Ethiopia’s Churches In The Sky…

The ancient Kingdom of Axum, now a part of Ethiopia, was one of the first nations in the world to adopt Christianity. The religion took strong foothold in 330 AD when King Ezana the Great declared it the state religion and ordered the construction of the imposing basilica of St. Mary of Tsion. Legend has it, that it here that Menelik, son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, brought the Ark of the Covenant containing the Ten Commandments.

By the fifth century, nine saints from Syria, Constantinople and elsewhere had begun spreading the faith far beyond the caravan routes and deep into the mountainous countryside. These missionaries played a key role in the initial growth of Christianity in Ethiopia. The monks translated the Bible and other religious texts from Greek into Ethiopic allowing the locals who couldn’t read Greek to learn about Christianity. The religion’s mystical aspects found a curious draw among the young. As Christianity grew, a series of spectacular churches and monasteries were built high atop mountains or excavated out of solid rock, many of which are still in use today.                                                

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A priest is seen looking out of Abuna Yemata church’s only window. The church is located on aside of a cliff, 650 feet up from the floor of the valley. This image is from a recently published book “Ethiopia: The Living Churches of an Ancient Kingdom.”

These ancient churches were often built in the most impossible of places. A good example is the Abuna Yemata Guh in Tigray, in Northern Ethiopia. This 5th century church is perched 650 feet up in the sky, on the face of a vertical spire of rock. To reach it, one has to climb without any climbing ropes or harnesses, inching along narrow ledges and crossing a rickety makeshift bridge. The final leg of the journey involves scaling a sheer 19 feet-high wall of rock. The church was founded by Abuna Yemata, one of the nine saints, who chose the secluded spot as his hermitage.

Photo credit: Andrea Moroni/Flickr

Source….Kaushik in http://www.amusing planet.com

Natarajan

 

 

 

 

 

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The German Hyperinflation of 1923…

There was a time when an average German carried billions of marks in their pockets but could still buy nothing. A loaf of bread cost 200 billion marks. A week’s pension would not buy even a cup of coffee. The mark was freefalling and its value decreasing by the minute. Restaurants stopped printing menus because by the time the food arrived the price had gone up. One guy drank the first cup of coffee at 5,000 marks. The second cup cost him 9,000 marks. The stories from those days were horrifying and amusing at the same time. One boy was sent by his mother to buy two bread buns. He stopped on the way to play football, and by the time he got to the shop, the price had gone up, so he could only afford to buy one. One man set out for Berlin to buy a pair of shoes. But when he got there, all he could afford was a cup of coffee and the bus fare home.

The absurd situation began sometime around the middle of the First World War, when the German government decided that instead of using the taxpayer’s money to fund the war they would simply borrow money from other nations. The Germans were confident that they would be able to pay off the debt once they won the war by seizing the resource-rich industrial territories and imposing reparations on the defeated Allies.

But the plan backfired. Germany lost the war and ended up with massive debts. In addition, the Treaty of Versailles imposed Germany a huge fine of 132 billion marks (or $31.4 billion) as reparations for causing loss and damage to the Allies on account of the war. In order to pay off the debts, the government turned to deceit—they began to print money, and used it to buy foreign currency, which was then used to pay reparations. Soon there was too much money chasing too few goods and inflation spiraled out of control.

At first, inflation crept up slowly—from 4.2 marks per dollar before the war to 48 marks per dollar when the treaty was signed. Then it accelerated rapidly. In the first half of 1922, the mark was at 320 marks per dollar. By the end of the year, it had fallen to 7,400 marks per US dollar. Eventually, the mark touched a mind-boggling 4.2 trillion marks to one US dollar.

Employees brought suitcases and backpacks to work on payday to collect their wages, and then dashed off to the nearest shop before the exchange rate changed. Banknotes of higher and higher denomination started turning up every few weeks. When the 1,000-billion mark note came out, few bothered to collect the change when they spent it. The hyperinflation peaked in October 1923 and banknote denominations rose to 100 trillion mark. The currency had lost meaning.

People stopped dealing in cash and started bartering instead. Many doctors insisted on being paid in sausages, eggs, coal, and the like. People exchanged a pair of shoes for a shirt, and some crockery for coffee. There was widespread economic panic and mistrust. People began to live as if there were no tomorrow. Dancehalls and strip bars opened up in the cities, and cocaine sales skyrocketed.

Strangely enough, goods were not in short supply. There was simply no stable currency to buy them with. The only objects of real value were tangible assets—diamonds, gold, antiques, and art. Soon the country crumbled into petty thievery. People began stealing anything—soaps, hairpins, copper pipes, gasoline.

