German Ambassador to India Michael Steiner paid tribute to the soft power of Bollywood by making his acting debut in a video on Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta and Saif Ali Khan-starrer 2003 romantic drama “Kal Ho Naa Ho”. The lip syncing of Ambassador Steiner is perfect. Awesome performance!
“Traditional diplomacy was about government-to-government relations. Modern diplomacy is more about people-to-people relations. And culture is central here.
This is why Michael Steiner, German Ambassador to India, and Salman Khurshid, former Foreign Minister of India, without taking themselves too seriously, plunged into uncharted waters. Together with Eliese Steiner and under the direction of Sumit Osmand Shaw, they pay homage to the Indian film by reenacting one of its most famous music videos – thus connecting people across borders.
The original video from 2003 – featuring Preity Zinta, Saif Ali Khan and the “King of Bollywood” Shah Rukh Khan – was filmed in the USA. This remake, instead, has been shot in India. It is an Indo-German tribute to Bollywood movies, which have a huge fan base not only in India, but also in Germany.”
“Bollywood is a cultural institution. This is the one instrument to connect to the world and it is a very good instrument. Me and my wife are Bollywood addicts. She has seen more than 150 Bollywood films… we have seen them together,” the German ambassador said.
The title says “LEBE JETZT” because, in German, it means exactly what the wonderful song “KAL HO NAA HO” asks us to do: Live right now to the fullest! “LEBE JETZT” adds a new flavour to Indo-German diplomacy. It also shows the popularity and spread of Bollywood.
I was returning from Gangtok on a two-week holiday from my institute after our third-year examination on February 1. My mom was in Kolkata to attend her friend’s daughter’s marriage followed by her routine medical checkups and consultations. So, I joined her in Kolkata. After her checkups and consultations at Apollo Gleneagles Hospital, on February 2, we decided to go for the Kolkata Book Fair (কলকাতা বই মেলা) in the afternoon. One of my friends Manali also joined us there. The fair is being held at “Milan Mela” near Science City on E.M. Bypass. Two years ago, while returning from Kumbh Mela we couldn’t visit the book fair as that was the last day and I didn’t want to miss the chance this time.
International Kolkata Book Fair is a late winter fair in Kolkata. It is a unique book fair in the sense of not being a trade fair – the book fair is primarily for the general public rather than whole-sale distributors. It celebrates international literature and reflects India’s much-loved reading tradition. The Kolkata Book Fair, recognised by International Publishers Association, Geneva, is also the largest Book Fair of the world in terms of visitors.
It’s reported that the last year’s edition of International Kolkata Book Fair was visited by around 2 million book-lovers over 12 days and books worth Rs 200 million ($3.25 million) were sold. It is the world’s third largest annual conglomeration of books after the Frankfurt Book Fair and the London Book Fair.
The focal theme this year was Great Britain. The fair was divided into five big pavilions. Each of the pavilions contained different publication houses from India and abroad. The pavilions were very large and had mammoth collection of books from almost all subjects and interests one can imagine. I could not visit all of them but I visited two of the pavilions. One of them was containing British publishers like Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, etc. The Oxford stall was no less than a usual Oxford bookstore having books ranging from kids fiction categories to business books. They even had comics of great Japanese series like bleach and one piece (my favorite). There were stalls especially for research books covering every field from biomechanics to elementary physics and astrophysics.
In the other one, there were stalls for local publishers like Ananda Publishers, Dey’s Publishing, etc. These stalls had basically all the Bengali books and novels ranging from Rabindranath Tagore and Satyajit Ray to current writers. There were separate stalls outside the pavilions. Other than that there were small stalls of different bookstores outside of the pavilions. This book fair could feed needs of every reader. it’s truly a paradise of book-lovers.
The delicious attraction of this book fair was the food court — the gastronomic section where variety of snacks, sweets & confectionaries and other food items were available. There were outlets of Dominos, Kathleen, Laziz, Roll’nRoll, Alibaba etc. Some famous restaurants of Kolkata had also opened their stalls there.
They were serving delicious, mouth-watering dishes like fish fry, chicken rolls, prawn chilli to biryani and even different flavored patishapta (Indian style crepes stuffed with sweet fillings).
There was even a tall guy standing on sticks, wearing a menu card of one of the food stalls in the food court, inviting people to the stall.
