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Whenever the Indian women’s ice hockey team take the rink for a match against their opponents, they face the usual challenges that come with being a minnow in the way that their opposition is invariably made of a set of players more experienced than them and possess the skill and ability that comes with it.
Once they get off it, however, they face a different set of challenges. These come with the fact that there is simply a lack of awareness about the sport that they play in the country.
Ice isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind when one says the word ‘Hockey’ in India. The sport exists in a number of different forms around the world but in most countries, including and especially India, hockey refers to ‘field hockey.’ However, such is the size and diversity in conditions that most facts cannot be universal across the length and breadth of the country and this is the case for ice hockey.
“In India it is the mecca for ice hockey,” says Noor Jahan, talking about her hometown Leh in Ladakh. “In winters, those who are not playing, they come to cheer us. We just tell them some match is happening and even if it is happening on a (frozen) pond, you will see people climbing on top of trees and rooftops and its crowded. It is fun to play there and we have a lot of local fan following there,” she told IANS on the sidelines of an event for US-based athletics brand Under Armour.
Noor Jahan is the goaltender — which is the ice hockey term for goalkeeper — of the Indian team which is composed entirely of girls from her hometown.
“We have this pond in my village and I used to borrow my brother’s skates and skate on it during winters. When I learnt to do that I joined the Ladakh Winter Sports Club. They call volunteers from abroad to come and teach kids over there and that’s how we learnt the sport. If it wasn’t for the tournaments that they were organising or the camps they were holding, we wouldn’t have been able to get here so the local clubs there have made a lot of contribution,” she said.
In their formative years, the players used to make do with homemade equipment and cricket gear for protection. The team played their first matches only in 2016 and lost their first four matches. A year later, they managed to finish fourth in the IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia. Noor Jahan says that there are players from other states of the country now starting to take up the sport.
“A lot of people from other states are also joining in. There is talent coming in from Maharashtra, Telangana and Shimla. The nationals usually happen in Ladakh so when they come for that, trials happen at that time. Although on a very small scale, the sport is growing,” she said.
The average age of the team is 23 and they cannot yet depend upon their sport for a stable source of income. “I am an art conservator at the National Museum Institute in Delhi and I am also finishing my Ph. D. there. Most players are students who are finishing their school and their graduation. Two senior players who started playing with me teach roller skating in a school in Ladakh. There are a few who are working also and those who are not are in schools and colleges,” she said.
“Where we come from is very remote. Some of us are from the town but there are also those who are from the border areas. Conditions are pretty harsh there but everyone is managing somehow.”
Their story has attracted international eyeballs. In 2018, Canadian four time-Olympic ice hockey gold medallist Hayley Wickenheiser got the team to join a coaching programme in Canada and take part in WickFest, an annual festival she started in 2010 aimed at showcasing women’s hockey. They also got to see a game from the National Hockey League (NHL), the premier ice hockey league in North America.
“She saw a Youtube video of us and decided to come to Ladakh with (former Stanley Cup winner) Andrew Ference. They supported us with some equipment and invited us to play at the WickFest. We went there and not only did we play there, we were exposed to their hockey world. We also went to see an NHL game,” she said.
A project that is very much in its nascent stages, the team’s challenges start with getting recognised by the Indian Olympic Association and the Sports Ministry. The Ice Hockey Association of India (IHAI) has been a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation since 1989 but it has still not got the status of a National Sports Federation (NSF). For now it is recognised as a National Sports Promoting Organisation (NSPO).
“The most important thing we need is infrastructure. Apart from that we need to get recognition. The association right now is a NSPO not NSF and if we become the latter then it helps with funding. Infrastructure will then come with that and we can then play as a proper national team,” she said.
For now however, the players have set their eyes on an invitational tournament they will be playing in Chinese Taipei from November 4 to 9. They are training at iSKATE, an ice rink in Gurugram.
