Dome: A Special Thing

Whether it is of Taj Mahal, Victoria Memorial or Humayun’s Tomb, I have always loved the domes. Most of the pictures which I took at these places were of those domes. Whenever I passed in front of a building with a dome, I had to take a clear look at it, because I have always considered them the most beautiful element as part of a building – other than those Gothic elements. Simply speaking, we would consider the dome was the half of a sphere. But such an architecture always gives an even more special feeling.

I wish to visit many buildings in the world with the domes, including the Pantheon, Santa Maria del Fiore, Saint Peter’s Basilica, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Saint Gereon’s Basilica, Dome of the Rock, The Marble Church, Saint Basil’s Cathedral, and along with them all, Hagia Sofia, and the large number of buildings which was inspired by this Eastern Roman or Byzantine structure. The list is rather endless. Also among the buildings in India, I want to have a few names which are to be in a must visit list.

There are a few churches which I have noticed around here with those domes. None of them are that big in scope; these are the simpler ones. I believe that the largest dome I have seen until now is of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. But the cutest dome which I have seen should be of the church on the way to Angamaly from Aluva – Saint Martin de Porres Church. It has been there for a long time, I can remember it back to those times when I first traveled on the NH 47. I first noticed it due to the dome, and it is good to have such a simple spiritual building on the side of a road which is a lot traveled.

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Saint Joseph’s Church on the side of the NH 47 at Karayamparambu should be one of those churches which can catch anybody’s attention. Situated on the way from Angamaly to Chalakudi, closer to the former, it can be seen if you are travelling from Kochi or from the Cochin Airport to Trichur or Northern Kerala. There are figures of the Apostles around the statue of Jesus Christ right in front of the dome. Inside the dome, light gets through the cupola on the sides of the wings of the Holy Spirit in the form of dove, which is a nice arrangement. It is surrounded by photos of the saints.

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Saint George Basilica at Angamaly stays as the symbol of a rich history of the town. It is one of the largest churches in South India, and has a nice cupola on the top too. There are images of the Apostles on the glasses of the dome, and if you look from the inside, you can see that the light also comes through the glasses with the pictues of Apostles painted on the glasses. You can also see the smaller domes at the front. The use of painted glasses can be seen throughout this church, and the light makes some wonderful reflections!

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Saint Joseph’s Cathedral can be seen at Muvattupuzha just before reaching the town while coming from Perumbavoor/Angamaly or returning. You can see the domes from some distance. The Malankara Catholic Cathedral has a total of five domes of which three are visible from a distance – the number five should be representing Jesus Christ and the Four Evangelists. This big onion domes are rather rare in the case of churches here – it is good because I won’t have to travel to Russia or parts of Eastern Europe to see them.

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Saint Thomas Church at Karumalloor on the way from Aluva to Paravoor, has a newer style of domes. It was rebuilt in the last few years, and even though it is not special in its architecture, the domes and the altar are worth having a look at. Having three domes in the front and the rest extending like a hall, there is some modern variety here, for there are domes, but none which reminds one of the antiquity. We do keep looking for some variety everywhere, don’t we? Well, here is one.

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***The images used in this blog post were taken by me on my Sony Cybershot Camera.

TeNy

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A Little More Divinity

Here is another flashback of my spiritual journeys that go back a few years to a season of Honda Unicorn. I have my doubts if churches can be called “cute”, but here are a few of them if they can really be called so. All of them are from Kerala, and have left a permanent mark despite their small sizes and in spite of not being that famous. This is the season of Lent, and I would consider a few more of the abodes of God can only do good. After all, I am one of those very few unlucky people who always have their birthdays during the time of Lent.

Christ Church, Munnar: Belonging to Church of South India and having a history of over one hundred years, this one goes back to the people of the tea who had arrived here in relation with the tea plantations of Munnar from Britain. The stone laid in on 11th March, 1910, this church is really well-maintained and you can have a very good view of the hilly town from here, which is beautiful, only to be challenged by the beauty of the church itself. You can see India’s colonial past and understand that this one has a lot of stories to tell.

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Church of Our Lady of Hope, Vypin: Located at the island of Vypin, which forms a part and is connected to the city of Kochi by the group of Goshree bridges, this is a small church which has the lake directly in front of it, and makes a very beautiful view if you are looking from the other side of the water body. There is a lawn, a cross and a grotto in front of this white church building, and also a number of Chinese nets and some huge trees which give enough to shades to have some spiritual rest.

