Falgun Krishna 4 Vik Samvat 2069. Yugabda 5114: March 1, 2013

1. FESTIVALS: Elephant Festivals: In the 10-day Thirunakkara Arattu festival from 15th to 24th March each year in Thirunakkara Mahadeva Temple, Kottayam, Kerala, the highlight is a procession of decorated elephants, accompanied by drummers and other performers, carrying the temple god to be bathed. In Arattupuzha Pooram festival in Arattupuzha temple in the Thrissur district of Kerala, one of the oldest temple festivals in Kerala, on March 25, 2013 a particularly large elephant pageant features around 60 elephants bearing brightly colored silk parasols. Legend has it that on the day of the festival, 101 gods and goddesses from the neighboring villages visit Sree Ayyappan, the presiding deity of the Arattupuzha Temple. In Jaipur, on the eve of Holi each year, March 26 this year, plenty of prized elephants are groomed and decorated to perfection, and paraded around the city.

2.  THREE CRORE SET World record in Mass Surya Namaskar Bharat set a world record in itself when more than three crore Bharatiyas performed ‘Surya Namaskar – Sun salutations at a time throughout the country on February 18, 2013. The event was organized by ‘Vivekananda 150 Birth Anniversary Celebration Committee’ throughout the length & breadth of the country. The participants included about two crore high school students. The ‘Surya Namaskar Yagya’ was organized at over 80 thousand places across the country.

At 10am Bharatiya time, the Samuhik Surya Namaskar Yagya began at various places. In about half an hour, the participants completed 13 Surya Namsakars each as per instructions. Each and every town & city, many taluka (tehsil) places & even small villages across Bharat witnessed the mass Surya Namaskar performed on the occasion of ‘World Surya Namskar day’ – Ratha Saptami. (Ratha Saptami this year was February 17.)
3. Empowering women can tackle gender disparity: Pranab – Rashtrapati Pranab Mukherkjee said in New Delhi on 18 February that gender disparity can be tackled only through economic empowerment of women and improving their role in governance. Speaking at the presentation of the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development for 2011 to Ela Ramesh Bhatt of Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA), Mukherjee emphasised that empowerment of women is the key for gender equality. "If women are under-represented in our economy, it is not only injudicious but also detrimental to social progress," he said.
4.  Five Lakh People visited THE 5th Hindu Spiritual and Service Fair: Fifth Hindu fair of the Hindu spiritual and Service Foundation (February 19-24) was inaugurated by former Dy. Prime Minister L K Advani at Chennai in august presence of Swami Ashutoshananda of Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, Swami Omkarananda of Chidbhavananda Ashram, Theni, N Gopalswami - Former Chief Election Commissioner and S. Gurumurthy, Chartered Accountant and Columnist and other organizing members.  Advani in his speech revealed that a suggestion had been made to the Rashtrapati Pranab Mukherjee that he should approach the United States Government to hold a special function in Chicago to commemorate 150th birth year of Swami  Vivekananda. 
Around 200 Hindu and Spiritual Organizations including Ramakrishna Mission, Sri Sathya Sai Baba Ashram, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Sringeri Math, Art of Living Movement, Swaminarayan Movement, All World Gayathri Parivar, Arutperunjothi Vallalar Charitable Trust, and service organizations like Seva Bharathi, Samskrita Bharati, Rashtra Sevika Samithi, etc participated in the fair.  Hindu Religious Boards of the States of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala namely Travancore Devasthanam Board, Andhra Pradesh Hindu Religious Endowments Board, Karnataka Hindu Religious Endowment Board, Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanam Board of Tamilnadu, Singhvi Jain, Sourashtra Gujarati Mandal, etc. also participated in the Hindu Fair.
Sri Bhramaramba Mallikarjuna Swamy Ratham of Kurnool, Sri Kalahastiswamy Ratham of Kalahasti, Sri Kanipakka Varasiddha Vinayaka Swamy Ratham of Chittoor, Sri Kanakadurga Temple Ratham, Vijayawada, Sri Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy koil Ratham, Vizag and Viveka Ratham of Vijayabharatham attracted large visitors at the fair.
Competitions were held on various subjects including Rangoli wherein 1000 students from 66 schools participated enthusiastically. There were about 5 lakh visitors to the Spiritual Fair. They appreciated the efforts taken in organizing the fair.
