Showing posts from March, 2018

Tulsi Akhara: Fight Club of Varanasi

The sun rises gently over the horizon and casts its deep reflections on the river Ganga a few minutes past seven. For many, it is the rise of yet another day in the ancient city of Varanasi. This morning, I am curious to explore the Tulsi Akhara in Tulsi Ghat, Varanasi to observe the morning routine of pehelwans (wrestlers). Nervous and excited, I walk in to the Swaminath Akhara in Tulsi Ghat and I greet Pehelwan Siyaramji with a namaste. He lights an incense stick and places it near the feet of the ochre-coloured idol of Bajrangbali (Hanuman, an ardent devotee of Lord Rama and one of the central characters in the Ramayana).

Akharas (wrestling clubs) are the original gymnasiums of India, often to show their wrestling prowess. “A regular day in the akhara begins at six am with dand baithaks (sit-ups) or jori phirna (turning around a pair of wooden cylinders tapering at one end, filled usually with iron or concrete). This is followed by yoga routines such as the suryanamaskar (obeisance …

Misplaced Contemporary Past:

A week ago, ahead of her book launch, the Internet arm of TV channel NDTV published an excerpt from “Indian Cultures As Heritage: Contemporary Pasts” by eminent historian Romila Thapar. In the excerpt, she eloquently articulates about the pressures that have arisen due to political parties claiming to be unhappy with the content being taught in school and college textbooks. This, according to her, paves the way to seek revisions and rewriting of textbooks. Political intrusion, needless to say, must be unanimously condemned, irrespective of our individual and political affiliations. Hence, the aim of this post has been to draw Ms. Thapar’s attention to certain points she makes which deserve to be contested.
In the excerpt, she claims that educational institutions are often used by administrators as stepping stones in order to realise personal ambitions, which results in the credibility of an institution taking a backseat. This is certainly true and one must appreciate her fine eye for o…

Statue of Vandalism

The Internet on Tuesday erupted in shock as a statue of Russian communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin was razed by a group of suspected BJP workers in Belonia, Tripura amidst chants of "Bharat Mata Ki Jai". The demolition comes days after the BJP-led alliance managed to wrest control of the state, which experienced communist rule for the past 25 years.

In such a climate, a reaction is often influenced by the ideological and political strand that one subscribes by. The reactions that flooded the Internet soon after the video went viral ranged from shock, misplaced anger to even celebration. The demolition did evoke strong reactions from both sides as the detractors commented that vandalism should not be encouraged and the demolition of a statue by a democratically elected government shows its contempt for erasing history. The supporters, meanwhile, cheered as the razing of the statue which they termed as the symbolic end of a rule characterised by oppression, intimidation a…