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St. Sebastian’s Church, Thoppumpady: The new bridge which was built at Thoppumpady made sure that you can only travel to Fort Cochin and Mattanchery through the road which goes on the side of this church. This is a protected monument by the archeology department and the renovation works were delayed as it couldn’t be done without permission – it has been renovated now, and the photo that I have is from before that. Its antiquity is its beauty, and there is also the lake on the back-side with a nice view of the historical Harbour Bridge.

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Holy Cross Church, Mattanchery: More of a shrine than a church, this is a pilgrimage centre with historical significance. There is the presence of a small church-like area inside it though. It tells the tale of the historic oath which was made by the members of the Saint Thomas Christian community of Kerala that they would not submit to the rising Portuguese dominance which have been trying to forcibily Latinize the local Christian community that had existed with the Indianized version even before Christianity spread through Europe.

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St. Mary’s Church, Njarakkal: A part and a major centre of Vypin that I had earlier mentioned, this church at Njarakkal is not that different from Church of Our Lady of Hope in its architecture, but can still claim an identity of its own. It has more space inside the structure and also has very beautiful and traditional altar. The style is just like a number of older churches built at that time and having the feeling of being very old, but the renovations have made sure that it stays beautiful and worth the admiration.

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***I wish to leave the total statistics related to the number of the churches I have visited since 2009. The first one is the district-wise division, second on the list outside Kerala and third on the churches visited outside India. The only two districts missing are Kasargode and Malappuram. The districts might not be exact as I have my doubt about the borders, but the numbers are exact. *The photos used in this blog post are those taken by me on my Sony Cybershot DSC W-310 only.
(Ernakulam-174, Kottayam-69, Thrissur-39, Alappuzha-29, Pathanamthitta-17, Kollam-9, Kozhikode-7, Idukki-13, Kannur-4, Trivandrum-4, Wayanad-4, Palakkad-3)
(Tamil Nadu-59, Pondicherry-11, West Bengal-11, Karnataka-8)
(England-41, Scotland-9, Sri Lanka-8)

TeNy

Angamaly’s Spiritual Abode

Angamaly is one of the three closest towns to the Cochin (Nedumbassery) International Airport, and among the three, it is also the easiest to get to – the other two being Aluva (Alwaye) and Perumbavoor. There is the railway station and the ease to go to the airport that has powered this town more along with the presence of the National Highway running through its heart. The connection from Kanyakumari to Salem thus goes through here. The town is also known to have been a big centre of Christianity long before the foreigners arrived in India.

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There is no shortage of religious places in Angamaly. It is also close enough to other four towns, Kalady (the birthplace of Adi Shankaracharya), Malayattoor (where Saint Thomas the Apostle had prayed), North Paravur (where the same Apostle had established one of the seven and half churches) and Chalakudi (known for its closeness to the most popular waterfalls in the state, Athirappilly along with Vazhachal and its close relative, Ezhaattumugham). Kodungallur, the place where Christianity began in India, and where the oldest mosque in India is situated, is not that far away either; you can also check out for Kodungallur Bhagavathy Temple there.

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My usual visit to this town is to watch movies at Carnival Cinemas as it is the easiest to reach considering all multiplexes, but lets shift the focus to another place which I have been visiting very often – St. George Catholic Basilica, one of the biggest church buildings in India, renovated from the old church which was established in A.D 450. It is a structure that becomes a symbol and reiterates the memory of an ancient civilization that thrived here under the local rulers who have been supporting, there was that mutually beneficial relationship with respect and honour, unlike what we have these days with mutual conversions.

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The Basilica is an extremely beautiful structure, whichever way you look at it. The place is reached by taking a left while travelling from Aluva to Angamaly, just before reaching the town. It is only of walking distance from the National Highway and bus stop. If you come by car, there is a lot of parking space on the front side of the church. Take some time to look around, especially at the dome and the two towers and enjoy the beauty. There is a traditional lamp with a cross in the front and the nicely designed front doors made of wood, or in case it is not a busy time, through one of the side doors which are always open during the day.

