International day for the Eradication of Poverty

If we look around anywhere in India, images of poverty hit us glaringly. So, what we read in the books tallies with what we see in reality, further substantiating the perception, that India is a poor country.

Yet our elders and traditional legends constantly speak of a Golden era in India’s ancient past. The various large, ornate ancient temples and monuments in India, are testaments of a different period filled with sophisticated workmanship, tastes and wealth.

The Vedic literature does not speak from the perspective of a poverty ridden society. The examples in the Vedic literature clearly indicate an advanced state of agriculture, metallurgy, trade, welfare and defence.

When we take the effort to look back at our past, the wholistic history of India, we discover that India had abundant all round wealth for the last few thousand years. Infact, we have recurring recordings of the people who have lived in India and visitors as well to India, who have repeatedly spoken of India as a very prosperous land that knew no poverty. India, from these descriptions, seems to have been one of the richest lands of the world.

If that was the reality, then how did India come to become a nation stricken with poverty? How did India get classified as a 3rd world country?

Property, Plunder, Poverty

Prosperity and poverty lie at two ends of the spectrum of material wealth.

In many, this chase for prosperity manifests itself as a normal, moderated desire, accepting what comes to them, as a reward. In some others, it manifests itself as a greed for money and power, leading to Plunder. Plunder and poverty are just 2 sides of the same coin. Plunder leads to poverty.

Gandhiji had once said,

“there is enough for man’s needs but not enough for his greed”.

Greed for money and power has always led to plunder, leading to poverty.

Poverty 1

Mahatma Gandhi

The thirst for prosperity and the malice of poverty are not limited to India alone. The malignancy of poverty is deep rooted in well over 100 countries of this world – the under developed, developing as well as developed nations. This makes the need for the ways to prosperity, as well as means to safeguard it, more immediate.

Thus Poverty Eradication Day was instituted by the United Nations, and is observed every year on October 17th, to promote awareness of the need to eradicate poverty.

Poverty 2

India has been plundered many times over in the last 1000 years.

Three Waves of Plunder

The plunders of India, can be slotted into 3 waves of looting:

  1. Near West Onslaughts – The onslaughts from the Near West such as that of Mohamad of Ghauri, Mohamad of Ghazni, around 1000 CE and that by Nadir Shah around 1700 CE.
  2. The Colonial Plunder – The drain of Indian wealth, primarily by the East India Company of the British between 1600 CE to 1947 CE.
  3. The Home-Grown Plunder – The looting of Indian money by Indians themselves from 1950 CE till date.

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Third Wave

At the time of Independence, we had about 50 % of population living in poor conditions.  65 years later, when we look around the land we still see half the population living in appalling conditions. While the government statistics show a picture of progress, the fact is that appalling poverty is still apparent after 65 years of poverty alleviation programs. One of the reasons is a wave of plunder, that has been prominent since independence.

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Poverty in India

In recent times, rumours have gained in strength and this issue of illegal monies has been exposed as a genuine problem not only of India but as a global cancer. In the case of India, this draining of the monies comes at the cost of depriving the nation of vitally needed development and progress and thereby furthering poverty.

For long, black money has been a part of a wave of plunder this country has seen, since independence.

The scams that have occurred have kept India a poor nation which manifests in the poverty and the slums that we have.

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This third wave of plunder can however be quantified, identified, repatriated and specifically channelized for the rejuvenation of the country as a whole, which we have discussed in detail in our book You Turn India.

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Prosperity Generation Model

The other means of poverty eradication lies in prosperity generation. Instead of talking about poverty alleviation, if we focus on prosperity generation, then the shift from poverty to prosperity can happen in present day India too.

While at the policy level, this needs to be the mantra, at implementation level, the tantra should be to move away from the centralized system of governance that was imposed by the British on India.

Centralization in India was imposed by the British as the intent of British administrators was to collect taxes. Which is why even today, we have the chief administrator of a district being called “a collector” – a colonial hangover.

This land was prosperous historically, because of a decentralized system of administration where every village panchayat was responsible for its prosperity. Kings and Kingdoms came and went but prosperity continued village after village across the land through the ages.

