09/22/2017

Theyyam: the ritual dance in Kerala, India

Kerala in South India has many popular traditional dance forms like Kathakali, Kutiyattam or Theyyam. Kathakali is an impressive form of classical dance and a wonderful combination of dance, drama, music and religious theme. The presentation is usually based on the Ramayana, the ancient Hindu poem about the divine prince Rama and his wife Sita. Kutiyattam (or Koodiyattam) is a form of Sanskrit theatre and one of India’s oldest living theatrical traditions. It represents a synthesis of Sanskrit classicism and reflects the local traditions of Kerala. Both art forms, Kathakali and Kutiyattam, are performed all over Kerala, but mostly in and around Kochi.

Theyyam dancer, India

Theyyam on the other hand is only found in the northern part of Kerala. The performers of Theyyam always belong to the lower caste. Like Kathakali and Kutiyattam, Theyyam is also a traditional ritual dance form. However, in Theyyam the dancers and performers not only play the deities, during the performance they lose their physical identity and finally impersonate the god and receive magical power. Therefore the blessing of the devotees is an important part at the end of a Theyyam ceremony.

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07/16/2017

An adventurous trip to Bangladesh

Enjoy a tea in a local tea stall in Bangladesh and you will certainly attract the undivided attention of the other customers. Start a conversation in English with local people and you are often quickly in the center of a group of 20 or 30 people staring at the "sensation" from the western world: a foreigner having a conversation with local people! Not that the people are so interested in what you are saying - most of them don't speak or understand English anyway. No, they are fascinated because they are not used to foreigners at all, but in the same time they love foreigners and treat them like movie stars. It is simply a big sensation in their daily life. Welcome in Bangladesh, the country with the friendliest people in the world!

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Dhaka

Dhaka - or better Old Dhaka - is a unique place like no other mega city in the world. Bangladesh is the most densely populated country in the World, and especially in Old Dhaka you can see and feel it everywhere. I've never seen so many rickshaws in my life. Standing right in the middle of a rickshaw traffic jam in rush hour where you barely can move at all is an experience you only find in Old Dhaka. The traditional market right next to Sadarghat along the riverbank of the Buriganga River is a wonderful experience especially early in the morning.

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03/25/2016

Myanmar: The Taunggyi Balloon Festival

The Tazaungdaing Festival is a traditional festival and public holiday in Myanmar. It is also known as the "Festival of Lights" and it is celebrated on the full moon of Tazaungmon, the eighth month of the traditional Burmese calendar. The Tazaungdaing Festival marks the end of the rainy season. In Taunggyi in Shan State hot-air balloons lit with candles are released to celebrate the full moon day and the Tazaungdaing Festival. It is comparable to the Yi Peng and Loi Krathong celebrations in Thailand.

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However, the Taunggyi Balloon Festival it much more than a public holiday. It lasts around 6 or 7 days and it is also a balloon competition and funfair at the same time. Traditionally the festival ends on the full moon day Tazaungmon with the announcement of the winners of the balloon contest. The balloons are beautifully designed and hand-made of traditional mulberry papers and bamboo. They are released day and night during the festival. The balloons for the daytime competition are smaller and usually have the form of pagodas, ducks, dragons or even elephants. The bigger balloons decorated with candles are released at the night time competitions, sometimes even with attached fireworks that explode into the night sky.

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