Friday, December 31, 2010

Palmyra Palm- Standing Tall

A bunch of Palmyra palm trees are snapped above on the foothills behind the swimming pool. Palmyra is Borasus Flabellifer; the fruit has leather-like skins and the palm fronds end up in large fans. The ripe fruit pulp is an ingredient for cakes and when the fruit is tender, it yields a sweet core like coconut filled with water. A beautiful tree that illuminates the landscape.

This palm also yields good quality sugar. In many places, producing palm sugar is a cottage industry. The sap of this tree is fermented and made into toddy.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Basilica of Bom Jesus, Goa

The Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa is one of the most important Churches in India. The church houses the naturally preserved body of St. Francis Xavier. The Church was consecrated in 1605.
St. Francis Xavier was born in the Xavier Castle in the Kingdom of Navarre in 1506 and passed away in 1552, with a very committed life. He spent a substantial part of his life in Sri Lanka and Indonesia as a Jesuit Priest.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Noli me tangere: Mimosa Pudica

One of the common names for Mimosa Pudica is touch- me-not. A favourite with children, the compound leaves of this herb close in once touched. The Spanish common name for it is Dormidera. The closed leaves reveal the thorn in the plant to resist browsing cattle. Even otherwise, the leaves are not eaten by grazing animals.

The above images are taken by the river bank of Mahanadi. In the first photograph above, the leaves are have closed after I touched the plant. The root of the plant works as an anti-venom for cobra bite. New chemotherapeutic properties are also extracted from this plant. Mimosine from Mimosa Pudica is used for its antiproliferative properties in the treatment of ovarian cancer. The pink cotton ball like flowers look very attractive on the green leaf-beds.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Rosalia de Castro's Siesta

I first came across the poems of Rosalia de Castro in 1976 while going through a book in the library. One poem which moved me the most was given the title of "Siesta", by the translator, John Frederick Nims.

The poem deals with a mother's daily life as she deals with her clamorous children at siesta time. Mothers all over the world, wake up early, make tea and breakfast for the family. They send the children to school and the man of the family to work. Then it is time for lunch. Through all this hard work they might need a little sleep in the after noon. The mother gets angry with the playful children, but then immediately she repents as she scatters the children away, like the "beads of a broken rosary." The poem starts describing children playing:

Aquel romor de cántigas e risas,
ir, vir, algarear;
aquel falar de cousas que pasaron
i outras que pasarán;
aquela, en fin, vitalidade inquieta
xuvenil, tanto mal
me fixo, que lles dixen:
"Ivos e non volvás."

J.F.Nims translates the poem with a lot of skill:

Now all that sound of laughter, sound of singing,
going, coming, happy stir!
that talk of Know what happened? What's about to?
the breathless Have you heard?
all of that bright vitality, so restless,
of boys and girls
- too much to bear. I begged
"Please leave me. Don't return."

When the children go away, the poet describes the scene as the "beads of a broken rosary rolled and scattered across the floor."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Most Serene Beings

Two puppies sleeping in the street late in to the morning, stopped me on my way. When and where they would get their next meal? A little worry is already there on their tender faces, but then, in their sleep, these wonderful beings are billionaires.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Encounter with a Great Poet: Antonio Machado

Walking down the Passeig de Gracia towards Gran Via de Corts Catalanes, I came across the building above indicating that the poet Antonio Machado had lived in the house for a certain period in the past. The tablet above is artistic and it caught my attention. Little did I know at that time that I would be learning about a great poet and a sensitive human being. Antonio Machado lost his wife early and many of his poems reflect his devotion to her as well as his solitude. I find the lines below very elegant:

He andado muchos caminos,
he abierto muchas veredas;
he navegado en cien mares,
y atracado en cien riberas

A simple translation would be :

I have traversed through many roads,
and opened passageways through thickets,
I have sailed through a hundred seas,
and anchored by a hundred shores.

Another stanza I find very beautiful is presented below:

Lord, you tore from me what I loved most.
Listen again, my God, to my heart's cry:
Your will was done, Lord, not mine.
Lord, my heart and the sea are already alone. (Tr. Ivan M. Granger)

The loss of his wife puts the poet on a lifelong journey of solitude and sorrow.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ubiquitous Coconut Trees: Kerala Landscape

Whether it is the courtyard, the road or the sea beach, one finds lots of coconut trees in Kerala. The large number of these trees give a distinctive flavour to the Kerala landscape.

