Archive for category Prose

CONTRIBUTIONS MADE BY MAHARISHI VED VYAS, THE AUTHOR OF THE EPIC ‘MAHABHARATA’

Immense contributions were made by the great gurus of India during ancient times. Maharishi Ved Vyas is well known for protecting the Vedas and preserving knowledge.

Krishna Dwaipayan, popularly known as Ved Vyas, was born in Kalpi Island of the Yamuna River on the full moon day in the month of ‘Ashadh’ (June-July). His father was Sage Parashar, the grandson of Sage Vasishtha and his mother was Matsyagandha, a fisher girl whose original name was Satyawati. When Sage Parashar died, Satyawati got married to Shantanu, the king of Hastinapur.

Ved Vyas composed the great epic ‘Mahabharata’ which is read worldwide even today. He recorded all the history for the future generations and rendered ‘Gita’ as a part of the epic, which still serves as an ideal guide to every human being for positive actions and living a purposeful life.

Vyas made great efforts in preserving the voluminous store of Vedic knowledge. At first when he doubted that the Vedas might get extinct, he protected them by compilation and organised them into four parts. He then laid stress on handing over the knowledge from one generation to the other. This was done by a guru to his disciple and by a father to his son.

Besides these, he allotted the various branches of knowledge to several communities. The different branches were Ayurveda (medical science including surgery), Sthapatya Veda (sculpture related to metals, mortars, stones and wood), Gandharva Veda (vocal and instrumental music, dance, art etc.) and Dhanur Veda (skills of military warfare).

Ved Vyas also composed Puranas so that the common people could understand all about the Vedic principles and sincerely follow them in their lives. According to him, religion was not just belief in facts heard or told, but being a part, by realizing truths and developing them and carrying them out in actions.

The Guru-Shishya tradition for protection of Indian culture was established by Ved Vyas. He assigned each of the four Vedas to different disciples who were competent for propagation of knowledge. He gave Rig Veda to Bhaskala, Yajur Veda to Vaishampayana, Sam Veda to Jaimini and Atharva Veda to Aruni. The main goal of this tradition was to establish an ideal social order.

The Gurukul system of education in India thus gradually developed from the Guru-Shishya tradition. The sons of both the kings and the common men came from far off places to stay with the guru in his ‘ashram’. All lived together and the children were treated as part of the guru’s family. They served their guru and respected him as a deity. The disciples learned not only what they were taught but also learnt how to live with humility and dignity. The disciples attained knowledge by observing the life of their guru and experiencing truth.

Ved Vyas shall always be remembered for his sincere efforts of preserving Vedic knowledge. Hence, his birth anniversary is celebrated every year as Guru Purnima.

 

[Published in ‘Ezine Articles’ on 3 June 2013]

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GURU PURNIMA – A DAY OF REVERENCE

Guru Purnima is observed on the full moon day in the month of Ashadh (June-July) every year. The birth anniversary of Maharishi Ved Vyas, the author of Mahabharata, is celebrated as Guru Purnima. The day is also known as Vyas Jayanti.

The word guru refers to perfection. Gu signifies concealed and ru signifies revealed. Thus, a guru is one who removes ignorance and paves way for enlightenment. Earnestly religious people begin their day by chanting a prayer to their guru: Gurur Brahma Gurur Vishnuh Gurur Devo Maheswarah, Guruh Sakshat Param Brahmah, Tasmai Sri Gurave Namah. In other words, Guru is the creator, preserver and also the destroyer.

India stands with pride for the contributions made by the great gurus in the ancient times. This is a day when we remember all the gurus who have worked for the propagation of knowledge. Ved Vyas composed the great epic Mahabharata which remains immortal till date. Valmiki composed the epic Ramayana which is read worldwide even today. Vasistha was the kulguru of Raghuvansa lineage where Sri Ram was born. Vishwamitra initiated the Gayatri Mantra. Bharat did research in performing arts and made India unique. Dhanvantari is known for his work in medical science. Patanjali made his contribution in the field of yoga. Vatsyayana wrote Kamasutra which serves as a guide for a happy married life. Thus, the gurus offered knowledge for the development of Indian culture.

