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NEW DELHI Nov 29, 2021 15:30

The Red Taj of Agra: Another undying symbol of love

As we all know, Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal in memory of his beloved Begum, Mumtaz Mahal. But very few know that Agra has another Taj, also built out of love? What’s more, it’s red in colour, and is actually the tombstone of a Dutch man! If that has you surprised, read on.  

What is the Red Taj?
The Red Taj is also known as Hessing Tomb. It is the final resting place of a Dutch soldier called John Hessing who died in the service of an Indian king. His wife greatly admired the original Taj Mahal. The Red Taj is inside the Catholic Cemetery of Agra. It is not very well known, and has very few visitors.  

Who was John Hessing?
John Hessing was a Dutch traveller who was also a good fighter. He came to India on an adventure trip and joined the service of the Marathas, rising to become an army officer. He was posted at Agra and known for bravery. Happy with his loyalty and dedication, Daulatrao Scindia gave him the command of the Agra Fort in 1799. The British attacked the fort in 1803 and John Hessing died in trying to defend it. Heartbroken at the death of her husband, his wife Ann Hessing commissioned a replica of the Taj Mahal in red sandstone, the material used to build the Agra Fort. 

What is the architecture of the Red Taj like?
The Red Taj, displays the typical Mughal architecture as seen in Taj Mahal. It stands on a square platform with a corridor all around, while there’s the signature dome on top. Pavilions surround the central structure. Of course, it is not as ornate as the Taj Mahal, lacking in the filigreed windows and inlay inscriptions and floral decorations on the walls. The grave of John Hessing is inside the central hall with an inscription marking it.  

Today, the Red Taj is yet another dusty and forgotten structure, though it is quite intact. In a city dominated by the Taj Mahal, it is also a symbol of love.  

NEW DELHI Nov 29, 2021 14:30

The interesting life story of brand PayTM

Forbes named Vijay Shekar Sharma the youngest billionaire of India in 2017. At that time, the net worth of his company PayTM was $2.1 billion. In June 2019, the company was valued to be at $2.7 billion. But it has hit the news recently again, as a company whose shareholders have been suffering losses due to a fall in its share price. How did the son of a simple school teacher build this empire?  

What PayTM’s founder like before PayTM?
Vijay was a child prodigy. He finished high school at 15, and came out with a B Tech engineering degree at 19. In 1997, while studying at college, Vijay built the website indiasite.net, made large profits, and sold it for $1 million two years later. In 2001, Vijay took a loan of 8 lakhs to fund his start-up, One97, fated to become the parent company of PayTM. He had to take a loan of 8 lakhs to fund his start-up. To begin with, repaying EMIs were tough, and Vijay took up teaching assignments to manage. But with PayTM, he struck gold. PayTM stands for payment through mobile, and he managed to make PayTM Karo a popular ad slogan throughout the country.  

PayTM made major profits due to demonetization
In November 2016, the Indian government announced the demonetization. Overnight, there was a massive liquid fund crunch in the market. The old notes has been withdrawn, but the new notes were not yet printed, or not printed in adequate measures. So a huge population, to the tune of millions of people, turned towards digital payments at one go. PayTM became a way of life from being just an app. 

Vijay’s wealth continued growing even when PayTM suffered losses
In 2018, Vijay’s net worth rose to $2.6 billion. He was now at the 877th position among a global ranking of 2153 billionaires by Forbes. Meanwhile, PayTM lost by 3393 crores. It is only now that Vijay’s net worth is falling. But given the transient nature of the share market, it's too early to decide on the future of PayTM or its founder.  

NEW DELHI Nov 26, 2021 10:30

National Constitution Day 2021: All you need to know

Every year, on 26th November, India observes National Constitution Day, also known as National Law Day or ‘Samvidhan Diwas.’ On this day in 1949, two years after India’s independence, the Constituent Assembly adopted the Constitution of India, that soon came into effect on 26th January 1950, marking that day as the official Republic Day of India. The two months in between were well utilised to thoroughly read and translate the Constitution from English to Hindi. In fact, later in 1950, many of the constitutional rights were converted into laws for the country.  

However, it was not until 2015, that the government of India declared this day as the National Constitution Day. This year, India is celebrating 72nd anniversary of the foundation of the Constitution. 

