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Archive for the ‘Sanskrit’ Category

In search of the perfect summer body – PGH City Paper

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As much as I love the wonderful pow! and in-your-face whoosh! of seeing Downtown Pittsburgh upon exiting the Liberty Tunnel, my money is on the West End Bridge for the best view of the city. It is the all encompassing magnificence of the entire Golden Triangle, the confluence or Sangama in Sanskrit, framed by the rivers and the hills that really does it for me. You can feel the topography of the city, the lines of Diondega enveloping, embracing us. Stunning. Every. Time.

My love of this view means nothing can tear my eyes away. Well, almost nothing. You see, on my most recent traversing across the West End Bridge, something took my attention away from this golden view. As I crossed, I saw a man I guessed to be in his late 60s or early 70s on the bridge with his white T-shirt off and tucked into the front waist of his blue shorts. His white skin was now the color of his sun-washed, dark tan leather belt. But what paused my reverent landscape gazing was that, while he was clearly enjoying his walk across a long bridge on a hot day, he was also an older gentleman. His pectoral muscles were strong but sagging and, while he was on the thin side, he had a slightly rounded belly with what appeared to be a large scar from the bottom of his center rib cage down to the top of his shorts.

When I saw this older man with his tan, sagging, scarred, older body, I thought, Put your shirt back on bro, no one wants to see that.

Then I immodestly thought, Wow Tereneh, how incredibly messed up and fucked up of you to think that way. But I am being 100% honest, that is what I thought to myself. I can point to how we in America are conditioned to look and celebrate youthful bodies, but that is just an excuse. So I had to pause and really think and unlearn some ageist, ableist mess inside of me.

As we are entering summer, we will be seeing more of each other, especially in the summer of the vaccinated as others re-enter social life. With this in mind, I spent the next bit of time reframing my ageist, ableist reaction to one of forgiveness, appreciation, and celebration.

I challenged myself and changed my tune as I wondered if the era of body positivity and celebration extends to all of us regardless of age, ability, color, and size. Is there an age limit to body celebration, and if so, why? Can only people in their 20 to 30s love their cellulite and show it off in short shorts? If so, that is ageism and not real celebration or liberation.

As we love big titties and ass, can we also love small tits and flat butts? Or are we still picking what bodies we love? If so, in the end, we are no better than the Edwardian Gibson Girl and their pigeon-shape making corsets, if we are selecting the perfect Hot Girl Summer bodies. Throughout history, every era has had their Perfect Summer Body types, often only women and femmes bodies, which are being judged, labeled, and, if not valued, then most often on display.

The point I hope for body positivity is, If you have a body in any form, love it and be positive about it.

I say this to myself as I look in the mirror and see the pandemic pounds I put on, especially while I was in Turkey. My loving boyfriend would make up for our inability to tour Turkey due to COVID by taking a culinary tour of Turkish cuisine via take-out, often saying, You havent tried this yet, so lets order two kinds.

My beautiful but very flat walks along the Aegean Sea in the morning were no match for real kabobs, tahini sauce, curry yogurts, pides, pomegranate syrup, Turkish baked-good weekend lockdowns, and evening curfews.

I say this to myself as I replay the summers walking to ballet class as a kid, trying to negotiate how to avoid sexual and street harassment from men and boys of all ages. Starting around the age of 11, I would pull my hair back and put on my glasses that helped, somewhat. Learning how to balance growing into a woman, the desire to perform on stage without being consumed without consent on the street. Knowing I need that self possession, confidence in my dance training, and in life. How to not let it be stripped away on the street by those strangers? I still struggle with this, to be honest.

I say this as I replay, in my minds eye, the man walking across the West End bridge, enjoying himself and his body as he walked in one of the most beautiful places in America on a hot day.

So I say to him, to you, to me, to all of us:

You have a body, this body has kept you alive in this most challenging of times, and we are still here. This is our perfect summer body because it exists here and now, the summer of 2021.

Celebrate, rejoice, and reverently, respectfully enjoy the view.

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In search of the perfect summer body - PGH City Paper

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From 13 unis to 1: why Australia needs to reverse the loss of South Asian studies – The Conversation AU

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South Asia is crucial to the future of Australia. But Australia has just one (small) program focused on South Asian studies across its many universities.

This has not always been the case. In the mid-1970s, 13 of Australias universities offered undergraduate subjects on South Asia (India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and the Maldives). Students could learn about South Asian coins at ANU and Sanskrit at the University of Wollongong.

Australia boasted some of the leading scholars on South Asia. ANU nurtured subaltern studies the study of social groups excluded from dominant power structures which became a global movement in the field of post-colonial analysis. Leading post-colonial scholar Dipesh Chakrabarty was based at the University of Melbourne. Other luminaries active in that period include A.L. Basham, Anthony Low and Robin Jeffrey.

But, even as the Australian university sector has expanded since the 1970s, it has withdrawn support for Asian studies, and South Asian studies in particular. There is currently only one South Asia or India program at ANU.

Only five of the 40 Australian universities offer semester-length subjects on India or South Asia. Six universities offered an Indian language in 1996. Now only two do so.

