Category Archives: Art & Culture

BISHNOI – The environment and wildlife defender activist community of India (since centuries)

Source : https://bishnoisamachar.in and Wikipedia

Bishnoi (also known as Vishnoi and Prahladapanthi) is a Hindu religious sect found in the Western Thar Desert and northern states of India. They follow a set of 29 principles/commandments given by Guru Jambheshwar (1451-1536). Jambheshwar founded the sect at Samrathal Dhora in 1485 and his teachings, comprising 120 shabads, are known as Shabadwani. He preached for the next 51 years, travelling across India.

The Bishnoi community of Rajasthan state of India has been in limelight ever since the case against Bollywood actor Salman Khan for poaching the blackbuck (also known as “black deer” by locals) started. Bishnois are known for their devout religious commitment to protect environment and wildlife, many times even laying their lives for the cause.

Here’s some more information about the incredible community:

Bishnoi sect was founded by Guru Jambheshwar (1451-1536), also known as Jambhaji. Some writers have used the term Vishnoi, meaning followers of  Lord Vishnu but sect members refer to themselves as Bishnoi. Jambheshwar himself did not refer to Bishnoi but does mention Vishnu. Adherents are also known as Prahladapanthi because of their devotion to Prahlada, another Hindu deity.

Jambheshwar announced a set of 29 tenets. These were contained in a document called Shabadwani, written in the Nagri script, which consists of 120 shabads. Of his 29 tenets, ten are directed towards personal hygiene and maintaining good basic health, seven for healthy social behaviour, and four tenets to the worship of God. Eight tenets have been prescribed to preserve bio-diversity – although most adherents are unaware of that, or such things as global warming, as a concept – and encourage good animal husbandry. These include a ban on killing animals and felling green trees, and providing protection to all life forms. The community is also directed to see that the firewood they use is devoid of small insects. Wearing blue clothes is prohibited because the dye for colouring them is obtained by cutting a large quantity of shrubs.

The Bishnoi have various temples, of which they consider the most holy to be that in the village of Mukam in Nokha tehsil, Bikaner district, Rajasthan. It is there that a shrine to Jambheshwar exists.

The Bishnoi narrate the story of Amrita Devi, a member of the sect who inspired as many as 362 other Bishnois to go to their deaths in protest of the cutting down of Khejri trees in September 1730. The maharaja of Jodhpur, Abhay Singh, requiring wood for the construction of a new palace, sent soldiers to cut trees in the village of Khejarli, which was called Jehnad at that time. Noticing their actions, Devi hugged a tree in an attempt to stop them. Her family then adopted the same strategy, as did other local people when the news spread. She told the soldiers that she considered their actions to be an insult to her faith and that she was prepared to die to save the trees. The soldiers did indeed kill her and others until Abhay Singh was informed of what was going on and intervened to stop the massacre.

Some of the 363 Bishnois who were killed protecting the trees were buried in Khejarli, where a simple grave with four pillars was erected. Every year, in September, the Bishnois assemble there to commemorate the sacrifice made by their people to preserve their faith and religion.

The 29 tenets of Bishnois state:

  1. Observe 30 days’ state of ritual impurity after child’s birth and keep mother and child away from household activities.
  2. Observe 5 days’ segregation while a woman is in her menses.
  3. Take bath daily in the morning before Sunrising.
  4. Obey the ideal rules of life: Modesty, Patience or satisfactions, cleanliness.
  5. Pray two times everyday (morning and evening).
  6. Eulogise God, Vishnu, in evening hours (Aarti)
  7. Perform Yajna (Havan) with the feelings of welfare devotion and love.
  8. Use filtered water, milk and cleaned firewood.
  9. Speak pure words in all sincerity.
  10. Practice forgiveness from heart.
  11. Be merciful by heart.
  12. Do not steal or keep any intention to do it.
  13. Do not condemn or criticize.
  14. Do not lie.
  15. Do not indulge in dispute/debate.
  16. Fast on Amavasya.
  17. Worship and recite Lord Vishnu in adoration
  18. Have merciful on all living beings and love them.
  19. Do not cut green trees, save the environment.
  20. Crush lust, anger, greed and attachment.
  21. Cook your food by yourself.
  22. Provide shelters for abandoned animals to avoid them from being slaughtered in abattoirs.
  23. Do not sterilise bull.
  24. Do not use or trade opium.
  25. Do not smoke or use tobacco or its products.
  26. Do not take bhang or hemp.
  27. Do not drink alcohol/liquor.
  28. Do not eat meat, always remain pure vegetarian.
  29. Don’t use violet blue colour extracted from the indigo plant.

