Monthly Archives: August 2013

Asian Population

The population figures are impressive.

Categories: Population | 3 Comments

Distribution of Islam in India

India is a large and very diverse population. India strives for plurality, but as is often the case, harmony can be difficult. Some basic tenets between Hinduism and Islam can be at odds with one another, and conflict has erupted historically and recently.

Analyze the map* below then respond to the prompts that follow.

DISTRIBUTION OF ISLAM IN INDIA BY STATE
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KEY:
Red – 50-100%
Orange – 25-50%
Yellow – 20-25%
Green – 15-20%
Blue – 10-15% – Indian National Average
Indigo – 5-10%
Gray – < 5%

STATES BY NUMBER:
1. Andhra Pradesh
2. Arunachal Pradesh
3. Assam
4. Bihar
5. Chhattisgarh
6. Goa
7. Gujarat
8. Haryana
9. Himachal Pradesh
10. Jammu and Kashmir
11. Jharkhand
12. Karnataka
13. Kerala
14. Madhya Pradesh
15. Maharashtra
16. Manipur
17. Meghalaya
18. Mizoram
19. Nagaland
20. Orissa
21. Punjab
22. Rajasthan
23.Sikkim
23.Tamil Nadu
24.Tripura
25. Uttar Pradesh
26. Uttarakhand
27. West Bengal
(Map courtesy of Rode Idias, Wikimedia Commons)

PROMPT:
1. Using the map showing the distribution of Islam in India, predict where you think the most conflict may occur between the Hindu and Muslims in India. Explain why.
2. Read about the events that happened while Mr. Wright was in India, and about the history of this disputed region here . Was your prediction correct?
3. What can we conclude about the nature of border conflicts from this case study?

FURTHER READING:
For more information about this topic research the topic keywords:
India, Partition, Line of Control, LOC

Categories: Religion, States | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jaipur Cooking Class

Being able to experience the culture of India during my Hilton Honors Teacher Trek (#HHTeacherTreks) has been amazing… And culture includes food! I love cooking and food, and love Indian cuisine, so taking Chef Lokesh Mathur’s Jaipur Cooking Classes was an exciting opportunity! I am so glad because it has been one of the big highlights of our trip!

Chef Lokesh has cooked for crown princes and emirs throughout the Mideast, he has worked in the hotel industry, and taught at colleges for years. He is an interesting and congenial person who is also a great conversationalist. Equally enjoyable was meeting his lovely wife and family, with whom we had dinner.

Our class was simply a fantastic experience, and we came to appreciate it as an excellent value as well. You can choose your style of menu from several regional variations, and you can choose from veg or non-veg options. Lokesh picked us up from our hotel, presented us with printed menus for the multiple dishes we were about to prepare while we got to know one another over cups of chai. We were then introduced to the numerous ingredients for the many wonderful dishes, including detailed discussion of Indian spices.

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Over the course of the next several hours, we prepared multiple and varied dishes, including desert, breads, chutneys, and the spicy meat dishes I requested. Techniques were covered in a very understandable and accessible manner. When we got too hot and needed break, we had more chai. 🙂

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The very full night resulted in several wonderful dishes, including the fantastically flavored meat dishes I requested. I loved making the very ubiquitous naan flatbread, and the chutney we made was the best I’ve tasted. My favorite dish, although hard to choose, was probably the Rajasthani Lamb, complete with the very flavorful garlic, peppers, and irresistible lamb stock.

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After about 5 house of great conversation, demonstration, preparation, and cooking, we sat down to eat the many wonderful dishes we prepared in the company of Lokesh’s charming wife and her visiting sister. It was simply wonderful, and at least as enjoyable as the cooking lessons. My one regret is that I didn’t get a photograph of the table with all the completed dishes. After about six fantastic hours, Lokesh boxed up the food we couldn’t finish, and he delivered us back to our hotel.

If you are the slightest bit interested, I really encourage you to check out Lokesh’s Jaipur Cooking Classes. I sincerely hope I will one day get the chance to visit Lokesh and his family again for another round of classes. Meanwhile, I am taking with me a small piece of Indian culture that I will forever relish — something better than any souvenir from a gift shop!