Read more: 6 unis had Hindi programs. Soon there could be only 1, and that's not in Australia's best interests

Several universities, often supported by government grants, have launched country or regional research initiatives since 1990. The National Centre for South Asian Studies, based at Monash, is one of these. But Australian universities have not built any strong or sustainable South Asia programs for students.

This point sits oddly alongside a high-level commitment to South Asia in Australia. The Australian government is exploring new forms of engagement with India, including the Quad security dialogue involving India, Australia, Japan and the US.

At a social level, Australia is increasingly Indian. In 2019 more than 700,000 people in Australia claimed Indian descent. Hindi is among the fastest-growing languages in Australia, and India is the countrys leading source of skilled migrants.

Historically, there are fascinating connections between Australia and South Asia. The lives and work of Australias Ghans (cameleers) is one famous example.

Moving forward, Australia needs a knowledge base to match this longstanding and increasingly important commitment to India and South Asia more generally.

Read more: From lascars to skilled migrants: Indian diaspora in New Zealand and Australia

Australian universities could learn from their counterparts in other parts of the world how to integrate area studies into their teaching. Outside of Australia, most of the top universities in the world make great play of their area studies expertise. Area studies enables people to apprehend their own distinctive humanity, anchors innovative cross-disciplinary teaching across the university, and provides a basis for re-evaluating assumptions about a persons disciplinary field.

Students arriving at Oxford, Yale or Columbia know that if they are studying law, business, art, politics, education, design, technology, anthropology, economics, agriculture, military affairs or modern media, they will need to think about how to apply their disciplinary knowledge to specific places. A whole of university commitment to area studies teaching, including South Asian studies, has long been a key mechanism for drawing on multiple disciplines.

Even with small numbers of area studies majors, the worlds best universities do not see area studies as a niche endeavour. On the contrary, they see it as a central feature of their global mission. Strong universities without robust, independent, and widely accessible area studies programs open themselves up to accusations of antiquated parochialism and a poor understanding of the interdisciplinary trends that powerfully shape our world.

Read more: Axing protection for national strategic languages is no way to build ties with Asia

Today, South Asian studies programs in Australia should include internships, opportunities to study abroad and virtual classrooms connecting Australian students to their counterparts elsewhere.

Asian studies programs should also include language options, because effective communication with rising regions like South Asia is essential. Keep in mind that only 10% of Indias population speak English.

At its most fundamental, good area studies and good South Asian studies allow people to understand that they are, as French philosopher Michel de Montaigne put it in an essay on global education written 450 years ago like a dot made by a very fine pencil on the world map. It teaches them how they fit within a global whole.

Beyond this, area studies helps people understand and confidently engage with forms of difference and diversity. It fosters key skills for interacting with peers overseas as well as global diasporas. This includes connecting with foreign organisations, managing communications and cultivating an active sense of global citizenship.

Area studies allows us to develop an understanding of our common humanity across national boundaries something Indian scholar Veena Das has written about in her book Critical Events.

Now is the time for Australian universities to place area studies teaching at the core of an internationally engaged education. We must provide a much larger number of Australians with a deeper understanding of South Asia.

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Breathe better to live better: Why breathing is your superpower – WAAY

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Breath is a powerful force without it, there is no life.

But what you might not realize is that the quality of your breathing directly impacts the quality of your life.

Breathing plays a vital role in how you think, feel, rest and recover, and it even impacts your posture and movement.

In this four-part series, I'm using my nearly two decades as a breathing and mind-body coach in professional sports to explain breathing's powerful influence on our lives and share the same techniques I use with the pros that anyone can leverage in life-changing ways.

This first article sets the foundation by opening your eyes to the innate power you possess through your breath. Next, I will cover breathing's impact on posture, movement and chronic pain. In the third installment, I teach you ways to leverage your breathing for better sleep and overall recovery. And, lastly, you'll learn how to train yourself to breathe better for stress management and enhanced focus. Throughout the series, you will also find supporting commentary and advice from some of the athletes and coaches I work with in professional sports.

Respiration is typically thought of as automatic. That's because it's part of our autonomic nervous system, meaning we don't have to think about it for it to happen, like digestion or circulation. Indeed, the metabolic process of respiration, which supplies oxygen to all the tissues of the body and removes carbon dioxide, is involuntary.

But the act of breathing the movement pattern that powers respiration is actually a voluntary movement that you can control at will. And because of respiration's paramount role in keeping you alive, the quality of your breathing can impact virtually all other systems of the body, which means YOU have the power to actively use your breathing to positively affect your health and wellness on many levels.

Intentionally changing the cadence and mechanics of your breathing gives you the ability to influence other aspects of your nervous system. The way you breathe impacts your heart rate, blood pressure, stress response and even your brain state.

When you understand the power of your breathing, you can leverage a slower, more measured breathing pattern to tap the parasympathetic "rest and restore" aspect of your nervous system to help you calm down, increase your concentration, go to sleep and more.

Retired NHL All-star goaltender, Conn Smythe award winner, and Olympic athlete Tim Thomas, who I had the honor of training throughout his career, once said about his breathing, "It makes me feel like I can slow everything down ... like I'm just snatching pucks out of the air."

During games, the commentators would often make similar statements about Thomas' ability to anticipate puck position, saying it was like he had a superpower.

That's the power of breath awareness.