“We practice here everyday but before that in summers we used to train individually and in groups. We will be facing Australia there and we have never faced them before. Chinese Taipei will be fielding their senior as well as their under-18 team. There are also Philippines who like us are new to the sport,” she said. (IANS)
Tenali Ramakrishna, or Tenali Raman as he is more popularly known is Birbal's equivalent in South India. A court jester and a scholar exuding great wisdom, Tenali Raman was known as one of the greatest courtiers in King Krishnadevaraya's court.
The Vijayanagar Empire ruled a large part of South India between 1336 and 1646. In the 16th century, the kingdom rose to prominence under the eminent leadership of King Krishnadevaraya. His continuous victories against his enemies ensured a successful and peaceful reign for his subjects. As a patron of art and literature, many crafts and cultural assets thrived in the empire.
Krishnadevaraya's beloved courtier, Tenali Raman is the finest example of the splendour of the Vijayanagar empire. He was born in Tenali, a town in Andhra Pradesh. He lived here until he lost his father, after which his mother brought him to Vijayanagar. He was discovered for his excellent wit and wisdom, and appointed in the court. He was one of the king's ashtadiggajas (collective name for the eight poets and scholars).
A statue of Tenali Ramakrishna near a Municipal Office in Andhra Pradesh Image source: wikimedia commons
Tenali Raman as a scholar, published great texts of wisdom, which have now become artefacts of the Kingdom of Vijayanagara. But his fame does not lie in these achievements. He is known for the mischievous jester that mythical folklore portrays him to be. Through stories, many writers have used jokes to impart wisdom and morals to many generations of people. The stories of Tenali Raman are almost legendary in the Southern peninsula.
Textbooks have been written with his moral stories in mind, and these days, many self-help book are also incorporating his wisdom. His most popular stories are, 'Mother Tongue', 'Cursed Face', 'Saluting the Donkeys' and many more. Through these stories, Tenali Raman, in some way, brought about social justice. Perhaps this is why he is most beloved by many people even today.
Keywords: Tenali Raman, Vijayanagar empire, Krishnadevaraya, Jester, Wisdom
It must be noted that different religions and societies in Southeast Asia have alternative narratives of Ramayana, one of the greatest epic.
Here are some of the versions of Ramayana!
Dasaratha Jakarta: The Buddhist Version
Interestingly, this version of Ramayana does not mention Ravana at all and in fact, there’s no mention of Sita’s abduction, too. In this version, Dasaratha is the king of Benaras and not Ayodhya. Also, Rama and Sita leaves kingdom and go to the Himalayas and not forests. Then, after twelve years, Rama and Sita return back to Benaras and get married.
Paumachariya: The Jaina Version
In this version, Lakshamana is the killer of Ravana and not Rama. Here, Rama is an ardent follower of Jainism, and so he cannot be the killer of Ravana. Also, this version states an army of warrior and not monkeys, as stated in Valmiki’s Ramayana. Another interesting feature of this version is that Ramayana is not shown as a villain, rather a magnanimous king and follower of Jainism.
Gond Ramayani: The Gond Version
Gond is an adivasi clan belonging from Madhya Pradesh in India. Interestingly, in this version, the story begins from where Valmiki’s Ramayana ended; when Sita is rescued from captivity. Also, Bhima, one of the Pandavas from the epic of Mahabharata, is mentioned in this version. Unlike Valmiki’s Ramayana, Rama is not the protagonist in this version.
Ramakien: The Thai Version
This is considered as Thailand's national epic, and is still taught in some schools in the country. In this version, Ravana is shown as a learned scholar and a noble king in this version. Also, Ravana’s pursuit for Sita is depicted as true love. There are a lot of similarities between this version of Ramayana and Valmiki’s version, but this version lays a lot of emphasis on Hanuman.
