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Snakes and Ladders, a worldwide popular racing board game that we all have enjoyed playing at some point in our life. In today's version of the game there are a hundred squares on the board with an approximately equal number of snakes that bring you down, and ladders that take you up. The game is based on sheer luck, whoever rolls the dice and reaches the hundredth square first wins. However, the game has lost its meaning and purpose in time, originally, the game was meant to teach Hindu values, morals and ethics to children.
In ancient India, the game snakes and ladder was known as Mokshapat or Moksha Patamu or Parama Padam. Historians claim that the game was invented by Swami Gyandev in the 13th century AD; meanwhile, other opinions state that the game was played as early as during the 2nd century BC. The whole point of the game was to teach Hindu children about Hindu Dharma and values, Dharma and Karma, where the ladders represented the virtues and the morality you show at every point of life whereas the snakes represented the vices and your wrongdoings in life. The game was played with cowrie shells and dice.
Primarily the game had far fewer ladders as compared to the snakes indicating that to walk the path of righteousness and achieve nirvana you must face numerous difficulties and at every point of life you'll have luscious opportunities to please your greed but eventually, it will only trap you in the vicious cycle of rebirth and life. All your good deeds represented as ladder takes you closer to moksha (nirvana) and all your evils lead to you descend only to go through the same cycle all over again.
In the earliest of games, all squares had some deed/meaning, square 12 was faith, 51 was Reliability, 57 was Generosity, 76 was Knowledge, and 78 was Asceticism. These were the squares where ladders were placed. Meanwhile, Square 41 was for Disobedience, 44 for Arrogance, 49 for Vulgarity, 52 for Theft, 58 for Lying, 62 for Drunkenness, 69 for Debt, 84 for Anger, 92 for Greed, 95 for Pride, 73 for Murder and 99 for Lust. These were the squares where the snakes were placed. And lastly, the Square 100 represented Nirvana or Moksha (Salvation).
The squares are illustrated and all squares depicted some meaning either evil or good.Khol Khel
The game was also known as 'Parampadam' personifying a human's life span. Similar to Mokshapat there are a hundred squares on a board, the ladders take you up while the snakes bring you down. The only difference is that the squares are illustrated, the top of the ladder depicts a God or one of the several heavens namely- Kailasa, Vaikuntha, Brahmaloka and so on, while the bottom of the ladder describes a good quality. Hence, the whole climbing a ladder indicated that good quality takes you to heaven. Simultaneously, the snake's head on the board depicted a negative quality or an asura (demon).
As the game advances, the various karma and samsara, good deeds and evil deeds take you up and down the board. Interspersed are plants, people and animals. The game served a dual purpose of entertainment, as well as teaching the dos and don'ts, ethical values and morality, divine rewards and punishments. The final goal i.e. square number 100 leads to Vaikuntha meaning heaven, depicted by Lord Vishnu surrounded by his devotees, or Kailasa with Shiva, Parvati, Ganesha and Skanda, and their devotees.
The game was taken to England in 1892 due to the colonization of India and modified according to Victorian values. Later it was introduced to the US in 1943 under the name "Chutes and Ladder". The modern version of the game is simply called, "Snakes and Ladders" with an almost equalized number of snakes and ladders and serves no moral purpose, now it's a mere game of luck played for entertainment.
Keywords: Snakes and Ladders, Karma, Morals, Virtues, Vices, Vaikuntha, Moksha.
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.
A person visiting Mumbai in the month of September can easily notice a mild fragrance lingering in the air. The fragrance is none other than that of the hibiscus flower. The hibiscus flower, commonly known as the shoo flower is believed to be the favourite flower of Lord Ganesha. In the month of September, every Mumbaikar is deeply immersed in Ganeshotsav. Some start preparing for the next Ganeshotsav as soon as the current one ends.
Before the festival of Ganeshotsav, or Ganesh Chaturthi, became an Indian cultural phenomenon, one can trace it's origins to Maharashtra. Ganesh Chaturthi as a festival has been historically observed in the province of Pune. Pune (also known as Poona) is dubbed the educational hub of Maharashtra. Historians see Pune as the last bastion of the Marathi manoos.
