Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Chaitra the first month of Hindu Calendar

Chaitra the first month of Hindu Calendar

चैत्र नवरात्रि की आपको और आपके परीवार को शुभकामना ॥

In Gujarat, Hindu calendar month starts on the first day after Amavasya. But in North India, the Hindu calendar starts on the first day after Purnima (full moon).

Chaitra is the first month of Hindu Calendar. The Shukla paksh, first 9 days are celebrated as Navratri, the autumn festival every year. This is the real Navratri, in which people of India worship mother Goddess for nine night. Many observe fast all these nine days.

Uttarakhand mountains follow two traditions for centuries: the bhetoli and the sacrifice of animals on ashtami.

Brothers send sweets and gifts to sisters as Bhetoli. Each home receives bhetoli for the mother and bahus.

On Ashtami, male buffalos and goats are sacrificed in a temple premises to appease the Goddess by her devotees. 11-15 villages form one group. One village of the group offer sacrifice of male buffalo in turn every year. The villagers carry healthy and heavy male buffalo tied with ropes and chains to the temple and hand it over with the cutter to the villagers of the another village who will offer male buffalo for the next year. The transfer of healthy male buffalo is very interesting. The owner villagers release the buffalo from the ropes and iron chains. The buffalo runs and the receiver villagers take over it's command after chasing for an hour and putting up lot of efforts. The receiver villagers perform sacrifice of the buffalo using the cutter handed over by the owner villager. Next year, they will give male buffalo and cutter to the new receiver village. The flash of the sacrifice is cooked after the offering and serve as prasad to all. Even the vegetarian otherwise, eat a piece of meat as prasad of the goddess. Other than the main sacrifice, some individuals offer sacrifices of male buffaloes and male goats to the deity. People kill many animals for their food in daily routine, kill the male animals to offer sacrifices one day in the year to the Goddess. Buffalo is a symbol of demon.

The practice of mass animal sacrifice was a cognizable offence under Prevention of Cruelty Act, therefore many villagers have changed the practice of killing. They offer the male buffalo to the deity and then release it into the forest where the tiger, vehicle of the Goddess Durga consumes it. Goats are eaten otherwise have been consumed as religious feasts.

Some communities offer animal sacrifice on the event of a male child birth in their families. It's a tradition practice over hundreds of year.

Apart from the animal sacrifice, the period of 9 days and 9 nights is very important for sadhana to acquire Devine power. People perform fast and worship the Goddess Durga and recharge the battery of the kundalini, the electrical power house of the body. Fates of many get change with the blessings of the Goddess during Navratri. It is a festival of worshipping the Goddess, the power of the Almighty, the God, for the wellbeing of the mankind.

Happy Chaitra Navratri

28 March 2017

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Public Service is not an easy job

Public Service is not an easy job

Commissioner of Municipal Corporation is a job of huge responsibilities. In India, while Mayor is elected to serve as the titular head of the corporation, a Municipal Commissioner is the de facto executive head of the corporation, appointed by the State Government from the Indian Administrative Service. However, the major decision making is with the Standing Committee constituted from the elected representatives, but the post of Commissioner maintains it's charisma. Mr. S. Jagdishan, Mr. SR Rao, and others have earned big name while working as Commissioner.

Rajkot Commissioner Mr. Bansa Nidhi Pani explains the job: "Commissioner works for people in general in an environment where politics, builders lobby and unions try to achieve their own ends. But for a Commissioner, people's and general interest is supreme. Work life balance is impossible to achieve as the demands of service levels and quality has increased with awareness and education. It takes a heavy toll on not only family life but personal health. But, all said and done, it's a post where life is action and action means life of a Commissioner."

Ahmedabad Commissioner Mukesh Kumar describes the job: "All powers, duties & functions vested in corporation is exercised, performed or discharged by the Commissioner. Right from birth to death and life 24x7 is influenced by Municipal Commissioner, one of most challenging and satisfactory assignments for IAS officer."

Mr. Barad Municipal Commissioner of Jamnagar, who worked as Deputy Commissioner of Ahmedabad tells: "it is very challenging job demands quality and quantity of services where some elected representatives carry personal interests and staff is politicised. However we can see the work what we have planned and executed which is not possible as Collector that gives us satisfaction."

Looking at the job chart of a Municipal Commissioner, don't you think, it is a tiring job to age faster and going gray? 