When a baby is born in an Indian household-they invite hijra to shower the newborn with their blessings for their blessings confer fertility, prosperity, and long life on the child. But when that child grows up we teach them to avert their eyes when a group of hijras passes by, we pass on the behaviour of treating hijras as lesser humans to our children. Whenever a child raises a question related to gender identity or sexuality they are shushed down. We're taught to believe that anything "deviant" and outside of traditional cis-heteronormativity is something to be ashamed of. This mentality raises anxious, scared queer adults who're ashamed of their own identity, and adults who bully people for "queer behaviour".
Hijras are a community of people who include eunuchs, intersex, and transgender people. They worship the Hindu goddess of chastity and fertility, Bahuchara Mata. Most hijras, but not all, choose to undergo a castration ceremony known as "nirvana" in which they remove their male genitalia as an offering to their goddess. The whole community is vibrant with hundreds of people with hundreds of ways of expression, the true identity of a hijra is complex and unique to each individual. In India, hijras prefer to refer to themselves as Kinner/Kinnar as it means the mythological beings who excel at singing and dancing.
Hijras worship the Hindu goddess of chastity and fertility, Bahuchara Mata.homegrown.co.in
The hijra community works systematically, the community separates itself from the outside world and teaches lessons to the young ones in secret. Each community has a guru and the other hijras are their disciples or chela. The "hijra ways of life" are taught to the disciples in a secluded environment where they leave their families and live with other hijras in the community. More often than not hijras are thought of as nothing different from transgender and often referred to as transgender; however, scientifically these two terms denote a different class of people. Hijras are a part of the whole community of people with various identities and of spiritual and cultural values meanwhile, transgender merely refers to those people whose gender identity differs from the sex assigned to them at birth, they are a part of the community and do not represent the whole community.
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Historically and culturally the community has existed in the Indian subcontinent as long as the civilization has existed. There are mentions of hijra in The Mahabharata, a holy book of Hindus. Shikhandi who was neither male nor female is a mythological legend. In another version of Mahabharata Arjuna, one of the Pandavas was cursed to be the third gender by Urvashi, when he refused to be sexually involved with her. In a story by Padma Purana, it is seen that Arjuna transforms into a woman to take part in Krishna's mystical dance which only women can take part in. The Hijra figures are prominent in Indian Mughal History as well, referred to as Khwaja Siras and known for their loyalty to the ruler, they worked as the sexless watchdogs of the Mughal harems. They held important positions in court and various facets of administration during Mughal-era India, from the 16th to 19th century. The Hijra community is a testament to the sexual diversity that is integral yet often forgotten in Indian culture.
If the whole hijra community was looked upon with enamor and respect in our history, what happened that when we come across the community we look at them with contempt and are filled with a mixture of negative, fear, laughter, and odd emotions. It's owing to the fact that under British Raj, the Criminal tribes Act 1871 hijras were criminalized and the law was made to eradicate the whole community. However, these acts were abolished by the Indian government after independence, and by 2014, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh all had officially recognized third gender people as citizens deserving of equal rights where the third gender means individuals categorizing themselves as neither male nor female. Even though the progress is slow but in 2015 Madhu Kinnar became the first hijra mayor in India was elected in the city of Raigarh.
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Although the hijra community was revered by society and is invited to births and weddings for religious and spiritual ceremonies, they still become victims of abuse and discrimination. Violence and hate crimes against the community have become common. They are deprived of education, job opportunities, seating in restaurants, etc. leading them to live in poor conditions barely surviving. They often have to resort to begging and prostitution to earn a daily living. The government has tried to address this issue by introducing bills for the protection of the hijra community, with prison terms and other punishments for those offending them, but there is little to no less effect on the social stigma against the community.
In India, the hijra community comes under the umbrella term LGBTQ+ and we notice that they lack voice and representation when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights. We need to understand that when we fight for LGBTQ+ rights we fight for the whole community, we fight for hijras who have been victims of violence, hate crimes, and disrespect from none other than the people of our society. And although hijras are a part of the LGBTQ+ community as a whole, they have an independent subculture of their own. It is worth every effort to know about them, to study about them, to befriend them, and to smile at them for they are every bit of human as we are and they have nothing but blessings in their heart.