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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.
Keywords: Swastika, Symbol, Nazism, Hinduism, Adolf Hitler, United Nations, Buddhism, Jainism
The Reformation in England is notorious for the religious impact it had on the countries of the world, and the current ongoing dispute among the various factions of Catholicism and Protestantism. Three Blind Mice, a rhyme that emerged in 1609, roughly a few years after the death of Queen Elizabeth I, is somewhat a dark reminder of the Dark Ages.
The Reformation began in England when King Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic church because he wanted to divorce his wife, to marry another woman who would bear him a male heir. His wife was a devout catholic and refused to give up her crown to another. The king decided to break away from the Papacy, from Rome, where the Catholic church reigned from. He created the Church of England, and put himself as the legal head. England broke into two factions based on religion, and after Henry's death, the country was plunged in war.
Henry's eldest daughter, Queen Mary I took the throne after her father, and propagated Catholicism, as taught by her mother. Henry's other daughter, through his second wife, Queen Elizabeth I embraced the Protestant faith. Queen Mary was always paranoid of losing her throne to Elizabeth, and she hated the Protestants because of what happened to her mother. She set about ruthlessly persecuting anyone who openly professed their faith, which led to her being known as 'Bloody Mary'.
Illustration of Christian protestants being burned at the stake Image source: wikimedia commons
History has recorded the death of three Bishops, Ridley, Lattimer, and Crammer, known as the Oxford martyrs. They were burned at stake for teaching the Protestant doctrine. The rhyme Three Blind Mice is believed to be an allegorical allusion to the incident of the bishops' execution. They are called 'blind' because of their refusal to recant their confession. Queen Mary is said to have "cut off their tales with a carving knife" and is referred to as a farmer's wife to lighten the scene for children; perhaps to also reduce the ruthlessness of the act.
Three blind mice. Three blind mice.
See how they run. See how they run.
They all ran after the farmer's wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
Did you ever see such a sight in your life,
As three blind mice (Modern version of the rhyme, Wikipedia)
Three Blind Mice is sung widely in nurseries of the world by little children, often innocent of the true story behind it.
Keywords: Three Blind Mice, Nursery Rhymes, Reformation, Persecution, England, Queen Mary
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
Firebrand Buddhist Monk Ashin Wirathu was released from prison by the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) on Monday, two years after he was booked and imprisoned for making seditious remarks against the former leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Ashin Wirathu was born on the 10th of July 1968 in Kyaukse province which is one of the numerous offshoots of the vast Mandalay Division of Myanmar (then called Burma). He is a Burmese Buddhist monk and the founder cum leader of the extremist 969 Movement in Myanmar. He was infamously dubbed as the "The Face of Buddhist Terror" by Time Magazine in 2013. Some even went a step further and unceremoniously christened him " Buddhist Bin Laden ".
Ashin Wirathu is known for his fiery stance against radical Islam. He on numerous occasions has given derogatory press statements against Muslims. Once speaking to Time Magazine, he upfrontly said that they [Muslims] are breeding fast. Also, they steal our women only to rape them. They would like to occupy Myanmar, but I won't let them. One must strive to keep Myanmar a Buddhist country.
Myanmar is a predominatly a Buddhist country and Muslims respresnt a tiny fraction of the overall population. Photo by Joseph Gatto on Unsplash.
In yet another interview in 2013, he vehemently declared Muslims as African Carp. Justifying his claims he stated that they breed quickly and are very violent in nature and also they eat their own kind. He even went further to highlight the burden on the masses by saying that even though Muslims were a minority in Myanmar, ordinary Myanmmarse are reeling under the burden they bring us.
He gained limelight when on one occasion, he opined, "You can be full of kindness and love but you cannot sleep next to a mad dog." He mentioned the word "Mad Dog" slyly alluding to the Muslim community.
Ashin is the founder and the leader of the infamous " 969 Movement ", a Buddhist revivalist movement that advocates a complete socio-economic boycott of Muslims throughout Myanmar. It also seeks to ban marriages between Buddhist women and Muslim men and annul the existing ones.
The inspiration for the unique name comes from Buddhist scriptures, with the first number "9" denoting the nine special attributes of the Buddha, the middle number "6" represents the six special characteristics of his Dharma while the last number "9" represents the nine attributes of the Buddhist monastic order or the Buddhist Sangha.
The black flags of Radical Islam. Photo by mostafa meraji on Unsplash.
When quizzed on his fierce stance against one particular community, he said "I am defending my loved one like you would defend your loved one. I am only warning people about Muslims. Consider it like if you had a dog, that would bark at strangers coming to your house – it is to warn you. I am like that dog. I bark."
With Afghanistan taken over by the Radical Islamic outfit Taliban, jihadism is on the rise in Asia. With the new Delta variant of the novel coronavirus ravaging through Asia, the continent has turned into a hotbed for new deadlier mutations to arise. The belligerent act of the Taliban seizing power in Afghanistan has invoked Radical Islamists all over the globe to launch a global offensive. By freeing Ashin Wirathu Myanmar has deployed its best available weapon against the onslaught of Radical Islam.
Keywords: Islam, Radical Islam, Ashin Wirathu, Myanmar, Terrorism.