5.  Nairobi Yogathon 2013: This grand event attracted over 1,150 people from all walks of life in its first year and is aimed to grow larger every year. The atmosphere at the Jamhuri High School Grounds on the morning of 17th February was highly charged as yoga enthusiasts, young and old, geared up to perform 108 Surya Namaskaras.  It was an inspiring moment to witness at the crack of dawn when children smaller than their yoga mats, walked in with excitement shining on their faces to learn something new.
The event was organized under the banner of Hindu Religious and Service Centre, in the spirit of promoting fitness and health and to celebrate Swami Vivekananda’s 150th birth anniversary.
6. Sanskrit IN KERALA SCHOOLS: With an aim to revive Sanskrit language, once considered the mother of all languages in Bharat , the government has decided to introduce Sanskrit as a second language from class I from the next academic year, in all state syllabus schools, said director of public instruction (DPI) A Shahjahan.
At present, Sanskrit is taught in 2,975 government, aided and private state syllabus schools in the state from class V. There are only around 2, 47,764 students studying Sanskrit, as compared to the 9, 82,103 students studying Arabic which is taught to students from class I.
7. SANSKRIT SAHITYOTSAVA UJJAIN: A 3-day Sanskrit Sahityotsava was organised in Ujjain from 22nd to 24th February in which more than 3,000 scholars – Sanskrit readers, teachers and disciples participated. “Sanskrit is not only Dev Bhasha (language of deities) but also the language of Vedas. During ancient and Vedic period, foreigners used to survive in forests and Bharatiya science was at par with the best in the world. Efforts are being made to revive the status of Sanskrit and it was one of the initiatives, which was taken by the government,” said Laxmi Kant Sharma, Culture Minister, Madhya Pradesh in the concluding ceremony of the event. Minister for Food and Civil Supply Paras Jain said there were nine gems in the court of Vikramaditya while there were thousands of gems in the court of Sahityotsava. The city of Ujjain was privileged to have august presence of such scholars. Chief guest Supreme Court Judge BN Shri Krishna delivered a speech in Sanskrit and said, “ Just like a woman usually looks for her necklace around her, though she has been wearing it on her neck, the same things happen with us and we are looking towards the western culture forgetting our own.” Rajya Sabha Member and former governor Dr Rama Jois, V- C of Somnath University Venketakumbh Shastri, M Raj Kaushi and chairman of Maharishi Patanjali Sanskrit Sansthan Manmohan Upadhyay also spoke on this occasion.
8. Jalianwala Bagh carnage shameful incident: UK PM - Regretting the Jalllianwala Bagh carnage, British Prime Minister David Cameron termed the 1919 massacre a shameful incident in British history. Cameron visited Golden temple and Jalllianwala Bagh on February 20. He paid homage to unarmed civilians who lost their lives in rampage firing. 
Cameron is the first British Prime Minister to visit Jallianwala Bagh after 94 years of the incident.
Hundreds of innocent and unarmed men, women and children were massacred at the Jallianwala Bagh on April 13, 1919 by British forces led by Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer when they opened fire on them. Approximately 1,650 rounds were fired that resulted in the death of more than 1,000 Bharatiyas besides leaving more than 1,100 injured.
9. Daughter of Sangh worker thrashed women-abusers on mid-night in the street: “I was breaking the silence. If I had stood mum listening to their verbal abuse, the scene would have worsened further,” this was how Amrutha Mohan described the incident that made her beat up two men who showered verbal abuse on her on February 14 night during her return from the event ‘One Billion Rising’ on Shangumugham Beach, Thiruvananthpuram aimed at bringing an end to the violence against women.  Amrutha, who had led the bike rally at the event, was returning on her bike and was accompanied by her friend and her family in a car. As the restaurants were closed, they stopped near a wayside eatery to have food. At that time, three men in a car stopped near them and showered verbal abuse.
 Other than Amrutha, two more women were present there at that time. “On seeing the two men getting beaten up, the other one escaped from the scene. “There were many people in front of the eatery at that time and so I was not the only one to react,” she says.
A final year Communicative English student at All Saints’ College, her martial arts lessons had proved useful for Amrutha. A five-time winner in drums at the State School Youth Festival, Amrutha is part of a seven-member band, ‘Skylark’.  In the band, the other six members are boys. Amrutha, 20, is a resident of Enchakkal. Her father Mohan was a RSS Pracharak formerly.
