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.

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Freak Weather

I remember when we were young in late fifties and sixties, weather transitions were fairly uniform. The farmers whose hard work can turn to dust till the crops are harvested and safely brought home, were fairly confident about weather. We saw only poor monsoons once in a while and crops failing badly and food scarcity. In those days farming was dependent on the blessings of nature especially for water. The variety of crops and food items was not much. Only native seeds were used and often mixed crops were raised. For example, wheat alongwith sprinkle of barley or mustard. Only those crops were raised in the same field which did not use the same nutrients. Number of crops raised were limited and land was kept fallow in cycles to restore its fertility. In those days agriculture was not considered a business.
Slowly all this has changed. Land has been drained of its nutrients by raising two or three crops in a year. It is in fact never given time to take a break.
Over the years, the weather is becoming highly wayward or unpredictable. It seems that old theory about how the monsoons in the North India began in Assam and water laden clouds were then directed towards western India from Bengal to Bihar and then Uttarpradesh and Punjab side. Rajasthan however remained a dry area, is not true anymore. Rains can precipitate anywhere. For example many areas of Rajasthan and Gujarat were innundated while states which were regular recipients of monsoon remained devoid of.
Environmentalists say all this is happening due to our activities. Global warming due to carbon dioxide blanket is told to be the culprit. It is the same carbon dioxide which once was the only gas in the atmosphere alongwith water at the beginning of the Earth. The bacteria changed it all fixing the carbon dioxide in the form of oxide minerals and sugars in plants. All this seem to be too true. Such events had taken place many times in the life span of the Earth. Nature is too big to be manipulated by the humans. May be there are minor additions. We see now more rains, floods and more cold weather in India.

Tragedy of Hill People in Uttrakhand

Uttrakhand is called Dev Bhoomi or the abode of Gods. The state was carved out of erstwhile Uttar Pradesh and comprised of hilly areas situated both in Himalayas and Shiwalik.
Lord Shiva is the God who is associated with the region. There are places and temples related to him. The two rivers namely Mandakini and Bhagirathi which merge at Devprayag to form Ganges flow through these hills.
All through the year, tourists, most of them being the pilgrims, are the mainstay of the people living in the Uttranchal. The region is dotted with temples of great Tourists, most of them being the pilgrims, are the mainstay of the people living in the Uttranchal. The region is dotted with temples of great importance. And also the hills offer adventure sports to the enthusiasts. Local people were employed with hotels and guest houses and some of them run their own small provision shops and eateries. With the catastrophe in which thousands of the pilgrims got caught and are still being rescued and brought to Dehradun or other places from where they could be sent to their homes. So many of them have perished. Devastation have been so great that region will be unsafe to venture into and the fear will be a big deterrent. So the tourism there is going to suffer worse phase ever. In such situation, the inhabitants are going to suffer. Their only source of income gone, crops smashed and land filled with rubble of stones and debris rendering it unfit for agriculture, their prospects seem very bleak. Hunger stares like an unseen demon. They are living under constant threat of floods. They are gentle poor and mostly illiterate people and even if some of them come down to cities in search of work leaving their families behind, their income will be very insufficient to feed the hungry mouths at home. Really it is very grim situation. And then the hills offer adventure sports to the enthusiasts. Local people were employed with hotels and guest houses and some of them run their own small provision shops and eateries. With the catastrophe in which thousands of the pilgrims got caught and are still being rescued and brought to Dehradun or other places from where they could be sent to their homes. So many of them have perished. Devastation have been so great that region will be unsafe to venture into and the fear will be a big deterrent. So the tourism there is going to suffer worse phase ever. In such situation, the inhabitants are going to suffer. Their only source of income gone, crops smashed and land filled with rubble of stones and debris rendering it unfit for agriculture, their prospects seem very bleak. Hunger stares like an unseen demon. They are living under constant threat of floods. They are gentle poor and mostly illiterate people and even if some of them come down to cities in search of work leaving their families behind, their income will be very insufficient to feed the hungry mouths at home. Really it is very grim situation.

