It was Chingam 1, the New Year of the Malayalam calendar and around 10:30 in the Morning when we reached Ayyappa temple R K Puram, in Delhi. Seveli, the daily ritual was about to begin.
Devotees were present standing barefoot on the hot concrete tiles waiting to pay obeisance to the deity. The daily procession of diety takes place three times around the temple every morning and evening.
History of AYYAPPA TEMPLE R K PURAM
The Ayyappa Temple at R K Puram is one of the well known Ayyappa temples in India. During the Sabarimala season, Devotees preparing to go on the Sabarimala pilgrimage, carrying the ‘erumudi’, visit here wearing the ‘Chandana-mala’.
The consecration of the Shrine, built in the Chera architecture style, took place on 30th April 1980. Twenty-five sculptors in this temple were carved in Kerala and took two years to complete. The stones for the construction were collected from the Barathapuza River.
The Kathakali Sculpture
A life-size sculpture of Kathakali dancer performing a mudra. There are some 20 main mudras or the hand signs and many small mudras that are the main element to performance the story. Katha means story and kali mean performance and art. The themes of the kathakali are from the religious legends and folk mythologies of the Hindu Puranas.
There is also Goddess Durga (Bhadrakali) and Sarpa Kavu for Nagas (with the installation of Nagaraja, Naga Yakshi and a Chithrakuda, representing all snakes).
The bells: According to ancient scriptures, the bell helps to give sound for keeping away evil forces, and the ringing of the bell is pleasant to God. The peaceful and sacred temple built in the pristine green expanse is a must-visit holy destination in south Delhi.
An earlier post was done about the historical and spiritual importance on Onatukara in Kerala. Click the link to read about the little know history and religous significance of this place in Travancore.
Recently, while planning for a tour abroad I recollected how to plan tour itinerary was so different ten years ago, during a visit to Kuala Lumpur. In those days travelling abroad was a luxury and we made sure to inform everyone (friends, and relatives) about our foreign trip before and after the travel.
After the tour, there used to be a souvenir of the place, proudly displayed in the showcase at home. When someone goes to Kuala Lumpur, in Malaysia, they will buy a miniature replica of Petronas tower as a souvenir. The twin towers were the tallest buildings in the world until 2004.
A few of my friends travelled to Kuala Lumpur in 2008, via Singapore. I could not make the trip so they shared some pictures of their travel.
Unseen Malaysia | 41 Bucket-list-worthy Destinations. View the interactive version here
Today I opened the Malaysia tour file of 2008 and compared them with pictures available, on websites, of Malaysia. The concept of travel has changed in the past 10 years.
Visit to Kuala Lumpur
In those days the purpose of the tours was to visit important tourist destinations in a country. Therefore, there used to be a guide who took the tourist around to the important travel destinations in the city and the suburbs.
While visiting a tourist destination the main activity was to take pictures posing in front of the famous buildings to show to friends and relatives back home.
It must be remembered, visiting the famous marketplace of the tourist destination is a must. Malaysia is famous for its colourful silk shirts. When someone wears those silk shirts or skirts in their hometown people know that he visited Malaysia.
Those were before the selfie, camera-mobiles, and FaceBook days. And we used to share pictures via pen drives…… or floppy discs (I can’t recollect).
However, Today a lot of importance is given to food. Tourists want to know were to get exotic food, local food, street food and affordable food.
Tourists are interested in activities other than just visiting theme parks and enjoying rides. They like to paraglide, snorkel, and hike. And of course, take selfies of all the activities and upload on Social Media.
Here are a few pictures from Kuala Lumpur tour, of my friends in 2008. The place, Malaysia in general and Kuala Lumpur, in particular, was beautiful and attractive then and now.
Many new attractive ‘must visit’ destinations have come up in the past 10 years. Now the nature of tourism has evolved and involves a lot of activities other than time-bound sight-seeing.
The tourist destinations that my friends visited in Kuala Lumpur in 2010 are still popular. Check out the picture from my friends’ memoirs of 2008.
The iconic Petronas tower is the first thing to visit in Kuala Lumpur. Selfies in front of the towers is a must nowadays. Petronas was once the world’s tallest twin tower, until 2004.
Tugu Negara is a National monument, in memory of the soldiers who laid down their life for the freedom of the country. There is a beautiful fountain in front of the monument.
