Gita Jayanti

Bhagavad Gita Jayanti

Come November and it is time to celebrate the Gita. 22nd November as per the English calendar and Margashira Shukla Paksha Ekadashi day, i.e. the 11th phase of the bright fortnight of the Margashira month as per the Indian calendar, is the day to commemorate the birth of the Gita.

Who or which Gita are we referring to here?

It is the Bhagavad Gita, which has been the literature of this civilization, this land and this nation since we can all remember.

It is the Gita which has been playing many roles in the lives of Indians, since the times of Krishna, who delivered it and left it behind to guide the people for long after His own lifetime.

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Gita Upadesha

Gita in Law

In the court one swears by the Gita. This practice has been going on for over 200 years. That makes it the nationally accepted book, both on a personal count and as well as being legally tenable. Not accepting the truth after swearing on the Gita, amounts to perjury.

All these were in practice, much before the words secularism and pseudo secularism came to vogue in India.

The Most Comprehensive Guide

The Bhagavad Gita answers one’s many queries, both from the Sthoola, bodily level and from the Sukshma, the subtle, ethereal level.

Upa means “near” and adesha means “instruction”. Upadesha is the instruction received by a disciple, sitting close to his master.

Krishna while delivering the Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna says,

“I taught this to Vivasvan, who in turn passed it on to Vaivasvata Manu, from whom it was passed on to Ikshvaku, after which it was lost in the passage of time. As this knowledge is since lost, I, Krishna, son of Vasudeva am giving it you Arjuna, on this battlefield.”

The teaching of Krishna, was applicable not only to Arjuna and the situation that he was in, but is also applicable to each one of us today even after so many millennia. Through the medium of this dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna, mankind, to this day, continues to enjoy and benefit from the most comprehensive guide to right living in this Universe.

This Bhagavad Gita discourse by Krishna shows Him in the light of one of the foremost spiritual teachers of mankind. His teachings through the Gita have remained a universal guide to mankind across many millennia, inspiring and leading many to walk the path of duty and righteousness.

Kurukshetra Battle and Bhagavad Gita

The uniqueness of Bhagavad Gita lies in the fact that it was given on a battle field, at the beginning of the battle between the Pandava and the Kaurava at Kurukshetra.

Kurukshetra War Start

On the day of the war the armies are lined up, ready to fight, waiting for the signal to start the battle.

At this juncture, standing at the head of the Pandava Army, facing the war giants on the Kaurava side, Arjuna, the archer par excellence and the main warrior for the Pandava forces, is troubled by serious doubts.

He sees that in front of him, the opponents whom he has to engage in battle and kill, are his own Guru – Dronacharya, his Grand Sire – Bheeshma, his own cousins – the Kaurava and other known friends.

Arjuna then questions Krishna, his friend, cousin, confidante and mentor in life, now in the role of his charioteer, of the paradoxical need to shed blood of his near and dear ones, only to establish rights over a kingdom. He asks Krishna as to why he should fight for the kingdom, if all his near and dear were to perish in the same war?

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Kurukshetra battle to start

Krishna then takes on the role of a philosopher, a teacher and explains to Arjuna the meaning of life, this creation, this universe and man’s role in it. Krishna dwells exhaustively on the concept of the soul and its relation to the body, the concept of the body and its relation to the acts it performs, the concept of these acts and their relation to their results, the concept of these results and their relation back to the soul and finally the concept of the soul and its relation to the supreme consciousness of the cosmos.

Step by step, with an answer for every question asked by Arjuna, Krishna patiently leads Arjuna into a world of deep spiritual knowledge, where Arjuna sees Krishna’s cosmic form. Arjuna learns of the ways of operation of the cosmos and the cosmic consciousness, which would apply to himself and all the beings around him, irrespective of whether he decides to fight the battle or not and whether he kills his near and dear ones or not.

Krishna elevates Arjuna to the highest echelons of knowledge about the way of life in the Universe.

Arjuna was going through an exhilarating experience of God Himself explaining the nuances of the cosmic laws to him.