Categories: Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Saraswati, Goddess of Knowledge

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My wife and I are educators. As such, we have both come to have a fondness for Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, education, learning, and the arts. Saraswati is the consort of Brahma, and her knowledge brings order out of chaos, a metaphor I appreciate.

Although often depicted riding a swan, playing a musical instrument called a vena, and carrying a book, this early sculpture (above) is one of my favorite representations of her. It can be seen at the City Museum in Jaipur, Rajasthan.

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(Raja Ravi Varma, Goddess Saraswathi, oil on canvas, 1896. Maharaja Fateh Singh Museum, Lakshmi Vilas Palace, Vadodara, Gujarat. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

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Hinduism

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Hindu Temple, Nainital, Uttarakhand.

Wherever one goes in India, a frequently seen thread in the fabric of Indian culture (and neighboring Nepal) is that of Hinduism. It is seen in frequent shrines and temples scatted throughout India, seen in the colorful flower and cloth offerings available to devotees in street-side stands, seen in the bindi dot worn by many on the forehead. Approximately 80% of India’s 1.2 billion population practices Hinduism (BBC).

Despite it prevalence and status as a world religion, Hinduism, I think, is largely misunderstood by westerners. I do not claim to be an expert on Hinduism, but I have had the opportunity to observe and interact with Hindus for weeks. During that time what has struck me as most erroneous is the typical western view of Hindus worshiping multiple gods in what is often characterized as an idolatrous manner. Yes, there are many significant Hindu “gods” that fit into a pantheon and are interwoven into allegorical stories that reach back millennia into the Vedic texts. And yes, these “gods” are depicted as having superhuman and/or animal characteristics to whom reverence is shown and offerings are given. However, to stop there at that superficial level of observation is shortsighted.

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Hanuman, the monkey god, a monumental sculpture seen on the road to Jaipur.

The numerous gods present throughout the Hindu world, though worshipped and part of a complicated stories, are but many manifestations or avatars of a single omnipresent and omnipotent creator. A Hindu practitioner told me, “there are many names but only one God.” Hindus may say that God has taken on a physical form as a man, or as a “god” with anthropomorphized animal characteristics, all are said to be manifestations of the creator of the universe — that which cannot be fully conceived. This supreme entity is also symbolized as Om

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(Om symbol & Shiva, Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

In it’s barest essence, Hinduism believes in the existence of one infinite Supreme Power, or God, worshipped by Hindus in various representative forms, such as of the Father or the Mother and Who is the Creator and progenitor of the Universe. The most fundamental tenet of our religion lays down that doing good to other beings is the highest form or Worship of the the Lord and, conversely, harming them the worst form of sin.
-Birla L.N., Hinduism: A Philosophy of Life
Shri Lakshmi Narain Temple, New Delhi

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Language in India

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For APHG Students: India has 24 recognized languages spoken throughout its diverse population and wide-ranging regions. Using the front and back of the 500 Indian Rupees bill (about $8 at the time of this post), answer the following questions:

What evidence do you find for multiple languages in India?
How many languages do you see evidence for?
What language or languages appear to be dominant?

Synthesis: what might be other effective ways for bridging the language barrier when so many languages are spoken in one country?

World History:
Who is the main figure depicted on this bill and why would India utilize his image?

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Fatehpur Sikri

Just to the west of Agra about 40km is the incredible fortified city of Akbar the Great, Fatehpur Sikri. It is renowned for being among the very best preserved examples of Mughal architecture in all of India, and it is resplendent with details. Fatehpur, meaning victory, was built by Akbar in 1569 following the fulfillment of a Sufi saint’s prediction that Akbar would have a son to inherit his empire.

It was here at Fatehpur that Akbar built an enormous palace, complete with royal quarters and his harem courts. It was also here that Akbar sought the advice of extraordinary men. Said to have been passionate about learning, Akbar assembled nine advisors on various religions and the arts, and consulted with them in the Hall of Audiences, an awesome building with an amazingly ornate central pillar atop which Akbar sat when he consulted with his advisors or held private audiences.

