Monday, March 26, 2012

Holi Festival in India

Holi is a religious spring festival celebrated by Hindus. It is also known as Festival of Colors, held at the end of the winter season on the last full moon day of the lunar month Phalguna (February/March), (PhalgunPurnima), which usually falls in the later part of February or March.

Holi is also called the Spring Festival - as it marks the arrival of spring the season of hope and joy. The gloom of the winter goes as Holi promises bright summer days. Nature too, it seems rejoices at the arrival of Holi and wears its best clothes. Fields get filled with crops promising a good harvest to the farmers and flowers bloom coloring the surroundings and filling fragrance in the air.

In India, it is one of the major festivals thus it is celebrated with enthusiasm and gaiety with grand festivities. In fact, because of its popularity tourists search for cheap airfare to India just to witness the fascinating activities of this festival.

Entire India wears a festive look when it is time for Holi celebration, hence the beautiful sight brought about by this festival is more than worthy of cheap flights to India. Market places get abuzz with activity as frenzied shoppers start making preparations for the festival. Heaps of various hues of gulal and abeer can be seen on the roadside days before the festival. Pichkaris in innovative and modern design too come up every year to lure the children who wish to collect them as Holi memorabilia and of course, to drench everybody in the town. Womenfolk too start making early preparations for the holi festival as they cook loads of gujiya, mathri and papri for the family and also for the relatives. At some places especially in the north women also make papads and potato chips at this time.

The main day, Holi, is celebrated by people throwing scented powder and perfume at each other. Bonfires are lit on the eve of the festival, also known as Holika Dahan (burning of Holika) or Chhoti Holi (little Holi). After doing holika dahan prayers are said and praise is offered. The bonfires are lit in memory of the miraculous escape that young Prahladaccomplished when Demoness Holika, sister of Hiranyakashipu, carried him into the fire. Holika was burnt but Prahlad, a staunch devotee of god Vishnu, escaped without any injuries due to his unshakable devotion. Holika Dahan is referred to as Kama Dahanam in South India.

Great excitement can be seen in people on the next day when it is actually the time for the play of colors. Shops and offices remain closed for the day and people get all the time to get crazy and whacky. Bright colors of gulal and abeer fill the air and people take turns in pouring color water over each other. Children take special delight in spraying colors on one another with their pichkaris and throwing water balloons and passers by. Women and senior citizen form groups called tolis and move in colonies - applying colors and exchanging greetings. Songs, dance on the rhythm of dholak and mouthwatering Holi delicacies are the other highlights of the day.

There is also a tradition of consuming the very intoxicating bhang on this day to further enhance the spirit of Holi. It is so much fun to watch the otherwise sober people making clowns of themselves in full public display. Some, however, take bhang in excess and spoil the spirit. Caution should therefore be taken while consuming bhang delicacies.

After a fun-filled and exciting day, the evening is spent in sobriety when people meet friends and relatives and exchange sweets and festive greetings.

People believed that the spirit of Holi encourages the feeling of brotherhood in society and even the enemies turn friend on this day. People of all communities and even religions participate in this joyous and colorful festival and strengthen the secular fabric of the nation.

Legends of Holi Festival

Holi has various legends associated with it. The foremost is the legend of demon King Hiranyakashyap who demanded everybody in his kingdom to worship him but his pious son, Prahlad became a devotee of Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakashyap wanted his son to be killed. He asked his sister Holika to enter a blazing fire with Prahlad in her lap as Holika had a boon which made he immune to fire. Story goes that Prahlad was saved by lord himself for his extreme devotion and evil minded Holika was burnt to ashes, for her boon worked only when she entered the fire alone.

Since that time, people light a bonfire, called Holika on the eve of Holi festival and celebrate the victory of good over evil and also the triumph of devotion to god. Children take special delight in the tradition and this has another legend attached to it. It says that there was once an ogress Dhundhi who used to trouble children in the kingdom of Prithu. She was chased away by children on the day of Holi. Therefore, children are allowed to play pranks at the time of 'Holika Dahan'.

Some also celebrate the death of evil minded Pootana. The ogress tried to Lord Krishna as an infant by feeding it poisonous milk while executing the plan of Kansa, Krishna's devil uncle. However, Krishna sucked her blood and brought her end. Some who view the origin of festivals from seasonal cycles believe that Pootana represents winter and her death the cessation and end of winter.

In South India, people worship Kaamadeva- the god of love and passion for his extreme sacrifice. According to a legend, Kaamadeva shot his powerful love arrow on Lord Shiva to revoke his interest in the worldly affairs in the interest of the earth. However, Lord Shiva was enraged as he was in deep mediation and opened his third eye which reduced Kaamadeva to ashes. Though, later on the request of Rati, Kaamadeva's wife, Shiva was pleased to restore him back.

