Wednesday October 18, 2017
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The missing festive spirit of Eid 2015: Are we celebrating festivals the right way?

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By Prerna Grewal

Festivals are joyous occasions which unite people in traditional revelry. Everyone looks forward to festivals because they are occasions when people can forget all the stress and just be a part of the celebrations. This year, some things were amiss during Eid festivities in India.

Like every other year, Eid was celebrated with utmost joy and enthusiasm. However, this time it also turned out to be an occasion of ostensible contrasts.

On one hand, Pakistani soldiers on the border refused to accept sweets from Indian soldiers.

On the other hand, however, Muslims in small town of Lonand, Maharashtra, decided to postpone Eid celebrations to Sunday (19 June ‘15) because the original date clashed with the 1000 year old Hindu Tradition of Varkari.   

Such contrasts especially force one to reflect upon the ways in which acts and ideologies of the past are carried forth to the present and often end up presiding over the humanitarian spirit.

This is especially apparent in the case of Pakistani soldiers not accepting sweets from Indians. Communal tensions intensified by the act of partition in 1947 prove consequential in determining people’s actions and molding their ideologies till date. It also proves significant in shaping contemporary politics within and amongst the two nations.

The second incident, however, serves as an oasis of humanity within intricate web of tensions induced by communalist and fundamentalist ideologies. It is an act that reminds one of the time when people across religions respected and participated in each other’s customs and festivities.

For those willing enough to look through and acknowledge, for those are not blinded by religious bias and communal antipathy and most importantly those who rather than being obstinately determined are willing enough to open the blindfold; the contrast does raise some important questions. Why do we let religion govern every aspect of our life? Why do we let rivalry and religion dominate over gestures of love and friendship?

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5 Events Of November Which Are Ideal For Family Vacations

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Events in November which will give you a vacation mood.
Events in November which will give you a vacation mood. Wikimedia.

As we approach the year’s end, Indians not just bid adieu to their summer outfits but also welcome the festival seasons. October and November are two months in India which are full of cultural events and festivals, which make these months, the ideal time for going on family vacations.

Below are the events of November 2017 which you will regret missing. They are worth the try for family vacations:

1.  Dev Deepavali, Varanasi

family vacations
Representational Image. The ghat of holy city Varanasi. 

Varanasi, the holiest city of India, celebrated Dev Deepavali on Kartik Poornima every year. The festival is celebrated with joy. The ghats of Varanasi are lit with beautiful diyas (earthen lamps). God is believed to have descended to the banks of Ganges, to take a holy dip. The festival will take place on November 3, 2017.

 2. Dharamsala International Film Festival

Filmmaker, cinema buffs or all those people interested in the art of films come together of Dharamsala International Film Festival (DIFF). This film festival will witness filmmakers coming from different regions to show films on various issues- socially relevant, contemporary etc. DIFF will take place from November 2 to November 5. If you are a movie buff, then you should immediately pack your bags and seal a date for attending the festival.

3. Pushkar Camel Fair, Rajasthan

Family vacations
Representational Image. Camel Fair is celebrated in Pushkar. Pixabay

Pushkar Camel fair, a cattle fair, in Pushkar which truly defines the real meaning of culture. The Pushkar Camel Fair has been in tradition for a very long time. The fair attracts a huge crowd every year. One of the most ideal and happy places for family vacations. It will take place between 23rd October to 4th November.

Also Read: 7 Beautiful Places To Visit In North East India

4. NH7 Weekender

The five seasons old Indian multi-city music festival has indeed garnered a lot of attention and love from the musically inclined youngsters across the country. It is a combination of national and international studies coming together. In Meghalaya, the event will take place from October 27 to October 28.

5. Guru Purab

family vacations
Sikhs celebrating Guru Purab. Wikimedia.

Guru Purab, one of the most important festivals for Sikhs. The golden temple celebrates it with a lot of joy. The celebration which Amritsar witnesses at this time are unbelievable. It will take place on November 2017. Golden temple is indeed one of the best places for family vacations.

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

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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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10 Customs of the Hindu Dharma Explained by Science

Have you ever wondered the rationale behind the customs and traditions of the Hindu dharma?

