Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Meghwals, the pre-Aryan settlers of India

The Megh (also called Meghwal or Meghwar) people are an ethnic community who claim to be of pre-Aryan origins, and who currently live mainly in northwestern parts of India and a small population live in Pakistan. As of 2008, their total population was estimated to be about 2,807,000.

In India, though they live predominantly in Rajasthan, they are also present in the Indian States of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana.

In some regions, the Meghwal people are also known by names such as Balai, Bhagat, Bhuiyar, Ganeshia, Julaha, Kabirpanthi, Koli, Kori, Meghvanshi, Mihagh, Rakhesar, Rakhia, Rikhia, and Rishia.

The Megh are believed to be people of pre-Aryan origins and belonged to the Indus Valley Civilization. They came to the region from Assyria, the Semitic Akkadian kingdom (2500-608 BC) in the Upper Tigris river region in northern Mesopotamia (present day northern Iraq) and settled in the Sapta Sindhu, literally the land of seven rivers, often identified as the Indus river along with its five major tributaries, the mythological river Sarasvati, and the river identified as the Kubha. When the Aryans invaded the region, the Meghwal migrated to the Vindhyachal and areas of the present day Maharashtra during the Megalithic period (1400-1200 BCE), and later some of them migrated to Bihar and Orissa (Odisha).

They claim that they are the descendants of Rishi Megh. In the traditional folklores, they are also linked to the Suryavansh to which Lord Ram belonged.

Another version of their origin is associated with the Indian mythology according to which Rajarishi Vritra, the ruler of the Sapta Sindhu region, and who founded the Nagavansha dynasty which ruled over the entire India. They also trace their origin to the Hindu mythological characters such as Hiranyakasipu, Prahlada, Hiranyaksha, Mahabali, Banasura, etc.

They have been originally the worshipers of Lord Shiva and Naga (the Snake God). They also worship King Mahabali who ruled Kerala and in whose honor the people from Kerala celebrate the Onam festival. They also were followers of the atheist egalitarian saint Rishi Carvaka.

Some Meghwals of the present times follow the teachings of the Sant Mat, founded by the mystic poet Saint Kabir (1440-1518), based on the supremacy of an inner, loving devotion to a supreme divine power.

The traditional occupation of this ethnic group was mainly agriculture, weaving and woodcarving. In modern times, some of the educated people of the community are employed in government jobs and other white collar jobs, while some others work in factories. Some of them also run their own businesses and industrial units. The Megh women are famous for their mastery of the traditional embroidery and Ralli-making work. They are also master-weavers of wool and cotton fabrics.

Most of the Meghwals are followers of the Hindu religion, though they mainly worship Rishi Megh, Kabir, Ram Devji and Bankar Mataji as their principal gods. Their rituals are more or less similar to the ritual practices of the Brahmins.

According to some sources, in the 13th century AD many of these people became followers of the Nizari sect of Shia Islam, and some others became followers of Christianity.

Women are considered of low status in traditional Meghwal communities. Their marriages are arranged by their families before puberty, and after marriage, they move to their husbands’ families. Divorce is generally allowed, and maintenance or compensation is paid to the divorced woman. The custody and upbringing of the children of the divorced couples are the responsibility of the husbands.

Meghs enforce excommunication of persons who break the community traditions. This practice, allegedly, mostly affects their women, who are increasingly subjected to social discrimination on various grounds.

The Megh women in Rajasthan are famous for their intricately embroidered costumes and jewelry. Their costumes are distinguishable by the exquisite use of a primary red pigment extracted from crushed insects.

Exotic hand-embroidered costumes are essential part of the dowry of the Meghwal women. Married women usually wear gold earrings, nose rings and necklaces and other neckpieces made of silver or gold. The ornaments are mostly embedded with precious stones such as ruby, emerald, sapphire and other precious gems.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Wish You Happy New Year 2012!

Wish all of you, your families and friends a great New Year 2012, full of happiness, good health and prosperity!

Here is a video of Sydney Harbor New Year celebrations fireworks. Hope you enjoy it!


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Jagjit Singh’s death marks the end of an era

Jagjit Singh by Heritage Arts & Events
Jagjit Singh, a photo by Heritage Arts & Events on Flickr.