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Along with realizing that there is a lot of space in the church building and spending some time looking at the big chandelier, your eyes will surely get caught on the glass paintings on both sides which reflects on the floor when the sunlight flashes through – one of the reasons why it is the best to visit the church when sun is working nicely at full power. It is like another world coming to life inside the building (like history comes alive in Night at the Museum, spirituality awakens in here), with the beauty of the glasses creating a kaleidoscopic image on the church floor, making the colours combine.

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The images include the creation of world, the fall of mankind, the tale of Cain and Abel, Abraham’s big sacrifice, the arc of Noah, the dream of Jacob, Joseph being sold by his brothers, the burning bush, the receiving of Ten Commandments, Daniel saved from the lion, David’s victory over Goliath, birth of Jesus Christ, baptism by Saint John, return of the prodigal son, transfiguration of Christ, the calming of the sea, the crucifixion of our Lord, The risen Son of God, the Coming of Holy Spirit and many other things that come between them, along with the other things of spiritual significance, like the Lamb of God.

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The thirteen stations of the Cross come between them, hung on the wall. There are small pillars around, and once you reach the front, you have to look at the beautiful altar which is nicely organized and arranged. It is different, and you can see that from the photo itself. The old church which was made the Perpetual Adoration Centre is also open at all times for worship on the side, and it is also a nicely decorated structure inside. If you visit Kerala, especially the Central area of the state, do have a look at this beautiful church. I am wondering how awesome it would be to get married in this church 😀

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*All photos used in this blog post were taken by me on my Sony Cybershot DSC-W310 and Nokia N95. The last photo is from the inside of Perpetutal Adoration Centre. Here is a link to the church website: http://www.angamalybasilica.com/

TeNy

A Special Ceylon Rewind

My journey to Ceylon is something that I rewind and play very often in my mind. There are many things that I was sure about, but one thing among them was that I had a fantastic time with the Ramayana Tour arranged by Riya Travels with the company of the newfound “spiritual uncles”, all of them who seemed to be above the age of sixty and myself being the not-so-little kid 😀 Here, I am sharing a few places that I wish to recollect – my little packages of joy.

10. The Ravana Ella: There have been a number of waterfalls during our journey through the high altitude areas of Ceylon, and among them, this waterfalls named after Ravana has the first say. This has a background story going back to Ramayana, and it is believed that Ravana hid Seetha in the caves behind this waterfalls.

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9. The Kandy Lake: This man-made lake is a beautiful sight to witness. Built by the last king of the place, Vikrama Rajasinha, before going under the British occupation, this is a nice place in the heart of the city, located next to the Temple of the Tooth. Here is one for your favourite lakes list.

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8. Hakgala Botanical Garden: Often connected to Ravana’s Ashoka Vatika in Ramayana, this is now a botanical garden with nice collection of trees, plants and flowers. The climate is nice and cold, with the place having some beautiful spots for taking photos. Yes, the tea is also around for us.

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7. St. Xavier’s Church, Nuwara Eliya: A walk through the cool climate of the place felt good, and during one of those walks through the hilly town, we came across this church, and an attempt to enter with chappals left on the outside almost lead to the freezing effect. The structure is nicely built and things were nicely arranged.

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6. St. Anthony’s Church, Bandarawela: When we were wandering around the town with lots of spare time having nothing else to do, we found out this hidden gem. It was not a big structure, but managed to be different in its style. It is located at a higher area of the town, and with its attractive looks, has a calm atmosphere.

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5. Seetha Amman Temple, Seetha Eliya: This is where Ravana is supposed to have hidden Seetha after abducting her. It is not a big town or anything, but a peaceful place which seems to have its own spiritual significance for anyone who wishes for some serenity during their journey. This a small, but beautiful structure which stretches from the rocks below to the heights of the road.

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4. The Negombo Beaches: We didn’t have much to spend at Colombo, and therefore the adjustment was made whatever was left with the beaches of Negombo. There were some nice, beautiful scenery there, and some spots which reminds us of home, in an extremely positive manner. There was a lot of Kerala at parts of Negombo, and I didn’t feel away from home at all.

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3. Mackwoods Labookellie Tea Factory, Nuwara Eliya: Providing us with breath-taking scenery of the tea plantations and also for providing us with the much needed awesome tea, the cold climate contributes with a sudden blow of wind which takes out breath away and then we realized that we need to drink more tea.

