Minggu, 08 Februari 2009

Some Wonderful Lakes of the World

Minggu, 08 Februari 2009
Each lake; a world of its own

Lakes are not seas; they are enclosed water bodies of substantial size; they nurture the people around giving them almost all their day today needs like food, water, transportation recreation etc. they support a bio system around its peripheries to evolve independently and develop in to an exotic culture specific to its shores. Communities living around develop a unique culture and identity. Due to these exclusivities lakeshores always offer a special charm for the visitors and act as hot tourist spots giving precious jobs to the local people.

They are all good whether big or small

There are many types of lakes like saline (The Caspian Sea), hyper saline (The Dead Sea), fresh water (Lake Victoria), high altitude (Lake Titicaca), low altitude (Dead Sea), extremely deep (Baikal), with largest island (Huron), located on lake-island (Manitou) etc. Some of them is sacred and medicinal (Spotted Lake), some filled with tar and repulsive but they all have one thing in common they are all extremely useful to mankind.

Lake Toba, in Sumatra Island, Indonesia

lake toba

Lake toba image courtesy: tobaleuser.com

This is a 100 km long lake located in the island of Sumatra that houses the largest island in a lake on an island. It has another credit as it is the largest volcanic island in the world. The name of the island is Pulau Samosir which was formed by the eruption of a super volcano tens of thousands of years ago. Lake Toba is formed when the caldera of the volcano got filled with water. It is believed that this explosion (occurred about 70,000 years back) was the biggest eruption occurred in the past 20 million years back.

The Spotted Lake, Kliluk, Osoyoos Canada

lake kliluk spotted lake

Kliluk the Spotted LakeSpotted Lake image courtesy: liembo

More than just a 15 hectare wide lake the Spotted Lake is a sacred spot for the native Indians who live there. This lake is located about 5.5 km from Osoyoos and can be seen from highway no 3. It has one of the highest concentrations of minerals like epsum, calcium, sodium and magnesium than any other lakes in the world. These minerals form large bun-like formations on the lake surface in yellow, brown, golden or red tinge. The natives bath in this lake for healing, almost all of the ailments they suffer.

Pitch Lake, La Brea Southwest Trinidad

pitch lake trinidad

Pitch lake trinidad image courtesy: richard-seaman.com

A forty hectare lake with a depth of 75 meters; that has no water but filled with tar (asphalt) of very pure quality! It was Sir Walter Raleigh the great explorer who discovered this strange tar-lake in 1595. It is believed that some geographical phenomena would have released the underground oil deposit to above ground. When low density components evaporated the tar left there forming a lake. This ‘tar-lake has emerged as a gold mine for the government as it has become a hot tourist attraction with 20,000 annual visitors. The asphalt is mined and exported for hard cash. How long this lake would sustain such a rampant exploitation remains to be seen.

Lonar Lake

lonar lake india

Lonar lake india image courtesy: nasa.gov

The Lonar Lake is in Maharashtra, India is located in Buldhana District (it is part of the ancient historically important place by name Vidharba around 200 km from the famous Ajanta Caves known for the exquisite sculptures it has in abundance. This lake was formed due to a big meteorite collision occurred around 50,000 years back. The USP of Lonar Lake is that it has a perfect circular shape as if drawn by a compass with one arm at its center and the other arm at a distance of 1 km. This lake has an average depth of 170 meters. This lake and numerous ancient temples located in its surrounding points attract tourists as well as pilgrims from all parts of the world.

Chilka Lake, Orissa India

chilika lake orissa

Chilka lake orissa india image courtesy: welcomeorissa.com

It has an area of 1100 sq km and is the largest estuary in India and a designated Ramsar Site (a wetland of international importance). The biodiversity it supports in one of the largest in the world and some of them are in the Red List of the IUCN. There are about 400 vertebrates endemic to this lake; the Irrawaddy Dolphin, limbless barakudia skink etc (there are only fifty numbers of Irrawady Dolphins left at present). Chilka Lake is one of the largest wintering grounds for waterfowls (last year the number of migratory birds visited this lake amounted more than two million). These feathered visitors include those from Baikal, Aral Sea Himalaya and Lake Issik Kul of Kyrgyzstan. There are a number of islands in this lake some of them are inhabited of which Krushnaprasad, Nalaban, Kalijai, Somolo are important ones.