Coconut makes immense contribution to the economy in the form of coconut oil, green coconuts, coconut coirs for mattresses and mats etc. Coconut also is the sacred fruit which is offered to gods.

The Golden Pond

A pond early in the morning with lotuses and red lilies. The embankment is girdled with date palms. I took this image near the river Subarnarekha.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

An Ashoka Tree in Blossom at Kaladi

An Ashoka Tree in bloom inside the Ramakrishna Advaita Ashram in Kaladi, Kerela. The hermitage reminds one of the Belur Math by the Ganga River. The Ramakrishna Mission carries out important work in education and health services.

Adi Shankara was born in Kaladi, by the river Poorna (Periyar). As a boy, Shankara prayer for the river to change its course and come near their home, so that his mother could amble across in a short time. The river, legend has it, came to Shankara's foot print.

A scholar extraordinaire, Shankara united the whole world as a single cultural entity, with his non-dualism, a single God with all the souls as God's indivisible sparks. The same message was carried forward by Swami Vibekananda. Befitting of Ramakrishna Mission to have an Ashram in Kaladi.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Ashoka Tree

The Ashoka tree is considered sacred and the botanic name means sacred tree: Saraca Indica. It was later given the name of Jonesia Ashoka. Though a slow growing tree, it lives very long and heralds spring with its red and orange blossoms. the images above are taken in the Botanic Gardens.

From the bark of the tree the medicine Ashokarista is prepared in the Ayurvedic School of medicine. In homoeopathy the medicine is known as Jonesia Ashoka. It is used as a mother tincture. It is useful in protecting the uterine and cures diseases related to it. The flower has a light fragrance. The tree has a festival named after it, the Ashokashtami which fall in March-April every year in the month of Chaitra.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Nature in My Backyard- The Cannonball Tree

The Cannonball Tree (Couroupita Guinansis)

The Cannonball tree above is very large for a city. Called Naga Champa in Sanskrit, it is planted mostly in Shiva Temple courtyards. The flower has a pinkish white hue, very close to the lotus. The central petal curves like a hood above the base. Hence its association with the serpent.

The flower has a very mild fragrance. Its fruit is unusually large as seen in the photograph at the top. The fruit resembles a cannonball hence the name Cannonball Tree.

The tree is deciduous and suddenly one day, all the leaves would be missing. New leaves come up very fast. The flowering is around the trunk, and the flowers attracts insects flying at the middle levels. This tree is a cauliflory in which the flower and fruit appears in the trunk of the tree.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

University of Madras , Marina Beach

University of Madras was established in 1857 and is a great institution in learning., along with University of Calcutta and University of Bombay. The complex near Marina Beach is in excellent condition, as is evident from the above photographs.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Kochi- A Sense of Belonging

Clock Tower at Tripunithura by Poornathrayeesa Temple.

When you do not know any one in a particular place, you know every one there. We landed at Kochi which has a small air port built anew in the traditional architecture of Kerala. The taxi driver from the airport was very honest and when we got out, I requested him as to how much it would cost to have the cab for a day. With good humour he replied that a full day was not required to see Kochi.

A small and sleepy town, Kochi is very friendly. It has a beautiful sea face and the churches, temples and the Synagogue have an atmosphere of their own. We were not fortunate to go inside the Synagogue as it was closed.

The food was superb in the restaurants. I found the Saree Shopping Plazas most attractive. In different floors, many types of sarees are displayed by a large number of staff. Some of the employees would move around with glasses of water for the customers.

The markets have their own fragrance and flavour. You could see large cauldrons heated with oil, with shimmering golden banana chips. It were, as if I had known Kochi all my life and belonged to it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Coconut Trees of Kerala

Kerala is deeply associated with the Coconut Tree. The oil of coconut is widely used, especially in frying banana chips. The Coir industry took off from Kerala. At every street corner one would find green coconut vendors.

In the cuisine also coconut milk is used frequently. The two images above look like picture post cards of Kerala Tourism.

