V O Chidambaram Pillai

V O Chidambaram is one of architects of the modern Indian shipping industry. He was a freedom fighter, an erudite scholar, a prolific writer, and an elegant speaker. He is popularly known as ‘Kappal Ottiya Thamizian’, meaning “the Tamil who sailed the ship”. He is mostly known by his short name VOC.

VOC was born on 5th September, 1872 at Ottapidaram, in the Tuticorin District of Tamil Nadu.

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V.O.Chidambaram Pillai – A 140 year old file photo

During the Colonial rule, the British took over our Seas and Ships. There were many attempts made to win back the seas from the British.

This made Sir Alfred Watson, editor of `The Statesman’ then in 1900, write,

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The first tangible stir in this direction came from South India in the form of Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company, offering sailing services between Tuticorin in South India and Colombo in Ceylon.

It was a wholly Indian owned company started by V.O.Chidambaram Pillai, a Tamil barrister, who lived between 1872 and 1936 and was a disciple of the freedom fighter, Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Known as VOC for short, he started this navigation company to revive Indian shipping industry, in direct competition to the British shipping services and monopoly of the seas.

Starting with leasing ships, when the lease was cancelled due to pressure from the British, he went on to purchase 2 ships, S.S.Galia and S.S.Lavo, by raising funds from all across India.

There literally ensued a tug of war between VOC’s shipping company and the British shipping company, with both lowering fares alternately to woo passengers. At one point, the British even made the service free.

Yet, when the Indians kept patronizing VOC’s services, as part of the Swadeshi spirit, the British charged VOC with sedition, stripped off his barrister license and sentenced him to 2 life terms, totalling 40 years. It was a Rigorous Imprisonment as meted out to a convict, where VOC was inhumanly, yoked to an oil press and made to toil in place of bulls, under the sun.

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The prison cell that VOC occupied in Central Jail, Coimbatore

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The Oil Press to which VOC was yoked during his period in prison

His life and struggles have been made immortal for this generation by the Tamil film “Kappal Otiya Tamizhan” meaning “The Tamil who sailed the Ship”, in which the legendary Tamil actor, Chevalier Sivaji Ganeshan played the role of VOC.

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Veteran Tamil actor Chevalier Sivaji Ganesan as VOC toiling it out in prison, in the film

Today, VOC’s name is remembered for the intense sacrifice that he made in an attempt to revive India’s shipping industry.

A stamp was issued in his honor by the government of India, in 1972.

A college in Tuticorin is named after VOC.

The bridge connecting Tirunelveli and Palayamkottai, over the Tamaraparani is named VOC

Also, a public park in Coimbatore is named after this freedom fighter.

He is among those great heroes of this land, who stood up for the cause of India’s freedom, and today his name is taken with great reverence all over Tamil Nadu and India.

We have spoken extensively about V O Chidambaram in our book, Brand Bharat, Vol-1.

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– Dr. D.K. Hari & Dr. D.K. Hema Hari

Lala Lajpat Rai

Lion of Punjab

Lala Lajpat Rai was born on 28th January 1865 at Dhidika village in Punjab. He aggressively fought against the might of the British Empire. He was popularly called, Punjab Kesari, “The lion of Punjab”.

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Lala Lajpat Rai

“Lal Pal Bal”

The Trio of “Lal Pal Bal” were forerunners of the freedom struggle much before the times of Mahatma Gandhi. Lal was Lala Lajpat Rai from Punjab, Bal was Bala Gangadhar Tilak from Marartha, and Pal was Bipin Chandra Pal from Bengal. They came from different corners of India and asked for Swaraj in united voice.

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Lal Bal Pal

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The lion that he was, Lala Lajpat Rai gave tough time to the British through his demonstrations, demanding Swaraj.

Hindu Orphan Relief Movement

Lala Lajpat Rai founded the Hindu Orphan Relief Movement to keep British missions from securing custody of orphans.

Punjab National Bank

He also established the Punjab National Bank. The Bank opened on 12th April, 1895, at Lahore.

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“Simon Go Back”

Lala Lapat Rai succumbed to injuries sustained during a lathi charge while leading a non violent demonstration against the Simon Commission, with the slogan “Simon Go Back”. He passed away on 17th November, 1928.

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“Simon Go Back” protest led by Lala Lajpat Rai

“Every Blow a Nail in the Coffin of British”

One of his strongest statements from his last moments, still etched in the mind of the people is, “Every blow on my body will prove a nail in the coffin of British Empire.”

Roads in his name

The people of both India and Pakistan remember the contributions of this Freedom Fighter towards Freedom from the Colonial Rule.

