World Social Media Day

Social Media – A Gnana Astra

Social Media is a new phenomenon that has come into existence in the last fifteen years.

The internet, the web has in many ways shrunk the world like never before. It has got the people together, a global family of netizens, a family of people who are well informed in the happenings both at the local level and the global level, a family of people who are knowledgeable. This is one Avatara of the traditional Indian way of expression, Vasudeva Kutumbhakam.

In India, traditionally, knowledge is something that is put in the open and shared freely and fearlessly among the knowledge seekers. While that was in the past, in the medieval times and the post medieval times knowledge became something that was exclusive and elusive.

It is with the coming of the post modern era and the information highway that knowledge has once again come back in the public domain. Even here knowledge was made available in formal formats. With the coming of the Social Media, the components of this knowledge have become available in digestible doses. This created knowledge for the netizens in digestible portions.

In India there is a well known saying ‘sange shakti kaliyuge’, meaning, in this Kaliyuga, it is those people, who are able to gather people around them, that gain the strength.

We are in the midst of Kaliyuga where so many unsavory happenings are happening all around us. The way to alert people of these, the way to bring people together on these issues cannot be left to the media alone. After all, it is for the people’s welfare and so has to engage people directly one on one. Social Media via the internet has come in handy here. For instance the social media allows one to reach many and at the same time express a point of view with all its associated layers of issues without any space constraints.

“Pen is mightier than the sword”. This is an old adage.

Wars have been fought with swords from time immemorial. For major as well as petty issues, countless lives, since the dawn of history have been lost in wars, in getting across one’s point of view. Yet, after all this, if we continue to say that, the pen is mightier than the sword, then the power of the word, the power of knowledge in moulding human minds is mightier indeed.

Gnana Astra

In warfare, we have the Astra and Shastra. The Shastra are hand held fighting equipments. The Astra are the ones which are released from the hand.

Sastra Era

Social Media is a modern day astra, an astra of knowledge, a Gnana astra, where in, without hurting the other we get our point of view across to the family of seekers of this knowledge.

Knowledge Era

The world has gone through many succeeding era like the Industrialization era, transportation era, commercial era, communication era. We are now in the midst of an information era. It is here that the family of the knowledgeable, with their knowledge, will have a bigger say in moulding our thoughts, minds and ways.

 Knowledge era

With the word, the vak, being mightier by the day, with the world coming together for common good, with the knowledge era dawning on us, mediums such as the internet, present us with a whole field ahead in guiding people. A simple, beautiful, sustainable, open minded, interactive engagement, with a “questioning and responding” nature, is a responsible way forward, for the society as a whole.

 

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Sri Kempe Gowda

Kempe Gowda

There is one name that catches your attention time and again if you are in the city of Bengaluru.

Kempe Gowda Road, Kempe Gowda Nagar, Kempe Gowda Bus Station, Kempe Gowda International Airport! The name is everywhere!

You know Bengaluru. Do you know its founder?

His name is Kempe Gowda.

Founder of Bengaluru

Sri Kempe Gowda is well known as the founder of Bengaluru, the city that has grown leaps and bounds in the last many centuries. The city was established by him in the year 1537 CE as the capital of the land he ruled.

Kempe Gowda gave the name Bengaluru

He was the chieftain of Yelahankanadu, a principality under Vijayanagara Empire.  This place was known as Bendakaluru, before Kempe Gowda gave it the present name.

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Kempe Gowda, the founder of Bengaluru

Kempe, Ruby

Kempe means a precious gem, a red ruby in English. True to his name, he is indeed a precious gem of the land of Karnataka.

Types of Ruby

The different types of Rubies include,

  • Indian Ruby, found mainly in Mysore

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Mysore Ruby

  • Burmese Ruby
  • Thailand Ruby
  • Tanzanian ruby
  • Madagascar Ruby

Kempe Gowda Day

The Government of India observes his birthday every year on 27th June.

The day is celebrated as Kempe Gowda day in the state of Karnataka.

Sri Kempe Gowda was born at Yelahanka in the year 1510 CE, as the son of Kempananje Gowda, who ruled the Yelahankanadu for over 70 years, after which his son took over.

So how exactly did he get the idea of building a city, which is today among the most prominent cities in India?