Date of Gita

The Bhagavad Gita Upadesha and the start of the battle, occur on the same day. Today, with the aid of the sky configurations described in the Mahabharatha text we can assign a date in the modern calendar to the date of the battle and hence a date for this “Song of the Divine”.

We have been able date the life of Krishna and the various events of the Mahabharata through our series, “Historical Krishna”.

Historical Krishna_3_Vol

Tradition calls this day when Gita was born as Gita Jayanthi and to this day it is celebrated on Margashira Shukla Paksha Ekadashi, meaning the 11th day in the bright fortnight of the month of Margashira.

On this day, there was a New Moon along with a Solar Eclipse, in Jyeshta star on October 14th, 3067 BCE, followed by a Full Moon on October 28th, 3067 BCE. This lunar cycle marked the lunar month of Karthika, since the full moon occurred near Karthik star.

The month that follows Karthika, is Margashira and the New Moon occurred around 12 Nov 3067 BCE. This makes Nov 22nd, 3067 BCE, which was the start of the battle and the day of Gita, a Margashira Shukla Paksha Ekadashi day, the 11th  phase of the bright fortnight of Margashira.

The tradition of celebrating Margashira Shukla Paksha Ekadashi day as Gita Jayanthi matches what the skies showed 5100 years ago.

This means that the year 2018 is the 5085th year since the Upadesha of Gita.

A Revelation of God Himself

The Bhagavad Gita was revealed to mankind by God Himself. The word Bhagavad means ‘God, the Lord’ and Gita means ‘Song’. The word ‘Bhagavad Gita’ thus literally translates to, ‘Song of God’.

Krishna reveals his Viswaroopa, the Cosmic Form to Arjuna, showing that He is the Supreme Lord of Creation, incarnated in a human form to add credibility to His Gita.

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Vishvaroopa Darshana

This revelation of God, the Gita Upadesha was witnessed by Arjuna, Sanjaya the commentator, Vyasa the compiler and a host of other fortunate ones.

Arjuna’s grandfather, Krishna Dwaipayana, whom we reverentially call as Veda Vyasa, for he also compiled the Veda, recorded the Gita Upadesa for posterity.

The Difference

There have been many occasions in many lands, many civilizations, where God has conveyed His message to mankind, through His Son or through a messenger, a Prophet.

Similarly, there have been other times when God has thought it fit to pass on knowledge through different noble and wise persons.

In that sense, this land, the civilisation and nation of India, has experienced a difference, for, it has had the privilege to have an Avatar, an incarnation of God Himself, giving His message to mankind in person. And this was in the form of His song, the Bhagavad Gita.

Bhagavad Gita not a religious text

Bhagavad Gita deals with life, duties, actions, mind, soul, purpose of life and the belief in the divine God. All these aspects are common to human life, civilizations and all religions. From this perspective, Bhagavad Gita is a manual of all these above points and not to be limitedly construed as a religious text, even though it has come down from the mouth of God. The dialogue between the two, Krishna and Arjuna, was more about the purpose of life and actions than a religious discourse.

Gita therefore, should verily and proudly be accorded the status of a knowledge asset, a literary treasure, a godsend counsel for realization of the self, whether one is a citizen of India or the world.

Tulasi Vivah

Tulasi Vivah

Tulasi brings in a sense of sanctity, auspiciousness when used in a ritual. Hence this festival is referred to as Tulasi Kalyan, Kalyan meaning, “auspiciousness”. As the word “Kalyan” also refers to Vivah, marriage, the term together with the word “Tulasi”, with some related stories, has come to us today as Tulasi Vivah. This festival is usually observed on the 11th Day after the Full Moon of the bright fortnight of the month of Karthika.

Tulasi

Tulasi is an herb that has been used since time immemorial both in Ayurveda as well as in the religious ceremonies of the land.

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Tulasi Plant

Feminine Gender

Tulasi has been given a feminine gender in the Indian ethos. Each plant has been given either of the gender depending upon their basic characteristics.

