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It’s more than flying this weekend in Himachal’s Dhauladhars

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Shimla: Nestled amidst quaint mountains with the mighty Dhauladhars range in its backdrop adding to its glory, the Bir-Billing area in Himachal Pradesh this weekend will have more to offer than just India’s first AAI Paragliding World Cup 2015.

Tourists and adventure lovers to the picturesque towns of Bir and Billing, where 130 paragliders from 35 countries will converge during October 23-31, will also savour a taste of Tibetan culture and get a chance to angle for fish, camp, trek and, of course, paraglide as a free-flyer.

“After seeing the inaugural flights, we will devote time for searching out Tibetan spiritual sustenance,” Abhishek Nayyar, a Chandigarh-based senior executive with a multinational company, told IANS.

He said after the opening day of the World Cup, he and his friends would spend time in nearby Tibetan monasteries and shop for handicrafts.

Mona Dhingra, a Delhi-based entrepreneur whose husband is a free-flyer, said it’s more than flying this weekend.

“We are planning to mix the long Dussehra weekend with leisure, flying and spiritualism,” she said.

Bir, the landing site that is also home to Tibetan refugees and Buddhist monasteries, and the take-off point of Billing are separated by 14 km in Kangra district, some 275 km from Chandigarh.

A French contingent with 13 pilots, including many who have won World Cups and Super Cups and have been ranked World No 1, will figure in the event, Sudhir Sharma, president of the Billing Paragliding Association, the club organising the event, told IANS. The French team also includes the current World No 1.

The paragliders also include about 12 women, including former World No 1 Klaudia Bulgakow of Poland, who also won the 2013 Pre-World Cup at Bir and Billing.

While the state government and the Billing Paragliding Association would jointly organise the event, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) would be the title sponsors.

Members of the hospitality industry are expecting record footfalls during the long weekend coinciding with the Paragliding World Cup.

But they admit that the spectators might face problems in getting suitable accommodation.

An extended weekend – Thursday (Dussehra), Saturday (Muharram) and Sunday of course – should see thousands of the tourists coming to watch the event and holiday in the nearby hills.

“Most of the guests coming for the paragliding event are showing interest in nearby tourist destinations like tea estates and temples, Buddhist monasteries and Tibetan establishments,” Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC) officiating general manager Vijay Sharma told IANS.

Besides, tea estates of Palampur town, Kangra, Baijnath and Jwalaji are known for the prominent Hindu shrines. Most of these towns are within a 40-km radius of the World Cup.

McLeodganj, the uphill quaint town, has already gained prominence for attracting a steady stream of Tibet enthusiasts, Buddhist scholars, back-packers and even Hollywood stars like Richard Gere.

Also known as Little Lhasa, located just 50 kilometres from the World Cup spot, McLeodganj is known for its Tibetan artifacts and traditional recipes like Tibetan dumplings.

“We are expecting a good rush of tourists this weekend after T-20 between India and South Africa in Dharamsala on October 2,” said Pankaj Chadha, owner of the McLio restaurant in McLeodganj.

Organiser Sudhir Sharma said over 20,000 spectators and adventure lovers are expected to witness the World Cup.

According to him, accommodation for the pilots and visitors is at Bir and at Chowgan village, where there are hotels, besides which special luxury tents have also been put up.

Bir is a noted centre for ecotourism, spiritual studies and meditation.

Sharma said the visitors could also opt for home stay units.

FAQs:

How to travel to Bir-Billing: One of the best ways to reach Kangra is by a flight to the Gaggal airport. There are daily flights to Kangra, which is 40 km from Bir.

Other modes to reach the venue are by road and train. The nearest broad gauge railway station is at Pathankot, about 90 km from Kangra town.

Barot in Mandi district is a two-hour drive from Bir. It’s known for trout angling.

Palampur is 29 km from Bir and Baijnath is 13 km from Bir.

Bir-Billing is 499 km from Delhi.

Where to stay: Small hotels, guest houses, and even home stays with local people.

(By Vishal Gulati, IANS)

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Strange Rituals: Demon King Ravana is Worshipped on Dussehra

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dussehra
Effigy of Ravana burns. Dussehra. Wikimedia

Sep 30, 2017: Vijayadashami or Dussehra is celebrated with fervor at the end of Navratri every year. The festival is observed by burning the puppet of King Ravana. While at some places, the celebration of good over evil is celebrated by burning effigy of the demon king, there are some places where Ravana is worshipped on this occasion. It is predisposed amongst the followers that all their wishes come true on this day.

Also Read: Ram and Ravana Have More In Common Than You Think: 5 Traits of the Anti-Hero Ravana That You Must Learn | Dussehra Special

Every year on Dussehra, the 125-year-old Dashanan temple in Shivala area of Kanpur is opened for its devotees. An idol of King Ravana is ornamented, and aarti is performed. Devotees perform religious rituals and light lamps to celebrate the festival. The temple remains closed following the burning of Ravana’s statue.

Dashanan Temple was constructed in 1890 by king Guru Prasad Shukl. The rationale behind the construction of Dashanan temple was Ravana’s adherence towards Lord Shiva.

