Friday, September 30, 2011


Healthy or not, the vegan lifestyle has hit Hollywood with a bang! If the tabloids are to be believed, then Angelina Jolie ditched the vegan diet because of her love for red meat, while Oprah and her staff did manage to make the vegan commitment for as long as a week, and Natalie Portman bid goodbye to it once she conceived. But all said and done, there are many Holloywood celebs who swear by this routine and have managed to steer clear of meat and animal products. Here’s our list of top 6 famous vegans! (Image courtesy: © Reuters)

Alicia Silverstone. Alicia Silverstone credits her 10 on 10 figure to a vegan diet, what she calls a 'Kind diet.' She's even written a book about the diet, in which she talks about the diet's organic nature and complete vegan philosophy. Alicia labels foods like white sugar, meat and dairy - 'nasty' and advocates following the kind diet to promote healthy living and quick weight loss.

Pamela Anderson. Pamela Anderson said that a vegan lifestyle helped her tackle Hepatitis C, at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) 30th anniversary celebration in Hollywood, Calif. "I always feel healthy, but I feel better," she said. A strong PEAT supporter, Pamela's veganism is a lifestyle as well as dietary choice.

Sandra Oh. Yes, it may be a bit hard to believe but this Grey's Anatomy star is a pure vegan. Sandra first started eating vegan when her Grey's Anatomy cast-mates took her out to vegan restaurants between the show shoots. And soon this act was convincing enough for her to go green.

Robin Williams. This legendary actor and comedian has joined the vegan movement lately. Recently he underwent heart surgery, after which he decided to be completely vegan in the hope to avoid any more heart complications. To this we say - watch your diet now, or you might have to go down the same road people!

Betty White. America's oldest and perhaps the coolest grandma, this 89 year old credits her till-date fitness and lifestyle to her vegan dietary routine. She is pretty serious about her love for animals which is evident from her active participation in the Morris Animal foundation.

Mike Tyson. Rumour has it that Mike Tyson's been a vegan for the last few years. He has even teamed up with Last Chance for Animals in order to spread the word of protecting animal rights. He was even quoted as saying that he wishes he had been vegan since birth.

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Bigg Boss

Bigg Boss’ fans will love this. Take a look at the 9,000 square feet house designed by interior designer Shayam Bhatia for this reality show. The kitchen, the confession room, the dining area, the swimming pool and the works... here are exclusive photos of the Bigg Boss house!

The confession room: Where all the dirty secrets are revealed! Even the ones that Bigg Boss’ 55 cameras failed to capture.

The captain’s room: No points for guessing Bigg Boss’ contestants will be fighting for this room to get additional luxuries and special privileges.

The living room: Can’t wait for the open nominations over here.

The kitchen: Isn’t it fun to watch celebrities fighting over food and who will do the dishes?

The swimming pool: Bet people are dying to see Shakira in a bikini; i.e if she is indeed one of theBigg Boss 5 contestants.

The dining table: Let’s see who steps up to the plate to win Rs. 1 crore in prize money!

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10 Most Beautiful Bridges in the World

10. Khaju Bridge

The Khaju Bridge (Pol-e-Khajoo) in Isfahan, Iran, was built in the 17th century by Shah Abbas II. The bridge also serves as a dam, with sluice gates under the archways. When the gates are closed, the water level behind the bridge is raised to irrigate gardens alongside the Zayandeh River.
The Khoju Bridge has two stories of arcades, marked by the distinctive intersecting arches decorated with richly colored tiles. At the center of the bridge, there are two large pavilions, called the Prince Parlors, that were originally reserved for the Shah.

9. Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard, an aqueduct spanning the Gard River in southern France, is a masterpiece of Roman engineering. It wasn’t built to transport people (though there is a pedestrian footbridge on it) – instead, it was part of a complex aqueduct system that carried water over 30 miles (about 50 km) to the ancient Roman city of Nemausus (now Nîmes).
The Pont du Gard was built by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa (63 – 12 BC), the son-in-law of Caesar Augustus. The bridge’s stones, some of which weigh up to 6 tons, were cut perfectly to fit together without any mortar.
The wedge-shaped stones, known as voussoirs, were arranged in three levels, the top-most being the water conduit. So precise was the engineering that the entire system descends only 56 ft. (17 m) vertically – over 30 miles! – to deliver 5 million gallons (20,00 m3) of water to the city.