Monday, March 19, 2012

EVENT: 2012 London Olympic Games

2012 Olympic Games will be held in London from 27 July to 12 August 2012. London will be the first city to officially host the modern Olympic Games three times having previously done so in 1908 and in 1948.

London was selected as the host city on 6 July 2005 during the 117th IOC Session in Singapore, defeating Moscow, New York City, Madrid and Paris.

The Olympics will see the construction of brand new, state of the art sporting facilities, as well as the use of existing facilities across the country. Olympic venues will be found all over London, with many in well known and popular locations such as Hyde Park. The 2012 Olympic Games Park and main stadium will be in Stratford, east London – which has been the focus of a huge re-generation project while sailing events will be held in Weymouth at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy.

As the budgetary considerations generated some criticism, the Games will make use of many venues which were already in place before the bid, including Wembley Stadium, Wembley Arena, Wimbledon All England Club, Lord's Cricket Ground, The O2 Arena, Earls Court Exhibition Center and the Excel Center.

2012 Summer Olympic Games will feature 26 sports and a total of 38 disciplines while there will be 20 sports and 21 disciplines for 2012 Paralympic Games.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lantern Festivals of Taiwan

Lantern Festival is commonly regarded as one of the most significant as well as the most romantic festivals in Taiwan. Held on the first full-moon night of the lunar year, it is celebrated with lantern making, lantern riddle games and displays of glittering decorative lanterns.

It is believed that this festival originated in the festive activities of agricultural people celebrating the lengthening of daylight hours and the coming of spring after the New Year. Other legends have it that the festival was actually started by an emperor of the Han Dynasty during 206 B.C – 220 A.D., who was a devout Buddhist. The emperor ordered his people to display lights on the fifteenth night of the first month of the lunar year to pay respect to Buddha. According to the same legend, holding torches or lanterns on this night makes it easier to see deities descending from heaven to give blessings to the earth.

The Tourism Bureau has been holding the Taiwan Lantern Festival for 22 years to attract visitors and raise the international profile of the cultural charms of Taiwan. Traditionally, the festival has been celebrated by carrying hand lanterns. The Taiwan Lantern Festival adds a high-tech to this traditional custom and brings the event to the international stage. From to the theme lantern displays to folk arts and performances, the festival has become a perennial favorite of locals and foreign visitors alike.

Tangyuan, also known as yuansiao is the traditional food for this occasion. Tangyuan is a glutinous rice dumpling with sweet or savory stuffing's. It comes in different choices of flavors. Sesame, peanut, red bean paste and minced pork are the most common and popular flavors while new flavors such as taro, green tea and sweet asmanthus preserves have also been attracting followers in recent years.

In Taiwan, several lantern festivals are held to promote local tourism, to attract tourist to book airfare to Taiwan. These festivals held in different parts of the country become a major tourist event in Taiwan over the years.

You will surely love the gigantic lanterns erected in the middle of the plaza of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. The lanterns usually carry the theme in line with the Chinese horoscope sign of that particular year. The installation includes performances combining laser lights, music and sculptural arts. On the four sides of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, smaller lantern installations depicts folklore and historical events, large multi-colored lanterns in the likeness of various plants and animals such as butterflies, dragons, dinosaurs and birds are hung up along the road. They also have interesting live folk performances such as lion and dragon dances, acrobatic acts, folk art skits, mock battles, and booths that demonstrate and sell traditional handicrafts like fan painting, lantern making, dough sculpture, candy-figure blowing, paper cutting, Chinese knotwork and many delicious snacks and sweets. A tunnel of lights is also put up on the roads of Taipei, dressing up the whole city with glittering lights. Every year, this event attract tens of thousands of people from around Taiwan and other countries in the region to purchase airfare to Taipei, making it one of the biggest tourist highlights in Asia at the beginning of every year.

The Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival is one of the most colorful activities of the Lantern Festival. Pingxi is a remote hillside town. In former times, those who worked or farmed in the mountains faced the risks of being robbed or killed; so the people used lanterns to tell their families they were safe. The lanterns have lost their function as a warning signal, and today they are a symbol of peace and good fortune.

The fireworks display put on by the God of War Temple in Yanshui, Tainan City is one of the more popular and much awaited events during the Lantern Festival.

The display starts one day before the Lantern Festival with the tour of the god's sedan chair, accompanied by the discharge of firecrackers. The noise, lights, and festivities that follow continue well into the following morning.

