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Diwali, the festival of light that signifies the victory of good over evil. It brings happiness, progress, prosperity and longevity of life to those who celebrate the festival. People of different faiths, religions, social statuses and other differences come together to light up the moonless night of Diwali with Diyas, lanterns and firecrackers. They share meals and sweets filled with love and joy.
The most widely known story of why Diwali is celebrated is that Hindus, that Diwali is celebrated to mark the return of Lord Rama's return to Ayodhya after rescuing Sita and after 14 years of exile. However, within Hinduism itself, there are variations as to why Diwali is celebrated. Diwali has different but equally significant meanings in different religions.
In Jainism, Diwali holds a very special meaning to it. It commemorates the anniversary of Lord Mahavira's, the last Thirthankar's attainment of Nirvana (final release) or liberation of Mahavira's soul. He attained his freedom from the cycle of reincarnation, Bihar's Pavapur in 527 B.C.E. Lord Mahavira was the 24th and last Thirtankat of Jainism, he gave his spiritual teachings and build the religion as it is today.
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The tales say that Lord Mahavira was aware that his time in this world was coming to end. As soon as the news of his departure spread, the city was drowned in the gloom, the devotees were, grieving, even nature felt the Lord's impending doom and looked crestfallen. Indra the king of Gods, who had prepared himself for Lord's departure, lost his composure and the thought of Lord leaving the world pained him to no end.
Indra, unable to bear the pain and as the advocate of anxious people and natured reached out to Mahavira to persuade him to delay his departure, even if it was just for a moment. However, the Lord calmly told Indra, "Indraraj, lust blinds one. You love my body and hence your request. You are knowledgeable and yet you forget that no one - God, demon, or a human being - can extend the lifeline by even a fraction. The mission for which I was born as a human being is accomplished and a moment more here is a great burden to me. See Indra, there is spring blooming and there is a new dawn of sat, chit, anand. Welcome it." Following the events, the Lord transcended Badar Manyog and Vachan-yog and rested in kayayoga the last vestige of life on the planet. The Lord had achieved Nirvana.
It is said that just as Lord Mahavira attained Moksha, darkness spread all around the world on his loss. The guiding light which had enlightened many souls with his knowledge had burnt out. Indra regaining his composure announced, "Light the lamps. Lord has attained nirvana."
Till this day each year on Diwali, Jains celebrate Diwali to remember their Lord Mahavira and his teachings. In Jain scriptures the occasion was first referred to as dipalikaya meaning light leaving the body, it is said that the earth and the heavens were illuminated with lamps to mark Lord Mahavira's enlightenment.
The place where Lord attained nirvana at Pawanpuri was built into a beautiful picturesque Jain temple, Jal Mandir. It is surrounded by a rectangular tank. People believe that the temple has footprints of Mahavira and that place in the temple is reserved for worship.
Jains offer Nirvan Ladoo to Lord Mahavira after the prayers in all Jain temples all over the worldWikimedia Commons
On the morning of Diwali Jains offer Nirvana Ladoo to Lord Mahavira after the prayers in all Jain temples all over the world. Jains usually avoid firecrackers during Diwali as they have the potential to harm living organisms, which is against one of the most important principles of Ahimsa (non-violence). During Diwali usually, the atmosphere in Jain households is cloaked with austerity, simplicity, serenity, equity, calmness, charity, philanthropy and environment-consciousness. Temples, homes, offices, shops are decorated with lights and diyas. Relatives distribute sweets to each other. These lights symbolize knowledge and the removal of ignorance.
Swetambar Jains observe two days of fasting in remembrance of the penance and sacrifice of Mahavira. Devotees sing and chant hymns and mantras from Jain religious texts in praise of the Tirthankar and congregate for prayer and recite verses from the Uttaradhyayan Sutra which contain the last teachings of Mahavira. The Jain year starts with Pratipada, the next day of Diwali.
Keywords: Jainism, Diwali, celebration, religion, Lord Mahavira, Lanterns lighting, Jain temples, night of Diwali with Diyas.
The Lotus flower is one of the most prominent flowers of India. It holds great importance in Hinduism and Buddhism. Hindu gods and goddesses are often depicted sitting on a bloomed lotus flower. Lord Vishnu, Lord Ganesha, Goddess Laxmi and numerous others are shown holding a lotus flower in one of their hands. What is so important about Lotus? The Lotus flower symbolizes the creation of the universe.
According to Indian philosophies first Lotus plant was born from the navel of Sri Maha Vishnu and upon blooming creator Lord Brahma was born from it, who in turn created the whole universe. This is why it is believed that Lotus is a mythological map of the entire universe.
