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Chandigarh’s landmark Sukhna Lake is no more the picturesque Water Body: Here is Why!

In just under six decades, the area under water of the scenic lake, which has the Kasauli Hills and lower Himalayas in the backdrop, has shrunk by nearly 57 per cent

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Sukhna Lake, Pixabay

– by Jaideep Sarin

Chandigarh, May 16, 2017: Large patches of dry bed, more than 50 percent of the water body showing its dirty and smelly underbelly of weeds, boating limited to a small area and marine and bird-life affected — Chandigarh’s landmark Sukhna Lake is no more the picturesque water body that used to attracts thousands of people every day.

In just under six decades, the area under water of the scenic lake, which has the Kasauli Hills and lower Himalayas in the backdrop, has shrunk by nearly 57 per cent.

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While going dry is not entirely a new phenomenon for the rivulet and rain-fed Sukhna Lake, this year is particularly bad as the lake started drying up quite early in the summer.

With monsoon rains over the region not likely to arrive for the next 45-50 days, Sukhna Lake could be headed for one of its worst dry periods.

With an average depth of eight feet and a maximum of 16 feet, Sukhna Lake is barely managing to stay afloat in some parts. The water depth in some areas, where boating is still being allowed in a restricted area, is just about 2-3 feet.

Built in 1958, the Sukhna Lake was spread over an area of three square km. In 2016, the area of the lake under water was reduced to a mere 1.3 square km.

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With rainfall over the region not being as high in recent years as earlier, the seasonal rivulets have not been able to maintain the supply of water to the lake. The construction of over 200 check dams in the Sukhna choe (rivulet) and other rivulets, which feed the lake from the catchment areas of neighbouring Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, in the past over four decades, has also meant that the lake gets lesser water from upstream.

“The check dams were constructed to stop silt from coming to the lake. But it stopped the water flow too,” Yogesh Kumar, a retired engineer, who has been coming to the lake since the 1970s, told IANS.

The lake complex, which attracts hundreds of visitors, tourists, regular morning and evening walkers, fitness freaks and even lovelorn couples, presents a picture of neglect as far as the water body is concerned.

“We had heard a lot about Chandigarh’s Sukhna Lake. But we are disappointed after coming here. The lake has very little water and looks ugly in some parts,” Suresh Das, a tourist from Kolkata, who stopped with his family while en route to Shimla, told IANS.

Last year, the water level of the lake was not even close to its maximum water storage capacity of 1,167 feet. Even at the end of the monsoon season, the water level stood at only 1,154 feet. It is down to about 1,151 feet now.

Such is the state of affairs that the Punjab and Haryana High Court had to intervene last year and direct the Chandigarh Administration to list immediate steps to save the lake.

Despite the administration, on the directions of the high court, spending up to Rs 15 lakh ($23,000) to pump water into the lake from five tubewells, the effort hardly helped in saving the lake from going dry.

The high court even appointed an amicus curiae to invite suggestions from experts, environmentalists and concerned citizens to save the lake.

Sukhna, the most popular tourist spot in the city along with the Rock Garden, was built in 1958 by making a three-kilometre-long dam on the Sukhna Choe. It was conceived as a place of relaxation, seclusion and sport by the city’s founder-architect, Le Corbusier.

The lake is situated in an upscale and VIP area of Chandigarh, with the governors of Haryana and Punjab, senior officers of the administration and some affluent people residing in its immediate vicinity.

The lake, which is a national wetland, has lost its water body area to silt and forest cover that has grown on this area.

The man-made lake has a capacity of only around 500 hectare metres against the original capacity of over 1,074 hectare metres in the late 1950s when it was built.

In the late 1980s, comedian Jaspal Bhatti and members of his “Nonsense Club” had played cricket on the dry bed of the lake to highlight the plight of the water body. They were chased away by the police.

Boating activity at the lake is very popular with over 100 paddle and rowing boats and some Shikaras’ (traditional boats like those in Srinagar’s famous Dal Lake) being booked by people daily for boating. (IANS)

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Himalayan Yogi Swami Sundaranand to open art gallery consisting 8 quintal photographs

Wanderer Baba aka Click Baba Swami Sundaranand is all set to open his art gallery

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Himalayan Yogi
Himalayan Yogi Swami Sundaranand (Wikimedia Commons)
  • Himalayan Yogi Swami Sundaranand is also known as “Himalayan Wikipedia Baba”, have clicked 8 quintal photos in beautiful Himalayas

You must have heard about many Himalayan yogi living upto hundreds of years and having miracle powers. But this is the story of a wanderer Sadhu, who is a mountaineer and photographer by choice. He has a deep connection with Himalayas. Swami Sundaranand is known to be a principal advocate for the ecological preservation of the Himalayas, the Ganges and its source at Gangotri.