Jagjit Singh, considered one of the most popular Ghazal singers of all times, passed away on 10 October 2011 at the age of 70 in Mumbai’s Lilavati hospital. He was suffering from brain hemorrhage.

Though Singh underwent an emergency surgery to remove clots in his brain, he was breathing with the aid of a ventilator and his condition was critical. He was hospitalized in October 2007, following blood circulation problems.

Almost until the last days of his death, he loved to sing on stage and just before being hospitalized, on 20 September 2011 he performed in his last concert held at The Indian Public School, Dehradun, and on 16 September 2011, he performed at the Nehru Science Centre, Mumbai.

Singh’s music knew no borders. He was not only very popular in India, but also in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and many other Asian countries and all over the world where there was the presence of Indian Diaspora, Indian culture and even Asian influences.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Vasuki Sunkavalli at Miss Universe 2011

Vasuki Sunkavalli, Miss India 2011 (height: 5'8.5”, Vital Stats: 30”- 25.5”-36.5”), poses in swimwear on arrival in São Paulo, Brazil, competing for the Miss Universe title in August/ September 2011 – photo by Bruce Casanova Photography©

Vasuki was born in Secunderabad, India, on 17 August 1984 in a Hindu family, originally from Unguturu village in West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh. Her father, Venkat Ramana Sunkavalli, is in real estate business and her mother, Surya Prabha, runs her own boutique in Hyderabad, India.

Vasuki had her schooling at St. Ann's High School, Secunderabad, and later she joined Villa Marie Degree College in Hyderabad. In 2002, she joined the Symbiosis International University in Pune, India, for studying law and obtained her degree (LL.B). In 2007, she moved to New Delhi to pursue a Diploma course in Intellectual Property Rights from Global Institute of Intellectual Property. In 2009, she was granted the Dean’s Scholarship to study International Law and Human Rights and enrolled for it at the New York University School of Law (NYU Law) from where she graduated with a Master of Law (LL.M).

In 2007, Vasuki started her modeling career by walking the ramp at Wills India Fashion Week, and later she participated in various fashion shows for top fashion designers from India and modeled for several popular brands including Kitkat, Nike, World Gold Council, etc.

On 15 July 2011, Vasuki competed against 19 other contestants from India, and won the crown and title ‘I Am She - Miss Universe India 2011’, a national beauty pageant (organized by Tantra Entertainment Private Limited and former Miss Universe and Bollywood actress Sushmita Sen), which is authorized to send participants to the Miss Universe pageants, after Femina Miss India relinquished its patent in 2010 to send India’s representative to the event.

However, Vasuki failed to make it even to the final 16 at the Miss Universe 2011 pageant in São Paulo, Brazil, possibly because, she could not pose in her national costume which was not delivered to her in time.

It may be noted that the last time India won the crown was in 2000 when Lara Dutta, now a popular actress, had won the Miss Universe crown for India.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The aftermath of the midnight crackdown on Baba Ramdev

Baba Ramdev by Darko Sikman Photography
Baba Ramdev, a photo by Darko Sikman Photography on Flickr.

It seems the Indian democracy is undergoing a process of self-examination.

According to reports, about 60 supporters of Baba Ramdev were injured while the police was trying to evict the Baba and his supporters from the Ramlila ground where he was to launch a hunger-strike against corruption and black money, with his emphatic requirement that the Central Government must take appropriate steps to repatriate black money stashed away in foreign accounts.

There were dialogues going on between him and the government on this issue, and by last Saturday it seemed that there was agreement between the two sides on the issue. The next report was that the Baba was evicted from his protest venue in New Delhi and flown to the nearby airport to his Ashram and from there taken by road to his Ashram.

The media, print as well as electronic, got busy in running ‘BREAKING NEWS’ and conducting reviews and interviews on the questions involved. Most of the political parties and NGOs were of the opinion that the government has infringed upon the democratic rights of the Baba and his followers. It is rightly so, because nothing undemocratic was being conducted at the venue.

The reactions after the incident included politically motivated mudslinging, and the sane voices were feeble.
Now that The National Human Rights Commission has issued notices to the Central Government and the Delhi Government directing them to submit their reports on the crackdown on Baba Ramdev and his supporters, the issue gets more serious as the commission has taken notice of something of the nature of human rights violation.

