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The National Geographic Traveler Magazine photo contest, now in its 25th year, has begun. There is still plenty of time to enter. The entry deadline is Sunday, June 30, at 11:59 p.m. Entrants may submit their photographs in any or all of the four categories: Travel Portraits, Outdoor Scenes, Sense of Place and Spontaneous Moments. The magazine's photo editors showcase their favorite entries each week in galleries. You can also vote for your favorites. "The pictures increasingly reflect a more sophisticated way of seeing and interpreting the world, making the judging process more difficult," says Keith Bellows, magazine editor in chief. (The captions are written by the entrants, some slightly edited for readability.) As always, you can take a look at some of last year's entries and winners.. -- Paula Nelson ( 40 photos total)
OUTDOOR SCENES - Portrait of an Eastern Screech Owl - Masters of disguise. The Eastern Screech Owl is seen here doing what they do best. You better have a sharp eye to spot these little birds of prey. Okeefenokee Swamp, Georgia, USA. (Photo and caption by Graham McGeorge/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)     

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Hindus worldwide recently celebrated Diwali, a five-day "festival of lights" that marks the new year and honors the principle of good over evil. One Diwali ritual is honoring Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity. The occasion is also celebrated with fireworks, the sharing of sweets and gifts, and by decorating homes with lights and candles. Diwali is an official holiday in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Suriname, Malaysia, Singapore, and Fiji.-- Lloyd Young EDITOR'S NOTE: Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, there will be no post on Friday.)( 42 photos total)
A reveler lights a bottle rocket at a park during Diwali, the “festival of lights”, in Kolkata on Nov. 13. The festival marks the victory of good over evil and commemorates the time when Hindu God Lord Rama achieved victory over Ravana and returned to his kingdom Ayodhya after 14 years in exile. (Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP/Getty Images)

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Today marks the start of the five-day festival of Diwali, celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs around the world. During Diwali, originally a harvest festival, lamps are lit to celebrate the triumph of good over evil, fireworks are set off to drive away evil spirits, and prayers for prosperity are offered to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Collected here are images of this year's festival, as celebrants color their world, give prayers, and wish each other a happy Diwali. [33 photos]

A girl lights earthen lamps in a formation to form the shape of Hindu god Ganesh, the deity of prosperity, on the eve of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh, on November 12, 2012. (Reuters/Ajay Verma)

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On May 28, 1993, a remote and dusty thicket of the Australian outback shook for hundreds of miles around. Deep reverberating explosions could be heard far and wide, the night sky illuminated by sporadic flashes of unexplained light—all this allegedly witnessed by heavy goods drivers, gold prospectors and nomads traipsing the bush. Three truckers even spoke to an Australian geologist about the lights, claiming that they’d seen a “moon-sized fireball” which flew “from south to north with the speed of a jet plane.” They said “it was yellow-orange in colour and had a small blue-white tail, which lit up the sky as it headed immediately west for Banjawarn station.”

The strange event registered just shy of 4.0 on the Richter scale. Its blast could be heard over a radius of 90 square miles. The Australian government later dismissed the mysterious temblor as “probably being natural in origin”. IRIS, the U.S. federal seismology agency, said that the Earth-shaking detonation was “170 times larger than the largest mining explosion ever recorded in that Australian region” and was proven to have the force of a nuclear bomb.

Some scientists speculated that it could’ve been a meteorite. But authorities found no signs of a crater as they searched for one via helicopter. Despite the fact that the epicentre of the ominous blast pointed in all directions to a remote research facility manned by Aum Shinrikyo, the notorious Japanese death-cult noted for its attempts at mining uranium and its grim obsession with alternative weapons technology, the whole event was eventually shrugged off and forgotten about.

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In today's pictures, fire breaks out on Tenerife in Spain, residents protest Japan's plan to restart nuclear reactors, a Hindu woman splashes in a river in Nepal, and more.

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Today is the vernal equinox, the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It also marks the end of "the winter that wasn't," as the past several months in North America have been dubbed. It was the fourth-warmest winter in the United States since record-keeping began 117 years ago. In accord with the unusual weather, this turn of the season brings us snow in Arizona and Saudi Arabia, while conditions remain sunny and warm in America's Northeast and Western Europe. Collected here are scenes from around the world as a strange winter gives way to spring. [40 photos]

The sun sets behind cherry blossoms which have come into full bloom due to the early warm weather in Washington, D.C., on March 19, 2012. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

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