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Makar Sankranti : the eternal cycle

“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.”

Indian calendar is one long procession of festivals which are as varied in origin as large they are in number. Some celebrate return and victory of good over evil some the eternal cycle of seasons. Makar Sankranti is one of the many festivals which celebrates the eternal cycle of Sun’s northward (uttarayan) movement towards the northern hemisphere. Hence the festival is also known as Uttarayan in North India.

As Earth is slightly tilted on its axis, in winter months the northern hemisphere of Earth which includes India receives less sunlight which results in longer nights and shorter days.  However from the day of Makara Sankranti, days become longer and nights shorter, and it marks the tilt of northern hemisphere towards the Sun. Another belief is that on this auspicious day the Sun enters the zodiac Capricorn.

Generally Hindu festivals are characterised by fasting, prayer, worship, offerings to Gods accompanied by acts of piety and devotion. A festival in India is much more. It is cathartic in nature, and as means of purification, strengthens the spirit within. There is always a lesson much beyond the materialist celebrations and gala. They are lessons of finding enjoyment through renunciation and self-denial.

According to Hindu mythology and scriptures, it’s believed that dakshinayan movement is God’s night which is considered as the dark period and not an auspicious time, it’s marked as negative. But, uttarayan movement means God’s day which is very auspicious and very positive. Reiterating the saying that no sad winter last forever and no spring skips its turn.

This festival of Makar Sankranti  is also mentioned in Mahabharata as the Megha Mela. Also Bhishma Pitma chose to die after Makar Sankranti to attain moksha[1].

Many observers faithfully  go to sacred rivers or lakes and bathe in a ceremony of thanks to the sun. Every twelve years, the Hindus observe Makar Sankranti with Kumbha Mela[2] – one of the world’s largest mass pilgrimage, with an estimated 40 to 100 million people attending the event. At this event, they say a prayer to the sun and bathe at the Prayaga confluence of the River Ganga and River Yamuna, a tradition attributed to Adi Shankaracharya.

Interestingly other than the spiritual significance this festival is celebrated Pan India with some common elements showcasing the unity in diversity of India. One of the shared cultural practices found among various parts of India is making sticky, bound sweets particularly from sesame (til) and a sugar base such as jaggery (gud, gur). This type of sweet is a symbolism for age old values and common cultural elements in different states of India, despite many differences and large distance between them. For most parts of India, this period is a part of early stages of the Rabi crop and agricultural cycle, where crops have been sown and the hard work in the fields is mostly over. The time thus signifies a period of socializing and families enjoying each other’s company, taking care of the cattle, and celebrating around bonfires, in north India the festival is celebrated by flying kites.

One of the most special aspects of this festival is to do charity and help the needy and poor. People donate various items to the underprivileged like warm clothes, blankets, food, metal utensils and so on. For Hindus, donation is an important part of one’s religious duty as each person has the duty towards the society, towards the whole world and all the living beings, besides his own family. Animals and birds are also fed and worshipped for god luck and prosperity.

The Pan Indian festival  is known as Pedda Panduga in Andhra Pradesh, Makara Sankranti in Karnataka, Telangana and Maharashtra, Pongal in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, Magh Bihu in Assam, Magha Mela in parts of central and north India, as Makar Sankranti in the west, Maghara Valaku in Kerala, and by many  other names[3].

Ultimately this festival gives the lesson that change is eternal, discard the selfish sins and sorrows of previous winter and embrace the spring with a faith, love and kindness.


[2] Diana L. Eck (2013). India: A Sacred Geography. Random House. pp. 152–154

[3] J. Gordon Melton (2011). Religious Celebrations: An Encyclopedia of Holidays, Festivals, Solemn Observances, and Spiritual Commemorations. ABC-CLIO. pp. 547–548.


Presumption of innocence

“Too often we…enjoy the comfort of opinion without suffering the discomfort of thought”

John F Kennedy

In a world where falsehood flies and truth comes limping, it is human nature to make a swift opinion without even giving a thought. Nowadays if there is a crime, an arrest, we see a certain reported description of the suspect on television. We get relieved that police have caught the the right man. These days we never, never stop and say, Wait, that person is presumed to be innocent until held guilty and he/she is entitled to a fair trial. On the other hand we rush to judgement. It is the way our society and culture work these days. However we need to keep in mind that the criminal justice system of any country is the reflection of how it’s society functions.

Recently i read a light hearted novel named Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham. It is a book about a criminal defense lawyer who defends people other lawyers won’t go near: a drug-addled, tattooed kid rumored to be in a satanic cult; a vicious mobster on death row; a taxpaying homeowner arrested for shooting at a SWAT team that mistakenly invaded his house. Presumption of innocence is the main theme of the novel which continuously iterates the principle that an individual is always considered “innocent until proven guilty”.

Though the principle of innocence is not clearly mentioned in the The Code of Criminal Procedure of India, but there are provisions which work on this principle. Section 101 and 102 of the Indian evidence act, which assert that any person approaching the court to give its judgment on any legal right or liability must prove the existence of facts that he asserts. Thus, the burden of proving fact always lies upon the person who asserts it.

In the novel, i found various instances where law enforcement authorities got prejudiced and made assumption at their will and even made unlawful arrests and cover ups. These actions led to abuse of power, lack of accountability by police and end of justice. Today many people want swift trials and instant justice. However this leads to  conviction of accused persons on mere suspicion rather than proof. Sometimes it even leads to scapegoating of wrong person. It leads to an exploitative system in which innocent citizens get scared of law enforcement authorities. Finally society loses trust in police.

Today crime rates are very high and society requires deterrent laws. However principles of justice have to be upheld and law enforcement be made more accountable and corruption free. The common law maxim, “ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat “(the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies) needs to reiterated by courts for rule of law to prevail.