Many major cities in India have roads named after this Freedom Fighter.

Pakistan has also named a road after Lala Lajpat Rai in its Quetta town. It is for the first time since partition that Pakistan had named a road after an Indian leader.

Statues

There are also statues erected in honour of Lala Lajpat Rai in many parts of the country.

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Lala Lajpat Rai Statue, Shimla

Stamp

A stamp has been released in his name by the Government of India.

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It is due to the efforts of such Freedom Fighters that India finally attained Freedom in 1947.

– Dr. D.K. Hari & Dr. D.K. Hema Hari

International Day of Tolerance

Swami Vivekananda’s Speech

120 years ago, in his speech, Swami Vivekananda brought in the concept of “tolerance” among religions. It was a 458 word speech that lasted just 6 minutes but ushered in a fresh breath of air then.

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Call to Respect

Swami Vivekananda in his speech at Chicago conference of world religion in 1893 spoke eloquently of the existence of the other thoughts, the plurality and how we innately need to respect others and accept others as our innate ethos.

 “As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so O Lord, the different paths which men take through their different tendencies, various though they appear crooked or straight, all lead to thee.”

With this effort, we should now bring back into dialogue, the need to respect the other.

The Downward Slide

In the last 100 years, Tolerance has now come down to Tolerate.

A tolerant society will be destroyed by its tolerance to intolerance. So from Tolerance, Tolerate, we should move to Respect.

– Dr. D.K. Hari & Dr. D.K. Hema Hari

Woman – The Sustainers of Prosperity

India has largely been an agrarian civilization, naturally endowed, to be so. The holding of land for agricultural purposes and farming on it, has been the main vocation. The key resources and wealth in an agrarian society are

  • Land
  • Water
  • Good Seeds
  • Cattle for farming

Women played vital role in aspects which were the mainstay of an agrarian society.

Women and 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, much of South East Asia and other parts  of the world, through the ages, it is the women, who have stood in the forefront of efforts that ensure the proper harnessing and use of water,

  • in their own houses
  • 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 find that, all the way from ancient to medieval India, women have happily parted with their jewellery and donated them 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 their Stree Dhana, demonstrates that women were not only physically involved by offering their labour or Shram Dhaan 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.

India had honoured this connect between women and water by naming all its rivers with feminine names, with the exception of a few.

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Women and Water Connect

Women and 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 has been a natural role of the women. Post the harvest, it was for the women to identify and isolate the best grains from the harvest and preserve them for sowing during the next season.

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Women handpicking the best seeds for the next crop

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

The seeds, Bheeja were stored and safeguarded from rodents, in a separate silo within the house itself. These were called Orai in Tamil, Kanaja in Kannada, Gummi or Gulivi in Telugu and Kushool in Hindi. The women were well versed with native techniques of not only identifying the best of grains for sowing, but also of preserving these seeds from rodents, germs and decay.

To this day, the seed banks in the villages of India are literally manned.

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Women in charge of seed banks in Indian villages

This was and continues to be her share of responsibility in ensuring the quality of the next crop.

Women and Cattle

Cattle, which has been another key input to farming was revered, not just 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 has held a special place in the eyes of the Indians, as one of the forms of wealth of the land, for a 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.

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.

That, the cattle and other animals of a household were associated with the lady of the house, is evident from various mantra in the Rig Veda uttered during the time of a marriage.

As the bride and the groom go around the sacred fire, walking 7 steps and exchanging vows to solemnize their marriage, in the 5th step walked together, the husband promises to make her cows and animals grow in strength and numbers.

It is important to note that he promises to make “her” cows grow in numbers, implying that she had cows belonging to her alone.

So, the cows she comes with and acquires from her husband later on, also belonged to the woman of the house and were her Stree Dhana.

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The Fertility Chain linked by the women

Thus we see that 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.

The fertility Chain

Indians refer to the earth as ‘Bhooma Devi’ . In Indian systems of knowledge, Earth or Bhooma Devi alone, is referred to in a feminine gender form, as she is the only planet in the solar system on which life has sprouted. Earth is fertile. All other planets in the solar system are referred to in Masculine forms indicative of the fact that they do not bear life or fertility.

This fertile Bhooma Devi was under the care of women as land was also held by women as we have seen in the concept of Stree Dhana.

Majority of the rivers of the land, the cause for fertility of the land, also have feminine names and we see that the harnessing of the waters for agriculture and sustenance, was defrayed by women voluntarily from their own Stree Dhana.

The seeds were under the care of women.

