Ati Atihan Festival of Philippines

Ati Atihan is a local festival of Panay Island, Philippines. It is a religious feast which involves tribal dances, parade and music. it is popularly known as the ‘the mother of all festivals’ in Philippines.


Overview

Ati Atihan Festival is an annual feast held every January marking the birth of Infant Jesus ‘Santo Nino’ in the town of Kalibo, Aklan in the island of Panay, Philippines. It concludes on the third Sunday and is commemorated with much grandeur.

Although, it is a religious feast, both Christians and Non-Christians tend to observe it.  It is marked by tribal dance, tribal make-up and costumes, music and parade. The locals believe that the miraculous Child Jesus will protect them from harm and illness.

The word Ati-Atihan means “To be like Atis.”

History

The legend suggests,

A group of 10 Malay chieftains called Datus, fleeing from the island of Borneo settled in the Philippines, and were granted settlement by the Ati people, the tribes of Panay Island. Datu Puti, Makatunaw’s chief minister made a trade with the natives and bought the plains for a golden salakot, brass basins and bales of cloth. They gave a very long necklace to the wife of the Ati chieftain. Feasting and festivities followed soon after.

To add,

Some time later, the Ati people were struggling with famine as the result of a bad harvest. They were forced todescend from their mountain village into the settlement below, to seek the generosity of the people who now lived there. The Datus obliged and gave them food. In return, the Ati danced and sang for them, grateful for the gifts they had been given.

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Ghandruk; The Gem of Annapurna Region

Ghandruk is an ethnic village located in the Annapurna region of Nepal. A village predominantly inhabited by the Gurung and Magar tribes of Nepal, is also an important tourist destination of the country.


Overview

Ghandruk is the second largest village in the entire ACAP region, however, not more than 8,000 people reside in the village today. Due to its close proximity to the road and ease of access, the village is well equipped with many modern amenities, well-built houses and staircases.

Most of the houses are built out of stone, stone slabs and mud; well-resistant materials for the cold weather. Few houses in the region are found to be made out of concrete, cement and bricks too.

It connect the major roadways to many other important villages leading up to Annapurna Base Camp. Generally, people start trekking from Nayapul through Ghandruk, Chhomrong, Phedi, MBC and the Base Camp and back.

Annapurna range, Machhapuchhre, Gangapurna and Himchuli peaks can be seen up-close from the village.

You can only get to Ghandruk on foot. Buses and jeeps move between Pokhara and Kimche, 1-2hrs walk from Ghandruk.

Lifestyle

Gurung male
Gurung male

Ghandruk is preserved as the ethnic Gurung village. It lies inside the Annapurna Conservation Area, hence, the entire preservation of culture and geography is monitored by the ACAP community and local leaders.

Most people still use firewood for heat and cooking purposes. Mules are the common form of beast-of-burden in the area. Well placed stone slabs are found throughout the narrow alleys of the village. Most inhabitants are the adherents of Buddhism and Hinduism.

Lhosar along with other national festivals are celebrated with much awe. People prefer to keep the village clean and use plastic less. Most of the items are re-used or are sent for the recycling. Operating hotels, lodges, tending sheep and livestock is the major form of trade in the area.


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Kaziranga National Park

Kaziranga National Park located at North East India is one of the most popular ecological sites in the Indian subcontinent. The national park is popular for hosting the two-third population of the One-horned Rhinos in the world. Established during the British Raj in 1908, it boasts the most varied flora and fauna in the entire nation.


Overview

Kaziranga National Park 430 km2 is located in the Golaghat and Nagaon districts of Assam, India. The park is located on the edge of Eastern Himalaya biodiversity hotspot. Even though it was established in 1908, the park was added to the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO only on 1985.

Kaziranga
Kaziranga

The park is popular for hosting the largest amount of One-horned Rhinos along with Royal Bengal Tigers. Kaziranga is home to the highest density of tigers among protected areas in the world, and was declared a Tiger Reserve in 2006.

The park experiences 3 different weathers; Summer, Monsoon and Winter. During Monsoon (Jul-August), most part of the park is submerged into water, due to rising level of water from rainfall and flooding.

History

The history of the national park dates back to 1904 when Mary Curzon, Baroness Curzon of Kedleston and the wife of the then Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon of Kedleston, visited the area. After failing to see a single rhinoceros, for which the area was renowned, she persuaded Lord Curzon to take immediate measure to protect the lessening Rhino species in the region.

