Mission Shakti

India recently carried out its anti-satellite missile launch successfully with Mission Shakti, and became only the fourth nation to have done so after US, Russia and China. She has thus joined this small group of elite space powers.

In case of a conflict situation in future, India can shoot down a spy satellite, by sending an automated missile into space.

This is no small achievement.

Mission Shakti, a representative image
Defence Research Development Organization

Stalled previously due to indecisive Government

India has this capability in 2012, but was stalled due to an indecisive government. The plan was submitted to the Central government in 2012, but no sanction was given.

The political will shown by the present government has enabled India to become a space power, after its successful Mission Shakti Project.

Humble beginning in 1963

Thumba, the place of first launch

This is all after a humble beginning a few decades back. It was in 1963, 53 years ago that India’s first rocket took off from Thumba on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. This place soon became a launch station known as Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launch Station, and later on with more advancement went on to attain the name of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, named after the eminent space scientist Dr. Vikram Sarabai, the Father of Indian Space Program.

Dr. Vikram Sarabai Space Centre

It was Dr. Vikram Sarabai who helped India make its first signature in space, as he chose Thumba for carrying out this Mission.

Dr. Vikram Sarabai

Dr. Sarabai felt that Thumba with its location at 8°32’34” N and 76°51’32” E is ideal for low altitude,  upper atmosphere, and ionosphere studies. Thus he felt that Thumba would be ideal for any rocket launch.

Dr. Kalam among the young recruits

Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam in his earlier days then, was one of the recruits in Dr. Sarabai’s team consisting of young enthusiastic scientists who were sent for training on rocket assembly and launch at NASA’s Wallops Island in Virginia, USA. After their training, this young bunch of scientists began to gradually assemble together their first rocket.

A young Dr. Kalam with Dr. Sarabai

Rocket parts carried on cycles and bullock carts

Thumba in those days was an isolated village, and didn’t have adequate transportation facilities. It is thus that the parts for making a rocket was carried in cycle and bullock cart.

Parts of India’s first rocket being carried on cycle and bullock cart

India Soars into Space

On 21st November, 1963, India was all ready to launch it first rocket. After a few hiccups initially, the rocket eventually took off at 6.25 pm, allowing India to make its first mark in space. It was due to the skill of Dr. Vikram Sarabai and young budding scientists like Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam that this mission became possible then.

India’s first rocket launch in 1963

Mission Shakti – 2019

India has gone a long way today in becoming a space power, after its first baby step in 1963. After 53 years, DRDO today conducted an anti-missile test from Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam Island launch complex, in Orissa.

This test was successful on all parameters. The technology used for carrying out this mission consisted of DRDO’s ballistic missile defence interceptor, along with Kinetic Kill, a space technology in which India has capability. The main goal of this mission was to demonstrate that India has the capability of safeguarding its space assets as well as prevent any misuse of space technology in targeting India.

Multiple Levels of Precession shown

A satellite which is at 300 kms from Earth travels at a speed of 30,000 Km / h, while an ASAT missile travels at 24000 km/h. Thus hitting a satellite requires an incredible precision, and DRDO (Defence Research Development Organization) must really be credited for making this humungous task possible.

 A phenomenal achievement!

The size of the satellite that was hit was 1 cubic metre, only as big as large suitcase. It is indeed remarkable to hit such a small object moving at an incredible speed.

An object of 1 cubic metre

Shooting a bullseye is part of the archery contests. The precession of hitting a target is what our legends tell us from ancient times. The classic case is of Arjuna hitting the fish eye, during Draupadi Swayamvara. This hitting of the satellite is similar to the great precession shown by Arjuna.

Arjuna at Draupadi Swayamvara

Moreover, as per international regulations, the target has to be hit, when it is flying over one’s country, and which in this case is only 7 minutes owing to the great speed of this satellite.

The satellite area in the space is also very crowded. In that crowd to pin point the target exactly is a bigger achievement.

The crowded Space

The target also has to be hit in such a way that the debris doesn’t hang around in space, becoming an obstacle for other satellites.

