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By Vishal Gulati
The sounds of silence in tiny picturesque hamlets currently marooned in a thick blanket of snow overlooking this Himachal Pradesh tourist resort can be heard loud and clear.
The deafening silence, which begins every year on Makar Sankranti (January 14) and continues till the end of the ‘Magh’ month, will be greeting the visitors. This time the silence will end on February 25.
The belief behind observing the 42-day silence is that the gods have returned to the heavens and are in deep meditation. Noise from the earth would disturb them. And if they get angry on being disturbed, it will bring misfortune for the people in the area, their crops and livestock.
“We have been following the practice of silence during the month of ‘Magh’ for centuries. During this period we stop listening to music, watching television and performing household chores and even agricultural work,” Shyam Thakur, a resident of Goshal village located on the outskirts of Manali in Kullu district, some 250 km from state capital Shimla, told IANS.
Even the villagers don’t allow visitors to make noise, he said, adding “we have inherited this practice of silence from our ancestors”.
Even mobiles and landline telephones are kept on silent mode.
A centuries old temple rebuilt in typical hill architecture dedicated to Gautam Rishi and Ved Vyas, as also serpent deity Kanchan Nag, located in Goshal village, four km from upper Manali, is also closed to the public every year on Makar Sankranti.
Legend has it that Gautam Rishi, the chief deity, had meditated where the temple is now located.
Gautam Rishi’s temple will be reopened when the deities return from their sojourn. During this period, no religious ceremony is performed in the temple.
As per tradition, the locals start their routine activities only when the deities return to the temple.
“On the first day of Magh, the deities returned to the heaven. Now they will return to the earth on ‘Fagli’ (February 25). During their sojourn, any activity on the earth will disturb them and earn their wrath,” temple priest Chaman Lal told IANS.
He said the temple was closed after spreading mud on the floor. It is believed that when the temple is reopened, and when a flower surfaces on the mud, it symbolises happiness for the villagers.
If charcoal appears, it indicates that the village is in store for a fire-related tragedy. Grain indicates a good harvest.
“A prediction will be announced when the temple is re-opened,” the priest said.
As per tradition, the locals start their routine activities only when the deities are back in the temple.
The other villages where this tradition is followed include Solang, which is known for its ski slopes, Kothi, Burua, Majhach and Palchan.
But during silence, it is the social culture that blooms in these nine villages in the Ujhi Valley.
“By sitting in small groups, we devote most of our time in stitching clothes and knitting woollens,” local resident Chandani Thakur said.
She said even they stopped using the spade to clean the cow dung in cowsheds during the period of silence. “We will start pruning of apple trees after the ‘devtas’ (gods) return to the earth,” she added.
The picturesque Kullu valley is famous for demigods and ancient Shamanistic traditions that govern the lives of the ethnic communities. They are the 534 gods and goddesses of the Kullu valley who are said to be “alive”, says “A Reference Book on Kullu Devtas”, compiled by the local administration. (IANS)
The US researchers have discovered a class of immune cells that plays a role in miscarriage, which affects about a quarter of pregnancies.
Researchers at the University of California-San Francisco found that the recently discovered subset of cells known as extrathymic Aire-expressing cells in the immune system may prevent the mother's immune system from attacking the placenta and fetus.
The researchers showed that pregnant mice who did not have this subset of cells were twice as likely to miscarry, and in many of these pregnancies fetal growth was severely restricted.
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"When you're pregnant, the immune system is seeing the placenta for the first time in decades -- not since the mother made a placenta when she herself was a fetus," said Eva Gillis-Buck, from UCSF.
"Our research suggests that this subset of immune cells is carrying out a sort of 'secondary education' -- sometimes many years after the better-known population of the educator cells have carried out the primary education in the thymus -- teaching T cells not to attack the fetus, the placenta and other tissues involved in pregnancy," she added. The findings are published in the journal Science Immunology.
