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There are some of the Indian cities which are older than time. Therefore, we must know which cities are they, and what has been their history!
1. Varanasi (1200 BC–)
Varanasi is one of the oldest cities of India, and has been a center of religious and cultural activity since the Bronze Age. In fact, this city might have been in existence from a very long time, since it finds mention in the Rig Veda. It is believed that the city of Varanasi was thriving for more than 1600 years before the fall of the Roman Empire in Europe. This city is one of the holiest places for Hindus and Jains, and even Lord Buddha gave his very first sermon here in 528 BC. In Hinduism, it is believed that dying in Varanasi brings salvation, which is the reason why the city is always brimming with pilgrims.
2. Ujjain (700/600 BC–)
Ujjain was once considered as one of the most prominent cities in the Middle India. In fact, the name of this city is repeatedly mentioned in the literature of that period, i.e. in the works of stalwarts like Kālidāsa. This city has seen the rise and fall of numerous empires, from the Mauryas to the Avantis, Nandas, and even the Guptas. This city, just like Varanasi, is also considered as one of the holiest cities in India, and hosts one of the officially recognized Kumbh melas, the Ujjain Simhastha Kumbh, in which people across the world take place.
3. Madurai (500 BC–)
Madurai been a major center of culture and trade for more than 2500 years. In fact, the name of this city has been mentioned in the writings of the great traveler, Megasthenes, and has been ruled by several empires from the Pandyas and the Cholas to the Karnata, and finally the British. Interestingly, ‘'Koodal,' was one of its ancient name which means 'a congregation of learned men'. There is no doubt that Madurai was an epicenter of scholars and religious teachers in the southern part of India.
4. Thanjavur (300 BC–)
Thanjavur was formerly known as Tanjore. This city is pretty famous for its Tanjore style of painting, which is a traditional style that is characterised by the use of gold foil, religious imagery, and simple compositions. This city is best known for being the home of the Great Living Chola Temples, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Till date, people across the world visit this place in order to experience its rich history and heritage.
Eve Yvonne Maday de Maros, the woman who designed the Param Vir Chakra, was born in 1913 in Neuchatel, Switzerland. It was believed that she came to India to understand the country's culture and tradition.
She got to know about India's spiritual and cultural wealth at a very early age through holistic education which she received. Soon, Eve Yvonne fell in love with a Maharashtrian named Vikram Khanolkar, who was a young army officer, and was undergoing training at the Royal Military Academy in the United Kingdom.
Soon, both the persons married, and Eve Yvonne acquired the name Savitribai Khanolkar and shifted to Maharashtra with her husband who by the time became Major General.
Savitribai Khanolkar with husband Major General Vikram Khanolkar.Photo found on Google Images
As Savitribai Khanolkar was already amazed by the rich culture of India, she immersed herself in the study of mythology, traditions, and religious scriptures. Along with this, Savitribai also started indulging herself in the art, music, dance, and linguistics of India.
Parallel to this, India was celebrating its independence from the British rule, and was on its way to remove British legacies and re-establish the country's identity.
This was the time when When Adjutant General Hira Lal Atal was assigned with the task of creating the Indian equivalent of the British Victoria Cross. For this, he took Savitribai in confidence as she had an in-depth knowledge of the nation. Thus, from here began the journey of making the Param Vir Chakra.
The design of Param Vir Chakra was to denote power and sacrifice demonstrated by the soldiers that protected people at the cost of their lives. So, according to Savitribai, nothing could represent in a better way than the great warrior Chhatrapati Shivaji himself. According to the history, the ruler was known for his courage and strategic defence. Hence, his sword 'Bhavani' found a place on the disc, enclosed within the Indian mythical weapon 'Vajra', from both sides. This mythical weapon is believed to be made of a sage's bone in order to kill evil enemies in the name of goodness.
Moreover, the first Param Vir Chakra was awarded on India's first Republic Day celebrated, which was celebrated in 1950, and its recipient was Savitribai's son-in-law's brother, Major Somnath Sharma.
The Tamil Culture began in India during the Sangam age, when the three kingdoms of the South, Pandya, Chera, and Cholas ruled the Southern peninsula. Together they contributed immensely to the heritage, literature, and the religion of South India. Among the many literary texts of the age, Sillapadikaram is an important epic that deeply impacted the city of Madurai, and established a cult among the Tamils which thrives even today.
