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By Salil Gewali
October is here, and we are all set to welcome Maa Durga for a few days. For many of us, Durga Puja is more of an excuse to eat, drink and be merry. We buy ourselves new clothes, move from pandal to pandal, and forget our exercise and diets for a few heavenly days. But is that all Durga Puja stands for? Are we aware of the philosophies behind this annual celebration? There is not one single philosophy, actually.
The word Durga is derived from the root word ‘Durg’ which means Fort. Just as a fort stands tall and mighty around low lying land and water and jungles, and protects the inmates from all kinds of dangers, we look upon Maa Durga as our “divine protector” from all evil. We feel safe and secure in her divine embrace and feel her all-pervasive energy around us and within us. Divinity has always been looked upon as something far removed from science, mundane logic, and facts. But modern science is only just beginning to realize that the energy of Maa Durga which we refer to as Shakti does have strong underpinings in every aspect of our life, and is actually the governing philosophy behind many of the relational dynamics – visible and invisible.
Of course, the philosophy behind our worship of Maa Durga is not just an amalgamation of sundry religious rites. A rational scientist would find many similarities in facets of her story and our real life. For example, let us look at her weapons. Trident or trishul: The three-headed sharp weapon is said to symbolize the three gunashuman being is made of, i.e – tamas, rajas and sattva – this itself a very complex and vast subject to understand. Discus or Sudarshan Chakra is Lord Vishnu’s gift symbolizes the centre of creation. Thunderbolt or vajra: Indra’s gift meaning steadiness of character, determination, and supreme power. Conch is the symbol of the primordial sound of “creation” – AUM. Spear represents auspiciousness which is a gift of fire also symbolizes purity of power. Sword symbolizing intellect and wisdom with the complete sense of responsibility and the understanding to discriminate right from wrong. Bow and arrows are the combination of potential and kinetic powers symbolizes all segments of ENERGY. Axe symbolizes the power of Vishwakarma, and have the power to create as well as destroy. Lotus represents wisdom, “LIBERATION though KNOWLEDGE”. Snake symbolizes consciousness and the masculine energy of Shiva.
When you juxtapose this life-giving form of Maa Durga against the Trishul and sword-wielding warrior form of the Mother Goddess, she comes across as the Destroyer. The target of her weapons of destruction are the evil forces which she wishes to protect her children against. So the philosophy of Maa Durga encompasses all three incarnations in one form – The Destroyer, The Life Giver, and The Creator.
Yes, it is easy to look upon the fable of Maa Durga as a story we have created for our own consumption. But like the examples we have illustrated above, there are several ways in which the legend of Maa Durga finds reflection in our daily life and helps to underline some of the philosophies she represents. Let us examine a few of these.
According to mythological accounts, Ramba was an asura who pleased the fire God Agni with his devotion and got a boon that a son would be born to him who could not be killed by any God or man or animal. This son was named Mahishasura and he grew up to be a strong and powerful warrior. When he heard of the boon, it made him incredibly haughty and merciless, and he went around defeating all kind of men and demi-Gods and expanding his own kingdom. This cold-blood massacre and destruction soon left Gods worried, and they went into a huddle to plan an effective counter to Mahishasura without tampering with the boon he had been granted.
The solution came from the Gods themselves, who took advantage of the syntax of the boon. The boon had mentioned God, man, and animal, but had no mention of the “woman”. So the Gods put together their powers and created Maa Durga, she who would fight for the forces of good and vanquish the evil. Armed with all the boons and weapons that the Gods could provide, Maa Durga took on the EVIL represented by Mahishasura. After a long and ferocious battle, she finally put an end to the cursed life of Mahishasura. This story is a fable, but the philosophy it underlines is profoundly cerebral. Every force of evil in this world would be balanced by an equivalent force of good. Whenever the evil goes beyond a certain level, the forces of good come together to destroy the evil and restore the balance of this world.
Outside of the physical manifestations of our prayers and devotion for Maa Durga, she also embodies the spirit and the characteristics of a mother. Maa Durga is the divine force we look up to who can protect us from worldly ills in every kind of situation because she is “omnipresent” and all powerful. SHE embodies the perfect amalgamation of power and mercy which we see in Mothers everywhere.
