Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ancient India

The Indus Valley Civilization existed in between 3000-1500 BC while the earlier Kot Diji cultures, of the pre-Indus period, existed in the period of approximately 3300-2800 BC. Harappa and the city of Mohenjo-Daro were the greatest achievements of the Indus Valley civilization. These cities are well known for their impressive, organized and regular layout.

Then came Aryans who composed these evocative hymns to nature and celebrated life exuberantly referred to themselves as Aryas usually anglicised as Aryan meaning 'noble'. The 6th Century B.C. was the period of Magadh Kingdom. Chandragupta Maurya ousted the oppressive ruler of Magadh to find his own dynasty that existed from 322 - 298 B.C.

The most famous Maurya King Ashoka the Great ruled from 273 - 232 B.C over a large kingdom stretching from Kashmir and Peshawar in the North and Northwest to Mysore in the South and Orissa in the East. He after witnessing the carnage at the battle field of Kalinga (269 B.C.) in Orissa, dedicated himself to Dharmma ( righteousness ).

In the subsequent centuries, after the Ashoka empire disintegrated,India suffered a series of invasions, and often fell under the spell of foreign rulers - Indo Bactrians, the Sakas and others. After the next 400 years of instability the Guptas established their kingdom.

Kalidas, the famous Sanskrit poet and dramatist, author of Abhijnana Shankuntalam, Kumarsambhavam and Meghadutam is believed to have adorned the Gupta court. Also the great mathematicians like Aryabhatta and astronomers like Varahmihir lived during this period. The dazzling wall paintings of the Ajanta caves too are traced back to this era.

Cholas, Pandayas and Pallavas ruled over the southern part of India during the medieval period of India’s history. Cholas ruled the territory of Deccan (today the districts of Thanjavur and Tiruchirapally) while the Pandyas reined around present day Tirunelvelli and Madurai.

Pallavas of Kanchi rose to prominence in the 4th Century A.D. and ruled unchallenged for about four hundred years. The Nayanar and Alvar saint poets belong to this period. The gemlike shore temples at Mahabalipuram date to this period. The Cholas overthrew the Pallavas were in the 9th Century and regained political primacy in south India. The 15th Century saw the decline of the Pandyas.

Timeline of Ancient Indian History

3000 - 2600 BC - Harappa Civilisation

1200 - 500 BC - Vedic Era

550 BC - Birth of Mahavira

563 - 483 BC - Sidhartha Gautama, the Buddha

327 BC - The Conquests of Alexander The Great

325 BC - Alexander The Great, still goes on

322 BC - Rise of the Mauryas, Chandragupta

298 BC - Bindusara Coronated

272 BC - Ashoka's Reign

180 BC - Fall of the Mauryas & Rise of the Sungas

30 BC - Rise of the Satvahana Dynasty

50 AD - The Kushans and Kanishkas

320 AD - Chandragupta I establishes the Gupta dynasty

360 AD - Samudragupta conquers the North

380 AD - Chandragupta II comes to power

415 AD - Accession of Kumara Gupta I

467 AD - Skanda Gupta assumes power

892 AD - Rise of the Eastern Chalukyas

985 AD - The Chola Dynasty

More related articles to read:

Brief Timeline of Indian History

Prehistoric India

Timeline of India’s freedom struggle

Khardung La - World's Highest Motorable Road

Khardung La (la means pass in Tibetan) (elevation 5359 m) is a high mountain pass located in the Ladakh region, Jammu and Kashmir, India. The local pronunciation is "Khardong La" or "Khardzong La," but, as with most names in Ladakh, the romanised spelling varies. It is the highest motorable road in the world as signs put up by the Border Roads Organization proudly proclaim. However, individuals with their own GPS equipment have, apparently, measured less than the official 18 380 ft that is proudly stated on top of Khardung La, but this does not matter to most bikers who dream about driving their motorbike to the top of the world.

Khardung La, or K-Top as it is affectionately known, is situated on an ancient trade route from Leh to Kashgar in Central Asia, and it is also the gateway to the beautiful Nubra Valley.

Maintained by the Border Roads Organisation, the pass is strategically important to India as it is used to carry essential supplies to the Siachen. Building of the road across the Khardungla Pass in Ladakh at 18,380 feet in 1972-73 was no mean feat. Nothing is easy in the harsh conditions and terrain of such altitudes. The 201 Engineer Regiment, Madras Sappers of the Indian Army commenced work on it on August 17, 1972; not much progress was made initially, and the challenge rose manifold in the winters with the danger of frostbite setting in besides other risks. Work finally started in full swing in April 1973 and the road was opened to traffic on August 27, 1973. An earlier attempt to build this road by the state’s Public Works Department in 1963 had failed. It was quite a task building this road, resulting in the deaths of many engineers. Helicopters lifted jeeps, coal tar cans and other supplies to the site as there was no other way to do so.

The views from this pass are no doubt breathtaking – with the Ladakh range to the south and Karakoram to the north. And snow capped peaks at almost touching distance all around. The pass experiences up to 10 feet of snow in winters, with temperatures dropping to 40 degrees Celsius below zero. Even though temperatures in summers average 20 degrees Celsius, the weather can turn for the worse suddenly.

