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With a deeply-engaged community of close to 3 million users in India, who spend more than 37 minutes daily reading, writing, and engaging on an average on the platform, global user-generated stories platform Wattpad says it registered a significant increase in user activity during the lockdown, worldwide and in India.
“Lockdown was a critical time for everyone across the country. People were suddenly isolated and were not able to continue with their normal lives. Perhaps not surprisingly, as more people were stuck at home and in quarantine, one global trend we saw early this year was more people turning to storytelling as a way to connect and cope with the situation. Users who were previously readers turned to write as a way to express themselves. A related thing we heard from writers was that people are finding solace in the community of readers and writers around their stories. Writers tell us that being able to connect with fans and other writers have been a positive experience for them right now,” Devashish Sharma, India Country Manager at Wattpad told IANSlife in an interview.
Earlier this spring, the platform saw a global increase in sign-ups from pre-COVID levels, with a more than 50 percent increase in April over early March. Some regions were much higher, likely due to the people being quarantined and social distancing starting at different dates around the world.
From January through April, the number of new stories written on Wattpad grew a whopping 151 percent. In the same period, the number of new writers increased by 125 percent. Writer activity overall increased by 200 percent from January through April.
“In India, these growth trends meant a 50 percent increase in reading time, a 30 percent increase in new stories, and a 60 percent increase in writers,” Sharma shared.
Wattpad, which came into existence in 2006, house stories that went to become some of the biggest recent hits in TV and film: Hulu’s “Light as a Feather”, Netflix’s “The Kissing Booth”, and then hit “After”. As per Sharma, today, they have 50 TV and film projects in development around the world, and to date, nearly 1,000 Wattpad stories have been published as books or adapted for TV and film.
The website and app made its way to India in 2015 to cater to a vast audience of story-lovers and storytellers in this country who shared a love for literature and books. “India is one of the global leaders in producing incredible stories and IP. We want to unlock even more of the amazing stories that are waiting to be told by Indian writers. Organic growth for Wattpad in India has been possible partly because of the high penetration of smartphones and mobile web apps in India,” said Sharma.
Asked about user data and activity, the country head revealed that Wattpadders in India have shared more than 4 million uploads in English, Hindi, and nine other Indian languages (including Malayalam, Tamil, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati, Punjabi, Assamese, Marathi, and Oriya).
As for the demographics, 90 percent of their users are GenZ and Millennials (between the age group of 15 and 30), 65 percent are female users and 45 percent are from the non-metro cities.
While Wattpad is home to multiple genres, data suggests that Indians love reading sci-fi, and romance that touches on forbidden-love and arranged marriages to name a few. We are also seeing a growing readership for several new-age genres like thrillers and the paranormal.
“With users spending an average of 37 minutes daily reading, writing, and engaging with Wattpad stories, we know that Indian users get hooked on stories and can’t put them down. Users binge on chapters because they can’t wait to know what happens next. What is truly unique about Wattpad is the social nature of the experience, readers can engage in conversations with each other, connect with the author directly, and discuss what they love about a story. For readers, the experience can be very similar to a book club, where passionate book lovers spend their time reading and discussing stories.
“For writers, this creates an incredible connection to their fans. They can hear what readers love about a story, or learn where a story could be improved. Owing to such readership dynamics, we are now seeing established, best-selling writers like Neil D’Silva choosing Wattpad to release his new book on Wattpad to connect directly with his readers. A few days since launch and the book is already a hit, and in just one day, his new story accumulated nearly 10,000 reads!”
What are the future collaborations and plans for Wattpad in India?
“Our vision for India is to continually build a platform that provides writers with an opportunity to tell stories, make money, and be seen and heard in India and around the world. We want to make TV shows and films from Indian writers, and with the largest catalog of IP on the planet, the next international TV or film sensation could be on Wattpad right now.
“We also want to work with Indian brands, to help them understand and tap into the power of social storytelling and long-form content. We’re living in an age when people want more genuine engagement from brands. Gen Z wants to see that brands understand their perspective, which is why our massive and diverse audience stands out.”
Sharma concludes: “Not only is Wattpad a great platform to discover great stories, but it is also a true community of literature enthusiasts, who connect over stories to share thoughts, opinions, and ideas. To add to this, many upcoming writers here in India have chosen us to be their to-go platform to publish or launch their literary works.” (IANS)
Diwali is arguably one of the most auspicious and celebrated holidays in South Asia. It is celebrated over the span of five days, where the third is considered most important and known as Diwali. During Diwali people come together to light, lamps, and diyas, savour sweet delicacies and pray to the lord. The day has various origin stories with the main them being the victory of good over evil. While the North celebrates the return of Lord Rama and Devi Sita to Ayodhya, the South rejoices in the victory of Lord Krishna and his consort Satyabhama over evil Narakasura.
Narakasura- The great mythical demon King
Naraka or Narakasur was the son of Bhudevi (Goddess Earth) and fathered either by the Varaha incarnation of Vishnu or Hiranyaksha. He grew to be a powerful demon king and became the legendary progenitor of all three dynasties of Pragjyotisha-Kamarupa, and the founding ruler of the legendary Bhauma dynasty of Pragjyotisha.
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Narakasura was created, grew up to be strong and powerful but he was not satisfied with it, so he decided that he would worship Lord Brahma. He performed severe penance and was driven by the power of his penance; Lord Brahma appeared before him. Narakasura knew his mother loved him dearly so he asked Lord Brahma to grant him a boon that he would only die by the hands of his mother, Bhumidevi. Lord Brahma smile and ultimately granted him the boon.