History behind National Constitution Day


On 11th October 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid the foundation stone of B.R. Ambedkar’s Statue of Equality Memorial. During this programme, the Prime Minister declared 26th November to be celebrated as the Constitution Day of India. It was his way of sending tribute to Ambedkar, who was the appointed chairman of the constitution drafting committee and later came to be known as the Father of India’s Constitution. Moreover, 2015 marked Ambedkar’s 125th birth anniversary. So, this was the government’s way of honouring this legendary personality. On 19th November 2015, the Union ministry of social service had issued a gazetted notification and officially established 26th November as the National Constitution Day of India.  

Significance of the National Constitution Day


Since its declaration in 2015, National Constitution Day is commemorated every year to raise awareness about the prominent value of the constitution and encourage people to follow and preach the ideals of Ambedkar and acknowledge and respect the contribution of the other framers of the constitution. 

How is the day celebrated?


In 2020, President Ramnath Kovind had read the Preamble to the Constitution to celebrate the Constitution Day of India. This year too, the tradition is supposed to be maintained in the Central Hall of the Parliament. Supreme Court has also organised a two-day Constitution Day celebration. Other programmes like talk-shows and seminars are also organised to emphasise on the constitutional values of the Indian Constitution.
 

 

NEW DELHI Nov 26, 2021 09:30

Verghese Kurien: Driving force behind the White Revolution

This visionary and architect of India’s White Revolution helped form a cooperative milk producers’ union in Gujarat popularly known as Amul Dairy. On Kurien’s 100th birth anniversary today, here is a look at the life of the man who helped make India one of the world’s largest milk producers.
Born on November 26, 1921 to a civil surgeon in Kozhikode, Kerala, Kurien attended the Loyola College, Chennai, and graduated in Physics in 1940 before joining the College of Engineering, Guindy, from where he qualified as a mechanical engineer. He joined the Tata Steel Technical Institute in Jamshedpur before moving to the United States to study at the Michigan State University on government scholarship. In 1948, he earned a Master’s of Science degree in mechanical engineering.

Career
On return from the US in 1949, the Union government deputed him to a creamery at Anand, Gujarat, where he was to serve five years as an officer in the dairy division. There he met Tribhuvandas Patel, who was trying to unite the farmers to form a cooperative movement and to fight exploitation.

Inspired by the man, Kurien decided to join him. Patel formed a cooperative named as the Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union Limited but though he faced immense pressure from a competing dairy business, Polson Dairy, Kurien decided to continue supporting Patel’s endeavours. Formed in 1946, the Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union Limited, which soon came to be popularly known as Amul Dairy, played a significant role in India’s White Revolution that was aimed at transforming a hitherto milk-deficient nation into one of the largest milk producers of the world.

Kurien’s friend and dairy expert HM Dalaya invented a method of making milk powder and condensed milk from buffalo milk. It revolutionised the Indian dairy industry as till that point such processed items could be made only with cow’s milk.

The Amul Dairy became so successful that the model was soon replicated in many of its neighbouring districts of Gujarat. His groundbreaking work prompted then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri to set up the National Dairy Development Board in 1965 to expand the cooperative programme to all corners of the country.

Kurien was named chairman of the organisation. In 1979, he founded the Institute of Rural Management in Anand to groom managers for the cooperatives. In 2006, he quit as the chairman of the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation following dwindling support from new members on the governing board and mounting dissent from his proteges, some of whom termed his working style as being dictatorial. Some of those moves were backed by political forces that sought to make inroads into district unions of the cooperative dairy.

Personal life
Kurien was married to Molly and the couple had a daughter named Nirmala. Having lived a productive life, he died in 2012 aged 90 after a brief illness.

Awards and achievements
A lifelong learner who saw education as a never-ending process, Kurien was bestowed with honorary degrees by the Michigan State University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. In recognition for services to the dairy and farming communities, he received many honours such as the Padma Shri (1965), Padma Bhushan (1966) and Padma Vibhushan (1999), Ramon Magsaysay Award (1963) and World Food Prize (1989).

Kurien authored I Too Had A Dream, an inspiring narrative about the empowerment of farmers and development of milk cooperatives India. Atul Bhide produced the audio version of the book.

