Ashutosh Mukherjee

Ashutosh Mukherjee born on 29th June, 1864 in Patna is among the foremost educationist that this country has every produced.

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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.

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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.

Supported Raman

As the Vice Chancellor, Ashutosh Mukherjee persuaded the famous Indian Physicist C V Raman to teach at the University.

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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.

Ashutosh 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.

Persuaded Radhakrishnan

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.

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Helped Ramanujam

Ashutosh Mukherjee also inspired the famous Mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanuajam and helped him to put forth his theories in the academic circle.

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Shielded Bose

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 Ashutosh 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.

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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.

Saluting the One Who Gave Us Vande Mataram

bankim chandra chattopadhyay - birth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Jagannath Rath Yatra

Jagannath-Lord of the Universe

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.

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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”.

Jagannath Temple

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.

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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.

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Lord Krishna

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’.

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Jagannath Rath yatra

The famed Rath Yatra, which dates back to the period of the Purana, is held every year at this temple.

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In Purana

There are vivid descriptions of this festival in Brahma Purana, Padma Purana and Skanda Purana. Kapila Samhita also refers to Rath Yatra.

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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.

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Chhera Pahara

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.

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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.

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Rani Durgavati

Rani Durgavati was born in Banda, Uttar Pradesh to Shalivahan, the Chandela Rajput ruler of Mahoba, famed for his bravery and courage.

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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.

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Becoming a skilled archer

She soon became a skilled hunter, markswoman, who took pleasure in going on expeditions, also a skilled archer.

Dalpat Shah

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.

Akbar’s ambitions

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.

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Initial Success

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.

The End

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.

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Olympic Day

Olympics – Lighting the Flame

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.

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                                                            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.

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Vestal Virgins of Rome

Persia

Similarly, further to the east in ancient Persia, we have the concept of eternal flame, Azure. This was venerated and popularized by Zarathustra.

Azerbaijan

The modern day country of Azerbaijan, whose name comes from the word Azure, still has an eternal flame, burning to this day.

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The Eternal Flame at the Fire Temple in Azerbaijan

 India

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.

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                                                                            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.

America

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.

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Statue of Liberty holds the flame

  Thus we see that Celebration by fire initiation can be found all over the world.

The Mystery of Sun Temples

It is the month of June.

Days are longest and it is the hottest month in the northern hemisphere.

People turn to the Sun to pray for respite from its scorching heat.

Time to look for the Temples to the Sun to offer our prayers for a bearable summer.

Where are the Sun Temples in India?

Sun temples are famous in different parts of India. They have been built and venerated from time immemorial.

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.

Konark

Sun Temple, Konark

 Modhera

Sun Temple, Modhera

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.

 Sun at the Tropic

Sun at the Tropic Of Cancer on June 21

This movement of the sun between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn and its significance has already been discussed by us, in the Rishimukh magazine of January 2010 and  April 2010.

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.

Each of these temples was specially designed to receive the rays of the sun inside the sanctum sanctorum, garbha graha, and illuminate the idol with a natural glow, on special days, especially the period around Summer Solstice.

June, is thus the time to watch our Sun go to the northern most point in its path in the skies and marvel at the knowledge, the sagacity and the architectural skills of our ancestors, which has found expression in the form of these temples to the Sun all over India and has become one of the traditions of India.

Summer Solstice

An important astronomic event happens every year in the month of June. This event is an important time marker in our lives.

Sun’s Movement

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 UttarayanUttar meaning north and the Southern Journey is called DakshinayanDakshin 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”.

 1 Longest Day

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.

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 Sun temples

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.

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Stonehenge in England

Summer solstice has been celebrated at Stonehenge in England from Pagan days.

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Midsummer

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.

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Shakespear Drama

William Shakespeare, the celebrated English playwright has written a drama called Mid Summer Night’s Dream, relating to this day.

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Other names in other parts

The day is similarly celebrated in other parts of the world under different names.

Festival Country
Tiregan Iran
Kapala Night Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Russia
Wianki Poland
Juhannus Finland
Jani Latvia
Saint Jonas’ Festival Lithuania

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