International Democracy Day

The idea to celebrate a day to uphold the values of democracy first came up at the meeting of United Nations General Assembly in the year 2007.

Etymology

The word democracy comes from the ancient Greek word democratia, demos meaning, “assembly of ordinary people” and kratos meaning “strength, rule”. Democracy is the rule of the land whereby the power rests solely in the hands of the people.

Mahatma Gandhi has said, “Democracy disciplined and enlightened is the finest thing in the world”.

Janapada

In different parts of India, right from the Mahabharata period, there have been many Janapada, republics. The very word, ‘Janapada’ means “People’s Republic, democracy”. Jana meaning people and Pada is position, where people come together, to choose their leaders.

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Janapada, democratic republics of Ancient India

Spirit of Democracy

Mahatma Gandhi in a quote expresses that, “The spirit of democracy cannot be imposed from without. It has to come from within.”

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Mahatma Gandhi

India has survived as a democracy for many millennia, as it is the innate spirit of the land.

Panchayat System

Panchayats are democracies at the village level. Democracy has been a part of the people and the ethos of the land. The thinkers of ancient India had realized the ground reality that, kings may come and go, kingdoms may change in size and boundaries, but the prosperous land needs to be governed such that, the change of powers does not affect the basic social fabric, nor the sustainability of the land.

It is precisely to meet this challenge, that they had envisaged a local administration system called the Panchayat System, a unique system of local governance, keeping in mind the vagaries of time.

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A Panchayat in Progress – An artist’s impression

What is so singular about this system and its practice that helped tide over the vagaries of time and rule?

Panchayat – A Self Contained Model

The contribution of this Panchayat democracy system to the prosperity of the land as a whole, has been summarized by Sir Charles T. Metcalfe in his Report of Select Committee to the House of Commons in 1832.

Select Committee                         House of Commons           

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Sir Charles T. Metcalfe’s observations on Panchayats

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While there were many kingdoms ruled by different rulers, the model of governance was framed, independent of the individual ruler and the kingdom. The Panchayat administration, followed in every village, was uniform across the land, across kingdoms.

This model of local self governance was uniformly practiced, undisturbed even during times when there was no king or kingdom.

Policies and priorities framed locally by the Panchayat were not disrupted, ensuring continued and sustained prosperity.

This Panchayat democracy model, could be singled out as one of prominent administrative reasons for the continuous prosperity of India for over 5000 years.

Local Self Governance

It is the local administration of the village, by the villagers, for themselves.

This village governance system has been followed in India from time immemorial wherein, people elect and empower a local village council to handle matters of

  • Fund collection
  • Fund allocation
  • Need assessment
  • Planning
  • Deployment
  • Community Development

It was a council of five members who would decide on matters. They were called Panch Parameshwar, the 5 leaders. Hence the name Panchayat, for this model of governance.

We can see a sample of this Panchayat System of administration of the villages, in the stone inscriptions at the Srinivasa temple, in Uttiramerur, in Tamil Nadu, listing the rules for the conduct of elections.

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D K Hari pointing at the Inscriptions in Uttiramerur

Uttaramerur inscriptions

The election system has been in vogue in the land from time immemorial. Voting rights were not suddenly introduced only after independence.

One of the early inscriptions specifically relating to elections in villages is available at the Srinivasa Temple in Uttaramerur village. Uttaramerur is a small prosperous town, 100 kilometres to the south of Chennai. These inscriptions are now popularly known as Uttaramerur inscriptions.

The inscriptions throw light on the mode of election to Village Assemblies, Panchayat of those days.

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Uttaramerur Inscriptions at Srinivasa Perumal Temple

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English translation of the Uttaramerur inscriptions

Democracy idea not alien to India

Thus we see that even though India had kings and kingdoms, the Panchayat institutions, the main stay of the administrations system of the land is based on principles of democracy.

Democracy since Mahabharata times

This existed in India, since the times of Mahabharata, which means for over 5100 years.

These show that democracy existed in practice in India, atleast 3000 BCE ago, which takes the antiquity of democracy back 2500 years, before the ancient Greece practiced it.

