Deepavali: The lamps in true light – Swami Tejomayananda

Gods venerate Mahalakshmi

Swami Tejomayananda“Diwali is the day when we harvest the results of our hard work blessed with wealth by Mother Lakshmi. We pray to her with gratitude and ask the gracious Divine Mother to shower Her blessings in abundance for the coming year, give us the intelligence to use our wealth in the right manner and give us the heart to share it generously with our fellow beings.” – Swami Tejomayananda

Lakshman, Rama & SitaIn India, festivals are not only known for the celebrations and festivities, but also for their spiritual significance, inspiring us to raise the standard of our life. Rather than merely exhausting ourselves physically and mentally, they purify the mind, enabling us to face life with more enthusiasm.

And with Diwali here, let us take a closer look at the great significance it has.

Diwali is a contraction of the word “Deepavali” which means a row of lights or a billion lights. As you know, all festivals in India have special social, cultural and religious significance. And most of the festivals in the Hindu culture are meant to celebrate the victory of good over evil. In this sense, Diwali is a day of many blessings.

It is the day when the wickedness, jealousy and greed in Kaikeyi accepted defeat and when the love, dedication and service of Bharat, won. It is the day when Sri Ram, Sita and Lakshman returned to Ayodhya. Happiness, peace and harmony returned to Ayodhya—the land of no conflict. Sri Ram represents honesty and firm adherence to duty; Sita embodies faith and devotion; Lakshman personifies detachment.

Satyabhama kills NarakasuraFor this homecoming, lamps of peace are lit. It is the day Sri Krishna killed Narakasura—the demon of sorrow and hell, who had kidnapped and imprisoned 16,000 princesses for his harem. It is the day when the selfish ego, which has entrapped all the 16,000 thought-varieties, is killed and all thoughts get wedded to the one infinite blissful consciousness, Sri Krishna Paramatma—the supreme self in all. When our mind turns towards the infinite self, the sense of limitation along with its selfishness ends.

For this knowledge, lamps of joy are lit.

It is the day when we harvest the results of our hard work blessed with wealth by Mother Lakshmi. We pray to her with gratitude and ask the gracious Divine Mother to shower Her blessings in abundance for the coming year, give us the intelligence to use our wealth in the right manner and give us the heart to share it generously with our fellow beings.

DiyaFor this sharing, lamps of love are lit. Fill the heart with the oil of love. Place in it the wick of single-pointed mind. Light it with the knowledge of truth and remove the darkness of ignorance around you. Just as one lamp can light many lamps; let each one kindle this light in many hearts. 

» Swami Tejomayananda, head of Chinmaya Mission Worldwide, is an orator, poet, singer, composer and storyteller. © Central Chinmaya Mission Trust.

VHP gives Modi govt two and a half years to built Ram temple in Ayodhya – Rajiv Srivastava

Proposed Ram Temple at Ayodhya

Rajiv Srivastava“VHP looks ready to understand the government’s compulsion. ‘Even if we put pressure on the BJP government to bring a legislation on the issue, the bill will not be passed in Rajya Sabha as the government doesn’t have the numbers. In that case it would be prudent to give them time to get the numbers,’ Chinmayanand further said.” – Rajiv Srivastava

Swami ChinmayanandaVishwa Hindu Parishad has given BJP government at the Centre 2.5 years at the most to take up Ram Mandir construction issue.

On Friday, RSS general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale said it was for the BJP government to decide when will they take up the issue, they have five-year time, but VHP’s member Marg Darshak Mandal and former minister of state for Home Swami Chinmayanand while talking to TOI said: “… not five years but they should take it up much earlier at the most two and a half years.”

The three-day RSS national executive meet that began in Lucknow on Friday has brought the issue of Ram temple, which BJP kept aloof of during the Lok Sabha election, back in reckoning.

Dattatreya HosabaleFour months after the BJP government at the Centre, saffron outfits have finally begun speaking their mind out on their core issue of Ram Mandir at Ayodhya.

While BJP government at the Centre might have got almost five-year term from its ideological guardian — RSS — to construct Ram mandir, Vishwa Hindu Parishad wants it to be constructed well before the government completes five-year term.

Until Modi-led government came to power at the centre, the outfits were more being ‘sentimental’ about the issue, but now they are being ‘reasonable’ about it as none is willing to put pressure on the BJP government to take up their ideological issue immediately.

BJP chief Amit Shah, who after attending the RSS meeting, agreeing with what Hosabale said only proves the point.

What makes it interesting that VHP looks ready to understand the government’s compulsion. “Even if we put pressure on the BJP government to bring a legislation on the issue, the bill will not be passed in Rajya Sabha as the government doesn’t have the numbers. In that case it would be prudent to give them time to get the numbers,” Chinmayanand further said.

However, the deadline given by the former union minister might not be final. “The VHP management committee meeting and a meeting with all the seers and saints is scheduled to be held in December, where a final decision on the issue would be taken,” VHP’s national secretary Rajendra Pankaj said.

Ram Temple on the Babri Masjid site after the demolition.However, Pankaj also cited Chinmayanand’s logic that the BJP government lacks the required numbers in Rajya Sabha to ensure passing of the legislation on the issue.

“Besides, VHP wants the government to take the initiative on the issue and even try to bring Muslim representatives on discussion table as they had earlier said that they would forego their claim if it was established that a temple existed before the mosque was built at the disputed site in Ayodhya,” Pankaj further said.

Politically speaking, it seems the deadline by the saffron outfits is a well thought out plan. By the time VHP’s deadline approaches, assembly elections in all the major states would be over, as BJP will not once again like the issue to be at centre stage during these elections just like they managed to keep it away during Lok Sabha election. – The Times of India, 19 October 2014

Carved stones for the new Ram Temple at Ayodhya

Ram-Nam bricks donated by Hindus for a Ram Temple at Ayodhya

See also

De-iconisation of a few icons is an urgent task – Rakesh Sinha

Prince Dara Shukoh (undecorated elephant on right) paraded in public before being executed by his younger brother Aurangzeb.

