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Marking a new chapter for tourists, the Maharashtra government will throw open important prisons in the state for ‘jail tourism’, starting this Republic Day on January 26 with the historic 150-year-old Yerwada Central Jail in Pune.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray will inaugurate the initiative on Republic Day in the presence of Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and other top officials, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh announced on Saturday.
“This is the first phase of ‘jail tourism’ Later, it will be extended to other prisons like Nagpur, Nashik, Thane, Ratnagiri, etc. A small fee of Rs 5 for school students, Rs 10 for collegians and Rs 50 for general tourists shall be levied,” Deshmukh said.
Built by the British in 1871, parts of the high-security Yerwada Central Jail – spread across lush greenery of 512 acres, the largest in South Asia – will be opened for tourists, students, researchers and others to go around and study various aspects of the old prison deeply linked with India’s freedom struggle.
Pune’s human rights lawyer Asim Sarode welcomed the move and said it should be implemented with full security protocols for all concerned so that the tourists can get a feel of the jail without disturbing the inmates.
Earlier, the Cellular Jail in Andaman & Nicobar Islands, infamous as ‘Kala Paani’ and Fort Aguada Jail in Goa – both sea-facing – were among the major prisons where tourism has been allowed, besides the Sangareddy Central Jail, Telangana, which permits a 24-hour paid stay with full ‘jail-comforts’ for tourists.
Accessible through an imposing fortress-like entrance, with a tall foyer on which the Tricolour flutters, the Yerwada Central Jail Pune complex is secured by four high walls to prevent any adventurous escapes.
The prison areas are sub-divided as per security zones and barracks for the roughly 5,000 inmates, and there are ultra-secure 10 ‘Anda Cells’ (oval cells) for isolating the most heinous criminals and terrorists.
It has a ‘Kishore Wing’ for prisoners in 18-21 age-group where the young incarcerated inmates are given education or skills to keep them off crime after their release, and a 300-capacity Female Jail where the inmates get various types of vocational training.
Outside Yerwada Central Jail is the Open Jail where inmates with minimum five years of very good behaviour are permitted limited freedom, with basic security as per the jail norms.
The prisoners’ white uniforms are ‘colour-coded’ – Yellow Bands for those representing their groups/barracks, Violet Bands for those working as volunteers and Red Band for those who made failed escape attempts.
The Yerwada Central Jail also has the historic ‘Gandhi Ward’ where Gandhiji spent years as a political prisoner, now vacant, but with a ‘Charkha’ and his signed documents, besides other documents signed by other prominent personalities of the freedom movement.
The jail has a ‘Mulakat Kaksh’ (Meeting Room), a radio station where popular numbers are played and once incarcerated Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt even served as its radio jockey, important festivals are celebrated jointly like Republic Day and Independence Day, along with Rakshabandhan, Diwali, Eid, Makar Sankranti and Gandhi Jayanti, and an annual ‘Prison Panchayat’ is also held.
Education, which is now compulsory for all inmates across jails includes courses in English, Hindi or Sanskrit with periodic examinations, besides vocational training in computers, carpentry, tailoring, soap-making, footwear, farming, etc, and the proceeds of the products sold outside get distributed among the inmates, and for recreation a library, games room, gym, yoga centre, etc.
The sprawling prison canteen prepares food for all, ensuring the menu is not repeated in a week, and on special occasions, biryanis or ‘puran-polis’ are served, a jail hospital where all treatment barring surgeries are available, besides a welfare fund was created out of the profits from the canteen or the jail industry centre.
Among the legendary historic figures who spent time here include Mahatma Gandhi, Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Sarojini Naidu, Lokmanya Tilak and Joachim Alva.
During the Emergency, notables who were jailed included Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Pramila Dandawate, Balasaheb Deoras, and Vasant Nargolkar.
More recently, Anna Hazare, Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt, scamster Abul Karim Telgi and ex-mafia don Arun Gawli also were lodged here on various occasions.
