Saturday, April 30, 2016

Z for Zero!



Welcome to the "Believe it or Not- That's Incredible India!" series. India is home to some of the most astonishing wonders in the world. The rich culture, heritage, food, scriptures, architectural marvels and scores of known and unknown facts come together to create this multicolored melange that is India. Throughout this month, read about the various believe it or not facts about India and know what goes into the making of this incredible country!

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One of India’s most important contributions to the world was the invention of ‘Zero’. Aryabhatta, one of India’s and arguably, the world’s greatest mathematician and astronomer is credited with the invention and the concept of ‘shunya’ or zero. The concept of 'Shunya' meaning 'nothing' was in use in India as early as the 5th century. Before ‘Zero was invented, the western world used the Roman Numerals. But expressing various terms as Roman Numerals was confusing and elaborate in the absence of ‘zero’. It is astonishing how a mere digit could change the entire way of looking at things! A tiny inconspicuous number could now mean nothing and everything!

Brahmagupta formed the rules for using ‘Zero’. He formulated that Zero added to or subtracted from any number would remain the same, but a number multiplied by zero would be zero.

Zero turned out to be the biggest invention in the history of mankind! Without the concept of Zero, defining many concepts would have been so difficult. We cannot imagine place value systems, decimals, or even binary system and computer technology in the absence of Zero.

A tiny number it is, but the place it occupies is immense! Love it or hate it but you cannot ignore it! That's India's amazing contribution to the world! 

Believe it or not - That's Incredible India!

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Friday, April 29, 2016

Y for Yoga




Welcome to the "Believe it or Not- That's Incredible India!" series. India is home to some of the most astonishing wonders in the world. The rich culture, heritage, food, scriptures, architectural marvels and scores of known and unknown facts come together to create this multicolored melange that is India. Throughout this month, read about the various believe it or not facts about India and know what goes into the making of this incredible country!

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India gave the world the gift of Yoga. Yoga is not just about ‘asanas’ or poses; the Sanskrit meaning of Yoga is ‘Union’- therefore, Yoga is a holistic approach which connects the mind, body and the breath so that they are in perfect harmony with each other. The aim of Yoga is to bring about self-awakening.

The early propagators of Yoga-

Lord Shiva is said to be the Lord of Yoga. He imparted the knowledge of Yoga to the Sapta Rishis on ‘Guru Poornima’ day. He is therefore known as the Adi Yogi, ‘Adi’ meaning ‘the first’. He gave them 84 basic yoga poses or yoga asanas of which 32 asanas are practised today.  

Maharishi Patanjali who lived during the 2nd century BCE is credited with teaching the world the Patanjali Yoga Sutra. To achieve the yogic state, the great sage formulated an eight-fold path, often called the Astanga (eight arms) Yoga

Yama - following proper codes of conduct including non-violence, truthfulness, abstaining from stealing and possessiveness, and celibacy.
Niyama - self-purification which included hygiene, self-satisfaction, dedication, and endurance.
Asana - Posture or poses
Pranayama - proper breathing techniques
Pratyahara - control over the senses
Dharana- concentration
Dhyana – meditation
and Samadhi - the final goal of being one with the universe consciousness.

Asanas are therefore just one aspect of Yoga. Yoga practised in its entirety helps to bring about a physical, spiritual and mental awakening of a person. The Patanjali Yoga Sutra gives 196 Sutras or aphorisms.

Yoga was propagated in the Western world by Swami Vivekananda.
Kriya Yoga was made famous by Paramhansa Yogananda. His book ‘An Autobiography of a Yogi’ is one of his most famous works.
BKS Iyengar was the proponent of the modern form of Yoga in the world.  
               

21st of June is now celebrated as the World Yoga Day. This day was chosen because 21st June is the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere, or the day of the Summer Solstice when the Earth is most inclined towards the Sun. This day marks the transition to Dakshinayana and is believed to be the time when the AdiYogi Lord Shiva imparted the Yogic science to the Sapta Rishis on the first full moon after the Summer Solstice. The human body is also believed to be ready for spiritual assimilation  at this time. 

Isn't it amazing that it was India that taught the world that true bliss lies in self-realisation and Yoga is such an integral part of achieving that!

Believe it or Not - That's Incredible India!


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

W for Wonders!



Welcome to the "Believe it or Not- That's Incredible India!" series. India is home to some of the most astonishing wonders in the world. The rich culture, heritage, food, scriptures, architectural marvels and scores of known and unknown facts come together to create this multicolored melange that is India. Throughout this month, read about the various believe it or not facts about India and know what goes into the making of this incredible country!