Prof Rakesh Sinha“We’ve a road named after a religious bigot and tyrannical ruler Aurangzeb, but not after his brother Dara Shikoh, who staked his very life to Indianise Islam. These are of no less significance to understand the psyche of misguided post-independent social philosophy. Secularists have imposed certain figures on our popular mind, who are injurious to our inclusive social and intellectual life, and philosophy.” – Prof Rakesh Sinha

Dara ShikohIndian politics and history may now witness a war of sorts between national heroes and other icons. Post-independent India has witnessed systematic efforts to iconise certain figures as the only ‘true heroes’ of the national movement and political life, while banishing and suppressing others. There are innumerable institutions, projects and roads named after the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. But the Lal-Bal-Pal trio, Subhash Chandra Bose, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and leaders and thinkers associated with the RSS and the socialist movement were denied legitimate space. 

This year has witnessed the ascendency of a different politico-ideological consanguinity (gotra). Intellectual and popular discourse, therefore, will also witness iconisation as well as de-iconisation of historical figures. Interestingly, the debate on non-Hindu figures is all the more important for strengthening secularism and nationalism in India. 

We’ve a road named after a religious bigot and tyrannical ruler Aurangzeb, but not after his brother Dara Shikoh, who staked his very life to Indianise Islam. These are of no less significance to understand the psyche of misguided post-independent social philosophy. Secularists have imposed certain figures on our popular mind, who are injurious to our inclusive social and intellectual life, and philosophy.

Badruddin TyabjiThe most glaring instance is of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, the founder of Aligarh Muslim University, who introduced modern education among Muslims. Does this alone merit his status of a modern leader and icon worthy of celebration? There are two fundamental criteria to judge any social reformer and thinker. First, inclusive politics and social philosophy, and second, egalitarian thought. Khan was one of the first Muslim elites to systematically campaign against the Indian National Congress (INC) and left no stone unturned to alienate it from India’s Muslims. He condemned the INC as “civil war without arms” and wasn’t inconsistent in his approach to the national movement till his last breath. India’s non-Muslims didn’t care who was at the helm of the Congress as they folked together to strengthen the national outfit increasingly evolving as a platform against imperialism.

Congress’ first president W. C. Banerjee was a Christian, the second in 1886 was Dadabhai Naoroji, a Parsi, the third in 1887 was Badruddin Tyabji, a Muslim. The fourth and fifth were Europeans—Yule and Wedderburn—and the sixth president in 1890 was Pherozeshah Mehta, a Parsi. This did not deter Hindu participation in the Congress. While in 1885, the number of Hindu delegates was 55, and Muslims had only two, the Parsis who formed a microscopic part of the total population and stood nowhere in comparison to Muslims, had nine delegates. At the Bombay session of 1904, the Parsis with 65 delegates were Sir Syed Ahmed Khanalmost double that of the Muslims (35 delegates). In the 1908 Madras session, Muslims had 10 delegates to the Parsis’ 20. What led Parsis to participate way beyond the proportion of their population, while Muslims had mental reservation? Tyabji was ineffective before the Aligarh clique.

Khan justified the need for separate educational institutions for Muslims. The reason he put forth has tragically continued to influence Muslim elites long after Independence. He said the education of Muslims suffer by studying amid other religious communities, particularly Hindus. He believed both had their different needs and modes of life. Khan cautioned Muslims against mutual sympathy and national feeling, which were born due to common schooling and education, as it would dilute Muslims’ religious identity. Is it a secular and democratic proposition?

Last but not the least, Khan was opposed to competitive examinations, as according to him, it would bring feudal lords and fiefs to the level of the commoner. Yet, history books eulogise Khan more but not Tyabji. De-iconisation must proceed, though backed by strong intellectual arguments and empiricism. – The New Indian Express, 19 October 2014

» Sinha is Hony. Director of India Policy Foundation. Email him at

Majma-ul-Bahrain by Dara Shikoh

The rise and fall of Jayalalithaa – B. R. Haran

B.R. Haran“The present scenario has opened up a great opportunity for the BJP: increasing membership, creating Hindu vote bank, politics of corruption and crime being practised by the Dravidian parties for more than five decades, mismanagement of temples, cow slaughter and cattle trafficking, growth of evangelism, rise in Islamic fundamentalism, assaults and murders of Hindu leaders and activists are some of the major avenues through which the party can reach out to the masses. … The Sri Lankan Tamils issue and the fishermen issue could be properly addressed to win the hearts of Tamils.” – B. R. Haran

John Michael D. CunhaIn a legal battle which had been prolonged for 18 years by Jayalalithaa by utilising the loopholes in the system, Special judge John Michael Cunha convicted her of amassing wealth disproportionate to her known income and sentenced her to four years simple imprisonment and Rs.100 crore fine. Her associates Sasikala, Ilavarasi and Jaya’s foster son and Sasikala’s nephew V. N. Sudhakaran were also sentenced for the same period with a fine of Rs. 10 crores each. As a consequence, she lost her chief minister post and the membership of the Legislative Assembly. In addition to it, she will not be able to contest elections for six years from the date of release, as she stands disqualified as per law. This will keep her away from active politics for about ten years.