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2. Temple of the Tooth, Kandy: A royal palace and a temple complex, with the sacred relic of the tooth of Buddha – I don’t think that it could get any better on that trip. It was actually the first Buddhist temple I had ever visited, if my memory is correct; and yes it was not like anything I had seen before.

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1. The Kelaniya Temple: This is where our journey ended, as we went directly to the airporty at Colombo after the visit here. The temple takes us back to the time of the final visit of Buddha to Sri Lanka. It has wonderful paintings and sculptures all around, and special mention is needed for the reclining Buddha. The paintings show the life of the Buddha, incidents related to Buddhism in Sri Lanka, also a few things from the Jataka tales.

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*The photos used in this blog post are all taken by me using a Sony Cybershot DSC-W310 and a Sony Cybershot DSC-W180 – had two cameras with me in case one gave me trouble 😀

TeNy

The Path to Redemption

2009 saw the release of Solomon Kane, telling the tale of the rise of a hero, a protagonist who was different from the rest, and even his motives having a separate cause behind them. It has James Purefoy has the protagonist, a former mercenery seeking redemption. It came up with a great atmosphere, which was not scary, but still haunting, and its use of the elements like plague, demons, sorcery and swordfights without overdoing anything, is worth mentioning. It was one of those movies which came instantly into my favourites list.

Our hero is Solomon Kane, a ruthless man who has massacred innocents in war, and one day, captures a castle in North Africa where his men are taken away by demons from the mirror around, and he comes face to face against the Devil’s Reaper who is there to take his soul to hell for the terrible things he had done. But he rejects the fate that is put in front of him and jumps out into the sea to begin a life in hope for redemption.

You don't mess with Solomon Kane (Pic from movie's FB page)

You don’t mess with Solomon Kane (Pic from movie’s FB page)

He comes to believe that his hope for salvation will be attained by pacifism. But that would change when he is provided asylum by a family which is later slaughtered, and the young daughter of the family is taken by an evil sorcerer. There comes the alternate path for redemption, and we see that he says “There are many paths to redemption, not all of them peaceful”. From there, he travels a different path, not something that is unknown to him, but something that was there to be taken.

The world itself reflects the state of the protagonist’s mind. There is wasteland all around, with not much hope left for anyone. There is evil running through the world and goodness is rare to find. Demons ravage the world and the angels are nowhere to be found. Well, not that much different from the present world, but in the case of this movie world, it was clearly visible – in this century, even demons can act as angels really well and any possible angel is mistaken as a demon.

The name itself reminds us of two people, and we see the contrast there – the wise king who was Solomon, and the cursed human whom Cain ended up becoming, after slaying his sibling. These two personalities seem to exist in him, and it was only upto him to decide which one he had chosen to become. James Purefoy is a lot like the poor man’s Hugh Jackman, and here he is, like Hugh Jackman in Van Helsing – and that helps. Do look out for the yound Rachel Hurd-Wood as Meredith Crowthorn, the same person who played Sibyl Vane in 2009’s Dorian Gray, another character of innocence.

“If I kill you, I am bound for hell. It is a price I shall gladly pay” – this is what Solomon Kane would eventually come up with. The movie has no clear presence of God or the Devil, as there are only messengers to those beyond Earth. Devil himself chooses to send the Reaper rather than bringing himself or his trusted minions to Solomon Kane. Even the redemption of our protagonist is a story which seems to be never-ending, and only a few sequels can bring it to the finishing line. There is a lot left for humans to accomplish on Earth by themselves, and for the same, we might need help, but not new human gods.

Behold evil in all its glory (Pic from aceshowbiz)

Behold evil in all its glory (Pic from aceshowbiz)

Solomon Kane’s message is to react to the evil rather than let it thrive. It asks to act for the righteous and on the side of goodness rather than checking such things and thus seek redemption for the wrong that has been done. Even for the worst, there is the hope for redemption, even during the worst of times. The movie’s message remains strong as it has a strong protagonist played by a wonderful actor, and the atmosphere of the movie keeps the viewers interested in it. I loved the rain that kept pouring. This is a movie I choose to recommend highly. It deserves to be watched – for Solomon Kane didn’t get a release at this part of the world.

TeNy