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Engineer’s Day – Sir. M. Visvesvaraya Birthday

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Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya’s is among the greatest Engineers that this country has ever seen. He is known to have built many structures throughout his life. He built the Vidhana Sabha Assembly in Bangalore. The dams built by him stand to this day as a testimony of his great engineering skills. His birthday is thus an occasion to honour all engineers.

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Sir M Visvesvaraya

Birth and Education

Sir Visvesvaraya was born on 15th September, 1860 at Muddenahalli village of Chickballapur district in Karnataka.

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Birthplace of Sir M Visvesvaraya

He did his gradutation in Arts from Madras University in 1881 and went on to pursue civil engineering at the College of Science in Pune.

First Project

Sir Visvesvaraya’s first major project was when he joined the Indian Irrigation Commission where he was give the task of constructing an irrigation system for the Deccan region.

Flood Security System, Hyderabad

His next major work was to build flood security system in Hyderabad.

Father of Karnataka

Karnataka is a state that has benefited greatly from the skills of Sir Visvesvaraya. He is considered the ‘Father of Karnataka’.

Role in many industrial ventures

His skills both as an engineer came into play in many projects that have this day become major institutions and industries. He played a major role in the building of

*Iron and Steel Company in Bhadravati

*The Mysore Soap Factory,

*The Bangalore Agricultural University,

*Vidhana Soudha Assembly, Bangalore,

 *The State Bank of Mysore, Bangalore and

*Jayachamrajendra Polytechnic Institute among many other industrial ventures.

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Visvesvaraya Iron and Steel Plant, Bhadravati

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Jayachamrajendra Polytechnic Institute

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Vidhana Soudha, Karnataka Assembly, Bangalore

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State Bank of Mysore, Bangalore

He was also the chief engineer of the construction of Krishna Raja Sagar Dam.

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Krishna Raja Sagar Dam

An Administrator and a Visionary

Sir Visvesvaraya was not only a great engineer and outstanding administrator but was also a visionary.

Integrity

There are many anecdotes about his integrity and honesty.

He used to use the candle, pen and ink provided by the government when writing notes related to work and, use his own candle, pen and ink when writing letter to his wife.

Engineer’s oath & Sir M Visvesvaraya

The Canadian universities, engineering graduates, oath ceremony for graduation reads,

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Engineer giving his oath

When we go through the oath ceremony, we realize that Sir Visvesvaraya actually lived the above oath through his life.

Commander of Indian Empire

For his great engineering skills and contribution in the same field, he was made the Commander of Indian Empire by King George 5.

Bharat Ratna

Sir Visvesvaraya was conferred the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award in the country, in 1955.

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                        Bharat Ratna                 Sir M Visvesvaraya with Jawaharlal Nehru

Sir Visvesvaraya lived till the age of 101 and passed away on 12th April, 1962.

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Sir M Visvesvaraya memorial in Muddennahali

Educational Institutions in Name

Today, there are many educational institutions in his name in the country such as the Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology in Nagpur, Visvesvaraya College of Engineering in Bangalore and Visvesvaraya Technological University, Belgaum.

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Visvesvaraya Technological University, Belgaum

Statues

His statues can be found in many places across the state of Karnataka.

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A Statue of Sir M Visvesvaraya

In Stamp

A stamp has been released in his honour by the Government of India.

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Engineers, the problem solver

Engineers are the foundation of any developed civilization. India being the oldest surviving civilization has a long lineage of Engineers who are referred to as Vishvakarma.

Why Engineers are called ‘Engineers’?

Is it from ‘Engine’?

But steam engine was made only in the 19th century whereas engineering as a profession came in to existence centuries before.

The word ‘Engineer’ has nothing to do with the word engine. Engineer did not originate in Engine. The word ‘Engineer’ originated from ‘ingenium’ which is a Latin word meaning ingenius meaning someone who solves problems that elude normal persons.

From ‘ingenium’ came ‘ingenieur’ ( which is the French word for engineer even now) and from it came the English word Engineer.

