Today’s Articles

 Significance of Shivaratri

Shivaratri is one such festival which is a gateway to reach out and understand the divinity called Shiva or Shiva Tattva.

Shiva

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 Symbolism of Shiva

In Indian tradition, Shiva Tattva, is often represented in a distinct form of Shankara sitting in meditation holding implements such as Damaru and Trishul.

Is this the real form of Shiva or is it a visual representation with each of these aspects of His form having some significance?

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 Shivaratri – Understanding Shiva – Google Hangout with D.K. Hari and D.K. Hema Hari

Symbolism of Shiva

In Indian tradition, Shiva Tattva, is often represented in a distinct form of Shankara sitting in meditation holding implements such as Damaru and Trishul. He has a mark of vibhuti on His forehead. He wears a snake around His neck. He has a matted hair with Ganga flowing out from these locks. He has a crescent moon on His head as a ‘decoration’. He rides a Bull called Nandi, His Vahana, vehicle.

Is this the real form of Shiva or is it a visual representation with each of these aspects of His form having some significance?

Shankara

Shankara etymologically comes from “Sham karothi ithi Shankara”, meaning, “that which does good”.

Thus the form of Shankara brings to bearing that Shiva, the auspicious and with the potential to manifest all goodness, can only be realized through deep meditation, a state when the sound of OM reverberates through our mind, being and senses.

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Shankara

Watch Bharath Gyan Film on Shankara

 Trishul

 The Trishul as the name itself suggests, is a trident, a spear with 3 spikes to it.

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Trishul

The Trishul of Shiva seems to be conveying the significance of 3 to us.

Watch Bharath Gyan Short Film Trishul

The 3 Forces of Trinity

 At one level, this Trishul denotes the concept of Trinity in the Universe where the Trinity represent the divine forces of the Universe.

What are these three divine forces of the Universe?

In the ancient Indian texts, the Trinity or the divine forces have been expressed as Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva i.e. the creator, preserver and destroyer respectively.

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Trinity – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva

The Indian Rishi, seer scientists, have expressed that for the Universe to go through its cycles, this Trinity, these 3 divine forces are an essential requisite and it is essential for these 3 forces of the Trinity to work in tandem.

This concept of Trinity has also been discussed by different civilizations in their own variant forms.

The 3 states of Divinity

At another level, the Trishul or trident of Shiva is perhaps to remind us constantly of the 3 states of Shiva namely

Arupa – Formless,

Rupa-Arupa – Formless Form and

Sarupa – With form.

 Watch the Bharath Gyan Film – 3 states of Shiva

The 3 states of Man

 Trishul also denotes the 3 modes of action in mankind and that which

drives these acts. They are;

1. Kayika, physical actions

2. Vaachika, speech

3. Manasika, to do with the mind

These 3 modes of action do find a equivalence in the 3 states of the

divinity as well, for example

  1. Kayika with Sarupa or manifested form

  2. Vaachika with Rupa-Arupa for the formless form

  3. Manasika with Arupa for the formless

It is pertinent to note here that the ancient Greek divinity of Europe,

Poseidon, also had a trident in his hand.

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Damaru

 The other prominent implement in Shiva’s hand is the Damaru.

 The Damaru is a rustic, very ancient variety of hand held drum, with a central bead attached to string which swings and beats on both sides of the drum in an alternating manner.

 What is the significance of this Damaru in Shiva’s hand?

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                               Shiva                                                      Damaru                                                                       

Shiva represents the Cosmic being and the Cosmic power that causes the cycles of creation, dissolution and regeneration which happen in regular rhythmic intervals as the acts of Nature.

The implement that best exemplifies the beat of the rhythm is a drum.

The primeval drum is the Damaru.

As Shiva oversees the rhythmic of dissolution and regeneration, the Damaru best exemplifies the implement most needed by Shiva to keep up this rhythm.

