R K Narayan

R K Narayan is one of the leading figures of modern Indian English literature, famous for his many works, especially the “Malgudi Days”. He was born on 10th October, 1906 in Chennai.

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R K Narayan

Resident of Mysore

He was a resident of Mysore, an idyllic place then, a royal town, for, it was the seat of Mysore Maharaja.

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Mysore, the Royal Town

Malgudi Days

He shot to fame with his signature book ‘Malgudi Days’. He coined the word Malgudi from the two of the most happening places in Bangalore, Malleshwaram and Basavanagudi. He took the syllables MAL from MALleshwaram and GUDI from BasavanaGUDI, which combined to give the name Malgudi.

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Malgudi Days

His book Malgudi Days was serialized by Doordarshan and was at the top of the charts for a couple of years and more.

Even now Doordarshan reruns Malgudi Days regularly, bringing in nostalgia of the 1980s and 1940s of Mysore

Other Works

Novels

The novels written by R K Narayan include ‘Swami and Friends’, ‘The Bachelor of Arts’, ‘The Guide’, ‘The World of Nagraj’, ‘The English Teacher’, ‘A Tiger for Malgudi’ among others.

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Novels of  R K Narayan

Non Fiction

Among his well known non-fictional works are ‘The Emerald’, ‘My Dateless Diary’, ‘My Days’ and ‘A Writer’s Nightmare’.

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Non Fiction by R K Narayan

Mythology

He is also wrote books on Indian legends like ‘Gods, Demons and Others’, ‘The Ramayana’ and ‘The Mahabharata’.

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Ramayana and Mahabharata by R K Narayan

Film on Book

One of his other famous books ‘The Guide’ was made into a popular feature film of 1960s featuring Dev Anand.

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The Guide Film featuring Dev Anand

Struggles

He struggled all through his life to make his ends meet financially, which he has brought out in his autobiographical work “My Days.”

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Brother R K Lakshman

His brother R K Lakshman was equally famous as the cartoonist who made generations look up to reality in a humorous way.

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R K Lakshman drawing a Cartoon

Won many Awards

R K Narayan was decorated with prestigious awards like Padma Vibhushan, Sahitya Akademi Award. He was also awarded the prestigious A C Benson Medal by the Royal Society of Literature in United Kingdom. The A C Benson Medal is awarded to those who produce commendable works in the field on fiction, history and poetry.

R K Narayan passed away on 13th May, 2001 leaving behind Swami in Malgudi.

Understanding Sri

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An Auspicious Effort

We know of the word, Shram which means labour, burden, effort.

Let us now, take the Shram to experience श्री  – Shri / Sri.

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An Ashram

From the same root of Shram comes Aashraya which means a platform, a support, a shelter, a recourse.

From the notion of Shram and Aashraya comes Aashram, a place which takes on the Shram i.e. the effort, the labour and the burden of providing, Aashraya, i.e.

  1. support to those seeking recourse
  2. shelter to those seeking support
  3. platform for activities, exercises or projects i.e karyam meaning that which is fit or worthy to be done, from kar meaning to do, karam meaning hands.  It is also a platform for education such as a gurukula, patashala etc. All collectively are seen as a Yagna, an act for spreading knowledge and good, from Ya meaning to spread.

Hence the association of Ashrams with Yagna and shelter.

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Ashram 

To Attach or To Detach

The common root for all these words and concepts is shra.

Shraya, shrayati means to attach.

Hence aashraya also means being attached to, being supported by, belonging to, forming a part of.

From this, comes “ear”, shravan, meaning that which is attached, to the face in this case.

Hearing is therefore called shravanam.

With Fame

Thus reputation or fame which is attached to a person or act, becomes shravas and that which is an extra credit, an additional attribute, becomes shreya.

From this, that which is more praiseworthy, more prosperous, more trustworthy, more dependable etc. becomes Shreyas.

After seeing the evolution of these terms and concepts we can now go to understand Shri / Sri.

A Title?

Shri is a title as well as an entity by itself.

From all the derivatives of shra, especially Shreyas, we can see how, Shri as a title denotes one

  • who has a good reputation attached,
  • one who is worthy of that praise,
  • which is worthy of hearing with the shravan, ear,
  • which in turn is attached to the face.

Hence Sri is used as an honorific title for elevated people and the divine.

What a beauty lies in this term!

An Entity?

From how shra yields aashraya, aashrama etc., Sri, as a noun, as an entity, as a being, as a something, as an existence, denotes that which is full of resource, support, basis, platform, fruitfulness of effort (shram) and hence auspiciousness.

