Saturday, 31 January 2015

National flower of Colombia

The national flower of Colombia is the orchid Cattleya trianae which was named after the Colombian naturalist José Jerónimo Triana. The orchid was selected by botanist Emilio Robledo, in representation of the Colombian Academy of History to determine the most representative flowering plant of Colombia. He described it as one of the most beautiful flowers in the world and selected Cattleya trianae as National symbol sweg flewr

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Natural Wonders of India Which You Missed In Your Geography Books

Lonar Crater Lake – World’s third largest crater dating back to some 50,000 years ago

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Set off to the outskirts of Lonar town, Maharashtra and you would come across a rather interesting formation that appears like it was hit by a massive ball from outer space. Said to be the world’s third largest crater, the Lonar Crater Lake came into being 50,000 years back as a result of a meteorite hitting the earth, causing the depression.
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The roundish water body fringed by clusters of green and brown ground in the middle of nowhere makes for quite a sight. There are mentions of the same in ancient scripts like Skanda Puran, the Padma Puran and Aaina-i-Akbari.

2) Needle Hole Point Mahabaleshwar – Natural rock formation that appear like an elephant’s trunk

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For a rare view of nature, head to Needle Hole Point / Elephant Point, Mahabaleshwar to witness what seems to be finely sculpted by a craftsman. From here, you can take in the stunning sights of Deccan traps, which look like an elephant’s trunk.
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The natural rock formation resembling the adored animal is uncanny. This site is located close to Kate’s Point. It is referred to as Needle-hole as one can view a natural rock formation with a hole in between over here.

3) Belum Caves – Second largest cave in Indian subcontinent

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Dash off to the enigmatic Belum Caves that has many delights hidden in its dark caverns. Famous for its stalactite and stalagmite formations, it is the second largest cave in Indian subcontinent (3229 metres) and the longest caves in the plains of the Indian Subcontinent.
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In here are lengthy passages, airy chambers, fresh water galleries and siphons. This underground cavern was naturally formed due to the continuous flow of underground water. As of today, 3.5 km of this fascinating natural wonder has been successfully explored, though only 1.5 km is open to tourists.

4) Marble Rocks at Bhedaghat – White shining wonders

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Displaying exquisite beauty, Marble Rocks at Bhedaghat near Jabalpur MP are a stunning sight. It soars to a hundred feet on both sides of the Holy Narmada. This river has carved the soft marble, producing a lovely gorge of about 3 km in length.
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The effect of the sunlight shining on the marble white pinnacles and creating shadows on the limpid waters is magical. The entire scenery is especially worth watching on moonlit nights.

5) Banni Grasslands Reserve – Enigmatic dancing lights

This might look like an occurrence of UFOs or that of ghosts. For long, the locals have alleged that they have witnessed some enigmatic dancing lights at Banni Grasslands Reserve in Rann of Kutch. Soliders and visitors have been creeped out too as these lights seemed to have followed them.
Named as Chir Batti, they appear to be as bright as a mercury lamp and can alter their colour into blue, red, yellow to a pear- shaped moving ball. At times they remain still and other times they move in a quick speed.
Scientists have gotten to the root of this phenomenon and claim that this happens so due to oxidation of methane from the marshes.

6) Borra Caves- The deepest in the country

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Huddled in the Ananthagiri Hills of the Araku Valley, Andhra Pradesh, the Borra Caves are the deepest among its kind in the country (over 260 feet deep). Over here are a great array of stunning speleothems that vary from very small to big along with unevenly shaped stalactites and stalagmites.
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Over here, as mineral rich water trickles from the roof of the cave, they make a small ring of minerals in its wake. When this drips on the floor, it forms another small mineral deposit. Over the ages, these shape to form soda straws and cones on the ceiling, while creating conical cake like assemblies on the floor.

