Tag Archives: India

Where is Gopal?

I was working in a place called Sivasagar in Assam. There was a shopping centre. In one of the shops a boy named Gopal used to work. Gopal was a runty-bodied boy from Bihar; he was working in a shop here in the mini-shopping center. Anyone who saw him will take him for the proprietor of the shop which sold eatables, victuals and phone service and has a xerox machine. Shops generally are all-in-one type here.

Gopal was very agile and competent and extremely good-natured. He has a gift of gabbiness and it did not take him long to make a niche in a corner of your heart. I thought him to be Bengali but actually he was from Bihar; so many Biharis have come to this state because the British rulers brought their forefathers here as labours for tea plantations, and to  do the menial jobs and rickshaw pullers, barbers and laundry.

Then one day, Gopal suddenly disappeared from the scene. How did I come to know was that I had given Gopal a parcel to courier to my native town and it did not reach the destination for a long time. I came to inquire for it from Gopal but he was not in shop. Other persons who were actually the proprietors began sitting in place of Gopal. In the beginning they will not divulge his whereabouts but they knew it for sure. Sometimes they said Gopal has gone to another village to attend a marriage; after some days version became his own marriage.

Gopal is the name of Krishna who you might have seen playing on a flute in front of cows and there are amours Gopis who dance around him. These Gopis were married women who it is said, forget everything in the world: shame, their family, husbands and society, and went running to him when his notes on flute began wafting into the air and reached their ears. And our Gopal, he was smitten by love though not of gopis but only his unwed neighbour.  The girl’s father and mother are also having a shop in the same shopping place; they were next door neighbours. The affair was kept secret by the smart Gopal, but I doubt that some of the boys who loiter around all the time were knowing everything and so did the owner of the shop in which Gopal worked.

So one night, Gopal eloped with girl and to this day nobody knows where he has gone. He might be in some secluded place, must have got employment and by now may have fathered a child.

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Sanjhi: Almost forgotten Festival of North India

When we were small boys, every year ten days before the festival Dussehra, our mother would choose a small area on one of the mud walls and make a crude image of a woman, stars and moon and bullocks with the cow dung. We lived in the village. Almost everyone has some land on which agriculture was done. Also there were plenty of animals like cows and buffaloes. Houses were made of mud and walls and floors were plastered with wet cow dung. We did not understand all this and thought this as some folk art. It was called Sanjhi. Now this ritual has almost vanished like many other rituals which were observed in the rural parts of the country. The images slightly resembled the Warli art. Both were drawn almost in the straight lines meeting to form triangles and squares.

Sanjhi
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Sanjhi images in my sisters home at a village in chandigarh
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The image is called Sanjhi and established on the first day of the nine days of   Durga Puja or Navratras. In fact, a common thread runs throughout India and festivals have the similar philosophy behind them. Only the style varies from place to place. Even days coincide. The images of Sanjhi are suggestive of Durga, Uma and Katyayani. And just like Durga Puja in which the idols of the deity are immersed in the river waters, Sanjhi festival also ends with the immersion of Sanjhi on the day of Dussehra.

The festival is observed mainly in Haryana and Punjab. The girls offer prayers and food to the goddess everyday.

These shapes including stars, moon, sun, face of the goddess etc are given different colors. The star-studded collage is fixed on the wall of a dwelling, facing south, in the later half of the early October or late September months. In some places, the image of Sanjhi is painted on the wall. The art of Sanjhi is quite native and simple.

Apart from the various forms of Sanjhi created on the first day of the moon in Kartika, there are some other rituals observed by girls during the Navaratras. Devotional songs are sung just after dusk. Lighted earthen lamps are held by adolescent girls who assemble around Sanjhi. They sing chorus songs, that are centuries old, to please the goddess. The girls, who sing these songs are rewarded by their elders with token money.

Sanjhi on Wall

The girls believe that by appeasing Sanjhi they will get a good husband. In one of the songs, Sanjhi is asked about her basic needs — what would she like to wear or eat. In another song, the girls promise to appease her by offering presents. This low key group activity is held every evening for nine days in front of the Sanjhi image put up on walls. On the tenth day of Dussehra, the images from the walls, along with the cow dung used as an adhesive, are scratched and removed. Only the head of the figure is securely contained inside a small earthen vessel whose belly has been ridden with several holes. In the evening, the girls with their respective earthen vessels float their lighted pots in the village pond.