“उणतीस धर्म की आंकड़ी, हृदय धरियो जोय। जाम्भोजी जी कृपा करी नाम विश्नोई होय ।”

“If you daily follow these 29 rules of Bishnois in your daily life then I assure you that you will live a joyful and happy life.”

बिश्नोई के 29 नियम साधारण भाव के साथ :-

1.  प्रतिदिन प्रात:काल स्नान करना।
2.  30 दिन जनन – सूतक मानना।
3.  5 दिन रजस्वता स्री को गृह कार्यों से मुक्त रखना।
4.  शील का पालन करना।
5. संतोष का धारण करना।
6.  बाहरी एवं आन्तरिक शुद्धता एवं पवित्रता को बनाये रखना।
7. तीन समय संध्या उपासना करना।
8. संध्या के समय आरती करना एवं ईश्वर के गुणों के बारे में चिंतन करना।
9. निष्ठा एवं प्रेमपूर्वक हवन करना।
10. पानी, ईंधन व दूध को छान-बीन कर प्रयोग में लेना।
11. वाणी का संयम करना।
12. दया एवं क्षमाको धारण करना।
13. चोरी, 14. निंदा, 15. झूठ तथा 16. वाद – विवाद का त्याग करना।
17. अमावश्या के दिनव्रत करना।
18. विष्णु का भजन करना।
19.  जीवों के प्रति दया का भाव रखना।
20. हरा वृक्ष नहीं कटवाना।
21. काम, क्रोध, मोह एवं लोभ का नाश करना।
22. रसोई अपने हाध से बनाना।
23. परोपकारी पशुओं की रक्षा करना।
24. अमल नहीं खाना
25. तम्बाकू नहीं खाना
26. भांग नहीं खाना
27. मद्य तथा नहीं खाना
28. नील का त्याग करना।
29. बैल को बधिया नहीं करवाना।

29 नियम श्लोक रूप में :-

तीस दिन सूतक, पांच ऋतुवन्ती न्यारो।
 सेरो करो स्नान, शील सन्तोष शुचि प्यारो॥
 द्विकाल सन्ध्या करो, सांझ आरती गुण गावो॥
 होम हित चित्त प्रीत सूं होय, बास बैकुण्ठे पावो॥
 पाणी बाणी ईन्धणी दूध, इतना लीजै छाण।
 क्षमा दया हृदय धरो, गुरू बतायो जाण॥
 चोरी निन्दा झूठ बरजियो, वाद न करणों कोय।
 अमावस्या व्रत राखणों, भजन विष्णु बतायो जोय॥
 जीव दया पालणी, रूंख लीला नहिं घावै।
 अजर जरै जीवत मरै, वे वास बैकुण्ठा पावै॥
 करै रसोई हाथ सूं, आन सूं पला न लावै।
 अमर रखावै थाट, बैल बधिया न करवौ॥
 अमल तमाखू भांग मांस, मद्य सूं दूर ही भागै।
 लील न लावै अंग, देखते दूर ही त्यागे॥
“उन्नतीस धर्म की आखड़ी, हिरदै धरियो जोय।
जाम्भे जी किरपा करी, नाम बिष्नोई होय॥”
Guru Jambheshwar
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Hindu prayer in English for non-Indian seekers / sadhaks

Intro : I have composed this prayer for non-Indian seekers of Hinduism in English. It is important to know that Hinduism (Sanatan Dharma) is a complex mix of many profound theologies, philosophies, schools of thoughts, etc. Contrary to popular opinion among Westerners, Hinduism is not polytheistic. It may be considered as henotheistic and panentheistic. Profound philosophies like Advaita Vedanta, Achintya Bhedabheda, Vishishtadvaita, Tantra, Vedic texts, etc. form the base of Hinduism (Sanatan Dharma). "Sanatan" means eternal and "Dharma" means moral order. Because Hinduism is henotheistic, its scriptures mention and praise numerous deities as if they are one ultimate unitary divine essence. While concentrating on one form of God, the devotion of a Hindu sadhak rises to such a level that for a particular period of time that form of God is worshipped as Supreme. There are a plethora of schools of thoughts in Hinduism which can be described as being monist, monotheist, henotheist, panentheist, etc. Different sects have different interpretation even though all of them are united as a single Hindu family. While making this humble attempt to compose an English Hindu prayer, I would like to clarify that I do not intend to disrespect any school/sect and I indeed respect and endorse all of them. All these sects/schools are like pearls tied together with a single string of Hinduism (Sanatan Dharma). Therefore like most Hindus, I respect all deities/names/forms as manifestations/representations of the same Supreme Divine. Most Hindus consider different forms as signifying different attributes/qualities of the same Supreme Divine. Thus, Hindus are secular in the sense that we see even non-Hindu names, terms and forms of God (of different religions of the world) as that of the Supreme Being itself. I recommend reading the Bhagavad Geeta (Advaita Vedantic interpretation) to understand the true essence of Hinduism.