I had the privilege last year to start working as the breathing and mobility consultant to the New York Yankees. All-star outfielder Aaron Judge shared this about his experience training his breathing: "I try to be on the cutting edge of everything health and fitness to keep my body performing at its best. However, there is one simple thing that I had overlooked, until recently, that could help me with recovery, posture, movement and overall pain: breathing."

Judge and I began incorporating breathing drills into his training during the off-season. He said, "At first, I couldn't really understand how something I already do naturally could affect my performance and everyday life. I thought to myself, 'I breathe all day, how can five to 10 minutes of focused breathing make a difference?' Boy, was I wrong. I noticed a change and a feeling of relief instantly after the first couple warmups and sessions. Not only did I feel freedom in my torso and hips -- I almost felt taller, which might be hard to believe, as I am already 6'7"."

Consequently, Judge said of his breathing practice: "It has changed the way I prepare each day and each game I play."

Unfortunately, many people are unknowingly stuck in a faulty, shallow, upper-chest-oriented breathing pattern. When this happens, your breathing superpower can actually work against you, pulling you more into the sympathetic "fight-or-flight" aspect of your nervous system, contributing to feelings of agitation, anxiety and depression.

Less-than-optimal breathing doesn't just adversely impact how you think and feel because it's a movement pattern it impacts your posture and mobility and can even contribute to chronic pain, particularly in your back, neck and shoulders. That's because your diaphragm, your primary breathing muscle, is also a fundamental postural and core muscle. And that's why, as Judge referenced in his experience, training your breathing can significantly enhance posture, movement and pain relief but we'll cover that in detail in the next article in the series.

In addition to training athletes how to breathe better, I also lead presentations on breathing all over the world, and one of the most common questions I get asked is: "How did my breathing become faulty?"

There are myriad influences that can change your breathing, such as stress, illness, injury, activity and restrictive clothing or gear. Breathing is fundamental for life, so in situations that compromise optimal breathing, your body will figure out an adaptive pattern to take in oxygen to keep you alive. In most cases, that ends up being the upper chest-oriented, shallow pattern I mentioned above. In the context of those situations, that breathing pattern isn't faulty; it's a good thing, like an adaptive emergency mechanism.

However, it becomes a problem when the temporary circumstances that were compromising your breathing mechanics resolve but your breathing doesn't return to an optimal, deeper, slower pattern. This is why, by design, breathing is a voluntary action and it's crucial to think of it that way. With this in mind, you can proactively take control of it when necessary to reset and restore optimal breathing to better serve you throughout all the experiences of your life.

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I began my career in pro sports as a yoga instructor before studying strength and conditioning, breathing biomechanics, and other high-performance training modalities. One of the fundamental practices of traditional yoga is pranayama, the practice of breath regulation.

The word "pranayama" is Sanskrit and is believed to have originated at least 4,000 years ago. The first part of the term, "prana," translates to life force in English; "yama" translates to control. So the breathing practices of pranayama are designed for control of your life force.

I often come back to my yogic roots when explaining the importance of training your breathing to people who are unaware of its power by telling them: Control your breathing. Control your life.

But you don't have to take my word for it.

"These small movements and controlled breaths were making a big impact on my posture. And mentally, I felt refreshed after each session, ready to start my day," said Judge, who touts the benefits for everyone: "The simple act of training your breathing is something that isn't just for athletes. It's something that everyone who works long hours at a desk or is on their feet all day or even those just interested in spending a few minutes away from everything to recharge should do."

If you want to learn more about the ways breathing can positively impact your own posture, movement, pain relief, recovery and mental state, be sure to read the upcoming articles in our series. Next week, I'll break down how you can train your breathing as an optimal movement pattern and will share some of the very same positional breathing drills I do with Judge and other professional athletes that can also work for you.

Whether you're an elite athlete preparing for competition or simply anyone trying to bring out your best self to perform in daily life, learning to optimize your breathing superpower is truly a game changer.

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Book Review: Read This One If You’re Looking For An Introduction To The Unique Cultures And Traditions Around Hindu Temples – Swarajya

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Temple Management In The Agama-s With Special Reference To Kmikgama. Deepa Duraiswamy. Notion Press. Pages. 286. Rs. 299 (Paperback).

This book Temple Management in the gama-s (2021), by Dr. Deepa Duraiswamy, gives a wonderful overview of the grand and majestic tradition of Saiva Agamic temple worship predominant in Tamil Nadu.

The author is a management graduate from IIM Kolkata and hails from a traditional Adisaiva family, Adisaiva-s being the hereditary temple-priests (Archaka) and masters (Acharya) of Saiva Agamas.

Such a background gives her a unique advantage to present the subject with the authenticity, intimacy and the rigour it requires.

Since this book is the Ph.D thesis of the author at the department of Sanskrit, University of Madras, it is a highly focussed study "with reference to Kamikagama".

After a brief introduction to the Saiva tradition, the book jumps to the core subjects. It proposes the temple to be viewed as a service organisation and a non-profit, non-business entity in the modern management parlance, outlining that the temple, just like any other organisation, has its own unique requirements of the four types of resources human resources (Archaka-s, maintenance staff, admininstrative staff, temple musicians), physical resources (temple structure, Puja materials), financial resources (endowments, patronage) and knowledge resources (religious education, rituals).

