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Tricolor of India
The Republic of India is a large South Asian country rich in ethnic diversity,with over one billion people speaking hundreds of languages. Politically it is the world’s largest liberal democracy. The Indian economy is the fourth largest in the world, in terms of purchasing power parity, and is the world’s second-fastest growing economy. India is also the second most populated country in the world. India has grown significantly, in terms of both population and strategic importance, in the last twenty years attributed to economic reforms.
Strategically located in Asia,constituting most of the Indian subcontinent,India straddles many busy trade routes. It shares its borders with Pakistan,the People’s Republic of China,Myanmar,Bangladesh,Nepal,Bhutan and Afghanistan.Sri Lanka,the Maldives and Indonesia are the nearby island nations in the Indian Ocean. Home to some of the most ancient civilisations in the world, India was formally ruled by the British for almost ninety years before gaining independence in 1947.
Origin of India’s name: The official name India is derived from Sindhu, the historic local appellation for the river Indus and is the most internationally recognisable of the country. The Constitution of India and general usage also recognises Bharat as the other official name of equal status. Bharat comes from the name of an ancient Hindu king and means seeker of knowledge. The third name is Hindustan, meaning land of the Hindus (where Hindu refers to those who dwell to the right of the Indus/Sindhu river) used from the Mughal times onwards.
India,a sub-continent with 5000 year old History. A civilization united by its diversity,richness of culture,the glory of past,the turbulences and triumphs. The landmarks of each era,the achievements of a change,the legacy of a regime. As we walk through the history,India is an amazing discovery and its history is a unique tale of the past.
With the arrival of the Portuguese, French and English traders, advantage was taken of the fractured, debilitate kingdoms to colonise India. In 1857, an insurrection amongst the army sepoys ensued in the popular Revolt of 1857 against the powerful British East India Company; this mobilised resistance, though short-lasting, was caused by the widespread resentment against discriminatory policies of the British. After the revolt, the Indian independence movements started demanding complete independence. On August 15th, 1947, India was finally granted independence from British rule and became a secular republic.
January 26 (Republic Day of India): Republic Day is one of the greatest national celebrations observed throughout the country on January 26 every year. India became Republic on the 26th Jan, 1950. The country became a sovereign democratic republic with a written constitution and an elected parliament.
At the time of independence, although India was under British rule, there were 565 Princely States, big and small, ruled by powerful sovereigns who were protected by treaties of alliance with the British Crown. Without bringing them together, the fundamental unity of the country was not possible. This unification was accomplished by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, whose statesmanship helped to integrate the country into one nation. In a little less than 2 years, all the princely States became a part of the Republic of India.
It was on this date in 1927 that the Indian National Congress, then fighting its non-violent war for freedom, voted for complete independence as against ‘dominion status’. When members of the INC took the pledge to work towards a ‘sovereign democratic republic’ of India.
- Indian Constitution:
When India gained freedom from the British on August 15, 1947 there was the need to regulate the meaning of freedom.Therefore, to have a set of rules and regulations that would guide the nation, the Constituent Assembly met on December 9,1946.The Constituent Assembly was convened and appointed a committee with Dr. B.R.Ambedkar as Chairman to draft the Constitution.
Borrowing from the Constitutions of other countries, for example, the parliamentary form of government from Britain, supremacy of judiciary from the United States, federal system with a strong centre from Canada, directive principles of state policy from Ireland, the idea of concurrent powers and co-operative federalism from Australia, the system of procedure established by law from Japan, the Indian Constitution is an amalgam of all these.
The Indian Constitution, the longest in the world, consist 397 articles and 12 schedules which provides for a single citizenship for the whole of India.The constitution of India was originally written in English It gives the right to vote to all citizens of 18 years and above, unless they are disqualified. Fundamental rights are guaranteed to the citizens, equality of religion and so on.
National motto: Satyameva Jayate (In sanskrit it means Always Truth Alone Triumphs)
- The Great Indian Flag:This is an ancient Indian symbol associated with the powers and changes of nature.
- Officially, the Orange color stands for Courage and sacrifice.
- The White color signifies Peace and truth.
- While Green symbolises Faith and Chivalry.
It is the duty of every Citizen to realise the significance of our flag and pay the honour and respect its commands.
- Official language: Hindi,English
Having being declared a Democratic Republic, the people starting governing themselves according to the Constitution written by the Constituent Assembly. With this, Republic Day became the most important day in the history of India. It is therefore natural that the festivities for the day are a lot more elaborate than that for Independence Day.
The Republic Day Parade
The parade showcasing India’s military might and cultural diversity covers an eight-km route, starting from the Rashtrapathi Bhavan through the picturesque Rajpath down to India Gate before winding up at the historic Red Fort in Old Delhi.
