Christian festivities in Kerala

This morning I attended a church service that happens annually (January ) here … another church about a kilometre away has the same event every December.

It was a mass and I assumed catholic but the outside I’d seen a Rev. someone mentioned so not sure. Also 16 stations of the cross in windows and as we dow Presbyterians didn’t have them back in the 50s/60s when I was attending I’m sure it was catholic. ūüėÄ I was told last night ‘we have four different catholics here.’

Religion, like everything in much of Asia, is loud, public and today was no exception. Many food and toy stalls in the church grounds too.

After the service small artifacts were carried from the church around a cross and taken back. Not sure of the significance of it all but everyone was joining in.

Here are some photos and a video for you.

I visit Lao-tzu: founder of Taoism

Laojun and smokeSome 70 km north of Xiamen, is the city of Quanzhou which is about 10 times the size of Xiamen and with a population of about 8.5 million. Marco Polo, 13th century, said this was one of the best harbours in the world and was the eastern end of the silk route. It was also the base for boat building and for China to trade throughout much of the Asian world.

While there we visit the Kaiyuan temple with its beautiful tall pagodas, the Maritime Museum and, ¬†my favourite, the stone carving of the founder of Taoism, which was carved in the fifth century: it’s on Mt. Qingyuan, is one of the principal tourist attractions in the Quanzhou area and, is only about 3ks from the city.

photo of a Boy playing while adults pray - and take selfies of course
Boy plays while adults pray – and take selfies of course

Lao-tzu was a famous philosopher and thinker during 770 BC – 476 BC which is called the spring and autumn period.¬† He is the founder of Taoism and evidently his most renown work is the ‘Tao Te Ching’, the basic doctrine of Taoism.

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In this carving (5m high X 8m wide) Lao-tzu’s left hand rests on his left knee and his right hand is on a small table. His face is larger-than-life, with long eyebrows, flowing moustache and oversized ears.

See details:

Taoism, which originated in China over 2000 years ago, is also referred to as Daoism which in English is more like the sound of the actual Chinese word.

It is a religion of unity and opposites Рthe complimentary forces of the Yin and the Yang; of action and non-action, light and dark, hot and cold.

Taoism has no God but includes many deities that are worshipped in Taoist temples and promotes achieving harmony and union with nature, self-development, and being virtuous. They also pursue spiritual immortality and their practices include feng shui, fortune-telling, meditation and of course the reading and chanting of their scriptures.

Before the Communist revolution, over fifty years ago, Taoism was one of the strongest religions in China.

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Religion, atheists, books and travel

On my recent trip I spent the 14-hours in the air from Wellington, New Zealand to Kuching, Sarawak (East Malaysia, Borneo) reading Alain de Botton’s book HEATHROW DIARY and despite spending¬†many times in airports, it made me aware of nuances I had not perhaps been so conscious of.IMG_3278758846670

Then, instead reading one of the many books on old Malaysia and Borneo on my Kobo, I returned to one already started on my e-reader, RELIGION FOR ATHEISTS. a non believers guide to the uses of religion, also by de Botton.

Interestingly this has also tied in with my travels here, and resonates with past travels.

A kiwi for many generations, both maternal and paternal lines escaping the Irish famines, the Scottish clearances, and the Cornish tin mine closings of the 1800s (in today’s terms both economic migrants and refugees) the kiwi way of life absolutely seems the norm. That is, I live in a secular country where in the recent census nearly 50% of us declared” No religion” on the form: a number that would be much higher if not for our migrants who of course bring their religions with them.

During these travels, like many other – such as in Europe, Israel, Southern USA and many other places – I am aware if how religion plays such a huge part in people’s lives outside New Zealand, an awareness made more acute by the many Chinese temples here in Sarawak and the fact that Ramadan has just started.

Have you read either books?

Have they, or any other books on the topics, influenced you with your travel observations?

For me they have both just made me more conscious of both travel and religion and like local food, remember what an integral part it is with travel – no wonder I’m a passionate nomad, aging disgracefully as I move around the world.

OMG .. Bali closed for the day!

O my goodness gracious me! Did you know that on Nyepi day, Bali is closed for the day. It seems it’s a day for meditation and absolute silence in Bali, – which this year falls on Friday, 23 March, the entire island of Bali will be closed for 24 hours to all traffic, including air traffic.

In keeping with the strict traditions of the holy day, Bali grinds to an absolute halt from 6:00 a.m. on Friday, March 23 until Saturday, March 24, 2012.

On the eve of Nyepi, celebrations are held when floats of huge colourful paper demons are paraded through the streets of cities, carried to the beach and torched, making a bright bonfire. Each one then quietly retreats to their homes to spend the entire day in silent reflection, free from any noise. Homes may also not have any open fires, nor any lights lit at night.

Also, on this day, no one is allowed on the streets and on the beach, including tourists. Flights to and from Bali will be suspended. While this may sound eerie, it seems those who have gone through this absolute quietness of a whole island find it a most exhilarating experience. See more here

The observance of the day is all-pervasive and includes:

  • The requirements that Bali visitors stay confined within the grounds of their hotels for the 24-hour period and not leave the premises, except in cases of medical emergency.
  • All streets are empty and closed. No one is allowed on the roads. All businesses are closed. Only emergency vehicles are permitted.
  • Bali‚Äôs airport is closed during the 24-hour period. No flights are allowed to land or take off from the airport. Technical stops are allowed but no passenger may disembark or embark on a flight during this period.
  • Television and radio stations are closed and cable broadcast companies are asked to suspend their signals to Bali during the proscribed period.