Shyam Benegal made a film called Manthan that was based on the milk movement in India and the man behind it — Verghese Kurien. It was crowd-funded by 500,000 farmers who donated ~2 each.

Under Kurien’s leadership, several companies were launched. Former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shashtri created National Dairy Development Board based on Amul’s work model and pattern.

In 2013, the Amar Chitra Katha comic books had published the book titled Verghese Kurien: The Man with the Billion Litre Idea. The synopsis of the book reads - ‘The story of Dr. Kurien is the story of Amul.’

NEW DELHI Nov 22, 2021 13:30

Norovirus: An infection that hit Kerala recently

With the steady resurgence of coronavirus cases in the southern state of Kerala, yet another infectious virus has emerged which is called the norovirus. At least 13 students studying at a veterinary college in the Wayanad district have recently been diagnosed with this highly contagious animal-borne disease, and 15 more have been exhibiting symptoms for the same. Veena George, the health minister of Kerala, alerted people to remain vigilant and comply with the guidelines that were issue in order to control and limit the spread of norovirus. Read on to learn more about the norovirus. 

Norovirus: what exactly is it? 
Norovirus is said to be the most acute cause of various gastrointestinal illnesses. Some examples include diarrhoea, vomiting and inflammation of the lining of the stomach and the intestines. It is a severely contagious disease which spreads through contaminated food and water. This virus is contractible through close contact with affected individuals and also by touching contaminated surfaces. This disease can strike year-round, however, it primarily surfaces during the winter. Consequently, it is also referred to as the ‘winter vomiting bug.’ The first outbreak of this disease was witnessed in Norwalk, a town in the United States in the state of Ohio and hence, it used to be called the Norwalk Virus.  

What are its symptoms? 
Some of the most common symptoms of this disease are nausea, vomiting, severe diarrhoea, high body temperature, fatigue, abdominal and muscle ache, chills and fatigue. These symptoms, especially vomiting and diarrhoea can cause extreme dehydration due to the depletion of fluids. 

Who can get affected and for how long? `
All age-groups can be affected by this virus. Healthy individuals are usually not susceptible to severe cases of the norovirus. However, young children, old people and those with existing comorbidities are most vulnerable to this virus. Usually, its symptoms develop over a period of 12-48 hours and start disappearing within 3 days provided adequate treatment is given. This virus can last in the body for up to 8 weeks if ignored and left untreated.  

Prevention of norovirus 
The most effective way to prevent the spread of this virus is simply by ensuring good hygiene. It is advised to wash hands with soap regularly, especially after using the washroom and before consuming any food. Individuals who interact with animals need to be extra vigilant about washing their hands. It is also suggested to wash hands with soap and water specifically, as sanitisers (or any alcohol-based products) are not effective in killing this virus. Disinfecting surfaces with chlorine and bleach-based cleaners ensures decontamination around the house. Those experiencing symptoms should avoid leaving the house, and must also not cook meals. 

NEW DELHI Nov 19, 2021 17:15

All about the magical non-human car race

In October this year, racing cars at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, USA zipped around the track at breakneck speeds – with no one driving them – and a million-dollar prize to be won. Welcome to the international contest for the fastest self-driving car, something that sounds like science fiction, but actually happened. The Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC) was a departure from usual races, and even the starting flag was waved by a robotic dog. 

What was the IAC race all about? 
9 teams of college students took part in the IAC. The teams were made up of students from different universities, countries, and even students from different continents. Each team had been given the same car, Dallara IL-15. It’s built like a real race car, only smaller. All teams got the same tools to navigate the cars. These tools included cameras, radar, GPS devices, and sensors. Instead of a driver, the cars had a computer. Each team had to create a software program for driving their car safely race on the race track. 

How tough was the race?  
The competition was surprisingly tough, and only 4 teams made it past the first round, that included an obstacle course. 

In the final round, the car of one team, PoliMOVE, reached 253 km per hour on the straight section of the track while warming up, raising high hopes, but ended up hitting a wall. Another team, MIT-PITT-RW, also unfortunately drove into a wall. The EuroRacing team began with a great first lap at a speed of 224 km per hour. But due to an error in programming, the car stopped early and couldn’t complete driving its second speed lap. Finally, TUM Autonomous Motorsport, a team from the Technical University of Munich, won the $1 million grand prize. Its average speed for 2 laps (all completed) was at 219 km per hour.  

