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May 2015

The Himalayas: a sacred land by Gokul

The Himalayas a sacred land

15 May 2015

In many religious faiths, mountains are held with a strong reverence and are associated with sanctity. It is perhaps because they rise majestically into the sky and stand tall above the rest of the world they are considered as religious abodes. The Himalayas, home to some of the tallest peaks in the world, is an eminently sacred land for many a religion. From Hindu temples such as Amarnath and Kedarnath in the west to Buddhist temples in Lumbini in the east, hundreds of temples are located all across the mountain range. Some of these temples are hundreds and even thousands of years old. Year after year, devotees brave challenging weather conditions and steep slopes to undertake pilgrimages to various places of worship in the Himalayas. These devotees come from many different religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Bönism. One particular peak, Mount Kailash is held sacred by Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Böns alike. It would be no exaggeration if one were to say that Kailash is the most revered mountain in Asia. To know more about the religious significance of Mount Kailash, please click here. There is such might, such grandeur and such beauty in each of those majestic peaks that one cannot help but feel where else in this world can one be closer to God. Even if one were to view the Himalayas from a non-religious perspective, it is certainly more than just a range of mountains. It is the source of many a river in Asia – rivers that provide the livelihood to millions of people living in the plains.  No wonder the Himalayas is held sacred!

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Kailash: the sacred mountain for four religions by Stéphanie

Mount Kailash

14 May 2015

Mount Kailash, also referred to as Gang Rinpoche by the Tibetans and Gangdisi Shan by the Chinese, is a 21778 feet tall majestic peak located in Tibet. Though it does not rank among the tallest peaks in the Himalayas, one of Mother Nature’s finest creations, Mount Kailash holds significance for other reasons. It occupies an important position in the beliefs of four religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Bönism. Buddhism According to followers of Tantric Buddhism, a sect that firmly believes in the Mahayana philosophy of Buddhism, Mount Kailash is the home of Demchok, the divine figure who is associated with the feeling of ultimate bliss. Moreover, there are many religious sites dedicated to Guru Padhmasambhava who is said to have laid the foundations for the spread of Buddhism in Tibet. According to religious folklore, Mount Kailash was the scene of one of epic battles between proponents of two religious faiths. Before Buddhism planted its roots firmly in Tibet, Bön was the predominant religion in this region. However, Jetsun Milarepa, a famous Buddhist yogi and poet, called upon the advocate of Bon religion Naro Bön-chung for a combat. Both the warriors were equally matched and during the course of the battle it became evident that neither one of them would be able to claim a conclusive victory. Finally, it was mutually agreed that whoever reached the top of Mount Kailash first would be declared the winner. Naro Bön-chung quickly began his ascent but just when he was about to reach the summit, Jetsun Milarepa rode on the rays of the sun and pipped him to the finish. Thus, this landmark race firmly established Buddhism as a major force in this region. Jainism Jains believe in the concept of rebirth and they also believe that the soul can attain ultimate liberation or moksha only if it frees itself from the human form that it is constrained to. According to Jain texts, Rishabadeva – the founder of Jainism – is said to have attained moksha at Ashtapada, a mountain peak adjacent to Mount Kailash. Jain literature also refer to Mount Kailash as Meru Parvat and consider this peak to be the centre of all physical as well as spiritual cosmos. Hinduism Lord Shiva, one the three most important gods of Hindu religion, dwells in Mount Kailash. Mount Kailash is the abode of Shiva and his wife Parvati where they are said to exist […]

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Amritapuri embraces the ideal ‘The world is one big family’ by Fanny

Eyes of Buddha

13 May 2015

Many philosophers across the world have enthusiastically embraced the philosophy that the world is one big family. Mata Amritanandamayi Devi is one such philosopher and spiritualist who professes to live by this noble ideal. Popularly known as Amma (‘Amma’ means mother) among her followers, Mata Amritanandamayi is an Indian spiritual leader whose sayings are followed with firm reverence by millions of people all across the world. She was born in a village called Parayakadavu in the South Indian state of Kerala. Parayakadavu is now known as Amritapuri and it houses the main ashram (monastery) of Amma. In this ashram, it is quite common to find people from virtually all parts of the world. Though these people are divided various parameters such as nationality, religion, language, race and customs they are united by a common pursuit to find the meaning of life. The ashram is open all round the year to any individual who is interested in this higher quest for meaning. There have been numerous instances where foreign nationals have lived here for years together and some of them have even made Amritapuri their home. This quaint little South-Indian coastal town has truly become a global village and the number of international residents has grown to more than 3000. The ashram provides meals and accommodation facilities to all its residents for as low as 3 US dollars a day. The ashram does not subscribe to any particular religion nor does it preach any. The mission of the Amritapuri ashram as well as the organization is to attain spiritual unity and therefore there is no visible presence of any religious undertones. As Amma herself has so often proclaimed, “My religion is love”, the only religion practised here is love and kindness for fellow human beings. Such a virtuous principle not only melts away all the differences that separate people but it also unifies them into one huge family. In order to sustain the principle, the ashram offers yoga retreats, meditation programmes and studies in traditional spiritual practices to interested individuals. These programmes not only help improve the physical and mental wellbeing of the participants but cultivate inner peace in the hearts of individuals. Peace is the platform on which the concept of ‘Love thy neighbour’ is built. A stay in the Amritapuri ashram would certainly be an enriching and enlightening experience for any human being.