The vessels are hit with cudgels by the village youth to stop the bowls from reaching the other end. A legend says that none of the bowls should float across the pond and touch the other end, otherwise misfortune would fall on the village.

Recently I heard a song women used to sing in areas around Chandigarh. It goes like this.

ਜਾਗ ਜਾਗ ਸਾਂਜੀ ਜਾਗ ਤੇਰੇ ਮੱਥੇ ਲਾਵਾਂ ਭਾਗ I

ਤੇਰੀ ਪੱਟੀਆਂ ਸੁਹਾਗ

ਅੱਗ ਬਲੇ ਦੋ ਲਕੜੀਆਂ ਦੀਵਾ ਬਲੇ ਚੁਬਾਰੇ ਮਾ

ਉਠੱਣ ਬੈਠਣ ਝੋਟੜੀਆਂ ਤਰਲੋਚਨ ਤੇਰੇ ਬਾੜੇ ਮਾ

ਮੱਖਣ ਮੱਖਣ ਖਾਂਦੀ ਜਾ ਨਣਦਾਂ ਦੇ ਸਿਰ ਲਾਂਦੀ ਜਾ I

Basically it translates to

O’ Sanjhi mother wake up, I worship thee , There is a fire in the hearth and lamp is lit in the upper house. There are milch buffaloes in the courtya

Three Cuckoo Visitors !!!

Introduction:

Come summers, many birds arrive in India for nesting. Some come from as far as Africa. They come here just before the onset of monsoons and for this reason are connected to the arrival of rains. Three types of cuckoos are generally seen in our area. All these are brood parasites which means like Koel they lay their eggs in the nest of other bird who thinking that these are their own eggs hatch them and raise the brood. These cuckoos choose the nests of Babblers for this work. Now we will talk of three cuckoos.

Jacobin Cuckoo:

Also known as Pied Cuckoo, Pied Crested Cuckoo, it comes from Africa here. Here it is called Harbinger of the rains. In Indian mythology it is called Chatak or the seeker of ambrosia drops. Also called Barsati Papiha. Religious scriptures mention this bird.

Jacobin Cuckoo Pic by Ranjit

Grey Bellied Cuckoo

Another small cuckoo. It can be seen here these days. Most of the times it sits on the electric wires which cross over scrubby shrubs. It was earlier also called Indian Plaintive Cuckoo but now not more so. It is smaller than Pied Cuckoo. It is also called Chhota Papiha in India.

Grey bellied cuckoo: Pic Ranjit

Common Hawk Cuckoo

This cuckoo partially resembles sparrowhawks and thus is called Hawk Cuckoo. In english another common name is Brain Fever Bird. In India it is also called Papiha. Many small birds get scared in its presence. It remains sitting at a place for long durations. It seems to be a permanent resident here.

Common hawk cuckoo Pic by Ranjit

Indian Golden Oriole

Many migrant birds which migrate towards moderate climates of West and South India to escape the severe winter and shortage of food in North India. As the winter season comes to an end, they return back. One such birds is Indian Golden Oriole (Oriolus kundoo). It is a species of orioles. Earlier it was considered a subspecies of Eurasian Golden Orioles but now has been recognised as a separate species.

In the North India harsh summers start. There are many trees that bear fruit not eaten by human beings don’t eat but many birds like them. Orioles like these berries very much. These are very shy birds and are difficult to photograph. While not feeding, they roost in dense foliage of lofty trees. Besides berries their diet also includes insects.

Males of very beautiful in comparison to the females. In addition to their golden feather, there is a black a large carpal patch on the wing. While hiding in foliage, they can be made out by a sweet song.

There is a forest near my home in Panchkula Haryana India. In this forest there are trees called Jhingan (Odina Wodier). These trees bear the berries ( as seen in the tree in pictures) from March which ripen towards May end. Orioles can be seen gorging on these berries.

I am a n enthusiastic nature photographer and has taken these pictures myself.