10. ANCIENT temple found in Peru:  A team of archaeologists discovered a ruined temple measuring 6.82 meters by 8.04 and a hearth some 5,000 years old at the El Paraiso archaeological complex east of Lima. In the center of the temple is a sloping rectangular floor, to which one gains access via a step 45 centimeters (about 18 inches) high. In the center of this sloping floor is the ceremonial hearth, a space where offerings to the gods were burned and has characteristics never seen before in the Lima area - in the right wing of the Main Pyramid at the complex, Deputy Culture Minister Rafael Varon said. "This find opens a new road for the El Paraiso Archaeological Complex, for research and comprehensive recovery of all the monument's secrets," he said.
11.  MY VISIT TO NORWAY AND NETHERLANDS: SHYAM PARANDE - The visit to Oslo was memorable: The snow-covered city, the mesmerizing Vigeland Sculpture Arrangements are memories to be cherished. The Nobel Peace Centre is holding an exhibition on Mahatma Gandhi’s life called “Eye on Gandhi”. It is a wonderful work by two Bharatiyas that would make every Bharatiya proud. Legendary documentary photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, a Norwegian, who had been in Bharat during the penultimate days of Gandhiji and his photographs, probably the last on Gandhi’s life, are on display at the centre now.
Another experience worth mentioning was the visit to the Parliament of Norway sans security that we are all used to in Bharat. The Parliament is right in the midst of the old city of Norway and close to the Royal Palace of Norway’s King. Made me think of the Raisina Hills in New Delhi without the stringent elaborate obscure security. My life time dream indeed!
Wijchen is a small place as compared to The Haque which has a large Hindu population and Amsterdam with richer Hindus. Yet a cluster of 25 Hindu families in Wijchen built the largest Hindu Mandir in the country. This surprises everyone who visits the place for the first time. The Shri Ram Mandir attracts many tourists and even some Dutch people visit the Mandir for offering prayers. It was more surprising that a group of scientists works from the Mandir and even conducts computer and science classes from the Mandir. A sizable room in the Mandir has been converted into scientific centre for the classes. The Mandir President Om Prakash Singh Lal Bahadoor and his brother Uday Singh are the motivating force for the establishment and development of this Mandir.
12. Vasant Panchami festival beckons the arrival of spring: The Hindu goddess of knowledge and music was celebrated in true Bharatiya style on February 16 as 160 people flocked to East Reading for the festival of Vasant Panchami. Park United Reformed Church came alive with the vibrant sounds and colours of traditional Bharatiya song and dance, organised by the Indian Arts Centre (IAC) in Purley, UK.
IAC chairwoman Sharmila Banerjee, from Purley, said: “Vasant Panchami is one of the most grand festivals to beckon the arrival of the spring. It is one of the first festivals of the year and is celebrated all over Bharat.”
To mark this auspicious day in Reading, a number of activities took place, with the puja (prayer) being the highlight. A sit and draw competition was held for young worshippers, with 30 children aged from four to 17 taking part. The students of IAC teachers Piyali Basu and Ananya Chatterjee then gave a dazzling performance with which all the parents and guests were delighted.
13. Nagas celebrate annual seed sowing festival of Lui-Ngai-Ni: Considered to be one of the biggest festivals for Nagas, Lui-Ngai-Ni, was celebrated in Chandel district in Manipur with pomp and gaiety, under the theme of "Weaving Peace through Culture". Naga folk dances like the war dance, weaving dance, and seed-sowing dance were showcased. Nagas were joined by members of other communities like Meiteis, Kukis and Gorkhas in the celebrations. The festival promotes peace, harmony and prosperity while upholding the rich Naga culture.
14.  Sita Kalyanam in Chennai holds Gen-X in thrall: More than 300 students drawn out from some of the best schools in Chennai, sat enthralled and watch Sita Kalyanam (The Marriage of Sita), a Bommalattam (puppetry) presented by a group of folklore artists from Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu on February 16. The puppets, the dance, the music and the artistry were a new experience for the students who are brought up in an environment of rock music and more at home with internet games.
“I never knew Ramayana had such wonderful stories in it. What I liked most was the way the marionettes danced and spoke. They looked like original human beings,” Prem Kumar, an eighth standard student from Saraswathi Vidyalaya, said.
