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While there is widespread speculation as to what awaits Afghanistan after the departure of the US-led foreign troops in the country, historians and heritage experts globally, are keeping their fingers crossed as to the fate of the cultural legacy of the embattled nation.
The concern is justified since Afghanistan's rich historical and cultural heritage dates back to several centuries. From being part of the Indus Valley Civilisation to being invaded by Alexander, several empires including Greco-Bactrians, Kushans, Saffarids, Ghaznavids, Timurids, and Mughals among others have started from this region.
According to an article in National Geographic, some cultural heritage experts are hopeful; others are growing anxious with the forthcoming departure of US and European forces.
The fear on the part of those who are tasked with taking care of the nation's uniquely diverse cultural heritage is not unfounded. It is still fresh in their memory, as it is of others, when the Taliban in 2001, destroyed the planet's largest statues, the Bamiyan Buddhas. They also vandalised the National Museum in Kabul and looted antiques from ancient sites. Their attitude towards the past relics, especially the pre-Islamic ones, portrayed them in a bad light at the international level.
This time, however, there appears to be a change as the Taliban have given their word to respect the nation's history. In a statement, they commanded their followers to "robustly protect, monitor and preserve" relics, halt illegal digs, and safeguard "all historic sites." But time will tell whether the commitment is only tactical, to reduce the resistance of the world community to their re-emergence or a genuine change of heart born out of the bitter experience of the past.
Interestingly, they have forbidden the selling of artefacts in the art market. Their statement said: "No one should try to disturb such sites or think about using them for profit."
According to the NG article, the statement did not come as a surprise to Cheryl Benard of Washington-based Alliance for the Restoration of Cultural Heritage (ARCH). The write-up states that she told her group last fall that both sides need to address the issue.
Not everyone shares this optimism. Afghanistan's Institute of Archaeology's Noor Agha Noori is not convinced. He told NG: "To be honest, we are very worried about the future of cultural heritage were the Taliban to come into power," he said while informing that Islamists were indulging in looting historical sites to raise finances.
Speaking in the same vein, Mohammad Fahim Rahimi, Director of Kabul's National Museum observed: "Unfortunately the statement is not clear, especially concerning the pre-Islamic heritage. You know what happened to the collection during the civil war and in 2001."
The museum conservators over the years painstakingly pieced together many wooden and stone sculptures which were broken deliberately.
Many pin their hopes on the US-brokered talks between the Taliban and the Afghan Government hoping that the region's past will be protected. Last year, the Government had said yes to discuss "ensuring the security of historical and Islamic sites" during their talks while the statement of February indicates part of the Taliban to do so as well.
Nasrullah Hewadwall of the Kabul branch of ARCH remarked: "It's a great and positive step." He shared that last year the Taliban had distanced itself from the destruction of Bamiyan Buddhas in 2001 while blaming it on al Qaeda.
According to Hewadwall, the leadership of the group has realised the economic significance of ancient heritage and sites as tourist attractions while perceiving that destroying them damages their image.
In terms of historical significance, there is much to be lost in case Afghanistan's cultural heritage is not preserved. Being at the geographical crossroads of Central Asia, the region has attracted traders, merchants, scholars, pilgrims, and armies since the arrival of Alexander the Great.
Afghanistan is from where Buddhism spread to China and it is this place where Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Judaism, and Hinduism flourished, both before and after the advent of Islam in the 7th Century AD.
Also as part of the Silk Road which connected India with China and Iran, it boasts of remains of several ancient cities, monasteries, and saris, which housed travellers.
Besides the threat of the Taliban, a greater fear which grips cultural conservators is that of chaos that will follow after the departure of American and NATO troops that has already begun.
According to Jolyon Leslie, who is working as a preservationist at an ancient Buddhist stupa outside Kabul: "Our fears are less about a possible threat posed by the Taliban than the prospect of a breakdown in law and order."