This Mission of DRDO was able to achieve all these requirement, showing a high level of precision skills.

Till date, we have 49 satellites in space. This anti-satellite skill that we have achieved of will help us safeguard our satellites, because now we know how to bring down enemy satellites.

Today’s space is still an unregulated area, and very few countries are in the elite space club. This technical capability and achievement not only puts us in that elite space club, but if and when regulatory bodies are formed, by world space bodies, then India will naturally have her rightful place on high tables, with veto powers.

A landmark achievement

Mission Shakti has been a landmark achievement for India on Space front, and 27th March 2019, will be etched in the memory of many, for witnessing one of the challenging tasks of shooting a satellite in faraway space. This will take India a long way in becoming a Space Super Power.

For more on Mission Shakti, see this conversation by D K Hari, on Shree TV:

World Idli Day

World Idli Day is celebrated on March 30th. A day to know more about this delicious food.

Idli is the favourite breakfast dish in South India. Along with Sambar, a variety of chutnies, and molaga podi, chilly powder is a mouthwatering and nourishing delicacy.

Idli is not just tasty but also healthy and nutritious. It is not fried but is steam cooked. Its fermented batter is a finely wet ground mix of rice and gram.

Idli fulfills the needs of a stomach. It gives carbohydrates for energy and protein for growth. Its good bacteria generate lot of Vitamin B. An interesting thing is that a person consuming Idli daily may not have head ache because the black gram has the property to inhibit head ache. The side dish Sambar is one of the nutritious vegetable broth that contains many vegetables, spices, tamarind, Asafoetida etc. which keeps the stomach healthy and prevents acidity and indigestion.

WHO on Idli

As per the WHO, Idli is among the most nutritious food in the world. Made of fermented black lentils and rice, the nutrient quotient in Idli is high. The WHO Recommends idli as an ideal food.

Idli

Idli through the times

Early writings on Idli can be seen in Karnataka. Vaddaradhane of Sivakoty Acharya of 920 CE., describes Idli as one of the 18 items served to a guest / Brahmachari visiting homes.

Vaddaradhane

In Kannada literature Iddaliga is a steamed food made with urad dal batter.

King Someshwara of Kalyan the capital city of the Western Chalukya Empire, in his work Manasollasa in 1130 CE writes about the preparation of food in royal kitchens. He mentioned Idli as the first food items among others.

King Someshwara Inscription

In Tamil literature Maccapuranam, mentions the” Ittali” , around 17th century CE.

The Gujarati work Varanaka Samuchaya (1520 CE) mentions Idli as Idari, and also mentions its local adaption Idada.

A variant of Idli known as Sanna Hittli is popular amongst the Goans and other Konkani people.

Another variant known as Enduri Pitha is popular in Odisha.

Migration of Idli to Indonesia

Idli is known as “Kedli” in Indonesia. Kedli is one of the most favourite foods of Indonesia.

Indonesia then known as Suvarnabhumi was a Hindu Kingdom state.

There was a regular connect between the Kings of Suvarnabhumi and the Kings of Tamil Nadu and Orissa. One version of history is that one of the Kings of Suvarnabhumi had come to take a bride. Along with bride Queen many cooks accompanied the royal entourage back to Suvarnabhumi. The making of this Idli could well have gone there as one of the delicacies, which we called Kedli now in Indonesia. 

Some opine that the migration of idli could have been the other way from Kedli to Idli. Whichever way it is, Idli is a tasty wholesome nutritious food, which can be eaten anytime from morning breakfast to night dinner.

Kedli

Varieties of Idli

Now there are varieties of Idlis some of the popular once being,

  • Thatte Idli – Flat Idli
  • Maliga poo Idli – White Fluffy Idli
  • Kanchipuram / Thiruvallur Kudal Idli – Cylindrical Idli
  • Mangalore Kadubu Idli
  • Mangalore Muday Idli
  • Goans and Konkani Sanna
  • Khushboo Idli – Soft Fat Idli
  • Mini Idli – small Idli
  • Rava Idli
  • Ragi Idli
  • Chinese fried Idli

Relish Idli this day

Our simple Idli has taken names and shapes and kept abreast with modernity. On this Idli Day, let us relish the different varieties of Idli.

