Afghanistan Independence Day

Afghan Anglo Treaty

Afghanishtan Independence Day is the day the Anglo – Afghan treaty was signed giving complete independence to Afghanistan from British control. This settlement came forth after the third war between Britain and Afghanistan.

Three Wars

Britain and Afghanistan fought three wars.

First War

In the first war, between 1839 and 1842, the British forces were completely routed by Afghan forces. In this crushing defeat for the British, off the 16000 British soldiers who fought the battle, only one survived.

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 The Lone British survivor

Second War

In the second war, initially the British were on back foot, but came back strongly at the battle of Kandahar. After this there was amity between both for the next 40 years.

Third War

In the third war, of 1919, the British sensing a defeat under the hands of Afghan forces decided to patch up with the Afghans, and ceasefire was agreed upon by both sides. Further negotiations led to the complete independence of Afghanistan on August 19, 1919.

Indo Afghan Connect

The India Afghanistan connect is ancient.

Afghan, Ashva, Ashvaka

The word Afghan comes from the word Ashvaka. In Samskrt, the word Ashva refers to a horse. Ashvaka means ‘A land of horses’. In ancient times, the people of this region were known for raising fine breed of horses. Hence the Afghan region was called Ashvaka in those days.

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Afghanistan, land of horse                                                            Afghan Horses

Gandhara Desha, Gandhari

The Gandhara Desha from Mahabharata times is the present day Khandahar. The mother of the Kauravas got the name Gandhari for she hailed from Gandhara Desha, kingdom of Gandhara.

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Gandhari

Tarim Basin

Until about a thousand years ago, the Tarim Basin in Tibet was Indic in culture & ethnicity and its people spoke the Gandhari language and Khotanese Saka, which are both closely related to Samskrt.

Rivers

The Rig Veda-10.75.6 speaks of the northwestern rivers, tributaries of Indus flowing through Afghanistan and north western Pakistan. The rivers are Trstama, Susartu, Rasa, Shvetya, Sindhu, Kubha, Gomati, Kruma and Mehatnu.

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‘Hara quaiti’ – ‘Saras Vati’

The River Haraquaiti, a tributary of Helmund River in Afghanistan derives it name etymologically from the River Sarasvati.

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River Haraquaiti

Hindu Kingdom

It is a fact that Afghanistan was an Hindu Kingdom till, 871 CE. This kingdom was last ruled by King Lagatorman. His dynasty was also called by the name, Kabul Shahi, Brahman Shahi, Hindu Shahi and Raya of Kabul.

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King Lagatorman

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Coins of Kabul  Shahi Kings

Naga King

A statue of a Naga king holding a lotus can be found at the Afghanistan, Kabul Museum.

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Statue of a Naga King

‘Head of Brahma’

Similarly, a statue called ‘the head of Brahma’ dating to 200 CE is also found in the museum.

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‘Head of Brahma’

Panini

Panini, one of the early grammarians of Samskrt language was a Patan from Afghanistan. His authoritative work on Samskrt grammar is called Ashtadhyayi, Ashta meaning eight and Adhyayi, chapters. This work consists of 8 chapters on the Science of Grammar.

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                                   Panini                                          Panini writing Ashtadhyayi brought out in Indian stamp

Buddhism

Buddhism also had a major presence in Afghanistan as can be seen from the many statues of Buddha at Bamiyan.

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Bamiyan, Afghanistan

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Statues of Buddha in Bamiyan

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A 160 metre statue of Buddha equal to a six storey building in Bamiyan

Hieun Tsang, Chinese traveller describes the statue of a 3rd Buddha, when he visited Bamiyan on his way to India in 630 CE. This is a reclining figure of Buddha about to enter Nirvana.

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Hieun Tsang

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             Buddha in relining position, a sculpture in Bamiyan    

 

Ancient Buddhist city unearthed in Afghanistan

Lady in Namaskara position

A Reliquary Gold set with rubies dating to 200 CE, found in Afghanistan, depicts a lady in the namaskara position and also wearing a bindi. This gold set is presently at the British Museum in London.