It was clear than a radical monetary change was needed to halt the permanent depreciation and return to a more ordered state of affairs. In late 1923, the mark was replaced by a new currency—the Rentenmark, which was backed by mortgages on agricultural and industrial land. The value of the Rentenmark was fixed at the old exchange rate of 4.2 Rentenmark for one US dollar.

Germany limped back to normalcy but the country was never the same again. Lost savings were never recovered, “nor were the values of hard work and decency that had accompanied the savings,” wrote George J.W. Goodman, the American author and economist. “There was a different temper in the country, a temper that Hitler would later exploit with diabolical talent.”

Pearl S. Buck, the American writer, who was in Germany in 1923, wrote:

The cities were still there, the houses not yet bombed and in ruins, but the victims were millions of people. They had lost their fortunes, their savings; they were dazed and inflation-shocked and did not understand how it had happened to them and who the foe was who had defeated them. Yet they had lost their self-assurance, their feeling that they themselves could be the masters of their own lives if only they worked hard enough; and lost, too, were the old values of morals, of ethics, of decency.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 100 trillion mark banknote. Photo credit: National Numismatic Collection, National Museum of American History.  

and, A Berlin banker counts stacks of bundled marks.

Source….Kaushik in http://www.amusingplanet.com

Natarajan

 

 

God on the Runway ….

As part of the custom, the idols along with temple elephants are taken to Shangumugam beach for the ritualistic bath.

For two days in a year, the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport halts its flight operations for five hours on the basis of a ‘Notice to Airmen’ (NOTAM).

Respecting a centuries old temple tradition, the airport runway makes way for a grand procession.

Saturday is one of the two days in a year that sees members of the Travancore royal family, temple priests, police, and even elephants walk down the runway, as part of the temple procession. Hundreds of people also escorted the idols past the 3400-metre runway.

Flights have been halted between 4pm and 9pm at Thiruvananthapuram on Saturday.

 

The ‘Arat’ procession marks the conclusion of the Painkuni festival and the Alpassi festival. Painkuni and Alpassi are references to Tamil months. While Painkuni is in April, Alpassi is in October.

Arat is the ritualistic bath procession of temple idols at Sree Padmanabha Swami temple in Thiruvananthapuram. The procession, which began at 5pm, crossed the runway at 6.30 pm.

As part of the custom, the idols along with temple elephants are taken to Shangumugam beach for the ritualistic bath. The procession sees royal family members wearing traditional attire and carrying swords. All priests along with royal family members take a dip into the sea three times. The idols are also given a ritualistic bath.

The procession returns to the temple on the same route, accompanied by people carrying traditional fire lamps.

They have to, however, ensure that they clear the runway by 8.45pm.

“The ritual was started centuries ago when the Travancore royal family ruled here. Even after the airport was established, the procession continued to pass through the runway. When the airport was established in 1932, it was under the Royal Flying Club. Since then, the runway was open for these processions. Even after it was converted into an international airport in 1991, the practice continued as the tradition is very important to this place,” an airport official told TNM.

Since the runway is part of traditional arat procession route, the Airport Authority of India issues passes to those who participate in it. Only those who have a pass can enter the route and cross the runway to head to the beach.

“There are strict restrictions inside the airport area. CISF officials guarding the area allow only people with passes. We issue the pass only to people in the list given by temple authorities,” he added.

NOTAM is issued a week before these two dates in the year, so that all the international flights can change their schedule. NOTAM is a notice issued to pilots or airline operators before flights, alerting them of the circumstances or changes in aeronautical facilities or about local procedures that affect safety.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source….Haritha John in http://www.the newsminute.com

Natarajan

 

 

The Origin of 8 Famous Phrases…

We use phrases, expressions, and proverbs on a daily basis when conversing with each other. Whether you’re at home, hanging out with some friends, or at work, chances are that you’ve uttered one of the phrases below more than once in your life. But, do you ever stop to think about what these expressions really mean? Where they come from? The answer to this is probably no, so let’s take a look at 8 common phrases and learn where there came from.

1. It’s Raining Cats and Dogs

Houses used to have thatched roofs. These roofs had thick straw piled together to form a ceiling, but there was no wood underneath.

So how did this phrase come about? Well, according to a popular theory, on cold nights, animals such as cats, dogs, mice, and rats would climb onto these roofs in order to have a warm place to sleep. Unfortunately, when it started to rain, the thatched roofs got so slippery that cats and dogs would slip and fall off the roofs. Therefore, when it rained heavily, it would literally rain cats and dogs (and whatever other animals were on the roofs).

