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MEXICO CITY — A wooden canoe used by the ancient Maya and believed to be more than 1,000 years old has turned up in southern Mexico, officials said on Friday, part of archeological work accompanying the construction of a major new tourist train.
The extremely rare canoe was found almost completely intact, submerged in a freshwater pool known as a cenote, thousands of which dot Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, near the ruins of Chichen Itza, once a major Maya city featuring elaborately carved temples and towering pyramids.
Measuring a little over 1.6 meters in length and 80 centimeters wide, the canoe was possibly used to transport water from the cenote or deposit ritual offerings, according to a statement from Mexican antiquities institute INAH.
The institute described the extraordinary find as "the first complete canoe like this in the Maya area," adding that experts from Paris' Sorbonne University will help with an analysis of the well-preserved wood to pinpoint its age and type.
A three-dimensional model of the canoe will also be commissioned, the statement added, to facilitate further study and allow for replicas to be made.
The canoe is tentatively dated to between 830-950 AD, near the end of the Maya civilization's classical zenith, when dozens of cities across present-day southern Mexico and Central America thrived amid major human achievements in math, writing and art.
It was found while workers building a tourist rail project championed by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador were inspecting the area surrounding the cenote which is near a section of the project that will connect with Cancun, Mexico's top beach resort.
Lopez Obrador has pitched the so-called Maya Train as tourist-friendly infrastructure that will help alleviate poverty in Mexico's poorer southern states, while critics argue it risks damaging the region's delicate ecosystems. (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Mexico, Maya, Canoe, Yucatan
Most of the cultures in the world today wear either black or white for mourning. Conservative cultures adopt wearing white as the absence of colour signify a sort of renunciation in memory of the dead. Those who wear black, however, propagate a culture that has a rich history and significance.
Black clothes originated during the Industrial Revolution as working with soot, steam, and coal often stained clothes irreparably. Darker shades allowed for a much cleaner outlook, and were preferred by the working class. But to buy these clothes was difficult because black dye which was extracted from the darker substances was expensive, and only the wealthy could afford to clothe their slaves in it.
Black is also a colour associated with celibacy, clergy, and religion. Catholic priests and nuns of certain orders always wore black cassocks and habits. Their lifestyle was symbolic of religion and commitment to social causes.
A Greek funeral where black is the colour associated with mourning Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
When the tradition of funerals began, widows and those mourning had to wear clothes absent of any joyful sentiment. They preferred wearing black, dull grey, or brown colours, which represented sadness. But even in this case, black was reserved for the upper class, owing to how expensive it was. As times changes, and coal became more available, black slowly became something easily accessible. Technological advances changed the way dyes were created, and so even the lower classes were able to afford it. They began to emulate the wealthy and the practice of wearing black clothes during mourning began.
In societies where black is considered unholy, and is associated with dark arts, white is preferred as the mourning garment. It symbolises chastity and purity. Those who wear it unofficially adopt a lifestyle of renunciation, and isolate themselves from social entertainments. They do not wear jewellery and shave their head.
Widows in India have to wear white and live in isolation from society Image credit: Wikimedia commons
Monarch could not afford to forego their jewellery as it was a sign of their status even when presenting themselves in foreign company. To keep with the tradition of mourning, they devised the creation of black jewellery, or jewellery made from the jet stone, to suit their outfits. A lock of the deceased's hair was tied to the pendant of the neck piece. Today, this kind of jewellery is worn out of context in a gothic setting, while non-goths wear regular jewellery with their black clothes.
Monarch often wore jewellery made f black jet stone while mourning Image credit: wikimedia commons
Modern day mourners do not keep with the older traditions. Mourning periods have also been reduced due to various political, legal, and economic reasons. The only time the mourners wear these garments is on the day of the funeral, and perhaps to other funerals. Other than that, colours are quickly worn to remove the aura of sadness in the house of the deceased.
Keywords: Black, White, Mourning, Culture, Class, Tradition
Varanasi is the holy city of pilgrimage of the Hindu community that lies on the banks of the Ganges in Uttar Pradesh. It was popularly known as Kashi the city of lights in ancient times. It is the spiritual capital of India, the holiest city of the seven sacred cities in Hinduism. With that, it is also the spiritual headquarters of the Aghori sadhus of India. Due to the prevalence of numerous religions in the history of India, today we see different cults and practices which have emerged from the main body. Each sub-culture has their individual beliefs, rituals, deities, and dictate their ways of living.
