Social Media is a new phenomenon that has come into existence in the last fifteen years.
The internet, the web has in many ways shrunk the world like never before. It has got the people together, a global family of netizens, a family of people who are well informed in the happenings both at the local level and the global level, a family of people who are knowledgeable. This is one Avatara of the traditional Indian way of expression, Vasudeva Kutumbhakam.
In India, traditionally, knowledge is something that is put in the open and shared freely and fearlessly among the knowledge seekers. While that was in the past, in the medieval times and the post medieval times knowledge became something that was exclusive and elusive.
It is with the coming of the post modern era and the information highway that knowledge has once again come back in the public domain. Even here knowledge was made available in formal formats. With the coming of the Social Media, the components of this knowledge have become available in digestible doses. This created knowledge for the netizens in digestible portions.
In India there is a well known saying ‘sange shakti kaliyuge’, meaning, in this Kaliyuga, it is those people, who are able to gather people around them, that gain the strength.
We are in the midst of Kaliyuga where so many unsavory happenings are happening all around us. The way to alert people of these, the way to bring people together on these issues cannot be left to the media alone. After all, it is for the people’s welfare and so has to engage people directly one on one. Social Media via the internet has come in handy here. For instance the social media allows one to reach many and at the same time express a point of view with all its associated layers of issues without any space constraints.
“Pen is mightier than the sword”. This is an old adage.
Wars have been fought with swords from time immemorial. For major as well as petty issues, countless lives, since the dawn of history have been lost in wars, in getting across one’s point of view. Yet, after all this, if we continue to say that, the pen is mightier than the sword, then the power of the word, the power of knowledge in moulding human minds is mightier indeed.
In warfare, we have the Astra and Shastra. The Shastra are hand held fighting equipments. The Astra are the ones which are released from the hand.
Social Media is a modern day astra, an astra of knowledge, a Gnana astra, where in, without hurting the other we get our point of view across to the family of seekers of this knowledge.
The world has gone through many succeeding era like the Industrialization era, transportation era, commercial era, communication era. We are now in the midst of an information era. It is here that the family of the knowledgeable, with their knowledge, will have a bigger say in moulding our thoughts, minds and ways.
With the word, the vak, being mightier by the day, with the world coming together for common good, with the knowledge era dawning on us, mediums such as the internet, present us with a whole field ahead in guiding people. A simple, beautiful, sustainable, open minded, interactive engagement, with a “questioning and responding” nature, is a responsible way forward, for the society as a whole.
Ashutosh Mukherjee born on 29th June, 1864 in Patna is among the foremost educationist that this country has every produced. He is the father of Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, a leader who gave an alternative to the Nehru narrative in the early 1950s.
Tiger of Bengal
“Banglar Bagh”, “the tiger of Bengal,” was the popular name by which Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee was referred to, for, for his high academic skills and at the same time high self esteem and courage with which he interacted with the British. He was indeed a ‘tiger’ in the field of education.
Vice Chancellor of Calcutta University
Ashutosh Mukherjee was the Vice Chancellor of the Calcutta University from 1906 to 1914 and again from 1921 to 1923.
He made the University one of the foremost centers of learning in India during his stint. His ability to identify and groom young talent is well known in the field of academics even today.
As the Vice Chancellor, Ashutosh Mukherjee persuaded the famous Indian Physicist C V Raman to teach at the University.
At the time Raman was posted at the government’s Finance department who were reluctant to release him. Moreover, the terms of endowment professorship that Raman had to fulfill disqualified him.
Ashotosh Mukerjee however, convinced the budding physicist Raman to work as a Palit Professor of Physics at the Science College that was affiliated to the University at a much lower salary. Raman’s pioneering research in Physics called the Raman Effect led him to win the noble price.
In 1921, he was able to convince another budding philosopher, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan to join the Calcutta University. Dr Radhakrishnan went on to become one of the great philosophers of the land and finally the President of India.
Ashotosh Mukherjee also inspired the famous Mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanuajam and helped him to put forth his theories in the academic circle.
Encouraged Samskrt scholars
Similarly, Ashotosh Mukherjee also identified Mahodaya N S Ananthakrishna Sastry and Mahomaya Chinnaswamy Sastri, great Samskrt scholars who were living in deep south near Tanjare in a village called Tiruvaiyaru. He took them to Calcutta, provided them both physical and mental space, and encouraged them to bring out tens of volumes of Samskrt literature, which formed the basis of a great revival of Samskrt studies in eastern India then.
