Thursday December 14, 2017

Ramayana trail: How Modi government plans to revive the legacy of Lord Ram

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Modi Sri Lanka

By Harshmeet Singh

Prime Minister Modi concluded his three nation tour after making a slew of agreements and announcements in Sri Lanka. While moves such as handing over more than 27,000 homes to the war affected people in Jaffna and an assistance of $318 million gathered much attention, his announcement regarding Indian Government’s plans to establish a Ramayana trail in Sri Lanka went away unnoticed.  

Ramayana Trail

The establishment of a Ramayana trail is aimed at developing all the Ramayana related mythological spots in the country. Though the PM fell short of announcing any budget or a deadline for the same, he did mention that his Government would soon be sending a team of experts to Sri Lanka to visit all such places that can be included under this plan.

The government plans to develop a number of modern facilities around these spots to ensure a constant tourists’ influx which, in turn, would take India’s heritage to different parts of the world. The PM also said that his Government would be happy to assist Sri Lanka in developing a similar Buddha trail in India.

Common history of India & Sri Lanka

The extremely rich Buddhist culture of Sri Lanka derives its roots from ancient India. According to ancient texts of Sri Lanka, it was Indian Emperor Ashoka’s son, Mahinda, who introduced Buddhism to Sri Lanka. Impressed by the message of Buddhism carried by Mahinda, the Monarch propagated Buddhist values to the entire Sinhalese population of the island. The historic Nalanda University also had a number of Sri Lankan Buddhist monks on roll before it was brought to the ground by Mohammed Kilji. Notably, around 70% Sri Lankans still follow Theravada Buddhism.

The Indian epic Ramayana gives a detailed description of the island nation. According to Ramayana, the island was built by Vishwakarma as a gift for Kubera, the Wealth Lord. Kubera was later overthrown by his stepbrother, Ravana. The story of Sita’s abduction at the hands of Ravana is one of the best known folklores around the world. The ‘Ram Setu’ or the ‘Adam’s bridge’, believed to be built by Lord Rama to take his army to Lanka to fight Ravana still remains one of the most significant common heritage points between India and Sri Lanka.

Ram Setu

Historically, the Indian railway network extended up to Dhanushkodi (south of Chennai) from where frequent ferry rides took the passengers to the Mannar Island in Sri Lanka. The ferry used to travel over the submerged Adam’s Bridge. A devastating cyclone in 1964 destroyed the railway facilities at Dhanushkodi which were never resurrected after that. This put an end to the ferry rides between Dhanushkodi and Mannar Island.

The shallow water over the Adam’s bridge doesn’t allow large cargo chips to pass through it. Hence, the large ships coming either from Arabian Sea or Bay of Bengal are needed to travel around Sri Lanka to reach the other side. The construction of a canal through the ‘Ram Setu’ to ease out the marine traffic has been proposed multiple times, with the most recent project being ‘Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project’. Quite understandably, these plans didn’t go well with a number of religious groups who, presenting evidence from NASA’s satellite images, claim that this bridge was built by Lord Rama and has a high religious significance attached to it. Notably, the efforts to build this canal have also received thumbs down from a number of environmental experts who doubt the feasibility of such plans and claim that this could destroy the corals.

 Growing bonhomie through tourism?

A number of experts have lauded Modi’s methods of warming up to the neighbouring nations by giving references to our common heritage. As seen with many nations, tourism and common heritage can help the nations come together and solve a number of grave issues. Let’s hope the story between India and Sri Lanka goes the same way.

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Beatles, Apple, Facebook knew India more than Indians

Famous non-Indian celebrities know more about India and its past

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The Beatles once visited India to know more bout its past and culture.
The Beatles once visited India to know more bout its past and culture. Wikipedia

-By Salil Gewali

Facebook’s Chairman Mark Zuckerberg had dropped a bombshell on the “secularists” in India during PM Modi’s visit to his campus in California. It’s all about the Facebook connection with India. Initially, it was never a bed of roses for what is now a household name “FACEBOOK” across the world. This world-famous ‘social networking service company’ had its own share of bad times. Revealing for the first time in the meeting at the Facebook office upbeat Zuckerberg told PM Narendra Modi that Steve Jobs, the founder Chairman of Apple, had advised him to visit a certain temple in India for blessings. The revelation may have caused heartburn to many. More so in India where so-called secular and snooty folks have long acquired a proclivity to look down upon their own culture, religion, and values while being appreciative of any bizarre customs and styles of the West. Yes, heeding the advice of his mentor Steve Jobs the depressed Mark had visited the temple and toured around India for nearly a month.

