Chaitra 3 Vik Samvat 2067. Yugabda 5111: March 16, 2010

1. FESTIVALS: HOLI CELEBRATIONS IN NEW ZEALAND: Rotorua public and international visitors to Rotorua from Germany, Netherlands, France, Belgium, England, Canada and Brazil, and local visitors from Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, and Wellington experienced a unique festival on Sunday, 28 February 2010. It was celebrated with much fanfare by covering coloured powder and water on each other, and dancing to folk music and songs. This was part of Rotorua Holi Festival (Festival of Colours) which was introduced to Rotorua public for the first time by the Hindu Council of New Zealand and Ngati Taiao.
This colourful festival, celebrated on a beautiful setting at Te Papaiouru Marae, Ohinemutu Village, gave a new meaning to race relations. It not only bridged any perceived social gaps and differences, but also brought people and communities together. Initially it was going to be part of building whakawhanaungatanga (Hindu-Maori relations) but has grown to be for a wider spectrum. People following different faiths enjoyed this festival.
The festival’s highlight was the covering of each other with colours (washable plant dye). This was held on the grounds of the Marae with drums, music and great fanfare.
2. BHARAT Today: ISRO full steam on 'man mission': The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has started work on its most ambitious project yet - sending humans into space.
The government has approved research and development work relating to the manned space mission. It has okayed start of pre- project R&D activities leading to detailed definition of the manned mission, according to the budget presented in Parliament last month.
In this year's budget, Rs 150 crore has been allocated for the manned mission, as against a token amount of Rs 30 crore given last year.
The space agency plans to 'develop a fully autonomous manned space vehicle', capable of carrying two humans into a 400- km low- earth orbit and safely returning to Earth.
Detailed studies have been initiated on the technology required to realise the flight safety and reliability, propulsion systems and advanced materials.
3. ‘Need to identify enemy within’: There is need to define the enemies first within the country and then the external ones. The diabolical intentions of external forces trying to destabilise the nation can be defeated by action matched with the words spoken time and again by the political establishment in context of the internal threat.
These views emerged at a two-day convention on national security organised by the Forum for Integrated National Security (FINS) in Hardwar.
“The war against an enemy which is not defined cannot be won. Define the enemy and have knowledge about the history, culture, and language of enemy to defeat him”, said Ajit Doval. Former Secretary, DAE Anil Kakodkar and former Defence Secretary Yogendra Narain seconded him echoing their concern that when the external forces failed to defeat India in direct warfare, they started aiding and creating forces to cause internal disturbance in the form of terror attacks, Maoist and Naxalite insurgency, armed insurgency in the North-East and Jammu and Kashmir.
The convention was attended by many prominent personalities, including RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat, his predecessor KS Sudarshan, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, senior BJP leader Najma Heptullah, former chairperson of the National Commission for Women Poornima Advani, Sri Avdheshanand Giri Maharaj, Acharya Mahamandaleshwar of the Juna Akhara, Art of Living Foundation founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha Karia Munda among others.
4. Hindu Samagam in Bhopal and Bhagyanagar, Hyderabad: Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Bhopal celebrated its annual day on February 28, 2010, by organising "Hindu Samagam" where more than 3,000 swayamsevaks and 30,000 spectators gathered to salute the saffron flag, and to listen to the Sarsanghachalak, Shri Mohan Bhagwat. The function, which was organised at the Lal Parade ground in Bhopal saw a full capacity presence of swayamsevaks and an overwhelming participation of spectators.
Shri Bhagwat highlighted the role of RSS in shaping the great leaders like them and invited the audience to come and participate in the nationalist activities of the organisation in order to build a stronger nation. He strongly criticised the western theory of "Unity only through uniformity" and said that true unity can exist in diversity and Bharat is a living example of the same. He further added that any kind of fundamentalism is dangerous for the world and that merely respecting Bharatiya ideals is insufficient. It is more important to accept these ideals in order to create a strong and peaceful country as culture is the soul of Bharat.