On 1 June 1905, the Kaziranga Proposed Reserve Forest was created with an area of 232 km2.

One Horned Rhinos

[Full Article One-horned Rhino]

There are over 2,200 One-horned Rhinos in the Kaziranga area, approximately 2/3 of their entire population. One Horned Rhino is endemic to Indian subcontinent. Found mostly in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, they have been listed in the IUCN Red list for the most vulnerable animals, and only about 3,000 are left in the wild.

One-horned Rhino at Kaziranga
One-horned Rhino at Kaziranga

Rhinos are one of the most hunted and poached animals in the history. The passionate hunters from 20th Century reduced their numbers from thousands to mere few hundreds.

The activity of rampant poaching which started in the 1990s made them even more scarce. They were being mostly poached for their horns, which are believed to carry medicinal qualities. The local authorities and UNESCO helped prevent poaching in the Kaziranga park. Today, it boasts the most amount of Rhinos in the world.

These rhinos live in tall grasslands and riverine forests but due to habitat loss they have been forced into more cultivated land. They are mostly solitary creatures, with the exception of mothers and calves and breeding pairs, although they sometimes congregate at bathing areas.

Preservation

Kaziranga contains significant breeding populations of 35 mammalian species, of which 15 are threatened as per the IUCN Red List. It is also home to a variety of migratory birds, water birds, predators, scavengers, and game birds.

Four main types of vegetation exist in this park. These are alluvial inundated grasslands, alluvial savanna woodlands, tropical moist mixed deciduous forests, and tropical semi-evergreen forests. The park is mostly an expanse of tall elephant grass, marshland, and dense tropical moist broadleaf forests.

The area is controlled by the Government of Assam. They receive financial aid from the state government and the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change of India.

5 Fun Facts about Samosa (Cuisine)

Samosa is probably the most favorite snack in the entire South Asia. It is part of a daily diet of the most people. However, there’s more to its history than just being a favorite snack. Samosa has its roots in the old Persian culture.


Overview

Samosa is a triangular shaped cuisine, filled with various ingredients and are generally fried before serving. It’s generally eaten hot and with assorted pickles. A famous snack of most people in South Asia, most sweet makers, diners and street vendors sell Samosas on a daily basis.

Its gastronomy is divided into two parts; Cone and fillers. Cone is generally made up of beaten flour; and the filler may vary according to geographic regions and cultures.

The Samosa filled with mashed potato and vegetables are the most famous kinds found in South Asia. Most Muslim households and northern regions of South Asia, Central Asia and Middle East add minced meat (Mutton, Chicken or Beef) with various spices or rich dry fruits and sweets such as Halwa as the filler.

History

Silk route trade
Silk route trade

Samosa is claimed to have originated in the Middle Eastern milieu before 10th Century. The word Samosa and the early ingredients has roots in Persian culture. It is believed to have been brought by the traders traveling from Central Asia to South and East Asia through the silk route.

It was introduced to the Indian subcontinent in 13th or 14th century by the traders. Since then, the locals have acquired the taste for it and have reintroduced their own samosa filled with vegetables which are commonly eaten today.

The chroniclers of Delhi Sultanate and Mughal Dynasty have mentioned about Samosa which were mostly eaten by the royals during the meal and were generally filled with meat or fruits/sweets.


Fun Facts

  1. Despite the popular belief, a vegetable samosa has lesser calories, less than 300 cal, and are generally healthier meal option if cooked properly with right ingredients.
  2. Vegetable samosas are the most common kind of Samosa eaten around the world. Its counterpart, Samosa with minced meat are generally eaten in certain geographic regions or cultures; Muslims, Turks, Persians, Middle-eastern tribes, Tibeto-Burmese and Northern Himalaya tribes.
  3. Samosa can be eaten as it is or can be prepared into various other popular Indian cuisines, such as; Samosa chat, Samosa Chole, Samosa Paav etc.
  4. The shape of Samosa resembles the Pyramids. The word Samsa was originally named after the Pyramids of Middle east.
  5. Samosas were introduced in western societies through Indian cuisines which included vegetable samosas.

Asiatic Vs African Elephants

The pachyderm evolved around 80 million years ago. It is believed, around 50-60 million years ago the Moeritheriums, approximately the size of current day pigs, were the roots from which the proboscideans evolved. Elephantide is the only sub-species of proboscideans alive today.

