Guru Arjan is the 5th Sikh Guru who became a Guru at the age of 18.
He built the base of the Golden temple in 1601 CE and also compiled the sacred Adi Granth, which was in the year 1708, conferred the title of Guru Granth Sahib by Guru Gobind Singh, and is revered as the Holy Book of Sikhs.
Guru Arjan and his team compiling the Adi Granth beside the golden temple
Guru Arjan was also a poet and composed 2312 hymns. These hymns were called “Sukh Mani Sahib”. They console our minds and hearts and have a soothing effect on the reader, the listener and the singer.
Guru Arjan composed these hymns sitting on the banks of Ramsar Sarovar.
Sukh Mani Sahib
The oppression from the Mugals led Guru Arjan to sacrifice his life at a young age of 43 in 1606 CE for which he is reverentially referred to as “Shahid De Sartaj”.
Guru Arjan was sentenced to death by the then Mughal King Jahangir for including Islamic references in the Holy Book. He was made to sit on a hot sheet and burning sand was put on him.
Guru Arjan passed away on 30th May, 1606.
Many years after his death, Guru Arjan’s social, spiritual, and poetic legacy along with the golden temple still stands a testimony to the vision he had for the people.
Ashutosh Mukherjee born on 29th June, 1864 in Patna is among the foremost educationist that this country has every produced. He is the father of Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, a leader who gave an alternative to the Nehru narrative in the early 1950s.
Tiger of Bengal
“Banglar Bagh”, “the tiger of Bengal,” was the popular name by which Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee was referred to, for, for his high academic skills and at the same time high self esteem and courage with which he interacted with the British. He was indeed a ‘tiger’ in the field of education.
Vice Chancellor of Calcutta University
Ashutosh Mukherjee was the Vice Chancellor of the Calcutta University from 1906 to 1914 and again from 1921 to 1923.
He made the University one of the foremost centers of learning in India during his stint. His ability to identify and groom young talent is well known in the field of academics even today.
As the Vice Chancellor, Ashutosh Mukherjee persuaded the famous Indian Physicist C V Raman to teach at the University.
At the time Raman was posted at the government’s Finance department who were reluctant to release him. Moreover, the terms of endowment professorship that Raman had to fulfill disqualified him.
Ashotosh Mukerjee however, convinced the budding physicist Raman to work as a Palit Professor of Physics at the Science College that was affiliated to the University at a much lower salary. Raman’s pioneering research in Physics called the Raman Effect led him to win the noble price.
In 1921, he was able to convince another budding philosopher, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan to join the Calcutta University. Dr Radhakrishnan went on to become one of the great philosophers of the land and finally the President of India.
Ashotosh Mukherjee also inspired the famous Mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanuajam and helped him to put forth his theories in the academic circle.
Encouraged Samskrt scholars
Similarly, Ashotosh Mukherjee also identified Mahodaya N S Ananthakrishna Sastry and Mahomaya Chinnaswamy Sastri, great Samskrt scholars who were living in deep south near Tanjare in a village called Tiruvaiyaru. He took them to Calcutta, provided them both physical and mental space, and encouraged them to bring out tens of volumes of Samskrt literature, which formed the basis of a great revival of Samskrt studies in eastern India then.
He also supported young Subhas Chandra Bose, then a student of the Presidency College where he assaulted English professor Oaten for abusing Indians. Subhas was removed from the College.
As the Vice-Chancellor, there were persuasions on Ashotosh Mukherjee to remove him from the University as well. Mukherjee did not want to destroy the career of a brilliant student who had stood up against injustice. He made alternate arrangements for Subhas to study at the Scottish Church missionary college.
Ashutosh Mukherjee nurtured many such young students who contributed to the progress of the land.
Teacher to the teacher
Today, we celebrate Teacher’s day on September 5th as the birthday of Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan.
For this teacher, it was the teacher Ashutosh Mukherjee who facilitated the rise to great heights that Dr Radhakrishnan came to. A good teacher is known by the student he creates. Ashutosh Mukherjee’s name shines for the youth he picked and nurtured.