It all started with Dr. Subramanian Swamy files a complaint against Jayalalithaa on June 14, 1996. The then DMK government directed the DVAC to register FIR against her for possession of unaccounted wealth. Charge sheet was also filed against her and the three others. As most of the witnesses turned hostile after her coming back to power in 2001, DMK’s Anbazhagan and Dr. Swamy moved to the Supreme Court on February 2003 for transfer of trial from Tamil Nadu and the SC transferred it to Karnataka. A Special Court was set up in December 2003 and trials proceeded. As the trials were going on in Bangalore, she could not use her influence despite coming back to power in 2011. In between her every attempt to approach the Supreme Court for interim relief was rejected by the SC which sent her and her associates back to Karnataka Special court. Ultimately, she had to appear twice in person to answer more than a thousand questions posed by the Special Court. Trial concluded on August 28, 2014 and finally the conviction orders were pronounced on September 27. Her appeal and bail application was refused by the Karnataka High Court on October 7. Justice A.V. Chandrashekhara, in his order pronounced in a packed court room that there “are no grounds” to give bail to the former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and observed that corruption amounts to “violation of human rights” and leads to economic imbalance.

Jaya's Case Timeline

Sasikala NatarajanAudacious and Mysterious

It must be to the credit of Jayalalithaa that she fought very hard against all odds to reach this level in politics. Though she remained as actor and former Chief Minister Marudhur Gopalan Ramachandran’s favourite heroine in films, MGR admitted her into his party only in 1982 and then made her as the Party’s Propaganda Secretary in 1983. In 1984, he nominated and sent her to the Rajya Sabha. After MGR’s death in 1987, she took over the party and thwarted the attempt of a few seniors to create a division. Though the seniors were able to send her out and made MGR’s wife Janaki as the Chief Minister, they could not sustain as the cadres and majority of second rung leaders supported Jayalalithaa. Rajiv Gandhi government at the centre dismissed Janaki Ramachandran’s government within twenty days by using Article 356.

Then when DMK won the 1989 Assembly elections and formed the government, Jayalalithaa became the Leader of the Opposition. She gained sympathy of the people when she was assaulted and harassed by the DMK legislators inside the Assembly. Subsequently, the DMK government was dismissed by Chandrasekar-led central government for pro-LTTE activities.

Then riding along the sympathy wave caused by Rajiv’s assassination, she led her party to victory in the 1991 Assembly elections and formed the government.

In the meantime, when she was serving AIADMK as Propaganda Secretary she was approached by Sasikala, who owned a Video Cassette library then. Sasikala’s husband Natarajan was serving the government as Public Relations Officer. Slowly and steadily Sasikala won her confidence and got into her good books and ultimately entered her residence too as a trusted associate.

This act of Jayalalithaa in taking Sasikala as a trusted associate turned out to be a huge mistake, which she seems to have not realised fully till date despite her intelligence and political acumen. The events that unfolded from 1991 to 1996 when she was in power stand testimony for the alleged fact that Sasikala took full control of administration behind the scenes, involving corruption, cunningness and crime. The various media reports during that period too indicate the same. If one goes through those reports, one can get to know the long list of corrupt deals and crimes such as Pleasant Stay Hotel Case, Burning alive of three college girls by AIADMK cadres, killing of two journalists working for Tamil weekly Tharasu, acquisition of land belonging to TANSI (Tamil Nadu Small Industries Corporation), disinvestment of TIDCO’s shares to SPIC, attacking IAS officer Chandralekha by throwing acid on her face, multi-crore colour TV scam, disproportionate assets case, etc., to name a few. A compilation and fine editing of those media reports will produce a voluminous political thriller. The corruption and crime unleashed by Sasikala and her family brought the downfall of Jayalalithaa’s government in 1996 elections. Since then she had sent her out twice, but only to admit her back after a small duration of separation. It has always been an unsolved mystery.

The DMK won the 1996 elections and after forming government, it filed a flurry of cases against Jayalalithaa and her associates. Subramanian Swamy for his part filed this disproportionate case against Jayalalithaa. While Jayalalithaa was able to come out clean in all the other cases during her second term between 2001 and 2006, she couldn’t come out of this disproportionate assets case.

In the long drawn legal process, the case saw several judges and public prosecutors. It also exposed the loopholes of the legal system and how they could be utilised by the corrupt who are in power to subvert the trial and obstruct and delay the judicial process. As the saying “justice delayed is justice denied” goes, she was able to enjoy power twice despite getting charge sheeted. Nevertheless, justice saw the light of the day finally. Jayalalithaa has become the first serving Chief Minister to be convicted under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Jayalalithaa's Assets

O. PaneerselvamA bunch of zeroes and a lawless state

When MGR was at his peak, a politician said, “MGR is number one and other ministers are zeroes behind him.” The same culture remains in the party even now. Jayalalithaa is number one and the rest are all zeroes. On the day of verdict (September 27) all ministers have gone to Bangalore and there was no one to take care of the administration. When the news of her conviction spread, violence and arson were unleashed by AIADMK cadres. Two buses were burnt down in Kanchipuram and Tuticorin; shops and vehicles were attacked; movement of traffic was disrupted; residences of DMK Chief Karunanidhi and the BJP leader Subramanian Swamy were attacked; attempted suicides happened across the state. Finally on instructions from Union Home Ministry, the governor had to call senior government officials and police officers for an urgent meeting to maintain law and order. Fortunately, the next day being Sunday, shops and establishments remained closed and people also didn’t come out of their homes.

Though the administration seemed to have taken control of the situation, AIADMK cadres continue their protests across the state. Fasting; abstaining from work, processions, etc are going on. AIADMK trade unions of all government departments have struck work. AIADMK cadres in fishermen community stayed away from the sea. AIADMK supporters from the film industry forced the entire Kollywood to stop work on Monday the 29th including the suspension of screening of movies. They conducted a protest fast. So far, more than a dozen cadres have committed suicide. Even a police constable who was awarded by Jayalalithaa a couple of years back, attempted to commit suicide in front of DGP’s office. Government school and college students were also forced to abstain from classes and hit the streets protesting against the judgment. HR & CE officials have given oral orders to all the temple priests to conduct special prayers for the release of Jayalalithaa. In major temples like Kapaleeswarar Temple in Chennai, special yagnas and homams were performed. HR & CE staff and staff of many other departments wore black badges on duty! The Chandi homam for Vijayadasami to be performed in important temples has been allegedly cancelled and instead special prayers were performed for her release on instructions from the department.

