Monthly Archives: April 2011

Spanish Delights !!!

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The kingdom of Spain, located in extreme south-west of Europe, may not be an eye catcher in the world map in terms of size, but when tourism aspects counts it’s definitely a country that’s too good to be missed.

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In its not so large frame, Spain encompasses variety geographic landscapes. Along the coast of Atlantic and Mediterranean oceans there lies almost countless sun-kissed sandy beaches that draws plentiful visitors in summer. Not to mention the two exotic islands that comes under Spain – Balearic and Canary. Apart its splendid seashores; Spain, being the second-most mountainous country in Europe is an automatic winter tourism hub as its high mountains make perfect ski slopes.

More than those diverse landscapes and wetlands, Spain’s long eventful history that includes many a conquests and landmarks, makes it a place of historical importance too. No wonder this country, alongwith Italy, contains the maximum number of World Heritage Sites – Forty two! Thirteen of the Spanish cities have already been declared by UNESCO as world heritage cities. Spain’s inland consists of innumerable picturesque villages, well away from the beaten tourist tracks, that takes one back to a much earlier era.

Thus be it summer / winter tourism, nature tourism, heritage & cultural tourism, etc. Spain has an all-in-one answer. A magnificent combination that can be rarely seen anywhere.

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Prominent ones amongst Spain’s bountiful attractions…

Madrid

Spain’s ‘capital royal’ for the last five centuries as well as its most touristic city… Madrid is a city of elegant architecture and historical monuments including some outstanding ones like royal castle and city square. Art lovers can truly relish in Madrid’s world famous museums.

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Barcelona

Spain’s second largest city and location of some of the best tourist attractions in the country… A city of Gaudi’s architectural brilliance, Barcelona has been the home of many of the country’s famous artists.

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Bilbao

One of the most beautiful cities in the North Spain, Bilbao is best known for its sacred cathedral (a renowned pilgrim spot), the Guggenheim Museum and last but not the least, its seafood.

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Cordoba

A must see city in the South Spain… particularly famous for its Mezquita Mosque – a treasure trove of the Moorish Andalusian arts.

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Costa del Sol

Abode of some fine beaches… With mild climate throughout the year, Costa del Sol makes an ideal beach resort for people from all wakes of life.

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Granada

The gateway to the world renowned sky resort of Sierra Nevada Mountains… one notable Granada attraction is the charming Alhambra Palace, set at the foothill of Sierra Nevada.

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Salamanca

One of the UNESCO-declared Spanish world heritage cities… A city that retains the unspoilt old world charm.

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Seville

Another Spanish city of astounding architecture… Seville’s major assets are its majestic Cathedral (with the tomb of Christopher Columbus), the Giralda tower and the Alcazar – an awesome medieval Islamic palace. Besides, the city is much known for its cultural festivals like the Easter parades and April fair.

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Valencia

A city that lies in the Spanish Mediterranean coast, Valencia is a prime beach destination that automatically draws people in summer holidays… Also well known for its City of Arts and Sciences which consists of amazing eye-shaped buildings!


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Typical ‘Spanish Specials’…

Paella – Spain’s own unique cuisine… available in may versions, especially as a variety seafood…

Scenes from Seville’s annual ‘April fair’ – one of the most colorful festival fiestas in Spain…

Spain’s masterpiece event – the thrilling ‘Bull Fight’!

The ‘Parade of Resurrection’ that take place throughout Spain during the holy week of Easter… The procession is peculiar for its realistic depiction of biblical characters…

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In Spain, it’s delights ‘n delights all the way…

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… Here people live with no doors & locks !

In the modern times where, together with the technology advances, crimes too become more sophisticated and the concerns for more and more security measures gains priority, is it possible to imagine a place where people live in harmony in no-door-no-locks-houses ? It may seem unbelievable but as a matter of fact, true! There is indeed a tiny hamlet where houses and other buildings like shops have no doors, and that place is in the country of countless legends and myths – India.

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That peculiar place is ‘Shani Shingnapur’, a village located in Maharashtra state about 350 kilometers away from the state capital Mumbai and 60 kilometers from the popular pilgrim place Shirdi.

In this tiny village consisting of some 400+ families, people’s life literally revolves around the celebrated village temple – Temple of Lord Shani, one of the most sacred abode of Shani (Hindu God of planet Saturn) in the whole country. Before throwing light to this strange village life, it is essential to get some awareness about Lord Shani or Saturn.

According to Hindu mythology, the influence period of planet Saturn (‘Shani-Dasa’ in local) is overall a troublesome part in one’s life, generally giving a torrid time. This can vary in length – from 2 years to 20 years – with further variant periods like ‘Kandaka Shani’ (two and half years), ‘Ezhara-Shani’ (seven and half years), etc. To survive this ordeal, appeasing Lord Shani is a must. For that, visiting sacred Shani temples and offering prayers is a common practice. Among the herds of people who seek Lord Shani’s abode, Temple at Shani Shingnapur village holds high significance.

This is not like a traditional architectural-marvel Indian shrine; but simple to the core – with no roof and doors! An open shrine where a five feet high black stone (which represents Lord Shani) is placed on an uncovered platform. Here very peculiar system of worship is followed… Devotees should take bath first and wear saffron colored cloths. Only men are allowed to go near the idol, women can pray only from a distance. The worship is offered by pouring oil (gingerly oil is supposed to be the favorite offering) over the idol.

Unlike the typical temples, here there is no time limit for worship – it can be done round-the-clock! Village legends state, Lord Shani doesn’t like to be covered and no need for doors either. So a normal temple is not built.

Adhering to the strong belief over the prowess of Shani God, devotes who come to this temple from faraway places go for worship without locking their cars / vehicles. Their belongings are kept unguarded.

In Shani Shingnapur village, people live in houses with no doors for generations! Here one can find only curtains (that is also rare) in the place of doors. The only temporary guard is barriers – that too to keep off stray animals. Here villagers get to their daily routines without bothering about their house’s security or fear of thieves. For them, everything is dedicated to the Lord Shani. The belief is, whoever steals anything from this place will incur the wrath of Shani God and will have to pay for his/her sins very dearly. When Shani Shingnapur natives go outside their village, they don’t ask their neighbors to keep vigil on their house & belongings. There is no Police station in this village too. They have no role here!

Furnitures like cupboards were strange to the village folk for quite a long time. Nowadays few cupboards started appearing in some houses, but they too are without locks! Recently a Bank started functioning in Shani Shingnapur. Staying true to this village custom, this Bank too has no doors or locks. However the bank authorities don’t keep the cash here at night (that is taken to their nearby branch after working hours).

This fairy-tale-like village has its own share of controversies as well. Few months back a theft has been reported, which the majority folk swore as the very first one in the village’s history. But villagers faith remained unshaken – no official complaint was made and police investigation was not sought. All folks, in unison, believe the thief will be bought to book by the sheer power of Lord Shani – sooner or later. On the contrary, some critics question this, stating that several thefts were made during the last one year but the blind faith of villagers hushed up those issues. And, moreover this sort of staunch belief is not genuine but sort of a brand building for the village, as the peoples lives are largely dependent from the fortunes of the Temple. Though the situation goes like this, the number of devotees to Shani Shingnapur temple is always on the rise.

Whether this is a blind belief or a brand building process, or, will Lord Shani’s punishment will ultimately befall on the thieves who committed the so-called first crime … only time can tell. So far interesting legends thrive on !