Building of Bengaluru

Idea during an expedition

Interestingly, Kempe Gowda had this idea, when he was on a hunting expedition, towards Shivanasamudram from Yelahanka.

Hare chasing Dog

While Kempegowda was on a hunting expedition, he was amused to see a rabbit chasing a dog. He called that place as “Gandubhoomi”, meaning “The land of heroes” and desired to build a city in that place.

He envisioned the city to have a cantonment, a fort, plenty of water bodies and people from all professions and trade.

Conquering regions

On this expedition, he conquered many areas, which today form a part of the Bangalore city. With these large areas under his belt, Kempe Gowda started his task of city construction, with the royal permission of the Vijayanagara Empire.

Bengaluru Fort

Kempe Gowda first built a Red Fort with eight gates, and a moat surrounding it, a little away from Yelahanka. This fort is today popularly known as Bangalore Fort, and is located in the center of Bengaluru City.

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An artist impression of Bangalore in 1537.
Enclosed within a strong mudfort and surrounded by a moat.

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Bengaluru Fort, in 1860

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Bengaluru Fort as it stands today

Four streets and roads

He then designed the four streets running in the four directions with the corresponding roads. The street running from east to west was named Chikkapete street, while the street from north to south was named Doddapete street. This Doddapete street has been renamed today as Avenue Road.

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The four roads originally built by Kempe Gowda in today’s Bangalore map

One ran from Ulsoor to Sondekoppa, running from east to west and another from Yelahanka Gate to the Fort, running from north to south. These streets were segregated for different purposes such as for residences or business. Tanks were built at different places to supply water to the city.

4 towers

Kempe Gowda also built four watch towers to mark the outer boundaries of Bengaluru. The city has today grown much beyond these towers which today stand at the heart of the city.

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One of the Watch Towers built by Kempe Gowda

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A watch tower as it stands today in Lalbagh, Bengaluru

Thus came about a city that is today the IT capital of India. A city that owes its origin to Kempe Gowda.

Kempe Gowda passed away in 1569 CE, having ruled for around 56 years.

Legacy

Statue

In 1609, a metal statue of this emperor was installed at the Gangadhareshwara temple at Shivagange.  Post-independence, another statue of his was built in from of the Bangalore Corporation office.

Bus Stand and Airport

Today, the central bus station is named as Kempe Gowda Bus Station, and the Bangalore Airport as Kempe Gowda International Airport. The central metro station at Majestic has also been named after Kempe Gowda.

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Kempe Gowda Bus Station

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Kempe Gowda International Airport

Water Bodies

One lesser known fact is Kempe Gowda’s contribution to building many tanks and reservoirs in and around Bengaluru. With great forethought, he built these water bodies to supply sufficient water for his city citizens.

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Yelahanka Lake, Bengaluru

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Ulsoor Lake, Bengaluru

Unfortunately today, we have destroyed these water bodies in the name of development.

Educational Institutions

Also, many educational like Kempe Gowda Institute of Medical Sciences, Kempe Gowda college of Nursing and the Kempe Gowda Institute of Physiotherapy have been named in honour of Kempe Gowda.

Awards

Kempe Gowda awards are given away every year to those from different walks of life.

Museum

Kempe Gowda Museum, was established in 2011 at Bengaluru, dedicated to this chieftain.

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Kempe Gowda Museum

Like this, legacy of Kempe Gowda has taken the form of many institutions, and his name is well-etched in the minds of people.

Bankim Chandra

bankim chandra chattopadhyay - birth

We all know the song Vande Mataram, the National Song of India. But do you know the person behind this song?

Around 180 years back, on 27th June 1838, was born the creator of this song at Naihati, in the then Bengal Presidency of India. Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay was his name.

He grew up to be a freedom fighter poet who gave this clarion call of Vande Mataram, that inspired many generations during the Indian Freedom Struggle and continues to do so even today, even with just its popular tune itself, minus the words.

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A writer cum poet and journalist, Bankim Chandra, was a leading figure in the literary renaissance of Bengal and India.

Bankim Chandra composed the popular song Vande Mataram, as a part of his work, Anandamath in 1881. The first two verses of this song were adopted as the National Song of India, in 1937, due to the patriotic fervor that this song aroused in the minds of the people.

Vande Mataram is an ode to motherland, Matharam. In the Indian ethos, the motherland is revered as a Mother herself – Bharat Mata.