Ved Vyas also made efforts in preserving the great store of Vedic knowledge. At first, when he doubted that the Vedas might get extinct, he protected them by compilation and organised them into four parts. Secondly, he laid stress on handing over the knowledge from one generation to the other. This was done by a guru to his disciple and by a father to his son. Third, he allotted the various branches of knowledge to several communities. The different branches were Ayurveda (medicine including surgery), Sthapatya Veda (sculpture related to metals, stones, mortars and wood), Gandharva Veda (vocal and instrumental music, dance etc.) and Dhanur Veda (skills of military warfare). Lastly, he composed Puranas so that the commoners could understand all about the Vedic principles and sincerely follow them in their lives. Hence, due to all these work of surviving knowledge and preserving the Vedas, the birth tithi of Ved Vyas is celebrated as Guru Purnima.

The Gurukul system of education came into being from the Guru-Shishya tradition established by Ved Vyas. Sons of both kings and common people lived together with their guru in his ashram. They served their guru and respected him as a deity. The disciples learned not only what he taught but also learnt how to live with humility and dignity. They glorified their guru, respected him and expressed gratitude for being guided in life towards attaining the highest goal.

From time immemorial, the guru was offered an exalted place in India. The kings stood up from their thrones when the kulguru entered the hall. He was always given a seat near the monarch. Our country is gifted with sincere disciples and benevolent gurus. Chandra Gupta Maurya and his guru Chanakya, Maharaj Shivaji and his guru Samartha Ramdas, Swami Vivekananda and his guru Sri Ramakrishna etc. are some of the well-known examples.

Thus, on the day of Guru Purnima, let us pay reverence to our gurus. Our accomplishments would be worthless if we fail to remember them for their dedication towards moulding our lives.

 

[Published in ‘Articles Base’ on 20 May 2013]

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CONTINUOUS AND COMPREHENSIVE EVALUATION – A BLESSING OR A BURDEN

Education in schools is presently based on the concept known as ‘Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation’. This new scheme of evaluation was implemented with the vision of assessing students throughout the academic session on a broad based process of learning. Being comprehensive, the prospects seem bright as the students are able to recognize their fields of interest and make decisions for the future in regard to pursuing higher studies, choosing their course and shaping the career. The scheme comes as a challenge to those students who excel in academics alone and lag in co-curricular activities.

Continuous and comprehensive evaluation plays an important part in the teaching-learning process and to raise the standard of performance in the schools. The new scheme provides scope for the teachers to develop better teaching strategies and assess the students through multiple techniques of evaluation. The scheme benefits the learners too as they get motivated to improve their studying habits by discarding memorization and laying emphasis on the co-scholastic areas. However, sufficient time would definitely be needed for the scheme to be properly effective in schools throughout the nation.

CCE was introduced in the CBSE Board about a couple of years back. Schools having less infrastructural expansion and resource availability are trying to make adequate changes for reforming the evaluation system. Though the implementation is considered as a blessing in some schools, it is referred to as a burden in some other educational institutions. Apart from classroom teaching, importance is being given to the students for their active participation in the co-curricular activities like aesthetic and performing art, health and physical activities etc. for proper functioning and efficiency of the scheme. Besides, progress of every student in both scholastic and co-scholastic aspects are also recorded.

The objectives of CCE have to be sincerely followed by the stakeholders for the success of the venture. The evaluation process would appear challenging during the initial years but it will truly live up to the expectations as education is not merely textbook learning but development of the entire personality.

In my opinion, continuous and comprehensive evaluation is a positive step in the process of assessment. I like the scheme for several reasons. It helps in bringing out the inner potential of every student besides excellence in academic learning, minimizes stress caused by fear of Board examinations, decreases workload as the syllabus of one term is not repeated in the next term and aids in developing life skills to face situations in future.

The scheme turns out to be a disadvantage to some meritorious students since there is no scope for competition as marks are replaced by grades. Some students may not have a liking as they are constantly being watched of their actions. They do not feel at ease and remain tensed as grades are given for their attitude towards teachers, school-mates, school and environment.

It is possible that CCE may have to cope with some so far unseen challenges in future. It would all depend upon the acceptance of the scheme by the students, parents and teachers. Success would lie entirely upon the contentment of the stakeholders and only then it would stand the test of time.

Above all, feedback by students passing out with flying colours, reactions of the parents whose children achieved the desired goals and success of the teachers in imparting education would define the ground of necessity of the evaluation scheme in the schools in the near future.

 

[Published in ‘Articles Base’ on 7 May 2013]

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THE DISCOVERY OF OIL

Digboi is situated in the north-eastern region of India and is famous for the discovery of oil during the nineteenth century. It is a small town located in Tinsukia district of Assam and still retains the ambience of the British. The place attracts visitors for its scenic beauty, spacious bungalows, oldest refinery, National Oil Park, War Cemetery, Digboi Club and the eighteen holes Golf Course.

