Friday, April 16, 2021

#AtoZChallenge - Nandi Hills

(This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge)

This is not in Bengaluru. But I am including it in this series because Nandi Hills, a hill station around 65 km north of the city, is perhaps the most popular getaway for Bengalureans.

This was a fortress built by the rulers of the Ganga dynasty (350 - 550). It's spread over 90 acres and around 5,000 feet above sea level. It was developed during the reign of Tipu Sultan from 1782, and he used it as a summer retreat. The British stormed it in 1791 during the Third Anglo-Mysore War.

There is a botanical garden with some rare plant species. One can get a breathtaking view of the surroundings. It's a favourite of trekkers too. Many people come late in the evening, camp there, to see the sunrise the next morning.

Atop the hill is a spot called "Tipu Drop". One of the stories is that during Tipu's reign, any rebellion was quelled by pushing the rebels down the cliff. The uprising petered away as the rebels just disappeared. The place is barricaded now for safety.

The three photos here are from what I took during an outing way back in 2006.



Can't believe it's been so long since the last visit. 

(Tomorrow, sit down with me for a sweet dish)

Thursday, April 15, 2021

#AtoZChallenge - Mayo Hall

(This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge)

This is not a hall but a building. It gets its name from Lord Mayo, who served as the fourth Viceroy of India from 1869 to 1872. He was christened Richard Southwell Bourke, 6th Earl of Mayo, and he was generally referred to as Lord Mayo in India.

His tenure as viceroy came to a tragic end when he was stabbed to death, while on a visit to the jail in Port Blair in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, by a Pathan prisoner named Sher Ali, to avenge the death of his father in the First Anglo-Afghan War of 1839-1842.

Image courtesy: Bangalore Tourism

The two-storied Mayo Hall was built in 1883 and stood all alone in regal majesty atop an elevated plane giving people a panoramic view of the surroundings in the east of the city. It has since undergone multiple renovations. 

In 2011, a museum in the memory of Kempegowda, the 16th-century chieftain of the Vijayanagar Empire considered to be the founder of Bangalore, was opened on the first floor. But two years ago, it was temporarily shut following a dispute over which government department should administer and maintain it. Most of the lower floor of Mayo Hall houses the city and civil courts.

Here is a description of the Mayo Hall by Meera Iyer, convenor, INTACH Bengaluru, and a researcher, in The Hindu, Sept 27, 2019 

One characteristic of Renaissance Revival is the lavish ornamentation of windows. Each of Mayo Hall’s first-floor windows is a delicious confection. Each has either a triangular or arched pediment, with mouldings supported on curved consoles or brackets lovingly decorated with acanthus leaves. Each window is framed by decorative pilasters, a small floral scroll on top, and a balustraded ledge below. Ground floor windows are differently treated with flat hoods, simple pilasters and unpretentious consoles. The division between the floors is accentuated by a belt course decorated with a Greek meander, a popular geometric motif in Western art.

Today the building is overshadowed by the 25-floor commercial complex Public Utility Buildings on one side and the elevated metro rail running in front of it.

(Join me tomorrow, we head to a hill station)

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

#AtoZChallenge - Lalbagh

(This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge)

The nearly 1 square kilometer (0.38 square mile) expanse of green space in the south of Bengaluru is an island of tranquility.

Lalbagh was set up in 1760 by the ruler of Mysore Hyder Ali as a private garden on the lines of Delhi's Mughal Gardens. His son Tipu Sultan developed it further by bringing in seeds and saplings from abroad.

It was named Lalbagh in 1856. From the next year, flower shows began to be held. Even now, there two, one on Independence Day (on Aug 15) and the other on Republic Day (on Jan 26), to showcase the large diversity of flora that the garden boasts of.

It's said two mango trees that are over 250 years old, planted during the time of Hyder Ali, are the oldest in Lalbagh today. There are now 2,150 species of plants belonging to 673 genera and 140 families.

I will let some photos speak. Here are some that I took during a visit in 2016.



This is the famous Glasshouse erected in 1889-90, apparently
modelled on the lines of London's Crystal Palace.

The lawn clock.

The tree fossil.
Description below


REFERENCES:

Karntaka Government's Horticultural Department

The Hindu

The Economic Times

(Tomorrow we head to Bengaluru's city centre and look at a 19th century building.)

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

#AtoZChallenge - Karaga

(This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge)

This is a very old festival of Bengaluru, probably dating back at least two centuries. 