Vrinda, Brinda

Tulasi is also referred to as Vrinda, Brinda. The forested area of Tulasi plants where Krishna grew up has for this reason been called Vrindavan where it was a thicket of Vrinda shrubs.

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Vrinda Shrubs of Vrindavan

Basil – Osmium Sanctum

It is also called as Basil in English and its Botanical name is “Osmium Sanctum”, the term “sanctum” itself clearly denoting that it is a sanctified plant of this land.

Cure for Malaria

When Victoria Garden and the Albert Zoo were being laid out in India in 1904, the workers suffered high incidences of malaria. It was overcome successfully by developing Tulasi gardens all around the place at the suggestion of a Hindu worker. An infusion of the Tulasi leaves is given in cases of malaria.

In recognition of the wonder, Tulasi plant was declared an anti-malarial in 1907 at the Imperial Malaria Conference.

Krishna Tulabharam

There are many interesting stories with regard to Tulasi. These bring forth the many values of Lakshmi.

In an interesting episode in the life of Krishna, in a tiff between his two wives, Rukmini and Sathyabhama, Krishna was weighed in all the gold of the land, but all the gold could not outweigh Krishna. The moment a couple of Tulasi leaves were placed, they outweighed Krishna. This story with its symbolic meaning is brought forth in the episode of Krishna Tulabharam.

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Krishna Tulabharam

Among the many varieties of Tulasi, one of the varieties is known as Krishna Tulasi, meaning “the darker colour Tulasi leaf”.

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Krishna Tulasi

A Herb that removes Dosha

What is more important to be remembered during this festival is the quality of Tulasi as an herb that sanctifies our body and at the same time purges us of Dosha.

 

 

What is Shit?

World Toilet Day is an official observance day by the United Nations that looks to raise awareness on the sanitation issues facing the world.

Image result for world toilet day

The day, observed on November 19th, was initially instituted by the World Toilet Organization, committed to improving toilet and sanitation conditions worldwide.

The UN later adopted this day, which it celebrates as World Toilet Day.

On a humorous note, let us first look at the “serious” side of Shit.

Shit-A Serious Matter

What is Shit? How did this word come about? Are you amused by these questions? Then, probably you didn’t know the history of this word. The humour here is indeed a serious matter.

Malam, Malinita

The Indian word for Shit is “Malam”, meaning ‘filth, dirt’ which is removed, not only for humans, but for all animals. Malam, Malinita also means to ‘steam up, heat up’, meaning that which had the capacity to blow up.

Shipping Manure

In the 16th and 17th centuries, the commercial fertilizers had not yet come to be. Large shipments of manure were order of the day. In this period, ship was a major means of transport.

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Ship

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Manure

The disaster

Manure was always dried before shipping, for, in dry state, it weighed less than in wet.

Once, a disaster was encountered, when the sea water touched the manure bundles in a ship. The process of fermentation began again, the byproduct being the highly combustible Methane Gas.

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Manure Produces the Highly inflammable Methane

The manure bundles were stored below the decks. The unimaginable happened. Methane began to build underneath the docks. Very soon, a loud ‘Boom’ was heard.

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Before one could come to terms with the inevitable, the whole ship was on fire and destroyed.

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Methane gas led to fire

Many ships were destroyed in this manner, before it was actually understood, what was happening.

Shit and then Ship

After discovering the peril these manure ships faced, these bundles were always stamped with the instruction, ‘Stow High In Transit’ – S.H.I.T, meaning, ‘load the manure bundles high enough from lower decks while loading’, so that, sea waters do not reach the Methane generating Cargo.Thus evolved the term Shit, ‘Stow High In Transit’. This term has remained to this day.

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On a funny note, “Cargo loaders had to ‘Shit’ manure for safety reasons.”

The word ‘Shit’ soon came to be used as a derogatory word for ‘irritation”, for the number of ships that it had blow up.

Malam, Malinita

The Indian word for Shit is “Malam”, meaning ‘filth, dirt’ which is removed, not only for humans, but for all animals. Malam, Malinita also means to ‘steam up, heat up’, meaning that which had the capacity to blow up.

