Birsa Munda

Led the Tribal Uprising

Birsa Munda was born on 15th November 1875 at Ulihatu village in present day Bihar. He lived for only 25 years, but gave a tough time to the British. He was a Freedom Fighter belonging to the tribal group of Munda Tribe. He fought for the tribals of Bihar, who were seized of their lands by the British. Birsa revolted against the British through many protests and led the tribal uprising against the Colonial dictators.

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British Seize Tribal Lands

The Munda tribe of the Chotanagpur area in Bihar was part of the agrarian system during the British Rule. As the tribals were not able to get enough surplus due to lack of facilities, the British administration replaced them by non-tribal peasantry. These non-tribal farmers began cultivating the fields and the tribals were soon made to give up their lands. In many villages, the Mundas became ordinary farm labourers under superior landlords.

Movement led by Birsa

Birsa Munda spearheaded a movement in which the the Mundas asserted their ownership to the lands that originally belonged to them. Birsa Munda carried out many revolts against the British and sought the tribal lands back from the British and the middlemen.

Forced British to pass legislation

The Movement led by Birsa Munda brought together all the tribals to fight injustice meted out to them. The repeated efforts of the Birsa’s Movement forced the British Government to pass laws in favour of the Mundas, so that their land could not be taken away easily by others.

Arrest and Death

Birsa Munda was arrested by the British on 3rd February, 1900 and imprisoned at Ranchi Jail. He passed away while in Jail, under unknown circumstances on 9th June, 1900. The British government pronounced that he had died from Cholera, although no symptoms of the disease were found.

Legacy

Today, he is the only tribal leader whose portrait the walls of our Parliament Central Hall. The airport of the capital city of Jharkhand is known as Birsa Munda Airport.

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Birsa Munda Airport

He is one of those freedom fighters who has left a permanent imprint on the minds of the people.

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November – Time to Celebrate Children

Seeing God as a Child

One can see an expression of the Indian love for children in the manner in which they have idolized even their gods in the form of a child.

We thus see portrayals of Shiva as Bala Shiva, Rama as Bala Rama, Krishna as Bala Krishna, Ganesha as Bala Ganapathy, Karthikeya as Bala Muruga and Hanuman as Bala Hanuman.

                     

                      Bala Ganapathy                                                                     Bala Rama                                                  

Bala Muruga

Bala Krishna

    Bala Shiva

Godly Children

Indian legends, the Purana are replete with enjoyable stories of the acts of various divinities in their child like form, some among these divinities being Tattva, cosmic principles and some others being historic personages.

The history epic, Valmiki’s Ramayana contains portrayals of Lord Rama and His brothers as ideal children. Through the behavior and life of these historic and ideal children, the Ramayana conveys the message of obligations of brotherhood, obedience to parents and obeisance to teachers. It celebrates childhood as the budding point for all qualities displayed in later adulthood.

The other history epic, Vyasa’s Mahabharata, through the lives of the five Pandava and the 100 Kaurava brothers, brings to focus competitive spirit amongst children. It showcases how impressions both positive and negative, formed during childhood can assume far greater proportions and cause great impacts to society in years to follow. It alerts us of the propensity of children to retain impressions and emotions well into their lives.

Purana dealing with tattva divinities such as Ganesha, Kartikeya have portrayed them symbolically in child like forms and through symbolic stories of symbolic acts of these divinities, have conveyed principles of the cosmos, of mankind, of mind, of intellect and of ego to help elevate man’s thinking and behavior.

Yet other Purana have immortalized some of the children of long bygone eras, in the saga of the land for generations that have followed in the last many millennia. The story of the boy Sravana’s devotion to his parents, the story of Markandeya’s unshakeable faith in the divinity Shiva, even in the face of death are known to most, through the land, even in this day.

The Purana legends have also showcased scientific possibilities involving children and their upbringing. We thus have legends showcasing the ability of the foetus to grasp happenings and sounds outside the womb. The story of Prahalada showcases how he imbibed devotion towards Narayana while in his mother’s womb and carried it forth as a little boy. The story of Ashtavakra again highlights how Ashtavakra imbibed the Upanishad while in his mother’s womb and used it later to help his father in times of need. Yet again, the story of Abhimanyu reiterates how a child starts gaining knowledge right from the time it is in the womb of its mother.

