Indian Coast Guard

An interim Indian Coast Guard came into being on 1st February, 1977. The Indian Coast Guard was formally established on 18th  August 1978 by the Coast Guard Act, 1978 of the Parliament of India as an independent Armed force of India. It operates under the Ministry of Defence.

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Inauguration of Indian Coast Guard by Prime Minister Moraraji Desai along with Vice Admiral VA Kamath

The Indian word for coast guard is “Tat Rakshak”, Tat”, meaning ‘shores’, and “Rakshak”, meaning, ‘one who safeguards’.

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Indian Coast Guard

The Indian word for coast guard is “Tat Rakshak”, Tat”, meaning ‘shores’, and “Rakshak”, meaning, ‘one who safeguards’.

 “Tat Rakshak” is ‘one who safeguards the shores of this land’.

This extends from 10 to 30 nautical miles from the coast.

That India established its coast guard only 30 years after its independence is in itself intriguing.

The slogan for Indian Coast Guard is ‘Vayam Rakshak’. Vayam stands for “We, Our”. Here, the word ‘Vayam Rakshak’ means, ‘For our protection of us’.

Every nation has to guard its sea borders.

India by its very geography has got a very large coast of 7516 Km which is warm through the year and vigilance has to be extended through the year.

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Indian Coastline

In contrast, in Europe and Non Atlantic countries when the sea is frozen for few months in a year, the demands of coast guards are different. In case of India, the seas being warm, the vigilance level needs to be round the clock.

Pala Empire

The Pala kings of Bengal who ruled between 750 CE and 1174 CE had a strong coast guard.

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Pala Empire under King Devapala

From this image it is clear that Pala kings covered much of Bay of Bengal. This necessitated that they have a strong fleet of navy as well as coast guard.

Chola Kings

The Chola kings of Tamil Nadu covered the southern half of Bay of Bengal for a few hundred years. They also had a strong navy and coast guard.

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The Chola Empire during the reign of Rajaraja Chola I

Maratha Empire

Shivaji under Maratha created a strong coast guard cum naval fleet. Among the Maratha coast guard, the most famous name is Kanhoji Angre.

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Statue of Kanhoji Angre in Alibag, Maharashtra

Raja of Kozhikode

The Zamorin of Calicut, the Raja of Kozhikode was called Samuthiri, meaning ‘Lord of the Seas’, had his own strong coast guard.

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Vasco da Gama meeting the Zamorin of Calicut, Raja Samuthiri

Where we lost out

When the Portuguese, British started attacking India repeatedly in 1500s and the French and the Dutch in the 1600s, what the coastal leaders lacked was good coast guard mechanism. This is one of the reasons for the downfall of India in succumbing to the colonial powers. This one fact highlights to us the importance of coast guard in maintaining national integrity.

Let us recognize the valiant efforts of the sailors of the coast guard who day & night guard our shores so that we may go about our daily work in peace.

Direct Action Day

The Week of the Long Knives

16th August 1946, when India was exactly a year away from Independence, saw one of the worst riots between Hindus and Muslims in Kolkata. So severe were the nature of the massacre, that the whole week from the 16th has been termed ‘The Week of the Long Knives’.

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The Massacre during the ‘The Week of the Long Knives’

Initiated by the Muslim League

The massacre called the ‘Direct Action Day’, also known as the ‘Great Calcutta Killings’ was initiated by the Muslim League, to achieve their demand for a separate nation for Muslims called Pakistan. Direct action is another name for Jihad.

The Backdrop to the Massacre

Indian National Congress and Muslim League were the two major parties in the Indian Constituent Assembly of 1946. At a time when discussions were on between the British administration and the Indian leadership on the complete transfer of power to India, Muslim League put forth an alternate demand of dividing India into Hindu Majority India and Muslim Majority Pakistan. This was not acceptable to the Congress which outrightly rejected this proposal of the Muslim League.

Call for Hartal by the Muslim League

The Muslim League leaders called for a hartal on 16th August in protest against the Congress, as Bengal and the surrounding states in the country witnessed one of the worst riots in history.

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The crowd that attended the Meeting called by the Muslim League for Direct Action

Muslim League Govt. powers the riots

In the situation prevailing then in Bengal, Muslims were the Majority with 55 % and Hindus 43%. Bengal had a Muslim League Government then with the British being the coalition partner, an alliance formed to checkmate the strong opposition that included Indian National Congress, Hindu Mahasabha Party and the Communist Party of India.

4000 killed, 1,00000 homeless

In this backdrop, the in power Muslim League carried out a great massacre, in which around 4000 were killed and 1,00000 rendered homeless within three days.