He also supported young Subhas Chandra Bose, then a student of the Presidency College where he assaulted English professor Oaten for abusing Indians. Subhas was removed from the College.
As the Vice-Chancellor, there were persuasions on Ashotosh Mukherjee to remove him from the University as well. Mukherjee did not want to destroy the career of a brilliant student who had stood up against injustice. He made alternate arrangements for Subhas to study at the Scottish Church missionary college.
Ashutosh Mukherjee nurtured many such young students who contributed to the progress of the land.
Teacher to the teacher
Today, we celebrate Teacher’s day on September 5th as the birthday of Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan.
For this teacher, it was the teacher Ashutosh Mukherjee who facilitated the rise to great heights that Dr Radhakrishnan came to. A good teacher is known by the student he creates. Ashutosh Mukherjee’s name shines for the youth he picked and nurtured.
It is through the efforts of such great men, the foundations of the modern university system of education as built on.
Let us further his legacy
Let us further the cause of education in India that this great educationist had nurtured and stood for through his life.
There is one name that catches your attention time and again if you are in the city of Bengaluru.
Kempe Gowda Road, Kempe Gowda Nagar, Kempe Gowda Bus Station, Kempe Gowda International Airport! The name is everywhere!
You know Bengaluru. Do you know its founder?
His name is Kempe Gowda.
Founder of Bengaluru
Sri Kempe Gowda is well known as the founder of Bengaluru, the city that has grown leaps and bounds in the last many centuries. The city was established by him in the year 1537 CE as the capital of the land he ruled.
Kempe Gowda gave the name Bengaluru
He was the chieftain of Yelahankanadu, a principality under Vijayanagara Empire. This place was known as Bendakaluru, before Kempe Gowda gave it the present name.
Kempe Gowda, the founder of Bengaluru
Kempe means a precious gem, a red ruby in English. True to his name, he is indeed a precious gem of the land of Karnataka.
Types of Ruby
The different types of Rubies include,
Indian Ruby, found mainly in Mysore
Kempe Gowda Day
The Government of India observes his birthday every year on 27th June.
The day is celebrated as Kempe Gowda day in the state of Karnataka.
Sri Kempe Gowda was born at Yelahanka in the year 1510 CE, as the son of Kempananje Gowda, who ruled the Yelahankanadu for over 70 years, after which his son took over.
So how exactly did he get the idea of building a city, which is today among the most prominent cities in India?
Building of Bengaluru
Idea during an expedition
Interestingly, Kempe Gowda had this idea, when he was on a hunting expedition, towards Shivanasamudram from Yelahanka.
Hare chasing Dog
While Kempegowda was on a hunting expedition, he was amused to see a rabbit chasing a dog. He called that place as “Gandubhoomi”, meaning “The land of heroes” and desired to build a city in that place.
He envisioned the city to have a cantonment, a fort, plenty of water bodies and people from all professions and trade.
On this expedition, he conquered many areas, which today form a part of the Bangalore city. With these large areas under his belt, Kempe Gowda started his task of city construction, with the royal permission of the Vijayanagara Empire.
Kempe Gowda first built a Red Fort with eight gates, and a moat surrounding it, a little away from Yelahanka. This fort is today popularly known as Bangalore Fort, and is located in the center of Bengaluru City.
An artist impression of Bangalore in 1537. Enclosed within a strong mudfort and surrounded by a moat.
Bengaluru Fort, in 1860
Bengaluru Fort as it stands today
Four streets and roads
He then designed the four streets running in the four directions with the corresponding roads. The street running from east to west was named Chikkapete street, while the street from north to south was named Doddapete street. This Doddapete street has been renamed today as Avenue Road.
The four roads originally built by Kempe Gowda in today’s Bangalore map
One ran from Ulsoor to Sondekoppa, running from east to west and another from Yelahanka Gate to the Fort, running from north to south. These streets were segregated for different purposes such as for residences or business. Tanks were built at different places to supply water to the city.
Kempe Gowda also built four watch towers to mark the outer boundaries of Bengaluru. The city has today grown much beyond these towers which today stand at the heart of the city.