The celebrations were marked by a demonstration of dand chalan by the swayamsevaks, a band drill, march past and salute to the Sarsanghachalak and the saffron flag. The entire environment was charged with emotion when more than three thousand swayamsevaks sang Matru Bhoomi Vande... together.
The former Sarsanghachalak Shri KS Sudarshan, Kshetra Sanghachalak Shri Krishna Maheswari, Prant Sanghachalak Shri Shahi Bhai Seth, chairman of the organising committee RD Shukla, Shankar Dayal Patidar and saints like Poojya Dandi Swami and Sadhvi Pragya Bharti were also present on the occasion.
At the function at Bhagyanagar, Hyderabad, Shri Bhagwat said: "After taking charge as Sarsanghachalak, I have been touring all the state headquarters to meet swayamsevaks and am in Bhagyanagar as part of the same. I have noticed that wherever I have gone, people know the name of Sangh. If not the full name, at least know it by its acronym, ‘RSS’. However, most of them do not know the work of Sangh. Even swayamsevaks need to put effort to understand Sangh.
He further said: "You cannot understand Sangh, except by experiencing it first-hand. There is no fee to join. Why depend on second-hand information when you can experience it first-hand? Then you can write about it."
5. LSR grad quits job to be sarpanch: For most, it would be a step back. But for Chhavi Rajawat, leaving behind corporate glamour and city life to head back to her village Soda, 60km from Jaipur, as its sarpanch has been a journey to her roots. She says she's paying her debt to the village she grew up in.
A student of Rishi Valley, Bengaluru and Lady Shriram College, Rajawat topped up her education with a business management degree. She worked with five comapanies in various capacities before changing focus.
But today, as Chhavi heads NREGA meetings in her village dressed in jeans and T-shirt, she is fast emerging as the changing face of rural Rajasthan. "It should change. There is so much one can do," she says.
Chhavi Rajawat, the corporate girl-turned-sarpanch from Rajasthan is also trying to change mindsets. "Villagers have got used to not working and taking partial payment for NREGA. I have to change that. I go on surprise visits and give them a scolding or two if they are not working," she says. "But my focus is on bringing safe drinking water and increasing job opportunities in the village by involving NGOs," says Rajawat.
6. Balagokulam to organize International Children’s Meet AT Thrissur: Balagokulam, the world’s biggest children organization will conduct an International Children’s Meet (KRISHNAYANAM – 2010) at Thrissur on the eve of celebrating its 35th years of service among children. A mammoth gathering of 25,000 children with their workers selected from 2000 units of Kerala will attend the function on 3rd and 4th April.
7. At IIMs, it's BHARAT calling now: At IIMs, it's Bharat calling now. A significant number of students at the Indian Institutes of Management have opted for domestic offers over international ones. Better career prospects in Bharat, because of the booming economy, are the main reason.
With the global economy rebounding, students across IIMs this year got good international offers, unlike last year, from firms in Europe, Singapore, Hong Kong, the US, and Australia. Also, the international pay package offered at IIMs was on a par with market rates. For instance, in IIM-Bengaluru alone, 15 students accepted international offers from companies like Nomura, Temasek, Proctor & Gamble, Enzen, Arvin Meritor and UAE Exchange.
Interestingly, an equal number turned down global placements.
8. Try this creativity in Qatar, Husain: Sri Sri Ravishankar: No other country is as tolerant as Bharat, says Art of Living founder and spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Maqbool Fida Husain (95) surrendered his Bharatiya passport to the country's mission in Doha (Qatar) on March 8. The artist has become a Qatar citizen after living in self-imposed exile in Dubai for four years.
Art of Living (AOL) guru, Sri Sri Ravishankar has asked whether M F Husain would show the same 'creativity' and same spirit with Islamic heroes as he has done with Hindu goddesses and would he, then, be able to retain his Qatari citizenship?
Not just in Qatar but also in many countries of the world, he would not be able to retain citizenship. No other country is as tolerant as Bharat, said the globe trotting Guruji, from Rishikesh where he is currently.
Sri Sri ended with a Gandhian twist saying that, "Mahatma Gandhi would have terribly hurt by this and would have called anyone who would not stand up to this as cowardice. I am only giving words to the sentiments of millions."
