India’s Maha Kumbh Mela, the world’s largest prayer meeting
by Chalerm Raksanti
Those who saw news coverage about the Maha Khumbh Mela may have had some difficulty comprehending just what it was that brought 70 million people together
for this massive gathering.
Tent cities stretched along the
banks of the rivers
Approximately every 12 years, early in the year (the most propitious time is calculated by astrologers) millions of Hindus of all castes, classes, doctrines
and sects come together near the city of Allahabad for the greatest of India’s mass immersion rituals, the Maha Khumbh Mela. Hinduism does not demand adherence to one set of
dogmas, nor does it prescribe any one form of devotion to its myriad of gods. However, common to all Hindus, is the reverence for the River Ganga, especially near Allahabad.
Initiation of young sadus over open
At the confluence of the sacred river Ganga (Ganges) and the Yamuna River, the Hindus believe the mythical river of “enlightenment”, called Saraswati,
also flows at this convergence. Worshippers come here to wash away their sins and to pray they may escape the cycle of endless reincarnation. This gathering is the largest
periodic assemblage of human beings on the planet.
Indian sadu at India’s largest
Before the masses arrive for this holy festival, most of the riverbed lays damp and shifting under blowing sand. As the time for the festival approaches, the
exposed land begins to fill up with encampments. Soon, caravans borne by elephants, horses and camels move in procession towards the rivers. Ahead of them one sees hundreds of
naked, or nearly naked, marching men covered with ash. They are the sadus, the wandering holy men of India. The crowd parts for these men who bear tridents which symbolize the
God of Shiva. The sadus’ ascetic traditions go back more than 2,000 years. Like Christian monks, they take vows of poverty and chastity. But typically they live as solitary
itinerants wandering across the land, relying on daily charity from pious Hindus. The totally naked sadus are called nagas, and they are the most militant of the sect.
In times of old they defended Hinduism against the fervor of a younger religion, Islam.
Disciples pulling a guru riding in
Merchants lay out plastic jugs, blankets, medicinal cures, metal pots, religious pamphlets, gourds, and stack great bundles of glittering bangles. Soon every
road which leads to this site has literally vanished under an unbroken stream of people bearing food and bedding. River banks are blanketed with pilgrims huddled around
charcoal or cow dung fires whose smoke does not rise, only thickens the air around them.
Ordinary pilgrim washing away his
Gurus arrive riding elephants saddled with howdahs. Ordinary pilgrims from all points of the compass purchase religious amulets and books. As the vast crowds
gather, pontoon bridges are set in place across the Ganga so that pilgrims may cross to the encampments on both sides of the rivers. Tent cities are provided by the government,
and they stretch out to the horizons, as far as one’s eye can see. Pilgrims are treated to plays enacted from stories of Hindu mythology, featuring the well known adventures
of gods and heroes. Large trucks show movies, and there is a general atmosphere of pious gaiety and socializing. But this is all secondary to the holy ritual of immersion in
the sacred waters. The holy men camp apart. The sadus pray and fast, and prepare their sacred images which will be borne on palanquins when they lead the processions of
millions of people into the waters to bathe. Holy images and religious amulets will also be dipped into the purifying waters of the Ganga.
Rope-haired nagas escorting a
sacred image to the River Ganges
Before dawn, on the day which is chosen as the most auspicious (the day is called Khumbhayog) nagas rise and dress themselves with holy ash. People
begin moving through a thick fog toward the rivers. The nagas soon leave their compounds to lead the way for the other sadus, and then a great rush of holy men, horses, camels,
elephants and the magnificent mass of pilgrims surge forth to the sacred confluence. From every river bank and sandbar, on foot or from boats, millions of people enter the
waters to dissolve the sins of their past lives. The human steam moves into the river, seemingly a single spirit of devotion and faith. And then, almost as quickly, the mass of
humanity reverses, and begins to pour forth, outward into all of India.
Pop’s night out
Rick and Harpic, with Jill Thomas
on keyboards join the fun on All Stars night at Shenanigans
Last weekend “Pop”, the local virtuoso guitarist, plus the Pattaya All Stars played at Shenanigans to the biggest Friday night house seen in the well
known hostelry for some time. “Pop” excels in the rock music era and some of the Rolling Stones numbers were just superb. Whilst Mick Jagger may have “Got no
satisfaction”, the crowd at Shenanigans certainly did, with Ellis and Brenda Varnado and Susie Ngamsuwan showing the way on the packed dance floor.
What key are YOU playing in?
