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

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

Sound Knowledge

The River Sarasvati flowed in the North Western part of India through Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat. The river has gone dry in the last few millennia, but the Sarasvati festival is celebrated on Basant Panchami in February, popularly called as Sarasvati Puja. Sarasvati is the name of a river as well as the Divinity for knowledge.

Vak devyaicha vid mahe

Virinji patnicha dheemahi

Thanno vani prachodayath.

O Divinity of Vak, I take cognizance of you

O consort of Brahma, I think of you

O Vani, May you kindle my intellect.

This verse is the invocation to the divinity Sarasvati who has been the embodiment of knowledge in this land from as far as one can trace the source of knowledge. Knowledge in this land has been synonymous with Sarasvati, also called Vak Devi, the divinity for Vak.

Why Sarasvati?

What is Vak?

What have Vak and Sarasvati got to do with knowledge?

Vak can be limitedly explained as “speech”.  It is speech that forms the backbone for communication and it is communication that forms the backbone for knowledge transmission.

But Vak goes beyond mere speech. It transcends into the realm where thoughts originate. It goes into the thought itself. It takes the shape of words that describe that thought. It forms the speech sounds that enable the words to be spoken and thus the thought to be carried across, for it to be heard.

Vak is thus the subtle, yet perceivable form of thought, intellect, knowledge.

Sound Communication

The domains traversed by Vak, speech, in Indian thought has been understood and described through various stages.

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These four stages of speech have been further listed from the subtlest to the human sounds as,

–         Para, the origins of an idea or thought in the mental realm, beyond description (para means beyond grasp)

–         Pasyanti, that which emanates as an impulse to talk and is the first “visible” sign in the body of the thought (Pashyan means to see)

–         Madhyama, the intermediary stage between the impulse and the actual voicing of the thought, the stage where thought takes form of words (madhyama means intermediate)

–         Vaikhari, when it finally emerges as sound from the mouth, after passing through the vocal chords and getting manifested as sound waves (khar denotes solid, vaikhari is that solidly manifested utterance )

These subtle aspects of Vak, communication, have been brought out beautifully by the medieval poet Kalidasa in his ballad Raghuvamsa, through the verse.

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Vagartha Viva Sampruktau

Vagartha Pratipattaya

Jagathaph Pitarau Vande

Parvati Parameshwarau

–         Raghuvamsa by Kalidasa

A speaker should

Speak what he means and mean what he thinks.

A listener should

Listen to what is said, Understand what is meant and Assimilate the thought behind it.

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The speaker and listener are complementary to each other and form a pair similar to the divine pair Parvati and Parameshwara.

It is only then, does complete communication take place.

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Parvati – Parameshwara

Vak embodies all these aspects of thinking, meaning, speaking and communicating, all of which are vital for transmission of knowledge in a society.

The knowledge expressed by the power of Vak goes beyond knowledge needed for day to day living and the various sciences. It transcends into the realms of knowledge of the gross as well as the subtle Universe, knowledge of the self and knowledge of knowledge itself.

Knowledge thus stretched from Vignana – sciences, to Pragnana – wisdom, to Gnana – knowledge.

The root Gna, in the word Gnana is the root for words related to “knowing” in Latin and English such as gnostic, gnosis, gospel, know and knowledge.

Sound – A Sound Carrier

While mind, memory and intellect give rise to the thought, it is speech with sound, Vani, that acts as the medium for transmitting the thought, knowledge in a communication.

This is the power of sound, vani.

Sound travels as waves agitating all the particles in its path and in the process transfers its contents, its payload, its energy, through vibrations. Sound attracts and captures attention. It focusses the mind. When we hear any sound, our mind is immediately drawn to it and what it is conveying, i.e. the thought it is carrying. Other thoughts vanish.

This is the power in sound, vani.

Thus the medium of sound has been an effective carrier of knowledge, communication, wave after wave, across generations.

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Sound Waves

Knowledge Flows With Grace

These concepts of Vak – speech, Vani – sound and Vidya – knowledge, are symbolized by the divinity Sarasvati also called Vak Devi, Vidya Devi, Vani.