9. NASA radar on Chandrayaan-I detects ice deposits on moon: Scientists have detected more than 40 ice-filled craters in the moon's North Pole using data from a NASA radar that flew aboard Bharat's Chandrayaan-I.
NASA's Mini-SAR instrument, lightweight, synthetic aperture radar, found more than 40 small craters with water ice. The craters range in size from 2 to 15 km in diameter. The finding would give future missions a new target to further explore and exploit, a NASA statement said, adding it is estimated that there could be at least 600 million metric tons of water ice in the craters.
10. Bharat will be one of top five aviation markets: Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel on March 3 said Bharat would break into the top five aviation markets, inaugurating Bharat Aviation 2010, the second edition of Bharat's international civil aviation exhibition and conference at Begumpet airport in Hyderabad and invited international companies to be partners in this growth story. Over 115 companies from overseas are participating in the show.
He hoped Bharat would move up from the present ninth position. His optimism was based on the robust 18 percent compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) in civil aviation in 2009, despite the global recession. He told the conference that all measures were being taken to make Bharat's aviation safe and secure. 'The growth can't be at the cost of safety and security,' he said.
11. In Tamil Nadu temple, Dalits offer prayers: Three years after deep caste divisions stopped them from celebrating a temple festival together, on March 5 dalits beat the drums as per tradition and Thevars led the procession to an ancient temple.
The rare show of caste amity took place in Pillaiyarpuram village, in caste-sensitive Tirunelveli district in Tamil Nadu, where the villagers worshipped together at the Vadabathira Kaliamman temple.
Though the non-dalits from eight villages enjoyed the rights of conducting ceremonies in this temple during the annual festival during March every year, the dalits also participated in it and were the drumbeaters.
12. Air India's all-woman flight a runaway success: Flight AI-141 that took off from Mumbai airport early March 8, flying over 11 countries on its way to New York, almost made history — all women pilots, despatchers, check-in staff and pre-flight doctors. In fact, all that came between it and the record books was a Supreme Court ruling making it mandatory for flight on which alcohol is served to have male pursers on board.
But for two flight pursers, the 15-hour non-stop flight between Mumbai and New York would have made history with an all-woman crew. The record proved elusive as the cabin crew comprised 12 women and two men. Still, the women were all gung-ho as they walked into the airport terminal to operate the flight, celebrating International Women's Day in their own way.
Hours before the two commanders — Capt Rashmi Miranda and Capt Sunita Narula — and two first officers — Swati Rawal and Neha Kulkarni — boarded the Boeing 777-200 LR aircraft, flight despatcher Nandita Deshpade sat down to work out the flight plan for the route.
The time to cover 13,000 km between Mumbai and New York worked out to 15 hours 56 minutes with 30 knots headwinds burning fuel at the rate of 7,600 kg/hr. "The flight plan for the all-woman cockpit crew took the aircraft on altitudes ranging from 37,000-39,000 feet over Pakistan, Iran, Ukraine, Georgia, Russia, Denmark, Sweden, UK, Norway, Iceland and then four hours over the Atlantic ocean to reach Canada and then the US," said Nandita Deshpande who did the flight planning.
Air India has 96 women pilots on its rolls, while Indian has 40, making the total the largest in the country. Women pilots in airlines in Bharat constitute about 12% of the total workforce, way higher than the global average of 6%.
13. Prof. Nanda pleads for working selflessly: Prof. Ved Nanda, a renowned jurist and Vice Provost at the University of Denver, was in Chicago last week meeting prominent Bharatiya social workers and activists at the Eola Community Center, Aurora, a Chicago suburb.
Around 65 people attended the meeting including prominent Hindu and social leaders from the Chicagoland, media persons, Sangh swayamsevaks and karyakartas. Prof Nanda is also the Sanghchalak of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangha in US.
In his inspirational talk, Prof Nanda touched upon several issues relating to the current phase through which Hindus in America are going through and pitched for working together selflessly by keeping our egos aside in a synergistic way. Appreciating the contribution of Hindu thoughts and views in social-economic-political strata globally, he observed that Hindu ethos can bring about peace in the world.