Prayer

I begin by reciting the sound Om (ॐ), which is the divine cosmic sound containing all vibrations of the Multiverse and symbol of the cause of the Multiverse, essence of life, Brahman (God principle), Atman (soul), and Self-knowledge (Swabhaas).

I bow with folded hands (Namaste/Namaskar pose) before the One who is worshipped first (Pratham pujya) Lord Ganesha, remover of all obstacles in the path to righteousness (Dharma) and god of auspiciousness.

I bow with folded hands before Swamy (Lord Of Lords), Lord Vishnu, preserver of the Multiverse and Swayam Prabhu (God itself).

I bow with folded hands before Father Lord Shiva, destroyer and transformer of the Multiverse (Sanhaarak), Pashupatinath (Lord Protector of all beings), Rudra (mightiest of the mighty) and who is the essence of the world (Sansar saaram).

I bow with folded hands before Mother Adi Shakti (Parvati/Mahakali/Parashakti), protector of righteousness (Dharma) and force underlying the whole Multiverse.

I bow with folded hands before Mother Saraswati, embodiment and bestower of knowledge, music, art, wisdom and learning.

I bow with folded hands before Mother Lakshmi, goddess of abundance, wife of Lord Vishnu and bestower of wealth, fortune and prosperity.

I bow with folded hands before Lord Krishna, who is the embodiment of love and is Swayam Prabhu Purna Purushottam (God itself complete with all divine qualities).

I bow with folded hands before Mother Radha, supreme goddess of blissful devotion and soulmate of Lord Krishna.

I bow with folded hands before Lord Ram, who is the perfect ideal person (Maryada Purushottam).

I bow with folded hands before Gurudev (teacher/guide/expert/master) Lord Hanuman, the embodiment of devotion, knowledge, power, excellence, part incarnation  of Lord Shiva (Shivaansh) and supreme devotee of Lord Ram.

I bow with folded hands before Lord Narsimha, incarnation/avatar of Lord Vishnu and he who strikes terror in the minds of non-religious and non-righteous (adharmi).

I bow with folded hands before Lord Venkateswara Swamy, manifestation of Lord Vishnu and destroyer of sins.

I bow with folded hands before Lord Vithoba (Vitthal/Panduranga), manifestation of Lord Krishna and guide towards the Supreme.

I bow with folded hands before Lord Mururgan (Kartikeya/Shanmukha/Swaminath/Skanda), son of Lord Shiva and god of war.

I bow with folded hands before Lord Brahma, creator of the universe.

I bow with folded hands before Brahman (pronounced “Brahm”), the highest universal abstract impersonal formless genderless pervasive infinite eternal true blissful principle/reality underlying the Multiverse and also existing apart from it.

Thus bowing before all the divine forms of the Supreme, I end by reciting Om (ॐ), concentrating upon Om (ॐ) and dissolving my whole being into Om (ॐ).

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-Ribhu Vashishtha

Lifting away the weight of 3 years: Why we Israelis go to India after the army -Shalev Paller

Source : https://www.timesofisrael.com/lifting-away-the-weight-of-3-years-why-we-israelis-go-to-india-after-the-army/

It is almost the norm for soldiers, on leaving the IDF, to fly to India to ‘decompress.’ Here, a tank commander who served in the 2014 Gaza war explains the appeal, and details the process of regaining control over his life after ‘3 years of alarms each morning, of always having an assignment, of constant uncertainty as to when I’d be home next’

I wake up to the sound of laughing children, stare out the window at the blanket of clouds covering the valley below, and think of nothing. Finally, nothing.