Manitou Lake, Manitoulin Island Lake Huron, Canada

manitou lake

Manitou Lake canada image courtesy: wikipedia.org

Lake Huron is second in size among the Great Lakes but it has the credit of housing world’s largest lake island (Manitoulin) that in its turn houses world’s largest fresh water lake in a fresh water lake island – the Manitau Lake. When this lake- island is 2766 sq km in area its Manitau Lake itself is 104 sq km in area; the funny thing is that Manitoulin Island houses about 107 other lakes within it. The Manitau Lake has its own islands though small making them islands in a lake within an island in a fresh water lake! This lake is drained by River Manitau.

Finnish Lakeland

finnish lakeland

Finnish Lakeland image courtesy: wikipedia.org

This is a territory located in the central and East Finland and as its name suggests it is a land of lakes; the total number of lakes here have never been ascertained as it is too much! It is 40 lakes per 100 sq km in this area but for Lake Inari the count is 1000 per 100 sq km! It has been guestimated that there may be 55,000 lakes altogether if all the water bodies above 200 meter wide alone are counted. Total 25% of the land areas are occupied by lakes and the rest are forests. Saimaa is the largest lake that has an area of 4400 sq km. This region is locally called ‘Lampi Suomi’ meaning Finland Pond.

Nettilling Lake, Canada

nettilling lake canada

Nettilling Lake, Canada image courtesy: wikipedia.org

It is the largest fresh water lake on an island; located in Baffin Island, Nunavut Canada. The Baffin Island is part of the Koukdjuak plains known for the rich wild life (it supports the largest goose colony in the world). This lake gets its water from several other lakes on this island including the Amadjuak Lake which is second largest in size. The Nettilling Lake is 123 km in length and has an area of about 1956 sq km; it is 132 meters in depth; its eastern part is comparatively shallower and dotted with many islands whereas the western part is deeper and devoid of islands. The Nettilling Lake is drained by River Koukdjuak in to the Foxe Basin (a shallow basin in the Hudson Bay; named after English explorer Luke Foxe).

The Aral Sea, (a tear drop on mother earth)

aral sea

The Aral Sea image courtesy: orexca.com

Its story may be the most pathetic of all the lakes; steadily shrinking with increasing salinity; lake has shrunk exposing three deeper parts; all its fish and plants dead and with the fish; once flourished fishing industry also breathed its last; the Aral Sea at present remains as tear drop on mother earth.

It is located between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan two members of the former Soviet Union. Initial surface area of this lake was 68,000 sq kms; it was well fed by the waters of the great rivers and endemic plants and fish were abundant. The present surface area is about 15,000 sq km! Salinity is not the only menace; pesticides, testing of biological weapons, run off of excessive chemical fertilizers, chemical effluents from factories all reduced the sea in to a dirty salt pit.

It all started with lopsided development policies of the erstwhile Soviet Union which diverted Amu Darya and Syr Darya (the rivers that fed the lake) to irrigational purposes all worked in tandem in the making of these three ugly dead seas in the Central Asia.

The Aral Sea is not an isolated case almost all the lakes in the world are under threat of faulty development agenda of the short sighted governments and in various stages of degradation. If the Aral Sea model opens anybody’s eye it would be of immense good for the generations to come.

Forbidden City

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Forbidden City

Forbidden City (Zijin ChengPurple Forbidden City or Gu Gong = old palace), Beijing, China

forbidden city china Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Beijing and Shenyang

forbidden city china Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Beijing and Shenyang

Gu Gong (old palace)

Located in the middle of Beijing the capital of China; this ‘once forbidden city’ remains not just as a mere complex of several palaces but as a symbol of Chinese sovereignty and pride. The image of this city depicted on China’s National Seal itself is ample proof of the importance China attributes to this complex. The Forbidden City is a gigantic complex of palaces that lie spread in 720,000 sq meter area in the western side of the well known Tiananmen Square. For Chinese it is either Zijin Cheng (purple city) or ‘Gu Gong’ meaning old palace.