What was gained from the IAC race? 
All teams, including the ones who got eliminated, said they had gained a huge amount of knowledge as a result of the competition. The race’s organizers were happy too, since this race helped improve actual on-the-road safety for all automated cars with drivers. 

NEW DELHI Nov 19, 2021 16:30

Explained: What are genes?

This November, researchers from the University of Oxford found that genetic make-up is affecting the response to COVID 19 virus in patients. Our genes play an important role in determining how we look, what diseases we may develop, our immunity level, even our behaviour and mental make-up. We keep saying that genes pass on traits from one generation to the next. Let’s see how that happens.  

What is a gene? 
Genes carry information determining traits that are features or characteristics passed on through generations in a family, what we inherit from parents and grandparents. Each cell in the human body contains genes, in fact, about 25,000 to 35,000 of them. Genes aren't just found in humans, animals have them too.   

What are genes made up of?  
Genes are found on microscopic noodle-like structures called chromosomes, which live inside our cells. We are made up of billions of cells. Chromosomes come in matching pairs, and there are hundreds, sometimes thousands of genes in every chromosome. The chromosomes and genes are made up of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Chromosomes and genes are housed in the nucleus of the cell, which is like the brain of a cell or the CPU of a computer, and tells the cell what to process. In humans, a cell nucleus contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, half of which come from either parent. Not every living thing has 46 chromosomes, for example, a fruit fly has only 4 inside its cells. Our gender is also determined by chromosomes.  

How do genes function? 
Each gene has a specific job. The DNA in a gene directs how proteins are made in the cell. Proteins are the building blocks for our body, in fact, the CORONA virus is also a rapidly multiplying form of protein. Bones, teeth, hair, cartilage, muscles and blood, are all composed of proteins. Those proteins help our bodies grow, work, and stay healthy. We are made up of more than 3 lakh protein combinations!  

Like chromosomes, genes also come in pairs. Since once, again, each parent contributes 1 gene, we get the characteristics form both sides. This also explains why we sometimes inherit not just eye or hair colour, but also diseases like anaemia, hypertension, high or low sugar levels or bone related diseases.  

NEW DELHI Nov 19, 2021 15:45

Ngaben: The happy funeral festival of Bali

All religions are concerned about death. Once the body ceases to exist, what happens to the soul? Ngaben is a festival to send the souls of dead Balinese people to heaven. No one cries at funerals since death is a temporary phase, and the soul is soon to be reincarnated or released finally of the cycle of birth and death, i.e. find moksha.  

What happens at Ngaben?  
A priest is consulted as soon as someone in Bali dies. The priest suggests an auspicious moment for the Ngaben ceremony. During the ceremony, the body of the deceased is placed inside a coffin, which in turn, is placed inside a sarcophagus or coffin holder, shaped like a buffalo or a temple. This is a beautiful, bright structure made of paper and wood. It’s carried in a procession where people sing, beat drums, carry decorative items, and even distribute sweets. The procession does not move in a straight line, as they want to confuse and get rid of any bad spirits following them. Then the buffalo or temple structure is burst in the funeral pyre in a grand ceremony. All this while, no one cries; everyone remains happy as the soul is in a better place.  

Why does the Ngaben happen?  
Balinese Hindus believe Ngaben is a ceremony celebrating the joyous release of the soul from the confines of the body to the Panca Maha Butha or 5 elements, where we belong. The released soul is also freed of sins in an elaborate ceremony called Nyekah. Good karma is stressed in this ceremony, and the living and dead are encouraged to accumulate good deeds, so that they can merge with god. Going by Balinese philosophy, it’s more important for the cleaned soul to merge with Brahman or god than to live happily in heaven or return for a better birth on earth.   

Is Bali holding Ngaben post pandemic?  
Yes, there was a mass funeral ceremony, i.e. a big Ngaben this October. COVID 19 protocols of health and safety were maintained, with family members wearing masks and maintaining social distance. Only the vaccinated could enter the venue, with visitors scanning a QR code using the government's COVID-tracing app at the entrance. 

