viernes, 18 de mayo de 2012

Shalwar Kameez: The popular dress of South Asia

Shalwar Kameez is the popular and traditional dress of men and women of South Asia. This dress is also worn in some states of Central Asia. Shalwar Kameez or Shalwar Qameez is long attire which normally goes below the knees. For men it is a two piece dress, shalwar (trousers) with Kameez (Long tunic shirt) and for women it is a three piece dress, i-e Shalwar (trousers also known as the pajama), Kameez (top which is also known as kurta) with Duppata (Scarf). This is the national dress of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The Embroidered Kameez for Men

According to the historians, this dress was introduced by the invaders from Central Asia during their warrior activities in the Indian sub continent. With the passage of time, Shalwar Kameez became the most popular outfit which is now used by a large population of Pakistan, Afghanistan and India.

A model in beautiful Shalwar Kameez Dress

Shalwar Kameez has gone through many variations especially during the last century. In the start of the twentieth century, the women usually wore a short Kameez that was somewhere between the hip and the knee. The Shalwar then was widely flared with a narrow horizontal band at the end. But after 1970’s Shalwar Kameez was introduced with numerous designs and stitched on tremendous patterns. During the summer, Shalwar Kameez is liked in silk and in cool cotton fabric. While in winter Satins and heavy brocade work is applied on Shalwar Kameez.

A routine Men's Shalwar Kameez dress

For men, Shalwar Kameez is wide spread from top to bottom in which the Kameez is kept very loose with full sleeves, cuff from front sleeve part and wide collar with pocket on front left side. The length of Kameez or Kurta is usually up to or more than knee. There are long slits on both sides. Normally it is straight from chest to bottom. There is a strap on front with 3-4 buttons after collar. The Shalwar is wide and long up to feet with wide bottom. The men prefer Shalwar Kameez having pockets on both sides.

A beautifully designed women Shalwar Kameez dress
Shalwar Kameez, the popular dress in South Asia is considered as an easy and comfortable attire as compare to the other traditional dress known as Sari or Saree. The Shalwar is comparatively easier to carry out so this dress is preferred and is a favorite among the younger generation. Crepe, cotton, silk, georgette and even jute and khadi are materials that are preferred while choosing a Shalwar Kameez. On the festive occasions, people love to wear Shalwar Kameez which are often enriched with beads, threads and zari work. In men this dress is also very much popular and nowadays the Kameez or Kurtas are adorned by tremendous embroidery and sequence work.

Lehenga Choli or Ghagra Choli

The women of South Asia are specially known for using glamorous and traditional wedding dresses in the world. The wedding dresses are entirely different and more colorful than the wedding dresses worn by the women of the rest of the world. We’ll tell you about a unique and sparkling wedding dress in this article which is called as “Lehenga Choli”. This dress is also known with other names as “Ghagra Choli” or “Chaniya Choli”.
Alluring Lehenga Choli Dress
The Lehenga is actually a large piece of cloth worn around the waist as a skirt with a head covering, called Odhani or Dubatta. Similarly the other cloth is “Choli” which is actually a bodice. In the past, “Lehenga” used in Lehenga Choli or Ghagra Choli dress was a narrow outfit tied around the waist. But with the passage of time Lehenga Choli or Ghagra Choli passed through many variations in its design and it was made more convenient for the wearer.
Green Lehenga Choli Dress
Lehenga Choli or Ghagra Choli is being worn by the brides in different reddish shades for many centuries. Lehenga Choli or Ghagra Choli are normally prepared with heavy embroideries and spectacular designs. A bride gets ready in pure eastern shy style and mostly wears Lehenga Choli or Ghagra Choli on her wedding day. This dress truly reflects the byzantine and sensational customs of South Asian marriage culture.
A fabulous Lehenga Choli dress
Lehenga Choli or Ghagra Choli is not only worn by the brides but the female wedding guests also use as the formal outfit. The guest women wear Lehenga Choli or Ghagra Choli in other colors than the red one as the red is particularly associated with the bride. Lehenga Choli or Ghagra Choli is normally prefereed without any under dress garment but it is worn with heavy jewellery. These days Lehenga Choli or Ghagra Choli dresses are particularly chosen with bright colors like green , blue , pink, lemon yello and purple. The bride looks very modest and beautiful in Lehenga Choli or Ghagra Choli dress on the wedding day. The blouse which is used with Lehenga Choli or Ghagra Choli normally has a deep “V” cut neck and another connected outfit is known as “Dubatta” which is prepared with netted embellishments.
Bridal Pink Lehnga
The historic development of Lehenga Choli or Ghagra Choli dates back to the Mughal Era which was in fact introduced as a counterpart of the routine dresses of the Muslim royal women. The fabrics used to prepare Lehenga Choli or Ghagra Choli are silk, brocade, linen or chiffon. Other magnificence of Lehenga Choli or Ghagra Choli is the embroidery or Zari work which is prepared with tremendous styles and colorful threads. Sometimes Lehenga Choli or Ghagra Choli is also decorated with superb stones, pearls, gold and silver cords.