The nominated Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam and other ministers who came back from Bangalore for the swearing-in ceremony, left immediately after it for Bangalore again. They took oath weeping and crying during the swearing-in ceremony. Many leaders, actors and cadres were all seen on TV, particularly Jaya TV, abusing the court and the concerned judge, without even realising that it was an act of contempt of court. Posters condemning Justice Cunha and Karnataka High Court have put up across the state by AIADMK cadres. The height of contempt was a resolution passed by Vellore Municipal Council condemning the judgment! Even the Madras Corporation Council passed a resolution against the verdict. Some DMK councilors, who protested against the naming of Karunanidhi in the resolution, were thrashed and beaten black and blue by the AIADMK councilors including women members.

The way things are going on in the state, governance may take a beating until Jayalalithaa gets bail. The present council of ministers is unlikely to take decisions without her consent, as they are not used to such a situation before, and most of them are also not competent enough to take decisions.

JayalalithaaA turning point in Tamil Nadu politics

As things stand now as per law, she is disqualified and cannot contest elections for ten years. That is, the six years term starts from the day of release after four years of imprisonment. Even if she gets bail after hearing of her appeal, the stay of conviction is most unlikely. So, she cannot contest the next elections. If her appeal is dismissed by the High Court, then she cannot expect much from the Supreme Court either. In that case, remote controlling a government for two years and a party for four years will be too difficult, and, the subsequent six years of disqualification will be too much for her as well as the party to sustain and survive in the political arena.

This situation may turn out to be a huge turning point in Tamil Nadu’s politics. Since 2011, the DMK has been on the decline and is in a poor state of health. It was kicked to the third position in 2011 Assembly elections and the party drew a blank in 2014 Parliament elections. The party is at its lowest ebb now. The patriarch Karunanidhi is aging and crossing 90 and is confined to a wheel chair. His family heirs are fighting with each other and the party functionaries are a divided lot too.

The party is also riddled in corruption and its top leaders are facing corruption cases. While former union minister A. Raja and Karuna’s daughter Kanimozhi have already served prison terms and are still fighting the case for 2G Scam, Karuna’s grand nephew and former union minister Dayanidhi Maran, along with his brother Kalanidhi Maran, is also facing CBI enquiries and corruption charges in Aircel-Marxis Deal and for running an illegal telephone exchange at his residence. Having lost its credibility completely, the party is not in a position to take on the AIADMK single-handedly, despite the conviction of Jayalalithaa. It is in need of allies.

The other Dravidian parties are also in a similar kind of situation. They have their own limitations and they are aware of it. After boycotting the by-elections for the local bodies, they have started moving coins for a grand alliance for the forthcoming 2016 Assembly Elections. Though some of them like Vaiko of MDMK and Dr. Ramadoss of PMK pretend to continue in the BJP-led NDA, they seem to be in a mood to get back to DMK. The celebration of former chief minister and Dravidian stalwart Annadurai’s birth anniversary (September 15) came in handy for Vaiko to send a signal to the DMK that Jayalalithaa is the only enemy for all. He also said that all “friends” must unite to defeat her. It is suspected that Vaiko had acted as per the suggestion of Karunanidhi’s elder son Alagiri who wanted to check the attempt of his younger sibling Stalin to become the political heir of Karunanidhi. Karunanidhi for his part sent similar signals to Vaiko, as he wanted to snub Stalin thereby making all his family members to fall in line behind him.

Ever since he came out of DMK and started his own outfit MDMK, Vaiko has been an utter failure in TN politics. He has projected himself as a “separatist” always fighting for the cause of separate Eelam and very rarely talking about local issues concerning the local people. Understanding his worthlessness, both Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa preferred to keep him away from their respective alliances during the 2011 Assembly elections, which forced his party to abstain from contesting. Even after joining the BJP-led NDA on the eve of Parliament elections, he couldn’t utilise the ‘Modi Wave’ to his benefit and people rejected him. So, he is left with no other choice but to get back to the DMK.

PMK’s Dr Ramadoss went and met Karunanidhi at his residence for inviting him to his granddaughter’s marriage, which is likely to be held by October end. Since the inception of his party, he has been shifting his loyalty to DMK and AIADMK alternatively, based on the prevailing scenario, thereby enjoying power. However, on the eve of 2011 Assembly elections, he decided to keep equidistant from DMK and AIADMK. But then, as his party’s performance was miserable, he got into he NDA during the run up to the Parliament elections. He and his party leaders have never been comfortable with Vijayakanth and his DMDK and hence, they focused only on their seats during campaign, but could win only one, the Dharmapuri seat contested by Ramadoss’s son Anbumani, former Union Health Minister. As BJP rejected a ministry post to Anbumani on the grounds that he was under the CBI scanner, Ramadoss is waiting for a chance to quit the NDA. So, in all likelihood, he may get back to the DMK led alliance for the forthcoming Assembly elections in 2016.