It is through the efforts of such great men, the foundations of the modern university system of education as built on.
Let us further his legacy
Let us further the cause of education in India that this great educationist had nurtured and stood for through his life.
“Vata Purnima” is a festival that is celebrated in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka on a Full Moon day in the month of Jyeshta-June. Purnima refers to the Full Moon in this month.
Vata Vriksha – The Banyan Tree
Vata Vriksha, the Banyan tree is intertwined with the traditions of India from time immemorial. The botanical name for this tree is “Ficus Benghalensis”. It is a tree that grows all over India.
Vata Vriksha, Banyan tree
Vata Purima and Savitri -Satyavan
The legend of Vata Purnima is connected with the story of Savitri and Satyavan.
Savitri and Satyavan were a young married couple. One day while resting, with his head on Savitri’s lap, under a Banyan tree, Satyavan breathed his last. Savitri, a devout wife could feel the presence of Yama, the Lord of death at this moment. When Yama turned to leave with Satyavan’s soul, Savitri with determination, started following Yama, to ask him to return Satyavan’s life.
Savitri debating with Yama
Savitri’s dogged pursuit of Yama and her winning debate with him, made Yama restore Satyavan’s life as a boon to her.
Savitri returned to the Banyan tree, Vata Vriksha and found Satyavan stirring back to life. This Banyan tree, which was a witness to the death defying devoutness of Savitri, came to be associated with the power of faith and perseverance and with longevity.
This event gained popularity through the ages and came to be observed as Vata Purnima festival. For, it was under the Banyan tree, that Satyavan’s life was plucked and later restored. The perseverance of Savitri in a trying circumstance, her overcoming the odds and winning over Yama with wit and thereby getting back her husband to life, is a story that finds resonance with every devout married woman.
Vata Purnima – The Fasting Festival
Praying for a long life for their spouses and a timeless togetherness, women observe a fast and tie a string around a Vata Vriksha on Vata Purnima.
The tying of the string around the girth of the Vata Vriksha is a gesture to symbolize that the bond between the husband and the wife should be as strong as that between Savitri and Satyavan. That their progeny should grow as the roots and shoots of the Banyan too.
Vata Purnima celebration by women in India
While the Vata Purnima festival is celebrated in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat to commemorate Savitri-Satyavan legend, similar festivals are also celebrated in other parts of India on other days. For example, the Karadaiyan Nombu is celebrated in Tamil Nadu around March where married women and girls tie a yellow thread around their neck to symbolize a strong, immortal bond between husband and wife.
Vata Patra Sayi
The Vata leaf is found in art forms as a leaf floating on waters with the divine child, Balakrishna sucking His toe in the classic pose of a baby. This depiction of Krishna is called Vata Patra Sayi. Patra means leaf and Sayi, is one who is resting. It comes from Sayana meaning to repose, recline.
Vata Patra Sayi
Vata Vriksha, the Tree of Knowledge
The Vata tree also symbolizes knowledge, the timeless knowledge of the land. For, it is under this tree that Dakshinamurthi, the divinity associated with knowledge, imparts knowledge in silence to his four Sishya, disciples.
Vata and Gita
Lord Krishna gave the Gita Upadesa beside a Banyan Tree, Vata Vriskha, in Kurukshetra. Portions of this Banyan tree are believed to have survived to this day. The Vata Vriksha in Jyotisar, Kurukshetra, is believed to be a part of the original tree that was a witness to the Gita Upadesa.
Banyan Tree at Jyotisar, Kurukshetra
Vata and Nothing
An interesting point to note is that, the seed of such a mighty tree like Banyan is so small and when you break open that small seed, what you see inside is a hollow space. Indeed it is hollow and empty!
Similarly the vast Universe that we see around us too has come from such nothingness, Shunya. Shunya is not literally nothing. It is referred to as there is no point of reference to this tattva, concept in Creation. In reality, this nothing is everything, the source of whole Creation. This nothingness is also referred to as Chit. The sublime consciousness.
