Celebrated all over India since ancient times ,Holi (also called Holaka or Phagwa) is an annual festival celebrated on the day after the full moon in the Hindu month of Phalguna(early March). It celebrates spring, commemorates various events in Hindu mythology and is time of disregarding social norms and indulging in general merrymaking. It is probably the least religious of Hindu festival. During Holi, Hindus attend a public bonfire, spray friends and family with colored powders and water, and generally go a bit wild in the streets.
The legend commemorated by the festival of Holi involves an evil king named Hiranyakashipu. He forbade his son Prahlad from worshipping Lord Vishnu, but he continued to offer prayers to the God. Getting angry with his son, Hiranyakashipu challenged Prahlad to sit on a pyre with his wicked aunt Holika who was believed to be immune to fire. (In an alternate version, Holika put herself and Prahlad on the fire on orders from her brother.) Prahlad accepted the challenge and prayed to Vishnu to keep him safe. When the fire started, everyone watched in amazement as Holika was burnt to death, while Prahlad survived without a scar to show for it. The burning of Holika is celebrated as Holi. According to some accounts, Holika begged Prahlad for forgiveness before her demise, and he decreed that she would be remembered every year at Holi.
An alternative account of the basis of the holiday is associated with a legend involving Lord Shiva. Shiva is known for his meditative nature and his many hours spent in solitude and deep meditation. Madana, the God of love, decided to test his resolve and appeared to Shiva in the form of a beautiful nymph. But Shiva recognized Madana and became very angry. In a fit of rage he shot fire out of his third eye and reduced her to ashes. This is sometimes given as the basis of Holi's bonfire.
The festival of Holi is also associated with the enduring love between Lord Krishna and Radha, and Krishna in general. According to legend, the young Krishna complained to his mother Yashoda about why Radha was so fair and he so dark. Yashoda advised him to apply colour on Radha's face and see how her complexion would change. Because of this association with Krishna, Holi is extended over a longer period in Vrindavan and Mathura, two cities with which Krishna is closely affiliated. Krishna's followers everywhere find special meaning in the joyous festival, as general frivolity is considered to be in imitation of Krishna's play with the gopis .
Holi is spread out over two days(it used to be five, and in some places longer).The entire festival is associated with a loosening of social restrictions normally associated with caste,sex,status and age. Holi thus bridges social gaps and brings people together: employees and employers, men and women, rich and poor, young and old. Teenagers spend the day flirting and misbehaving in the streets, adults extend the hand of peace, and everyone chases everyone else around, throwing brightly colored powder(gulal) and water over each other. A common saying heard during Holi is “bura na mano, Holi hai”(don’t feel offended,it’s Holi). Holi provides a refreshing respite from the mundane norms as people from all walks of life enjoy themselves.
Holi continues to b celebrated with great vigour throught out India. Countless Hindi films have brought the vibrant colours of the festival to the screen. Indians all over the world eagerly await the Festival of Colours, as bonfires are lit to banish the cold dark nights of winter and usher in warmer spring. Dhuleti, day after Holi, is the actual festival of colours, when everything in sight is coloured in ariot of colours.