In his 18-month stint starting January 1932, Gandhiji launched an indefinite hunger strike to protest the Communal Award for separate seats for depressed classes by then British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald.
This culminated in the famed ‘Poona Pact’ signed by Gandhiji, Dr B.R. Ambedkar – the architect of the Indian Constitution – and Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, in September 1932.
Gandhiji again spent some time at Yerwada Central Jail in 1942 and also in Pune’s Aga Khan Palace, from where he was released on medical grounds.
The Yerwada Central Jail also saw some instances of criminals getting the noose – notably the May 1899 hangings of the Chaphekar brothers – Balkrishna, Vasudev and Ranade – for killing British Plague Commissioner in Pune, W.C. Rand, in 1897, soon after the diamond jubilee celebrations of Queen Victoria’s coronation.
In October 1992, Sukhdev Singh Saini and Harjinder Singh Jinda – the killers of Indian Army chief Gen A.S. Vaidya – were hanged on the same day.
Much later, in November 2012, Ajmal Kasab, the sole surviving terrorist of the Mumbai terror strikes of November 2008, also was sent to the gallows. (IANS)
Diwali is arguably one of the most auspicious and celebrated holidays in South Asia. It is celebrated over the span of five days, where the third is considered most important and known as Diwali. During Diwali people come together to light, lamps, and diyas, savour sweet delicacies and pray to the lord. The day has various origin stories with the main them being the victory of good over evil. While the North celebrates the return of Lord Rama and Devi Sita to Ayodhya, the South rejoices in the victory of Lord Krishna and his consort Satyabhama over evil Narakasura.
Narakasura- The great mythical demon King
Naraka or Narakasur was the son of Bhudevi (Goddess Earth) and fathered either by the Varaha incarnation of Vishnu or Hiranyaksha. He grew to be a powerful demon king and became the legendary progenitor of all three dynasties of Pragjyotisha-Kamarupa, and the founding ruler of the legendary Bhauma dynasty of Pragjyotisha.
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Narakasura was created, grew up to be strong and powerful but he was not satisfied with it, so he decided that he would worship Lord Brahma. He performed severe penance and was driven by the power of his penance; Lord Brahma appeared before him. Narakasura knew his mother loved him dearly so he asked Lord Brahma to grant him a boon that he would only die by the hands of his mother, Bhumidevi. Lord Brahma smile and ultimately granted him the boon.
Narakasura burst out laughing as Lord Brahma vanished. He thought no mother would kill their child so Lord Brahma had made him immortal. Drunk and maddened by his own power Narakasura brought all the kingdoms under his control and targeted Swargalok (Heaven). Even Indra (King of Gods) and demi-gods had to retreat in front of Narakasura. He kidnapped and took 16,000 women from the palaces as prisoners. Troubled by Naraksura's deeds the gods rushed to Lord Vishnu for a solution.
Lord Krishna and Devi Satyabhama were born to kill Narakasura
Lord Vishnu was born as Lord Krishna and Narakasura's mother Bhumidevi took the avatar of Krishna's wife Satyabhama. As Satyabhama, Bhumidevi was unaware of the knowledge of Naraksura being her son. Aditi the mother of all gods approached Satyabhama crying for help with bloodied ears as Narakasura had torn off the glowing earrings from the ears of Aditi.
Satyabhama was furious on gaining the knowledge of Narakasura's atrocities she asked Krishna to fight the demon king while she fights alongside him. Krishna agreed and they attacked the great fortress of Narakasura, riding his mount Garuda with his wife Satyabhama.
The furious battle unleashed. Krishna defeated Narakasura's general Mura and came to be known as Murari (the killer of Mura). Narakasura used several divine weapons against Krishna, but Krishna slew all those weapons effortlessly. The demon hurled a shakti towards Krishna, which mildly hurt Krishna and he fell unconscious. Upon this sight Satyabhama was enraged, she furiously pulled out a weapon of her own and hurled it at Narakasura's chest. Anxious Satyabhama turned to her fallen Lord, Krishna got up with a smile and he was completely fine. He was only playing his part. It was Satyabhama who was an incarnation of Bhoomidevi, whose hands were destined to slay Narakasura.
