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Buddha Jayanti 2017: Here is why India is Celebrating the 2579th Birth Anniversary of Gautama Buddha!

This year will be the 2579th birth anniversary of the prophet who conquered the world with his message of peace, nonviolence and sacrifice

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Buddhism, Pixabay

Kolkata, May 10, 2017: The birth anniversary of Gautama Buddha is celebrated today as Buddha Purnima or Buddha Jayanti during the month of Vaishakha. Gautama Buddha, whose birth name was Siddhartha Gautama, was a prince who later went on to become a spiritual and philosophical leader and founded Buddhism based on peace, love, and harmony.

Even though the exact time of Gautama Buddha’s birth and death is uncertain, his lifeline is dated between 563-483 B.C by most historians and researchers. Lumbini in Nepal is widely considered as the as the birthplace of the prophet. Buddha passed away at the age of 80 at Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh.

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Buddhists have a number of pilgrimage sites but Bodh Gaya is the most important pilgrimage site as it is related to the life of Gautama Buddha. Sarnath, Lumbini and Kushinagar are other three important pilgrimage sites for Buddhists. The followers of Lord Buddha believe that Gautama Buddha obtained Enlightenment at Bodhgaya and he first taught the Dharma and his philosophies at Sarnath.

It is also believed that the day Gautama Buddha obtained Enlightenment and the day he passed away are the same. Buddha Purnima is also popularly known as Buddha Jayanti, Vesak, Vaishaka and Buddha’s Birthday.

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Lord Buddha is considered as the 9th incarnation or ‘Avatar’ and Lord Krishna as the 8th incarnation of Lord Vishnu in North India. However, In South Indian belief, Buddha is never considered as an Avatar of Vishnu. Instead, in South India it is believed that Balarama is the 8th incarnation and Krishna is the 9th incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Even the majority of Vaishnava movements count Balarama counted as an incarnation of Vishnu, not Buddha. Buddhists don’t consider Buddha as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu as well.

This year it will be the 2579th birth anniversary of Lord Buddha. The Purnima timings are:
Purnima Tithi Begins around 01:07 on May 10, 2017. Purnima Tithi Ends around 03:12 on May 11, 2017.

Here’s wishing a very happy Buddha Purnima to all!

– by Durba Mandal of NewsGram. Twitter: @dubumerang

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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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‘You Never Lamb Alone’: Indian Christians Raise Objections to Ad Campaign by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) Featuring Gods to Sell Meat

The advertisements feature Lord Ganesha, revered in India, Lord Buddha, Jesus Christ, Thor, Zeus and others seated at a table enjoying what is a sumptuous non-vegetarian feast

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Meat and Livestock Australia MLA)
Unite Over The Meat More People Can Eat | You Never Lamb Alone advertisement by MLA. Youtube

Mumbai, Sep 12, 2017: The Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) on Monday raised strong objections to a new Australian advertising campaign featuring revered Hindu and Christians gods and other mythical figures to ‘sell’ its red meat and meat products.

CSF Founder-General Secretary Joseph Dias said the latest advertising campaign by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) is “bad in taste and offensive to all” and sought boycott of MLA and a ban of their products.

The advertisements feature the elephant-headed God, Lord Ganesha, revered in India, Lord Buddha, Jesus Christ, Thor, Zeus and others seated at a table enjoying what is a sumptuous non-vegetarian feast.

The ads have reportedly made an oblique reference to Prophet Mohammed, who is not pictured but is heard excusing himself from the party through a mobile phone call since he has to pick-up a child from daycare.

What has hurt Christians is that the caricature of Jesus Christ who performs what is termed as a ‘reverse miracle’ by turning wine into water so a Grecian goddess, who is a ‘designated driver’ can drive home safely, Dias said.

“We have written to Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj to take note of these ‘insensitive advertisements’ and raise the issue with the top authorities in Australia immediately. We also demand that MLA Chairman Michele Allan and MD Richard Norton withdraw the ads and tender an apology,” Dias told IANS.

Besides writing to Sushma Swaraj, the CSF has shot off emails to Australian Deputy High Commissioner in Mumbai Martin Huber, Indian High Commissioner to Australia Harinder Sidhu and other top officials raising serious objections to the MLA campaign.

“The CSF has always protested against commercial exploitation of religious figures for profit, irrespective of which religion the figures belong to. The MLA ads have hurt not only followers of different faiths, but atheists and agnostics all over,” Dias pointed out.

He termed the campaign as ‘culturally insensitive’ to vegans and communities like Hindus, Jains or Buddhists and said Lord Ganesha is a vegetarian and meat is never offered to him, as depicted in the MLA ads.

Dias warned that unless MLA yanks off the offensive ad campaign and apologises, the global Catholic community would be compelled to boycott its products as “there are many alternatives available worldwide”. (IANS)

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Raja Chari: Indian American Astronaut chosen by NASA

Raja Chari, an American of Indian descent, has been chosen by NASA as one of the 12 astronauts for a new space mission.

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Raja Chari. Twitter.
  • Raja Chari is an American of Indian descent chosen by NASA for the new batch of astronauts
  • Currently, he is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force
  • Chari will have to go through two years of astronaut training which begins in August

June 06, 2017: NASA has chosen 12 astronauts out of a record-breaking 18,300 applications for upcoming space missions. An American of Indian descent, Raja Chari, has successfully earned his spot in the top 12.

The astronauts were selected on the basis of expertise, education, and physical tests. This batch of 12 astronauts is the largest group selected by NASA since two decades. The group consisting of 7 men and 5 women surpassed the minimum requirements of NASA.

Born in Waterloo, Iowa, Chari graduated from Air Force Academy in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in Astronautical Engineering and Engineering Science. He went on to complete his master’s in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The astronaut is also a graduate of US Naval Test Pilot School.

Currently, Raja Chari is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force. He is the commander of 461st Flight Test Squadron and director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

After Late Kalpana Chawla, Lt. Col. Raja Chari is the second Indian American astronaut chosen by NASA.

The 12 astronauts will have to go through two years of training. Upon completion, they will be assigned their missions ranging from research at the International Space Station, launching from American soil on spacecraft by private companies, to flying on deep space missions on NASA’s Orion Spacecraft.

The US Vice-President Mike Pence visited the Johnson Space Centre in Houston to announce and congratulate the new batch. Pence also said that President Trump is “fully committed” to NASA’s missions in space.

by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2393