Sarasvati, means “one who flows gracefully”.

Sarasvati is the embodiment of a ceaseless, unending, graceful, gracious flow of knowledge.

It is along the banks of the wide Sarasvati river that much of the Veda were composed many millennia ago. Her gracefully flowing waters carried this knowledge, nurturing the civilization living by her side to flourish and carry this knowledge further into lands spread far and near.

Sarasvati is depicted as a gracious lady seated on a solid rock in a gracefully flowing stream, playing a stringed instrument called Veena, flanked by swan like birds called Hamsa.

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Sarasvati, courtesy Ravi Verma

The rock symbolizes the soundness of wisdom that can make one stand rock solid even amidst flowing waters.

The graceful, legendary Hamsa is a bird that had the singular prowess to separate milk from water. Sarasvati flanked by these Hamsa, symbolizes the ability to discern and seek out true knowledge.

The Veena is a stringed instrument that can produce discrete notes like that of the human voice. Strings, with their visible wave like vibrations, depict sounds, harmonics and resonance, visibly.

The stringed instrument, Veena, in Her hand draws our mind to the nature of knowledge to flow gracefully, wave after wave, generation after generation, over the medium of sound, speech, vak.

The metaphor and symbolism in Sarasvati, speaks volumes for the manner in which this civilization has held knowledge dear and relished it. It also speaks volumes for the sublime expression of how knowledge flows gracefully.

It is a civilization that has connected sound and knowledge to create impressions that have lasted millennia.

Sarasvati worship in Japan

India celebrates Sarasvati festival on Vasanta Panchami day in February to propitiate Devi Sarasvati, the divinity for knowledge and wisdom and during Devi Navaratri festival in September-October.

Sarasvati – The Graceful

In India, the Divine pair, Brahma and His consort Sarasvati, represent the divine forces in play in the growth, expansion and evolution of the Universe. This aspect of the growth of the Universe is thus steeped with the knowledge of all that has transpired since the moment of Creation and continues to drive the further evolution of the Universe. This driving force of knowledge is called Sarasvati, as it is a knowledge that continues to flow through the expanse of the cosmos, gracefully and incessantly like waves. Saras means gracefully flowing.

Sarasvati in India is associated with the Veda, wisdom, knowledge, intellect, faculty of speech, music, musical instrument called Veena, all art and craft forms and purity.

Sarasvati Worship in Japan

A similar vein of thought seems to have been held by the civilization of Japan as is evidenced by the presence of a goddess like Sarasvati in Japan.

Sarasvati and Her forms are popular divinities in the land of Japan. There are 131 temples of Sarasvati in the city of Tokyo alone as recorded in the census of 1832. This shows the prevalence of Sarasvati worship as an intrinsic ethos of Japanese culture.

Sarasvati by different names in Japan

The Sarasvati Divinity in Japan is associated with different faculties like music, sweet voice, wealth, fortune, beauty, happiness, eloquence, wisdom and as one who confers strength on warriors.

The Divinity is known by different names, the most popular one being Benzaiten.

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Names of SarasvatiInvoked for
BenzaitenTalent and wealth
MyotenSweet voice
Daiben, Dai BenzaitenIntelligence
Sama BenzaminiInspirer to poets and artistes. Sama in Samskrt means equilibrium, balanced, state of mind required for poets.
Benteu, BentenSpeech with a flute in her hands
Krodha BenzaitenViolent form worshipped by generals before going to war. Krodha in Samskrt means anger, fierce.
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We see a commonality in the association of Sarasvati in Japanese culture too, with different faculties of arts and knowledge such as music, sweet voice, beauty, happiness, eloquence, wisdom, and additionally with wealth, fortune and as one who confers strength on warriors.

Sarasvati Temples in Japan

There are many Sarasvati temples in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara among other cities of Japan.