Opium poppy: Seeds of Trade

Britain ruled India not for nothing. They exploited the abundant natural resources as well its simple folks. They earned huge profits by exporting tea, opium and cotton to Europe. They employed the Indians like Africans as labors in many of their colonies overseas where there was a shortage of labor for cultivation.

English: Capsule of a Opium Poppy (Papaver som...

Opium obtained from poppies grown in the fertile valley of Ganges in Bihar was considered of high quality because of its high alkaloid morphine. It was traditionally grown in this region since the times of Mughals who were heavy users of it and many of their princes are known to become addicts.

Opium Poppy Flower in Tokyo Metropolitan Medic...

Opium poppies yield valuable alkaloids used as medicines. Medicines produced from opium poppies include morphine and codeine. Its cultivation and production is strictly controlled because opium poppies are also used to make illegal and highly addictive drugs such as heroin.

Home to Roost: Pandawill and the Opium Wars

It has many names such as Opium poppy, common poppy, garden poppy, chessbolls in English, Kas-kas, kashkash, aphim, afim, afyun in Hindi, Ahiphenam, aphukam, ahifen, chosa, khasa in Sanskrit, Posto in Bengal, Aphina, khuskhus, posta in Gujarat, Abini, gashagasha, kasakasa in Tamil. Its botanical name is Papaver somniferumFamily: Papaveraceae, the poppy family.

The plant has flowers with papery petals that can vary in colour from white to red or lilac with a darker purple base. Fruits – a rounded capsule topped with the disc-like stigma remains. The liquid that is obtained from the fruit capsule by making cuts with a knife contains morphine alkaloids which are dried to produce raw opium. Opium is used to manufacture medicinal drugs like codeine and morphine, and for illegal drugs such as heroin. Seeds – small and black, dark blue or yellow-white. The seeds are edible and tasty and are used in bakery products such as poppy-seeded bread.

Opium flourished in the Arab world, as in Islam opiates were not prohibited in the same way as alcohol. In the 7th century, the Islamic cultures of western Asia had discovered that the most powerful narcotic and medicinal effects could be obtained by igniting and smoking the poppy’s congealed juices.

The history of opium poppy use is relatively recent in South Asia. Arab trade and the expanding world of Islam are assumed to have introduced knowledge of the opium drug to the Indian subcontinent by the 12th century. The first records of its cultivation appear in the 15th century and refer to Malwa as a centre of production. The Sanskrit words ahiphena and the Hindi afin are derived from the Arabic word ofyun to denote opium.

The advent of the Europeans had a significant impact on the future of the opium poppy in India. The Dutch now introduced smoking opium in a tobacco pipe to the Chinese. As the decline of the Mughals began, the State lost its hold on the monopoly and the production and sale of opium was controlled by merchants in Patna. In 1757, the British East India Company which had by that time assumed the responsibility for the collection of revenues in Bengal and Bihar, took over this monopoly. In 1773 the Governor-General, Warren Hastings, brought the whole of the opium trade under the control of the Government.

In the late 18th century the British East India Company was expanding its sphere of influence in India. East India Company began sending large quantities of opium to China through Hongkong. The profits were very high. The Chinese had become addicted to opium consumption and country began to weaken both in terms of moral and economics. The Imperial court tried to ban the use and import, but British would not heed. Also they were not directly in the picture. It was the ships owned by rich Indians which carried out this trade. They reached near Chinese shores and moored in the sea and speed boats owned by smugglers unloaded the opium for taking illegally to the shores. The poppy growing was mostly confined to three centres: Patna Opium from Bihar, Benaras Opium from Uttar Pradesh and Malwa Opium from central India.