The Lotus flower is the symbol of purity, spontaneity and divine beauty. In one of his essays, "The Secret of Work", Swami Vivekanand emphasized the significance of lotus leaves as a spiritual detachment from the materialistic work, said, "Just as water cannot wet the lotus leaf, so work cannot bind the unselfish man by giving rise to the attachment to results." Despite blossoming in muddy and unclean water the Lotus flower remains pure and uncontaminated. It is not bothered by its surroundings; it does not try and pretend to be better than it is. It is naturally beautiful; it blooms as it is and withers away. This nature of the Lotus flower teaches us to perform our karma without worrying and being attached to the outcomes of how we'll be perceived. If we free ourselves from external factors which may or may not influence our actions, we'll be able to attain the pristine beauty, grace and purity similar to that of a Lotus flower.
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Hindu deities shown holding a lotus flower in one of their handsWikimedia commons
The transformation of a lotus bud to an enchanting flower can be seen as the path of an individual's consciousness to enlightenment. It represents that to achieve enlightenment an individual must maintain purity in their actions no matter how contaminated the world around them gets, the morality of practical life and practice detachment of spirit from the materialistic illusions of the greedy world. And as the soul develops the petals of the lotus start to unfold. The transformation of the Lotus bud to Lotus flower represents excelling from primal thought to the highest spiritual consciousness. One of the Vedas, Atharva Veda which is the knowledge storehouse of atharvāṇas, the procedures for everyday life, compares a human's spiritual heart to a lotus.
Lotus and the Sun's love is the prime example of unconditional love. The sun showers the lotus with unconditional love and to reciprocate that love the Lotus flower booms out if a smile. With its roots anchored on the bottoms of the muddy lakes, it rises above the surface and as the Sun's rays fall upon the flower the petals unfold slowly one petal at a time. At night when the sun is gone the flower closes itself and sinks underwater to wait for the sun to appear again. This signifies the element of humans that their cognizance flourishes with the radiance of spiritual thought and cripples in its absence. Despite being underwater the untouched petal is often figuratively used in scriptures to indicate the nature of a Jnani (Enlightened Soul) who is ever blissful, untouched by the sorrows and the changes which are characteristic of the world.
In Buddhist philosophies, the lotus is used to represent the preservability of purity of one's soul amidst the grime of mortal, it is often used as an expression to describe someone with pure and delicate attributes.
The Lotus flower was named the national flower of India as it is tied with the culture, history, and heritage of a nation. The flower reinforces the country's image to the world and plays a part in upholding the qualities and core values of the nation.
Keywords: Lotus symbol of purity, Hinduism, Indian values, lotus flower meaning, importance in Hinduism, prominent flowers of India.
Malgudi, a small fictional town in South India has been part of the childhood of most Indians. It is an old, shabby, and peaceful town that is unruffled by politics. The stories set in this small town ring the sense of belongingness in the hearts of its readers. The familiar feeling that feels like home resonates with their soul. And teaches important life lessons to the readers through simple tales. Malgudi Days is one of the books that every Indian child should read. The book is a compilation of 32 short stories that paint a beautiful picture of small-town in India around the '60s and '70s
R. K. Narayan, one of the most well-known and popular writers within India and outside India is the creator of this town and the occurrences of this town. The stories follow the characters Swami and his friends through their everyday lives. Be it the story of fake astrologers who scam and loot the people by his cleverness, or the story of a blind beggar and his dog where the money blinded the man with greed; each story has a lesson to learn, morals and values hidden in it. As the stories are simple, easy to understand yet heart-touching it makes it easy for the kids to connect with each character and imagine the story as if the reader themselves were the protagonist of the story. In simple words, we can say that R.K. Narayan simply told stories of ordinary people trying to live their simple lives in a changing world.
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As written during the Indian Independence movements and finally published in 1943. The stories in the Malgudi days beautifully encapsulated the transitioning milieu of the British era to post-Independence India. Each of the stories portrays a facet of life in Malgudi and simultaneously a life in an Indian town. R.K. Narayan was one of the first writers who pioneered Indian writings in the English language and the book was later republished outside India in 1982 by Penguin Classics. Thus, the book enjoyed a worldwide audience. The New York Times even described the virtue of the book as "everyone in the book seems to have a capacity for responding to the quality of his particular hour. It's an art we need to study and revive."
The beautiful storytelling of the book was assisted by beautiful illustrations allowing the children to let their imagination teleport them to the world of Malgudi. All the illustrations in the book were illustrated by the world-renowned cartoonist, R.K. Laxman who is also R.K. Narayan's younger brother. The illustrations complimented the scenes from the stories and excited the children, keeping them engaged in reading the book for hours.
The illustrations complimented the scenes from the stories.Pixabay
The short stories from Malgudi Days were later adapted into a television adaptation in 1986. This show was directed by actor and director Shankar Nag. It was filmed both in Hindi and English, containing 54 episodes and the first 13 episodes respectively. Later the series was revived for additional 15 episodes. The show featured several popular celebrities from the Kannada film industry of those days – Girish Karnad, Vishnuvardhan, Ananth Nag, Arundhati Nag and Vaishali Kasaravalli, to name a few. The series was premiered on the Doordarshan channel and became the window into the town Malgudi for many. The show did not only excel in its storyline the TV adaptation elevated the storytelling as the show was technically very sound and stood out in its fantastic detailing in terms of locations and sets. With the cinematography being creative The Malgudi days- TV series once again warmed the hearts of both young ones and adults.
