Tathagata Tsal

The Buddha Park of Ravangla, also known as Tathagata Tsal, is situated near Rabong (Ravangla) in South Sikkim district, Sikkim, India. Tathagata is Sanskrit and Pali word. It’s used to refer to Lord Buddha. The term is often thought to mean either “one who has thus gone” (tathā-gata) or “one who has thus come” (tathā-āgata). This is interpreted as signifying that the Tathagata is beyond all coming and going – beyond all transitory phenomena.

Lord Buddha is quoted on numerous occasions in the Pali Canon as referring to himself as the Tathagata instead of using the pronouns me, I or myself. This may be meant to emphasize by implication that the teaching is uttered by one who has transcended the human condition, one beyond the otherwise endless cycle of rebirth and death, i.e. beyond suffering.

This place was constructed in 2006-13 and features a 128-foot high statue of the Buddha as its centerpiece.

The site was chosen within the larger religious complex of the Rabong Gompa (Monastery), itself a centuries-old place of pilgrimage. Also nearby is Ralang Monastery, a key monastery in Tibetan Buddhism.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama consecrated the colossal 128 foot hammered copper statue of the Buddha, which he had earlier named Tathagata Tsal, at Ravangla. The statue of the Buddha marks the occasion of the 2550th birth anniversary of Gautama Buddha.

There’s huge gate with murals depicting Jataka tales – on the previous lives of Gautam Buddha.

The temple closes for public by 5:30 p.m. We just managed to get in as last visitors of the day. The main temple is below the huge statue of Lord Buddha. It has a huge hall and the walls have images of Lord Buddha and on his life.

There’s a museum too but we couldn’t see it as it’s getting closed.

There are a large number of steps to come down to the park and walk up  a large number of steps to get to the temple.

After getting out of the park, we had “jhal muri” and hot tea from street vendors. We returned to Gangtok through beautiful green road.

Char Dham in Sikkim

Char Dham or Siddhesvara Dhaam is a unique pilgrimage tourism venture of the Sikkim Government developed as “ Pilgrim cum Cultural Centre” having a 108 ft statue of Lord Shiva and replicas of four Dhaams of the country at one place at Solophok hilltop in Namchi. Jaya & Babai visited this place last year. This time they came with me and Jaya’s father.

Char Dham are the names of four pilgrimage sites in India that are widely revered by Hindus. It comprises Badrinath, Dwarka, Puri and Rameswaram. It is considered highly sacred by Hindus to visit Char Dham during one’s lifetime.

Lord Shiva overseeing the Char Dham

The four most revered Dhams of the Hindus: Jagannath, Dwarika, Rameshawaram, Badrinath have been replicated in this fantastic complex to benefit the devotees and tourists.

Badrinath temple

For the consecration of the Dham Shri Jagadguru Sankaryacharya Swami Swarupananda Saraswati did the “Pran Prastisha” of the Dham.

There are replicas of the “Dwadash Jyotirlingas” (the twelve jyothirlinga) of Somnath, Mallikarjuna, Mahakaleswar, Omkareshwar, Kedarnath, Bhimashankar, Viswanath, Triambakeshwar, Vaidyanath, Nageswar, Rameshwar and Grishneshwar surrounding the statue of Lord Shiva and the Char Dhams.

There is a grand statue of Kirateshvar Mahadev and a temple of Shirdi Sai Baba too.

Lord Kirateshwar

In Hindu mythology, it is believed that Lord Shiva, after losing Sati in Agnikund, had gone into seclusion and became a hunter in the forests of Sikkim. There is also a famous Kirateshwar Mahadev Temple at Legship, in West Sikkim along the banks of River Rangeet.

There are Tulsi plants (Ocimum tenuiflorum) growing over 6 ft!

Tulsi plants

The Dham has stay facility for the devotees at “Yatri Niwas” which can accommodate more than 90 people at a time.

There’s a restaurant serving thali in the afternoon. We had thalis of food before leaving this place for Rabongla. The food was yummy!

The environment here is serene and divine. It’s a nice place and we felt blessed visiting all the temples.

The Dham has won the National Tourism Awards 2010-11 under the category of “Most Innovative/Unique Tourism Project” by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India.

Samdruptse – “Wish fulfilling hill”

On our way to Char Dham, we went to Samdruptse, near Namchi.  Samdruptse is situated at around 75 km from Gangtok.

Guru Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche)

Samdruptse literally means ‘wish fulfilling hill’ in the Bhutia language. A unique, awe-inspiring and gigangtic 135 feet high statue of Guru Rinpoche a.k.a. Guru Padamasambhava is installed atop Samdruptse.

Padmasambhava was born into a Brahmin family of Northwest India. According to tradition, Padmasambhava was incarnated as an eight-year-old child appearing in a lotus blossom floating in Lake Dhanakosha, in the kingdom of Oḍḍiyāna in the present Swat Valley of Pakistan. His special nature was recognized by the childless local king of Oḍḍiyāna and was chosen to take over the kingdom, but he left Oḍḍiyāna for northern parts of India.

It is the highest statue of Guru Padamasambhava in the world. His Holiness the Dalai Lama laid the foundation stone of the statue in October 1997. It was completed in February 2004.

The land of Sikkim, at the border of India and Tibet, was consecrated as a hidden sanctuary for the Buddha’s teachings by the great master Padmasambhava, who blessed it with the vajra wisdom of his body, speech, and mind. He is considered as the second Buddha.

The path leading to the hill-top is lined by coloured flags with Buddhist hymns were being played through sound system placed along side the pathway.

People have been stacking stones to make cairns. Earlier used as messengers, signs and landmarks in unoccupied lands, locals suggest that they are also known to bring good luck for travellers.