Actor Vijayakanth has completed his 10th year in politics on September 14, the day on which he founded his party DMDK. Ever since he plunged into politics by starting a new party, he has been projecting his party as a third alternative in the state. Maintaining equidistant from both the mainline Dravidian per cent of votes in his first electoral venture itself. Then his party’s vote-share rose to 12 per cent in the subsequent elections and thereafter it remained a saturation point. Realising that he needed to be in power for some time to gain in stature and increase his party’s vote share, he joined hands with Jayalalithaa in the 2011 Assembly elections, which led his party to the second position. Ultimately he gained the Leader of the Opposition status. However, instead of playing the role of a constructive opposition leader, he started antagonising Jayalalithaa in each and every issue, which made her to poach his MLAs. Now, while seven of his party MLAs have vowed their allegiance to Jayalalithaa, he is unable to take action against them, for the fear of losing the opposition leader status. This made him to join the BJP-led NDA for the Parliament elections, in which, he also drew a blank despite his party’s presence across the state. The party’s vote share has also come down drastically to 4.5 per cent. Having all these limitations in mind, he sent a signal to all the opposition parties during his party’s anniversary celebrations on September 14, by stating that all opposition parties must unite to defeat Jayalalithaa.

Stalin nominated Karunanidhi's successorChanging alliance equations

The recent moves by Vaiko, Ramadoss and Vijayakanth are telling in the sense that they have realised the fact that Jayalalithaa could be defeated only by forming a mega alliance. DMK patriarch has also sent right signals and a mega alliance may be formed soon in all likelihood. Though Vaiko and Ramadoss would not mind leaving NDA and go to DMK, Vijayakanth may want BJP also in the alliance and Karunanidhi would welcome BJP with glee as the party is ruling at the centre and he would want to exert some influence for the sake of his daughter and grand nephews. However, the BJP would prefer to stay away from the DMK, as it would want to capitalise the weakness of AIADMK. It may even try to retain Vijayakanth within NDA. But the BJP is also aware of the fact that he is also friendly with some of the Congress leaders in the state.

As Communists were snubbed insultingly by the AIADMK during the Assembly poll, they may happily go to DMK’s mega alliance given a chance. That leaves the Congress in a very precarious situation. Out of the two main national parties in the state, BJP has started growing as indicated by the share it gained in the parliament elections and its participation in the local body by-polls while the Congress is almost dead in Tamil Nadu. So, the Congress has only two options to get back to survival, one being holding to Vijayakanth and joining DMK-led alliance and the other being approaching Jayalalithaa with a begging bowl. It is already reported in a section of the press that the Congress leader Ahmed Patel is in touch with Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah requesting him to make the necessary arrangements for the welfare of Jayalalithaa.

As far as AIADMK is concerned, the party’s only aim at present is to get bail for its supremo. With Jayalalithaa in jail, both governance of the state and running of party affairs will suffer a lot. If she is able to get bail, she may be able to guide the council of ministers from outside, while personally taking care of the party affairs. But then, it would not be as good as a government led by her. She may even find out all available opportunities and possibilities to give legal troubles to the opposition leaders. She will also try to utilise the sympathy factor to the hilt and try to attract the masses by announcing a few more of the so-called welfare schemes with the brand name “AMMA”. If her obtaining bail is getting delayed further, then the sympathy factor may vanish in course of time and people will start finding fault with the governance or the lack of it. Expecting the sympathy factor to stay till the time of elections in 2016 will be foolish on the part of AIADMK. As she has already won both the parliament elections and the local body by-polls single-handedly without any alliance partner, she would prefer to go all out in the 2016 Assembly elections as well. If at all she gets any help from the Congress government in Karnataka, she may consider taking it as an alliance partner, which is only a remote possibility. Jayalalithaa would also go all out to make her candidate win her constituency Srirangam in the forthcoming by-election. That would serve as a morale booster for her cadres. Later, if at all she feels the need for support, she may opt for an alliance with the BJP, and that again is a remote possibility considering her style of politics.

The BJP for its part has understood through its experiment in parliament elections that the alliance with ideologically opposite parties such as MDMK, PMK and DMDK would not pay any dividends. So, it would not bother about these parties leaving the NDA and joining DMK. Considering the fact that it had broken its alliance in Haryana and Maharashtra without much botheration, it would not be a surprise if it decides to face the elections alone in Tamil Nadu.

Fr. Jegath Gaspar RajRegrouping of Dravidian and Abrahamic forces

The recent happenings in Tamil Nadu indicate that the Dravidian forces are worried about the rise of the BJP in the state. The Generic Church and the Islamic establishments are more worried. The Dravidian leaders including BJP’s allies in the NDA have not minced any words, while opposing and condemning BJP for its stand on “Sanskrit Week” celebration. Irrespective of the fact that the Sanskrit Day has been celebrated since 1969 and Sanskrit Week since 2001, they made a big hue and cry terming it as imposition of Hindutva ideology on the Tamils through Sanskrit language. They didn’t even bother to note that the Sanskrit Week celebration was suggested only to CBSE schools and not to state board.

Similarly, they all made an issue out of the central government’s notification that the Teachers Day should be celebrated as Guru Utsav for a week. Guru Utsav is an appropriate way of celebrating Teachers Day, as it jells well with our cultural ethos and guru-sishya parampara of this country. But then, the entire Dravidian group vociferously opposed it and the same opposition was extended when UGC had sent a circular to universities with regards to promotion of Hindi. All these things exposed not only the chauvinistic mindset of the Dravidian parties but also their style of politics in which they ‘trade’ the Tamil language without actually doing anything for its growth.

They have started attacking the BJP in the Sri Lankan issue as well. It must be noted that immediately after the elections, BJP’s own allies objected to Modi’s invitation to Rajapakse for the swearing-in ceremony. Vaiko made it a point to go to Delhi and conduct a protest march thereby trying to embarrass Narendra Modi and spoil the swearing-in ceremony. It is an open secret that a separate Tamil Eelam is the agenda of the Generic Church and it is utilising the Dravidian parties of Tamil Nadu to achieve its Machiavellian agenda.

