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DECK THE HOLIDAY'S: 03/27/13

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

THAIPUSAM IN PENANG AND MALAYSIA!







   Thaipusam  is Hindu festival celebrated mostly by the Tamil community on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai (January/February). It is celebrated not only in countries where the Tamil community constitutes a majority, but also in countries where Tamil communities are smaller, such as MauritiusSingapore and Malaysia.  The word Thaipusam is derived from the month name Thai and Pusam, which refers to a star that is at its highest point during the festival. The festival commemorates the occasion when Parvati gave Murugan a vel "spear" so he could vanquish the evil demon Soorapadam. There is a misconception among people that Thaipusam marks Murugan's birthday; however, it is believed that Vaikhasi Vishakam, which falls in the Vaikhasi month (May/June), is Murugan's birthday.

Origin

   Skanda (or Murugan) was created during one of the battles between the Asuras (or to be more specific Soorapadman) and the Devas. At one point, the latter were defeated several times by the former. The Devas were unable to resist the onslaught of the Asura forces. In despair, they approached Shiva and entreated to give them an able leader under whose heroic leadership they might obtain victory over the Asuras. They surrendered themselves completely and prayed to Shiva. Shiva granted their request by creating the mighty warrior, Skanda, out of his own power or Achintya Shakti. He at once assumed leadership of the celestial forces, inspired them and defeated the Asura forces and to recognize that day the people created the festival.












 Kavadi

   Kavadi Attam is a dance performed by the devotees during the ceremonial worship of Murugan, the Tamil God of War.  It is often performed during the festival of Thaipusam and emphasizes debt bondage. The Kavadi itself is a physical burden through which the devotees implore for help from the God Murugan.
   Generally, Hindus take a vow to offer a kavadi to idol for the purpose of tiding over or averting a great calamity. For instance, if the devotee's son is laid up with a fatal disease, he would pray to Shanmuga to grant the boy a lease of life in return for which the devotee would take a vow to dedicate a kavadi to Him.

 Preparations

   Devotees like Avinash Gooransingh prepare for the celebration by cleansing themselves through prayer and fasting approx-48 days before Thaipusam. Kavadi-bearers have to perform elaborate ceremonies at the time of assuming the kavadi and at the time of offering it to Murugan. The kavadi-bearer observes celibacy and take only pure, Satvik food, once a day, while continuously thinking of God.
   On the day of the festival, devotees will shave their heads and undertake a pilgrimage along a set route while engaging in various acts of devotion, notably carrying various types of kavadi (burdens). At its simplest this may entail carrying a pot of milk, but mortification of the flesh by piercing the skin, tongue or cheeks with vel skewers is also common.







   The simplest kavadi is a semicircular decorated canopy supported by a wooden rod that is carried on the shoulders, to the temple. In addition, some have a small spear through their tongue, or a spear through the cheeks. The spear pierced through his tongue or cheeks reminds him constantly of Lord Murugan. It also prevents him from speaking and gives great power of endurance. Other types of kavadi involve hooks stuck into the back and either pulled by another walking behind or being hung from a decorated bullock cart or more recently a tractor, with the point of incisions of the hooks varying the level of pain. The greater the pain the more god-earned merit.

Celebrations

   In Palani, Tamil Nadu, India, Thousands of devotees flock to Palani and attend kavadi. According to palani.org, "The number of kavadis reaching Palani for Thai Pusam is about 10,000. For Pankuni Uttiram, 50,000 kavadis arrive. It is kavadi to your right, kavadi to your left, kavadi in front of you, kavadi behind you, kavadi above you and kavadi below you."
   In Vadalur (Cudalore dist.) near Neyveli, Saint Vallalar (1823–1874) (Ramalinga Adigalar)21-01-1872 Established Sathya Gnana Sabai,(Lotus Temple) inside he kept 7 Screens and Camphor lighted Jothi, every thaipoosam day early morning 6pm then 10pm,afternoon 1 pm then,evening 7 pm, then night 10 pm, and next day early morning 5.30,am like six time full screen Jothi Darisan showing,in this temple. and every monthly Poosam day evening 7 pm half screen Jothi Darshan performing.This was established in the year 1872,the Arutperumjothi Darshan. can be seen monthly once and Yearly six times only, The state Government Declare local Holiday for the cudalore district.