One of the Watch Towers built by Kempe Gowda
A watch tower as it stands today in Lalbagh, Bengaluru
Thus came about a city that is today the IT capital of India. A city that owes its origin to Kempe Gowda.
Kempe Gowda passed away in 1569 CE, having ruled for around 56 years.
In 1609, a metal statue of this emperor was installed at the Gangadhareshwara temple at Shivagange. Post-independence, another statue of his was built in from of the Bangalore Corporation office.
Bus Stand and Airport
Today, the central bus station is named as Kempe Gowda Bus Station, and the Bangalore Airport as Kempe Gowda International Airport. The central metro station at Majestic has also been named after Kempe Gowda.
Kempe Gowda Bus Station
Kempe Gowda International Airport
One lesser known fact is Kempe Gowda’s contribution to building many tanks and reservoirs in and around Bengaluru. With great forethought, he built these water bodies to supply sufficient water for his city citizens.
Yelahanka Lake, Bengaluru
Ulsoor Lake, Bengaluru
Unfortunately today, we have destroyed these water bodies in the name of development.
Also, many educational like Kempe Gowda Institute of Medical Sciences, Kempe Gowda college of Nursing and the Kempe Gowda Institute of Physiotherapy have been named in honour of Kempe Gowda.
Kempe Gowda awards are given away every year to those from different walks of life.
Kempe Gowda Museum, was established in 2011 at Bengaluru, dedicated to this chieftain.
Kempe Gowda Museum
Like this, legacy of Kempe Gowda has taken the form of many institutions, and his name is well-etched in the minds of people.
We all know the song Vande Mataram, the National Song of India. But do you know the person behind this song?
Around 180 years back, on 27th June 1838, was born the creator of this song at Naihati, in the then Bengal Presidency of India. Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay was his name.
He grew up to be a freedom fighter poet who gave this clarion call of Vande Mataram, that inspired many generations during the Indian Freedom Struggle and continues to do so even today, even with just its popular tune itself, minus the words.
A writer cum poet and journalist, Bankim Chandra, was a leading figure in the literary renaissance of Bengal and India.
Bankim Chandra composed the popular song Vande Mataram, as a part of his work, Anandamath in 1881. The first two verses of this song were adopted as the National Song of India, in 1937, due to the patriotic fervor that this song aroused in the minds of the people.
Vande Mataram is an ode to motherland, Matharam. In the Indian ethos, the motherland is revered as a Mother herself – Bharat Mata.
The house at Chinsurah in West Bengal, where the Vande Mataram was composed
Bha stands for knowledge, and Ratha means to relish. Bharat is the land of people who relish knowledge. Bharat Mata is the embodiment of the knowledge and wisdom in this land, which gives it its strength, courage, prosperity, virtue, clam and charm. She is revered as a Devi, the Divine Mother.
Vande Mataram – Original Song With All Verses and Its English Translation by Sri Aurobindo
Along with Jana Gana Mana, the National Anthem, Vande Mataram is the most revered song in this land. With this song, Bankim Chandra has left a permanent imprint in the minds of the people of this country.
Urdu Daily, named “Vande Mataram”, based in Lahore during the pre-independence times
This song was introduced in the political arena by Rabindranath Tagore and from thereon, its popularity spread far and wide.
The term Vande Mataram soon became popular among the leaders and masses.
Bipin Chandra Pal and Lala Lajpat Rai, the two well-known freedom fighters named their journals, Vande Mataram.
Sri Aurobindo, the freedom fighter cum spiritual leader called it the National Anthem of Bengal.
This song was composed in both Bengali and Samskrt. As it was composed in Samskrt, the mother language of most languages of Bharat Desh, the song, the words and their meaning, easily found resonance among the citizens of the land and encouraged patriots all the way from Baluchistan in the West to Arunachal Pradesh in the East and from Himalaya in the North to Kanyakumari in the South.
Bankim Chandra’s other works include Durgeshnandini, Kapalkundala and Devi Chaudhurani.
Bankim Chandra passed away on 8th April, 1894. But he lives on even today, through his song Vande Mataram.
Rani Durgavati was born in Banda, Uttar Pradesh to Shalivahan, the Chandela Rajput ruler of Mahoba, famed for his bravery and courage.