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Travelling through the length and breadth of the country, one gets to marvel at the wonders of architectural marvels that adorn our places of culture and heritage. Huge free standing structures with elaborate carvings, painstakingly sculpted artifacts, symmetry in design and complexity of the structure is what makes these wonders stand apart.

Describing all of them will be impossible for paucity of space and time! So here are a few wonders that will leave you spellbound.

Ellora and Ajanta Caves-

The Ellora caves in Maharashtra are not natural caves but one of the most amazing wonders of what man can achieve. The mammoth 85 m long and 30 m high Kailashnath Temple is nestled in the caves and is arguably the most amazing creation here. This free standing structure is extremely complex and created from a single rock with utmost precision and planning. 


More than 200,000 tons of rock were cleared and carved to create this temple! Imagine the advanced technology that was in use thousands of years ago which helped in this large scale planning and execution of the project. The temple is said to have been built over a period of 18 years which means over 5 tonnes of rock were carved every day. Was this humanely possible? Many people believed that these caves could not have been built by man and it could have been the handiwork of aliens! Some even attribute this to some special powers held by our ancestors!

If the Ellora caves are stunning, the Ajanta caves are not far behind. These are 29 rock cut caves made in the 2nd century BC. The incredible aspect of these caves is that there are cave hall arenas which are as large as basketball fields and have been standing completely unsupported for over 1500 years!   

Belur temple-

Belur in Karnataka is home to the temple of Lord Channakeshava. The Hoysala architecture in the temple is undoubtedly mind blowing but what’s astonishing is the Narasimha pillar inside the sanctum. This carved polygonal pillar with umpteen intricate carvings was once capable of rotating around its axis! Even today, a thin sheet of paper can easily pass through its base leaving you wondering what kind of unsurpassed talent the craftsmen of those times possessed!

Truly a wonder, isn’t it?

Believe it or Not – That’s Incredible India!


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

V for Vishnu's Dashavatar and Darwin's Theory of Evolution.


Welcome to the "Believe it or Not- That's Incredible India!" series. India is home to some of the most astonishing wonders in the world. The rich culture, heritage, food, scriptures, architectural marvels and scores of known and unknown facts come together to create this multicolored melange that is India. Throughout this month, read about the various believe it or not facts about India and know what goes into the making of this incredible country!

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I guess, many of you are familiar with the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu. For the uninitiated, Lord Vishnu, one of the most important Hindu Gods, is believed to be born on earth whenever there is widespread destruction and mayhem and save the world from evil. Each time he is born, he takes on a distinct form or avatar. 

Mythology says, he has been born in nine of these avatars and will come back again in his tenth avatar as Kalki. These ten forms or avatars are called ‘the Dashavatars’ – Dasha meaning ten and Avatar meaning form.

But are these mythological stories just tales or are they true? We might never know for sure but here are some amazing facts that will blow your mind!

The nine avatars of Lord Vishnu that have taken place so far are-

Matsya  -the fish- who rescued the first man Manu from a great deluge.

Kurma –the turtle – who bore the mount Mandara on his back during the Samudra manthan

Varaha – the boar- who restored mother Earth after rescuing her from the demon Hiranyaksha

Narasimha – the half-man-half beast- who protected his devotee Prahalada from the demon king Hiranyakashyapu

Vamana – the dwarf - who destroyed the pride of King Mahabali

Parashurama – the man with an axe- who is one of the saptarishis

Rama – the human - who defeated the mighty Ravana

Krishna – the philosopher and teacher - who destroyed the evil Kamsa and many other evil doers.

Buddha – the one who attained Nirvana

The amazing aspect of this mythological Dashavatara story is its striking similarity to Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution!

The scientific theory states that life on earth began with single cellular organisms and aquatic animals were the first to come into existence. Vishnu’s first incarnation was a fish – the Matsya avatar!

According to Darwin, then came the amphibian, which we know as Vishnu’s second avatar- the tortoise or the Kurma avatar.

This was followed by the animal life on earth which is represented by the Boar or the Varaha Avatar.

Following this was the partly evolved man – half beast, half man or the Narasimha avatar.

This set off the evolution of man in a slow and dramatic manner. First came the dwarf man, the early homo sapiens.

Then came the fierce looking, axe wielding man, perhaps the stone age man – Parasurama avatar.

He then evolved into a man with a more human form and mind, whom the Dashavatara calls the Rama avatar.

Next came Krishna, the teacher and philosopher and then Gautam Buddha –the highest form of evolution of man, the avatar that taught us the path to enlightenment.