The cosmic rhythmic beat is such that, it causes everything in this Universe to merge in unison with this beat and dissolve back into Shiva. This event is therefore called Pralaya. Thus when Shiva beats His Damaru, He causes the Pralaya or natural dissolution of this Universe.

Watch Bharath Gyan Short Film – Damaru

Third Eye-Tryambaka

Tryambaka comes from the roots tri meaning 3 and Ambaka which means eyes.

The name Tryambaka for Shiva thus is said to mean Shiva the 3 eyed.

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3 eyed Shiva

Modern physiology indicates the presence of a gland called the pineal gland in the brain, behind and between the eyebrows which is considered to be the focal point for concentration. The 3rd eye of Shiva is also but a way to remind us to open our eyes and see, experience Shiva in all the three states, Arupa – the Formless state, Rupa Arupa –  the Formless Form state and Rupa – the Formful state.

The third eye is to realize Shiva in His formless Arupa state which is at once vast, terrific and terrifying.

Watch Bharath Gyan Short- Shiva’s 3rd Eye

The Forehead Mark – Vibhuti

Of the 5 primordial elements, the Fire element, Agni, is associated with Shiva. This is exemplified by the story of the Lingodhbhava. Fire acts on anything and everything and reduces it to a state of ash or Bhasma. So Bhasma is a product of Agni or Shiva acting on it. It is considered symbolic of Shiva’s act of destruction for regeneration.

 The word Vibhuti means resplendent or glowing, with extraordinary powers.

 The smearing of the ash or Vibhuti is meant to destroy one’s ego and ignorance and give rise to a new self, glowing with the realization of Shiva.

Moon on head-Chandrasekhara

 The moon weaves a magic in the sky every fortnight.

 Once, the New Moon phase is reached, there is no moon visible from the earth. From there, it grows again and recreates a Full Moon again within the next fortnight as part of a beautiful celestial show of Nature. Shiva as the divinity of regeneration, in His pictorial form, has a very thin crescent moon on His head.

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Chandrasekhara

This thin crescent symbolically depicts the regenerative aspect in the monthly cycle of the moon from the thin remnants of the previous cycle.

Regeneration is also connected with fertility and what is interesting to note here is that, in humans, the women’s fertility cycle of 28 day period exactly coincides with the 28 day cycle of the moon.

The Chandrasekhara or Somasekhara form of Shiva brings out to us the intrinsic correlation between the phases of the moon, fertility and the humans.

Watch Bharath Gyan Short Film – Chandrasekhara

Nandi –The Bull

Shiva’s Vahana, Vehicle is the bull called Nandi. A bull is called Rishabha in local language and it is a Pashu. The loose translation for Pashu is animal. But Pashu is also an encompassing term that includes all living beings or bodily forms.

 Shiva as a principle of the Universe can only be realized through subtler means and not in a physical or gross form. Thus Pashu or bodily forms are a stumbling block in the way towards realizing Shiva.

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Nandi, Bull

Only when one is willing to go beyond the bodily level of understanding and hones the subtler senses, can one understand and realize Shiva Shankar and peace.

 Watch Bharath Gyan Short Film – Nandi

 This Shivaratri, let us imbibe the significance behind Shiva’s visual form as we immerse ourselves in the Shiva Tattva.

[Selective excerpts from the book Understanding Shiva in the Bharath Gyan Series by D.K.Hari and D.K.Hema Hari]

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Also watch the 19 Short Films on ‘Understanding Shiva’ here: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9QLcyiVla352leXqBX6smjKtdhJ7ZhOQ

Pamban Bridge

India’s First cantilever bridge

Pamban Bridge is India’s first cantilever bridge that connects Rameshwaram with mainland India. The bridge was opened on February 24, 1914.

It was also India’s first Sea bridge and one of the longest bridges in the country.

The bridge is the life line to Rameshwaram Island.

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Pamban Bridge

Scherzer central span

 

The 65.23 metre long rolling central span of the 2.06 km long bridge, is named after William Scherzer, the German engineer who designed and built the span.