7) Amarnath Cave – Where the mystical ice lingam of Lord Shiva resides

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Considered as among the holiest shrines in Hinduism, the mystical ice lingam of Lord Shiva at Amarnath Cave is where thousands of devotees throng to. This natural stalagmite formation takes shape due to the freezing of water drops that trickle down from the roof of the cave on to the floor beneath. It then rises vertically from the floor and waxes and wanes with the moon.
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Legend has it that this is the very cave where Lord Shiva unravelled the secret of life and eternity to his divine consort, Parvati.
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However, in the recent years, there have been cases of premature melting due to the heat produced inside with the presence of many pilgrims, rising temperature, less snowfall during winters.

8) Loktak Lake – Floating vision

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For a rather unique vision, scamper off to the nature rich region of Manipur. Over here lies the mesmeric Loktak Lake that appears as if it is floating.
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Said to be the only Floating Lake in the world, the formations (phumdis) are made of vegetation, soil and organic matter. This location has been a case of interest and intrigue among many. This water body is home to local villagers who have made thatched huts on these floating islands and get around in dugout canoes.

9) Columnar Basaltic Lava – Unique volcanic formations

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These are not your regular rocks by the sea but ones that have been formed by a volcano. Saunter off to Columnar Basaltic Lava in Coconut Island, St Mary’s island to witness this strange marvel. The story goes something like this. When a volcano explodes dense viscid basaltic lava is hurled out which cools quickly and it contracts in a manner that a sequence of spider web like cracks develop in it. These cracks take the form of hexagons and polygons. As the lava congeals into rock, wheat is left back in the columns of the rock, making it appear as if it were shaped by human hands.
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The columns in Karnataka took shape more than 60 million years ago, during the formation of the Deccan traps. Do not expect a sand beach to unwind as the place is scattered with basaltic rocks.

10) Living Tree Bridges of Cherrapunji – Sight of fantasy

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Seeming to pop straight out of a fantasy, the Living Tree Bridges of Cherrapunji in Meghalaya makes for an unbelievable sight. The rubber tree here actually has roots that can extend up to 3000 feet.
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Over many years, these winding roots have grown and spread along the slopes. As the trees grip to the upper areas of the riverbank, they direct their roots below to the riverbed. It is said that over the ages, humans have moulded them as a natural bridge between the rivers.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Places to Visit In India Before They Disappear

The Western Ghats: Abode of 300 threatened species

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Enjoy the crisp mountain air and natural sights while you can. It was only a matter of time before the green treasures of the Western Ghats came under the scanner of builders and developers. With the Mumbai-Pune Expressway cutting right into the hills, it is no longer an inaccessible region.
This teamed up with its proximity to the cities make them all the more alluring.  The land zoning regulations that converted hill and agricultural land to residential and commercial ones too do not help in its conservation.
There have already been some angry outbursts about how little is done to protect the Ghats and we suggest you head here quick before it turns into a concrete jungle!

2) Rakhigarhi in Haryana: The largest known city from the Indus Valley civilization

If you are into history and have been fascinated by civilization, then this is for you. Another site that seems to be eroding due to development and other causes is Rakhigarhi in Haryana.
Considered as the largest known city during the period of the Indus Valley civilization, this is one of India’s most prized possessions. However, insufficient management, looting, neglect and threat of development loom large.
Dating back to 5,000 years, Global Heritage Fund declared this place as one of the 10 most endangered heritage sites in Asia. According to a study of Sunday Times, it was found that the villagers sold the priceless artefacts from here and certain areas have been encroached by private houses.

3) Rama Setu, Tamil Nadu: From the epic Ramayana

Rama Setu is a bridge that is reputed for its references in the epic Ramayana. It starts as a chain of shoals from the Dhanushkodi tip of India’s Pamban Island and ends at Sri Lanka’s Mannar Island. A symbol of unity, geological evidence alludes that this bridge was once a land connection between India and Sri Lanka.
However the proposal of the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project by the Indian government would damage it. The project would entail the unfortunate breaking of the limestone shoals of Rama’s Bridge.