Holika Dahan or the lighting of bonfire takes place on the eve of Holi. The day is also popularly called 'Chhoti Holi' or the 'Small Holi'.The bigger event - play with the colour takes place on the next 'big' dayTraditionally, Hindu boys spend the weeks prior to Holi combing the neighborhood for any waste wood they can find for the bonfire. The fire is lit sometime between 10 PM and midnight (at the rising of the moon), not generally in an orderly fashion. Everyone gathers in the street for the event, and the air rings with shouts, catcalls, curses and general mayhem. The central ritual of Holi is the throwing and applying of colored water and powders on friends and family, which gives the holiday its common name "Festival of Colors." This ritual is said to be based on the above story of Krishna and Radha as well as on Krishna's playful splashing of the maids with water, but most of all it celebrates the coming of spring with all its beautiful colors and vibrant life. Nowhere it is celebrated with so much charm and enthusiasm as in Mathura, Vrindavan, Barsana and Nandgaon - the places associated with the birth and childhood of Lord Krishna. At Barsana Holi assumes the name of Lathmaar Holi. Here, women of Barsana give a tough time to men of Nandgaon as they come to play Holi with them. Women drag the unlucky captives, beat them, dress them in a female attire - yet all is in the spirit of Holi.In Bengal, Holi features the Dolayatra (Swing Festival), in which images of the gods are placed on specially decorated platforms and devotees take turns swinging them. In the meantime, women dance around and sing special songs as men spray colored water at them. Women of Haryana, specifically the bhabhis too get an upper hand on the day as they get a social sanction to beat their devars and take a sweet revenge for all the mischiefs they have played on them. This revengeful tradition is called the Dulandi Holi.The most enjoyable tradition of Holi, of course, apart from the play of colours is the tradition of breaking the pot. It is celebrated with much fan fare in the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. Here a pot of buttermilk is hung high on the streets. Men form a huge human pyramid and one on the top breaks the pot with his head. All this while, women keep singing Holi folk songs and men and women throwing buckets and buckets of water. Holi is celebrated in the most dignified manner in the state of Bengal. At Vishwa Bharti University, founded by Rabindranath Tagore founded the tradition of celebrating Holi as 'Basant Utsav' or 'Spring Festival'. Students decorate the campus with intricate rangolis and carry out prabhat pheris in the morning. Clad in traditional attire young boys and girls sing songs composed by Gurudev and present an enchanting view to the onlookers who gather in large number here. In other parts of Bengal, Holi is celebrated as Dol Yatra where the idols of Radha and Krishna are placed on a decorated palanquin and taken out in a procession. For Sikhs, Holi calls for the display of their physical strength and military prowess as they gather at Anandpur Sahib a day after Holi to celebrate Hola Mohalla. The tradition was started by the tenth and last guru of Sikh religion, Guru Gobind Singh ji and is being religiously carried forward. In the north east, Manipuris celebrate the festival in a colourful manner for six continuous days. Here, the centuries old Yaosang Festival of Manipur amalgated with Holi with the introduction of Vaishnavism in the eighteenth century. The highlight of the festival here is a special Manipuri dance, called 'Thabal Chongba'.
Well, there are many-many more ways in which Holi is celebrated. Different states, different cities and different villages have come out with their unique and innovative styles of playing Holi. It may not be possible to describe all of them at one place. What is noteworthy though is the fact that the spirit of Holi remains the same throughout. It is the festival which generates the spirit of brotherhood and bring people close - and this is what matters most than anything else.
Sunday, February 28, 2010
Did hear a lot about Wafra; its vegetable and poultry farms. So decided to go and see it ourselves. This place is close to Saudi border. On the way to the Wafra farms, we saw lot of camels and tents on both side of the main road in the desert. It was a 45minutes drive from our house in Abu Halifa. Was delighted to see so much of green area with farms and farm houses. We stopped at a big farm and checked if there was anyone to take permission to enter the farm. We met a Pakistani caretaker who along with 4 others took care of the estate. He allowed us to go in. We moved around and took pictures. For few minutes I just forgot that we are in a desert country. So many trees, vegetable farms…..a lovely picture! The worker’s were packing vegetables to send them to the shopping malls. Not only vegetables, the farm had camels, sheep’s, goats, hens and birds. We returned after stopping for 2hours.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Evening went to Ahmadi area, where every year the "Festival of Light" take place. To commemorate the National and Liberation Day, the entire Ahmadi area, including streets, parks, offices, trees, churches and houses are beautifully decorated with lights. Firework displays takes place in the evening.