Within two years of the assignment many get tired of the work pressure. Infrastructure development, resource mobilisation, waste collection and disposal, providing drinking water and other amenities to the citizens, complaints resolutions, meeting visitors and fighting with the pressure and interest groups from all corners all the time make him tired. A silent guy became talkative and talkative guy lands up into the stage of oral diarrhoea! One not only need a zeal to work tirelessly but also a courage to maintain balance of mind, body and family. 

But we have one colleague, known as no nonsense officer, who hasn't tired yet though worked as Municipal Commissioner of Rajkot and Ahmedabad for nearly 8 years, Principal Secretary of Urban Development and post retirement working as MD of the MEGA (3.5 years) to build the Metro in Ahmedabad, where he had worked as Commissioner for more than 5 years. Working with Urbans for more than a decade is a big achievement. Any new infrastructures of works class in Ahmedabad whether Sabarmati River Front Development, Kankaria Lake Front, BRTS (Bus Rapid Transport System), and now Metro, etc, he was the key. He has conserved the heritage in a 600 years old city. His stars are fixed more with Ahmedabad that has bagged him many institutional and national awards. Transit Oriented Development is the modern concept of city development, that he has executed in the City of Ahmedabad. TOD has opened up the ways of development for the backward areas of east Ahmedabad where people in general are from middle, lower middle or poor class. 

He took over the position of Managing Director of MEGA in September 2013, when the project was held up in the sands of Sabarmati. With the revision of the DP, he gave importance to the needy and dense populated east belt of Ahmedabad to reduce the west-east divide, solved the local and external funding issues, and started the work of a Project costing more than ₹10,000 crore from the eastern starting point of Vastral. In a short span of time, he has been able to build a team of supervisors, executives and workers of civil, mechanical, electrical, IT and other wings of engineering; awarding contracts of ₹6000 plus crore, maintaining high standards of quality control of the works in progress and solving land acquisition and other issues, taking possession of a closed textiles mill for the depot and begun the work of the project. 

Today, the work of Vastral Station and Apparel Park Depot and other three sites are progressing in high gear. The construction of metro train depot cum workshop at Apparel Park on east west corridor for LoA given in February 2016, will be completed in February 2018. Embankment, piles, pile cap, plinth beams, RCC, reinforcement of steel, building slabs, roofing, clubbing, etc, and boring shaft in a sandy land strata of Ahmedabad in the middle of roads of the areas with dense population with movements of thousands of bikes and cars is a big challenge. Soil testing, ground testing geo technical investigation and accordingly designing and executing the works and coordination with many agencies and civil contractors working at different stretches need special attention. Team MEGA has been succeeded in resolving all these issues. In the heat of approaching summer, they have planned work in shifts; 8-12 and 4-11, so that the speed of the works maintained. 

As planned, a 6 km stretch between Vastral and Apparel Park will be operational by June 18. As there are many historical monuments located enroute of metro, and to follow the construction norms applied around the monuments radius, the Metro will travel underground from Apparel Park to Kalupur. The tunnelling work has been awarded and it is going to start soon. Metro Ahmedabad Project of 39 km rail link of an east-west corridor from Thaltej to Vastral and a north-south corridor from APMC to Motera, is expected to be operational by 2020. 

It will likely save thousands of vehicle trips and fuel worth crores in a city that's choking on exhaust fumes and crawling in the streets. When the speed of transport is going down in pick hours due to traffic congestion, the Metro will inject speed in the life of Amdavadi.

Metro project of Ahmedabad is being implemented by a special purpose vehicle (SPV) Metro Link Express for Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad (MEGA). The Metro will be linked with the BRTS, railways, and other public transport services to develop a multi-modal transport service.  Mr. IP Gautam, retired IAS of 1986 batch is the MD of MEGA. 

Great job Gautam. Our Salutes🙏

19 March 2017

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Ashoka the Buddha

Ashoka the Buddha

Ashoka took over throne in 268 BC. In the eighth year of his coronation of Mauryan Empire, in 260 BCE, when he was 42-44 years old, he invaded Kalinga, a feudal republic located on the coast of Bay of Bengal, the present day Odisha (Utkal) and northern parts of AP. Ashoka won the war against the strong army of Kalinga but thousands of soldiers were killed from both the sides. It was the bloodiest battle.

It is said that after the death of thousands of Kalinga soldiers and civilians in the war, the brave ladies of Kalinga wearing army uniform and holding swords in hands reached to the battlefield near the bank of river Daya, and challenged Ashoka to fight war with them. When Ashoka was touched with their bravery and listened them, what did they reply? "Your actions have taken from us our father, husband, and son. Now what will we have left to live for?" Moved by these words, it is said, that he felt deep remorse, his heart changed, he vowed to never take life again. Kalinga war has changed the heart of the victor from one of wanton cruelty to that of an exemplary piety. Ashoka decided to follow the path of 'Dharma'.

"Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Priyadarsi, conquered the Kalingas eight years after his coronation. One hundred and fifty thousand were deported, one hundred thousand were killed and many more died (from other causes). After the Kalingas had been conquered, Beloved-of-the-Gods came to feel a strong inclination towards the Dharma, a love for the Dharma and for instruction in Dharma. Now Beloved-of-the-Gods feels deep remorse for having conquered the Kalingas."

What was this "Dharma" of Ashoka. Was it Buddhism? Ancient history of India carry fights in individual mind as well as in groups, the fight between Dharma and Adharma, the right path and the wrong path. From the environment of wars and inequality, two religions: Jainism and Buddhism were emerged as strong alternatives to Hinduism near the seat of the power of those days Pataliputra (Patna) in 4th-3rd century BC. Greed for territory and killing innocents in war was considered Adharma. Chandragupta Maurya after winning war against Dhannanda (324 BCE) and Seleucus I Nicator (305 BCE), became Jain. As disciple of Chankya, he was Hindu, but was influenced by the principle of non violence of Jainism, accepted Jainism, abdicated his throne as part of his faith around 298 BCE and moved towards South India, where he died in Shravanbelagola (Karnataka) in 297 BCE. Bindusara, his son succeeded him, extended the Mauryan empire upto Mysore. Bindusara was succeeded by his son Ashoka the great in 268 BCE. The mother of Ashoka was said to be a beautiful Brahmin girl serving as royal barber, became the beloved wife of Bindusara.

The description of Mauryan empire, the Kings, etc, are narrated in Hindu (Purana), Jain, Buddhist and Greek literature. Pataliputra was the seat of power of a very large empire and all the three religions of India, Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism were trying to influence the King with their religious thoughts. The people in general used to follow the faith of the King because King was considered the Deva, the God on earth. Devanampriya (beloved of Gods), the salutation has been used for the Mauryan Kings, therefore, primarily, they were Hindu Kings but were open to adopt new faith. Chandragupta became Jain and Ashoka became Buddh.

But was Ashoka really became Buddh? Or was he Jain like his grandfather? Jainist and Buddhist legends were written after several hundred years of their death.

The word "Dharma" has been mentioned in his inscription. Does it the same, the Dhammam of Buddhism? It is said that his wife Queen Tissarakha (married in 264 BCE) was Jain and was jealous of Ashoka's love for Buddhism. These were the days post Kalinga war. It was 4th year of their marriage life. One can imagine the religious mental trauma of Ashoka after Kalinga war and the strain in their marital relationship. To get Ashoka free from Buddhism, and out of jealousy to Buddhism, she became instrument in killing the original Bodhi Tree (Peepal tree) at Bodhgaya (under which Lord Buddha have attained enlightenment), in 267 BCE (ninth year of Ashoka's reign). The original specimen of the tree was then grown at Anuradhapura in Srilanka. What was the crime of the tree? In the meanness of the human mind, the bodhi tree was cut twice again, by Pushyamitra Shringa in 2nd century BCE and Shashanka in 600 AD.

Have you been to a Derasar of Jains? Have you observed the idols of the Tirthankars, and their symbols? The symbols are: bull, elephant, horse, monkey, kauncha (bird), lotus, swastika, crocodile, wish yielding tree, rhinoceros, buffalo, bore, falcon, thunderbolt, deer, goat, fish, waterpot, tortoise, lily, conch shell, serpent and lion.

The Lion Capital of Ashoka (Emblem of India) (from Sarnath), a sculpture showing thean elephant, a galloping horse, a bull, and a lion, separated by chakra (wheel) in the circular base on which the four Indian/Asiatic lions are standing back to back. The Chakra on the Ashokan capital may be a Wheel of Dharma, or a classic symbol of a “Chakravarti” king, who commands the wheel of time! It has 24 spokes - either representing 24 hours of the day or the 24 Tirthankars of Jainism. Buddhist chakra has 8 spokes to represent the eight-fold path of Buddha. Lion is a Hindu symbol of kingship and also identifying symbol of Mahavir the 24th Tirthankar, but not Buddha. Elephant is common animal as auspicious sign in Hindu-Jain-Buddha. Bull, horse, lion and elephant are all symbols of royalty. They denote duty, steadfastness, speed, strength, valour and vitality.

