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Bangkok: The signing of a revised treaty to avoid double taxation may have hogged the limelight during the recent visit of the Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj to Thailand, but the two-day June-end trip also signaled a significant push to Indian cultural promotion and soft power in Southeast Asia.
Barely a week after the organisation of International Yoga Day, the Indian government moved ahead with a concerted effort to promote ayurveda and Sanskrit in Thailand. Also on the agenda was the exchange of Instruments of Ratification of Extradition Treaty, which had followed an earlier visit of India’s naval fleet to Thailand, indicating a deepening of security ties between the two countries.
While India has historically sought to capitalise on being the fountainhead of Buddhism in this highly devout Buddhist country, this visit expanded it to a broader realm. In May 2013, then Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh had gifted a sapling of the original Bodhi Tree from Bodh Gaya to the king of Thailand. The following year, Thailand’s Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn visited Bodh Gaya and Nalanda, both places of eminence in the Buddhist pantheon. Both reflected the shared sentiments of Thailand and India on ties based on Buddhism.
However, a significant part of the visit by Sushma Swaraj this time was dedicated to cultural affairs. Besides signing a memorandum of understanding on Nalanda University, another agreement was signed to establish a chair on ayurveda at Rangsit University in Thailand.
Sushma Swaraj also graced the 16th World Sanskrit Conference, and an official Doordarshan team was in place to cover this event. Speaking in Sanskrit, Sushma Swaraj described Sanskrit as “sacred” which sanctifies all that come into its contact.
The minister also visited a key centre of activities relating to India — the Centre for Bharat Studies at Mahidol University in Bangkok. The centre is known for its academic work on ayurveda, Gandhian satyagraha as well as the Indian diaspora in Southeast Asia.
The minister also met representatives of the Indian community, with separate meetings being held with the “Overseas Friends of BJP” and members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of Thailand.
Just a few days ago, three swamijis from the Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple, New Delhi, had met the Indian ambassador in Thailand, and at the World Sanskrit Conference, they presented the ‘Swaminarayan Bhashyam’ which are complete commentaries of Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and the Brahma Sutras.
Out of the five agreements signed between Thailand and India during Sushma Swaraj’s visit, two were on culture, one on extradition and commerce, and one focussed on the Thailand-India Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation.
While this was the seventh in a series of joint commissions, it was preceded by a senior official meeting co-chaired by Anil Wadhwa, secretary (east) in the Ministry of External Affairs of India and Vitavas Srivihok, deputy permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand.
While the media focus was on the address of the minister to business leaders, Sushma Swaraj said India’s ruling NDA government was focussing on the 3Cs – commerce, culture and connectivity. This trip was not just about commerce, but significantly also about culture.
The symbol of Swastika is known to signify peace, prosperity, and good fortune in the religious cultures of Eurasia. In fact, this symbol is considered very significant in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. But, at the same time, it has become one of the most misunderstood religious symbols and has been globally banned in many countries.
The reason why the symbol of Swastika is banned in many countries is because of its association with Adolf Hitler's extreme political ideology, Nazism, as Swastika as its official symbol.
Austria, France, Latvia, Spain, Germany, and Russia are amongst the many countries that have banned the display and use of the Swastika.
Moreover, last week Victoria in Australia is preparing to become the first-ever state to ban the public display of the Swastika. This is a step towards an expansion of anti-vilification laws in the state.
Representation of the Swastika on the flag of Adolf Hitler's Nazi Movement.Photo by Flickr.
Now, we must know and understand what went wrong with this symbol, which is sacred and signifies all-good things.
For a very, very long time, in India, the Swastika is the first emblem that is worshipped or even drawn before any sacred and auspicious ceremonies as this symbol in Sanskrit represents 'well-being'. But, the Swastika lost all its credibility when it was wrongfully used by Adolf Hitler.
In fact, it is believed that if this symbol is worshipped properly, then it gives positive results. But if it is abused, then it gives negative results. So, when Adolf Hitler rotated the Swastika at 45 degrees, it slowly and steadily brought misery not only to Adolf Hitler and his theory of Nazism but also to all the people who were associated with him.
Therefore, in order to give the kind of respect and credibility which the Swastika deserves, World Interfaith Harmony Week which was held in New York in February this year, interfaith groups appealed to the United Nations to recognize and acknowledge the Swastika as an important and peaceful symbol. In fact, they also differentiated it from the Hakenkreuz or "Hooked Cross" of Adolf Hitler.
