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The festival of Holi: India & Abroad

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There are some festivals, which find their way across the border. And Holi, the festival of colours, is one of them. Celebrated mainly in north India, and now across the country,the festival falls in March,signaling the onset of spring.

Traditionally, a bonfire is lit on Holi eve, signifying the victory of good over evil. Colours, gaiety and lots of fun is the common thread of the festival that is celebrated in different styles across the country.

After a bout of throwing colour,both dry (gulal) and wet (coloured water) at one another, mouthwatering delicacies, mainly gujjias, and drinks in the form of thandai and the heady bhang, bring family and friends together. This may well be one of the main attractions for foreigners,who head for places like Mathura, Varanasi and Jaipur.

Every year, these cities witness a surge in overseas tourist arrivals. Thus it is that the festival has become popular overseas,particularly in countries with a sizeable Indian diaspora.Our neighbour, Pakistan, has even chosen to declare a holiday to mark Holi.

They say, when one is away from home one realises the importance of celebrating festivals. As in India, people settled abroad greet friends and exchange sweets. It may well be a means to socialize but it also serves to bind the people of Indian origin and also to their roots. We take readers on a trip to different countries to see how Holi is celebrated there:

The US

With a large number of Indians residing in the US, Holi is celebrated with much fervor.Indians from major cities and colleges team up with local friends to celebrate the coming of spring. Different societies set up by Indians residing in various cities help organise the festivities. In New York, Holi parades are taken out. People can be seen having fun in these parades, playing with colour.Many a time Bollywood actors join the celebrations that see dance performances, fashion shows and music concerts. There is so much revelry that it becomes quite difficult to imagine that New York is not in India. With the rise in popularity of Holi,celebrations are seen at Las Vegas, Idaho and Arizona,as well as several cities in California,including Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Sacramento.

The UK

Being the second largest ethnic minority in the UK, Indians settled there do not miss out on the excitement of celebrating Holi. One can particularly sense the zeal in localities with a large number of Indians. For instance,in Leicester,where every Indian festival is celebrated in full spirit, enjoyment reaches its peak during Holi. Like the US, here too, Holi parade is taken out.In the evening people visit their friends and relatives to exchange greetings and sweets. They also apply tilak to mark the traditional joy.

Australia

Celebration of Holi in Australia is the same as in the US and the UK. However, Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan takes a lead in terms of organising festivities. Holi is celebrated in the most prominent location,constantly visited by people from every community,such as Darling Harbour (Sydney). The two-day festival at Tumbalong Park at Darling Harbour gives visitors to chance to enjoy performances and delicious Indian vegetarian food and craft stalls. A Rath Yatra (the journey of the hand-pulled Chariot of Lord Jagannätha) passes through the busy streets of Sydney, culminating at Darling Harbour and Tumbalong Park.

Pakistan

Due to the common cultural roots, Holi in Pakistan is celebrated in the same way as it is in India. People here follow the same rituals and traditions, such as cleaning one’s house, preparing delicacies like Gujia, Papri and Dahi Badas, meeting up with friends and playing with colours.Local Hindus gather in temples. Much gaiety can be seen in temples located in cities with comparatively greater Hindu population such as Lahore and Sindh region. In Punjab province, men form a pyramid to break a matka, or clay pot, which is hung at a high spot. Onlookers throw water and colour on the human pyramid.

Others

In countries like Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Mauritius and Fiji, where Indian people were taken as indentured labourers during the colonial era, Holi is celebrated with the same fervor as in India. In Trinidad and Tobago, it is celebrated on the Sunday closest to the actual date. In Guyana, the main celebration in Georgetown is held at the mandir (temple) in Prashad Nagar. In Mauritius,Holi comes close on the heels of Shivaratri

Credits: The Statesman

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Diwali Puja 2017: Everything You Need To Know About Timings, Muhurat

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Ganesh-Lakshmi are worshipped
Ganesh-Lakshmi are worshipped by devotees on the day of Diwali. Pixabay

New Delhi, October 18, 2017: Diwali is around the corner and everyone is busy with the preparations. On the eve of Diwali, the most important ritual is to perform Ganesh-Lakshmi Puja during the right muhurat (time) and with the right rituals(vidhi).

Here are some of the things you must take care of:

Ganesh-Lakshmi Puja Rituals

It is important that on the day of Diwali, you wake up early in the morning and pay homage to your ancestors and worship gods of your family. It is advised to observe a day-long-fast until the Ganesh-Lakshmi puja is performed in the evening.

Kalash pujan
Ganesh-Lakshmi Puja kalash. Wikimedia

Preparations For Ganesh-Lakshmi Puja

Families can embellish their home and office with Asoka and Marigold flowers, banana and mango leave on the day of the puja. Mangal Kalash covered with unpeeled coconut should be placed at both side of the main entrance of your house.

For puja preparation, place at the right hand side a red cloth on a hoisted platform and put in idols of Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesh on it after gracing them with jewellery and clothes. Once this is done, Navgraha gods must be placed on the left hand side on a hoisted platform under white cloth. Prepare carefully nine slots of Akshata (unbroken rice) for placing Navgraha on white cloth and sixteen slots of wheat must prepared for the red cloth. You should perform puja with all the important rituals.