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Reliquary Gold Set, British Museum

Tillyya Tepe

Similarly, a pendant, called the Tillyya Tepe found in 100 BCE in Afghanistan has the mark of a bindi.

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Tillyya Tepe Pendant

Connect in recent times

Coming to the present days, the connection continues.

Kabuliwala

Raindranath Tagore wrote a story called Kabuliwala, which was later made into a film.    23          Raindranath Tagore  22

Kabuliwala story

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Film Kabuliwala

Hamid Karzai studied in India

The Afghan President Hamid Karzai studied in India. He came to India as an exchange student and studied at the Himachal Pradesh University.

 

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    Hamid Karzai    

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Himachal Pradesh University

Afghan Snow Cream

Afghan snow cream was one of the popular cream that was used in India, in the days gone by.

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Afghan Snow Popularity through the decades

Close ties through millennia

India and Afghanistan have been geographically and culturally close for many millennia. These are but some of the facets of of these close ties.

 

 

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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

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.

Navroz

Navroz is celebrated in the July-August to mark Persian, Parsi New Year. The New Year is calculated based on the Parsi calendar, Shahenshahi.

Navroz is also celebrated on March 21st, on Vernal Equinox day, every year, to mark the first day of Spring.

Nav is new both in Samskrt and Persian. The English word ‘New’ also has same root. Ancient civilizations were connected.

This festival is celebrated not only among Parsis in Iran, but in many countries like Syria, Kazakistan, Turkey and Azerbaijan.

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When the Parsis were persecuted in Persia, a small group came to India for refuge. The Parsis community has since prospered In India and observe all their festivals including Navroz every year.

The Parsi calendar has only 360 days, compared to Gregorian calendar having 365 days.

Before New Year, a 10 day mourning period is observed. The Parsis believe that the departed souls come to earth during these 10 days.

The New Year is a time for celebration, ending the mourning period. On Navroz day Parsi families visit fire temples, early for their morning prayers. The usual practice is to donate sandalwood to the priest to be offered in fire.

Another aspect of the festival is feasting. Many Parsi sweets like Satarfenis and Jilabis are exchanged.

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Feast for Navroz

The families visit each other, dine together and display their cultural unity. Gifts are given away.

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Parsi Family feasting together

Family prayers are also conducted.

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Prayers being conducted on Navroz

On Navroz Day, a special tradition of Churshama Kulla is followed where people jump over fire.

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The practice of jumping over fire on Navroz

Renew Friendship

The celebration of Navroz has got a noble thought in it. Let us all on this occasion, being Parsi or not, observe and genuinely repent for our misdeeds, harsh words, so that we move forward with all members of this world happily. Let us use this day, this occasion to renew our friendships and move forward as this world is one happy family.

 

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 18th, 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,

“As there are a number of beliefs, there are a number of ways to 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.

Direct Action Day

The Week of the Long Knives

16th August 1946, when India was exactly a year away from Independence, saw one sided massacre of Hindus in Bengal, under Direct Action plan to put pressure on Congress leaders for partition. 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.

Hayagriva Jayanthi

Hayagriva Jayanthi

Hayagriva is an Indian divinity who has the head of a horse, Haya. The word “Griva” means neck. It is from this word “Griva” that we get the word “Giraffe” for it has a very long neck.

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Vali’s brother Sugriva is said to have had a beautiful neck, griva.

Hayagriva is venerated as a divinity of learning. Hayagriva is an embodiment of Vishnu who is venerated for the powers of learning and education for He restored the Veda in an earlier aeon, Yuga. Hayagriva is a zoomorphic image expressing a concept, tattva of the Indian knowledge system.

Hayagriva denotes the capacity to grasp and disseminate knowledge loud and clear.

Forgotten India: Konark Sun Temple in Orissa (13th Century) has a carving of Giraffe.