There are 3 recognized species of elephants alive today; African Bush elephant, African forest elephant and Asiatic elephant. There are around 700,000 and 40,000 African and Asiatic elephants alive today respectively. The latter’s number has dwindled in the last 50 years due to mass poaching, hunting and human encroachment.


Major Differences

  • Asiatic elephants are older than the African elephants, even though the former migrated from Africa. The African elephant appeared only about 1.5 million years ago.
  • Asiatic elephants are genetically closer to Mammoths than the African elephants. Morphological evidence suggests Mammoths and Elephas (Asiatic elephant) are sister taxa.
  • African elephants tend to be larger in size than the Asiatic elephants. A male Asian elephant may measure avg. 2.75 meters, while a male African elephant may measure anything from 3.4 -4 meters.
  • Due to their dwindling number, the Asiatic elephants have been listed under Endangered category by the IUCN list. The African elephants are categorized as Vulnerable species as of yet.
  • An Asiatic elephant can live up to 60 years in the wild, while their African cousins can live up to 70 years.
  • Poaching for ivory is rampant among Asian elephants than the African elephants. Most of the ivory is smuggled throughout Asia for preparing medications or as jewels.
  • Experiencing of Musth, the increasing level of testosterone and libido, is common among both species of elephants. They use Musth to attract female attention during breeding season.
  • A female elephant from both species may carry a child for 22 months before giving birth.
  • An African elephant has larger ears than the Asian elephants. The former’s ear can easily be spotted because of  its shape resembling the shape of African continent.

 

10 Facts about Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia is the national landmark of Turkey, located at the center of the capital Istanbul. It was built by the Roman empire as the basilica in 537 AD, and has survived through various transformations. Around 3.47 million tourists visited the landmark in 2015, making it the most popular tourist site in the entire Turkey.


10 Interesting Facts

  • Hagia Sophia was originally built as the Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal Basilica in 537 AD by the Byzantine Roman empire during the reign of Jutinian I.
  • It was converted into a mosque by the Mehmed the Conquerer of Ottomon empire in 1453. It remained a mosque until 1931, and was opened as a museum in 1935 by the Republic of Turkey.
  • The original church on the site of the Hagia Sophia is said to have been built by Constantine I in 325 on the foundations of a pagan temple. It was damaged in 404 by a fire that erupted during a riot following the second banishment of St. John Chrysostom, then patriarch of Constantinople. It was rebuilt and enlarged by the Roman emperor Constans I. The restored building was rededicated in 415 by Theodosius II. The church was burned again in the Nika insurrection of January 532.
  • The four minarets surrounding the main dome was later added by the Ottomon empire. One minaret was built out of red bricks while the other three were built of white limestone and sandstone.
  • The main structure; the porphyry columns came from Rome and the marble columns came from Ephesus. Marble in varied colors, alabaster, and onyx were cut, fitted, piered, and veneered to cover walls and pavements in geometric patterns. It was built by the Greek architects, Anthemius of Tralles  and Isidore of Miletus.
  • The Blue Mosque and Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul were designed with an inspiration of Hagia Sophia.
  • To fortify (and beautify) the interior of the church, columns from the long-abandoned and destroyed Temple of Artemis in Ephesus were used for the Hagia Sophia. Additional building materials may also have come from ancient sites in Baalbeck and Pergamom.
  • Also called the “sweating column,” the “wishing column,” and the “perspiring column,” the weeping column stands in the northwest portion of the church and is one of 107 columns in the building. The alleged blessing of St. Gregory has led many to rub the column in search of divine healing.
  • It was enlisted in the world heritage site by UNESCO in 1985.
  • Over 3 million tourists visit the landmark every year, making it the most visited tourist site in Turkey.

Khaptad National Park

Khaptad National Park is a protected area located in the far-western Nepal. It was named after the renowned saint Khaptad Baba, who made it his home. It lies far from Kathmandu and many other cities, hence, the local culture and lifestyle inside the park remains well preserved.


Overview

Khaptad National Park is a protected region and a national park located in the far-western region of Nepal. It was established in 1984 and falls under the IUCN Category II. The national park spans 225 kmand covers four different districts; Bajhang, Bajura, Achham and Doti.

Khaptad's landscape
Khaptad’s landscape

The area also attracts the Hindu pilgrims during the Janai Poornima, which falls on July-August. The pilgrims arrive at Khaptad Baba Ashram and stay overnight to observe the full moon; they then worship Lord Shiva.