World Theatre Day

World Theatre Day is celebrated across the world on 27th March, by the international theatre community. Many kinds of plays and shows are organized, at different places, to promote Theatre, which has been an ancient form of communication, in India and the World.

Today’s Cinema Theatres are only the latest form of this art, which has been prevalent in various forms, through the world.

In the culture heritage of India, theatre has been one of the most popular components, which caters to both education and entertainment.

It has been an integral part of Indian heritage for well over 7000 years, all across the land.

Theatre – Natyashala

Theatre refers to the platform where plays – dramatics are formed. A Theatre is known by the term Natyashala in Samskrt.

Bharata Muni

Among the earliest mention of Theatre in India, is from Bharat Muni. Bharat Muni is a contemporary of Rishi Valmiki, who is dated to 5100 BCE. Which means that Theatre existed in India, 7000 years ago.

Bharata Muni, was an ancient Indian theatrologist, who wrote the popular work Natya Shastra, consisting of 36 chapters, a treatise on theatre. Ancient Indian dance and music were based on this Shastra.

Bharata Muni    

Natya Shastra should not be limitedly understood as a dance treatise. It deals about

  1. Dance
  2. Drama
  3. Music
  4. Aesthetics
  5. Makeup
  6. Stage Preparation
  7. Stage Entry
  8. Appearances

and all aspects related to theatre.

Bharata Muni is today revered as the Father of theatrical forms, not just for India, but for the world. There is a temple that has been built in his honour between Chennai and Mahabalipuram on the east coast road.

Rangabhoomi – Indian Theatre

In India, theatres, platforms, stages were known as Rangamanch, term still in use for stage in India.

Many ruins of Rangamanch have been discovered in this land, in archaeological excavations.

The Rangabhoomi at Dholavira, as per the excavations has been dated to have been built and used around 3000 BCE, which is about 5000 years ago.

This data from a timeline perspective, places the Rangabhoomi of Dholavira to be twice as ancient as the famed ancient stadia of Greece and Rome.

Rang means colours, Bhoomi means ground and Manch means a platform. These arenas and stages offered sights of colours.

We find mention of Rangamanch and Rangabhoomi in the literature of those days.

Visualizing Dholavira Rangabhoomi

The archaeologist R.S.Bisht who is credited with the excavation of Dholavira writes,

He further writes,

Details of the Rangabhoomi

  • A small two meter by two meter portion of the field was found to be scattered with hundreds of jewellery beads. Bisht visualizes, “You can imagine performers decked in beads from top to bottom, freely dancing and the beads falling everywhere.”
  • One of the artifacts recovered from this Rangabhoomi is a terracotta theatre mask probably used by the entertainers.
  • Row after row of peg holes were discovered – indicating that they would have been used to erect stalls and dividers during performances.
  • Steps were excavated around the Rangabhoomi – indicating the location of the stands for the audience.
  • The excavations showed that the people then seemed to add a new layer of mud to their Rangabhoomi, every year. The mud was brought from outside of Dholavira. This annual layering of mud, gave the whole stadium and the stage, unique acoustics and sonorous quality.
Terracotta Mask Found at Dholavira Rangbhoomi Site

All these details of the Rangabhoomi tell us that it was not a casual site but a full-fledged stadium as with all the trappings of theatrical shows.

In these Rangamanch, performances and sports were exhibited together. In the morning, it was sports, while during the dusk, Rangamanch transformed itself into theatre.

India’s oldest treatise on performances, Natya Shastra by Bharata Muni, describes in detail, the principles and guidelines for constructing Rangamanch besides covering all aspects of the art of performing, in depth.

Dholavira by the River Sarasvati

More on Rangamanch in our book, Autobiography Of India – Breaking The Myths – About Ability.

Theatre in India

In this land, theatre existed everywhere. There was theatre inside a building. There was theatre in open air, and also house theatre. Each variety of these theatre goes back by many millennia and have been honed for thousands of years.