Yet to come is the Kalki Avatar. This incarnation is foretold to appear at the end of Kali Yuga and will be marked by a holocaust signalling the end of the world.

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If the Dashavatara was just a figment of someone’s imagination, how did they get the entire evolutionary theory right in so much precision?  Does it not mean that our ancestors knew things that we are only discovering now? Imagine what a dense repository of knowledge ancient Indians had! Can you afford to underestimate the power of their theories?

Believe it or Not – That’s Incredible India!


Monday, April 25, 2016

U for University





Welcome to the "Believe it or Not- That's Incredible India!" series. India is home to some of the most astonishing wonders in the world. The rich culture, heritage, food, scriptures, architectural marvels and scores of known and unknown facts come together to create this multicolored melange that is India. Throughout this month, read about the various believe it or not facts about India and know what goes into the making of this incredible country!

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Did you know that the world’s first University was established in India?

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In as early as the 700 B.C. the ancient kingdom of Gandhara was home to a giant University – Takshashila. The University taught 68 subjects to as many as 10,500 students, from not only India but Babylon, Greece, Syria, and China. Well known scholars like Kautilya (Chanakya), Vishnu Sharma, Charaka, Prasenajit, Jotipala, Panini and Jivak taught diverse subjects like Vedas, languages, grammar, philosophy, medicine, surgery, archery, politics, warfare, astronomy, accounts, commerce, documentation, music, dance and other performing arts, futurology, the occult and mystical sciences, and complex mathematical calculations. The vastness and the diverseness of the subjects taught in Takshashila is mind boggling indeed!



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Another well-known university of those times was the Nalanda University which functioned from 500 – 1300 AD. The University was so advanced that it had an observatory called the Ambudharaavlehi for astronomical research, a vast library, laboratories and a 300-seater lecture hall. The university boasted of a strength of 10000 students and more than 200 teachers. In his travelogue, the famous Chinese traveller Huen Tsang makes a mention of how tough it was to gain admission to Nalanda. Students had to write an entrance exam and just 3% of students managed to pass and gain admission! What high standards! 



Isn’t it amazing that Indians pioneered the concept of a University? Makes me proud to know that we not only accorded importance to schooling and college education but were well versed with the need of a University too!

Believe it or not - That's Incredible India!





Friday, April 22, 2016

S for Sanskrit



Welcome to the "Believe it or Not- That's Incredible India!" series. India is home to some of the most astonishing wonders in the world. The rich culture, heritage, food, scriptures, architectural marvels and scores of known and unknown facts come together to create this multicolored melange that is India. Throughout this month, read about the various believe it or not facts about India and know what goes into the making of this incredible country!

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Sanskrit is said to be the language of the gods! It is also the ‘Mother’ of many languages. Sanskrit has maintained its purity in structure and vocabulary from the Vedic times until today. That is why even today, it is easy to interpret literature written in Sanskrit ages ago.

Sanskrit is unique…and vast!

It is perhaps the only language which has a built-in scheme for pronunciation, word formation, and grammar. Sanskrit is vast, really vast. There are six aspects of the language. It deals with the spoken aspect of the language, the pronunciation, the grammar, the root words, the formation of sentences and studies related to space and time.

Sanskrit is derived from root syllables and all words in Sanskrit can be traced back to their roots. To  give an example, the word "guru" consisting of the aksharas "gu" and  "ru" stands for a teacher- one who dispels darkness (ignorance) of the mind (person). "gu" means darkness and "ru" means the act of  removal. 

This is unique only to Sanskrit.

Sanskrit is a complete language.

 It has words to describe every feeling, every activity, every philosophy, every aspect of life and in short everything in the universe. In fact, one word can convey different meanings based on how stress is placed on a particular syllable. Conversely, there are so many synonyms of a single word. For example, the word ‘water’ has 120 synonyms! The ‘shabd kosh’ or vocabulary of Sanskrit is so large!

The ancient scripts like the Vedas, the Upanishads, and the great epics are full of verses that have hidden scientific principles, concepts of Mathematics, philosophy, theology, astronomy, and science. All scientific and mathematical terms, therefore, have specific Sanskrit terms! Sanskrit does not borrow from any language.


Sanskrit is the mother of a lot of Languages.

Most Indo-European languages owe their origin to Sanskrit. Sample this- 'Matr' became mother, 'Pitr' became father, 'navagath' became navigation, 'manu' became man, 'naama' became name or nomen, 'sarpa' became serpent, 'gau' became cow and so on and so forth. The list is endless!

Sanskrit for Computers and AI!

