India Travel News

Window on India
January 03, 2007

News Bullets

Ardh-Kumbh begins at Allahabad confluence
The six-yearly Ardh-Kumbh Mela, which happens to be among the very few single largest gatherings of humans on the Earth, began Wednesday morning at Allahabad in north-central India, with about 2.5 million devout Hindus taking holy dips into the ice-cold waters at the confluence of river Ganges, Yamuna and the mythological Saraswati that is flowing underground. Estimated 70 million Hindus would be bathing at the confluence during the 42-day religious event. About 25 million devout Hindus are expected to take the holy dips to wash away their sins on one single day of the most auspicious Mauni Amavasya that is falling on January 19. Astronomically, the Ardh-Kumbh commences when Planet Jupiter starts moving into the Taurus and the sun as well as moon remain in Capricorn, which happens only once in six years. It is believed by the faithful that the sunrays falling on the confluence water during this planetary combination create some unique minerals that free you from many diseases and sins. With water pollution levels high in India, all the rivers look awful.

Indian economy has better year ahead
India inc. entered the year 2007 bubbling with vitality. There is almost unanimity among the Indian corporate bosses that this year would be even better. Even a further hardening of interest rates would not affect them as there is a lesser dependence on domestic debts. Also the slowdown in the US economy would not have much adverse impact as there is a spurt in India’s exports to the Europe, Middle East and the far East. The profitability too of the manufacturing sector is expected to rise by around 18 percent as against the last year, it is being felt.

Sensex closes above 14,000
The Sensex closed above 14000 on Wednesday underlining the pink health of the Indian economy and the investment scenario. There was a higher level of buying in pharma, IT and auto stocks. The Sensex closed up 72.68 points or 0.52 per cent at 14014.92.

A Government Quote

"We, in the developing world, cannot afford to ape the West in terms of its environmentally wasteful lifestyle. Equally, developed industrial economies must realise that they too must alter their consumption patterns so that few do not draw upon so much of the Earth's resources," said Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, at a science conference in Chidambaram, near Chennai, on January 3.

A reader’s Quote in Media

(On appointment of K G Balakrishanan as the next Chief Justice of India, by a notification on Tuesday)

"This is a historical moment for the dalits of India. It is worth noting that the only dalit President and dalit CJI, both are from Kerala, a state with 100% literacy (including dalits).The lower castes in Kerala are well aware of their rights, compared to those in other states. This is a result of the social revolution against caste discrimination, led by the social reformer Sree Narayana Guru. Lower castes from other states should take Kerala as a model for their progress," …posted by Das, in Indian Express, on January 3.


New Year celebrations! - By Pratap Thorat

Interestingly, the first ever New Year celebration in the known human history was conducted in ancient Babylon that is situated in the present-day Iraq, some 4000 years back, in the year 2000 BC. The ancient Babylonians began their New Year Eve celebrations with the first New Moon on the first day of spring, which is necessarily the season of rebirth and blossoming. Sadly, the present-day puppet rulers from that Babylon, under influence of the American string-pullers, started the celebrations this year with the execution of a former ruler – Saddam Hussein. The timing was adjusted that way. Even the primitive tribal passions did not allow celebrations to be associated with somebody’s death. Is this the point, where the long journey of evolution of the concept of the New Year celebrations has brought us to, in a uni-polar world under the mighty US?

Indeed, the very concept of the New Year beginning and the mode of its celebration have evolved during the past 4000 years. Babylonians celebrated it with the onset of spring for as many as 11 days, with far more pomp than the one from 21st century. The Romans observed it in late March. It was logical that the New Year of the early civilizations began with the spring. Roman emperors had a habit of tampering with the calendar. That was bound to make it out of synchronization with the Sun. So one day the Roman Senate sat down in 153 BC and declared that January 1 would be the first day of the New Year. Yet, they stuck to the old habit for some time. After Julius Ceasar came in they changed from spring to January 1. This practice went on for centuries. But the Catholic Church kept condemning it as the festivities of paganism till 400 years back. With the spread of Christianity the Church became tolerant.

The idea of using a baby as the symbol of the New Year began in Greece around 600 BC. They worshipped Dionysus, the God of wine that they made after a good harvest of grapes. They paraded a baby in a basket to symbolize the annual rebirth of that God as the spirit of fertility. The Church condemned for centuries even this as a pagan practice. Finally, it came to readjust itself and accepted it as the birth of baby Jesus. Even the most rigid institutions and humans change. The all-powerful force of evolution does not spare anybody.

In the process of evolution the superstitions that are already flowing with the stream, or are created anew in the fierce churning in the vortex, come and stick to you. What you eat or how you spend the time, while the New Year rings in became important to people and their cultures. It gave birth to the concept of merry-making and the party culture on December 31 to welcome the stroke of the midnight.

In Spain, they are ready with 12 grapes to eat, when the clock starts to chime in the dying minute of December 31. Each time the midnight clock chimes, you put a grape in your mouth. You must finish eating all the 12 grapes, the moment you enter the New Year. Nobody finishes and all burst into laughing uncontrollably and funnily with mouthful of grapes. The pragmatic Spanish King started this tradition in 1909, as there was a bumper harvest of grapes. Dutch eat mostly Donuts as anything in the shape of a ring brings good luck, they believe. Venezuelans wear yellow under-wears and the Mexicans red to find love in New Year.

In the southern US state of Georgia, the tradition is to eat at least 365 black-eyed peas with Turnip green to ensure prosperity each day of the following year. In Texas and Alabama, cabbage replaces turnip. Cabbage leaves represent sheaths of paper currency.

In China, they decorate windows with red paper cuttings to scare away evil spirits. They celebrate the New Year with departed ancestors as dinner is served to them on the table. Chinese have a different first day of the New Year, each year.

In Japan, the entire family participates in making the traditional rice cake, Mochi and visiting siblings, parents, grand-parents in the early morning is a must.

These are all traditions. But now it is a global village and a common culture is evolving fast with thrust of the New Year Eve celebrations on fireworks in the skies, increasingly noisier welcome to the midnight stroke, dancing in the parties, drinking to the full and expensive hotel dinners. Rio de Janeiro attracts over three million people on its Copacabana Beach. The Sydney Harbour Bridge fireworks attract over a million viewers, among them 300,000 foreign tourists each year in the warm summer weather. The Sydney New Year Eve celebration is considered the best in the world. The Bridge celebrated its diamond jubilee this year and spent over four million Australian dollars over the fireworks and light show. Berlin dominates the European celebrations with over a million people dancing and watching the fireworks. The famous, huge Waterford Crystal Ball falls gradually on the Time Square of New York amid wild cheering.

India too is adjusting itself fast to join the mainstream world culture, with its fireworks, partying, alcohol, pubs and discotheques. A less enthusiasm of the Hindus is seen on the Hindu New Year day or the spring festival of Basantotsava as compared to December 31. The economy is growing at a nine percent rate. Islands of prosperity are mushrooming. But basically it is a jobless growth. Both prosperity and unemployment, irrespective of each other, boost up crime. Here you find both. On the 31st night, under influence of liquor, an unruly crowd of about 70 youths stripped off a lady in full view of public at the historic Gateway of India in south Mumbai. In recent years there has been an increase also in the cyber crime. Extravaganza is no more a dirty word and there is a mad race to catch up with the others in spending. This year a five-star hotel charged Rs 200,000 per couple for the New Year Eve package. The diamond-studded bra and panty dress that a celebrated danseuse wore for her 10-minute show in another Mumbai hotel cost over a million Rupees. Don’t ask how much she charged for the brief dance show.

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