Test of Truth


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Sometimes, the truths that we know or believe in can be pretty hard to establish for want of witnesses or proof. The societal values, the situation, place and time eventually end up delivering a verdict which may or may not measure up to universal justice. Different places in the world have diverse religions, belief sets and values framed on the basis of the native environment. The person at the receiving end of the situation ends up with a raw deal because his contemporaries cannot see beyond their nose. The victims and martyrs of such situations have always had unique ways of ascertaining their stand.

Panditha Jagannatha, a Sanskrit court poet of Mughal emperor Jahangir, fell in love with a Muslim maiden who he called Lavangika. The Brahmin community was aghast by the affair. They could not dissuade the already married poet from having a relationship with the Muslim woman. Eventually, Jagannatha was excommunicated and exiled. The sad poet went to Kashi. He realised that he would not be able to make his contemporaries realise the genuineness of his feelings. Hence, he decided to launch his test of truth. He sat on the fifty-third step of Panchaganga Ghat and started singing the paeans to river Ganga. He emphasised on the power of the mighty river which could liberate the worst among sinners. It is said that with the composition of each stanza, the waters rose by one step and touched his feet. The poet felt vindicated by the divine touch. The people around him realised that he was earnest about his feelings though they did not acknowledge the same.

Even now, people swear by the truth by taking the names of those they truly love. When we wonder about it and question ourselves what makes us do what we do, we are likely to realise that we are trying to connect what we believe as truth in what we believe in as truth. Most of the times, we resort to this method to reiterate our beliefs. If we, who live in this technologically advanced world, adopt this method, imagine what it must have been like for the people who did not have the privilege.

Beating Retreat


Published in School Edition of Deccan herald on 29th January 2019

Most of us are very particular about beginnings. We take all the care to begin well because we know that “Well begun is Half Done”. The care and the interest we have at the commencement of a project somehow takes a back seat when we reach the end of the road. If you are still wondering what I am talking about, just have a look at the first pages of your notebooks and the page in which you are writing presently, you can see the setting in of carelessness. On the other hand, if you find that you have improved on yourself, you are on the right track. If you maintain the neatness and enthusiasm till the end, you can be sure that you have all the qualities that are the hall mark of successful people. Yes! Conclusions are as important beginnings.

All of you must have seen or at least heard about the elaborate celebrations of Republic Day in Delhi. The humungous amount of effort that has gone into organising an event of that scale goes without saying. However, how many of you are aware that our nation has the proud heritage of winding up this event with equal elan?

The conclusion of Republic Day festivities known as Beating Retreat  is conducted three days after the big day which falls on  29th of   January every year.  The Indian Army, Navy and Air Force are joined by the Central Armed Police Forces and the Delhi Police and they march in Vijay Chowk which is close to the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The Chief Guest of the function is always the President of India. This year when our president Ram Nath Kovind arrives his bodyguards the trumpeters will herald his arrival. The function will commence with the hoisting of our tricoloured and the playing of our  National Anthem. Then a grand march will ensue and the ceremonies will be declared closed officially.

Did you know that the ceremonious conclusion of our Republic Day festivities happens to be a direct rip off of the British tradition? As usual we have given it our unique Indian touch and made it wholly ours.

The ceremony was designed by Major G.A.Roberts a British national in the year 1950. Jawaharlal Nehru the first prime minister of India was keen to impress our colonisers with the grandeur of our land and our prowess. He delegated Major Roberts to come up with a spectacular event for the Queens visit. That is when Beating Retreat came into being. It also became a showcase of our strengths making the leaders of other countries think twice before taking us for granted.  Thereafter it became an official ceremony year after year where our president and a special invitee usually the head of another country inspect the grand march.  Our guest list shows that we have honoured rich and poor, strong and weak, friendly and unfriendly countries alike. According to the records listed in Wikipedia, thus far we have missed out on having invited guests only three times 1952, 1953 and 1966.

Did you know that the average Indian citizen can buy tickets for this event which is priced from Rupees twenty to Rupees five hundred. In fact our government has made arrangements for people to pay and watch the rehearsals also just in case they are busy otherwise on the 29th of January. For those of us who do not live in the national capital we can watch the ceremony from the comfort of our homes either on television or the website.

