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History behind the festival of colors, Holi

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Lathmar holi celebration

Syona Sachdeva 

As the summer knocks on the doors and winters slowly moves out, comes the holi. The festival has a mythological and a scientific reason to be celebrated but most important is the way it is celebrated. People put different colors (gulal) on each other going from home to home. Gujiya, Papdi, and many other snacks are made for the family and guests who come to greet

Countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, Mauritius, Australia and many others also celebrate this day performing the various activities of Holi.

Mythological significance- victory of good over evil

Many might wonder where the term ‘Holi’ originally came from or why Holi is even celebrated or why is it that we burn Holika a night before we play with colors. There are many legends that explain the reason for celebrating this festival but the most prominent one being the tale of Hiranyakashyap.

According to the Narad Purana, this day is celebrated to mark the Prahlad’s victory over the demon king Hiranyakashyap and his aunt Holika. The devil king has wished everybody in his kingdom to worship him like god and denied devotion to any other god. Meanwhile, his son Prahlad became a follower of Lord Vishnu. This was unacceptable to the king and an insult to his power. Hiranyakashyap ordered his son to sit in the fire along with his aunt ‘Holika’ as she was immune from fire due to the magical cloak she wore.  As instructed, Holika sat in fire with Prahlad in lap. But it did not worked out as planned. When fire roared, the cloak flew to Prahlad who was reciting the name of Lord Vishnu and Holika turned into ashes.

After this Lord Vishnu appeared and killed the cruel king Hiranyakashyap.

It is the defeat of Holika that signifies the victory of good over evil and hence every year Holika is burnt to celebrate the victory of good.

Legend of Radha-Krishna

But why play with colors? Why spoil our clothes and paint ourselves with colors?The reason takes us back to the story of Radha-Krishna.

Krishna being dark blue colored was always jealous of fair Radha. One day, notorious Krishna complained to his mother about the skin difference they both had. Mother, to boost his confidence, asked Krishna to color her with any color he wanted, making her look similar to him. Kanha took his mother Yashoda’s advice and colored Radha. They then became a couple and the trend of playing with colors started.

Beliefs in South India

People of South India wholeheartedly believe Lord Kaamadeva– the lord of love and passion. It is said that when Lord Shiva’s wife Sati died after she took the form of the goddess, Lord Shiva was left in grief. He was angry and sad. He detached himself from the matters of the world and went into deep meditation. The complications and destruction began. The gods then asked for help from Lord Kaamadeva to bring Lord Shiva back to normal.

Kaamadeva, well aware of the consequences he might have to suffer, shoot his arrow on Lord Shiva while he was meditating. This made him furious, he opened his third eye and turned Kaamadeva into ashes. But the arrow worked on Shiva and he married Parvati who had been worshiping and meditating to acquire Shiva as her husband.

After a while Lord Shiva revived Kaamadeva on the request of his wife, Rati. Thus, everyone was happy in the end.

It is believed that it was the day of Holi when Lord Kaamadeva sacrificed his life and was turned into ashes. The people, hence, celebrate the sacrifice of the ‘Love god’.

When is it celebrated?

 Holi is known as the festival of spring which is a two days festival. It starts on the Purnima (full moon day) in the month of Falgun which falls in between the end of February and mid of March.

On the first day, Holika is burnt in remembrance of Prahlad’s victory. People start collecting pieces of woods many days before and finally light the huge pile collected on the first day. This day is known as Holika Dahan or Chhoti Holi.

The succeeding day is the day of colors, known as Rangwa Holi or Dhulandi when friends and family get together to spray colors on each other. The day is enjoyed with dry and wet colors as well as water. Feeling of love, joy, togetherness, forgiveness is shared among people.

Why visit Mathura Vrindavan during Holi?

 Mathura, the birth place of Lord Krishna, celebrates the fun filled festival for a week. Holi is an important Indian religious festival in Mathura as well as Vrindavan where Krishna was brought up. The cities situated in Uttar Pradesh celebrates the festival in different temples, one temple on each day of the week.

One of the significant temple and tourist attraction is ‘Bakai-Bihari’ temple of Vrindavan where people are full of the spirit of Holi and love for Lord Krishna.

Yet another interesting place is Gulal-Kund where the enactments of the Holi take place near the river side. Boys dressed up as Krishna display the stories of Holi for the pilgrims.

Near Mathura, in the town of Barsana and Nandgaon, Lath Mar Holi takes place where women beat up men with lathis (sticks). Men protect themselves from women with a shield. Thousands of people come to witness the strength of women and skills of men in this friendly fight.

This festival of colors marks the celebration of good over evil, beginning of the spring, joy of being together and sharing the love and building up relationships. Let us all get blended in colors and enjoy the day.