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William Scherze

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The central rolling span

It opens up like a pair of scissors to allow vessels to pass through under the bridge.

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1964 Cyclonic storm

In 1964, even when a severe cyclonic storm hit this part of the area, Scherzer’s central span withstood nature’s fury. What is further remarkable is how this entire bridge was restored for traffic in a mere 46 days under the leadership of the man behind the Delhi Metro, E.Sreedharan, who was then posted in the Southern railway.

Of course, Rameshwaram has yet another bridge just parallel to it which was built in 1998. But that is a road bridge.

Longest for around 100 years

Pamban had stayed as the longest sea bridge of India for close to a 100 years, until it was surpassed by the 2.3-km Bandra-Worli sea link built recently on Mumbai’s western coast. But then again, Bandra-Worli Sea Link is only a road bridge.

Pamban has much more load to carry as it is a rail bridge. Starting as a metre guage railway line it was upgraded to a broad guage line in 2007 and then again in 2009 it was further strengthened to carry goods train.

Among the world’s old and historic bridges, the London Bridge is one of the more famous ones.

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London Bridge

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In comparison with London bridge

In comparison to the London Bridge, the Pamban Bridge has had to face much more fury from Nature as it is built over a Sea.

It is located in world’s second most corrosive environment after Florida which makes it maintenance a challenge and a round the year activity. It is an activity that has been going on unfailingly for the last 100 years.

A train journey on this legendary sea bridge is sure to put everyone in awe. In awe of nature power and human skills!

Significance of Shivaratri

Indian thought and practices over time immemorial have commemorated certain days and festivals as ways and means for people to understand, remember and reunite with the Universe and the divinities of the Universe.

These festivals become gateways for people to reach out and be in communion with the divinities.

Shivaratri is one such festival which is a gateway to reach out and understand the divinity called Shiva or Shiva Tattva.

Shivaratri celebrations

Once we understand the meaning of Shiva Tattva and the celebration of Shivaratri, no doubt, our celebrations and the enjoyment of the Tattva of Shiva will be enhanced manifold. It will make our celebrations more relevant and meaningful.

Ithihasa Purusha-Historical Personages

Among the Indian pantheon of divinities, few are historical and many others are Tattva, principles, essence in nature.

The prominent historical divinities are Rama and Krishna for which reason they are called as Ithihasa Purusha, historical personages and Avathara Purusha, those who came down to this earth, to live with us.

Lord Rama       Lord Krishna

Rama and Krishna – Historical Personages

 

Shiva, a Tattva

In contrast to this, Shiva is not an ithihasa purusha but is a tattva. .

What is Shiva Tattva?

 Shiva

Shiva – A Tattva

Meaning of the term Shiva

 The word Shiva simply means Mangalam, auspicious. Anything that is auspicious is Shiva. This auspiciousness which is all pervading throughout the universe, is a constant presence during the lifetime of this universe, before the creation of the universe and continues to be so after the dissolution of this world, this solar system, this galaxy and this entire universe.

Thus this Shiva, auspiciousness is the very life of the universe. Not just the life we see around us in a very limited perspective of life in humans, animals or plants but the very concept of life itself.

The meaning for Shiva as auspiciousness is evident from the following examples.

The traditional way of wishing “Goodbye” was through a phrase “Shivaasthe Panthaanaha” meaning “Let your ways be auspicious”. Ways here, meaning your paths, your deeds and ways of life.

Namaste

 Shivaasthe Panthaanaha

The term “Shiva” also has a much larger connotation which includes

  • having the potential,

  • being capable of,

  • boding well,

  • being favourable, promising.

All of these meanings of Shiva are also attributed to the Indian term “Mangalam”, which also has a similar all encompassing meaning of denoting the potential to manifest something good.

Shiva-Shava

From a metaphysical perspective, Shiva can be split as sha+ee+va where

  • sha stands for Shareeram, body,

  • ee stands for eeshwari, life giving energy and

  • va stands for vayu or motion.

