Vegetarian lohei to celebrate Chinese New Year
REPORT ON PAGE 6
at Hindu temple
(From left) Hindu Endowments Board (HEB) vice-chairman
R. Dhinakaran, HEB chairman R. Jayachandran, Senior
Parliamentary Secretary Baey Yam Keng and Sri Mariamman
Temple committee chairman S. Lakshmanan tossing lohei.
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MCI (P) 135/03/2018
SINGAPORE, WEEKEND OF FRIDAY,
FEBRUARY 8, 2019
A DECISIVE TURN
IN THE ROAD
PAGES 4 & 5
HAS BEEN A
Golden turmeric spray on all during
Khandoba festival in Maharashtra
Devotees of Lord Khandoba celebrated the
Bhandara festival with much fervour and
enthusiasm on Monday in Jejuri, about
50km south-east of Pune in Maharashtra.
It is a unique festival which involves
golden turmeric powder and dedicated to
the local deity, who is worshipped in
Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra
The festival takes place on Somvati
Amavasya – new-moon day.
Devotees throw turmeric on each other
and people around.
Immersed in turmeric, they sing and
dance invoking the deity in their prayers.
The procession sees thousands of
devotees waiting to touch the palanquin,
which carries the deity for a bath from the
temple on a hill to the Karha River.
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Hindu right-winger arrested for
re-enacting Gandhi assassination
A leader of a fringe Hindu right-wing
group has been arrested in Tappal,
Uttar Pradesh, after a video of her
shooting an effigy of Mahatma Gandhi
The Hindu Mahasabha had
organised an event to celebrate the 71st
anniversary of Gandhi’s assassination.
In the video, taken on Jan 30, Pooja
Pandey is seen shooting the effigy with
an air pistol after garlanding a picture
of Nathuram Godse, who shot the
The Uttar Pradesh Police arrested
Pooja and her husband Ashok Pandey
and produced them before a local court
on Wednesday. According to the BBC,
nine people have been arrested in
connection with the video.
First rapist to be hanged under
child rape law
A district court in Madhya Pradesh has
issued a death sentence against a school
teacher who was convicted of raping
his four-year-old student.
Mahendra Singh Gond will be
hanged in Jabalpur jail on March 2.
This will be the first execution under
the new law which hands out the death
penalty for child rapists.
Gond kidnapped and raped the girl
on June 30 last year. He dumped her in
a jungle assuming that she was dead.
But her family found her and rushed
her to a hospital, where she spent
months in recovery.
Sabarimala temple board reverses
opposition to women worshippers
The board of the ancient Sabarimala
temple in Kerala said on Wednesday
that it now favoured allowing female
worshippers of menstruating age to
enter, reversing its previous support for
a centuries-old ban.
The board overseeing the Hindu
temple also said it would withdraw
from efforts to challenge the Indian
Supreme Court’s ruling that the ban on
entry for women and girls aged 10-50
must be ended to uphold rights to
equality of worship.
Pro-ban activists called the temple
board’s decision a betrayal.
The temple has been the site of
tension since the ruling in late
September. Thousands of devotees
have blocked attempts by women to
High-speed train to ply
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai
Ram Thakur on Wednesday flagged off
a new high-speed train on the
narrow rail gauge line.
It will reduce travel time between
Baijnath and Pathankot towns by
nearly two hours. Earlier it took seven
hours and 15 minutes to cover the
The high-speed train is expected to
boost tourism in the state as many
tourists ride trains on the line to enjoy
the scenic beauty of the Himalayas.
Shops to be allowed to remain
open 24 hours in Gujarat
Shops in Gujarat will be able to open
round the clock, the state government
announced on Wednesday. This will
come into effect after a legislation in
the assembly session this month.
“This will not only boost the income
of the traders but will also generate
new employment and benefit the
customers who can buy at their
convenience,” said Deputy Chief
Minister Nitin Patel.
Leopard cub seized from
passenger at Chennai airport
A passenger who smuggled a
month-old leopard cub in his hand
luggage on a flight from Bangkok to
Chennai has been arrested.
The cub, weighing just over 1kg, was
found in a plastic grocery basket
hidden inside a bag after the passenger
arrived on a Thai Airways flight.
Officials said they grew suspicious
after hearing sounds coming from the
Modi to flag off Train 18
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will flag
off India’s first engine-less train Vande
Bharat Express on Feb 15 from the
New Delhi Railway station.
Train 18, as it was originally called,
became India’s fastest train by hitting
speeds of over 180kmh during a trial
run. It will eventually replace the
30-year-old Shatabdi Express and run
between Delhi and Varanasi.
February 8, 2019
Watching James Bond’s Skyfall six years ago prompted
me to include Istanbul, Turkey, in my list of must-visit
Long after the movie was over that day, I remained
intrigued by the vibrancy of the city and the architec-
ture of its old town. I still vividly remember the iconic
James Bond car and motorbike chase through parts of
Istanbul, taking place mostly in the grand Eminonu
Square and Grand Bazaar.
I told myself I will visit the place one day. It felt sur-
real to be standing at the same spots during the second
leg of my holiday with my friend from Dec 6 to 12.