The Ruins of Bhanbhore, Pakistan

Perhaps, the people of Pakistan are very unfortunate as they are unaware of many ancient treasures that their country possesses. Especially the superb civilization of the Indus Valley is a cluster of fantastic archaeological sites. In 1910, some remains of an ancient city were excavated by General Cunningham. These are the remains of the ancient port city, Debal which are located just 60 K.m away from Karachi just in the outskirts of the city of Bhanbhore.

The ancient city of Debal, Bhanbhore. Photo: Nazir Ahmed Shah

The significance of the remains of the ancient Debal city is of high value, as this was the entrance point of the great Arab warrior Mohammad Bin Qasim, who landed with his forces here in 711 AD. After the discovery of these ruins in 1910, the site remained neglected for many years as many archaeologists considered the ruins of Bhanbhore worthless.  After the partition of India, in 1947 a limited excavation work was carried on by the Pakistan Department of Archaeology. However, after 1960 the department found some interesting facts about the ruined city.
The present site of the ruins of Bhanbhore, Pakistan consists of a citadel. It is 610 metres in length and 365 metres in breadth. When the population of this area increased the city was expanded in addition to the citadel. The deep trenches laid inside the citadel reveal three different periods of history i.e. the Scytho-Parithan, Hindu-Buddhist and the Muslim Period.

Bhanbhore: The ancient remains of Debal by JanGasior

The archaeologists during their excavations found interesting artifacts and the pieces pottery from this site. The research has proved that these pieces have great similarity with the Greek pottery art. The ruins of a Shiva Temple made of mud rock have also been discovered. There is a room, the floor of which is made with the Chuna Pathar. Traces of Muslim Period can be seen on stone sculptures, ceramic works, terra cotta specimens and inscriptions in proto-Nagri style. Furthermore there are ruins of Islamic architecture specially mosques. The digging has also uncovered the boundary wall of the city which was constructed with bedrock and the bricks of limestone.
The archaeologists have explored many parts of the site and found the antiquities like pendants in terra cotta and semi-precious stones, iron objects, pottery and Kufic inscription of the Muslim era. But still it needs more exploration and the archaeologists suggest that there are many treasures buried underneath. No doubt, these ruins are evident that the civilization of Bhanbhore was very advanced and the people of this area were very skillful and artistic. Bhanbhore, which is already popular in the Indian sub continent with the legend of Sassi Pannu, the ruins of Bhanbhore have added more plus in the importance of this city.

Makonde art of Tanzania

Makonde people live in the dark forests of Tanzania and Mozambique and some of their population also exists in some parts of Kenya as well. This ethnic group of Africa is specially known for their Makonde art and their carvings of household goods.

Makonde carvings of Tanzania and Mozambique

Makonde people also create exquisite masks and figures and these creations are like actual heads and portrait-like features. The Makonde people apply real human hair in shaved patterns and amazing facial scarification. These all creations have spiritual and mythical significance particularly related to the religious rites of the Makonde people. In the rituals, the male dancers wear the female masks and also move on the beats of drums.