The park contains Chir pine at lower altitude, and sub alpine forests of fir, hemlock, oak and rhododendron in the higher areas. It also boasts 224 species of medicinal herbs.

It is estimated that about 567 species, 11 percent of flowering plants of Nepal, are found in Khaptad.

You can find around 270 species of birds in the area, some of which includes; Impheyan pheasant, partridges, flycatchers, cuckoos and eagles. It also boasts indigenous wildlife; barking deer, wild dog, wild boar, ghoral, Himalayan black bear, yellow-throated marten, Rhesus monkey and Macacques.

The entry fee for SAARC nationals is $1, and $10 for Non-SAARC nationals.

History

The park was named after Khaptad Baba. It was on his advice, that the state decided to establish a protected region. Khaptad Baba or the Late Swami Sachchidananda moved to the area in the 1940s to meditate. He lived 50 years as a hermit and became a renowned spiritual saint. Many devotees visited him during the heyday.

Today, an Ashram remains inside the park to commemorate the late saint. Khaptad Baba Ashram remains open for any visitor.

Another major religious destination inside the park is the Badimallika temple. The temple is dedicated to Mallika Devi. It is believed that Goddess Sati, Shiva’s consort, was reborn as Parvati in this holy area.


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The Pashupatinath Temple of Kathmandu

Pashupatinath Temple of Kathmandu is one of the holiest Hindu shrines in the world. A sacred place dedicated to Lord Shiva congregates more than 800,00 pilgrims during the grand festival of Maha Shiavratri. It is a popular tourist destination in Kathmandu.


Overview

The term Pashupatinath stands  for “Lords of all animals.” The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva (One of the Hindu Trinity) and also known as the lord of animals. A stone bull in a crouching position marks the insignia of the temple.

Lord Shiva
Lord Shiva

It’s located at the heart of Kathmandu. The area of Pashupatinath encompasses 264 hectares of land including 518 temples and monuments. Due to its historical and social importance, the entire site was added in the UNESCO Heritage Site in 1979.

The Maha Shivaratri is the major festival of all Hindus in South Asia which is celebrated with much awe inside Pashupatinath temple premise. It attracts over 800,000 visitors in a single day, one of the highest religious congregations in the world. Thousands of visitors, including; pilgrims, devotees, tourists, visit the temple everyday.

An animal sanctuary was established inside the area to protect the indigenous wildlife of the region. Antelope and other few animals reside inside the sanctuary; and it is open to tourists.

History

There isn’t certain date signifying the origin or creation of the temple. The earliest evidence of the temple dates back to 400 AD. The current temple was constructed or renewed in the 15th Century by the Lichhavi king of Kathmandu. Since, then many renovations have taken place; along with many temples, shrines built inside the premise.

Legends

There are many legends to the creation or origin of the temple.

The Cow Legend suggests,

Lord Shiva once took a form of an antelope and started roaming around Bagmati river. The Gods seeing this, caught him by his horn and forced him to take his self form. The separated horn was revered and prayed as the Linga. Centuries later, a herdsman found the linga buried inside the earth. Sine then, the shrine was established to pray to the Linga.

The Mahabharata Legend suggests,

When the Pandavs went to the Himalayas, Shiva tried avoiding them because they killed many people in during the Mahabharata war. To avoid them, he ran away in the form of a Bull. On being followed, the colossal Bull dived into the ground to resurface at other places. He left his hump at Kedarnath. When he resurfaced, he had assumed a human form and emerged at different areas in these mountains. His Face resurfaced at Rudranath. His Arms resurfaced at Tungnath. His Naval emerged at Madha Maheshwar. His Hair emerged at Kalpeshwar.

There are many other theories to the origin of the temple, which today are part of the popular folklore’s.

Arya Ghat (Crematory)

The banks of Bagmati river passing through the temple also serves as the cremation ground for the locals. Known as Arya Ghat, it is considered important mainly because the Ghat is the only place around the temple where the water is considered sacred enough to be brought into the temple.

You may witness people cremating their family or relatives at the ghat almost everyday. You can visit the site  during Kathmandu Day Tour.


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Po Cha (Tea), the Heritage of Tibet

Po Cha is a widely consumed tea in the Tibet and most countries surrounding the Himalayas. The assorted drink infused with locally available items is also a delicacy in most parts of South Asia, and carries the richer Tibetan heritage.