The Chinese authorities attempted to suppress the smuggling of opium which was debilitating the country and reversing its formerly favourable balance of trade. Their confiscation and destruction of illegal opium sparked the First Opium War in 1839. British warships defeated the Chinese who signed the Treaty of Nanking paying a huge indemnity and ceding Hong Kong to the British. A second Opium War was fought in 1856 when the French and British combined to bring the Chinese to heel and opium import in China was thus legalised. Not until 1910 did the opium trade between China and India cease.

The unripe seed pods of the opium poppy contain a group of alkaloids known as opiates that are often used as sedatives. The alkaloids can reduce pain, alter mood and behaviour, and induce sleep or stupor. It is a narcotic and potentially highly addictive.

In traditional medicine opium was made from the air-dried milky latex or juice from the unripe seeds from poppies. The quality of opium would vary depending on whether black or white seeds were used.

Opium from India contained not only high levels of the alkaloid morphine but also the alkaloid codeine. This could explain why it was traditionally used to relieve pain and to suppress coughs. The presence of another alkaloid called papaverine in the seeds could explain why the extracts relaxed muscles and reduced stomach and respiratory spasms.

The seeds were also used in Ayurveda and Siddha medicine. They were cooked and ground with sugar and cardamom seeds and used to treat diarrhoea, coughs and asthma. Extracts of poppies were used to treat fevers, tuberculosis, liver and kidney problems as well as diseases of the urinary tract.

Unlike the unripe seed capsules of opium poppies, the ripe seeds do not contain narcotic chemicals. They are used in many forms of cooking. The seeds can be cooked in water with oil and salt and served with rice where they provide a nutty flavour. They are also blended with tamarind into a curry paste. In confectionery they are sprinkled on sweets and are added to baked goods like breads and cakes.

Frescos

Uttrakhand is called Dev Bhumi meaning the land of Gods just as Kerala is called “God’s own country“. There is no doubt that the state is endowed with nature’s blessings in the form of beautiful Himalayas, Hill stations, Lakes and sacred rivers like Ganges and Yamuna. The state was created in the year 2000 and carved out from the Uttar Pradesh. There are many tourist attractions like hill stations of Mussoorie and Nainital. There are sacred places alongside the Ganges path in the high altitudes like Devprayag, Uttarkashi, Rudraprayag, Haridawar and Rishikesh.

Dehradun is the capital of the state. It was important town since the British times as attested by the headquarters of a number of Central Government offices like Survey of India, ONGC, Forest Research Institute and so many others. Due to this fact, many people from other states have settled down here and made it their permanent home.

After becoming the state capital the population of Dehradun has increased exponentially. The rates of real estate have sky rocketed. There are crowds jostling for space in the markets and on the roads. To drive a vehicle in the city is a nightmare.

There is still some space near Forest Research Institute. It sprawls on a very vast area and there are trees which have been nurtured with care and grown to dizzy heights.

A road runs on one side of its boundaries from ONGC crossing towards Ballupur. Here on this wall, an artist creates frescoes which depict the life of the people of the hilly people and their religious places and social customs. There are village nestling in the dense vegetation, temples on the rivers banks, women dancers dancing to the music of musicians. Some are shown below.

Wajid Ali Shah & Boabdil

Both Boabdil (Arab. Abu-Abdallah or Ez-Zogoiby, the Unlucky) the last occupant of the Moorish throne of Granada and Wajid Ali Shah, who ruled Oudh, a princely state in Uttar Pradesh India from 1847  to 1856 are separated both in space and time from each other. Why I am putting them on the same page is that both lacked the attitude which is required to be a ruler.

The mind of  Wajid Ali was on other things like arts and poetry. He was the tenth and last Nawab.

Wajid Ali Shah - IN-9697-5-009 ep

Boabdil ascended to  rule the Granada after he drove his father Abdul-Hassan in 1481. He was captured in 1483 by the King of Castile, and made a nominal tributary, returning to Granada to resume his struggles against his father and uncle. In 1491 the Moorish capital fell to Ferdinand, though Boabdil fought with a courage strangely at variance with his infirmity of purpose.