Constitution of India and Protection of Environment

In the past two decades, protecting the environment has emerged as one of the major challenge. Today people are more mindful towards the environmental degradation. Interestingly makers of the constitution were very conscious about the impact of ecology and environment on mankind way back in 1950. So today we will discuss how our 72 year old constitution deals with the issue of environmental protection.

evoke !

Constitution of India does not explicitly mentions the word ‘environment’. However the Indian constitution deals with every aspect of it saliently.

  • The constitution mandates in favour of equitable development in consonance with sustainable development.
  • Chapter on Fundamental duties provides duties to state as well as citizens to protect environment and to conserve natural resources of the country.
  • Constitution of India, article 51A (9), says ‘to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures’.
  • Article 48A, incorporated in chapter IV (Directive Principles) of the Constitution through Constitution Amendment Act 1976, prescribes responsibility on the State to preserve environment of this ancient land.
  • The Constitution also deals with certain environment related problems like-
  • ‘public health’(article 47),
  • ‘organisation of agriculture and animal husbandry’(article 48)
  • ‘protection of monuments and places and objects of national importance’(article 49)
  • The procedural features of the constitution pertaining to environment are envisaged in Article 252 and 253 of the Constitution.
  • These provisions authorise the Union Government to adopt legislation at request of two or more states.
  • Article 253 authorises Union Government to claim competence over subjects in the state list in order to implement a decision taken by an international organisation or a decleration adopted in international conference.
  • This provision was invoked in 1981, when the Union Government adopted the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981.

From the above data we must understand that makers of the constitution were wise enough to understand relation between environment and man. In today’s trying times the wisdom of old needs to be evoked again to deal with challenge of climate change.

Right to wholesome environment comes under right to life

Pandora Papers

What are Pandora Papers?

On Sunday International Consortium of Investigative Journalists published a trove of nearly 12 million documents purportedly throwing light on the allegedly ill-gotten, wealth of the elite all over the world including at least 380 Indians. The Pandora Papers reveal how the rich, the famous, set up complex multi-layered trust structures for estate planning, in jurisdictions that are loosely regulated for tax purposes like Panama, Dubai, Monaco, Switzerland

Papers expose offshore assests of 330 politicians of more than 90 countries

The names include people in Russian president Vladimir Putin’s inner circle to close aides and financial backers of Pakistan PM Imran Khan. According to BBC reports former British PM Tony Blair was also named in Pandora Papers.

Prominent Indians such as Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Ambani, and Nirav Modi’s sister also figure in the papers. However the cricket player’s investment is legitimate and has been declared to tax authorities.

International Consortium Of Investigative Journalists

It is a unique organization. A U.S.-based non-profit, they are both a small, resourceful newsroom with an independent reporting team, as well as a global network of reporters and media organizations who work together to investigate the most important cover-ups in the world.

Some of their important data publications are –

  • Offshore banking series
  • Panama Papers
  • Paradise Papers
  • Pandora Papers
  • FinCEN Files


Power of Altruism: Gift of magi

“Here is the butter; where are your gifts?” – Rig Veda

Ritual sacrifice to Agni

Why do human beings gift each other? Is the art of receiving and sending gifts just an obligation? Why is this irrational practice still followed by this cold inhumane modern world? There are instances when the bond made by gifts is ruthlessly broken and all the efforts made by a man forgotten in an instant. Gifts are traded since childhood. Children are taught that to get something one has to give something in return. So is gifting becoming a trading practice? Why do we gift someone just to impress them or is there more to the gift. Some will say it varies from case to case. However, today gifts have become a tradition a show of status.

Gifting becoming a trade

Since the dawn of human civilization, we can see sacrifices being made sometimes out of pure devotion to the almighty, sometimes to gain something from the Gods. Sometimes to wish ill of someone. There are so many intentions, emotions behind doing something for others. So why do humans sacrifice for each other?

Recently I read a very interesting story about gifts, a story which . It is a story written by famous American writer O. Henry titled ‘’Gift of magi’’

Gift of Magi by Henry

Power of Altruism: Gift of magi

Della is a devoted young married woman. On Christmas Eve she finds that she has only one dollar and eighty-seven cents as savings to buy a gift for her husband, Jim aka James Dillingham young. In the story, we are shown that they are in tough financial conditions and are living at a bare minimum.
As we move further we find Della determined to gift something valuable to Jim. However, she does not have enough money even after a vigorous reduction in the expenses for the family for this special occasion.
Della is struggling to find a solution to her problem. Her sense of altruism gives her a beautiful yet selfless idea of selling her beautiful hair. O henry has compared Della s hair to Queen Sheba s jewels and gifts.

Della’s hair

After that, Della starts searching for the perfect present for Jim. She does a hard attempt to find a suitable gift, but she was disappointed due to not finding a suitable one. Then she remembers Jim’s most treasured possession, which is his grandfather’s gold watch. But Jim has to tie a leather strap to the watch as its original chain broke. Therefore she decides to buy the strip, as it will be precisely a suitable gift for him. She moves to many shops and looking for just the right watch chain. Finally, she finds a handsome, platinum fob chain. Its cost was 21 dollars. Della buys it and is satisfied with its simple and plain pure platinum design which resembled the quietness and value of Jim.

Jim’ s gold watch

At the flat, Della is worrying that Jim might not find her attractive without her hair as earlier. So, she spends the rest of the evening making her hair more presentable as much as possible. Then she prepares the dinner. Jim comes back home on the daily routine time. As soon as he sees Della without her long, beautiful hair, he stops shockingly. Della is clueless that what to make of his reaction. He is neither angry nor sad, just looking as surprised and confused. When Della questions him about the gift, Jim gives her the gift and tells her that it is his Christmas present to her and she can understand his reaction only after seeing the gift. She opens it and finds that it contains a set of tortoiseshell combs. Those were the same combs Della saw at Broadway Street, beautiful, expensive, and magical. He had bought this gift for her beautiful hair, and now she had no hair to put them in.