Facebook's CEO tells about India.
Facebook’s CEO tells about India. wikipedia

Well, the American techno-wizard Steve Jobs had himself spent over six months in India in 1974. He was here in quest of the higher meaning of life and spiritual solace. As understood, from early age Steve was quite haunted by a good deal of unanswered questions. Of course, his encounter with a book “Be Here Now” by Richard Alpert, a Harvard Professor, had opened up a gateway to the spiritualism of the East. This book had also introduced him to a mystic Yogi ‘Neem Karoli Baba’. That later inspired Steve to set out the journey for the East. As soon as Steve and his friend Daniel Kottke arrived India they directly went to meet the Guru in Kainchi Dham Ashram in Nainital. But to their disappointment, they found the Baba had already passed away some months earlier. Nevertheless, the urge to dive deeper into the spiritualism did not die away. They shaved their heads and put on Indian clothes and undertook an extensive meditation and yogic practices.

The most significant impact that had made upon Steve’s life was a book “Autobiography of a Yogi”by Paramhansa Yogananda. It is on record that he would read this book too frequently, at least once every year until his death, 2011. This book had given him the practical insight into what exactly this world is about and how a layman can prepare himself to realize the Supreme knowledge. The first-hand account of a Yogi with empirical approaches to know oneself this book by Yogananda is a smash hit manual now among the seekers of the Eastern spiritualism.

Yes, by dint of hard work, intuition and innovation Steve stood out as one of the most successful techno-tycoons of the modern times. As much known, Jobs was hardly possessed by the luxury of riches and materialistic vanity. He just regarded his entrepreneurship as a tool to awaken his dormant potentialities. The chairman of Salesforce.com and famous philanthropist Marc Benioff says with conviction — “If you want to understand Steve, it’s a good idea to dig into ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’.” It is this book which Steve’s family had given to all the guests as a last gift at his memorial service.

Here we can’t afford to ignore the Beatle’s fascination for INDIA as well. The band members that were basking in the opulence of materialistic riches and glory visited India (Rishikesh) in search of inner peace. They met with Sri Maharshi Mahesh Yogi and learnt from him Transcendental meditation (TM) who laid bare methods to feel true bliss within. Sri Maharshi is a big name in the West having a huge following that includes celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, David Lynch, Russell Brand, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Aniston, Modern physicist Dr. John Hagelin, to name a few. The Beatle’s Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr often assist a Hollywood Director/actor David Lynch to organize the Transcendental meditation under ‘David Lynch Foundation’ across USA and the European countries. George Harrison later took refuge in Bhakti Yoga. The founder of ISKCON Srila Prabhupada showed him the pathway to the Supreme Consciousness.

What basically pulls the rational westerners to India is less known to Indians themselves. It’s shamefully paradoxical. From early 19th Century, the philosophical literary treasure troves and Yoga of India found more admirers in the foreign lands than at home. Indeed, the philosophy of the “laws of karma” and the presence of all-power-divinity within every being and everywhere — which any human being can realize irrespective of one’s caste, creed, nationality, and color, has intensely stirred the greatest of the great minds of the West. The ancient texts hold out a whole bunch of keys to unlock oneself and know his/her relationship with the Supreme Being which in fact seems very reasonable to the West. Further, the complex studies of world-view by Modern scientists are gradually arriving at the same conclusion what the ancient sages of India expounded over five thousands year back that ‘creation and creator are ONE’. Interconnection, inter-relation and interdependence among every individual particle/object, living or non-living, in the infinite universe — which is the fundamental tenets of the Eastern philosophy, provided a new light of wisdom to the the modern physicists like Schrödinger, Heisenberg, Julius Oppenheimer, Brain David Josephson, David Bohm, John Stewart Bell et al.

Well, Indian’s contribution to the western academia is immeasurable — though deliberately undermined or less discussed in India itself. It’s very worthwhile to recall a famous proclamation by our western master whom we hold in the highest esteem. TS Eliot, one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, asserts: “Indian philosophers’ subtleties make most of the great European philosophers look like schoolboys”.

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter @SGewali.

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Narendra Modi App : Amazing Platform where Prime Minister connects with the citizens

Wanna give ideas to or interact with Prime Minister Narendra Modi? Go and download Narendra Modi app on android and iOs

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Narendra Modi App
Prime Minister Narendra Modi (FILE PHOTO)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has an amazing sense of connecting with masses. Prime Minister knows the nerve of Indian public and at various instances proves himself as a pan Indian leader. Prime Minster Modi is undoubtedly one of the most tech-savvy global leader and a big promoter of e-governance and m-governance since a long time. Within two months of assuming Prime Minister-ship, he had launched the ambitious myGov project. In continuing the tradition of citizen connect, Prime Minister Modi took another step towards connecting with the people at their convenience by launching Narendra Modi app couple of years back.

