Ecotrail August September 2020

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Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers in India under serial No MAHENG/2015/65640


August September 2020

Vol. No. 5 Issue No. 6

Price Rs.10



ON THE BRINK sandalwood tree


02 04 05 06 08 10 11


Integrating our subjects Learn about the vulnerable Indian Bison



Sandalwood tree


Competency based Education Dr Ratna Ghose


CAMP STORIES Rajasthan Royals



New Education Policy 2020 Ms. Meghna Kulkarni



A deeper sense of connection with my land Priyank Badola

New frontiers


Egyptian Exploration

LOOK FOR US ON Trailblazers.TheOutdoorSchool

Printed, Published and Edited by RANJAN BISWAS on behalf of TRAILBLAZERS ADVENTURE TRAVEL PVT. LTD. Edenwoods, Bay House, Ground Floor A, Gladys Alwares Marg, Off Pokhran Road No. 2, Thane (West) 400 610

Trailblazers - The Outdoor School Download softcopy from Call us to participate in our camps/activities: 022 21739737 or 022 21739732 OR email us on:






: Ranjan Biswas

Associate Editor

: Sachin Sata

Research and Content Editor

: Nayantara Deshpande

Reporters : Nayantara Deshpande, Himani Kende, Aalap Kulkarni Photo credits : Nayantara Deshpande, Himani Kende, Aalap Kulkarni, Sachin Sata

editorial Dear Readers, What does Art mean to you? The dictionary defines the word art as ‘the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.’ Though quite accurate, Art is much more. It is a form of communication, storytelling, documentation and most importantly it is a Science. I say this because understanding Art requires one to understand the basics of Science whether it is measurements or the physics of light and colours. The principle of both Art and Science lies in the power of observation. Yet we tend to give one more importance over the other. Art plays a stellar role in every aspect of our education, integrating and encouraging it early on in the school syllabus will create a versatile learning programme. In the developmental stage, activities such as drawing and painting help develop motor skills in children. Therefore, giving children their due space and time to indulge in creative activities is of utmost importance. The CBSE board has recently included compulsory Art integration for classes 1 to 10. This will bring in the very element missing many a times in the process of teaching and learning. Art, when incorporated into any subject, be it the Sciences or Social sciences, adds creativity allowing for a better understanding of the complex subject. Take for instance the human heart, when you read its functioning in a text form it is quite confusing to understand. However by letting the students draw or create a model with the clear demarcations of the auricles, ventricles, aorta, tri and bi cuspid valves; the flow of pure and impure blood becomes so clear that it will be difficult to forget. There is scope to use Art in every subject, yet we have not utilized this resource extensively. The Fibonacci sequence is a mathematical concept, but most designs of nature including leaves, flowers and even the Milky Way follows it. Engineering, a most sought after field in our country relies on technical drawings, planning and graphics. The final product is a work of creativity in the form of a 3D model. Be it the writing of a script for a language or arranging your utensils to fit in the drawer perfectly, Art has a major role in all aspects of our life. Along the same lines, the New Education Policy released in July 2020, also talks about the integration of subjects. This has especially been highlighted in higher studies where students will be allowed to take courses from across the streams of Arts, Sciences and Commerce. This policy coming after more than two & half decades is much awaited. On the face of it, it is very progressive and gives learners more options and opportunities. I think it is a great start and the Government set up committee has done a fine job. It would be wonderful to see the school’s management, principals and teachers implement the policy as soon as possible after the states give their permission. The policy roundly supports the Trailblazers methods of experiential learning and teaching using the outdoors as a laboratory and sanctuary to get the best out of children. It would be great if children, as in the past, learnt more about how to use basic tools required for plumbing, gardening and electrical jobs. These kinds of workshops are as important to have as much as a STEM learning. In fact they can also act as an extension of STEM learning. The greater emphasis on training teachers and B.Ed. students is also a welcome sign. It will ensure that passion overrides all other criteria in the making of a teacher. There are interesting times ahead of us in the sphere of education pointing towards a deeper understanding of the world rather than superficial knowledge. At Trailblazers we hope to contribute our expertise to support this movement through our innovative outdoor programmes. A lot of thought has been spent on revamping them keeping in mind Covid-19 guidelines. We hope to see you all soon in the enchanting outdoors! Till then #staysafe #stayengaged Ranjan Biswas Editor- Ecotrail | Managing Director, Trailblazers Adventure Travel Pvt Ltd | Trustee- Trailblazers Foundation