Victorian era tortoiseshell comb

Then Della gives her gift to him to cheer him up. But, now it is the turn of Della for a surprise. The gift for Jim now has no use for him. Jim tells her that in order to arrange enough money to buy the combs; he had to sell his gold watch. After that, Jim smiles and tells her that they should keep the gifts with them to remind them about the love which exists between them for each other.
In end, they are compared to the magi, who brought wise gifts for baby Jesus they invented the art of Christmas presents. However, the author says –‘and here I have lamely related the uneventful tale of two foolish children in a flat who unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasure of their house ’
But in last the O Henry says that Of all who give gifts and receive gifts, such as they are the wisest. They are the magi.

Joy of giving

This story is a deep commentary on human behavior and altruism. It answers why we gift, why we sacrifice for others. What are we without are social traditions
What are without bonds over gifts?
What are we without concern for others?
Our concern for others is what defines us

So we come back to the same question from Rig Veda
‘Here is your butter, where are the gifts ?’
in giving it is not merely an object that is passed on but a part of the giver, so that a firm bond is forged. The owner’s mana (emotion, feelings) is conveyed to the object, and, when the object is given away, the new owner shares in this mana (feelings, emotions) and is in the power of the giver. The gift thus creates a bond. Even more, however, it makes power flow both ways to connect the giver and the receiver; it invites a gift in return.
There isn’t one specific answer to why people give presents to each other.

Human beings are social animals. And like all social animals, bonding, trusting, and helping each other are vital for our survival as well as for our sense of well-being.

Just like physical touch or a verbal compliment are signs of appreciation, so is a materialistic gift in the form of a present.

Remember that although we tend to give more expensive gifts to people close to us, intention and emotional value are equally important!

Giver receives more than the receiver

“Giving does not only precede receiving; it is the reason for it. It is in giving that we receive.”-Israelmore Ayivor

My visit to Sanchi

‘Between two extremes, there always lies a middle path.  The path of Buddha’

Somethings take free space in our mind and remind us about some beautiful moments. A year before the covid hit, 2019 was a year of travel and learning for me. Among many places in India, Madhya Pradesh is the most culturally diverse region I visited.

Ajay Singh ji explaining us about the destinations in western Madhya Pradesh

The yellow coloured 200 rupee note holds the image of the beautiful Sanchi stupa situated 46 kilometres, North West of Bhopal. Having read about the beautiful monument in my class 12th textbook, I have always been excited to visit this monument. Starting our journey with an escort who had in depth knowledge about the state, we stopped at a midway over which the virtual line of tropic of Cancer passes. From there with a constant speed we were able to reach the Buddhist site of sanchi in about an hour.  The monuments of sanchi are crowned over a hill and isolated from the town of Sanchi.

Tropic of cancer virtual line between Sanchi and Bhopal

Upon reaching at the top we searched for tree to park our car under the natural shade. The very first view at the entrance is of the colouful Tibetan prayer flags. Moving forward was the great site indicating the great idea of peaceful coexistence. There were temples, Buddhist stupas and sculptures of gods and goddesses. Historically Sanchi was a predominantly Buddhist site, however one can still have a view of Hindu temples, showcasing the mutual respect and tolerance for each other’s religion.

Tibetan prayer flags

For almost 1000 years the land of Sanchi was ruled by the Hindu kings, Buddhist kings and nomadic Huns, even Indo Greeks and Scythians came to this sacred site. The sacred site is a culmination of different cultures of different eras. It accepts everything and also sets the ideal for future constructions due its great architecture and elaborated carvings on its gateways.

The main Stupa – dedication to Buddha 

First Gateway of Sanchi

The biggest stupa on site looked a very large upside down bowl. Initially built by Ashoka in 2nd century BC, it was upgraded by other ruling dynasties for over 1000 years. As told by our escort the stupa is mound under which relics of Gautama Buddha and other great Buddhist monks are kept. The main stupa was separated by rock railing and 4 gateways. The 4 gateways are purely dedicated to the life of Buddha. There is a great story that sanchi in ancient times was center for ivory trade and elephants were trained here. All 4 gateways were carved by those ivory craftsmen who could carve elephant tusks with precision. Almost anyone familiar with the story Siddharth transforming into Buddha can understand those beautiful carvings easily so great is the imagery.  The carvings also show the peaceful coexistence of different cultures, one can see the Greeks, the early Indian kings and other cultures living peacefully. Stepping inside one  can climb the stairs and reach the Harmika (balcony of gods). From above the stupa is crowned by a yashti and three chatris (umbrella) indicating the stupa belongs to Buddha. As one means disciple and 3 are used forb indicating Buddha all over world. 

You can see the elaborate carvings on right

The other interesting monument there was a fifth century temple made by the Guptas (the dynasty whose reign is said to be golden age of India). It is one of the oldest temples of India maybe one of the firsts in Gupta style of architecture. A prayer hall was also present in indo greek architecture too.  

