Something About Indian Wood and Indian Furniture

Not many people are aware that India produces some of the best wooden furniture of the world. In fact, the country has a long and colorful history as far as wooden furniture is concerned. While furniture manufactured in India has garnered appreciation from almost all parts of the world, rarely do we come across anybody who is aware of the tradition and history of Indian furniture.

Wooden furniture making has been practiced in India since 1336 AD. It was actually the empires and the kings from southern India that patronized the craft. Century-old wooden articles bear testimony to that. The workers were held in high esteem by the royalty because the craft of carving wood was considered more of an art and trade and India has a history of patronizing art and artisans. As a result, wooden furniture and wooden crafts can be found anywhere in India. Besides the standard and conventional furniture items, wooden doors, walls, posts etc. can be found even in the remotest corner of the country, not to mention of the modern buildings and ancient temples and architecture that bear testimony to the craftsmanship.

There are various important implications of carrying out wooden craftsmanship in India. To be honest, Indian furniture and other wooden items are heavily influenced by the art and literature of the country. Ebony wood has been widely used in the manufacture of Indian furniture, especially in the south and among royal families. In the northern part of the country, walnut wood was more in vogue. Folklore and legends on wood can be preserved for centuries as in India, furniture is usually passed through generations.

Indian craftsmen are renowned to convert wood into amazing pieces of furniture. Most often, locally found wood is used in the manufacture of screens, tables, boxes, trays, toys, candle-holders and other decorative pieces. The wood that are widely used in the manufacture of Indian furniture items include teak, sandal, rose and even coconut. Sandal wood in particular, is often considered by Indians to be the gift of god because of its durability and the fragrance that it emits.

Despite the tremendous progress in the field of technology, Indian furniture is still carved out from traditional tools. Not much machine is used in their manufacture. This has helped the wooden pieces to retain its ethnicity. As the furniture pieces are hand-made, they are a symbol of elegance and durability. This also makes each and every Indian furniture piece unique.

Easy availability of quality wood has been a major reason behind spread of furniture making in India. Of late, however, the government has put down strict norms on felling trees. This has resulted in the high price of Indian furniture. Trees are being allowed to grow for commercial use, though their indiscriminate cutting has been stopped.

Each piece of furniture produced in a certain part of India has its own characteristics. For instance, colorful paintings often adorn the furniture manufactured in the western states. Those manufactured in the south, on the other hand, are more ornamental in nature.

Source by Prabuddha K Neogi

Indian Tourism – Bane Or Boon?

Ever since the tourism boom in India, local environmentalist groups are clamouring about the threat that a rapidly expanding tourist industry poses to the country’s heritage and environment.

The Bane

This begs the question, who is harming the country’s heritage and environment in reality, the locals or the tourists?

Is it the tourists who are pilfering the country’s heritage and making a mockery of environmental regulations? Or should we actually credit it to our own insensitive citizens and officials, who don’t give a hoot about the heritage or the environment – if it means they can make a few extra bucks!

Tourists move around, explore, shop, and then go back; they don’t poach, deforest, pollute the rivers, misuse the land, or flout the environmental regulations of the country – they actually have more entertaining things to do with their limited time in a foreign land!

Rarely, does a tourist deface a heritage structure, it’s usually the local majnoos graffiti ‘Raju loves Meena’ that is seen on the structures, and not ‘Jim loves Jenny’.

The Boon

Fact 1: Tourism is India’s largest industry; it brings in 15% of foreign exchange income; employs 9% of our population; significantly contributes to the GDP – as reported by several surveys – in short it’s a boon for India.

Fact 2: Tourism offers global exposure; fresh perspectives and new trade avenues.

Fact 3: Revolutionary tourism practices enforced by the World Travel & Tourism Council and other such institutions are promoting geo and eco tourism practices that inspire respect for other cultures and environmental diversities. All that is left for us to do is to ensure that we ourselves and our officials respect and follow these practices.

India – Incredible India

India is a land of many cultures and tourism has increased the appreciation and understanding of the cultural melting pot of: passions, colours and spices that make India unique. Tourism in fact, creates a bridge of tolerance and acceptance among varied: races, ethnicities, nationalities and faiths, which promotes peace and prosperity – and not the destruction of ecology.

As a great man once said “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things can not be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s life time.”