2. Mad as a Hatter

The average person will probably tell you that this famous expression comes from Alice in Wonderland, but they’d be sorely mistaken. The Mad Hatter character isn’t the reason you use this phrase when describing someone who has lost their mind.

The true origin goes back to the days when actual hatmakers used mercury to construct their hats. The mercury poisoned the hatmakers and affected their nervous systems. Mercury causes aggressive, heavy mood swings, and erratic behavior and, as a result, “mad hatter’s disease” became the nickname for mercury poisoning, and the expression has been popular ever since.

3. Cat Got Your Tongue?

This is often used when someone is silent or at a loss for words. Surprisingly though, it has nothing to do with cats. In the English navy, punishments were handed out in the form of a flogging, which was carried out with a whip known as a cat-o’-nine-tails.

This was a formidable weapon, and the pain from being flogged by it was so bad that it caused its victims to go mute. They would often be afraid to speak and would often remain mute for a long time after a flogging.

Drunken navy sailors would then walk around shouting, “Cat got your tongue?” as a way of taunting the victims. So, next time you’re rendered speechless because someone made a really good point, remember that it could be a lot worse.

4. Bring Home the Bacon

There are a number of theories as to where this phrase comes from, but the two most popular include pigs.

According to one theory, this phrase comes from winners at state fairs bringing home the greased pigs they caught in competitions. However, the more popular theory is that highly successful men back in the day would buy pork, cook some bacon, and then hang it on their walls when they had guests over. This showed everyone how successful the men were. Walking into a man’s house and seeing bacon hanging on the wall meant that he was to be respected. In this particular case, bringing home the bacon was the ultimate sign of power and class.

5. Eat Crow

Usually, we have to “eat crow” when we’ve been proven wrong after taking a strong stance on something.

The expression originates from where you’d expect. Crow meat tastes bad and is hard to swallow. The simple connection to this term can start and end here, but there’s an even more interesting origin story.

Back in 1812, an American accidentally went hunting across British enemy lines. The US soldier was caught shooting and killing a crow by a British soldier. As punishment, the British soldier, after praising the American for his accurate shooting, tricked him into giving up his gun.

Now armed, the Brit pointed the gun at the American and forced him to take a bite out of the crow. After the American complied, he was given back his gun. Angered, the American then turned the gun on the British soldier and forced him to eat the rest of the bird.

6. On Cloud Nine

It’s often thought that this is a reference to Heaven, but this is not true.

According to one known origin of this expression, one of the classifications of clouds, defined by the US Weather Bureau in the 1950s, is known as “Cloud Nine.” This is a type of fluffy, cumulonimbus type of cloud.

So, what makes this cloud so special? Well, this cloud is considered to be the most attractive in the cloud community, which is what gives the phrase it’s positive connotation.

7. Crocodile Tears

For those who may not know, this expression refers to someone who is faking crying or pretending to be upset. When they do this, they are said to be shedding crocodile tears.

Did this phrase come about because crocodiles never cry? Well, no, the origin is a lot more interesting than that. In an ancient anecdote, Photios claimed that crocodiles cry to strategically lure their prey closer to them. When the prey is close enough, the crocodiles drop the act and go in for the kill.

8. Don’t Throw the Baby Out with the Bathwater

This strange expression goes all the way back to the 1500s. Believe it or not, but people in the 16th century only bathed once a year, and to make matters worse, entire groups used to bathe in the same water.

The men would go first, then the women, and then the children and babies went last. The water was so dirty by the time the babies got in, that they often came out clouded. Sometimes, mothers had to make sure that the babies weren’t literally thrown out with the dirty bathwater.

The phrase, “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater,” now means that you should make sure you don’t throw out anything valuable while getting rid of unnecessary things. Nothing is more valuable than a newborn baby, so the phrase still rings true even to this day.

Source: listverse  

http://www.ba-bamail.com

Natarajan

Images: depositphotos

 

The Buddhas of Bamiyan….

 

On the cliff face of a sandstone mountain, visible from the ancient Silk Road near the town of Bamiyan in Afghanistan, are two massive voids left by two monumental statues of Buddha that once stood there. In 2001, the nearly 1,500 year old statues were blown to bits by the Taliban in an act of violence that shook the entire world, and set a disturbing precedent which has been imitated in recent years by Islamic State fighters in the Middle East.