The Bommalattam in chaste Tamil was presented by Sourashtrians who have made Tamil Nadu their home for the last 500 years. No festivals and celebrations in rural Tamil Nadu could be said to be complete without Bommalattam. The enthusiasm of three families in Kumbakonam, sustaining this art form through generations, has taken Bommalattam to new heights. In villages, Bommalattam is performed only in the evenings. Stories like Vinayaka Puranam, Anjaneya Puranam and Bhakta Prahlaad are in demand.
15.   ‘Narendra Modi govt for Dalits as priests’: Gujarat's social justice department has proposed a new provision in the budget to train safai kamdars in Vedic religious rituals, a Brahmin monopoly till now. A provision of Rs 22.50 lakh has been made for the programme in the budget for 2013-14.
Under the proposed scheme, safaikamdars and their children will be trained for karma-kand at reputable institutions such as Sola Bhagvat Vidyapith and Somnath Sanskrit University.
16. LSE scholarship for 50 BHARATIYA students: Soon after British PM David Cameron announced there was no cap on Bharatiya students in UK, London School of Economics (LSE) director professor Craig Calhoun, who’s travelling with the PM, said LSE was introducing 50 new postgraduate scholarships for Bharatiyas. These will enable Bharatiyas fund a Masters degree starting 2013.
We want to ensure that LSEs doors are open to all talented students, regardless of financial circumstances, and are delighted to cement this relationship further by offering 50 scholarships, for graduate study, for students from Bharat, Calhoun said. LSE enrols between 300 and 400 Bharatiyas each year, with the majority in postgraduate programmes.
17.  Hollande lauds bharat’s ‘peace power’: Stressing the “exceptional” strategic partnership between the two countries, French president Francois Hollande urged New Delhi to play a greater global role, as the “security of the world needs Bharat’s presence.” President Hollande delivered the Madhavrao Scindia memorial lecture to a packed hall at Teen Murti house auditorium in New Delhi on February 15.
Hollande termed Bharat the “world’s greatest democracy” and a “power of peace”. He argued that given its strong democratic and secular credentials, and the example of religious tolerance that it offers, Bharat should more actively address issues threatening world peace.
After the lecture, French President Francois Hollande bestowed his country’s highest decoration, ‘Commandeur de la Legion d’Honneur’ (Legion of Honour) on Nobel laureate Prof Amartya Sen. Hollande praised Sen and quoted extensively from his works.
18. ‘Iron Fist’ sets desert sky ablaze: The skies of Pokhran came alive on February 22 with the Bharatiya Air Force’s first ever day-night full combat and fire demonstration, named “Iron Fist.” Rashtrapati Pranab Mukherjee, the supreme commander of the armed forces, was the chief guest at the event at Chandan Range near Jaisalmer. More than 200 fighter and transport aircraft, including Sukhoi 30, Mirage 2000, Jaguar, MiG 27, MIG 21, MIG 29, unmanned aerial vehicles and the Awacs, participated in the demonstration.
Indigenous aircraft like Light Combat Aircraft Tejas and Light Combat Helicopter Rudra also proved their calibre at the show. The other aircraft displayed were the C130J, the AN-32, the Embraer and the IL-76. The chopper fleet included Mi-8, Mi-17 1V, and the newly inducted Mi-17 V5 and Mi-35. Another new entrant, the Swiss Pilatus PC-7 Mk II basic trainer, also graced the sky.
19. MULJIBHAI PINDOLIA GETS 7TH BHARATVANSHI GAURAV SAMMAN: Glowing tributes were paid to the Bharatiya immigrants by Arun Jaitley, Leader of Opposition, Rajya Sabha, while conferring the 7th Bharatvanshi Gaurav Samman on Muljibhai Laljibahi Pindolia, President of Hindu Council of Africa and International Trustee of World Conference of Religions for Peace, at a function in New Delhi, on 1st February, 2013. Pindolia was presented a cheque for rupees one lac, a citation, a memento and a shawl. He was honoured for his outstanding contribution in the area of service to society.
Arun Jaitley said that Bharatiya diaspora remains constantly in touch with its roots. The colour of their passport changes but their mind does not and their loyalty is 100 percent with the country in which they live and 100 percent with the country of their origin.