The Shunya Vada discussion, takes us there.
This timeless truth was revealed to Shweta Ketu by his father Rishi Uddalaka. This incident is recorded in the Chandogya Upanishad.
Vata Vriksha – A Meeting place
It is under a banyan tree that travellers rest. For, this tree is wide enough to accommodate even a caravan full of travellers and provide shade from the heat that beats down most parts of India. It is during this rest that people are regaled with stories and legends are told and retold across generations, across time.
The Vata Vriksha has been a focal point for the culture of the land.
It has been one of the favoured spots for trading. Traders in India are called baniya. The common name “Banyan” for this tree, originated from the fact that this tree was the meeting center of the baniya.
Vata Vriksha – Tree of Life, Fertility
Banyan tree is a tree that sprouts roots, also from its branches. They grow downwards from the branches, go into the ground, to give rise to an extension of the tree. The Banyan tree is hence also called Nyagrodha meaning that which is growing downwards too. The Banyan tree is considered timeless, for, its aerial shoots spread wide and develop roots that support the spreading branches, enabling the tree to spread far and wide.
This is how the Banyan tree, over time, spreads wide over many acres.
Due to this felicity to propagate far and wide, across time, across generations of trees, the Banyan tree has connotations with life, longevity, fertility and timelessness. In many parts of India, the placenta of a newborn child is buried at the foot of a Banyan praying for its longevity.
With the legend of Savitri-Satyavan, the Banyan came to be connected with timeless bonding between a couple.
In common parlance, fertility which gives rise to a new life, is synonymous with the biological functions in the female gender, a woman. It points to the progeny arising from the union of a man and woman alone.
Fertility concept however, extends beyond, to encompass everything that creates and sustains life such as
the land resource which acts as the womb from which grows our food
the water resource which helps germinate anything on the land,
the seeds that germinate life every season and
the cows and other organisms that nourish the soil – in short fertilize the soil.
It is this encompassing nature in Nature that is also to be venerated as fertility – fertility in Mother Nature. The Banyan tree, as the Tree of Life reminds us of this aspect in Nature.
Significance of Vata Purnima
The Vata Purnima fast, not only signifies an everlasting, timeless, strong bonding between a husband and wife, but the association of this fast with the Vata Vriksha ascribes a deeper significance to it.
A message that, the timeless association between the husband and wife, is for the creation of progeny who will take the roots of the family, civilization and mankind far into future.
A message that, fertility that gives rise to life is not limited to that which springs from the womb of a woman alone but encompasses everything in Mother Nature too, which sustain life on earth.
Vata Purnima is the occasion to pray that the thread that binds man and woman as well as the fertility chain, stays timeless, sustained year after year, generation after generation, century after century, millennia after millennia.
Tortoises and turtles are reptiles. They are able to survive both on land and in water.
They were one of the early creatures to make the evolutionary shift from living in water to also living on land. A big shift.
Tortoise Turtle – Difference
The major difference between a turtle and a tortoise is that turtles mostly live in water while tortoises mostly live on land. Some of the other differences being,
|Shell||Dome shaped shells||Flat shells|
|Feet||Bent legs and short feet||Webbed feet with long claws|
|Hatchlings||Hatchlings move to mother’s burrow from their nest soon after birth||Hatchlings stay in their next on their own for 3 to 4 months|
|Life span||80-150 years||20-40 years|
Tortoise legends across the world
There are numerous legends associated with tortoises across many civilizations.
In the sequence of Dasavatara, the 10 incarnations of Divinity Vishnu, Kurma Avatara, the tortoise incarnation, is the second Avatara, incarnation of the Divinity Vishnu. The first in the 10 incarnations was Matsya, the Fish, which can live only in water. The second is Kurma, a tortoise which can live both on land and water, representing the evolutionary leap.
Vishnu takes the form of a tortoise and supports the hill on His back during the churning of the oceans, Samudra Manthan by the Deva and Asura.