14. SPEAKER ON CAMPUS, HSS, USA: Speaker on Campus was organized at University of Miami, Miami on Sun, Feb 28th by Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh and Hindu Students Council at UMiami. This is kind of the first HSS event at UMiami. The topic was "Volunteering opportunities for Youths - YFS, Sewa internship in Summer" presented by Prof. Sree Sreenath ji. 15 people attended the session, all of them undergrads doing Pre-Med.
Plan was to give a detailed idea on "Yuva for Sewa" and present the various opportunities in US and outside.
Sreenathji started the presentation by giving an overview about Sewa International, different projects that Sewa USA is involved in and then about Bhutanese Refugee Empowerment Project. He led the presentation towards how "we" as students can volunteer for this cause and also think of going out in summer for a life changing experience. And did a brief presentation on "Yuva for Sewa" sharing experiences of previous YFS interns.
15. Durga Shakha, Pasadena Sewa Project: Pasadena Shakha did its first sewa project of this year on Sunday, March 7th 2010. All the karyakartas participated in making sandwiches for Foothill Unity Center. This nonprofit organization provides critical support, in the form of food, clothing, motel vouchers, and referrals/advocacy to local community in crisis. Foothill Unity Center is located at 415 Chestnut Ave, Monrovia, CA.
Sewa activity started after the shakha on Sunday, March 7th at bhojan sthal in Live Oak Park. Special emphasize was given to participation of bala and kishor gans in this sewa project. Parents were asked to supervise bala gana activities. Not only bala gana but all swayamsevaks were very excited to participate in making sandwiches.
Around 235 sandwich bags were prepared in less than one hour. All the sandwich bags were personally delivered on Monday morning to the Foothill Unity Center. When the lady volunteer at the Foothill Unity Center came to know that small kids of the shakha participated in preparing these sandwiches, she was touched by this kind gesture and commented "It is a God's gift".
16. Bronze-era Buddhist sites discovered in Swat: An Italian archaeological mission in Pakistan has discovered a large number of Buddhist sites and rock shelters in Kandak and Kota valleys of Barikot in the Swat Valley linked to the Bronze Era.
"These are some of the finest and most fascinating ancient discoveries preserved in good condition," Gulf News quoted Dr Luca Maria Olivieri, the Director of the archaeological mission, as saying.
17. Online campaign seeks ban on Doniger’s book on Hindu history: An online campaign has been launched to demand the withdrawal of Wendy Doniger’s book, ‘Hindus: An Alternative History’ on the grounds that the book was “rife with numerous errors..perhaps intended to mislead students of Bharatiya and Hindu history”.
The petitioners have asked the publishers to apologise for the publication of the “factually incorrect and offensive book”.
Doniger, according to them, has made various faulty assumptions about the tradition in order to arrive ‘at her particular spin’. In the process, the beliefs, traditions and interpretations of practising Hindus were simply ignored or bypassed without the unsuspecting reader knowing this to be the case, they said. The controversy over the contents of author Wendy Doniger’s book, ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History’ also found an echo in the Lok Sabha on March 4. BJD member Bhartruhari Mahtab demanded during Zero Hour the withdrawal of the book by its publishers.
Mahtab said the Government should press upon the publishers, Penguin, to withdraw the book. The contents were in bad taste, he claimed, adding that it showed Hindu Gods in poor light. He urged the Government to ban the book.
18. An enlightened approach - Modi shows the way to empowering poor: Bharat being a country where, according to the 2004-05 Planning Commission estimates, 27.5 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line, it is hardly surprising that a vast amount of the Government’s energies and resources is spent on poverty alleviation programmes. But how successful have these welfare schemes really been? If even after 62 years of independence we have more than 30 crore people in the country living below the poverty line, the answer to the above question would be a big thumbs down. Our poverty alleviation schemes have been mired in rampant corruption, resulting in the intended beneficiaries getting little or no help to improve their circumstances. Take for example the UPA’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. The scheme was to annually provide 100 days of guaranteed employment to registered rural households. But only 10 to 15 per cent of those registered were actually provided with work in the first three years of the scheme. Similarly, other poverty alleviation schemes too have fallen way short of the mark due to major problems in the delivery mechanism.
