Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Dhanurmasam in Vaishnava Sampradayam

What is Vaishnava Sampradayam?
Vaishnavas are just like Brahmins. But, they worship Lord Lakshmi Narayan instead of Lord Shiva. Vaishnava sampradaya means the traditional practice and lifestyle of those who follow the doctrine of Vaishnavism. Lord Vishnu is their God and they believe Him to be the superior Almighty of all Gods.

Vaishnavism is based on the doctrine and school of thought which preaches that Lord Vishnu or Sriman Narayana is the Supreme Power and Saviour of this universe and you can attain moksha or peace and tranquility by worshipping and getting his grace. Sri Ramanujacharya is the founder of this Vaishnavism.

What is Dhanurmasam?
Dhanurmasam is a month considered to be very auspicious for worshipping God and possessing his grace and attaining moksha. Vaikunta Ekadasi falls in this auspicious month which is considered as a very great time for directly reaching God through winning his grace. This Dhanurmasam is called so because it is the month during which Sun is in the Dhanus Rasi. A rasi is known as an astrological sign. It is held in astrology that Sun passes through 12 rasis in one year. So each rasi is equal to one month. There are 12 months and 12 rasis in one year. So the month during which Sun remains in the Dhanus rasi is known as Dhanurmasam. Normally, this Dhanurmasam falls during the period of 16th December to 14th January. This period is very auspicious for Vaishnava sampradaya people.

Importance of Dhanurmasam
During dhanurmasam, Andal or Goda Devi, one of the 12 Vaishnava Alvars, worshiped God with true devotion and utter love and married Him on the culminating Bhogi festival day(the final day of dhanurmasam). Andal means one who ruled over God with her pure and innocent, untainted love towards Him. She wore the flower garlands to test them and then only offered to God. She worshiped God by composing 30 hymns on 30 days praising His glory in her Tamil language. It is a kind of bathing herself in God's grace all those 30 days and winning his love and heart through marriage. So this month is considered as very auspicious by all Vaishnavas for performing puja and worship to attain salvation from all worldly problems. You may view the story of Andal Clicking this link.

How to perform Dhanurmasam
Dhanurmasam is to be performed all the 30 days starting from the day sun entering the Dhanus rasi and ending on the day prior to sun entering Makara rasi. The day sun enters makar Rashi is celebrated as Makar Sankranti.

One should get up early in the morning and after bathing, wear pious clothes and cook the Pongal for offering to God. Prior to that, the house and neighborhood need to be cleaned and a feeling of the religious atmosphere is to be created for experiencing a better spiritual feeling and divine happiness. You may decorate your house with flower garlands and mango leaves, etc. House entrance needs to be taken more care of. The door entrance wooden frame bottom portion (threshold or doorway) can be decorated by applying turmeric paste and spots of kumkum or rori. Rangoli is done in front of the door entrance to bring a beautiful look to your house entrance. There is a tradition of placing Gobbillu in the rangoli throughout the month of dhanurmasam. It gives a religious and spiritual atmosphere to your house.

To know more about Sankranti or makar Sankranti you may visit this link -

Preparation of Pongal
Pongal is made up of rice and moong dal. For one cup of rice, you may add a quarter of moong dal or even less. Cook it in a cooker just like cooking rice. After it gets cooked, you will top it with black pepper and cumins fried in ghee. Then, you will place it before God.

Worship God with your regular prayers. The sanctum sanctorum should be kept clean and auspicious. You may decorate both the seat of God and God himself with flower garlands and flowers. You may also worship with loose flowers while chanting hymns. Read the 30 hymns (or pasurams) composed by Andal known as Thiruppavai with devotion if you can afford lengthy time at worship.

Generally, most devotees recite one pasuram or hymn each day (related to that day) and then offer agarbatti sticks' incense and then show the oil lights to God. So, on the first day, you will recite the first hymn, the second day the second one and like that.

Thereafter, offer the Pongal to God. After doing this, you will light the Kapur or camphor and show it to God reciting the mangalasasanam. After that, you will have to recite the 29th and 30th hymn while offering a fan like service to God with a towel or any artificial fan like a tool to provide him air for taking rest. Then you will take the offerings of prasadam to eat yourself and to distribute to others. This is the way of doing it all the 30 days. On some special days during this month, some more dishes are prepared like sweet Pongal, curd rice, tamarind rice, etc along with the normal daily Pongal. You will find the days mentioned in the Tiruppavai book mostly. Generally, the special auspicious days are considered to be day 1, 3, 9, 16, 24, 27, 28, 29 and 30.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Malala Yousafzai: What is her speciality

Malala Yousafzai has become a household name today in all corners of the world. She has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize award recently for her great service at such a tender age of only 17 years. This shows how special and different she is amongst those billions of people.

