Rani Lakshmibai

Rani Lakshmibai was born on 19th November, 1828 at Varanasi. She is popularly known in this land as Jhansi Ki Rani, meaning “Queen of Jhansi” as she ruled over the Maratha state Jhansi. She fought against British with the slogan Meri Jhansi Nahin Doongi. She was the rallying spirit behind the 1857 war of Independence against the British.

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Rani Lakshmibai

Birth

Rani Lakshmibai was born into a Maratha family. Her parents Moropant Tambe and Bhagirathi Sapre named her Manikarnika, after the Manikarnika Shakti Peeth in Varanasi.

Chhabili

Her father worked for the Peshwa, chief minister of Bithoor district. The Peshwa was very fond of her and nicknamed her Chhabili, meaning ‘playful’.

Education

She was educated in archery, horsemanship and self-defence at a very young age.

Marriage

In the year 1842, she was married to Raja Gangadhar Rao, the Maharaja of Jhansi. From then on she was called Lakshmibai and also Jhansi Ki Rani.

Son and Adopted Son

In 1851, Rani Lakshmibai gave birth to a son named Damodar Rao. The child was not to live long as he passed away within 4 months. Gangadhar Rao then adopted a child born to his cousin. This child was also named Damodar Rao.
Gangadhar Rao soon passed away in the year 1853, leaving alone his wife and adopted son. Rani Lakshmibai started ruling the kingdom.

British wanting to Annex Jhansi

British had by then annexed many of the Indian states and now wanted to seize Jhansi. Lord Dalhousie was the governor General of British India then. He sent notices to Rani Lakshmibai, rejecting her son Damodar Rao’s right to throne. They said that as Damodar Rao was not the biological son of Gangadhar Rao, he cannot lay claim to throne and that the state of Jhansi now belonged to the British. In this backdrop, Rani Lakshmibai was paid Rs 60,000 as pension and was ordered to vacate the palace at Jhansi fort.
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Meri Jhansi Nahi Dungi

Rani Lakshmibai was however not going to give up easily. She strengthened her defences and enlarged her Army recruiting many warriors of those times like Khuda Baksh, Gaulam Gaus Khan and Dost Khan among others into the army. Her famous slogan was “Meri Jhansi Nahi Dungi”, meaning, “I won’t give my Jhansi”.

First War of Independence

Three years later, in the year 1857, the first War of Independence broke out and there was unrest throughout the country. The attention of British was turned away from Jhansi to other parts of the country. Rani Lakshmibai seized this moment to further mobilize her forces.

The Battle

In the year 1858, after the First War of Independence, the British forces under Hugh Rose decided to lay siege on Jhansi. Rani Lakshmibai and her forces were by then fully prepared to take on the British.
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A fierce battle began between the Jhansi forces and British troops on 23rd May, 1858. Rani Lakshmibai led from the front and gave a tough time to the British, in a battle that lasted for two weeks. Her forces were also joined by the army of Tantya Tope.
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Her army was however not able to hold on against the British Troops who were more experienced in warfare and the British captured Jhansi fort.

Escape and Recoup

Rani Lakshmibai managed to escape from the city along with her few guards, by making a brave jump from the fort, on her horse.
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Rani Lakshmibai and her son Damodar Rao recouped their forces and joined with the other rebel group of Tantiya Tope.

Defeating Gwalior Maharaja

The combined forces of Rani Lakshmbai and Tantiya Tope now moved to Gwalior, where they defeated the Maharaja of Gwalior, who had joined hands with the enemy forces and captured the Gwalior fort.

Death

The British attacked Gwalior in a few days. Rani Lakshmibai passed away on 18th June, 1858, while saving the Gwalior fort.

Praise from the Enemy Camp

The remarkable bravery and courage she had shown all through, made even General Hugh Rose of the enemy camp remark, “Remarkable for her beauty, perseverance and intelligence, she was the most dangerous of all the rebel rulers”.

Legacy

After her death, she became a symbol of bravery and courage and was considered an icon by many freedom fighters who came after her, in the struggle for Independence. Many women were influenced by her life.