His Excellency Donald Ramotar, President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, was the Guest of Honour on this occasion. In his address Shri Ramotar appreciated the Bharatiya migrants for their remarkable contribution to the development of Guyana. He said that 175 years since the Bharatiyas migrated to Guyana they faced miseries and hardships and made tremendous struggle in Guyana. They never forgot Bharat and carried out Bharatiya cultural traditions firmly.
While thanking the Antar Rashtriya Sahayog Nyas for conferring Bharatvanshi Gaurav Samman, Muljibhai Pindolia said that the honour given to him does not belong to him only; it belongs to his elders, his family and his friends, who had done and were doing a lot to serve our country.
20.  Wipro's Premji joins Bill Gates' philanthropic mission: India Inc's philanthropist extraordinaire, Wipro chairman Azim Premji, has signed up for Giving Pledge, committing a substantial part of his wealth to philanthropy. Giving Pledge, founded by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and billionaire investor Warren Buffett, describes itself as "a commitment by the world's wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy".
The Wipro chairman is the only Bharatiya, excluding Bharatiya American entrepreneur Manoj Bhargava, to have signed up for Giving Pledge, and joins Oracle chairman Larry Ellison and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, among many other luminaries.
21. Vyas Samman for Narendra Kohli: Eminent Hindi litterateur Narendra Kohli has been selected for the prestigious Vyas Samman for 2012 for his historical novel ‘Na Bhooto Na Bhavishyati’ based on Swami Vivekananda and the era he belonged to. Instituted by the K. K. Birla Foundation in 1991, the award is given annually for an outstanding literary work in Hindi published during the past ten years. The award carries a cash purse of Rs 2.5 lakh. ‘Na Bhooto Na Bhavishyati’, published in 2004, gives an account of the incredible impression that Vivekananda cast on the history of the country and its culture. Mr. Kohli, 73, is credited with re-inventing the ancient form of epic writing in modern prose. He has published 76 books including short story collections, novels and plays
22. Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram’s National Meet held at Howrah: Akhil Bharatiya Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram (ABVKA) held its national executive committee meeting at Krishna Bhawan, Howrah on 21st February 2013. ABVKA is a philanthropic organisation working for the welfare of 10 crore Scheduled Tribes of country through its 32 affiliated organizations. The meeting was held under the chairmanship of Jagdeoram Uraon and attended by its members and special invitees from various States.
Shri S.K Kaul, retd. IAS officer brought a resolution regarding the Bonded Labour issue prevailing in Bharat even after 66th year of Independence. Estimates about the number of bonded labourers in Bharat vary from 40 million people according to Human Rights Watch, to 11.7 million according to the International Labour Organization. Moren Sing appealed that the District administration should identify and rehabilitate the bonded labourer’s problem. The Executive committee took a resolution in this connection appealed to all social activists and workers of Kalyan Ashram to take up the matter at local level to bring the issue to a logical end.
The ongoing violence in the Rabha area of Lower Assam was discussed in length. Shri Jaleshwar Brahma explained his experience during his tour in the trouble hit area. ABVKA demanded a judicial probe into the firing incident on 12th February and the attack that followed on the indigenous people by alleged Bangladeshis. 13 people of Rabha Janjati community   died in the police firing which inflamed the people.  National Executive Committee appealed the Government to speed up the process of updating National Register of Citizen as per the Assam Accord 1985.
23.  WON'T TOLERATE ANY TAMPERING WITH RAM SETU: BJP : BJP , on February 24, warned the government against going ahead with the Sethusamudram project, saying the sentiments of crores of Hindus are attached to the issue and it will not tolerate any tampering with the Ram Setu.
"We would like to warn the government on the Ram Setu issue. It is ignoring the recommendations of the RK Pachauri committee report and going ahead with the project. This is an issue related to Hindu sentiments and beliefs," told party spokesperson Rravi Shankar Prasad on February 24. The pachauri committee, which submitted its report to the Supreme Court, has said the sethusamudram shipping channel project is not viable on economic and ecological grounds. Government has rejected the report and maintained that it intends to pursue the project which will cut through the so called adam's bridge, popularly known as Ram setu.
24. Bestseller: bharatiya authors write their way to the bank: In a country where the benchmark for a bestseller is a mere 5,000 copies, people who never set out to become writers are crossing the one lakh-mark, thanks to young readers who find their work ‘relatable’.
