Tuesday, 31 December 2013

New Year's Eve in the Philippines

New Year’s Eve is a festive time in the Philippines. There are a lot of traditions that Filipinos follow in the belief of ushering in a prosperous New Year. Many of these customs you may recognize as showing a Chinese influence.

Special food is prepared, but not like the Noche Buena feast on Christmas Eve, although some families might be wealthy enough to prepare another lechon (roasted pig) after serving one on Christmas. For sure, pancit (noodles) are cooked to signify long life, as are eggs signifying new life. Traditional delicacies made from malagkit (glutinous or sticky rice) like biko are prepared — that’s so good fortune will stick around throughout the year. Fish and chicken are not served because these animals scrounge for food, and we don’t want to have to scrounge for food in the coming year.

Part of the fun in getting ready for New Year's Eve is to come up with twelve (12) round fruits, each to signify a month of the year. Ideally, there should be twelve different fruits — grapes, oranges, clementines, cantaloupe, pomelo, watermelon, etc. It’s a tough challenge, so half the fruits likely end up being non-circular like mangoes and apples. The fruit that Filipinos most associate with the celebration of the new year and will rarely be without is imported ubas, purple grapes that are very round. 

The same way Americans enjoy Fourth of July fireworks, Filipinos go all out with the noise on New Year’s eve. Philippine firecrackers come in so many shapes and go by very interesting names — judas belt (a string of firecrackers), super lolo (“grandfather”), kwitis (from the Spanish word cohetes meaning rocket), bawang (“garlic”), airwolf, etc. Children love scratching the dancing firecracker watusi against concrete sidewalks and cemented surfaces, although the government has been warning against it because of chemical poisoning. 

Pots and pans are clanged to scare away evil spirits. Cars and trucks are vroomed and horns are tooted to cause as much noise as possible. Empty cans are dragged all around, whistles are blown. Before the clock strikes midnight to herald in the new year, all doors must be left wide open to allow good luck to enter. This includes cupboards, drawers, cabinets, and even windows! Filipinos try to dress in polka-dots because the roundness signifies prosperity. Pockets are filled with round coins, which are jangled to attract wealth. Coins are also left on top of tables and in drawers. 

At the exact moment of midnight, Filipino children jump as high as they can because they believe this will make them taller. It is believed that whatever condition your wallet is in when the New Year arrives, so it will be the rest of the year. So make sure to put in the money your received on Christmas. The same goes for the neatness of your home. Filipinos spend the last days of the year vigorously cleaning everything, especially of dust. However, on the first day of the new year, you are not supposed to do any cleaning. And don’t start the year off by spending money. Frugality on the first day sets the tone for wise money management in the coming year. 

Source: tagaloglang | Image credits: 1 2 3 

New Year Celebrations in Asia

The Japanese scatter dried beans to drive evil from the house. The Chinese eat long-life foods. The Balinese observe a day of silence. Thais splash water on one another. People in many parts of Asia, as well as elsewhere in the world, love to celebrate a holiday marking the start of a new year – a festival of putting aside the problems and disappointments of the past, of finding new hope, of beginning anew. 

But when should the new year be celebrated? There is no obvious answer to that question. Days, months and years all flow continuously; there is no scientific way of identifying a particular day that marks a “new year.” The day, the months, the seasons, and the year – the major divisions of the calendar – are determined by the physical properties of the solar system, especially the earth, moon, and sun. But not only is there no “start” to these markers of time, they also do not fit together very well.

These calendars offer many possibilities for celebrating the start of a new year. Here are some of the most famous new year festivals of different cultures of Asia:

The Thai new year, Songkran, is celebrated in Thailand, Laos, and some other parts of Southeast Asia on April 13-15 according to the Western calendar. In premodern times the date varied and was calculated according to a soli-lunar calendar. Songkran is a festival of purification, and its main feature is water-splashing. In fact Songkran resembles a big, friendly, three-day water fight. Everyone carries a jar or basin of water and splashes everyone else whenever possible; to splash someone is to give that person a blessing. 