The Fortune

Indeed Sri is a divinity one turns to, inorder to seek support, resources or fruit of action.

Sri is that divinity in creation that yields fruit to an effort, yields effect to an act, yields effect to the acts of all divine forces and principles.

Sri as a divinity Herself, is hence held as the Goddess of Fortune, destiny.

Where is Sri?

In our work Creation – Srishti Vignana we have seen how the process of Creation unfolds from Narayana, That which is in equilibrium in the primordial waters.

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Sriman Narayana is Narayana at equilibrium, balanced and at rest full of Sri, resources.
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Narayana lying in cosmic waters
Sri Lakshmi Narayana is Narayana, also stirred up with a goal, Lakshya, to create. Lakshmi here is embedded in Sri.
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Sri Lakshmi Narayana
In Narayana , Sri or Lakshmi are an integral part. Hence Sri is used as a prefix or title or qualifier for Narayana. Sri is thus at the heart of Narayana.
In Vishnu, Sri is more in the form of Lakshmi who as a consort, keeps providing resources in the form of Lakshya, goal for the penetrative, pervading force to act.
Sri is a quality of all the divinities in the cosmos, male or female, as they have sprung from Sriman Narayana.

Sriman and Srimati

Hence Sri is used as a prefix, title for all divinities, as well as for every individual, male or female, to denote the resourcefulness, auspiciousness of every divinity, every  individual, every being of existence.

In the case of men, Sri takes on the form Shriman/Sriman, meaning one who possesses a good measure, maana of Sri and puts it to good use.

In the case of women, Sri takes on the form Shrimati/Srimati, meaning one whose mati, attitude is like Sri. One who always ensures that things go well and will bear fruit.

This Sri is written in English in many ways as Shri, Sree and Shree etc.

Interestingly, the word Seri seen in the name of many people, organization and places in South East Asia is also nothing but another way of writing Sri.

Noted example is Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital city of the oil rich, island kingdom of Brunei. Little wonder that it is one of the richest kingdoms in the world!

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Location of Bandar Seri Begawan
This also shows the “resourceful” connect that India has had with the rest of S.E.Asia.

The Auspicious Duo

These forms of Sri also confirm the Indian perspective of how masculine and feminine genders were regarded as complementary to each other in order to fulfill a purpose, an objective.

Masculine gender was seen as that which possesses power to act, in order to cause the effect it is meant to cause, to bear fruit.

Feminine Gender was seen as the complementing consort, which endows the act with the power, the attitude, the nature to become fruitful.

Each divinity and its complementary spouse, sometimes spouses, together, thus fulfill their innate role or function in the cosmic order.

And people who have realized the cosmic order, hold the divine principles close to heart and work in sync with them have been addressed as Sri, Sri Sri, Ananta Sri, Srila Sri etc.

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Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Birthday

Guru is one who attracts. Guru is one who is heavy, filled with knowledge. The attraction is for knowledge, culture, ethos, practices and so forth.

Gurutva Akarshana is attraction to a heavy body-Gravity. Jupiter, the largest, heaviest planet attracts all other bodies, is also referred Guru.

A true Guru is rare. A true Guru comes by, once in a way.

It is for us to realize, come within the sphere of a true Guru, not just be attracted, but relish in the love and knowledge emanating.

For all that we do in our life, the aim is to relish, realize the self, be happy and be grounded.

May 13 is birthday of  one such Guru, whose grace draws us to the path of love and self-realization.

Fortunate indeed we are.

Happy Birthday to Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar!

International Nurses Day

The International Nurses day is observed every year on May 12th to raise awareness of the noble selfless role the nurses play in caring for the ill. They are the care givers.

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The Week starting May 6, is celebrated every year as the Nurses week, culminating on May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, ‘The Lady with the Lamp’.

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Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale is the Mother of modern day nursing and her birthday is celebrated as International Nurses day.

Nightingale is a well-known English social reformer who is still remembered today for her contributions in the field of nursing.

The role of Nightingale came to fore during the Crimean War of 1853, when the British waged a war against the then USSR to control the Ottoman Empire. 18000 British soldiers were injured in the battle and were admitted to various military hospitals.

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The Crimean War, an artistic impression

However, these hospitals did not have any nurses to cater to the wounded. There was an uproar in England on the neglect of the wounded soldiers.

It is at this time that Nightingale got a letter from the secretary of War Sidney Herbert to arrange for nurses to cater to the injured soldiers in Crimea. Nightingale instantly came to task and organized a team of 34 nurses just within a few days and brought them to Crimea.