Sri Kurmam Temple
There is a temple in Srikakulam district of coastal Andhra Pradesh dedicated to this Kurma Avatara of Vishnu. The temple is called Sri Kurmam. The idol in the temple is not a sculpture designed by man, but a fossil of a real tortoise.
Tortoises and Tectonic plates
Indian geological texts also describe the earth as being supported by 8 tortoises.
Here, the analogy of the tortoise stands for the 8 solid tectonic plates on the earth’s crust, over the molten core of the earth, which are constantly moving but very slowly, just like a turtle and its hard shell which covers the soft animal inside.
The architectural representation of this turtle legend can be seen in the old archaeological sites of central Java in Indonesia and the adjoining Bali islands too.
There is a similar turtle legend that is explicitly expressed in the ancient American legends too, where a turtle dives to the bottom of the ocean to bring back mud to create the earth.
Thus, we see that turtles have been revered across civilizations from time immemorial.
Charles Darwin on his study of various life forms, conducted his research on the famous Galapagos tortoise of Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean that live for over 100 years.
World Turtle Day
World Turtle Day is observed every year on May 23rd to raise awareness on turtles, tortoises, and their protection.
On this day, animal lovers and organizations come together and organize events around turtles and tortoises.
Caring for Turtles
Turtles might not be favourites of people, like dogs, but it is vitally important that we care for this species, one of the ancient creatures of our planet.
Need to protect Turtles
This Turtle’s day, let us take steps to protect this endangered species, by saving the turtle hatchings on the coasts.
In ancient India, Yuga and Yojana were two measures that were used frequently.
Yuga was used as a measure of time, while Yojana was used as a measure of distance.
In our ancient texts
For example, the Ramayana text states that the bridge, Rama Setu when it was constructed was 100 Yojana in length and the breadth was 10 Yojana.
The Ramayana Text gives the dimensions of the fort of Ayodhya as,
- 12 Yojana in the North – South direction
- 3 Yojana in the east – west direction along the river and
- 3 Yojana in width.
More on this in our book, Ayodhya, War and Peace.
Similarly, it is mentioned in our texts that Krishna, when He started constructing Dwaraka city, requested Samudra Deva, the Divinity of the Sea, to withdraw a little and provide Him land for building His city. In accordance with Krishna’s wishes Samudra Deva yielded and gave 12 Yojana (a measure) of land.
More on this in our book, Historical Krishna.
Is Yojana a fixed measure of distance, like kilometer and miles?
There are many varieties of Yojana for measuring different types of distances, such as Bhu Yojana for measuring distances on Earth scale, Bha Yojana for measuring distances with respect to light, Nara Yojana for distances with respect to man etc.
The term Yojana was more a generic unit of measure rather than a fixed measure. These units varied from region to region as they were also based on local references.
Hence with just the term Yojana, we cannot always calculate absolute values for those measures.
The Ramayana text states that the bridge, when it was constructed was 100 Yojana in length and the breadth was 10 Yojana, making it a ratio of 10:1.
Today, in the same ratio of 10:1 as mentioned in the texts, the bridge from Dhanushkodi in India to Talaimannar in Sri Lanka, measures approximately 35 km in length and 3.5 km in breadth, as is the naturally available sea ridge, the base beneath, on which it was built as an accretion.
From this, the measure of 1 Yojana is derived to be 0.35 km.
Dimensions of Rama Setu, Adam’s Bridge
More on this in our book and film, Historical Rama.
Similarly, there are other measures for Yojana in our texts.
In “Vishnu Purana” chapter 6 of book 1, a measure of Yojana is expressed. Using that we can arrive at the relationship between Yojana and Miles using the following steps:
Yojana to Miles
From the above calculation, we can derives a Yojana to be 14.63 kms, by converting miles into kms.
In the case of Rama Setu, Yojana was calculated to be .35 kms, while in the above content from Vishnu Purana, a Yojana is 14.63 kms.
Yojana as a unit of measure varies from time to time, through the ages and also from place to place, geographically.