Chinese New Year is defined as the second new moon after the winter solstice; thus it begins sometime between late January and mid-February, approximately at the beginning of Spring. It is celebrated not only in China, but also in Korea, Vietnam (where it is known as Tet), and in Chinese communities throughout the world. Although there are many specific small differences among the celebrations of different communities, in general terms they are very similar.

Many customs are designed to bring good luck in the coming year. Before the beginning of the new year, people pay off all of their debts, if possible; it is bad luck to begin a year in debt. Children are given presents of money, wrapped in red envelopes (red is the color of good fortune), and children and adults alike put on new clothing. The house is cleaned, and new paper pictures are pasted up to honor the door gods, the stove god, the animal symbol of the incoming year, and lucky slogans such as “springtime” or “good fortune arrives.” People wish one another gongxi facai, “congratulations, may you get rich.” Perhaps the most important feature of a Chinese New Year celebration is a banquet, with many special kinds of food with lucky connotations: noodles for long life, fish (because the Chinese word for “fish,” yu, also sounds like the word for “abundance”), and sweet rice cakes for a rich, sweet life.

In premodern times Japan also celebrated a lunar new year (Setsubun), but since the adoption of the Western calendar in Japan in 1873 the official New Year’s Day has been January 1. Some people celebrate the traditional new year as well as the modern one; others have simply transposed the old customs to the new holiday. For example, at the new year every house is thoroughly swept, and dried beans are scattered in every room of the house to chase away evil spirits. Throughout Japan on New Year’s Eve, the bells of Buddhist temples are rung 108 times (for the number of beads on a Buddhist rosary); television stations broadcast the bell-ringing from temples with particularly large or famous bells, and many people watch the ceremony on TV.

If the Japanese celebrate the new year with bells, the Balinese celebrate it in silence. Most people on the Indonesian island of Bali follow an ancient form of Hinduism, brought from India centuries ago; and their new year, Nyepi, is based on a Hindu soli-lunar calendar. Nyepi is defined as the day after the new moon closest to the spring equinox. On Nyepi eve there is a lively festival, when people walk in procession, accompanied by gamelan music, to the main crossroads of their village. There they perform an exorcism ceremony to drive away evil, symbolized by huge monster-like paper-and-bamboo figurines. But on Nyepi itself, everything is silent. All over the island, streets are deserted. No fires are lit, no food is cooked, no music is played, and radios and televisions are turned off. It is forbidden to leave one’s house, to make love, or to talk more than necessary. Everyone welcomes the new year in silence, with reverent self-control.

These are only a few of Asia’s new year holidays; many other Asian countries and cultures also have distinctive festivals to welcome the new year. One of the pleasures of traveling in Asia is that the new year can be celebrated on so many days, and in so many different ways.

Source: asiasociety | Image credits: 1 2 3 4 5 6 

Monday, 30 December 2013

Monkey Buffet Festival

The Monkey Buffet Festival is quite an unique Festival in the very cultural country of Thailand. Set up in the province of Lopburi, North of Bangkok, the Monkey Buffet Festival is held for the benefit of the monkeys. 4000 kilograms of fruits, vegetables, cakes, candies is set down in front of temples on tables, in pyramid or just on a simple mat for the delight of the 3000 monkeys living in the area.

The Monkey Buffet Festival also host plenty of activities in relation with monkeys: music and dances with young people dress like monkeys, monkeys costumes, and monkey masks. Monkey sculptures will also flourish around the area.

The Festival was invented in 1989 by a local business man in order to boost the tourism in the Lopburi province. Since thousand of visitors come every year to see the numerous monkeys filling they stomachs.

The temples where the festival is held have been build in the 10th century by the Khmer dynasty. Now, they belong to the Monkey territory.