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A Newspaper called Associated Press dated 17th carrying a report on the killings

Genocide in Naokhali

The riots literally wiped out the Hindu community in Noakhali district of Bengal which saw a genocide that killed 50,000 Hindus.

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Naokhali District, Bangladesh

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An unbelieveable scene from the ‘The Week of the Long Knives’

The riots spread to other states like Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

These events eventually led to the Partition of India in 1947.

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa is one of the most well known saints of this country. A spiritual leader who promoted religious harmony through his life. An ideal for Spiritual Seekers.

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Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

Birth

Ramakrishna was born Gadhadhar into a Vaishnava Brahmin family on February 20th, 1836, at Kamarkupur, in West Bengal. Prior to his birth, his parents had mystical visions, indicating the birth of a great soul as their son.

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Birth Place of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

Spiritually inclined at young age

The seeds of spirituality were sown in Ramakrishna at a very young age. He had the opportunity to meet many saints at a tender age and was influenced by the stories of Ramayana and Puranas, narrated by them.

First Spiritual Experience

Ramakrishna had his first spiritual experience at the age of six. While visualising white cranes in the backdrop of dark clouds in the sky, he became absorbed in this scene and lost external consciousness. He experienced great bliss in that ethereal state. Ramakrishna had many such experiences in his childhood.

Priest at Kali Temple

Ramakrishna became the priest of the Dakshineshwar Kali Temple in 1856. From then on, he was drawn to the deity at the shrine and became an ardent devotee of Devi Kali. He had many spiritual experiences with the Divine Mother and many times lost outward consciousness, being immersed in bliss.

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Dakshineshwar Kali Temple in those days

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Dakshineshwar Kali Temple as it stands today

Marriage

Ramakrishna married Saradamani Mukhopadhyaya, now respectfully called Sarada Devi in the year 1859.

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Sarada Devi

Even into Married life, Ramakrishna was never distracted from his spiritual endeavour.

Showing Religious Harmony in Practice

Ramakrishna undertook many sadhana, spiritual practices through his life. He sought to show to the world that all religions are one and lead to One Divinity. Ramakrishna awakened people to this harmonious thought not just through his teachings, but in actual practice.

Practicing Islam & Christianity

Ramakrishna practiced other religions including Christianity and Islam.

While practicing the tenets of Islam, Ramakrishna dressed himself as an Arab Muslim, performed Namaz 5 times each day and continuously repeated the names of Allah. After 3 days, he had a vision of Prophet Mohammed merging in his body.

Ramakrishna had a vision of Jesus Christ merging in his body when he undertook to practice Christianity.

Epitome of Religious harmony

Similarly, Ramakrishna undertook spiritual practices pertaining to many religious sect and every time had the vision of the respective deity. He also practiced the Advaitic Sadhana and realized the One Formless Divinity.

Ramakrishna thus became an epitome of religious harmony in the country.

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Ramakrishna, An Epitome of religious harmony

A True Paramahamsa

From Spiritual Seeker, Ramakrishna had now become a Spiritual Master. Ramakrishna began to attract many spiritual seekers who felt they were face to face with a highly evolved Guru. He was now popularly known as Ramakrishna ‘Paramahamsa’, with the latter honorific title meaning ‘A fully blossomed soul’.

Guru to Swami Vivekananda

Ramakrishna is the one who inspired Swami Vivekananda, his chief disciple into spiritual life and to carry out the mission of unravelling Indian wisdom and revealing it to people, both in India and in the West.

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Swami Vivekananda

In this light, Swami Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna Mission to propagate the teachings of his Guru.

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Ramakrishna passed away on August 16th, 1886 at Cossipore, West Bengal.

A Continuous Source of Spiritual Inspiration

Apart from Vivekananda, Ramakrishna inspired many spiritual seekers through his life and continues to kindle the spiritual fervour in many youth of this country, even today. The result has been that Ramakrishna Mission has spread to every nook and corner of this land and the world.

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Ramakrishna Mission, Chennai

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Ramakrishna Mission, Bangalore

                       Ramakrishna Mission, Pune and Hyderabad

            Ramakrishna Mission, Agartala  and Delhi 

Today, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa continues to live in the hearts of his millions of devotees.

Krishnadevaraya Coronation Day

Raja Krishna Deva Raya cornation day

In the year 1509, on Sri Krishna Jayanthi day, Janamashtami, the birth anniversary of Lord Krishna, Raja Krishnadevaraya ascended the throne of Vijayanagara, a kingdom that reached its zenith during his reign. Vijayanagara was a kingdom that covered the peninsular India with its capital at Hampi.

Under its most famed king, Krishnadevaraya, the kingdom became prosperous and was known for its well administered society.