The events of the day begin with the Prime Minister laying a wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti (at India Gate).He meets the dignitaries present and unfurls the National Flag.Following the unfurling the National Anthem is played to a 21-gun salute.
After this a brief investiture ceremony takes place during which the President awards India’s top gallantry awards – Param Veer Chakra, Veer Chakra and Maha Veer Chakra. In army these are known as the most prestigious awards for bravery for saving their motherland from the enemy of our country.
Indian struggle continues till now…
After independence,India has fought four wars with its neighbours. From 1975 to 1977, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared a “State of Emergency in India”, thereby freezing civil rights and detaining civilians without trial. Sikh riots in 1984 resulted in religious strife in much of India.
Also the destruction of the Babri Masjid in 1992 resulted in religious strife in much of India. In the desert town of Pokhran, in 1998, the Indian government exploded five nuclear warheads, confirming India’s nuclear status. In 1999, India mobilised its military in Kargil, Kashmir to repel Islamist terrorists who, under the auspices of the Pakistani government, were encroaching upon Indian territory.
(source:http://www.indiabook.com/india-information/republic-india.html)Continue reading →
- Indian Constitution:
The old and frail Pope lay dying in the hospital. For years he had faithfully served the people of the world. He motioned for his nurse to come near. “Yes, Father?” said the nurse. “I would really like to see Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif before I die, whispered the
“I’ll see what I can do, Father,” replied the nurse. The nurse sent the request to them and waited for a response. Soon the word arrived.
Zardari and Nawaz Sharif would be delighted to visit the Pope. As they went to the hospital, Nawaz commented to Zardari “I don’t
know why the old man wants to see us, but it will certainly help our image.
Zardari couldn’t help but agree. When they arrived at the Pope’s room, the Pope took Zardari s hand in his right hand and Nawaz Sharif’s hand in his left. There was silence and a look of serenity on the old Pope s.
Finally Nawaz spoke. “Holy Father, of all the people you could have chosen, why did you choose us to be with you as you near the end?”
The old Pope slowly replied “I have always tried to pattern my life after our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” The old priest continued…
“He died between two lying thieves. I would like to do the same.”
(contributed by : Mohan Rao on 08.02.2012)Continue reading →
Hanuman, the mighty ape that aided Lord Rama in his expedition against evil forces, is one of the most popular idols in the Hindu pantheon. Believed to be an avatar of Lord Shiva, Hanuman is worshiped as a symbol of physical strength, perseverance and devotion. Hanuman’s tale in the epic Ramayana – where he is assigned the responsibility to locate Rama’s wife Sita abducted by Ravana, the demon king of Lanka — is known for its astounding ability to inspire and equip a reader with all the ingredients needed to face ordeals and conquer obstructions in the way of the world.
The Necessity of a Simian Symbol
Hindus believe in ten avatars of Lord Vishnu among a multitude of gods and goddesses. One of Vishnu’s avatars is Rama, who was created to destroy Ravana, the evil ruler of Lanka. In order to aid Rama, Lord Brahmacommanded some gods and goddesses to take the avatar of ‘Vanaras’ or monkeys. Indra, the god of war and weather, was reincarnated as Bali; Surya, the sun god as Sugriva; Vrihaspati, the preceptor of the gods, as Tara, and Pavana, the god of wind, was reborn as Hanuman, the wisest, swiftest and strongest of all apes.
The Birth of Hanuman
The story of the birth of Hanuman goes thus: Vrihaspati had an attendant called Punjikasthala, who was cursed to assume the form of a female monkey — a curse that could only be nullified if she would give birth to an incarnation of Lord Shiva. Reborn as Anjana, she performed intense austerities to please Shiva, who finally granted her the boon that would cure her of the curse.When Agni, the god of fire, gave Dasharath, the king of Ayodhya, a bowl of sacred dessert to share among his wives so they may have divine children, an eagle snatched a part of the pudding and dropped it where Anjana was meditating, and Pavana, the god of wind delivered the drop to her outstretched hands. After she took the divine dessert, she gave birth to Hanuman. Thus Lord Shiva incarnated as a monkey, and was born as Hanuman to Anjana, by the blessings of Pavana, who thus became Hanuman’s godfather.
The birth of Hanuman released Anjana from the curse. Before she returned to heaven, Hanuman asked his mother about his life ahead. She assured him that he would never die, and said that fruits as ripe as the rising sun would be his food. Mistaking the glowing sun as his food, the divine baby leapt for it. Indra struck him with his thunderbolt and hurled him down to earth. But Hanuman’s godfather, Pavana carried him to the nether world or ‘Patala’. As he departed from the earth, all life panted for air, and Brahma had to beg him to return. In order to appease him they conferred a lot of boons and blessings on his foster child that made Hanuman invincible, immortal and super powerful.