In the heart of old Beijing (Peking)

This palace complex has world’s largest collection of preserved ancient wooden monuments with finger print of various emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. In 1900 the Ming Emperor Yong Le moved the capital of China to Beijing and he started construction of a fresh city (a walled and secure one; forbidden one for ordinary people) in the middle of old Beijing in 1906. After Yong le 24 generations of emperors resided in this complex and it remained as the center of power of the Chinese Empire for more than five hundred years.

Largest by any means

forbidden city china The northwest corner tower

forbidden city china The northwest corner tower

It is also the largest palace complex in the world and was home to 24 emperors for a span of 5 long centuries. The Forbidden City houses 800 buildings with altogether 9000 rooms and corridors. Each emperor who used to reside has done something in the way of modifications or alterations thereby making his foot print in history. Even the Communist regime has not lagged behind in transforming this ancient palace complex in to a museum of magnificent collection of monuments and adding to its beauty and grandeur to this complex by renovating and beautifying it spending millions.

Intriguing and forbidden and a World Heritage Site

forbidden city china map

Forbidden City China Map

Its unfriendly name the Forbidden City has its origin in the early rule that entry in to it and exit required permission of the highest authority; hence this territory practically remained inaccessible for ordinary mortals. First people called it by that name and as the name got established even authorities called began to mention it as ‘The Forbidden City’! The abundant complexes in this city remained as the most intriguing place for the outside world. At present this palace complex is a World Heritage Site listed by the UNESCO (since 1987) and functions as a Palace Museum; still retaining some of the intrigue with so many articles collected and used by 24 generations of emperors.

China; the land of innovation

China is the third largest country in the world with the largest population and an ancient culture that flourished with the back support of ancient science and wisdom. Gun powder, paper, printing, abacus (the front-runner of computer), mariner’s compass, steel forging, copper, gun-powder, coins, tooth-brush all are just one of the Chinese innovations! They excelled in the construction of large structures like The Great Wall of China, the Temple of Heaven, Yuyuan Garden etc forgotten world wonders like the Porcelain Pagoda of Nanjing (that eventually got destroyed), all were proofs for Chinese skill in innovations. The Forbidden City is built in customary Chinese style and it is in no way less in magnificence and grandeur than these ancient structures Chinese have built.

The city wall

The Nine Dragons Screen in front of the Palace of Tranquil Longevity forbidden city

The Nine Dragons Screen in front of the Palace of Tranquil Longevity forbidden city

This ‘city’ was built to stand any threat; its walls are 7.9 meters high; 8.62 meters wide at the base and 6.6 at the top; built of rammed mud as the core and an outer layer of baked bricks; and the gap filled with mortar. A six meter deep and 52 meter wide moat adds perfection to its invincibility. On the four corners there are observation towers with intricate built roofs; for one who view from outside (so far it could be viewed from outside only; because it was forbidden) these towers were the most visible and prominent sights.


The walls have four gates on each direction of which the most important one is the Meridian Gate (WuMen meaning front door) with a large portrait of Mao Zedong at its top; it is reachable from the Tiananmen Gate (TianMen Gate).

The Meridian Gate (Wu Feng Lou meaning Five Phoenix Tower) is on the south which is the largest gate of this complex. It is 35.6 meters high and has five openings surrounded by phoenix looking pavilions (five is a sacred number for the Chinese as the Confucian teachings are based of five principles).

Of the five openings the central one was exclusively reserved for the emperor; the empress was allowed only once in her life time immediately after her wedding! The eastern entrance was exclusively and strictly for the ministers whereas the western entrance for the royal family. Other two were for officials and none for the ordinary people because they were forbidden in the Forbidden City!

Other Gates

The other gates that pierce the outer wall are namely the Gate of the Devine Might on the north, East Glorious Gate on the east and West Glorious Gate on the west. All these gates have doors with golden nails to add grandeur. The Northern Glorious Gate faces the Jingshen Park. The whole city within the walls can be divided in to two as the Outer Court and the Inner Court. The naming of the structures of this complex is done in a poetic way and they can ring bell in to the ears of one who hear it.