A cairn in the structure of a stupa

Guru Rinpoche is the patron saint of Sikkim. Padmasambhava is said to have transmitted Buddhism to Tibet, Bhutan and neighboring countries in the 8th century CE. In these lands he is better known as Guru Rinpoche (precious Guru). He introduced the people of Tibet to the practice of Tantric Buddhism.

Guru Rinpoche (Guru Padmasambhava) oversees parts of Kalimpong, Darjeeling and Sikkim from the hill-top.

It is also said that the Samdruptse hill is actually a Dormant Volcano.

Myths say that the buddhist monks have been going on top of the hill and offering prayers to the volcano to keep it calm.

In the hillock at the back of the statue, Buddhists place their prayer flags and built cairns stacking stones to bring good luck to them on the top of ‘wish fulfilling hill’.

 

We had hot tea at the restaurant in a complex outside the entrace to the temple…
…and then went ahead for Char Dham.

 

 

Yo Yo Honey Singh in Ranchi

On March 30, Yo Yo Honey Singh performed live in Ranchi. We booked our tickets online a couple of days before. His concert was at JSCA stadium at Dhurwa in Ranchi.

We reached the stadium at 7:30 p.m. as the concert was to begin from 7:30 p.m.

There was a huge crowd for the live concert. A DJ was playing music to entertain the crowd. A few local dance groups gave their stage performance before Honey Singh took the stage. He came on the stage at around 9:00 p.m.

He enthused the audience with his lively, popular songs.

Suddenly after finishing his famous “Sunny Sunny…” song he left the stage saying that he would come again next year. The public was not ready for such early and abrupt end of the show. It was just 10:00 p.m. then and it’s too early. He sang a few songs only. I felt cheated and so do many others, too.

Nothing remains but darkness…

An excerpt from a famous poem written in Bangla language by Jibanananda Das (translated in English for a larger audience):

At the day’s end evening crawls in like the sound of dews,
The kite flaps off the smell of sun from its wings.
When all colors take leave from the world
except for the flicker of the hovering fireflies
The stories are ready to be told
All birds come home, rivers too,
All tasks of the day being over
Nothing remains but darkness
to sit face to face with Banalata Sen.

Kahramana

Kahramana roundabout is regarded as one of the most famous spots in Baghdad. It is located on the crossroads between the famous Karrada Dakhil and Karrada Kharij districts. People driving by the roundabout can see the Statue of a beautiful young girl carrying a jar and pouring water down and surrounded by another forty jars around her.

I was going round it today while going to Iqama office in Baghdad. I liked the statue and on return to my home I googled about it. The statue was made during the 1960s, by an artist named Mohammed Gheni. He also made two big statues of king Shahryar and his wife Scheherazade on Abu Nawas Street.

Many people believe that the statue of Kahramana is related to the story of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves, from the One Thousand and One Nights, which is often known in English as the Arabian Nights. It is a statue depicting part of the tale of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. The slave girl Morgiana pours boiling oil into storage jars where the thieves are lying in wait to attack her master.

However, there are many others, who tell another story about the young and smart Kahramana, who used to help her father running a small hotel in old Baghdad. The father used to bring a cart full of empty jars, and in the next morning he fills each jar with oil and sells them in the market. On a cold winter night, Kahramana heard some noise and later discovered that there were thieves hiding in the empty jars. Their heads were only visible to watch. Kahramana went to her father’s room, woke him up, and told him about what she saw. They came up with an idea to make some noise in the hotel so the thieves would hide completely inside the jars. When this happened, Kahramana filled a jar with oil and started pouring the oil on every single jar with a thief hiding in it. The thieves began screaming, and one after the other jumped out of the jars, by the time this happened, the police came and arrested them. This is the story as it is told in old tales, and it dates back to the pre-Islamic era. May be Ali Baba story was derived from this old folklore.

Live classical music at Delhi airport

In the early morning today, while returning to Baghdad, I found live performance of Indian classical music at Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any music lover stopping for a while to enjoy the music. I was alone there for sometime!

Two musicians playing Indian classical music

Vishwaroop followed by pizzas tonight

Dad is placing orders at the point of sale, while we were sitting at the table. Dad, Mom, Mami, Guttu and I went to see Kamal Hasan’s Vishwaroop in the evening show today at PVR, Vinayak Center in Civil Lines, Allahabad. After that we went to the Domino’s Pizza for pizza dinner. We enjoyed the film and pizzas.

A gift from Baghdad

I have got some very lovely friends in Baghdad. We share gifts between us. But, we have not met each other yet. This makes our relationship very special. These friends are colleagues of my husband in Baghdad.

Due to security reasons etc. I have not yet visited Baghdad and hence I have not met them. But, whenever, my husband comes home from there they always send some nice gifts to me. I also send them some gifts through my husband when he returns to Baghdad. Of them, I am closer to Teeba as we exchange emails and text messages sometimes. With others, we communicate mainly through my husband.

This time they sent me a very beautiful painting on canvas showing traditional image of Baghdad.

I liked it so much that I immediately got it framed and hanged it in our drawing-room. More than the gift, their love and respect for me behind the gifts are very touching, and I treasure it the most.

Many thanks to Lina, Rafeef, Sarah, Teeba and Yussur!

Gangnam Style hits one billion views

Gangnam Style has become the first video to clock up more than one billion views on YouTube. The South Korean dance track was posted online in July, propelling pop star Psy to worldwide fame.

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YouTube said that the video had been watched seven million to 10 million times a day on average! It overtook the previous record holder – Justin Bieber’s music video Baby – on 24 November.

Incredible! Congratulations, Psy!