Santalum album

The Sandalwood tree native to India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Australia has been assigned the status of Vulnerable by the IUCN. It is an endemic species from the Western Ghats that is valued greatly for its fragrant heartwood. In India, it is known to grow best in the states of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu due to the appropriate climatic and soil conditions. The oil extracted from the tree bark is widely used in the cosmetic industry and in Ayurveda as therapeutic oils. Its use has been documented from over 3000 years ago in Vedic scriptures. The tree starts fruiting after seven years and can grow up to a height of 12 to 15 metres. The fruits are reddish in colour and turn black when fully ripe. For optimum growth, it requires direct sunlight. Studies have shown that mature trees tend to be intolerant to shade. The flowers of the Sandalwood tree are maroon in colour and appear from December to April. There has been great controversy surrounding the tree in India due to its illegal harvesting and smuggling resulting in the State Government controlling the growth of sandalwood till 2002. All trade related to the tree is under Government control and any felling of an individual tree requires the permission of the Forest Department. Export of any parts of the tree is still completely banned. Apart from overexploitation, a disease known as ‘spike disease’ caused by the bacteria Phytoplasma is causing high mortality rates in the species. However, things are changing as the Government is slowly relaxing restrictions on the cultivation of the species. Farmers, NGOs and entrepreneurs are now taking up controlled community cultivation with the necessary measures in place as a conservation plan.


PAINTING THE WORLD GREEN As we move into a more technology driven world where gadgets are updated by the second, we are also moving towards a more wasteful and materialistic model of living. There are a few of us who have realised this and have reconsidered our priorities. Slowly and steadily people are getting more conscious about the consequences of their actions on the planet. Zero waste living and minimalism are emerging concepts in the field of sustainability. Art is no exception in this case, there are many upcoming artists focussing on Sustainable Art. For those of you not familiar with the concept of Sustainable Art, it is any type of artwork created using ecofriendly or recycled material having a green footprint. It follows the foundational pillars of sustainability which are Ecology, Social Justice, Nonviolence and Grassroots Democracy. Although, it may seem that this trend came about recently, Sustainable Art has been practised since the 1960’s. Earlier it involved the use of natural materials, such as those that can be seen in Prakriti Bhavan at Shantiniketan.

Now however, artists are recycling or upcycling nondegradable waste to convey important social messages. The field of Sustainable Art is vast and not just limited to the Fine Arts. Concepts such as responsible fashion or closed loop fashion also fall under this term. Closed loop fashion is a trend where clothing can be transformed, reused or recycled back into their original form. Manufacturers are opting for ecodesigns, where the impact the product will have on the environment is taken into consideration and minimized as far as possible. These are just a few examples of the never ending possibilities of sustainability.

In its true essence, sustainability is the will to control man’s greed. It is time we took heed of the amount of waste we generate in our daily lives. You don’t need to be a renowned artist to practice Sustainable Art. You can start with simple trinkets for your garden, such as a bird house out of empty delivery boxes or soft toys from old socks. The planet depends on us as a species to control our demands and think creatively and sustainably.

SCIENTISTS CREATE METHANOL FUELED BOT Scientists at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles recently designed a prototype beetle sized robot that runs on methanol. The idea was that swarms of such tiny bots could aid in rescue missions. The use of methanol solves the problem of the robots running out of power in inaccessible or tightly spaced areas. Similar to the working of a muscle, the methanol chamber is built into the physique of the robot. Equal to the weight of three rice grains, this compact bot can crawl on surfaces and carry 2.6 times its weight. This model will act as a reference for subsequent updated designs. Image courtesy X. Chang, L.Chang




