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By Gauri Rangrass
I remember the first time I wished I were white. I was four years old. Since that day in kindergarten, I have dreaded roll call. My cheeks would burn as teachers stumbled over my name on the first day of school every year. Classmates would snicker when my grandma picked me up every day. Why does she wear clothes like that? What’s that dot on her head? I wanted to erase every part of me that didn’t share a common thread with the homogenous white community that surrounded me. My Dadiji, whose wardrobe consisted only of saris, and whose makeup collection consisted solely of vermillion powder, eventually stopped picking me up from school because I told her I could just take the bus.
My brownness was harder to hide. It was something I spent fifteen years of my life trying to like, and eventually, love. My internal battle with Hinduism was even more difficult. It was not long into my childhood before I started to reject my Hindu identity. I fought with my parents when they encouraged me to go to the temple. I never bothered to learn the significance of Hindu traditions, which were often the only way my mother could make her new home in Michigan feel familiar.
The first time I picked up and read a Hindu philosophy book, I was sixteen. I learned about Dharma and how Hinduism is more of a way of life than a truly organized religion. It made sense to me. It felt intrinsic. By the time I started my freshman year at Northwestern, I had finally reclaimed Hinduism as a part of my identity.
Maybe that’s why, as I sit on a yoga mat in Studio 2 in SPAC, anger rushes through my veins when a white instructor presses her hands together, leans over, and says, “Na-mah-staaay.” I’m the only brown person in the class and it seems that I’m also the only one who feels uncomfortable returning the gesture. Not once does the instructor reference the Indian and Hindu origins of yoga. It’s alienating to see these strangers to Hinduism partaking in this religious practice with more comfort and more entitlement than I can ever imagine finding within myself.
History dates the practice of yoga to the sixth and fifth centuries B.C.E., where it developed in India as a Hindu tradition. Considering how popular yoga has become in America, it’s surprising that it only gained prominence here during the 1980s. It’s infuriating for me, as a second-generation Indian-American, to observe yoga becoming reduced to a Western subculture. Among the many college gyms and strip malls where Western yoga manifests itself, perhaps its most visible presence is on Instagram. Searching for “#yogaeverydamnday” yields millions of self-timer photos of white girls posing in expensive activewear, captions littered with trending hashtags, but void of any reference to Hinduism.
It seems to me that’s what Western yoga is all about, image. It’s about body image. It’s about looking hot. It’s about looking happy and looking trendy. Whether or not it’s actually genuine, these white yogis sure want to show their followers just how enlightened they are. They want to be seen in their tight-fitting yoga crop top and Lululemon leggings, with their mat slung across their back and a seven dollar green juice in hand. Many will show off their “Om” tattoos as some sort of fashion statement. They’ll quote the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu scripture, in their captions to make themselves seem complex, mystical, exotic.
Related Article: India the home of eternity and peace : Swami Jayramdas
Why can’t this trendy yoga persona also include a true understanding of yoga’s Hindu origins? Why is yoga only cool when it has no ties to brown skin? How can Western yoga so liberally use Sanskrit words but feel no obligation to think critically about what they mean or where they come from? Take, for instance, the following paragraph from The Greatist about common yoga poses:
Plus, striking an impressive asana (yoga lingo for pose) looks ridiculously cool. The only problem? Sometimes it sounds like our yoga teacher is speaking in a different language, which makes it slightly difficult to follow along. With Sanskrit names like utkatasana and trikonasana, yoga poses may sound a lot more like spells you’d learn at Hogwarts than shapes you can actually get your body to make.
Spells you’d learn at Hogwarts? Last time I checked, J.K. Rowling published her first book in 1997. Sanskrit has been around for 3,500 years.
So, no, by going to a few yoga classes, you’re not “finding your Om.” It’s not that easy. It took me years of feeling othered, years of questioning my brownness, years of pushing away my family’s religious ideology before I found my Om. I’m no yogi, but I am a Hindu who has struggled in a white-centric society to understand and love every non-white facet of my identity. So the fact that today’s instructor feels entitled to a Hindu practice without once referencing its origins makes me mad. For her to so casually greet our class in Hindi – “Nah-mah-staaay” – without acknowledging that she is borrowing from a long-standing Hindu tradition is problematic. Twenty students will leave this SPAC studio today lacking awareness of the cultural and religious significance of yoga. That leaves me feeling unsettled.
Western yogis: For you to appreciate and enjoy yoga is fine. By no means must you become a Hindu in order to practice this tradition. However, a line is crossed when you fail to give credit to yoga’s roots or use it as a prop to gain social media attention. Yoga is much deeper than an Instagram presence. So next time you liberally use a Sanskrit phrase or think about quoting the Gita in your caption, please ask yourself: Do you genuinely know the significance of these words or are they just Harry Potter spells to you?
The symbol of Swastika is known to signify peace, prosperity, and good fortune in the religious cultures of Eurasia. In fact, this symbol is considered very significant in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. But, at the same time, it has become one of the most misunderstood religious symbols and has been globally banned in many countries.
The reason why the symbol of Swastika is banned in many countries is because of its association with Adolf Hitler's extreme political ideology, Nazism, as Swastika as its official symbol.
Austria, France, Latvia, Spain, Germany, and Russia are amongst the many countries that have banned the display and use of the Swastika.
Moreover, last week Victoria in Australia is preparing to become the first-ever state to ban the public display of the Swastika. This is a step towards an expansion of anti-vilification laws in the state.
Representation of the Swastika on the flag of Adolf Hitler's Nazi Movement.Photo by Flickr.
