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What Happens When You Mess with an Indian Woman

The Portuguese landed in Goa with big dreams. Dreams of conquering the entire Indian subcontinent. Little did they know that they would fail. Not because of a powerful man, as most would assume, but a 30-year-old, recently divorced young woman who singlehandedly led an army against thousands.

Rani Abbakka Chowta: The Queen Who Made Portuguese Colonisers Miserable |  #IndianWomenInHistory
A painting of the historical capture of the Mangalore fort led by Rani Abbakka Chowta

After their conquest of Goa, the Portuguese went on to the South Kanara coast. They captured the Mangalore port and then turned to Ullal. Ullal was a prosperous port at the time and the hub of spice trade with the west. Not expecting the ruler, Rani Abbakka Chowta, to put up a fight, the Portuguese sent a few men to capture and bring her back. To their surprise, those men never came back.

Furious, Portugal sent a huge army under an experienced general, João Peixoto, to handle the issue. On reaching Ullal, they found it deserted and assumed that Abbakka Chowta had fled. Relieved, they were about to return when Rani Chowta attacked with 200 men. The odds of 200 defeating thousands with advanced weaponry seemed completely out of the question. But they had the element of surprise and years of training, which, combined with their patriotism and allegiance to the crown, made it a piece of cake for them to assassinate General João Peixoto, capture 70 soldiers, and send more than half the army running.

Charged by the victory, they went on to attack the Mangalore fort, one of the Portuguese’s main bases in India. After successfully breaking inside, Rani Abbakka Chowta subsequently assassinated Admiral Mascarenhas, the Chief, and forced the other Portuguese to evacuate the fort. She even captured the Portuguese settlement at Kundapura, 100 km away from Mangalore.

Well, she was sure to turn some heads with that. She was later arrested by the Portuguese, betrayed by her estranged husband for money, but she still didn’t give up. She was killed in an attempt to escape from a Portuguese prison. If not for Rani Abbakka Chowta, then India would probably now be under Portuguese rule.

Rani Chowta certainly proved that she was not one to be taken lightly. It’s disheartening to see that despite her immense bravery and determination, she’s now nothing but yet another national hero, forgotten by the masses.

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The Jewels of Ancient India

A common misconception about ancient India is that it was a backward country, plagued by ignorance and superstition. It seems easy enough to believe, and the spread of ideas like these helped other countries weaken us and make it seem like they were doing us a favor. But in reality, this belief is far from the truth. We realized the value of education much before a large part of the rest of the world. In fact, if we were to travel back in time to ancient India, we would be extremely surprised by how different the education system was.

For starters, there was no culture of awarding degrees or certificates. There was no recognition that a student had actually completed a course. Knowledge was its own reward. Students enrolled in higher education, not to seek employment, but with pure intentions of learning.

As a result, universities were few in number. India, however, had multiple universities, which were well-known and of high standards. Students from all over the world flocked to India to attend these prestigious schools.

  • Takshila University could perhaps be called the Harvard of the time. It was a place for all the greats. The well-known adviser to king Chandragupta Maurya, Chanakya, skilled in administration and warfare, taught at this university while writing his famous book Arthashastra. The famous Sanskrit scholar Panini, known for his book Ashtadhyayi, also taught at this university. One of the oldest universities in the world, it was built by King Kumaragupta I in 10th century BCE. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in 499 AD.
  • Nalanda University is also a well-known ancient Indian university. It was built by the ruler of Kanauj, King Harsha. Xuanzang (also known as Hieun Tsang), a widely recognized Chinese scholar, spent a few years at Takshila while researching the history of Buddhism in India. His book sings praises of the university and its several thousand scholar-monks. Nalanda University was also destroyed, but it’s been rebuilt after independence, and is still a thriving center of education.

These universities were famous worldwide. They were places brimming with culture and heritage, places that were sought after by local and international students alike for acquiring knowledge and wisdom. We weren’t behind the rest of the world. On the contrary, we were ahead. And if that’s not something to be proud of, what is?