Then we were told about the sad decline of Sanchi. The 2000 year old open air monument was lost to weeds and the forest after 12 century AD. Added to the ravages of time and nature, greedy treasure-hunters and amateur archaeologists during British rule cracked open the stupas out of curiosity and a local landowner axed the Ashoka Pillar to use as a sugar-cane press. This all went on largely unhindered till Sir John Marshall, Director General of Archaeological Survey of India restored the monuments to their present condition in 1912 – 1919. If not for him some of the finest monuments and temples from the Mauryan period to the Golden Age of India during the Guptas would have been like the others of this kind. Marshall lived here for 7 years. He also grew many trees at site, which were providing us ever comforting shade that day. Today Sanchi is one of the most well conserved ancient sites in the world. All around we could see ruins of once had been Buddhist monasteries a whole culture still present in the soul of India. After the visit we had a refreshing buttermilk and returned to the hotel. 

Notice that in place of Buddha space has been left in centre

Sanchi today is UNESCO world heritage site, it was preserved by the fruitful efforts of John Marshall. Unlike other Buddhist monuments which have been forgotten and dusted. It is the perfect example for the immortality of culture of India. Extension of the old culture without destroying the past. Buddhist philosophy is all about middle path. Extremes lead to conflict, conciliation leads to peace. 

‘Long is the night for sleepless, long is the road for tired, Long is the wait for nirvana’ 

Kumbh Mela – Festival of Elixir

Undisputedly billed as the largest cultural gathering in the world. Tagged as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. For centuries Kumbh Mela has been an attraction for travelers, pilgrims, saints, entrepreneurs, politicians. Altogether it is a largest festival in the world where devotees—saints and householders, rich and poor, old and young, naked and clothed, men and women—gather in droves for a holy dip. Several legends surround the origins of this festival, which have had significant influence in strengthening the socio-cultural foundations of Hinduism. According to Mark Tully a BBC correspondent “Indians are said to be recent converts to the study of history” so the Indian ancient Indian texts have little or no mention of Kumbh Mela, and most of the available information on this significant event is based on oral tradition and hearsay. First known reference to this festival appears to be have been made by Chinese Buddhist Pilgrim Hiuen Tsiang (a seventh-century Traveller) commonly known Xuanzang. He described the Kumbh festival as a large gathering of fifty thousand people at Prayag also known as Allahabad, to take bathe in the holy Ganges. At that time the festival was attended by very famous Emperor Harshwardhan, here it is mentioned the emperor donated his wealth among his vassals. Encouraged the practice of giving and receiving of gifts during the Kumbh Fair.

Why is Kumbh Mela Celebrated ?

Samudra Manthan

The word ‘Kumbh’ means an urn, jar, pitcher and ‘Mela’ means a fair.

This Hindu legend describes the creation of a “pot of amrita (nectar of immortality)” after the forces of good and evil,the devas and asuras  churned the ocean of creation. The gods and demons fought a war over this pot, the “kumbh,” of nectar in order to gain immortality. In an extension to the legend, while transporting pot to safety, the nectar of immortality is spilled at four places by the devas, and that is the origin of the four Kumbha Melas. Those four sacred places are Prayag, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik. The story varies and is inconsistent, with some stating Vishnu as Mohini avatar, others stating Indra spilling the pot.

Thus, Kumbh Mela means an “assembly” around “water or nectar of immortality”. So it is widely believed Kumbh Festival celebrates the win of gods over the demons and gaining of immortality. The win of good over evil.

Adi Shankaracharya and idea of peaceful existence

Festivals alongside rivers were held in India even before Kumbh. Kumbh mela for centuries has been a center for knowledge and exchange of ideas and culture, Saints, sects and people from all over India come here and live peacefully. They debate their thoughts on faith and learn new notions. Historically Adi Shankaracharya is credited to this culture of peace and exchange of knowledge.

Great reformer during 8th Century AD, Adi Shankaracharaya is often credited by historians for the origins of 4 great monasteries in North, East, West and South (Govarhdhan, Puri, Dwarka and Kanchipuram). Adi Shankaracharaya believed in monasticism, nirgun bhakti (without attribute). He is credited with unifying and establishing the main currents of thought in Hinduism. Revival and spread of Advaita Vedanta.

Adi Shankaracharya and his students started the culture of debate and peace among various sects of Hindu saints who worshipped particular deity. He unified Shivaites, Vaishnavites and other sects. Due to his efforts today members of 13 akharas spend months during Kumbh peacefully and exchange of knowledge takes place in a positive way during this festival of elixir. Kumbh is peaceful and open to exchange of knowledge, even sects like Kabirpanth, Hare Krishna Movement are allowed and can propagate their message and teachings. In ancient and medieval era many sects came to kumbh and lived peacefully with others for the 2 month period. 

Kumbhnagar – The city of tents

Kumbh Nagri Prayagraj 2019

During this auspicious festival, Thousands of acres of land along the river bank is transformed temporarily into a small city with almost all basic amenities. This small city had 5000 tents ,has 250-km long roads and 22 pontoon bridges. Tube wells are dug for water supply. One hundred and ten miles of water pipes and thirty miles of drainage is laid for accommodating millions. Important offices like police and security headquarters. More than 7000 men are deployed by the state police. The fair has its own post office too. Over one lakh mobile toilets were present in 2019. Many merchant outlets, hawkers, small vendors even mobile ATMs altogether resemble a big colourful bazar. Kumbh mela even has its entertainment centers.

Main Attractions of Kumbh Mela

Bathing and processions – Traditional dip in sacred waters of the river with a prayer. Traditionally the Hindu pilgrims welcome and wait for the thirteen sadhu akharas to bathe first. The members of Akhara go for the dip in grand processions which are sight to behold saints armed with weapons and some on horses all chanting names of their respective deities .

Darshan – Darshan, or viewing, is an important part of the Kumbh Mela. People make the pilgrimage to the Kumbh Mela specifically to observe and experience both the religious and secular aspects of the event. Two major groups that participate in the Kumbh Mela include the Saints and pilgrims. For the pilgrims the it is an opportunity to interact with the saints and take their spiritual advice. In Hinduism visual experience of a holy place is very important aspect.