Ranjit Singh
Ranjit Singh
Ranjit Singh

Really it is treat to watch this very beautiful bird.

Giloye or Tinospora cordifolia: A wonderful Herbal Vine!!

Giloye as its called in India is a vine. Its scientific name is “Tinospora cordifolia”. Common names are Heart-leaved moon seed, guduchi. It is an herbaceous vine of the family Menispermaceae indigenous to the tropical areas of Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.

Giloy vine : source wiki

If you happen to see a Giloye vine climbed on a tree and claiming the branches, you will think that ropes are entwined over the branches. No leaves. But these are beautiful ripe fruits on it. Most of the time it shows no leaves. Usually it entwines the trees and creeps up. It grows up abundantly in dry regions of North India. The berries are ripe in May June.

These is a forest near our home which has it growing abundantly. Parrots like its ripe berries. I think they know its benefits better than us.

Parakeets enjoying the berries

It is sometimes called Amrita which means “Forever Alive” because it can live for ever. Even if you think that the vine has dried up, it shows up leaves in a surprising manner.

This herb is of great medicinal value in Ayurvedic Medicine. It has been found very useful in the treatment of fevers, digestion and increases the platlets in the blood. It increases immunity and eases the respiration. More details of Its health benefits are highlighted in the auyurvedic website.

Note: First image is taken from Wikipedia. Rest of the images are my own

Growing by themselves

There is a river which flows near my home. Most of the time during the year, amount of water is very limited except during monsoon season when the rains in the catchment area flush it with plenty of water. For rest of the time, it is mostly a dry bed of pebbles, stones and sand.

People roam in it. Many people immerse idols in it along with the flowers and other things of worship. Flowers are mostly marigolds. Their sometimes get lodged in the clayey soil on the edges of flowing water.

Such plants which grow unattended are called Escapes, and due to no personal care, they tend to flower and fruit as early as possible

Moisture and sunlight acts as booster for germination. Beautiful plant start growing and they blossom. Found this flowering marigold in the bed with one bud and two flowers.

The great Bhupen Hazarika an Assamese poet and singer sang a beautiful song which has the opening line as “One bud and two petals ” referring to the tea plucking in Assam tea gardens. I will entitle this picture as “One bud and two flowers”

A Comparison of Economics Indicators

India and China are the most populous countries of the world. Since China has arrested its population growth it seems that their populations will match one another in a few years. In India many of us tend to compare the two and say that India will beat China in a few years. This may be day dreaming.

China has been relentlessly progressing and has become number two economically in the world just behind US although disparities are huge. How do China and India compare in some economic indicators??

China vs India

2019 data

Population (million):

India: 1361

China: 1418

Adult population (million)

India: 866

China: 1090

GDP($/adult)

India: 3282

China: 12663

Total Wealth ($ trillion)

India: 12.6

China: 63.8

Dollar millionaires (in thousands)

India: 759

China: 4447

Happy Augury!!

Many Vultures and Eagles have reached on the brink of becoming extinct. The main reason for this is said to the consumption of contaminated flesh from carcasses. Many of these Vultures migrate from Eurasian areas to the comparatively warmer climates found in Asia. Here they come for escaping the bitter cold and lack of food there. They rear their young here.

Fortunately, I have been able to spot these Vultures at some places like garbage dumps or where some people used to dump the carcass. These birds come there from hills nearby. Most prominent amongst them is Himalayan Griffon Vultures.

Blue Bearded Bee Eaters

I am going to narrate an incident. I am in search of spotting the birds. The day is foggy and very cold breeze is blowing: not favourable conditions for Photography. There is a square of bushes with two three acacia trees in between.

Suddenly, I spotted this bird sitting on an electric wire overhead. I was surprised to find it there. I try to click a picture but it is very shy and flies to a tree. I try to invade through bushes to reach near it but couldn’t locate it. But while coming out of the bushes, I just stumbled upon a beehive on an acacia tree whose branches have been chopped off by some villager. It was just on the tree trunk abutting the bushes from almost all sides.

But I could hear the sounds being made by not one but three birds in the bush adjacent to the beehive.

I tried to position myself behind a bush and waited. Lo and behold, two of them slowly sneaked near the beehive and began plucking the bees for eating.