Engineers are ingenius people who solve the problems for the society and ameliorate life of all.

Let us honour them

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Let us on this Engineer’s day honour Bharat Ratna Sir M Visvesvaraya along with engineers of modern India.

Hanuman’s return from Lanka – 14th September, 5076 BCE

Hanuman, after meeting Sita and going on a rampage over the capital city of Lanka and setting it on fire, returns back across the sea, to where his other friends of the search party were waiting for him.

During this return journey, Hanuman observes the stars in the early morning sky, which are mentioned in a sloka in the Ramayana text.

  • The Sun and Moon are shining together.
  • Mars and Jupiter are shining.
  • Also seen are Pushya Cancer, Swati Virgo, Airavat elephant of Indra corresponding to Scorpio.

These observations, when plotted in the Planetarium software, show these star observations to be of the morning succeeding, Hanuman’s meeting with Sita, thus validating both these events and their dates, which were arrived at independently.

Hanuman thus returned from Lanka on 14th September, 5076 BCE.

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Hanuman’s Return from Lanka – 14th September 5076 BCE

Observation at 6.30 a.m.

South South Cooperation Day

North Countries more developed

The concept of South-South here implies that the countries of the South are developing or underdeveloped.

This day is to earmark a day of cooperation between the developing countries. This also implies that countries of the north are more developed than countries of the South. The countries of the north have been developed in the last century or so.

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South South Cooperation

Wealth derived from Colonization of South countries

Where did they suddenly get the influx of money for this development?

Economic historians now clearly state that this influx came from colonizing these South, tropical countries and thereby sucking out their prosperity. When we look historically through centuries, it is so called South, that is, the tropical countries that were naturally prosperous.

Reestablishing the prosperity of South Countries

The time has now come again for the South countries to reestablish back their natural prosperity. It is in this light that the South-South cooperation day should be looked at as reasserting their path to prosperity which they have naturally had for many millennia and not for a day to come together and ask for aid from the northern countries. A shift in mindset would lead to a shift in prosperity.

Subramanya Bharati Remembrance Day

Bharathiyar

Subramanya Bharati, popularly known as ‘Mahakavi Bharathiar’, is one of the greatest Tamil poets, who through his poems encouraged patriotism among people at the time of Indian Freedom Struggle.

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Mahakavi Bharathiar

Leading Literary Figure

Considered one of the leading figures in Tamil literature, Subramanya Bharati’s works mainly ranged in social, religious and patriotic arena.

Subramanya Bharati, affectionately called Bharathiar was born in Ettyapuram on December 11th, 1882. He completed his education in Tirunelveli and Varanasi.

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Birth Place of Bharathiar

Taking part in Freedom struggle

He joined the Indian National Congress and carried out revolutionary activities against the British rule, an aspect of which was his stirring poetry through which he kindled nationalism in people.

He also wrote articles for newspapers such as Swadeshamitra and India.

A National Poet

Mahatma Gandhi called him a national poet.

Poems on Women Emancipation

Among his poems were also many songs for women’s emancipation with the title of Kannama.

Coming to Pondicherry

The British police issued a warrant against him in 1908 for carrying out revolutionary activities. Bharathiar then went to Pondicherry, a French colony and lived there for the next 10 years. Here, he translated the Bhagavad Gita into Tamil.

Friendship with V O Chidambaram Pillai

Bharathiar was a close friend of V O Chidambaram Pillai, the other great freedom fighter who started the Swadeshi Shipping Company, forcibly closed by the British, as they perceived it as a threat to British interests.

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V O Chidambaram Pillai                 Swadeshi Shipping Company

The End

Bharathiar’s end came when he was shoved aside by an elephant in mast, at the Parthasarathy Temple in Triplicane, Madras. His condition deteriorated rapidly and he passed away on 12th September, 1921.

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  Parthasarathy Temple, Thiruvallikeni

Among his great grandchildren, Rajkumar Bharati is carrying forward his legacy.

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Rajkumar Bharati

The home where he spent the last few years of his life in Triplicane, also called Thiruvallikeni, has been named Bharathiar Illam, which stands adjacent to the Parthasarathy Temple.