Portrait of Queen Laxmi Bai Made During Her Lifetime, Found In 1857 During Capture of Farrukhabad’s Palace Army

Army Female Unit named after her

The first female unit of the Indian Army was named after her.

Statues

Statues of Jhansi were erected in Jhansi and Gwalior, the two places of her glory.
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Post Independence, her statues were built in every nook and corner of the land as people still saw her as an epitome of bravery.
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Stamps

Stamps have been issued in her name by the Government of India.
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Films

Many films and serials have also been made on the life of Rani Lakshmibai.
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Part of school books

Today, every child knows her name as ‘Jhansi Ki Rani’, as her inspiring life has become part of textbooks in schools.
Rani Lakshmibai will remain an inspiration for the women and youth of this country for many more generations to come.
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Battle of Haldighat

A fierce battle was fought between Rajput King Maha Rana Pratap and Mughal King Akbar on June 18th, 1576 CE, which has now come to be called the Battle of Haldighat.  Another record says that this battle was fought on 21st June. But these four days from 18th to 21st are commemorated in Haldighat and also at his birth place.

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Akbar’s Ploy

Akbar wanted to extend his Mughal Empire. The ploy he adopted was to take strong Hindu kings under him through friendship. These Hindu kings in turn helped him to defeat other Hindu kings.

Maha Rana Pratap

Maha Rana Pratap was persuaded by Akbar in every way, to come under him, but the Rajput King refused. Akbar soon lost his cool and declared a war on Rana Pratap. Rana Pratap also made preparations for the battle.

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 The battle

The two armies took stage at Haldighat. Akbar’s Army had 200000 soldiers while Rana Pratap had only 22,000.

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The list of notable warriors who took part in this battle include Rajputs, Baniyas, Brahmin, Bhil, Charans and more.

Portraits of the warriors of the Battle of Haldighat are displayed in Moti Magri Museum in Udaipur.

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Great Valour by Rana Pratap

The lesser numbers for Rana Pratap did not mean that the battle was a cake walk for Akbar. Rana Pratap and his soldiers fought with great valour.

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Chetak Horse

As much as this battle was fought by Rana Pratap’s brave warriors, it was also a story of great versatility shown by his horse, Chetak.

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Even though Rana Pratap was defeated, Akbar’s army could not completely conquer the Rajput king.

Sacrifice of Chetak

Rana Pratap’s horse made a great sacrifice in saving his master. Just as Alexander had a brave horse in Bucephalus, Rana Pratap had Chetak. Chetak was a native breed war horse, a Kathiawari.

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Chetak was seriously injured in the battle, but, to save his master’s life, it crossed over a big canal, to safety.

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As soon as it crossed, it fell down dead. Rana Pratap broke down and was moved by the great commitment his horse had shown in saving his life.

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A statue in memory

He created a beautiful garden at the spot where Chetak had passed away. A statue was later erected in its memory at Haldighat, where it had shown great bravery.

Scooter and Helicopter in its name

The valour of this horse is so ingrained in the Indian minds that the famous scooter in the 1980s and 1990s of India was named Chetak. Chetak is also an inspiration behind the name of India’s indigenously built helicopter. There is also an Express train in the name of Chetak.

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Many statues have been built over the centuries depicting Rana Pratap on his horse, Chetak.

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Popular across land

This battle of Haldighat goes down as one of the greatest battles fought by Maha Rana Pratap.

After this battle, the ethos and valour of Maha Rana Pratap reached far and wide through the country.

In Coin

His valour has been commemorated by the Government in a coin.

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A Serial

A serial on Maha Rana Pratap is being aired in TV, in English, Hindi and other vernacular languages. It is also popular in regions where Maha Rana Pratap has not visited. Such is the spread of his valour all over the land, across languages.

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World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought

Nature’s Cycles and Manmade Cycles

Rains have a habit of failing now and then. Monsoons sometimes play truant. But over a couple of years, Mother Nature usually pulls up these truant forces and normalcy descends very soon.