Later in the evening, the Pattaya All Stars, with Jill Thomas on keyboards, and Rick and Harpic (welcome back) out the front, kept the non-stop momentum
going. Pattaya certainly is a place for live music, and if you missed the action, you can catch a little of it on Dr. Iain’s Nite Beat TV show on the Pattaya Mail Channel
PGF raises 100,000 at Bruno’s
The vibrant Pattaya gay community again showed recently what could be done to help local charities. A capacity crowd filled Bruno’s Restaurant where over
100,000 baht was added to PGF funds through the generosity of supporters.
Enjoying the delicious meal at
Similar social events later in the year are certain to be sell-outs. The festival will culminate in a four day event, 29 November to 2 December with a
parade of floats and a closing party on the last day.
Chairman Michael Burchall spoke of the desperate needs facing the Aid/HIV help foundation Heartt 2000, and the Naklua Drug Rehabilitation Centre. These
charities needed a constant flow of funding to support their work. The PGF, through its year long programme of events, was sure that in December it would be able to hand over
a surprisingly large total of funding. If the efforts of the first two events are a taste of things to come, then that aim would be more than achieved.
Chairman Michael Burchall spoke of
how the PGF will be helping charity.
Peter Malhotra, the surprise guest speaker, noted how important the gay community was in Pattaya’s social and economic life. Thailand’s tolerance for
different religions, races and lifestyles was internationally known; indeed, it was part of the make-up of Pattaya’s reputation as a cosmopolitan city. Pattaya attracts all
sorts of people, each add to its character. He praised the work of the PGF and was sure that it would achieve its objectives and be of lasting importance.
Jim enjoys the evening with his
The Festival runs through the year with events every month. A programme detailing the parties, dinners and sports events will be available shortly at
Ambiance Hotel, Pattayaland Soi 3. If you wish to make a donation to the PGF funds this can be done at Ambiance Hotel.
All monies collected go directly to charity with no administrative costs. Sponsors for prizes are most welcome.
Jomtien-Pattaya Rotary Club all smiles
The Jomtien-Pattaya Rotary Club was host last week to Kathleen Magee, president and co-founder of Operation Smile. The concept of Operation Smile
International is to provide the surgical expertise for the correction of harelips and cleft palates for children all over the world.
Operation Smile was founded in 1982 by Dr. William P. Magee, Jr., himself a plastic surgeon, and his wife, with the first mission being to the Philippines
in 1982. Currently there are missions to more than 30 sites in 20 developing countries world-wide.
Mrs. Magee spoke on the radical change that surgery can make in young children’s lives, who are otherwise shunned and hidden away, sometimes thought of
as being possessed by demons. After surgery they can for the first time lead normal lives within their own society.
In his introduction, local Rotarian Martin Brand said that most of the Rotarians would be familiar with the truly magnificent work of “Operation
Smile”. A good description of it was made in 1999 by Kofi Annan, secretary general of the United Nations, when he remarked, “Operation Smile is what the United Nations is
about - giving children, young people and others the chance to live a meaningful life in dignity and with greater chances ahead of them.” Of course, what Kofi Annan omitted
to say, was that those children could also face life with a smile, and that so far those children total more than 60,000.
FCCT presents ex-Bangkok governor talk
Former Bangkok Governor Bhichit Rattakul is scheduled to speak on Thailand’s new politics Wednesday March 21, 2001 (7pm) at the Foreign Correspondents
Club of Thailand. Dinner Bt280 members; Bt400 non-members; Bt250 non-members entry only, program 8pm.
The general election in January marked a new turn in Thailand’s political life, the first under the new Constitution. That Constitution was supposed to
bring political reform and cleaner polls, but did it? Former Bangkok Governor Bhichit Rattakul who is a long-time promoter of reforms and founder of the Thai Motherland Party
will address the FCCT to give his views on Thailand’s new politics and on how far the reform process is actually going.
Burmese Language Course
The internationally renowned linguist, Professor John O’Kell of London University’s prestigious School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) will be
teaching a two weeks intensive Burmese language course at the FCCT. O’Kell, author of the definitive textbooks used for Burmese instruction world-wide, will teach speaking,
reading and writing to various levels of students.
A minimum group of six is required to hold the course. The course is tentatively scheduled for two weeks, two hours per day from either 19 - 30 March or
during the Songkran New Year Festival. Professor O’Kell has been traveling in Burma for more than three decades and has been a key instructor in the respected Southeast
Asian Summer Studies Institute course held annually in the United States. This is a unique opportunity to study a regional language in depth with one of the world’s true
masters! Interested parties email their intent to study as soon as possible to Sarah Rooney at: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
The Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, Penthouse, Maneeya Center Building, 518/5 Ploenchit Road, Phatumwan, Bangkok 10330. Adjacent to BTS skytrain,
Chidlom Station. Tel. 652-0580-1, fax 652-0582, www.fccthai.com, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
St. Patrick’s Weekend promises shenanigans at Shenanigans
This Saturday is St. Patrick’s Day, but just like Songkran which stretches out for days - so will St. Patrick’s this year.