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A Monday morning visit to the Tibetan Children’s Village School in Dharamshala by Julianne

12 May 2015

The Tibetan Children’s Village School located in upper Dharamsala was started with a mission to provide a solid educational foundation to Tibetan children and develop a strong sense of cultural identity in them. Today as many as 1500 children study in this school.  The school is often frequented by his Holiness the Dalai Lama, who regularly motivates his students to lead a better life. It is quite evident that his Holiness is very fond of the children for he celebrated his 80th birthday along with this friend Reverend Archbishop Desmond Tutu in this school on April 23, 2015. To watch his birthday celebrations, please click here. Omalaya decided to pay a visit to the school on a Monday morning to get a first-hand experience of a typical day in school.  What we witnessed was in fact eye-opening. Right from kindergarten, children are being taught traditional Tibetan prayers, meditation sessions and yoga exercises to improve their overall physical and mental well-being. During the meditation sessions, the teacher goes around and ensures that the students meditate in the right manner. One or two naughty kids even open their eyes behind her back! *wink wink* During the yoga sessions, the children were made to go through a comprehensive full-body exercise that involved flexing the muscles of their hands, heads, shoulders, eyes, legs and back. Such a curriculum that focuses on the overall development of the children is most certainly holistic and visionary in nature. For the Omalaya team, it was a heartening experience indeed. For more videos from Omalaya, kindly visit our Youtube page.


Kochi is a blissful fusion of religious faiths by Julianne

Kochi a blissful fusion of religious faiths

11 May 2015

The sea-side metropolis of Kochi is one of the biggest cities in Kerala, the South Indian state that is known popularly as God’s own country primarily for its lush green landscapes dotted by pristine backwaters and lagoons. Kochi acts as a gateway to many popular tourist destinations in Kerala such as Munnar, Alleppey, Wayanad, Thekkadi etc. However, Kochi is a unique in itself for it is a prime example of peaceful coexistence of major religions. The followers of the world’s major faiths – Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism and Buddhism – all form a part of the Kochi cityscape. In a country where more than 80% of the people follow Hinduism, Kochi stands as an exception because just one out of every two residents of the city is a Hindu. The existence of a healthy mixture of religious faiths in this region is due to the fact that it witnessed many waves of migrations during the course of its history. For instance, records establish the creation of settlements by Jews in Kodungallur, a port near Kochi, in the first century AD. It is believed that Saint Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, arrived in Kerala in 52 AD and laid the foundations for the spread of Christianity. Today, the descendants of St.Thomas Christians call themselves Syrian Christians, one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. The city’s Islamic history can be traced back to the eighth century. As early as 3rd century B.C, Buddhism finds a mention in Malayali (Malayalam is the language spoken by the locals) literature. There is a significant presence of Jainism and Sikhism as well. The atmosphere in the city is filled with religious harmony and is evident from the presence of shrines for every major religion. Each individual follows the faith of his choice and at the same time acknowledge the presence of other religious faiths. Some of the renowned religious abodes in the city are: Santa Cruz Basilica With a history spanning more than five hundred years, Santa Cruz Basilica is one of the oldest churches in India. Renowned for its grand décor, the church was constructed in gothic-style architecture. Though it was deemed as a cathedral for most of its timespan, it received the status of a Basilica from Pope John Paul II in the year 1984. Apart from being a centre for religious congregation, the basilica receives […]

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Omalaya teaches you how to make Momos by Maryama

11 May 2015

A momo is a dumpling that traces its origins to Nepal and Tibet. Today it is a popular dish not just in Tibet and Nepal but also in India. While it is a staple diet in Nepal, it is seen more as a quick snack in India. Although, in recent times, many variants have spawned to cater to the local cuisine, the recipe for making a momo remains pretty much the same. Watch this short video to learn how to make momos. The detailed recipe for making momos is given below: A momo consists of two parts – the outer covering and the inner filling. To make the outer covering: To make the outer covering, mix wheat flour, salt and a spoon of oil in a bowl. Add water in little quantities and slowly but firmly knead the dough. Set aside the dough in a closed container for nearly half an hour. Take a small portion of the dough and roll it till it becomes a small circle of 5-7 centimetres in diameter. To make the inner filling: When it comes to preparing the inner filling, the choices are virtually unlimited. One can choose from  plain vegetables to chicken or mutton or a combination of meat and vegetables. Chop the required filling to very small pieces and fry for a few minutes in an oil-pan. Add garlic, pepper and onion to enhance the taste of the filling. Once it is appropriately fried, take a small quantity of the filling and cover it with the dough. Steam boil the raw momo for 20 minutes and Voila! You have fresh momos ready 🙂 For more videos from Omalaya, kindly visit our Youtube page.


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