Ever since the era wherein Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the founder of the Maratha Empire, ruled over most of western India, Lord Ganesh was seen as the family god or Kuldevata. With the unfortunate demise of the Maratha empire in the early 19th century, the festival lost its state patronage and became a private family celebration in Maharashtra. It regained its limelight when the extremist Indian freedom fighter and social reformer Lokmanya Tilak reignited its long distinguished flame.
Crowds throng in at a junction to catch a glimpse of the Ganesha idol before its immersion. Photo by Vishal Panchal on Usplash.
Ganesh Chaturthi in its current form was introduced in 1892 when a Pune resident named Krishnajipant Khasgiwale visited Maratha-ruled Gwalior, where he witnessed the traditional public celebration and brought it to the attention of his friends, Bhausaheb Laxman Javale and Balasaheb Natu back home in Pune. Javale, who was also known as Bhau Rangari installed the first sarvajanik or public Ganesha idol following this.
Lokmanya Tilak praised Javale's efforts in an article in his fiery newspaper Kesari in 1893 and even installed a Ganesha idol in the news publication's office the next year, and his efforts transformed the annual domestic festival into a large, well-organised public event. Tilak was the first to install large public images of Ganesha in pavilions and established the practice of submerging the idols in rivers, the sea or other bodies of water on the tenth day of the festival.
Encouraged by him, Ganesh Chaturthi or Ganeshotsav, became a meeting ground for people from all castes and communities at a time when the British discouraged social and political gatherings to control the population. The festival facilitated community participation and involvement in the forms of intellectual discourse, poetry recitals, plays, concerts, and folk dances.
Various Ganpati idols for sale at a workshop in Mumbai. Photo by Mohnish Landge on Unsplash.
Tilak recognized Ganesha's appeal as "the god for everybody". He popularised Ganesh Chaturthi as a national festival to "bridge the gap between Brahmins and the non-brahmins and also to find a context on which to build a new grassroots unity between them. The festival was successful in generating nationalistic fervour in the Maharashtrian people to oppose the oppressive British rule.
With the advent of the third wave of Covid-19 in Maharashtra, government officials have started ringing alarm bells. The fear that the ongoing surge in new cases might be fuelled by the lesser-known Delta Plus variant is high among healthcare staff. Ganesh Chaturthi and the Third Wave of the pandemic are in sync, leading to a catch 22 situation for Mumbaikars.
Keywords: Ganesh Chaturthi, Maharashtra, Third Wave, Marathas. September
The Jyotirlinga is a devotional representation of Lord Shiva, and is considered to be a holy site for Hindus. In India, there are 12 Jyotirlinga Temples in total which are visited by millions of devotees from all over the world.
It must be noted that each of this Jyotirlinga Temple has a significant folklore attached to them which adds a distinct character to each one of them.
Being strategically placed in beautiful parts of India, these 12 Jyotirlinga Temples attract a lot of tourists from all over the world, which in turn increases the tourism of India and adds up to the GDP of the country.
Read below to know all about the 12 Jyotirlinga Temples of India!
The Somnath Jyotirlinga Temple, Gujarat
It must be noted that the Somnath Lingam is considered as the first of the 12 Jyotirlingas in India, and is considered to be one of the most sacred pilgrimages in the Sanatan religion. There exists an interesting story behind the origin of this Lingam. It is believed that when the moon was cursed by his father-in-law because of being negligent towards his other wife, he lost all of his radiance. Then the moon prayed to Lord Shiva and regained all the lost radiance and beauty.
Somnath Temple.Photo by Suketu Solanki; Unsplash.
Mallika Arjun Lingam, Andra Pradesh
This Lingam is situated on the top of Shri Shaila Mountain, which is also called the "Kailash of South". This temple is considered to be one of the greatest shrines of Lord Shiva. The name of the temple comes from “Mallika" which means “Goddess Parvati", who is the wife of Lord Shiva, and “Arjun" which is another name of Lord Shiva. It is also believed that Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati decided to live on this mountain after their elder son, Kartikey, left home in anger.