Celebrated with pomp and enthusiasm on the full moon day in March-April, it commemorates the annual return of Draupadi (one of the central characters in the Indian epic Mahabharata) to visit her warrior sons. 

Though originally it began as a festival of the Tigala community (of gardeners), today it cuts across all sects. 

THE PROCESSION

One of the main elements is the procession in which the priest balances the floral pyramid atop the Karaga (an earthen pot), the contents of which is believed to have divine powers. The centre of the festival is the Dharmaraya Swamy temple at Tigalarapete, one of four shrines in the city dedicated to Draupadi and Pandavas.

Dharmaraya Swamy Temple.
Image credit: Wikipedia

The priest carrying the Karaga.
Image credit: The News Minute 
The carrier, who is selected six months before the festival, is a man who is dressed as a woman symbolising Draupadi. In fact, during those six months of preparation, he disassociates himself from his family and undergoes strict training.

There are Karaga festivals in other towns but the one in Dharmaraya Swamy temple (also knowns as Bangalore Karaga) is the most popular. The procession passes through various parts of the area where large crowds of people worship the Karaga.

COVID SHADOW

Last year, for the first time living memory, the Karaga celebration -- which normally sees hundreds of thousands of people take part -- was curtailed to a few rituals within the temple with just 13 people in attendance.

It's not going to be any different this time, with the country and more specifically Bengaluru seeing a huge spike in the number of people testing positive.

(Tomorrow, we head to one of the most popular and historical gardens in Bengaluru.)


REFERENCES

Bengaluru’s Karaga Festival: Folk Origins and Rituals, by Roshini Muralidhara

Monday, April 12, 2021

#AtZChallenge - Japanese Language School

(This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge)

Considering that Bengaluru is a melting pot of cultures and a technology powerhouse driving businesses around the world, it's only natural that there many foreign language schools and teachers in the city. 

A random online survey showed at least 10 institutes in the city each for language like French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Italian, Chinese etc. Besides, there are many who teach small groups of students at their homes.

In 2014, there were around 200 Japanese companies in Karnataka and the Japanese population was about 600. Five years later, the corresponding figures were 530 and 1,300, according to Deccan Herald. There are around 30 Japanese restaurants too in Bengaluru. 

We are on J today, therefore, Japanese Language School. It was established in 1984, which its website says is "the first organized Japanese language institute in Bangalore". 

The entire course was designed especially for the Indians by an Indian educationist and Japanese expert late H Ganesh. According to him, the pronunciation and grammar aren't tough; it's the vocabulary that is difficult since it's very different from Indian or European languages.

Images from Japan Habba (Festival of Japan 2019)
Source: Consulate-General of Japan, Bengaluru

The course is stuctured keeping in mind the Japanese Language Proficiecy Test certificate which is recognised world over. The levels of learning range from the basic N5 to the highest N1. Besides grammar and vocabulary, students are also taught basic Japanese culture like etiquette.

My son studied at the Japanese Language School and cleared the elementary level. He couldn't continue the course as he had to move to Sydney. We keep telling him to keep in touch with the language in some way so that he doesn't forget what he learnt. Not sure if he is getting the time for it.

In the city, the other two very popular foreign cultural centres are the Alliance Francaise (for French) and the Goethe-Institut (for German), which in India are called Max Mueller Bhavan, in honour of Friedrich Max Müller, who specialised in Indian languages and culture.

(Tomorrow, we go back in time again - it's about a centuries-old festival.)


Sunday, April 11, 2021

My first dose of Covishield

In India, the vaccination window for people above 45 years of age without comorbidities opened on April 1. I got my first dose on Friday.

There is a remarkably efficient process of registration at a specially created web portal -- CoWIN -- for what the India government says is the world's largest vaccination drive. On entering the postal code, one can choose the vaccination centre from the options available at the locality and the time slot.

Those who don't want to go through the online process can just walk into a vaccine centre (who will do the registration on behalf of them) and get a time slot allotted.

VACCINATION CENTRE TO CLOSE

I chose the nearby superspecility hospital just because of the proximity factor. It's less than 10 minutes walking distance from my home. 

I reached at the scheduled time of 12 noon. They checked my credentials and told me something that I didn't expect. They are closing the vaccination facility at the hospital. 

I asked them why. It's because they are getting too many Covid patients now and they think it's risky to have perfectly healthy people walking into a place like that to get themselves inoculated. 

