Thursday, January 22, 2015


(pancha is five in samskritam; amritam is nectar)
Amavasya / Kali Yugabda 5116 / Jaya Thai 6 (January 20, 2015)
Most students in Pakistan are surprisingly keen to learn about Hinduism, despite the hostility that has prevailed between their country and India in the previous sixty years. According to Dr Maureen Korp, an art critic and a religious studies scholar based in Canada, the students in Pakistan were different to the ones she was used to teaching in Canada. Korp, is visiting Lahore at the invitation of the Beaconhouse National University (BNU), said she had given an assignment to her students in which they were asked about religions including Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Christianity and Judaism. "Surprisingly, I found that most students were keen to know about Hinduism despite the enmity, which India and Pakistan have," the Daily Times quoted her, as saying (Based on a report in THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS May 26, 2008).
The Flower Bazaar Police Station in Chennai turns into a picnic spot as nearly 50 children, about eight or nine years old, walk in to explore the place. All staffers here are on call, not for any crime or panic but for a guided tour for the little student visitors. As part of their Joy of Giving celebrations, they take them around explaining the role of the police and the police station, showing all places from the reception to the lock up room for the accused. The young visitors who are largely afraid of the police are also told about the helpline numbers they can dial to get police help besides tips on filing police complaints. The idea is to make children feel comfortable visiting a police station and helping them to shed fear towards men in khaki. "Earlier I used to be scared to go to police. Now I have no such fear. I see police to be good. They are like friends. Only when we do wrong we should be scared of them," said a student Praveen. Another young student N Upendran says, "now I know we should dial 104 to rescue any old person". The children also got to lay their hands on police weapons like the old bayonet and pistol besides demonstrations by experts. The two-hour exercise had a positive impact. Now many want to become police. Though a small gesture by police, it generated a lot of goodwill among generation next, something their routine hard work often fails to achieve. (Based on a report by Shri Sam Daniel Stalin in NDTV, October 8, 2014).
For the past 40 years now, every evening at the Sathyavageeswara Temple, Karamana, Thruvananthapuram (Kerala, Bharat), Sekhar Anna (Shri H. Parameswaran, retired Deputy Chief Engineer, PWD, Kerala) has been taking classes for men and women, from children and senior citizens to professionals and homemakers, all of those who are interested in learning the scriptures. He keeps the classes short, at the most, half an hour or 45 minutes. He teaches two to three batches of students every day. He starts out by teaching them small and easy to understand and memorise slokas and kritis, in order to familiarise them with the intricacies of Samskritam. He goes to Sree Padmanbhaswamy temple to chant the Yajur Veda every morning along with a handful of other devotees. They consider it as an offering to the deity. Apart from this, he takes classes for women on Sundara Kandam, Devi Mahatmyam, Bhagavad Gita and so on, and on weekends, in his house, he hosts a discourse on the Yajur Veda. Says Sekar Anna: “At the end of the day, I too am only a student of the Vedas. I am currently learning the Yajur Veda under Venkatachala Ghanapadigal, an eminent Vedic scholar, one of those rarest of rare people who can recite the entire text from memory”. (Based on a report in THE HINDU, November 5, 2014).

 Majuli is the largest river island in the world formed in the midst of the mighty river Brahmaputra, located in Jorhat district of Assam. People of Majuli fondly recall Ravi Sir’s seva there. Ravi Sir (Ravindranath Devendranath Savdekar) belongs to Chandwad in Nasik district of Maharashtra. He is the only son of Devendranath Savdekar who is a teacher. Inspired by the philosophy of Swami Vivekananda, Ravindranath participated in Vivekananda Bharat Parikrama. He completed the ‘Acharya’ training at Vivekananda Kendra, Kanyakumari in Tamilnadu. Ravindranath Savdekar left Chandvad in 2000. He served as a teacher at Doyang school for two years. He was appointed as Principal of the school to be opened at Majuli island. His school began with 53 students and two teachers in a rented house. The major difficulty he confronted was that of language and then to seek cooperation of the local people to resolve a number of problems. He was not conversant with Assamese language. Then he started learning Assamese. The similarity of words in Marathi and Assamese helped him adopt the language with speed and at ease. Now he was capable of communicating with the local people in their language. The locals were astonished to see him speak their language! In 2004 Ravi Sir entered into wedlock with Poorva from Ahmednagar. Poorva was ready to live on this Brahmaputra island. She also started teaching in the school following her spouse. Today Ravi Sir is Principal of Vivekananda Kendra School at Dibrugarh. “Had I served in Maharashtra”, Ravi Sir says, “I would have become a good teacher but then we could not do what we are doing here to bring these people into the mainstream of Indian culture”.  (From a report in ISHANYA VAARTA, December 2012).
Defying the popularity of pre-packaged snack-foods (mostly potato-based) made by multinational companies, Aranthangi’s rice flour and jiggery based nibbles have made their link to tradition their unique selling point. “Many of the Aranthangi natives who work in Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Malaysia and United States tend to buy our snacks to take back with them after vacations here,” says Karpaga’s Murukku Company proprietor C. Subbiah, in the business for 31 years. “Several people place large orders for marriages or religious rites.” Subbiah says he has started adapting recipes and production to suit modern health concerns. After frying, all the products at Karpaga’s are put through a centrifugal device that drains off the excess oil, and prolongs its shelf life by up to three weeks. On a busy day, his company can produce up to 120 kilos of the snacks, worth around Rs.15,000. Aranthangi in Pudukottai district (Tamilnadu, Bharat) has as many as 34 companies involved in the business of these deep-fried snacks, a south Indian staple. “Even though tastes are changing, we are still seeing a steady demand for native snacks,” says Raja of Sri Raja’s Murukku company, in business for 17 years. “My products are costlier, because I use expensive ingredients. We supply to stores in Pudukottai and Tiruchi regularly.” His last order was worth Rs.40,000 for a marriage in Tiruchi, where he supplied 2000 each of murukkus and adirasams. (Based on a report by Shri Nahla Nainar in THE HINDU, January 16, 2015).