8. Bridge of Sighs

In the 19th century, Lord Byron named a Venetian limestone bridge across the Rio di Palazzo connecting the Doge’s prison to the interrogation room in the main palace, the Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri). Supposedly, the prisoners would sigh when they look out the window – with stone bars no less – to see their last view of beautiful Venice before their imprisonment, torture or execution.
In reality, Doge’s prison held mostly small-time criminals. Also, the bridge was built in 1600 by Antonio Contino, after the days of the inquisitions and summary executions. Legend has it that if lovers kissed on a gondola underneath the Bridge of Sighs at sunset, their love would last for eternity.

7. Iron Bridge

The Iron Bridge, spanning the Severn river in Shropshire, England, isn’t a particularly large or ornate bridge, but it does have something that made it unique: it’s the first bridge made completely out of cast iron.
In the 18th century, Shropshire was rich in iron and coal – indeed, there were more iron factories within two-mile radius of the town than any other city in the world. It was also there that iron was first smelt with coke. So it was only natural that the bridge would be made out of iron, a stronger alternative to wood.

Architect Thomas Farnolls Pritchard proposed a single arch bridge that would let boats pass underneath, but he died before the bridge was built. The construction of the Iron Bridge was carried out by a local master ironworker named Abraham Darby III. About 400 tons (363 tonnes) of cast iron was used, with about 800 separate castings. The Iron Bridge has 5 arch ribs, each cast in two halves. It only took three months to put the parts together (which they did using screws instead of bolts!).
The ease and speed of the Iron Bridge’s construction helped convince engineers of the versatility and strength of iron, and helped usher in the Industrial Revolution era. Darby, however, didn’t fare so well: he severely underestimated the cost to build the bridge, and remained in debt for the rest of his life.

6. Covered Bridges

Covered bridges are simply that: bridges that have enclosed sides and roof. Though technically the Bridge of Sigh, Ponte Vecchio, and the Wind and Rain Bridges in this list are covered bridges, this term usually means simple, single-lane bridges in rural settings.
Before they are made famous by the 1995 Clint Eastwood film The Bridges of Madison County, "kissing bridges" or "tunnels of love" have been the pride and joy of many small towns across Europe and especially Northern America where more than ten thousands of such bridges were built.
In the 19th century, timber was plentiful and cheap (or, in many cases, free). So it’s natural that these bridges were made of wood. But why were they covered? Well, lovers aside, the real reason was much more practical: the wooden beams of the bridge lasted longer when protected from the elements.
Unfortunately, due to neglect, theft of lumber, vandalism, and fire, most covered bridges in the United States and Canada have disappeared.

5. Ponte Vecchio

The Ponte Vecchio is a medieval bridge over the Arno River. Actually, it’s much more than a bridge – it’s a street, a marketplace, and a landmark of Florence, Italy.
The Ponte Vecchio that we know today was built in 1345 by Taddeo Gaddi after an older span was destroyed in a flood. To finance the bridge, lots along the roadway were rented out to merchants, especially butchers and tanners, to hawk their wares.
In 1565, Duke Cosimo I de Medici ordered an architect named Giorgio Vasari to construct a roofed passageway. Soon after, jewelers, goldsmiths, and merchants of luxury goods pushed out the butchers out of Ponte Vecchio. Centuries of haphazard additions gave the bridge’s distinctive, irregular appearance today.
During World War II, after having survived many floods, the bridge faced its gravest threat: German bombers were blowing up bridges in Florence. It was a direct order from Hitler that spared Ponte Vecchio from certain destruction.
It is said that the word "bankruptcy" came from Ponte Vecchio. When a merchant failed to pay his debt, the table ("banco") he used to sell his wares was broken ("rotto") by soldiers. Not having a table anymore ("bancorotto"), meant the seller was bankrupt.

4. The Wind and Rain Bridge

The wind and rain bridges were a type of bridge built by the Dong people (a minority ethnic group) in China. Because they live in the lowlands and the valleys with many rivers, the Dong people are excellent bridge builders. They are called "wind and rain" bridges because the covered bridges not only let people cross the river, but also protect them from the elements.
The Dong people don’t use nails or rivets to build these bridges – instead, they dovetail all of the wood. The largest and most magnificent is the Chenyang Bridge, spanning the Linxi River near the Dong village of Maan. The bridge is about 100 years old, and like all wind and rain bridges, it was built without a single nail.