A word of wisdom: these monkey are very accustomed to human presence and they won't hesitate a second to climb on people and "borrow" valuable or food for an undefined period of time.

Source: inglesmonkeybuffetfestival | Image credits: telegraph/Reuters/EPA

The Ghost Tower - Thailand

Back in the 1990s, Thailand’s economy was booming and the future was as bright as it had ever been. Things were going so well that developers were seeing tall office buildings everywhere and residential skyscrapers, a true show of the nation’s wealth.

Sadly, Thailand’s poor investments and large number of debts sunk the country’s economy in what is now known as the “1997 Asian Financial Crisis.” Due to lack of funding, all the building development came to a screeching halt, as the dreams of sky-scraping opulence suddenly faded.

The Sathorn Unique building was among the buildings that fell victim to the Asian Financial Crisis. Many of the towers that were being developed prior to the economic crash were eventually completed, or are about to, but this one remains in ruin. Although once on its way to becoming one of Bangkok’s most beautiful buildings, the Sathorn Unique is now a creepy reminder of what Thailand dreamed of becoming.

The commercial brochure is a sad reminder of how the tower was envisioned. It names the Sathorn Unique Tower as being the best place to overlook the grand cityscape; with 659 residential units and 54 retails, the 49-story building was set to become one of Bangkok’s most important landmarks. Sadly, however, the tower now looks more like what was left after an atomic apocalypse than anything else.

Frozen in time, the tower’s iconic eerie appearance, locals believe the building to be haunted, calling it the Ghost Tower. This moniker sparks the interest of urban explorers and tourists alike, who want to see the building’s cracked and decaying insides for themselves.

Source: unusualplaces | Image credits: 1 2 3 4 5 

Scorpion Vodka

Scorpion vodka and whiskey liquor is an alcoholic beverage produced by infusing real edible scorpions in rice wine or grain alcohol. The vodka is steeped for several months, which then imparts a unique flavour into the liquor, it is quite an acquired taste. 

According to historic records scorpion vodka was first consumed in China during the Western Zhou dynasty and was believed to reinvigorate a person according to Traditional Chinese medicine. The story is that this is used in SE Asia as a Aphrodisiac; and it also has medical uses, such as the treatment of back and muscle pain.

The Dead Babies in Ashkelon - Israel

How and why the bones of nearly 100 infants were deposited in a late Roman-early Byzantine sewer beneath a bathhouse at Ashkelon, on the southern coast of Israel, continue to baffle scholars. An initial examination of the remains by Patricia Smith and Gila Kahila of the Hebrew University revealed that most of the bones, discovered in 1988, were intact and that all parts of the skeletons were represented, suggesting that the infants had probably been thrown into the drain soon after death. All of the bones and teeth are comparable to those of newborn infants. The absence of neonatal lines--prominent marks in the enamel of deciduous teeth and first permanent molars, which are considered evidence of survival for more than three days--indicates the babies died shortly after birth.

The number of infants, all of the same age and with no signs of disease or skeletal malformation, suggested infanticide rather than a catastrophe such as epidemic, war, or famine, in which a range of ages might be expected. Smith and Kahila thought the Ashkelon infants were probably girls because female infanticide was widespread in Roman society. In a letter written in 1 B.C a husband instructs his pregnant wife, "if it is a boy keep it, if a girl discard it," and the Roman poet Juvenal mentions children "abandoned beside cesspools."

Ariella Oppenheim of the Hebrew University and her colleagues have now analyzed DNA from the bones to determine the sex of the infants. The extraction was successful in 19 cases, 14 of which were male and five female. The significant number of male victims was unexpected, they say, and raised the intriguing possibility that these infants may have been the unwanted offspring of courtesans working in the bathhouse. There are problems with this interpretation. If prostitutes were discarding all infants, a ratio closer to 1:1 of males to females would be more likely. Either the results of the analysis are somehow biased or some selectivity took place in the abandonment of the infants. Harvard archaeologist Larry Stager interprets this as evidence that male infants may have been discarded while females were brought up to work in the brothel.