The other attraction of this fair that I found out interesting was different forms of artwork which I saw there. It was amazing to find artists actually working there on the spot and painting bottles, clothes and many different things that we generally dispose off after use.
This actually proved a good point in reusing the refuse. The idea is very inspiring and I was excited to see them doing that on the spot. This is good for our nature and sustainability.
I love reading books and was very thrilled to be there. We visited many pavilions but couldn’t visit all of them due to paucity of time. We bought a Kindle for my dad — it is for his birthday gift. I bought several books. I wanted to buy more books but couldn’t buy more as we had to go to our home in Ranchi next day. I missed my dad very much as he is fond of books and he loves reading books. The time was too short although we were there for more than 4 hours. Any number of hours — even a full day is too short for this book fair. I felt bad that I could only visit two halls.
A good book has often been called a man’s best friend, or as Groucho Marx puts it, “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”
Atri Bhattacharya has rightly said: “The Kolkata Book Fair (KBF) is a phenomenon. Large. Crowded. Noisy. Intellectual. (Oh, very intellectual!) Musical. Gastronomic. Artistic. Controversial. Chaotic. Resilient. In its own way, it encapsulates the character of its city and its most visible tribe: The literary Bengali.”
People of Indian states of West Bengal, Assam and Orissa worship Goddess Laksmi on Kojagori Purnima night — the full moon night in the month of Ashwin of Bengali calendar, just four days after Vijaya Dashami or Dusshera — the last day of the Durga puja in the month of October.
It is believed that Goddess Lakshmi, who is the goddess of wealth, and prosperity, visits every household on this full moon night and blesses them with sheer promise of wealth, fortune and good luck.
It is also a common belief that in order to guide goddess Lakshmi to the households, residents lit up deep, earthen lamps on the terraces or balconies especially to show the path inside the house.
It’s customary at our house to Lakshmi puja every Thursday and also on Kojagori purnima. After several years, all of us are at home on this day. It was nice that we all together performed the puja at our house. Babai drew alpana with rice powder paste, while I made all other arrangements and performed the puja. Jaya cooked the bhog.
Alpana refers to colorful motifs, sacred art or painting done on a horizontal surface on auspicious occasions in Bengal like Puja, wedding or community events. The art typically has some religious significance. This type of art is found on the Indian subcontinent. The word Alpana is derived from the Sanskrit alimpana, which means ‘to plaster’ or ‘to coat with’. Traditionally in Bengal, alpana is strictly white since the liquid paste used for alpana is rice powder mixed in water.
Different items are offered to the goddess like fruits, grains, rice, naivedya prepared from milk products sweetmeats made from coconut and other stuffs. Lamps are lit to ward off evil spirits and devotional songs are sung in praise of Goddess Lakshmi.
After the puja is over, we ate prasad — offerings given to the Goddess. I was reminiscing our earlier days. This puja used to be a grand affair at our house with lots of friends coming to our house celebrate this puja and eat prasad at our house. Jaya & my mother used to prepare prasad and bhog for everyone. This time we didn’t make it a big affair as we are leaving for Delhi tomorrow morning.
A series of paintings by an Indian elephant have gone on sale at an upmarket gallery in New Delhi to raise money to protect the endangered animal.
Artist Alpana Ahuja used baskets of bananas and other treats to lure Phoolkali, an elephant who was rescued from her abusive owners, to create her masterpieces — giant footprints in bright hues. The trick, she said, was to catch the elephant in a good mood, dab paint on its foot and press it against a giant canvas.
The money raised from their sale will be used towards elephant conservation, said Babita Gupta, the art director of the ArtSpice gallery, where the paintings are on show until September 19.
The exhibition is timed to coincide with the Indian festival of Ganesh Chaturthi, which begins on Friday and celebrates the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha.
The World Wildlife Fund estimates the population of the Indian elephant between 20,000 – 25,000. They are often kept in pathetic conditions by their masters and trafficked illegally.
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.
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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 or Siddhesvara Dham 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 Dhams of the country at one place at Solophok hilltop in Namchi. Namchi is the headquarters of the South Sikkim district. Namchi means Sky (Nam) High (Chi) in Bhutia. Namchi is situated at an altitude of 1,675 m (5,500 feet) above mean sea level.
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.
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.
