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Children of about 30 Slums promote Pollution-free Diwali in Odisha

On Sunday, the night of Diwali, these children will abandon all the crackers and celebrate a cracker-free Diwali, which will set an example for the society

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street children in India, representational Image, Wikimedia

October 29, 2016: Children of around 30 slums in Berhampur in Odisha came forward to launch a campaign in order to make the inhabitants of their locality and their parents aware of a pollution free and safe way of celebrating Diwali. It was initiated on Thursday and is scheduled to end on Saturday.

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On Sunday, the night of Diwali, these children will abandon all the crackers and celebrate a cracker-free Diwali, which will set an example for the society. Young children from ‘child clubs’ of the slums of Berhampur, supported by the Youth for Social Development (YSD), have been continuing the awareness campaign since 2012, mentioned The Hindu.

A participant of this campaign, Kruti Kumari Sahu, a class X student hailing from Raghupati Nagar slum, stated that the temperament of the elders has changed for sure and reported to The Hindu, “They no more have complex that they cannot provide crackers for their children due to financial constraints. They now feel proud that they and their children are observing Diwali as per the real tradition.”

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According to The Hindu report, Class IV student Mamali Das of the slum Ambapua Bauri Sahi, gave an impression of being more knowledgeable than the people many times her age. She talked about her preference for celebrating the festival of lights with diyas, rangolis and candles along with fun and frolic. She stated that crackers are highly hazardous for the houses in their area as most of the roofs have polyethene sheets or are thatched. She mentioned her grief about the well-to-do living in the buildings near their slums do not understand the consequences of using the crackers and put the slum houses in grave danger of fire accidents through the use of crackers for the celebrations.

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Since Thursday these children have been walking around their locality to motivate the other kids, youth and the elders to support the cause of the campaign and not waste their hard-earned cash on buying crackers.

The children create beautiful rangolis with diyas on different streets and they sing and dance for a while and urge everyone to join them.

Friday evening saw such celebrations at Raghupati Nagar, Ambapua Bauri Sahi, Dhimira Bauri Sahi, Phulasundari Sahi, Jagabandhuhuda Sahi, Lanjipali Goudabandh Street, Gramdevati Bauri Sahi etcetera.

Chandan Kumar Sahu of YSD said to The Hindu that- since 2012, cracker use in slums where ‘child clubs’ are active has gone down. “These children have reduced pollution during Diwali to some extent. We hope others will reduce their cracker use as a token of gratitude to these children.”

-prepared by NewsGram team.

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Delhi Firecracker Ban Sparks Controversy

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Delhi Firecracker Ban
Pavement sellers in New Delhi are all geared up to sell earthen lamps and other decorative items used during Diwali. voa

As New Delhi battles deadly air pollution, it might be missing the customary fireworks during the Hindu festival of lights, following a temporary Delhi Firecracker Ban imposed by the Supreme Court on the sale of firecrackers.

The order has raised a firestorm in the city of about 18 million as it gears up for Diwali on October 19. Complaining that the order strikes at the heart of a quintessential Hindu tradition, critics compared it to banning Christmas trees on Christmas. Jubilant supporters pointed out that the top priority is the health of citizens in a city where the air turns toxic at this time of the year because of slower winds and colder temperatures that trap more pollution.

“Let’s try at least one Diwali without firecrackers,” said one judge as the court announced the order Monday. The Supreme Court ban is not new — it was also imposed last year, but only after the festival when New Delhi was already enveloped in a haze of smog.

Shops in National Capital Region are stocked with gifts and sweets as the festival of Diwali approaches. voa

The Delhi Firecracker Ban was partially lifted last month as Diwali approached, but it has been reimposed in connection with a public interest lawsuit on behalf of three children who are seeking the court’s intervention to better clean up Delhi’s toxic air.

Supporters of the Delhi Firecracker Ban hope the preemptive measure will prevent pollution from reaching levels of last year when air quality was nearly 20 times the safe limit set by the World Health Organization in the days following the festival. Many people became sick and that led city authorities to impose emergency measures such as closing schools.

Environmental experts, however, point out the measure would help at a time when the air is already saturated with pollutants.

India’s environment minister, Harsh Vardhan, welcomed the Delhi Firecracker Ban order and urged people to abide by it and “give green Diwali and our environment a chance.”

But there were sharp divisions. Some in his Hindu nationalist party voiced anger at what they saw as a blow to an age-old Hindu custom. Diwali is known as the festival of lights when homes are decorated with oil lamps, but it is also customary to set off firecrackers at night.

A popular author, Chetan Bhagat, compared the ruling to “banning Christmas trees on Christmas” and tweeted “Regulate. Don’t ban. Respect traditions.”

It is unclear who will win out on Diwali day — environmentalists, thousands of ordinary citizens and school children, who have conducted campaigns for several years to abandon the tradition and rejoice in other ways or diehard enthusiasts, who say the order has left the door open for them to bring in firecrackers from neighboring towns.

No one, however, including the critics, dispute that Delhi’s air pollution needs urgent attention. A 2015 study said that the lungs of half the children in the city have been damaged due to the toxic air. Doctors also link the dirty air to a rise in respiratory diseases and heart attacks and advise elderly people to leave the city in winter.

After last year’s experience, city authorities have put an action Delhi Firecracker Ban, starting Sunday to tackle any alarming rise in pollution levels. That will include banning trucks from the city, halting construction activity and restricting traffic. (voa)

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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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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