Theatrical forms in India

India has a wide and rich display of theatrical arts. Right from Assam, Arunachal Pradesh in the east to Punjab and Sindh in the West, to Leh, Ladakh in the North, India is abounding in theatre forms.

Drama, Dance and Puppetry

Theatre in India consists of Drama, Dance and Puppetry. Thus theatre is a wide spectrum.

Ramayana and Mahabharata

Our two itihasa, Ramayana and Mahabharata, have been used from time immemorial in theatre forms.

Regional Theatrical forms

Every region has its beautiful theatrical forms,

Some of them being,

  • Bhaona in Assam
  • Jatra in West Bengal
  • Maach in Madhya Pradesh
  • Nautanki in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab
  • Swang in Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh
  • Rasa leela in Uttar Pradesh
  • Dashavatar in goa and Konkan
  • Theyyam, Krishnattam and Kathakali in Kerala
  • Veedhi Natakam in Andhra Pradesh
  • Burrakatha and Harikatha in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu
  • Yakshagaana in Karnataka

Kama Sutra

In Kama Sutra, which is a treatise on sexual advances and positions, it also speaks of Dance and Drama in one section.

Kalidasa

Kalidasa, who lived in 5th century CE is revered in India, as one of the greatest dramatist, whose many theatrical dramas have been very popular in this land. Some of his dramas include,

  1. Abhijnanashakuntala – The Recognition of Shakuntala
  2. Vikramorvashi – Vrvashi won by Valour
  3. Malavikagnimitra – Malavika and Agnimitra
Kalidasa

Harshacharithra

Harishacharithra is the story of Raja Harishchandra, written by Banabhatta, which has been used in Theatre forms.

Thyagaraja

Thyagaraja, the Telugu poet from Tanjaore, wrote Prahalada Bhakti Vijayam for Theatre.

Thalapathi Maram and Manimegalai

In the South, Illango has written two plays, adapted to theatre, Thalapathi Maram and Manimegalai.

Buddhist – Jataka Tales

Buddhist Jataka Tales are popular stories from Buddhist traditions. These stories have also take shape in theatre forms over the centuries.

Jataka Tales

Prithiviraj Kapoor

Prithviraj Kapoor, born 1906 was a pioneer of Indian theatre and of the Hindi film industry. He was the father of the popular actor Raj Kapoor. In 1944, Prithviraj Kapoor started his own Theatre group known as Prithvi Theatres, which supported innumerable theatrical productions in India.

Prithiviraj Kapoor

Theatre, an important part of Indian Heritage

So theatre has been a vibrant form in India, across times, and across the land, as a way of expression both at the folk level, in village and street plays, and as well as the court durbar level.

Theatre was given an important place in the Indian ethos.

Theatre was an integral part to life. Theater was never looked at as only a form entertainment. Theatre was looked up as one of the ways to upkeep the values of the society, of Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha.

It was the villagers who took active part in theatre, and it was an ideal way to spend time in the evening, after a hard day of back breaking toil.

The coming of cinema in modern era, has broken the back of theatre.

Need to restore Theatre to its pristine glory

It is for this generation to recognize, the antiquity of theatres, the reach of theatre, the value of theatre, in the upkeep of the values of the society, in the spread of message and revive theatre to its pristine glory that held its head high in this land for the last 7000 years. Let this be our focus on this World Theatre Day.

Significance of Lotus

Lotus is a flower that is native to this land. It was flower that used to be found commonly across the land, until the organized gardens, with roses, became the norm of a model garden.

Lotus was used in imagery by our ancients to convey various messages.

For starters, the Lotus has been associated with life. One may ask, why a Lotus and not a rose or a tulip or even a sunflower to depict life?

Lotus

Balochistan Occupation Day

Balochistan Independence and Occupation

Balochistan became an Independent state after 100 years of British rule. The tripartite agreement between Balochistan, Pakistan and the British to grant independence to Balochistan was formally announced on August 11, 1947.