Additionally, there are reports that The Supreme Court of India has also issued a notice to the government on the eviction of the Baba from the hunger-strike venue, after taking suo moto cognizance of the incident on its own.

The government may have its own reasons for its actions, but a majority of others, including those who oppose Baba Ramdev, feel that democratic rights should not be suppressed.

I am not a supporter of the Baba, or any other faction. But I do feel that corruption and black money are the biggest enemies of all the right-thing Indians. So, it has to be wiped out from all levels of governance and public life, when only India can be said to be a true democracy.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dancer Arunima Kumar performs at Khajuraho Dance Festival

Photo: Arunima Kumar performs at Khajuraho Dance Festival on 5th February 2010

Born on July 1, 1978, and having started learning Kuchipudi, one of the most acclaimed oriental classical dance forms from the young age of 7, Arunima Kumar had her initial training under the most recognized Indian classical dancer Swapnasundari. Later Arunima became a disciple of Guru Jaya Rama Rao and Vanasree Rao, and she appeared in stage performances with them for about 15 years.

In 1995 the Kuchipudi Dance Academy launched her dance performance at the prestigious Triveni Kala Sangam in New Delhi, India, and it marked her Arangetram (Rangapravesham or official debut as a performing dancer).

Since then, Arunima has been credited with many highly acclaimed performances in many countries, including Kuchipudi Convention in USA (2008), Nehru Center (London), Tagore Center (Berlin), Asian Arts Festival (Manila), Sydney Opera House, Canberra Festival, Expo 2000 in Hannover and Lisbon, and many more.

Arunima Kumar is also a noted dance choreographer, and conducts research on performing arts to explore the creative potential of the classical and other art and dance forms.

Arunima graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from the prestigious St. Stephen’s College, New Delhi, and then she studied for M.Sc. (Finance and Accounting) at the London School of Economics. In line with her educational background, she was a banker and a consultant for corporate houses till the year 2009.

Arunima has appeared several ballets in several television programs, documentary films, music videos, advertisements, and a cameo appearance in the Bollywood feature film “Rajneeti” directed by Prakash Jha.

As recognition of her talent, in 1998 Arunima was awarded the Sahitya Kala Parishad Scholarship for Dance. She was also honored with the prestigious Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskaar for 2008 by the Sangeet Natak Akademi (The National Academy established by the Government of India) for her outstanding contributions to music, dance and drama.

Arunima Kumar has been praised by the media as a naturally talented and endowed dancer and performer. She is noted for her large expressive eyes and enthralling stage presence. Her Abhinaya (the art of expression) and her ability to bond with her audiences, coupled with her modern interpretation of the “traditional Padama, Javalis (traditional songs) and other compositions” are the hallmark forte of her performances.

She is also a talented exponent of classical dance renditions, perfect technique and rhythmic precision, and above all effective and graceful facial expressions.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Borandev Shiva Temple in Chhattisgarh

Borandev Temple India 2, originally uploaded by adestiny.

This ancient Shiva temple in the Indian State Chhattisgarh was captured imaginatively on lens by this gifted photographer known by the Flickr screen name 'adestiny'. It is one of the wonders of ancient Indian temple architecture, and seemingly built on sculptured rock. To view more photos by this photographer click on the photo.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lumbini Park, Hyderabad

Photo 1: Lumbini Park with visitors in day time

Photo 2: Lumbini Park Laser Show auditorium, showing the history of Hyderabad

Photo 3: Lumbini Park entrance gate

The Lumbini Park is a public urban park of 7.5 acres (0.03 squire km), adjacent to Hussain Sagar Lake, located in the center of Hyderabad, the capital city of Andhra Pradesh in India. It is in close proximity to other tourist attractions of Hyderabad such as the Birla Mandir and Necklace Road. The park attracts many thousands of Indian and international tourists, apart from local visitors throughout the year.

Constructed in 1994, at a cost of Indian Rupees 2.35 crores, the Lumbini Park is being maintained by the Buddha Purnima Project Authority that functions under the guidance of the Government of Andhra Pradesh.

The Lumbini Park is famous for its 2000-people-capacity laser show auditorium, boating facilities, beautiful gardens, musical fountains, along with other visually appealing features.