Narakasura burst out laughing as Lord Brahma vanished. He thought no mother would kill their child so Lord Brahma had made him immortal. Drunk and maddened by his own power Narakasura brought all the kingdoms under his control and targeted Swargalok (Heaven). Even Indra (King of Gods) and demi-gods had to retreat in front of Narakasura. He kidnapped and took 16,000 women from the palaces as prisoners. Troubled by Naraksura's deeds the gods rushed to Lord Vishnu for a solution.
Lord Krishna and Devi Satyabhama were born to kill Narakasura
Lord Vishnu was born as Lord Krishna and Narakasura's mother Bhumidevi took the avatar of Krishna's wife Satyabhama. As Satyabhama, Bhumidevi was unaware of the knowledge of Naraksura being her son. Aditi the mother of all gods approached Satyabhama crying for help with bloodied ears as Narakasura had torn off the glowing earrings from the ears of Aditi.
Satyabhama was furious on gaining the knowledge of Narakasura's atrocities she asked Krishna to fight the demon king while she fights alongside him. Krishna agreed and they attacked the great fortress of Narakasura, riding his mount Garuda with his wife Satyabhama.
The furious battle unleashed. Krishna defeated Narakasura's general Mura and came to be known as Murari (the killer of Mura). Narakasura used several divine weapons against Krishna, but Krishna slew all those weapons effortlessly. The demon hurled a shakti towards Krishna, which mildly hurt Krishna and he fell unconscious. Upon this sight Satyabhama was enraged, she furiously pulled out a weapon of her own and hurled it at Narakasura's chest. Anxious Satyabhama turned to her fallen Lord, Krishna got up with a smile and he was completely fine. He was only playing his part. It was Satyabhama who was an incarnation of Bhoomidevi, whose hands were destined to slay Narakasura.
ALSO READ: Choosing Environment-Friendly Diwali
Lord Krishna and Goddess Satyabhama had put an end to the Narakasura's kingdom of evil. As Narakasura lay on his deathbed he realised that Satyabhama was no one but an avatar of his own mother. He requested a boon from his mother, for no one to mourn his death. Instead, he wished for people to celebrate it with light and colours. They freed the 16,000 women who later married Lord Krishna to restore them of their honour in society, retrieved Mother goddess's earrings. This day is celebrated as 'Naraka Chaturdashi' popularly known as Choti Diwali - the day before Diwali as the triumph of good over evil.
Keywords: Diwali festival, goddess Laxmi, demon king, Lord Krishna, Satyabhama, the festival of light, Naraksura, Narak Chaturdashi
For all the great inventions that we have at hand, it is amazing how we keep going back to the safety pin every single time to fix everything. Be it tears in our clothes, to fix our broken things, to clean our teeth and nails when toothpicks are unavailable, to accessorize our clothes, and of course, as an integral part of the Indian saree. Safety pins are a must-have in our homes. But how did they come about at all?
The safety pin was invented at a time when brooches existed. They were used by the Greeks and Romans quite extensively. A man named Walter Hunt picked up a piece of brass and coiled it into the safety pin we know today. He did it just to pay off his debt. He even sold the patent rights of this seemingly insignificant invention just so that his debtors would leave him alone.
Anyone wearing safety pins that were visible began to be associated with the rock movement in the 70s. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Later, he even invented the sewing needles and a couple of other important inventions but never kept any of the patent rights.
When the punk rock tradition took over in the seventies, safety pins became a fashion rage. They were used as piercings and to patch clothes together. Anyone wearing safety pins that were visible began to be associated with the rock movement. In some cultures, the safety pins have become symbols of good luck.
Keywords: Safety-pins, Punk Rock, Brass, Accessories, Walter Hunt
In South India, Deepavali marks the end of the monsoon and heralds the start of winter. The festival is usually observed in the weeks following heavy rain, and just before the first cold spell in the peninsula. The light and laughter that comes with the almost week-long celebration are certainly warm to the bones, but there is still a tradition that the South Indians follow to ease their transition from humidity to the cold.
Just before the main festival, the family bathes in sesame oil. This tradition is called 'yellu yennai snaana' in Kannada, or 'ennai kuliyal' in Tamil, which translates to 'sesame oil bath'. The eldest member of the family applies three drops of heated oil on each member's head. They must massage this oil into their hair and body. The oil is allowed to soak in for a while, anywhere between twenty minutes to an hour. After this, they must wash with warm water before sunrise.
Women applying oil to the heads of men Photo credit: Indians in Kuwait
In some parts of the peninsula, soap is not used to wash off the oil because it nullifies its effects. Some cultures who do not like the oil to remain in any way on their skin wash it off with shikakai and herbs, which is a paste that is traditionally used as a substitute for soap. Sometimes, the oil is heated with flowers and spices as well and is less sticky than in its pure form.
The purpose of this ritual is to cleanse the body, detoxify it, and produce heat in it. Sesame is a very heaty substance and tends to heat up the body. This heat, or 'usshna' in Kannada, prepares the body to face the sudden cold that comes to the peninsula immediately after Diwali. South India has no smooth transition weather-wise from monsoon to winter. There are a few days of stable, rainless weather, and suddenly the cold winds descend.
In many ways, the celebration of Diwali is centered around preparing for winter, considering the amount of heat and light the rituals consist of – lighting lamps, bursting crackers, and consuming warm treats. Those who practice these rituals earnestly find the shift in seasons and weather quite pleasant.
Keyboards: Sesame Oil Bath, Diwali Ritual, Traditional Sesame Oil Bath