As we see from these few examples, Maa Durga is considered an epitome of Shakti (ENERGY) that is GOOD which can triumph over EVIL. Yes, our scriptures pour out a rich vein of philosophical underpinnings on which to lead our lives well and gradually make an earnest effort for the self-realization and merge with the DIVINE GOOD. Ultimately, it is the Mother’s DIVINITY that encompasses the WHOLE COSMOS.
Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter: @SGewali.
Fashion's biggest extravaganza, The Met Gala 2021, made a comeback with a vengeance after a skip in 2020 due to the pandemic. The theme for this year's gala was 'In America: A Lexicon of Fashion', and as usual in attendance were a long list of celebrities including actors, musicians and sportpersons. Many fashion houses and celebrities chose to dazzle with the dark side of fashion as capes, leather, face masks and all kinds of drama unfolded at the event, as black ruling the red carpet with its darker vibe.
Met Gala regulars like Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna, Sharon Stone, Emily Blunt, Irina Shayk, Gigi Hadid and the Kardashian-Jenner siblings were spotted alongside debutantes like 18-year-old British tennis star Emma Raducanu who recently won the US Open, Rose Leslie from 'The Game of Thrones', gymnast Nia Dennis and Justin and Hailey Beiber who walked the Me carpet together for the first time.
The event is hosted by Vogue's Dame Anna Wintour and is held annually at The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Here's a look at some of the stars who chose to walk on the darker side:
The event is hosted by Vogue's Dame Anna Wintour and is held annually at The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York City. | IANS
Keywords: Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna, Sharon Stone, Emily Blunt, Irina Shayk, Gigi Hadid, the Kardashian-Jenner, Emma Raducanu, Met Gala
Many young and middle-aged people today are dying of sudden heart attacks. Studies show that cardiovascular diseases (CVD) strike Indians a decade earlier compared to their Western counterparts. Why is this happening? How can we prevent it? Are we just focused on post-heart attack action? Or should we be focused more on prevention?
Luke Coutinho, Holistic Lifestyle Coach -- Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine shares an input that could prevent heart attacks at a young age:
Cholesterol is not the culprit, inflammation is: Many people believe that high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides are the sole culprits behind their heart attacks. The main reasons behind most heart attacks are inflammation and oxidative damage in the heart, blood vessels, endothelial lining, arteries, and more. While maintaining healthy cholesterol levels is important, we cannot blame heart attacks on cholesterol levels alone. What then can you do to keep inflammation in check and your heart strong? Adopt simple lifestyle changes.
Many people believe that high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides are the sole culprits behind their heart attacks. | Flickr
Switch from ordinary substandard cooking oils to cold-pressed oils: Refined oils are highly inflammatory and a threat to your heart. Using refined oils just to save some money isn't a wise idea. Choose the right quality and quantity of oil to boost your heart health. It might cost you a few extra bucks, but remember, your health is not a cost but an investment.
Refined oils are highly inflammatory and a threat to your heart. Using refined oils just to save some money isn't a wise idea. | Photo by Ashwini Chaudhary on Unsplash
Switch from a sedentary lifestyle to an active one: Even if you don't engage in a full-fledged workout, just stay active. Walking and yoga are the most effective exercises. Choose fun workouts that you enjoy -- dancing, aerobics, Zumba, swimming, whatever it is, but keep that body moving. People who live a sedentary lifestyle are at high risk of heart attacks. Having said that, over-working out with little orno rest or recovery period is equally harmful. So, figure out the adequate level of activity your body needs and stick to it.
Even if you don't engage in a full-fledged workout, just stay active. Walking and yoga are the most effective exercises. | Photo by Peter Conlan on Unsplash
Don't take matters to your heart: Before renting out your heart space and mind space to a person, event or experience, ask yourself if it is worth it. While stress is inevitable, what sets a happy person apart from a stressed person is their capacity to diffuse and navigate stress and see things in a positive light. You can continue attending stress management classes and workshops, and while all of them can help you feel better for some time, the real change happens when you start changing your perspective towards life and how you relate to stress.Learn to accept and let go. Build your self-worth, create a beautiful inner world, reflect inwards, and allow these teachings to slip into your daily living.