India that is largely dependent on its annual monsoon for its water and food does face difficulties during these trying periods but has never gone into major droughts or famines because of failed monsoons alone.

Hand of man is evident in creating these droughts and famine.

The noted senior journalist of The Hindu, P.Sainath, who was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for his journalism, in his book “Everyone Loves a Good Drought”, cites through examples witnessed personally, how most of the relief work, their planning and execution actually are contradictory to the real situation on ground, the real needs and sustainable living.

His book brings out how it is the agencies, Governmental and Non Governmental, which finally end up profiting from relief work. Infact the very existence of these agencies is dependent upon such relief work.

Inadvertently all these ill planned and unsustainable measures taken as part of relief work, instead of dousing the problems, fuel and keep alive the cycle of droughts.

But manmade droughts and resultant famines do not seem to be a phenomenon of Independent India alone.

The Dreaded Famines of India

When India was under the British administration, famines were a repeated and regular occurrence. Famines became endemic in the 1800s under British rule of India. Famines were never widespread before British came to India.

William Digby, an economist and Member of Famine Commission under the British, records in 1901, the number of deaths in India due to famine in the hundred years between 1800 and 1900.

1800 – 1825 10,000
1826 – 1850 5,00,000
1851 – 1875 5,00,000
1876  – 1900 2,60,00,000

How did these famines come to be in the first place?

Mike Davis, the economic historian has recorded the cause of these famines as an outcome of British policy. In his book “Late Victorian Holocaust” he highlights with details how there were 18 famines in the 24 years between 1876 to 1900 and how 29 Million Indians perished in these famines. He calls it a murder by the British state policy.

These years were witness to the great famines of Bihar, Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Central India and many other parts of India. The numbers of people who were starved to death by these manmade famines, year after year, region after region, running into lakhs, is just too revolting.

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An illustration in a London Newspaper of the famine conditions in India

Hand of Man in Creating Droughts and Famines

If we pit the Industrial Revolution of Britain and Europe against the colonial plunder of India, we will be able to see the larger picture of the economic evolution of Europe and the degeneration of India to its present state.

In the latter half of 1800s, Britain and Europe were caught in the flurry of the industrial revolution. Apart from the large infusion of money, which they got from plundering their colonies, what they needed was large amounts of food to be imported into England to feed their workforce.

They used the wheat fields of North India as their bread basket and forcibly exported the food grains produced in India, to Europe, to feed the industrialization, thus creating a famine among the very people who grew these abundance of food grains.

In a similar situation now, it is this land and the people of India that are generating the wealth but instead of pumping it back to sustain the irrigation projects which in turn can keep agriculture sustained, scam after scam have been siphoning out large amounts of money from India. No great surprise then is the present looming drought in most parts of the country.

For example in Maharashtra in the last couple of years, Rs.70000 crores have vapourised in the name of expenditure on irrigation projects but the increase in the irrigation capability of Maharashtra rose by just 0.1 % only. This figure shows us the stark reality of the scale of this scam.

As Action, So Reaction

For every action there is a reaction. If action is good so will be the reaction. There was a time when waters were revered as Punya Theertha. With all the callous handling of the various water bodies and indifference to rain water harnessing in the last few decades, the reaction as a drought is following on only too quickly, accelerated by corruption.

Use of excess of chemical fertilizers on the soil too has added to the woes. Chemical fertilizers make the soil thirsty. The soil becomes parched much quicker. On one side we don’t harness waters and on the other side we employ unsustainable techniques which increase the thirst of the soil.   It is a double whammy for the hapless farmer.

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Yet another blow to the hapless farmer is when, for the pecuniary interests of a few, he is induced to cultivate crops that are not naturally suited for the topographical conditions of that land. For example, growing water intensive crops such as sugarcane in rain shadow areas such as the leeward side of the western ghats.  This also puts more strain on the limited water resources available.

If you care to notice, soon after Independence, because of benevolent Government policies and sincere implementation of the same in the early days of Independent India, famines ceased.

Droughts are once again rearing their head, for the policies are not oriented towards sustainable living and moreover there is one scam after another in implementing them. It will be inevitable for famines too, to follow soon.