But this independence was short lived as Balochistan was recaptured by Pakistan 9 months later on March 27th, 1948.

A Buffer State

From time immemorial, Balochistan has been a buffer state between Indian civilization and Persian civilization. Buffer state is a country between two major countries which facilitates friendship between the two big countries.

Natives of Western India

The Baluchis who were natives of western most part of India. This region was known as Balochistan, the native place of the Balochis. This region was a land of many important rivers such as Zhob, Nari, Bolan, Pishin, Lora, and Mula.

Balochi Language and Samskrt

Balochi is the language of the Baloch people. The language is close to Samskrt.

Shakti Peetha

The Shakti Peethas extend from Tripura in the east to Balochistan in the west, all part of the land of Bharatha. Hinglaj is an important Shakti Peetha located in Balochistan. The annual four day pilgrimage to the Hinglaj Shakti Peetha is organized every April.

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Shakti Peetha in India

Pishey art work

Baloch people are known for their Pishey art work, out of which a variety of works like bags, shoes, hats and baskets are made.

Bollywood

Three famous Bollywood actors have their origin from Balochistan.

Kadar Khan, Amjad Khan and Raj Kumar

Jinnah

In early 1940s, Mohammed Ali Jinnah and the Muslim league were flexing their muscle for an independent Pakistan for Muslims.

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Muslim league

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Mohammed Ali Jinnah

Balochis wanted to be with India

The Balochis who were natives of western most part of India gave their call to be with India and not with to be formed Pakistan. This region was known as Balochistan, the native place of the Balochis.

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Balochistan Region

It was North West Frontier Province Assembly which passed a resolution to join with India. Khudai Khitmadgar supported by Congress was in power in North West Frontier Province at that time.

Direct action

Since the 1940s, many have been of the opinion that the freedom fighters of India then let down the Baluchis in their plea to be with the Indians.

Taken aback by the call for direct action by Jinnah which unleashed violence across many parts of India. The congress leaders were then forced to succumb to the demands of Muslim league. In retrospect, this direct action and the violence that followed directly on the Hindus does not seem much different from jihads by some of the narrow minded fanatics.

If Pakistan could get two options one in the west and other in the east as East Pakistan, then why could the Baluchi region not have joined India as a separate geographical entity in the far west region of the land?

The Balochis since 1948 of being forcefully captured by Pakistan has been continuously clamoring for being an independent country. The struggle of Balochis is observed every day.

Chipko Movement

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Chipko Movement was organized in the 1970s to prevent deforestation that was rapidly happening in the country. The word ‘Chipko’ means ‘embrace’. The movement sought to prevent cutting of trees, by hugging trees. It was a non-violent struggle against the destruction and exploitation of India’s precious natural resources, the forests.

Inception of the Movement

The movement started with local women in the Rani village rallying together on 26th March 1974, to safeguard Banj trees. The rapidity with which these trees were being felled invoked the concern of the Pahadi People, as they began to notice the drastic effect it had on their daily livelihood and in the environment.

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The Benevolent Banj

Himalayan Tsunami

The Himalayan Tsunami of 2013 was a fallout of the disappearance of Banj trees. More on the importance of Banj trees in maintaining the ecosystem of the mountains in our article, Himalayan Tsunami, Waiting to Happen, Happened – Why?

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Hugging Trees to Save Them

The Pahadi women formed human chains and hugged the Banj trees to prevent them from being felled. In 1974, the Pahadi women prevented the auctioning of around 2500 trees, by standing around them in embrace.

One of the popular slogans of the Chipko movement was,

‘Embrace the Trees and

Save them from being felled;

The property of our hills,

Save them from being looted’

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Chipko Movement

Across the Country

Starting from this small village, the Chipko movement spread through the country and reached its peaks in 1980, when it forced the then prime minister Indira Gandhi to pass a law, banning the cutting of trees in the Himalayan region for the next 15 years.

Afforestations Carriedout

Over the next many years, the Chipko movement was instrumental in many afforestation work.