This was because the ethos of the land was driven towards prosperity generation through a decentralized system of self-governance. This made this civilization as a whole, an economic giant. It is time now to revert back to this time tested model that has given prosperity to this land. This will automatically eradicate poverty.

U Turn India

India has come down from prosperity in the past, to times of plunder, poverty and a parched land today. At the same time in recent years, India is being touted to be the next economic power house to be. All of a sudden, India is a very exciting place to be in. It is time to save India’s resources and put India back on the road to sustainable prosperity, to see her emerge as a world leader. It is time for a U Turn.

More on prosperity generation and poverty eradication in our book You Turn India.

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Veerapandiya Kattabomman

The British rule was a ruthless colonial misrule that sought to plunder India. This however didn’t deter many brave hearts from India to stand up against the enemy, right from the time the British East India Company took over the sovereignty of India. One of these early freedom fighters was Veerapandiya Kattabomman.

Revolt and Execution

Veerapandiya Kattabomman was born on 3rd January, 1760 at the Panchalankurichi village in Tamil Nadu. He soon became the ruler of Panchalankurichi. From the beginning, Kattabomman refused to accept the rule of East India Company, and revolted against them. This angered the British. On October 16th 1799, he was hanged by the British on a tamarind tree at Kayathar village of Tuticorin district in Tamil Nadu.

Veerapandiya Kattabomman 1

Kattabomman being hanged

A Martyr was born, as King Kattabomman had left his stamp in the minds of the people this his heroic deeds, and his legacy lives on.

His legacy

A stamp has been released by the India post in his honour.

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King Veerapandiya Kattabomman’s death anniversary is today celebrated in his village, Panchalankurichi. The government of Tamil Nadu has constructed a memorial for Kattabomman at Kayathar village in Tamil Nadu. His statues can be found all across Tamil Nadu. The Indian’s Navy’s communication centre is known as INS Kattabomman.

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INS Kattabomman

The remnants of architecture at Kattabomman’s village, Panchalankurichi is today protected by the Archaeological Survey of India. Veerapandia Kattabomman Panpattu Kazhagam is a cultural organization opened in the name of Kattabomman. There is also a Tamil film made on his life, in which actor Shivaji Ganeshan played his role.

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Kattabomman film

Apart from these, Veerapandiya Kattabomman name today lives on in the minds of the people of India, as the one who sacrificed his life for the cause of the country.

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A Statue of Kottabomman, Madurai

World Dictionary Day

Noah Webster

Every year, 16th October is observed as ‘World Dictionary Day’, marking the birthday of the great American lexicographer, Noah Webster – the father of the modern dictionary.

Dictionary 1

Webster’s negative experiences in his primary school motivated him to improve the education experience of future generations. They had poor underpaid staff, no desks, and unsatisfactory textbooks that came from England. Webster believed that Americans should learn from American books; so he wrote a three-volume compendium, A Grammatical Institute of the English Language. The work consisted of a speller (1783), a grammar (1784), and a reader (1785). His goal was to provide a uniquely American approach to educating children.

Webster was not just a lexicographer. He was also an American textbook pioneer, an English-language spelling reformer, a political writer, an editor, and a prolific author. His blue-backed speller books taught five generations of American children how to spell and read, secularising their education. His two-volume American Dictionary of the English Language published in 1828 (when he was 70) earned him a place in history as the foremost lexicographer of American English.

Webster took 28 years to complete the American Dictionary. During this period, he learned 26 languages, including Old English, Ancient Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit. The final draft listed and defined 70,000 words. This had 30,000 words more than Samuel Johnson’s dictionary, which was published almost a century earlier. One out of every six words in Webster’s dictionary was not listed in any dictionary earlier.

He took the opportunity to push through his ideas on English spelling reform such as ‘center’, ‘color’, ‘honor’, ‘ax’, etc.

Earlier Dictionaries

Samuel Johnson published an English dictionary on 15th April 1755. The Johnson’s

Dictionary, is among the most influential dictionaries in the history of the English language.

