Guru Ravidas Jayanthi

Guru Ravidas was a spiritual leader in the 14th Century. His teachings of equality and brotherhood in society have been a great inspiration to the people of this land today.

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Guru Ravidas

Birth and Marriage

Guru Ravidas was born in a village Govardhanpur, near Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, in a poor family. His father Santokh Das was a leather merchant.

Guru Ravidas was married to Lona and a son named Vijayadas was born.

Composing Devotional Songs

All through his family life, Guru Ravidas was never distracted from his devotional affinity. A leading composer of devotional songs, Guru Ravidas made a lasting impact on the minds of the people and helped in inculcating Bhakti, devotion to the Divine.

In Bhakti Movement

Guru Ravidas was regarded as a great Guru in the Bhakti Movement. He was a Guru to many, including Meera Bai, the famous devotee of Lord Krishna.

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Meera Bai

Among other eminent people of those days who were the disciples of Guru Ravidas, was the Queen of Chittorgarh, a city in present day Rajasthan.

He is today called by title Bhagat, a terminology often used for a great devotee.

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Bhagat Ravidas

In Sikhism

The songs and writings of Guru Ravidas are included in the Guru Grantha Sahib, the Holy Book of Sikhs.

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Guru Ravidas and Guru Grantha Sahib

Ravidassia

The followers of Guru Ravidas forming a separate religious sect are called Ravidassia.

Fought Untouchability

Guru Ravidas also fought against untouchability, an ill plaguing the society of his days.

Multifacet Life, An Inspiration

A social reformer, a poet, a humanist, a Spiritual leader, Guru Ravidas will continue to inspire people on the spiritual path for many generations to come.

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Thai Pusam

Thai Pusam is a festival celebrated in Tamil Nadu on Full Moon in the Tamil month of Thai which starts from Pongal, Sankranti. Pusam, Pushyam is one of the 27 Nakshatra, star in the zodiac belt. The festival is called Thai Pusam as it is celebrated in Thai month when the Full Moon occurs near the Pushyam star.

The Legends

The legends speak of this day as when Parvati gave Murugan a Vel, ‘Spear’ for vanquishing the demon Tharakasuram. The festival is thus dedicated to Murugan, one of the most venerated divinities.

Thai Pusam is also the day when Sri Nataraja came to Chidambaram to enact his dance. More on Nataraja in our book and film “Understanding Shiva”.

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Celebrated in other countries

Thai Pusam is also celebrated in countries like Singapore, Sri Lanka and especially Malaysia where it is a national festival and is celebrated in a grand manner. Here, it is a practice to break 1 lakh coconuts on the road.

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There are also temples of Murugan in these countries.

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6 primary temples

There are 6 primary temples of Murugan in Tamil Nadu.

  1. Tirupparamkunram
  2. Tiruchendur
  3. Swamimalai
  4. Palani
  5. Thiruthani
  6. Pazhamudircholai

Murgan – Meaning, Other Names

The word Murugan means ‘God of War’. The word also means ‘One who is very attractive to look’.

Skanda, Subrahmanya and Karthikeya are among the other names of Murugan.

Skanda Purana, the largest Purana focuses on the exploits of this Divinity.

Karthikeya, Saravana, Shanmukha

Murugan is called Karthikeya as He was nurtured by the Krttika maidens, as soon as he was born.

Karthikeya also had a different birth.

As the legend goes, a spark of flame from Shiva fell in a Saravana, thicket of reeds, where it transformed into six babies. These six babies were nurtured by six maidens called the Krttika maidens.

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When these six babies were united into a single body with six heads by Parvati, the consort of Shiva, the baby was given the name Karthikeya, meaning one nurtured by the Krttika maidens. Since He was born in a Saravana, amidst reeds, Karthikeya is also called by the name Saravana. He is also called Shanmuga meaning one with six faces.

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Krttika constellation – Pleiades constellation

It is interesting to note that the legends also carry descriptions that link these six Krttika maidens to the Krttika constellation – Pleiades constellation and the stars in it.