Dr. Ratna Ghose, Head of Capstone High, Bangalore writes to us about the need of the hour in Education. What do I need to do to be content?? And how do I do it?? These may be few of the many questions lurking in the minds of students as they leave the portals of their schools. There is a big gap in what we teach students in the classrooms and what is expected of them in real life, a gap between theory and practice. Only when we put our theory into practice do we realise the flaws in a system. It has been proven that when we learn by doing it is engaging and enduring. A child needs to be trained in mitigating and controlling issues through situational solutions, be it personal or professional. A lot of this can be resolved by using common sense, defined by the Cambridge dictionary as the basic level of practical knowledge and judgement that we all need, to help us live in a reasonable and safe way. We need to train children to connect classroom teaching to the realities of handling life. Competency based education can develop the required skills essential for 21st century learners; for whom life ahead is still unknown and full of challenges and changes. Some times when children get exposed to a real work atmosphere they realise that this is not the path they wanted to tread. It reminds me of a professional architect, I know, who went in for a Master’s Programme in Urban Planning in a prestigious university, where getting admission was through steep competition. On completion of the course successfully, he baffled everyone around him by choosing to pursue a career in Music. Taking a ‘U’ turn in life can be very traumatic and painful. It can be expensive too in terms of time and money. The only way to avoid dispassion is to get passionate about things that you enjoy from the bottom of your heart and make sure they are long lasting and meaningful. The earlier individuals identify their interest; the easier it becomes for them to nurture perfection. We need to expose students early in life, (in school) to various real life challenges. This can be achieved through inquiry based/Problem Based Learning (PBL) or Design Thinking Routines to help them connect with the world around them and identify easy workable solutions for real life problems. We need to offer them a skill based curriculum to choose their vocation from. We need to provide them choices to identify their passion. Besides building up

sound interdisciplinary knowledge and application oriented competencies, skill based vocational education can help them pave a career path. It can help many from dropping out of school or college education. Enrolling in vocational education courses can help develop new professional skills, improve their current skills and enhance employability. University - Industry linkages (which is probably happening but in a very slow pace) through research and collaboration, can offer students an early exposure to the demands of the Industries and will help them connect to their courses in its real perspective. College immersion programmes can help a child understand the expectations of the Industries and the University can help students in identifying their career choice. College immersion/leadership programmes conducted in specified undergraduate courses on university campuses by organisations in collaboration with renowned colleges/ universities, university professors and professionals from industries/institutions through workshops and conferences will expose students to real life case studies, Industrial situations and problems. All these methods have been part of the International Curriculum framework for a long time but students following the National Curriculum were rarely exposed to such experiences. The plan for introducing competency based education at the school level and multidisciplinary holistic education at the undergraduate level through integrated exposure to Sciences, Arts (Literary, Visual as well as Performing including Music/ Dance), Humanities, Mathematics, and professional fields with flexible curricular structures, creative combinations, integration of vocations is a welcoming change proposed by the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020. The Academic Bank of Credit (ABC) to be established, would digitally store the academic credits earned and will definitely offer opportunities for students during their higher studies later in life. This is already in practice in a lot of foreign universities . Surely, the decision to implement the NEP 2020 in a phased manner will put the Indian Education System on a Global platform.

Dr. Ratna Ghose, Head of School, Capstone High, (A CBSE Affiliated School) Bangalore, has over three decades of experience in teaching Post Graduate and Undergraduate (Geography) courses and teaching International (IBDP, A/AS Level and IGCSE) and National curriculum (ISC/ ICSE) at school levels in Kolkata and Bangalore. She holds a PhD degree in Science (Urban Planning) from Calcutta University and is a passionate teacher and a thought leader.





Trailblazers conducts an interdisciplinary camp in the royal state Students from a reputed school joined Trailblazers for an exciting wildlife camp in Rajasthan. The state offers an interesting mix of learning opportunities for them. Wildlife, History, Science, Arts and Culture can be experienced in different parts of the state. The first stop was a renowned wildlife sanctuary where students learned about the interdependence of species and the need for wildlife conservation. While on safari they imbibed the skills of wildlife watching and patience. From identifying the animals that give out warning calls, to understanding the significance of being silent, the group developed a deeper understanding of the forest. Some of the animals they saw were

even a range of musical instruments. Trailblazers enhanced this experience by conducting an exciting activity that made sure students were eager to observe and learn. Next stop in the royal city was an intriguing astronomical set up of Maharaja Jai Singh II. Here the students learned how to read ancient clocks and calculated the local time in Jaipur using the Samrat Yantra, an instrument with the accuracy of two seconds. Trailblazers informed them about the science of shadows and movements of planetary bodies, which was the main principle behind the construction of these instruments. After covering the topics of Art and Science, the next visit focused on Geography and History. The state of Rajasthan is famous for its hill forts. Students visited an iconic fort built by Raja Man Singh I. By virtue of being a hill fort, the view from the top was nothing less than exquisite. The fort itself exuded grandeur and panache with stunning artwork created with natural dyes, adorning the walls, to an intricate mirror work to resemble a sky full of stars. It was also interesting for the students to see different religious, cultural and strategic influences of a diverse range of rulers over the fort. This visit utterly amazed the students and ignited their creativity and imagination.