Aghori Sadhus is one of the most feared and simultaneously the most revered clan of them all. They lead a bizarre lifestyle that is beyond common understanding. Aghoris are sadhus belonging to an unconventional clan who are worship Lord Shiva, mainly Bhairava who is a form of Shiva associated with death. They engage in post-mortem rituals with their body covered in the ashes from the dead bodies. Their practices often stand against orthodox Hinduism.
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The unconventional lifestyle of Aghori Sadhus
Aghori Sadhus accept nudity and are mostly spotted naked with their bodies smeared with ashes from the dead. They use bones from human corpses to craft skull cups, bowls, and jewelry. They let their hair grow long without ever cutting them, believing that "this is how we were born and we should accept our natural self.
Smoking Weed and Alcoholism
Like most Sadhus, Aghoris also reek spiritual enlightenment, upliftment, and being free from the cycle of rebirth. However, they do not indulge in worshiping idols, instead, they rely on meditation along with the consumption of cannabis and alcohol. They believe that the use of drugs transports them to a higher plane of spirituality which is closer to God and helps them practice greater concentration.
They immerse themselves in deep devotion to Lord Shiva. Pexels
Aghori Sadhus claim that goddess Kali demands satisfaction in meat, alcohol, and sex, to find purity in the filthiest. They indulge in having sexual intercourse with appropriate dead bodies. They say that if an Aghori can focus on God during sex then they are on the right path.
They also practice sexual acts with consenting menstruating women in the middle of cemeteries with human ashes all over their bodies. They cannot be involved or involve someone in the act by force. These activities give the sadhus supernatural powers and transcend spiritual levels to reach God.
It is rumored that Aghoris eat human flesh from the dead bodies and practice meditation on the dead body. They are not questioned only because they do not kill to eat. Cannibalism is openly practiced by these Aghoris in Varanasi. Their bizarre eating habits do not end here they are also known to eat garbage, human faces, and also leftover foods. They are often witnessed sharing their food with animals eating out of the same bowl. They believe that the true devotee of Shiva should not hold any hatred in their heart and they believe considering animals dirty is wrong.
Aghoris live their lives on the edge of bizarre and away from all human norms. They immerse themselves in deep devotion to Lord Shiva. They preach that Lord Shiva is the answer to everything as he is omnipresent and absolute. They perform penance, which is of three kinds that are called Shiva Sadhana, Shav Sadhana, and Smashaan Sadhana. Their lifestyle leaves the rest of the population with mixed emotions of curiosity, disgust, fear, and respect. They must be left on their own, as is their wish.
Keywords: Aghori, Aghori tribe, Aghori cannabilism, India, Hindu, Shaivism, bizarre practices, necrophilia
Everyone loves firecrackers, even the most environment-friendly advocates cannot hide their joy when they see these delightful lights colour the skies. India celebrates Diwali in the true spirit of her culture and heritage by spraying the navy-blue skies with sparkling hues of gold, silver, red, and green. Firecrackers are not just a tradition in this country, they are a legacy.
The original connotation one makes with fireworks in China. The elaborate Chinese celebrations with dragons and zapping firecrackers have left their mark in human memory, but the use of fireworks is not limited to heralding the Chinese New Year. All over the world, fireworks have come to symbolise the ultimate celebration. During Diwali in India, this spirit is re-ignited every year.
Indians have known the use of gunpowder for many centuries now. Sanskrit texts name a substance called 'agnichura' which is described as a 'powder that creates fire'. This is believed to be saltpetre.
A single firecracker ablaze Photo by Unsplash
Sometime during the rule of the Vijayanagar Empire, and the Adil Shah Dynasty in South India, the use of the Chinese pyrotechnic formulae became extensively common in entertaining the royals. Weddings, Festivals, and other special celebrations in the palace were marked with a spectacular display of fireworks.
Between the 1920s and 1940s, the dynamics of fireworks changed in India. Ayya Nadar and Shanmuga Nadar, from Tamil Nadu's Sivakasi who migrated to Kolkata, set up a fireworks factory there. It began as a match factory, but after receiving the required permission, it was converted into a fireworks unit. Within a few years, another factory was set up in Sivakasi. Before long, multiple units were set up there, and today, it is India's fireworks hub. Most of the crackers that are used during Diwali come from Sivakasi.
Recently, environmental concerns have caused the ban of fireworks as it causes air pollution. The sale of crackers has reduced drastically after this new law. During the lockdown, the factory labourers underwent great losses, especially in Sivakasi. But keeping the spirit of Diwali in mind. crackers cannot be entirely done away with, and continue to light up the skies at least for a few hours every year.
Keywords: Diwali festival, Fireworks, Sivakasi, the Vijayanagar Empire, culture and heritage in India.