Ahmadi is one of the six governorates of Kuwait. It is located in the southern part of the country and is famous in Kuwait for its greenery and British architecture. It forms an important part of Kuwaiti economy as several of Kuwait's oil refineries are located here. It is popularly known as the home of KOC (Kuwait Oil Company).
Morning went to Liberation Tower in Kuwait city. Towering high above the city of Kuwait, this is one monument you cannot miss while gazing at the city's skyline. This popular landmark measures 372 meters, which makes it about 40 meter’s taller than Paris' Eiffel Tower. It is a symbol of Kuwait's liberation from the Iraqi rule during the Gulf War. In addition it is also one of the tallest telecommunication towers around the world. His Highness the Amir and Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah launched opened this Liberation Tower in Kuwait on 10th March 1996. Tower and the telecommunication compound are divided into three working areas. They include a public communications center, revolving observation level and a restaurant, and the adjoining plant and equipment structure. There are 18 elevators in this tower. These can carry you up and down in no time. Two of them are enclosed with glass and can accommodate 21 passengers. They are regarded as the fastest in the world at notching up speeds of about 6.3 meters per second. There are six floors of offices set up above the revolving mezzanine floor. It is also known as Tahreer Tower.
Thus this is one must-visit destination when you are in Kuwait. It houses many government offices so it remains close for public. Only on Liberation Day till 12pm it remains open. So if you want to visit Liberation Tower, it has to be on this special day.
This is the time of the double celebration for Kuwait as it celebrates its National Day and Liberation Day. One of the most important dates for the people of Kuwait, Liberation Day is celebrated every year on 26 February and commemorates the liberation of Kuwait by the Allied forces from seven months of Iraqi occupation after the first Gulf War on February 26, 1991. It marks the end of the Iraqi occupation of the country which began from August 1990.This day is characterized by people getting together to revel in the spirit of freedom. From 1991 onwards the Liberation Day of Kuwait is celebrated with huge rejoice by the Kuwaitis. If you are in Kuwait during this day you will find that there are public gatherings and get-together held all over Kuwait on this day.
We decided to check out the celebration and so went to Kuwait city and Salmiya. Ya, we got to see the first hand celebration of this special day. Also we were invited for lunch by our friend Ronita ba. She stays in Salmiya. So we also had the opportunity to check out the celebration from her flat. Just like on National Day,even today the flag of Kuwait is raised high over every high rise building and the Kuwaitis come down to the streets, congratulate each other, wave flags and dance in the streets. During this time, items depicting the Kuwait flag or its colors are sold in large quantities. Flags, dresses, t-shirts, hats, hair accessories and other items are sold at hundreds of different places all around Kuwait.The cars are decorated with flags and some have a flag painted on their vehicles or the side windows. Such is the zeal and enthusiasm among Kuwaitis. Foam cans are the hottest sales on the National and Liberation Day of Kuwait. It is sold in different locations throughout Kuwait. On this day teens and adolescents celebrate by spraying untold volumes of foam on passing vehicles, people and even at each other. Kids on both sides of the road do not let any car pass without spraying on them. On Gulf Road some kids had started spraying foam on passing cars and our car too was not spared. It was an atmosphere of celebration and gaiety, and I felt as if the entire Kuwait is one the streets. There were so many cars that it was virtually impossible to get anywhere. We had to spend hours in traffic jam.
Many Kuwaitis celebrate by spending part of the holiday at beach chalets or desert camps while some go to Dubai or other nearby destinations.
However, the day also has a tinge of sorrow mixed with it. Liberation Day at Kuwait is also the day of remembering those thousands of people who lost their lives while resisting the Iraqis, all the innocent lives who are lost forever due to the sudden attacks and not forgetting those Prisoners of War who are held captive in Iraqi jails.