With this framework, the book details how Kamikagama, a medieval Agama text, addresses all these details in a meticulous way.

The main centre or axis for the temple is the Deity who has been consecrated through Pratistha and is offered the uninterrupted daily worship (Nitya Puja).

The Parartha Puja performed by the initiated and trained Acharya every day in the Agamic Saiva temples, two or three or up to six times a day (depending on the temple's schedule) is intended for universal welfare as well as for the welfare and prosperity of the king and the people of that specific locale where the temple is situated.

This point has been brought out beautifully. The elaborate process of Nitya Puja with all the steps is explained in great detail. The authors' observation of Nitya Puja being a "complex, technical process that is elaborate, time-consuming, physically exhausting, while also being a time-sensitive, cooperative work and also a creative, internal process" is insightful.

The temple workforce, traditional administration setup and temple festivals are also described. The book being an academic work, for every reference, along with the translation, the original Sanskrit slokas from the text are also given in Roman IAST transliteration in the same page.

This is very useful for the Sanskrit-aware and research-oriented readers who want to grasp the full meanings of the verses. The references from inscriptions and epigraphs are also given at relevant places.

The author has attempted to blend non-compromising traditional beliefs and a modern management-oriented approach without getting into any unnecessary conflict.

For example, she first records the traditional belief "The adisaiva-s are considered to have been created from the five faces of Siva rather than Brahma and are hence called siva srsti... Only the adisaiva or sivacarya is eligible for parartha-puja or worship to siva-linga in temples, installed according to saivagamas.

The historical view is given immediately Historically, the sivacaryas were heads of four large saiva mutts Amardaka, Ranabhadra, Kolagiri and Pushpagiri. Over time, the disciples of the four mutts spread all over the subcontinent, establishing 18 other saiva mutts (pp. 48, Temple Management in the gamas).

Now, whatever of these views one subscribes to, the 1,500 years of tradition of Adisaiva hereditary priesthood in the Agamic temple gets well established and is not a debatable point, if the authority of Agamas are accepted.

The author takes many such Agamic injunctions at face value and then attempts to fit them with the overall framework of modern temple management that she conceives.

With this approach, both the objectives of respect for the tradition as well leveraging the modern management practices and technology (wherever useful) are met.

It is important to remember that the portions of the Agamas related to temple worship are not abstract philosophies or concepts like one comes across in the Upanishads or Gita.

These were meant to be practical manuals in a realistic temple environment at a particular time and space. Among other things, they contain such details like how much Daksina is to be paid for the officiating priest at various temple rituals or what kind of divine retributions will fall upon the king and people of a region, if there are deficiencies or violations in the Puja, like sufficient Chandana (sandal paste) not being available for the Puja or some Prayascitta (expiatory) ceremony not conducted at the appropriate time.

These are not be taken in a very literal manner, but to be understood in context and to be appreciated as to how much of dedication and devotion the Agamic literature demands from an ideal temple worshipping community.

While much of the book is devoted to present the Agamic perspective, the concluding chapter briefly touches upon the contemporary concerns. This becomes important, given the fact that the temple administration is either in the hands of the government or some religious trusts in the present times, unlike the earlier times when the king was made directly responsible by the Agamas.

The mindset of the devotees of the present times is also very different compared to earlier days.

The book points out the totally erroneous method of the Tamil Nadu HR&CE department in classifying temples solely in terms of revenue, instead of their antiquity, size and Puja requirements.

This results in a few high-revenue urban temples doing well, while hundreds of historical rural temples are in total neglect, not even having one kla (once a day) daily Puja.

The important issue of remuneration to the temple workforce, especially the Archakas is highlighted:

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Book Review: Read This One If You're Looking For An Introduction To The Unique Cultures And Traditions Around Hindu Temples - Swarajya

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What the Terms for ‘Rainbow’ in Different Languages Tell Us About Religious Politics – The Wire

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When I was carrying out fieldwork among the Newah of Thecho village in Kathmandu valley, a rainbow appeared and the kids in the village started to shout Lyelm with joy. As a student of anthropology, I was intrigued and wanted to find out what it means and how it tied in to Newah culture. So, I asked why they call it Lyelm.

One of my friends in the village told me that it is an informal term, mostly used by children. Lyelm roughly translates to an expression of joy upon seeing a magical thing. However, there are two other names used by the Newah for the rainbow las (meaning process of pulling water), which is as scientific as it gets, and kap (meaning the earthen lid used while cooking, as the rainbow is a half-circle that resembles the lid), a cultural reference to something used daily.

My friends also asked me what the rainbow is called in my language. I told them that it is vanavill and Indradhanush in Tamil and Telugu respectively, the two languages I associate myself with. But their question also caused me to wonder how these names came about.

Environmental determinism, the anthropological concept, postulates that the environment in which a culture is located determines many of its traits such as attire, food, kinship and economic relations. Similarly, naming or cognitively inferring a natural phenomenon such as rainbow (and also the waxing and waning of the moon, a solar eclipse, thunder, rain) is also determined by the environment that a particular culture is located in.

Intrigued by different non-religious and religious names used in Tamil and Telugu cultures for the rainbow, I started enquiring among my friends from various cultures what the rainbow is called in their languages. Some failed to recollect the native term used for rainbow. They asked others and got back to me. When I asked them to break up the term for me, some of them could only provide a rough translation. It also made me realise that across Indian languages, the terms used for the rainbow are heavily subjected to religious politics and cultural hegemony.