4) Sundarbans: UNESCO World Heritage Site

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Delve into the enigmatic terrain of wilderness that is the Sunderbans.  A UNESCO World Heritage Site and covered with the largest mangrove forests in the world, the Sundarbans is home to many gems, one of them being the endangered Bengal Tiger. It also houses around 334 plant species, various bird species, snakes, crocodiles and other fauna.
Located in West Bengal, an ominous threat lies to the entire region. Low lying in nature, the rising sea levels havealready submerged some parts of it. Due to global warming the sea has already taken down a count of four islands. It is alleged that around 10,000 inhabitants are now environmental refugees. The fear is that the entire site would be under water one day.

5) Dechen Namgyal Monastery, Ladakh: Dates back to 17th century

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Witness a monastery that dates all the way back to the 17th century and lies in the winsome land of Ladakh. The Dechen Namgyal Monastery was constructed under the patronage of the Ladakhi king Sengge Namgyal along with the Tibetan priest Stag-Tsang-ras-pa.
Built along an ancient trade route, the architecture of the structure echoes the monastic layout and fortification. Inside are impressive wall paintings and sculptures. However, you might not get to see any of this since insufficient repairs, lack of financial resources, and limited preservation understandings have led to its decline.

6) Balpakram Forest: Resting place for the departed souls

Savour the rare sights of Balpakram Forest that is famous for its forest covered canyon-cum-gorge. It lies in the South Garo Hills district of Meghalaya. Adding to the mystery of the place is the belief of the indigenous people, that the hill is a resting place for departed souls. Several strange formations are said to be formed in this area.
The forests have been vanishing fast due to water damns, shifting cultivation on the hills and coal mines. Along with this deterioration, the exotic wildlife has been disappearing too.

7) Lakshadweep Coral Reef: Transporting you to a lucid dream

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So stunning are the coral reef in Lakshadweep that they transport you to a dream, though this might not be the case for long. According to a study conducted by Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment (KSCSTE), coral reefs face dire threat from pollution, rummaging of navigational channels, coral mining, and blast fishing.
The study also states that sea-level rise triggered by global warming can indirectly have an effect on reefs, lagoons, beaches, and sand dunes.
The island that already has a fragile coastal environment has been subject to increase in population, mining of corals, coastal corrosion,unrestrained construction and unscientific waste disposal. One would dread to think what the plight would be some years later.

8) Chiktan Castle in Kargil: Emerging from a cliff

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Reminiscent of a Disney movie, the Chiktan Castle in Kargil emerges from a cliff. It served as a royal residence for hundreds of years even after the power of reign made changes. Constructed in the 16th century, this castle depicts the fine dexterity of Balti (Pakistani) craftsmen. The intriguing structure was once a symbol of unity, strength and community as it prepared the people for impending attacks.
The castle was abandoned in the late 19th century and what once stood grand and mighty is left in a state of degeneration. Neglect and natural elements have been a cause for this. Huge parts of the outer walls have collapsed, one reason being the removal of stone for a local government hospital sometime in the 20th century. The structure is another one on the caution list of WMF.

9) Majuli: One of the largest river islands in the world

Lap up a view of one of the largest river islands in the world that goes by the name Majuli. Lolling on the banks of the holy Brahmaputra River, the landscape is rather unsullied and portrays nature at its charming best. It also represents a rich cultural heritage.
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We suggest visiting this place while you can as it is likely to submerge in 15-20 years due to the erosion of Brahmaputra. In 1950, when an earthquake occurred, the river spilled in the upper reaches of the island creating a huge impact. Though a dyke system was constructed, it failed to be very effective. In 1998 too, the floodwaters brought about destruction and killed standing crops.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Amazing Road Trips

  1. Dehradun to Nainital: 273km

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    About the Trip: Get your adrenaline kick with all the turn and twists in the highway and upon arriving at the destination treat yourself with the magical views of Nainital.
  2. Manali- Leh: 478km