Friday, February 26, 2010
Kuwait celebrated its National Day with lot of zeal and ardor yesterday. We decided to go to KOC Spring Camp and check out the celebration. It’s near Khiren and next to Al Zour Power plant. Going by the 40 Highway, one has to take the left turn for Road No270. It is another 12kms from this point. KOC Spring Camp sign board lead you to the destination.The camp is only for KOC employees, but on the National and Liberation Day it’s open to others. As my husband is in KOC, we visit the camp every year. A nice place to go with your family and friends. After your entry, they give you a tent where you can keep your belongings and go out or take rest. There are tents, play area for children, go carting zone, restaurants and best part it’s near the sea. We haven’t seen so much of Kuwaiti's as we had seen yesterday. All wearing dresses, caps, badges and coloring their faces with colors of their national flag. They decorated their cars with their national flag and the young ones were throwing each other foam. It was a festive occasion. Many young boys were flying kites; the elder Kuwaitis enjoying shisha, coffee and the younger ones were in the play area with their nanny’s. A magic show was also organized.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
My visit to Kuwait Zoo made me relate it with Delhi Zoo which I visited during my recent visit to the city. The National Zoological Park of Delhi or Delhi Zoo as it is popularly known is located next to Purana Qila (Old Fort), on its southern side. I had been to Delhi many times, but it was my first visit to the zoo. I was impressed by the area of the zoo which is spread in an extensive area of 214 acres. Established in 1959, it is regarded as one of the finest zoos in Asia. What was satisfying was to see, efforts been made to provide an almost natural habitat to the animals and birds. There are more than 2,000 animals and bird species from places like Africa, America, Australia and even Asia. There is a lot of greenery around the zoo and the timings for summer is 0800 to 1800 hours and winter is 0900 to 1700 hours. It remains close on Friday. The Delhi Zoo houses over one thousand varieties of animals, reptiles and birds. It also has nearly all varieties of deer found in the country. Said to be one of the better laid out zoological parks of the country, Delhi Zoo is also a favorite destination of migrant birds. In winter the large lake at the entrance of Delhi zoo is thronged with numerous winter visitors including, storks, ducks and other migrant water birds. The white tiger from Rewa, the elephant, which plays a harmonica and the leopard, are some of its highlights apart from the many endangered species of India seen in the park. The best way to explore Delhi Zoo is on foot; though battery operated vehicles are also available for nominal charges. The whole zoo can be seen in three-four hours on foot if one follows the guiding arrow signs placed in the park. There is also a canteen in the zoo where you can refresh yourself before continuing your expedition. The zoo has basic facilities for visitors like drinking water counters at various places in the park. Outside the zoo there are lots of restaurants.
But what will attract you the moment you enter the campus is the massive crowd who have come to visit the zoo. Whether it is the ticket counter, or the entrance or moving around in the zoo; you will have to flow with the crowd. Plastic packet and food is not allowed inside, and the authorities are very strict about it. So be careful. They did not allow me to carry my baby’s food. Only after lot of persuasion, they allowed me to take her bottle of milk.
Anyhow we will cherish our visit.
Mehr enjoys the sights and sounds of animals and birds. So we decided to take her to the zoo. The weather is pleasant, so thought; it would not strain her even if we move around the entire day. Kuwait Zoo is open every day from 8am to 8pm in winter, and from 8am to 12 noon and 4pm to 8pm during summer. Located in Omariya on the Airport Road, entrance is 500 fils and for children it is free. The telephone number of the zoo authorities is 2473 3389. Call if you need any information.
Did get to see some unusual animals. Mehr could not control her excitement when she saw the animals. The animals are taken good care of and their cages are installed with A/C’s. Lucky animals! There was extensive damage done to the premises and the animals during the Iraqi invasion. However, most of the repair work has been completed and the zoo is now open to the public. Today, the Kuwait Zoo houses 65 species of animals, 129 species of birds and five species of reptiles, apart from other animals such as lions, tigers, elephants, giraffes, zebras and many more. As we were moving around, we were blessed to see the ostrich lay two big egg’s just in front of us.