King Ravana is worshipped at many places in India, for example: In Andhra Pradesh’s Kakinada, a huge shivalinga established by Ravana is revered along with the demon-king. Vidisha, a village in Madhya Pradesh is dedicated to King Ravana. In this village, the first wedding card invitation is sent to Ravana before the commencement of any celebration. Neither the devotees burn dummies of King Ravana, nor do they celebrate Dussehra.

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Ram and Ravana Have More In Common Than You Think : 5 Traits of the Anti-Hero Ravana That You Must Learn | Dussehra Special

An individual who questions principles, assumptions and values is always painted dark. I believe Ravan was one of them.

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Ravana
Have you ever noticed how we have more in common with Ravana than Lord Ram? Wikimedia

New Delhi, September 30, 2017 : Happy Dussehra or Vijaydashmi – the day we all rejoice the defeat of the evil Lanka Naresh Ravana by Shri Ram. But the essence of the festival is much more than plain revenge. We have been told since times immemorial that the festival symbolizes the triumph of truth over deception and good over evil; the victory of Lord Ram (who we must aspire to be) over the evil Ravana (who should be despised). But is that all there is to devour from the epic?

Lord Ram is held in reverence across the country and is seen as the ultimate role model. Popularly addressed as ‘Maryada Purushottam’, we have all, at a point, aimed to inculcate similar traits in our life.  But do we truly aspire to live a Ram-like life? If your answer to that question is in the affirmation, what are you doing to lead a life defined with such high morale and ideals?

We Have More In Common With Ravana Than Ram

‘Respect your parents’, ‘One must not steal’, ‘Do not lie’, ‘Honesty is the best policy’.

Despite being repeatedly exposed to these virtues, we are still dishonest.

Lord Ram, who we aspire to be, supposedly never lied.

The veneration with which the Raghuvansham looked up to his parents is not only impossible to trace in the present day, but also hard to emulate.

An epitome of ethical demeanor and exemplary disciple, are we as devoted as Ram?

This brings me to a larger question.

Have you ever noticed how we have more in common with Ravana than Lord Ram?

Maybe because it is easy to be a Ravana today, than be the ideal Ram.

So, this Dussehra, as people from all across India burn effigies of Ravana as part of the popular ritual, let us dig a little deeper and introspect what makes the anti-hero, Ravana so special and traits we can learn from his life,

What Can We Learn From Ravana

  1. Undying Faith and Devotion

Ravana performed an extreme repentance (or tapasya) to appease Shiva that lasted for tens of thousands years.

During his atonement, Ravana sacrificed his head for the sake of Shiva and chopped it off 10 different times. Each time he cut his head off, another head emerged, hence empowering him to proceed with his repentance. Finally, satisfied with his severity, Shiva showed up after his tenth beheading and rewarded him a boon of heavenly nectar of eternality.

King Ravana
Ten-headed Ravana. Wikimedia

Ravana additionally requested for supremacy over divine beings, heavenly spirits, different rakshas, and serpents which was granted by Shiva along with his 10 severed heads and an incredible knowledge of heavenly weapons and magic.

  1.  Knowledge

Ravana was the grandson of Brahma, the creator of the universe, the son of sage Vishrava and a sibling of Kubera, the god of riches.

He himself was an exceptional researcher and was learned in Ayurveda, political science and the ways of the Kshatriyas (warriors). His ten heads are known to speak of his insight into the Shastras and the four Vedas A great Veena player, he additionally wrote several books and verses on medicine and composed the Ravana Samhita, a book on Hindu astrology and the Arka Prakasham.

This highlights that despite your ill-deeds, knowledge can win you laurels, even from your staunchest rivals.

  1. Indomitable Leadership

Valmiki recognized Ravana as an exceptionally proficient and just ruler.

Ravana emerged victorious in the battle against the demon king Sumali and assumed control and administration over Lanka, thus gaining the title of ‘Lanka Naresh’. Under his reign, the kingdom came to be known as ‘Sone ki Lanka’ (kingdom of gold) and witnessed the most prosperous and magnanimous period in its history.

Ravana was a minding ruler, who cared for his subjects well. It was only under his rule and guidance that the kingdom, constricted by Vishwakarma, the best of all architects, flourished.

ALSO READ Ramayana : 6 Timeless Management Lessons From the Ancient Hindu Text that You Must Im

  1. Ambition and Belief in Self

After his penance to Lord Shiva, Ravana had wished for supremacy over divine beings, heavenly spirits, different rakshas, and serpents. Maintaining conviction in himself and his abilities, he wanted to emerge victorious and preside over all three worlds. He also fought a series of wars and lost only four times. Ravana also defeated Sumali, the demon king and established control over Lanka.

This tells us that ambition is the key to progress. Without ambition, men would have not discovered wheels, horse carts or chariots, magnificent cities, temples and palaces, or majestic sailing ships. Absence of ambition means an absence of growth.

  1. Staying True to Oneself

Ravana wanted to emerge as the greatest ruler, however, he did not aspire to become ‘God’ or attain moksha.