Source by Sitwat Khalid

Hill Stations and Mountain Towns of India

Shimla– Himachal Pradesh 2205 m

Shimla is a lovely sprawling Himalayan hill station with a leisurely pace of life and an interesting past. It’s bound to be a real higlight of any India trip. It was the British summer capital from 1864 and once part of the Kingdom of Nepal, but is now a firm favourite with Indian honeymooners, giving it a real holiday feel. Shimla is popular for its cool mountain air in the hot season, its snowfall in the winter and the famous scenic toy train ride on the way down (or up)! The toy train has recently been given UNESCO World Heritage status and is one of the famous narrow gauge mountain railway journeys of India. If you visit Shimla during your India travels, you can stroll along the Mall enjoying Himalayan views, relax in your hotel garden, or hike up to the Monkey Temple set on a hillside above the town.

Mount Abu– Southern Rajasthan – 1200 m

Rajasthan’s only hill station that attracts many Indian tourists from the plains of neighbouring Gujarat state and those retreating from the desert heat of Rajasthan. From one of the viewpoints you can see Pakistan on a clear day – a unique experience to add to your India travel plan. The Maharaja of Jaipur built a summer retreat here in 1897 overlooking the lake. You can do some nice treks here too and there are temples to admire and a polo ground too. Diwali is really big here and it gets very crowded at this time.

Darjeeling– West Bengal Hills – 2134 m

West Bengal’s main attraction; Darjeeling is separated from Nepal and Bhutan by snow-capped peaks and lies in the North East foothills of the Himalayas. Take a break from rowdy cities during your India trip to experience the cool mountain air of this charming hill station, surrounded by emerald tea plantations, and home to a fascinating mix of Indian, Nepalese, and Bhutanese people. You can wander through lush green forests, enjoying the fresh mountain air and explore brightly coloured Buddhist monasteries. At the end, you can toast your visit with a steaming cup of Darjeeling – the champagne of teas. This is an excellent spot to begin a North East India tour into the Himalayas, as well the gateway to the relatively undiscovered state of Sikkim and neighbouring Bhutan.

Gangtok– East Sikkim – 1400-1700m

The name Gangtok means ‘hill top’ and is the capital of Sikkim, a beautiful province that many travellers forget to add to their India itinerary. The buildings are perched along a sharp mountain ridge. The town itself is not so attractive in its’ architecture, but the views, when clear of clouds, are very impressive. There are excellent views of the Kangchenjunga Range from various points along the way. Mount Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world, towers over all of the scenery, dwarfing its surroundings. It is viewed as a hill station holiday resort by many holidaying Bengalis. It can get very busy at festival times for this reason, so bear this in mind if you’re thinking of including Sikkim in your India tour.

Dharamsala– Himachal Pradesh 1219 m

Dharamsala is known as ‘Little Lhasa’, and it will provide a really different spin on your India trip. It is full of burgundy and saffron clad Buddhist monks and fluttering prayer flags. You’ll find the fresh mountain air and the cool air a welcome change from the city smog and hectic traffic. During your stay, you can find out more about Tibetan culture, try some meditation and perhaps take some yoga lessons, listen to the monks chanting prayers in the monastery, or watch their lively debates at the temple. Wander up to the beautiful waterfall in the hills above the town, or visit the Norbulingka Institute, an artistic academy for young Tibetans set amongst beautiful gardens. Trekking and alternative and holistic therapies are also on offer here. McLeod Ganj is the place to stay for most travellers to India. It’s uphill from the busy centre below. The Dalai Lama’s residence is nearby (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama) and so this is the centre for the Tibetan Government in exile. In the 1850s McLeod was a British garrison and administration centre for the colonial government.

Nilgiri hill stations– The western Ghats – Ooty – 2240 m, Coonoor – 1850 m, Kotagiri – 1793 m

Kotagiri is the oldest of the three Nilgiri hill stations and is quiet and unassuming. It is a quiet contrast to the over-development of the more popular Ooty, so it will be a refreshing change from city life during your India tour.

When in Coonoor you should head to Upper Coonoor for peace, quiet and tranquillity as well as the best views. Central Coonoor itself is quite hectic and not so charming. Ooty is perhaps one of the most famous of India’s hill stations in Southern India. As with Shimla it was the British Colonial head-quarters for the government in Madras (now Chennai). You can take the miniature train on a scenic ride up too Ooty and the forests and mountain views are lovely. Old Ooty was nicknamed ‘Snooty-Ooty’. Here travellers to India mix with international students and honeymooners and some parts of Ooty still look very like rural England.