A temple dedicated to Kannagi Amman Image source: wikimedia commonswikimedia commons
Sillapadikaram tells the story of a woman named Kannagi who was a devoted wife to her husband, Kovalan, who lost his wealth to a female courtesan Madhavi. Kannagi and Kovalan left the city and tried to make a living with what was left of their wealth. Kannagi offered to sell one of her anklets, which contained diamonds inside, to make ends meet. Coincidentally, the queen of Madurai also had the same kind of anklets, but they were filled with pearls. When Kovalan reached the city, he happened to go to the goldsmith who had made the queen's anklets, and he was executed on the assumption that he had stolen her anklets. Kannagi hears about this and comes to Madurai enraged. She curses the king and the city for their injustice. The entire city burned and Kannagi became known as a symbol of chastity and loyalty to her husband.
A museum containing artifacts of Kannagi in Poompuhar Image source: wikimedia commonswikimedia commons
From this epic, the cult of Kannagi, or the Kanaki Amman cult was born in the south. Since the burning of the city led to immense rain, Kannagi also became known as the celestial goddess of rain, and is worshipped as Mari Amman (Goddess of Rain) in Tamil Nadu. The Sinhalese of Sri Lanka worship Kannagi as Pattini Deviyo, or the chaste wife. The Sinhalese are a Buddhist cult who see Pattini Deviyo as a form of the Bodhisattva. They follow a different epic source to fund their beliefs. In Kerala, some versions of the Kannagi goddess are worshipped.
In the Southern most tip of India, the Kannagi temples were converted into shrines for Mary according to the Catholic tradition when missionaries came to India. The Kannagi cult directly translated into devotion for Mary. Velankanni in Tamil Nadu, is a famous coastal township that serves as a pilgrim spot for many South Indian Catholics. A statue depicting Kannagi holding out an anklet and demanding justice for her husband stands at Marina Beach in Chennai.
Keywords: Sillapadikaram, Kannagi, Sri Lanka, Tamil epic, India, Peninsula, Madurai
Brahma Kamal or Saussurea Obvallata in Botanical terminology is a very well known flower in India. The erstwhile name is more popular as it has been a part of Indian as well as Hindu mythology for centuries.
Brahma Kamal literally translates into the " Lotus of Brahma". It is said that the god of the gods', Lord Bramha adores the flower and even has one in his hand. Lord Brahma, the creator of the Universe, is always depicted as sitting on a huge lotus and holding a Brahma Kamal in his hand. Most of the pictures of Lord Brahma depict him holding the flower. Another name for Lord Brahma is Kanja or the one born out of the water. So, various schools of thought state that Brahma was born from the navel of Lord Vishnu while others say that he was born from a huge white lotus that we call the Brahma Kamal.
It is said to be auspicious to be blessed by a sight of a full blooming Brahma Kamal. The flower does carry medicinal properties and Hindus state that it is of a wish-fulfilling nature. Interestingly, this flower blooms only one night in a year, and surprisingly, during twilight. It takes two hours or so for it to bloom fully. Once fully bloomed it measures up to 8 inches in diameter. It is grown exclusively in Uttarakhand state in April-May and October.
A fully bloomed Brahma Kamal.Photo by Avijit Chinara on Unsplash.
Here are a few astonishing facts about Brahma Kamal:
- The flower has been named after Lord Brahma, the deity who created the universe. It is also dubbed as the King of Himalayan Flowers. Moreover, it is officially designated as the state flower of Uttarakhand.
- Brahma Kamal is exclusively offered at several holy shrines of Uttarakhand like the Kedarnath, Badrinath and Tunganath.
- It blooms only in a few homes and under a suitable climate. It is said to bring good luck and prosperity to such places.
- It is believed that whoever prays to get any wish fulfilled while the flower is blooming will get his/ her desire fulfilled.
- It is a Hindu belief of always gifting a Brahma Kamal. It is said that a Bramha Kamal should not be sold or bought from anywhere.
- The natives of Uttarakhand likewise Hindus believe that a Brahma Kamal does protect its owner from evil eyes and bad influences.
On the contrary, its natural habitat has been shrinking over the last few decades due to the advent of global warming. The decimation of native flora and fauna is further exacerbated by human encroachment and over-harvesting. The state government has now started nurseries in the Chamoli district to conserve the flower and its sister species - all of which have great medicinal value and spiritual value.
Keywords: Brahma Kamal, Hinduism, Hindu, Spirituality, Religious