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Raja Krishnadevaraya

Krishnadevaraya was born in 1471 CE, and ascended the throne in 1509 CE.

In the year 2009, the 500th year of the Coronation was celebrated at Hampi.

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Commemorative stamp issued on the 500th year of the Coronation of Krishnadevaraya

A great King

He is one of the greatest kings not only of South India, but of India as well.

In the annals of Indian history, the name of Krishnadevaraya is seen to be on par with great kings like Pulakesin –II, Raja Raja Chola and Samudragupta.

He was the one who kept at bay the Bahmani Sultan of the Deccan, and thereby helped preserve the cultural heritage of this land.

Visitors to India on Krishnadevaraya & Vijayanagara Empire

Domingo Paes

Domingo Paes, a Portuguese traveler, who visited the court of Krishnadevaraya, gives an account of the great persona of Krishnadevaraya.

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Domingo Paes also speaks about the prosperity of the city of Vijaynagara, namely Hampi.

“The City of Vijayanagara was atleast as large as Rome and was the best provided in the world.”

Nicola Conti

Nicola Conti, another visitor to India during the reign of Krishnadevaraya, speaks of the extent of the city of Hampi.

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Present day map of Hampi

He did not write this himself, but his views were recorded by Poggio Bracciolini, Secretary to Pope. This was published in 1723 by the Abbe Oliva of Paris, in a book by name, “De Varietate Fortunae, Liber Quatuor”, by Poggio Bracciolini.

Eduardo Barbosa

Eduardo Barbosa who visited India in 1516 CE, gives a description of Hampi.

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A great Administrator Supported by able ministers

From the above descriptions, it becomes clear that Krishnadevaraya was a great administrator, and Vijayanagara Empire had reached its peak under his rule.

Krishnadevaraya was supported by many able ministers.

He had a Prime Minister by name Saluva Timmarusu, who helped the king in all aspects of administration. Krishnadevaraya reverentially called him Appaji, Appa meaning Father. This minister was verily a father figure to the King, and guided him in many respects.

He was the Chanakya of Vijayanagara Empire.

Renovated temples

Krishnadevaraya during his rule built, renovated and expanded hundreds of temples all over South India, including the famous Tirumala temple at Tirupati.

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Statue of Krishnadevaraya at Tirumala, Tirupati

9 Gems and Tenali Raman

In those days, the number of courtiers in some of the well-known kingdoms of the land had been 9. As each courtier is a gem in himself, they were collectively referred to as Navaratna or 9 gems.

The court of Krishnadevaraya too had 9 courtiers.

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Among the above nine gems, the name of Tenali Raman stands out. Tenali Raman was a Vikata Kavi, a humorous poet and a court jester extraordinaire.

Rulers of yore had realized that all serious matters of court cannot be handled only through serious deliberations. Jest, humour was needed to handle many situations.

Tenali Raman brought in humour to solve serious matters in the Court of Krishnadevaraya, through his humorous poetry.

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The episode where Tenali Raman got his boon of humour and poetry from the Divine Mother Kali.

More on this in our book, “Telugu Talli – Her Unknown Side”.

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Golden Age of Telugu literature

Krishnadevaraya was himself a poet and also encouraged and supported many poets and writers of all languages. His rule saw a plethora of works on Telugu literature, and other languages.

Which is why his reign is also referred to as the Golden Age of Telugu literature.

Krishnadevaraya was a master of many languages such as Telugu, Kannada, Tamil and Samskrt.

His work ‘Amuktamalyada’ is one of the best works in Telugu Literature, which described the story of Andal and Her pangs of separation from Lord Ranganath, an aspect of Narayana, at the temple of Sri Rangam in Tamil Nadu.

He was a man who could wield a pen as well as a sword.

International Left Hander’s Day

Lefties not inferior

A day for left-handers! Aha! In modern parlance, left has got a connotation of being less than equal. So, certainly we need a day for the left handers to say that the lefties are no way inferior.

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Dexterity, Daksha

Dexterity is a matter of capability of the hands. The words “Dexterity, Dexterous” trace their roots to the Latin word “Dexter”, meaning skillful, which in turn is etymologically similar to Daksha, the Prajapati in Indian legends.

Daksha

Daksha is a Prajapati, a progenitor. The word Daksha means one who is capable, strong, competent, skillful and who can lead. Daksha is probably the earliest recorded person, equally skilled with both hands.

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Daksha Prajapathi

Arjuna

Arjuna is one of the earliest recorded ambidextrous person. He was called Sabyasachi, meaning ambidextrous. Even now people are named Sabyasachi in India in memory of the first recorded ambidextrous person in History of the world.