ALSO READ: Choosing Environment-Friendly Diwali
Lord Krishna and Goddess Satyabhama had put an end to the Narakasura's kingdom of evil. As Narakasura lay on his deathbed he realised that Satyabhama was no one but an avatar of his own mother. He requested a boon from his mother, for no one to mourn his death. Instead, he wished for people to celebrate it with light and colours. They freed the 16,000 women who later married Lord Krishna to restore them of their honour in society, retrieved Mother goddess's earrings. This day is celebrated as 'Naraka Chaturdashi' popularly known as Choti Diwali - the day before Diwali as the triumph of good over evil.
Keywords: Diwali festival, goddess Laxmi, demon king, Lord Krishna, Satyabhama, the festival of light, Naraksura, Narak Chaturdashi
For all the great inventions that we have at hand, it is amazing how we keep going back to the safety pin every single time to fix everything. Be it tears in our clothes, to fix our broken things, to clean our teeth and nails when toothpicks are unavailable, to accessorize our clothes, and of course, as an integral part of the Indian saree. Safety pins are a must-have in our homes. But how did they come about at all?
The safety pin was invented at a time when brooches existed. They were used by the Greeks and Romans quite extensively. A man named Walter Hunt picked up a piece of brass and coiled it into the safety pin we know today. He did it just to pay off his debt. He even sold the patent rights of this seemingly insignificant invention just so that his debtors would leave him alone.
Anyone wearing safety pins that were visible began to be associated with the rock movement in the 70s. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Later, he even invented the sewing needles and a couple of other important inventions but never kept any of the patent rights.
When the punk rock tradition took over in the seventies, safety pins became a fashion rage. They were used as piercings and to patch clothes together. Anyone wearing safety pins that were visible began to be associated with the rock movement. In some cultures, the safety pins have become symbols of good luck.
Keywords: Safety-pins, Punk Rock, Brass, Accessories, Walter Hunt
In South India, Deepavali marks the end of the monsoon and heralds the start of winter. The festival is usually observed in the weeks following heavy rain, and just before the first cold spell in the peninsula. The light and laughter that comes with the almost week-long celebration are certainly warm to the bones, but there is still a tradition that the South Indians follow to ease their transition from humidity to the cold.
Just before the main festival, the family bathes in sesame oil. This tradition is called 'yellu yennai snaana' in Kannada, or 'ennai kuliyal' in Tamil, which translates to 'sesame oil bath'. The eldest member of the family applies three drops of heated oil on each member's head. They must massage this oil into their hair and body. The oil is allowed to soak in for a while, anywhere between twenty minutes to an hour. After this, they must wash with warm water before sunrise.
Women applying oil to the heads of men Photo credit: Indians in Kuwait
In some parts of the peninsula, soap is not used to wash off the oil because it nullifies its effects. Some cultures who do not like the oil to remain in any way on their skin wash it off with shikakai and herbs, which is a paste that is traditionally used as a substitute for soap. Sometimes, the oil is heated with flowers and spices as well and is less sticky than in its pure form.
The purpose of this ritual is to cleanse the body, detoxify it, and produce heat in it. Sesame is a very heaty substance and tends to heat up the body. This heat, or 'usshna' in Kannada, prepares the body to face the sudden cold that comes to the peninsula immediately after Diwali. South India has no smooth transition weather-wise from monsoon to winter. There are a few days of stable, rainless weather, and suddenly the cold winds descend.
In many ways, the celebration of Diwali is centered around preparing for winter, considering the amount of heat and light the rituals consist of – lighting lamps, bursting crackers, and consuming warm treats. Those who practice these rituals earnestly find the shift in seasons and weather quite pleasant.
Keyboards: Sesame Oil Bath, Diwali Ritual, Traditional Sesame Oil Bath