East Meets West – Tales From All Traditions

Maha Kumbh Mela, 2013

The city of Allahabad ( City of God in Persian ) in India’s northern Uttar Pradesh state prepares for the Hindu festival of Maha Kumbh Mela, 2013. The ancient name of this city is Prayag and is believed to be the spot where Brahma offered his first sacrifice after creating the world. It is one of four sites of the mass Hindu pilgrimage Kumbh Mela. The Prayag (Allahabad) Kumbh Mela is the largest and holiest of all melas and is believed to be the most auspicious, though the exact origin of the Kumbh Mela is very hard to pinpoint.

kumbh melaThe Purna (complete) Kumbh or Maha Kumbh, the biggest and the most auspicious fair, falls once every 12 years, and is always held in Allahabad. The most recent Kumbh Mela was in 2001 in Allahabad and millions of pilgrims took a holy dip in Sangam on the auspicious Mauni Amavasya on the 24th January 2001.

Kumbh Mela derives its name from the immortal – Pot of Nectar – described in ancient Vedic scriptures known as the Puranas. Kumbha in Sanskrit language means ‘pot or pitcher’. Mela means ‘festival’. So ‘Kumbh Mela’ literally means ‘festival of the pot’. Though the festival is a primitive one, it’s origins can be traced back to the ancient event of ‘Sagar Manthan’.

Tens of millions of pilgrims are expected to visit Allahabad to bathe at the Sangam – the merger point of the Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati rivers. The main bathing date for the 2013 Allahabad Kumbhmela is 10th Feb.2013.

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The Cathedral du Notre Dame, du Paris

Notre Dame du Paris
Notre Dame du Paris – click to see BBC report

Overview

For centuries it has witnessed the greatest events in French history: 80 kings, two emperors, five republics – and two world wars.

With her original 13th-Century rose window, the cathedral was pillaged and nearly demolished in revolutionary France. Now her famous gargoyles stand guard against evil spirits.

This great Paris cathedral has seen crusaders and kings praying before battle and She survived. This month sees the start of a year of special events celebrating the landmark 850th anniversary of “Our Lady of Paris”.

Foundation

The first stone was laid in 1163, though it took a further 180 years to complete. The principles of sacred geometry used in the Cathedral of Chartres took root here too. Yet, as the magnificent structure took form, history was already playing out in her shadow. Crusaders prayed beneath the world’s first flying buttresses as they set off on holy wars.

Our Lady of Paris

Within these walls, in 1431, a sickly boy of ten, King Henry VI of England, was crowned King of France.

And in 1804, to the sound of the 8,000 pipes of the cathedral’s Grand Organ, Napoleon was crowned emperor.

Music

Music is integral to the life of this cathedral – in the archives, medieval manuscripts reveal it always has been. Recently discovered manuscripts of centuries-old music and chants have been made ready.

Fittingly, then, the great sounds of Notre Dame will be at the heart of the anniversary celebrations.

Throughout 2013, three choirs will bring to life some of the earliest sounds of Christianity.

Choir director Sylvain Dieudonne has said that, “in 1163, when they started building the cathedral, Paris became a centre of great intellectual, spiritual and musical development.

“The musical school was hugely influential,” he said. “We know from the manuscripts we have recovered that it influenced music across Europe – in Spain, Italy, Germany and in England.”

The Festival

The year-long festival would not be complete without a celebration of the architecture. And to mark 850 years, they will be improving the lighting.

The building was not originally designed to include the flying buttresses around the choir and nave, but after the construction began, the thinner walls grew ever higher and stress fractures began to appear as the walls pushed outward. In response, the cathedral’s architects built supports around the outside walls, and later additions continued the pattern.

Today the cathedral stands as a gothic masterpiece.

As this Christmas marks the 850th anniversary of this venerable church, it heralds the start of a year-long celebration of her influence and history in France. For western visitors, this home of Christian traditions will come alive with their performances.

 

 

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Notre Dame On Christmas Eve – Myths and Legends

Notre Dame Cathedral - "The Christmas Bells Are Ringing For Evening Mass"

The Bell Ringing Angel

The story begins about eight years after the tragic story of the heroic bell ringer of the grand cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. It is a short tale about how one girl was enchanted by the mysterious bell ringer and how he inspires her dreams, indeed, her entire childhood and life. Sad this story may be, if you read it, you may agree that it is mainly about dreams and hope.

The bells rang out in the dead of night; they brought character to the city of Paris. Even though the city was asleep; the voices of the bells did not go unnoticed, for in one house, just an ordinary insignificant house; someone heard their song. Lying in her bed was a girl aged about sixteen by the name of Marie listening intently to the symphony of the bells of Notre Dame. A tear trickled down her cheek when she heard them; they were dead.

As a child Marie had always heard the chime of the bells, from the first time she heard their delightful sound she was in love. When she was very small she thought that the bells were enchanted and rung on their own accord, but when she got older she heard people talking about a mysterious bell ringer. When she heard this she pondered over it; everyday she thought about the mysterious bell ringer and came to the conclusion that he must be and angel. Through out her childhood she had an obsession with angels as well as church bells; she would dream about the bell tower looked inside. She knew that she was blessed to be named after one of the bells in the tower. To her the bell tower of Notre Dame was a magical kingdom ruled over by a kind angel and emperor in one. Every night she dreamed about the bells and listened to their chorus as she drifted off to sleep.

However, all this ended when she was seven; her parents announced that they had decided to move out of Paris for nine years. When Marie heard this news, she was devastated; it was as if her entire world was falling apart before her very eyes. She would never forget the day the carriage began taking her away from where she had lived her entire life. The bells that rung out on that day sounded even more beautiful than usually, as if her angel, the bell ringer was saying farewell and this was how Marie always remembered the bells of Notre Dame.

In her years away from Paris Marie grew up; the transformation was so gradual that she did not realized until she returned to Paris. In The years she had been away her beliefs regarding the bell ringer had changed; at the age of twelve, she had stopped believing that he was an angel, she decided that he was a person. However she concluded that he was a person better than most, more interesting, strong and braver. He was her hero, her knight in shining amour and he was real. One her thirteenth birthday she promised herself that when she got to Paris she would go to Notre Dame and meet the bell ringer.

A few days after her sixteenth birthday, with high spirits she set off to Paris, to meet the man who had inspired her childhood. So many thoughts, memories and feelings penetrated the soul of Marie and uplifted her soul. So many hopes, indeed, her dreams were to be found in Paris. She entered the gate with the excitement and knowledge that the bells would be ringing any moment now. Suddenly came a sound; it was the bells!

However Maris’s joy ended as aptly as it had begun. They were not the heavenly sounds that she had heard nine years before, something was missing.

We shall end in the same place as we begun; Marie sat up remembering what she had heard that day about the fate of the tragic bell ringer of Notre Dame. The truth was plain and simple: he had disappeared without a trace for several years until they had found what was assumed to be the skeleton of him. The person whom she had spend her entire life seeking, who she had aspired to meet was now dead, gone forever. Although she did not know him properly, or even met him, there was a void in her heart.

Getting up from her bed, she threw open the window and gazed out to Notre Dame and whispered the magic word of her childhood and her entire life: “Quasimodo.”

Notre Dame on Christmas Eve. A family light a candle in front of the Nativity of  the baby Jesus

Christ was born in the first century, yet he belongs to all centuries. He was born a Jew, yet He belongs to all races. He was born in Bethlehem, yet He belongs to all countries.