Students come across a rufous treepie during the safari the ubiquitous spotted deer, rufous treepies, black faced langurs, sambar deer, wild boars and marsh crocodiles. Waking up in the morning and driving into the biting cold was also a new experience for them. Trailblazers used this setting of the deciduous forest to channel the creative imagination of the students. We conducted an activity that fuelled their critical thinking and translated their thoughts into stunning pieces of artwork. After having their fill of the serene forest, our campers visited the Pink City to delve into the historical and cultural aspects of Rajasthan. Even though Rajasthan is often associated with the desert, its culture is full of colour and vibrancy. The students were taken to some interesting sites in the city of Jaipur. They started with the state museum where they could marvel at artifacts from all over the world. The museum also hosts a variety of traditional arts from tiny ivory sculptures to miniature paintings and



Students use the Explorer's Diary to get creative Although travelling is majorly about understanding the stories behind the place you are visiting, the journey plays an equally important role. During these days of exploration, the students bonded like never before and imbibed qualities of independence, responsibility and critical thinking. It was a memorable camp for both the students as well as the Trailblazers counsellors!



Memories from our camp in Vibrant Gujarat A picture speaks a thousand words, so here are our favourite memories from our camp to Gujarat with students from a reputed IB school. Our camps let learners experience camping in every element be it Science, History, Art, Music or an integration of all of them. Nothing excites and motivates us more than the look of happy campers after they experience something new!





Ms. Meghna Kulkarni shares her thoughts on the initiatives on Professional Standards for Teachers

The new National Education Policy 2020 (NEP) lays a lot of stress on reforms. Some of the key focus areas are integration of subjects, no separation in learning subjects, multilingual teaching and emphasis on digital literacy. However, the ultimate enabler and executor of these reforms is the teacher. Hence, teacher education and their continual professional development should be emphasized with newfound rigour. The educational programmes designed by various Indian Boards have so far been quite successful as the students who emerged from them have brought laurels to the nation and the world. The situation with teachers though, has become so desperate today that if you are not employed, you could conveniently get a B.Ed. Degree and become a teacher. One of the most popular questions that recruiters ask teacher candidates is, “Are you a teacher by chance or by choice?” Another old joke is this aphorism: ‘Those who can, do and those who cannot teach’. The icing on the cake is the misunderstanding that teachers have a comfortable and convenient job, with holidays and vacations! But does society realize the fact that a teacher is a teacher-learner for life, without a break? On one hand we have impediments like, “syllabus management”, lack of initiative and a retrograde attitude. While on the other, we are blessed to have teachers committed to their mission. The higher goal of education is to mould children into well-rounded individuals who can contribute to the society constructively, be adaptable to change and attain self realization. Are we equipped to foster such a development? Can we adapt ourselves to the diverse roles needed to be played as teachers? The noted scientist C.V. Raman said, 'The Principal function of a teacher is to discover talent and genius in the younger generation and to provide ample opportunity for its free expansion and expression.' In the present context, a teacher’s role remains as critical as ever and plays a major role in implementing the policies and schemes formulated to achieve a breakthrough in the expansion and improvement of education. To achieve this, an effective teacher education program is essential. It should have a balanced combination of theory and practice. It has been observed that it is hard to learn theoretical ideas in isolation, to try to remember them for two years or more until you get to student teaching. More difficult than that is to enter a situation where one must implement all that was learnt but was not practised enough. Thus, what we need are models that really put the two together and have a strong relationship between the university and the school. The kind of practice that is very student centered, that takes into account how students learn differently can be worked on while you are also learning about the many knowledge bases that have to come together to produce that. Continuous Professional Development After joining a school for the first time, one needs to be in the classroom of an experienced teacher, as it is important for a new teacher to learn from their classroom experiences. Though some