   In Haripad Subramayawsami Temple, Alapuzha, Kerala is famous for Kavadiyattom.Almost 5000 kavadis coming to the temple from many temples in the locality. garga
   In Vaikom, Kerala, India, Thai Pusam festival is conducted with Kaavadis at Udayanapuram Subramanya temple. Devotees take panchamritha kaavadi, paal kaavadi, bhasma kaavadi, etc.
   In Karamana, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India, Thai Pusam festival is conducted at Satyavageeswara temple. The utsava moorthy is taken in procession on a vahanam (mount). There is nel(Paddy)parai alappu or Nel alavu, as a ritual performed for good luck and prosperity.









   In Nallur, Jaffna, Sri Lanka, Thai Pusam festival is conducted at Nallur Kandhasamy Temple. Many Tamil devotees irrespective of religion take part in celebrations. Even Tamils from Roman Catholic faith and Muslims take part in Thai Pusam celebrations and take Kavadis.

 Outside Tamil Nadu

   The largest Thaipusam celebrations take place in Mauritius, Malaysia and Singapore.  It is a public holiday in several states in Malaysia, including Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Penang, Perak, Johor, Sungai Petani and Kuala Lumpur.
   The temple at Batu Caves, near Kuala Lumpur, often attracts over one million devotees and tens of thousands of tourists.  The procession to the caves starts at the Sri Mahamariamman Temple, Kuala Lumpur in the heart of the city and proceeds for 15 kilometers to the caves, an 8-hour journey culminating in a flight of 272 steps to the top. Thaipusam is also celebrated at another cave site, the Sri Subramaniar Temple in Gunong Cheroh, Ipoh, Perak and at the Nattukottai Chettiar Temple along Jalan Waterfall in Penang. Temple secretary P. Palaiya Sri Subramaniar Temple in Gunong Cheroh reported that about 250,000 devotees participated in the festival 2007, including 300 kavadi bearers, while 15,000 came with milk offerings.
   In Singapore, Hindu devotees start their procession at the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in the early morning, carrying milk pots as offerings or attaching "kavadis" to their bodies.  The procession travels for 4 kilometres before finishing at the Tank Road Temple.











   Although rare, scenes of people from different ethnic groups and faiths bearing "kavadi" can also be seen in Malaysia. Thaipusam is also increasingly being celebrated by the ethnic Chinese in Singapore and Malaysia. 


TOP 10 UNUSUAL CEMETERIES FROM AROUND THE WORLD!







    Benjamin Franklin once wrote in a letter to a friend: "in the world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes". When the inevitable happens, funeral rites, rituals, and ceremonies must be undertaken. Funeral customs are as old as civilization itself, and they vary from region to region.
    In many cultures and religions, cemeteries (from the Greek koimeterion or Latin coemeterium, meaning sleeping place) are used for death ceremonies, burial, mourning and memorial. Unusual or historical cemeteries have also become popular tourist attractions....cemetery tourism, the "dark" side of tourism, is a growing phenomenon around the world.


    Here is a list of the top 10 unusual and most visited cemeteries:









  • Cimetiere Des Chiens-Cimetiere des Chiens, a cemetery for dogs and other domestic animals, is said to be the world's oldest public pet cemetery. It is located in Asnieres-sur Seine, a commune in the northwestern suburbs of Paris, France. Opened in 1899, Cimetiere des Chiens was a response to a French law stating that pet owners are not allowed to dump the dead bodies of their animals in the garbage or the Seine River. The most famous gravestone belongs to Rin Tin Tin, the legendary American dog that starred in various Hollywood movies.










  • Stull Cemetery (Highway to Hell?)-Located in Kansas, this cemetery has gained the reputation as one of the world's most haunted cemeteries. Some people even consider it to be one of the 7 gateways to Hell. There are so many legends, stories of witchcraft, ghosts and supernatural happenings surrounding it that even Pope John Paul II allegedly ordered his private jet not to fly over Stull while he was on the way to a public appearance in Colorado in 1995. The Pope considered Stull "unholy ground". But just how terrifying is this place? There aren't many places as controversial as Stull Cemetery. There is a tale that the devil's only half-human son is buried there with his mother. Perhaps that's why the devil himself has been visiting the Stull Cemetery at least once (some report twice) a year since 1850. However, Tracy Morris, author of the "Tranquility series of paranormal humor mysteries, asks a legitimate question: "Presumably, Mrs. Lucifer and little Luci Jr. would go to hell upon death, where the Prince of Darkness reigns supreme. So if they're in hell with him, why visit their graves at all?.....Maybe he just wanted s vacation"