Munnar Rubber Plantations

Rubber trees grow very tall and below these trees other spices could be planted. Both coffee and chocolate are under trees. With the rubber collection cups strung around the trees, we get a distinctive feel of harvesting activities.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Chinese Fishing Nets at Kochi

The Chinese fishing nets are a delightful attraction in Kochi. Though you don't find many
catches the nets do attract the tourists' inquisitiveness.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Nature In My Backyard: The Dragonfly

I sighted a new dragonfly today in the morning. When I wanted to snap it, it started moving all around. The first image I could take was on the oleander plant. The second image is on a hibiscus shrub. This November is still very warm, but the hibiscus has stopped flowering.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Shree Poornathrayeesa temple: Temple Bells

The temple bells above against the wooden structure seem novel.

Shree Poornathrayeesa- Temple Relief

The image above is that of a fish in relief in the temple. Such small changes give a distinctive uniqueness to the temple.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Poornathrayeesa Temple, Tripunithura

The Poornathrayeesa temple at Tripunithura, (about 6 km from Kochi) is architecturally unique, as is the legend behind it. The temple is believed to have been established by Arjuan in Dwapara Age, some 5000 years back. Vishnu is worshipped in the temple on the Sesha Naga while sitting upright, unlike in the reclining position as in Srirangam (Trichy) or in Padmanavaswamy Temple (Trivandrum).

The temple stands testimony to Vishnu's giving life to ten still born children. In a way it demonstrates parents' immense love of children and their unlimited capacity to pray for the wellbeing of their progeny. The temple made of wood and stones and gives a pristine and ancient look.

Though the temple is dedicated to Vishnu, the main characters are Arjuna, Krishna and the Brahmin whose ten children were still born. Vishnu restored the life of ten of the Brahmin's children and is prayed here for granting children to childless couples.

The Bend on the Road

There is always the surprise element in mountain curves. What is on the other side of the bend?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Cottage at Devikulam

The cottage at Devikulam bathes in the silence of Munnar, especially at dawn and dusk. You could sense the time standing still. Reflect, write, paint or pray.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Dam in the Mountains

Munnar has this beautiful dam with a bridge across which surprises you when you drive around it. There is generation of electricity from it by taking water from the dam through iron pipes down the steep hills.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Munnar Spice- Pepper

A Pepper Creeper

On the way to Munnar, one would find many creepers entwined around trees. The creeper above is pepper (piper nigrum), which is used all over the world as a spice and as a carminative. The creeper also looks very beautiful with its heart shaped leaves which resemble the betel leaves.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Architecture of a Hill Station

In the hills, houses are modest and often part of small settlements. Because of heavy rains and high gradient, there could also be the danger of land slides. All around the Munnar Hills, one would find small villages. From a distance, these really look beautiful.

Your Cup of Hot Chocolate

The Cocoa Plant

The image above is that of a Cocoa plant, (Theobroma Cacao) with the cocoa fruit sprouting out of the trunk. Inside the pod, the cocoa comes in white beans. The tree is an understory and often grows under rubber trees. The flowers come in the trunk in clusters. Whether it is hot chocolate or chocolate ice cream, the world is always hungry for chocolates.

Munnar has the plantations of Cocoa all over, so that it produces all the three family drinks: tea, coffee and chocolate.

The Spice Mountains - Munnar

The Coffee Blossoms

Munnar is the goldmine of plantations. You name it and Munnar has it: tea, coffee, chocolate, cardamom, nutmeg, pepper and rubber.

The image above is that of a coffee plant. The blossoms resemble varieties of tulip or jasmine. the beans are shiny and cherry like, though hard. In this season, I could not find any beans.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Exfoliation in Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus is a tall tree of the Myrtle family, and is widely found in tea gardens amidst tea plants. Its bark is smooth in greenish gray colour. But when the outer bark dies out, there is exfoliation, and the new bark appears smooth and shiny.

In the photo above one could see the new barks coming out. In tea estates, with these trees around, production of eucalyptus oil is an inevitable byproduct.

The Lone Jacaranda

The jacaranda tree in full bloom is a sight of rare beauty. The violet-blue flowers cover the complete tree. In case of the jacaranda tree above, near Devikulam, most of the flowers have wilted.

However, a few of the blossoms still remain so that the tree could be noticed by the road side. Very thoughtful of some one who had planted this tree.