As you can imagine, any excuse for sinking several pints of Kilkenny and Guinness will be used, but Shenanigans are doing it with a laugh this year (and we
don’t just mean looking at Kim Fletcher in a funny green suit).
On Friday 16th, “It’s only a joke!” will be the Irish phrase to remember this year, when the Irish ex-copper Shaun Connors lets loose in the pub with
his own brand of Irish humour. He’s the sort of chap who can laugh at himself, and get you laughing with him. It’s not just a joke - it’s just hilarious. The British
ex-pats will know Shaun well from his TV and radio shows in the UK as well as his CD’s called “It’s only a joke” and “100 Irish Jokes”. Shaun is on at 11 pm on
Friday and then will announce the winner of the Miss Green Shenanigans Beauty Pageant. Several beauties have been seen looking a little green later in the evenings at
Shenanigans, but this time it’s for real!
Music? You want music? Then the Declan Band will play all Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with appropriate stops for libations and trips to the loo. They
cover such groups as the Pogues, the Chieftains, Rory Gallagher, U2 and Thin Lizzy. Foot stompers get yer bovver boots on now!
On the Saturday, St Patrick’s Day proper, the Declan Band will be centre stage with a small break for the Six Nations Rugby on the big screen TV. Then
it’s more music, more Guinness and Kilkenny’s and more fun and frivolities.
On Sunday, for the strong ones who bob up for the third St. Patrick’s leg (you didn’t know St. P had three legs?) the Declan Band is leading the
acoustic sing-along between 2 pm and 6 pm so be in fine voice (a little lager lubricates, as they say) and enjoy the last of St. Patrick for another year.
There’s no cover charge for any of the St. Patrick’s festivities and all drinks are at standard prices. You could even score one (or two, or three) of
the free Shenanigans Green Vodka shots and loads of free green bar snacks. Suggest you wear green for self protection!
Stress in Thailand? How do YOU cope?
An interesting seminar has been arranged by the Bangkok-Pattaya Hospital on the 24th of this month, covering the “stress” topic and various ways of
managing the problem. It is being run as an interactive exercise, with question and answer and discussion from the floor, with professionals on the panel.
European psychologist Dominique
Norz will be part of the panel at an interesting seminar arranged by the Bangkok-Pattaya Hospital on the 24th.
Moderated by Walter Jack Heller, a long time ex-pat in Pattaya, the panel will consist of European psychologist Dominique Norz from Bangkok and our own Dr.
Iain Corness, who is a consultant to the Bangkok-Pattaya Hospital. Also in the audience, and who will participate in the multi-lingual interactive sessions, are Dr. Rangsit
Romraruk, the specialist psychiatrist at the Bangkok-Pattaya Hospital, Dr. Jonathan Corness, psychiatric resident, Royal Brisbane Hospital, Australia, Neera Sirisampan, the
assistant director of international operations of the Bangkok-Pattaya Hospital, who has herself spent 26 years as an ex-pat in the USA, and Patrick Lohlein, the foreign
affairs co-ordinator of the Bangkok General Hospital.
Miss Norz has, for the past 7 years, built up experience from a vast range of assignments in corporate, hospital and individual settings in both Europe and
the U.S. Having lived in Southeast Asia for the past two years, Dominique Norz is familiar with the particular challenges expatriates are facing when living and working
Dr. Iain Corness has been familiar with Thailand for 26 years and has been living in Pattaya for the past three and a half years. He had his own general
practice in Australia for over 30 years and was a foundation member of the Australian College of Occupational Medicine. He was retained by several large concerns in Australia
to advise senior management on the coping mechanisms to counteract stress.
Admission to the seminar is free, with registration at the Bangkok-General Hospital at 1:30 pm Saturday March 24.
Antiques, Are They Genuine?
by Apichart Panyadee
It is usually possible to tell by looking at the doors when a large cupboard has been reduced in height. Glazed doors, provided that the panes are
rectangular, can be reduced by removing one tier of panes; blind doors can be cut down at will. But in either case an unconvincing proportion may result, and unless the doors
are trimmed both top and bottom, the keyhole will be out of place. It should be about central or a little below if the piece is really tall. A further guide is that the
tenons of the cross members should pass right through the door stiles.
One of the classic alterations to enhance value is the transformation of a chest of drawers into a kneehole desk. Examples of this particular deception are
more likely to date from the early 20th century. Good quality chests of drawers have become expensive now in their own right, and the craftsmanship required to do this job
well is of a high, and therefore, and expensive order.