Food is allowed inside. Lot of Kuwaiti families were enjoying their picnic at the park of the zoo. There are also 3restaurants, so you can pass time accordingly. Need not think about your lunch. There is also a toy train.You will relish the experience as it takes you on a tour of the zoo. Ticket price is cheap,just 250fils.
Sharing few pictures that I had taken. Enjoy!!!!
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
As we were discovering Old Delhi, enjoying the Mughal architecture, bargaining in the narrow lanes, we were terribly hungry. It was late afternoon and we decided to have our lunch at Karim's. I had heard a lot about Karim's food, so wanted to experience the taste. Time Magazine ranks Karim's amongst top restaurants in Asia. The restaurant may not be quite easy to spot from the main street, but ask anyone in the area, and they will point you straight to the restaurant. It is in one of the narrow lane, opposite Jama Majid. The founders were supposed to be chefs in Mughal emperor Bahadurshah Jafar’s palace. So here you can have the choicest Mughlai delicacies.There is not a single dish you will not enjoy, the food is delicious.But I found the place unhygienic and dirty. But have read that Karims at Nizamuddin is cleaner and has an overall better ambience.
Try it out when you are in Delhi.
Enjoyed the movie Delhi6.The story is shown against the backdrop of the ancient city of Delhi (which is totally different from New Delhi). The city is almost a character in itself, representing the chaos of India, the people, their religions and their beliefs.
It reminded me of my recent visit to Delhi. I really enjoyed the visit especially to Old Delhi. If you fly into Delhi, you will inevitably end up in New Delhi. This section of the city is very modern with wide and organized roads. And you will not find the ancient Indian charm. But if you want to know and explore real India then you need to visit Old Delhi. Old Delhi is where the action is. Still surrounded by crumbling city walls and three surviving gates, the vibrant, bustling Shahjahanabad, built over a period of 10 years by Emperor Shah Jahan , is very much a separate city. The streets are a chaotic mass of markets with hundreds of people moving around. Old Delhi is inhabited by a predominantly Muslim population whose lives revolve around work and the local mosque, much as it was a century ago.
The best way to see Old Delhi is to catch an auto rickshaw to the Red Fort and then just start wandering around the bazaars and old markets. Or take the metro or taxi to Chandni Chowk. I took the metro. The metro is by far the fastest way to get anywhere in Delhi if you and your destination are near a stop. If you end up taking the metro get off at Chandni Chowk Metro Station. From there take a rickshaw to Red Fort. I found it surprising that they charge per person, Rs10 till Red Fort. So we paid Rs20(for myself n my husband).The Chandni Chowk is one of the busiest market in Delhi. It dates back to 1638. Walking through the narrow lanes you find gold and silver smiths,tailors, spicy street food vendors, sweet shops, gift shops....... just name it.
The Red Fort also know as Lal Qila was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. It is a popular tourist site, as well as a powerful symbol of India's sovereignty. The Prime Minister of India raises the national flag of India on the rampant of the Lahori Gate of the fort complex every year on Independence Day(August 15).