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Malgudi- our childhood home
Malgudi days hold a special place in the hearts of whoever has read the book as a child. With the detailed descriptions of the town and stories one almost gets a feeling that they've visited the place themselves. The characters, Swami and his friends feel like they were all readers' childhood friends. The surreal feeling of being home in the world of Malgudi. The world of Malgudi is intimate, warm, lifelike, and engaging. The setting is modern, and the life portrayed in these stories is contemporary. Still, there is an old-time air about It. R K Narayan once described Malgudi as "Malgudi is where we all belong, and where we wish we lived."
Keywords: Malgudi days, Malgudi, R K Narayan, R K Laxman, storytelling, our childhood home Malgudi
Cinema and movie making is constantly changing, and the result is in front of us we've come a long way from silent black and white short movies to high definition, colour, 5-D movies. It has evolved for the last 108 years and continues to grow. India's first auteur-filmmaker Dhundiraj Govind Phalke popularly known as Dadasahen Phalke directed and produced India's first feature film Raja Harishchandra which was a hundred per cent made by the Indian crew. The movie was released in Bombay's (Mumbai) Coronation Theatre on the 3rd of May 1913 under the label of being India's first home production, full-length film.
Raja Harishchandra was the first to be 'acted, directed and produced by an all-Indian team. Phalke's inspiration to make a "Swadeshi" movie comes from when he viewed the silent movie, "The Life of Christ" in 1911. He wrote in Navayug, November 1917 that While the Life of Christ was rolling fast before my physical eyes, I was mentally visualizing the gods, Shri Krishna, Shri Ramachandra, their Gokul and Ayodhya… He wanted to feel the connection with the movies but that connection failed to form as the context of the movie was foreign.
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Phalke went to London the very next year to learn about filmmaking techniques. He even imported the hardware required for filmmaking to India from England, France, Germany, and the United States of America. Upon his return to India, he founded Phalke Films Company. Phalke published classified in various newspapers for the cast and crew to apply, what's unique about the film was that even the female roles were played by male actors this happened as no women were available for the role.
Phalke was a one-man crew for the production, he was in charge of writing script, direction, production design, make-up, film editing along with film processing. The filming of the whole movie took six months and 27 days.
The female roles were played by male actors in the movieWikimedia Commons
As the name itself suggests the film closely follows the story of Satyavadi Raja Harishchandra from the Vedas who is known to be the epitome of truth as maharishi Vishvamitra makes him go through numerous torturous tests to prove himself.
The story goes as Raja (King) Harishchandra was teaching his son, Rohitashva how to shoot with a bow and arrow as Queen Taramati watches over her son and husband. Later the people of the Kingdom request the king to go on a hunting expedition as the animals have been creating havoc. While on the hunt, Harishchandra hears the cries of some women. Upon following the voice Harishchnadra discovers the sage Vishwamitra was performing a yajna to get help from Triguna Shakti (three powers) against their will. After witnessing the sight Harishchandra revolts and interrupts the sage, which infuriates the egoistic sage. To calm his wrath Harishchandra offers to sacrifice his kingdom to the sage. He informs his queen of the events and the family is exiled from the kingdom by Vishvamitra. The sage asks the poor king for Dakshina within the time period of 48 days. While in exile Rohitashva meets his demise, the king asks his wife to visit Dom king in the hope of free cremation only to face more difficulties on the path Vishvamitra frames her for the murder of the prince of Kashi. Taramati faces trial, pleads guilty and is ordered to be beheaded by Harishchandra. With a torn heart but as he could not turn away from his duty, the king raises his sword to behead his wife, Lord Shiva appears, and it is revealed that all the difficulties they have been going throw were the tests laid down by Vishvamitra to test the integrity of the king, Harishchandra gets back his kingdom, his son is brought back to life and the movie ends.
A legacy of the century
Only a handful of "firsts/indigenous" movies made in India have survived the century. Raja Harishchandra being one of them still holds the same meaning and inspiration for its audience as it did a century ago. Film historian Firoze Rangoonwalla describes the film's impact on the public as "a wide impression and appealed to a large audience in different places" and its box office success provided "the seal of acceptance and laid the foundation of the film industry" in the country.
The debate over whether Raja Harishchandra is truly the first full-length Indian feature film has been argued over for decades. Some film historians claim that Shree Pundalik by Dadasaheb Torne was released in the same theatre a year before Raja Harishchandra was the maiden Indian Film. However, other historians differ they argue that Shree Pundalik is a simple cinematographic recording filmed by a British cameraman on a single fixed camera, and later processed in London. On the other hand, Raja Harishchandra was completely made in India, from cameraman to final editing of the movie. Thus, it has recognition from the government of India as the first Indian feature film.
Keywords: Filmmaking, India's first feature film, Raja Harishchandra, Dadasaheb Phalke, filmmakers in India