One of the many performances

Discussions and Festivities – Millions of people gain spiritual knowledge through religious discussions and debates. Some people stay at the fair for whole month and enjoy devotional songs and vegetarian food and prasad. Many cultural programs take place and showcase Indian arts, classical dance and musical performances from different parts of India, boat rides, tourist walks to historic sites near the river, as well opportunities to visit the monastic camps to watch yoga adepts and spiritual discourses

• Iconic Naga Sadhus – they are the warrior saints who given up all materialistic desires even their clothes that cover the body . They cover their body with ash and live in isolated places. There ultimate goal is to achieve moksha by spiritual penance without giving thinking about materialistic restrictions.They are only drawn out of isolation by events like Kumbh Mela. They follow a life of grave penance.

Influence of Jupiter

Dates of Kumbh Mela are associated with position of Sun, Moon and Jupiter. Jupiter is regarded as the teacher or guru of the Indian gods. It is said when he gave guidance to the devas (Gods) then only they could defeat the asuras ( demons) and win the nectar of immortality.

Triumph of Faith

No other country in the world can provide a spectacle like the Kumbh Mela. It is triumph for the people of India, the administrators who work very hard to organize an event for more than 15 million people. Kumbh Mela is a divine show of faith, which brings millions of people from all walks of life to experience the centuries old tradition of India. Kumbh Mela has stood the test of time. It has seen the Empire of Harshwardhan , The Moghuls, The British Raj and the new India. Still this ancient festival of immortality has not lost its core values and simultaneously incorporated changes with ease. Kumbh Mela has the sin washing power of Ganga, Yamuna symbolizes the life full of activity just like Lord Krishna. Wisdom which one gains through the Festival is symbolized by the unseen river Saraswati. All is present at the festival. Kumbh Mela provides wholesome satisfaction with all its highlights indeed.

Beauty and it’s story

‘A thing of beauty joy forever ’   – John Keats

The above lines simply mean beautiful things remain in our mind forever, beauty simply heals us at spiritual, intellectual and psychological level. Beauty has a soothing effect on us.

But what is beauty? can we define beauty? Or beauty is a personal phenomenon, why are designs important. Why some things are beautiful and some things are not? In this article we will describe beauty and will try to trace evolution concept of beauty and maybe a part from the story of human evolution.

Is beauty in the eye of the beholder?

We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are
( REALLY ? )

People can find beauty in landscapes, fine art, musi , football matches, someone’s face or someone’s toilet seat. For me concept of beauty is beautiful but maybe for you this article is boring. So, beauty is untangible, it cannot be defined by any one person.

Perception of beauty changes in different time periods even the use and root idea evolves and changes with time, but then there are some standards of beauty that never change. They have been here since the ancient times and will remain with humanity forever. Some of these standards are symmetry, ratios and patterns.

All these standards of beauty come from nature.

Symmetry is something that everyone likes

Going back 80,000 years ago

Humans are in an inherent agreement about beauty and nature of certain things. The patterns and the things of beauty all come from nature. Pattern recognition or searching for beauty became part of our biology and psychology because they helped our ancestors survive thousands of years ago.

From time unkown identifying  cloud patterns, river patterns or even patterns of natural vegetation was and is still  vital for human survival. Just think about those times when early homo sapiens would be moving in small groups in search of food water and shelter, looking for favourable landscapes, remembering them and analysing safety measures would be so important.

 Some typical  questions  in their mind would be like – Do those clouds mean rain will come soon, are those strong waters safe to swim? can I eat this or is this poisonous?

Symmetry too plays a part here as everything in nature is symmetrical . For early humans symmetrical shape would mean healthy plants, healthy person. An organism whose body is not symmetrical appears deformed,  will be seen with caution . Human eyes look for exceptions out of ordinary. So is sense of beauty just an adaptive feature like why humans like fats, sweet and protein rich food.

Large open spaces with a hint of water and life

Studies show human beings like sub tropical  climate. We all like large open green  grasslands with some trees and some indication of water, which indicates for plenty of birds and animals. Humans like open grasslands because these were the cradle grounds of humankind and even other intelligent beings which have gone extinct(Neanderthals). The landscapes of The Savannas and The Steppes. This landscape can be seen on calendars, movies even Microsoft wall papers. This landscape is liked by people whose country does not have these open green landscapes . The idea that large open green spaces are good for habitation is embedded in our DNA since ages. But all these clouds, landscapes, rivers are natural beauty. What about “Artistic Beauty”?

One of the greatest examples of Artistic Beauty- Taj Mahal

Artistic Beauty  and Humanities

Art is as older than homo sapiens!

Oldest known cave paintings are more than 44000 year old and surprisingly found in both France and Indonesia.

on left Sulawesi art cave painting (Indonesia) and on right Lascaux cave painting( France)

Paintings as old as 64000(Matravesieo) years and 52000 (lubang jerji saleh) years have been found in Spain and Indonesia but they are non figurative.

Interestingly paint making kits older then 100,000 years have been Blombos  cave South Africa

Artistic make up and necklace as old as 100,000 years have been found (Croatian Neanderthal Jewelry – 135,000 Years ,Nassarius Shell Beads – 100,000–75,000 Years )

Nassarius Shell Beads, jewellery beyond antique

But what is the oldest artifact

The oldest artifact

Acheulean Hand Axes found all over Africa , South east Asia , East Asia and Europe

The oldest artifact  found is 1.4 million years ago, which means it was not made by humans or Neanderthals, it was made by Australopithicus or maybe other apes.