For a long time, Buddhism was an important religion in the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia, having been introduced during the early Kushan period, in the 1st century. Along the Silk Road, on which Bamiyan lies, are several Buddhist monasteries, chapels and sanctuaries constructed inside caves carved into the mountains. In several of the caves and niches, often linked by galleries, there are remains of wall paintings and seated Buddha figures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 175 feet high Buddha statue in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, destroyed in 2001. Photo credit: Afghanistan Embassy

The two most prominent figures were the giant Buddha statues destroyed in 2001. The larger of the two stood 175 feet tall, and was one of the largest standing Buddha carvings in the world. The second figure was also enormous and measured 120 feet in height. Both figures were carved into niches of the cliff side in high relief. The main bodies were hewn directly from the sandstone cliffs, but details were modeled in mud mixed with straw, coated with stucco. This coating had worn away a long time ago, but in the early days, it served to enhance the expressions of the faces, hands, and folds of the robes. Both statues were originally painted—the larger one in carmine red and the smaller one in multiple colors. The area near the heads of both Buddha figures and the area around the larger Buddha’s feet were carved in the round, allowing worshippers to walk around as a form of worship.

Much of what we know about the monumental Buddha sculptures comes from the travelogue of the Chinese monk Hsuan-Tsang, who traveled to Bamiyan in the 7th century. Hsuan-Tsang described Bamiyan as a flourishing Buddhist center “with more than ten monasteries and more than a thousand monks”. He also noted that both Buddha figures were decorated in “dazzling golden color and adorned with brilliant gems”. Historians believe that the monumental Buddha sculptures were carved into the cliffs between the 3rd to 6th centuries A.D. They were perhaps the most famous cultural landmarks of the region attracting numerous pilgrims from all around.

After the Islamic invasion in the 9th century, the presence of a large Buddhist cultural icon in Afghanistan greatly disturbed the Muslim rulers. The 17th century Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb, and the 18th century Persian king Nader Afshar, both tried to destroy the statues by using heavy artillery but failed to inflict any noticeable damage. It was the Afghan king Abdur Rahman Khan who eventually managed to destroyed its face.

In 2001, the leader of the Taliban movement ordered that all statues and non-Islamic shrines in the different areas of the Islamic Emirate must be destroyed. Accordingly, in March the same year, Taliban fighters laid explosives at the base and the shoulders of the two Buddhas and blew them to pieces.

Later in an interview, the Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar defended his actions by saying:

I did not want to destroy the Bamiyan Buddha. In fact, some foreigners came to me and said they would like to conduct the repair work of the Bamiyan Buddha that had been slightly damaged due to rains. This shocked me. I thought, these callous people have no regard for thousands of living human beings – the Afghans who are dying of hunger, but they are so concerned about non-living objects like the Buddha. This was extremely deplorable. That is why I ordered its destruction. Had they come for humanitarian work, I would have never ordered the Buddha’s destruction.

The only silver lining in the cloud was, that after the destitution, several new caves and wall paintings were discovered, including fragments of a previously unknown 62-foot long reclining Buddha.

Sources: Wikipedia / Khan Academy

Source…. Kaushik in www. amusingplanet.com

Natarajan

Joe Reginella’s Memorials to Disasters That Never Happened…!!!

 

Most remember October 29th, 1929—also known as Black Tuesday—as the day when the New York stock market crashed. However, it was also the day when one of the most horrific tragedy involving human-animal conflict happened at the Brooklyn Bridge.

On that awful day a trio of three circus elephants, including the star attraction—a thirteen-foot-tall African elephant named Jumbo, was to cross the Brooklyn Bridge and into New York. The event was greatly publicized and crowds of people came from miles around to see Jumbo. While crossing the bridge, something caused the animals to panic and what was to be a slow and deliberate cross suddenly became a deadly stampede as the three elephants charged into the cheering crowd. Aside from scores of human casualty, two of the elephants died in the stampede, while Jumbo escaped to freedom through the Holland Tunnel and lived out his days at an elephant sanctuary.

 The memorial to the 1929 Brooklyn Bridge Elephant Stampede. Photo credit: Joe Reginella

When a new bronze memorial to the tragedy was unveiled at the Brooklyn Bridge Park last month, it left visitors scratching their heads because no one ever remembered hearing or reading about the Brooklyn Bridge Elephant Stampede of 1929. That’s because the tragedy never happened. It’s a satirical piece of art by sculptor Joe Reginella.