You may wonder why I am talking about this now after so many days of her receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. I have been thinking of blogging about some inspiring people since many days. And now, I thought why not start with this our little girl Malala, the lovely daughter of our whole world.  I got this idea the other day when I was watching the Nobel Peace Prize celebrations (re-telecast) aired on VH1 during which she was there giving inspiration to the audience about her activities. So, I am here writing about her.

Malala Yousafzai has grabbed news in limelight since the attack on her by the Taliban militants in 2012, even though she has been very much active since her childhood on social activities. Let us have a look at her life till now to understand what is special in her.

She was born in the year 1997 to a sunni muslim Pashtun tribal family in Swat valley, a popular tourist spot of Pakistan. Her father is a school owner running a chain of schools there. He is a poet and educational activist himself. So, naturally, she got much of her education under him. She got interested in politics and social activities since her childhood.

The Taliban militants were predominant in Swat valley since her young age, banning social rights to women and girls like freedom to speak, right to education and going to public places, etc. They suppressed them too much rigidly. Yousafzai got much disturbed about all this. Even at such tender age, she was worried for her fellow students and their miserable conditions. When she was in 7th class, she began speaking publicly about these atrocities through her blogs. With her father's consent, she wrote blogs for BBC website during the year 2008, keeping her identity anonymous as per advice of the blog administrators. In those blogs, she blogged about the atrocities of the Taliban militants- how they banned television, music and schools for girls and women and how they created a fear complex among them. There was too much insecurity and terror for them in Swat valley and around. She publicly attended one or two press conferences also where she talked about these issues and stressed the need for restoration of rights to girls and women.

In 2009, there were two battles between the army and the Taliban militants in the Swat valley known as First battle of Swat and Second battle of Swat. During this period many schools have been destructed and there was rule of terror all over the areas. The entire place took a desert look as all schools and establishments have been closed and people fled from the regions to safer places. Those who stayed could not move freely and had to hide for their lives. Yousufzai described all these incidents in her blogs and later in articles of New York Times. A documentary was filmed by New York Times based on her reports.

Through this documentary, she got more publicity and the militants were angry with her and her father. Her father got a death threat from the militants to restrain from the social activities. With this threat, Mala's courage and determination increased and she decided to become a politician to serve the people and save them from the oppression.

Malala continued her struggle against oppression of girls and women by giving public speeches and interviews without fear. Her father also supported her in all her activities. She began gaining popularity internationally. She was nominated for International Children's Peace Prize in 2011, even though it was awarded to some other one. She became famous as advocate of human rights and girls' right for education. Pakistan government awarded her with National Youth Peace Prize in December 2011. A school was named in her honour and a campus for IT was set up on her request in the Swat Degree College for Women.

The Taliban militants got much frustrated at all her activities and her increasing popularity. So they decided to kill her and one day on October 2012, when she was in her school bus, they shot at her after asking for her by her name as per news. She was shot on head seriously which damaged her brain, and neck and shoulder also very badly. Her condition was very serious and even after operation, the chances of her survival were doubtful. So she got shifted to United Kingdom for better treatment in Queen Elizabeth Hospital of Birmingham. She was in coma for one week. Her treatment continued for 2, 3 months. Then slowly she recovered and got discharged from the hospital in first week of January, 2013.

Malala Yousafzai continued her campaign after she became normal from Birmingham itself. The attack made her more popular among world and all governments of the world realised the need to  make girl education a statutory law. Pakistan government also introduced the Right to Education Bill for the first time in their history. They also announced huge reward for information leading to the arrest of the attackers who shot her.

In July 2013, Malala appeared at United Nations summit and addressed elite group of educationists and leaders of the world on the right to education. Her speech created much waves and awareness among top leaders. Then in subsequent months, she met Queen Elizabeth and Barack Obama along with his family members and inspired all with her mission.

She has been awarded many awards and prizes for her works. She started Malala Charity Fund to help the girls and women all over the world. In October, 2014 she got the Nobel Peace Prize as recognition of her great services at such tender age of 17. She is the youngest ever to receive this honour.

Now, from the above, we are able to notice some rare qualities in her which make her a special child worthy of applause.