Istanbul was formerly known as Constantinople in
the seventh century BC, named after Roman emperor
The city developed into a thriving port thanks to its
prime geographic location between Europe and Asia,
and its natural harbour. Later, in AD 330, it became a
Christian city of great wealth and magnificent architec-
ture. Constantinople stood as the seat of the Byzantine
Empire for the next 1,100 years, enduring periods of
sieges, until it was conquered by Turkish political fig-
ure, Mehmed II, of the Ottoman Empire. In 1930, Con-
stantinople was officially renamed Istanbul.
Today, Istanbul continues to be Turkey’s economic,
cultural and historic centre, straddling the Bosphorus
Strait (which separates Europe and Asia) between the
Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. Good food is avail-
able all around with almost every eatery and restau-
rant selling a full plate of kebabs for as cheap as $5.
Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque
During my stay there, I realised how the city strongly re-
flects the cultural influences of the many empires that
once ruled the place.
Hagia Sophia, located in the heart of Sultanahmet
and one of the most visited sites by tourists in Istanbul,
was once a Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal
cathedral and then an Ottoman imperial mosque. It is
now a museum where Christianity and Islam co-exist –
one of the main reasons that Istanbul attracts millions
of tourists every year. Imagine the amount of history
and cultural significance it holds!
There are mosaics of Jesus and Virgin Mary as well
as Arabic calligraphy, honouring both the Christian
and Muslim religions.
During my audio-guided tour, I learnt that the mu-
seum, built in AD 537, is considered the epitome of
Byzantine architecture and is said to have changed the
history of architecture.
Queues to buy tickets for entry into the museum
may seem long but they move quickly.
A 10-minute walk from Hagia Sophia took us to the
Blue Mosque. The impressive holy site has six minarets
– visible from far.
It is called the Blue Mosque because of the blue tiles
on the interior walls. The designs on the tiles are so pop-
ular and attractive that they have been replicated in
plates and coasters, making them great souvenirs.
The Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque are easily
two of Istanbul’s most impressive sights. They are also
close to other attractions such as the Basilica Cistern,
Topkapi Palace and Istanbul Archaeology Museums.
Taksim Square, Spice Bazaar, Grand Bazaar
A trip to Istanbul isn’t complete without a visit to the
Spice Bazaar and Grand Bazaar.
The Grand Bazaar is located in the walled city and is
one of the largest and oldest covered bazaars in the
world. It houses thousands of shops in a traditional am-
bience selling items from jewellery to antiques, home
decor to textiles and souvenirs.
Things are more expensive at the bazaar than shops
just outside it – understandably so, since it’s a tourist
hot spot. My friend and I still managed to get good
deals when we bought some stuff in bulk and bar-
My best buys were Turkish sweets and towels. A
friend who visited Istanbul previously recommended
that I get the towels, which are made from Turkish cot-
ton, a premium variety with extra-long fibres.
They become softer, fluffier and more absorbent
over successive washings and weigh less and dry faster.
Spice Bazaar is another colourful and bustling mar-
ket. It is the centre for spice trade in Istanbul. Shops
there offer an endless number of spices, Turkish de-
lights, caviar, dried nuts, herbal tea and more.
The bazaars are great places to soak in the city’s vi-
Taksim Square is considered the heart of modern Is-
tanbul. It has a long street of shops with renowned
brands such as H&M, Nike and Zara.
The Republic Monument – portraying the founders
of the Turkish Republic and unveiled in 1928 – also
stands in Taksim Square, at the front of Istiklal Street.
Since its opening, the area around the monument has
been the spot for Istanbul’s official ceremonies.
Bosphorus sightseeing cruise
This is one of the best ways to see Istanbul in its full
glory. During the one-hour cruise, we got to see sights
ornamenting the Asian and European shores such as
the Kucuksu Palace, Dolmabahce Palace, Galata
Tower and Bosphorus Bridge.
After the cruise, we went to a restaurant perched
atop a hill with views of the Bosphorus Strait. While
the food was mediocre, the view was splendid.
One night in Cappadocia
Cappadocia, a semi-arid region in central Turkey, is
hours from Istanbul. Don’t settle for an ordi-
nary hotel there – stay in a cave hotel. These are carved
out of the rock formations, providing travellers with an
authentic experience of the region’s culture and beauty.
We visited the Kaymakli underground city, where
early inhabitants chose to live to protect themselves
against the heat and the tribes who attacked and
robbed people. It can be difficult to explore with its
low, narrow and sloping passages.
There are about 100 underground cities in the area
but only a few are open to the public. Kaymakli is the
largest of them and we spent about an hour there.
Cappadocia is known for its distinctive “fairy chim-
neys” – tall, cone-shaped rock formations clustered in
Monks Valley, Goreme. The mushroom-shaped rocks
are sculpted from ancient lava, ash and basalt.
We ended our trip to Cappadocia on a high by going
on a one-hour all-terrain vehicle (ATV) ride to explore
three of its scenic valleys – Rose, Love and Red.
It was quite an amazing and thrilling experience.
Our guide even called us “crazy” for riding while it was
snowing. We learnt from him that no one usually does
that and business for ATV rental is poor during winter.
My hands were numb for a long while after the ride and
I suffered some ice burns. But I didn’t really mind as I
had a good time.
Istanbul a cultural wonderland
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