It is this precise fact that we have brought out in our book “You Turn India”.

The current drought in Maharashtra does not come as a surprise. Neither is this going to be the last one.

Let us look at droughts.

Rains and Droughts

It is well known that despite the 4 months of monsoon in India, it actually rains for only about 100 hours in a year.

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But during these 100 hours, it rains enough to make India rank as the second largest rainfall receiving country in the world in proportion to its area.

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This abundant rainfall has to be saved to be used for the balance 8660 hours of the year. This is precisely the role of the water harnessing projects of the land. drought4

Monsoon rains by nature have a cyclical vagary over a 7 to 10 year period. So by nature, we need to expect floods for a couple of years and deficient rainfall for another couple of years in a decade.

It is these small, local but innumerable water harnessing systems that are the balancing factor to harness the rain when it pours in excess and to be used in the times of deficiency.

Hence these water harnessing systems have to be maintained in good condition at all times to have good times.

But does this maintenance need Rs.70000 crores as was spent by the Maharashtra Government?

Certainly not!

Cost of a Drought Vs Cost of Averting a Drought

India was dotted with traditionally designed water harnessing systems suited to the local topography, climate and population needs.

In the 6 lakh villages of India, close to 9 lakh such traditional, local water harnessing systems were implemented. This means an average of 3 such water bodies for every 2 villages.

These water harnessing works were traditionally carried out by the locals themselves and the cost defrayed by the locals themselves again.

What has not been accomplished by this Rs.70000 crores could have been accomplished with a fraction of this amount if the local water bodies had been continued to be maintained by the locals instead of a centralized body

Just a couple of years ago there were very heavy rains in the same Maharashtra leading to floods both in the Narmada river flowing west and the Godavari river flowing east. What happened to all those waters?

If we had harnessed them then, would it not have come in handy now?

So, a drought really occurs not due to a failed monsoon but due to our failure to harness the rain when it rains, where it rains.

Let us take this Maharashtra drought as a reality check to open our eyes to the reality of droughts, famines, scams and the hand of man in creating all of these. Atleast now, let us initiate steps to adopt the time tested water harnessing principles designed by our forefathers that had kept this land fertile and prosperous during their times and until recent times.

It is for us now to realize and act as each individual as well as in unison, for history to not repeat itself, since droughts and famines are manmade and relief works benefit more the Governmental and Non Governmental agencies.

In the end it is the common man who bears the brunt of ill framed policies and non implementation of wholistic relief measures.

The sufferers are the people to whom this land belongs, to whom these water bodies belong, in whose name the policies are made, for alleviation of whose woes the relief measures are meant and finally for whom these rains actually come.

There is a popular saying in the land that even if there is one good soul in a land, the rains will come for all.

Is there not even one such good soul in this land today?

Even if there is one and it rains for all, what is the use if it is not harnessed?

It is time now to seize this opportunity and volunteer for a better India – “You Turn India”.

More information on water harnessing and its role in the prosperity of India during the past as well as in future, is available in our book, “You Turn India”, a part of the Bharath Gyan Series.

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You Turn India

Vanchinathan

Vanchinathan is an Indian freedom fighter from the state of Tamil Nadu, and is well known for shooting down the British District Magistrate of Tirunelveli, Robert Ashe.

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Vanchinathan and his friends

Born in 1886 at Shenkottai, near Tenkasi, Vanchinathan was just 25 years, when he carried out this brave deed. This act was carried out when Ashe’s train stopped Maniyachi station, on the route to Madras. This station has been since named after this freedom fighter, as Vanchimaniyachchi Junction.

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Ashe as a part of the colonial ploy, had worked against the Swadeshi Shipping Company founded by V.O. Chidambaram Pillai.

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More on V O Chidambaram Pillai and the Swadeshi Shipping Company in our book, Brand Bharat.

Vanchinathan committed suicide, to escape being arrested by the Colonial rulers.

On his death, the following letter was discovered in his pocket.

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The Tamil Nadu Government has built a memorial at his birth place.

