Republic Day 2015 in Baghdad

India celebrates January 26th every year as her Republic Day to mark the date when the Constitution of India came into force. The constitution was adopted on January 26th, 1950 with a democratic government system. It was this day in 1930 when the Declaration of Indian Independence (Purna Swaraj) was proclaimed by the Indian National Congress. The Indian embassy in Baghdad organizes the flag hoisting ceremony on the morning at the embassy residence and a reception in the afternoon. I received emailed invitation to attend the ceremony and reception a week ago. The Indian embassy and the residence are in our neighbourhood. I walked from my office to the embassy residence for the Flag hoisting ceremony scheduled at 8:30 am. Today is the 66th Republic Day of India. The Flag hoisting ceremony started with hoisting of  the Indian flag by Ambassador H.E. Ajay Kumar followed by singing of national anthem by all the Indians present there. There is a very small Indian community in Baghdad. Most of the Indians in Iraq are in Kurdistan region.  It was then followed by reading of the President’s message to the Nation by the Ambassador. The printed message of the President to the Nation was also given to the attendees. The embassy arranges for breakfast for the guests of the ceremony. They served us nice hot pakoras, falafel and tea. We had some small chat with Ambassador Ajay Kumar, HOC DV Singh and others and then I returned […]

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Makar Sankranti Is Not Uttarayana

We celebrate January 14th as Makar Sankranti — the day on which the sun begins to rise in the Makara Rashi (Zodiac Capricorn), Sankranti meaning entering. There is a common misconception that Makara Sankranti is the Uttarayana (winter solstice). From time immemorial, the days on which the sun touches its northernmost and southernmost points are noted. These are called solstices — winter or summer. In Sanskrit, the journey southwards is called Dakshinayana, and the one northward is called Uttarayana, ‘dakshin’ and ‘uttar’ being south and north respectively. The winter solstice falls on December 21st, and hence Uttarayana begins on that day, while the summer solstice falls on June 21st, when Dakshinayana begins. While the exact day on which the winter or summer solstice occurs remains steady (within one day error), there is a slight change in the way the Earth’s rotation axis is aligned to the sun. Due to axial precession of the earth, the date of Makar Sankranti is shifting away from the actual season. In astronomy, axial precession is a gravity-induced, slow, and continuous change in the orientation of an astronomical body’s rotational axis. In particular, it refers to the gradual shift in the orientation of Earth’s axis of rotation. Every year equinoxes slide by 50 seconds i.e. approximately 1 day in every 70 years due to precession of equinoxes, causing Makara Sankranti to slide further. As a result if Makar Sankranti is considered as Uttarayana then as it is […]

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Annakoot–Mountain of Food

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Annakoot — Mountain of food — is celebrated in observance of the episode in Sri Krishna’s childhood, in which He gave protection to the cowherd clan of Vrindavan from the wrath of Indra and humbled Indra in that process. The cowherd, their wives, children and cattle jubilantly surrounded Sri Krishna. They were awed by His superhuman accomplishment and celebrated Sri […]

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Kojagori Lakshmi Puja

People of Indian states of West Bengal, Assam and Orissa worship Goddess Laksmi on Kojagori Purnima night — the full moon night in the month of Ashwin of Bengali calendar, just four days after Vijaya Dashami or Dusshera — the last day of the Durga puja in the month of October. It is believed that Goddess Lakshmi, who is the goddess of wealth, and prosperity, visits every household on this full moon night and blesses them with sheer promise of wealth, fortune and good luck. It is also a common belief that in order to guide goddess Lakshmi to the households, residents lit up deep, earthen lamps on the terraces or balconies especially to show the path inside the house. It’s customary at our house to Lakshmi puja every Thursday and also on Kojagori purnima. After several years, all of us are at home on this day. It was nice that we all together performed the puja at our house. Babai drew alpana with rice powder paste, while I made all other arrangements and performed the puja. Jaya cooked the bhog. Alpana refers to colorful motifs, sacred art or painting done on a horizontal surface on auspicious occasions in Bengal like Puja, wedding or community events. The art typically has some religious significance. This type of art is found on the Indian subcontinent. The word Alpana is derived from the Sanskrit alimpana, which means ‘to plaster’ or ‘to coat with’. […]