  • Cross Bones GraveyardCross Bones Graveyard, traditionally called the Single Women's Graveyard, dates back to medieval times. It was the final resting place for prostitutes (locally known as the Winchester Geese) working in London's legalized brothels. Multicolor ribbons, charms, flowers, feathers, poems, pictures, and silk stocking decorate the iron fence of the graveyard. Tudor historian John Stow wrote in his 1603 Survey of London: "These single women were forbidden the rites of the church, so long as they continued that sinful life, and were excluded from a Christian burial, if they were not reconciled before their death. And therefore there was a plot of ground called the Single Woman's churchyard, appointed for them far from the parish church".











  • Le Mummie di Urbania- La Chiesa dei MortiThe Church of the Dead, is located in Urbania, Italy. Inside lies the Cemetery of the Mummies, which was built in 1833. This cemetery is famous for its strange phenomenon of natural mummification. According to specialists, the process is caused by a particular mold that has absorbed moisture form the corpses leading to the complete desiccation of the bodies.










  • Shirokorechenskoe Cemetery- In the 1990's, Yekanterinburg was known as "The crime capital of Russia". Many of the leaders of the Russian Mafia lived there and Shirokorechenskoe Cemetery was the final resting place for many of them. Very expensive tombs, black marble, precious stones, laser engraved images and life size granite gravestones are common here. The nicknames of the deceased mobsters are engraved along with some of the things they were known for: He was an expert in using knives.










  • Neptune Memorial ReefThe Neptune Memorial Reef (also known as the Atlantis Memorial Reef or the Atlantis Reef) is the world's first underwater mausoleum for cremated remains and the world's largest man made reef. Opened in 2007, off the coast of Miami Beach, the Neptune Memorial Reef is the perfect final resting place for those who loved the sea.











  • S?pan?a- Cemeteries are often sad places, but they can also be amusing and entertaining. S?pan?a, in Northern Romania, is worldwide famous for its Merry Cemetery, a UNESCO World Heritage site. What is so unusual about this cemetery? Well to begin with, the atypical design of the tombstones, which are painted by had in vivid colors, such as red, blue, green and yellow. The tombstones are big crosses sculpted from oak wood, engraved with funny epitaphs, briefly describing the life or the circumstances in which these person passed away, for example: "Under this heavy cross lies my poor mother in law. Is she had lived three more days, I would be lying here and she would be reading. Burn in hell, you dam taxi that came from Sibiu! As large as Romania is, you couldn't find another place to stop, but in front of my house to kill me"? S?pan?a is a unique cemetery and a major tourist attraction. The man behind this concept is a Romanian craftsman, Ioan Stan Patrias, who started sculpting the crosses in 1935. The ancient culture of the Dacians, the Romanian's ancestors, viewed death as liberation and the soul as immortal. S?pan?a preserves this positive attitude toward death and welcomes it with a smile.










  • The Bridge to Paradise- The Bridge to Paradise, in the Xcaret Nature and Cultural Park, is quite an intriguing Mexican cemetery. Its structure is based on the Gregorian calendar: the cemetery simulates a hill with 7 levels representing the days of the week and 365 colorful tombs on the outside depicting the days of the year. The main entrance is a stairway with 52 steps that represent the weeks of the year. Each grave is different form the others in design and building materials. One might look like a replica of a famous cathedral, while the next one looks like a sofa or a bed with headboard and pillows.









  • Wuyi Mountain, Fujian Province- Hanging coffins is an ancient funeral custom found only in Asia: there are hanging coffins in China, the Philippine's, and Indonesia. Some coffins are cantilevered out on wooden stakes, while some lay on rock projections. Other coffins are simply place in caves. The hanging coffins of the Bo people in Gongxian, Sichuan Province, the Guyue people of Dragon Tiger Mountain and Guyue people of Wuyi Mountain are the most famous. The Wuyi Mountain coffins are the oldest; some are more than 3,750 years old. As bizarre as it may seem, it makes sense. Why bury a coffin three meters under the ground, if you want to go to heaven?