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    About the Trip: Ride through the stunning snow-clad hills and mountains, challenging terrains and through some of the high altitude passes.
  3. Bombay to Goa: 601km

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    About the Trip: A pleasant trip through the NH-17 that runs parallel to Western Coast of the country, this road trip is all about the confluence of a myriad of cultures and traditions.
  4. Guwahati to Tawang: 553km

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    About the Trip: Explore and discover the pristine beauty of the North-East with this road trip that originates from the capital city of Assam and takes you to one of the most stunning monasteries in India.
  5. Srinagar to Leh, Zoji La Pass: 417km

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    About the Trip: Witness the mesmeric hills, magical mountains and the pictorial valley of Frass, Kargil and lot more during this road trip.
  6. Grand Trunk Road:

    About the Trip: Not just a road, but a testimony to India’s golden history, this road is indeed one of the best roads for any trips round the year.
  7. Delhi – Leh: 1,013km

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    About the Trip: One of the most enthralling road trips in India, this trip takes several days and gets you high on adrenaline kicks along with panoramic views of the mighty Himalayas.
  8. Delhi -Jaipur: 274km

    About the Trip: Originating from the hub of the country, the roads will take you to the royal land of the Maharajas. Delve deep into the charm and allurement of the Thar Desert and discover its grandiosity.
  9. Mumbai – Rann of Kutch:

    m_Mumbai - Rann of KutchAbout the Trip: From the glittering locales of Mumbai, a road-trip to nowhere, how amazing it will be? Indulge in this road trip and discover how it feels to be in the middle of nowhere..!

Monday, 19 January 2015

Places in India Where You Can Create Memories with Your Parents

Remember the times when your parents have taken you on a great vacation? It is time to return the favour. After all they too need some respite too! India, being the land of a myriad cultures and diverse backgrounds, offers some of the best holiday destinations you could take your parents to. Here is a hand-picked assortment of places laden with picturesque, religious, historical, wild and absolutely jaw-dropping beauty that your folks will approve of.

Alleppey: Backwaters galore

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Known world over for its emerald green backwaters, Alleppey in God’s Own Country makes for a fetching destination. Your parents deserve to be treated with the divine gifts of nature where they can leave all their stresses behind.  Enjoy watching them spring with glee as you take them on the iconic houseboat. You all can cherish moments as you glide along the quiet waters and catch views of the breath-taking landscapes around.
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Adding to the entire experience is flavourful food, fine interiors and warm hospitality. For wildlife enthusiasts, there is also the Periyar National Park and Wildlife sanctuary located nearby. 

Jaipur: A land of royals

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Pamper your parents with a fine tryst with royalty. Along with them, dash off to the imperial land of Jaipur. Reflecting the glory of the past are the rich monuments and palaces that have been beautifully preserved. Let them arrive king style on top of an elephant at Amber Fort. Other places to visit include the finely crafted Hawa Mahal,regal Jaigarh Fort and the splendid Nahargarh Fort.
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You can hire a local tour guide who can keep you all regaled with the fascinating stories behind each magnificent monument. You can even splurge and live in one of the many opulent and lavish places of stay or a palace turned resort that offers great service and hospitality

Kashmir: Switzerland of India

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Crowned as the “Switzerland of India”, Kashmir is where you can surround your parents with surreal and magical beauty. Cosseted in the Himalayas, this is one of the ultimate destinations to take your folks to.
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Let your parents reminisce the classic Bollywood movies (cue, Shammi Kapoor crooning ‘Yeh chaand sa roshan chehra’)with a delightful shikara rideon the dreamy Dal Lake. Even if they are not a movie buff the calm ride and the soothing sights all around makes for quite an experience. Other delights of the place include pretty little hamlets, warm wooden homes,lovely gardens and enthralling lakes.

