Category Archives: Indian

Searching the elusive River Saraswati !!!!!

We have been taught in our school about Indus Valley civilization and how it was replaced by arrival of the people from west which have been called Aryans. That the Indus Valley civilization was spread between Indus  and Yamuna rivers. Excavation at many locations established many huge settlements like Harrapa in Pakistan side Punjab and Mohenjodaro in Sind district. But it is not the end. So many new sites have been established belonging to this civilization throughout North India beginning from plains of Punjab and Haryana to as far south as Dholavira in the Kutch coastal area of Gujarat.

This civilization thus was spread into the fertile flat plains served by many rivers like five rivers of Punjab, Indus River, Yamuna river and so many of their tributaries. These are perennial rivers with the origin in the glaciers of Himalayas. They bring about huge supply of water as well as rich alluvial soil. Thus the area is suitable for agriculture.

The civilization is said to highly advanced as is evident from the town and urban planning, sanitary system, baths, water harvesting and trade with many countries in the west. But even then it is said that these people did not develop any language or whatever symbols are there still have not being interpreted.

Then it is also said that one fine day this civilization disappeared. There are many theories like inundations due to changing course of the rivers which cannot happen short time. Another very strong reason is the invasion of these areas by fair colored people from the west. These are said to be pastoral people rearing cattle and riding chariots driven by horses. These were the people who are called Aryans and since they vanquished the native dark colored people who were pushed south wards or those remained were obliged to be inferior to their conquerors.

It is also said that the Vedas are their creation. How the pastoral people can create such profound literature? In these Vedas, another river figures prominently or rather dominates. It is river Saraswati. This river is said to have been responsible for the developments of the civilization along its banks. It is said to be flowing between Satluj and Yamuna and going all the way down towards Sind after merging with Ghaggar river and then Hakra river combined called Ghaggar-Hakra river system.

But many like Doctor R.C.Thakran, professor of history at university of Delhi  who has done research on the geological and soil aspects of areas along the Ghaggar river contest the existence of river as being responsible for giving rise to such a big civilization. It is too small a river with its catchment area in the lower Shivalik. Thus at the most , this must have been a season river. The variation in the moisture content of the soil in the dry beds decline sharply with the distance traveled indicating that flow was not large enough so as to saturate the subsoil equally all along. Sediments are identical to those of Shivalik hills in composition indicating the source in the Shivalik. Anyway the present reality is that river is not visible anywhere.

But government in Haryana is bent on its revival. Based on the scriptures, it will excavate the river said path to revive the past Aryan glory with which we North Indian identify ourselves. There are plans to pump the water from underground through tube wells into the excavated river.

According to the report the work is already begun. As reported in the times of India newspaper reproduced below.

As part of its attempt to revive Saraswati river, Haryana government on Tuesday initiated excavation work at Rolaheri village in Yamunanagar district.

Inaugurating the work, Haryana assembly Speaker Kanwar Pal said the project would once again take the culture and heritage of India to the golden period. Officials say that south Indian scholar Dr Ratnakar has shown interest in initiating the work on the project.”
Let us hope to be positive. But the conclusions based on the facts not the sentiments.

 

Revival of Govardhan Parvat: The Mountain Moved by Krishna

In our country where mythology plays a big role in the lives of its inhabitants, many sites like hills, rivers, and caves have their associations with the mythology. One such concerns the Lord Krishna and is called Govardhan Parvat (mountain).

The legend is that when the uninterrupted deluge threatened to innundate Mathura, Krishna lifted the entire mountain on his little finger to make an umbrella to protect the Mathura.

UP government has planned to revive the almost barren Govardhan parvat situated about 23 kilometres from Mathura. Government plans to plant the herbal plants on the mountain. These are:

Kadamba: It is a tropical tree. Krishna and Radha are said to have conducted their love play under the cool shade of the tree. It is used as one of the raw materials in the preparation of “itars”.