Johnson took nearly nine years to complete the work. Remarkably, he did so singlehandedly, with only clerical assistance to copy the illustrative quotations that he had marked in books. Johnson produced several revised editions during his life.

Johnson’s dictionary was neither the first English dictionary, nor even among the first dozen. Over the previous 150 years, more than twenty dictionaries were published in England, the oldest of these being a Latin-English “Wordbook” by Sir Thomas Elyot, published in 1538.

Robert Cawdrey’s “Table Alphabeticall”, published in 1604, was the first single-language English dictionary ever published. It lists approximately 3000 words, defining each one with a simple and brief description. At this time, the English language was expanding – influenced by trade, travel and new innovations in the fields of arts and sciences.

Right from 1538, the English dictionary had been evolving, leading to detailed compilation of the word, usage in a sentence, the Thesaurus, and Technical dictionaries relating to specific domains.

Dictionary 2

Some Interesting Facts About Dictionaries

Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, together with its 1993 Addenda Section, includes around 470,000 entries. The Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition, reports that it contains a similar number.

There are 18 popular English dictionaries available. Nowadays, many online dictionaries have also become popular.

(Content from Prime Point Srinivasan- by Sukruti A Vadula)

Foodprint to Footprint

Water And Food

June to September are the months when South and South East Asia get their monsoon rains.

The word “monsoon” comes from the Arabic word, “Mawsin”, meaning weather, which is why we have the word “Mausam” in Hindi for weather.  Here, the weather turns to rainy season.

It is the rain that gives us Pushkaram, fertility which is why every temple tank is called as Pushkarni, that land which gives us fertility.

The purpose of this rain, the harnessing of these waters and creating fertility is to make food for humans, for animals, for plants and for the earth as a whole. For food, is the basic platform, annamaya kosha, on which life is built for all living beings. Different beings take to different foods based on availability, biological needs, suitability, taste and other such factors. Producing this food also needs water. Foods cannot be grown without enormous quantity of water. When we think of our needs of water, we think of only our daily ablutions and our drinking water needs.

We normally think of the few litres of water that we drink in a day. Have we ever thought how much water is required to make the fruit that is served in our plate?

Water Consumption

We hardly think of the quantum of water that is needed which goes behind food production. Infact over 80% of the water that is used on the surface of this earth is for agriculture and other type of food production. Only about 10% is needed for industry and the balance 10% is for domestic and other uses. Infact domestic usage is a very small quantity.

Water consumption

The average consumption of direct water per person, per day is 3 litres.

Food Consumption

To grow the amount of food that an average person consumes for lunch or dinner, 700 litres is required per meal. The chart here gives us the water needed to grow our food.

Water for food1

Here we see that the real consumption of water is in food production, agriculture. We see that for agriculture itself it is so much.

In the case of livestock, meat production, the need of water is manifolds times more because these animals also have to consume water, air, food for all their lives. At, the end of it, they offer only few kilos of meat.

Water for food2

Water needed to produce Food

Beverages

1 litre of beer

300 litres of water

1 ltrs wine

872 litres of water

1 cup of coffee

140 litres of water

1 litre of milk

800 litres of water

Vegetarian

1 kilo of rice

3600 litres of water

1 kilo of wheat

1375 litres

1 kilo toor dal

1400 litres of water

Non Vegetarian

1 kilo of chicken

4325 litres

1 kilo Mutton

5520 litres

1 kilo Beef meat

13000 litres

Veg vs Non Veg

Daily average consumption of water by a vegetarian eater is 2500 litres where as for a non vegetarian eater is 8000 litres per day.

This insight into how much water is needed for a vegetarian meal as opposed to a non vegetarian meal clearly highlights to us as to which is more eco friendly.

With the world facing increasing water shortage that has come about due to the unsustainable practices of man rather than reduced rainfall, the only sustainable way of sharing the available limited quantum of water, the prudent option and a scientific one, is to be a vegetarian by choice.

That is the only way we can reduce our ecological footprint and leave the planet more sustainable for generations to come.