Thus Shiva represents the body with life and motion.

If the “ee” is removed from Shiva, it gets reduced to sha+va or shava.

Shava means a lifeless body.

Anything with Shiva is with life and anything without Shiva is Shava or without life.

Here we see that while Shava is motionless or lifeless, Shiva is with the potential of life.

Making this potential manifest as matter, life and the cosmos, is Shakti the energy tattva, the female counterpart of Shiva. Without Shakti, Shiva stays as the potential. It is Shakti that triggers Shiva into manifesting as life.

This body is composed of many cells. It is the Preeti, the forces of attraction which keep the cells together to produce a body with life or with Prana. When this Preeti is gone, the cells disintegrate and Prana goes away from the body and the body is considered to be dead.

Thus Shiva along with Shakti together go to produce the universe as we can and cannot see it.

So, Shiva is auspicious, Shiva is potential and Shiva is Life. Shiva is all encompassing – the universal soul or consciousnss, Chaitanya. Realizing this Shiva Tattva leads to Ananda, bliss.

Understanding Night, Ratri

This Creation resonates with a rhythm or a natural heartbeat. Every object in this Creation has its own cycle or rhythm, in which it rises to a peak and ebbs to a low. This low is called the night, ratri.

The word Ratri means comfort giver”. It is derived from the root word “ram” meaning “to be content”, “to give contentment”.

3 Levels of Activities

Ratri is that which gives one comfort or rest from the 3 types of activities namely:

Kayika or bodily actions,

Vachika or speech

Manasika or thoughts.

A person is afflicted physically, mentally and spiritually by 3 types of agents, namely

  • Adhyatmika – pertaining to the self, the Atma

  • Adhi Bhauthika – pertaining to the elements of Nature, the Bhuta

  • Adhi Daivika – pertaining to the cosmic, the Divya

 During night, as man sleeps and gets regenerated, all 3 types of actions are subdued and mind is completely at rest, free from all types of afflictions.

 Hence night is called ratri or the comfort giver.

 Ratri

 What a beautiful way to form a word such that its very formation implies its meaning and function.

It is during the ratri or night of any being, that the being gets rejuvenated and refreshed for its next cycle or day.

The Natural Rhythm

For man, this natural rhythm is daily day and night. Every night, the body gets regenerated and refreshed for the next day. The old cells are discarded and get replaced with new cells every day. Blood in the body is purified and circulated every day. New blood cells are born each day. This is Nithya Pralaya or daily Pralaya.

What is a Pralaya?

Pralaya

Only when there is dissolution of the old, can there be scope for regeneration of the new.

There is a continuous cycle of dissolution and regeneration going on in the Universe.

The process of dissolution is called Pralaya. Pralaya is limitedly understood as waters or fire engulfing everything.

Infact there are 4 types of Pralaya defined in ancient Indian texts, they being,

  • Nithya Pralaya, daily Pralaya

  • Naimitika Pralaya, occasional Pralaya

  • Avantara Pralaya, seasonal Pralaya

  • Maha Pralaya, the great Pralaya

Laya means to merge or dissolve into. Music that makes one forget everything and makes one blend with the music is said to have Layam. It is also a rhythm.

The prefix Pra denotes special as in Prakrithi which is primordial or ultimate Nature. Pralaya thus simply means the rhythmic, special dissolution or merging back into ultimate natural form.

Shiva, being the potential to manifest, is the divinity for dissolution and regeneration. Hence the time one readies for rejuvenation and regeneration that comes with a Pralaya, is associated with Shiva as Shivaratri.

Observing Shivaratri

Not so commonly known is the monthly celebration of Shivaratri, which falls on the Krishnapaksha Chaturdasi every month or the night preceding the New Moon.

Maha Shivaratri or the Great Shivaratri is celebrated annually on the Krishnapaksha Chaturdasi night. i.e. the night preceding the New Moon, in the penultimate month of the year, the month of Magha or the month of Masi in Tamil calendar, which typically occurs in the month of February – March these days.