Genting Highlands theme park
I was a bit confuses whether the pictures were of Theme park in Singapore or Malaysia. My friend confirmed that the pictures are of the Theme park in Genting Highlands. Theme parks provide a lot of entertainment. The hill station of Genting Highlands is known as the resort town. You can stay at the Genting Highlands hotels and enjoy the varied range of entertainments and activities in this popular tourist destination.
Thean Hou Temple
The large temple is of the Chinese Sea Goddess Mazu. It is a popular tourist destination in Kuala Lumpur.
Sultan Abdul Samad Building
A historic building, Sultan Abdul Samad Building, was used as Offices during the British regime. Now the building is of Ministries of Tourism and Ministry of Communication and Multimedia.
Batu Caves is an important Hindu Shrines outside India. There are several Caves and temples on the Hill. Lord Murugan is the main deity here. My friends could not climb the 272 steps and visit the caves and temples. They took the picture of the huge Murugan Statue (140ft) from a long distance.
K L Lake Gardens
K L Lake Gardens is a splendorous group of gardens. There are different gardens like the rock garden, butterfly garden, deer park and so on. This seems to be no monkey park,at the same time, they are the star attraction of the garden. As a result of the carefree attitude, the Monkies are a tourist attraction and the favourites of shutterbugs.
There are so many well preserved historic buildings and well-kept roads. For this reason, you can take a stroll through the road for fresh air and enlightenment.
Overhead view from Petronas Towers
To have an overhead view of Kuala Lumpur, you must go to the Sky bridge on the 41st floor of Petronas Tower. Not to mention, you can view and take pictures from the sky bridge.
The only time I went on a group trip was on a Singapore-Indonesia tour ten years ago. It was arranged by a travel agent and there were atleast 20 families in the group. A friend took all responsibility of the trip, so we hardly had any worries except to do all the shopping about the trip and brag with friends and relatives. In those day very few people went on international tours, so we felt proud.
At a destined time we reached an assigned spot to take the Tourist bus to Kochi Airport. After Picking up friends at various points we bagan the 2 hour road trip. We enjoyed a enjoyable ‘picnic’ trip to the airport, singing and joking. At the airport also we enjoyed 3 hours of masti, as we had an agent to take care of the paper works, we only had to enjoy the trip.
Most of our friends were first time travellers so when the flight took off there were humorous experiences; one 25 year old guy cried for his Mom.
Everything was fine until we reached the Singapore Airport. Then we were ‘handed over’ to a Singaporean Guide, I thing her name was Mary. Then we understood why Singapore is much ahead of ‘time’.
Mary was particular about time unlike we Indians. In India we reach a place atleast an hour after the designated time. The only person I know to be punctual is Big ‘B’ – Amitabh Bachchan. Mary took us around on a tourist bus to tourist destinations like the Mirlions and Botanical Garden. While we de-board the bus she gives us strict instruction to come back at a sharp timing ; say for instance 4:00 PM.
Most of the time we all messed up with the timing. We used to get even half an hour late and then Mary got even more strict. She said next time she will not wait for anyone and just move on.
We had to obey because non of us had a local SIM, so she was our boss for the trip.
The next day we were all on time and Mary praised us for mending our manners. From then on she used to say “come back at Singapore Standard Time and not Indian Standard Time”
Next day we went to Sentosa Island, Singapore Zoo, Chinatown and various other places. We saw the four different ethnic groups – Chines, Malaya, Indian and other staying together and working in unison for the betterment of their own self and of the country. All religious groups Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam stay together in harmony.
Singapore is like a well kept home, not a single piece of paper or a bit of dust could be found anywhere. All the cars were less than 15 years old so they shined like new cars. And above all the same water was used in the wash room and for drinking. You can take water from the wash room and prepare tea.
By the end of the tour Mary became friendly and she learned a few malayalam words and promised to visit Kerala very soon. We bought some tokens to remember the Trip.
Finally we were handed over to the Indian Guide at the Airport, we were much relieved because we could now follow the Indian Standard time. Just like at the beginning of the trip we were dropped home from Kochi Airport by Bus.
We came back with lots of memories and learning . If we follow Singapore Standard Time (Punctuality) we can have success in life and we can contribute a lot to our society.
The Garden of Five Senses, which is set on 20 acres of land, has a variety of flowers, trees, landscapes, activities and entertainment. Here are a few images captured duringTHE GARDEN FESTIVAL, 2016 at THE GARDEN OF FIVE SENSES
Kerala, which is popular for lush green tourist destinations like Munnar, Kumarakom and Thekkady, also has many historical places and monuments dating back to the stone ages. One such place is Onattukara (the land of Onam), a feudal kingdom believed to have existed from 12th to 19th Century. Mavelikara which was the Capital of Onattukara is relevant in the modern cultural history of Kerala as Onam is celebrated in memory of the great king Maveli who ruled here.
