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Folk singer Sharda Sinha’s Devotional Songs on Chhath Festival take Social Media by Storm

Chhath Parva is a festival dedicated to the Sun God and is observed for four days in the months of Chaitra and Kartik

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Folk singer Sharda Sinha with her creative team of (from L to R) Anshuman Sinha, Nihal Parashar, Harpreet Singh and Vandana Bharadwaj.

-By Shillpi A Singh

November 5, 2016: Released close on the heels of Chhath festival, two songs — Supawo Na Mile Maayi and Pahile Pahil Chhati Maiyya — sung by legendary folk singer Sharda Sinha have taken the social media platforms by storm. It was released on October 30 and have already grabbed more than three lakh eyeballs.

While the former was produced and released as a music video on Sharda Sinha’s channel on YouTube, the latter was jointly produced by Swar Sharda (Sharda Sinha’s Music Foundation), Champaran Talkies and Neo Bihar on Diwali.

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The songs are the first to be released by the Nightingale of Bihar, Sharda Sinha, in a decade. Her last album of devotional songs titled Arag was released in 2006. “The high-handedness of music companies made me stay away, and I chose not to release any devotional album in the last 10 years. The poor quality of lyrics and music were another deterrent.” Thankfully, all her concerns were taken care of this time around.

While the multi-talented singer has composed the songs, the project could see the light of the day because of Anshuman Sinha, who also happens to be the son of legendary singer and the brain behind this venture. “It is a true labour of love. I had been working on this idea since April. The music, the lyrics and how to time it with the festivities in November, a lot of sweat and thought has gone into the making of the song.” In the music for both songs, music producer Anshuman has ensured that the folk flavour is maintained but it also has a contemporary feel. The lyrics for Pahile Pahal was written by Hriday Narayan Jha and Supawo Na Mile by the singer and Shanti Jain; the songs were released under Swar Sharda’s banner on a digital platform, YouTube. “I am overwhelmed at the response. It is an experiment which seems to be working well,” says Anshuman.

The first song provides a real feel of the Chhath festival with shots of Chhath ghat (place to perform obeisance to Sun God). The song features the singer herself in an elegant and live form and shows glimpses of the song’s recording. It highlights different places associated with various ingredients of Chhath festival such as soop (bamboo tray) and kela (banana). It beckons the out-stationed/diaspora to visit their native place for the festival. “The video has been created by a talented young bunch of artists. Harpreet Singh, who has an album Ajab Ishq Mati Da to his credit, has done the vocal recording while Nihal Parashar has done the cinematography. The music arrangement has been taken care of by Mahesh Prabhakar. Our team had the privilege to have Aditya Dev, a renowned music producer of Bollywood who has produced songs for Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Annu Malik, Sajid Wajid, Amaal Malik, among many others, onboard our other project (Pahile Pahil),” said Vandana Bharadwaj, singer and daughter of Sharda Sinha, who is also a part of the creative team.

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The other song Pahile Pahal has been beautifully shot and tells the story of a city-based couple, who celebrate the festival by reading up on the Net but without compromising on any element associated with the four-day festival. The video also sums up the overbearing theme that one’s cultural identity looms large over one’s being and no matter where one is based, it makes sense to remain rooted to the traditional and cultural backgrounds.

“The video is very emotional. It took me back to my childhood when Chhath used to be the most important festival for us.”
Actor Manoj Bajpayee

The 6.57 minutes long film narrates the story of how an educated and career-oriented woman overhears her husband’s conversation over the phone with his mother where she is ruing the fact that the daughters-in-law aren’t interested in taking the family tradition forward, hinting at how this time around Chhath would not be celebrated at home. She then decides to take time out to fast for four days, and it speaks how the younger generation cares to stay true to one’s identity.

The video has actor Kranti Prakash Jha, who created ripples in his last outing, MS Dhoni: The Untold Story, and model Kristine Zedek in the lead roles. It has been directed by Nitin Neera Chandra, and has the camera work by Sanjay Khanzode and editing by Archit D Rastogi. Jha, an actor who hails from Bihar, says, “The video brought alive my memories of Chhath. The role is a tribute to my cultural roots, the place where I come from. I would like our future generations to keep their cultural identity intact by staying connected to their roots.”

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These songs have beautifully captured the festive fervour around the four-day Chhath Parv. The music, lyrics and voice have together upped the emotional quotient of lakhs of devotees spread across the globe, most of whom either come to their native place for the festival or celebrate it wherever they are based.