Consumerism to Conservation

Ecological footprint is what we use up, consume from our environment around us during our brief stay on this earth. It is the strain that we put forth on the resources of mother earth.

Ecological footprint

The generation next is talking about ecological footprint as the new buzz word but do their eating habits show their concern for the ecology?

For eating is what we do 3-4 times a day and that is by far the  largest foot print that we leave or rather erase from this earth.

If we and our generation next have to survive, then the planet has to survive this phase of consumerism. This can happen only with a mind shift from consumerism to conservation. Conservation of Foodprints, Conservation of Footprints; it is saving water, conserving water, minimal usage of water. Moving from non- vegetarianism to vegetarianism is one of the key ways that we can contribute to this effort, four times a day, every day of our lives.

Taxing Time – The Way forward?

Smoking

In the last couple of decades we have come to realize that smoking is injurious to health not just to the smoker’s health but as well as to friends colleagues and family around who have been termed as passive smokers. So, to reduce the habit of smoking, governments now levy additional tax on cigarettes and tobacco product to dissuade people from smoking, to make the environment cleaner and healthier.

Liquor

Consumption of liquor is also a problem the world over. Excess liquor not only damages the liver of a person but also their lives. It affects the family as a whole and causes other collateral damages like road accidents, improper behavior towards woman, being uncouth. Recognizing this, the governments the world over have started levying additional taxes on liquor to put liquor out of reach for many. There are states where there is prohibition on liquor consumption.

Non Vegetarian Food

Through this article and by a series of others by other writers, it is becoming more apparent that consumption of non vegetarian food is making our environment unsustainable. It is evident that non vegetarian food eaters consume more of the ecological resources and leave behind a larger footprint than their vegetarian fellow beings.

Recognizing the extra strain that non vegetarianism is placing on the environment, the next step that the government should do is to impose additional tax on non vegetarian food so that vegetarians don’t have to bear the folly of others.

The additional tax could well be used to rejuvenate the environment and restore it to a sustainable state. Also, it would educate and motivate people to migrate from non vegetarianism to vegetarianism to make this world , our home, a sustainable one in the long run.

Eat Right & Be Merry

After taxing times come celebrations. Celebrations invoke the image of Carnivals.

Carnivals

A Carnival is a festival where all enjoy with merriment. The very word “carnival” conjures up images of rides, pageants, colorful decorations, unending food and flowing liquor.

merry go round carousel carnival ride

Let us step back and look at the context in which this word “carnival” came to be. Its origins could be “Carne Vale” or “Carne Levare” which means “the act of abstaining from consumption of meat”. The word “Carne” is the root for words such as “carnal” denoting flesh and “carnivorous” for meat eating animals.

Such a practice does exist in many societies of Europe during the annual Lent period, a period when meat is strictly abstained from.

The Merry Goes Round

From then, to now, Carnival has become a festival where meat consumption is very high. What an interesting turnaround? A 180 degree turn from “Carne Vale”, “abstaining from meat” to becoming “Carnivorous”!

This shift has occurred between the medieval period to present times.

Is it not time now for another 180 degrees shift from the present to the future? From Non vegetarianism to Vegetarianism?

A shift to celebrating, living without meat, for, life is a celebration – a sustained celebration if we know how to celebrate it responsibly.

International Day of Rural Women

India is an agrarian society. Farming has been a vocation of Rural Women.  Woman is a natural home maker. Rural women not only maintain their homes, but also take part in agriculture related activities, for in Rural areas and in agrarian societies, agriculture is the main vocation, and everyone in the family pitches in their bit. Rural women by nature being able bodied and hardworking, take on hard and back breaking work that agriculture demands.

The world celebrates October 15th every year as International Day for Rural Women, to celebrate the key role that women play in sustaining our lives.

Rural Women 1

Resources held by Rural Women

The key resources and wealth in an agrarian society are

  • Land
  • Water
  • Good Seeds
  • Cattle for farming

Rural women were the custodian of these resources in ancient India.

Rural Women 2

Fertility chain of women, their Stree Dhana

Land

In ancient India, it was also the birthright of women to own land. Property that was held by the women was transferred to other women in the family like daughter, daughter-in-law or granddaughter.