The cattle were under their tender and loving care too.

Thus, besides giving life to her own children, women have cared for and nurtured all that go towards maintaining the fertility of the land in an Agrarian society.

The women were thus, a key and integral part of this fertility chain.

More in our book, Breaking The Myths – About Society.

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Birsa Munda

Led the Tribal Uprising

Birsa Munda was born on 15th November 1875 at Ulihatu village in present day Bihar. He lived for only 25 years, but gave a tough time to the British. He was a Freedom Fighter belonging to the tribal group of Munda Tribe. He fought for the tribals of Bihar, who were seized of their lands by the British. Birsa revolted against the British through many protests and led the tribal uprising against the Colonial dictators.

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British Seize Tribal Lands

The Munda tribe of the Chotanagpur area in Bihar was part of the agrarian system during the British Rule. As the tribals were not able to get enough surplus due to lack of facilities, the British administration replaced them by non-tribal peasantry. These non-tribal farmers began cultivating the fields and the tribals were soon made to give up their lands. In many villages, the Mundas became ordinary farm labourers under superior landlords.

Movement led by Birsa

Birsa Munda spearheaded a movement in which the the Mundas asserted their ownership to the lands that originally belonged to them. Birsa Munda carried out many revolts against the British and sought the tribal lands back from the British and the middlemen.

Forced British to pass legislation

The Movement led by Birsa Munda brought together all the tribals to fight injustice meted out to them. The repeated efforts of the Birsa’s Movement forced the British Government to pass laws in favour of the Mundas, so that their land could not be taken away easily by others.

Arrest and Death

Birsa Munda was arrested by the British on 3rd February, 1900 and imprisoned at Ranchi Jail. He passed away while in Jail, under unknown circumstances on 9th June, 1900. The British government pronounced that he had died from Cholera, although no symptoms of the disease were found.

Legacy

Today, he is the only tribal leader whose portrait the walls of our Parliament Central Hall. The airport of the capital city of Jharkhand is known as Birsa Munda Airport.

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Birsa Munda Airport

He is one of those freedom fighters who has left a permanent imprint on the minds of the people.

– Dr. D.K. Hari & Dr. D.K. Hema Hari

November – Time to Celebrate Children

Seeing God as a Child

One can see an expression of the Indian love for children in the manner in which they have idolized even their gods in the form of a child.

We thus see portrayals of Shiva as Bala Shiva, Rama as Bala Rama, Krishna as Bala Krishna, Ganesha as Bala Ganapathy, Karthikeya as Bala Muruga and Hanuman as Bala Hanuman.

                     

                      Bala Ganapathy                                                                     Bala Rama                                                  

Bala Muruga

Bala Krishna

    Bala Shiva

Godly Children

Indian legends, the Purana are replete with enjoyable stories of the acts of various divinities in their child like form, some among these divinities being Tattva, cosmic principles and some others being historic personages.

The history epic, Valmiki’s Ramayana contains portrayals of Lord Rama and His brothers as ideal children. Through the behavior and life of these historic and ideal children, the Ramayana conveys the message of obligations of brotherhood, obedience to parents and obeisance to teachers. It celebrates childhood as the budding point for all qualities displayed in later adulthood.

The other history epic, Vyasa’s Mahabharata, through the lives of the five Pandava and the 100 Kaurava brothers, brings to focus competitive spirit amongst children. It showcases how impressions both positive and negative, formed during childhood can assume far greater proportions and cause great impacts to society in years to follow. It alerts us of the propensity of children to retain impressions and emotions well into their lives.

Purana dealing with tattva divinities such as Ganesha, Kartikeya have portrayed them symbolically in child like forms and through symbolic stories of symbolic acts of these divinities, have conveyed principles of the cosmos, of mankind, of mind, of intellect and of ego to help elevate man’s thinking and behavior.

Yet other Purana have immortalized some of the children of long bygone eras, in the saga of the land for generations that have followed in the last many millennia. The story of the boy Sravana’s devotion to his parents, the story of Markandeya’s unshakeable faith in the divinity Shiva, even in the face of death are known to most, through the land, even in this day.

The Purana legends have also showcased scientific possibilities involving children and their upbringing. We thus have legends showcasing the ability of the foetus to grasp happenings and sounds outside the womb. The story of Prahalada showcases how he imbibed devotion towards Narayana while in his mother’s womb and carried it forth as a little boy. The story of Ashtavakra again highlights how Ashtavakra imbibed the Upanishad while in his mother’s womb and used it later to help his father in times of need. Yet again, the story of Abhimanyu reiterates how a child starts gaining knowledge right from the time it is in the womb of its mother.