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Sarasvati Temples In Japan, A Map

Veneration Still Prevails

The veneration of Benzaiten is not only a medieval practice of Japan. Post World War 2, a new religious sect has sprung forth, called Benten Shu, in Osaka.

This shows that the understanding of Benzaiten, is still current in modern industrial, westernised Japan.

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Indo Japan Connect – A New Book

India and Japan, the land and the people are separated by the seas. Yet they seem to be connected by the same thought waves that have flown gracefully between the two countries since time immemorial and connected by the grace of the Divine Sarasvati.

More on Indo Japan Connect in our new book, ‘Indo – Japan A Connect Over Millennia’, released recently by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

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A smaller E-version of the book can be accessed here: http://goo.gl/e8QB3d

 

Vasanta Panchami – A Festival for Sarasvati

Vasanta Panchami or Basant Panchami festival heralds the arrival of spring in India, Vasanta Ritu.

After winter solstice, the sun starts its northward journey from the tropic of Capricorn, Uttarayana. With this, winter slowly ebbs and warmer days begin to arrive.

Vasanta Ritu – A change in Season

Vasanta Ritu is welcomed in the northern parts of India which reel from severe cold in winter. We see a pleasant change in seasons with the arrival of spring.

In the celebrations of Vasanta Ritu, the pinnacle is the festival of Vasanta Panchami.

Sarasvati Brahmotsav

While Vasanta Panchami is celebrated as spring festival, it also was the festival of River Sarasvati. In many parts of India, Sarasvati Brahmotsav, a festival spanning 5 days, starts from Vasanta Panchami.

Vasanta Panchami – A Festival for Sarasvati

One may wonder what is the connection between Vasanta Panchami and the festival for Sarasvati?

With the arrival of spring, the glaciers in the Himalayas, which used to feed the River Sarasvati would melt causing an increase in the flow of River Sarasvati in days gone by.

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River Sarasvati

Mother Sarasvati – The very life line

River Sarasvati, the mother of all rivers, nourished the Sindhu Sarasvati civilization which flourished more than 5000 years ago. She was literally the life line of this civilization.

Greek records of 300 BCE, i.e., a little over 2000 years ago speak of over 1500 prosperous cities along the banks between the Sindhu and Sarasvati. This finds mention in Elphinstone’s book, ‘History of India’.

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1500 cities along Sarasvati River

For all these people of this civilization, the gush of fresh Himalayan waters augured prosperity. With Sarasvati waters, also came the Himalayan riverine soil which made the lands on either banks very fertile and that led to good harvest in the seasons to come.

Yellow flowers – A sight to behold

During this season, the mustard plants, Sarson, cultivated along the banks of this river, go into full bloom. In days of yore, when this mighty Sarasvati was in full flow, it must have indeed been a breath taking sight to see miles and miles of land along its banks swathed in yellow colour from the mustard flowers.

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Yellow Mustard Flowers

This sight is what gave River Sarasvati and Goddess Sarasvati who was embodied by this river, a yellow drape during this time, and since time immemorial people have therefore associated Goddess Sarasvati with the colour yellow during this season.

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Goddess Sarasvati draped in yellow

As a tradition, people continue to wear yellow clothes on Vasanta Panchami.

Birthplace of Veda

Along with the fertile lands on the banks of the river, education also gained prominence during the times when Sarasvati was in flow, because, the Rishis of India lived along these banks and composed the Veda, the universal knowledge base, on the banks of this river.

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Hence, the River Sarasvati and Goddess Sarasvati embodied by this river came to be associated with education and knowledge.

Vasanta Panchami –The day to Revere knowledge

So, for people across India, Vasanta Panchami is also the day to revere knowledge and education. Children are initiated into education system on this day with the understanding that their knowledge will grow in leaps and bounds just as the gushing flow of the mighty River Sarasvati.

Today, instead of the flowing river, we have only dry rivers beds of River Sarasvati here and there along its original path.

This river went dry more than 2000 years ago. But, the mustard flowers continue to bloom in this belt, bathing it yellow even today.