NEW DELHI Nov 19, 2021 12:00

Guru Nanak Jayanti 2021: All about this auspicious holiday

Guru Nanak Jayanti, also known as Guru Nanak Gurpurab or Prakash Utsav, is deemed as the most significant and auspicious festival in the Sikh religion and is celebrated by the Sikh community all over the world. This festival marks the birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev Ji. This year, it marks his 552nd birth anniversary.  

Read on to learn more about this auspicious day, and about Guru Nanak. 

Guru Nanak: the founder of Sikhism 
Guru Nanak was the first of the ten Sikh gurus. He was born in Nankana Sahib, Punjab. He was born into a Hindu Khatri family, with his father working as an accountant for crop revenue. According to the Bikrami calendar, he was born on Puranmashi of Kattak in the year 1469. Puranmashi means full moon during the Indian Lunar Month Kartik. Since then, the followers of Sikhism have celebrated this festival during the month of November. However, some are of the view that this festival should be celebrated on Vaisakhi, which is on April 14, according to the Nanakshahi calender.  

Sikh tradition believes that Guru Nanak’s birth and the events that took place in his early years proved that he had been blessed with divinity. He was a precocious possessor of awareness and it is believed that he expressed his interest about exploring divine subjects as young as the age of 5.  

Teachings of Guru Nanak 
All of Guru Nanak’s teachings are in the sacred Sikh scripture, Guru Granth Sahib. They are recorded in this scripture as a collection of verses recorded in Gurmukhi (the Punjabi script.) Some of the most important aspects of his teachings include divine faith, belief and meditation in God, social justice aimed at the well-being and prosperity of all and unity of all humankind. He also encourages selfless service to community and humankind in general and a conduct rooted in honesty. He believed that one could connect to God through prayer. His teachings form the fundamental beliefs of Sikhism.  

The celebration of Guru Nanak Jayanti 
This festival is celebrated to recognise the enlightenment that Guru Nanak brought into the world. The celebrations actually commence 2 days prior in gurudwaras. During these 2 days, the Akhand Path, a recitation, is held and carries on non-stop for the course of these 48 hours. A day before the Jayanti, a procession is held where 5 men lead the way carrying the Sikh flag. This is known as the Nagarkirtan. It is a community bonding experience where people come together to play music, sing and celebrate this festival.  

NEW DELHI Nov 19, 2021 11:30

World Toilet Day 2021: A Need for Universal Sanitation

Every year, on 19th November, the world observes World Toilet Day, a day dedicated to raise awareness about the significance of permanent toilets and proper sanitation and hygiene. 

While the urban people can hardly imagine their lives without permanent toilets, there are still about 3.6 billion people across the globe who do not have access to proper toilets. This, according to the WHO and UNICEF, accounts for around 60 per cent of the worldwide population. They don’t have standard toilets at home to safely manage the excreta. In the absence of a proper toilet, people suffer from serious and communicable diseases that at times even cost their lives.  

History behind World Toilet Day 
An NGO called the World Toilet Organization was founded in 2001 by Jack Sim, a resident of Singapore (one of the world’s most sanitized city) to address the issue of the lack of proper toilet and sanitation for more than half of the universal population. In fact, it was his idea to observe World Toilet Day to raise public awareness about the same, an initiative that was soon supported by another organization called Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA).  

Almost a decade later, in 2010, the United Nations recognised the importance of this day and issued a basic human right called Human Right to Water and Sanitation (HRWS) that was dedicated to this cause.  

Another three years later, on 24th July 2013, the General Assembly body of the United Nations passed a resolution as part of its 67th annual session declaring 19th November as the World Toilet Day. About 122 member states voluntarily took up on this resolution. 

Significance of World Toilet Day 
The objective behind observing World Toilet Day is to encourage people across the world to come forward and tackle the issue of global sanitation crisis and contribute to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, that intends to achieve sanitation for all by the year 2030.  

This SDG highlights the progress in providing basic sanitary facility to all, how it has been inadequate, leading to negative impact on people’s health, their socio-economic conditions and on the environment (water pollution).  

The goal is to put a stop to defecation in the open, improve sewage treatment facilities and promote the significance of global hygiene. It further aims to create awareness about the value of proper sanitary practice among women, to ensure their safety, health and hygiene.  

Theme of World Toilet Day 2021 
The theme of World Toilet Day 2021 is simply ‘valuing toilets.’ It emphasizes on the absolute need of proper toilets in all our lives.