According to records, a group of engineers from Assam Railways and Trading Company were extending the railway track from Dibrugarh to Ledo in 1882. As there was no habitation around and the area was covered by dense jungles, elephants were used for doing the work. Accidently, they noticed that black mud smelling like oil stuck to their feet and the legs of elephants. The startled men started to explore by tracing the trail of footprints left behind and they discovered oil oozing on the surface.

It is said that the name of the place became ‘Digboi’ from the words “dig-boy-dig” which the Englishmen used when the labourers were engaged in the task of digging crude oil. In September 1889, the first oil well, locally known as ‘Well No. 1’ was dug and in 1899, Assam Oil Company was formed. In the year 1901, the first refinery in Asia was set up at Digboi. The oil field produced around seven thousand barrels per day during the period of Second World War.

At present, Digboi is the Headquarter of Assam Oil Division of Indian Oil Corporation Limited. The oil town stands with pride with two features that are unique. First, for having more than a century old oil producing oilfield and second, for having the oldest operating oil refinery. The oilfield now houses an oil museum that displays the history of the town.

 

[Published in the e-magazine ‘Fried Eye’ on 15 April 2012]

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OJAPALI – A PERFORMING ART FORM OF ASSAM

Assamese culture embraces various performing arts and Ojapali is one among them. This is a traditional art form and is considered to be one of the oldest. Though perceived in the districts of Kamrup, Nalbari etc. in Lower Assam, it is but most popular in the district of Darrang. Ojapali showcases a combined performance of narrative singing, dancing gestures and dramatic dialogues.

Generally performed by a group of five men, the name ‘Ojapali’ comes from the words ‘oja’ and ‘pali’. The lead artiste is known as ‘Oja’ and he is accompanied by assistant artistes known as ‘Palis’. The chief among the Palis is the ‘Daina-pali’ or the right-hand aide, who makes the theme further interesting by his humorous dialogues. A small pair of cymbals called the ‘Khutitaal’ is the sole instrument used during the performance.

The performers of Ojapali render two types of songs called ‘malanci geet’ and ‘jagar’. The songs are sung in Sanskrit. They also sing ‘Patsha Geet’, a type of mixed song, which was composed during the Muslim reign. Besides singing, Oja, the chief performer, maintains the rhythm with his feet. Simultaneously, he explains the theme with suitable body movements and facial expressions. The costume worn by the performers are white gowns with long sleeves. They also wear various jewelry and ‘nupur’ on their feet.

Ojapali can be categorized into two major forms – Byah Ojapali and Sukananni Ojapali, based on their style of performance. Byah Ojapali performers are also known as ‘Vyah-gowa’ or singers of Vyasa’s works, as they primarily focus on the great epics. On the other hand, Sukananni Ojapali performers are known as ‘Maroi-gowa’ or singers of Maroi Puja. These performers sing songs of the snake-goddess Manasa Devi, composed by Sukavi Narayana Dev, an ancient Assamese poet.

Ramayana and Mahabharata are the dominant subjects of Byah Ojapali. The stories are sung in pure classical style based on various ragas, with dancing movements made by hands and fingers known as ‘mudras’. To entertain the crowd and make them understand, amusing dialogues with explanations are presented during the performance.

The heart-rending tale of Behula and Lakhindar from the Padma Purana is presented by the performers of Sukananni Ojapali. This art form is usually performed during Manasa Puja, to worship the Deity of serpents. The entertainers start their performance by singing songs in praise of several Gods and Goddesses before going on to the story divided into three parts namely, Deva Khanda, Baniya Khanda and Bhatiyali Khanda.

Another form of Ojapali known as Ramayani Ojapali is gradually declining. In this art form, stories from the Ramayana are presented. According to records in history, Barbyahu and Sarubyahu, two talented artistes of the Koch kingdom, were summoned by the kings time and again to sing numerous mythological verses and subsequently, their style of performance became prevalent among the masses. However, some other reports relate Ojapali to the pre-Vaishnavite period.

 

[Published in the blog ‘North-East India’ on 16 March 2012]

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CARING FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

A huge expanse of land gets submerged when a reservoir is created followed by the construction of a dam. So it is very essential to demarcate the areas rich in biodiversity for protection of the environment. Survival of the exotic and near extinct species which are affected during the construction of a Project should be given due importance for continuous existence of floral diversity.

Hence, a sincere mission was carried out in Umrongso with the purpose of conserving the diverse plant species and flora of the region. A Botanical Garden was set up with the primary aim of conservation, prompt multiplication, rehabilitation of the plant species, extending awareness about the floral heritage and promoting education. Rare and endangered plants were collected from the impact areas and were introduced in a Nursery.