Also: Read at NewsGram how Holi is celebrated at different place outside India: www.newsgram.com/holi-celebrating-colors-of-joy-across-the-world/

Syona Sachdeva is an engineering student who likes to write on many issues

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To Catch Up With China, India Needs To Focus on Improving Its Educational Outcomes

China reached a 100 percent gross enrollment rate (GER) in its primary education in 1985, whereas, India attained that level only in 2000.

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Children learning in a classroom, pixabay

By Amit Kapoor

Both China and India started building their national education systems under comparable conditions in the late 1940s. Different policies and historical circumstances have, however, led them to different educational outcomes, with China outperforming India not just in terms of its percentage of literate population and enrollment rates at all levels of education, but also in terms of number of world-class institutions in higher education, and greater research output.

The roots of China’s successful education system date back to the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), which unintentionally expanded access to the primary education through democratising the schooling system, which was previously elitist in character, thus addressing the problem of mass illiteracy.

In contrast, India continued to focus on its higher education system since independence and only realised the importance of basic education in 1986, keeping it behind China and many other countries in Asia in educational development. In terms of enrollment, China reached a 100 percent gross enrollment rate (GER) in its primary education in 1985, whereas, India attained that level only in 2000.

In terms of secondary school enrollment, India and China both started at the similar rates in 1985, with about 40 percent of their population enrolled in secondary schools. However, due to a wider base of primary school students, the rate of increase in China has been much faster than in India, with 99 percent secondary enrollment rate in China and 79 percent in India in 2017.

Happy kids in School Uniform
China reached a 100 percent gross enrollment rate (GER) in its primary education in 1985, whereas, India attained that level only in 2000.

India is closing in on the Chinese rate in terms of access to education, but on the literacy level front, there is a huge gap in the percentage of literate populations in the two countries. In the age group of 15-24 years, India scores 104th rank on literacy and numeracy indicator, compared to China’s 40th rank.

The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which assesses after every three years the domain knowledge of 15-year-old students in reading, mathematics, science and finance, revealed that students in China performed above the OECD average in 2015. Moreover, one in four students in China are top performers in mathematics, having an ability to formulate complex situations mathematically. Further, China outperforms all the other participating countries in financial literacy, by having a high ability to analyse complex finance products. For India, the comparable data is not available as it was not a participating country in PISA 2015.

However, in India, the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2017 provides data for rural youth, aged 14-18, with respect to their abilities to lead productive lives as adults. According to this survey, only about half of the 14-year-old children in the sample could read English sentences, and more than half of the students surveyed could not do basic arithmetic operations, like division. For basic financial calculations, such as managing a budget or making a purchase decision, less than two-thirds could do the correct calculations.

India
Schools in India

With regard to the higher education system, both India and China dominate the number of tertiary degree holders because of their large population size, but when it comes to the percentage of the population holding tertiary degrees, only about 10 per cent and 8 per cent of the population possess university degrees in China and India, respectively. By contrast, in Japan, almost 50 per cent of the population holds a tertiary degree, and in the United States, 31 per cent of the population hold a tertiary degree.

In terms of the international recognition of universities, the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Ranking for 2019 places seven of the China’s universities in the top 200, compared to none for India. The global university rankings, which are based on various performance metrices, pertaining to teaching, research, citations, international outlook and industrial income, shows progress for several of China’s low-ranked universities, largely driven by improvements in its citations.

In fact, the Tsinghua University has overtaken the National University of Singapore (NUS) to become the best university in Asia due to improvements in its citations, institutional income and increased share of international staff, students and co-authored publications.

While India has progressed in terms of massification of education, there is still a lot which needs to be done when it comes to catching up with the China’s educational outcomes. China’s early start in strengthening its primary and secondary education systems has given it an edge over India in terms of higher education. Moreover, Chinese government strategies are designed in line with the criterion used in major world university rankings, especially emphasis is on the two factors which weigh heavily in the rankings — publications and international students.

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The relentless publications drive, which is very evident in China, is weak in India and has led to a growing gap in the number of publications contributed by the two countries. Further, China enrolled about 292,611 foreign students in 2011 from 194 countries, while India currently only has 46,144 foreign students enrolled in its higher education institutions, coming from 166 countries. The large number of international enrollments in China is a reflection of its state policies granting high scholarships to foreign students.

To catch up with China, India needs to lay emphasis on improving its educational outcomes. Massification drive for education has helped India raise its student enrollments, but a lot needs to be done when it comes to global recognition for its universities. Further, it needs to focus on building the foundation skills which are acquired by students at the school age, poor fundamental skills flow through the student life, affecting adversely the quality of education system. (IANS)