Before renting out your heart space and mind space to a person, event or experience, ask yourself if it is worth it. |cPhoto by Tim Gouw on Unsplash
Fix your sleep routine: There is nothing cool about pulling an all-nighter to work or socialize more. Your body only cares about survival. Remember, your sleep is your heart's free drug. The chronic deprivation of it can increase your risk of a heart attack. Your heart is a muscle that needs recovery. Lack of sleep increases your insulin resistance and makes you more prone to type-2 diabetes and a gamut of metabolic conditions. So, adopt a fixed sleeping schedule and sleep deep.
There is nothing cool about pulling an all-nighter to work or socialize more. | Photo by Tetiana SHYSHKINA on Unsplash
We cannot wait for more misfortunate incidents to realize the importance of lifestyle and start prioritizing it. We must wake up and work towards prevention. Many of us may go through heart disease later in life, no matter how well we exercise or eat clean. So, identify risk factors and work towards tackling them. Even if one of your risk factors is genetic predisposition and there is nothing you can do about it, you can still alter your lifestyle. Our intelligent human body was designed to fix and heal itself. The least we can do is invest in it and help it do its job effectively. Lifestyle can help you bridge this gap.
(Article originally written by: N. Lothungbeni Humtsoe) (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: lifestyle, heart, oil, stress, sleep, human, body, health, heart attack
When it comes to burgers, its not just the patty that makes it all worthwhile... one can't forget the cheese or the crunchy lettuce either. In India, McDonald's ensures their burgers use the freshest produce, which means that don't use any ordinary lettuce. The iceberg variety was first introduced in India by McDonald's, as early as the 90s, at a time when not many people were familiar with lettuce and used cabbage instead. Lettuce is a key ingredient known for its crunch, its odourless and is ideal for salads, sandwiches and burgers.
The fast food giant collaborated with local Indian suppliers and pioneered the local production of iceberg lettuce in the country. Their lettuce undergoes 30 quality and food safety checks. After harvesting, the lettuce is pre-cooled to a temperate of below 40C at the farm gate to maintain its freshness. It is then transported in refrigerated vehicles to the world-class processing plant where it is shredded to a measured length and width and then washed and cleaned thoroughly before being vacuum-packed.
The fast food giant collaborated with local Indian suppliers and pioneered the local production of iceberg lettuce in the country | Photo by amirali mirhashemian on Unsplash
Today, the lettuce that goes into your favourite burger is produced at a pristine height of 10,000 feet under the rain shadow areas of the Himalayas in the Manali and Lahaul districts. Over the last 15 years, the farm base that produces lettuce for McDonald's menu items has grown from 5 acres to more than 100 acres. The process for growing lettuce is very rigorous and thoroughly monitored starting with the selection of seed variety, nursery production, fertigation, integrated pest management and post-harvest technology. Over the years, the company has continued to engage with local suppliers in good agricultural practices, meeting the Gold Standards of food safety and hygiene. It has transferred global best practices in irrigation, pest control, seed selection benefitting nearly 250 small and marginal farmers across the country. These practices ensure the right conditions for the iceberg lettuce to grow.
With over 60 years of experience in developing the best quality standards for the industry to follow, it continues to build and strengthen the foundation of good food practices and knowledge transfer, while serving great-tasting menu items at a value to its customers. "At McDonald's, we are committed to offering great tasting food using high quality ingredients to our customers. To offer the best to our esteemed customers, we take extra care in ensuring that the highest levels of hygiene and food safety are maintained at every step of how our food is produced, where its ingredients are sourced from and how it is processed . We are committed to responsible sourcing and supporting farmers community growing lettuce for us." said Rajeev Ranjan, COO, McDonald's India , North and East.
(Article originally published on IANSlife) (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: burger, india, lettuce, McDonalds, locals, North, East