Char Dham is a popular pilgrimage destination of Sikkim, which also has some interesting history connected to it. The principle deity here is Lord Shiva. It is believed that during the Kurukshetra war between the Kauravas and Pandavas, this place was where Arjuna worshipped Lord Shiva. It is also believed that Lord Shiva, pleased with Arjuna, appeared before him as a hunter and blessed him which helped Pandavas in winning the war.
The temple complex is divided into 4 parts – the statue of Lord Shiva along with 12 jyothirlingas, four dhams, a Sai Baba Mandir and the Kirateshwar Statue besides the Nandi bull.
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.
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.
On our way to Char Dham, we went to Samdruptse, near Namchi. Samdruptse is situated at around 75 km from Gangtok.
Samdruptse literally means ‘wish fulfilling hill’ in the Bhutia language. Painted in shimmering copper, pink and bronze, the awe-inspiring and gigantic 45m-high statue of Guru Padmasambhava, aka Guru Rinpoche, lords over the forested Samdruptse ridge and is visible for miles around. The views are spectacular across and the statue can be seen from across many places in Sikkim and Darjeeling.
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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. Within the complex, there’s a permanent photo exhibition of archival images documenting Sikkim’s cultural, natural and artistic history.
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.
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.
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’.
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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.
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.
On our way to Rajkot during our return phase of our pilgrimage trip from Somnath, we entered the Gondal city to see the royal palaces. It is a city in Rajkot district of Gujarat, around 40 km away from Rajkot city.
The Gondal state was one of the eight first class princely states of Kathiawar Agency during Bombay Presidency. The state spanned an area of about 1000 sq miles comprising four towns and more than 175 villages. Gondal finds mention in texts like Ain-i-Akbari (written in the reign of Akbar) and Mirat-i-Ahmadi as Vaghela state in Sorath (Saurashtra). The Gondal state in Kathiawar Agency was founded in 1634 by Thakore Shri Kumbhoji I Meramanji from Jadeja dynasty, who received Ardoi and other villages from his father Meramanji.
Later Sir Bhagwat Sinhji who reigned from 1888 until his death in 1944, was its most noted ruler, known for his various tax reforms, compulsory education for women and also removing the purdah tradition for women at a time when the royal households of India were known for this tradition.
Naulakha Durbargarh Palace was built during the 17th century. This palace is one of the oldest and the most beautiful palace in Gondal. This palace is situated on the banks of the river on a grand masonry base, rising to the monumental scale of at least 30 meter above the river bed. This palace was built in about rupees nine lakhs then and thus named so.
The palace is approached by the high gateway with the clock tower from the town side.
The entrance leads to a huge open space with administrative blocks on the right and a grand staircase with balustrade on the extreme left corner leading to the intricately carved pavilions on the open terrace.
There are stone carvings with exquisite balconies, fabulous pillared courtyard, delicately carved arches, and a unique spiral staircase in the palace.
The grand Darbar Hall has series of huge windows which open into long balcony supported by intricately carved brackets. This balcony overlooks the river.
The Darbar Hall has large chandeliers, stuffed panthers, gilt wooden furniture and antique Belgian mirrors.
The private palace museum displays artifacts, gifts and messages received by Maharaja Bhagwat Sinhji as a ruler of Gondal, on his 50th birthday and various other relics.
There are many old horse-drawn carriages kept in the palace for public display.
The Huzoor Palace is the current royal residence. The Orchard Palace was built in 19th century as an addendum to the Huzoor Palace complex. The Orchard Palace is opened for public. In fact, a part of it is being used as a heritage hotel, where a traveler can stay in cool, natural environment with chikoo, lime and mango groves in the background. Beautiful peacocks add to the beauty of the place.
It is known as the Orchard Palace because of its huge surroundings of fruit orchards, lawns and gardens.
There are many peacocks in the gardens of the palace.
The Room of miniatures is a splendid sitting room with a collection of miniature paintings, brass, and antique furniture.
The palace estate houses a collection of vintage and classic cars from pre-1910 to contemporary makes, a royal rail saloon beautifully finished with inlaid wood and ornate furniture. The Royal Garages have an extensive collection of vintage and classic cars, for which it has been famous all over the world.
There is one railway couch available for public view in this palace, which was one part of Gondal Royal Railway.
Rain is following us everywhere. Here also it was raining almost continuously as we were having the tour of these palaces. The rain affected my photography too.
After visiting the grandeur of the Maharajas of Gondal, we left for Rajkot.
Famous Hindi movies “Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam” and “R..Rajkumar” were shot in these palaces.