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Florence Nightingale’s team of nurses

The poor condition of the patients at the hospital there shook Nightingale as she set herself to work. The soldiers were immediately taken care of with compassion by her team of nurses. She created various services in the hospital to cater to the sick and wounded. The deaths rate of the hospital was soon reduced by two thirds.

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Nightingale at the hospital

Image: Courtesy Wikipedia

The soldiers who were moved by the twin qualities of efficiency and effectiveness of Nightingale’s service called her ‘The lady with the lamp’. The whole of England was touched by this compassion shown by Nightingale to the injured.

A line of praise was composed by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on Nightingale which has since then become popular,

Lo! In that house of misery

A lady with a lamp I see

Pass through the glimmering gloom

And flit from room to room

But, nursing was practiced in India even before Florence Nightingale.

Susrusha is the samskrt word for nurse. One of the meanings of this word is Seva, ‘Service’. Thus, the profession of nurse is synonymous with Service in India.

In the Indian ethos, a Nurse is among the 7 mothers, Sapta Mata who are honoured and revered.

The 7 Mothers being,

  1. Atma-mata – The mother, from whose womb we have come to this world
  2. Guru patni – The wife of the Guru.
  3. Brahmani – The wife of a Brahmana
  4. Raja-Patnika– The wife of the king – the Queen.
  5. Dhenu – Cow
  6. Dhatri – Nurse
  7. Tatha prithvi– Earth

The world’s first nursing school was founded in India around 250 BCE.

One of the ancient texts on Nursing, Sushruta Samhita, was written around 700 BCE by the great surgeon Sushruta. Sushruta considered nursing as one of the four padas of Cure. He says, “the doctor, the patient, the medicine and nurse are the four feet, Pada of cure.”

How true it is that many, times it is the care of nurse that has brought us cure!

Let us this nurse day honour all those nurses from ancient times till today who have shown us care in our critical times. Let us honour the care givers.

National Technology Day

Pokhran – 2, “Shakti” Nuclear tests, were conducted by the scientists of India on 11th May 1998. The Government of India gave the go ahead, defying all international pressures.

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Pokhran-2

Image: Courtesy Wikipedia

This day heralded India’s entry into the elite nuclear club and has since been celebrated as National Technology Day, in India.

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National Technology Day, Logo

Dr. Homi Jehagir Bhabha, the founder of Tata Institute of Fundamental Research is regarded as the father of India’s Nulclear program. It was Bhabha who launched the Indian Nuclear Program under the leadership of Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru. The country’s first Nuclear weapons were launched under his leadership.

The Nuclear program was given a boost by Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, when she decided to create nuclear capability in response to a nuclear test by China in 1967. The job was given to Raja Ramana, the well known nuclear physicist.

The first nuclear test of India, Pokhran – 1, aptly code named, “Smiling Buddha”, for it was meant for peaceful purpose only, was successfully carried out in 1974.

After 24 years, Pokhran -2 was carried out under the leadership of then Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The test preparations were carried out by Nuclear Physicist, A.P.J.Abdul Kalam who had been working on Indian’s missile program. With Pokhran 2, history was created as India became a full fledged nuclear state.

Did India became a nuclear state only in 1998, or did Ancient India have a similar capacity?

The answer to this question that perplexes many of us, can perhaps be found in the following pointers.

Dr.Robert J. Oppenheimer, the nuclear physicist of America, responsible for the development of the first Atomic Bomb in the modern world, while witnessing the first nuclear test explosion in 1945, in New Mexico Desert quoted from the verse 11.32 of the Bhagavad Gita

“I am become death, destroyer of the worlds”.

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   Dr. Robert J Oppenheimer

        Image: courtesy US National Archives and Record Administration

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Manhattan Trinity Project – The Explosive Gadget

 Photo: courtsey Los Alamos National Laboratories

Was then Oppenheimer of the opinion that the Kurukshetra war of the Mahabharata, which brought forth theBhagavad Gita, too had nuclear arsenal in it and was he aware of the same?

Dr. Oppenheimer conveys a plausible connection, when he articulates his view on the nuclear capability of an ancient civilization.

Shortly after the first nuclear test explosion, called the Manhattan Project, Dr. Oppenheimer, addressed the students of the Rochester University.

Here one of the students asked him a pointed question, if his experiment was the first nuclear explosion of the world. He responded thoughtfully as “Well ….Yes, in modern times ofcourse …

This cautious, measured, response of Dr. Oppenheimer, which has been recorded for posterity, makes one wonder if Dr. Oppenheimer believed that in an earlier civilization, there could have been nuclear capability.