The link between the contents of the sewer and the bath, built over several houses, is not entirely clear. According to Stager the bath and sewer are both fourth-century constructions. The remains of the babies were found in a gutter in the bottom of the sewer, which filled with debris and went out of use by ca. 500, suggesting the babies may be contemporary with the functioning of the bath. In a 1991 report Stager noted that hundreds of fragments of ceramic oil lamps, some decorated with erotic motifs and others with mythological scenes, were found in a small street-front room of one of the houses. Although the lamps appeared unused, Stager claimed they were "solely for the amusement of the owner" and were not being sold from the house. The possibility that the bath also served as a brothel was considered but dismissed in the same article. But in the DNA report, published in Nature, the lamps are associated with the bath, not the earlier houses, and considered to be evidence that it was also a brothel.

Based on ancient sources, historian John M. Riddle of North Carolina State University raises additional questions about the new interpretation. "The literary evidence--classical, medieval, and early modern--is virtually united in claiming that prostitutes knew what to do to prevent full-term pregnancies," he notes. "Why would prostitutes at Ashkelon be different?" A variety of contraceptive methods and abortifacients was used in the classical world. Among the church fathers, Jerome (348-420) condemned the use of potions that cause "sterility and murder those not yet conceived," while Augustine of Hippo (354-430) held that as long as the fetus was no more than "some sort of living, shapeless thing" homicide laws did not apply because it had no senses and no soul. Riddle also says that after the first century A.D. the value of slaves increased to the point that unwanted babies could be and were sold to dealers. Neither of the proposed explanations--female infanticide or discarding of unwanted children by prostitutes--seems to match the evidence.

Sources: archaeologydailymail | Images©BBC

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Sokushinbutsu - The Art of Self-Mummification

Scattered throughout Northern Japan around the Yamagata Prefecture are two dozen mummified Japanese monks known as Sokushinbutsu, who caused their own deaths in a way that resulted in their mummification. The practice was first pioneered by a priest named Kuukai over 1000 years ago at the temple complex of Mount Koya, in Wakayama prefecture. Kuukai was founder of the Shingon sect of Buddhism, which is the sect that came up with the idea of enlightenment through physical punishment. A successful mummification took upwards of ten years. It is believed that many hundreds of monks tried, but only between 16 and 24 such mummification have been discovered to date.

The elaborate process started with 1,000 days of eating a special diet consisting only of nuts and seeds, while taking part in a regimen of rigorous physical activity that stripped them of their body fat. They then ate only bark and roots for another thousand days and began drinking a poisonous tea made from the sap of the Urushi tree, normally used to lacquer bowls.

This caused vomiting and a rapid loss of bodily fluids, and most importantly, it made the body too poisonous to be eaten by maggots. Finally, a self-mummifying monk would lock himself in a stone tomb barely larger than his body, where he would not move from the lotus position. His only connection to the outside world was an air tube and a bell. Each day he rang a bell to let those outside know that he was still alive.

When the bell stopped ringing, the tube was removed and the tomb sealed. After the tomb was sealed, the other monks in the temple would wait another 1,000 days, and open the tomb to see if the mummification was successful. If the monk had been successfully mummified, they were immediately seen as a Buddha and put in the temple for viewing. Usually, though, there was just a decomposed body.

The mummies also possess the accessories they had prior to death. However, their eyes have been removed. Even so, they are considered able to see into the souls of the living and be able to perceive reality perfectly.

The practice is now outlawed by the government of Japan and not practiced today by any Buddhist sect. 

Source: amusingplanet 

The Sati Ritual - India

Sati was a social funeral practice among some Indian communities in which a recently widowed woman would immolate herself on her husband’s funeral pyre. Either voluntary act or a form of coerced suicide, it has been heavily debated. Hindu texts forbid its practice in Kali yuga, the current age. But the practice was revived most notably during the Muslim invasions of India. By law, the practice was banned several times, adding that the promoter and planner would be sentenced, if convicted.