Tamala or Indian bayleaf or tezpatta: It is commonly used in Indian culinary as well as medicines particularly for alleviation of diabetes due to the presence of highly antioxidant enzymes.

Karira: Scientific name is Capparis decidua. It’s spicy fruits are used for culinary purposes like vegetable, curries, and pickles. It is also used in medicine.

Pakar : It belongs to mulberry family. Leaves have sour taste.

Pilkhan: Scientific name Ficus virens. It grows to heights of about 100 feet. It is Avenue tree. It bears “strangler figs” because they can germinate on other trees and strangle them. It is used in Thai cuisine.

Koh-I-Noor: A diamond with troubled history

Koh-I-Noor
Size: 105.602 carats (21.1204 g)
Colour: Finest white
Cut: Cushion
Discovered: Date unknown in India
The name means” Mountain of light” in Persian language. Once known as the largest diamond in the world. It is believed to have originated in Andhra together with its double called”Darya-ye-Noor” meaning “Sea of light”.
It was originally owned by Kakatiya Dynasty which installed it in a temple as the EYE of the goddess. It has had a troubled history having been stolen, confiscated or taken over as war loot by various invaders.
Presently it is a part of the Crown of Queen Elizabeth having been confiscated from its owners in 1850 by imperial powers.

Mallet Ferry Wharf 

Mallet Ferry Wharf! I visited the place. It is a ferry terminus and fish trawlers unloading port in Mumbai. You are welcomed by a stench of fishes as you approach the area. Hundreds of fish traders stand up and fish is conveyed to top from boats by ropes and mesh nets. There are mounds of sea fish of every kind. All places are full of fish. There are porters towing it away on the carts. Water drips from the baskets carrying the fish. Trucks are filled by the fish. Every boat has a flag and they are bobbing up and down in the waters. “Bombay duck” which is a fish dries on the ropes in the boats. This fish does not have bones and very delicate to handle when cooking if you are not breaking it into pieces. The hanging fish looks like buntings.

There were fisherwomen, very fat and strong. The boats which have emptied their catch were parked to one side. The fishermen on them were preparing the food: lentils, rice and fresh fish. Crows pecked at the fish filled in the basket waiting to be put into the trucks. These seemed to have become bored by eating and eating in plenty. Seaguls caught the flaoting dead fish thrown out of the boats.

On the right side is the ferry wharf from where ferries ply to Mora Bunder in Uran and Alibaug, and to Elephanta caves. Ferry journey is very convenient as it takes very less time in comparison to the road journey which entails crossing whole of Mumbai and then to mainland of Konkan. These people usually work as Stevedores in the Mumbai port. During British time, they constituted the major workforce employed for manual jobs. People wait there on the benches. There are shops selling refreshments in the waiting area. Buses from Mumbai ferry the people here. 

 

Chessboard and Wheat Puzzle

Game of chess is a cerebral game. It is a game of strategy, advanced planning and endless possibilities. A chess player becomes so engrossed in it that he forgets about his other activities. Such was the condition of the main characters in the Satyajit Rays movie “Satranj ke Khilari”. The story is set in the reign if Nawab Wajid Ali of Lucknow and how by hook or crook the British East India Company took over the princely Avadh on the pretext that a king who is engrossed in licentious activities like dancing with nautch girls and singing cannot look after the well being of the subjects. This is mirrored in the addiction of two friends who oblivious of everything are always devising means to play the game somehow or the other.

The game is said to have originated in the Eastern India and its precursor was called Chaturanga having four limbs or the four divisions of the army represented by a piece. It then traveled to Persia where it was called Chatrang and when Moguls swayed the area, its name changed to Shatranj and it travelled to Southern Europe.
The board has 8 rows of 8 cells each. 64 cells in all. There are king, prime minister (queen in British version and now universally prevalent), two bishops, two knights and two rooks. They occupy the first row and second row is occupied by pawns when they play starts.
The original chess board was mathematically revolutionary, as reported by the infamous Wheat and chessboard problem. A common theory is that India’s development of the board, and chess, was likely due to India’s mathematical enlightenment involving the creation of the number zero.

