Reminiscence of a journey to the Land of Cedars – Lebanon (Part 2 of 7)

The city of Baalbek is an ancient Phoenician city located in the Anti-Lebanon foothills of Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley. The grand temple at the centre of the city was dedicated to Baal, the Phoenician God of sky and Astarte, his consort. The name Baalbek, literally means Lord Baal of the Beqaa Valley.

Later the city fell into the hands of Alexander the Great and then Pompey the Great and became a colony of the Roman Empire. It is famous today for the complex of Roman temples, which are fine examples of Imperial Roman architecture. The Roman complex contains temples dedicated to Jupiter, Bacchus, Venus and Mercury. The temple of Jupiter rests on the ruins of the temple of Baal. These temples survived the rise of Christianity by serving as places of Christian worship. It further survived the reign of the Byzantine and Ottoman rulers and a series of earthquakes. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.

Baalbek – Ruins
Baalbek – Ruins
Baalbek – Ruins
Ruins of the Temple of Jupiter
Temple of Bacchus
Ruins of the Temple of Jupiter
Temple of Bacchus
Temple of Bacchus
Temple of Bacchus
Baalbek – Ruins
Baalbek – Ruins
Baalbek – Ruins
Baalbek – Ruins
Baalbek – Ruins
Baalbek – Ruins
Baalbek – Ruins
Baalbek – Ruins
Baalbek – Ruins
Baalbek – Ruins
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Reminiscence of a journey to the Land of Cedars – Lebanon (Part 1 of 7)

I made this trip to Lebanon almost a decade and a half back, but the heritage architecture and rustic charm of the place is still fresh in my memory. Lebanon has a rich history which is 7000 years old. At the time of my visit, the Syrian Army were occupying some parts of Lebanon and we had to pass through numerous Syrian check-posts to reach these places. Within a year of my trip, the army had withdrawn and peace was restored. In this series I would like to take you through a tour of the timeless beauty that this country exudes.

The Cedar of Lebanon or Cedrus Libani is a type of coniferous evergreen tree which can grow as high as 40 metres. These colossal trees are native to the mountains of the Eastern Mediterranean region. These forests are as old as the Roman Empire. In fact, they were cut down to build palaces for the Roman Empire. The massive Cedars of Lebanon also find reference in the Bible. It is said that David built his palace and Solomon built his temple using timber from these trees. Furthermore, the Cedar is the national emblem of Lebanon and can also be seen on the Lebanese Flag.

The construction of the Beiteddine Palace which began in 1806 took 30 years for its completion. The palace boasts of beautiful arcades, courtyards and carved cedar wood ceilings. It was the residence of Emir Bashir Shahab II till he was exiled to Turkey in 1840 by the Ottomans. It contains the tombs of Emir Shahab II and his wife. The original palace was destroyed after the Israeli invasion and the structure as we see it today, was renovated in 1984 by Walid Jumblatt. The Betidienne Palace currently serves as the summer residence of the President of Lebanon.

Spotted Deer

Spotted Deer (Scientific Name: Axis axis) is a species of deer found in the Indian subcontinent, which is locally known as Cheetal. Males are larger than females and antlers are present only on males. Male deer reach about 90 cm and female up to 70 cm at the shoulder. Males may weigh 30-75 kg and females weigh up to 25-45 kg. The upper parts are golden completely covered in white spots. The abdomen, rump, throat, insides of legs, ears and tail are all white. The three-pronged antlers are about 1m long.

The natural habitat of the Cheetal deer comprises of open wood land in grassy areas. They prefer to live near rivers and other sources of water. They are found living in small herds of 20 to 30 animals

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Sahastralinga Talav and Panch Pir ki Dargha

Not far from the Rani-ki-Vav (queen’s stepwell) in the town of Patan (Gujarat State) is the Sahastralinga Talav, an excellent example of the ancient water management system of Gujarat. It was constructed by Raja Sidhraj Jai sing in 1084 AD. This artificial reservoir is spread over an area of about five kilometres with stone embankments. The tank was designed to receive water from the nearby Saraswati River through a canal. There were thousand Shiva Shrines on the edge of the tank of which some ruins are still exists. The tank derived its name from these shrines. The tank is empty now and in ruins.

As per legend, during the construction of the tank, Raja Sidhraj Jai Singh fell in love with the beautiful maiden Jasma Odan, who belongs to the tank digger’s community. She refused the request of the king and committed sati (a former practice in India, whereby a widow threw herself into the funeral pyre of her husband) in order to save her dignity. It is believed that due to her curse the tank dried up.

The Sahastralinga Talav - ruins of the canal
The Sahastralinga Talav – ruins of the canal
The Sahastralinga Talav - ruins of the canal
The Sahastralinga Talav – ruins of the canal
The Sahastralinga Talav - ruins of the canal
The Sahastralinga Talav – ruins of the canal
The Sahastralinga Talav - Tank with no water
The Sahastralinga Talav – Tank with no water
The Sahastralinga Talav - ruins of the canal and tank
The Sahastralinga Talav – ruins of the canal and tank
The whole area was deserted except for these monkeys
The whole area was deserted except for these monkeys

If you walk further one kilometre towards the river bank you will reach to a tomb complex, which is locally known as ‘Panch Pir ki Dargha’ (Tomb of five saints). This complex mostly in ruins, contain a Baradari(a pavilion with 12 doors, designed to allow free flow of air) and mausoleum of five saints. The tomb of one saint is inside a domed structure. The other four tombs are on the right side of this structure on a raised platform which is opened to sky.

The pavilion with 12 doors
The pavilion with 12 doors
Inside the pavilion
Inside the pavilion
The domed structure with the tomb
The domed structure with the tomb
The domed structure with the tomb
The domed structure with the tomb
The tombs of the four saints on a raised platform
The tombs of the four saints on a raised platform
All scattered around the complex
All scattered around the complex
Another structure in the complex
Another structure in the complex