India celebrated a historic day on August 7, as 23-year-old Neeraj Chopra became the first Indian to win an Olympic gold medal in athletics. In the men's javelin throw event, he achieved his greatest triumph, throwing the javelin 87.58 meters on his second try.
Neeraj Chopra was born on December 24, 1997, in Khandra village in Haryana's Panipat district. He grew up in a Haryanavi family of farmers. He is the brother of two sisters. He graduated from Dayanand Anglo-Vedic College in Chandigarh and is now enrolled in Lovely Professional University in Jalandhar, Punjab, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree. Chopra was bullied due to his obesity as a kid, which prompted his father to enroll him in a nearby gym. He then joined a gym in Panipat, where Jaiveer Choudhary, a javelin thrower, noticed his potential and coached him. When the 13-year-old Chopra finished training under Jaiveer for a year, he was enrolled at the Tau Devi Lal Sports Complex in Panchkula, where he began training under coach Naseem Ahmed.
In 2018, he broke the world record in the javelin throw and became India's first-ever gold medalist in the javelin throw. He is also a laureate of the Arjuna Award for 2018. | Wikimedia Commons
Chopra's first international medal came in 2014, as he took home a silver medal at the Youth Olympic Qualification Tournament in Bangkok. In 2015, he set a world record in the junior category of 81.04 meters in the 2015 All India Inter-University Athletics Meet.
Since emerging into the public eye with a historic gold medal at the junior world championships in 2016, he has maintained a high level of performance, setting an Under-20 world record of 86.48m, which still stands. Gold medals in both the 2018 Commonwealth Games and the 2018 Asian Games are among his other accomplishments, including a first-place in the 2017 Asian Championships. In 2018, he broke the world record in the javelin throw and became India's first-ever gold medalist in the javelin throw. He is also a laureate of the Arjuna Award for 2018.
Chopra has also had his share of bad events in life. In 2019, he underwent surgery on the elbow of his right throwing arm, which kept him out of the game for almost a year. However, he returned more robust than ever. In November 2019, he went to South Africa to train from Klaus Bartoneitz. He spent the following year in India training at the NIS Patiala because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He was allowed to go to France with his coach after weeks of trying to get a travel visa.
Neeraj Chopra made history in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics by becoming the first Indian to win a gold medal in athletics. Also, it is worth mentioning that after Abhinav Bindra, Chopra is only the second Indian to win an individual gold medal.
Keywords: Neeraj Chopra, Olympics, Tokyo2020, Gold medal, javelin, India, Haryana
The emergence of the Industrial Revolution in Victorian England brought with it many apprehensions and fears that translated into a new genre in literature: the gothic. Today, the idea of the gothic does not have to much with literature as much as it is associated with fashion.
The Victorians began to wear black more often during the Industrial Revolution to hide the stains of soot on their clothes. Many of the working class were employed in factories. They were newly introduced to technology, the idea of coal as fuel, and the working of machines to serve a certain purpose. This kind of work was hard and messy. Wearing light colours burdened the tired folk when the stubborn stains did not get washed away.
The steam engine was invented to make locomotion easier for the masses, but it brought fear to the people. They had led quiet and simple lives till now, and suddenly their world was infiltrated with loud noises and smoke. Dark places became synonymous with evil deeds and mysteries. It was from this time that horror gained a place in the imaginations of people and artists.
A man sporting gothic clothes and shock coloured hair Image source: wikimedia commons
The gothics of today are those who have held on to these practices. There is no need to fear smoke and noise anymore, but the goths wear black clothes all the time, paint their skin a pale shade, to contrast their clothes, and wear bright shades of red. The traditional gothics decorated themselves with jewellery bearing religious significances, as the belief in Dracula and vampires emerged in the Victorian period. Today, it is a trend to wear studded crosses, or crosses made of black metal either as neck chokers, or earrings.
Modern goths also wear bright monotones to show their patronage of a certain style or order of the goths. They can be seen in neon shades of green, pink, and yellow, often sporting piercings, and matching hair. Their tastes are metallic, and they have an uncanny love for tattoos.
Designers consistently include gothic tastes and styles in their clothing lines to create inclusivity for this subculture. Being gothic, or identifying with them is somewhat a concern even in today's society, and such people are often stigmatised to the extent that it is considered a mental illness associated with the dark arts. The phenomenon is mostly observed in teenagers, and often phases out when they reach adulthood, depending on their sphere of influence.
Keywords: Gothic, Fashion, Victorian, Black, Jewellery