Chessboard and Wheat Puzzle

The puzzle is about the inventor of chess in India by mathematician named Sessa or Sissa. He presented it to the ruler of the country, the ruler was elated and asked the inventor to choose his prize. The man, who was very clever, told the king that for the first square of the chess board, he would receive one grain of wheat, two for the second one, foimageur on the third one, and so forth, doubling the amount each time. The ruler, who did not understand the gravity of what was asked and who was not adept in mathematics laughed at the paltry prize. He was wrong as the numbers increase astronomically as the squares progress. However, when the treasurer took more than a week to calculate the amount of wheat, the ruler asked him for a reason for his slackness. The treasurer then gave him the result of the calculation, and explained that it would take more than all the assets of the kingdom to give the inventor the reward. The story ends with the inventor being beheaded.

I tried to calculate how much wheat it will be in the last square.

Going by the rule, the number of grains in first cell be 2^0, second 2^1, third 2^2 so 64th cell, the number of grains will be 2 ^63 (2 raise to power 63) which will amount to 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 grains
And weight of 1 grain is approximately =0.06479891 grams
So the weight of grains in the last square

=(9,223,372,036,854,775,808 * 0.06479891)/(1000x1000x1000000) =597664.4545 MMT !!!!!!!!!!!

Annual production of wheat in India in the year 2011-12 =94.88 MMT

At this rate, it will take 6299.1616 years for India to equal his demand even for the grains in the last cell not to talk of the vast numbers in the preceding cells.
Now you can imagine why the king who was at first laughing at the his demand, had him beheaded. Or should not the king had conceded and rewarded the inventor……

Jayanti Devi Temple

Temple of Jayanti Devi is situated on a hillock at the village Jainti Majri about 8 kilometers from PGI Chandigarh. It is nestled between the Shiwalik hills. As you travel to temple from Chandigarh, the verdant plains change into hills. There are cliffs all around.

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Although the area falls under Punjab but it is more like a village sitting at the lap of hills. The area is lush green with the fields of various crops common to Punjab. Condition of the approach road is not good although a new road has been built but in parts near the village it is not still built.

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I don’t know my exact date of birth as the record keeping in India was very poor at that time. I was born in a village called Mastgarh about 10 kilometers from the temple. When we were very young, our parents decided to shift to Manimajra.

Many a times I wanted to know the exact date of birth. I asked my mother to recall it. She always replies that you were born when the annual fair at Jayanti takes place. I also remembered vaguely my father mentioning about going to attend that fair when we lived at Mastgarh. So I wanted to visit the temple. One day, I along with my wife and son started in the car and reached the temple. After Chandigarh one enters the villages with green fields and many ponds of wate

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The way to the temple is through the village. Street is narrow.  Car was parked in the front of the temple gate. There are about 350 steps of stairs you have to climb to reach the temple. The whole path is covered and there is a stop over in the middle where you can purchase the offerings like flowers, coconut and prasad.

At first the path looked formidable at our age but we made it slowly. There were written on the notice boards that the annual fair is during the beginning of February. So at least I could know the month of my birth. The temple is at the top. There are two watch posts from which you can survey the whole surroundings below. Behind are many cliffs and there are fields right up to the hills. There is a dam on one side which have been built to harvest the water and avoid erosion. During the fair it is visited by lakhs of people. I was thinking how exactly this temple handled the huge crowds.

The entire Shivaliks had in the past many small kingdoms ruled by Rajputs. Like that, this area was also a small kingdom ruled by a Rajput King. One of his brothers was to marry the daughters of Kangra king. The girl was a devotee of Jayanti Devi. She is one of the seven sisters, the seven goddesses of the Kangra valley — Naina Devi, Jwalaji, Chintpurni, Mansa Devi, Brajeshwari, Chamunda Devi and Jayanti Devi

She was at pains to leave behind her Goddess after marriage. She prayed to her. Her prayers were answered and goddess promised to accompany her where ever she would go. She revealed this to her father who made another carriage for the idol and thus she brought it with her to Jayanti majri. Her father in law constructed a small temple to establish the idol here.