The oldest artifact  is The Acheulean Handaxes 

Acheulean Handaxes are pearl, tear drop shaped stones very nicely cut. Initially when they were found Saint Acheul  they were thought to be used for cutting trees or as a weapon. However in modern times the findings  acheulean hand axes in very large number and different shapes and sizes all over Europe, Asia and Africa indicate that there use might be different from cutting. More evidence is given by the fact that there is no wear and tear on their surface which would have resulted if they were used for cutting trees or weapons. Modern archaeologists now  say that these handaxes are infact first pieces of symbolic art. These handaxes  must be showpieces just like a peacock’s feathers. Knowing how to create and use these tools would have been a valuable skill and the more elaborate ones suggest that they played a role in their owners’ identity and their interactions with others. This also explains why people with specialised skills always hold prominent places in society. The owner of these handaxes would symbolise workmanship , sense of symmetry and intelligence which would attract people towards him and even improve his chances of getting possible partners. Displays  and show off are human characteristics. We like to display our achievements. 

Artistic beauty in tells us 7 qualities  present in the artist-

1. Desire – this person follows his heart

2. Intelligence – Person has great learning and thinking

3. Fine motor control-  mind, body and soul are fine tune

5. Access to materials- artist has grasp on his environment or can manage difficult things

4. Planning  ability –  mind mapping skills, can see future

6. Great skills –  Beauty itself is testament for skills

7. Creative conscience – Artist  always have free, liberal, creative and out of the box thinking

Why beauty is important ?

As we developed we shaped our environment  according to our needs. We removed large open spaces and put up concrete structures. Neglecting nature we build compact boxes, dull space saving boxes.

Studies show human beings like art and beauty. Surroundings aesthetically  pleasing  to us improve our health. Patients recover faster in new and open space centred rooms as compared to old ,basic rooms.

In developed countries besides good health and harmonious family life, beauty was also regarded as important feature to good life.

Sambhar Salt Lake

Lastly, is beauty in mind of beholder? No it is deep in our mind, a precious gift from our ancestors. We find beauty in something  done well and it uplifts our mood and makes us more productive. Beauty really is a joy forever, Epic and legends are immortal, artistic beauty is great but we should also be content with what we have and experience the beauty of small things that fill our day. Because beauty can only be felt when we respective it. Beauty has so many beholders, so many interpretations and beauty is universal. However one should respect other’s perspective and interpretations because beauty is a gift and one should see this world through positive outlook. External beauty is nothing just a very machine like filter there is far more beautiful things one should look for which are human values – kindness, honesty, responsibility and ethics.

”Beauty is not in the face, beauty is light in the heart” – Khalil Gibran

The Hero’s JOURNEY

By Brijraj Chauhan

The adventure within

We all long for adventure! We all like the heroes and legends . As deep in human psyche lies a spirit for adventure ,doing something extraordinary. We all wanted to do something very different from ordinary in life ,we all have ambition to do the impossible. But sadly as we grow up, we end up taking the safe option of following the general trend . We end up like everybody else.

Is it like that ?

Leaving those words now we come back to the topic ‘the heroes journey’. We all go to watch heroic movies or like to read books where hero who is a normal guy beats all odds and fulfils his destiny and becomes more wiser in process ,good wins over evil etc. This same narrative can be seen in many cultural legends, literature, transcending different eras ,Star wars or Marvel movies ,even a human beings life !

The cycle of heroe’s journey

The concept of ‘heroes journey’ was first recorded by Joseph Campbell in his book in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949) and then his other book “Hero’s journey “.
Joseph Campbell was very positive person who he was big fan of heroes, legends and myths of different cultures and countries. So he recorded this common narrative of heroes journey in his works . Personally for me the heroes journey is the journey of self discovery or in Campbell’s words following your own bliss. It is about living a full life. Transforming from ordinary to special!

‘follow your own bliss and the universe will open the doors where there were only walls’- Joseph Campbell

Discussing The Journey

A heroes journey leads him into 3 acts
I)Departure from ordinary
II)Initiation to special
III)Return from special

The Journey
The journey’s stages might be avoided or repeated,depending on different stories but they will appear at sometime.

Originally the journey had 17 stages but modern script writer Christopher Volger has made it 12 stages.

The heroes journey can just be normal dilemma of mind with normal life struggles but it can also have an interesting external adventure !


1.The Ordinary world – The Ordinary world how it is in your own life ,the status quo, simple life we all live. We all live a lesser version of ourselves. We follow others like sheep. Every hero starts his journey in the normal world as normal guy with no special . But deep in our own minds we have this question : is there something more to life ?

Not realistic or is it ?

e.g Like in the story of Lord Buddha who lived a normal life of a prince as Siddharth, perfect in every sense but still incomplete. He had the question for something bigger. Or the movie Lagaan where Bhuvan(Amir Khan) is just an ordinary farmer who prays for rain and hopes that taxes imposed by British are low.

Prince Siddhartha leaving his palace

2.Call for an adventure– it is a call of destiny , in our own lives we get this call , a challenge which if we accept can change everything . It can be a one day trip or a new job or new idea to pursue. Sadly most of us don’t accept this call and we play it safe .

e.g In the beginning of every mission impossible movie there is a dialogue ‘this is your mission Jim ,should you choose to accept it’. In the iconic Indian movie ‘Sholay’,Thakur Singh gives an offer to Jai and Veeru to catch Gabbar the dacoit. Even the story of lord Buddha has call for adventure as enlightenment couldn’t be attained in the palace walls.

Should choose to accept it ?

3.Refusal of the call – we often refuse the call for adventure as it is risky. The special world is a metaphor for chaos, the unknown and untamed path. Once again I would like to say an adventure is psychological and physical dilemmas . So with so much insecurity , fear and confusion . Normally we refuse the call for adventure. But heroes journey is not normal . So whether he refuses or accepts the call he needs to travel ahead in the story by default. That’s what makes him the hero right ?