Like many of those traveling to India, I have just finished my three-year army service. During my time as a soldier I served as a tank commander in various parts of the country. Toward the end of my service, in the summer of 2014, I participated in Operation Protective Edge (against Hamas in Gaza). After being released, when asked about my service, I’d end up summarizing an ocean of images, some of them difficult, with a single, inadequate sentence, “It was good.”

There is a weight that comes with living in this country, a weight that many of us carry, a lost friend or family member, or simply the everyday stress of not living in the safest of places. One of the reasons I traveled to India was to discover what weight I might be carrying with me, and hopefully rid myself of it. Plus, I heard the food was amazing.

When I first arrived in India, I was a sponge. I stood in the middle of a busy market in Old Delhi, took a deep breath, and soaked it all in: the smells, the faces, the colors, the sounds, all so new and strange and intense. An entire road filled with mountains of books. An alleyway too spicy to walk through. A family of six on a single motorbike. A bony old man, with legs of an ox, pulling a massive vegetable-filled cart. A woman with gray tired eyes sitting with her children in the middle of a market.

It was during my first week of taking it all in that I met Chacha, Delhi’s most popular chai shop/laundry service owner. He had a contagious, toothless smile and kind brown eyes, his curiosity resembling that of a child and his wisdom that of a guru. Walking with Chacha through the markets was like accompanying the pope through the Vatican. Everyone knew Chacha, and he knew everyone. Chacha was proof that money has little to do with happiness, seeing as he was probably the happiest man I’d ever met and his salary was a tenth of what I made as a soldier. On my last day in Delhi, Chacha told me the story of how he once used masala spices instead of laundry detergent. I laughed, and he suddenly gripped my shoulder and said, ”I see pain in you, my friend, you laugh with sadness. The next time I see you, I want you happy, yeah?” I nodded my head. “Okay, Chacha.”

On my way to the northern town of Rishikesh, my bus was delayed by a train that had broken down in the middle of the intersection. Instead of arguing with the driver, or getting upset, the passengers made their way off the bus, sat on the side of the road, prepared chai, and waited. It took hours, and what could have been a bitter day turned into something sweet. As the sun began to set, families, friends, and strangers alike sat, eating, talking, and most importantly, head-nodding. I remember thinking how people might react to such a thing back home, how much we dread the thought of wasting time. Yet somehow in a place where time is given such little value, it becomes so special. We reached Rishikesh by early morning, the birds and the street dogs beginning to rise, and I felt lighter somehow, even though I’d just eaten my entire body weight in rice and curry.

Weeks later, wandering along a river, I came across a group of boys skipping rocks. I joined them for a while, and when it came time to leave I handed each a small bar of chocolate. As the youngest of the boys opened the wrapper I remembered how my father used to bring us chocolate from his trips abroad, how so much happiness was found in the smallest of gifts. The boy took the first bite. His eyes lit up, and he ran off to join the others. Midway through his run he stopped, turned to me, and shouted, “Dhanyavaad” (thank you), then continued running.

And so it went, every location a new face, a new story. I sat on a street corner with Rajaswa the shoe cobbler as he sang songs his mother had taught him. I went to a Hindu movie theater and witnessed two hundred locals scream and cheer as a father and daughter reunited in the film. I became immune to hot food and hot weather. And I rediscovered a thirst for life I’d been missing for some time.

I’d had three years of alarms each morning, of always having an assignment, of constant uncertainty as to when I’d be home next. Three years of my days not really belonging to me. Now that they did, once again, I was going to fill them with flute lessons, mantra-humming monks, and as much India as possible.

Angita, Raju, and their two kids, Akansu and Likitha, lived in a small mountain village located a few kilometers north of the Himalayas. I spent a week living in a small guestroom Raju had built. Immediately, my heart was touched by this young family, by the way they all slept in the same bed, wrapped in each other’s dreams. The way Angita and Raju spoke each evening with hushed voices and listening faces. The way Angita stared at the sky as she collected large stones and logs. The dark red ties and stained white shirts Akansu and Likitha wore to school. The worn out flipflops Raju walked in as he went to help his neighbor build an extension for his home.

The first time I played cricket with Akansu, the boys laughed mockingly as I came up to bat. They were unaware, of course, that I’d been on the Israeli national baseball team. My first swing, and all laughter ceased. The kids fell silent and stared in disbelief as a small orange tennis ball soared through the air like an eagle, disappearing into the sun. That night over dinner, Akansu described my hit to the family with giant, enthusiastic motions. “Baseball!” he kept shouting. “He plays baseball.”