Afterwards, a Robinhood like fellow named Garib Das from Manimajra took over this area. He was a great devotee of this goddess and got the present temple constructed.

Ganesh Chaturthi in Chandigarh

The other day I was searching for the bicycle shops in Chandigarh area. The name of one shop was “Bhonsle Cycle”. For a moment, I thought I was in Mumbai because of the Maharashtrian title of the name. Similarly, there is A jewellery shop in Manimajra, a large town in Chandigarh territory. Today there was an article in the newspaper about the upcoming festival of Ganesh Chaturthi being scheduled for celebrations by large population of Marathis in Chandigarh.

Connection began to clear up. The third battle of Panipat came to my mind. Marathas then ruled many parts of Haryana and Punjab. Although they lost but Marathas being so brave and aggressive to reach Punjab is a fact. But the present population of these people is due to the proximity of head quarters of Northern Command of Army. Many army persons must have settled here. Also, due to the great improvements in the transportation systems mobility of people within the country has increased a great deal. People who work on central government offices also are posted in different parts of the country. I on my part have spent 22 years in Mumbai.

This year marathi people here have begun gearing up to celebrate 50 years of the Puja. It all started in 1962 when first Marathi play was staged. In 1964, first Ganesh Chaturthi was celebrated in the Tagore theatre and idols were immersed in Sukhna Lake. In 1965, the festivities were cancelled due to breaking of India Pakistan war. Many of the people taking part in arrangements and plays were from defence and went to perform their duties. In 1966, Air Force provided a spacious vehicle called “queen Marry” for carrying the idols for immersion. In the year 1967, Mandal was established officially and besides this festival others like Kojagiri, Sankrant and Gudi Padva began to be celebrated. In 1968, Utsav was celebrated in Government technical college premises. In 1970 the Mandal was registered officially. In 1978 Maharastra Bhavan building was inaugurated in sector 19. Since then it is a regular affair. People of Chandigarh also participate with great zeal.

Since idol was not made here earlier, it was brought from Maharastra. It was the most difficult task since train connection is poor and also handling of the idol is a delicate matter. Once even, Air Force brought the idol by air lifting it from Mumbai.

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Rehearsals

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Beginnings

This year, there shall be a performance by renown artist Abhya Devare from Satara. Krishan  Leela will be performed by Pallavi and Kanhari Pinge. In the Anand Mela, there will be Si Khand, Puran Poli along with Kari. Marathi women have become good punjabi cooks here and cuisines shall be prepared by them.

Songs of Kuldeep Manak: Fragrance of Punjabi Soil

In Punjab and Rajasthan, folk singers belong to mostly Muslim religion. First example is of Mardana the disciple of Guru Nanak who played the Rabab when Guru sang the praises of the God. He along with Bala were constant companions of the Guru and accompanied him on his sojourns far and wide. The tradition continued and many of the famous singers in Punjab claim to be the descendants of Mardana. Also they have become so attached to Sikhism that from their outlook supporting the turban and beard, no one distinguish them from being the Sikhs.

Among these folk singers was Kuldeep Manak who hailed from Jalal village in the Bathinda district. He was born in 1951 and died in 2011. His father and forefathers were singers who sang in the Gurudwaras. His original name was Latif Mohammad which he later changed to Kuldeep Singh Manak. He supported the turban. For about 30 years from the age of 17, he was undoubtedly the king of folk in Punjab. Like when Sun shines, the stars fade away, other singers did not stand anywhere near in comparison except Surinder Shinda.