The real reason why things have come to this pass is the Government’s insistence on continuing with the outmoded Nehruvian-Socialist model of poverty alleviation that focusses on redistribution of resources. The basic aim of this approach is to create comparative equitable economic conditions by diverting resources to the weaker sections of society. But this approach necessarily has to rely on a distribution mechanism which leaves this model open to corruption along the distribution chain. And this is exactly what has happened with most of our poverty alleviation schemes. In such a scenario, it is noteworthy that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has come up with a novel alternative model. This approach directly puts wealth or means of production in the hands of the needy and, thereby, cuts out the possibility of middle-men eating away precious resources. The overall focus here is to enable people to be economically self-reliant by creating for them a conducive environment for growth. Through 50 Garib Kalyan Melas held across the State, the Gujarat Government has been able to put Rs 1,500 crore worth of wealth in the form of cheques, cycle repairing kits, sewing machines, etc, directly in the hands of 25 lakh deserving candidates. This will be followed up with continued guidance to help the poor stand on their own feet. Given the present poverty situation in the country, Mr Modi’s model definitely merits encouragement and replication. – Editorial, the Pioneer, March 5, 2010.
19. Artificial Caps Offer Hope to Arthritis Patients: For the first time in Bharat, doctors at the Bharatiya Spinal Injury Centre have successfully carried out an isolated patello–femoral joint replacement surgery – on a patient suffering from arthritis in the knee – in which artificial caps were put on the damaged parts of the knee using a new method rather than replacing the entire knee.
The patient, 40–year–old Rita Verma, was able to walk within 24 hours of the operation. In complete knee–replacement surgery, a patient cannot walk for at least a week after the surgery.
Said Verma, “I have had a bad knee for the last few years. Three years ago I underwent cleaning of the joint. Then I fell while dancing, after which my knee would go so stiff at times that I thought I would never be able to walk again.”
Unlike complete knee–replacement surgery – which is suitable for older people because of the wear and tear to their knees and the possible need for ‘revisory’ surgery – this operation suits younger patients better because they keep the original knee, and so flexibility of the knee is not affected.
20. If it's Monday, it's got to be khadi in this varsity: You've heard of Friday dressing. Check out Monday dressing at the Karnataka State Law University here, all thanks to the vice-chancellor's initiative. In a far cry from the tees and chinos of Friday, the Monday dress code here is khadi kurta, pyjama and a Gandhi topi.
Since August last year when the university opened, everyone — students, teachers and administrative staff — wears khadi every Monday. "From the gardener to the V-C, we wear the nation's pride. That keeps us focused on what we do," says vice-chancellor J S Patil.
This is being done with the long-term aim of making this fabric the first choice of the youth. The result has been stunning — within seven months, 32 affiliated colleges across the state have followed suit. Over 87 colleges are affiliated to this Hubli-based university.
21. Desi swine flu vaccine ready for commercial use by April-May: Pune-based Serum India's swine flu vaccine 'Fluvac' will be ready for commercial use by April-May, subject to all regulatory clearances. The Pune-based company received the drug regulators go-ahead on March 5 to carry out advanced safety tests on the vaccine —Phase II/III clinical trials crucial for its introduction in the market.
On March 8, it started clinical trials of nasal form of vaccine on 300 subjects at different locations around the country. The vaccine developed by indigenous players will most likely be administered as a single dose, and priced around Rs 150-200. (H1N1 vaccine globally cost between $9-15)
22. ISRO flight tests new generation sounding rocket: ISRO successfully carried out the flight test of its new generation high performance sounding rocket on March 3 morning from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, SHAR in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, 100 km from Chennai.
According to an ISRO release the launch took place at 8.30 Hrs on March 3.
