Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Remembrance Day - Poppy Day.

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ID: 5124Today November 11 is observed as Remembrance Day in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth Countries All public and private institutions and business establishments stop their activities for a couple of minutes at 11am on November 11 every year to observe the signing of armistice ending World war I (1914-1918) between Allied nations and Germany on November 11,1918.

People wear "Poppy flowers" on this day, as a synbol of sacrifices made by the soldiers in the wars."Scarlet corn poppies (popaver rhoeas) grow naturally in conditions of disturbed earth throughout Western Europe. The destruction brought by the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th Century transformed bare land into fields of blood red poppies, growing around the bodies of the fallen soldiers. 

In late 1914, the fields of Northern France and Flanders were once again ripped open as World War One raged through Europe's heart. Once the conflict was over the poppy was one of the only plants to grow on the otherwise barren battlefields." (BBC)

I rembember during my childhood, on this day poppy flowers made of cloth will be pinned on the shirts against small amounts collected for charity. Municipal siren will be on exactly at 11 minutes past 11' O clock on this day to stand silent for two minutes.

Saturday, 10 October 2015



Prince Shahab ud-din Muhammad Khurram's (Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan) prayers at the Dargah of great Sufi mystic Hazarat Kwaja Moinuddin Hassan Chisti at Ajmer, for a male heir, was answered on Safar 19, 1024 AH (March 20, 1615 AD) by the birth of a male child to his beloved wife Arjumand Banu Begam (queen Mumtaz Mahal) at Sagartal near Ajmer. Grand father Emperor Jahangir named the child Dara Shikoh,in Persian meaning "Darius the magnificent". His full name was "Sultan Mohammed Dara Shikoh"

Dara Shikoh was a unique personality among the Mughal dynasty from 1526 AD to 1827 AD. Like other Mughal princes,  he had his earlier education from Maulvis attached to the Royal Court, who taught  Al Qur'an, Persian literature and History. The chief instructor Mullah Abdul Latiff Shahranpuri a liberal Sufi muslim,  encouraged the young Prince  a thrist for gaining knowledge in metaphysics and speculative sciences.The mystical and intellectual environement of that Mughal times nurtured Prince Dara the deep interest in pursuit of gaining knowledge in arts and litereture. During this period, young Dara interacted with host of Islamic and Hindu mystics, Pundits and yogis, including Shah Muhibhulla, Shah Dilruba, Muhammad Nisanulla Rostaki, Baba Lal Das Bairagi and Pandit Jagannath Mishra ,  some of them excercised profound influence on him. The most noted among them was Hazrat Miyan Mir, the Quadri Sufi of Lahore, who had laid foundation stone of Golden Temple of Sikhs at Amritsar. Impressed by the teachings of Hazrat Mir, Dara got initiated to Quadri Sufi order.After the initiation into quadri order, Prince Dara spent more time with his preceptor Hazarat Mian Mir, Mulla Badakhashi and other Sufi saints which encouraged him in the deep study of mysticism. During this period Prince Dara published his major writings on Sufism. These are the Safinat-ul-Aulia (1640 AD), the Sakinat-ul-Aulia (1653 AD), both biographical sketch of Sufi Saints and three more books, exposition on Sufi fundamental doctrines, the Risala'i Haq Numa (1647 AD) the Tariqat-ul-Haqiqat and the Hasanat-ul-Arifin (1653 AD).

Dara Shikoh  was deeply interested in comparative religions, universal brotherhood and humanism, which he had imbibed from his great grandfather Emperor Akbar and deep interest in studies from Humayun. These influences played a notable role in developing his personality. Dara Shikoh had no liking for luxurious life  or sensual pleasures, instead developed refined tastes in life. His interests turned towards finding common grounds between Islam and Hindu thoughts. For this purpose Dara spent many years in the study of Sanskrit and employed a large number of Pandits from Benaras including contemporary scholars Pandit Jagannath Misra, Pandit Kavindracharya and Banvali Das. Pandit Misra has written a book "Jagatsimha" in praise of Dara. After his interaction with Baba Lal Das Bairagi, Dara brought out a summery of his teachings in a booklet "Makalama Baba Lal wa Dara Shukoh" highlighting similarities in the teachings of Hindu and Muslim Mystics. He found  common elements in Quadiri Ashghal and Yogic meditational techniques, which inspired him to bring out Persian tranlation of Yogavasishta in 1650 AD. followed by a Persian translation of Bhagavad-Gita.

In all,Dara Shikoh arranged for translation of fifty-two Upanishads into Persian, and had named it "Sirr-e-Akbar" (the Great Secret). In its forward Dara Shikoh writes " I had collected a large number of Hindu Pandits and Sanyasis from Benaras, the center of the Hindu lore and wisdom, with whose help I completed this work within six months in Delhi" (by June 28, 1657 AD).

Dara Shikoh's efforts to find commonality in comparative religions resulted in bringing out  an extremely remarkable book "Majma-ul Bahrain" - "The Mingling of two Oceans" (1656 AD) considered his magnum opus.He describes this book as "the collection of truth and wisdom of two truth knowing groups".