His voice was like the jangling of silver coins-pure and rustic. Bathinda borders Rajasthan and is a very dry and dusty place. There are frequent sand storms in the evening after the intense heat in the day time. The wind howls in the alleys and sand covers many things. One of the lyricists described his voice like the wind blowing during the storm-raw and hitting straight your heart. Since he sang the subjects related to folk stories and religion, he was immensely popular in the countryside. People were crazy about his songs. He sang a genre of folk music called Kalian and was called the Badshah of Kalian.

His songs cover so many popular and even unheard of Quissas-the stories of valor and love-which include Heer Ranjha, Laila Majnu, Mirza Sahiban, Kima Malki, Sassi Punnu as the love stories, Banda Singh Bahadur, Dulla Bhatti the Muslim Rajput who drove Akbar to such a desperation that he had to shift his base from Agra to Punjab to quell the Dulla, Jaimal Phatta-two Hindu Rajputs who refused to give their daughter to Akbar in marriage just like the parents of Jodha Bai did, Jagga Daku the Robinhood of Punjab and the death of Kehar Singh by his mother in law and brother in laws for the greed of money.

Further, his songs based on the religious stories like Sarwan of Ramayana who carried his blind parents from place to place for pilgrimage and was killed by an arrow from Raja Dashrath the father of Lord Rama, Pooran bhagat who was thrown in a well on the orders of his father King Salwan on the false charges made by King’s young wife Loona, subsequent rescue of Pooran by Guru Gorakhnath and his becoming a saint, then Raja Rasalu who was Pooran’s step brother born to the same Loona with the blessings of Pooran. The songs are replete with such stories.

The credit for his fame also goes to lyricist Dev Threekawala. The duo had a great rapport and churned out all this famous stuff. The winning quality of his songs was very simple and rustic language which tugged at the strings of the hearts of the simple village folks.

He was buried after death according to Muslim traditions. There were reports in the media that his wife who belongs to Sikh community tried to excavate his grave and to perform last rites in Hindu tradition but was prevented by the villagers.

Raja Asraj

There are stories which are popular in a culture as they appeal the masses. In Punjab, there are so many Quissas, stories told by Bards which have become permanently etched in the psyche.

Take for example the love tales. There are stories of Heer Ranjha, Sassi Punnu, Mirza Sahiban. All have tragic endings, these are stories of sacrifice in the love. The duos could not face the opposition of their families and society and ended their lives.

These ballads are sung in one form or the other. There is another genre in Punjab that extols the acts of bravery or chivalry of the heroes of the Punjab. The style is called “vaar”. It has simple unsophisticated verse tuned to few musical instruments and sung in highly charged pitch so that it could be easily understood by the village folks.  Some examples are Dulla Bhatti and Sikh vaars.

One such is the story of Raja Asraj. Not much is known about where he dwelt in his lifetime. But due to his honesty and pious and kind heart, his story is sung in the form of Vaar and the Dhun (tune) was so much liked by Guru Arjan Dev that he tuned the famous recital called “Asa ki vaar” to be rendered according to Asraje Dhun or tune.

Asraj was the son of King Sarang from his first wife. King fell for another woman and married her. Second wife was very young many years younger than the king. The story is somewhat similar to another story relating to Puran Bhagat which is also very popular. New wife of the king happened to see handsome Asraj and instantly fell in love. But Asraj did not took any interest and  stayed firm in his faith and beliefs. When the queen’s motivations did not succeed she accused the prince of sexual assault to have the revenge. The King did not see the truth and ordered his son to be done to death. He also ordered the executioner to bring back severed limb as a proof.  There might be another reason though. Step mother did not want her step son to become the future king and desired instead one of her own sons to succeed the king in place of Asraj.

King’s advisor was a wise man so he decided to cut off a hand of the prince instead of getting him killed. After his hand was cut off he was left alone in a jungle near a well. Some merchants passed from that place and one of those merchants took Asraj along and sold him to a laundry man in another town of different kingdom.