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A deeper look into the practices of Hindu dharma reveal that they are based on scientific knowledge. We tell you how! Pixabay

New Delhi, October 4, 2017 : You might have been moved by the way followers of the Hindu dharma bow down and welcome you inside their homes. Or by the way Hindu women dress, with jewellery adorning their hands and legs. Who doesn’t like the crinkling of their bangles, after all? But have you ever wondered the rationale behind their customs and traditions?

According to popular notions, the traditions and practices of the Hindu dharma have been equated with superstitions. However, a deeper look into the practices reveal that they are based on scientific knowledge and have been observed over generations , keeping in mind a more holistic approach.

Hinduism can hence, be called a dharmic scientific religion rather than just scientific religion. We prove you how!

 1. Worshiping the Peepal tree

Hindu dharma entails a myriad gods and goddesses and there exist a variety of reasons that propagate worship of Peepal tree. According to Brahma Purana, demons Ashvattha and Peepala hid inside and lured people to touch the Peepal tree and consecutively killed them. They were killed by lord Shani and hence the tree has been worshiped ever since. Another legend believed Goddess Lakshmi resides under the Peepal tree every Saturday which lends it a divinely touch. Another school of thought believes lord Hanuman sat on top of the Peepal tree in Lanka to witness the hardships faced by Sita.

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Leaves of the ‘holy’ Peepal tree. Pixabay

The Peepal tree does not have a succulent fruit, lacks strong wood and does no good other than provide shade. However, it continues to enjoy increasing devotion from people practicing the Hindu dharma. Science confirms that Peepal is the only tree which produces oxygen even during the night. Hence, in order to preserve this unique property, ancestors of the Hindu dharma related it to God. Additionally, the tree is of utmost significance in Ayurveda and its bark and leaves are used to treat diseases and illnesses.

 2. Do not chew leaves of Tulsi plant

The Tulsi plant is revered in the Hindu dharma. Apart from its medicinal qualities, the plant is also known for its symbolic presence in Hindu mythology.

According to popular belief, Tulsi is the wife of Lord Vishnu. Hence, biting and chewing it is considered disrespectful.

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According to popular belief, Tulsi is the wife of Lord Vishnu. Pixabay

However, according to botanists, Tulsi has high quantities of mercury. If raw mercury comes in contact with teeth (calcium), it can possibly result in inundation, making the teeth fall. Hence, leaves of the Tulsi plant are suggested to be swallowed and not chewed.

 3. Applying tilak on your forehead

Application of tilak is a religious ac. According to the Hindu dharma, the forehead signifies spirituality. Hence, application of a tilak on the forehead denotes an individual’s thoughts and conviction towards spirituality.  Various Vedic scriptures and Upanishads maintain that energy, potency and divinity comes to those who apply a tilak.

Hindu dharma
A flute player from India with a tilak on his forehead. Wikimedia Commons.

However, science asserts that during the application of a tilak, the central point in the forehead and the Adnya-chakra automatically pressed which encourages blood supply to the facial muscles.  According to body anatomy, a major nerve point is located in the middle of the eye brows on the forehead. Application of the red tilak is believed to maintain vitality in the body and prevent the loss of energy. The Tilak is also believed to control and enhance concentration.

 4. Obsessive cleaning during Diwali

Diwali, the festival of lights honors the goddess Lakshmi, the deity of wealth. The festival also commemorates the return of lord Ram after an exile of 14 years to his kingdom in Ayodhya. According to Hindu mythology, the night of his return was a new moon night. To illuminate his path in the pitch dark night, the villagers of Ayodhya cleaned the entire village and lit it with lamps.

Hence, Diwali is preceded by extensive cleaning of the entire house in honor of both the deities of Hindu mythology. Legend also believed goddess Lakshmi comes home on Diwali and thereby, the entire place should be cleaned and decorated to welcome the goddess.

However, science backs the concept and explains that Diwali essentially falls in October and November, and mark beginning of winters and end of monsoon season.

