Sunday, May 30, 2010

Today's Flowers:Gingers

Now that the pre monsoon breezes are blowing, the gingers in my garden have got a hint of the comming rains, and have started putting out their unusual flowers. The Spiral Ginger, Costus igneus has a shell like flower in fire colours, befitting its name.
The Butterfly Ginger Hedichium has delicate white flowers whose perfume fills my garden.

This is a native ginger with huge round leaves and delicalte, butterfly like flowers. It is delicately scented. It is called 'Nela sampige' meaning Bloom of the Earth. The plant comes to life in summer and goes to sleep in winter. It is a cousin of the Resurrection Plant, and is prized for its medicinal uses.

Flowers of the Red Ginger are very attractive and last for a long time.

This is the orchid like flower of the ginger Rasna, Alpinia galanga, which is used in South East Asian cooking.
My thanks to the team of Today's Flowers for hosting the meme.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Skywatch Friday- Skies over the Himalayas

Overcast skies early in the morning does not deter the intrepid walker .

Through the deodars.
The sky over young Shorea robusta and other trees in the foothills.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Buddha's Trees

Today is the Full Moon Day of the Indian month of Vaishakha, the day Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha was born 2600 years ago. I am posting some trees which have associations with the Buddha.
The Cannonball Tree Couroupita guianensis, is a native of India as well as the tropical South America. It is called Nagalinga Pushpa in Kannada, which describes the flower which has a hood like the cobra Naga, and a short stigma resemling a Lingam in the centre. The flowers have two kinds of pollen, fertile pollen in the ring stamen, and sterile pollen in the hood stamen. The flower does not have nectar. So, to attract the pollinators, it has a strong perfume.

The tree gets its name 'Cannonball Tree', from the hard, round fruits which resemble cannonballs.
People of Thailand erroneously call this tree 'Shorea robusta'. Sal is the tree under which the Buddha gave his last sermon and drew his last breath.

The real Sal Tree Shorea robusta is flowering now throughout India. The wood from this tree is used for building houses and making furniture.

The Bodhi Tree Ficus religiosa is the tree under which Siddhartha Gautama had enlightenment and became the Buddha. This tree has no flowers.
Villages all over India have this tree growing in the centre. Meetings are held and disputes are settled under the Bodhi tree.
All the three trees are sacred to the Buddhists and the Hindus .

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Watery Wednesday- Birds of Powai Lake

I spent the latter part of my holiday in Mumbai. Although I found the sweltering heat unbearable after my sojourn in the cool Himalayas, birds seemed to like the weather. They were busy mating and foraging. The Kite on the post is gazing intently at the water , probably to catch a water snake.
The Asian Openbill Storks, Anastomus oscitans are large birds which feed on the frogs and molluscs in the lake.

There are many stories in the 'Panchatantra' about these storks. Besides the Storks, the lake has Herons, Egrets, Purple Moorhens, Spoonbills and Snakebirds and many other water birds whose names I don't know.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Some wild flowers of the hills

This star shaped flower grows on a succulent.
Primulas which we never see in the tropics, grow as wild flowers in the hills.

Cactus flowers

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Today's Flowers

These flowers were growing in the wild in the Himalayas. They look like Wisteria, but I am not sure whether it is wisteria.

Wisteria or Wistaria as it is sometimes spelled, is named after the scientist Henry Wistar.
The flowers are pea shaped and profuse.
My grateful thanks to the team of the meme 'Today's Flowers" for hosting the interesting meme.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Hot and the Cold

This is a tea garden in the Himalayas. They were just starting to pluck the leaves. These tea plants are not hibrids, but the original plants brought from China 200 years ago. A very fine quality of green tea is made from the leaves after fermenting and drying them. A hot cup of tea is very welcome in the cool climate.
Manikaran. Tou can see the steam rising out of the hot spring in Manikaran. Some people tie little cotton bags of handfuls of rice and float it in the hot spring to become cooked rice.
There are Hindu and Sikh temples in Manikaran, who both offer the traveller delicious hot food free! I had a tasty lunch in the Sikh temple.

The locals make an ice cream known as kulfi. To freeze the thickened milk, they don't use the refrigerator, but keep the vessel in the swift flowing , cold river Beas for a few hours. This man sold the kulfi served on leaf plates of the Palash tree. The Kulfi was delicious!

The Himalayan mountain goats were being led to the pastures on the higher ranges. They come down to the lower ranges just before winter. The softest wool in the world, cashmere , is made from their wool.

A Tibetan shop in Dharamsala selling woollen articles.
Many Tibetans, including their leader, the Dalai Lama stay in Dharamsala as refugees.
I just caught a glimpse of the great man as he was going to inaugurate the cricket matches.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Grandeur of the Himalayas

In the great Indian epic Mahabharata, the protagonist, Yudhishthira is once asked by his wife Draupadi: "Why do you love Truth so much? Truth has given you nothing but misery."
Yudhishthira replies, " I love these Himalaya mountains. They have not given me any material gain. But they are so beautiful and grand, that anyone would love them...Truth is also like that. Beautiful and grand. That is why I love Truth."

Anyone who visits the Himalayas once, longs to visit it again and again.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Watery Wednesday- Following the Beas

The river Beas originates from a glacier in the upper Himalayas. We followed the river from the higher ranges, right down to the plains of Punjab.
The water is still ice cold in the camping site.

The river loses its force, and flows calmly in the lower foothills. The water is not icy cold, making the place ideal for a bath.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

English Garden in the Himalayas

The British , who ruled India for 200 years, could not bear the summer heat of Delhi. So, during summer, the whole government would shift to Shimla, which is located in the Western Himalayas. Naturally, the Viceroy had to have a castle, and this Scottish castle came into being in 1888, complete with electric lights, running hot and cold water in all the bathrooms and an indoor tennis court! A beautiful English garden with box hedges, manicured lawns and English flowers was made around the castle. Rain water was harvested in an underground tank to water the extensive lawns and tennis courts.
Now the building houses the Institute for Advanced Study, a post doctoral research Institute. Since it is no longer the seat of power, the gardens are not given much importance.
Besides such English flowers like carnations and cornflowers, there were these flowers whose name I could not find. They are not Alstromeria.

A great attraction was the profuse flowers of the 'Whistling Rose', shown above. I don't know who named it and why, but I think it was called Whistling Rose because of the hundreds of little birds in the bushes.

Although the Viceregal Lodge had an imposing appearance, some of the ladies who inhabited it did not like it. Lady Curzon thought its appearance ludicrous, calling it a building "a Minneapolis millionaire would delight in".

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Thief and the Church in the Wilderness

Near Dharamsala in the Himalayas, there is an old church among the deodars called the Church in the Wilderness. In the nineteenth century, a British officer was killed there by wild bears.
The church has beautiful stained glass windows.

The church reminds one of a bear, somehow.

There are magnificent Deodar trees all round the church.

Lord Elgin, who was a viceroy of India, is buried here. It is the same Lord Elgin who stole the marble sculptures from the Panthenon in Greece. By all accounts, Elgin seems to have been an unscrupulous and cruel man.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Himalaya, the Abode of Snow

In Sanskrit, Himalaya means ' the abode of snow'. These rhododendrons shown above grow at a height of 11,000 feet. One can see glaciers as one walks along the path.
The snow was very wonderful for us from the tropics.

There were some wild flowers like these in the crevices of rocks.
It is soothing to remember the snow in the torrid heat of Mumbai!