History of Onaddu
Many historically relevant places of ancient Onattukara feudal state are found in the towns of Mavelikara, Kayamkulam and surrounding villages. By sparing a day of your Kerala tour to visit the historic Onattukara region you can get an insight into ancient religious, cultural and political history of Kerala. You will be visiting two Towns which are just 10 kms apart – Mavelikara and Kayamkulam.
The must visit tourist spots
Mavelikara was the capital of the Onadu dynasty from 11th to the 15th Century, until the head quarters was moved to Krishnapuram, in Kayamkulam. Mavelikara still remains the cultural centre producing many renowned artists including Abu Abraham the famous cartoonist. The internationally renowned Indian painter Raja Ravi Varma, married from the royal family here. Raja Ravi Varma School of Fine Arts is located here producing many eminent artists like famous cartoonist R. Shankar Pillai. There is also a Buddha statue dating back to the 9th Century which shows the presence of Buddhism in Onattukara dynasty.
As the name suggests ‘kulam’ means ‘pond’ which indicates the presence of water bodies in this area. From the 15th to the 18th Century Kayamkulam was the capital of Onadu and Kayamkulam became the commercial centre. Even today Kayamkulam is a commercial centre because of the road and waterway connectivity. There are many temples and traditions here reminding the history of Onadu.
The statue of Lord Buddha which was discovered in a paddy field, near Kandiyoor Temple, is said to date back to the 9th Century. The statue indicates the prevalence of Buddhisim in Onattukara. Now the idol is installed beside the road that leads to the Sree Krishna Swami Temple. The 4ft. tall idol in a sitting, meditating posture with a smile on the face, is kept inside a pagoda like structure. You can easily locate the monument as the place is called Buddha Junction.
This is one of the ancient temples in Kerala known as Thekkan Kash (Kashi of the South) which has around twelve sub shrines. The Kandiyoor temple, some historians say, may have been an old Buddhist temple as the temple architect is different from that of other Kerala temples.
Evoor Temple(The Fire Temple)
This temple is famously known as the Guruvayoor of Onattukara. According to tradition Evoor Sri Krishna Temple is mentioned in the Mahabharata (burning of Khandava Forest) and believed to be built in the presence of Lord Krishna. “Raktha-pushpanjali” is a special offering here which is unavailable in any other Vishnu temples. About a century back the temple caught fire, and the king of Travancore reconstructed the temple with all the latest infrastructure available in those days.
It is said that the Kings of Kayamkulam ruled from here when the Onadu capital was shifted from Mavelikara. The exact date of construction of the present palace in not known however it is said to have been built in the 17th Century by Marthanda Varma, the King of Travancore after defeating the Kayamkulam King. The palace is an epitome of the traditional Kerala architecture consiting of gabled roof, inner courtyards, narrow passages, ponds, etc. The greatest attraction is the 49 sq.m mural painting, Gajendra Moksham done with natural vegetable colours depicting a Mythological story of Lord Vishnu redeeming an elephant caught by a crocodile. The painting, is believed to be the biggest in Kerala, is place at the entrance of the bath area of the palace so that the royals can pray soon after bathing.
There is also an archaeological museum exhibiting ancient coins, the famous two edged Kayamkulam word and ancient urns used for burial. Outside the Palace, there is a beautiful garden with native Kerala flowers and plants. One of the four Buddha Statues discovered in Onatukkara is installed here.
Shankars Cartoon Museum
A few kilometers away from Krishnapuram you can visit the museum of the famous political cartoonist of India, K. Shankar Pillai, whose cartoons were appreciated by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Apart from his work, personal belongings like reclining chair and table that he used to create world famous cartoons are exhibited here. Also, there are sculptures made by renowned artists depicting the culture of Onattukar.
After visiting the historical sites, you can enjoy the cool breeze from the sea at the Azhikkal Beach (Aayiram Tengu) and Valiya Azhikkal beach (Kochiyude Jetty). These beaches are new and relatively unexploited destinations in tourism hence you can enjoy the beach and sea in all its natural beauty.