The Gate of Supreme Harmony (TaiHe Men) that is located after the Meridian Gate and the following five bridges leads to the proper Outer Court which consists of three main halls located on a raised white marble platform. Across another courtyard is the Hall of Supreme Harmony (TaiHe Dian) which is the largest courtyard in the Forbidden City as well as the largest surviving wooden structure in China. It has a height of 30 meters and an area of 30,000 sq meters; this hall was used as the Ceremonial Center of the Imperial like coronations, investiture and royal weddings.

The next one is the Hall of Preserving Harmony (a slightly smaller structure was the rehearsing center for the ceremonial parades).

Forbidden city china The Hall of Central Harmony (foreground) and the Hall of Preserving Harmony

Forbidden city china The Hall of Central Harmony (foreground) and the Hall of Preserving Harmony

The Hall of Central Harmony (Hall of Complete Harmony) is comparatively smaller and was intended for the emperor to take rest before and between ceremonies. There is a beautiful throne with Unicorns (Luduan a Chinese mythological beast that could travel 9000 miles a day and that could speak 9000 languages) placed on both sides as a mark of the abilities of the emperor. Also on display are two exquisite sedan chairs in which the emperor was made to sit and was carried around the city. In the southeastern part of the Outer Court are the Halls of military Eminence (where the emperor held court of ministers) and the Hall of Literary (the royal press as well as venue for ceremonial lectures held by Confucian Scholars of high esteem).

The giant ramp

There are ramps flanked by stairs to ascend and descend the raised marble platform; these ramps are real works of art depicting dragons, emperors and other images; the emperor makes his ascend sitting in his sedan. At the center of the ramps leading to the terraces are the ceremonial ramps with carvings of symbolic bas reliefs; of which that behind the Hall of Preserving Harmony there is the largest carving in China a monolith ramp weighing 200 tons that is 16.57 meters long 3.07 meters wide and 1.7 meters thick; a real ceremonial ramp indeed!

The Inner Court; Yin, Yang and the holy union

The Forbidden City as depicted in a Ming Dynasty painting

The Forbidden City as depicted in a Ming Dynasty painting

While the Outer Court was intended for royal ceremonies the Inner Court; which has been separated from it by a long courtyard was more private in its function. There are three halls namely Palace of Heavenly Purity, Hall of Earthly Tranquility and Hall of Union.

Holy Unions

Here emperor is ‘yang’ representing the heavenly purity; living in the Palace of Heavenly Purity; whereas the empress is ‘Yin’ representing the earthly tranquility living in Hall of Earthly Tranquility.

The Hall of Celestial and Terrestrial Union (Diao TaiDian) is the place where the empress receives her birthday greeting. It is intended for the auspicious marital life of royal couple.

On the left side of the throne there is a chime clock that is 210 years old and still working smooth and in the right side a water-pot clock older than the chime clock with a technology more than 25 centuries old. Both of these items are enough to herald the expertise of Chinese skill in innovation. Many items belonging to the Qing dynasty are on display like the imperial seals other ceremonial items.

The Imperial Garden

The Gate of Terrestrial Tranquility (KunNing Men) leads the visitor to the Imperial Garden (YuHua Yuan); it is the last spectacle to be seen in the city. It was a private space for the royal families and was built in 1417 by the Ming dynasties. This garden is not as elaborate as one may presume (12,000 sq meters in area) but there are very beautiful landscapes made in typical Chinese style to be seen.

The selling point

The selling point of the Forbidden City is its well preserved condition and the largesse of the items displayed in it more over the buildings, courtyards, and ramps all are made in such large scale that visitors never feel crowded like other palaces.

There is enough space for every body for sight seeing and for taking some rest in a shade. The woodworks are such that they smell fresh and brand new even after standing there for the last several centuries.

The ‘Un forbidden’ City

The throne in the Palace of Heavenly Purity forbidden city china

The throne in the Palace of Heavenly Purity forbidden city china

After all it is no small thing to see the works and royal possessions belonged to 24 generations of monarchs who lived under one roof a very rare thing that no other palaces can take claim of. Come to the hospitable palace complex (please excuse for an inhospitable name; the Forbidden City) and smell a rich history of a rich and innovative nation.

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