The language is pristine and has zero deviation. It is therefore not surprising that Sanskrit has been voted as the choice of language for Computational Linguistics by NASA. It has also been suggested as the best language to communicate with Artificial Intelligence.

Do you wonder if anyone speak Sanskrit these days?

Apparently people in these districts do!

The residents of Mattur and Hosahalli in Karnataka, Jhiri, Baghuwar and Mohad in MP, Ganoda in Rajasthan, and Shyamsundarpur in Odisha reportedly speak in Sanskrit just like we’d speak in our native tongues.

Believe it or Not - That's Incredible India!


Thursday, April 21, 2016

R for Ramanujan




Welcome to the "Believe it or Not- That's Incredible India!" series. India is home to some of the most astonishing wonders in the world. The rich culture, heritage, food, scriptures, architectural marvels and scores of known and unknown facts come together to create this multicolored melange that is India. Throughout this month, read about the various believe it or not facts about India and know what goes into the making of this incredible country!

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This man hardly needs an introduction! Srinivasa Ramanujan - the world renowned Mathematician who dazzled the world with his genius, continues to amaze us even today! Here are some interesting facts about him-

He was the man who knew infinity – literally! His infinite series for ‘pi’ was one of his most celebrated findings.

He has to his credit 3900 identities and mathematical equations. And this, after having no formal education in mathematics! Most of his findings were intuitive and were later found to be true!

He was the youngest mathematician to be inducted as Fellow of the Royal Society at the age of 31!  

1729 is known as the Ramanujan -Hardy number. Do you know the story behind it? It's a pretty interesting one. 
Godfrey Hardy was a professor of mathematics at Cambridge University. One day he went to visit Srinivasa Ramanujan who was ill. When Ramanujan heard that Hardy had come in a taxi he asked him what the number of the taxi was. Hardy said that it was just a boring number: 1729.
Ramanujan replied that 1729 was not a boring number at all: it was a very interesting one. He explained that it was the smallest number that could be expressed by the sum of two cubes in two different ways.
This story is very famous among mathematicians. 1729 is sometimes called the “Hardy-Ramanujan number”.

Ramanujan’s Magic Square-
The magic in the square is that the numbers in any row, any column, all diagonals, the corner numbers, the center square…in fact in many other permutations and combinations… all adds up to 139! What’s more, the first row is his date of birth- 22-12-1887! Howzatt for a genius?

As a mark of recognition of his genius, his birth anniversary, 22nd December, is celebrated every year as the National Mathematics Day.


Believe it or Not – That’s Incredible India!

There's a biopic soon to be released titled 'The Man Who Knew Infinity', Here's a link to the official trailer.


Memories...



These memories…
They are like pearls
Hidden
Inside oysters of the mind
That I have dived deep for and sourced
From the unfathomable depths
of the ocean bed.

Silently
I open them- the oysters
Unsure of what each one holds
Did they all make the pearls,
Or are some empty?

Will I have enough
Of these precious beads
To be strung together into
A neck piece?
Or will I be left
Empty handed as I walk
Alone on the shore
Fading into the sunset?









Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Q for Quaint Indian Art




Welcome to the "Believe it or Not- That's Incredible India!" series. India is home to some of the most astonishing wonders in the world. The rich culture, heritage, food, scriptures, architectural marvels and scores of known and unknown facts come together to create this multicolored melange that is India. Throughout this month, read about the various believe it or not facts about India and know what goes into the making of this incredible country!

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Ancient India seems to have been a hub of art and culture since time immemorial. The sculptures, the paintings, the rock and cave architecture, textile printing, stone sculpturing, jewellery carving, puppetry, mural art, calligraphy, handicrafts and artifacts show that Indians had a great eye for various art forms. It is impossible to do justice to each one of them here. So here are some of my favorites-

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Kundan - Meenakari jewellery of Rajasthan –skillfully and intricately carved jewellery are set with precious uncut stones called kundan stones and then enameled with gold. Did you know that making Meenakari jewellery goes through an assembly line of craftsmen? It is still made in the same way it was 500 years ago.




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Warli art of Maharashtra dates back to 2500 BC. This tribal art made on a mud base using white paint looks simple and yet amazingly beautiful.






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The Tanjavur paintings of South India are colourful and breathtakingly beautiful. They were earlier painted using real diamonds, rubies and precious stones and set in gold and silver foil. Now semiprecious stones are used.  







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The stunning Madhubani paintings of Bihar are made using organic colours and are inspired by nature and mythology. They are said to have originated from the times of the Ramayana.



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Pashmina shawls of Kashmir made from the wool of the Central Asian mountain goat are exquisitely embroidered, soft and light in weight and yet amazingly warm and cosy.