Hanuman selected Surya, the sun god as his preceptor, and approached him with the request to teach the scriptures. Surya agreed and Hanuman became his disciple, but had to face his constantly moving guru by traversing the sky backwards at equal pace, while taking his lessons. Hanuman’s phenomenal concentration took him only 60 hours to master the scriptures. Surya considered the manner in which Hanuman accomplished his studies as his tuition fees, but when Hanuman requested him to accept something more than that, the sun god asked Hanuman to assist his son Sugriva, by being his minister and compatriot.
Worshiping the Monkey God
On Tuesdays and in some cases, Saturdays, many people keep fast in honour of Hanuman and give special offerings to him. In times of trouble, it is a common faith among Hindus to chant the name of Hanuman or sing his hymn (“Hanuman Chalisa“) and proclaim “Bajrangbali Ki Jai” — “victory to thy thunderbolt strength”. Once every year — on the full-moon day of the Hindu month of Chaitra (April) at sunrise — Hanuman Jayanti is celebrated to commemorate the birth of Hanuman. Hanuman temples are among the most common public shrines found in India.
The Power of Devotion
The character of Hanuman teaches us of the unlimited power that lies unused within each one of us. Hanuman directed all his energies towards the worship of Lord Rama, and his undying devotion made him such that he became free from all physical fatigue. And Hanuman’s only desire was to go on serving Rama. Hanuman perfectly exemplifies ‘Dasyabhava’ devotion — one of the nine types of devotions — that bonds the master and the servant. His greatness lies in his complete merger with his Lord, which also formed the base of his genial qualities.It is hard to find a mythical character who is at once so powerful, learned, philosophic, humble and amusing! Hanuman features prominently in the great epics of Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
Hanuman Meets Rama
Hanuman met Ramaand his brother Lakshmana while Rama was in exile in the jungle, and searching for his wife Sita who was abducted by Ravana. Their quest brought them near Pampa Lake at the foot of Mount Risyamukha, where the monkey king Sugriva and his ministers were hiding. Sugriva, who was being persecuted by his brother Bali, suspected that Rama and Lakshmana might have been sent by Bali to slay him. To find out the facts, Hanuman approached them in the guise of a Brahmin.
In Service of Rama
Hanuman’s initial words highly impressed Rama, and made him comment: “None can talk this way without mastering the Vedas. He has such a flawless countenance, a wonderful accent, and a captivating way of speaking. He has the ability to move even an enemy…” After he revealed his identity as the prince of Ayodhya, Hanuman fell prostrate before him in respect of the Lord. Rama picked him up and embraced him. There began the story of Hanuman, which is inextricably interwoven with Rama, and dealt with in detail in Valmiki’s Ramayana and the Tulsidas’ Ramacharitamanas.
To cut the long story of Hanuman short, he then introduced Rama to Sugriva, and began his massive search for Sita. Finding out her whereabouts, he consoled Sita, and burnt down the city of Lanka. Hanuman then brought Rama to Lanka, fought the battle against Ravana with his simian army, and vanquished the demons. Hanuman’s greatest feat was saving the life of Lakshmana by fetching the life-giving herb “Sanjivani” from the Himalayas. He flew fast towards the Himalayas, but unable to recognise the right herb, picked up the whole mountain on his hand and flew back to Lanka, just in time to save Lakshmana. Thereafter Hanuman served Rama forever.
Hanuman and the Pandavas
The venerable ape also features in the great epic Mahabharata. How Hanuman met the valiant Bhima, one of the Pandava brothers is itself a marvelous tale. He recognized Bhima as his spiritual brother, since both were born with the blessings of Pavana, the Wind God, and promised to aid the Pandavas in the big battle of Kurukshetra. Hanuman positioned himself in the flag of Arjuna’s chariot to secure and stabilize the war-craft. The triangular saffron flag of Hanuman stands for stability and equilibrium, sense-control and mind-control, and a sure sign of victory over all that is base and evil.(source:http://hinduism.about.com/od/lordhanuman/a/hanuman.htm)Continue reading →
Raksha Bandhan (Hindi: रक्षाबंधन, Punjabi: ਰਕਸ਼ਾਬੰਧਨ, Urdu: رکشا بندھن the bond of protection), or Rakhi (Hindi: राखी, Punjabi: ਰਾਖੀ, Urdu: راکھی), is a festival primarily observed in India, which celebrates the relationship between brothers and sisters. The festival is observed by Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims. The central ceremony involves the tying of a rakhi (sacred thread) by a sister on her brother’s wrist. This symbolizes the sister’s love and prayers for her brother’s well-being, and the brother’s lifelong vow to protect her. The festival falls on the full moon day (Shravan Poornima) of the Shravan month of the Hindu lunisolar calendar. It grew in popularity after Rani Karnavati, the widowed queen of Chittor, sent a rakhi to the Mughal emperor Humayun when she required his help.
