Summer Solstice

An important astronomic event happens every year in the month of June. This event is an important time marker in our lives.

Sun’s Movement

As we know, the earth is tilted on its axis by 23.4 degrees. Because of this tilt and the revolution of the earth around the sun, we perceive the sun to be moving northwards and southwards between the 2 latitudes, Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn, successively, in its annual six monthly journey each way.

Uttarayan & Dakshinayan

On June 21st of every year, our sun reaches the northern end of its journey at the Tropic of Cancer and transits into its journey southwards towards the tropic of Capricorn. The northern journey of the sun is known UttarayanUttar meaning north and the Southern Journey is called DakshinayanDakshin meaning southward.

Sun – Still

21st June is the day the sun reaches the northern most point of its journey and seems to be stationary on that day at the Tropic of Cancer. It is called the Summer Solstice. Sol meaning “Solar, Sun” and stice meaning “stationary”.

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Summer Solstice

Longest Day

For the people living in the northern hemisphere, this consequently happens to be the longest day of the year.

Mid Summer Day

 It is the mid summer day. A month before and after this day is peak summer in the northern hemisphere. This season in Indian languages is known as Greeshma Rthu, Greeshma meaning warm or hot. That is why we have the Hindi word ‘garam’ for hot.

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Hot Summer day

Sun temples

In commemoration of this day, we have many sun temples in India. There is a plethora of Sun temples, almost in a straight line around 23 degrees North latitude along the tropic of Cancer, where the sun seems stationary for a few days.

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Sun Temples along tropic of Cancer

Stonehenge in England

Summer solstice has been celebrated at Stonehenge in England from Pagan days.

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Stonehenge, England

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Stonehenge celebrations, England

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Stonehenge in England map

Midsummer

In modern days, this day is observed as Midsummer all across Europe.  It is also called St John’s day. Bonfires are lit to celebrate the hottest period of the year.

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Midsummer celebrations with Bonfire at Alesund, Norway

Shakespear Drama

William Shakespeare, the celebrated English playwright has written a drama called Mid Summer Night’s Dream, relating to this day.

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  William Shakespeare                                                                                   The Book

Other names in other parts

The day is similarly celebrated in other parts of the world under different names.

Festival

Country

Tiregan

Iran

Kapala Night

Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Russia

Wianki

Poland

Juhannus

Finland

Jani

Latvia

Saint Jonas’ Festival

Lithuania

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Lights lit for Tiregan festival in Iran                                  Kapala Night fire works in Poland

World Ocean Day

The World Ocean Day was declared by the United Nations on June 8th, 2008, to honour the biggest water bodies of the ‘Blue Planet’.

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Earth, The Blue Planet

Ocean, major Habitat

Oceans and Seas are the major habitat of this planet, covering most of the earth.

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The Ocean

They are home to varied species of flaura and fauna.

In Indian language, an Ocean is called Mahasagar, the great water body.

Sagar is sea. Sa meaning “Good” and Grha, Ghar, ‘home’, referring to Oceans being a good home to many creatures.

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Sagar is ghar, home to many creatures

The word Samudra is also used for Oceans. Sam means collection and udra means water. Samudra is the largest collection of water on Earth.

The Oceans are also the major route for international trade.

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Major Shipping Sea Routes

Perils facing Ocean

The pollution of Oceans has dwindled many species of fishes and other aquatic creatures. The dumping of wastes in Oceans and Seas is the cause. Many beaches and shores are strewn with garbage. Oil pollution, caused by various offshore drilling accidents, harm marine life and ocean ecosystems.  We are also trawling away with huge nets the life of Oceans itself.

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Ocean Pollution

Awareness on Ocean Protection

There are around 1600 ocean sustenance organizations under the banner of World Ocean Network that come together and organize events on this Ocean day, to raise awareness on ocean protection. Many educational programs, contests and film festivals are held to this effect.

Indian Ocean

India is surrounded by the Indian Ocean in the South, the only Ocean named after a country, the other oceans being the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Arctic Ocean and the Antarctic Ocean.

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Indian Ocean
Img: Courtesy Wikipedia

Samudra Manthan

There is an interesting legend associated with the Ocean in Indian legends – Samudra Manthan, the churning of the Ocean.

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Samudra Manthan

In the legend of Samudra Manthan, during churning, apart from Amrit, the pot of immortal nectar, many other things also came out of the Samudra.  Lakshmi, the embodiment of wealth, emerged from the Samudra, followed by kalpa vrksha, the symbolizing perennial youthfulness, Kamadhenu the fulfiller of all wishes, Hala hala, the  poison and host of other things both beneficial and detrimental.