  • She has undergone a lot of mental tension and physical torture and inspite of that, she did not get afraid of the circumstances that surrounded her nor did she feel insecure.
  • She cared for others more than herself in that tender age of her which itself is great quality
  • She wanted to do something to make her people live a secured and happy life instead of indulging herself in her own enjoyments of life.
  • She developed the guts to face circumstances for the betterment of her people.
  • She took the problems into public limelight by boldly discussing about the atrocities made on girls and women community by the militant groups. 
  • She did not care even for her life and continued her mission even after the brutal attack on her life by the militants.
  • She suffered all the pains of the wounds and operations conducted on her brain and body in her fight for life for such a long period of 3 months and did not lose courage and hope.
  • All these incidents only made her more determined and strong by doubling her willpower to fight more vigorously for the cause of human rights and education for women setting aside all her own personal enjoyments that others would have preferred at this prime teenage period of her.
Malala Yousafzai is a special girl prodigy of our present world who should be taken as an inspiration by all of us in making our world a better place to live.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Voter enrolment agonies and some suggestions to Election Commission

Each year and time to time, the Election Commission announces voter enrolments are being made and interested persons may apply for it either online or off-line. But it is not so easy as the CEO may be thinking of it.

Whether it is fault of the Election Commission staff or the media; the message mostly does not reach to the needy public in time. I do not know what are the algorithms of the election department that they consider or adopt in reaching to the public. They might be getting assured that they have done their job by making some public announcement on loud speaker in the colonies or by giving an advertisement in some newspaper.

But are they sure that the newspaper in which they have given ad reaches all the intended public definitely and they will receive 100% response?
An image of public announcement in Deccan Chronicle, Hyderabad dated 14/12/2014.

No, I think. People buy their own choice of newspapers and the election commission does not take pains to insert the advertisement in all newspapers of that region. So, the information will not reach even 25% of the would be enrollers.

Coming to public announcements on loudspeakers in running vehicles hired for the purpose, there are many glitches. The first thing is, the voice is not clear. Most of the words are not clear to the listeners who may try to hear from their apartments. The second point is, the announcing vehicles do not take the pains to stop a while at frequent distances and then run the tape announcing the message. They keep on moving hastily and the tape is uttering sounds not clear to the listeners.

I think, the best way to reach public is by stopping at each 100 metres or 200 metres of distance and at all junctions of roads while announcing public notices like these, so that public can clearly understand what is being announced. This should be done in advance of starting of the camp or enrolment drive so that people have ample time to get any documents ready and respond timely.

Another way to reach public best suited is, to distribute pamphlets. This will ensure that everybody is reached to convey the notice or message. It should not be done through newspaper boys. Some staff should be delegated for proper distribution to all corners.

Having enough said about public announcements and distribution of pamphlets, now I come to the point of staff of the election commission or the agents and volunteers entrusted with the job of enrolments and collection of application forms from intended voters.

On my personal experience, I have undergone much trouble in applying for my enrolment to voters list since two years and even now, I am unable to get myself enrolled in proper sense.

Two years back, I was residing at some other locality and after six months efforts approaching various poll booths and municipalities, got my name appear in the Puppalguda voter list near Manikonda. But, I had to shift from there due to some family problem which was unavoidable. At that time, only my name was included in the list of voters and I was not provided with Voter ID card. I was informed it will take more time to get cards. So, I went again after one month or so to get the card and even then it was not available. We have shifted to a place from where I can not travel all the 30 kms in buses and autos to take the voter card if it is available. So I left it and thought of applying for change of voter residence and for fresh amended card.

From the new place, I applied again in Form 8 online for change of address and I may require to submit the hard copy of the application also to somebody and so running from booth to booth nearest to my locality since many days prior to the elections held in Telangana and till now I am unable to submit it as nobody takes my application form saying they do not deal with it or they don't have any information of it. I have shown the notice of above imprint and also a copy downloaded from the CEO net that showed names and addresses of Booth Level Officers in my constituency to the places I went for depositing my hard copy. They informed me even on yesterday that they had no intimation for collecting the papers. So, I returned back. I was able to submit my application for graduate constituency only at the mandal Tehsildar office. They informed me that perhaps municipal office may collect my other applications.

Why I am blogging all this is to tell the agonies of voters and public to have their right to vote or for any other thing and how they are being treated. Everyone can not run from booth to booth or municipal office to mandal office for all these things. Even I am tired of all this now, as I am above 60 years old. I hope the concerned administration may view or come to know of the agonies of public like me and may make some improvements in their work and administration.

Some useful tips to Election Commission, if they can consider 
  • Polling booths may be located at every half kilometer radius of localities so that any person may need to walk only half km. to reach his polling booth, not more than that.
  • Aged persons and unable persons may be provided transport facility for voting.
  • A separate queue may be provided for old people and disabled persons so that they can easily cast their votes without having to stand for much time in queues.
  • Voter enrolment announcements, if any, should be made in advance with ample time through public announcements with the help of loud speakers at each 100 metre distance of localities and through clearly audible voices and through distribution of pamphlets to each residence in advance.
  • Booth Level Officers should be made accountable for any lapses in their duty. If anybody accepts responsibility, he should deliver it perfectly; otherwise, he should not take responsibility.