Also read: Book Review: Reading the Gita Without Glossing Over Its Contradictions

Religious reference

One of the famous terms used for the rainbow is Indradhanush, indicating the bow of the God Indra. Other terms include Inderani/Indra Dhanush (Nepali); Indra Dhanush (Marathi, Rajasthani, Hindi, Gujarati and Telugu); Indra Dhanu (Odiya); Indra Dhenu (Assamese). Indra in Hindu mythology is considered the king of gods, the wielder of the Vajraayudha who brings rain as the god of thunderbolt.

However, when was the last time Hindus worshipped Indra as a part of the pantheon? Why is it that a God who is not worshipped popularly anymore is associated with the rainbow? One possible explanation is that the above languages were subjected to Sanskritic influence. Subjected to this cultural hegemony, these languages eventually give was to the use of Sanskrit terms as it is portrayed as superior language and hence worth imitating to claim a higher status for their own language.

Indras deeds may have been forgotten by the masses or they may not be deemed morally acceptable when compared to current standards. His controversial mythological stories include fathering Arjuna, trying to snatch away the bodily armour of Karna to save Arjuna and impersonating Gautama to seduce Ahalya. He was also threatened and dethroned by asuras in various mythological stories.

What if religious politics demands that a more prominent and popular deity should be used to refer to the rainbow? Manjari Katju in her book Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Indian Politics (2010) argues that Ram was chosen as the mobilising force by the Sangh parivar to push the Hindutva agenda among the masses. In Bengal, where Shakti (Durga and Kali) worship is prevalent, the Sangh is making a deliberate attempt to bring mythology related to Ram and Ramayana into the forefront and sideline the worship of these goddesses.

Members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad celebrating the Ram temple bhoomi pujan, in Vijaywada, Andhra Pradesh. Photo: PTI

As a part of this attempt, the Rong Dhonu (the bow of colours, a non-religious reference) was eventually changed to Ram Dhonu (the bow of Ram). However, the Sangh narrative has the story the other way around that Ram Dhonu was originally used, and secular clout sought to undermine Hinduism by changing it to Rong Dhonu. Other languages such as Assamese and Hindu Kashmiris also use Ram to refer to the rainbow.

Kamadeva is often considered as the god of love, lust, pleasure and desire. Some of these feelings may not be acceptable to the current Hindu morality. Kama was also persuaded by other deities to disturb Shiva while the latter is meditating after Satis demise. Shiva punishes Kamadeva by burning him to ashes when he shoots the arrow of love. Nonetheless, it is interesting to see that in Kannada, Kamadeva is used to refer to the rainbow, as Kaamanbill (the bow of Kama). Kama, as the god of love, rides a parrot, wields a rainbow (in other depictions a bow of sugarcane) and shoots arrows to kindle love.

As India is a multi-religious society, it is interesting to understand how other religions refer to the rainbow. In Arabic, it is called Qus Qazah (meaning beauty of God), though it also translates to a line or semi-circle of colours. One of my students from Uttar Pradesh informed me that the rainbow is called Qaus-E-Quzah (meaning an arch of angels in the cloud). This was contradicted by another student from Odisha, who said the rainbow is called Qaus-E-Qazah (meaning an arch of dispersed colours).

In Kashmiri, there are two word for the rainbow: Ram Ram Badren Dhoon (by Hindus with clear reference to the bow of the lord Ram) and Ramzan Badren Byuen (by the Muslim population, which translates roughly to Ramzan with the skin of seven colours, like the chinar tree). The Kashmiri term also includes the chinar tree, which is seen only in the Kashmir valley and changes colours fives times as the seasons change.

In the Bhutia language spoken by the followers of Buddhism in Sikkim, a rainbow is called Zha/Dza. In Buddhism, a rainbow is believed to be the sign of auspiciousness. It is believed to appear during the birth of a child or the death of a high-ranking lama or monk. If a person does something good and does not seek popularity, the Dhakini comes to bless the soul. Dhakini or Khandoma (angel guardian of Dharma) usually comes to bless a soul. The angels use the rainbow as their path. The rainbow can also be roughly translated as the way of Dhakini.

In the Lotha Naga dialect, the rainbow is called Sungrheka/Tsungruka (a line of vibrant seven colours or colours aligned in the sky). However, my friend also added that because of Christian influence, most people see rainbows as a sign of promise that God will never end this world again with water (Genesis 9:8-15).

Also read: Tracing Indias History Through the Changing Landscape of Languages

Non-religious reference and environmental determinism

For various socio-political reasons, some Indian languages have managed to resist cultural hegemony and use non-religious termss for the rainbow. In Tamil, it is known as vanavill (the bow in the sky). My mother tells me that she remembers her grandparents predicting that years rainfall by observing the rainbow. Tamil Nadu is known for resisting the influences of Sanskrit or Hindi and consciously made efforts to de-Sanskritise various names.

Kerala, whose population comprises Hindus, Muslims and Christians, calls the rainbow mazhavillu (the bow of rain). Other non-religious references include Saptarangi (the one with seven colours)/Meghdhanush (the bow of clouds) in Gujarati; Satrangi (the one with seven colours) in Punjabi; Kamman-E-Rung (the arch of colours), Dhanak or Dhunak (bow) in Deccani/Hyderabadi Urdu.