The legend of Dhruva symbolically narrates the scientific phenomenon of precession of the earth and its effect on the pole star seen in the skies. It is a beautiful way in which the principles of astronomy have been woven into a simple legend.

Srimad Bhagavatham contains many anecdotes on the pranks played by Lord Krishna, His brother Balarama and their gang of friends, Gopa and Gopi. This text highlights the qualities of innocence as well as impishness in children. It celebrates children for the adorable and affable beings that they are.

Seeing God in a Child

Children by nature are mischievous. To be mischievous is an innate quality of children.

Krishna’s precocious pranks are part of the rich folklore of this land.

                              

                                                                     Krishna’s pranks

Krishna, His pranks and His lovable, playful ways, set the trend for how people regarded children, in the land of India across millennia.

This land, by culture, for the last 5,100 years since the times of Krishna, has viewed children as a replica of Krishna and has relished their pranks as they would Krishna’s. The mischief of children has rarely been associated with punishment and reprimanding. It has instead been eulogized and happily expressed as an imitation of Krishna.

Given this ethos, when elders admonish their children for their harmless pranks, it is not stern and wrathful. It has in it an admiration for their innocence and a tolerance with an understanding that by nature, children are given to their ways of pranks.

A culture that gives space for children to grow up with their mischief also automatically gives them the space to grow out of their mischief as a part of the transition from childhood to adolescence.

Holding Children in High Esteem

It is no wonder that various political, religious as well as social leaders have focused specially on the children in the society. They have not only showered affection on them, but they have also invested time and effort in grooming the children in society, in morals, ethics and values. We thus have in many languages, simple couplets composed specially for inculcating good conduct and values in children. These couplets served as the nursery rhymes in this civilization much before the British replaced them with theirs.

Children’s day celebrations are a facet of the high esteem in which this civilization holds the development of its children.  Classic examples of this commitment, even till a couple of centuries ago, can be seen from the quote of Brigadier General Alexander Walker of East India Company from 1780 to 1810.

Dedicating November 14th, the birth anniversary of prominent leader Jawaharlal Nehru, who was close to children, as Children’s Day, is a representative gesture of the high esteem in which children have been held through the ages.

 Nehru with children

It is a day for us to recognize the value of children, the values in children and the values that have to be taken to the children for the development of a valued society.

It is a day to rededicate ourselves to the cause and joys of children.

World Diabetes Day

World Diabetes Day was instituted by the World Health Organization and International Diabetes Federation in the year 1991, to be observed on November 14th ever year.  The day is observed all over the world on the birth anniversary of Fredrick Banting. Fredrick Banting along with Charles Best discovered insulin in 1922.

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On World Diabetes Day

On World Diabetes Day, programs are organized on Diabetes awareness and relief.

Madhu Meham

Diabetes in Indian thought is called Madhu Meham. Madhu means sugar, sweet.

Prameha

Diabetes is also known as Prameha and is mentioned in Ayurvedic texts like Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita, Hareeta Samhita and Ashtanga Sangraha.

Charaka

Diabetes is discussed in great detail in Charaka Samhita. Charaka, the ancient Indian Physician mentions a diabetic affected person as a person passing sweet urine.

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Charaka

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Charaka Samhita

Ants attracted to Urine

One of the ways of identifying Diabetes, as mentioned by Charaka, is to see and observe whether ants are drawn to the urine sample of the patient.

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Ants drawn to the Urine Sample

Charaka also mentions that Diabetes occurs due to insufficient produce of insulin by the Pancreas, and which has been testified by modern science.

Types of Diabetes

Ayurveda mentions 12 types of Diabetes. 4 are curable while 8 can be suppressed.

Sahaja and Apathya

According to the science of Ayurveda, Diabetes occurs due to two major factors, namely, Sahaja and Apathya.

Sahaja is mostly seen in lean people and happens due to Insulin deficiency.

Apathya is observed in obese, those with inappropriate diet habits and occurs due to increased glucose production.

Herbs for Diabetes

Ayurveda prescribes various herbs such to keep diabetes in control.

Herb Scientific Name
Amla Phyllanthus emblica
Musta Cyperus Rotendus
Karela Momardica charantia
Jambu Syzygum cumini
Asana Pterocarpus marsupium
Haridra Curcuma Longa

While diabetes is not fully curable, it is controllable. This has been a realization from time immemorial.