Trained by Father Shalivahan
With her mother passing away early, Durgavati was bought up with great care by Raja Shalivahan, and was trained like a Rajput. Durgavati was trained by her father at a young age in horse riding, hunting and usage of weapons.
Becoming a skilled archer
She soon became a skilled hunter, markswoman, who took pleasure in going on expeditions, also a skilled archer.
Hearing about the valor of the Gond ruler Dalpat Shah, and his exploits against the Mughals, Durgavati was impressed by him.
When her guru pointed out that Dalpat Shah was a Gond, Durgavati replied “He might be a Gond by tribe, but his deeds make him a Kshatriya”
Dalpat Shah was one warrior, whom the Mughals feared, he controlled the territory that gave them passage to the South.
Marriage with Dalpat Shah
When Dalpat Shah bought up the alliance with Durgavati, many other Rajput rulers protested saying that he was a Gond.
The Rajput rulers knew very well that if Mughals were unable to advance to South, it was due to Dalpat Shah himself.
Shalivahan himself was not keen on Durgawati marrying Dalpat Shah, as he was not a Rajput. However considering the vow he gave to Durgavati’s mother, that he would allow her to choose her life partner, he agreed to Dalpat Shah.
Finally in 1524, Durgavati was married to Dalpat Shah, and this also bought the Gonds and Chandel dynasties in an alliance.
A new alliance against Mughals
The marriage between Durgavati and Dalpat Shah, in a way was strategically important too, bringing two dynasties together. With the Chandelas, Gonds coming together, a new alliance was formed against the Mughal rulers that could keep them in check.
Dalpat Shah dies
Sadly Dalpat Shah died soon, in 1550 and it was left to Durgavati to handle the kingdom. With her son, Bir Narayan, still a minor, Durgavati ruled as a regent.
Rule as a regent
Assisted by 2 ministers, Adhar Kayastha and Man Thakur, Durgavati reigned over the Gond kingdom with wisdom and success.
As a ruler, Rani Durgavati shifted her capital to Chauragarh, a strategically important fort on the Satpuras. Like her husband Dalpat Shah, Durgavati proved to be an able ruler, expanding the kingdom, looking after her subjects well.
Durgavati had a large army with 20,000 cavalry, 1000 war elephants, and large number of soldiers, which was well maintained.
Building reservoirs and tanks
Durgavati dug many reservoirs and tanks for the welfare of her people, one of the better known one is near Jabalpur called Ranital.
Defeating Baz Bahadur
When the Sultan of Malwa, Baz Bahadur, tried to attack Durgavati’s kingdom, she fought back and forced him to retreat. So heavy was the loss faced by Baz Bahadur at hands of Durgavati, that he dared not attack her kingdom again.
In 1562, Akbar defeated Baz Bahadur, and took over Malwa, which now meant that Mughal Empire was touching Durgavati’s kingdom.
Lured by the prosperity of Gondwana, Akbar’s subedar Abdul Majid Khan, wanted to invade and occupy it along with Malwa.
Malwa had already fallen to Mughals, Rewa too was captured by Abdul Majid Khan, now only Gondwana was left.
Fighting the Mughal Army
Though her Diwan warned her against taking on the mighty Mughal Army, Rani Durgavati said she would prefer death to surrender.
Rani Durgavati initially fought the Mughal Army at Narrai, flanked by the Narmada and Gaur rivers, and hilly ranges. Though the Mughal Army was superior to Durgavati’s, she led the defense, and fought back fiercely. Durgavati’s fierce counter assault on the Mughal Army chased them out of the valley and she was successful initially.
Facing Mughal Army in open combat
Buoyed by success, Durgavati wanted to attack the Mughal Army in night, but the suggestion was not accepted by her lieutenants. And this meant Durgavati had to face the Mughal Army in open combat, which would prove to be fatal to her.
Durgavati however refused to surrender, and with her son Vir Narayan, counter attacked the Mughal forces strongly. Riding on her elephant Sarman, Rani Durgavati, bravely counter attacked the larger and more superior Mughal army.
Durgavati’s son Vir Narayan, himself led a fierce attack on the Mughals, making them retreat thrice, before he was wounded badly. Hit by arrows and bleeding, Durgavati realized that defeat was imminent against the Mughals.