Rural Women 3

Water

For agriculture to succeed, copious water is required. India has bountiful rainfall every year during the monsoons. This water needs to be harnessed for use through the rest of the year. All across India, through the ages, it is the rural women, who have stood in the forefront of ensuring the proper harnessing and use of water,

  • In their own houses and in their farmlands
  • In the society

They have been part of and instrumental in the construction and maintenance of the over 10 lakh community based, water harnessing systems, spread out across the face of this land. These were repaired and maintained every year as a process for sustaining the fertility of the land through the ages.

This process of giving sustained fertility to the land, through water harnessing is called Pushkaram, which is why the water tanks in every village, near temples, is called Pushkarni, meaning that which gives fertility.

How did women help in bringing this fertility to the land?

Women by nature like to adorn themselves with jewellery and hold it as their family heirloom. women generally do not part with their jewellery or gold.

But we see that all the way from ancient to medieval India, women have happily parted with their jewellery and donated it voluntarily as a monetary contribution for the construction of water harnessing projects and also to maintain them through the centuries and millennia.

This voluntary contribution of wealth, demonstrates that women were not only physically involved by offering their labour but were also emotionally involved in ensuring the fertility of their land.

The women understood the role of water as the root cause of prosperity and being the people who handled it maximum, they assumed the responsibility to ensure its availability for their families and their land.

Seeds

It has been a common tradition amongst Indian farmers through the ages until even today, to have the seeds to be sown, handed out by the woman of the house, at the time of sowing.

While today it may have got reduced to a mere ritual, the practice in ancient days was a natural role for the women, post the harvest, to identify and isolate the best grains from the harvest and preserve it for sowing during the next season. Rural Women 4

Women selecting the best seeds

She took on and played with an inborn flair the role of storing the grains for consumption of the family as well as the seeds for sowing.

The seeds or Bheeja were stored and safeguarded from rodents in a separate silo within the house itself. These were called Orai in Tamil. The women were well versed with native techniques of preserving these seeds from rodents, germs and decay.

This was her share of responsibility for the quality of the next crop.

Cattle

Cattle which has been another key input to farming was revered not only for its physical role in ploughing. The ancient knowledge base of India was very evolved scientifically and had scientifically found the dairy and waste output from the cattle to be of immense value in farming, medicine and dietary practices.

Hence cattle had a special place in the eyes of the Indians and has therefore been one of the forms of wealth of the land for a very long time.

Cattle were symbols of prosperity and fertility. While cattle were referred to as Gomatha – i.e. as a Matha or Mother in the form of a Cow, the task of looking after this mother, was also an inborn natural activity for the women.

Rural Women 5

It was the woman of the house, who looked after the family cattle.

Her close bonding and involvement with the cattle, as also the respect she accorded to the cattle is evident in the innate Indian practice from age old times of women dressing up the cattle with flowers and other special anointments and praying to them for prosperity before embarking on important activities.

Even to this day, this practice continues in some of the traditional homes in India.

Griha Lakshmi

Thus we see that rural women have held, looked after and nurtured the assets of the family and land, especially those that were associated with fertility which led to prosperity.

When the women held land, cows, seeds and water in the society, it is but natural that they also held the respect in the family from the male members and the society at large. She was the Griha Lakshmi of the house.

Sister Nivedita

Sister Nivedita was one of the foremost disciples of Swami Vivekananda. She was born Margaret Elizabeth Noble at County Tyrone, Ireland, on 28th October, 1867.

A teacher, an author, a nurse and a social worker.

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Sister Nivedita

School Teacher, Founded a School

In her early days, Sister Nivedita worked as a school teacher and founded a school.

Meeting Swami Vivekananda

In the year 1895, she met Swami Vivekananda in London and became his disciple. She was given a new name by Swami Vivekananda – Nivedita, meaning ‘The Dedicated One’ when she was initiated into Brahmacharya by her Guru on 25th March, 1898.

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Swami Vivekananda and Sister Nivedita

 

A Epitome of Service

She was indeed dedicated to the welfare of the society. She was an epitome of her Guru’s dictum – “Service to man is Service to God”.