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Vel – Removal of ignorance

Murugan holds a Vel, a spear in his hand. This Vel is not just a war weapon but is symbolic of removal of our ignorance. It is a weapon that destroys our ignorance.

This Thai Pusam day, let us make resolve to move from ignorance to knowledge.

Mahatma Gandhi Martyrdom Day – Martyrs’ Day

On January 30th, 1948, Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated before his evening prayer at Birla house in Delhi.

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Gandhi going for evening prayer in Birla House

The road where the Birla house stands has been renamed as Thees January Marg since the assassination took place on January 30th.

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Cement Foorprint of Mahatma Gandhi at Thees January Marg

The government of India observes this day as Martyrs’ day, in remembrance of all those selfless people who sacrificed their lives in the freedom struggle.

The person who was standing next to Gandhi then, was his young personal secretary, Sri Kalyanam.

We had the good fortune of meeting Sri Kalyanam, who released our book “You Turn India” in Chennai.

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Sri. Kalyanam, Personal Secretary of Mahatma Gandhi, 2nd from left, releasing our book “You Turn India”

Hey Ram

Did Gandhi say “Hey Ram”, after being shot?

Sri Kalyanam, who was standing nearby, says he did not hear those words being uttered by Gandhi. Abha Gandhi who was pushed by Godse and into whose arms Gandhi fell, had countered Kalyanam. She says he said Hey Ram as he saw the gun. Kalyanam was a little behind and of course could not hear it.

Who heard what then, is in the realm of conjuncture.

The fact is the world has come to accept it, that Gandhi did say “Hey Ram”.

Speaking about prayer, Gandhiji once said,

“Prayer has saved my life, without it I should have been a lunatic long ago. I feel that as food is indispensable for the body so was prayer indispensable for the soul. I find solace in life and in prayer.

With the Grace of God everything can be achieved. When His Grace filled one’s being nothing was impossible for one to achieve.

Prayer is nothing else but an intense longing of the heart. You may express yourself through the lips; you may express yourself in the private closet or in the public; but to be genuine, the expression must come from the deepest recesses of the heart… It is my constant prayer that I may never have a feeling of anger against my traducers, that even if I fall a victim to an assassin’s bullet, I may deliver my soul with the remembrance of God upon my lips.”

At Peace with Oneself

For a person to say Hey Ram when one is shot at, shows the internal calm of a person. It shows the peace a person has come to be with oneself, with life itself.

A task accomplished in one’s life, for one’s purpose of being born.

In Gandhiji’s case, a mission to liberate India from colonial yoke and set a model which the world did emulate.

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Raj Ghat, the memorial, marking the cremation spot of Gandhi

Jaisalmer Desert Festival

Jaisalmer

Desert Festival of Jaisalmer is celebrated every year in January February. Jaisalmer is a World Heritage Site located in Thar Desert, in Rajasthan.

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Jaisalmer, Rajasthan

The city is nicknamed ‘The Golden City of India’, for when the sun light is reflected on the sands of the desert city, it appears Golden.

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Jaisalmer, the Golden City of India

Raja Maharaval Jaisal Singh

Jaisalmer City is named after Rajput king, Raja Maharaval Jaisal Singh who established this city in 1146 CE.

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Raja Maharawal Jaisal Singh

The word Jaisal refers to the King and the word Mer, Meru, means ‘Hill’, ‘Pyramidical Hill’. The word Jaisalmer literally means, “Jaisal’s Hill Fort”.

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Jaisalmer fort

A Desert

The dry bed of Sarasvati River flows near Jaisalmer. This whole region became a desert since the drying up of the river 4500 years ago.

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Dry Channel of River Sarasvati near Jaisalmer

The Festival

The Jaisalmer Desert Festival is organized by the Rajasthan Government Tourism Department.

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This festival was started to attract foreigners to the state, who want to experience the culture of the state. This festival is celebrated over three days, when visitors from all over the world attend. The rich cultural heritage of Rajasthan is showcased. The audience is treated to the state music and folk dance.