People may have forgotten the River Sarasvati with the flow of time, but, the traditions from those times have continued from generation to generation, and Vasanta Panchami is a living festival even to this day.

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.

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.

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“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.

‘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….

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 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!

 

Republic Day

This is a festival of modern, free republic India. This is celebrated on the 26th of January every year. It commemorates the establishment of the Republic of India and the day when the constitution of India was introduced. All this happened in the year 1950 on 26th January, more than two years after India got its freedom from the British on 15th August 1947.

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The First Republic Day Parade

Why was 26th January chosen to introduce our constitution?

In 1930, the then freedom fighters observed January 26th as Purna Swaraj day.

So after Independence, this apt day was chosen, as republic day to adopt our constitution.

On this day, India became a sovereign republic, meaning, she could rule herself, had a government system in place, and this governance was by the people themselves.

For Indians this day in their local tongue is known as Gana Tantra Divas. ‘Gana’ in Samskrt means an assemblage or society of people formed with the purpose of achieving the same objects. In this case, Gana denotes a nation. ‘Tantra’ means technique. Thus Gana Tantra Divas, ‘Divas’ meaning day marks the day in the life of Indian nation, when she was given a technique to govern. And what was this technique? It was the constitution.

The constitution of India was drafted by Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, who was born in MHOW, near Indore. The constitution of India carries the national emblem which has four lions facing the four cardinal directions of north, east, south and west, and also bears a chakra, a bull and an elephant. The elephant signifies the large expanse of the country and the elephantine strength of its people. At the same time, despite its size and strength, the way the elephant is a herbivorous and docile animal, capable of being domesticated, India, despite large size and large population, basically positions itself as a non-violent, peace loving, friendly nation.

This emblem was drawn by an artist also from MHOW called under the guidance of Nandlal Bose, a renowned painter from the Shanthi Niketan of Rabindranath Tagore. The inspiration for the lions and the chakra, came from Ashoka’s pillar, and the flow of lines in the lions came from observation of the lions in the Kolkata zoo, by the artist.

The bull in India is called Rishabh, and bull denotes the ability to be strong and standout, which is why we have the phrase, ’He was a bull among men’. With the bull in our emblem, the idea was for India to emerge as a bull among nations. Also being a predominately agrarian nation, i.e, having agriculture as one of the main stays of occupation and prosperity, the bull is also a life line of Indian prosperity.

The peacock with its myriad colours, its pride, and association with Goddess Saraswathi, the deity for knowledge, indicated India’s pride in its colourful, vibrant, knowledge rich heritage.

While the Shanthi Niketan of Rabindranath Tagore produced the national emblem, our nation anthem came from the pen of Rabindranath Tagore himself. Our national anthem ‘Jana Gana Mana’ was penned by Rabindranath Tagore and first published on 24th January, 1950. This poem which was adopted as the national anthem, was set to tune in ‘the dreamy hills beyond Madanapalle’ in the words of Tagore himself, i.e., the present day, Rishi valley hills in Madanapalle, Andhra Pradesh.

Margret Cousins was an Irish women who had settled down along with her husband James Cousins in Madanapalle to teach at the Theosophical school there. Besides, being an ardent supporter of Gandhiji and an ardent worker for the upliftment of women in India, she was also an accomplished musician. The tune for ‘Jana Gana Mana’ was the result of a collaboration between Rabindranath Tagore and Margret Cousins, when Tagore visited Madanapalle. And this tune forms the backbone of our Republic Day celebrations and every other event of national significance in India.

The other symbol of our national identity, the flag, the Indian tricolour, Tiranga, was designed by Pingali Venkayya and had been introduced on Independence Day in 1947.

In contrast to many nations which fly their flag as a mark of their strength, India flies its flag as a sign of friendship and peace. The three bands of colours denote the prominent characteristics of India. Saffron denotes wisdom, white denotes peaceful nature and green denotes the fertile nature of India. The blue chakra in the centre stands for righteousness and a long life through the passage of time.

All these aspects of India arise out of the principle that governs and drives the entire nation and its populace – the principle of “absolute truth”, which also forms the basis of the slogan of the nation.

