Saturday November 25, 2017

Keeping aside Boko Haram terror, Northern Nigerian City Celebrates Traditional Festival

Residents of northern Nigerian city celebrated an ancient traditional festival in order to renew a pledge of respect to their ruler

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Northern Nigerian City
The Riders Wearing Robes and Holding Spears in the Celebration. VOA
  • Residents of northern Nigerian city celebrated an ancient traditional festival in order to pay respect to the ruler
  • The custom of Durbar celebration involved residents from villages and towns who dressed up in colourful robes and rode horses holding spears
  • The celebration saw gathering of more people than last year when people stayed indoor following an attack by the Boko Haram jihadists

Riders sporting warrior robes of bright colours and holding spears were again packing the streets of this northern Nigerian city, to greet their traditional ruler as the local residents celebrated a thousand-year-old tradition in a region hit by Boko Haram.

Last week the traditional ruler in Zaria city rode in a horse carriage to kick off the Durbar celebrations that mark the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

The Durbar is a custom dating back more than 1,000 years which involves warriors from villages and towns in Nigeria’s Muslim north travelling once a year to the emir’s palace to renew a pledge of respect to their ruler.

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But the thousands who packed the streets and minarets of mosques to watch were a far-cry from last year when many stayed indoors from fear following an attack by Boko Haram fighters that killed some 35 people in Zaria.

Nigerian City
Man Dressed as a Warrior, Rides a Horse in the Durbar Festival, Nigeria. Wikipedia

Now, following a military crackdown on the militant group, Alhaji Shehu Idris, Emir of Zazzau, rode to his palace.

He greeted people lining the pot-holed streets of this dusty city as he passed by, Once at the palace, he watched with officials as each area of his traditional constituency presented their turbaned chiefs and warriors in a mark of respect.

Several men — wearing white, red, blue or yellow robes – demonstrated their horse-riding skills on the unpaved parade ground. But some women and girls also walked during the procession.

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The Nigerian military has retaken much of the territory lost to the Boko Haram jihadists. But police cars and gun-wielding police officers posted at the unpaved parade ground in front of the palace were a reminder that suicide bombs by the group remain part of life in the northern region of the oil producer. (VOA)

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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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Islamic State Militant Group kills 30 Civilians in Syria who made an attempt to Escape from Syria’s al-Bab

Meanwhile, a Turkish soldier who was injured in al-Bab during a clash with the IS, died on Monday

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FILE - Islamic State militants flaunt an armored vehicle seized from Iraqi security forces in the northern Iraq city of Mosul on June 23, 2014. VOA

Damascus, December 26, 2016: At least 30 civilians who made an attempt to escape from Syria’s al-Bab were killed by the Islamic State militant group, Turkish military said on Monday.

The IS has been threatening civilians in al-Bab and trying to push them to stay in the city where the roads and streets have been blocked by the terror group, Xinhua news agency reported.

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Meanwhile, a Turkish soldier who was injured in al-Bab during a clash with the IS, died on Monday.

At least 16 Turkish soldiers were killed in an IS attack on December 21 in al-Bab as Turkish troops and Ankara-backed Syrian rebels battle to take the town from jihadists, Turkish Defence Minister Fikri Isik said.

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According to Isik, three Turkish soldiers were also abducted by the IS in northern Syria.

The Turkish Army on August 24 launched the Euphrates Shield Operation against the IS and the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units, the military wing of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party.

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Turkish President Recap Tayyip Erdogan said the operation was meant to end the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Turkey lists the YPG and the PYD as terrorist organisations due to their links to the PKK. (IANS)

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Labeling the Jihadists as “reckless,” UN Official Jan Egeland lashes out at al-Qaida-aligned rebel Fighters for upending a fragile evacuation deal for civilians in Aleppo

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Buses drive through the Syrian government-controlled crossing of Ramoussa, on the southern outskirts of Aleppo, on Dec. 18, 2016, during an evacuation operation of rebel fighters and civilians from rebel-held areas. VOA

Dec 18, 2016: The United Nations humanitarian adviser for Syria, Jan Egeland, lashed out Sunday at al-Qaida-aligned rebel fighters for upending a fragile evacuation deal for civilians in Aleppo, labeling the jihadists as “reckless.”

Egeland warned their burning earlier in the day of buses that were meant to evacuate Shi’ites from two small towns neighboring Aleppo risked imperiling all relief efforts.

“Reckless armed men burning buses for Foua and Kefraya undermine evacuation and relief for all civilians in besieged areas in Syria,” he complained in a Twitter post.

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Buses headed to evacuate Foua and Kefraya, two Shi’ite towns that have been besieged for months by rebel fighters, were attacked and burned Sunday, Syrian state media and an independent monitoring group reported.

Buses headed to evacuate Foua and Kefraya, two Shi’ite towns that have been besieged for months by rebel fighters, were attacked and burned Sunday, Syrian state media and an independent monitoring group reported.