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Appliqué and metal works of Orissa is about 850 years old. Intricate stitches and mind blowing embroidery techniques make this handicraft one of a kind.






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The clay handicrafts originated in India during the Indus valley civilization. One of the famous clay crafts are the Terracota crafts of Assam.



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Marble carving of Agra is one of the most beautiful crafts. Intricately carved pieces with floral and geometric designs is a testimony to the patience and dedication of the master craftsmen.





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Indians also had expertise in carvings on metals like bronze, silver, gold etc . The Filigree carvings of Andhra Pradesh stand out among them. It is astounding to see how craftsmen painstaking create delicately carved metal with beautiful patterns.








There art forms are not even one percent of the whole! There’s so much creativity crammed into every nook and corner of the country that it would take ages to explore and enjoy the beauty of each one of them.

Believe it or not – That’s Incredible India!    




Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Book review- An Autograph for Anjali by Sundari Venkataraman


Having already read two of Sundari Venkatraman’s best-selling novels - The Madras Affair and Matches Made In Heaven, the excitement as I started with An Autograph for Anjali was palpable. The author managed to keep that excitement bubbling throughout - so much, that I was compelled to read the whole book in one go. If I had to describe it in one word – it was unputdownable!

Coming to the story, it started off as a murder mystery, a whodunit kind of beginning. Just when I was beginning to think that if the author had suddenly decided to switch from writing romance novels to scripting thrillers, the love angle gradually crept in. And how!

I would call this a coming of age novel. Perhaps, a voice to the lakhs of women stuck between the devil and the deep sea, confined to the orthodox way of life, masking their emotions for fear of being judged and afraid to give expression to their needs. 

The story explores the loneliness and suffocation of the protagonist Anjali, stuck in a loveless marriage, her struggle with her conscience as she hopelessly falls in love with someone she shouldn’t, and her attempt to break free. The novel also explores how Anjali discovers her needs for intimacy, the need to be valued and cherished as a partner, and her dilemma when she actually finds someone who gives her both of these.

The story is progressive and moves with the times. It is Anjali’s grown up son who first nudges her into thinking why she is still putting up with a loveless marriage and supports her when she tells him she’s contemplating separation. While the mother-son chemistry is endearing, there’s no attempt to demonize the father. The son is mature enough to understand that if couples have nothing in common, they do lose interest in each other’s life and gradually drift away and hence does not end up hating his father though he sympathizes with his mother. The author has responsibly refrained from making the husband the evil one, in order to justify the wife falling in love with another though the husband does have his dalliances which act as a trigger for Anjali to contemplate about her own life. Clearly mature writing.

I also loved the character Anjali falls in love with- Parth, the author. I mean, who wouldn’t find the appeal of falling in love with a writer exciting! Writers, I personally think, are the best people to fall in love with - they connect to emotions better, express themselves better and have all the right things to say. And true to that, Parth turns out to be all that and more! The romantic and intimate scenes between Anjali and Parth are delicately yet sensuously handled. They make you want to immediately cuddle up with your loved one!

The only part that was unconvincing in the story was Anjali recovering too soon from her depression. But again, stretching her scenes of depression wouldn’t have really added much value to the story so that can be overlooked.

I’d say it’s a very well researched and well-written novel. The story is fast-paced and fun to read. If romance is what you love to read, you would definitely enjoy this one.  

Here's the blurb-


Jayant Mathur is found murdered in his bed, shot at point-blank range with his own revolver. Though she’s extremely disturbed by his death, Jayant’s wife Anjali is way more upset about something else. Who stands to gain by killing the multi-millionaire businessman?

Parth Bhardwaj is a friend and neighbour of the Mathurs. Parth is an author who goes by a pseudonym. He appears more than a friend to Anjali; while he’s also on good terms with her son Arjun who lives and studies in the UK. What role does he play in Anjali’s life? Jayant’s relatives are curious to know.

Jayant’s brother-in-law Rana is convinced that Parth and Anjali are the murderers. But Inspector Phadke has his own doubts about this theory. In comes Samrat, the private detective who appears as quiet as a mouse. Will he be able to find the murderer?
Will Anjali find happiness and peace?

About the Author

Sundari Venkatraman is an author of romance novels, living in Mumbai. More than 6000 copies of her eBooks have been sold/read around the world. Her books, The Malhotra Bride, Meghna, The Runaway Bridegroom, Matches Made In Heaven and The Madras Affair have been on Amazon Top 100 Bestsellers many times over.


Link for buying- https://notionpress.com/read/an-autograph-for-anjali

ISBN - ISBN9789386009388




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