The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987 Part I, Section 2(c) defines Sati as:

The burning or burying alive of –
  • (i) any widow along with the body of her deceased husband or any other relative or with any article, object or thing associated with the husband or such relative; or
  • (ii) any woman along with the body of any of her relatives, irrespective of whether such burning or burying is claimed to be voluntary on the part of the widow or the women or otherwise

The act of sati is said to exist voluntarily; from the existing accounts, many of these acts did indeed occur voluntarily. The act may have been expected of widows in some communities, and the extent to which social pressures or expectations constitute compulsion has been much debated in modern times. However, there were also instances where the wish of the widow to commit sati was not welcomed by others, and where efforts were made to prevent the death. Women who became afraid during the act of Sati could, according to writings in the Yājñavalkya Smṛti, be called back from the act of sati by her deceased husband's relations to cause her to rise up and stop the act of sati.

Traditionally, a person's funeral would have occurred within a day of the death, requiring decisions about sati to be made by that time. When the husband died elsewhere, the widow might still die by immolation at a later date.

Sati often emphasized the marriage between the widow and her deceased husband. For instance, rather than mourning clothes, the to-be sati was often dressed in marriage robes or other finery. In the preliminaries of the related act of Jauhar (or Saka), both the husbands and wives have been known to dress in their marriage clothes and re-enact their wedding ritual, before going to their separate deaths.

Accounts describe numerous variants in the sati ritual. The majority of accounts describe the woman seated or lying down on the funeral pyre beside her dead husband. Many other accounts describe women walking or jumping into the flames after the fire had been lit, and some describe women seating themselves on the funeral pyre and then lighting it themselves.

According to Dharmasātric authors, a Brahmanical branch of scholarship that is concerned with the outlining the moral right behavior, there are several conditions that could bar a woman from committing Sati. According to an interpretation by Madhàva of the Parāsara Smrti if a the woman is pregnant, menstruating, or if she is not on her regular menstrual cycle (indicating that she may be pregnant) she is not permitted to follow her husband onto the pyre. Some written instructions for the ritual exist. For instance, the Yallajeeyam provides detailed instructions about who may commit sati, cleansing for the sati, positioning, attire, and other ritual aspects.

Sati often described as voluntary, although in some cases it may have been forced. In one narrative account, the widow appears to have been drugged either with bhang or opium and was tied to the pyre to keep her from fleeing after the fire was lit. Royal funerals sometimes have included the deaths of many wives and concubines. A number of examples of these occur in the history of Rajasthan. In some Hindu communities, it is conventional to bury the dead. Deaths of widows have been known to occur in these communities, with the widow being buried alive beside her husband, in ceremonies that are largely the same as those performed in an immolation.

Source: wikipedia | Image credits: 1 2 3 4 5 

Chinese Foot Binding: The Pain of Beauty

Women have done many things for beauty throughout the course of history – from indifferently using arsenic or lead-based cosmetics, to ear and other body piercings, to yet more extreme forms of body modification. One of the most agonizingly painful of such practices is the Chinese custom of foot binding, where the feet of women – typically young girls – were broken and bound until they were able to fit inside a tiny shoe.

For around a thousand years in China, tiny bound feet were considered highly erotic, and the resulting 'lotus gait' – caused by the women needing to walk on their heels in a unsteady, 'mincing' manner – was not only arousing for men but thought to make the sexual anatomy “more voluptuous and sensitive”. During the Qing Dynasty, love manuals apparently detailed 48 different ways of fondling a woman’s bound feet. However, even while in bed – and even if otherwise totally naked – women wore special slippers to conceal their deformed extremities. The attraction seems to have lain in what was hidden from view.