Ooty: Queen of Hills

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Whisk your parents to the scenic and pleasant hill station of Ooty. Located in Tamil Nadu, it offers many pictorial sights and the bliss of tea gardens. Parents can lap up a refreshing amble through the beautiful Botanical Garden or Sims Park. Another relaxing activity is going boating in the quiet Ooty Lake.
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In case your folks are bit into adventure, you can take them to enjoy the views of Dodabetta Peak and milky gushing waterfalls such as the Pykara and Avalanche falls. Watch the kid in them come alive with a fun toy train experience here. The sights that will be displayed with be etched on your and their minds.

Shimla: The most vibrant hill station of North India

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Many parents favour a visit to Shimla, not only because of its popularity, but also due to its vibrant persona. Lolling in the lap of regal snow dusted mountains, this romantic place features charming British architecture and historical monuments that will leave your parents in awe.
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Some must-visits happen to be the Church on Mall road, Hanuman temple, Gurudwara Sahib, Himalayan National Park and the Arki palace and fort. Lastly, your trip to this place would not be complete without a ride on the popular Toy train that runs between Shimla to Kalka that will give the joy of a lifetime of memories.

Shillong: Scotland of the East

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This capital of Meghalaya rests amidrolling valleys, high plateaus, cascades and winding rivers displaying perfection in natural splendour. Shillong just might be what your parents’ idea of an ideal vacation is.
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Get to exquisite Shillong after a pleasant 3 hour drive from Guwahati making way through fun curves and abundant pine groves. The place was constructed by the British as a summer retreat and hence one can still find the distinct reminisces of the same. Though when here, the great natural beauty cannot be missed. Let them feast their eyes on postcard perfect Umium Lake (also known as Burra Pani Lake), to mesmerising Nohkalikai Falls(tallest plunge waterfall in India) and some tranquil and serene sights on the outskirts. 

Coorg: Land of Coffee and hills

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Another winsome destination to take your parents to is Coorg in Karnataka. The landscape is laced with coffee plantations, waterfalls, pretty environs and rich flora and fauna. Adding to the charm is the pleasant cuddly weather. This hill station is ideal to life up the spirits of your parents.
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Huddled in the nature rich Western Ghats, Coorg boasts of many attractions.Bylakuppe is a Tibetan settlement that can be toured. Here you can unravel Buddhist monastery and get a whiff of the life of Tibetan monks. Other notable places include Talakaveri, Pushpagiri and Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuaries and Nagarhole National Park. Make sure to take your folks down here to spot some Asiatic elephants, tigers, leopards and wild boars.

Manali: Paradise on Earth

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With scenery that is as breath-taking, Manali is a traveller’s treasure trove making it ideal for a family vacation. A stunning hill station in Himachal Pradesh, it is bordered by snowy peaks and lucidriver waters from the Beas. So perfect is the landscape here that it is reminiscent of a post card.
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Charms include natural ones such as orchards to pine and deodar trees, places of worships, adventure activities, and sightseeing tours. Pay a visit to temples, waterfalls, valley and sanctuary with your folks.

Kodaikanal: Princess of Hill Stations

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Kodaikanal is a beautiful city in Tamil Nadu which is bound to mesmerize you with its beauty and tranquillity. Although a honeymooners’ haven, the dewy place that nestles beautifully amidst the folds of the Pali hills is also a family favourite.
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Over here you will find the unique ‘Kurinji-flower’. It flowers only once in 12 years, lending a distinct splendour to the place. Your folks can delight in pictorial hills, enormous rocks, lovelycascades, a tranquil lake, fruit orchards, plush flora. All this makes it one of the most sought-after hill stations in the south of India. 

Gangtok: An abode of diverse ethnicities

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Situated in the eastern Himalayan range, Gangtok is home to people from different ethnicities such as Tibetan, Nepali, Lepchas and Bhutias. The climate of Gangtok is pleasant for most part of the year that makes it favorable for elderly folks to holiday here. The city is also rich in flora and fauna; an abundance of wild orchids in myriad colors and lush green thickets of bamboos can be found growing here aplenty.