Disregarding her mahout’s advice to flee from battle, Rani Durgavati, stabbed herself with a dagger, preferring death to surrender. Rani Durgavati, truly a remarkable lady, fiercely independent, wise ruler, some one who preferred not to surrender.
A Patron of Learning, An able administrator
Durgavati was also a patron of learning, respected scholars, encouraged building of temples, truly a great ruler. Apart from being just a brave warrior, she was able administrator, who built lakes, reservoirs for benefit of her subjects.
Her name lives on
Rani Durgavati passed away physically, but her name lives on, especially in Jabalpur, where the university is named after her.
In modern Olympics, the first ceremony is lighting the Olympic flame. It starts with young women lighting the torch with the heat from the Sun. The flame is kept burning throughout the games.
Young Women lighting the Olympic flame
This modern ceremony of lighting the Olympic flame evolved from the practices of ancient Olympics that were held in Greece, where the flame was revered and used as a mark to start the game. The modern practice of lighting the Olympic torch at Olympia, taking it to different parts of the world, and finally reaching it to the city where the games are to be played, culminating in the Olympic stadium, started at the games of 1928, at Amsterdam, Netherlands.
The flame ceremony has been respected across the world, during all times and in all traditions.
6 Vestal Virgins
Similar to the ceremony of the women lighting the flame in Greece, ancient Rome had the concept of the six vestal virgins guarding the flame.
Vestal Virgins of Rome
Similarly, further to the east in ancient Persia, we have the concept of eternal flame, Azure. This was venerated and popularized by Zarathustra.
The modern day country of Azerbaijan, whose name comes from the word Azure, still has an eternal flame, burning to this day.
The Eternal Flame at the Fire Temple in Azerbaijan
Further to the east in India, for the last 5000 years and more, the concept of flame in the form of Agni has been venerated through the ages. Agni is one of the primary divinities in the pantheon of divinities in the Indian thought.
Agni in Indian thought
Since in practice, as found from archaeological excavations, Fire as Agni has been venerated in India, right through antiquity, in the mists of time, probably the concept of venerating Fire could be traced to Indian practice and knowledge system.
In America today, the main symbol of freedom is the statue of liberty. The figure in the statue carries a flame in her hand, symbolizing a similar ethos across times, across traditions.
Statue of Liberty holds the flame
Thus we see that Celebration by fire initiation can be found all over the world.
The word “Jagat” stands for the world, the Universe. It means that which is always moving and not stationary”. Nath means “Lord”. Jagannath is the Lord of the Cosmos.
Indians knew the cosmos is moving
The meaning of the word Jagat referring to the cosmos indicates that the people of India knew that the cosmos was always in motion.
Juggernaut from Jagannath
Infact, the English word “Juggernaut” meaning “that which is huge and is rolling” comes from the word “Jagannath”.
One of the ancient and important cities of the east coast of India is Puri, which is in the present day state of Orissa. This Puri is famous for the temple of Jagannath, another name for Krishna.
The Physical Remains of Krishna
The idol in this temple is carved out of Neem wood from a particular forest and once every 12 years, is replaced through a strict, well defined process, Naba Kalebara, that has come down as a tradition.
Legends talk of people who came east from Dwaraka, carrying with them, mortal remains of Krishna, pinda, which have been kept in a hollow cavity in the idol since the times of inception of this temple to this day.
Neither has this been kept a secret nor has it been hidden. It is well known through the land as retold by the Sthala Purana, local legend of the temple. These remains were not tucked away, way back in time and forgotten. Around every 12 years, on the assigned day, this bundle, Brahmapotli, has been removed and transferred to a fresh idol under due rituals.
The bundle with the remains is normally physically handled by the most aged priest of the temple, who is blindfolded – a rare honour indeed to be that senior most priest on that occasion. Having handled these remains, the aged priest looks forward to early Moksha, deliverance, to attain Goloka, the abode of Krishna.
Being so venerated and done under such stringent, time honoured rituals, these remains, remain beyond the purview of scientific scrutiny.
The knowledge of its existence has been revived through these rituals every 12 years, in every generation and the remains of Krishna, have been venerated every day by millions of devotees who have thronged this temple.
This is the beauty in this temple – it is not only the beauty of the idol but also the beauty of how these remains and the memories they invoke have remained with us through this tradition across millennia.