Political observers can recognise the fact that there is a Christian push behind every Dravidian act in Tamil Nadu. The Generic Church has its influence in almost all the Dravidian parties and the Islamic establishment has also adopted the same strategy to achieve its objectives. The vote bank chasing Dravidian leaders bend themselves to the dictates of the leaders of the Church and Jamath and do whatever they ask them to do. As a result, one can find the slow, steady and unabated rise of Islamic fundamentalism and Christian conversion in the last 47 years of political hegemony of Dravidian parties. On the contrary, the alternative governments run by DMK and AIADMK have done nothing, absolutely nothing, for the growth of Hinduism, preservation of its culture and protection of its temple tradition. They have allowed mushrooming of churches and mosques, most of them very close to the temples, disproportionate to the population of Christians and Muslims respectively.

Though the Modi wave has not resulted in number of seats in the parliament elections, it has nonetheless resulted in a considerable increase in vote share and also awareness among the masses about a credible alternative to the sickening politics of separatism and chauvinism followed by the Dravidian parties for more than five decades. The Modi wave has indeed come like a whiff of fresh air thereby sweeping the Congress out of the political arena. While major parties boycotted the recently held local body by-polls in the state, the BJP contested in almost all the seats, thereby sending the message that it is truly democratic and also serious about electoral politics.

So, it is quite natural that the Dravidian and Abrahamic forces are deeply worried about the rise of the BJP. They are worried about the anticipated creation of a Hindu vote bank. The Dravidian parties are concerned about a considerable loss of vote share from their traditional banks. A large section of supporters of national parties like Congress and Communists has also developed a liking towards the development oriented governance promised by the BJP at the centre resulting in a huge decrease in their vote share. The downfall of the Congress and Communists would also force the Abrahamic forces to rally behind the two major Dravidian parties.

One can expect a formation of two groups, one under DMK and the other under AIADMK, unleashing casteism, communalism, linguistic chauvinism and separatism in Tamil Nadu politics in the days to come. If Jayalalithaa is unable to get bail, then the entire opposition would rally together to crush AIADMK in the forthcoming assembly elections in 2016.

Subramanian Swamy Interview

Amit Shah & Tamilisai SoundararajanBJP has its task cut out

The present scenario has opened up a great opportunity for the BJP: increasing membership, creating Hindu vote bank, politics of corruption and crime being practised by the Dravidian parties for more than five decades, mismanagement of temples, cow slaughter and cattle trafficking, growth of evangelism, rise in Islamic fundamentalism, assaults and murders of Hindu leaders and activists, etc., are some of the major avenues through which the party can reach out to the masses. It can also take the central government’s development oriented policies to create an impression in the minds of the people. The Sri Lankan Tamils issue and the fishermen issue could be properly addressed to win the hearts of Tamils. The centre could use its diplomatic skills fully to address both the issues and considerable improvement in them would pay excellent dividends in the state. The party can utilise Subramanian Swamy’s crusade against corruption to the hilt by pursuing the scams perpetrated by both the DMK and the Congress. The party may not shy away from attacking Jayalalithaa and AIADMK irrespective of her getting bail or not. The present setback for Jayalalithaa may be fully utilised by the party.

The BJP has its task cut out and it is only the question of how it is going to play its cards. “Faster, Further, Higher” could be the mantra for the BJP in Tamil Nadu. – Uday India, 25 October 2014

» B. R. Haran is a senior journalist in Chennai.

Following Ram, the Prince of Ayodhya – Maria Wirth

Lakshman, Ram & Sita

Maria Wirth“The Ramayana is more than a grand epic. It is a sacred scripture that contains all what one needs to know to live a dignified life and to conduct oneself in an ideal way in the different relationships. Ram is not only an exemplary human being, but an avatar, a conscious embodiment of the divine principle that comes down to earth whenever the bad is gaining the upper hand, and humanity strays from the dharmic path.” – Maria Wirth

Rishi Valmiki“Where you are from? Do people there also know about Ram?” Some boys had discovered me sitting at the back of a shrine at the outskirts of Chamba near Tehri and typically for Indian kids, who are never shy, had asked this question. “No, where I am from people don’t know about Ram”, I replied. They looked disappointed. Only then I realised that the crackling of loudspeakers that I heard from a village down the hill, was in preparation for the Ramlila.

That incident happened in September 1985. A year later, I attended the grand Ramleela in Varanasi over 30 evenings and wrote about it for a German magazine to let some Germans also know about Ram.

Recently I read this article again and realised that it is still valid today. I reproduce it here in English in a shorter version, since it just was again that special time of the year, when Ram’s story was staged in Varanasi and other places all over the country, probably in very much the same way as it has been way back in 1986.

Far from becoming obsolete over time, the Ramleela is set to conquer the western world as well. In July 2013 an International Ramleela Conference was held at the University of the West Indies and a World Ramleela Council was established. The major aim was to promote the Ramleela as a cultural heritage internationally.

Lakshman, Rama & SitaHere is my article from 1986

Ram, the prince of Ayodhya, lived many thousand years ago. Yet even today most people in India know in detail his eventful life story, which is recounted in the Ramayana. Not only in India—in Nepal, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Indonesia, too, Ram had great influence on art and literature. An international Ramayana festival last year in Bangkok made clear, how alive Ram is even today and which great importance the Ramayana has in Southeast Asia. “If Asia has an epic in common, it is the Ramayana”, was declared in Bangkok.

In the land of its origin, however, the Ramayana is more than a grand epic. It is a sacred scripture that contains all what one needs to know to live a dignified life and to conduct oneself in an ideal way in the different relationships. Ram is not only an exemplary human being, but an avatar, a conscious embodiment of the divine principle that comes down to earth whenever the bad is gaining the upper hand, and humanity strays from the dharmic path.