Hindu dharma
People indulge in cleaning, repari and beautification of their homes ahead of Diwali to welcome goddess Lakshmi. Pixabay

In older times, the monsoons were not a good period as they were characteristic of excessive rains that often resulted in floods and damaged homes, which then needed repair. This is why people indulged in repair, cleaning and beautification of their homes.

 5. Folding your hands for ‘Namaskar’

You will often find people practicing Hindu dharma greeting people by joining their palms together. The ‘Namaskar’ is believed to signify respect for people.

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People practicing Hindu dharma greeting people by joining their palms together. Pixabay

This pose requires an individual to join all finger tips together that carry the pressure points of ears, eyes and mind. Science says pressing them together activates these pressure points, making our mind attentive.  This aids us to remember people for a longer duration.

The Namaskar can also be backed up by an act to maintain hygiene and cleanliness since it does not involve any physical contact.

 6. Wearing toe rings

Traditionally, toe rings are worn by married woman on the second toe and are treated as a sign of holy matrimony. However, they are believed to be a part of the Indian culture since the times of Ramayana when Sita threw her toe ring for her husband lord Ram, upon being abducted by Ravana.

Science says that a nerve on this toe connect the uterus to the heart.  Wearing a ring on this finger helps regulate blood flow, thereby, strengthening the uterus and regulating menstrual cycle. It is also believed to have an erotic effect.

 7. Applying henna on hands and feet

Mehendi or henna is usually applied during weddings and festivals to enhance the beauty of the women-folk. According to popular beliefs, the color of the henna denotes the affection a girl will enjoy from her husband and mother-in-law.

Hindu dharma
Mehendi or henna is usually applied during weddings and festivals to enhance the beauty of the women-folk. Pixabay

However, science provides rationale of applying henna during the stressful times of festivals and weddings. Festivity stress can bring fevers and migraines, which when mixed with excitement and nervous anticipation can prove to be harmful for an individual.

Thus, besides lending color, henna also possesses medicinal qualities that relieve stress and keeps the hands and feet cool thereby shielding the nerves from getting tense.

 8. Fasting during Navratri

There are four major Navratris throughout the year, however only two are celebrated on a grand scale. Throughout the nine day festival, devotees observe ritualistic fasts, perform several pujas and offer bhog (holy food) to Goddess Durga in an attempt to gratify her.

Hindu dharma
Durga, the Goddess of strength. Wikimedia

But according to science, these navratris are celebrated when the seasons are transitioning. As the seasons and the temperatures change, our eating habits also do.

Fasting during Navratri allows our bodies to adjust to the changing temperature. Individuals get a chance to detox their bodies by quitting excessive salt, sugar and oil. Additionally, Navratris allow them to meditate and gain positive energy. This helps them prepare for the upcoming change in seasons.

 9. Applying sindoor

In traditional Hindu societies, the Sindoor denotes a woman’s desire for their spouse’s longetivity. The red powder is believed to be the color of power, symbolizing the female energy of Parvati and Sati. The Hindu dharma holds a woman is ‘complete’ or ideal only when she wears Sindoor.

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Sindoor a cultural identity of every Hindu women. Wikimedia

Science explains that sindoor is made out of Vermilion, which is the decontaminated and powdered type of cinnabar (mercury sulfide). Because of its characteristic properties, mercury is known to reduce anxiety, control blood pressure and also initiate sexual desire, the primary reason why married women are advised to wear the ‘holy’ red powder. This is also the reason why widows are prohibited from wearing sindoor.

10. Wearing bangles on wrists

Bangles have been worn in the Hindu dharma since times immemorial- goddesses are also pictured to adorn these beautiful rings in their wrists. Bangles are believed to enhance feminine grace and beauty. The Hindu dharma almost makes it mandatory for newly-wed brides and to-be brides to wear bangles as they are believed to symbolize the well-being of the husbands and the sons.

Hindu dharma
Bangles are believed to accentuate the beauty of the Indian woman. Pixabay

Science suggests the constant friction caused by wearing bangles in the wrists expands the blood flow level. Besides this, the energy passing through the external skin is once again returned to one’s own body due to the round-molded bangles which has no ends to pass the energy out.