Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mystery photo 16: Akshardham, in New Delhi, India

     This phenomenal monument is Swaminarayan Akshardaham. This is a 100 acre site which features this huge central monument which is 141 feet high, 356 by 316 feet square with a perimeter of 1050 feet, constructed entirely of carved stone with absolutely no steel or mortar. Inside is a statue of Bhagwan Swaminarayan (1781-1830)   The base of the perimeter of the main monument or mandir contains 148 life sized elephants each carving unique, falling into one of three categories: elephants interacting in nature, elephants interacting with man, and elephants interacting with deities. Each life size elephant is carved from a single block of pink sandstone. The monument and the other buildings of the complex are made of this same pink sandstone and white marble. The mandir is surrounded by a 2 story covered walkway which surrounds a pool of water which contains the holy waters from some 151 sacred rivers and lakes in India, which were visited by Bhagwan Swaminarayan during his ministry. There is an indoor  boatride which passes diaramas demonstrating the 10,000 year history of India. A Hall of Values has robotic scenes which demonstrate the culture of India. A huge meditative garden in the shape of a lotus contains 10s of thousands of plant species that exist through out India. There is a film telling the true story of a young 11 year old boy who left his family and walked the length and breadth of India learning and helping other people. This film is reportedly extremely moving. There is also a muscial fountain which centers in a portion of the garden. 

   Bhagwan Swaminarayan is a sadhu who lived from 1781 to 1830. He founded a religious sect in India that is dedicated to the ancient Vedic scriptures and which became organized as a sociospiritual NGO in 1907. It now consists of 12,000 centres worldwide, 775 sadhus, 55,000 youth volunteers, and 1 million devotees. One of the sadhus who purportedly follows in Swaminarayan's footsteps, Yogii Maharaj declared in 1968 that this monument would be built on the banks of the Yamuna River in Delhi. The current leader of this movement Pramakh Swami Maharaj, the fifth guru who has led this organization since Bhagwan Swaminarayan, inaugurated this complex in 2005.
        This complex is huge and very impressive. As we walked around this complex during our short visit, I could not think of a word to express what this place was like. I just kept saying "Amazing! Amazing! Amazing!" to our guide as we walked. But the most "Amazing" thing about Akshardham is that it was built entirely by volunteers and it took only 5 years to contruct all parts of the buildings and the gardens. The corner stone was laid in the year 2000 and the finished monument was dedicated in the year 2005. Our visit was short and we did not see the film, or take the boatride. We only walked around a small portion of the gardens and went inside the Mandir, and walked around the walkway that surround the sacred water pools just beyond the Mandir. You can view more of this magnificent place by accessing the following website. At the website there are 3 videos that you can choose to view -- a 3 minute one, a 7 minute one and a 17 minute one. This will give you a better idea of what India has accomplished with this site in New Delhi.

     At the entrance to this complex you must surrender all camaras, mobile phones and other electronic devices, so photos are not allowed inside. Therefore we do not have many photos of the place, only those taken from a distance, outside the main gates. But do access the website to get an idea of the extent and magnificence of this complex.

The following URL takes you directly to a brochure which lists and describes the various features of this complex.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mystery Photo: Hints

          First of all, the pennant flying from the top of the monument is not a clue. It is not the flag of the country in which this building resides. There is one hint I can give you by enlarging a small portion of the base of this very large monument. In the enlarged photo above, just above the visitors on the sidewalk, you can see some of the carvings that encircle this entire monument. Yes they are elephants. There are 148 such carved elephants around the 1070 foot base. What nation that would go with this architecture honors elephants enough to circle this huge monument with sandstone, lifesize carvings of them?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Mystery Photo 16

     This might be a tough one, and then again it might not be. First one needs to try to determine from the style of the architecture, where this building is in the world. This might give you a clue as to the country where this monument is located. Then you will need to determine what major city hosts this monument. Can you figure this out? Fully 70% of the tourists that visit this major city also visit this monument. If you have been to this major city you will likely recognize this building. Give it a guess!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Coyotes: Lake Michigan

     Back home in Milwaukee, we still get views of wildlife. We don't have to go places that are so exotic such as the Death Valley or even other places in the world. Look at this beautiful animal. Looking healthy, colorful shiny coat, and master of the Lake Michigan bluff. I'm hoping these animal's success will reduce my rabbit population and even maybe the deer population, because coyotes do take fawns. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

People meeting and bird watching in California

     The last third of our 2012 California trip was less site seeing and more visiting with friends and relatives. But there were a couple of things that might be of general interest. Particularly read on for the bird photos.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Death Valley National Park: our third visit.

Teloscope Peak reflected in Badwater Creek, floor of Death Valley.
    On two previous trips to California we have visited Death Valley National Park, but it has been a while since we have been there. I think Death Valley is another one of those sort of secret places to visit. Most people, especially those in the Midwest or East of the country,  don't associate it with beauty or fun activities. They just think it is a desert place where you could die. And indeed, in summer that is the case. But in winter, the temperatures are in the 60s and 70s during the day with brilliant cloudless skies and down to 50s usually at night. And there are really dozens of things to do and see. Temperatures of course are lower in the higher elevations bordering the Valley itself.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Our January California Trip

  It has been four years since we have traveled to California in the winter. For some years we made this trip almost every winter since our younger son lives in Irvine, CA. I am not sure how 4 years have gone by without a trip there, but it probably relates to the number of other places in the world that we have visited in the last years. At any rate, we made it this year.  We usually have a need to escape the Wisconsin winter. However, this year we have not really had a winter -- just of snow here and there, and some days in the 40s, even with sun. However, the day before we were to leave, winter decided to appear. One to two inches of light snow prediction was changed to 7-8 inches of snow prediction when a dry arctic front joined up with a moisture laden front coming up from the Gulf of Mexico. When we heard this prediction change on Thursday morning we quickly made reservations at the Airport Hilton in Chicago and called our limo driver to take us down to O'Hare on Thursday instead of Friday AM at 5:30 AM which had been our original intent. It was snowing for part of our drive down to O'Hare but we beat the worst of it. At O'Hare there were about 400 canceled flights on Thursday. By Friday morning the airport was cleaned out and our flight was on time but the freeways were a mess. We had made a very good decision and we made it out to CA easily. Click Read More to read about our route and see photos.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine History, and antique Valentines.

     I recently made a PowerPoint presentation on the history of Valentines and Saint Valentine's Day, which I associate with a presentation of my collection of antique Valentines. I also included some Love stamps and covers as well as stamps with hearts on them from other countries. I presented this to the Milwaukee Philatelic Society meeting last week. I think everyone enjoyed it. I certainly do have a huge collection of antique Valentines.
     I have tried to figure out how to get this Power Point presentation on my blog. I transferred the presentation to Word to make handouts and then tried to load that presentation onto this blog site but it would not transfer. No specific error message, just said it could not be uploaded. Does anyone know how to do this? Please send me a comment or an email if you know. Meanwhile I am just going to transfer a few of the pictures and some of the write up. Since some are notes from my powerpoint presentation and some are the slides themselves, they are going to have various fonts and formats. I hope this is not too distracting and if so I apologize.