TulsidasValmiki, supposedly a contemporary of Ram, narrates in 24.000 Sanskrit shlokas vividly the life story of the prince, who later becomes the king of Ayodhya. In the 17th century Tulsidas wrote the story of Ram in colloquial Hindi and made it even more popular. Ram is an ideal, an outstanding example for others—noble, just, brave, ever protecting the weak, and doing the right thing at the right time. He is ready rather to die than to break his word and prepared to wage a war to rescue his wife Sita who had been kidnapped by a demon king.

Sita, the princess who marries Ram, possesses all the virtues, which a woman is supposed to have according to the ancient rishis. She is modest, chaste, always intent on the wellbeing of her husband, warm-hearted, full of trust in god, considerate, graceful—and exquisitely beautiful.

Feminist groups, which also exist in India, are likely to find fault with Sita, yet the majority of Hindu women do not care. They revere Sita as their ideal even today.

For Ram to be a model for others, he has to have a difficult life. And he indeed faces countless, unexpected complications and hardship. For example on the very day, when the handsome, much-loved prince is to ascend the throne, his father Dasaratha, caused by an intrigue in the palace, has to send him into exile for 14 long years. It breaks his father’s heart. Ram calmly takes off the festive robes and dresses in a simple dhoti. Sita and his brother Lakshman insist on joining him. And so the three of them finally walk out of the town into the forest—and the whole of Ayodhya weeps.

To my very western question when this happened, I always got the same answer: “Many thousand years ago for sure. But the exact date is not important. Important is, to let Ram come alive in your inner vision and learn from him for your own life.”

This ‘present’ view or attitude has no doubt a valid point and is probably the reason, why Indians do not get tired to listen again and again to Ram’s story or to watch it in village plays. In Varanasi, I met a man who had attended the Ramlila there 35 times. Each year he followed Ram with devotion and attention for 30 nights.

The Ramlila in Varanasi is staged in Ramnagar on the other side of the Ganges, under the patronage of the Maharaja, with great pomp, yet very traditionally. There were no loudspeakers in spite of thousands of spectators and people were not allowed to take photos with a flash.

Ramlila of RamnagarThe lila culminates after Dussehra, when Ram returns to Ayodhya after his exile and takes over as king. Every evening before the play, pooja is performed for the actors and thereafter they are considered to be true embodiments of their roles. Many people touched respectfully the feet of the 12-year old boy who played Ram, when there was an occasion during breaks. The actors were right in the midst of the crowd. There was a festive atmosphere with food carts and stalls selling trinkets. When Ram went into exile, several thousand spectators walked with him around two kilometres to the place, where the next episode would unfold. An amazing experience in itself.

Anant Narayan SinghThe Maharaja moved high up on a fabulously decorated elephant through the crowd. The yuvaraj was sitting on another elephant, which was also splendidly decorated.

I have particularly fond memories of the journeys back across the Ganges in the middle of the night after the play. Mainly men crossed over to the town on countless, crowded boats in the stillness of the night—once it was even 4 o’clock in the morning. They narrated excitedly to each other, how admirably Ram had conducted himself today and how exemplary Sita had reacted—as if it had just really happened and they had had the good fortune of having been present. When the talking occasionally stopped, they started singing “Sita Ram, Sita Ram”—everyone in his own tune and rhythm. Towards the end of the boat ride, when we were gliding past a Shiva temple on the ghats of Varanasi, they interrupted their “Sita Ram” for a moment and full throatily shouted a salutation to Shiva: “Hara Hara Mahadev!”

I was not afraid of riding alone in a cycle rickshaw at that late hour from the Ganges to the tourist bungalow near the railway station through unusually empty streets. My trust was never disappointed. Varanasi is a fascinating, intense city, where life and death are present side by side and this world and the beyond merge into each other. Kashi (light) was the name of the city in ancient times. In all likelihood it is the most ancient Ramlila in Ramnagarof all towns on this earth and has its origin in an age, when the world was still more transparent for its luminous essence and less dense in the material sense.

Maybe this special, spiritual atmosphere contributed to an amazing coincidence on the side-lines during the Ramlila:

Georg, a college mate from Hamburg, had planned a trip to India on short notice. He sent a letter to my address in South India asking whether we could meet. “Write to American Express in Delhi as I will be soon in Delhi”, he wrote. Yet I knew nothing of that, as I was in the North and his letter was lying in the South. (Those were the times before email and mobile). Georg went daily to the American Express to enquire whether my letter had arrived and was daily disappointed. As he did not want to spend his vacation waiting for a letter in Delhi, he started off on the usual tourist route—Agra, Khajuraho and Varanasi.

One morning, as I had breakfast in the tourist bungalow, the door of the restaurant opened and in came Georg. For some moments, we both stared at each other, stunned, unable to believe what we saw. Then we both stirred back to life, amazed at this incredible coincidence. – Maria Wirth Blog, 16 October 2014

Ramlila at Ramnagar

Ram Leela as performed at Ram Nagar before the Raja of Benares in 1834

National Shame: President Pranab Mukherjee meets Santa Claus – Rajat Pandit

Pranab Mukherjee & Santa Claus

Rajat Pandit“‘We, in India, also celebrate Christmas in quite a big way. Christianity was brought to India by Saint Thomas, the Apostle himself, in the year 52AD. Thus, the faith was embraced by the people of India well before many European nations. Today, the number of Christians in India is about 24 million,’ said President Mukherjee” – Rajat Pandit

FinlandWhen President Pranab Mukherjee crossed the famed Arctic Circle on Thursday evening, becoming the first Indian head of state to do so, there was somebody even more famous eagerly awaiting to greet him with an unmistakable “Ho, ho, ho” deep-throated laugh.

A chubby and merry white-bearded man, clad in a red coat trimmed with white, surrounded with mischievous-looking elves, reindeers with huge antlers and, of course, “jingle bells” playing softly in the background.