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Patriotism Amidst a Pandemic

It’s a scary time right now. The world is filled with uncertainty and fear. The numbers shoot up day by day. We don’t know who will be the next to get sick. We are left to wonder when things will go back to normal, and what kind of normal it will be. Will things ever be the same again? The future remains a big question mark.

This is new territory for all of us. We’re all learning to adapt, to modify the things we do everyday. Teachers and students are adapting to online classes. Office goers are digitizing their work. Our morning walks are now walks from the living room to the kitchen. Amidst all this change, it can be hard to stay sane. It feels like such a long time ago when we were free to go outside, to roam the streets, to get some fresh air, to eat at a nice restaurant. Basically, to live life as we knew it. We all miss the rush and excitement of daily life. The simple things we took for granted have now become luxuries, at the cost of our health. Sure, it’s depressing to think about.

But let’s look on the bright side. We no longer have to get up in the morning to rush to work. We have the privilege of spending our free time during the day with our families. With all our gadgets and gizmos, we also have the privilege of staying in touch with our friends during all of this. We can’t afford to break down right now. It’s a crucial period for our country, for the entire world. It will test the strength of our nation. It will test our ability to hold up during a crisis. But we can do this. After all, it’s India we’re talking about. The same country that brought itself up from poverty and chaos and became a superpower in barely seventy years.

If we stay strong during this battle and support each other, we’ll be sure to succeed. Let’s fight this together, and emerge stronger. Until then, let’s enjoy the simple everyday pleasures we have today, because soon enough, we’ll be missing this way of life.

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The Anantha Padmanabhaswamy Temple- An Architectural Marvel

When the British first came to India, the only tactic they really needed to colonize India was to convince us that we were inferior, uncivilized, and could only be “fixed” by British intervention. They claimed to have pure motives. They said they only wanted to help us out. They broke us from within, just by telling us we weren’t good enough. They taught us to alter our way of thinking. They told us that Europe was more advanced, that they were making scientific advancements every day, and here we were, sticking to our superstitions. “Think rationally,” they told us. And we believed them.

But this was far from true. Before their arrival, India was thriving in every field. From agriculture to astronomy to art, we were among the best. We had the best of scientists. This incredible observation just goes to prove that we Indians really did know what we were doing: a lot of us have heard of the Anantha Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Kerala. But very few know its greater significance.

Its architecture is the perfect blend of Dravidian and traditional Kerala styles. Most large South Indian temples have a tower, or gopuram, at the main entrance that looks like this:

This tower was a later addition to the main temple, but is thousand of years old itself. It rises 100 feet above the ground with a solid foundation that goes forty feet underground. Its walls are intricately carved with ornate sculptures that can only be done by the best sculptors. It has seven floors, each of which has an opening in the middle, as seen in the picture.

It was observed that, surprisingly, on the exact days of the equinox, the setting Sun could be seen passing through every single one of these openings, perfectly aligned. An equinox is an astronomical phenomenon that occurs twice a year, during which day and night are equal in length. This structure was constructed in this way even before this phenomenon was discovered in the rest of the world.

Such an astonishing feat could only have been accomplished with incredibly talented people, an ideal collaboration of the best of both architecture and astronomy. Their predictions are still accurate, and has been verified during every single equinox sunset till date.

We only see our temples as places of worship, but they are so much more. Science lies in every one of our ancient beliefs, some of which are only being proved today. We weren’t behind, we were ahead. While every European discovery was circulated and congratulated, the most talented Indians silently went on with their lives, never given due credit for their achievements. The world remains oblivious of our past greatness.

We are still taught of groundbreaking European discoveries at school, but we are rarely taught of our own. We grow up thinking that we are somehow less. We try as hard as we can to think like they do, to act like they do, because maybe someday we could be as great as them. But remember, your branches can only reach heights if your roots run deep. Sometimes, to go forwards we first have to go back. Never be ashamed of being Indian. Whoever you are, whatever you are good at, show it to the world. As an Indian. Bring our country the pride it deserves.