This expresses to us, as to what we can draw from the ocean.

A Symbol of prosperity

Oceans symbolize source of prosperity and also immortality in the Indian tradition.

It is the oceans that create dissolution on earth. There is a continuous cycle of dissolution and regeneration going on in the Universe. The process of dissolution is called Pralaya, when waters-oceans or fire engulf everything.

The World Ocean Day is an opportunity to sensitize ourselves to Oceans and Seas and honour the greatest resource of this planet.

World Environment Day

World Environment Day was instituted by the United Nations in the year 1972, to raise awareness among people on environment protection.

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Man is a part of environment. Every being that forms the environment needs to survive be it humans, animals, birds and plants.

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 Environment

Present Actions, Future Environment

The environment that we live in today is product of our past actions. What we do today, creates our future environment. Thus, it is vital, that our actions are not detrimental to environment.

 Man, a Virus

Every creature on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment.

Unfortunately modern man does not! Humans move to an area and multiply, until every natural resource is consumed and the only way they could then survive is to spread to a different area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. It is the virus.

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A scathing comparison. By his mindless actions, man is killing his environment.

The pollution of land, water, air. The trees making way for concrete jungles in the name of development, have become the norm of the day.

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Environment Pollution

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Concrete Jungle

 Urgent need to save environment

From inhabitants we have become custodians of our planet and now some have taken it further to the ‘gang-rape’ of our environment.

The UN theme

The UN comes up with a theme every year, to help focus on various aspects of environment and its protection.

Think Eat Save

The theme for the year 2013 was, ‘Think, Eat, Save’, highlighting, ‘eating the right food, in right quantity, avoiding wastage, to save ourselves and our environment.’

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Theme 2014 – Islands

The theme this year is, ‘Small Islands Development’.

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 Islands, unique ecosystems

Islands form unique ecosystems with special flaura and fauna.  They form a key aspect of the environment and play an important role in ecology and its balance.

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Rare species of tortoises on Galapagos island

 According to present estimates, around 600 million live on islands, i.e, around 1/10th of the World population.

These islands are key to the livelihoods, well being and cultural identity of the 600 million people who live on it.

Island, Etymology

The word “island” is derived from the words ieg, meaning ‘slightly raised land surrounded by marshy, wet areas’. The word was later modified to island, referring to a land surrounded by water on all sides.

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An Island

 In Samskrt, the word Dwipa is used for an island.

 Mala Thivu, Maldives

Similarly, the Tamil word for an island is Thevu. Maldives is an island country in Indian Ocean. The name is actually derived from the words Mala Thivu. Mala meaning necklace and Thivu means islands. The name means ‘necklace of islands’.

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Male, the Island capital of Maldives

 Lakshadweep

The Lakshadweep islands of India, off the Malabar coast, in the Arabian Sea, as its name suggests,  is made up of a lakh of islands, laksh meaning, ‘Lakh’ and dwipa meaning ‘island’.

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Lakshadweep Islands

 Majauli Island

There are also many small islands on rivers across the world. Majauli island in Brahmaputra is one of the largest river islands in the world. It is a moving island, which is sadly shrinking.

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Majauli Island

Islands in Cauvery River

The famous Srirangam temple town near Tiruchirapalli, in Tamil Nadu, is an island in the Cauvery River.

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Srirangam Temple township located on Cauvery River

 Ranganthetu Bird sanctury

Ranganthetu bird sanctury near Mysore is also an island on the Cauvery River, thetu meaning ‘island’ in Kannada.

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Ranganthetu bird sanctury

Krishna Dwaipayana

It is interesting to note that the real name of Veda Vyasa, the compiler of Veda, is Krishna Dwaipayana, meaning, ‘Krishna the island born’. In this case the island of his birth was on the Yamuna River.

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Thus, we see that there are many such islands not only in the seas and oceans, but also in rivers.

Continents are islands

In fact every continent is an island.These continents have been called as dwipa in the Purana.

The seven dwipa mentioned in the Purana are,

  1. Jambhu Dwipa

  2. Plaksha Dwipa

  3. Shalmali Dwipa

  4. Kusha Dwipa

  5. Krauncha Dwipa

  6. Shaka Dwipa

  7. Pushkara Dwipa

We need to understand the islands and the dangers they face. The global warming and sea level rise is one thing that could swallow the small islands.

Preserve islands

This Environment day resolve should be to preserve the small islands if we want to protect the large islands, the continents for our future generations.

An opportunity to sensitize ourselves and others about saving our environment.