Yes, Mukherjee also became the first Indian President to meet and greet the “original” Santa Claus in his “official home” on the Arctic Circle. Accompanied by daughter Sharmistha and his official delegation, Mukherjee crossed the Arctic Circle line on foot to enter Santa’s abode around 8km north of Rovaniemi, which is the capital of Finland’s northernmost province Lapland and a huge tourist attraction for both wonder-struck children and their parents around the globe.

And as one would expect, out came the gifts even if Christmas was still far away, and the snow had barely begun to fall. Mukherjee surprised the gregarious Santa by presenting him with a marble Indian elephant. “Usually, I give presents. You have made my day,” said a beaming Santa.

Pranab MukherjeeThen, it was time for photographs with Santa. A smiling President and his visibly-excited daughter sat on either side of Santa, who asked them if they would mind if he put his arms around them, and then did exactly that. “Namaste, give my love to the people of India,” said Santa.

Then, it was a free-for-all with the dozens of politicians, diplomats and bureaucrats in Mukherjee’s entourage scrambling to get pictures clicked with Santa like awestruck children. “He was humming Christmas carols quite well,” said BJP MP Babul Supriyo, himself a popular singer.

Mukherjee also took a stroll of Santa’s village, including the main post office that receives millions of letters from children around the globe, including from India. Mukherjee told Rovaniemi mayor Esko Lotvonen that it was “a memorable occasion” to be at the Arctic Circle — in the land of Santa Claus, so near to the North Pole.

“I had the privilege of meeting Santa Claus himself and confirming that he does exist! The people of Rovaniemi are fortunate to have the opportunity to live and work with him. It must feel like Christmas all the year through,” said Mukherjee.

“We, in India, also celebrate Christmas in quite a big way. Christianity was brought to India by Saint Thomas, the Apostle himself, in the year 52AD. Thus, the faith was embraced by the people of India well before many European nations. Today, the number of Christians in India is about 24 million,” he added. – Times of India, 17 October 2014

St Thomas by Georges de la Tour (1625-30)

Contrary to President Mukherjee’s statement, St Thomas did not come to India nor did Christianity reach India before it reached Europe—it reached Greece, Italy, and Spain in the 40s CE. Nor is it true that “the faith was embraced by the people of India” at any time. Mukherjee is only repeating the popular fable that has been repeated by Indian politicians before him to catch Christian votes. This is to be expected of a Congress party man who idolises Chairman Deng Xiaoping and spends public money on a state tour to meet Santa Claus in a Finnish amusement park. Will his next official foray abroad be to Disneyland to meet Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck?  Are Indians aware that it is just these kind of false and foolish statements by an Indian head of state that makes India a laughing stock in Europe? – IS

Supreme Court: Systemic failures and corruption thwarts Ganga cleaning plan – IANS

Dead fish in the Ganga

Supreme Court of India in New Delhi“The court … repeatedly considered the option of setting up a committee that would assess the progress made in various steps taken by the government to make Ganga pollution free. The committee considered … was on the line of Bhure Lal Committee that was set-up by the apex court to clear the residential areas of commercial activities and unauthorised constructions in the national capital.” – IANS

Taking a dim view of the snail’s pace at which the Ganga action plan for cleaning the 2,525-km-long river had progressed, the Supreme Court Wednesday said heads must roll for lack of headway as it pointed to systemic failure and that Hari ki Pauripeople on the ground were more interested in bribe than in their task.

“So many heads should roll for the failure to implement the plan. It was not being allowed to be done for corrupt means. This is happening because some people who are entrusted to do the work are not doing it. They are not doing it not because they don’t like it but are being bribed,” said a bench of Justice T. S. Thakur, Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice R. Banumathi.

The strong observation from the bench came as it was told that since 2007 only one sewage treatment plant was set up in Dehradun and repeated reminders from the Central Pollution Control Board to the State Pollution Control Boards in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal to act against grossly polluting industries have fallen on deaf ears.

“It has not happened for so many years. If it goes on like that it (Ganga cleaning) may not happen in our lifetime. You have to take preventive steps. There has to be (fixing of) accountability,” said Justice Thakur.

Solicitor General Ranjit KumarThe court said this as all through the hearing, Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar tried to push the task of cleaning Ganga on the five basin states of Uttrakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal as the central government had financed the project but the states were responsible for execution.

“You are the architects of the project to make Ganga pollution free,” the court told him as it wanted to know about the objectives the central government wanted to accomplish in the first phase of the action plan.

The court said that the first phase should commence with preventing the industrial waste from 764 grossly polluting industries from flowing into the river as it would take care of 30 percent of the most toxic industrial waste in it.

Expressing its dismay that Central Pollution Control Board was headless for last six months and in the charge of an additional secretary, the court asked the Solicitor General to tell the court where the appointment was stuck and for which reason.

It also asked Solicitor General to inform the court the progress made on the steps taken by the government in three meetings held in September and October for making Ganga pollution free.

Uma Bharti is the Union Cabinet Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga RejuvenationIt also asked the CPCB to tell it what steps was taken by the pollution control boards in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal on the 222 grossly polluting units – 215 in Uttar Pradesh, one in Bihar and six in West Bengal which were identified by it.

Directing the next hearing of the matter Oct 29, the court asked the central government to file an affidavit with the information sought by it by Oct 27.

The court, throughout its two-hour-long hearing of the matter, repeatedly considered the option of setting up a committee that would assess the progress made in various steps taken by the government to make Ganga pollution free.

Bhure LalThe committee considered by the court was on the line of Bhure Lal Committee that was set-up by the apex court to clear the residential areas of commercial activities and unauthorised constructions in the national capital.

The court said it even thought of having Bhure Lal, Delhi Metro former managing director E. Sreedharan and former Election Commissioner K. J. Rao on the committee being weighed by it but its only reluctance was asking such senior people, in terms of their age, to undertake such an arduous task. – Business Standard, 15 October 2014

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