Kodaikanal– Tamil Nadu – 2100 m

This hill station is a cool retreat from the heat of the plains in Tamil Nadu state. It is around 120 kms from the bustling, colourful temple town of Madurai. It has a relaxed pace and is popular with Indian honeymooners. High season in Kodai is from April to June and this is reflected in the hiked prices for accommodation. Indian tourists love row boats and pedal boats and take them out on the lake here. Treks can be arranged and you should hire a guide from the tourist office or youth hostel and of course, as it is India, guides will probably approach you in the street. Or perhaps just get up early and take the 5 km circuit around the lake when it is quiet if you do not fancy trekking into the forest and mountains. Head to Coakers Walk for a great view across the valley below and if you stay at the youth hostel the views from the lower rooms are good too. The valleys can gather mist which is very atmospheric but will sometimes hinder your view.

Manali – Himachel Pradesh – 2050 m

The modern town of Manali is built on an ancient site, but does not have the colonial history, charm and attractive setting of Shimla or some of the other hill stations, but it has a big reputation hanging over from the 70’s and 80’s scene and western hippy scene.

There is high quality marijuana that grows in this region. This attracts a certain kind of traveller, but it is still illegal to smoke it in India. It is now more popular with Indian honeymooners and the western ‘hippy’ travellers are more likely to now reside in neighbouring villages such as Vashisht or Dhungri. The nearby countryside is good for hiking and there are forests, orchards and old temples and the Beas River to explore. Old Manali is more peaceful and charming and walking distance from New Manali or just a short auto-rickshaw ride. Adventure travellers can find opportunities to go rafting, paragliding, skiing as well as trekking.

Munnar – The Western Ghats – 1524 m

Munnar town itself is not so great to look at, but the reason to head up to this hill station is the sea of emerald green tea plantations that surround the town. It’s a real joy to walk through the rolling green hills and take in the cool air and tranquillity of this region. Some of the highest commercial tea estates of the world are in this area. Munnar was another colonial British retreat in days gone by.

Mussoorie – Uttarakhand – 2003 m

This hill station is often referred to as the ‘Queen of Hill Stations’ and was established by the British in 1823. In parts the images of the colonial era linger, as they do in Shimla, in the form of old churches, hotels and summer palaces. It can get very busy here in the summer months, but at other times of year prices can drop quite dramatically and vacancies are easily found. There are great views across the Doon Valley and the distant snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas are visible on a clear day. As with Shimla, this hill station is easily accessible from Delhi so will get busy at holiday and festival times, something to keep in mind if you’re going to schedule it into your India trip.

Source by Bryony Holland

Landscaping of Hindu Religious Places

Traditionally Hindu tepmples were located either on hills or forests or river banks.In ancient times, the temples were constructed in such locations faraway from human habitations for providing a calm, peaceful and pleasant environment and also for ensuring a close bond between man and nature.Hindu temples are generally associated with trees such as Ficus benghalensis, Ficus Religiosa, Aegle marmelos,Azardirachta indica, Temple tree, Bauhinia spp, etc, Herbs such as Vinca rosea, Nerium spp etc.The gigantic trees like ficus spp and some other trees are closely associated with temples since time immemorial.The mixed fragrance, the flowers and the leaf litter on the ground gives a pleasant experience to a pilgrim or tourist.

But contemperoray gardeners and landscapists fail to appreciate this aspect while attempting gardening at these places, which have become tourist and mass pilgrimage centers in modern times.Most contemporary gardeners design symmetric gardening with huge lawns and tiled floor surrounding the tree bases.The representation of trees is very poor in comparison to the lawns and plants.

Assymmetry should be the rule while designing landscaping near these temples.The asymmetric garden should have abundant representation of Tree species such as Ficus, Neem, Wood apple,Alexandrian laurel, Jack Fruit, Mango atc spread in a random manner.

The most depressing aspect of modern temples – they do not have space for gardening at all, leaving such, wherever there is enough space for gardening, care should be taken not to tile or concrete the entire floor touching the tree bases! scientifically too the tree base should have enough soil surrounding it either to water or manure and for aeration.Apart from these the soil surrounding or that beneath a tree has its own microclimate that supports particular flora and fauna.Let only the footpath be tiled while keeping the floor untiled to the maximum extent possible.