“Advanced Technology Vehicle (ATV-D01), weighing 3 tonnes at lift-off, is the heaviest sounding rocket ever developed by ISRO. It carried a passive scramjet engine combustor module as a test bed for demonstration of Air-Breathing propulsion technology,” the release said.
It contended that during the flight, the vehicle successfully dwelled for seven seconds in the desired conditions of Mach number (6 + 0.5).
23. It's time to make voting compulsory, blogs Advani: NDA's working chairman LK Advani on March 9 threw his weight behind Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's initiative over compulsory voting, saying, "It was an idea whose time has come".
Gujarat has introduced this measure for all local body elections. The law has been passed by the State Assembly, but it is still to be implemented.
24. Bharatiya-American Prof. wins $500,000 U.S. science award: Bharatiya-American computer scientist Subhash Khot, most well known for his "Unique Games Conjecture", has received the prestigious National Science Foundation's (NSF) $500,000 Alan T. Waterman Award.
The award is given annually to an outstanding young researcher in any field of science and engineering supported by the NSF. The honour includes a grant of $500,000 over three years for scientific research or advanced study in any field of science.
An Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay graduate, Khot is associate professor at the New York University's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences.
A theoretical computer scientist, he works in an area called "Computational Complexity" which seeks to understand the power and limits of efficient computation.
25. 3,791 more PG seats in medicine from this year: In what’s being described as the biggest bonanza for MBBS students in Bharat, the Centre has okayed an additional 3,791 post-graduate seats in medical colleges from the academic year 2010-2011.
Bharat will push up the number of PG seats from the current 13,503 to 17,294 in the new academic session across 22 states and Union Territories. Of these, 3,085 seats have been added to government colleges and 706 to private ones.
Admissions for PG courses across India start on April 26 and courses begin May 2.
26. BHARATIYA billionaires double in a year: Bharat’s population of billionaires has just swelled — to 49 from 24 a year ago. And Mukesh Ambani, with a net worth of $29 billion, is now Asia’s No. 1 and the world’s No. 4 billionaire, followed by another Bharatiya, UK-based Lakshmi Mittal ($28.7 billion), in the fifth slot.
Mukesh Ambani advanced to the 4th place from the 7th last year after his net worth increased almost 50 per cent to $29 billion. Trailing him closely was steel magnate Mittal, whose wealth rose by almost 50 per cent to $28.7 billion.
Among the other Indians in the billionaires club are: Azim Premji (28th on the list with $17 billion), Anil Ambani (36th with $13.7 billion), Shashi and Ravi Ruia (40th with $13 billion), Savitri Jindal (44th with $12.2 billion), Kusha Pal Singh (74th with $9 billion), Kumar Birla (86th with $7.9 billion) and Sunil Mittal (87th with $7.8 billion).
27. Women's Bill passed in RS as Congress refuses to be cowed down: After a day of high drama Rajya Sabha recorded a historic vote on March 9 in favour of a bill providing for 33% reservation for women in Parliament and assemblies.
The legislation is likely to be brought to the Lok Sabha after the vote-on-account has been passed.
28. SHRI VISHWA NIKETAN: Visitors: Shri Jyoti Prakash from Russia; Susri Nivedita Shinde from USA. Pravas: Shri Ravi Kumar, sah-samyojak vishwa vibhag returned Bharat after pravas of Hong Kong and Singapore. Shri Suresh Soni, sah-karyavah of RSS will pravas to UK and European countries for European Shibir 2010 along with Dr. Shankar Tatwawadi, samyojak vishwa vibhag in April.
29. FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Hindu religious and cultural ideals must form the basis of education for our boys and girls. We want our young men and women to grow into an army of workers inspired with a passionate love for Hinduism, yet tolerant and respectful with regard to other religions and schools of thought. They must become strong and virile, fearless and purposeful, lovers and upholders of discipline and purity of conduct and character. – Dr. Syama Prasad Mukharjee.