The house at Chinsurah in West Bengal, where the Vande Mataram was composed

Bha stands for knowledge, and Ratha means to relish. Bharat is the land of people who relish knowledge. Bharat Mata is the embodiment of the knowledge and wisdom in this land, which gives it its strength, courage, prosperity, virtue, clam and charm. She is revered as a Devi, the Divine Mother.

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Vande Mataram – Original Song With All Verses and Its English Translation by Sri Aurobindo

Along with Jana Gana Mana, the National Anthem, Vande Mataram is the most revered song in this land. With this song, Bankim Chandra has left a permanent imprint in the minds of the people of this country.

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Urdu Daily, named “Vande Mataram”, based in Lahore during the pre-independence times

This song was introduced in the political arena by Rabindranath Tagore and from thereon, its popularity spread far and wide.

The term Vande Mataram soon became popular among the leaders and masses.

Bipin Chandra Pal and Lala Lajpat Rai, the two well-known freedom fighters named their journals, Vande Mataram.

Sri Aurobindo, the freedom fighter cum spiritual leader called it the National Anthem of Bengal.

This song was composed in both Bengali and Samskrt. As it was composed in Samskrt, the mother language of most languages of Bharat Desh, the song, the words and their meaning, easily found resonance among the citizens of the land and encouraged patriots all the way from Baluchistan in the West to Arunachal Pradesh in the East and from Himalaya in the North to Kanyakumari in the South.

Bankim Chandra’s other works include Durgeshnandini, Kapalkundala and Devi Chaudhurani.

Bankim Chandra passed away on 8th April, 1894. But he lives on even today, through his song Vande Mataram.

Nirjala Ekadashi

Ekadashi is an occasion for fasting, when one forgoes food. Nirjala Ekadasi is the day when one foregoes even water.

 Ekadashi is an occasion for fasting, when one forgoes food. Nirjala Ekadasi is the day when one foregoes even water. Ancient India recommended fasting a day in a fortnight, the designated day being Ekadasi. Many still practice Ekadasi fasting religiously with a clear understanding of the biological and therapeutic benefits of this practice. The position of the sun, moon, earth and the gravitational pull they exert on each other on this day that makes Ekadashi special.

Ekadash, eleven also stands for

1. 5 Jnanandriya – eyes, nose, ears, tongue and skin

2. 5 karmandriya – arms, legs, digestive system, excretory system and reproductive system

3. Mind

The 5 senses of perception and action, and the mind as the eleventh. Ekadashi is a day to bring the senses into harmony with the 11th aspect, the mind. One of the ways to do this is through fasting.

Hence fasting is undertaken during every Ekadasi.Nirjala Ekadashi is more austere, where they observe, without even drinking water.

Which is why it is called Nirjala Ekadashi.

There are four levels of fasting, based on intake

1. Eating one regular meal in the day

2. When fruits and milk are consumed

3. When only water is consumed

4. When, even water is not taken

This last category of fasting is undertaken on Nirjala Ekadasi day, when even water is shunned. Fasting once every month and annually without consuming water is prescribed as a cleansing process for the body.

Ganga Dashami

Imprints of Ganga

For many millennia, even though India gets her name from the Indus, i.e Sindhu River and Veda, the oldest compendium of literature in the world were compiled by the river Sarasvati, it is Ganga that has defined India. India is known as the land of the Ganga.

Coming down from the snowy heights of the Himalaya and flowing through the northern belt of India to join the Bay of Bengal in the East, this perennial river has been revered as the holy mother “Ma Ganga”, who washes away all sins, not only by the Indians but by many of the South East Asian civilizations too.

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Bhagiratha Prayathna

In the Purana, the legends of ancient India, we have the story of Bhagiratha, an ancient king of this land belonging to the Surya Vamsa, Solar Dynasty. He was the illustrious forefather to Rama and Dasaratha, illustrious because he diverted the waters of the Ganga by his extraordinary effort, to the present day Gangetic plains.

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Bhagiratha Prayatna

This effort of Bhagiratha is celebrated in the legends as Bhagiratha Prayathna, the extraordinary or superhuman effort of Bhagiratha in bringing the waters to his parched kingdom.