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Why You Should Respect Your Teachers

गुरुर्ब्रह्मा गुरुर्विष्णु र्गुरुर्देवो महेश्वरः,

गुरु साक्षात परब्रह्मा तस्मै श्रीगुरवे नमः

Translation: The Guru is Brahma, the Guru is Vishnu, the Guru is Shiva. Indeed, the Guru is the Supreme Absolute. To that Guru I offer my reverent salutations.

The guru is treated like a deity in Indian culture, to be worshiped, to be respected, to be revered. The guru is often placed a rung above God Himself, for it is the guru who helps us establish a connection with God. Centuries ago, young children in India would travel to a place far from home to live with many others of their own age and a man assigned to teach them, the guru. This man would practically raise the child, teaching him how to live and showing him the difference between right and wrong. He would also take care of the child’s spiritual education. They would live like a family, often in the same dwelling.

The guru would have a special relationship with each of his students, like that of a father and child. He would be every child’s guiding light, every child’s role model, every child’s hero. Even when they grew to become men, the guru would remain a constant inspiration for them and would still have a special place in their hearts.

With the adoption of the Western method of schooling, circumstances have changed and the guru now plays a slightly smaller role in raising the child. But the fundamental definition of a guru is still the same. No teacher is just a teacher. Teachers push us to perform better, motivate us to love their subject, and shape our personality. Teaching is now one of the least paid jobs. The salary that teachers get is in no way comparable to the tremendous amount of work they put in, just for one class. Teachers don’t do their jobs for money, they do it because they love it. Unlike other jobs, teachers don’t finish up for the day when they walk out of the school. Teachers go to bed thinking about their students, and think about their students first thing in the morning when they wake up.

We say that we respect our teachers. But how many of us really do? Have we never come up with creative nicknames for our teachers or made fun of them behind their back? Do we thank our teachers regularly for what they do? Trying so hard to embrace Western culture, we often willingly forget our own. But wherever you are from, the ability to recognize what others do for you and to thank them for it is what makes you human. So starting today, let’s promise to be grateful to our teachers. If you agree, let me know in the Comments section. After all, we’d be nothing if not for our teachers.

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Two Years!!!

It’s hard to believe that it’s been two years since I started this blog. India is one of the most diverse countries in the world, a coming together of so many religious, ethnic, and linguistic groups, all different in their own way. We are often forced to embrace a different culture, a foreign identity, just to fit in with the rest of the world. And that’s okay. It’s not wrong to eat the occasional burger or wear jeans.

But underneath all that, we need to make sure that we are still Indian. Ancient Indian values, the very ideals that guided kings and freedom fighters, must be our guiding light. When all else is gone, it is our country that remains our identity. And being an Indian is NOT something to be ashamed of, even if the world tries to convince us that it is. India is a country of many unknown, unrecognized victories. That’s what drove me to start this blog. We need to teach our children (and ourselves) to be proud of our beautiful country. To be tolerant of other cultures but also respect our own.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank my entire WordPress family. I really couldn’t have done it without you guys. Thanks to all my followers for taking the time to constantly read all my posts and like them or comment on them. There have been so many sweet, heartwarming comments that encouraged me to keep writing, even when I felt like quitting. Your encouragement makes all the hard work that goes into writing a post worth it. I couldn’t ask for a better group of followers and I love you all so much. I promise you lots of great posts ahead, so stay tuned! Thanks for making this journey memorable!