4.Meeting mentors and friends – In our lives we meet people who influence us. They teach how to travel on our path. We also meet friends and allies in our journey of self discovery. Sometimes we have idols who we copy but we have never met in person but they also shape our mindset .

Rama receiving weapons from Rishi Vishvamitra

In the our hindu epics also we see Lord Rama meets many sages ,wise men and woman during his 14 year exile in the forests this all leads to spiritual self awakening in Rama which turns into god (adi purush) he is today !

The Team

e.g In the movie Lagaan Bhuvan makes new friends and the English lady who helps him understand cricket.

5.Crossing the first threshold – this is the border between special and ordinary world . It is the decision from where there is no turning back .Point of no return. In our own lives we face tough life changing decisions changing academic streams ,changing jobs , moving to a new city, marrying a person etc . It is a step from where you go from unconscious to the unknown .

e.g when in Lagaan – Bhuvan accepts Captain Andrew Russell’s challenge of a cricket match in exchange of cancelling the Lagaan (tax) if the villagers win and if villagers lose then they have to 3 times the original tax!. In other instance we can go to the game ‘God of War’ when kratos loses his soul to Ares and also when Kratos declares war on the gods of Olympus!

The start of adventure

6.Tests ,allies and enemies– As students we all know what tests to they prepare us for real deal. During this process we understand our allies and enemies. At this stage we come to know our calibre. The hero practice for the ordeals he will face in future. Here the positive light good side of hero is also tested. The hero s negative traits are also highlighted. There is scope for improvement always ! So don’t get dull when someone criticise you .

Vishvaroop of lord Vishnu and Arjun bowing with devotion

e.g when Yudhisthir is tested by the Yaksha in the mahabharata or the test of Karna by the vedic gods

7.Innermost Cave – it is when we enter the place we fear the most . In heroes journey it can be psychological or it can be an actual dark place where you have to kill the villain to win the reward . It is the place where you have the question ‘what should I do now’, it is the hardest battle for which you have no solution!

Facing your deepest fear maybe psychological or actual deal

e.g when Dante enters the hell to save his Beatrice, but he doesn’t know what to do ! When Arjun knows he has to fight his own Guru and family members. When Gautam Buddha enters into non ending fast and meditation because he thought that was the way to attain enlightenment.
“ the cave you fear to enter, holds the treasure you seek “

8.The ordeal – the most climatic moment ,it is not present in its full strength in most of our lives because we didn’t take the above risk or we have not reached it till now . This is the stage where there is imminent fall ,loss ,betrayal or gamble where everything is at stake. One step wrong and you are finished . There can also deep inner crisis. Only rebirth is an option at this stage . Sometimes we have symbolic rebirth like concept of Phoenix rising from the ashes or the enlightenment of the Pandavas or the knowledge gained by Buddha.

Neat death stage of Lord Buddha ,2nd century statue found in Gandhara

e.g the ordeal can be the last over of Lagaan where everything of the villagers is at stake. In other instance we can see the Gautam Buddha collapsed/fainted due to hunger as he was in deep meditation. When he was given rice by an old woman he regained his senses and became more wise ! Reborn as Buddha! The ordeal makes us a much better person than we were before maybe.
In order to win the hero must die ,lose to be reborn stronger,wiser and enlighted

9.The Reward – After all the hard work we get the reward . The reward can be physical wealth or can be a solved inner conflict or just a good family dinner. The hero also receives the reward like wealth,knowledge,inner peace , world balance etc

Pandavas coming to Hastinapur

e.g The Pandavas win Hastinapur after the Mahabharata (THE VIJAYA), in Lagaan the village’s taxes are exempted after they win . You know the happy ending stuff

10.The Road Back – this stage is only present in epic stories which are complete in themselves . At this stage the hero realises his purpose in the special world is fulfilled and the power he has gained can corrupt him or the dark deeds he did or can do haunt him or maybe his villain is still alive and will come back with vengeance. This can be said for bad habits and ego as whenever we win something we develop an attitude which makes us overconfident and selfish. So the hero now starts the journey back to the ordinary world. Because if he stays in the special world he will become god or he will become a dictator with all the powers he has gained.

Arjun could neither protect the citizens of Dwarka nor Lord Krishna as his powers gone,his purpose was fulfilled

e.g The Pandavas lose their powers after winning the Mahabharata. The valiant supposedly best archer in the world Arjun cannot defeat simple barbarians and goons he could not save the city of Dwarka at this moment he realises that his purpose of hero Is fulfilled and now he must retire back to ordinary. But here there can be different scenario as in Matrix Neo has return back to matrix to save morpheus. In the God of War when Kratos becomes a god he gets corrupted by power.

11.Resurrection – this is the most critical stage where there is a final battle with inner demons . Where the hero must discover his true power and solve his inner battles and defeat the villain. The final stage. Where the fate of world rests on you . Here the circle of self discovery complete it self. When discover the true knowledge. The true light .The nirvana,The moksha, The njbbana ,The Jaya

The one got moksha and Jaya

e.g When Gautam Buddha gets true enlightened under the Bodhi tree. When Yudhisthir reaches heaven and leaves behind all the shackles of material life and then attains moksha in vaikuntha.When kratos kills Zeus with his new power and then dies.