Makonde mask

Makonde art of Tanzania also includes the fascinating wood carvings and sculpturing. During the last five decades, the Makonde art is tremendously developed. The Western artists’ have specially opted the traditional Makonde style in their art creations. This is a wonderful fact that the Makonde people have also carried on their traditional and animistic religious customs although Makonde of Tanzania have also embraced Islam. Similarly, the Makonde people of Mozambique are Catholic or Muslim. In the typical Makonde rituals, when a girl becomes a woman, Muidini (the best dancer of a group) performs the religious dance wearing a helmet mask and a female body mask. Similarly the stools art and game boards creations of the Makonde people also include expressionistic carvings

Ketas & the Pond of Tears

Ketas is a clump of old buildings situated on the road to Kallar Kahar near the town of Choa Saidan Shah in Pakistan. The site overlooks a shallow pond. Legends tell us that the pond was formed by the tears of Lord Shiva when his beloved wife Sati left this mortal world.

Ketas Temples
Image © Haroon Mustafa

Ketas is a short form of a Sanskrit word Ketaksha which means ‘Raining Eyes’. Thus, Ketas got its name from raining eyes of Shiva. However, the famous historian and Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsiang has mentioned this site with the name of Singhapura. There is a view that Singhapura is a corrupt form of Svetavasa i.e., White Robes – after the Svetambra Jains (Svetambra and Pretambra were two sects of Jainism, Svetambra Jains wore white robes.) that Hiuen found in this area. Svetavasa changed to Khetavasa and Ketas in the end.
Ketas had been a holy site long before Buddhists or Hindus came to revere the site. The emerald pond was the site of pagan rites. 
However, the first construction appeared in the 3rd century under King Ashoka
 Although there is no record to prove the presence of any human settlement in Ketas at that time yet it attracted many monks and priests. History of the later period is unknown until the arrival of Hiuen Tsiang in 630 AD. This was the time when Ketas and the whole area of the Salt Range were dependencies of Kashmir kingdom. There stood a Buddhist stupa. It was in ruins and had been abandoned perhaps due to some natural calamity. Today the oldest structure among the temples and ruins of Ketas is the platform of this stupa.

Federal State of Salzburg, Austria

The federal state of Salzburg is no doubt the best place to know the Austrian heritage and the history of Austria . Salzburg is the fourth largest but the most attractive city of Austria. The unique “Baroque Architecture” unprecedentedly symbolizes the glory of the old town. Similarly the scenic beauty of the “Hohe Tauern National Park”  and the countryside areas of Salzburg further enhance the grace of this city.


Salzburg is truly considered the most significant cultural and spiritual Centrum of Austria. Salzburg has enjoyed its separate entity and it has been governed by a prince-archbishop. It is the only one of the various religious territories of the Holy Roman Empire which is still existing as an independent state. The capital city of the State of Salzburg (Land Salzburg), is comprising of three universities. The main population of the capital consists of the students who are studying in these universities. Salzburg is located on the banks of the Salzach River. The city looks so marvelous being existed on the awesome location of Alps. Although the volume of Salzburg is not too big , yet it keeps in itself the abundance of character and is filled with panoramic features
salzach_river_salzburg. Photo © JERRY DAY

Salzburg is holding the world famous Salzburg Festival yearly for almost one century. In this festival the operas, musical concerts, and theater are organized in different parts of the city. This festival was initiated by Hugo von Hoffmansthal, Max Reinhardt and Richard Strauss in 1920. It starts every year in the month of July and lasts till the end of August.


Schloss Hellbrunn, Fürstenweg remained the summer palace of the Archbishops of Salzburg which is specially known for its wonderful fountains. This place is surrounded by fantastic gardens. Salzburg was also  the birthplace of 18th-century composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Mozarts Geburtshaus was the residence of Mozart which is nowadays a popular museum dedicated to Mozart and his family. There is also the legendary Hohensalzburg Fortress which offers breath-taking views of Salzburg and the Alps to the visitors. There is a museum of medieval weapons, life on the fortress, and torture instruments inside the fortress.
Alstadt_Salzburg ©

Salzburg’s “Old Town” (Altstadt) was listed as a  UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 due to its best preserved Baroque architecture. This architecture was called baroque because it was considered very odd. Baroque architecture evolved out of Renaissance architecture in Europe. It is not easy to describe the beauty of the federal state of Salzburg  in a short article, as the city holds numerous tremendous features in itself.