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Vasant Panchami

Today is the Vasant Panchami. Vasant Panchami, also known as Saraswati Puja, Shree Panchami, or the Basant Festival is a popular festival to seek blessings from the goddess of wisdom, knowledge, music, art and culture. Hindus celebrate Vasant Panchami with great fervor in temples, homes and even schools and colleges. Saraswati’s favorite color white assumes special significance on this day. This day has a great impact on my life as I started writing for the first time in my life this day 48 years ago. In Baghdad, I just remember this day and pray to the Goddess to keep my thirst for learning alive forever and I may attain enlightenment in my life through knowledge. I celebrate this day in Baghdad in absolute solitariness. Vasant Panchami is an important Indian festival celebrated every year in the month of Magh according to the Hindu calendar. Celebrated on the fifth day of Magh, the day falls somewhere in the months of February or January according to the Gregorian calendar. The significance of the day lies in the worship of Maa Saraswati, the goddess of learning, wisdom, knowledge, fine arts, refinement, science and technology. People worship Goddess Saraswati to attain enlightenment through knowledge and to rid themselves of lethargy, sluggishness and ignorance. According to the popular belief, the origins of this festival lie in Aryan period. Aryans came and settled in India through Khyber Pass, crossing the Saraswati River among many others. Being a primitive […]

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Durga Puja 2013

For last several years, we are going to Jamshedpur during Durga Puja on the day of Maha Ashtami to celebrate the Puja there for the remaining days and return to Ranchi on the day of Vijaya Dashami. This year also we planned the same. We were in Ranchi for Durga Shashthi and Maha Saptami. We are involved mainly in the Maitraee Club puja in North Office Para, Doranda. During our earlier stint in Ranchi from 1997 to 2001, we were staying in North Office Para and were involved in this Puja. On my transfer back to Ranchi from Jamshedpur in 2005, we are staying in Bariatu. Although it’s quite a distance between Bariatu and North Office Para, we revived and maintained our connection with Maitraee Club. Babai came home on October 10, the day of Shashthi in the afternoon. Jaya, Baba and I went to the airport to receive Babai. Due to some re-scheduling of flight timings, Babai’s flight came 35 minutes beyond the earlier declared time. We received Babai at the airport. It’s our family re-union after a long time and hence the most pleasurable moment for three of us. In the evening, we went to Maitraee Club. There were some games being organized by the club. Jaya and I both won a prize each. Babai tied up with his old school friends for the Maha Saptami day to spend time with them. We had Prasad & bhog there at […]

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First FDI in Durga Puja!

France will sponsor a Durga Puja in Kolkata this year – the first foreign country to do so – creating a milestone of sorts. I just read this in Hindustan Times. The puja that has been selected for the honour is Pallimangal community puja that is in its 54th year. It is located on Anwar Shah Road, a mere two blocks away from South City shopping mall. Besides giving funds, France will also send two artists to work with local ones to create a theme around 100 years of Indian cinema, one of the most prominent vehicles of cultural exchange between the two countries. There are also plans to bring a member of the French World Cup soccer team to inaugurate the puja. Alliance Francaise, which is funded by the French government, is bearing the expenditure of this puja. Though the budget is relatively small at Rs. 4 million (USD 68,000), the organisers are expecting it to open up the pujas to a growing western audience, which in turn, throws up a vast tourism potential. The French sponsorship of Pallimangal community puja is the culmination of a 20-minute documentary shot about the puja by a French journalist for France TV II, a national channel in France. The programme evinced interest in France and a team of visitors came to Kolkata in October 2012 to see the pujas.

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In office on a Public Holiday

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Today has been declared as a public holiday in Baghdad to commemorate the death of Imam Moussa ibn Jaafar al-Kadhim, the seventh of 12 principal Shiite imams, who died in 799. Shiites walk for hours, and often for days, from across the country to reach the mosque in Kadhimiyah, known for its twin golden domes. The mosque was built atop […]

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Shubho Nababarsha 1420!

“নির্মল করো, উজ্জ্বল করো, সুন্দর কর হে। জাগ্রত করো, উদ্যত করো, নির্ভয় করো হে।” অনন্ত শুভকামনা ১৪২০এ সকলকে। Happy Poila Baisakh! Shubho Nababarsha 1420! Happy Bengali New Year 1420!

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Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad

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Maha Kumbh mela is considered as the biggest festival of Hindus in the entire world. This was amply proved by observing a sea of more than 30 million Hindu devotees gathered at the confluence of 3 rivers (Triveni Sangam) at Allahabad (Prayagraj) on 10 February. The tithi (Auspicious day) of Mauni Amavasya began from 3.15 p.m. on 9 February. Since […]

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