House boating in Backwaters
Finally, you can take a house boat and head for a three hour cruise to the Venice of the East – Allappuzha through Ashtamudi Lake watching the Sunset. Or else you can enjoy a boat ride in the lagoon watching the lake opening into the Arabian Sea. If you visit on the Fourth Sunday of August you can watch the boat race held in the backdrop of the famous Chinese Fishing nets. The story goes that when the Kayamkulam King was defeated by the King of Travancore, he immersed all his wealth in this lake and escaped with his family.
There are many more monuments and traditions that preserve the ancient culture of the Onattukara region. Another town Karunagapalli was also part of the dynasty. You can visit the Ochira temple, which does not have an Idol. You can also see the procession of the Chettikulangar Festival know as Kettukazhcha where the devotees display decorated chariots with large colourful pyramid decorations.
Legend of Mahabali
As everyone knows Onam is the festival of Kerala, celebrated by all Keralites without religious or cast differences. The legend of Onam is that when the benevolent King Maveli/Mahabali (great sacrificer) ruled Onattukara there was peace, prosperity, wealth and harmony. He was so powerful that he became the ruler of the heaven and earth under the guidance of his guru Shukracharya. Lord Vishu came in the form of a boy, Vamana when yagna was being conducted by mahabali to get a powerful weapon against Indra. The boy asked the King for land as much as three paces of his foot. The kind king agrees, but when the boy kept his first foot the earth was covered, the second measured the heaven and so the King asked the Lord to place his foot on his head as there was no more land left. Lord Vishnu sent him to the underworld, but granted him a gift that he could visit his subjects every year on Onam day.
Mahabali in history
According to experts the written history of Onatukkar is less in comparison to the songs and poems of those era which narrates stories originally without adding creative element. According to one such story King Maveli in his old age abdicated the throne to lead an ascetic life. To his emotion ridden subjects he promised that he will come to see them every year on Onam day. Until his death he is said to have visited his people on Onam. A popular Onam (Maveli) Song gives the heavenly atmosphere prevalent during his reign:
When Maveli ruled the land,
All the people were equal.
And people were joyful and merry;
They were all free from harm.
There was neither anxiety nor sickness,
Deaths of children were unheard of,
There were no lies,
There was neither theft nor deceit,
And no one was false in speech either.
Measures and weights were right;
No one cheated or wronged his neighbor.
When Maveli ruled the land,
All the people formed one casteless races
When I asked someone about a shop, he said it was near the Sulabh Shauchalaya (Sulabh Toilet). That was a weird landmark, I thought, until spotting Sulabh International situated on a sprawling green landscape which does a number of commendable work in the field of sanitation. So I decided to visit the world famous and the most exciting of the Sulabh institutions – the Sulabh International Toilet Museum.
Inside Toilet Museum
The initial inhibition I had about talking on the subject of toilet and defecation was removed when Shikha, the guide at the Museum, explained the various types of commodes used different ages of history. “Urination ought to be done at least at a distance of 10 cubits from the source of water. Defecation to be done at a distance of 100 cubits from the source of water.” read the Aryan Code of Toilets, displayed at the museum. Read this post to know now solar power plant drastically reduced the electricity bill of a hospital
The Toilet Museum is unique and has been rated as the third
most weirdest museum in the world. There is an interesting collection of toilets and commodes from around the world. The mobile commodes used by the Englishmen during hunting camps and the throne like commode used by King Louis XIV of France. The museum also has charts and pictures about the the sanitation systems beginning from the Harappan civilization to the space age. A picture shows how bad sanitation system caused the black death in the 14th Century.
Works at Sulabh International
Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, the founder of Sulabh International, developed eco-friendly two-pit, pour-flush compost toilet technology, Sulabh Shauchalaya, for the individual households as an alternative to the comparatively expensive septic tank based systems. This Toilet technology has been recommended as a Global Best Practice by UN bodies for about three billion people across the globe. The advantage of the toilet system is its affordability and adaptability. According to the availability of material in the region the toilet is altered. One interesting toilet was for those who were used to defecate in the open. The toilet was roofless and with spiraling steps leading to the toilet, so that they can defecate without closing the doors.
Total usage of waste
Nothing went waste at Sulabh. The defecated were dried and used as manure. The urine and waste water was recycled to produced that was used for all purpose other than drinking. The garden lights is run on Bio-electricity and cooking is done with Bio-gas.
There was so much to learn from the trip apart from seeing some of the weirdest commodes in the world. Toilets and sanitation is an essential aspects of the lifestyle of a city. We need to talk about sanitation and hygiene as openly as we talk about health, diet and environment.