schools have such a practice, at the most, they are islands of excellence. Since senior teachers may be a product of their own times and have a liking for the old ways of doing things, their inertia to change may also influence new teachers. Therefore, there should be a symbiotic relationship between new and senior teachers, in which new teachers contribute with their novel ideas. Such mentoring should be above personal egos so that learning takes place smoothly. New teachers need to gradually take on more independent practice. Mentors should be available for giving advice and counsel and also to help solve problems. In such settings, you want the problem solving to be about the learning of students, not just the implementation of teaching routines. It is one thing to say, “I did this.” and another to ask, “Did the students learn?” How do we organize the curriculum in ways that are effective?”. The main goal of the curriculum should be an environment that is organised around ’teacher learning’ as well as ’student learning’. Most schools conduct inservice training workshops, seminars and symposia to enhance the performance of their teachers, thereby empowering them to keep abreast of the developments in the field of Education. These are crucial as an external motivating factor. Although, the urge to improve personally, should be the greatest internal motivating factor. Teachers should pursue higher educational programs, join teacher-associations and be a part of online teacher communities. This will manifest surely, as enthusiasm in their daily teaching learning interactions. Hence, the main component of continual development of teachers is their own inner motivation. Moreover, student learning is enhanced when students know that their teachers are constantly upgrading themselves. Finally, all of us should be ignited with Gandhiji’s words: ‘A teacher who establishes rapport with the taught, becomes one with them, learns more from them than he teaches them. He who learns nothing from his disciples is, in my opinion, worthless. A true teacher regards himself as a student of his students. If you will teach your pupils with this attitude, you will benefit much from them.’ The role of a teacher in the life of a student persists and guides them in their future too, preparing them for life. Teachers then, should themselves be zestful learners. Their infectious enthusiasm will surely be transmitted to their students and they would be prepared for both success and failure with the same spirit. That is what education is: Preparation for Life! Let us aspire to impart an education that aims at educating the individual holistically, rather than concentrating on any one aspect. For that, let us strengthen ourselves in body, mind and spirit. The society will then look up to the teaching profession with a new found respect and teachers themselves will be proud to have contributed to the true development of the world.

Ms. Meghna Kulkarni has been a Science Educator for the past 20 years. She has the experience of teaching across different boards and schools. Her longest associaton has been with DAV International School, Mulund. A freelance teacher at present, she is exploring the potential to express her views on educational matters. 8




A look at some of the unique folk arts of India

The Indian Constitution has recognized 645 tribes across the country each novel and unique in their own way. Most of these tribes are storehouses of creative arts and crafts, spanning forms such as textile arts, wood and metal works, paintings and many more. As the country slowly moves towards urbanization, many of these come under threat as current generations look for other means of earning. Being aware of the myriad folk arts spread across the country and acknowledging them is one step towards their preservation. Not only are they delightful works of creativity but also a wealth of information on culture, traditions and sometimes even the biodiversity of their respective regions. Trailblazers always looks at promoting local art and artisans in all our camps.

Sohrai paintings - Jharkhand Depicting scenes from the forest, women paint their walls during the harvest season with shades of brown and ochre from the use of differently coloured soils.

Gond painting - Madhya Pradesh One of the largest tribes in India, the Gonds are believers of being one with nature. They use bright colours to depict local flora and fauna in their linework.

Cheriyal scrolls - Telangana A 400 year old tradition confined to the Cheriyal village, artists known as Nakashis depict stories and epics in a comic like format with 50 panels on each scroll.

Toda embroidery - Tamil Nadu Practiced by the women of the Toda community of the Nilgiris, this form of embroidery makes use of red and black threads on a white cloth. The patterns used are mostly geometric.

Block printing - Rajasthan The Chippa community in Bagru, a village near Jaipur has been practicing wood carved block printing for over 300 years. The printing dye is made from a mixture of the local mud, wheat and gum.

Rogan painting - Gujarat This is an art that is sustained only by the Gafur family in Kutch. The paint made from castor oil is twisted by a metal stylus which never comes in contact with the fabric. The paintings are always symmetric.

Aranmula mirrors - Kerala The uniqueness of this mirror is that it is front reflecting unlike glass mirrors. The secret technique to make the alloy is passed down only within the community of artisans in the Aranmula village.

Longpi pottery - Manipur Longpi pottery is entirely shaped by hand by the Tangkhul naga potters. No wheel is used in the process. The characteristic black glaze is made from the leaves of the Thick Leaved Oak tree.