His death anniversary is observed every year on June 17th, the day he left his mortal coil in the year 1911.

This young martyr gave British a tough fight during his short stint.

Kabir Jayanthi

Saint to all

Kabir, the poet Saint lived between 1440 CE and 1518 CE.  Kabir’s life aimed to bring amity among the Hindu and Muslim community. He was one of those saintly personalities, revered by the Muslim, Hindu and Sikh communities.

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Kabir Panth

Kabir’s philosophy and poetry have influenced many across the world. There is a particular community who follow the legacy of Kabir under the name, Kabir Panth and have made His life and teachings their inspiration. Their numbers are estimated to be around 1 crore.

On His Birth

There are various legends to Kabir’s birth. One says, He is the son of a Brahmin widow adopted by a Muslim weaver family.

The name Kabir is derived from the 37th name of God in Islam, Al-Kabir, meaning “The Great One”.

Kabir’s main occupation was weaving. He was also a philosopher who enlightened people on how to weave through the challenges of life.

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A Disciple of Ramananda

Although, Kabir had an Islamic upbringing, He became the disciple of Hindu Saint Ramananda and was greatly influenced by the Indian thought of Vedanta and Advaita.

It is indeed very interesting to note how Kabir became a disciple of Ramananda.

Kabir knew very well that coming from a Muslim family, He would not be accepted by a Hindu Guru. So, he hid on the path near Ganga river, where Ramananda came to have his bath every day. As Ramananda came to have his bath, he mistakingly stepped on Kabir and exclaimed “Rama, Rama”. Kabir immediately declared that he had received his Guru mantra and that Ramananda should accept him as his disciple. Setting aside orthodoxy, Ramananda accepted Kabir as his disciple.

A devotee of Lord Rama and chanting the name Rama, Kabir realized Rama as the omnipresent divine principle.

A Disciple of Takki

Kabir’s Islamic roots tell that he also had Sufi Pir, Takki of Jhansi as his Master which acquainted him with Sufi philosophy.

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Kabir in his poems and teaching draws around the major principles, symbols and philosophy of both Muslim and Hindu thought. He spoke out against the dogmas of both religions.

Inspired Guru Arjan

His works inspired even the Sikh Guru Arjan, who included Kabir’s teachings in Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh text.

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His major works, His legacy

Kabir works include Kabir Granthwali, Sakhi Granth and Bijak. The main feature of these works are his two line couplets, ‘Kabir-ke Dohe’ which convey His teachings and have inspired many over last few hundred years.

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Kabir in stamps

The life and teachings of Kabir have been recognized since independence in many forms including through arts, cultural events and also through postal stamps.

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Message after death

On his death, there was a dispute between the Hindus and Muslims as to who should have the funeral rights of this saint. But, alas, when they lifted his kafan, only flowers were found. The Muslims buried half the flowers and Hindus, the other half. Thus, Kabir became a symbol of religious unity.

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The birthday of Kabir is recognized as the day of religious amity.

Father’s Day

The third Sunday of June is celebrated as Father’s day.

Initiated by Sonoro

The idea was first initiated by Sonora Smart Dodd in the year 1910.

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Proclaimed by President Johnson

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In the year 1966, after many a tribulations, US President Lyndon B Johnson officially proclaimed Father’s day to be celebrated on the third Sunday of every June.

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Pithru Devo Bhava

In the Indian thought, father is referred to as Divine, Pithru Devo Bhava.

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Pitr Paternal Peter Petra

The word Pitr, meaning father in Samskrt language is etymological similar to the English word ‘paternal’, from which came the word ‘father’. The word is also similar to the European name Peter and the famous archaeological city, Petra in Jordon.

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Ptah

The Egyptian Father God is called Ptah. Here also, the word Ptah is found to be both phonetically and conceptually similar to the Indian word Pitah, meaning father.

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More on this is discussed is our book Creation.

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Father’s name for lineage

In almost all civilizations of the world, their children take on their father’s name or father’s lineage. Even in a matriarchal or matrilineal society, it is the father’s name that is carried forth.