The Memories of Krishna
Puri is thus an ancient city dedicated to Krishna and those who settled here brought with them the legends of Krishna from the times of His childhood at Braj to the times of Dwaraka.
This is evident from the daily rites in the temple which give prominence to the childhood days of Krishna when he used to steal milk, butter, cream and curds. The most famous offering in their rites is Kheer, a milk and rice based sweet pudding. People of Orissa, even to this day, fondly call Krishna as “Khiri Chora”, meaning “one who steals Kheer”.
More on Jagannath Puri in our book, ‘Historical Krishna’.
Jagannath Rath yatra
The famed Rath Yatra, which dates back to the period of the Purana, is held every year at this temple.
A Painting of Jagannath Rath Yatra from 1818
There are vivid descriptions of this festival in Brahma Purana, Padma Purana and Skanda Purana. Kapila Samhita also refers to Rath Yatra.
Huge Chariots, Large Crowds
The idols of Jagannath and His siblings, brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra are taken out on this day in a procession on huge chariots, rath, the likes of which cannot be matched in size, the crowds they draw and the continuity in tradition.
A significant ritual associated with the Ratha-Yatra is the “Chhera Pahara,” when the king symbolically sweeps the path of the Rath. This symbolizes that right from the king to the commoner, everyone is responsible for maintaining cleanliness around the place where the yatra is organized.
This practice is followed even today and the present king Raja Gajapati Divyasingh Dev also follows the tradition.
A festival of unity
Rath Yatra, Rathotsav, is a common annual festival celebrated in all temples, all across India and the world. It is a festival to unite people from all walks of life to come together to pull the Rath. A truly peoples’ festival.
A Global Festival
Lord Jagannath true to His name not only moves the cosmos, but moves the people to celebrate His Rath Yatra, not just in Puri but also in other parts of the country and the world. The Rath Yatra festival is celebrated in all major Indian cities. It is also observed in countries outside India.
The juggernaut is indeed rolls all over Jagat, the world on Jagannath Rath Yatra.
The root of the word Yoga and its practice, lies in India.
Yoga is not just exercise or postures.
Yoga, as the name suggests,is the practice by way of which mind, body and breath are aligned to achieve a state of harmony with each other and to become homogeneous with the cosmic consciousness – a state that brings with it a sense of freshness, energy and calm, a sense of balance of the various senses and emotions.
The extent of harmony and balance maintained, defines the depth of insight the Yogi has gained.
In a simplistic form, it is a structured combination of
Asana – exercise postures for the body, which brings in physical health and shapes our personal attitude
Pranayama – regulating energy through control of the breath and
Dhyana – meditation for the mind, along with maintaining physiological, psychological and sociological hygiene through Yama (control / abstinence), Niyama (adherence) and other guidelines.
Tropic of Cancer has the sun directly overhead, on the day of Summer Solstice, which falls on 21st June. It is on this day that the Northern Hemisphere is tilted towards the sun to the maximum.
Tropic of Cancer, Capricorn and Equator – The 23.5 degree tilt
Tropic of Cancer is one among the three important latitudes, the other two being the Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn. It is also known as Northern Tropic, and is 23.5 degrees north of the equator. This line passes through India, in the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and West Bengal, Tripura and Mizoram.
As the earth keeps going around the sun, there are certain points in the orbit, when due to the angle of the earth’s tilt, the days and nights either become equal (equinoxes) or day is longest in the Northern hemisphere (summer solstice) or night is longest in Northern Hemisphere (winter solstice). This occurs due to the tilt of the earth’s axis by 23 ½ degree.
Seen from the earth, it gives us a perception that the sun is moving northwards and southwards every 6 months between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn which are latitudes at 23.5 degrees north and south of the equator, respectively.
The perceived, northern movement of the sun from Tropic of Capricorn to Tropic of Cancer is called as Uttarayanam in India. The other movement of the sun from Tropic of Cancer to Tropic of Capricorn is called Dakshinayanam or “Southern Journey”.