3. Brooklyn Bridge

In 1855, engineer John Roebling started to design a bridge that at the time would be the longest suspension bridge in the world, with towers being the tallest structures in the Western Hemisphere: the Brooklyn Bridge in New York.
Today, the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the main crossings of the East River and one of the most heavily trafficked bridges in the world. But in the late 19th century, it took Roebling more than 14 years to convince the city to build the bridge.
After he got approval, Roebling was surveying a site when his foot was crushed by a ferry. Three weeks before the scheduled groundbreaking, he died of tetanus. His son, an engineer named Washington Roebling took over the project.
In 1872, while working on caissons to set the foundation for the towers, Washington fell ill with caisson disease (a decompression sickness commonly known as "the bends") that left him barely able to see, talk, or write. His wife, Emily Warren Roebling, rose to the occasion – she learned engineering on the fly and for nine years went to the job site to deliver her husband’s directions. Washington himself was said to watch the construction from his room through a binocular.
When the Brooklyn Bridge was opened, Emily was honored with the first ride over the bridge. She held a rooster, a symbol of victory, in her lap. Washington himself rarely visited the bridge till his death in 1926.
One interesting note about the Brooklyn Bridge: it stood fast while other bridges built around the same time had crumbled. Engineers credit Roebling for designing a bridge and truss system six times as strong as he thought it needed to be!

2. Tower Bridge

It’s funny to think about ancient traffic jams, but that was why the Tower Bridge in London, England was built. By the end of the 19th century, the development of the eastern part of London caused such a load on the London Bridge that the city decided to build a new bridge.
Construction of the Tower Bridge started in 1886, led by architect Sir Horace Jones and engineer Sir John Wolfe Barry. The design was a bascule (draw) bridge with two towers built on piers, so the bridge wouldn’t interefere with the port facilities nearby.
A year after construction was started, Jones died and his replacement, George D. Stevenson along with Barry decided to modify the design a little bit. Instead of the original brick facade design, the Tower Bridge had a more ornate Victorian Gothic style meant to harmonize it with the nearby Tower of London.
When the bridge opened in 1894, the public was aghast. H. Heathcote Statham, Fellow of the Royal Insitute of British Architect, wrote the familiar sentiment as thus: "The Tower Bridge … represents the vice of tawdriness and pretentiousness, and of falsification of the actual facts of the structure." (Source: Waddell, J., Bridge EngineeringGoogle Books)
But over time, people warmed up to the bridge. Indeed, the Tower Bridge grew to be one of London’s most recognizable landmarks. Even one of its loudest critics, architectural critic Eric de Maré conceded: the British people "have grown fond of the old fraud … and we must admit that it has carried on its task with admirable regularity and efficiency."

1. Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge is such an iconic symbol of San Francisco (and of suspension bridge in general) that it’s hard to imagine a time when it didn’t exist. But before it was built, most people thought it was an impossible task.
In 1916, the idea of a bridge to cross the Golden Gate, a narrow strait that separated San Francisco Peninsula and the Marin Headlands, was conceived. Though it was almost immediately dismissed as the cost was estimated to be $100 million (astronomical for the time), a veteran bridge builder named Joseph Strauss lobbied for more than two decades to have it built.
The Golden Gate Bridge faced tough opposition: the Department of War thought it would interfere with ship traffic and the Southern Pacific Railroad opposed it as competition to its ferry service. At first, even the public didn’t like the bridge … because Strauss’ original design was deemed too ugly! But Strauss finally won, and after 22-years of drumming up support, the bridge was built. (Photo: SF Museum)
Strauss insisted that the project take worker’s safety seriously. It was the first major bridge project that used hard hats and a safety net. During the course of construction, 19 people were saved by the net to become members of the Halfway to Hell Club. (Source)
The color of the Golden Gate Bridge is actually not red – it’s an orange vermillion called International Orange. The color was chosen specifically because it complements the bridge’s natural surrounding yet enhances its visibility in the fog.
Construction took more than four years, at a cost of $27 million. The Golden Gate Bridge actually came in $1.3 million under budget (though 5 months late). For his work, Strauss got $1 million … and a lifetime bridge pass!