 

Maharaja Ranjit Singh

Maharaja Ranjit Singh is one of the greatest kings in Indian history. He is much revered all across India and is popularly known as Sher-E-Punjab, “The Lion of Punjab”.

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Maharaja Ranjit Singh

Raja to Maharaja

He was blinded in one eye, injured in one arm, yet built up the great Sikh empire. He united the disparate Sikhs into a kingdom and built an empire that covered Punjab, Kashmir, Ladakh, the entire North West. He was served by able men like Hari Singh Nalwa, Dewan Mokam Chand, Veer Singh Dhillon, and Zorawar Singh. He built his kingdom by bringing together many small groups of people. It was thereafter he received the title Maharaja.

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Maharaja united the people

Recruited European

In the modern army that he built, Maharaja Ranjit Singh even recruited European officers to bring in the latest techniques of warfare. This is the reason British Rulers couldn’t annex Punjab until he was alive. This made Punjab the last state which came under British ambit in 1849.

But alas no one knows about his legacy in India.

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Golden Throne of Maharaja Ranjit Singh

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Stamp Issued on Maharaja Ranjit Singh

Only King to Conquer Afghans

Ranjit Singh is the only king in the history of world to have conquered Afghans, which even modern militaries of USA and Russia couldn’t achieve, and eventually blocked entry of Afghan rulers, from North West.

Promoted Education and Discipline

Maharaja Ranjit Singh ensured that Punjab was the most literate state at that time.

As per the research of Dr Leitner, Principal of Government College, Lahore, Punjab was ahead in education, before the British Rule. He further goes on to say that Maharaja Ranjit Singh spent a large percentage of his revenue on education.

His observations show how traditional schools were available all across North India.

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Observation from Punjab and Lahore

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More on this in our book, Breaking The Myths – About Society.

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Women Education

Under his rule, He formulated a book known as Punjabi Qaida, which every women were made to compulsorily read and memorize, before marriage. He made sure that every female in every village had a copy of Qaida, which made sure that literacy was built in at family level in Punjab. At the time when Punjab was annexed by the British, there was 100% literacy in the state.

Even though he recruited European officers he ensured they followed a strict code of conduct, no beef, no smoking and no alcohol.

Persian as Official Language

Interestingly, while every Punjabi revered the Gurumukhi script of Punjabi language, in their worship of the Sacred Book Guru Granth Sahib, Maharaja Ranjit Singh declared Persian as the official language of His kingdom. He did this to encourage people to learn foreign languages. However in this process, he never neglected the local Punjabi language.

Banned Cow Slaughter

As a matter of fact, Ranjit Singh banned cow slaughter in his empire.

Secured Kohinoor Diamond

In a series of attacks on India from the Northwest, the last to ransack India, was Nadir Shah of Persia, in 1739.

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Nadir Shah

His troops unleashed a 57 day, general massacre on Delhi, then probably the most prosperous city of the world and took back as spoils of war, treasures assessed at Rupees 70 Crores of those days’ value, along with priceless artefacts such as the Peacock throne and the Kohinoor Diamond, currently on exhibit at the Tower of London.

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Kohinoor Diamond

Durranis were the rulers of Afghanistan, who repeatedly attacked India. They had now come to possess the Kohinoor diamond, after Nadir Shah’s plunder, as they conquered Punjab from the Marathas. But this region was regained from the Durranis in 1813 by Ranjit Singh who eventually conquered much of Punjab and it was Sikh rule in that region until 1848. Maharaja Ranjit Singh was thus able to secure the Kohinoor diamond from the Durranis. A descendant of Ahmad Shah, Shah Shuja Durrani brought the Kohinoor back to India in 1813 and gave it to Ranjit Singh.

This Kohinoor diamond was forcefully taken away by the British, after they conquered Punjab in 1849.

At the end of the battle with the British, the only people left in the royal line were a 10 year young boy, Duleep Singh, and his mother, Rani Jindan. In 1849, after imprisoning Jindan, the British forced Duleep to sign a legal document, amending the Treaty of Lahore, that compelled Duleep to give away the Kohinoor and all claim to sovereignty.