Just opposite the fort is the Digambar Jain Temple, the oldest shrine of the Jain religion in Delhi. Initially built in 1526, much alteration and renovation have been made to the original structure. Erected in red sandstone, Digambar Jain Temple is commonly known as Lal Mandir. Located next to the Digambar Jain Temple, is 800 year old Gauri Shankar Temple. Even before you reach the temple you can smell it, literally, owing to the several flower shops in the vicinity selling flowers to offer to the deity. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and houses an approximately 800-year old brown lingam, made up of phallus stone. The Lingam is encircled by snakes and represents a "cosmic pillar, the center of universe, the life itself". There are bejeweled statues of Gauri (Goddess Parvati) and Shankar (Lord Shiva), standing beneath the silver canopy, inside the main shrine. Along with these idols, are the idols of their sons, Ganesh (the elephant headed god) and Kartik, (the god of war).Then you can stop at Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib. A Sikh pilgrimage, was built on the land where the Mughals in 1675 AD martyred the Sikh Guru,Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur. In Sis Ganj Gurudwara you can witness the trunk of the big tree below which the Guru was martyred. You will be expected to hand over your shoes, wash your hands and feet, and if you are a lady, cover your head with a scarf before entering the gurudwara. A further ahead is parathewali gali, probably the most famous street in old Delhi, known for its stuffed parathas. A little ahead is the Town hall, built by the British and now the office of the MCD. On the street just behind the Gurdwara Sisganj and Sunehri Masjid on Chandni Chowk is Delhi's largest market dealing in wedding accessories. This is the Kinari Bazaar. Even if you don’t have any plans for marketing, just go for window shopping. You will love it! Then halt at Fatehpuri Mosque or Fatehpuri Masjid as it is popularly called in Delhi. It is on the opposite end of Red Fort across the Chandni Chowk. Fatehpuri Begum, one of Shah Jahan's wives, built Fatehpuri Masjid in 1650. The majestic structure is primarily built of red sandstone, typical of all the buildings of that era. This is one of the oldest surviving mosques in India that has only one dome. The later Mughal architecture encouraged multi-domed masjid. The masjid has three gates. Khari Baoli is in the north end gate and Katra Baryan is the south gate. Id-ul-Fitr and Id-ul-Zuha is celebrated in a grand way in the Fatehpuri Masjid. If you want and have time you can stop at St. James' Church, also known as Skinner's Church. Built in 1836 by Colonel James Skinner, is one of the oldest churches in Delhi. The dome of the St. James Church bears a close resemblance to the dome of the Florence Cathedral in Venice in Italy. You are sure to get a lot of peace and solace in the quiet and serene surroundings of this church. Located amidst beautiful gardens, the St. James Church is not just an architectural marvel of historical relevance but it is an experience of the simple, the pure and the ethereal. Then stop at Khari Baoli. Khari Baoli is the Asia's largest wholesale spice market. It can be reached by taking the Khari Baoli road (towards western direction) after crossing the Fatehpuri Masjid on the western end of the main Chandni Chowk Road. It is very popular among tourist as they find it very interesting and unique. Keep going until you reach Dariba Kalan, the oldest and main market for jewelry. Don’t forget to bargain if you plan to buy. Don't worry. Go away, they will call you back and drop the price. Go south down Dariba Kalan to reach Jama Masjid, India's largest and best known mosque. Built between 1644 and 1658, Jama Masjid is one of the last architectural works of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. I visited Old Delhi on December28, 2009. As it was Eid on that day, I was lucky to see the celebration in front of Jama Majid. Then you can head west down Chawri Bazaar for brass and copper icons and other souvenirs. Then up Nai Sarak, the linking road between main Chandni Chowk road and Chawri Bazar. It is Delhi's largest wholesale and retail market of school and college textbooks. Then head south to Churiwali Galli, the "lane of bangle-sellers," and make a final stop at Karim's to sample the authentic Mughlai cooking that has kept patrons coming back for over 100 years.
Just opposite Jama Majid , in the narrow lanes you will find many food vendors. It is unhygienic but I am sure you won't find such finest taste anywhere in the world. Just try it out!
Monday, February 22, 2010
The streets, government buildings n offices, private residences are all decorated with lights and national flag to celebrate Kuwait's 49Th National day and 19Th Liberation Day.
National Day, on February 25, marks the foundation of Kuwait as a country in 1961 and Liberation Day, on February 26, commemorates the liberation of Kuwait from the Iraqi occupation. They are two of the most significant days in Kuwait's calender and is celebrated with much fervour in Kuwait each year. These two days are national holidays.
Plan to go out on these two days and see how Kuwaiti's celebrate. Will post more later.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
With blue and white stripes, they are another fascinating landmark in Kuwait. Don't be surprise, you will find lot of them in Kuwait.