Award

In 1987, the Chipko Movement was awarded the ‘Right Livelihood Award’.

Sunderlal Bahugana

Sunderlal Bahugana was the main leader of the Chipko movement. He travelled 5000 kms in 3 years, between 1981 and 1983, passing on the message of the Chipko movement. In 1989, Saunderlal Bahugana began many hunger strikes, in protest against the construction of a dam in the Himalayas, where the forests would be the casualties. The Chipko movement thereafter was known as ‘Save the Himalaya Movement’.

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Sunderlal Bahugana

Among 100 who shaped India

In an edition of India Today magazine of 2008, the people who organized the Chipko Movement were counted among the ‘100 People who shaped India’.

They indeed shaped the Himalayan region. If not for the Chipko Movement, the Himalayas would have faced many Tsunamis in the last many decades, and been badly out of shape.

Pushkarni

Temple Tank

In India through the ages, every village temple has had a tank called Pushkarni. The word “Pushkarni” comes from the word “Pushkaram”, meaning, “that which provides fertility”, Pushti, “health”.

Pushkarni at Tirumala

Pushkarni maintains water level

When the waters are collected and stored in the centre of every village, typically next to the temple, in the centre of the village, then the water table in the whole village stays full and provides water not only for daily use of the village, such as drinking and bathing, but also provides fertility to the whole village.

A full, clean temple tank is beautiful to look at. These were built through the ages by the local people, as benefactors of the society.

Apart from daily bathing and for local temple ritual, these tanks were primarily meant for harnessing water.

Pushkarni at Shravanabelagola

The earliest such tanks can be seen amidst the ruins of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa. Called the Great Baths, they reflect similar design and construction from over 5000 years ago.

Design of these tanks

These tanks were designed and constructed around a natural ground spring. The gradient from local groves also led to these tanks for rain waters to pour in. These groves were designated as sacred groves. The trees that were native to that topography were planted there.

Being designated as sacred groves, they were looked upon as divine, generation after generation, thus providing catchment areas for the rain water to drain into the Pushkarni.

Sloped roofs

The roofs of the houses around these tanks were sloped towards the tank to harness the rain waters. Thereby, the rain waters collected in these tanks during the rainy season, fulfilling the water needs of the people, through the year, year after year, century after century, in the last couple of millennia.

A healthy Water Table

The tanks thus being kept full throughout the year ensured that there was a healthy water table around that area.

It is but natural these tanks were called Pushkarni for they gave fertility to the community around them.

In sync with Nature

Pushkarni were planned and executed over generations, taking into consideration the topography, the rainfall patterns, the climate and such other relevant factors of Nature. This shows how the communities lived in sync with Nature. Instead of exploiting Nature, they harnessed Nature in a sustainable manner for sustained prosperity.

Punya Tirtha

Such Pushkarni, which bring fertility as well as a sense of harmony among the people, became Punya Tirtha, worthy of being venerated too, like the divinity inside the temple.

Not only did the local people consider each temple tank to be a Punya Tirtha, they considered every river, every stream as a Punya Tirtha too and took the effort to keep every river clean.

Dirty ponds of today

In the last 100 years, somehow we have lost this concept of Punya Tirtha, because of which, we ourselves have dirtied our rivers, our streams and our ponds.

Ponds dirty today

Today when we bathe in any of these, we do not feel fresh, we do not feel clean and we will not get any punya, merit. What we are sure to get are diseases because we have made our waters in every sense and form, filthy.

Need to clean up Pushkarni

Today, we should take it upon ourselves to clean and maintain these village ponds, pushkarni, so that we have a beautiful tank at the village centre in which rain waters can collect during monsoon and the water level in the entire village is kept up through the year.

Hence, though found near the temples, looking after the temple tanks should not be a task limited to the people of the religious community who look after the temple but it should be a community effort, as the benefits of this water reach the entire community of the village, irrespective of religion, caste and creed.

It is only when we realize that it is our waters, which are our Punya Tirtha, will each one of us clean our water bodies, so that they once again really become Punya Tirtha and give us water to clean our bodies.