A Secular Leader

He was s devout Sikh, who never differentiated on religion. Both his court and army had equal number of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims – a truly secular king.

Maharaja’s Finance Minister was a Hindu Brahmin, his Prime Minister was a Dogra, while his Foreign Minister a Muslim.

Renovated Golden temple and built Gurudwaras

Maharaja also renovated the Golden Temple, giving it the gold plates, and gave equal amount of gold to then Hindus and Muslims too, for renovation of their shrines and temples.

He built Gurudwaras at Patna and Nanded, in honor of Guru Gobind Singh, both of which are considered among the Panch Takth, which means a throne of authority, revered by the Sikhs.

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Gurudwara Takht Sri Patna Sahib

A great warrior, an equally able and wise ruler, he was a truly great human being too.

A serial “Sher-E-Punjab Maharaja Ranjit Singh” premiered on Life Ok in 2017, on the great life of this King.

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On his birthday, let us remember this great king and his great legacy, as a humble tribute to this great emperor.

 

Chhath Puja

A Festival to Thank the Sun

Chhath Puja is a popular ‘Sun Worship’ festival in and around Bihar. It is a festival to thank the Sun for the life and warmth it has bestowed on us. The antiquity of the festival can be traced to the Mahabharata period.

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Chhath Puja

Bharat

Bharat is the indigenous name of this country.

Bha which means light or the act of being enlightened. For example, the name Bhaskara denotes the Sun.

Ratha means “one who is a connoisseur”, “one who relishes”.

Bharath thus means “ to relish light”, “to relish enlightenment”and “to relish knowledge”.

Bharat also denoted that land that enjoyed good sunlight (Bha). Even though there are many lands along the equator, India has the advantages.

  • Of being a fairly big mass of land as against many of the islands along the equator
  • of receiving seasonal and copious monsoons, as against brief daily rains like equatorial regions
  • of enjoying right amount of sunshine, Bha, neither too hot for long nor too cold for long and just ideal for most of the year.

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And India had learnt how to relish and harness the energy that the Sun poured upon her.

All of which, made India an agriculturally rich land and therefore a prosperous civilization.

Thus, the name Bharat stood for a land famed for its knowledge (Bha) and rich due to its agriculture enriched by the Sun (Bha).

More on this in our book, Breaking The Myths – Vol-1 – About Identity.

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Sauram – Religion dedicated to the Sun

There were Shad Madhams, 6 religions in India, before Hinduism in its present form took shape. Off these 6 religions, Sauram was dedicated to the Sun.

The 6 religions include,

  • Shaivam (Shiva worship)
  • Shaktam (Worship of Shakti)
  • Vaishnavam (worship of Vishnu)
  • Sauram (Sun worship)
  • Ganapathyam (worship of Ganapathy)
  • Kaumaram (Worship of Kartikeya)

Specials Days and Festivals of Sun

Of the 7 days in a week, Sunday, known as Ravivar is dedicated to the Sun.

Surya Jayanthi is festival that is celebrated every year commemorating the birthday of Sun.

Then there are the monthly Sankranthi days, which are each festivals of Sun, of which Makara Sankranthi stands out.

 Chhath, Etymology

The word “Chhath” comes from the Samskrt word “Shashti”, meaning “six”, for this festival is observed on the 6th day of the ascending phase of the moon, Shukla Paksha of the Karthika month.

4 day festival

Chhath Puja is celebrated for 4 days, with different rituals observed every day.

Nahay Khay

The first day of Chhath puja is known as Nahay Khay. This day represents discipline. Nahay means bath and Khay means to eat. On this day, the devotees have a bath in rivers and other water bodies. They then take this water home and use it to prepare meal, Kaddu Bhat. The meal consists of rice, dal, chana, dal and lauki. The devotees take food only once during the day, and the rest of the day they observe fast.

Lohanda and Kharna

The second day of the festival is known as Lohanda and Kharna. Kharna means “noble action, to clean to purify”. This day represents purity. On this day, devotees observe Nirjala vrata as they forgo even water. The fast is broken after sunset, after offering meal consisting of kheer and to Surya Deva. This Prasad is then distributed among people.