Asraj started spending his time working in his owner’s home. The king of that province passed away without leaving anyone to succeed him. Since the king did not have any children, it was decided by the advisers that whosoever comes to the door of the province first shall be crowned the next king. As the providence would have it, Asraj happened to the first person and was made the king of that province.

Since he belonged to the royal family, he managed the kingdom affairs very efficiently. Public was very happy. There was a drought in the region and people died of hunger but his populace was unaffected because Asraj has the wisdom to kept a large stock of food grains.  Merchants of other countries started coming to Asraj’s country to buy grain. The advisor of his father who saved Asraj from death also came and Asraj recognized him. Asraj met and served him with great love and friendliness. He also sent a lot of grain to his father without taking any price.

When that adviser reached his country he told the king the story of Asraj becoming the king and motivated him to transfer his kingdom over to Asraj. The king had also realized the reality so he accepted his adviser’s virtuous advice and sent an invitation to his son.

When Asraj’s stepson Sardool Rai found out his father’s plan, he along with his cousin Sultaan Rai took on Asraj. In the ensuing battle Asraj came out victorious. After winning Asraj approached to meet his father and his father transferred his kingdom over to him. Asraj then ruled over both countries.

Bards composed a Vaar in his honour. It is called Tunde Asraje ki Vaar. Tunda in Punjabi means without one hand since one hand of Asraj was chopped by the adviser when his father had ordered him to be killed. Famous Asa ki Vaar which is recited in every Gurudwara in the morning is based on the this raag.

Dr.Salam and Heer: Jhang Connection

Doctor Abdus Salam was awarded Nobel prize in physics in 1979 jointly with Glashow and Steven Weinberg. After Einstein, theoretical physicists all over the world are trying to unify all the physical forces like electricity, magnetism and forces residing inside a nucleus and gravity. They have succeeded in unifying all except gravity which is defying all the efforts. Just as in Hinduism we believe that God is one but it’s manifestation are many. They also got the Nobel in this area of research.

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He was born on 29 January 1926 in Santok Das in the Sahiwal District but grew up in Jhang at his grand parents place. Did the mention of the name ring bells in your heart. Yes it is the same place where Heer of Heer Ranjha immortal love belonged to.

The whole family was in the education. His father was an education officer in Punjab. The family had converted to Islam. They belonged to Ahmediyya sect which was declared by Zia-ul Haq as non Muslim.

When he was taken to be admitted into school, teachers found him fit for fourth class. At age 14, Salam scored the highest marks ever recorded for the matriculation examination at the Punjab University. He won a full scholarship to the Government College University of Lahore, Punjab State.
His father wanted him to join indian Civil Services. He could not because of his poor eyesight which was a mandatory requirement.
He won scholarship from Cambridge university and completed his BA degree with honours in Mathematics and Physics in 1949. Although he received offer to do research there but he returned to Jhang.
He taught is Pakistan both mathematics and physics.
He started teaching at the Imperial College, London which he accepted. The 30-year-old, youngest ever assistant professor of Imperial College, London, was a Pakistani now.
He was brought back by zayin Khan and made the scientific advisor. He drafted the scientific policy of Pakistan. Founded Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission of Pakistan. Although he was once a non entity in Pakistan due to his being from Ahmediyya sect, his heart was always in Pakistan and he arranged for scholarships, which helped hundreds of Pakistani scientists’ to educate themselves abroad. His contributions are innumerable.
Although, he was highly respected scientist abroad he was an outsider for Pakistan. All efforts were made by the future administrators who buckled under religion to ease out his memory from Pakistan.He was offered the nationality of all those countries whose asylum seekers, today, lead the criticism on his faith.
After he had received the Nobel Prize, he chose to visit Lahore, In a public gathering, someone commented that Jhang was initially famous for Heer and now will be famed for Abdus Salam’s Nobel Prize. He remarked that there are hundreds of Nobel Laureates but only one Heer.