Wood carving - Nagaland The Konyak tribe of Nagaland are the best carvers among the Naga tribes. The Mithun head as well as hornbills are common motifs seen in their works.




a deeper sense of connection with my land Priyank Badola, an outdoor trainer with Trailblazers shares some of his inspiring experiences from the field Ever since I witnessed the magnificence of the Garhwal Himalayas, there was always an urge to visit the mountains whenever it was possible. Even as a child, I found it humbling to be in the presence of the mountains. Over the years my yearning for the outdoors grew and it was only a matter of time before I left my corporate job and made nature’s playground my office. After working as a mountain guide in the Himalayas for a few years, I travelled to the US to work as an adventure trip guide. There I spent months leading backpacking trips for children focusing on their personal and social growth by teaching them leadership skills. Although the trip’s goals and objectives were met, as an outdoor enthusiast I felt something lacked in the programming of the trips. Little did I know the answers to my questions would lie in the next chapter of my life and would change the way I perceived the outdoors. In 2018, I started my journey through Scotland as a part of my postgraduate studies in Outdoor Education. It took me less than two hours to fall in love with the place; right from the time I landed in Edinburgh to when I ventured out on foot to explore the city. The vivid culture and rich heritage did not shy away from giving me a traditional old school welcome. Walking on the cobbled stone streets through the medieval structures in overcast weather conditions only added to the enchanting aura of the city. Over the next few months, I explored the much adored Scottish Highlands. The landscape changed distinctly as I travelled from the midlands to the highlands. The formidable geology and aesthetic nature of the place reminded me of the mountains of India and the US, but somehow the experiences in my new backyard enthralled me with a deeper appreciation of the land. The bumpy monroes of the Cairngorms National Park to the jagged peaks of the West highlands, they all gave an essence of the adventurous tales from this exotic land. I walked

along the corries and in the mighty glens, spotting pristine lochs nestled away like hidden treasures. I negotiated swells of the North Sea on a kayak and learnt about eddies while canoeing on the mighty River Spey. I battled gale winds in a complete whiteout condition on the famous Cairngorm plateau. I unraveled the mystery of the bog asphodel on a Scottish Isle and I sat in the woodlands by a centuries old oak tree pondering on our evolving relationship with the land. Each experience strengthened my connection with the landscape and taught me to view the same scene from different perspectives. Our narrative towards a particular landscape is mostly based on the associations that lie before our eyes. Things get interesting when we understand a particular landscape based on the ideologies which fit together with those associations. The more critically I observed the things around me, the more dots I could connect. This multifaceted approach of viewing land as nature, history, habitat, culture, art, system, ideology, wealth and even a problem was one of my biggest learnings during my time in Scotland. As an educator, it is essential to grab as many teachable moments around us as possible and link them with a golden thread. Usually, our outdoor programs take place in a diverse landscape but most often it gets overlooked by the dynamic group activities. We must try to adopt a new paradigm and facilitate conversations with the participants about the various aspects of land and how they are interconnected with each other. It is only then as a community we will learn to appreciate our own backyard and move towards environmental stewardship. I have always felt an eternal connection with the landscape around me, but perhaps it was the ancient wisdom of the oak tree which made me realise the meaning behind my relationship with the land.

Priyank Badola has been working as an independent mountain guide, leading high altitude treks in India and Nepal since 2015. He has completed his Wilderness First Responder and Trip Leader certifications from NOLS India and Mountaineering certifications from NOLS, Alaska. Certified in Mental Health First Aid from the National Council for Behavioural Health in the U.S, he has led many backpacking trips for high school students in Michigan and Colarado. Currently he works as an outdoor educator with an interdisciplinary approach towards place based education.