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Jaisalmer Desert Festival

Camel Race

One of the main features of this festival are the Camel Races.

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Camel Race

Other Contests

Apart from these Camel races, other contests like Turban Tying contest, Best Mustache contest and Mr Desert contest are conducted.

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Mr Longest Mustache

The festival culminates at Sam sand dunes with scintillating performance by folk artists under the Full Moon, reflecting light on sand dunes, making for a wonderful ambiance.

Beating the Retreat

The Republic Day festivities last for four days until the 29th of January, since 30th January marks the day when the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead. Therefore 30th January is also observed as Martyrs’ Day in India besides being remembered as Gandhi Martyrdom Day.

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Beating the Retreat Ceremony

On 29th January, Beating the Retreat, starts at sun down, from Amar Jawan Jyothi, the memorial for martyrs, who lost their lives during the freedom struggle. It is a march to the tune of mellifluous music, signalling the end of Republic Day festivities, with which the armed forces return back to their respective duties.

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Beating the Retreat Function

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Military Bands Sound Beating the Retreat

Sister Nivedita’s Arrival in India

Today, 28th January, in 1898, a young British lady, a school teacher from Margaret Elizabeth Noble set foot on Indian soil to come and live as an Indian and learn Vedanta as an ardent disciple of Swami Vivekananda. She took on the name Sister Nivedita and shared his vision for India.

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Support to Bose

The Basu Vignan Mandir (Bose Research Institute) in Calcutta founded by Jagdish Chandra Bose the multidiscipline scientist of India found an ardent supporter in her. She helped JC Bose in raising foreign funds for his research, much against British opposition and even edited his works. Bose is the anglicized version for the Bengali / Bangla word Basu. Basu is the Bengali way of saying Vasu meaning earth, wealth and worth. This institute came up with the help of Sister Nivedita’s tireless and valiant efforts. For, despite being born British she had to fight the British in India to help set it up.

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Sir Jagdish Chandra Bose

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Basu Vigyana Mandir

Fulfilling India’s Science Dream

The British were against promoting a scientific temper in India then. Infact to thwart this hostile environment Swami Vivekananda dreamt of setting up Indian’s 1st indigenous science research institute instead. He discussed this dream with Sir. Jamsetji Tata while travelling from Yokohama to Vancouver.  He told Tata that Tata might get machines to start his industries but not scientific minds. Such minds would have to come from India he said. So Swami Vivekananda told Jamsetji Tata to set up his steel industry but set aside some funds from his steel business on founding an Indian institute for research in natural sciences. Thus was planted the seed for IISC Bangalore which came up in 1908.  Sadly neither Swami Vivekananda nor Jamsetji Tata were there to see it take shape.

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IISC Bangalore

Swami Vivekananda had left us in1902 and Sir Jamsetji Tata in 1904. It was Sir Dorabji Tata and Sister Nivedita who came together to see this dream come true amidst severe opposition from the British led by Lord Curzon.

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Design to India’s first flag

It was also Sister Nivedita who in 1904 gave the design for the first flag for India – a red and yellow flag with a vajra in the centre and the words Vande Mataram in Bengali writing.

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Flag designed by Sister Nivedita

A day to celebrate

28th of January, the day Sister Nivedita who has done so much for the development of science in India besides others, set foot on the soil of India with an intention to be an Indian in 1898 is a day to be remembered and celebrated.

‘Birthday’ of a song – Aye Mere Vatan Ke Logon

A Patriotic Song

The song “Aye Mere Vatan Ke Logon” stirred the nation with patriotic fervor in aftermath of the Indo China war in 1962.

 Written, Composed and Sung by….

1 Kavi Pradeep, Lata Maneshkar and C Ramachandra

The song was written by Kavi Pradeep, composed by C Ramachandra and sung for the first time by Lata Mangeshkar on January 27th 1963 in front of a live audience that included the then Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru.

