of the temple are hauled on very beautifully decorated huge and elaborate temple cars. This religious event is organized every year since the medieval times with a lot of fervor and festival fun. It is believed that the Jagannath temple was constructed by Anantavarman Chodaganga Dev, who was the ruler of Kalinga. This is evident from the copper plates discovered recently from the Ganga Dyansty. During his reign from 1078 AD to 1148 AD, the ‘Jagamohan’ and ‘Vimana’ parts of the temple were built. It was then later rebuilt in the year 1174 by Ananga Bhima, who was the ruler of Oriya, and gave it the present shape of the temple. The worshiping of Lord Jagannath continued till 1558 but was later banned because Orissa state was on attack by Afghan’s general Kalapahad. It was only after Ramachandra Deb who reinstalled all the deities in the temple after establishing an independent kingdom in Khurda, Orissa.

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The complete buildings of the temple together occupy an area of 37 thousand square meters and high fortified wall lies around the complete temple. The fortified walls are 20 feet tall and are known by the name ‘Meghanada Pacheri’. Around the main temple, there is another wall called ‘Kurma Bedha’. The complete complex of this place has 120 temples and shrines. The sculptures and art of the temple reflects the Oriya style of architecture. There are 4 different sections in temple. First section has Deula, Viamana, or Garba Griha. In this section, we have the three main deities placed on the ratnavedi (throne made of Pearls). The second section is called Mukhashala which is the Frontal Porch. The third section is Nata Mandir, also known as Natamandapa’. This section is a Dancing hall or and Audience hall. The last section is the Bhoga Mandapa where you can place offerings for the temple.

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The main building of the temple of has a curvilinear shape and the top of the building is crowned by an eight spiked wheel called ‘srichakra’ which is the ‘chakra’ or wheel of Lord Vishnu. This is also known as “Nilachakra” and is constructed by using ‘Ashtadhatu’ (eight metals) and is very sacred for Hindus. The temple building was constructed on a stone platform which was already raised. The tower of the temple rises 65 meters above the inner sanctum of deities. The roofs of the surroundings have pyramidal structure and all the halls or mandaps look like rising steps leading towards the tower which looks like ridge of mountain peaks.

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In addition to the towers of the temple, the place has a ‘Singhadwara’ which is a Sanskrit term meaning ‘The Lion’s Gate’. There are in all four gates for the temple as the main entrances. The Singhadwara has two huge lion statues on either side of the gate. The gate faces in the east direction and opens to Bada Danda (the Grand Road). Then there is a twenty-two step flight leading to the main complex. The temple has an idol of Lord Jagannath which is also called Patitapavan (which means ‘Savior of the fallen and downtrodden). This idol is painted on the right of the entrance. This special idol at the entrance was made for the ancient practices which did not allow the untouchables inside the temple. There are two statues, one on each side of the entrance, which are called ‘Jaya’ and ‘Vijaya’ who are the guards of the temple. There is an Aruna Stambha. It is a pillar having the idol of Arun who is the charioteer of Lord Surya (the Sun God). This pillar was originally located at the entrance of Konark Sun Temple but was later moved to the entrance of Jagannath temple.

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The image above shows the crowd in the annual Yatra of the three deities. The festival of Chariot ride has the ceremony of the three main idols of Jagannath, Subhadra and Balabhadra taken out from the ‘Singhadwara’ and taken to the ‘Gundicha Temple’. On their return, the idol of Goddess ‘Mahalakshmi’ carved on the top of the door is placated. This is a ritual because of neglecting to take the Goddess on the Yatra along with them. This ritual says that only the Goddess Mahalakshmi can allow the three lords to enter the temple again.

There are many other smaller shrines and temples where regular worship is conducted. Some of them are Bimala Shaktipeeth – where it is believed that Sati’s feet fell, Rohini Kund, Mahalakshmi Temple, Kanchi Ganesh Temple, and many more. In addition to that, there are many Mandaps (Halls) most significant of which are Mukti Mandap and Dola Mandap.