English: Muhammad XII, a.k.a. Boabdil, ultimat...

And now the common trait which I have gleaned from the occasions of them being forced to step down from the throne and their reaction of helplessness.

Boabdil, as he rode away to the coast, he halted on a ridge at Padul, still called El Ultimo Sospiro del Mora (The Moor’s last sigh), to take a farewell look at the Alhambra, his palace, burst into tears at the sight. Whereupon his mother is said to have thus reproached him: “You may well weep like a woman for what you could not defend like a man.” He died shortly afterwards on the field of battle in Africa.

In the case of Wajid Ali Shah, he was removed by the British on the pretext of failure of administration to rule the state, bad management and anarchy in the state while he was immured in the pleasures with courtesans. When he was removed which he did without any protests (only his mother tried her best to convince the British who had made their mind to remove the king). He composed a thumri, lyrics of which are as follows:

बाबुल मोरा, नैहर छूटो ही जाए
बाबुल मोरा, नैहर छूटो ही जाए

चार कहार मिल, मोरी डोलिया सजावें (उठायें)
मोरा अपना बेगाना छूटो जाए | बाबुल मोरा …

आँगना तो पर्बत भयो और देहरी भयी बिदेश
जाए बाबुल घर आपनो मैं चली पीया के देश | बाबुल मोरा …

My father! I’m leaving home.
The four bearers lift my doli( palanquin) (here it can also mean the four coffin bearers). I’m leaving those who were my own.
Your courtyard is now like a mountain, and the threshold, a foreign country.
I leave your house, father, I am going to my beloved.

This poem has been rendered by many famous singers of India, K.L.Saigal being the best to date. Both are incapable and unsuited to the job the providence offered them. But both are ruing the loss of their beloved kingdoms.

Soirée à la cour de Wajid Ali Shah (musée Guimet)

What is Maya?

In the Hindu mythology, universe or the Maya is the dream of Vishnu which he dreams when lying on the bed made of serpents on the lake of infinity. Then, there was Narada, who was a very erudite sage. With his intelligence, he impressed so many Gods and Gods often discussed their problems with him and used his services as a messenger for communicating with each other because one of them may be in Himalayas while another in the down South.

One day Vishnu called upon Narada and offered him a single wish. The Narada asked him to understand the Maya that is the dream Vishnu dreamed and which as we know is the universe. Vishnu said Ok and took him on a walk. Now they are walking and walking beginning with Calcutta which is teeming with millions of people. They cross the Sunderbans where the fabled “White tiger” lives in the swamps and Sundari trees. They turn towards west and enter Bihar and then towards Uttar Pradesh. The weather is turning hotter and hotter and they are feeling more and more thirsty. The land is parched and Narada is finding it very difficult to go on. Now they reach the desert where the sand is burning with the heat from Sun.

Vishnu calls Narada and asks him to fetch some water for him as he is feeling very thirsty and weak. He pointed towards an oasis with its green shady trees and a village. The Narada went there in search of water and saw a well. He went and knocked at the door of first house to ask for the permission to draw water from the well. But when he saw the face of the woman who opened the door, he forgot everything about him and fell instantly in love. He married the woman and they lived together with great happiness. He and she worked in their fields and in the passage of time they were blessed with two children.

But the happiness was not everlasting. After twelve years, dark clouds thunder in the sky. Then the rain comes in thick sheets and there follows a deluge of such intensity that there is a flood which hurls everything that comes in its way. Swirling currents of water separates his family. He sees them consumed by the water one by one. He is crying and calling his beloved wife and children but to no avail. There after he also drowns in the water.

Narada wakes up after one hour with his face on the sand. The Vishnu is standing over him and asking him why he had been so late and where is the water he had gone to fetch for him. On hearing this Narada said “O God, now I have understood the meaning of Maya”