The theme has struck an emotional chord with the masses, especially the Non-Resident Indians and People of Indian Origin, who can relate to the idea, and a snapshot of the four days of festivities. As a result, the videos are being shared in lakhs on WhatsApp, and are making waves on other social media platforms too. The videos have grabbed more than three lakh eyeballs on YouTube, and counting.

“It makes me emotional, It will have the same effect on all those who stay away from their birthplace. It’s a warm video.”
Filmmaker Imtiaz Ali

Chhath Parva

Chhath Parva is a festival dedicated to the Sun God and is observed for four days in the months of Chaitra and Kartik.

The first day of Chhath is called Nahay Khay. On this day, the devotees, who observe the fast, take a holy dip into the water and have a single meal.
The second day is called Kharna and the devotees observe a fast without a drop of water from dawn to dusk. The fast is broken after offering rasiao-kheer (a sweet dish made with jaggery, rice and milk) and chapattis to the Sun after sunset. After having prasad, the third day’s fasting begins. The devotees then make thekua (a cookie made of wheat flour and jaggery) to be offered to the deity the next day.

The third day is the main day of Chhat Puja and is known as Sandhya Arghya (evening offering). During the day, a daura or soop (a basket or tray made of bamboo sticks) is readied by putting all the offerings including thekua and seasonal fruits. In the evening, the fasting devotees and their family members gather at the bank of the river, pond or a reservoir decorated for the puja. It is the only time of the year on which people worship the setting Sun and offer Arghya. The third day’s fasting goes on throughout the night.
On the night of Sandhya Arghya, a canopy is made using five sugarcane sticks. The sugarcane sticks are tied together through a yellow cloth and the lighted lamps, earthen pots in the shape of an elephant are put under the canopy. The five sticks of sugarcane stand for five natural elements or panchtatva — earth, fire, sky, water and air. The lighted earthen lamps are symbolic of solar energy that sustains light. This ritual is conducted either in the courtyard of the house or at the rooftop.

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On the fourth or the final day of Chhath, people offer Arghya to the rising Sun, which is called Usha Arghya. After Arghya, the 36 hours long fast is broken by taking ginger and water.

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Raja Chari: Indian American Astronaut chosen by NASA

Raja Chari, an American of Indian descent, has been chosen by NASA as one of the 12 astronauts for a new space mission.

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Raja Chari. Twitter.
  • Raja Chari is an American of Indian descent chosen by NASA for the new batch of astronauts
  • Currently, he is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force
  • Chari will have to go through two years of astronaut training which begins in August

June 06, 2017: NASA has chosen 12 astronauts out of a record-breaking 18,300 applications for upcoming space missions. An American of Indian descent, Raja Chari, has successfully earned his spot in the top 12.

The astronauts were selected on the basis of expertise, education, and physical tests. This batch of 12 astronauts is the largest group selected by NASA since two decades. The group consisting of 7 men and 5 women surpassed the minimum requirements of NASA.

Born in Waterloo, Iowa, Chari graduated from Air Force Academy in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in Astronautical Engineering and Engineering Science. He went on to complete his master’s in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The astronaut is also a graduate of US Naval Test Pilot School.

Currently, Raja Chari is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force. He is the commander of 461st Flight Test Squadron and director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

After Late Kalpana Chawla, Lt. Col. Raja Chari is the second Indian American astronaut chosen by NASA.

The 12 astronauts will have to go through two years of training. Upon completion, they will be assigned their missions ranging from research at the International Space Station, launching from American soil on spacecraft by private companies, to flying on deep space missions on NASA’s Orion Spacecraft.

The US Vice-President Mike Pence visited the Johnson Space Centre in Houston to announce and congratulate the new batch. Pence also said that President Trump is “fully committed” to NASA’s missions in space.

by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2393

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Over 5,000 Plant Varieties in Last 3 Years sent in by Tribal Farmers to protect the species : Minister

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Tribal Farmers
tribal farmers submitted more than 5,000 plant varieties in last three years (representational Image). Wikimedia

New Delhi, June 8, 2017: Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh on Wednesday said tribal farmers submitted more than 5,000 plant varieties in last three years through Krishi Vigyan Kendras for registration at the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Rights Authority.

It will play an important role in the development of climate resilient and sustainable varieties in future, he said at the National Workshop on Empowerment of Farmers of Tribal Areas here.