Small patches of herbs like Ocimum, Vinca, Jasmine can be grown for the daily usage of pilgrims needs for praying to the god.Another beautiful attraction to the temple garden can be artificially created pool for growing nelumbium spp which is considered the flower associated with gods.

Lawn grass be selected such that the grass species be tolerant to tree shade,and avoid designing open lawns with few plants..try to intersperse the lawn with trees randomly planted in between.

The asymmetric style and a large representation of trees is ecologically significant as these support and house numerous birds and other organisms.Birds like parrots, cuckoos, woodpecker and occasional monkeys, squirrels all add to a natural feeling and oneness with nature.

Source by Ravikumar Uppaluri

India’s Unique Strength – Unity in Diversity

The Republic of India or Bharat Ganrajya is a Sovereign Socialist Democratic Republic country. It is the largest democracy in the world with variety and rich cultural heritage. The great Indian culture evolved during its long history by preserving its ancient heritages of the Indus Valley Civilization, Vedic age, rise of Buddhism, Golden age, Muslim conquests and European colonization. India has a great diversity of cultural practices, languages, customs, and traditions.

India – a vast country

India is a country that occupies a greater part of the South Asian continent covering an area of 32,87,263 sq. km. Bounded by the great Himalayas in the north, it stretches southwards and tapers off into the Indian Ocean between the Bay of Bengal on the east and the Arabian Sea on the west side.

•India is the seventh largest country in the world

•Second most populous country in the world

•Population of more than 1 billion

•India has 28 States and 7 Union Territories

India a diverse country

India is a diverse country and it can be clearly seen in its geography, people, culture and climate. The snow capped Himalayas reaching the skies, the vast area of desert, green rain washed forests, live perennial rivers flowing and the solid central plateau clearly glorify the diversity of its geography. Similar to its vast geography, the Indian culture varies. The food, clothing and habits of Indians differ from place to place but they all live in harmony.

•India has a huge population of about 119.8 crore (Source: Ministry of Health and Family Welfare 2009)

•All the five major racial types – Australoid, Mongoloid, Europoid, Caucasian, and Negroid find representation among the people of the country.

•India is one of the most religiously diverse nations across the globe. Out of the total population in the country, Hindus constituted 80.5%, Muslims 13.4%, followed by Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, and others (Source: Census 2001)

•India has 22 National Languages recognized by its constitution. Hindi and English are official languages. Besides these, there are 844 different dialects that are practiced in various parts of the nation.

•India is a multi-cultural and multi-religious society celebrating festivals of various religions. Some of the festivals celebrated all over the country are Janmashtami, Christmas, Rakshabandhan, Deepawali, Id-ul-Zuha, Ramnavami, Guru Nanak Jayanti etc.

•Indian cuisine varies from region to region, showcasing the varied demographics of the ethnically diverse country. Indian cuisine can be broadly split into five categories such as North, South, East,West Indian and North-eastern.

Unity in diversity

The hallmark of India is its unity in diversity. Its real strength lies in its compactness of culture, firmness of trust and togetherness between Indians. Though there is a huge diversity in physical, religious, racial variety and languages, people from every nook and corner of the country live in harmony with the pride and patriotism of being Indians. People from diverse cultures, surroundings, habits, life-style, preferences, costumes represent one country – India.

Every person, right from his/her childhood would be taught and reminded of his/her role and place in the society. They are taught not only to respect their as well as others culture, tradition, language and festivals, but also to celebrate them wholeheartedly.

Here the Koran, the Bhagwat-Gita, the Bible, the Guru Granth Sahib all will get same respect and honor. Many people (particularly along with friends) visit all the places of worship with same faith and hope irrespective if their religion. Whether it is Diwali, Christmas or ID, most of them celebrate with undivided joy. In fact, almost every family celebrates festivals inviting friends from other religions. Neighbours and friends play a major role in joyous occasions as well as in grief moments. Right from the cradle ceremony to funeral ceremony, Indians with a strong bond of love and friendship share their feelings of happiness or pain.

Every Indian is aware of the fact that Britishers implemented the ‘Divide and Rule’ policy and exploited them for almost 200 years. So they cannot afford to lose their hard-earned independence again. Though there were some instances where people have fought against each other for some reason or the other but such cases very few and only a small, in fact negligible amount of people (with sadistic behaviours) get influenced by this.

Source by Michael Rey