The Garden spreads over a large area and various plant species have been planted for preservation. It has several sections like wild edibles, ferns, medicinal plants, palms and cycads, rare and endangered species, wild plants of horticultural importance, plants of economic importance etc. The garden is enriched by the rare pitcher plant and with different varieties of orchids. To move around and have close access to each plant and every section, a pathway crisscrossing the total length and breadth of the garden has been laid out. A small lake in the centre with a bridge over it adds to the beauty of the garden. Blooming water lilies and ducks wading in the water present a beautiful sight to the visitors. Rare birds are noticed during the migratory season. For the pollination of plants, beehives are maintained.

The Nursery has a green shade net-house for hatching various plant species. Vegetative propagation of plants is carried out throughout the year and later the seedlings are transferred to small poly-bags. Different species of trees like Neem (medicinal plant), Silikha, Krishnachura, Kanchan, Chandan, Sonaru, Teak (Sagoon) etc. are available in the Nursery and plantation labels are marked on them. The plant saplings are then distributed around for planting them in different areas as massive plantation is a major step towards protection of the environment.

 

[Published in ‘Articles Base’ on 14 February 2012]

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THE NEW SCHEME OF EVALUATION THAT CAN BE A BOON

According to Swami Vivekananda, education system in the schools should be based on ‘Man Making – Nation Building’. But in a long established system set up by the Central Board of Secondary Education, it could be observed that students of Class X were assessed only in academics through an external examination that was conducted at the end of the academic session in the month of March. To bring about a quality change in the pattern, a new scheme of assessment known as ‘Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation’ was introduced in 2009 with the initiative of assessing students on various aspects of development like intellectual, emotional, social, cultural, physical, along with the course of subjects, during the entire session and not when the academic year ended.

The term ‘continuous’ refers to the process of assessment that includes both formative and summative, carried out regularly throughout the academic session. The term ‘comprehensive’ refers to the process of assessment in the scholastic and co-scholastic areas, which covers an all-around development of the students. The ‘evaluation’ process is divided into three parts and each part is further divided into two parts. Part One A comprises the scholastic areas (Languages I and II, Mathematics, Science, Social Science and Additional Optional Subject) whereas Part One B comprises work experience, art education and physical & health education. In Part Two, the co-scholastic areas are divided into two groups, the former consisting of the life skills (thinking, social, emotional) and the latter consisting of attitudes (towards teachers, school-mates, school programmes, environment) and values. Part Three deals with co-scholastic activities and the students are given the choice to select two activities from the first group and another two from the second group. Group A includes Literary & Creative Skills, Scientific Skills, Aesthetic & Performing Art, Organizational & Leadership Skills (Clubs) while group B includes Health & Physical Activities (Sports, NCC/NSS, Scouting & Guiding, Swimming, Gymnastics, Yoga, First Aid, Gardening/Shramdaan).

The Scholastic Areas are purely academic and consist of subjects given in the curriculum. Two Formative Assessments and one Summative Assessment are conducted in a term twice a year. In the Formative Assessments, the students are monitored by the teachers regarding assignments, oral questions, conversation skills, quizzes, projects and research work carried out in a group. In the Summative Assessment, the students are assessed by a set of questions to be answered in short, long and one correct reply among multiple choices, in a written examination conducted at the end of the term and grades to be awarded instead of marks. On the other hand, the Co-scholastic Areas include diverse skills, attitudes, value system, co-curricular activities and health. The students are assessed according to their ability and progress in creative and critical thinking, self-awareness, problem solving, decision making, interpersonal relationships, effective communication, empathy, dealing with stress, managing emotions, creative and literary activities, aesthetic activities, scientific activities, Eco club activities, health and wellness clubs etc.

The new system was introduced with the aim at bringing out the inner potential of every student besides excellence in academic learning. It might also help in recognizing the fields of interest and strengthening the areas where the students lacked. Moreover, with the introduction of grades, there would be less scope for competition, comparison and criticism. Instead of competing with others and comparing the marks obtained, the students shall learn to compete with their own selves for improvement and better achievement. Besides, the students will also be able to get rid of frustration caused by criticism on acquiring poor marks. Above all, it could be hoped that the scheme would enable students to face challenges, build up confidence and develop personality traits to achieve their goals desired in life. However, success or failure of the ambitious format would all depend upon its acceptance by students, teachers and parents in the years to come.

 

[Published in ‘Articles Base’ on 3 December 2011]

 

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