Overview

Po Cha or the Butter tea is also known as Tibetan tea, Cha Süma (Tibetan “churned tea”), Sūyóu chá (Mandarin) or Gur Gur in the Ladakhi language. It is a popular everyday drink consumed by the inhabitants of the Himalaya regions of Nepal, Bhutan, India and Tibet.

Traditionally, it’s made from Tibetan black tea, milk and unsalted Yak butter. Today, cow’s butter is popularly used while making the tea, mainly because of the easy availability and lesser cost. However, the inhabitants of Tibet still prefer to drink Po Cha with Yak’s butter.

History

Po cha
Butter Tea

The earliest history of the Po Cha goes back to medieval Tibet. It originated in the 7th century Tang Dynasty, however, it didn’t reach its current state until 13th century. The early migrants and traders from Tibet flourished the consumption of the tea to the other surrounding nations.

Today, the native Tibetans and most Mongol tribes residing in Nepal, Bhutan and India drink Po Cha on a daily basis.

The traditional process of making butter tea can take a long time and is pretty complicated. People use a special black tea that comes from an area called Pemagul in Tibet. The tea comes in the shape of bricks and can be crumbled and boiled for hours.


Preparation

  • 4 cups of water
  • Plain black tea (Preferablly Tibetan ethnic tea)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter (Unsalted butter from the female Yak)
  • 1/3 cup of Yak’s milk

Materials needed: One churn, blender, or some other large container with a tight lid to shake the tea up with.

The tea is boiled in water for half a day, achieving a dark brown color. It is then skimmed, and poured into a cylinder with fresh yak butter and salt and then churned. The purplish liquid is the end result of the churn which can be poured into clay tea-pots or the jars.

Nowadays, when modern method has bring variety of  tea style at home. People often make butter tea using tea bags, different types of butter available in the market and a blender.

Caucasian Ovcharka – The Shepherd Dog

Caucasian Ovcharka is the popular large breed dog found mostly in Central Asian nations. They are mostly bred to herd the cattle. Today, they are well adopted by families as the pet dog. Its ginormous size is matched only by the Tibetan Mastiff from South Asia.


The Shepard Dog

Molossus diagram
Molossus diagram

Caucasian Ovcharka, also known as Bashkan, Russian Bear Dog or Caucasian Shepherd dog, is a huge and strongly built canine. It’s  native to the Caucasus region of Central Asia and Europe. Historically, they were bred as the Shepherd dog, and were also used for other various purposes. They have an extremely strong guardian instinct and will exhibit a threatening behavior towards all strangers.

  • FCI Pinscher and Schnauzer, Molossoid and Swiss Mountain Dog Group
    • Section 2: Molossian breeds
      • Section 2.2: Mountain types
        • Russia: Caucasian Shepherd Dog

Even though, they are fun loving and calm animals, it’s suggested not to adopt the Shepard dog in a household with young children or by the novice pet-owners.

They can be trained at a very early age. An early socialization is also required to make them understand that not every human is an enemy. Due to its fierce guardianship, protectiveness and ability to take down a danger, most people fear coming around them.

Habitat & Size

They are mostly found in the Caucasus region of Central Asia and Europe, like; Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and some are also found in Russia and other European nations. An average canine can survive 10-12 years in domestic surrounding. They are known to very outdoor and agile animals. A regular exercise and diet is a must.

The minimum height for females is 64 cm, with a desirable height between 67 and 70 cm (26 and 28 in). The minimum weight for females is 45 kg. The minimum height for males is 68 cm, with a desirable height between 72 and 75 cm. The minimum weight for males is 50 kg.

Facts

  • The Caucasian Ovcharka is one of the oldest mastiff-type breeds, originating from the Caucasus Mountains between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea.
  • Historically, the Caucasian Molossers were used to protect properties, guard livestock, and kill wolves. Today, especially outside the Caucasus, they are widely employed as companion animals and watchdogs, while in their native Caucasus they are still protecting sheep as well.
  • The Caucasian Shepherd Dog is generally healthy and long-lived, averaging a life span of 10–12 years.
  • Plain dogs have a shorter coat and appear taller as they are more lightly built. Mountain dog types have a heavier coat and are more muscularly built.
  • Unless properly socialized and trained, the Caucasian Shepherd may exhibit ferocious and unmanageable tendencies. It is very brave, alert, strong and hardy.
  • The modern show class Caucasian dog is a hybrid of established Caucasian types and some lines of the Central Asian dog.