Saturday, March 17, 2007

Kerala man all set for space voyage

Kerala's Santosh George Kulangara will become the first Indian tourist to space when he takes his two-hour space flight organised by Global space tour operator Virgin Galactic.

The 35-year old traveler from Kerala state owns a small publishing company near the city of Kottayam.

"I am really excited not only because I'll be the first space tourist but the first journalist to go to space," Kulangara said. "I can show my people in India what Earth looks like, experience of travel, preparation and re-entry to Earth".

Santosh George found out about the tour through the internet. The process began with a web application to the space tour operator.

Kulangara will travel to Paris where a meeting of the voyagers is slated for May 10.

Kulangara has visited 50 countries and he is doing a popular television programme called Sancharam.

Two US-based Indian Americans have also signed up for the flight.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Pongala oven burning chokes Kerala’s capital

This capital city of Kerala came under an umbrella of smoke belching out from hundreds of thousands firewood burning ovens that were lit to cook the pongal feast.

Over two-and-a-half million women lined up yesterday on the streets leading to the famous Attukal Bhagavathi temple in the capital city of Kerala, cooking an offering of rice around the temple premises.

The event takes place on the penultimate day of the 10-day long pongala festival and is a local holiday in the district.

Attukal Bhagavathi is believed to be an incarnation of Kannaki and is referred to in the Tamil epic “Silappathikaram”.

Also referred to as the Sabarimala for women, the Attukal pongala attracts not just Hindu women but foreign women as well.

The unprecedented rush for the pongala festival began a few years back after the “Guinness Book of World Records” listed it as the only event where over a million women get together to take part in the festivities.

“Since then, the numbers have been increasing every year. This year we were expecting two million devotees, but more than 2.5 million women arrived here,” said Attukal temple secretary K.P.Ramachandran Nair.

Women who arrive at least two days before pongala day manage to get their cooking place near the temple, while latecomers line up for miles to offer pongala. This year the queue stretched to almost 15 square kilometers in and around the temple.

Women arrive with bricks, firewood and raw materials including rice, jaggery and coconut. They light their ovens from the fire provided by the chief priest of the temple after he lights the oven in the temple compound at 10.45 a.m.

According to the legend, after destroying Madurai in Tamil Nadu, Kannaki travelled to Kerala, where she rested for a while at Attukal. Women are said to have cooked pongala to appease Kannaki.

Shyamala Kumari, a housewife from Kollam, said, “This is the first time I am visiting the temple for the festival and I am having a great time. My relatives have told me that the goddess is very powerful and fulfills all your wishes.”