12.Return with elixir – the hero returns with elixir to the ordinary world . When hero comes back people rejoice As hero uses his knowledge to heal people help people and make their lives better. The heroes journey is not complete until he returns. This also symbolises the endless cycle of birth and rebirth in hindu religion as the heaven and hell are temporary in hinduism unless one attains moksha then he joins the cosmos the almighty the universe the Vaikuntha (the land of eternal bliss )

The circle of birth and rebirth

Also elixir can be a metaphor for growth, love, freedom, prosperity ,discovery etc

Spiritual Journey and Self discovery

This goes deeper than all the myths and the real history it is the purpose of human soul to live it is fully realised life . These tales really inspire us to conquer our innermost caves and guide us to live a Hero’s life ! In the end I would like to thank Sara McGuire who wrote an amazing article on 6 common things in your favourite movies . I would also thank Raw spirituality Channel and Tom. Hero’s journey is cycle of 12 stages, it is a continuous process. A normal journey also teaches us many things if we really observe we can see changes in us after the journey . Journeys truly transform your life but it all starts with accepting the call for adventure . So what are you waiting for adventure awaits !

Adventure awaits!

“Fill your life with adventures

Not things to Have

Have stories to tell

Not fancy stuff to show”😊

The Vedas

Agni,Surya and Indra(vedic dieties)

Ever heard of the term Vedas? The ancient scriptures belonging to Hinduism or the devas, Indra, Agni & Som? They might seem insignificant now, but 3000 years ago, they were a big deal in India and Iran!

This short article will explore the history and structure of the most authoritative scriptures in ancient Indian history.

Names and authors

Ved Vyasa reciting to Lord Ganesha

The word ‘ved’ means to know, so veda = knowledge. These scriptures are mainly associated with the Aryans and the Aryavarta. .The Vedas have been in oral circulation since the 2nd millennium BCE (The rise of Aryans). The Vedas were not the work of a single person. They were communicated to a number of saints & teachers, who in turn transmitted them to their disciples orally. In modern times, we cannot even remember the Hindi alphabet but our ancient ancestors remembered all the 4 Vedas! In the vedic age, this vast knowledge was learned by the help of mnemonic techniques. The same mnemonic techniques are used by modern Jain monks for learning Jain scriptures in the present age. Learning Vedas is no easy task, as just one Veda (The Rig Veda) consist of 10,402 lines! The post of compiler of all these scriptures was given to Seer Vyasa (Ved Vyasa, also the author of the Mahabharata)

Some Dates

The oldest scripture in the world, the Rig Veda, was orally composed in north-western India (Punjab) between c. 1500 and 1200 BC while book 10 of the Rig Veda, and the other texts were composed between 1200-900 BCE, more eastward, between the Yamuna and the Ganges, the heartland of the Aryavarta and the Kuru kingdom (c. 1200 – c. 900 BCE). The “circum-Vedic” texts, as well as the redaction of the Vedas, date to c. 1000–500 BCE.

Why the Eastward shift?

migration of Aryans into Gangetic plains and central India

The Aryans were present in Iran and north western India from 2500 BCE to 1200BCE. Then they shifted towards the Gangetic plains, forming the culture, people and the country India (Bharat).The reasons for this historical migration are given in the Vedas and the world’s longest epic, the Mahabharata. In the first Veda (Rig Veda) the river Ganga is not very important for civilization. But, an extinct river Sarswati is said to be life sustaining. Scholars say that drying up of Saraswati and Indus river might have led the Aryan clans to enter The Gangetic Plains .The Rig Veda also tells us about a battle between 10 Aryan kings for the control of Gangetic plains, the winning clan was Bharata (hence name of the country).The Mahabharata also mentions drying up of Saraswati river and drought. This was a big watershed event in India’s history.

The Structure of Vedas

The Vedas are a set of hymns and instructions said by the almighty to man.

There are 4 Vedas , According to tradition, Vyasa is the compiler of the Vedas, who arranged the four kinds of hymns into four Samhitas (Collections).

The 4 Vedas (samhitas) are –

1. Rig Veda (Rig here means rich, heavy &


2. Yajur Veda (yajur means sacrifice)

3. Sam Veda (Sam means equal)

4. Atharva Veda (solutions for everyday life) –

Book for Atharv people.

Each Veda has 4 parts:

A) Samhita – Collection of hymns (mantras in praise of Indra, Agni, Som, Vayu, etc.)

B) Brahmanas – Prose texts that comment and explain the solemn rituals as well as expound on their meaning and many connected themes. Each of the Brahmanas is associated with one of the Samhitas or its recensions.

C) Aranyakas – The wilderness texts” or “forest treaties”, were composed by people who meditated in the woods as recluses and are the third part of the Vedas. The texts contain discussions and interpretations of ceremonies, from ritualistic to symbolic meta-ritualistic points of view. It is frequently read in secondary literature.

D) Upanishads – Largely philosophical works, some in dialogue form. They are the foundation of Hindu philosophical thought and its diverse traditions. Of the Vedic corpus, they alone are widely known, and the central ideas of the Upanishads are still influential in Hinduism.

The Sanhita and Brahman are spoken and

heard (shruti).

The upanishads are just remembered (smriti).

Why Vedas?

Today, India is a country with 135 crore people, it has many diverse cultures. One of the cultures majorly followed by Indians is Hinduism (not to be confused by religion, here it is a way of life). This way of life has given Indians many gods ,beliefs, stories, epics, forms of art, festivals knowledge in the field of medicine(Ayurveda), Yoga, literature and philosophy .Moreover, it is the answer to why we are born ,what is life ,what we have to do? Etc. All the things in a Hindu way of life are influenced by the 4000 plus year old Vedas. The Vedas, which were the cradle of civilization in India (Bharat). Everything associated with Hinduism comes from the Vedas. From the birth of a child to the death of an old man! The Vedas remain omnipresent. Their gods may be forgotten, but the new ones also come from them!

“within infinite myths lies the eternal truth ,who sees it all?, Indra has but a thousand eyes, Varuna has a 100, you and me, only two”