Fine reproduction of William and
Mary writing bureau
Kneehole desks (also known as dressing tables) appear only in the better qualities of 18th Century furniture. The best types, dating from the mid-1780s,
have up to six bracket feet, but large numbers were also made with only four feet, one at each corner, leaving a kneehole apparently without visible support.
It is the four-footed type that is easier to make out of a chest for it saves having to effect two bracket feet in the centre. Even then, it is no mean
task. When the drawers are cut to accommodate the knee space, old drawer linings are required to make the extra inner sides. The dovetails at both front and back of the new
drawers have to match the original joints. Be aware of the common practice of wiping the joints and edges of drawers with a quick brush of stain. If it was to conceal
inadequate joinery, do not be concerned. However, be wary if it is an attempt to conceal a replaced cockbead. A more reliable sign will be the effects of wear on the inside
of the carcase where the drawers slide. Marks of wear should be compatible with any moving parts.
Eighteenth and 19th Century sideboards were practical, working pieces of furniture as well as being objects upon which to lavish ornamentation according to
the wealth of the owners. They had to be large enough to hold food and drink, plates, glasses, as well as to give room to serve. Elegant as these period sideboards were, they
proved too large for later taste and smaller homes. It is no means uncommon, therefore, to come across unnaturally shallow sideboards with altogether authentic fronts and
timbers, and an otherwise convincing appearance.
19th century sideboard with
multiple turnings to the legs
There are two ways to tell if a sideboard has been reduced in depth. Remove a drawer and look at the runners. You should see some wear and particularly a
dip towards the back. The last half inch should show no signs of wear at all, since the drawer would not run that far, being stopped so that it would not hit the backboard
and stress its joints. If the runners have been replaced, as they all must be sooner or later, there is another test. Look at the back corners, beyond where the drawers
reach. You should see a darker area. This is the result of oxidation and the accumulation of dirt. If the sideboard has been reduced in depth, this part will have been cut
off and you will see only clean wood right to the back.
One of the more serious alterations to sideboards is replacing good, honest turned legs by those of the square, tapered variety. This is because the square
tapering leg is of an earlier period, and therefore, more valuable than the turned leg. The first turned legs were plain and elegant. The main part of the column was tapering
and terminated in a spade or flared foot. Gradually the turner added more and more ring decoration to the legs, making it possible to date turned leg furniture of the Regency
Period quite accurately by the complexity of the patterns of rings as well as by increasing heaviness as the period progressed. Be aware that a sideboard’s leg is the
extended stile of the carcase; it is not added on.
Full steam ahead for German-Thai Chamber of Commerce
Amari hosts March Stammisch
New GTCC president Axel Foellmer
and GTCC executive director Dr. Strunk.
At the bi-monthly “Stammtisch” (networking evening) of the German-Thai Chamber of Commerce (GTCC) held at the Amari Orchid Resort last weekend, the new
president, Axel Foellmer, the senior representative for the parent Bayer Group and managing director of Bayer Thai, was more than optimistic about the German investment in
Thailand. He heralded further expansion and investment by Bayer over the next five years and saw no decrease in the level of overseas interest in Thailand.
(L to R) Mr. Fischer; Mr. Vogt; Kh.
Chakrin Thamavit; Dr. Strunk (executive director GTCC); Axel Foellmer (MD Bayer Thai Co Ltd, and new president of GTCC); Mr. Kretschmar (TGI); Hagen Keilich (GM Lufthansa).
With over 40 companies having German shareholders in the Eastern Seaboard, the Stammtisch was well attended, and the networking Germans all echoed the
sentiments of their new president. The general feeling from the GTCC was that the economic woes of the 1997 crash were now all behind them and they were looking
optimistically towards the future.
Kids! They’re a never-ending worry!
There would be no parent who would disagree with the heading of this article. All kids are a worry. So what happens with the disadvantaged kids who perhaps
haven’t got parents to worry about them? Well, some of those kids end up being looked after by the Fountain of Life Center’s Good Shepherd Sisters, right here in Pattaya.
The organizing committee of this
year’s Jesters Care 4 Kids Charity Drive (L to R) Kim Fletcher, Graham Macdonald, Dr. Iain Corness, Sister Joan, Sister Jemjit, Alice Poulsen, Mike Franklin and Woody
In turn, there are many good-hearted folk in Pattaya who help the Sisters help the kids. Over the next few months, the people behind the Jesters Care 4
Kids Charity Drive will be organizing the biggest Children’s Day Fair yet seen in Pattaya, to be held on the 16th of September, as well as the “zingiest” Pub Night on
the 22nd of September.
When someone from the organizing committee of the fourth annual Jesters Care 4 Kids Charity Drive asks you for assistance - remember who it’s for. Little
kids somewhere in Pattaya who see the Good Shepherd Sisters as their Mum - and you as their Dad. Don’t turn your back on them.
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