Earlier this month, Ravinder Singh left his job with Microsoft in Hyderabad and moved to Delhi to pursue writing full-time.
His first book, I Too Had A Love Story, became a bestseller in 2008. “I never thought my book would change my life and career,” he says.
While Chetan Bhagat’s rise to fame has been well-documented, authors such as Singh, Amish Tripathi and Ashwin Sanghi figure alongside him in the Forbes India Celebrity 100 list, which ranked people based on money and fame earned between October 2011 and September 2012.
In one year, Tripathi made about Rs. 10 crore, Bhagat Rs. 3.29 crore, Sanghi Rs. 98 lakh and Singh Rs. 42 lakh. So lucrative is the profession that Ravi Subramanian, a Mumbai-based banker and author of If God Was A Banker, managed to buy a BMW with his royalty money alone.
25. Zomi Nam Ni rocks Delhi: Cultural extravaganza and performances of traditional songs and dances marked the 65th Zomi Nam Ni (Zomi National Day) celebration in New Delhi on February 20. A strong contingent of Tribe leaders, MLAs and MDCs from Churachandpur district including renowned Zomi Artists graced the auspicious occasion. Oscar Fernandez, MP and Chairman Parliamentary Standing Committee and HS Brahman, Election Commissioner who were part of the celebration emphasized upon protection of rich culture, tradition for the Zomis as proud Bharatiyas.
26.  Yankee Doodle Desi: Ami Bera is the third Bharatiya American elected to the US House of Representatives. Bera think that he got elected because he is a Bharatiya American.  “We have a legitimate, elected leader”, said Shekar Narasimhan, a member of Obama’s campaign on finances.
Bera grew up, “an American kid in a Bharatiya family”. He played basketball in school — and was pretty good at it and did well in studies. He took up biological science in college at the University of California and went to join the medical school at Irvine. Congressman Bera now hopes to inspire others to follow him; he speaks of opening the gate. And many more will surely follow. A Bharatiya American with political plans is not so rare anymore.
27. SHRI VISHWA NIKETAN: Pravas: Shri Saumitra Gokhale Vishwa Vibhag Samyojak will reach Bharat on Mar 6 for ABPS baithk. Shri Ravikumar sahsamyojak returned Bharat after finishing his tour to Singapore and Australia. Dr.Ram Vaidya sah samyojak has also reached Bharat. Visitors: Kamal Gupta – Kenya, Prof.Radheshaym Dwiwedi, Richard Benkin – USA, Prof.Azad Kaushik - Canada.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Let our workers keep their minds free and work for our people, our Dharma, in the right spirit, lend a helping hand to all our brethren who need help and strive to relieve distress wherever we see it. In this service no distinction should be made between man and man. We have to serve all, be he a Christian or a Muslim or a human being of any other persuasion: for, calamities, distress and misfortunes make no such distinction but affect all alike. And in serving to relieve the sufferings of man let it not be in a spirit of condescense or mere compassion but as devoted worship of Lord abiding the hearts of all beings, in the true spirit of our Dharma of surrendering our all in the humble service of Him who is Father, Mother, Brother, Friend and everything to us all.
And may our action success bringing out the glory and effulgence of our Sanatan – Eternal Dharma. – Sri Guruji M.S. Golwalkar.

With one language dying somewhere in the world every 14 days, it has probably the highest rate of extinction in the planet, much higher than those of plants, animals or birds. But with Anvita Abbi around, all is not lost, reports Eram Agha
I was surprised. First I thought it was a farce call, and someone was trying to humour my research-laden day by saying that I had been honoured with the Padma Shri,” says Prof Anvita Abbi, who was recently given the prestigious award by the Rashtrapati for her pioneering work as a distinguished linguist working on ‘minority’ languages of the Bharatiya subcontinent and for carrying out first-hand field research on all six language families of the country, including Indo-European, Dravidian, Munda and Tibeto-Burman. Her most significant work has been on the endangered languages spoken in the Andaman Islands — Great Andamanese and Onge-Jarawa.
For the past 35 years Abbi has been relentlessly working towards the preservation of lesser-known languages. Her work can be truly gauged — and appreciated — when one listens to what linguistic experts say: That one language dies somewhere in the world every 14 days. If one takes this assumption seriously (there’s no reason to disbelief it), then this is probably the highest rate of extinction being witnessed in the planet, much higher than those of plants, animals or birds.