Narendra Modi app
Prime Minister launching Narendra Modi App

The Narendra Modi app provides updates on the day-to-day activities of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It presents an opportunity to receive messages and emails directly from Shri Narendra Modi. There is also an option to contribute and earn ‘badges’ through to-do tasks in various social initiatives. Through Narendra Modi app, one can tune-in and listen to the various episodes of ‘Mann ki Baat’, read Prime Minister Modi’s blogs, and get to know more about him from his Biography section. Narendra Modi app also provides comprehensive information on initiatives and achievements of the Union Government, which has an ‘infographics’ section for insights.

Such type of initiative by a global leader gives a strong message how technology can be used by governments to bridge gap between leaders and citizens. apart from this app Prime Minister Modi is also very much active on various social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. Prime Minister Modi is the one of the most followed global leader on Twitter.

So what are you waiting for. Go and share some ideas of innovation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and contribute in his vision of “Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas”.

– by SHAURYA RITWIK, Shaurya is Sub-Editor at NewsGram and writes on Geo-politcs, Culture, Indology and Business. Twitter Handle – @shauryaritwik

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Cleaning of Ganga is not impossible, but it is very difficult.

The holy river is also one of the most polluted river

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Ganga in Haridwar
A pile of garbage lies on the riverbank along the Ganges riverfront known as "Har ki Pauri," the most sacred spot in the Hindu holy town of Haridwar where devotees throng. VOA

– Saket Suman

About five years ago, when Financial Times journalist and author Victor Mallet began living in Delhi, he was shocked to discover that the Yamuna — “this beautiful river of Indian legend and art” — was chocked with untreated sewage and industrial waste after it had passed through the city on its way to Mathura, Agra and on to join the Ganga at Allahabad He wondered “how a river so sacred to so many Indians could also be so polluted and neglected” and then set out to record the plight of the Ganga.

His exhaustive journey led him to various key locations on the river, including its source at Gaumukh and Sagar Island and the Sunderbans at its mouth in the Bay of Bengal. This culminated in the publication of “River of Life, River of Death” (Oxford University Press/Rs 550/316 pages).

“My conclusion is that it is not impossible (to clean the Ganga) — but it is very difficult. Narendra Modi is the latest of several Indian prime ministers to announce plans to rescue the Ganga — in fact, I would say he has been the most fervent — but like his predecessors, he has struggled to implement these plans despite the availability of funds from India itself and from international donors such as the World Bank and Japan.

“Clearly, the Ganga has enormous problems of physical pollution from sewage, industrial toxins and pesticide run-off. Too much of the water is diverted for irrigation in the dry season, which can leave parts of the river without water before the monsoon. But with political will and public support — I don’t think anyone in India objects to saving the river — it can be done,” Mallet told IANS in an email interview from Hong Kong.

The important thing, he maintained, is to change mindsets and he noted in this context that it is quite common among devout Hindus to say: “Ma Ganga is so spiritually pure that nothing we throw in the river will sully her or make a difference.”

The author said that sensible holy men and environmentalists who care for the Ganga term this as nonsense — and the reason it’s not true is that the Ganga’s very spiritual power arises from its physical properties as a life-giver, as a provider of water and fertility.

“That’s why rivers have always been worshipped in ancient times, including in England. So if you destroy the river’s life-giving qualities through pollution, you destroy the source of her spiritual importance,” he added.

In the book, he also states that it is not impossible to clean the Ganges, “as river clean-ups in Europe and America have shown”.

Elaborating on this, he said: “When I was a child living in London, my mother always told me not to fall in the Thames because the river was so filthy that if I fell in I would have to go to hospital and have my stomach pumped! Yet today the Thames is clean — muddy, but virtually free of industrial pollution and untreated sewage — because successive governments and water and sanitation companies have stopped the pollution.

“The same is true of the Rhine in continental Europe and the Chicago river in the United States. The great thing about rivers is that you don’t have to scrub them clean — you just have to stop polluting them and the natural flow of the river does the rest.”

Mallet maintained that the record on the Ganga has so far been disappointing in terms of implementation, but hoped that there will be a change now that there is a new minister in charge.

“If you clean the Ganga by improving sanitation, you not only save the goddess, you also create thousands of jobs in infrastructure development, and save the lives of thousands of children who die each year because of bad water, poor hygiene and stomach bugs. Likewise, if India curbs its greenhouse gases — and this seems to be happening anyway because alternative energy such as solar power is now very competitive on price — then that will also help it to reduce the kind of air pollution that has recently been afflicting Delhi and the whole of North India,” he maintained.

Mallet went on to add that he learnt a lot about the mythology and the history of the river — and the history of India — in the course of his research for the book.

“In a way, India is so rich in civilisations and stories that you can never say you have completed your work as a researcher and writer. You can at least make a start, and also explain the contemporary political, social, religious and environmental issues that affect the river and the country as a whole,” Mallet said. (IANS)