Currently the dates for the equinoxes and solstices are:
Spring or Vernal Equinox – March 20
Summer Solstice – June 21
Autumnal Equinox – Sept 22
Winter Solstice – Dec 21
Sol is Sun. Solar. Stice is stand still. So Solstice is the day the Sun is still over tropics. Hence movement of Sun happens the next day. Thus Dakshinayanam falls on June 22nd and Uttarayanam on December 22nd. More on this in our book, 2012-The Real Story.
Tropic of Cancer and the Ancient Prime Meridian at Ujjain
In ancient times, the line connecting the North Pole to South Pole, passing through Ujjain in India, was the Prime Meridian of the world then.
Today, the way, the Greenwich observatory is the marker point of the Greenwich meridian in London, in those days, the Maha Kaleshwara temple in Ujjain was the marker point.
Maha means great, Kala means time and Eashwara means the controller. So this temple of Maha Kaleshwar in Ujjain represented the control mark for calculating and keeping track of time for the globe, in yester years.
The temple and the deity here seem to bear an apt name. What is further significant is, the reason why out of all the cities on this Meridian, Ujjain was chosen as the referral point.
It could have been because Ujjain is situated on the Tropic of Cancer.
The Indian name for this line is Karaka rekha.
This line marks the northern limit of the annual traversal path of the sun between north and south of the equator.
More on the Tropic of Cancer and Ujjain Prime Meridian in our book and film, Understanding Shiva.
So why is the Tropic of Cancer called so?
This is because at the time of its naming, the sun was positioned in the Cancer constellation during the Summer Solstice in June.
Cancer is a constellation, which is the Latin word for a crab. Thus this zodiac is represented by a crab.
In the Greek legends, Cancer is identified with a Crab that attacked Hercules, who was fighting the multi headed Hydra. The crab bites Hercules on the foot, after which he crushes it. At that time the Greek Goddess Hera, an enemy of Hercules, places the crab among the stars.
The most dreadful and fatal disease is also known as Cancer. This name Cancer for this disease had its origin when Hippocrates named the cancerous cells as Karkinos, meaning as crab. He named it after a crab perhaps because
Malignant tumour is as hard as a rock, and reminded him of the hard shell of the coconut.
The pain that the malignant tumour induces reminded him of the pain that a malignant tumour induces.
This word Karkinos became Cancer in Latin, which is the word for a crab in that language.
In the Samskrt language, the word for Tropic of Cancer is Karka Rekha, and this word Karka also means a crab. And again, the disease of Cancer in Samskrt and Ayurveda is referred to as Karka Roga.
This word Karka is etymologically similar to the Greek word Karkinos, and shows how the languages have travelled all across the world and mingled with each other.
We have had Sun temples from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and from Afghanistan to Assam in the ancient Indian land of Bharatha, the most popular ones being Konark temple in Orissa, the Sun temple in Modhera and the Suryanarkovil in Kumbakonam among others which fall on the popular tourist circuits.
The land of India today spans from 6.7 degrees North latitude to 37.1 degrees North latitude. In this wide span, we find a plethora of Sun temples, almost in a straight line around 23 degrees North latitude.
Save for a few such as Suryanarkovil near Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu at 10.8 degrees North, the Konark Sun Temple in Orissa at 19.9 degrees North etc. most of the other renowned temples can be found around 23 degrees North. Some are in ruins, some are memories and some are still in use today.