The official lantern festival, Taiwan Lantern Festival is usually celebrated on the 15th day of the first lunar month of the Chinese calendar with a series of activities throughout Taiwan. Among the highlight events at this time is the inspection tour of the deity Master Han Dan in Taitung City. As guardian of the celestial treasury, Han Dan is revered today as a god of wealth, but people believe that he was once a real person named Chao Kong-ming. When the god makes his annual inspection tour of the earthly world, crowds turn out to pray for his blessing and good fortune. On the day of the festival, Han Dan is also joined by other gods of the temples in various townships and Taitung on tours of the community. Households in these areas prepare offerings of fresh flowers and fruit and light strings of firecrackers to welcome the Han Dan. The person representing the god on the tour wears only a headscarf, mask and pair of red shorts. He stands courageously amidst the fusillade of firecrackers protected only by a tree branch. There are several stories as to why the people throw firecrackers at Han Dan. In one version, it is because Han Dan is the god of hooligans and his power grows with the loudness of the explosions. A less widely accepted explanation is that Han Dan is afraid of the cold, so the people throw firecrackers at the god during his tour to keep him warm and win his blessing.

Indeed, Lantern Festival is the best time for visitors to experience the best of Taiwan. From rich historical culture and customs to authentic Taiwanese cuisines and local festive delicacies, Taiwan is a place you surely would not want to miss!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

EVENT: Expo 2012 Yeosu, Korea

Come and encounter the “ocean of the future”, join in the festivities of the 2012 World Expo as Yeosu, Korea hosts the most stylish and sophisticated World Fair from 12 May – 12 August 2012.

Expo 2012 is Korea’s second expo to be recognized by the BIE (Bureau of International Exhibitions), following the Daejeon Expo in 1993.The seaside Yeosu City venue highlights the main focus of the expo: the ocean and its value as a natural resource.

“The Living Ocean and Coast” is the hopeful theme of this year’s marine-focused World Expo showcasing floating pavilions, dazzling offshore multi-media shows, a vast Ocean Experience Park representing the world’s five major oceans and various forms of architectural grandeur which includes a mock-up, high-tech coastal city of 2050.

Exhibition centers include the Theme Center, Korea Center, Sub-theme Center (Climate Change & Environment, Ocean Industry & Technology, Ocean Civilization, Ocean City and Ocean Creatures), International Center, and Aquarium.

The 250,000 square meters exhibition area and auxiliary facilities have the geographical edge that comes from being adjacent to the ocean, and thus, is ideal for realizing the Expo theme. The site overlooks Hallyeosudo Marine National Park and Odong Island, and is surrounded by 317 jewel-like islets, having the perfect natural conditions to make the Expo’s theme come alive.

All these wonderful creations support the idea that human prosperity is inextricably tied to a healthier planet. This event is expected to draw 100 participating countries, generating millions of tourists who will be purchasing air tickets to Korea to attend the fair.

The expo theme aims to shed light on humankind’s knowledge and advancement of technology concerning the ocean and coast, and identify ways to resolve the challenges facing the ocean. It will serve as a timely reminder to the global community of the value of the sea, which is closely linked to the very existence of the human race. Many also hope that the expo will be a chance for nations to come together and discuss a new, unified vision for the world’s ocean environment.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan

It is the land where modern technology and ancient traditions blend harmoniously, a country with an unrivaled beauty and enchanting charm which attracts millions of tourists to visit Japan. Luckily even you don’t have big budget you can visit the country by checking those sites that offer discount air ticket and air tickets promo. For those who have visited Japan and spent a vacation in the “Land of the Rising Sun”, being captivated by the breathtaking sceneries and the warmth of its people will be an understatement, as everyone who have toured Japan, especially during the festival period, found their experiences in Japan as the most unforgettable one.

One of the biggest events on the Japanese calendar is the “Cherry Blossom Festival” also known locally as “Hanami”. It is an annual tradition with a very deep roots celebrated by every Japanese people, with their families, co-workers and friends. Companies arrange parties for employees, students have it marked on their academic calendar while parents plan ideal settings to introduce their little ones to the wonders of the cherry blossom festival. Visiting Japan during the bloom of the cherry blossom trees is definitely a delightful experience!

“Hanami” which literally means flower viewing is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the beauty of flowers, in this case almost always meaning cherry blossoms. The blossom forecast, sakurazensen is announced each year by the weather bureau, and is watched carefully by those planning hanami as the blossoms only last a week or two. In modern-day Japan, hanami mostly consists of having an outdoor party beneath the sakura during daytime or at night. Hanami at night is called yozakura.