(By the way, the 2nd wave has hit India very badly, and aided by assembly elections in five states, and in the absence of any lockdown or curfew, the cases are spiralling out of control.)

The hospital's decision sounds logical in one way, but I haven't heard of any advisory saying Covid hospitals shouldn't run vaccination centres. So, I think there could be some other reason too behind the decision. There are many big hospitals that are treating Covid patients and also running a vaccination facility.

THE TWO AVAILABLE VACCINES

I was informed that I would be injected the Covishield vaccine. That's the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India. 

There is one other vaccine available in India. That's an indigenous one, Covaxin, made by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research and the National Institute of Virology. 

Johnson and Johnson will shortly start clinical trial of their single-dose vaccine.

I was told that when I take the next dose between 28 days and 60 days from that day, I must ensure that it's Covishield itself.

IT'S OVER?

I then walked into the vaccination room. The nurse informed me just before pricking. Then, I could see her keep a swab of cotton on the spot for a minute or two. And then she stepped back and said it's done. But felt nothing!

She informed me about the possible reactions, and told me to take any paracetamol tablet (Crocin and Dolo are the most common in India) just in case I get a fever. She told me that I could feel a sort of heaviness on the left arm where I took the jab.

THE CHILL AND TIREDNESS

Till about 9 pm I was okay. Then I felt a bit chilly so much so that I had to switch off the fan. The weather is actually warm now. I took my temperature. It read 99. That's just on the edge of the normal range. No wonder I was feeling cold.

I didn't get good sleep that night. The next day, yesterday, I was feeling very tired, and had a headache-like heaviness in the head. In the morning, I had to repeatedly lie down. But I didn't take any tablet.

After a sleep in the afternoon, the heaviness in the head was gone, but still I wasn't feeling fully okay. Today, I am back to my normal self, except for a slight pain in the area when I lift my arm.

I have got a message on my mobile phone from the government that I have been "partially vaccinated". I also downloaded a digital certificate from the CoWIN website.

I must make sure I don't forget the 2nd dose. Quite possibly, I would get reminders from the Government of India.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

#AtoZChallenge - ISRO

(This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge)

Indian Space Research Organisation is another premier national institution that is headquartered in Bengaluru. 

Indian scientists and researchers in the space segment are doing considerably well just as their counterparts in areas like information technology and pharmaceuticals.

From 1962 when ISRO was set up by the Indian government at the prodding of an internationally renowned physicist and astronomer Vikram Sarabhai ... to 1975 when India built its first satellite called Aryabhatta ... to recent years like 2019 when Chandrayaan 2, India's second lunar exploration mission, was launched ... it has been a long way. 

Two leading space scientists, Vikram Sarabhai (right)
and Abdul Kalam (left), giving shape to India's space
programme. Kalam also served as India's President.
Photo source: ISRO

CHANDRAYAAN 2

In September 2019, Chandrayaan 2 famously missed its mark by a whisker when the lander, Vikram, carrying the rover, Pragyan -- which was supposed to land on the near side of the moon -- deviated from the intended trajectory. (I blogged about this.)

A successful landing would have made India the fourth country after the erstwhile Soviet Union, the US and China, to do so. ISRO is not giving up -- it's planning another attempt with Chandrayaan 3 some time this year, or next year.

EDUCATION, COMMUNICATION

One of the early projects was the SITE or Satellite Instructional Television Experiment, designed jointly by ISRO and NASA, in 1975. It brought educational programmes to rural India.

A good junk of India's satellites are those related to communication -- a series called Indian National Satellite System, comprising a number of geostationary satellites, started in 1983. There are close to 30 of them. 

According to the ISRO, it has so far launched 111 spacecraft and done 82 launches from Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota, a small island in the Bay of Bengal off the coast of Andhra Pradesh.

It includes as many as 342 foreign satellites of 34 nations.

Photo source: ISRO

The latest was as recent as February 28 this year, when the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle PSLV-C51 sent up into orbit Amazonia-1, the optical earth observation satellite of the National Institute for Space Research, along with 18 co-passenger satellites.

CONTROVERSIES

Space exploration is also very controversial since it involves mind-boggling sums of money. 

Some say even a small percentage of money that is spent on space missions is more than enough to improve our lives on earth. 

But the other side of it -- a positive one -- is that a lot of our modern-day comforts, conveniences and solutions to many problems have some connection with what we have learnt from our space ventures. That can be another post on some other occasion.

(On Monday, the first day of the 3rd week of AtoZing, we look at something foreign in Bengaluru)