Once the river Ganga was brought this side of the Himalaya and started flowing through the land, the waters gave prosperity to the land through the ages. So Ganga, with its waters has been giving unending prosperity to a civilisation for generations and generations to come.

Akshaya Trithiya

Akshaya Trithiya is the day Bhagiratha cut through the rocks in the upper Himalaya and brought the waters of the Ganga, this side to give unending prosperity to his land, kingdom and people.

It is this event of bringing prosperity with the waters that has been commemorated with the Akshaya Trithiya day.

The worldwide popularity of Ganga

Ganga has captured the hearts of so many across the world that she can be found depicted in many lands across the world in form, fame and name. (Preethi in murthi, kirthi and sruthi).

In Rome

For instance, one of the oldest depictions of Ganga river is actually in Rome. Ganga forms one of the 4 rivers in the fountain at Piazza Novonna built in 200 CE.

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Piazza Novona in Rome depicting the 4 popular rivers of the world in 200 CE – Tiber, Nile, Rhine, Ganges

In Sri Lanka – Kelani Ganga

In the south of India, in Sri Lanka, there is a place called Kelaniya on the banks of the river Kelani Ganga. Kelaniya from many millennia is held as the place where Vibhishana had his palace. A temple in honour of Vibhishana stands here even to this day. The outer wall of the temple building, which also houses a Buddhist shrine and monastery, bears a mural depicting the Coronation, pattabhisheka of Vibhishana by Lakshmana, the younger brother of Rama.

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Buddha Vihar and Vibhishana Temple

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Ganga Sculpture at the temple on the banks of Kelaniya Ganga River

It is interesting to note that the river by this palace was called Kelani which is a morphed version of the word Kalyani, meaning abundance giving, auspicious.

More on this in our book, Ramayana in Lanka.

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Ganga – Perennial Rivers, Oya – Minor Rivers

The river was called Ganga since the word Ganga means one that is perennial. It has now come to be associated with larger rivers whereas minor rivers are called Oya in Sri Lanka.

Other Gangas in Sri lanka

For example there are Kalu Ganga near Bentota, Menik Ganga, Gin Ganga etc. in Sri Lanka itself.

In Early European Maps

Early European navigation maps of the world clearly depict India as a land of Ganga.

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Tabula Peutingeriana showing Indi by Peutinger in 200 CE

Ganga made her way not only to the seas of the Bay of Bengal but her name and fame had made their way all over the world.

Alexander’s wish

Alexander’s wish to see Ganga flowing in 326 BCE, the erection of a fountain in Rome in commemoration of the 4 major rivers of the world with Ganga figuring in that list in 200 CE and India being distinguished by the Ganges river on the maps of Europe right from 2000 years ago, are proof enough of her popularity around the world through the times.

India was mapped by the Ganga. India was branded by the Ganga.

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India delineated as “India Intra Gangem” and “India Extra Gangem” on either side of the Ganga by Ptolemy in 140 CE

In Cambodia

If Ganga is found in the West, she can also be seen in the East in Cambodia. Tucked away in the jungles of Kulen Mountains, she is found as a concept, sculpted on the hard rocky stone. She is shown originating from Vishnu’s feet, touching Shiva’s head and then flowing over Sahasra Shiva linga carved on the bed rock of the headwaters of the Stung Kbal Spean river which is a tributary of the Siam Reap river that flows down from the Kulen Mountains to Angkor Wat. Dating to 11th century CE, Ganga has been depicted here as a legend.

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Sculptures of Ma Ganga story in the upper reaches of Stung Kbal Spean, a tributary of Siem Reap river, which in turn is a tributary of Mekong, flowing through the Kuhlen mountains near Angkor in Cambodia

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This stone carving of the 1000 Linga in Cambodia, built during the time of King Udayadityavarman II, in turn is found back home in South India too.

A similar depiction of Ganga and 1000 Linga can be found on the river Shalmala in the jungles near Sirsi, Karnataka. It was built in the 17th century during the reign of Sadashivarayavarma, the king of the Sirsi kingdom.

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Mekong – A Morphed version of Ganga

The Mekong of Cambodia is a morphed version of Maa Ganga.

The very name Mekong for the main river of South East Asia, is the Cambodian way of saying ‘Ma Ganga’ – ‘Me Kong’. The reverence of the South East Asians, for Ma Ganga, can be seen in Mekong, right from its name to the sculptures along the river that depict its legend.