In the Indian context, Dharma means Rajdharma of a king, his credentials as the rightful, diligent, law-abiding ruler would use the title “Dharma” along with his name. Buddhist Kings list doesn't mention name Ashoka, but mention the title as Devanampriya, or Priyadarshi. The Edicts of Ashoka dispersed in the kingdom on Mauryas are a collection of 33 inscriptions describe Ashoka's earnest attempt to solve some of problems that a complex society faced. The edicts focus on social and moral precepts rather than specific religious practices or the philosophical dimension of Buddhism. The principle of non violence he propagated is more of a Jain philosophy.

However, to propagate his faith of Dharma, Ashoka sent emissaries to many countries. Sanghmitra, the eldest daughter of Ashoka and his first wife Devi and her brother Mahendra became Buddhist monks and went to Srilanka to spread teachings of Buddhism. Buddhism was spread over to many areas of Mauryan empire during their period of rule of 80 years from 261 BCE to 180 BCE. In those 80 years, Ashoka was succeeded by Dasharath, Samprati, Shalisuka, Devaverman, Shatdhanvan and Brihadrath. The last Mauryan King, Brihadarth was assassinated during army review by his Brahmin Senapati General Pushyamitra in 180 BCE. He killed many Buddhist monks and destroyed many monasteries to wiped off Buddhist doctrine.

What a great transit of history! Chand Ashoka became Dharma Ashoka. He won territories by sword but spread his moral empire across many countries winning them with love of Dharma.

2313 years ago, he was born, became one of the greatest emperors, reign over Hindu Kush in the west to Bangladesh in the east and upto Mysore in the South, still carry influence over modern India to follow his doctrine of Dharma, to maintain unity and harmony in the Country of diversity.

Ashoka the Buddha (wise).

12 March 2017

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Human life, a journey from Kosha to Koshy

Human life, a journey from Kosha to Koshy

Our body, mind and spirit are composed by five koshas: annanmay, pranmay, manomay, vigyanmay and aanandmay. They are governed by nature through three gunas: satva, rajas, tamas. Animals do have five koshas, but humans have all five prominent. 

Annamay kosha is our physical body that is made of cells; carry satva, rajas, tamas gunas with the balance of pitta, vata and cough in the body. Physical body can be strengthened through physical activities like asanas and exercises. 

Pranmay kosha is our pran, life force, the breathing; responsible for the life in all. It has been further classified as prana, apana, udana, samana and vyana; they control functions of the physical body. Prana can be purified through pranayama, extending and balancing the field of prana. Not simply a breathing exercise but a conscious breathing with an observation of the resting of prana between inhalation and exhalation. 

Manomaya kosha is Mind, has three or more dimensions. Each creature has mind. Human has conscious, subconscious and unconscious mind; responsible for perception, cognition and understanding. It moves with the greatest speed. Past, present and future are three tenses of mind connected with time, space and causality. If mind stops, time stops. Meditation connects individual mind with cosmic mind. Concentration is the power of mind. The quality of education is going down because the students of the present world lack concentration power. Their minds are divided into many parts, wondering over many external objects. Mind eyes on object with concentration. Meditation improves mind, the Manomaya Kosha.

Vigyanmay kosha is awareness, knowledge; the field of wisdom, acquired through experience. It connects individual mind with cosmic mind and fetch knowledge from the cosmos. The scientists, researchers, thinkers are working in this field of vigyanmay kosha. Vigyanmay kosha eyes on the universe, carry thousands eyes and can see anywhere, can think anything and can travel anywhere. It is not bound by time, space and causality. Great idea, thought, creation comes when individual mind connects to the cosmic mind through the vigyanmay kosha. Chintan, manan, nididhyasan are the means to strengthen Vigyanmay kosha. Tantra is practiced to develop Vigyanmay kosha. A journey of Wisdom to Pragya.

Anandmaya kosha is called a stage of bliss, happiness, but bliss and happiness may come and go like the pendulum of the clock, but the thing that remains unchanged, unswung in all the conditions, the sthitapragya stage is the Ananda. Samadhi is the sadhana to attain Ananda.

The purpose of existence is to experience that cosmic self and in order to understand and experience that cosmic self, the understanding of the koshas helps a lot. Body is going to die any day, but the Koshy, the 'Tatva' which is not going to die with the death of the body should be the aim of our life. Koshas are the means to connect with the Koshy. If they are good, they make the connection easy. Therefore, give time for exercise, pranayam, meditation, chintan-manan-nididhyasan, and Samadhi. And once we know the Koshy, the conscious awareness of the Koshy will bring the 'Sat Chit Ananad' Sachchidanand at our home.

Jai Sachchidanand.

2 March 2017
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