A wounded Syrian, who was evacuated from rebel-held neighborhoods in the embattled city of Aleppo, is carried upon his arrival in the opposition-controlled Khan al-Aassal region, west of the city, on Dec. 15, 2016.
A wounded Syrian, who was evacuated from rebel-held neighborhoods in the embattled city of Aleppo, is carried upon his arrival in the opposition-controlled Khan al-Aassal region, west of the city, on Dec. 15, 2016.

The vehicles were en route to transport more than 2,000 sick and injured people from the towns in northwest Idlib province, as part of a deal to resume the evacuation of eastern Aleppo, where an estimated 40,000 civilians and rebel fighters have remain trapped in a small enclave since Friday.

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Forces fighting for the government of President Bashar al-Assad are demanding that people be allowed to leave Foua and Kefraya in exchange for allowing rebels and civilians to leave eastern Aleppo. The London-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Sunday that the rebel group Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly known as the Nusra Front, was behind the bus burnings.

Map
Map of Syria

Reuters news agency reported that other buses and Syrian Red Crescent vehicles reached the entrance to the towns as hope mounted that the people-swap plan would be resumed. But by early evening there had been no resumption of evacuations, condemning those trapped in eastern Aleppo to yet another night of sub-freezing temperatures.

In the last remaining hospital in the enclave, doctors struggled Sunday to save the life of a pregnant mother and her baby by performing a cesarian section. “We tried to evacuate her but we couldn’t,” said a medic. “We were able to get the baby out but both are dead,” he added.

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Security Council

The U.N. Security Council was expected to vote Sunday on whether to send observers to the war-ravaged Syrian city to oversee evacuations and to help provide protection for the civilians who remain. But that vote was postponed until Monday.

Buses sent to evacuate residents from al-Foua and Kafraya arrive at a rebel-held checkpoint on the outskirts of the two Syrian villages under rebel siege, Dec. 18, 2016.
Buses sent to evacuate residents from al-Foua and Kafraya arrive at a rebel-held checkpoint on the outskirts of the two Syrian villages under rebel siege, Dec. 18, 2016.

The Security Council will consider a French proposal that expresses alarm at the worsening humanitarian crisis, and for the “tens of thousands of besieged Aleppo inhabitants” in need of evacuation. But Western diplomats told VOA they hold out little hope that the proposal will be approved by Russia, an ally of Syria’s president and a veto wielding member of the council. Moscow has vetoed six resolutions on Syria since the conflict began in 2011.

Evacuations were suspend from eastern Aleppo Friday by the government in Damascus as rebel groups, international organizations and the Assad regime traded accusations about who was to blame.

Russia said the operation to evacuate civilians and insurgents from eastern Aleppo was complete, but opposition leaders said thousands still want to flee and accused Iranian militias and Hezbollah of executing several men in the last convoy to leave the city.

In this still image taken from video from Syria TV vehicles wait to cross into east Aleppo at Ramouseh crossing point, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016. Dozens of vehicles were on standby at the Ramouseh crossing point near Aleppo on Sunday morning. VOA
In this still image taken from video from Syria TV vehicles wait to cross into east Aleppo at Ramouseh crossing point, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016. Dozens of vehicles were on standby at the Ramouseh crossing point near Aleppo on Sunday morning. VOA

According to Syrian opposition leaders, the convoy carrying 800 people, including rebel fighters, was stopped by Iranian commanded militiamen in the Jisr al-Haj district. They forcibly disarmed the insurgents in breach of an agreement and seized a team of civil defense workers overseeing the convoy evacuation, killing three of them.

“Militias forced everyone to get off the buses, confiscated all individual weapons, forced men to get undressed to their underwear, killed three men and wounded seven others, then forced the convoy to go back to the besieged area of Aleppo city, and some buses are still missing,” said a witness, Ahmad Abo Al-Nour.

On Saturday, civilians and rebel fighters waiting for buses to evacuate them were shot at by Iranian-led militias loyal to Assad, according to activists.

People warm themselves around a fire while waiting to be evacuated from a rebel-held sector of eastern Aleppo, Dec. 17, 2016. VOA
People warm themselves around a fire while waiting to be evacuated from a rebel-held sector of eastern Aleppo, Dec. 17, 2016. VOA

An agreement struck Saturday was to give safe passage to those loyal to Assad’s regime, including Iranian militia groups, from areas held or besieged by rebels, the Aleppo Media Center activist group said.

It was a new demand in exchange for the evacuation of civilians, rebels and others loyal to the opposition from eastern Aleppo, now almost entirely in government control.

Abdulkafi al-Hamdo, a teacher trapped in eastern Aleppo said he has no choice but to try to leave with a young daughter. “The weather is so cold,” he said. “The children are hungry they are crying. They are freezing.” He said people are afraid they will not be able to get out.” (VOA)