The festival is marked by the tying of a rakhi, or holy thread, by the sister on the wrist of her brother. The brother in return offers a gift to his sister and vows to look after her as she presents sweets to her brother. The brother and sister traditionally feed one another sweets. Since North Indian kinship practices give cousins a status similar to siblings, girls and women often tie the rakhi to their male cousins as well (referred to as cousin-brothers in regional parlance) in several communities. Unrelated boys and men who are considered to be brothers (munh-bola bhai or adopted brothers) can also be tied rakhis, provided they commit to a lifelong obligation to provide protection to the woman or girl.
Historical occurrences and mentions
The tale of the deity Santoshi Mata, and the narrative of her creation on Raksha Bandhan day, was popularized in the 1975 Bollywood blockbuster Jai Santoshi Maa. Ganesh had two sons, Shubh and Labh. On Raksha Bandhan, Ganesh’s sister visited and tied a rakhi on Ganesh’s wrist. Feeling deprived, the sons immediately began pressing Ganesh and his two wives, Riddhi and Siddhi, for a sister. Finally, Ganesh conceded the demand and Santoshi Ma (literally the Mother Goddess of Satisfaction) was created by divine flames that emerged from Riddhi and Siddhi.
Krishna and Draupadi
Another incident is from the epic Mahabharat and concerns Krishna and Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas. She had once torn a strip of silk off her sari and tied it around Krishna’s wrist to staunch the bleeding from a battlefield wound. Krishna was touched by her action and declared her to be his sister, even though they were unrelated. He promised to repay the debt and then spent the next 25 years doing just that. Draupadi, in spite of being married to 5 great warriors and being a daughter of a powerful monarch, trusted and depended wholly on Krishna. Krishna repaid the debt of love during the “Cheer-Haran” (literally “clothing-robbing”) of Draupadi, which occurred in the assembly of King Dhritarashtra when Yudhisthira lost her to the Kauravas in gambling. At that time, Krishna indefinitely extended her saree through divine intervention, so it could not be removed, to save her honor. This is how he honored his rakhi-vow towards Draupadi.
King Bali and Goddess Laxmi
According to a legend the Demon King Bali was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu had taken up the task to guard his kingdom leaving his own abode in Vaikunth. Goddess Lakshmi wished to be with her lord back in her abode. She went to Bali disguised as a woman to seek refuge till her husband came back.
During the Shravan Purnima celebrations, Lakshmi tied the sacred thread to the King. Upon being asked, she revealed who she was and why she was there. The king was touched by her goodwill for his family and her purpose and requested the Lord to accompany her. He sacrificed all he had for the Lord and his devoted wife.
Thus the festival is also called Baleva that is Bali Raja’s devotion to the Lord. It is said that since then it has been a tradition to invite sisters in Shravan Purnima for the thread tying ceremony or the Raksha Bandhan.
Yama and the Yamuna
According to another legend, Raksha Bandhan was a ritual followed by Lord Yama (the Lord of Death) and his sister Yamuna, (the river in northern India). Yamuna tied rakhi to Yama and bestowed immortality. Yama was so moved by the serenity of the occasion that he declared that whoever gets a rakhi tied from his sister and promised her protection, will become immortal.
Alexander the Great and King Puru
According to one legendary narrative, when Alexander the Great invaded India in 326 BC, Roxana (or Roshanak, his wife) sent a sacred thread to Porus, asking him not to harm her husband in battle. In accordance with tradition, Porus a Katoch king gave full respect to the rakhi. On the battlefield, when Porus was about to deliver a final blow to Alexander, he saw the rakhi on his own wrist and restrained himself from attacking Alexander personally.
Rani Karnavati and Emperor Humayun
A popular narrative that is centered around Rakhi is that of Rani Karnavati of Chittor and Mughal Emperor Humayun, which dates to 1535 CE. When Rani Karnavati, the widowed queen of the king of Chittor, realised that she could not defend against the invasion by the Sultan of Gujarat, Bahadur Shah, she sent a Rakhi to Emperor Humayun. Touched, the Emperor immediately set off with his troops to defend Chittor. Humayun arrived too late, and Bahadur Shah managed to sack the Rani’s fortress. Karnavati, along with a reported 13,000 other women in the fortress, carried out Jauhar on March 8, 1535, killing themselves to avoid dishonor while the men threw the gates open and rode out on a suicidal charge against Bahadur Shah’s troops. When he reached Chittor, Humayun evicted Bahadur Shah from fort and restored the kingdom to Karnavati’s son, Vikramjit Singh. Although contemporary commentators and memoirs do not mention the Rakhi episode and some historians have expressed skepticism about it, it is mentioned in one mid-seventeenth century Rajasthani account.
(source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raksha_Bandhan)Continue reading →