“New technological innovations in agriculture must reach to the fields of tribal areas but before taking such steps we must keep in mind the unique conditions of these areas, which are the gift of nature and therefore, we should promote natural farming in those areas,” he said, as per an official release. (IANS)

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Number of Women in Workforce Falls Significantly in India! Why is it so?

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Swati Sharma quit her job soon after her older daughter was born six years ago because of long working hours and lack of suitable childcare facilities. Women in workforce in India are facing challenges. VOA
  • India needs to reverse the declining rates of women in the labor market to push growth
  • An estimated 20 million Indian women have dropped out of the workforce over the last decade
  • Three of every five prime working age Indian women (26-45 years old) are not economically active

New Delhi, June 06, 2017: Using a work-from-home facility, Swati Sharma worked for a few months after her baby was born six years ago but quit when her company withdrew the option.

“They wanted people to come to work every day, it became very difficult,” she said, pointing out that child care facilities near her home in New Delhi did not have high standards.

Stories of women leaving jobs are common: An estimated 20 million Indian women have dropped out of the workforce over the last decade, both in sprawling cities and the vast countryside where fewer women now work on farms.

It’s a staggering number that researchers are trying to decode.

Indian economy is robust

Despite India’s buoyant economy, female employment has fallen dramatically over the last decade. Only 27 percent of women are in the workforce compared to about 40 percent in the mid-1990s. That is less than many lower-income countries like neighboring Bangladesh or other emerging economies like Brazil.

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A World Bank study released recently says India needs to reverse the declining rates of women in the labor market to push growth.

The study said three of every five prime working age Indian women (26-45 years old) are not economically active.

Higher incomes play role

But not all the reasons are negative. An era of high growth has increased household incomes and propelled millions of families into the middle and upper-middle class. The relative household affluence has given many women the option to drop out of the workforce.

In the lower-income strata, better incomes for farm and construction labor also resulted in many poor families in rural areas educating girls. As a result, the number of those between 15 and 25 years in school and college has doubled to 30 percent.

“Many of these young women who were working before perhaps out of necessity are now in school and building up their human capital,” said Frederico Gil Sander, senior economist at the World Bank in New Delhi.

More jobs needed for the well-educated

However not all women stay at home because there is a dearth of suitable opportunities.

“If you survey women, many of the women they want to work, but the fact is that not enough jobs are being created that women can take up,” Sander said.

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Garima Verma, who relocated from New Delhi to Jaipur, says there are fewer job opportunities for women in smaller towns compared with the large cities. (Anjana Pasricha/VOA)

In an urbanizing country, while large cities offer regular jobs in services and manufacturing, similar avenues are not available in smaller towns.

Garima Verma, 32, for example, quit her job a year ago because she wanted a break. But some months later she moved from New Delhi to Jaipur and says finding a suitable job in a smaller city has not been easy.

“Lesser (opportunities) I would say as compared to metros definitely,” she said.

Indian workplaces can be unfriendly to women

But even in booming urban centers, women often find it hard to stay the course, partly because most Indian companies have rigid work structures and reliable child care facilities are few and far between.

Sairee Chahal, founder of SHEROES, a portal for women job seekers, said in an era of global competition, extended work hours have become the norm at most workplaces. And patriarchal attitudes in a conservative society do not help.

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“Firms are very unwelcoming around the need for flexibility, maternity is still considered a challenge. And while women have made it to the workplace, men have not picked up stuff at home and that continues to burden women at home,” Chahal said.

A need for more high tech jobs

The low participation of women in the workforce is especially surprising in a country where a large number of college graduates are women – women like Garima Verma and Swati Sharma, who both have college degrees.

“Even highly educated women are not working and this is in a way a form of a brain drain,” Sander said. “Only 34 percent of women with either a diploma or college degree are working.”

Pointing out that this includes a large number of women graduates in science and technology, the World Bank said India needs to create opportunities to tap this human capital.

Swati Sharma, for example, would like to return to work once her 6-month-old baby is a little older, but with working conditions in companies too challenging, she is taking a course so that she can teach “the only option left for me,” she said.

The World Bank said the key to closing the gender gap is to create more jobs, especially regular salaried jobs that are flexible and can be safely accessed by women.

But that is unlikely to happen anytime soon, warns human resources professional Chahal, and reversing the declining trend poses many challenges.

“We do have women who are educated – basically all set and nowhere to go, all set and no doors opening for you,” she said. (Benar News)

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