The next few days I spent mostly on my own, hiking and exploring the area. During one of my hikes I had stopped to eat on a grassy mountaintop when it began to drizzle, then rain, and finally pour. And suddenly it hit me, all of it. The weight I’d been gathering and carrying, that ocean of images, the pain in my laughter came flooding out and lifted, and I could see everything clearly: a giant soldier, who was really just a boy in a uniform, sitting beside me with tears in his eyes; a city in flames; the worried faces of summer camp children waiting in a bomb shelter; four men blessing the Sabbath in a small packed tank; a mother’s shaking voice on the phone. I saw, and accepted it, as part of who I was. And the rain gently washed away my burning.

The next morning I woke to the sound of laughing children. I stared out the window at the valley below, and thought of nothing. Finally, nothing.

A few days before leaving India I went back to visit Chacha. It had been months since I’d seen him last, and it felt like years. Chacha was sitting at the exact same spot where I’d left him, chewing red tobacco, making someone laugh. When he saw me he nodded his head and smiled, “You came back, my friend.”

“I have,” I replied.

“And what a wonderful smile you’ve brought with you.”

When I finally came home resembling Tom Hanks from “Castaway,” a giant family hug awaited. Once again I was asked what it was all like, only this time an ocean of images, of warmth, friendship, beauty, kindness, laughter, and love flooded my mind.

I smiled like Chacha, nodded my head, and said, “It was good.”

Hindi speakers should give more respect to other languages: President Ram Nath Kovind

Source : The Hindu

President Ram Nath Kovind on Thursday asked Hindi-speaking people to give more respect and space to regional languages and their speakers in a bid to make Hindi more popular across the country.

Addressing a function on the occasion of ‘Hindi Divas’ in New Delhi, the President said, Hindi continued to face opposition in some parts of the country even though it became an official language many decades ago.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who was also present at the function organised by his Ministry, said in his address that Hindi could be enriched further if its speakers also used words from other languages.

Referring to recent incidents on the Bangalore Metro, where a pro-Kannada group opposed Hindi signboards in the train service, and earlier agitations against Hindi in Tamil Nadu, President Kovind said there was a feeling among some people that Hindi was being imposed on them.

“Non-Hindi speaking people desire that we [Hindi-speaking people] give attention to their languages. Those who speak Hindi should give space to other languages. We all have the responsibility to give respect to non-Hindi speaking people and regional languages,” he said.

Mr. Kovind suggested that those who speak Hindi should greet a Tamilian with a ‘vanakkam’, a Sikh with ‘Sat Sri Akal’ and a Muslim with an ‘Adaab’ — words of greeting in Tamil, among Sikhs and in Urdu respectively. They should use the word ‘Garu’ (sir) while addressing a Telugu-speaking person, he said.

The adoption of other languages and cultures will help unite the people and the country, he said.

The President said he had used the Russian word ‘spasiba’ (thank you) while ending his speech at a state banquet during the recent visit of Belarus President A.G. Lukashenko. The guest was so delighted that he spontaneously responded with a ‘Jai Hind.’

The Belarus President also announced that Hindi would be taught in that country’s state university from this month.

Mr. Kovind also asked lawyers and doctors to use Hindi and other regional languages at work.

“In India people don’t understand the language of lawyers and doctors. In courts, now, gradually Hindi and other languages are being spoken. Similarly, if the doctors start giving prescriptions in Devanagari and other languages, the doctor-patient distance will be reduced,” he said.

In his address, the Home Minister said Hindi was the unifying language for the country and had helped bring people of different regions together during India’s freedom struggle.

“We [Hindi-speaking people] should accept and use popular words of regional languages. If we do that, it will enrich the language,” he said.

Mr. Singh said the contribution of non-Hindi speaking people such as Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak was immense in making Hindi an official language of the country.

He also questioned those who said English was required for India to become an economic power.

“I want to ask those who say that without English India can’t be an economic power, how come China has become an economic power by speaking Mandarin,” he said.

In his welcome speech, Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said even though Hindi was not his mother tongue, he felt immense pride while speaking the language.

“In my native State [Arunachal Pradesh], Hindi is widely spoken and used by common people from all walks of life,” he said.