During 1962 war Indian Army also sought help from this Himalayan Yogi as he was very much aware with all the routes and region in Himalayas.

Swami Sundaranand’s love for Himalayas started at a young age when he read a book named “Himgiri Vihaar” by Tapovan Maharaja. He was so inspired by the book that he went to Tapovan Maharaja and started Yoga Sadhna under his guidance.

Swami Sundaranand
Tapovan Kutir, where Swami Sundaranand lives in the summer (Facebook)

In 1956 he bought a camera for Rs. 25 from a Belgian tourist. And since then he has been clicking pictures of the beautiful Himalayas. He has taken more than 100,000 photos, over a 50-year period, of the shrinking Gangotri glacier in the Indian Himalayas. The photographs he clicked weighs around 8 quintals.

  • The most awaited Art Gallery by Himalayan Yogi Swami Sundaranand will open in Gangotri region

Himalayan Yogi Swami Sundaranand is now all set to open his Himalayan art gallery at a height of 10,310 feet in Gangotri region. The construction has already begun. He has invested Rs. 2 crores in this project, money which he got through royalty of his book “Himalaya : Through a lens of a Sadhu”. His book was launched by then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Swami Sundaranand is the subject of a feature documentary shot at his home in Gangotri titled “Personal time with Swamiji”. The film was produced by The Centre for Healing Arts and directed by Victor Demko.

Himalayan Yogi
Swami Sundaranand’s Art Gallery under construction in Gangotri Region (Facebook)

Himalayan Yogi Swami Sundaranand is also a skilled naturalist who is familiar with thousands of Himalayan plants and he knows the lore and medicinal uses of these species. The most important parts of his life are meditation, japa and pranayama. As a younger man he was an accomplished hatha yogi, mastering 300 postures, and he continues to practice it daily. He is very devoted to the ecosystem in which he has lived for forty years and believes that “God does not reside in temples or mosques – he is scattered everywhere in the courtyard of nature.

So Himalayan Yogi’s art gallery you can not miss to visit! Plan your trip soon and thank us later.

– by Shaurya Ritwik, Shaurya is Sub-Editor at NewsGram and writes on Geo-politcs, Culture, Indology and Business. Twitter Handle – @shauryaritwik

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Mahalaya: Beginning of “Devipaksha” in Bengali Celebration of ‘Durga Puja’

“Mahalaya” is the auspicious occasion that marks the beginning of “Devipaksha” and the ending of “Pitripaksha” and heralds the celebration of Durga Puja

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Mahalaya morning in Kolkata. Flickr
  • Mahalaya 2017 Date: 19th september.
  • On Mahalaya, people throng to the holy river Ganges in order to pay homage to their ancestors and forefathers; which is called ‘Torpon’
  • Mahalaya remains incomplete without the magical chanting of the scriptural verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ that is broadcasted in All India Radio
  • The magic is induced by the popular Birendra Krishna Bhadra whose voice makes the recitation of the “Chandi Kavya” even more magnificent

Sept 19, 2017: Autumn is the season of the year that sees the Hindus, all geared up to celebrate some of the biggest festivals of India. The festive spirit in the Bengalis all enthused to prepare for the greatest of the festivals, the ‘Durga Puja’.

About Mahalaya:

Mahalaya is the auspicious occasion that marks the beginning of “Devipaksha” and the ending of “Pitripaksha,” and this year it is celebrated on September 19.

Observed exactly a week before the ‘Durga Puja’, Mahalaya is the harbinger of the arrival of Goddess Durga. It is celebrated to invoke the goddess possessing supreme power! The goddess is invited to descend on earth and she is welcomed with devotional songs and holy chants of mantras. On this day, the eye is drawn in the idols of the Goddess by the artisans marking the initiation of “Devipaksha”. Mahalaya arrives and the countdown to the Durga Puja begins!

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The day of Mahalaya bears supreme significance to the Bengalis. The day is immensely important because on this day people throng to the holy river Ganges in order to pay homage to their ancestors and forefathers. Clad in white dhotis, people offer prayers and take dips in the river while praying for their demised dear ones. The ritual is popular as “Torpon”.

Mahalaya
An idol-maker in progress of drawing the eye in the idol of the Goddess. Wikipedia

As per Hindu myth, on “Devipaksha”, the Gods and the Goddesses began their preparations to celebrate “Mahamaya” or Goddess Durga, who was brought upon by the trinity- Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheshwara; to annihilate the fierce demon king named Mahishasura. The captivating story of the Goddess defeating the demon got popularized with the goddess being revered as “Durgatinashini” or the one who banishes all the evils and miseries of the world. The victory of the Goddess is celebrated as ‘Durga Puja’.