The legend of Dhruva symbolically narrates the scientific phenomenon of precession of the earth and its effect on the pole star seen in the skies. It is a beautiful way in which the principles of astronomy have been woven into a simple legend.

Srimad Bhagavatham contains many anecdotes on the pranks played by Lord Krishna, His brother Balarama and their gang of friends, Gopa and Gopi. This text highlights the qualities of innocence as well as impishness in children. It celebrates children for the adorable and affable beings that they are.

Seeing God in a Child

Children by nature are mischievous. To be mischievous is an innate quality of children.

Krishna’s precocious pranks are part of the rich folklore of this land.

                              

                                                                     Krishna’s pranks

Krishna, His pranks and His lovable, playful ways, set the trend for how people regarded children, in the land of India across millennia.

This land, by culture, for the last 5,100 years since the times of Krishna, has viewed children as a replica of Krishna and has relished their pranks as they would Krishna’s. The mischief of children has rarely been associated with punishment and reprimanding. It has instead been eulogized and happily expressed as an imitation of Krishna.

Given this ethos, when elders admonish their children for their harmless pranks, it is not stern and wrathful. It has in it an admiration for their innocence and a tolerance with an understanding that by nature, children are given to their ways of pranks.

A culture that gives space for children to grow up with their mischief also automatically gives them the space to grow out of their mischief as a part of the transition from childhood to adolescence.

Holding Children in High Esteem

It is no wonder that various political, religious as well as social leaders have focused specially on the children in the society. They have not only showered affection on them, but they have also invested time and effort in grooming the children in society, in morals, ethics and values. We thus have in many languages, simple couplets composed specially for inculcating good conduct and values in children. These couplets served as the nursery rhymes in this civilization much before the British replaced them with theirs.

Children’s day celebrations are a facet of the high esteem in which this civilization holds the development of its children.  Classic examples of this commitment, even till a couple of centuries ago, can be seen from the quote of Brigadier General Alexander Walker of East India Company from 1780 to 1810.

Dedicating November 14th, the birth anniversary of prominent leader Jawaharlal Nehru, who was close to children, as Children’s Day, is a representative gesture of the high esteem in which children have been held through the ages.

 Nehru with children

It is a day for us to recognize the value of children, the values in children and the values that have to be taken to the children for the development of a valued society.

It is a day to rededicate ourselves to the cause and joys of children.

– Dr. D.K. Hari & Dr. D.K. Hema Hari

World Diabetes Day

World Diabetes Day was instituted by the World Health Organization and International Diabetes Federation in the year 1991, to be observed on November 14th ever year.  The day is observed all over the world on the birth anniversary of Fredrick Banting. Fredrick Banting along with Charles Best discovered insulin in 1922.

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On World Diabetes Day

On World Diabetes Day, programs are organized on Diabetes awareness and relief.

Madhu Meham

Diabetes in Indian thought is called Madhu Meham. Madhu means sugar, sweet.

Prameha

Diabetes is also known as Prameha and is mentioned in Ayurvedic texts like Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita, Hareeta Samhita and Ashtanga Sangraha.

Charaka

Diabetes is discussed in great detail in Charaka Samhita. Charaka, the ancient Indian Physician mentions a diabetic affected person as a person passing sweet urine.

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Charaka

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Charaka Samhita

Ants attracted to Urine

One of the ways of identifying Diabetes, as mentioned by Charaka, is to see and observe whether ants are drawn to the urine sample of the patient.

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Ants drawn to the Urine Sample

Charaka also mentions that Diabetes occurs due to insufficient produce of insulin by the Pancreas, and which has been testified by modern science.

Types of Diabetes

Ayurveda mentions 12 types of Diabetes. 4 are curable while 8 can be suppressed.

Sahaja and Apathya

According to the science of Ayurveda, Diabetes occurs due to two major factors, namely, Sahaja and Apathya.

Sahaja is mostly seen in lean people and happens due to Insulin deficiency.

Apathya is observed in obese, those with inappropriate diet habits and occurs due to increased glucose production.

Herbs for Diabetes

Ayurveda prescribes various herbs such to keep diabetes in control.

Herb Scientific Name
Amla Phyllanthus emblica
Musta Cyperus Rotendus
Karela Momardica charantia
Jambu Syzygum cumini
Asana Pterocarpus marsupium
Haridra Curcuma Longa

While diabetes is not fully curable, it is controllable. This has been a realization from time immemorial.

– Dr. D.K. Hari & Dr. D.K. Hema Hari