Walk Your Talk


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Five centuries ago, a warrior from the Nayaka clan, a scion of the Kaginele town in Karnataka observed the society around him and did not quite like what he saw. He did not approve of the inequalities created by the caste system in our society. He was Kanakadasa, the devotee of Lord Krishna who made the lord turn towards him. It is said that he was forbidden from entering the temple premises in Udupi as he was born of a lower caste so he sadly made his way to the backyard of the temple and stood against the central section of the back wall where he deemed the lord to be standing. Then he sang soulfully in praise of the lord. Apparently, the Lord was pleased for he turned around in his idol form. Not only that, but the Lord also generated a hole in the wall to enable his favourite devotee to have a look at him from the back of the temple. The people in power and the temple authorities realised the purity of his devotion and have ever since maintained the ‘Kindi’ or the window in the temple. The idol remains that way till date.

Kanakadasa was a unique teacher who did not run a school nor prescribe books to be read because he understood that many people around him were illiterates or were very busy with their daily business. Therefore, he chose to compose simple lyrics bearing social and spiritual messages in the local language Kannada and sing it tunefully to attract the attention of the people around him. The homilies presented in the vernacular tongue helped people to reflect and ruminate on the vagaries of life. The lyrics enabled people to evaluate themselves morally and socially. They were able to see the connection between Indian mythology and its relevance to daily life.

The warrior-turned-saint poet walked his talk both literally and metaphorically. He put his heart and soul into what he thought was universally appropriate. The fact that we look up to him through his verses to resolve our problems in this digital age speaks in volumes about the multidimensional social reformer who made a difference to the world, just by walking his talk!

 

Golu 2018


These are some of the pictures from our Golu 2018 captured by some of my dear friends and well wishers. The theme was FLORA. Natural plants, arts and crafts of a varied range have been worked on and have been used to depict the world of flowers and explore its overwhelming global presence in mythology, history , literature and architecture.

STRENGTH OF KARMA


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The law of Karma makes it amply clear that we will most definitely experience the consequences of our actions.

Largely, people do not have any objections about harvesting the benefits of their good deeds. It is only when we go through a rough passage of life we cringe and cower at the thought of bearing the brunt of our misdeeds.

A level-headed person will understand that when one lands a bad bargain, he or she should hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. By doing so, at least the quotient of regret of not having tried enough to circumvent the problem can be done away with.

An episode from the Mahabharata documents this nugget of wisdom through the predicament of Parikshit, the king of Hastinapura. Once, the sovereign succumbed to unreasonable anger. He humiliated a reverent sage Shamik by garlanding him with the flaccid dead body of a snake.

The sage’s son Shringi, who was outraged by the king’s misdemeanor, cursed him to be dead in a week’s time by a snake bite. The petrified king realised that no amount of penitence could salvage him from the imminent death. Nevertheless he thought out the situation pragmatically.

He got a royal residence built on a tall tower and moved in. The food, drink and even the very air that he breathed were scanned before being permitted into the premises. Now it was customary for Brahmins to offer a fruit to the king. That day also, it was given to the king after the usual security check.

When the unsuspecting ruler cut open the fruit, a worm fell on the ground and grew up manifold. Takshaka, the king of snakes, metamorphosed himself into a tiny worm and had reclined in the heart of a lemon. Parikshit recognised Takshaka – and he fell dead when stung by the reptile and the prophecy was fulfilled.

Though Parikshit could not save himself, the fact remains that he left no stone unturned to protect his life. His approach is worthy of being emulated, for while it is sad to fail in one’s mission, it will be a shame and pity for not having tried to decimate the problem. If a righteous sovereign could not salvage himself from the consequences of his misdemeanor, we must think twice before we err consciously!

The Message of the Three Monkeys


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By RADHA PRATHI

Celebrating Gandhi Jayanthi and observing Martyr’s day can become more meaningful if we introduce the values propounded by Mahatma Gandhi into our everyday lives.

We could actually revolutionize the universe we live in, in a very unique way by following a simple code of conduct as seen by Gandhi in the three monkeys. They prompt man to hear no evil, speak no evil and see no evil. He perceived that human life would become simple and more meaningful if we lead our lives based on the message of the monkeys.