The Mighty Dettifoss Waterfall of Iceland

The majestic waterfall of Dettifoss in Iceland is the most forceful waterfall in Europe. Having a height of 44 m and a width of 100 m, Dettifoss is located on the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river flowing from the Vatnajökull glacier in Northeast Iceland. The average flow of water in Dettifoss is 193 cubic meters per second but during floods it can reach up to 600 m3/s. The immense force of its waters can be imagined by the trembling bedrock when it is stricken.

Dettifoss Waterfall Iceland
Image © Andreas Heinen

Jökulsá á Fjöllum is the glacier where Desttifoss lies and this glacier emerges from beneath Vatnajökull glacier and ultimately it runs into Öxarfjörður bay. The whole area is a protected area known as Vatnajökull National Park. Although this whole part of Iceland is filled with wonderful waterfalls yet Dettifoss exists in the middle of these unique series of waterfalls. Selfoss River is located about one km up of Dettifoss and Hafragilsfoss river is located two km down of Dettifoss.

The track towards Dettifoss waterfall is quite difficult as the road is really rough and muddy. From the west bank the view on the waterfall is obstructed by the amazing water sprays but on the eastern bank good track is available to reach the ideal viewpoints. However due care and diligence is required to travel on the banks as the mighty Dettifoss is biting them every time. Continually eating away at the river bank.  The milky water foams of Dettifoss witness the crumbling of the earth and carrying away sediment and minerals here
A few meters away from Jökulsá, a splendid way leads towards a green dell called Fosshvammur. In this slippery area the grass and moss are constantly watered by the spray. But standing in Fosshvammur, Dettifoss can be viewed face to face with all its glory and strength. The area of Dettifoss, Selfoss and Hafragilsfoss on the east side of the river was declared a national monument in 1996.

Dudipatsar Lake of Kaghan Valley, Pakistan 5

Kaghan is a heavenly part of Northern Pakistan which is filled with breathtaking sceneries and phenomenal scenic wonders. We have elaborated in an earlier article about the Lake Saiful Muluk. In this article, we’ll describe another natural wonder which lies in this region. This is a lake in Lulusar-Dudipatsar National Park which has fantastic flora and fauna. The snow capped mountains include magical forestry full of fragrant shrubs and conifer tress.  Similarly, the region is home of many wild and rare species like black bear, snow leopard, snow cock and magnificent Himalayan partridges.  The whole park has unique wetlands and beautiful lakes which have critical importance for the resident biodiversity of the area. These water bodies also host the migratory waterfowls which come to this region during their long distance journey.

Dudipatsar Lake of Kghan Valley, Pakistan

Dudipatsar Lake or Dudipat Lake is located at an elevation of 3,800 metres in the extreme north of the Kaghan Valley, in the Mansehra District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, in northern Pakistan. The word “dudi” means white and “sar” means lake. This name has been given to the Dudipatsar lake because of the white color of snow at surrounding peaks. In summer the water of the Dudipatsar lake reflects like a mirror. The word “sar” is used with the name of each lake in the area, translating as ‘lake.’
Beautiful reflection of the surrounding mountains in the mirror water of Dudipaster

The ideal time to reach Dudipatsar Lake of Kaghan Valley, Pakistan is from June to late September during the year. The Dudipatsar Lake is also the home of the rare Seema Trout Fish which are naturally distributed in the freshwater lakes and rivers of the Himalayan Region. The side valleys, specially the banks of the Dusipatsar Lake become lush green in the months of June and July. This area was badly affected during the 2005 earthquake but since then lots of efforts are made for the restoration of this tourist destination including rebuilding and adding new tourism facilities and infrastructure.

The Indigenous or Aboriginal People of Australia

The largest island the world, Australia was inhabited by the humans almost 45,000 years ago. That is why; the indigenous tribes of Australia truly claim that they are the genuine survivors of Australia. They truly owe Australia along with their magnificent culture and have competed with natural disasters and calamities over thousands of years.