Idols of Ganesh-lakshmi are being worshipped on the eve of Diwali. Wikimedia

Timings (Muhurat) for Lakshmi Puja

Pradosh Kaal muhurat is the time during which puja needs to be performed. It starts after sunset and lasts for about 2 hours and 24 minutes. Goddess Lakshmi will stay in your home if you perform Lakshmi puja in the Pradosh Kaal when it is Sthir Lagna time. Sthir refers to ‘immovable.’  Before you do the puja, make sure you find out Pradosh Kaal (time) for your city or area. It is important that you know the right time to perform the puja.

– prepared by Siddheshwar Sharma. Twitter: @MancSiddheshwar

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India Demands Data on UN Staff Misconduct, Use of Immunity

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India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about misconduct by UN staff. Flickr

United Nations, Oct 7: In an attempt to break the wall of silence around the crimes and UN staff misconduct and those on its assignments, India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about such cases and the immunity invoked against prosecutions.

Yedla Umasankar, the legal advisor in India’s UN Mission, touched a raw nerve here by criticising the UN on Friday for not vigorously following up allegations of serious wrongdoing by its employees who enjoy the equivalent of diplomatic immunity, a prized possession of its staff.

“It appears that the UN system itself may be reluctant to waive immunity even for serious misconduct carried out by its personnel while serving on its missions, so that such cases can be prosecuted by the host governments,” he told the General Assembly’s committee on legal affairs.

“Even a few of such instances or allegations of crimes committed by UN personnel is highly damaging for the image and credibility of the United Nations system and its work around the world,” he added.

His statement also touched on the practice of some countries that protect their wrongdoers at the UN.

Umasankar demanded that secretariat disclose how many cases of serious misconduct by UN personnel were registered and the number of cases where the UN refused to waive immunity to allow their prosecution.

He also wanted to know in how many cases the host country wanted the immunity waived so it can prosecute those accused; the number of times the UN asked the host country or the country that sent them to prosecute them; how many times it consulted countries before waiver of the immunity of their personnel and how many of them refused UN’s request to waive their citizens’ immunity.

The information he wanted does not cover the diplomats sent by member countries to represent them at UN bodies and enjoy diplomatic immunity with the nations hosting the UN facilities.

After scores of serious allegations of sexual misconduct by peacekeepers, especially exploitation of children, the UN vowed to uphold a policy of zero tolerance and began publishing data on such cases in peacekeeping operations including how they were dealt with.

Starting with the year 2015, it began identifying the nationalities of those accused.

However, it has not made public a roster detailing all the allegations and proven cases of serious misconduct across the entire UN.

While the focus has been on sexual exploitation and abuse reported on peacekeeping operations, Umasankar said that “at a broader level, the issue of accountability has remained elusive in some cases”.

He attributed it to “the complexities of legal aspects relating to sovereignty and jurisdiction”, the immunity or privileges that may be necessary for UN operations, and the capability or willingness of countries to investigate and prosecute the accused.

He noted that the UN itself cannot make criminal prosecutions.

While Indian laws has provisions for dealing with crimes committed abroad by its citizens, not all countries have them, he said.

Those countries should be encouraged and helped to implement such measures, he added. (IANS)

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Indo-Pak Peace Talks Futile Unless Islamabad Sheds Links with Terrorism, says Study

A Study by a U.S. think tank calls India and Pakistan talks futile, until Pakistan changes its approach.

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India and Pakistan
India and Pakistan. Wikimedia.

A Top United States of America (U.S.) think tank, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace called the relations between India and Pakistan futile, unless Islamabad changes its approach and sheds its links with Jihadi terrorism.

A report “Are India and Pakistan Peace Talks Worth a Damn”, authored by Ashley J Tellis stated that such a move supported by foreign countries would be counterproductive and misguided.

The report suggests that International community’s call for the India and Pakistan talks don’t recognize that the tension between the two countries is not actually due to the sharp differences between them, but due to the long rooted ideological, territorial and power-political hatred. The report states that these antagonisms are fueled by Pakistani army’s desire to subvert India’s powerful global position.

Tellis writes that Pakistan’s hatred is driven by its aim to be considered and treated equal to India, despite the vast differences in their achievements and capabilities.

Also ReadMilitant Groups in Pakistan Emerge as Political Parties : Can Violent Extremism and Politics Co-exist? 

New Delhi, however, has kept their stance clear and mentioned that India and Pakistan talks cannot be conducted, until, the latter stops supporting terrorism, and the people conducting destructive activities in India.

The report further suggests that Pakistan sees India as a genuine threat and continuously uses Jihadi terrorism as a source to weaken India. The report extends its support to India’s position and asks other international powers, including the U.S., to extend their support to New Delhi.

Earlier in September, Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) slammed Pakistan for its continuous terror activities. She attacked the country by saying that India has produced engineers, doctors, and scholars; Pakistan has produced terrorists.

Sushma Swaraj further said that when India is being recognised in the world for its IT and achievements in the space, Pakistan is producing Terrorist Organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba. She said that Pakistan is the world’s greatest exporter of havoc, death and inhumanity.

-by Megha Acharya  of NewsGram. Megha can be reached at @ImMeghaacharya.