We should realize the distinction between listening and hearing. For instance, he could avoid participating and listening to gossip and talk which are worthless and time stealing. This practice will make his mind uncluttered and more procreative. It is obvious that no man is going to be cherished if he shut his ears literally in the contemporary world. Nevertheless he could move away from the unpleasant spot in a discreet way. If he finds that he cannot avoid the distasteful situation he need not pay attention to the matter and much less repeat or discuss the gossip in fresh company following the message of the second monkey shutting its mouth which suggests — speak no evil—.

Well-known adage goes Silence is golden, speech is silver. Yet speech is necessary for communication. In such a backdrop it would be best if we adopted prudence while speaking. All of us know that an unnecessary hurtful word can ruin the psyche of a person much more than weapons can do. We could do well to avoid speaking such evil words. At the same time flattering and insincere praise could also amount to speaking evil. It has been proven that a good conversationalist is a good listener, for listening helps the listener to make an assessment and also understand the speaker. The third monkey suggesting — see no evil — implies that revolting scenes of sex and violence are best not seen for they have a disquieting effect on the human mind.

Palm Leaf Paper


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Long long ago in India, when children of your age went to schools known as the Guru Kula they had lots to study just like you but they certainly did not have to write as much as you do! They committed whatever they learned to memory and sometimes noted down some very important definitions or formulas on palm leaves for later reference. You see they did not have note books then as you have them these days! If you are wondering whether they were lucky, unfortunately they are not around here to answer your question but they were certainly an eco-friendly lot as they were not using reams of paper made from trees!!! In such a case you could always argue that the palm leaves they used were also sourced from trees! Very true, indeed! In those days there was really no dearth of palm fronds, besides the rudiments of language like grammar and core subjects like science and mathematics were reduced to verses running into two or four lines. These couplets and quartets captured the essence of the subject in as few words as possible. The student had to understand these formulas which were popularly known as “Sutras” and he needed to memorise them to help him remember of all the aspects of the theory at a later date.

They were tested on the subject from time to time orally just like you are tested, but then all of you also take up a written test to show that you have writing skills too ! Perhaps they were spared of the exercise because processing palm fronds into writing material was a long drawn process.

Centuries before paper was invented our ancestors hit upon the idea of using hardy dried leaves as paper.  They were known as “Patra” which means both letter and leaf in most Indian languages used till date. Students processed palm leaves not only for their use, but also for their teachers and scribes who were engaged in making copies of important manuscripts.

Processing palm leaves was no mean task, but it was certainly fun –filled too! Palm fronds cut freshly from the tree were allowed dry partially for a couple of days in  sunlight and then they were then buried in swamps for a week so that they become sturdy and later on the leaves were washed and dried completely in the shade.

Then they were cut along the borders so that they formed rectangular pages which measured eight to twelve inches in breadth and about an inch or two in height. Some times when longer sheets of palm paper were required they were sewn together using plant fiber.

Once the palm paper was ready for use a fine tipped iron stylus (pencil) was used to etch the words or diagrams on the leaf so that it made a depression without actually damaging the leaf. Then powdered vegetable dyes usually green or charcoal powder made from burnt coconut shells were mixed with sesame oil and rubbed over the leaves in such a way that the colours settle down in the depressions. Then the palm leaves were coated with turmeric powder mixed with sesame oil to add sheen and strength to the leaves. Then they were bundled together and wrapped in silk or cotton cloth for safe keeping. Our ancient texts like the Vedas, Puranas, the epics, scripts of plays and treatises have been passed on to us on palm paper.

Possibly this is the reason why we are able to see manuscripts preserved in this manner for over a millennium in a fairly good condition in spite of the gross neglect they are subjected to.

Over a period of time when paper was invented and mechanization made it possible for it to be easily available paper made from palm leaves made an exit. Today these processed leaves are used as canvass on which creative artists showcase their talent.

If you happen to be traveling in Orissa make sure you visit a small village called Raghuraipur in the district of Puri. There are several craftsmen and artists who make a living there by etching wonderful designs on processed palm leaves. Even little children in the village know how to make the longer lasting palm paper. Now that you have an insight into the method, why don’t you try making your own name plate on processed palm leaf?