Left ideology

The communists are derisively called as “leftists” which is given as a left-handed complement. They have accepted this complement as their ideology being inferior.

Left Handed excellence

There are many left handed persons who excelled in different parts of the world including sports and music where their left handed posture is clearly to see for one and all.

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Left Handers displaying their skills in their unique left handed postures

Madam Bhikaji Cama

Madam Bhikaji Cama-death

A Freedom Fighter

Madam Bhikaji Cama played a prominent role in the early Indian Freedom Movement.

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Madam Bhikaji Cama

Born into a rich Parsi family, Bhikaji with her flair for languages and good education, grew to be a persuasive orator when it came to speaking on and standing up for the issues of India.

When she was attacked by plague and was advised to go to Europe to recover in 1902, she came in contact with Sir.Dadabhai Nowroji, another Parsi freedom fighter from India living in England. Working under him, she came into contact with several patriotic students of India and European intellectuals who sympathized with India. This gave her the platform to launch her own ways of supporting India’s freedom struggle.

At International Socialist Conference

In August 1907, Madam Bhikaji Cama attended the International Socialist Conference in Stuttgart, Germany. Here she described the devastating affects of the manmade famine perpetuated by the British and on India’s struggle for freedom.

Tearing Sari, Making Flag

While at the conference, somebody made a comment to the effect that India did not even have a flag to talk about freedom. This comment made Madam Bhikaji Cama tear off her sari, stitch a flag out of it, and display it at the conference. She called this “The Indian Flag of Independence” and displayed it on 22nd August. It was based on a design by Veer Savarkar.

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Madam Bhikaji Cama

The flag becoming Vande Mataram Flag

The design and colour of this flag was adopted back in India as the Vande Mataram Flag.

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Design of the “Flag of Indian Independence” raised by Bhikhaiji Cama

There were eight lotuses representing the eight provinces of India then and the Sun and the moon to present Hinduism and Islam.  The red colour stood for strength, yellow for victory and green for boldness and enthusiasm.

Now in Maratha Library

This flag that she raised then was brought to India by Indulal Yagnik which is now displayed in Maratha and Kesari Library in Pune.

Rekindling fervour

This deed of Madam Bhikaji Cama made her a favourite among the masses. The fervour for independence among the people, was further kindled.  Apart from this act, Bhikaji Cama played many prominent roles all through the freedom struggle such as printing and publishing Savarkar’s book “First Indian War of Independence” which was banned in India and oteh magazines such as “Vande Mataram” and many more, all of which went to keep the fire for freedom burning in the hearts of the Indians in Indian as well as foreign soil.

After relocating to Paris when she learnt of a conspiracy by the British to kill her, she finally returned to Bombay despite a ban by the British only to pass away on 13th August, 1936.

Streets in her name

The government has in memory of Madam Bhikaji Cama has over the years named many streets and roads under the name of Madam Bhikaji Cama.

For example, a street in Delhi is named Bhikaji Cama Place.

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Bhikaji Cama Place

Vessel in her name

In 1997, a fast patrol vessel was named ICGS Bhikaji Cama after this freedom fighter.

Recall this great freedom fighter

Madam Bhikaji Cama’s name is recalled for actively fighting in Indian Freedom Struggle.

Obon

The Japanese observe a period every year called Obon, which the Indians observe as Mahalaya Amavasya. This is one of the most important traditions in Japan. It is a time when people pray for the spirits of their ancestors.

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They invite the spirits of their ancestors back to their homes to reunite with their family. Hence most Japanese, wherever they may work, try to make it back home for Obon.

The name Obon originally comes from Urabon which in turn traces its origin to the Samskrt word Ullambana meaning hovering. This is the time to pray for the spirit of the ancestors that are hovering around.

Obon was originally celebrated around the 15th day of the 7th month in the lunar calendar. It continues to be so in some parts of Japan such as Okinawa, whereas in some others it has shifted to the 15th of the 7th / 8th month of the Gregorian Calendar, namely July and August.

It is interesting to note further similarities not only in the philosophy of the practice of praying for the souls of the ancestors but also in the rationale behind the time of doing so, namely the 7th month of the lunar calendar.

In the Gregorian calendar, even though September and October are the 9th and 10th month in sequence starting from January, September – October was originally the 7th month of the lunar calendar, as the names Septa, 7 in September and Octa, 8 in October suggest.

The star Bharani, ruled by Yama, the divinity of death, throws light on Mahalaya and Obon.

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Food set aside for ancestors during Obon in Japan

More on this Japanese festival in our book “Indo Japan – A Connect Over Millennia”.

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