Suryanarayanaswamy temple at Arasavalli in Andhra Pradesh – 18.27 degrees
Sun Temple at Somnath Patan near Veraval in Gujarat – 20.9 degrees
Sun Temple at Madkheda near Tikamgadh, Madhya Pradesh – 22.9 degrees
Sun Temple at Umri near Tikamgadh, Madhya Pradesh – 22.9 degrees
Sun Temple at Kandaha, Bangaon, near Saharsa in Bihar – 23.0 degrees
Harsiddhi temple at Ujjain – Harsiddhi – 23.09 degrees
The famous Sun Temple at Modhera, near Ahmedabad, Gujarat – 23.5 degrees
Kanthad Nath at Kanthkot near Rapar – 23.48 degrees
Sun Temple at Dholavira – 23.89 degrees
8th Century Sun Temple in Chittorgarh Fort, destroyed in 14th century and rebuilt as Kali temple – 24.59 degrees
Surya mandir, Deo, Aurangabad, Bihar, 85 kms from Gaya – 24.5 degrees
Dakshinaarka Temple in Gaya – 24.7 degrees
Uttaraka temple near the Uttara Maanas tank in Gaya – 24.7 degrees
Gayaditya temple on the river Falgu in Gaya – 24.7 degrees
Sun Temple at Jhaira Patan near Kota in Rajasthan: Ruins of an ancient temple – 25.1 degrees
The Dwadasha Aditya temples and more in Kashi also called Varanasi – 25.2 degrees
The Bhramanya Dev Temple at Unao in Madhya Pradesh, near Jhansi – 25.6 degrees
Sri Surya Pahar, Sun Temple at Goalpara in Assam 26.0
Sun Temple at Galta near Jaipur in Rajasthan – 26.5 degrees
Sun temple in Morar at Gwalior – 26.2 degrees
Sun Temple at Ranakpur near Udaipur in Rajasthan – 27.0 degrees
Sun Temple near Almora in Uttarakhand – 29.37 degrees
Sun Temple at Martand in Jammu and Kashmir 32.5 degrees
Not just these, the renowned sun temples of another Sun worshipping ancient civilization, namely Egypt, also has its sun temples at
Abu Simbel – 22.6 degrees
Karnak, Luxor – 25.43
Why do we find so many Sun temples almost in a straight row and that too around 23 degrees North latitude?
What did our ancestors know about the Sun that we do not, today?
What is the mystery behind this pattern?
23.5 degrees North latitude is the Tropic of Cancer.
As we have read in our school books, the Tropic of Cancer is the line up to which the sun moves North in its annual journey.
The way of living of our ancestors was in harmony with the Cosmos. They conducted their life, the annual and daily activities in their lives, in sync with the flow and rhythm of seasons, Rthu. Their Dharma, way of living,was governed by the Dharma, way of operating of the Cosmic Nature.
Hence they tracked the sun and other celestial bodies in the sky to read the skies and prepare themselves for the daily, annual and spiritual change that are bound to occur as our planet.
The way of living of our ancestors was in harmony with the Cosmos. They conducted their life, the annual and daily activities in their lives, in sync with the flow and rhythm of seasons, Rthu. Their Dharma, way of living, was governed by the Dharma, way of operating of the Cosmic Nature.
Hence they tracked the sun and other celestial bodies in the sky to read the skies and prepare themselves for the daily, annual and spiritual change that are bound to occur as our planet earth hurtles on its journey through space along with its parent, the Sun and its siblings , the other planets in the solar system.
Tropic of Cancer, Karka is one line where the Skies intermingle with the Earth!
An important astronomic event happens every year in the month of June. This event is an important time marker in our lives.
As we know, the earth is tilted on its axis by 23.4 degrees. Because of this tilt and the revolution of the earth around the sun, we perceive the sun to be moving northwards and southwards between the 2 latitudes, Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn, successively, in its annual six monthly journey each way.
Uttarayan & Dakshinayan
On June 21st of every year, our sun reaches the northern end of its journey at the Tropic of Cancer and transits into its journey southwards towards the tropic of Capricorn. The northern journey of the sun is known Uttarayan, Uttar meaning north and the Southern Journey is called Dakshinayan, Dakshin meaning southward.
Sun – Still
21st June is the day the sun reaches the northern most point of its journey and seems to be stationary on that day at the Tropic of Cancer. It is called the Summer Solstice. Sol meaning “Solar,” and Stice meaning “stationary”.
For the people living in the northern hemisphere, this happens to be the longest day of the year.
Mid Summer Day
It is the mid summer day. A month before and after this day is peak summer in the northern hemisphere. This season in Indian languages is known as Greeshma Rthu, Greeshma meaning warm or hot. That is why we have the Hindi word ‘garam’ for hot.
In commemoration of this day, we have many sun temples in India. There is a plethora of Sun temples, almost in a straight line around 23 degrees North latitude along the tropic of Cancer, where the sun seems stationary for a few days.
Stonehenge in England
Summer solstice has been celebrated at Stonehenge in England from Pagan days.
In modern days, this day is observed as Midsummer all across Europe. It is also called St John’s day. Bonfires are lit to celebrate the hottest period of the year.
William Shakespeare, the celebrated English playwright has written a drama called Mid Summer Night’s Dream, relating to this day.
Other names in other parts
The day is similarly celebrated in other parts of the world under different names.