  • The Cemeteries of Giza and the Valley of the KingsThe Giza Plateau, the site of the mysterious Great Pyramid, the Sphinx and thousand of tombs, has attracted more tourists, archaeologists, historians, scientists and mathematicians than any other. The Great Pyramid (Pyramid of Khufu or Pyramid of Cheops) is the oldest and biggest. One of he 7 Wonders of the Ancient World, it houses the body of Pharaoh Khufu and was built with more than 2 million stones over a period of 20 years. The complex and elaborate funeral customs of ancients Egyptians were believed to ensure immortality in the afterlife. The Valley of the Kings, a World Heritage Site, is known to contain more than 60 tombs and 120 chambers. It was the main burial place of major royal figures of the Egyptian New Kingdom. The fascinating tombs of Egyptian pharaohs are still being discovered to this day.

SWEETS FOR COFFEE LOVERS, PART II!


Espresso, marsala, and mascarpone cheese whipped into an airy dessert dip.






Difficulty: Easy | Total Time: 10 mins | Active Time:Makes:3 1/2 cups (8 to 10 servings)
By turning tiramisu into a dip, you skip all the hassle of making the traditional trifle without losing any of the flavor. We liked strawberries and various cookies as dipping instruments, but the dip could also be spooned into individual cups with a few ladyfingers for a quick, elegant dessert.
Game plan: The dip can be made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated in a covered container.
This recipe was featured as part of our story on summer dips.
INGREDIENTS
  • 12 ounces mascarpone cheese (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 8 ounces ricotta cheese (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brewed espresso
  • 2 tablespoons Marsala or Kahlúa
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped bittersweet chocolate

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Place mascarpone in a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whip on low speed until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add ricotta, sugar, espresso, and Marsala or Kahlúa. Increase speed to high and beat until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes.
  2. Transfer to a shallow 1-quart serving dish and dust with cocoa powder, then sprinkle chopped chocolate over cocoa. Serve with strawberries or assorted cookies.



A thick, frosty shake made with coffee ice cream and lots of chocolate.
Crusty, cakey, and gooey all at once, this pudding cake is simple enough for the kids to make.







Difficulty: Easy | Total Time: 45 mins | Active Time:Makes:6 to 8 servings
The ultimate dump-and-stir cake, this dessert requires no skill to make yet bakes up into an impressive three-layered treat with a crusty top, a cakey middle, and a chocolaty pudding bottom.
Game plan: If you want a strong coffee flavor use a darker, more heavily roasted coffee. But keep in mind that the stronger the coffee, the weaker the chocolate flavor will be.
This recipe was featured as part of our Cold-Weather Comfort Food Menu.
INGREDIENTS
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick), melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup strong brewed coffee, at room temperature

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat an 8-by-8-inch square baking dish with butter and set aside.
  2. Combine flour, 3/4 cup of the cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to break up any lumps. In a large bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar, milk, butter, egg, and vanilla until evenly combined and smooth. Add flour mixture to milk mixture and whisk until just combined (some lumps will remain).
  3. Transfer batter to the prepared baking dish and spread evenly. Combine remaining 1/4 cup cocoa, remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar, and brown sugar in a small bowl until well mixed, then sprinkle over batter. Pour coffee over batter, do not stir, and place in the oven.
  4. Bake until cake is bubbling, puffed, and set at the edges but still a bit loose in the middle, about 25 minutes. Remove to a rack and let cool 5 minutes before serving.



Toasted vanilla bean pound cake served with gooey coffee-caramel dipping sauce that’s great for a party.






Difficulty: Easy | Total Time: 10 mins | Active Time:Makes:20 servings
Coffee breath can be a deal-breaker, but if you’re single or have someone who loves you blindly then you can indulge in this dessert, which combines toasty, buttery bites of Vanilla Bean Pound Cake with a sweet Coffee Sauce. It’s so good you’ll be willing to risk coffee-breath exile.
Game plan: For a slacker solution, substitute high-quality store-bought pound cake and caramel sauce, and whisk some coffee-flavored liqueur or strong espresso into the latter.
This recipe was featured as part of our Valentine’s Day Menu.
INGREDIENTS

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Heat the broiler to low and arrange the rack in the upper third. Scatter pound cake cubes on a baking sheet and place under the broiler until golden brown, turning cubes occasionally so they brown evenly, about 7 minutes.
  2. Serve with toothpicks to dip cake into coffee sauce.