History of Shivaratri

Rishi Kahola Kaushitaki in his Kaushitaki Brahmana records that Maha Shivaratri was celebrated even during the Mahabharatha times, i.e. 5100 years ago.

Appreciating Shivaratri

In cosmology, when the entire Creation starts contracting, it is expressed as the start of the night of Brahma and the final collapse is called the Maha Pralaya. This Maha Pralaya then leads to the start of the next cycle of Creation and is thus a regeneration of the entire Srishti, Creation.

The interim state between a dissolution and a regeneration is a period of both serenity and tranquility when all bodies are calm and preparing for regeneration. Following this tranquility is the joy and celebration which comes with having been regenerated and refreshed.

Change through celebration

The change that comes with dissolution can primarily be accepted in two ways,

  1. With pain

  2. With celebration

 When there is resistance to a change, there is pain. Where there is willful acceptance, there is no pain. When we understand and willingly accept that a dissolution is only for a regeneration, the dissolution or change ceases to cause pain.

Shivaratri is an occasion that makes us aware of the need to change along with the ever changing cosmos and to renew our cosmic connect.

It is a window to prepare ourselves to accept the change, to let go of the past, to make way for the new and the rejuvenation that comes forth.

It is a celebration to welcome the change, the rejuvenation.

Therefore for time immemorial our ancestors have given this night of regeneration, a feeling of serenity through fasting and praying and have followed it with celebration through singing.

Shivaratri

 Shivaratri

Every Shivaratri, let us connect with this Shiva Tattva and get rejuvenated to face the coming phases of our lives.

More information on these aspects of Shiva is available in our book, “Understanding Shiva”, and a film, “Understanding Shiva” which are a part of the Bharath Gyan Series.

understanding shiva book

understanding shiva film

Understanding Shiva – “Book and Film”

World Thinking Day

Can we afford to think only for one day a year?

Thinking and Questioning are innate to man every day. Intellect develops through the process of thinking, questioning & seeking answers.

Thinking is known as “Chintan” in Samskrt. Thinking thoughts and expressing them through discussions in collective sittings or camps, called Chintan Shivir or Chintan Baithak, has been a part of our culture and tradition.

How did this day come to be called the World Thinking Day?

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The Birthday of Scouting and Guiding founder Robert Baden Powell and his wife Olave Baden Powell are commemorated as World Thinking Day by the scouts and guides family worldwide.

                   Baden Powell and his wife Olave Baden Powell

Interesting link 

It is interesting to note that the Swastika symbol was used by Baden Powell.

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Swastika Symbol in the early Scouts Handy Book

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 Thanks badge issued by the Scouts and Guides under Robert Baden Powell

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The card sent by the Baden Powells

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Robert Baden Powell on the Swastika Symbol

 The Image Swastika finds use in all ancient societies and is still used in India.

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Similarity between Swatika and the spiral galaxy

The word Swastika comes from Su, meaning ‘good’, Asti meaning ‘well-being’ and Ka meaning ‘of’.

Swastika is not just the well-being of health, Swasth, but the well-being of everyone in society, in knowledge, in character, and overall in Nature. Unfortunately, during World War II , Hitler, his people and his armies grossly misused the symbol due to which profound the symbolism of Swastika has been viewed negatively in the last 6 decades.

                    Hitler abused the Swastika symbol. A taboo now

We need to look for its original meaning, its knowledge, for the well-being of society and the world.

Like this, on this World Thinking Day, many other thoughts should be looked at from the right perspective.

World Banana Day

Banana, Native Fruit

Banana is a fruit that is native to India, known as Kadhali Phalam in Samskrt. It is looked up to as one of the 3 important fruits in this land, the other two being mango and jackfruit.

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The origins of the fruit can be traced to the Western Ghats and Eastern Ghats of southern India, and also to the North Eastern hills of India. The traditional variety of banana in the slopes of Eastern and Western Ghats hills is locally known as Malai Vazai, meaning ‘Hill Banana’.