In the notes given in the book "Travels in the Mogul Empire 1656-1668 AD" by french traveller Francois Bernier, it is stated:

"Dara Shikoh, when Governor or Viceroy of Benares, in 1656,caused a Persian translation to be made from the Sanskrit text of the Upanishads ('the word that is not to be revealed'), which he called the Sarr-i-Asrar, or Secret of Secrets. This translation, which was made by a large staff of Benares Pandits, has been rendered into Latin by Anquetil-Duperron, and published by him at Paris, 1801, under the title of Oupnekhat {id est, Secreticm I'egendum) opus ipsain India rarissimum, etc. etc.."

This latin version got in the hands of German Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, and was later translated into German by Friederich Max Muller for Philosopher Friedrich Schelling. Later this was translated into many European languages.

Dara Sukoh was a patron of fine arts, poetry and dance. He was well read in classical Persian literature. He himself had written poems in Persian. He had expressed his sufistic views in beautiful quatrains and Gazals. He was an accomplished artist and calligraphist. He had left a collection of his paintings and calligraphy collected from 1630 till his death in an album known as "Dara Shukoh Album", which is believed to be in British Library now.

On February 1, 1633 AD, Dara Shikoh married Karim-un-Nisa Nadira Banu Begum, his first cousin, daughter of his paternal uncle Sultan Parvez Mirza. They led  a happy and successful married life. Dara never took another woman as wife. Though the couple had eight children, only two sons and two daughters survived.

Emporer Shah Jahan formally declared his elest son Dara Shukoh as his heir on September 10, 1642 AD. and granted him the title "Shahzada-e- Buland Iqbal" Prince of High Fortune.

How ever, the spate of misfortunes overtook the life of the Prince when Emporer Shah Jahan fell ill in September 1657AD. A desperate power struggle triggered among the four Princes. Aurangzeb and Murad joined togather and defeated Prince Dara in the battle of Samugarh. Aurangzeb grabbed the throne in 1658 AD, and imprisoned his father in Agra Fort, where Shah Jahan died after eight years. Dara had to run away to Sindh to seek the help of Malik Jiwan, Afghan Chieftain. Later Dara was caught by Aurangzeb due to the treachery of the same Malik Jiwan, and brought to Delhi and humiliated. At the instance of Aurangzeb, Prince Dara was accused of infidelity and heresy by a religious court and put in prison and executed on August 30, 1659 AD. under Royal decree issed by Aurangzeb. It is said after his death his head was cut and sent on a platter to his father Shah Jahan lamenting in Agra fort.

Had this gentle and pious intellectual Prince ruled our Country, history would have taken a different course of religious tolerance and amity. Prince Dara Shikoh was a devout Muslim, it is said he used to chant Allah's name before translating Upanishads.

His body lies buried in a nondescript grave in the burial complex at Emperor Humayun's tomb in Delhi.


Friday, 29 May 2015


Tears of Lord Shiva:

There is a holy pond in Pakistan along with hindu temple complex in Katas raj. This ancient Hindu Temple complex is situated  40 Kms from  Chakwal city in the District of same name in Punjab, Pakistan. The locals call the complex as “Qila Katas  Hindhu mandir".The main temple is a dedicated  to Lord Shiva. It is said that the temple has been in existance prior to the days of Mahabharata and the Pandavas have spent substantial part of their period of exile at this holy place. It is also believed that this is the pond where the famous dialogue between the Yaksha and King Yuthishitra known as "Yakshaprasnam" had taken place.

As per  the mythological account origin of this temple and tank is related to Sathi devi's death. It is believed that after the death of his beloved consort,  lord Shiva shed tears so much and so long that the tears from one eye of the Lord  is said to have created the holy pond at Katas, ( Keta-aksha in Sanskrit  means 'weeping eye',). And tears from the other eye has created the holy tank at Pushkar, near Ajmer, Rajastan. 

According to historians, during Gandhara age, scholars from many parts of the world have visited Katas raj to study in the famous University established here.This  is the place where the famous Persian Scholar Al Bairuni,  who had written "  Kitab- Al-Hind",after exploring the religious faith practiced in India had spent some period of stay at Katas raj to learn Sanskrit in the linguistic University, established there. Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang said to have visited this place around 630 AD and mentions about Katas in his writings. According to one account most of these temples were built by  Hind-shahi kings (650-950 AD) driven from Afghanistan by their ethinic cousin Mahmud of Ghazni they fled the region and set a base in Katas.  

Prior to partition in 1947 , this Temple complex has attracted tens and thousands of Hindu pilgrims from the sub-continent, and other parts of the world, through out the year. However after the partition the flow subsided and virtually came to an end after 1965 war.  In 2005, at the invitation of General Musharraf then President of Pakistan, Shri L.K.Advani visited Katas Raj to launth the renovation  program of Katas Raj Temple complex initiated by the Government of Pakistan. And the Indian government was quick to dispatch an Archaeological Survey of India team to survey Katas Raj and facilitate a whistle stop tour of Indian temples for Pakistani archaeologists. Accordingly the Pakistani delegation led by the Punjab Archaelogy Director General Oriya Jan Maqbool was on a 10 day trip to study Hindu architecture and customs, and visited several important Temples in  India. The first three year phase of renovation was the complex at the cost of Rs 60.3 million was completed in 2007. A "Siva Linga" was installed and consecrated on February 16, 2007.