EGYPTIAN EXPLORATION A peek into one of the great civilizations of the ancient world Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to go back in time? There are many places in the world, rich in history and lore, that retain some of their ancient charm even today. Egypt is undoubtedly one of these places. The grandeur of its monuments transports you to the time of pharaohs and mummies. Home to one of the greatest and most prosperous ancient civilizations, Egypt has always been a land of mystery and intrigue. One cannot help but feel a sense of awe when you stand before the majestic temples and tombs. The pyramids of Giza are a stunning example of the master craftsmanship and architectural prowess of the Egyptians. Towering towards the sky, they have stood the test of time for over 4500 years. A fascinating fact is that we still do not know the exact mechanism used to build them. With each block of stone weighing close to 2.5 tonnes, there are a variety of theories explaining how these were moved across the desert. On cruising down the Nile, it becomes evident that this civilization was extremely spiritual. Most of the surviving structures are stunning temples that were built in consultation with the high priest. Mostly erected for the contentment of deities, Egyptians believed this would ensure the prosperity of the kingdom. When talking about temples, one must mention the Great Temple of Abu Simbel. Constructed under the reign of Ramses II, this astounding structure was built after his victory over the Hittites. Ramses II reigned over Egypt for over 66 glorious years. In this time, he is said to have fathered the most number of children than any other pharaoh in Egypt. The thought behind the enormity of the temple was also to proclaim Ramses II as equal to the Gods. The inner most shrine contains the sculptures of Amun (The God of creation), Ra (The Sun God), Ptah (God of craftsmen) and Ramses himself, seated shoulder to shoulder. Placed in such a way that every 21st of February and October, the first rays of the sun enter the chamber to illuminate the faces of Ramses, Amun and Ra. Ptah being part of the underworld remains in darkness. Close to Aswan, is another interesting temple dedicated to two Gods; the Falcon headed God, Horus and the crocodile headed God, Sobek. The temple when looked at from the side is shaped like the head of a crocodile. Built in perfect symmetry to represent the dual worship, the left half contains the chambers for Horus, while the right contains the chambers for Sobek. It was also here, that archaeologists discovered evidence of the civilizations’ scientific advancement. Hieroglyphics show the first known calendar, birthing sequences and primal medical instruments. Tombs were another important aspect when it came to Egyptian rituals. The corpses of pharaohs and nobles underwent a thorough process of mummification to ensure

that they entered the afterlife as elegantly as possible. A lifetime of treasure was kept in the burial chambers along with the sarcophagi of kings and queens. One of the best places to explore a tomb is the Valley of Kings in Luxor. For over 500 years, prominent kings and queens were laid to rest here. When you reach the valley, the first impression is that of a drab and dry wasteland. As you wander through its parched terrain you wonder how this place could be fit for royalty. This changes once you step into the tombs underneath. Suddenly, it feels as if you have walked into an alternate dimension. A path adorned on both sides by the most exquisite wall paintings depicting stories of life and death, lead you down into the main burial chamber. These chambers though empty now, were once filled with extremely valuable trinkets. Some of these you can find in museums around the world, most however were stolen by grave robbers. Ornate sarcophagi held an even more elaborate coffin that contained the mummified bodies. Work on the tombs began soon after the coronation of a pharaoh. This ensured that by the time of his or her death, they were ready with all its artistic splendour in place. More influential the person more intricate his sarcophagus and tomb. A special section in the Cairo museum displays the wealth buried with the boy king Tutankhamun. His mask alone has become a popular icon for ancient Egypt. Crafted out of gold and precious stones, the mask weighs around 10 kg and is a representation of the vast wealth of the Egyptians. When visiting Egypt, one cannot help but admire the hieroglyphics. Every ancient structure in Egypt contains these inscriptions on the walls. Known to be the first written language, every character is an artwork itself. Hieroglyphics told the story of the murals on the walls. In places where the paint is still intact, you suddenly feel as if you have stepped out of monochromatic movie and into one of technicolour. It is a marvel that these natural dyes have lasted for over 4000 years, probably because most of these structures remained buried for so long! A characteristic feature of their art was that all their human figures were shown in a profile view. Gods, everyday life, rituals, myths and nature were some of the most common scenes portrayed. One can even find clues to the different cultures such as Nubian slaves that were shown with thick lips and round heads. On visiting multiple temples, you notice repetitive characters and images that help you decode the tales on the walls. A cartouche, for example is a set of characters enclosed in an oval shape which indicated a royal name. A civilization that remains an enigma for many, the cure for your curiosity can only be quenched by a visit to this dynamic country. For every artist, history buff and architecture enthusiast, Egypt is a must visit to fuel your imagination and inspiration.


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Printed, Published and Edited by RANJAN BISWAS on behalf of TRAILBLAZERS ADVENTURE TRAVEL PVT. LTD. Edenwoods, Bay House, Ground Floor A, Gladys Alwares Marg, Off Pokhran Road No. 2, Thane (West) 400 610 Download softcopy from Call us to participate in our camps/activities: 022 21739732 or 022 21739737 OR email us on:

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