Ancient India had a good drainage and Sewage system towards the disposal of Malam.

In other words, India had a Sewage system that was one of the best in the world.

Sewage System in Ancient India

Engineers of today admire the drainage facility of historical site of India, made 4500 years ago.

The ancient Indian cities had an excellent, drainage system even 5000 years back. Every house in ancient Indian cities had a private toilet.

The common belief is that the world did not have a structured drainage system upto 1800 CE. However, the ruins and sites of ancient Indian civilizations tell a different story. If we look at the archaeological sites of the Sindhu-Sarasvati basin in the North Western part of India, of the same historical period of about 5000 years back, we find that we have the Harappa and Mohenjodaro sites along with a couple of hundred other excavated sites. These sites show us how developed the ancient Indian cities were.

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Sindhu Sarasvati Civilization Region

Excellent Drainage Facility

What has been seen at Mohenjodaro and Harappa has amazed many. One of the most interesting aspects of these cities was their excellent drainage system. These cities had a systematic mechanism in place for rubbish collection and waste disposal. Moreover, every house of these cities had a private bathroom. This was seen in a thousand other excavation sites across the land.

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Drainage System in Mohenjodaro town

Admiration of modern Engineers

Engineers of today admire the design of the drainage system of the historical sites of India, made 5000 years ago. It draws the admiration of our modern engineers for its wholistic plan, design and attention to the minutest details. Such meticulously planned cities with sophisticated sewage system have not been seen anywhere in the world until the dawn of the modern era.

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India’s ancient drainage system lies in ruins at Harappa and Mohenjodaro

This is an indication that the people of the ancient Indian civilizations were prosperous on all counts.

More on India’s ancient sanitation system, in our book, You Turn India.

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India had always been a Clean Country

Cleanliness was a priority in Indian from ancient times. It is indeed a myth to suggest that since India was poor, She was always dirty. India was a prosperous country before the British took over. We have seen above that India has a sophisticated sewage disposal and toilet system from ancient times. It is somewhere in between, during the colonial rule, that filthiness crept in, as the British crushed India’s prosperity.

Swachh Bharat and Toilets

Our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi seeks to bring back that cleanliness, which was only next to godliness in this land, through the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Building of toilets is one aspect of this program. On this World Toilet Day, let us spread awareness on the importance of toilets and sanitation, and work towards the removal of open defecation, so that we become a clean country once again.

Kansa Vadh

Once upon a time, on the banks of the Yamuna, in the ancient city of Mathura, which was ruled by a despotic king called Kamsa, was born a dark and delightful baby boy, called Krishna. Krishna was born in the Vrishni family, in the lineage of Yadu.

Kansa Vadh

Devaki was the sister of the King Kamsa and Mathura was the capital of his kingdom.

Krishna was born to Princess Devaki and her husband, the noble man Vasudeva. Devaki was the sister of the King Kamsa and Mathura was the capital of his kingdom.

It had been prophesized that Kamsa’s doom would be wrought about by his own sister, Devaki’s eight child. Hence, Kamsa had imprisoned her with her husband and killed every one of her children as soon as they were born. Krishna was the eighth born child to Devaki and Vasudeva and He was born in the middle of the night in the prison of Kamsa.

Soon after Krishna’s birth, as though in answer to Devaki and Vasudeva’s earnest prayers to save Krishna from Kamsa, the prison cells opened and Vasudeva escaped from the prison with his just born son Krishna, carrying Him over his head. Vasudeva carried him on his head across the Yamuna River to Vrindavan.

Krishna thus reached the household of Nandagopa in Gokul, on the other side of the Yamuna.

Krishna and Balarama left Vrindavan for Mathura on Kamsa’s invitation when He was twelve. There Balarama and Krishna challenged Kamsa’s wrestlers, Mushtika and his wrestling partner Chanura to a wrestling bout – Mallayuddha. Mushtika and Chanura were killed in this bout. Krishna then took on the vile Kamsa and killed him.