Yet the impact of bound feet was felt far beyond the private domain of the bedroom and sexuality – although the practice was doubtless a means of male domination to ensure women remained chaste. Women whose feet were bound were unable to participate freely in society – to go on outings on their own, for example – with feet so severely disfigured. They frequently needed the physical support of another person if they were to walk for any length of time, and this kept them dependent on their families, subject to the will of men around them, and often all but confined to their homes.

With the weight of culture and tradition behind the practice, women in China themselves upheld foot binding, believing it promoted health and fertility, in spite of the crippling pain they suffered. The practice also took the perceived biological disadvantage of being born as a woman and turned it into a social advantage in terms of the marital opportunities it offered. Women with unbound feet were highly unlikely to enter into a prestigious marriage: those of the upper classes would have to marry ‘down’ while those of lower social status risked being sold into slavery.

Much of the stigma attached to foot binding in modern societies stems from the incredibly painful process that women had to undergo in order for the delicate ‘golden lotus’ foot to be attained. It generally began before the arch of the foot had developed properly – when the girl was between the ages of two and five. After the feet were soaked in a warm, softening mixture of herbs and animal blood, they were next massaged while the cotton bandages were prepared. Next, the toes were curled under the foot and then forcefully broken with great pressure.

After this agonizing start, the procedure continued in a similar vein: the foot was brought level with the leg and the arch broken by force. Only then was the binding itself begun, with the bandages repeatedly wrapped around the feet, pressing the broken toes tightly against the sole of the foot, and squeezing the ball and heel together. Finally, the ends of the bandages were sewn tightly so that they could not be undone.

As well as the excruciating pain of the binding itself, the feet were commonly prone to other complications – from swelling and pus-filled sores in the early stages of the treatment, to paralysis and serious infections such as gangrene. The feet were bathed in liquids ranging from scented water to urine in efforts to prevent odor and infection or to reduce swelling. What’s more, if the feet were left unbound for any length of time, the pain the woman experienced could be just as severe as that caused by the original binding.

Interestingly, it is believed that foot binding did not originate as a practice that was meant to deform the feet but rather was used as a temporary measure to aid in dance – much as ballet shoes are used today. Around 970 A.D., the consort of Emperor Li Yu of the Tang Dynasty performed a dance on a ‘golden lotus’ pedestal, wrapping her feet in silken cloths. The ruler was so entranced by the beauty of the movement that other women in the court imitated the look. From here, the practice spread to become a fashion among the upper classes and eventually reached all strata of society such that the bodily modification became widespread. Yet, however foot binding was practiced, the deformity and the excruciating pain inflicted were facts of life that, for a millennium, Chinese women were forced to suffer through.

In 1911, the Chinese government finally outlawed foot binding. Pressure had come not only from feminists but also from educated people concerned about how China was viewed by the outside world, as well as from Social Darwinists worried about the idea of an enfeebled nation.

Source: environmentalgraffiti | Image credits: 1 2 3 4 5 

Kimchi - Korean Fermented Vegetables

Kimchi, also spelled kimchee or gimchi, is a traditional fermented Korean side dish made of vegetables with a variety of seasonings. It is often described as "spicy" or "sour". In traditional preparation Kimchi was often allowed to ferment underground in jars for months at a time. It is Korea's national dish, and there are hundreds of varieties made with a main vegetable ingredient such as napa cabbage, radish, scallion, or cucumber.

Early kimchi was made of cabbage and beef stock only. Red chili, a New World vegetable not found in Korea before European contact with the Americas, was introduced to Korea from Japan after the Japanese invasions and became a staple ingredient in kimchi, although its use was not documented until the 18th century. Red chili pepper flakes are now used as the main ingredient for spice and source of heat for many varieties of kimchi. In the twelfth century other spices, creating flavors such as sweet and sour, and colors, such as white and orange, were added.

Kimchi varieties are determined by the main vegetable ingredients and the mix of seasonings used to flavor the kimchi. The Kimchi Field Museum in Seoul has documented 187 historic and current varieties of kimchi. Ingredients can be replaced or added depending on the type of kimchi being made. The most common seasonings include brine, scallions, spices, ginger, chopped radish, garlic, shrimp sauce, and fish sauce.