A speciality of Banana

The speciality of banana plant gives forth fruit, flower and small black seeds, the offspring of the banana plant does not come from its seed, but from the side root of shoots, which give birth to sapling banana plants.

There are many variants in banana, each with its unique taste and specific nutrient.

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A Banana Farm

In India, banana has been widely consumed from time immemorial, be it in ritual prayers or in daily food. Every part of the banana plant is used by the community.

Sanctity of Banana

For any auspicious function, a full grown banana plant is tied in front of the function hall.

In Ayudha Puja and Sarasvati Puja functions, it is the tying of banana sapling that brings in a sense of auspiciousness to the puja mantap.

In any auspicious occasion, when lunch is served, a full native banana is served first for the auspicious beginning of the meal.

As a Plate

There is a padathi, practice, to serve food on a banana leaf. The banana leaf is used as a plate for serving food. It is considered a healthy and auspicious way of eating. Serving food to guest, on a banana leaf is regarded as being second best, after a gold plate. That is the exalted status given to serving food on a banana leaf.

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Food served on Banana Leaf

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Banana stem sheath layer used as a plate in Assam

Food items, Delicacies

The inside stem of a banana is a delicious food item. In South India, Vazha Thandu is a delicious food item.

Many Indian delicacies sweets are made with banana fruit.

The banana flower is also a delicacy, a vegetable used to make vada and other delicacies.

Raw banana is a delicious vegetable.

Palani Panchamritham

Palani Panchamritham is a temple prasad of the famous Palani Karthikeya temple in west Tamil Nadu. This fruit salad from jaggery fruit dish has innate capacity to stay fresh for many days. This is attributed to Sirumalai Banana which has got preservative and curavative properties. Siru means small, Malai means hill.

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Palani Panchamritham

Like this, with each variety of banana, a different delicacy is made. In Kerala, many delicacies are made with Nendram Banana.

All over India, different varieties of kheer, payasam is made from banana base.

Kesari, a sweet dish is also made with banana.

Like this, the dishes that can be made with banana are endless.

String for flowers

The bark of a banana stem is used for packing. It is also used as a string for stringing flowers.

Potassium rich

One of the essentials for all creatures is the potassium level which the Bananas provide us in abundance.

When we serve hot food, especially hot boiled rice on a fresh washed banana leaf, the steaming boiled rice takes in the potassium on the surface of the banana leaf.

The intake of this fruit is naturally nutritious.

Water Purifier

The root of a banana plant attracts micro-organisms which act on dirty water and cleanse the water.

This natural process of cleansing the water is now given the term Root Zone Treatment (RTZ).

Which is why, banana plants are traditionally planted in the backyard of houses, so that waste water is streamed to the roots of the banana plants, to be naturally cleansed.

An environment friendly practice of understanding Nature and putting this understanding into practice!

Bio friendly Packing material

Banana leaves have been also traditionally used as a packing material for packing fruits, flowers and other items.

It is a bio-degradeable environment friendly packing material as opposed to plastics which are littered all over the ground. They add manure to soil when decomposed. In contrast, today’s packing materials add poison to the soil when they decompose.

Thus, we see that every part of the banana plant has been used by the locals through the ages.

Banana Republics

In equatorial America and Africa, many small republics were dependent upon banana productions and exports were controlled by banana mafia because of which frequent regime changes happened. They came to be derisively referred to as banana republics.

Banana in West

In the western countries, in Europe and USA, where banana was not a native brand, this fruit had to be advertised to be made popular, after which farmlands were created in equatorial Africa and America, to feed the consumption pattern.

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Banana Advertisement in Panama

Banana Advertisements

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Tropical Banana Company Calendar

World Banana Day is observed every year on February 21st to promote the popularity of banana.

Natural Product in India

In stark contrast, we don’t find advertisements of banana in India, for, it has been a natural product and every part of the plant is consumed and used in this land.

Everyday is a Banana Day in this land!

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