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Map highlighting Ganga and Mekong

In India

Most perennially flowing rivers in the Indian subcontinents and S.E.Asia were called a Ganga, as they were nurturing their respective regions like Ganga does, through the year.

Wain Ganga, PenGanga, VedGanga

In India too, besides the Ganga, we have the Wain Ganga, PenGanga, VedGanga etc.

Godavari – Vrddha Ganga

Another long and wide river of India is the Godavari which rises from Trimbakeshwar in Nashik and flows from west to east across India to drain out into the Bay of Bengal.

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Godavari River, location

One other name for this Godavari is Vrddha Ganga meaning the “Older Ganga.”

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River Godavari, also known as Vrdha Ganga

Krishnaa – Elder sister of Ganga

Yet another river of India, Krishnaa, is also referred to in legends as the elder sister of Ganga.

Interestingly both are Deccan Plateau Rivers and flow through the Telugu lands.

Telugu Ganga Canal

Similarly, the canal that brings Krishna river to Chennai, an initiative of N T Rama Rao and M G Ramachandran, is known as Telugu Ganga.

Cauvery – Dakshina Ganga

Cauvery River is known as Dakshina Ganga, meaning the Ganga of the South.

Ganga Talao in Mauritius

Likewise, further south, in Mauritius, the Indians residing there have named one of their reservoirs as Ganga Talao, meaning Ganga Lake.  This shows the connect they still have with Ganga. It also shows how Ganga is held as a symbol of a nourisher by people all over.

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Ganga Talao

Ganga Sagar

With the Ganga River, draining into the Bay of Bengal, the Bay of Bengal, naturally and rightfully has been called the Ganga Sagar for many millennia, till the British in their maps started referring to Ganga Sagar as Bay of Bengal.

More on Ganga as a timeless brand of India, in our book, Brand Bharat – Unique To India.

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Ellora

If we travel to the heart of India, near Aurangabad we find the heritage site of Ellora.

Ellora is one of largest rock-cut monastery-temple cave complexes in the world today. Built through 400 years, from 600 to 1000 CE, it has been declared a UNESCO World heritage site.

The unique feature of Ellora is that the temple complex was carved top down from a single rock, rather than built from bottom up.

It is an architectural marvel, in that, the sculpting was started in 600 CE and completed in 1000 CE. The design was envisaged by the architects who lived in 600 CE and the temple was completed by the 8th generation of architects down the line.

In this famed temple, one can find sculptures of Ganga on the caves.

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Sculptures of Ganga at Ellora cave

Udaygiri caves

Further central to India, in the much more old Udayagiri caves in today’s Madhya Pradesh, dating to 5th century CE, one can find Ganga on the wall near the Varaha caves of Udayagiri.

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Sculpture of Ganga at Udaygiri Caves, Madhya Pradesh

Mahabalipuram

One of the best depictions of Ganga in India by far is the bas relief of the Descent of Ganga, carved on the hard granite rocks in Mahabalipuram, near Chennai in Tamil Nadu.

Dating to early 7th century CE, this panel forms an exquisite backdrop for the Annual Dance Conference held here, every year.

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Bas Relief of the descent of Ganga at Mahabalipuram

Why is Ganga held so dear in every one’s heart?

Aren’t other rivers equally special, after all they too nourish the lands they flow through?

They are long, wide and full of water like the Ganga too.

Did not the Sindhu and Sarasvati nurture the civilization of Bharat along their banks?

What is so special about the Ganga?

Ganga – The Jiva Nadi

The term Ganga itself means Perennial. All across the civilization, some of the key perennial rivers had the suffix of Ganga, implying tis perennial nature. The term for perennial nature in Indian language is Jiva Nadi, the one that has Jiva, life, for it is the perennial waters that sustain Jeevan, life. The perennial waters that which sustains civilizations. What apt naming! The intrinsic connect between perennial rivers and sustainable civilization brought out so beautifully in the continuously surviving civilization of Bharata Khanda.

The Worldwide imprints of the Ganga are not just for its size or discharge but because of the nature of it being a hydraulic river engineering marvel of a bygone era.  Let us in our generation strive to keep this symbol of India, clean and flowing with Divinity and vitality.