For many cultures, the names for the rainbow are rooted in the phenomenon that they observe in their day-to-day reality or their own interpretation of how the rainbow appears. Sumi Nagas refer to the rainbow as Milisu (which translates to the process of different colours of rays climbing the sky). In another interpretation, Mili means fire flame/tongue and Su implies stretching out.

Ao Nagas refer to the rainbow as Tongnusen (rain that occurs while the sun shines in seven colours). In the Kok-Borok language spoken by the Tripuri population in Tripura, the rainbow is called Twi Chokhreng (Twi= water body, Chokreng = combination of colours, it is believed that the rainbow is rising from a water body). These languages seem to have a minimal influence of cultural enforcement. However, almost all my friends who helped get this information had to ask others, indicating that the local words are in danger of disappearing.

Religious politics and cultural hegemony

I asked my mother-in-law Udaya Lakshmi, a journalist and a Telugu literature expert, for some synonyms for rainbow in Telugu. She noted that in Telugu, the rainbow is also called Harivillu (bow of the Hari/Vishnu), Arivillu (bow of the rain) and Singidi (a half bag of grains is referred to as Singidi).

Another interpretation equates the Singidi with Bathukamma, a pot that is decorated with flowers of different colours during the eponymous festival in Telangana. Sugali speakers in Telangana also refer to the rainbow as Singidi. In a popular song, Eruvaka sagaro ranno chinnana, the rainbow is called Varada Goodu (solar halo), in the context that it rains follow the rainbow.

The amarkosh dictionary states that Indrachapam, Koradu, Korru, Devayudham (weapon of the gods), Vakram, sakradhanushu, seethamcheera (saree of Sita) are some other synonyms for rainbow in Telugu. Of course, the fact that these terms have been sidelined and Indra Dhanushu is used popularly is likely a reflection of the cultural hegemony of Sanskrit.

Need to encourage children to ask questions

Most countries are home to many ethnicities and cultures. India is one such example, where hundreds of languages, many religions and cultures exist. Recognising this plurality, Indias constitution promised respect for all cultures and religions. However, the Sangh parivarbelieves that the country can only have one culture and has made efforts, big and small, to undermine the cultural pluralities of India. As we have seen, even something as trivial as a rainbow can become, in their hands, a vehicle to further their agenda.

Language is not only a tool to communicate but also an identity. Apart from preserving different languages, and resisting the pressure of religious politics and the hegemony of one culture over another, we would do well to let go of religious explanations for natural phenomenon.

Adopting terms that encourage children to know more about the science behind these phenomena will help shape their outlook and develop scientific temper, rather associating everything wondrous with religion.

Sipoy Sarveswar teaches anthropology at the University of Hyderabad. He tweets at @Ssarveswar.

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What the Terms for 'Rainbow' in Different Languages Tell Us About Religious Politics - The Wire

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June 17th, 2021 at 1:54 am

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Why is Kareena Kapoor the talk of the town –

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With fame comes controversies. Over the years, several Bollywood celebrities have found themselves the subject of unwanted attention inIndia for various reasons -- from surprise weddings and baby bumps to extra-marital affairs and divorces.

Kareena has recently been trending on Twitter, following reports that she had demanded a whopping Rs 12 crore fee for playing the mythological character Sita on-screen. Thousands used thehashtag#BoycottKareenKhan to slam Kareena for demanding such a high fee for portrayingthe revered Hindu character despite being married to a Muslim actor in real life.

Let's explore the controversy.

Why is Sita revered in India

Sita is the lead female character of Ramayana, one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, penned bysage Valmiki between 500 BCE and 100 BCE. In the Hindu epic, Sita is described as the daughter of Bhumi (the Earth) and the adopted daughter of King Janaka of Videha kingdom and his wife, Queen Sunayana.

The marriage between Sita, known for her dedication and purity, and Rama, the Prince of the ancient kingdom of Ayodhya, in itself is a story worth telling. Sita chose Rama as her husband in a swayamvara bride choosing the best from among a list of suitors after a contest. This was after Rama successfullycompleted the task of stringing a magic bow.

Sita subsequently accompanied Rama to his kingdom but had to soon go into exile with her husband and brother-in-law Laksmana for 14 years through the plotting of his stepmother. In exile, theysettled in a forest from where she was abducted by Ravana, the demon king of Lanka. Rama gathered an army of monkeys and rescuedSita after killing Ravana in a war.

Later Sita was asked by Rama, an incarnation of a Hindu God, to prove her chastity. Sita entered fire, but was saved by other Hindu Gods. After the couple's triumphant return to Ayodhya, Rama's righteous rule came to be known as Ram-raj (golden rule) for all mankind.

Why the controversy

In the later 1980s, Indian state TV telecast a series based on the ancient Sanskrit epic of the same name. The TV series, Ramayana, broke all records and became a national craze then.

Over the years, a number of Hindu nationalist parties, including India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, rode the TV show to spark a Hindu awakening in this country. And the BJP cashed in on the opportunity to start a campaign, Ram Janmabhoomi (Ramas birthplace) movement, and forged a sense of Hindu togetherness to eventually come to power.

