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Manali: The road that connects this Himachal Pradesh picturesque town with Leh in Jammu and Kashmir reopened for motorists on Saturday after remaining closed for over seven months due to heavy snow deposits, an official said here.
The road is crucial for the movement of the armed forces to areas in the Ladakh region that borders China and Pakistan.
“The Manali-Leh road was opened for light vehicles only,” an official of the 38 Task Force of GREF told IANS here.
The entire 475 km road stretch between Manali and Leh remained off-limits for over seven months due to heavy snow.
The Manali-Leh highway, which attracts backpackers, especially foreign nationals, winds its way through the Rohtang Pass (13,050 ft), Baralacha Pass (16,020 ft), Lachlungla Pass (16,620 ft) and Tanglangla Pass (17,480 ft).
Every part of South India changes colour on Onam and Vishu when Malayalis begin their celebrations. They cannot be missed for they decorate themselves in subtle shades of gold and white, and dot the streets in their traditional attire.
The white kerala saree, known as kasavu, has a rather interesting history. It grew to prominence when the Portuguese reached India, and began trade. Gold was exchanged for spices, and women began to incorporate gold into their sarees. The white part of the kasavu is believed to be inspired by the Greco-Roman one-piece, also known as 'toga' or 'palmyrene'.In Ravi Verma's paintings, the Malayali woman is visibly very similar to the European contemporary when she is decked in her adornments.
A classical dancer dressed in gold and white kasavu Image source: wikimedia commons
The traditional malayalis used to wear what is called a mundu, or a settu-mundu, which consisted of a rectangular piece of cloth tied around the waist. They did not cover their upper bodies. Later, women began to wear a blouse or place a cloth to cover their upper body, and the mundu became a two-piece affair. Today, women wear three different pieces. The blouse is worn with one cloth wrapped around the waist, and another wrapped around the chest. Colours are also incorporated according to each one's taste.
The kasavu yarn is spun and dyed in the required colours, and stretched, ideally in the early hours of the morning. It is also soaked and stamped to make it soft. It is then mounted on the loom and woven. The stretching allows the fabric to become resilient, and it does not break easily. Once woven, it is immediately turned into sarees or mundus. Since it is a relatively plain weave, it does not require a post-weave process.
The kasavu saree is very simple and common among the malayalis, and with added colours, even among other south Indians. The luxury of this saree lies in the fact that it is woven with real gold in the borders.
Keywords: Kasavu, mundu, Kerala, Gold, White
Along with Chinese Traditional Medicine, acupuncture emerged in Asia as a technique to cure people of their disease simply by inserting needles at certain points, where the disease is said to lie.
The practice of acupuncture is believed to have a shamanistic origin. Shamans are those who profess to commune with spirits, ghosts, and the dead. They believed that people were cursed for any number of reasons, and this curse manifested in the form of physical symptoms. All diseases were simply versions of the curse, and when the patient was injected or subjected to moxibustion, which is the burning of particular herbs at various points of the body, the curse left.
Moxibustion involves the burning of herbs at various points of the body Image source: wikimedia commons
Oriental medicine requires its students, or trainees, to memorize the various points in the body that affected or released pain from another point. Statues were used for reference, to identify various meridians or channels through which Qi flowed. This was considered the primary life force in Taoist philosophy, and it was imperative to know the exact flow of this energy from point to point in the body, to be able to correctly diagnose the ailment.
Acupuncture was not very well received in China when it began because they believed that the body should not be dissected for study. Practitioners could only learn from observation, and therefore penetration through needles was harmful. When western medicine came to China, the practice of acupuncture became more accepted. It then travelled through the trade routes to Europe where it was practiced.
A statue in a Chinese museum that depicts the different meridians on the body Image source: wikimedia commons
These days, acupuncture is gaining momentum in the west, not as a medical practice, or alternative to medicine as it was originally designed. Instead, it is being researched based on a neurological model which states that the use of needles alters the mechanism of pain and stimulation in the brain. It is used in mild operations, to relieves headaches, dental aches, and so on.
Keywords: Acupuncture, Moxibustion, China, Western Medicine, Oriental techniques, Shamanism
Sabrimala Temple is a famous Hindu temple situated on a hilltop in the Pathanamthitta district of Kerala. The temple is surrounded by almost eighteen hills in the Periyar Tiger Reserve, one of the well-known reserves of India. The temple is said to be dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, who is the God of growth. From all around the world, the temple attracts Hindu pilgrims in the days of Mandalapooja in November-December, Makara Sankranti on January 14, Maha Vishuva Sankranti on April 14, and the first five days of each Malayalam month.
Origin of Sabrimala Temple
The temple is said to be of ancient origin. In fact, for almost three centuries, reaching Sabrimala temple was almost impossible because there was no way. But, then in the 12th century, a prince of the Pandalam Dynasty named, Manikandan, rediscovered the original path to reach Sabarimala Temple. Interestingly, this Prince is considered an Avatar of Lord Ayyappa. It is also believed that Prince Manikandan meditated at Sabarimala Temple and became one with the most divine.
Beliefs Followed in the Sabrimala Temple
It is believed that the pilgrims have to observe celibacy for forty-one days before going to Sabrimala Temple. At the same time, they are also required to follow a strict Lacto-vegetarian diet, refrain from consuming alcohol, let their hairs and nails grow and not cut them. Apart from doing all this, the pilgrims are also required to bathe twice a day and visit local temples daily before en routing to Sabrimala Temple. Once the pilgrims have reached Sabrimala Temple, they only wear black or blue clothes and do not shave until the completion of their pilgrimage. Also, all the pilgrims smear vibhuti or sandal paste on their foreheads.
Entrance of Women in the Sabrimala Temple
For centuries, there has been a strict ban on the entrance of women in the premises of Sabrimala Temple. This is because it is believed that Lord Ayyappa, who is the main deity, was celibate. In fact, in 1991, the Kerala High Court restricted entry of women above the age of 10 and below the age of 50 saying that this is the menstruating age. But, in 2018, the Supreme Court lifted the ban saying that discrimination against women on any grounds, even religious is unconstitutional. To this, the head priest of Sabrimala temple showed his disappointment. Moreover, this took a political turn when Shiv Sena, a political party of India, warned of "mass suicides" if women set foot inside the Sabarimala temple. Following this, protests intensified near the date of opening gates for women as hundreds of women devotees set their way to reach the temple.
Keywords: Sabrimala Temple, Shiv Sena, Supreme Court of India, Beliefs, Women, Hindu Temple