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Mahalaya remains incomplete without the magical chanting of the scriptural verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ that is broadcasted at dawn in All India Radio in the form of a marvelous audio montage enthralling the souls of the Bengalis. Presented with wonderful devotional music, acoustic drama, and classical songs- the program is also translated to Hindi and played for the whole pan-Indian listeners.

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Mahalaya
Birendra Krishna Bhadra (1905-1991). Wikipedia

The program is inseparable from Mahalaya and has been going on for over six decades till date. The magic is induced by the popular Birendra Krishna Bhadra whose voice makes the recitation of the “Chandi Kavya” even more magnificent! He has been a legend and the dawn of Mahalaya turns insipid without the reverberating and enchanting voice of the legendary man.

Mahalaya will keep spreading the magic and setting the vigor of the greatest festival of the Bengalis- the Durga Puja, to worship the supreme Goddess, eternally.

                 “Yaa Devi Sarbabhuteshu, Shakti Rupena Sanhsthita,

                     Namastaswai Namastaswai Namastaswai Namo Namaha.”

– by Antara Kumar of NewsGram. Twitter: @ElaanaC

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Journey of Indian Origin Harry S. Banga among Richest people in Hong Kong

Harindarpal Singh Banga is among the list of Top 50 richest people according to Forbes Magazine

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Harry S. Banga is one of the richest people in Hong Kong
Harry S. Banga is one of the richest people in Hong Kong. Pixabay

Hong Kong, Sep 11, 2017: He grew up in Chandigarh and never thought he would be a billionaire and one of the richest people in Hong Kong. But Harry S. Banga has done that successfully in the fields of commodities, ship management and asset management.

With a net worth of $1.02 billion, Harindarpal Singh Banga, as the chairman of the fairly young Caravel Group, not only figures among the list of Top 50 richest people (Forbes Magazine) in Hong Kong but is known as the tycoon who has staged a comeback in the commodities sector in a big way.

“It’s been a great journey. (I am) So proud of achieving what we have done. Obviously, there were a lot of ups and downs. Never realised on leaving Chandigarh that I will be where I am today. By the grace of god, it has been a wonderful and successful journey. One day I will write a book,” Banga told IANS during an interview in the swanky headquarters of the Caravel Group in the Central Plaza skyscraper in Hong Kong’s busy Wan Chai commercial area.

Banga, who started as a shippie, has reasons to feel proud.

He exited the Noble Group, in which he was a co-founder in 1988, just before it started crumbling on the business front. Setting up the Caravel Group in 2013 with an $800 million investment, Banga was soon back in the big league of Hong Kong billionaires early this year.

“We have three verticals within the Caravel Group. The first one is Asset Management. It is purely investing in liquid assets in equity, fixed income and debt investment and some private equity investment. The other part is brick and mortar business in Caravel International which has got two verticals. One is Caravel Resources under which we do the commodities business. Then we have Caravel Maritime and Caravel Fleet Management Limited.

“Today we are the third largest ship management company in the world. We have 450 ships under our management, close to $20 billion dollars of assets. Total officers and crew are about 18,000 — the majority of them from India,” he explained.

With operations spread in 19 countries across most continents, Banga says that doing business with China is easier.

“Seventy per cent of our total turnover comes from China. I have been dealing with China since 1983. Dealing with officials and corporates in China, I find them very easy to develop and do business with.

“Our business mainly focuses around China, which is the main consumer of commodities today. Today, we are the largest international trading company supplying iron ore to China. Total volume is 40 million tonnes. The originating countries are India, Australia, South Africa and Brazil. Caravel Carbon does the thermal coal business. Sixty per cent of that goes into China and 40 percent to India to power plants, cement plants etc,” he said.

Though his company has offices in India, the business dealing is limited.

“While in other countries in Europe, Australia, America it is either a green light or red light — it is all very clear. Though in the last three years it is changing, in India it is permanent amber light. So, you don’t know if it is red or green. They do come with a policy in India but it takes a long time to understand that policy,” said Banga, who was honoured with the Pravasi Bharatiya Award in 2011 by the Indian government.

“Ours (India) is not easy. We have religion issues, caste issues, language issues, states have their own issues. All these things are very challenging. New Delhi takes decisions. The implementation is in districts. It is a very different world there (in the districts). In Beijing, one guy decides, everyone implements,” he said.

Banga is worried that too many young people in India are getting education and skills, but not enough jobs are available.

“In India, we have the beauty product and health product e-retail company called Nykaa. That is one of the major investments that we have,” he added.

Born in Amritsar, Banga, 66, did his schooling and bachelor of engineering in Chandigarh before moving out in the 1970s.

“I became the youngest captain at the age of 27-and-a-half. I worked with companies in London, Geneva and Hong Kong, where I arrived in 1984,” he said.

Among other things, Banga has an eye for contemporary paintings and antiques. (IANS)