The sword of honour
Divya Kapoor
The tradition of performing Buzhen sword dance is extinct in both in Tibet and Ladakh, making the Lochans of Spiti the only surviving artistes. Divya Kapoor captures the beauty of their act as they give their first performance away from home
He brings a khatampa (a small trishul-like weapon) near his face and slowly pierces it through his cheeks, from one side to the other. Most of the spectators, including me, stare in anticipation. Many gasp and hold their breath, a few even let out a small shriek of disbelief. But all this does not affect Chawang Nomjal, a Lochan (the main performer), who is performing the Buzhen sword dance. He turns around and decides to flaunt his skills further. This time it is the much awaited sword dance, and he performs. He moves swiftly, and calculatively offering a prayer to gods Green tara and Thang Tong Gyalpo.
The Buzhen are a sub sect of the Nyingma-Pa sect of Buddhism and live in the Pin Valley of Spiti in Himachal Pradesh on the opposite side of the river Pin. This cold and beautiful valley has at various times in history been a part of the Tibetan realm.
The sword dance is preceded by the setting up of an altar with an image of Tangthon Gyalpo in the middle and a large stone placed in front. Nomjal then, along with four other colourfully dressed people, performs the powar dochak ceremony. It can literally be translated to “breaking of stones.” Its purpose though is to destroy the evil spirit that takes shelter in a stone.
The Lochan again begins the sword dance with the blowing of conch shells, burning of incense and an invocation to the benevolent spirits, culminating the “breaking of the stone” in a spectacular finale. Traditionally, the broken pieces of the sacred stones are taken with great respect to be used in the plinths of the houses to drive away evil spirits.
After receiving praises from an overwhelmed bunch of people, Nomjal reveals, “The art comes easy to me as I have been practicing it for over 16 years now. To be able to perform this act, one needs a great deal of concentration. I spent six months in a cave meditation and remembering god. It was only after this that I could perform this ‘dangerous’ act. We offer prayers to the god in this way so that he free us from all our problems, both professional and personal.”
This is the first ever performance of the group away from their land and the unpolished presentation came alive with the rawness of their act in front of the much metropolitan audience. Kishore Thukral, director, Tusita Divine Art Private Limited, who brought this almost extinct art to the capital, discovered Spiti by accident, fell in love with it and then decided to write a book on it. “It was while researching for the book that I came across this traditional dance form,” he says. The entire legend, he points out, goes back to the 14th century. “It started about 700 years ago when the people of this area started to ignore their faith. At that point, Thang Tong Gyalpo a great Buddhist adept and a highly enlightened person, decided to revive the belief of the people in god. He organised a band of youngsters together who would wear colourful clothes and go from one place to another, performing and enacting scenes from the life of Buddha and other teachers who had come after him. And over time, people were drawn back to their roots,” he explained.
When I ask him about the “breaking of the stone ceremony”, he narrates another legend. “The first time this ceremony was performed when the Tibetan monastery Chung Riwoche, an abode of Thang Tong Gyalpo, was being constructed. Whatever was constructed in the day was destroyed in the night by an evil spirit called Pangyal. It was only after Thang Tong Gyalpo had performed this ceremony that the monastery could be completed,” he said, adding, “What you saw here today was particularly performed in Lasa. The residents there were suffering from a disease of the intestine which was caused by a spirit. It spread to the proportion of becoming an epidemic and so Thang Tong Gyalpo captured the spirit which was responsible for the disease in a stone that was shaped like a stomach. After that he broke the stone with his dorje phurba — a kind of mythical dagger — in the presence of the elderly, thereby killing the spirit and ridding the people of the ailment. That is the legend that the performers enacted. The stone which was placed on the chest and stomach of the man was symbolic of the evil spirit.”
But Thukral is sad that the tradition is now on the verge of extinction. “In case of Lochans, this art is hereditary. For instance, Nomjal’s father gave it to him and now he will pass it on to his children. But others can take up any occupation that they like. The Lochans in Spiti today only consist of five people. And so there are only 25 groups remaining. The sad part is that there are no other Lochans anywhere else in the world. The tradition is extinct in both in Tibet and Ladakh, making the Lochans of Spiti the only surviving ones,” says Thukral.
Well, someone has rightly said, “All good things must come to an end.” – The Pioneer, Mar 13 2010.