Ashutosh Mukherjee

Ashutosh Mukherjee born on 29th June, 1864 in Patna is among the foremost educationist that this country has ever produced. He is the father of Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, a leader who gave an alternative to the Nehru narrative in the early 1950s.

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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.

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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.

Supported Raman

As the Vice Chancellor, Ashutosh Mukherjee persuaded the famous Indian Physicist C V Raman to teach at the University.

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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.

Ashutosh 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.

Persuaded Radhakrishnan

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.

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Helped Ramanujam

Ashutosh Mukherjee also inspired the famous Mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanuajam and helped him to put forth his theories in the academic circle.

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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.

Shielded Bose

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 Ashutosh 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.

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Thus we see that Ashutosh Mukherjee nurtured many young talent in the fields of politics, science, and education and thereby 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.

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Olympic Day

Olympics – Lighting the Flame

In modern Olympics, the first ceremony is lighting the Olympic flame. It starts with young women lighting the torch with the heat from the Sun. The flame is kept burning throughout the games.

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                                                            Young Women lighting the Olympic flame

This modern ceremony of lighting the Olympic flame evolved from the practices of ancient Olympics that were held in Greece, where the flame was revered and used as a mark to start the game. The modern practice of lighting the Olympic torch at Olympia, taking it to different parts of the world, and finally reaching it to the city where the games are to be played, culminating in the Olympic stadium, started at the games of 1928, at Amsterdam, Netherlands.

The flame ceremony has been respected across the world, during all times and in all traditions.

6 Vestal Virgins

Similar to the ceremony of the women lighting the flame in Greece, ancient Rome had the concept of the six vestal virgins guarding the flame.

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Vestal Virgins of Rome

Persia

Similarly, further to the east in ancient Persia, we have the concept of eternal flame, Azure. This was venerated and popularized by Zarathustra.

Azerbaijan

The modern day country of Azerbaijan, whose name comes from the word Azure, still has an eternal flame, burning to this day.

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The Eternal Flame at the Fire Temple in Azerbaijan

 India

Further to the east in India, for the last 5000 years and more, the concept of flame in the form of Agni has been venerated through the ages. Agni is one of the primary divinities in the pantheon of divinities in the Indian thought.

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                                                                            Agni in Indian thought

Since in practice, as found from archaeological excavations, Fire as Agni has been venerated in India, right through antiquity, in the mists of time, probably the concept of venerating Fire could be traced to Indian practice and knowledge system.

America

In America today, the main symbol of freedom is the statue of liberty. The figure in the statue carries a flame in her hand, symbolizing a similar ethos across times, across traditions.

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Statue of Liberty holds the flame

  Thus we see that Celebration by fire initiation can be found all over the world.

The Mystery of Sun Temples

It is the month of June.

Days are longest and it is the hottest month in the northern hemisphere.

People turn to the Sun to pray for respite from its scorching heat.

Time to look for the Temples to the Sun to offer our prayers for a bearable summer.

Where are the Sun Temples in India?

Sun temples are famous in different parts of India. They have been built and venerated from time immemorial.

We have had Sun temples from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and from Afghanistan to Assam in the ancient Indian land of Bharatha, the most popular ones being Konark temple in Orissa, the Sun temple in Modhera and the Suryanarkovil in Kumbakonam among others which fall on the popular tourist circuits.

Konark

Sun Temple, Konark

 Modhera

Sun Temple, Modhera

The land of India today spans from 6.7 degrees North latitude to 37.1 degrees North latitude. In this wide span, we find a plethora of Sun temples, almost in a straight line around 23 degrees North latitude.

Save for a few such as Suryanarkovil near Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu at 10.8 degrees North, the  Konark Sun Temple in Orissa at 19.9 degrees North etc. most of the other renowned temples can be found around 23 degrees North. Some are in ruins, some are memories and some are still in use today.

  • Suryanarayanaswamy temple at Arasavalli in Andhra Pradesh – 18.27 degrees

  • Sun Temple at Somnath Patan near Veraval in Gujarat – 20.9 degrees

  • Sun Temple at Madkheda near Tikamgadh, Madhya Pradesh – 22.9 degrees

    Sun Temple at Umri near Tikamgadh, Madhya Pradesh – 22.9 degrees

  • Sun Temple at Kandaha, Bangaon, near Saharsa in Bihar – 23.0 degrees

  • Harsiddhi temple at Ujjain – Harsiddhi – 23.09 degrees

  • The famous Sun Temple at Modhera, near Ahmedabad, Gujarat –  23.5 degrees

  • Kanthad Nath at Kanthkot  near Rapar- 23.48 degrees

  • Sun Temple at Dholavira  – 23.89 degrees

  • 8th Century Sun Temple in Chittorgarh Fort, destroyed in 14th century and rebuilt as Kali temple  – 24.59 degrees

  • Surya mandir, Deo, Aurangabad, Bihar, 85 kms from Gaya – 24.5 degrees

  • Dakshinaarka Temple in Gaya – 24.7 degrees

  • Uttaraka temple near the Uttara Maanas tank in Gaya – 24.7 degrees

  • Gayaditya temple on the river Falgu in Gaya  – 24.7 degrees

  • Sun Temple at Jhaira Patan near Kota in Rajasthan: Ruins of an ancient temple – 25.1 degrees

    The Dwadasha Aditya temples and more in Kashi also called Varanasi – 25.2 degrees

  • The Bhramanya Dev Temple at Unao in Madhya Pradesh, near Jhansi –  25.6 degrees

  • Sri Surya Pahar, Sun Temple at Goalpara in Assam  26.0

  • Sun Temple at Galta near Jaipur in Rajasthan – 26.5 degrees

    Sun temple in Morar at Gwalior – 26.2 degrees

  • Sun Temple at Ranakpur near Udaipur in Rajasthan – 27.0 degrees

    Sun Temple near Almora in Uttarakhand – 29.37 degrees

  • Sun Temple at Martand in Jammu and Kashmir 32.5 degrees

Not just these, the renowned sun temples of another Sun worshipping ancient civilization, namely Egypt, also has its sun temples at

  • Abu Simbel – 22.6 degrees

  • Karnak, Luxor – 25.43

 

Why do we find so many Sun temples almost in a straight row and that too around 23 degrees North latitude?

What did our ancestors know about the Sun that we do not, today?

 What is the mystery behind this pattern?

23.5 degrees North latitude is the Tropic of Cancer.

As we have read in our school books, the Tropic of Cancer is the line up to which the sun moves North in its annual journey.

 Sun at the Tropic

Sun at the Tropic Of Cancer on June 21

This movement of the sun between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn and its significance has already been discussed by us, in the Rishimukh magazine of January 2010 and  April 2010.

The way of living of our ancestors was in harmony with the Cosmos. They conducted their life, the annual and daily activities in their lives, in sync with the flow and rhythm of seasons, Rthu. Their Dharma, way of living,was governed by the Dharma, way of operating,of the Cosmic Nature.

Hence they tracked the sun and other celestial bodies in the sky to read the skies and prepare themselves for the daily, annual and spiritual change that are bound to occur as our planet earth hurtles on its journey through space along with its parent, the Sun and its siblings , the other planets in the solar system.

Each of these temples was specially designed to receive the rays of the sun inside the sanctum sanctorum, garbha graha, and illuminate the idol with a natural glow, on special days, especially the period around Summer Solstice.

June, is thus the time to watch our Sun go to the northern most point in its path in the skies and marvel at the knowledge, the sagacity and the architectural skills of our ancestors, which has found expression in the form of these temples to the Sun all over India and has become one of the traditions of India.