From the end of March to early May, sakura bloom all over Japan and around the first of February on the island of Okinawa. Within these months, there are many festive celebrations held in different parts of Japan thus tourists have every chance of finding one wherever they intend to go. In many places, temporary paper lanterns are hung for the purpose of yozakura. On the island of Okinawa, decorative electric lanterns are hung in the trees for evening enjoyment, such as on the trees ascending Mt. Yae, near Motobu Town, or at Nakajin Castle.

Some of the most important celebrations for the cherry blossom festival across Japan are: Yaedake festival in Motobu city (January 7th - February 16th), Matsuyama Shiroyama Koen festival Matsuyama city (April 2nd-4th), Matsue Jozan Koen festival in Matsue (March 27th – April 15th), Tsuyama Kakuzan Koen festival in Tsuyama (beginning of April), Takato Koshi Koen festival in Takato-machi Ina (April), Takada Koen festival in Joetsu town (April 2nd – 18th), Kitakami Tenshochi festival in Kitakami (April 15th – May 5th), Hirosaki Koen festival in Hirosaki (April – May) or Matsumae Koen Park festival in Matsumae (April – May). These are only the places with the biggest celebrations for the cherry blossom festival, having few hundred trees to tens of thousands cherry trees however there are absolutely other smaller festivities in every place where cherry blossom trees grow.

The cherry blossoms are only the main attraction of these events, while Japanese celebrate through various activities. During this festival, every city park in Japan with lots of sakura trees will be jammed with people, and finding a spot to even sit down may be impossible. Among the most beautiful things that every visitor should not miss, are the small representations of traditional Japanese music and theater, the tea ceremony demonstrations or family gatherings to eat under the trees. The celebration does not stop at sunset with most orchards being lit throughout the night projecting a different panoramic beauty amidst the moonlight.

The most popular locations to join in the fun are parks, castles, riverbanks, temples, and shrines. In Tokyo this means places like Ueno Park, Shinjuku Gyoen, the Imperial Palace, or Yasukuni Shrine, along with lots of smaller more local parties as well. If you're still not sure where to go, look for any happy gatherings of Japanese people and you're likely looking at a local hotspot.

At weekends, these places are full of people strolling through the grounds or sitting under their chosen cherry tree. Some group of people mark their pitch by rolling out picnic. In popular places the best spots are usually taken as the sun comes up so better plan ahead.

The coming of the cherry blossoms (sakura) is one of the happiest events in Japan. First and foremost it heralds the coming of spring, which is a delight since winters in Japan are bone-chilling cold. They also have a deeper cultural significance since they fall to the ground and disappear in only a couple of weeks or even sooner if the frequent rains wash them all off the trees, which echoes an ancient cultural belief in the short, transitory nature of youth and life itself. This festival is the perfect occasion to understand a part of the Japanese culture and traditions, which remained unchanged through centuries.

It’s not too late to plan your trip to take part of these exciting activities, start searching for cheap airfare to Tokyo and have a wonderful “hanami” experience!

Monday, March 5, 2012

EVENT: Hong Kong Flower Show 2012

Hong Kong Flower Show 2012 will be featuring ‘Floral Delights’ as its theme and “Hyacinth” as its theme flower. Hyacinths are spring-flowering bulbs with long, narrow leaves, which come in shades of red, blue, orange, pink, violet or yellow. This year’s flower show will be held from 16 to 25 March 2012 at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay.

The event will showcase the beauty of this exquisite plant and a rich profusion of exquisite potted plants, beautiful flower arrangements and gorgeous landscape displays by organizations from local, the Mainland and overseas. There will also be commercial stalls selling flowers and other horticultural products.

Hong Kong Flower Show is a major event organized by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department to promote horticulture and the awareness of greening. Every year, it provides a good opportunity for hundreds of thousands of local citizens and horticulture lovers all over the world to appreciate the beauty of flowers and share their experiences in the cultivation of flowers.

Apart from plant exhibit, the show also features photo and student drawing competition.

Visitors will have the chance to see impressive photographs of local and overseas exquisite flowers and plants on display, interesting or touching scenes captured at the Showground, as well as portraits of TVB artistes and Miss Hong Kong 2011 title holders against the backdrop of beautiful garden displays with a view to promoting community greening.

Meanwhile, entries for Yuen Institute Student Drawing Competition are sure to draw crowds with the student’s impressive drawings of exquisite flowers, rare plants and unique garden displays in the showground, with a view to enhance the public’s awareness on the importance of plants and natural environment conservation.

Other educational and recreational fringe activities include music and cultural performances, floral art demonstrations, cookery demonstrations, plant maintenance workshops, green stalls, guided visits, recreation programs and fun games for the enjoyment of all visitors of all ages.