This happened on a Shukla Paksha Dasami, i.e 10th phase of the brightening moon, in the month of Karthik.

It was a day when the prophecy of Kamsa’s death finally came true.

More on this in our book, “Historical Krishna”.

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Lala Lajpat Rai

Lion of Punjab

Lala Lajpat Rai was born on 28th January 1865 at Dhidika village in Punjab. He aggressively fought against the might of the British Empire. He was popularly called, Punjab Kesari, “The lion of Punjab”.

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Lala Lajpat Rai

“Lal Pal Bal”

The Trio of “Lal Pal Bal” were forerunners of the freedom struggle much before the times of Mahatma Gandhi. Lal was Lala Lajpat Rai from Punjab, Bal was Bala Gangadhar Tilak from Marartha, and Pal was Bipin Chandra Pal from Bengal. They came from different corners of India and asked for Swaraj in united voice.

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Lal Bal Pal

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The lion that he was, Lala Lajpat Rai gave tough time to the British through his demonstrations, demanding Swaraj.

Hindu Orphan Relief Movement

Lala Lajpat Rai founded the Hindu Orphan Relief Movement to keep British missions from securing custody of orphans.

Punjab National Bank

He also established the Punjab National Bank. The Bank opened on 12th April, 1895, at Lahore.

Lala 3

“Simon Go Back”

Lala Lapat Rai succumbed to injuries sustained during a lathi charge while leading a non violent demonstration against the Simon Commission, with the slogan “Simon Go Back”. He passed away on 17th November, 1928.

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“Simon Go Back” protest led by Lala Lajpat Rai

“Every Blow a Nail in the Coffin of British”

One of his strongest statements from his last moments, still etched in the mind of the people is, “Every blow on my body will prove a nail in the coffin of British Empire.”

Roads in his name

The people of both India and Pakistan remember the contributions of this Freedom Fighter towards Freedom from the Colonial Rule.

Many major cities in India have roads named after this Freedom Fighter.

Pakistan has also named a road after Lala Lajpat Rai in its Quetta town. It is for the first time since partition that Pakistan had named a road after an Indian leader.

Statues

There are also statues erected in honour of Lala Lajpat Rai in many parts of the country.

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Lala Lajpat Rai Statue, Shimla

Stamp

A stamp has been released in his name by the Government of India.

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It is due to the efforts of such Freedom Fighters that India finally attained Freedom in 1947.

International Day of Tolerance

Swami Vivekananda’s Speech

120 years ago, in his speech, Swami Vivekananda brought in the concept of “tolerance” among religions. It was a 458 word speech that lasted just 6 minutes but ushered in a fresh breath of air then.

Tolerance 1

Call to Respect

Swami Vivekananda in his speech at Chicago conference of world religion in 1893 spoke eloquently of the existence of the other thoughts, the plurality and how we innately need to respect others and accept others as our innate ethos.

 “As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so O Lord, the different paths which men take through their different tendencies, various though they appear crooked or straight, all lead to thee.”

With this effort, we should now bring back into dialogue, the need to respect the other.

The Downward Slide

In the last 100 years, Tolerance has now come down to Tolerate.

A tolerant society will be destroyed by its tolerance to intolerance. So from Tolerance, Tolerate, we should move to Respect.

November – Time to Celebrate Children

Seeing God as a Child

One can see an expression of the Indian love for children in the manner in which they have idolized even their gods in the form of a child.

We thus see portrayals of Shiva as Bala Shiva, Rama as Bala Rama, Krishna as Bala Krishna, Ganesha as Bala Ganapathy, Karthikeya as Bala Muruga and Hanuman as Bala Hanuman.

                     

                      Bala Ganapathy                                                                     Bala Rama                                                  

Bala Muruga

Bala Krishna

    Bala Shiva

Godly Children

Indian legends, the Purana are replete with enjoyable stories of the acts of various divinities in their child like form, some among these divinities being Tattva, cosmic principles and some others being historic personages.