Biological sharing: X and Y

Of the two chromosome, a Father has X and Y chromosomes while the mother has only X chromosomes. A father thus shares both X and Y chromosomes with his offsprings.

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Not just biological

The word Pitr, father is however not be limited to a biological father. Infact the word Father has a more encompassing connotation such as,

• Father to family
• Father to community
• Father to society
• Father to nation

There is a distinctive role for the Father at each of the levels.

Mahatma Gandhi

In case of India, Mahatma Gandhi is referred to as Father of the Nation, for the great role he played in the Freedom of the country.

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God Father

The Italians brought in a concept of God Father apart from the biological father wherein you need a benefactor to progress through life.

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Purusha

Thus, the father is not just a provider for life, but also a benefactor.

In Samskrt, this role is referred to as Purusha. The Sun is Purusha, Father for this Solar System.

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Pitahmahah Brahma

Not only that, even today, the word Pitahmahah in India, is also used to denote Brahma, who is revered as the Father of Creation.

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Bhishma Pitahmahah

In Mahabharata, Bhishma is referred to as Bhishma Pitahmahah, meaning, the great father even though he did not sire any children.

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Encompassing Father

Thus, we see that the word Father has an all encompassing connotation.

On every Father’s day, let us recognize the role that the fathers play in raising his family, for it is the family bond which holds the community, society and a nation together.

Vata Purnima

“Vata Purnima” is a festival that is celebrated in GujaratMaharashtra and Karnataka on a Full Moon day in the month of Jyeshta-June. Purnima refers to the Full Moon in this month.

Vata Vriksha – The Banyan Tree

Vata Vriksha, the Banyan tree is intertwined with the traditions of India from time immemorial. The botanical name for this tree is “Ficus Benghalensis”. It is a tree that grows all over India.

Vat Vriksha

Vata Vriksha, Banyan tree

Vata Purima and Savitri -Satyavan

The legend of Vata Purnima is connected with the story of Savitri and Satyavan.

Savitri and Satyavan were a young married couple. One day while resting, with his head on Savitri’s lap, under a Banyan tree, Satyavan breathed his last. Savitri, a devout wife could feel the presence of Yama, the Lord of death at this moment. When Yama turned to leave with Satyavan’s soul, Savitri with determination, started following Yama, to ask him to return Satyavan’s life.

Savithri Sathyavan story

Savitri debating with Yama

Savitri’s dogged pursuit of Yama and her winning debate with him, made Yama restore Satyavan’s life as a boon to her.

Savitri returned to the Banyan tree, Vata Vriksha and found Satyavan stirring back to life. This Banyan tree, which was a witness to the death defying devoutness of Savitri, came to be associated with the power of faith and perseverance and with longevity.

This event gained popularity through the ages and came to be observed as Vata Purnima festival. For, it was under the Banyan tree, that Satyavan’s life was plucked and later restored. The perseverance of Savitri in a trying circumstance, her overcoming the odds and winning over Yama with wit and thereby getting back her husband to life, is a story that finds resonance with every devout married woman.

Vata Purnima – The Fasting Festival

Praying for a long life for their spouses and a timeless togetherness, women observe a fast and tie a string around a Vata Vriksha on Vata Purnima.

The tying of the string around the girth of the Vata Vriksha is a gesture to symbolize that the bond between the husband and the wife should be as strong as that between Savitri and Satyavan. That their progeny should grow as the roots and shoots of the Banyan too.

Women celebrating Vata Purnima

Vata Purnima celebration by women in India

While the Vata Purnima festival is celebrated in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat to commemorate Savitri-Satyavan legend, similar festivals are also celebrated in other parts of India on other days. For example, the Karadaiyan Nombu is celebrated in Tamil Nadu around March where married women and girls tie a yellow thread around their neck to symbolize a strong, immortal bond between husband and wife.

Vata Patra Sayi

The Vata leaf is found in art forms as a leaf floating on waters with the divine child, Balakrishna sucking His toe in the classic pose of a baby. This depiction of Krishna is called Vata Patra Sayi. Patra means leaf and Sayi, is one who is resting. It comes from Sayana meaning to repose, recline.