By earlier quoting the Bhagavad Gita during the test explosion, was he perhaps pointing to the Indian civilization as having had that capability?

This thought is further substantiated by the Indian text Mahabharata and the adjunct text Purana, which give a vivid description of the Asthra or missiles and their capabilities.

The description of the special manner in which these Asthra were invoked, the number, colour, shape and the rapid speed of individual discharges from each Asthra, the extent of destruction they had caused and the awe in which they were held as compared to the regular bow and arrow, make them appear to be special weapons of mass destruction, beyond our comprehension today.

Astra were projectiles that were fired, as against Shastra, which were hand held traditional war weapons such as swords, lance, spears, mace, bows and arrows.

Astra are defined as those that were ejected from a holder. They had to be launched and inflicted damage some distance away. From this definition, Astra seems to be equitable with the missiles of today.

It is to be noted from the account in the texts, that not everyone who took part in the war had the Astra. The common soldier used only Shastra.

The Astra, the forerunners to missiles may be lost in the mists of time. But that, the global usage of rockets and missiles in warfare got a boost from the 4 Anglo-Mysore wars of India in the 1790s, is a well recorded fact.

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Shastra (Hand Held Weapons) and Astra (Missile Like Weapons)

On this National Technology Day, let us resolve to explore further the technological capabilities of Ancient India, link it to modern needs and make further progress for the benefit of mankind.

Mother’s Day

The Mother’s day is observed on the 2nd Sunday of May every year, to celebrate the unique love of a mother, to honour motherhood.

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A mother is our creator and sustainer. She also shapes and transforms our early life as the first teacher.

There is a saying in this land – Matru Sakshat Devo Bhava, meaning, the Mother is revered as the epitome of the Divine.

7 Mothers

In the Indian ethos, there are 7 mothers, who are honoured and revered.

  1. Atma-mata – The mother, from whose womb we have come to this world
  2. Guru patni – The wife of the Guru.
  3. Brahmani – The wife of a Brahmana
  4. Raja-Patnika– The wife of the king – the Queen.
  5. Dhenu – Cow
  6. Dhatri – Nurse
  7. Tatha prithvi– Earth

Shaktaism – Worship of the Divine Mother

India is home to many Religions such as Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktaism etc.

Of these, Shakta is the religion dedicated to Devi, the Divine Mother. The followers of this religion revere the Divine Mother as the absolute divine being. She is worshipped in Her different forms such as Durga, Lakshmi, Sarasvati, Kali and innumerable other aspects.

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Durga, Lakshmi and Saravati, the three forms of  Devi

Greek Celebration

The Mother’s day celebrations can be traced back to Greece, where the Greek Goddess Rhea, the wife of Cronus, who is looked upon as the mother of many Greek Divinities.

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Goddess Rhea

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Rhea, Cronus and their children

Love of Allah

In Koran, the love of Allah, is expressed as, that of 70 mothers. Thus, the Barometer of Love being the Mother.

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The Holy Quran

Hindi Saying

There is a saying in Hindi, “Putra kuptura Bhaye, Mata kumatana Hoye”.

A son may go awry, but a Mother, never would lose her love for her children.

Chaya Surya episode

The same sentiment is expressed by Surya, the Sun, Divinity, to Chaya his wife. Chaya meaning shadow, shadow of the wife. The wife of Surya Sanjana, could not stand the radiance of Surya, so she kept her shadow, Chaya in her stead. When Chaya was impersonating as Surya’s wife, in that impersonating role, Chaya ill-treats his children, which is when Surya comes to know about the impersonation.

The Moral of the story being, a mother’s love would never diminish for her children.

Heaven is Mother

The Persian poet Agar Firdaus, while referring to a Mother’s love with poetic flourish sings, “Warruesaminast, Haminast, haminast, haminast”.

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Agar Firdaus

“If there is Heaven on earth, it’s here, here, here.”

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The script

It is this quote that was used much later by the Mughals, and Nehru, to describe the beauty of Kashmir.

M in Mother, M in Om

The word ‘Mother’, in all world languages, has the syllable ‘M’ in it. Not incidentally, but for an obvious reason, it is the same syllable ‘M’, that is present in OM, Amen and Ameen, signifying the source of all, the Mother.

Respect our nurturer

This Mother’s day and infact every day let us respect the role mothers have played in nurturing generation after generation.

For without a mother, we just don’t exist.

World Migratory Bird Day

India, a Home to Migratory Birds

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India is fortunate to be blessed with migratory birds that make this land their home every winter, many times to escape the severe cold of Siberia or the Arctic as the winter in tropical India is more pleasant.