Last year, the prankster-artist erected another memorial to yet another fabricated tragedy—the so-called Staten Island Ferry Disaster—in Battery Park. The story goes, that on November 2nd, 1963, a Staten Island Ferry with over 400 people onboard was attacked by a giant octopus and was pulled beneath the water resulting in the death of all passengers. According to Reginella, the disaster went almost completely unnoticed by the public because it was overshadowed by another more “newsworthy” tragedy that occurred that day—the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

As part of the hoax, Reginella created a fake documentary, fabricated newspaper articles and distributed flyers to puzzled tourists sending them to a nonexistent museum on Staten Island.

 

 

The memorial to the 1963 Staten Island Ferry Disaster. Photo credit: Ula Ilnytzky

The idea for the hoax came to him when Reginella was taking his 11-year-old nephew on the ferry between Manhattan and Staten Island. To satisfy the kid’s curious questions, such as if the waters were infested with shark, Reginella fabricated the story of a giant octopus attack.

“The story just rolled off the top of my head,” he told The Guardian, and it evolved to become “a multimedia art project and social experience – not maliciously – about how gullible people are”.

In the early few days after the memorial was unveiled, Reginella sat close by with a fishing pole pretending to fish so that he could eavesdrop on the conversations. Sometimes he overheard people wondering why nobody ever heard of it. Others simply stared out at the water and walked away.

While the Staten Island Ferry Disaster never happened, there is actually a bit of interesting history behind Reginella’s latest hoax—the Brooklyn Bridge Elephant Stampede. Elephants belonging to the Barnum and Bailey’s Circus did actually cross the Brooklyn Bridge in 1884, when the circus came to town. One of the elephants, a thirteen-foot and seven-ton African, was actually named Jumbo. He was accompanied by twenty other elephants, seven camels and ten dromedaries in what was known as Barnum’s legendary “elephant walk.”

Neither memorials are permanent, and are displayed only on specific days and times. Consult the memorials’ websites for timing before you decide to visit.

www.sioctopusdisaster.com
www.bbelephantstampede.com

Source….Kaushik in http://www.amusingplanet.com

Natarajan

 

வாரம் ஒரு கவிதை….” காந்திக்கு ஒரு கடிதம் “

 

காந்திக்கு ஒரு கடிதம்
———————-
விடுதலை பெற்று தந்தாய் என் தாய்
நாட்டுக்கு …உன்னையே விலையாகவும்
கொடுத்தாய் மத பேதம் இல்லா புதிய
பாரதம் ஒன்று படைக்க !
ஆனால் …
விடுதலை பெற்ற என் தேசம் இன்னும்
புது விடியலை தேடுதே …அது ஏன் ?
மதவாத அரசியலில் ஆதாயம் தேடுதே
ஒரு பெரும் கூட்டம் !
அது ஏன் ?
மூலைக்கு மூலை உன் சிலை
வைத்து காந்தி ஒரு பொம்மைதான் எங்கள்
அரசியல் விளையாட்டுக்கு என்று சொல்லாமல்
சொல்லுது ஒரு கூட்டம் !
காந்தியா …அது  யார் என்று கேக்குது
இன்னொரு கூட்டம் …காந்தி உன்னையே
மறந்த கூட்டம் காந்தீயக் கொள்கை கிடைக்குமா
ஒரு விலைக்கு என்று அலைவதும் உண்மை இன்று !
வேற்றுமையில் ஒற்றுமை என்பது வெறும் பேச்சு
மட்டுமா ?  ஒளிமயமான வலுவான பாரதம்
பிறப்பது எப்போது ?  என் தேசம் புது விடியல்
காண்பது எப்போது ?
சிலையாய் இருக்கும் காந்தி நீ இப்போது
எடுக்க வேண்டும் மீண்டும் ஒரு பிறவி !
காந்தி சிலைகள் எல்லாம்  உயிர் பெற்று
பல நூறு புதிய காந்திகளாய் என் மண்ணில்
பிறக்க வேண்டும் இப்போதே !
என் மண்ணின் விடுதலைக்கு ஒரே ஒரு
காந்தி நீ இருந்தாய்.. இன்று
இந்த  மண்ணின் புது விடியலுக்கு  பல  நூறு
காந்தி வேண்டுமே  அய்யா !
மறுக்காமல் நீ பிறப்பாயா அய்யா மீண்டும்
என் மண்ணில் ? ஒரு புதிய பாரதமும்
மலர்ந்து ஒளிருமா என் கண் முன்னால் ?
My kavithai as published in http://www.dinamani.com on 8th Oct 2017
Natarajan