Chaos already exists, informs Hewadwall, especially in rural areas. The twin factors of lack of security and shifting alliances, has enabled Ll
stricken villagers, gangs, different militia and Taliban to steal artefacts for smuggling them.
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Many place their hopes on the Afghan officials who have so far done well to preserve the sites, museums and artefacts from decay and destruction. The article quotes NG's archaeologist Fredrik Hiebert, who talking about Afghan officials said: "They will be good caretakers. I have total confidence in them." According to him, they have braved arrest and even death in their call of duty.
It also finally boils down to normalcy returning to Afghanistan ravaged by civil war and battles for years. Murtaza Azizi, a senior Ministry official averred: "Once lasting peace comes to our country, we are eager to share this heritage with the world. We hope our tourism industry -- and with it, the economy -- will grow, not only in Balkh but all over Afghanistan." But given the Taliban's idiosyncrasies of the past, and the strong connection of some of the powerful factions, such as the Haqqani network with Pakistan's ISI, few will guarantee that the Taliban's basic DNA has changed. (IANS/AD)
By Sukant Deepak
He describes himself as a 'Shiv bhakt' and a 'Muslim Jogi'. In his world, stories are not mere tales that entertain, but a tool to reinforce contemporary realities among listeners. Rich in metaphors, vivid with minute details, Jumme Khan likes to transport his audiences not to a world far away but the universe that surrounds them.
Part of a Jogi family from Pinan village in Alwar, Rajasthan and accompanied by his band of musicians, he uses a combination of harmonium, chimta, dholak, and the single-stringed bhapang - his instrument of choice - to retell stories that resound across generations. "The key here is connection. Unless people can relate, they will not enjoy it. To touch them, we have to decipher the common truth, find that elusive thread that binds us all. That is when the audience becomes one with the storyteller," he tells IANS.
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Khan, who enthralled the audience with the oral tradition of the improvisatory, communicative story-telling style of the Jogis at the recently concluded 'Mahindra Kabira Festival' in Varanasi, started singing when he was 13-years-old, and there has been no looking back ever since. "But it never gets repetitive. Every day on the stage is a new one. One is forever in search of something new that will resound with the audience," says Khan, who has also penned a song on the ongoing Corona pandemic.
For him, the magic of folk is unparalleled. He insists that nothing can replace the enigma of folk music in any culture. "Of course, this does not mean that steps are not taken to preserve it. We have seen a decline in the number of folk artists in the past few decades. But the immense power of folk seldom fails to move the audiences, including those who have always had access to modern entertainment," says Khan.
But he does feel that culture has taken a back seat in modern education. Remembering the time when schools would regularly organise cultural activities for students, he says, "It seems nowadays everything is about academics. How can we forget the fact that music and the arts play an indispensable role in all-around development? Culture opens an altogether new horizon, imparts a vision and understanding about the self. At least, give the children access and introduce them to different art forms including music. Let them decide if they want to pursue or not."
Swearing by the power of live and the energy he derives from the audiencesUnsplash
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Swearing by the power of live and the energy he derives from the audiences, Khan says that he is just not cut out for digital concerts. "They may have become a rage during the lockdowns, but I was clear that I would not be a part of them. In my art form, the live audience is an indispensable part of the whole act, without them, things will fall flat."
Stressing that while there were many platforms (festivals, etc) including those provided by the government, it was important that honest and qualified people be made part of the decision-making committees. "You just cannot expect artists to make rounds of programme officials trying to impress them. When as a country, we take so much pride in our culture, is it not important that this sector be streamlined and right people be recruited in the decision making bodies?" (IANS/PR)
Keywords: Shiv Bhakt, Dholak, Rajasthan
Today, we are exposed to a gazillion beauty product launches every now and then. The cosmetic industry is ever-changing and always gives us something new to wish for. But how much thought do we actually put in before buying the skincare product for ourselves? You should always pay attention to the products and their ingredients. Choosing products from a company with a reputable line of products can be helpful, since each component may be designed to work in conjunction with the others. You can also be assured of the products' quality and may better be able to predict how your skin will react to trying a different product in the same line.