Chhath

The third day is known as Chhath, and forms the main day of the four day festival. Chhath means 6th referring to the 6th day of the month of Karthika. This day represents Bhakti, devotion. On this day, people worship the Sun god, Surya Deva, by offering Surya Namaskar. They have a dip in waters in the evenings, and sing bhajans to Surya Deva at dusk time, while offering sweets and fruits to Sun God. This day is also known as Sandhya Arghya, Arghaya meaning offerings, during dusk. The fast is observed through the night and is broken on the fourth and final day.

Usha Arghya

The last day of the festival is called Usha Arghya. The day represents surrender. Early in the morning, Surya Deva is worshipped, and prayers are offered to the rising sun, along with sweets and fruits. This offering is known as Usha Arghya, Usha meaning dawn and Argya, offering. The fast is broken after this offering.

Karna observed Chhath Puja

The tragic hero of Mahabharata, Karna who is Surya Putra, worshipped the Divinity Sun on this day. His kingdom in the Mahabharata period is in the region of Bhagalpur, Bihar. The Biharis have a close affinity to this festival.

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Karna

Draupadi observed Chhath Puja

Draupadi, the queen of the Pandavas is also recorded to have observed this Sun worship.

Observed in North India

Since then for over 5100 years, this festival has had resonance in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Nepal and adjoining parts.

In the sequence of the Kaumudi festival of Deepavali period, the Chhath festival has its role of importance as other regional festivals.

Skanda Shasti – Soora Samharam

Soora Samharam is the day when Lord Skanda defeated Taraka Asura. Skanda refers to Lord Skanda. Shasti is the 6th day or tithi of a Paksha, the fourteen day phase of the moon.

The vanquishing of Taraka Asura by Skanda is commemorated on a Shasti day and hence is also called Skanda Shasti. In other words, Skanda Sashti that falls in Karthika Month is specially known as Soora Samharam.

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Lord Skanda Killing Taraka Asura

Skanda, meaning

The word Skanda in Samskrt means ‘Spill Over’. As per the Purana, the spilled over energy of Shiva was taken in possession by the deva and which took the form of Skanda, the vanquisher of Taraka Asura.

The Legend

In our Purana, Taraka Asura had secured a vara, boon from Brahma that he should meet his end only at the hands of a son of Shiva. This was a clever boon in the backdrop as Lord Shiva was an unmarried mendicant then, engrossed in meditation. The Asura soon started wrecking havoc all over the world, causing trouble to all. Lord Shiva is persuaded to wed Parvathi, the daughter of the King Himalaya. Skanda is born. He goes on to vanquish Taraka Asura with His Vel, a spear and relieve the Deva and the whole earth from his burden.

Vel – Removal of ignorance

The implement of Skanda is a spear, also called Vel in Tamil language. This spear is not just a war weapon. This Vel is used to remove the veil of ignorance.

Taraka, Cross Over

The word Taraka means to cross over. By overcoming Taraka, we cross over from ignorance to knowledge. Skanda Shasti is venerated as the day Skanda helped us to crossover from ignorance to Knowledge.

Commander of Deva

In a multifacet personality that He is in the Puranic lore, apart from being a Guru who removes ignorance, Skanda was also the commander-in-chief of the Deva, protecting them always from the Asura.

Skanda Purana

The largest Purana, the Skanda Purna is dedicated to the exploits of Lord Skanda.

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Kaumara Mata

Among the Shadmatas, the 6 religions of India, the Kaumara Mata is dedicated to Lord Skanda.

6 Primary Temples

There are 6 primary temples of Murugan in Tamil Nadu.

  1. Tirupparamkunram
  2. Tiruchendur
  3. Swamimalai
  4. Palani
  5. Thiruthani
  6. Pazhamudircholai

In Other Countries

There are temples of Skanda in other countries as well.

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Murgan Batu Temple, Malaysia

Skanda Shasti

Kataragama temple, Sri Lanka

Events on this day

Every year, people across the world, especially in South India, commemorate the victory of Lord Skanda over Taraka Asura on Skanda Shasti by organizing many events in honour of their Lord. The devotees of Lord Skanda enact many plays on the exploits of their Lord. Various hymns in praise of Lord Skanda are recited and hundreds of people join feasts organized by the temples.

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Crowd at Skanda Shasti celebrations in Tiruchendur Temple, Tamil Nadu