Despite the architectural achievements, the palace at Fatehpur was short lived. It was abandoned in 1585 due to a shortage of water and its closeness to brewing troubles to the West.

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Categories: Travel, World HIstory | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

The Agra Fort

Only a few kilometers away from the incomparable Taj Mahal is the Agra Fort, a fortified palace built by the Mughal emporer, Shah Jahan. More than a simple military stronghold, the fort is built with a combination of red sandstone and white marble, and houses a palace of incredible architectural details.

Shaw Jahan’s son, Aurangzeb, eventually seized power from him and he was emprisoned at the palace. From the white marbled palace one can gaze along the banks of the Yamuna River at the incomparable Taj Mahal, where his wife is entombed.

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Categories: Travel, World HIstory | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Taj Mahal

Agra is home to one of the seven wonders of the modern world: the Taj Mahal. It is India’s largest attraction and is the largest tourist attraction in all of Asia. Built as a mausoleum to his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan in 1631, it was designed by a Persian architect.

One sees countless images of the Taj, and one can read about its details endlessly. What strikes me about the Taj is this: it’s shear beauty is genuinely awesome. It is one of the most beautiful sites I have ever seen. It was described by Rabindrath Tagore as “a teardrop on the cheek of eternity” (Lonely Planet). Well said.

I am also struck by its exquisite craftsmanship, and its utterly immense size — something usually not depicted in photographs. As a reference of scale, note the size of the people walking into the Taj’s front entrance. Stunning. Simply stunning.

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Categories: Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Road to Agra

Heading southward from Delhi to Agra, we first pushed though the bustling commotion of Gurgaon, the southern most reaches of the Delhi metro. Typical Indian street scenes include countless people making their way to work and attending to their daily affairs amid the innumerable roadside stands selling snacks and wares under tangles of power lines.

On the road we encountered many Hindu pilgrims dressed in orange and carrying shoulder baskets decorated with religious symbols. These pilgrims were making their way home on foot, walking hundreds of kilometers from Haridwar in the north where they collected water from the Ganga to bring home with them.

The city streets eventually give way to rural scenes. Roaming livestock along the roadsides and throughout the villages become frequent, and cars must be careful to avoid the cattle, goats, and water buffalo, else risk the wrath of the inhabitants. Agricultural fields, workers, and field quarter made of mud and manure dot the landscape. Colorfully dressed workers dot the green of the rice fields, a enormous cash crop for India.

Drivers race ahead in the clear, even stretches of road, but these segments of the journey are punctuated by the many steel gates cars must zig-zag through, designed as speed controls. The many toll gates and numerous potholes are equally effective yet, Indian drivers press on at breakneck speeds.

Tax collection points, of which there are many, provide ample opportunity for hawkers to sell their goods. Jewelry, bottled water, illustrated tourist books, and food items are common, especially when tourists are waiting in their car while their driver goes into the office to pay the tax. At one location, a teenage boy approached our car with a basket. Fortunately, the door was locked and the window rolled up because the boy opened his basket to reveal a cobra flaring his hood! He was seeking payment for photographs of his cobra. My wife recoiled at the sight of the cobra, and the boy soon left when he understood I was not interested in paying for a photo. No sooner did he leave than we were startled by a langur on a leash which suddenly hopped up on the edge of the car door and pressed his face against the glass, fogging the window with is breath. His owner was also looking for payment for photos.

Colorfully painted trucks dot the roadway. Truck horns offer a somewhat musical phrase while various cars announce their presence or intentions with an array of sharp tones, from beeps to blasts.

Traveling the highway to Agra is tiring; the surging speeds, fast lane changes, and frequent breaking wears on you, even as a passenger. It must be exhausting for a driver. After a few hours, we welcomed a washroom break (where a tip to the attendant for paper towels is expected), and lunch. The rest-stop owners know they have a captive tourist audience headed to Agra — the charge for a cold can of Coca Cola is 160 Rupees, or about $3.00!

Eventually the roadway reaches Agra, another busy city with clogged roadways, and home to a Mughal Empire stronghold, and one of the seven wonders of the modern world — the Taj Mahal.

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Categories: Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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