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                    Bharathiar Illam                             

Vast Popularity

In Tamil Films

The songs of Bharathiar have been used in the Tamil films and Carnatic Music, for the past many decades.

Feature Film – Bharathi

Bharathi, a film on the life of Bharathiar was released in the year 2000. This film won the National Film Award for best Tamil Feature Film, for the year 2000.

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Bharathi Film on Bharathiar’s life

Streets, Associations and University in name

Almost every town of Tamil Nadu has a Bharathiar street. Tamil associations in different cities of the world have been named after him. There is a University in his name at Coimbatore. Such are his literary achievements.

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Bharathiar University, Coimbatore

Stamps in name

There are also stamps and coins released in his name by the government of India.

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Stamp on Bharathiar

Statues and Idols

Many statues have been erected for Bharatiyar all over Tamil Nadu. There are also some temples where his idol can be found. One such place is in Madhya Kailash temple in Adayar, Chennai, which has an idol for Bharathiar.

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                  Statue of Bharathiar, Chennai                                     Statue of Bharathiar, Pondicherry  

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Bharathiar Statue in Varanasi

All these speak of the immense popularity and wide acceptance of this Mahakavi.

Hanuman’s visit to Lanka – 12th September, 5076 BCE

Sugreeva dispatched a number of search parties to different parts of the land to locate the whereabouts of Sita.

In one such search party, deputed to the South, was Hanuman. Hanuman crossed over the seas in the southern part of India to reach Lanka. There he found Sita in Ashokavana grove, having a forlorn look. The description of the look and state of Sita, is beautifully intertwined in the story, with the occurrence of a partial Lunar eclipse, during their meeting.

Hanuman found Sita looking like a full moon which was eclipsed by Rahu.

 Ramayana 5.10.14

Sita’s face looked like a full moon that had just been released from Rahu’s captivity. (released from an eclipse)

Ramayana 5.29.7

Sita’s face resembled the full moon released from the grip of Rahu.

Ramayana 5.35.87

With this information, when we look for such an eclipse, which could have been seen from Lanka in the early part of the night, we do notice that such an eclipse did occur on 12th September, 5076 BCE.

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Hanuman finds Sita

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Hanuman’s Visit to Lanka – 12th September 5076 BCE – Lunar Eclipse

The eclipsed moon rose in the eastern sky. It was not a total lunar eclipse. The place of observation is Lanka.

Swami Vivekananda Speech

Swami Vivekananda’s speech at Chicago conference on September 11th, 1893, was only for 6 minutes consisting of 887 words, but what he stirred up with that has been echoing across continents for 120 years and will continue to echo for centuries to come.

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Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda

Arousing interest on India

This short speech recreated an interest about India in the west, in the 20th century.

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Swami Vivekananda, Front row, 4th left from center, in a black robe and turban at the World’s 1st Religious Parliament, Chicago

Indians discover themselves

It also helped Indians discover Swami Vivekananda and through him discover themselves, the strength of their tradition, culture and the respect for their own spirituality. The awakening of Indians among the American intelligentsia had resonance back in his homeland in India.

Paved the way to Freedom

This awareness of their strength later paved the way for the Indian independence movement which was fulfilled in 1947.

Religious Tolerance

People today talk of religious tolerance. The seed of this idea of religious tolerance was sown by Swami Vivekananda at this speech. Unfortunately, in the last 100 years, this tolerance has now come down to tolerate.

Gave impetus to Yoga and spirituality

The speech also gave impetus to Indian yoga and spirituality. Today, yoga is a thriving industry in the west but its seeds were laid by Swami Vivekananda in the west.

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Vivekananda, the harbinger of yoga in west

 Swami Vivekananda at the Parliament of Religions, Chicago, 1893

4 years in America

After this speech, Swami Vivekananda kept getting invitations to speak at different occasions and was compelled to stay on in America for 4 years.

From Swami to a powerful thought provider

This momentous speech catapulted Swami Vivekananda, an unknown swami of the orient to become one of the most powerful thought providers of those times.