The slogan of India, inscribed on the national emblem, is ‘Satyameva, Jayathe’ meaning,

Truth, ‘Sathyam’

Only, ‘Eva’

Triumphs, “Jayathe’,

The republic day or Gana Tantra Divas, is thus the day to mark the birth of a sovereign, democratic republic, called ‘Bharath, that is India’, as stated in the opening lines of the Constitution of India, itself. It is a day to celebrate our national identity denoted by our emblem, an anthem and a flag.

A joyous occasion, it is celebrated parades in Delhi, national capital and every other state capital comprising of colourful pageants that display the colour and valour of the country. The armed forces, army, navy and airforce from all across India participate in the parades and displaying the country’s military strength, along with the general public who put up shows and tableau displaying the country’s colourful cultural strength.

From 26th January onwards, the national capital wears a spirit of festivities. The Moghul gardens, a pride of India, in the Rashtrapathi Bhavan, the official residence of the President of India are thrown open to public for four days until the 29th January.

National Voter’s Day

The Government of India has declared January 25th of every year as National Voter’s Day.

Vote, Etymology

Vote comes from the Latin word “Votum,” which translates as “vow, wish, promise, or dedication.”

First Lok Sabha

Post-Independence, the first Lok Sabha was formed in 1951 by the citizens of this country, culminating from a voting process.

Every voter a Bhagya Vidhata

The Indian National Anthem has the line, Bharatha Bhagya Vidhatha. In this context, it means the President of India.

Every voter in India is truly a Bharatha Bhagya Vidhata in his own right. Each person has the capacity and right to change, mould and shape the destiny of this land.

Each Citizen a King

The Tamil poet Subramanya Bharathi refers to everyone as kings in one of his poetry, the relevant line being Ellorum Innattu Mannargal, meaning ‘Every citizen is a king’. He meant to say that every citizen has a role in shaping the destiny of this land. He made this observation even before Independence.

 

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Subramanya Bharathi

Voting not new to this land

Voting is not something new that was introduced in this land only after independence. Infact, many inscriptions have been found indicating how voting has been a regular feature of this land of Bharatha for many centuries. The 1000 year old temple inscriptions of Uttaramerur in Tamil Nadu speak about the voting system.

 

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The Uttaramerur Vaikunda Perumal temple inscriptions 

The temple inscriptions also mention that people who indulged in corruption were disqualified from contesting elections.

In Ancient India, a system called Kudavolai system was followed where the palm leaves with candidate names were placed inside a mud pot for counting.

In Independent India, initially the multiple ballot system was followed. Then the single ballot system became prevalent. And, now the electronic voting system is followed.

Janapada

There were many Janapada, republics in this land.

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16 Mahajanapada

The very term Janapada means, ‘People coming together to govern themselves through People Governance Body’. Thus implying that people voted to form their governing bodies in these Janapada.

We see from these examples that voting and the governance system has been a norm in this land for thousands of years.

More on Election System in Ancient India in our book, ‘You Turn India’.

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Universal Adult Franchise

In India, Universal Adult Franchise has been followed from the beginning. This has not been the case in other countries.

In USA, the voting rights for women were given only in 1927 after a hard fight. In Switzerland, women got their voting rights only in 1972. It is interesting that India already had a women Prime Minister in Indira Gandhi by then.

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Indira Gandhi

Similarly, voting rights have been hard fought for in many parts of the world.

Equal rights for all genders

In contrast, in India, all the three genders, male, female and transgender have had equal voting rights for many centuries.

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Moreover, in India, post elections, there was gender equality in choosing who should govern the people as can be seen in the case of Indira Gandhi. Other examples include Sucheta Kriplani, elected as the first women Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh in 1966 and Nandini Satpathy, who became the first women Chief Minister of Orissa in 1972.

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Sucheta Kriplani

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Nandini Satpathy 

Voting is and has been an important responsibility than just a right to exercise.

It is a responsible choice to be made for a good and clean governance.