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False Credits to Newton, Manchester University Confirms

Ask any fourth grader, “Who discovered gravity?” The standard answer you’d get is Sir Isaac Newton. But how true is that? Have we given a man credit for another man’s hard work? The answer to this question happens to be yes. Manchester University has confirmed that Isaac Newton is not the one who discovered gravity. Let’s look at some details:

  • The Vaisheshikasutra describes the force of gravity, written by Rishi (sage) Kanad from the school of Vaisheshika in 2nd century BCE.
  • Newton’s birthday: January 4th, 1643 (CE, of course)

Here’s an interesting image:

There was an uproar on the Internet recently about whether these exact words were present in the Vaisheshikasutra, but it was clarified later by trusted sources that they are.

And there’s more. If you are a math lover like me, you probably took Calculus as a subject in high school. Remember the infinite series, a fundamental component of calculus? Its discovery was also falsely credited to Newton, Manchester University claims. Their website explains that the Indians predated Newton’s discovery by 250 years. The infinite series was discovered by Madhava and Nilakantha from the Kerala School in 1350. The Kerala School, they added, also succeeded in calculating the value of pi up to 17 decimal places.

The university also explains how these ideas happened to reach Newton himself. These Indians from the Kerala School passed on their knowledge to highly educated Christian missionaries who visited the country during this time, which, many argue, was probably passed on to Newton.

Dr. George Gheverghese Joseph, who made these revelations public, explained that this fact was unknown to many because:

  • European scholars refused to accept the ideas of non-Europeans
  • The languages in which these were published, i.e. Malayalam and Sanskrit, were not known to many.

He concludes by saying that the beginnings of modern mathematics being seen as a European achievement, but contributions from other countries in the 15th and 16th centuries have been completely forgotten. I personally believe that the efforts taken by the Manchester University to confirm this is a step in the right direction. We have been ignored for too long and it is time for all of us to set the facts straight. This discovery is yet another small thing for us Indians to be proud of.

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The Man Who Saved India from Dutch Rule

Who is Martanda Verma? Most Indians have no idea who he is. But you will be surprised to find that he was actually a great person who has achieved great things and deserves more credit for his achievements.

Martanda Verma was a great king of a small kingdom called Travancore (present day Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala). As all kings do, he was simply trying to expand his kingdom by waging war against Kayamkulam (in Odanad). Coincidentally, Kayamkulam happened to be the largest source of pepper for the Dutch. The Dutch East India Company, when hearing of this, was afraid that they wouldn’t have monopoly over trade anymore. They wrote to Martanda Verma ordering him to end the aggression with Kayamkulam. Martanda Verma bravely wrote back, asking the Dutch not to interfere in matters not concerning them. He went on to annex Odanad. This made the Dutch furious. They asked him to restore the kingdom to the previous king and threatened to invade Travancore. But Martanda Verma refused.

This eventually led to the Travancore-Dutch War of 1741. On August 10, 1741 the armies met in battle which Travancore decisively won. 24 soldiers, including the commander-in-chief of the Dutch army, Captain de Lannoy, were taken prisoner (de Lannoy’s surrender can be seen in the cover image).

Unfortunately, despite having defeated the Dutch, Travancore was annexed by the British. After India gained its independence, Travancore joined the state of Kerala and was renamed Thiruvananthapuram.

The world’s strongest and most powerful navy had been defeated by the courage of a king and his soldiers, and, of course, their superior military tactics. If the Dutch hadn’t been defeated by Martanda Verma, we would probably now be under Dutch rule. It’s sad that this vital piece of history has been forgotten by us. The story of Martanda Verma is sure to give any proud Indian goosebumps!

 

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marthanda_Varma

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Travancore%E2%80%93Dutch_War

https://www.dailyo.in/politics/indian-freedom-struggle-british-dutch-east-india-company-travancore-carnatic-nawab-hyder-ali-tipu-sultan-colachel-day/story/1/12198.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Colachel

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Chennai-Based Sisters Build Futures of Orphaned Girls

The Annai Ashram is an orphanage for girls in KK Nagar, Trichy that has changed completely thanks to the Robotix Learning Solutions. The Robotix Learning Solutions is an organization founded by sisters Aditi Prasad and Deepti Rao Suchindran. According to them, the number of women in STEM fields is small when compared to the men. Their goal is to teach programming to young girls, who, they hope, will grow up to establish careers in STEM. They teach the girls (between the ages of 6 and 12) of the Annai Ashram coding for free once a week every week throughout the year. They call this program “Indian Girls Code”.