Now, we must know and understand what went wrong with this symbol, which is sacred and signifies all-good things.
For a very, very long time, in India, the Swastika is the first emblem that is worshipped or even drawn before any sacred and auspicious ceremonies as this symbol in Sanskrit represents 'well-being'. But, the Swastika lost all its credibility when it was wrongfully used by Adolf Hitler.
In fact, it is believed that if this symbol is worshipped properly, then it gives positive results. But if it is abused, then it gives negative results. So, when Adolf Hitler rotated the Swastika at 45 degrees, it slowly and steadily brought misery not only to Adolf Hitler and his theory of Nazism but also to all the people who were associated with him.
Therefore, in order to give the kind of respect and credibility which the Swastika deserves, World Interfaith Harmony Week which was held in New York in February this year, interfaith groups appealed to the United Nations to recognize and acknowledge the Swastika as an important and peaceful symbol. In fact, they also differentiated it from the Hakenkreuz or "Hooked Cross" of Adolf Hitler.
India celebrated a historic day on August 7, as 23-year-old Neeraj Chopra became the first Indian to win an Olympic gold medal in athletics. In the men's javelin throw event, he achieved his greatest triumph, throwing the javelin 87.58 meters on his second try.
Neeraj Chopra was born on December 24, 1997, in Khandra village in Haryana's Panipat district. He grew up in a Haryanavi family of farmers. He is the brother of two sisters. He graduated from Dayanand Anglo-Vedic College in Chandigarh and is now enrolled in Lovely Professional University in Jalandhar, Punjab, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree. Chopra was bullied due to his obesity as a kid, which prompted his father to enroll him in a nearby gym. He then joined a gym in Panipat, where Jaiveer Choudhary, a javelin thrower, noticed his potential and coached him. When the 13-year-old Chopra finished training under Jaiveer for a year, he was enrolled at the Tau Devi Lal Sports Complex in Panchkula, where he began training under coach Naseem Ahmed.
In 2018, he broke the world record in the javelin throw and became India's first-ever gold medalist in the javelin throw. He is also a laureate of the Arjuna Award for 2018. | Wikimedia Commons
Chopra's first international medal came in 2014, as he took home a silver medal at the Youth Olympic Qualification Tournament in Bangkok. In 2015, he set a world record in the junior category of 81.04 meters in the 2015 All India Inter-University Athletics Meet.
Since emerging into the public eye with a historic gold medal at the junior world championships in 2016, he has maintained a high level of performance, setting an Under-20 world record of 86.48m, which still stands. Gold medals in both the 2018 Commonwealth Games and the 2018 Asian Games are among his other accomplishments, including a first-place in the 2017 Asian Championships. In 2018, he broke the world record in the javelin throw and became India's first-ever gold medalist in the javelin throw. He is also a laureate of the Arjuna Award for 2018.
Chopra has also had his share of bad events in life. In 2019, he underwent surgery on the elbow of his right throwing arm, which kept him out of the game for almost a year. However, he returned more robust than ever. In November 2019, he went to South Africa to train from Klaus Bartoneitz. He spent the following year in India training at the NIS Patiala because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He was allowed to go to France with his coach after weeks of trying to get a travel visa.
Neeraj Chopra made history in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics by becoming the first Indian to win a gold medal in athletics. Also, it is worth mentioning that after Abhinav Bindra, Chopra is only the second Indian to win an individual gold medal.
Keywords: Neeraj Chopra, Olympics, Tokyo2020, Gold medal, javelin, India, Haryana
The emergence of the Industrial Revolution in Victorian England brought with it many apprehensions and fears that translated into a new genre in literature: the gothic. Today, the idea of the gothic does not have to much with literature as much as it is associated with fashion.
The Victorians began to wear black more often during the Industrial Revolution to hide the stains of soot on their clothes. Many of the working class were employed in factories. They were newly introduced to technology, the idea of coal as fuel, and the working of machines to serve a certain purpose. This kind of work was hard and messy. Wearing light colours burdened the tired folk when the stubborn stains did not get washed away.
The steam engine was invented to make locomotion easier for the masses, but it brought fear to the people. They had led quiet and simple lives till now, and suddenly their world was infiltrated with loud noises and smoke. Dark places became synonymous with evil deeds and mysteries. It was from this time that horror gained a place in the imaginations of people and artists.
A man sporting gothic clothes and shock coloured hair Image source: wikimedia commons
The gothics of today are those who have held on to these practices. There is no need to fear smoke and noise anymore, but the goths wear black clothes all the time, paint their skin a pale shade, to contrast their clothes, and wear bright shades of red. The traditional gothics decorated themselves with jewellery bearing religious significances, as the belief in Dracula and vampires emerged in the Victorian period. Today, it is a trend to wear studded crosses, or crosses made of black metal either as neck chokers, or earrings.
Modern goths also wear bright monotones to show their patronage of a certain style or order of the goths. They can be seen in neon shades of green, pink, and yellow, often sporting piercings, and matching hair. Their tastes are metallic, and they have an uncanny love for tattoos.
Designers consistently include gothic tastes and styles in their clothing lines to create inclusivity for this subculture. Being gothic, or identifying with them is somewhat a concern even in today's society, and such people are often stigmatised to the extent that it is considered a mental illness associated with the dark arts. The phenomenon is mostly observed in teenagers, and often phases out when they reach adulthood, depending on their sphere of influence.
Keywords: Gothic, Fashion, Victorian, Black, Jewellery