In response to the great king Mahabali who advised Ravana to shun malice and greed, the Lanka Naresh told him that he would never strive to be a God and shall live like a man and die as one too. Ravana lived exactly as his emotions guided him and did not aim to be a role model for the generations to follow.

This brings forth Ravana’s conviction to live our life to its full and die as a man should, staying true to one’s character and never once aiming to be godly.

Ravana
Ravana’s story is a testament that a single vice in character is sufficient to drag you to your end. Wikimedia

Ram And Ravana Had More In Common Than You Think

Most of us believe Ravana to be an evil rakshas. However, a deeper understanding of the Hindu mythology and its characters reveal that both Ram and Ravana had traits that one must aspire to imbibe.

Throughout the epic, both Ram and Ravana demonstrated outrageous determination in following their convictions, regardless of what they were to face thereafter.  Yet, we only address Ram as the Lord while look at Ravana as an evil force, despite recognizing (however not truly accepting) his traits.

Ram battled with valor against all dangers, until the point he delivered justice for all the wrong that was done to him. Similarly, Ravana remained loyal to his choices (abduction of Sita) and its consequences till his final breath.

In his quest to bring his wife back, Ram fought battles, meandered for miles, and even clashed with the gods of the oceans. Despite all intricacies, what guided Lord Ram to ultimate victory was his determination. Similarly, Ravana (and Shiva) proliferated the best hypothesis of modern humanism “Atma so paramatma” which says there is no more noteworthy power than human fortitude.

Ram touched the hearts of many upon his chance meeting with Shabri and preached lessons of equality and moving beyond barriers of caste upon consumption of her half-consumed berries. In the same manner, the Raksh tribe also proposed faith in nature-worship and universal identity with no predisposition for caste, creed or gender. In fact, Ravan also propagated the ‘Raksh neeti’ which implied equality for all.

ALSO READ Book Review: Was Surpanakha a destructive Demoness from the Ramayana or tormented Woman?

The world largely celebrates Ramayana as a battle the Raghuvansham fought in wife Sita’s esteem. Tales of Lord Ram’s reverence towards his mothers and the female clan in general have been cited across generations that earned him the title of the ‘Maryada Purushottam’.

Ravana
Battle between Ram and Ravana. Wikimedia

In a similar manner, Ravan avenged the disrespect given to his sister Shurpanka by abducting Sita. However, he did not ill-treat her, and instead kept her with dignity in the Ashok Vatika.

These instances draw attention to one of the traits of human sociology – an individual who questions principles, assumptions and values is always painted dark. I believe Ravan was one of them.

Maybe over the years, Ramayana has been over-simplified, and consequently, a little misinterpreted.  I believe a lot can be learnt from both, the hero and the anti-hero of the epic.

 

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Devotees Offer Prayers to Goddess Durga and Observe Fast for Nine Divine Nights, Starting Today

Navratri is a multiple days Hindu festival acknowledged during the autumn, every year. The festival holds immense importance in Hinduism as it is the festival of victory over evils

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Navratri
the nine-night Navratri Hindu festival

New Delhi, September 21, 2017: Millions of Hindus prayers in temples and observe a fast across India, as the nine-night Navratri Hindu festival begins on Thursday, September 21.

Navaratri or Navarathri, is a multiple days Hindu festival acknowledged during the autumn, every year. The festival holds immense importance in Hinduism.

Whereas, theoretically Navratri falls twice a year; the autumn Navratri also called as the Sharada Navaratri is the most popular.

Sharada Navaratri is celebrated during the lunar month of Ashvin which is post-monsoon (September–October).

Navratri
Durga puja is observed in the honor of divine Goddess Durga Maa

It is observed that the festival is celebrated for a different reason in the different part of the country.

  • Durga puja is observed in the honor of divine Goddess Durga Maa in the eastern and northeastern part of India, apposite to Navratri. It resembles the battle to restore Dharma and peace, Goddess Durga battles and emerges victory over Narkasur, the buffalo demon.
  • Dussehra is celebrated in the northern and western parts of India. ‘Rama Lila’ and Dussehra is a celebration of the triumph of Lord Ram over the demon king Ravana.
  • Similarly, in the southern part, the victory of Lord Rama or Saraswati is observed.

The victory of good over evil is the main cause of this celebration, sharing a famous epic like the Ramayana or the Devi Mahatmya.

It is believed that during Navratri, Goddess Durga or Lord Rama descends on earth to rid of demons and bless their devotees with happiness and prosperity.

Devotees believe that by controlling physical needs like hunger, a person can gain spiritually and that fasting helps create harmony between the body and soul. People fast for nine days to make their wishes come true.

The chanting of spiritual slokas, decorative pandals, new clothes, enacting stories of the legends is everything that happens in this multi-day Hindu festival. It is among the rich culture of the Hindus where public celebration of theatres, music, and dance be a part of this festivity.

The festival comes to an end with the final day, Dussehra or Vijaya Dashami, where the idols of the evil are burnt and alternatively the idols of the Gods and Goddess from the festival are immersed in the water body.

– Prepared by Abhishek Biswas of NewsGram twitter: @Writing_desire