The immune system has to be educated not to attack one's own tissues and organs to prevent autoimmune disease. But pregnancy presents a unique challenge since the fetus expresses proteins found in the placenta as well as proteins whose genetics are distinct from the mother.
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"It was a conceptual leap to link Aire-expressing cells, which are critical for preventing autoimmune disease, to pregnancy," said Tippi Mackenzie, Professor of Surgery at UCSF's Center for Maternal Foetal Precision Medicine.
In the thymus, Aire-expressing cells begin interacting with other immune cells very early in life to teach them what not to attack. The thymus begins to shrink and is nearly gone by adulthood, by which time most immune cells have been educated. But as the thymus shrinks, the population of eTACs in lymph nodes and the spleen expands, the researchers explained.
The study suggests a healthy pregnancy may depend on having these cells around, they added. (IANS/KB)
The tiny emojis being shared on billions of devices worldwide can play a major role in digital communication, with most people saying that emoji compels them to feel more empathy towards others, according to an Adobe report.
Adobe's global emoji study found that emoji even helps people overcome language barriers and form connections that would otherwise be difficult to do.
"We were surprised and delighted by the discoveries made in the survey, most notably how enthusiastic respondents were for emoji as a means to express themselves," the company said in a statement.
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Emojis sometimes get criticized for being overly saccharine, but this sweetness is key when it comes to diffusing some of the heaviness of online communication.
"Many of the emoji are focused on positive emotions, so it's easy to insert them into our conversations and lighten the mood," the Adobe study said.
It's not surprising that over half of those surveyed feel more comfortable using emojis than talking on the phone or in person.
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This applies to less intense situations too. Dating, for example, can be tricky — especially when it's online or via digital apps, as it often is now.
The study also found that emoji even helps people overcome language barriers and form connections that would otherwise be difficult to do.
In celebration of World Emoji Day on Saturday, Adobe's '2021 Global Emoji Trend Report' surveyed 7,000 people in the US, the UK, Germany, France, Japan, Australia, and South Korea. (IANS/KB)
Following the grand Richard Branson show where he carried Andhra Pradesh-born Sirisha Bandla and fellow space travelers on his shoulders after successfully flying to the edge of space, it is time for Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos to applaud Sanjal Gavande, one of the key engineers who designed the New Shephard rocket set to take Bezos and the crew to space on July 20.
Billionaire Bezos is set to fly to the edge of space aboard what is touted as the world's first unpiloted suborbital flight. Born in Kalyan, Maharashtra, Gavande is a systems engineer at Blue Origin who always dreamt of designing aerospace rockets.
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After completing Bachelor's in mechanical engineering from the University of Mumbai, she flew to the US in 2011 to pursue a Master's in mechanical engineering from the Michigan Technological University. She also applied for an engineering job at the US space agency NASA but finally landed her dream job at Blue Origin
Sirisha flew to the US in 2011 to pursue a Master's in mechanical engineering from the Michigan Technological University.IANS
Bezos, his brother Mark, aviation pioneer Mary Wallace 'Wally' Funk, and other passengers are set to liftoff from west Texas and travel just beyond the edge of space on July 20. Blue Origin announced this week that Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old high school graduate from the Netherlands, would join the crew.
Oliver is the son of millionaire Joe Daemen, Founder, and CEO of the Dutch investment company Somerset Capital Partners. Blue Origin, however, did not reveal how much Daemen paid for his son's trip to space. Bezos chose July 20 as the launch date to honor the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
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The launch site for Blue Origin's first human flight will be in a remote location north of Van Horn, Texas, from where the firm had launched New Shepard for previous flights. Blue Origin has received final approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to carry humans on the New Shepard rocket into space.
On July 12, Bandla touched the edge of space with three others, including Virgin Galactic's billionaire CEO Richard Branson. Bandla vaulted into space onboard VSS Unity 22. After the successful spaceflight, Branson carried the Indian-American on his shoulders while celebrating their flight to space, at Spaceport America in New Mexico. (IANS/KB)