“To be frank, when I started it never occurred to me that this documentation would be acknowledged. It was too remote to even think that a work like this can ever be awarded,” she says. Having been associated with Jawaharlal Nehru University as a professor in the School of Languages, Literature and Culture, she is the first one to get the Padma Shri from her centre of the university.
Born in the family of Hindi writers, Abbi went to an Ivy League school. She came back in 1976, with the objective of working in linguistics. “I studied all six language families of Bharat — from the Himalayan region to Andaman — and my finding that Great Andamanese is a separate family in Bharatiya languages is now corroborated by genetics,” she says. “Any place becomes a sealed fortress until its language is known,” she says, adding: “Every language has a unique structure; it is a product of biology and culture, and it is a co-evolutionary process. Culture is embedded in the structure of languages. I realised this while understanding the lesser-known languages.”
The value Andamanese give to kinship shines through when you hear the word raupuh. “It means someone who loses his or her sibling. They were surprised that we had no such word for a situation like this and asked me: ‘Don’t you get unhappy when you lose your sibling?’ This language has different grammar and that is a window to their history and perception of the world around them. Their grammar is construed from the conception of the body. They divide the body in seven parts and have abstract names for each part. They perceive the world through their body and that is so amazing. I think it is a very archaic language going back to the time when human beings were evolving. It was then they must have associated the world with their body,” she observes.
Abbi is calm even in the face of constant phone calls and the task of giving interview appointments. To keep this writer occupied she shows her dictionary on Great Andamanese language. “I started this task of compiling the dictionary for Great Andamanese, thinking it would be easy to do it with just 500 words for consideration. But by the end of it I ended up having 4,200 words and also a neck problem, which a doctor in Europe suggested should be surgically treated,” she says with a smile.
Through this compilation of words, she says, one will discover how attached are these tribes to their environment. “They have a separate word for a place where one can see underwater rocks. Through this you can encode the culture and their experience of living,” she points out. Abbi then says that the term for the opening in the forest with little growth is different from the term used for the opening of the forest with huge growth.
Abbi has another proposal in mind. “I would write to the Government of Bharat on giving the Andaman Islands their original names that are a mirror to their history and culture,” she says pointing at the map in her book that has given original names to some popular destinations — Little Andaman should be called Ilumi Tauro; Havelock Islands’ real name is Thi Lar Siro, which means “Land Near the Sea”; Port Blair’s real name is Lao Taro Nyo and it means “House of spirits and Foreigners”; Diglipur’s original name is Thitomaul, which means “Lots of Undergrowth”. Also, Andaman’s real name is Marakela. Andamanese society has always been in good terms with its nature. Even while collecting honey the locals boast that they don’t kill a single bee. It is done without the use of fire. “They rub mud on their bodies in thick packs, chew a leaf and spit its juice on the honeycomb that drives the bees out of their homes,” Abbi informs. Wonder why the bees don’t bite? They answer is: Bees never bite the mud.
Then there is Baralo, which is a kind of snake that doubles up as a beauty parlour for young girls. It is a particular kind of snake that lives in coconut trees, and is non-poisonous. “Young girls rub that snake on their body and with every rub it gives out a secretion that adds glow to their skin,” she says.
Abbi’s tryst with language has lead her to the road of love for the Andamanese lifestyle. “We have to respect their culture and not drive them towards ‘mainstream’. It will kill their society and, of course, language, which is a storehouse of knowledge. They have survived for 70,000 years without any mainstream measure, so they will survive thousands of years to come. A research was conducted on them and it was discovered that not one person was undernourished. They chew shells found on the shore that is rich in calcium. Their’s is a tropical climate and are comfortable without clothes, by bringing fabric in their lifestyle you are making way for economics,” she points out. Abbi, however, is not very hopeful about the future. “The way things are going, the Great Andamanese tribe will die in 10 years. They marry people out of their tribe and their numbers are dwindling fast. Only the queen of the tribe has married within the community, whereas others are intermingling with colonisers. The Onge-Jarawa tribe still resides in the jungle. Unless we develop alternative sea routes, we cannot safeguard the life, culture, language and identity of one of the oldest civilisations on this planet,” she concludes. -  The Pioneer, 23 February 2013.