Skin is one of the largest organs of the body. Because of this, caring for your skin can directly affect your overall health. Your skin acts as a protective shield and is most vulnerable to outside elements. It's affected by more factors than you may think. In addition to this, your health also affects your choice of skincare products and vice-versa.
Nandeeta Manchandaa, Founder of ENN shares the whys and hows:
Let's talk Vitamins: Your body needs all essential vitamins for proper functioning and if any vitamin is a miss, then effects show on your skin too. Like- dark spots, pigmentation are often seen on people with melanin issues, or even in pregnant ladies. So Vitamin-C rich products are the go-to to combat this issue.
Your body needs all essential vitamins for proper functioning and if any vitamin is a miss, then effects show on your skin too. | Photo by Raimond Klavins on Unsplash
Baby on the way: Another major health factor that influences your skin care product selection is -- pregnancy! Pregnant women undergo 360-degree change internally and externally while their hormones are at their peak -- it gives way to allergic reactions, limitations of using certain products/ ingredient applications too. They are advised to stay away from Retinol (found in all anti-ageing creams), Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic acids (for face washes and cleansers) Essential oils (are the base for any serum, facial oils) So better to opt for clean and natural products as substitutes for the same.
Pregnant women undergo 360-degree change internally and externally while their hormones are at their peak. | Photo by Alicia Petresc on Unsplash
PCOD/PCOS: Thanks to the sedentary lifestyle and long working hours, one health issue in women that has been on the rise is PCOD (Poly Cystic Ovary Disorder) and PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome) Hormonal imbalances coupled with weight issues show their effect on skin too. A majority of women suffer from symptoms like cystic acne, excessively oily skin and scalp, open pores, blackheads/whiteheads, dark spots, dark patches to name a few. In this case, choosing products that will not irritate your skin or aggravate inflammation is your best bet. Avoid products with cocoa butter, isopropyl myristate, oleic acid lanolin, and butyl stearate. Chlorophenols are used as preservatives in cosmetics and have been linked to acne so these too must be avoided.
Avoid products with cocoa butter, isopropyl myristate, oleic acid lanolin, and butyl stearate. | Photo by Sabrina May on Unsplash
This is why we see the trend of clean beauty, Vegan beauty and herbal products flooding the markets because they claim to be free from all the nasties and let you get the maximum benefit of skin care products without any guilt. (IANS/ MBI)
(Keywords: herbal products, PCOD, PCOS, vegan beauty, vitamins, beauty, India, skincare, products )
Hackers have stolen crypto tokens worth $120 million from Blockchain-based decentralised finance (DeFi) platform BadgerDAO. Several crypto wallets were drained before the platform could stop the cyber attack. In a tweet, Badger said it has received reports of unauthorised withdrawals of user funds. "As Badger engineers investigate this, all smart contracts have been paused to prevent further withdrawals. Our investigation is ongoing and we will release further information as soon as possible," the company said late on Thursday.
According to the blockchain security and data analytics Peckshield, the various tokens stolen in the attack are worth about $120 million, reports The Verge. According to reports, someone inserted a malicious script in the user interface (UI) of their website. Badger has retained data forensics experts Chainalysis to explore the full scale of the incident and authorities in both the US and Canada have been informed. "Badger is cooperating fully with external investigations as well as proceeding with its own," it said. DeFi is a collective term for financial products and services that are open, decentralised and accessible to anyone. DeFi products open up financial services to anyone with an internet connection and they are largely owned and maintained by their users. While the attack didn't reveal specific flaws within Blockchain tech itself, it managed to exploit the older "web 2.0" technology that most users need to use to perform transactions, according to reports. (IANS/ MBI)
(Keywords: crypto wallets, BadgerDAO, decentralised finance, Blockchain, 120 million, crypto tokens, Hackers)