Vata Patra Sayi

Vata Patra Sayi

Vata Vriksha, the Tree of Knowledge

The Vata tree also symbolizes knowledge, the timeless knowledge of the land. For, it is under this tree that Dakshinamurthi, the divinity associated with knowledge, imparts knowledge in silence to his four Sishya, disciples.

Vata and Gita

Lord Krishna gave the Gita Upadesa beside a Banyan Tree, Vata Vriskha, in Kurukshetra. Portions of this Banyan tree are believed to have survived to this day. The Vata Vriksha in Jyotisar, Kurukshetra, is believed to be a part of the original tree that was a witness to the Gita Upadesa.

Banyan tree Gita

Banyan Tree at Jyotisar, Kurukshetra

Vata and Nothing

An interesting point to note is that, the seed of such a mighty tree like Banyan is so small and when you break open that small seed, what you see inside is a hollow space. Indeed it is hollow and empty!

Similarly the vast Universe that we see around us too has come from such nothingness, Shunya. Shunya is not literally nothing. It is referred to as there is no point of reference to this tattva, concept in Creation. In reality, this nothing is everything, the source of whole Creation. This nothingness is also referred to as Chit. The sublime consciousness.

The Shunya Vada discussion, takes us there.

This timeless truth was revealed to Shweta Ketu by his father Rishi Uddalaka. This incident is recorded in the Chandogya Upanishad.

Vata Vriksha – A Meeting place

It is under a banyan tree that travellers rest. For, this tree is wide enough to accommodate even a caravan full of travellers and provide shade from the heat that beats down most parts of India. It is during this rest that people are regaled with stories and legends are told and retold across generations, across time.

The Vata Vriksha has been a focal point for the culture of the land.

It has been one of the favoured spots for trading. Traders in India are called baniya. The common name “Banyan” for this tree, originated from the fact that this tree was the meeting center of the baniya.

Vata Vriksha – Tree of Life, Fertility

Banyan tree is a tree that sprouts roots, also from its branches. They grow downwards from the branches, go into the ground, to give rise to an extension of the tree. The Banyan tree is hence also called Nyagrodha meaning that which is growing downwards too. The Banyan tree is considered timeless, for, its aerial shoots spread wide and develop roots that support the spreading branches, enabling the tree to spread far and wide.

This is how the Banyan tree, over time, spreads wide over many acres.

Due to this felicity to propagate far and wide, across time, across generations of trees, the Banyan tree has connotations with life, longevity, fertility and timelessness. In many parts of India, the placenta of a newborn child is buried at the foot of a Banyan praying for its longevity.

With the legend of Savitri-Satyavan, the Banyan came to be connected with timeless bonding between a couple.

In common parlance, fertility which gives rise to a new life, is synonymous with the biological functions in the female gender, a woman. It points to the progeny arising from the union of a man and woman alone.

Fertility concept however, extends beyond, to encompass everything that creates and sustains life such as

  • the land resource which acts as the womb from which grows our food
  • the water resource which helps germinate anything on the land,
  • the seeds that germinate life every season and
  • the cows and other organisms that nourish the soil – in short fertilize the soil.

It is this encompassing nature in Nature that is also to be venerated as fertility – fertility in Mother Nature. The Banyan tree, as the Tree of Life reminds us of this aspect in Nature.

Significance of Vata Purnima

The Vata Purnima fast, not only signifies an everlasting, timeless, strong bonding between a husband and wife, but the association of this fast with the Vata Vriksha ascribes a deeper significance to it.

A message that, the timeless association between the husband and wife, is for the creation of progeny who will take the roots of the family, civilization and mankind far into future.

A message that, fertility that gives rise to life is not limited to that which springs from the womb of a woman alone but encompasses everything in Mother Nature too, which sustain life on earth.

Vata Purnima is the occasion to pray that the thread that binds man and woman as well as the fertility chain, stays timeless, sustained year after year, generation after generation, century after century, millennia after millennia.