"Criticised for its government's poor handling of the Covid situation in the country, many in the BJP are now trying to salvage the party's nationalist image and divert people's attention from the health situation. And Kareena is indeed the ideal diversion tactic," said Prof Suneeta Roy, a political pundit.

Kareena and the social media

Four months ago, 40-year-oldKareenaalso hogged the limelight when she gave birth to a baby boy -- their second son -- at a private hospital in the Indian city of Mumbai.

In fact, Kareena and her husbandSaif Ali Khan -- dubbedSaifeena by the paparazzi -- announced the pregnancy on social media in August last year. "We are very pleased to announce that we are expecting an addition to our family!! Thank you to all our well-wishers for all their love and support."

Kareenaand Saif -- the son of former Indian cricket captain Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi and former Bollywood's yesteryear heroine Sharmila Tagore -- tied the knot in 2012. Thecouple welcomed their first son, Taimur, in December 2016. Saif also has two children -- actor Sara Ali Khan and Ibrahim Ali Khan with former wife Amrita Singh, also a Bollywood actress.

Born to theKapoorfamily, known as the 'First Family of Bollywood',Kareena-- the granddaughter of legendary actor-director RajKapoor, made her acting debutopposite another legendary actor Amitabh Bachchan's son Abhishek with the 2000 drama Refugee.

But her real success came in 2004 when she played a sex worker in the drama Chameli.

She subsequently earned critical recognition for her role in the 2006 crime flick Omkara, a character based on William Shakespeare's heroine Desdemona.

Recipient of several awards,Kareenais one of Bollywood's highest-paid actresses. She will be next seen in Advait Chandan's Laal Singh Chaddha and Karan Johar's Takht.Kareenais also all set to publish her first pregnancy book later this year.


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Neena Gupta was called behenji and shameless in same breath: These words have been most descriptive of my life – The Indian Express

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Actor Neena Gupta began her second and more successful innings in the film industry after she took to her Instagram a few years ago to ask for work. There has been no stopping her since then. Recently, the actor released her autobiographical book, Sach Kahun Toh, where in her inimitable candid fashion, the artiste talks of various facets of her adventurous life.

At one point, Gupta discusses how she represents both the traditional and modern world and has been bending the fixed labels since her youth. Writing of the word behenji (a Hindi term more popularly used for someone who is not modern enough), Neena Gupta pens in her book, I dont understand how this word came to be associated with women who dont speak English as their first language. Who dress only in Indian clothes like a salwar kameez or sari, read only Hindi literature, and are traditional and dont subscribe to modern ideologies. I know its contradictory to be called a behenji and shameless in the same breath but these two words have been most descriptive of my life. I was a Sanskrit-loving girl who wore tops with spaghetti straps and that confused people.

Clearly, the veteran actor has no qualms associating with any kind of words and labels because she knows she will only be modifying them to suit her own style of thinking and living. There is another part of the actors life which is often talked about in hushed tones her relationship with the former cricketing legend, Sir Vivian Richards. There is a passage in Neena Guptas autobiography which highlights this juncture of her life and the birth of now-famous fashion designer and actor Masaba Gupta.

Apparently, at one point in time, director-actor Satish Kaushik had told Neena Gupta not to worry about Masabas birth out of wedlock. According to Neenas book, the filmmaker had said at the time, Dont worry, if the child is born with dark skin, you can just say its mine and well get married. Nobody will suspect a thing.

Neena Guptas autobiography Sach Kahun Toh is filled with similar anecdotes and revelatory insights about the talented actors life and career. On the work front, Neena was last seen in Netflixs Sardar Ka Grandson and the subversive chase movie Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar.

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Neena Gupta was called behenji and shameless in same breath: These words have been most descriptive of my life - The Indian Express

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Sanskrit Epics Animated in Stone – The Wall Street Journal

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Stepping into the South Asian galleries of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (which reopened on Jan. 8 after being closed due to Covid-19), we walk between two large figures that artists in South India carved around 1560. They dont immediately register as pillars, so prominently do the sculptures protrude. One portrays a handsome young man sitting under a tree looking rather pleased with himself. He is Rama, god and hero of the Ramayana epic, flanked by his wife, Sita, and the ever-loyal monkey king, Hanuman, carved in relief on either side of the monolithic pillar. Opposite him stands a bearded man with the haunches of a beast, leaning forward, club raised to do battle. Yet this man-beast, or Purushamirukam, feels more theatrical than menacing with his mound of neatly coiffed hair, delicately arched eyebrows, and loads of jewelry. He isnt about to attack; hes enacting a story.

This feeling of performance intensifies as we take in the pillared temple hallor mandapathat fills the rest of the gallery. Rows of slender columns demarcate three sides of a rectangle within which 10 more life-size figures, bejeweled from headdress to anklet, face one another across a broad space. Above them, lions look down from the capitals and a partial frieze of reliefs illustrates scenes from the Ramayana while, on the slender columns and the sides and backs of the figural pillars, a plethora of mostly smaller reliefs beckon. They include baby Krishna dancing with delight, a ball of butter cupped in each hand; an architect-priest with his measuring stick; musicians, dancers, animals; and, twice, a pregnant woman sitting, head resting in her hand. She is likely Sita in a fraught scene from an addendum to the Ramayana. (Photographs and a video on the museums website cant capture the carvings impact but provide useful aids.)