The history epic, Valmiki’s Ramayana contains portrayals of Lord Rama and His brothers as ideal children. Through the behavior and life of these historic and ideal children, the Ramayana conveys the message of obligations of brotherhood, obedience to parents and obeisance to teachers. It celebrates childhood as the budding point for all qualities displayed in later adulthood.

The other history epic, Vyasa’s Mahabharata, through the lives of the five Pandava and the 100 Kaurava brothers, brings to focus competitive spirit amongst children. It showcases how impressions both positive and negative, formed during childhood can assume far greater proportions and cause great impacts to society in years to follow. It alerts us of the propensity of children to retain impressions and emotions well into their lives.

Purana dealing with tattva divinities such as Ganesha, Kartikeya have portrayed them symbolically in child like forms and through symbolic stories of symbolic acts of these divinities, have conveyed principles of the cosmos, of mankind, of mind, of intellect and of ego to help elevate man’s thinking and behavior.

Yet other Purana have immortalized some of the children of long bygone eras, in the saga of the land for generations that have followed in the last many millennia. The story of the boy Sravana’s devotion to his parents, the story of Markandeya’s unshakeable faith in the divinity Shiva, even in the face of death are known to most, through the land, even in this day.

The Purana legends have also showcased scientific possibilities involving children and their upbringing. We thus have legends showcasing the ability of the foetus to grasp happenings and sounds outside the womb. The story of Prahalada showcases how he imbibed devotion towards Narayana while in his mother’s womb and carried it forth as a little boy. The story of Ashtavakra again highlights how Ashtavakra imbibed the Upanishad while in his mother’s womb and used it later to help his father in times of need. Yet again, the story of Abhimanyu reiterates how a child starts gaining knowledge right from the time it is in the womb of its mother.

The legend of Dhruva symbolically narrates the scientific phenomenon of precession of the earth and its effect on the pole star seen in the skies. It is a beautiful way in which the principles of astronomy have been woven into a simple legend.

Srimad Bhagavatham contains many anecdotes on the pranks played by Lord Krishna, His brother Balarama and their gang of friends, Gopa and Gopi. This text highlights the qualities of innocence as well as impishness in children. It celebrates children for the adorable and affable beings that they are.

Seeing God in a Child

Children by nature are mischievous. To be mischievous is an innate quality of children.

Krishna’s precocious pranks are part of the rich folklore of this land.

                              

                                                                     Krishna’s pranks

Krishna, His pranks and His lovable, playful ways, set the trend for how people regarded children, in the land of India across millennia.

This land, by culture, for the last 5,100 years since the times of Krishna, has viewed children as a replica of Krishna and has relished their pranks as they would Krishna’s. The mischief of children has rarely been associated with punishment and reprimanding. It has instead been eulogized and happily expressed as an imitation of Krishna.

Given this ethos, when elders admonish their children for their harmless pranks, it is not stern and wrathful. It has in it an admiration for their innocence and a tolerance with an understanding that by nature, children are given to their ways of pranks.

A culture that gives space for children to grow up with their mischief also automatically gives them the space to grow out of their mischief as a part of the transition from childhood to adolescence.

Holding Children in High Esteem

It is no wonder that various political, religious as well as social leaders have focused specially on the children in the society. They have not only showered affection on them, but they have also invested time and effort in grooming the children in society, in morals, ethics and values. We thus have in many languages, simple couplets composed specially for inculcating good conduct and values in children. These couplets served as the nursery rhymes in this civilization much before the British replaced them with theirs.

Children’s day celebrations are a facet of the high esteem in which this civilization holds the development of its children.  Classic examples of this commitment, even till a couple of centuries ago, can be seen from the quote of Brigadier General Alexander Walker of East India Company from 1780 to 1810.

Dedicating November 14th, the birth anniversary of prominent leader Jawaharlal Nehru, who was close to children, as Children’s Day, is a representative gesture of the high esteem in which children have been held through the ages.

 Nehru with children

It is a day for us to recognize the value of children, the values in children and the values that have to be taken to the children for the development of a valued society.

It is a day to rededicate ourselves to the cause and joys of children.