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Durga Puja

Durga puja is regarded as the most important festival of West Bengal. The city of Kolkata dresses up in a new look for the five days of the festival. The celebration lasts for five days starting from Maha Shashti (the sixth day) and ends with Bijoya dashami (the tenth day). The first day of the celebration starts with Bodhon on Maha-Shashti, which is like welcoming Goddess Durga and ends with immersing the idols in the nearby rivers, lakes and seas on the evening of Dashami. However, it is considered to immerse the idols in the sacred waters of the River Ganges. According to mythology Goddess Durga descends to the Earth on Shashthi and returns to her abode on Dashmi. The clear blue sky, the cool pleasant air, the beautiful fragrance of Shiuli (a type of flower of this season), the lush green fields and chanting of mantras and shlokas of Goddess Shakti, all sum up together to create the perfect ambience for the celebration of Durga Puja, the greatest festival of the Bengalis. The preparations for the festival are done way in advance as beautiful pandals are build in different areas of the city these are mainly community pujas, which are mainly financed by the local people or sponsorship from big corporate houses. Even the idol making also starts way in advance. Clay idols of Bengal are famous worldwide for the traditional way in which they are made. The people of Bengal start preparing for the festival from Mahalaya (the starting of the festive season) they decorate homes, buy gifts for fiends and relatives and new clothes for themselves and relatives for the festival. The shopping plaza and markets are totally packed up from one month before the festival.

Durga puja festival is regarded as one of the biggest social event of India. Today it is celebrated not only as a religious festival but it has a cultural and social significance as everybody takes part in its celebration. People from all religious background participate in it. It is celebrated as a secular festival. Cultural programmes are organized in different parts of the city. During this festive time Kolkata attracts tourists not only from India but also from different regions of the world. There is feast and music everywhere in the city. Durga puja is that time of the year when everybody enjoys irrespective of their social status. During this time all the colleges, schools, offices and even government organizations are closed for the ceremony. Everybody is in a festive mood. 

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Ramlila (Hindi: रामलीला) (literally 'Rama’s lila or play') is a dramatic folk re-enactment of the life of Lord Ram, ending up in ten day battle between Lord Ram and Ravan, as described in the Hindu religious epic, the Ramayana. A tradition that originates from the Indian subcontinent, the play is staged annually often over ten or more successive nights, during the auspicious period of 'Sharad Navratras', which marks the commencement of the Autumn festive period, starting with the Dussehra festival. Usually the performances are timed to culminate on the festival of Vijayadashami day, that commemorates the victory of Lord Ram over demon king Ravana, when the actors are taken out in a procession through the city, leading up to a mela ground or town square, where the enactment of the final battle takes place, before giant effigies of Ravana, his brother Kumbhakaran and son Meghanath are set fire, and coronation or abhisheka of Rama at Ayodhya takes place, marking the culmination of festivities and restoration of the divine order.
Rama is the 7th incarnation of Vishnu and central figure of the Ramayana. The Ramayana is based on the life, times and values of Lord Rama. Lord Rama is called the Maryada Purushottam or 'The best among the dignified'. The story of Lord Rama and his comrades is so popular in India that it has actually amalgamated the psyche of the Indian mainstream irrespective of their religion. The very story of Ramayana injects ethics to the Indian mainstream.

Most Ramlilas in North India are based on the 16th century Avadhi version of Ramayana, Ramcharitmanas, written by Gosvami Tulsidas entirely in verse, thus used as dialogues in most traditional versions, where open-air productions are staged by local Ramlila committees, 'Samitis', and funded entirely by the local population, the audience. It is close to the similar form of folk theatre, Rasa lila, which depicts the life of Krishna, popular in Uttar Pradesh, especially Braja regions of Mathura, Vrindavan, and amongst followers of Gaudiya Vaishnavism and Vaishnavism in Manipur, with some similarity with Pandavlila of Garhwal, based on life of Pandavas of Mahabharat and Yakshagana of Karnataka, based on various epic and puranas.

Ramlila has received considerable global attention, especially due to its diverse representation throughout the globe, especially amongst the Indian diaspora community, and regions where Hinduism has spread over the centuries, like Africa and several South East Asian countries. UNESCO proclaimed the tradition of Ramlila a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2005. Subsequently, Govt. of India and IGNCA produced a two hour documentary, titled "Ramlila - The traditional performance of Ramayana" for UNESCO, on 'Ramnagar Ramlila', and Ramlila traditions of Avadh, Braj and Madhubani, and that of Ayodhya, which assimilates elements of all three. Another unique Ramlila, is being staged since 1972, at Bakshi Ka Talab, about 20 km from Lucknow, where lead characters like Rama, Lakshman and Hanuman are played by Muslim youths, a clear departure in a region known for communal flare-ups; this four-day Ram Lila starts on the day of Dusshera day, and has also been adapted into a Radio play, 'Us Gaon ki Ram Lila', by Lucknow All India Radio, which won the Communal Harmony Award in 2000.

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Thursday, September 29, 2011


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