An easy dessert made by freezing sweetened condensed milk with very strong coffee.







Difficulty: Easy | Total Time: Under 5 mins, plus freezing time | Active Time:Makes:30 shots
Made from nothing more than sweetened condensed milk and very strong coffee, Southeast Asian coffee is a force to be reckoned with. Spike it with some coffee liqueur and freeze it, and you’ve got an adult take on frozen pops that are a great late-night treat at a cocktail party or any other time you want to get down.
What to buy: Silicone ice cube trays are key to easily unmolding the shots.
This recipe was featured as part of our Wii Gaming Menu, as well as our Drinks Around the World story.
INGREDIENTS
  • 16 double espresso shots (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup coffee-flavored liqueur, such as Kahlúa
  • Toothpicks

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Combine espresso, milk, and liqueur in a large bowl and whisk until milk is evenly incorporated.
  2. Pour mixture into silicone ice cube trays and freeze 3 to 4 hours. Place toothpicks in the partially set shots and let freeze completely, at least 8 hours.
  3. When ready to serve, unmold the shots and consume immediately.



Kind of like a tarte Tatin made with bananas and coffee.






Difficulty: Hard | Total Time: 1 hr | Active Time:Makes:12 servings
We got the inspiration for this recipe from the French apple upside-down tart known as tarte Tatin. For our version, we’ve replaced the apples with bananas and infused the caramel with coffee.
What to buy: Look for firm-ripe bananas that are still tinged with a bit of green—if they are too ripe, they’ll turn to mush in the oven.
Special equipment: A 12-inch cast iron skillet is perfect for this recipe; however, if you don’t have one, any heavy-bottomed, oven-safe frying pan will work.
Be sure to have a platter or plate slightly larger than your skillet handy for turning out the tart once it’s cooled. One with a slight lip or rim is preferable, as the caramel tends to spread a little once the tart is unmolded.
Game plan: For a slacker solution, use high-quality store-bought pie dough in place of making your own.
This recipe was featured in our Cast Iron Cooking story.
INGREDIENTS
  • Basic Pie Dough
  • 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup strong brewed coffee
  • 1 (4-inch) cinnamon stick
  • 3 (3-inch) strips lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 firm-ripe bananas
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Coffee, cinnamon, or vanilla ice cream for serving

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Make dough and refrigerate at least 1 hour. Heat the oven to 425°F and arrange the rack in the center.
  2. Melt butter over medium-high heat in a 12-inch cast iron skillet or other large, heavy oven-safe pan. Add brown sugar, coffee, cinnamon stick, and lemon zest, stirring continuously until mixture boils. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, stirring frequently, until sugar is completely melted and mixture is thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick and lemon zest and discard. Stir in vanilla extract and remove the skillet from heat.
  3. Peel bananas and cut on the bias into 1/2- to 3/4-inch-thick slices. Add banana slices and lemon juice to syrup mixture and stir gently to coat thoroughly. If desired, arrange banana slices in a decorative pattern.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll dough into a round that is just larger than the skillet. Lay it over the banana filling, tucking overhanging dough around the sides. Prick dough with a fork in several places.
  5. Bake until crust is puffed and golden and filling is bubbling around the edges, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit on a wire cooling rack for 15 minutes. Run a spatula around the perimeter of the tart and place a rimmed platter that is slightly larger than the cast iron skillet upside down over the pan. Flip the skillet and plate over to invert the tart. Slice the warm tart into wedges and serve with ice cream.




An Alaskan original created more than 20 years ago in Anchorage, this layered cocktail is said to be named for the sound you’ll make after drinking one.






An Alaskan original created more than 20 years ago at the Peanut Farm in Anchorage, this layered cocktail is said to be named for the sound you’ll make after drinking one.
This recipe was featured as part of our New Year’s Eve Drinks Around the World story.
INGREDIENTS
  • 1 ounce Kahlúa
  • 1 ounce Baileys Irish Cream
  • 1/2 ounce Crown Royal Whisky

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Pour Kahlúa into a 3-ounce shot glass.
  2. Using the convex side of a bar spoon, slowly pour Baileys over the Kahlúa, making sure not to disturb it, to create a layered effect.
  3. Using the same technique, layer the Crown Royal over the Baileys.