Moving to India

Nivedita soon made India her permanent residence and started staying in Calcutta to work for the Ramakrishna Mission established by Swami Vivekananda.

Opening a School for Girls

Nivedita was particularly concerned about education for girls. In this regard, she opened a school for girls at Bagbazar in Calcutta.

Instrumental in setting up Indian Institute of Science

Sister Nivedita played a vital role in the setting up of the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru.

 As a Nurse

In 1899, when Calcutta was under plague epidimic, Nivedita played the role of a nurse for poor patients.

Providing Support to Bose

Nivedita also participated in spreading Indian Science and Culture. She was the one who supported India’s famous scientist J C Bose who founded the wireless Radio during his tough times and helped him gain recognition by lending him financial assistance.

Guru to Bharathiyar

Mahakavi Bharathiyar considered Sister Nivedita as his Guru. She inspired him to fight for women’s rights. She opened his eyes on women’s liberation.

An Able Author

Nivedita was also an able author who wrote many books such as ‘Kali the Mother’, ‘The Web of Indian Life’ and ‘The Master as I saw Him’ among many other works.

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The Book

In her memory

Today, many schools In India have been named after her.

Sis Nivedita 4

The government of India has also released a stamp in her name.

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Sister Nivedita passed away on 13th October, 1911 at the age of 43 at Darjelling.

World Sight Day

World Sight Day

World Sight Day is the annual eye awareness day held on the second Thursday of October, for global attention on Blindness and Vision impairment.

Sight 1

Sight, Drishti, Etymology

The word ‘sight’ comes from the old English word Gesicht, meaning ‘faculty to see’.

In the Samskrt, the word used for Sight is Drishti.

Ophthalmology

The Science of Eye treatments, Ophthalmology has been in vogue in India from time immemorial. The word Ophthalmology comes from the Greek word ophthalmus, meaning ‘eye’ and logia meaning ‘Study of’. Ophthalmology is the branch of medicine that deals with the anatomy, physiology and diseases of the eye.

Rishi Nimi Videha

One of the earliest Ophthalmologist in Ayurveda is Rishi Nimi Videha. He lived about 22 generations before Janaka, the father of Sita. We have been able to date the times of Rama, Sita and Janaka to be around 5100 BCE, i.e 7100 years back.

More on the Dates and the Historicity of Rama, Sita and Janaka in our book, ‘Historical Rama’.

As Rama, Sita and Janaka lived 7000 years back, Rishi Nimi who was 22 generations before them, would have lived around 8000 years ago.

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King Janaka and Sita

This tells us that Ophthalmology has been studied and practised in India since last 8000 years.

Susruta

Susruta, the father of surgery in Ayurveda, compiled his treatise Susruta Samhita which deals with all surgical procedures refers to Rishi Nimi as Adi Bhishag, meaning the first doctor.

             Sushruta                                  Susruta Samhita

Susruta and his shishya, disciple excelled mainly in cataract surgery, its detailed step by step process, the bladder surgery and dissection procedures.

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Susruta Performing surgery, a painting

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A step by step procedure as per Ayurveda method extracted from Susruta Samhita

Serfoji Maharaj

In Tanjavore, a ruler Serfoji Maharaj who was the 7th descendant of Chatrapathi Shivaji had done research on sight, eye care and Ophthalmologic surgeries.

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Serfoji Maharaj

Kannappa Nayanar

Among the Shaivite saints, there are 63 saints called Nayanmars. One among them is Kannappa Nayanar who donated both his eyes to Lord Shiva. Why and How he donated his eyes is a famous lore of this land. The kshetra where this event took place is Kalahasti near Tirupati.

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Kannappa Nayanmar donating his eyes to Lord Shiva

This huge world exists for us through our small eyes.

Sight 11

Let us save and donate our eyes

Let us save our eyes when we are alive. Let us donate our eyes so that others who are not so fortunate can see with our eyes after our times. The land of India is well know for Dhana, charity. Netra Dhana is one of the foremost.