Saturday, March 19, 2011

Buddhism in Geneva

Recently, I was thrilled to find out that there's a Buddhist temple right behind my office! My colleague and I went for a walk during our lunch break and chanced upon this beautiful temple. It doesn't have a traditional Buddhist temple structure and therefore did not really catch my eye but instead is a low round building.

At the entrance, there are a few stone statues and then there is a beautiful garden surrounding the temple.

My favorite part of the temple was the monk statues that portray the different aspects of Buddhist lifestyle. Look at them, so super cute!

Inside, there is a beautiful large Buddha surrounded by small stools for devotees to pray or meditate. The prayer area looks so neat and well maintained and is so serene. David and I went for a Sunday morning chanting session and we were warmly welcomed by the female monks and were guided through the chanting session. The chanting is done in Chinese but we were provided with English translations and tried our best to follow. We were not too bad:)! The chanting session starts of with a monk hitting a gong and everybody stands up and starts chanting. Like in Hinduism, there is a lot of prostration but I felt it is done in a more organized fashion. The chanting session lasted about 2 hours and the whole time I felt as though I was in Tibet!

The temple is maintained by a Taiwanese Buddhist Mission which practises Mahayana Buddhism and is actively involved in promoting Buddhist beliefs and also organizes Tai Chi classes, meditation sessions and several other events. The temple prepares simple vegetarian lunch on Sundays after the chanting session.

It was a very pleasant experience and a great place for anyone to just sit, meditate or simply enjoy the quietness and serenity of the place. If you do live in Geneva or visit, it is definitely worth going to this temple. The mission has a website that you can check for any events or classes.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I Love Balloons!

Every year, the famous Balloon Festival held at Château d'Oex on the last week of January. There are about a 100 balloonists who participate in the event. During this week, Château d'Oex visitors from different parts of Switzerland and from abroad make their way to this little town to enjoy balloon rides or just simply watch the gigantic balloons take off and fly.

Château d'Oex is easily accessible by train from Montreux. You can take the Golden Pass which takes you directly to this town. During this busy Balloon Festival, it does get very crowded and so make sure to get to the train on time otherwise you won't have a seat!

We went on the last day of the festival and luckily it was a beautiful sunny day. We were greeted by the large colorful balloons, some of which were company balloons. It was a wonderful sight, all these beautiful rainbow like balloons in the air! We even got to see them up close and boy, were they huge! We just relaxed and enjoyed watching the balloons and could not stop taking photos! Check out the photos!

One of my favorite balloons was the ladybird one. How cute!

Another favorite was the Obelix balloon. So funny!

Hmmm...I wish everyday was as bright and colorful!!!

We found the perfect way to end our lovely morning at Château d'Oex...a yummy cheese fondue, what else???

If you do plan a trip to Switzerland in winter, try to plan a half-day trip to Château d'Oex. It's definitely worth it! Check out their website by clicking the link on top for more details!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Beautiful Bhubaneswar

Before going to Orissa, I had no idea how Bhubaneswar would be and therefore had no expectations. I did think that it would not be as advanced as other Indian cities such as Chennai or Bangalore but I was very surprised to find that the city is in fact very well maintained and the new part of Bhubaneswar is beautifully designed. I even felt that it looked better than many other Indian cities.

I was also amazed at how nicely the temples and their surrounding gardens were maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. They really were an image of peace and perfection. The first temple we visited was the Mukteswara and Sidheswara Temple. This 10th century Shiva temple is a perfect example of Orissan architecture and there are many shrines where there are different types of Shiva Lingams. As this temple is not actively used for prayers, non-Hindus are allowed to enter.

After strolling around the temple grounds, we made our way to another beautiful temple, Rajarani temple. This temple has no deity in it but there are statues and carvings of daily life activities.

The most important temple in Bhubaneswar is the Lingaraj temple. This 10th century Shiva temple is a large complex with many shrines dedicated to different Gods. Non-Hindus are not allowed inside but can take photos from a viewing point outside. We went early in the morning to pray when there were hordes of local devotees crowding the temple and eager to go in. It was almost like a stampede and drew the energy out of me. We finally made it into the main shrine where there was a large Shiva Lingam sitting low on the floor. After a quick prayer we went to the different parts of the temple and enjoyed visiting the site.

Near Bhubaneswar, there are the famous called Khandagiri, Ratnagiri and Udayagiri which are the sites of ancient Jain and Buddhist monasteries.

Check out these cute monkeys we found there!

On the way back to Bhubaneswar, we stopped at the Mahanadi, which means Great River. It is considered a holy river and my parents offered some prayers to God.

I was more attracted to the giant demon face ad, hehe:).

We came to the end of our Orissa trip and all of us truly enjoyed visiting this beautiful region with its amazing landscapes, humble people and rich culture and traditions. Being one of the least explored places of India, Orissa gives foreigners a good insight into real Indian life and also allows them to escape the tourist traps and foreign crowds. A definite must-see when you come to India!

Hope you enjoyed reading about my Orissan adventures...Next up, back to some things European:).


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