Kimchi can be categorized by main ingredients, regions or seasons. Kimchi from the northern parts of Korea tend to have less salt, less red chilli and usually do not have brined seafood for seasoning. Northern kimchi often has a watery consistency. Kimchi made in the southern parts of Korea uses salt, chili peppers, fermented brined anchovy or shrimp,  and liquid anchovy jeot.

Kimchi is Korea's national dish. It is so important to the nation's culture and cuisine that Koreans say "kimchi" when posing for photographs. South Koreans consume 40 pounds of kimchi per person annually, and many credit their nation's rapid economic growth in part to eating the dish.

Source: wikipedia | Image credits: 1 2 3 4 5 

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Garden of Dreams - Nepal

The Garden of Dreams, a neo classical historical garden, is situated in the midst of Kathmandu city, Nepal. The Garden was famous as the garden of Six Seasons which was created by late Field Marshal Kaiser Sumsher Rana (1892-1964) in early 1920. After the completion of this Garden, it was considered as one of the most sophisticated private gardens of that time. However, it was a private garden of Kaiser Sumsher, it was beautifully designed inspired by the famous Edwardian style. Kishore Narshingh, a prominent architect who designed and constructed Singha Durbar in 1907, designed and supervised the construction of the Garden of Dreams. Within the Garden walls, Kaiser Sumsher created an exquisite ensemble of pavillions, fountains, decorative garden furnitures and European inspired features such as varandas, pergolas, blustrades, urns and birdhouses. He erected six impressive pavillions, each dedicated to one of the six seasons of Nepal. These pavillions provided the Garden's architectural framework and lent a cosmopolitan flavor to the formal arrangement of flowers, shrubs and trees. Today, only half of the original garden is in existance.

After the demise of Kaiser Sumsher, the garden was handed over to the Government of Nepal. However it was not properly managed for decades. A seven years of extensive renovation has revived the garden as per the original concept with added modern facilities. It has now become an oasis of peace and tranquility in the urban bustle of Kathmandu city. The size of the Garden is 6,895 sq. meter including three pavillions, amphitheater, central ponds, pergolas, urns and combination of small gardens to larger ones. 

The Garden of Dreams renovation project was financed by Austrian Government, the project was implemented by Eco Himal. This model project has become a sustainable historic site which lie dormant and could be similarly restored and developed to great benefits. The Garden of Dreams has also contributed to improve the quality of life for both the citizens and tourists in the central Kathmandu. 

Now, Garden of Dreams is considered as one of most attractive tranquil oasis, tourism landmark which also houses a natural library where visitors can take advantage of natural beauty inter related with historical and architectural flavour. Garden of Dreams welcomes private and corporate functions, receptions, cultural programs, and classical concerts too.

Source: gardenofdreams 

Maramadi: Bull Surfing - India

At the annual Maramadi festival during the post harvest season in the villages of Kerala in southern India, a peculiar bull race takes place. A pair of bulls are sent charging down the football field-sized rice paddy field soaked in ankle deep water, while their guides hang onto the tail or onto a harness and slide through the mud. The fields are freshly ploughed and the muddy water splash about as the bulls are raced by their guides. The villagers gather around these fields keeping safe distance. The air is rent with excitement fervor as there is stiff competition over these races.

A pair of oxen is usually managed by three persons forming a participating unit. Nearly 30 such units participate in the race which starts at noon and continues up to dusk. Like professional Jockeys these persons are also well trained and are experts in managing the oxen during the race. The oxen participating in for these races are specially fed and trained.

The most famous among the Maramadi races is held in Anandapali village Pathnamthitta District near Adoor City in Kerala. Here it is held around August 15th every year and coincides with the Onam celebrations. 

Source: amusingplanet | Image credits: 1 2 3