Nobody Knows Who Designed The Taj Mahal
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If someone asked you to list the most important architecture in the world, the Taj Mahal would likely make your list. For this reason, it may be surprising to learn that NO ONE can say for sure who designed this famous structure. The identity of its architect remains a mystery to this day.The name most often attached to the Taj Mahal is that of Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan. But he only commissioned the structure. The Taj Mahal was originally created to hold the remains of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal (translated as "Chosen One of the Palace"). Mahal died tragically after the birth of their 14th child, and Jahan ordered the mausoleum to be built in honor of the favorite of his three queens.
Krishna's Butter Ball Is India's Gravity-Defying Boulder
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The small town of Mahabalipuram in India contains a baffling scene: one very special boulder. The name of this boulder is "Vaan Irai Kal," which translates to "Sky God's Stone," but it's more commonly known as Krishna's Butter Ball. The huge size of the thing isn't the strangest characteristic (the boulder measures 20 feet tall and 16.5 feet across), it's its location. The Butter Ball is perfectly perched on a sloping hillside, a seemingly gravity-defying position it has held for more than 1,200 years. This boulder is called Krishna's Butter Ball because of a Hindu legend that tells the story of the god Krishna, who liked to steal butter as a baby. The tale goes that Krishna dropped a huge dollop of butter that became the giant stone. Many people have tried to push the 250-ton boulder down the slope, but to no avail. So how does this iconic boulder maintain its unbelievable balance on a small base of less than two square feet? Even after a thousand years, the answer isn't clear. See the Butter Ball in the video below.
Meet The Hijra, India's Transgender Population
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An estimated one million people in India identify as hijra. The Hijra are India's transgender population; they do not identify as male or female. Life is not easy for the hijra in India-doctors often refuse them, they are arrested by police, and they face violence and discrimination on a daily basis. Because traditional mainstream employment is next to impossible for these people, hijras often find work by offering their "mythical ability" to bestow fertility on newlywed couples. Many hijras are forced to undergo a castration ritual to honor the fertility goddess, Bahuchara Mata. For thousands of year, the hijra were revered in India. But in modern times, they face much discrimination.
India's "Worthless" Zero Rupee Note
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Zero rupee notes were first distributed by the non-profit organization 5th Pillar in 2007. Today, more than 2.5 million of the notes are in use across India. The notes are meant to be a non-violent form of protest against bribery and corruption, and so far, they seem to be very successful. Stories of their use typically describe a citizen handing the note to a corrupt official, who becomes flustered and doesn't pursue a bribe any further.
Key Facts to Know
The word "buck" originates from a time when buckskins were used as currency. 0:39
India's "worthless" zero rupee bank note serves as a tool of protest against bribery and corruption. 2:26
The ridges on the sides of coins were originally intended to keep people from scraping bits of precious metal off the edges. 6:15
India's Living Root Bridges
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The Khasi people live in the Indian state of Meghalaya, in one of the wettest regions on Earth. To cross the many rivers in the area, they've devised a way to grow their own bridges using the secondary root system of Ficus elastica trees. Some of these bridges stretch for more than 30 meters (100 feet).
from Atlas Obscura
Key Facts to Know
The Cherrapunji region in India is one of the wettest places in the world. 0:09
When directed through hollowed-out logs, the secondary roots of the Ficus elastica can grow into strong bridges. 0:30
See a "double decker" root bridge: 1:20