Yolngo people of Australia performing their traditional dance ( Image: Andrew )
They were bruised, they were thrashed and they were banged by the invaders and the colonizers. The only motive behind that was to uphold the racial discrimination. This situation became worse after the arrival of the white people in Australia and they totally misjudged the aboriginal cultural values of the indigenous people of Australia.

The Australian Aboriginals. Image: Rusty Stewart

Out of the total population of the indigenous or aboriginal people of Australia, most of them live in the eastern parts of the continent. 63% of Indigenous people live in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria while Western Australia and the Northern Territory contribute only 28% of the Indigenous population. In Australia they are mostly referred as the aboriginal Australians and the word Indigenous for them is mostly disliked. There were more than 250 languages spoken by Indigenous Australians before the arrival of Europeans. But most of them are being extinct now and presently only 12-15 languages are being used by the aboriginal or indigenous people of Australia. The aboriginal or indigenous people of Australia are divided in many regional groups. Some of the indigenous or aboriginal people groups of Australia include Koori, Murri, Tiwi , Palawah, Anangu, Nunga and Wangai etc.

The Aboriginal Australians performing Woggan-ma-gule ( Image: Tracey Johns )

Linda De Volder - photograph

This photograph was taken by Linda De Volder of a typical Apatani old lady of India.

We have a detailed article on the Adivasi ; the indigenous people of India

Tattooing and the stuffing of large nose plugs (yaping hullo) were once popular among the Apatani women, although this practice has gradually fallen into decline in recent years. This practice is believed to have started because the women wanted to look unattractive to males from neighboring tribes. Apatani women were considered to be the most beautiful ones among all the Arunachal tribes. Younger members of this community have stopped this traditional practice.

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Pakistani Truck Art 

 ( An Image by Muzaffar Bokhari )

Pakistan Goods and Public Transport are particularly famous for their primitive art which is performed on the bodies of the lorries and trucks. You’ll hardly see any truck or lorry without the traditional decoration of colorful flora, fauna and calligraphy. This form of art is commonly referred as the Pakistani Truck Art and this fantastic art tradition dates back to the British governing era over the Indian Sub Continent when the horse drawn carriages for the high class people were embellished by the craftsmen. These decorated buses, trucks or lorries are beautified from bumper to bumper with phenomenal and captivating artistry.
A decorated Truck in Pakistan. Image: Anser
A decorated Truck in Pakistan. Image: Anser
The owners of the goods transports in Pakistan spend huge amount on the enrichment of their trucks and trolleys; not only on their exquisite designs but also on their structural alterations. Nowadays, almost in every major city of Pakistan, there are several bedecking centers and decors where this splendid truck art is executed.
A Fantastic Tuck in Pakistan ( An image by Lili )
In some way these trucks also represent their respective locations and cultures. Although in many parts of the world the vehicles are renovated but the Pakistani Truck Art is so unique in its layout and designing.
The decorated buses in Pakistan ( Image : Jeff Boucher )
The decorated buses in Pakistan ( Image : Jeff Boucher )
Sometimes the art display also includes the mirror work on the front and back of the vehicles and similarly the wooden carvings are also used on the truck doors. Nowadays many other materials like tinsel, plastic and reflective tapes are also introduced in the decorative components. Some trucks are also having enchanting chains annexed with the bumpers and when they move they make jingle bells voice. We can also see large, three-dimensional models of birds or animals attached to the side of some of the trucks. The viewing deck of the trucks which is built right on the top of the driver’s cab is also adorned with grace. These decks are also used to load the extra luggage and as the sleeping place for the truck staff.
The driver's cabin of a Pakistani Truck ( Image: Ishtiaq Ahmad )
The driver's cabin of a Pakistani Truck ( Image: Ishtiaq Ahmad )
Would you believe that most of the artists who elaborate this art on the trucks and other vehicles have not attained any formal art training or education, but they use their own imagination and skills for their creativeness. Sometimes, they also depict the historic events and also draw the sketches of the famous personalities. The Pakistani Truck Art also includes the calligraphy of poetic verses, prayers and humorous quotes. The talented artists complete their art work on the truck bodies normally within two weeks.
A Paskistani Truck Artist busy in his work ( AP Photo )

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