To 16th-century South Indians, these reliefs and monumental figures conjured verses penned by revered saints and episodes from epics and local folk tales. To gather in a mandapa, then, was to take part in a festival, attend a performance or join a social gathering, all in the company of divine, literary and royal personages. But while the configuration in the museum follows basic conventions for mandapas, it does not replicate a structure that once existed. It cant. Its 60-plus blocks of carved granite were lying in a pile of rubble when Adeline Pepper Gibson, Philadelphia heiress and lover of art, purchased them from a trustee of the Madana Gopala Swamy Temple in Madurai in 1912.

There is no record of when the mandapa was dismantled (most likely to make way for new construction), nor any information about its original configuration. Darielle Mason, the museums curator for South Asian and Himalayan art, knows there was a logic to each element and thought-out relationships among figures, but holds little hope of ever re-creating what an architect-priest was thinking centuries ago. Her research has, however, convinced her that almost everything Pepper purchased was part of a single mandapa; that it was probably open on at least three sides, as suggested by the gallerys sky blue walls; and that Rama and Purushamirukam belong with the others who stand in the center, inviting us to come close.

Nothingno strip along the floor, no pane of glassgets in the way of our admiring the skill it took to carve into hard granite the delicate ridges of a robe, the smooth swell of a belly, the curl of a lip or each graduated bead of a necklace. There is a sense of incipient movement, whether it is a slightly bent knee or the start of a bow. We recognize Hanuman by the long, sinuous tail; a demigod by a small, sharp fang; and the bird-god Garuda by the broken-off quills and feathers of wings. Two of the figures hold gourds, marking them as sages, and four appear to be saints. Then there is the muscular, mustachioed warrior standing atop diminutive pachyderms who, like Purushamirukam, holds a mace poised midair. He is Bhima of the Mahabharata epic, a man with the strength of 10,000 elephants, emerging from stone into our world like a superhero.

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Sanskrit Epics Animated in Stone - The Wall Street Journal

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January 23rd, 2021 at 7:52 pm

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Switch off TV when Sanskrit news is read – The Hindu

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Disposing of a petition that challenged the telecast of Sanskrit news on Doordarshan channel, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court observed that there were matters of greater social concern which had to be addressed and such petty issues should not be looked into by it.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice M.M. Sundresh observed, For one, Doordarshan channel has limited viewership. Secondly, it is a matter for the government to decide. Thirdly, the news read in Sanskrit hardly takes up a fraction of the entire day.

Further, the judges observed that when the writ petitioner did not find Sanskrit to be tasteful or useful, there was no compulsion for him to tune in and it was open to him to switch off the TV when Sanskrit news was read and get some other form of entertainment.

The judges hoped that the petitioner would keep up his public spirit and bring matters involving public interest to the court. The writ petition was disposed of with liberty to the petitioner to make an appropriate representation to authorities concerned.

The court was hearing the petition filed by advocate S. Muthukumar of Madurai who had sought a direction to forbear the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Prasar Bharati and Doordarshan from telecasting Sanskrit news in Doordarshans Tamil language regional channel Podhigai.

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January 23rd, 2021 at 7:52 pm

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Sanskrit emerges as 5th most widely used language in Rajya Sabha – The Tribune

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New Delhi, January 17

The use of regional languages during Rajya Sabha proceedings has increased more than five times and parliamentarians spoke in 10 of the 22 scheduled languages for the first time during 2018-20 with Sanskrit emerging as the fifth most widely used Indian language in the Upper House.

With 12 interventions in Sanskrit, all during 2019-20, it has emerged as the fifth most widely used language in the Rajya Sabha among the 22 scheduled languages after Hindi, Telugu, Urdu and Tamil.

During 2018-20 with 163 sittings, regional languages were used 135 times, including 66 interventions in debates, 62 Zero Hour and seven Special Mentions. Four of the 22 scheduled languages such as Dogri, Kashmiri, Konkani and Santhali were used for the first time in the Upper House since 1952, further to the introduction of Simultaneous Interpretation Service in these four languages and Sindhi language at the behest of Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu in 2018.

Besides, six languages like Assamese, Bodo, Gujarati, Maithili, Manipuri and Nepali have been used after a long gap, a Rajya Sabha document reveals.

Rajya Sabha Chairman Naidu's efforts yield results with more diversified use of regional languages since he took charge in August 2017 and has been urging the members of the House to speak in their respective mother tongues since then in the spirit of the federal nature of the House.

While announcing the availability of Simultaneous Interpretation Facilities in all the 22 scheduled languages in July 2018, the RS Chairman spoke in 10 languages in the House.

While Hindi and English are the widely used languages during the proceedings of the House, the use of 21 other scheduled Indian languages (other than Hindi) has increased more than five times (512 per cent) per sitting in 2020 over that of the 14-year period between 2004-17.

Rajya Sabha members spoke in 10 scheduled languages (other than Hindi) in the House on 269 occasions during 923 sittings between 2004 and 2017 at the rate of 0.291 per sitting. IANS

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Sanskrit emerges as 5th most widely used language in Rajya Sabha - The Tribune

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