Vehicles travelling to and from Khardung La are allowed only in one direction at a time: from 9am - 1pm in the Leh – Khardug La direction, and from 1 pm - 5 pm from the Nubra Valley via Khardung La towards Leh. Sometimes it is one direction one day and the other direction the next day. Inner line permits are required to reach Khardung-la. These can be procured at the DC's office in Leh. Make sure to have photocopies of your permits, as each checkpoint needs a copy to be deposited with them.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Kharagpur - World's Longest Railway Platform

A railway platform is a section of pathway, alongside rail tracks at a train station, metro station or tram stop, at which passengers may board or alight from trains or trams. Almost all stations for rail transport have some form of platforms, with larger stations having multiple platforms. The term platform is most commonly used, in British usage, for designated areas where trains stop.

The longest railway platform in the world (1,072 metres, or 3,538 feet) is at Kharagpur, West Bengal (India). The platform was originally 716m long. It's length was extended twice, once to 833m and then to its present length. Excluding subway platforms (the Chicago subway has the longest one), Kharagpur has the longest railway platform in the world. Kharagpur is located in the Midnapore West district of the state of West Bengal. It is famous as the place where the first Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) was established.

Kharagpur also has one of the biggest railway workshops in India. Kharagpur station lies on the busy and important rail route connecting Howrah with the southern states of India. Kharagpur Junction Railway Station is administered by the South Eastern Railways. The station is situated at a distance of 5 km from the enormous campus of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur. Kharagpur Junction Railway Station has accomplished the honour of having the longest platform in the world.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Akshardham - World's Largest Hindu Temple

Akshardham is a Hindu temple complex in Delhi, India. Also referred to as Delhi Akshardham or Swaminarayan Akshardham, the complex displays centuries of traditional Indian and Hindu culture, spirituality, and architecture.

Akshardham temple in Delhi, India is recognized as the world's largest temple by Guinness World Records. It was consecrated in November 2005 by Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the spiritual leader of BAPS (Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha).

The temple covers 32 acres (13 hectares) and is built to look as if is hundreds of years old. It measures 356 ft. long, 316 ft. wide and 141 ft. high, covering an area of 86,342 sq. ft. The main building at the centre of the complex is a 141ft high monument of Bhagwan Swaminarayan.It is designed according to ancient Vedic texts known as the Sthapatya-Shastra, it features a blend of architecutral styles from across India.

Built with a combination of marble, sandstone and wood the building is fabulously impressive. It is built according to ancient standards without using any steel and as such is designed to last 1000 years. The intricate nature of the carving both inside and out is stunning and has lovingly restored an almost lost art and is already influencing other temple building projects throughout India and the world.

  • The temple building covers 32 acres
  • 11,000 people worked on its construction
  • It was completed in just 5 years
  • 850 volunteers work there daily
  • It receives 100,000 visitors a week.

The complex features a large central monument crafted entirely of stone, exhibitions on incidents from the life of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and the history of India, an IMAX feature, a musical fountain, and large landscaped gardens.

Akshardham was consecrated on 6 November 2005 by Pramukh Swami Maharaj, and ceremoniously dedicated to the nation by the President of India, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, and the Leader of the Opposition in the Indian Parliament, Lal Krishna Advani, with the presence of 25,000 guests.

On 17 December 2007, Michael Whitty, an official world record adjudicator for Guinness World Records, traveled to Ahmedabad, India to present a new world record to Pramukh Swami Maharaj, for the Akshardham complex.

The record was presented for Akshardham as the World’s Largest Comprehensive Hindu Temple.

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Friday, June 5, 2009

Varanasi - oldest city of the world

Varanasi also commonly known as Benares or Banaras and Kashi is a city situated on the left (west) bank of the River Ganga (Ganges) in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, regarded as holy by Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Senthoo. It is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. Varanasi is located between two rivers Varana and Asi, and hence the name Varanasi.

Benares has been a pilgrimage center since time immemorial. It is believed that the fifth head of Bhrama which clung to Shiva's palms came unstuck only after he reached Varanasi. Varanasi is the most popular pilgrimage point for the Hindus. One of the seven holiest cities, Varanasi city is also one the Shakti Peethas and one of the twelve Jyotir Linga sites in India. In Hinduism it is believed that those who die and are cremated here get an instant gateway to liberation from the cycle of births and re-births.

Varanasi is the oldest city of the world. Varanasi is more than 3000 years old and is famous as the city of temples. In Varanasi, there are temples at every few paces. Looking at the number of temples in Varanasi, it is hard to believe that a large number of them were demolished during the medieval times. Jyotirlinga Visvanatha Temple or Golden Temple, rebuilt in 1776, is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The Jnana Vapi well (meaning 'Well of Wisdom) is believed to have been dug by Lord Shiva himself.

Varanasi is home to these four universities: Banaras Hindu University, Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth, Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies and Sampurnanand Sanskrit University. People often refer to Varanasi as "the city of temples", "the holy city of India", "the religious capital of India", "the city of lights", and "the city of learning."

The holy city has been a symbol of spiritualism, philosophy and mysticism for thousands of years and has produced great saints and personalities like Guatama Buddha, Mahavira, Kabir, Tulsi Das, Shankaracharaya, Ramanuja and Patanjali. Tulsidas wrote his Ramacharitamanas there, and Gautama Buddha gave his first sermon at Sarnath near Kashi. Varanasi is a pilgrimage site for Jains along with Hindus and Buddhists. It is believed to be the birthplace of Parshvanatha, the twenty-third Tirthankar.

Varanasi has nearly 100 ghats. Many of the ghats were built when the city was under Maratha control. Marathas, Shindes (Scindias), Holkars, Bhonsles, and Peshwes (Peshwas) stand out as patrons of present-day Varanasi. It is known for its fine-quality silks and 'paan'. More than 1,000,000 pilgrims visit the city each year.

American writer Mark Twain wrote: "Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together."

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