This program aims to bridge the gender gap in STEM in future generations and to boost the self-confidence of the orphans, whose regular routine hardly helps in this. They usually end up doing more chores than learning, and find it difficult to make a future for themselves. This program is a ray of hope for these underprivileged children, who really look forward to their weekly sessions.

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Aditi Prasad teaching the orphans of Annai Ashram

When interviewed, Aditi says they are very smart and can grasp concepts easily. She also adds that they have created many cool programs. For example, during the floods in Chennai, the girls created their own stories about what happened and how we could help prevent such disasters in the future. She goes on to say that she hopes the kids will now use their skills to make robots that can perform simple tasks, such as waste segregation.

Robotix Learning Solutions also holds after school programs and summer camps. They host an annual robotics competition every year called the Indian Robotix League, in which they have a girls’ team award.

What an inspiring success story! Aditi and Deepti, all us proud Indians are on your side!

 

Sources:

https://www.robotixedu.com/indian-girls-code.html

https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/trends/underprivileged-girls-in-india-are-now-learning-robotics-coding-3715511.html

https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/meet-aditi-who-teaching-robotics-improve-lives-underprivileged-girls-tn-100275

https://www.dtnext.in/News/City/2018/03/01010939/1063519/Tiruchy-girls-break-the-code-for-solving-real-world-.vpf

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Fill a Stomach, Fill a Heart

Annam para Brahma swarupam” (Food is the essence of life/ the Lord of Creation.)

-The Upanishads

 

This age-old quote from the Upanishads has a very deep meaning. Food gives life. As you read this, thousands of people starve, living only on scraps of food. They do not know when the day will come when they can no longer find the scraps they rely on, the scraps that, for them, mean the difference between life and death. They long for good food that we take for granted.

For people like them, Annadhanam is a blessing. Annadhanam refers to the practice of donating food to those in need. As mentioned previously, food gives life. So annadhanam is also considered pranadhanam (donation of life), thus it is known to be divine. Donors of annadhanam are said to directly attain salvation.

Today we can see annadhanam being practiced in many places of worship all around India. If you are like me, you might wonder why there was a need to connect this to religion. But when you think about it a bit more, it starts to make sense. You see, food to be donated is first offered to God before being given to the people.  So those who prepare the food do so with utmost care because it will be offered and so the quality is ensured. Here are a few examples of annadhanam practiced on a large scale:

  • Golden Temple, Punjab
  • Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams
  • Dharmasthala
  • Golden Temple, Vellore

Apart from these, however, there are countless other places where annadhanam is practiced regularly. In most of these places, it is noted that the kitchens are modern, automated, and run on alternate sources of energy to cause less pollution. Organic plantain leaves are used as plates. In the Dharmasthala, kitchen waste is used to make biogas, which in turn is used to light the fire, thus making the kitchen self-sufficient. Cleanliness of the food is maintained.

In some places, not only food, but also milk, tea, and coffee is offered. Some of these places get up to 75,000 people per meal, but nobody leaves hungry. The food is checked for its quality, and only the best food is served to the people. In most places where annadhanam is practiced, despite being places of worship, people of all faiths are welcome, and vegetarian food is offered to ensure that no one is offended.

Annadhanam is yet another reminder of how kind and generous Indians can be. This tradition is every Indian’s pride!

 

Sources:

https://www.ishafoundation.org/Get-Involved/annadanam-the-sacred-tradition-of-offering-food.isa

https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/v-g-ravindrakumar-agasthiyar-annadhanam-trust-nahla-nainar-interview/article20103806.ece

https://www.speakingtree.in/blog/annadhanam-a-lifesaving-act