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Migratory Birds that make India their home at Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary

Some of the well-known, migratory bird sanctuaries of India are,

1. Ranganthetu, an island in the Cauvery River near Mysore

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Ranganthetu Bird Sanctuary

Image courtesy – The Hindu, Nov 2, 2012

  1. Vedanthangal, a huge lake south of Chennai

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Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary

Image Courtesy – LiveChennai

  1. Point Calimere, on the coast of Bay of Bengal in Tamil Nadu

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Point Calimere Bird Sanctuary

Image Courtesy – IRCTC Toursim

  1. Chilka lake along Orissa coast

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Greater Flamingos and ducks flying at Chilka Lake, Odisha – largest wintering ground for migratory birds in India. 

Image Courtesy – The Hindu, April 4, 2014, Photo by K.Ramnath Chandrashekar

  1. Kokrebellur in Karnataka, is a 2 level village. Villagers live at one level and birds at another level.

The main species of birds found in this sanctuary are Spot-billed Pelican, Ring Necked Parkeets and Painted Stroke. The name Kokrebellur means Village of the Storks.

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Pelicans at Kokrebellur

                          Image Courtesy – Koshy Koshy, Wiki Commons , Flickr

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Painted Stork at Kokrebellur

Image Courtesy – WildTrails

In Villages

Apart from these bird sanctuaries, there are many villages through the country, visited by migratory birds.

In Rajasthan, the villagers of Kichan, feed the cranes, as a part of their culture.

In Tamil Nadu, in south, near Tirunelveli, we have the Koodankulam, which is now better known for the new Atomic power plant. Migratory birds have been visiting this place since time immemorial.

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Painted Storks in Koodankulam / Koothankulam

Image Courtesy – Praveen Muralidharan, The Hindu, Oct 17, 2014

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Pelicans in Koodankulam / Koothankulam

Image Courtesy – M.B.Ramesh, The Hindu, Oct 17, 2014

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Koodankulam Atomic Plant

The Care the Villagers show

What is interesting to note is that, in all these bird habitated villages, the villagers resist from bursting firecrackers during Deepavali, not to scare away the birds.

This shows the concern villagers have shown, even before the modern laws came into force.

For, all these villagers, look at these birds as harbingers of good luck.

The bird droppings are natural fertilizers for their fields.

Like these, there are innumerable places, the migratory birds have chosen, to make their homes for few months in a year.

Wildlife protection laws have been enacted to ensure the conservation of these water bodies and sanctuaries so that these birds have their immediate environment.

Flyways

These migratory birds fly long distances in a corridor, which we now term as ‘flyways’.

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Migratory flyways of birds through India

Image Courtesy – Centre for Ecological Sciences, IISC, Bangalore

For example, the Bar tailed godwit bird, is tracked to fly non-stop for about 10,200 kilometres. What avionics, what energy!

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Bar tailed godwit bird

Photo Courtesy – Nick Chill (Flickr)

But what stuns everyone, including scientists is the migratory Flyway or should we say “FlyHeight” of the Bar Headed Goose, called Paramahamsa in India. Hamsa means a goose, swan. It is characterized by the presence of 2 distinguishing bars on the back of its head.

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A Bar Headed Goose – Anser Indicus, Paramahamsa of India

Photo Courtesy – GoPetsAmerica.com

This bird, whose binomial name or scientific name is Anser Indicus, breeds in Central Asia, especially Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Tibet etc. during the summer there.

As winter starts to descend there, it flies across the Himalaya, at 20000 ft, over the heights of some of the highest Himalayan peaks and finds comfort in South Asia, especially India. This has earned it the name Anser Indicus.

It is a common sight in many parts of India, including in southern parts of India, during the months of Indian winter.

The ability of this bird to rise up to such great heights where the air is rarefied with hardly any pressure, oxygen is low and temperatures are biting cold and fly without damage, all the way to southern parts of India, is a mystery that continues to baffle scientists even today.

The bar headed goose, Paramahamsa, Anser Indicus, can certainly be regarded as a veteran migratory bird.

Amazing

Isn’t it amazing that birds, from times going back, beyond mankind, have been coming to these places, travelling long distances, year after year, to nest, to roost?

Generation after generation, these migratory birds have it in their genes, to take this seasonal annual journey.

World Migratory Bird Day

World Migratory Bird Day is observed on the second Saturday of May, every year.

This day is dedicated to bringing awareness for the protection of migratory birds and their habitats. Various programs are held the world over towards involving and empowering people to take up causes, to protect migratory birds in the environment where they live.