Mahakaleshvar Temple, Madhya Pradesh
This Lingam is considered to be another important pilgrimage site in India. As per the text of Puranas, it is believed that once there was a five-year-old boy named Shrikar, who took a stone and started worshipping it as Lord Shiva. Seeing this, many people made fun of him and tried to divert him, but his faith kept on growing. Then, when Lord Shiva saw this devotion in Shrikar, Lord Shiva took the form of a Jyotirlinga and decided to stayin the Mahakal forest.
Mahakaleshvar Temple.Photo by Wikimedia Commons.
Omkareshvar Jyotirlinga, Madhya Pradesh
This Lingam is situated on a riverine island in the Narmada River. According to the text of Vedic scriptures, it is believed that once upon a time, a great war broke between the Devas (angels) and Asuras (demons), and in this war, the asuras won. Seeing this, the Devas then prayed to Lord Shiva, and highly pleased with their devotion, Lord Shiva transformed into the form of Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga and defeated the Asuras (demons). Since then, Omkareshvar Jyotirlinga is considered to be one of the holiest site for Hindus.
Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga, Maharashtra
This Jyotirlinga is situated in the Sahyadri region of Pune, on the banks of Bhima River. The story behind the origin of this Jyotirlinga is very interesting. After a long penance, Lord Brahma granted Bhima Kumbhkaran's son some powers after which he started creating havoc on Earth. Seeing this, all the gods plead before Lord Shiva for help. Seeing how helpless the gods are, Lord Shiva then fought a battle and killed the demon, and on the request of the gods, Lord Shiva stayed at this very place.
Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga.Photo by Wikimedia Commons.
Rameshwaram Temple, Tamil Nadu
This temple is situated on the southern most tip of India, in the state of Tamil Nadu. The reason why this Lingam is named as “Rameshwaram" is because it was placed by Lord Ram himself. The story behind this temple is that once in the quest of Goddess Sita, Lord Ram reached the southern most tip of India and saw a vast ocean between him and his love, Goddess Sita, when Ravana abducted her. Lord Ram then made a Shiva Lingam with sand and started worshiping it. Seeing this, Lord Shiva became pleased and helped him in winning the war against Ravana. It is said that since then, Lord Shiva resides there.
Nageshwar Temple, Gujarat
This lingam is also known as Nagnath, and is situated in the Saurashtra area of Gujarat. According to Shiva Purana, a devotee of Lord Shivanamed Supriya was captured by the Asur Daaruka. The demon kept her as a prisoner with several others in his capital Daarukavana. Supriya told all the prisoners to chant "Om Namah Shivay" which made Daaruka furious who ran to kill Supriya. Lord Shiva emerged in front of the demon and killed him. Then Nageshwar Temple came into being.
Nageshwar Temple.Photo by Flickr.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Varanasi
It is believed that Lord Shiva was first manifested here when a fight broke between Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma. This temple is said to be Lord Shiva's favourite as it is considered as the true abode of Shiva.
It is believed that river Godavari has its source in this temple. The story goes likes, once Lord Shiva decided to reside here as a lingam after many earnest requests of Gautam Rishi and Godavari who are known to be big devotees of Lord Shiva.
Trayambkeshwar Temple.Photo by Wikimedia Commons.
Girishneshwar Jyotirlinga, Aurangabad
This Lingam is situated near the famous Ajanta-Ellora caves, and has many legends associated with it. It is interesting to note that no one really knows about the true origins of this lingam.
This Lingam is situated Located in the Rudra Himalayan ranges, and is one of the holiest pilgrimages in India. This place opens up for its devotees for only six months in a year. It is believed that after a hard penance of Nar and Narayan, Lord Shiva decided to stay in Kedarnath till eternity.
Kedarnath Temple.Photo by Wikimedia Commons.
Baidyanath Jyotirlinga, Jharkhand
This Lingam is considered as one of the most powerful lingams in the world. It is believed that the worshippers of this lingam attain salvation. It is also believed that this lingam was given to Ravana after his long meditation but on one condition that if it gets placed somewhere it will stay there forever. To this, all the gods conspired against Ravana and made him place the lingam in Jharkhand, where it stayed forever.
Keywords: temples, india, indian temples, travel, tourism, hinduism, spirituality