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Lata Mangeshkar singing

 Sacrifice of Indian Soldiers

The song brings forth the sacrifice of the Indian soldiers during the then concluded Indo-China War. When sung, even to this day, it moves us to think of those soldiers who “gave their today for our tomorrow”.

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Indian Soldiers during the War

 Full Song

Ai mere vatan ke logon, tum khuub lagaa lo naaraa

Oh, my fellow citizens! Chant slogans in praise of our country.

yah shubhdin hai ham sab kaa, laharaa lo tiiranga pyaaraa

This is an auspicious day for us all, so fly our beloved tri-color flag.

par mat bhuulo siimaa par viiro.n ne hai praan ga.nvaaye

Yet, do not forget that brave soldiers have lost their lives on our borders.

kuchh yaad unhe.n bhii kar lo, jo laut ke ghar na aaye

Remember those who have not returned home.

ai mere vatan ke logo, zaraa aa.nkh me.n bhar lo paani

Oh, my fellow citizens! Shed a few tears.

jo shahiid hue hai.n unkii, zaraa yaad karo qurbaanii

Remember the sacrifice of those martyrs.

tum bhuul na jaao unko, is liye suno yah kahaanii

Listen to this story so that you do not forget them.

jo shahiid hue hai.n unkii, zaraa yaad karo qurbaani

Remember the sacrifice of those martyrs.

jab ghaayal huaa himaalay, khatre me.n paDii aazaadii

When the great Himalayas were wounded and our freedom was in danger,

jab tak thii saa.ns laDe ve, phir apnii laash bichha dii

They fought until their last breath and then laid their corpses to the ground.

sangiin pe dhar kar maatha, so gaye amar baliidaanii

Resting their heads on bayonets, these immortal martyrs fell into an eternal sleep.

jo shahiid hue hai.n unkii, zaraa yaad karo qurbaanii

Remember the sacrifice of those martyrs. 

jab desh me.n thii diivaalii, ve khel rahe the holii

When our country celebrated Diwali, they were playing Holi on the battlefield.

jab ham baiThe the gharo.n me.n, ve jhel rahe the golii

As we sat comfortably in our homes, they were firing bullets.

the dhanya javaan ve apane, thii dhanya vah unkii javaanii

Blessed were those soldiers, and blessed was their youth.

jo shahiid hue hai.n unkii, zaraa yaad karo qurbaanii

Remember the sacrifice of those martyrs.

koii sikh koii jaaT maraaThaa, koii gurkhaa koii madaraasii

Some were Sikh, Jaat, or Marathi; some were Gurkha or Madrasi.

sarhad par marnevaala har viir thaa bhaaratvaasii

But each man who died on the border was an Indian,

jo khuun giraa parvat par, wah khuun thaa hindustaanii

And the blood that stained the mountainside was Indian blood.

jo shahiid hue hai.n unkii, zaraa yaad karo qurbaanii

Remember the sacrifice of those martyrs.

thii khuun se lathpath kaayaa, phir bhii banduuk uThaa ke

Although their bodies were soaked in blood, they still raised their guns.

das das ko ek ne maaraa, phir gir gaye hosh ga.nvaa ke

Each man shot tens of enemy soldiers and then fell unconscious to the ground.

jab ant samay aayaa to kah gaye ki ab marte hai.n

When the final moment came, they said: “Now we shall die.

khush rahnaa desh ke pyaaro, ab ham to safar karte hai.n

My beloved countrymen, stay happy. We now begin our final journey to the afterlife.”

kyaa log the ve diivaane, kyaa log the ve abhiimaanii

They displayed such passion and dignity.

jo shahiid hue hai.n unkii, zaraa yaad karo qurbaani

Remember the sacrifice of those martyrs.

tum bhuul na jaao unko, is liye kahii yah kahaanii

This story has been recounted so that you do not forget them.

jo shahiid hue hai.n unkii, zaraa yaad karo qurbaani

Remember the sacrifice of those martyrs.

jai hind, jai hind kii senaa

jai hind, jai hind, jai hind!


Victory to India and its armed forces!