No girls allowed: Japan’s men-only island gets UNESCO nod
TOKIO, July 10: A men-only island in Japan where women are banned and male visitors must bathe naked in the sea before visiting its shrine, has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The tiny landmass of Okinoshima is permanently manned by a Shinto priest who prays to the island’s goddess, in a tradition that has been kept up for centuries.
Limited numbers are permitted to land on the island in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) -- this year it was 200 -- for a yearly festival that lasts just two hours, but they must adhere to strict rules.
Most importantly, they must be men, but they must also strip off and take a purifying dip in the ocean before they are allowed to set foot on the sacred ground of the shrine.
Despite its inscription on UNESCO’s World Heritage list -- often the prelude to a leap in tourist numbers -- shrine officials say they are now considering banning future travel for anyone apart from priests, partly out of fears the island could be “destroyed” by too many visitors.
“The island has sometimes been said to ban women, but in principle anyone but the priests who pray there for 365 days a year is barred from entering,” said a spokesman.
The ban on female visitors specifically “has nothing to do with discrimination against women,” according to the official.
It is considered dangerous for women to travel by sea to get to the island and the shrine will not change the centuries-old rule, he said.
“It is meant to protect women, the birth-giving gender,” he added.
The island, which sits off the northwest coast of Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s four main islands, was an important window for foreign trade in Japan since ancient times, forming part of a trade route that linked the archipelago to the Korean peninsula and China.
Thousands of gold rings and other valuable items have been found there.
“These treasures are believed to have been offered to the gods in order to pray for national prosperity and the safety of marine traffic,” says the website of Munakata Taisha, the shrine which owns Okinoshima.
UNESCO’s heritage committee considered 33 sites for the prestigious status at its annual gathering in Poland.
On Sunday it also accepted Taputapuatea, a portion of the “Polynesian Triangle” in the South Pacific thought to be the last part of the globe settled by humans, to the list.
It also added Britain’s Lake District -- muse for artists from William Wordsworth to Beatrix Potter -- and the Valongo wharf in Rio de Janeiro where slaves from Africa first arrived in Brazil.
UNESCO’s World Heritage list includes over 1,000 sites, monuments and natural phenomena that are of “outstanding universal value” to humankind.
It includes treasures such as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the Taj Mahal in India, and the rock-carved city of Petra in modern-day Jordan.
Happy Birthday Dalai Lama
MUMBAI, July 6: Katrina Kaif on Thursday expressed love and respect to the Dalai Lama on the occasion of his 82nd birthday. The Jagga Jasoos actor took to Facebook to post a photograph of herself with the Dalai Lama.
In the caption, she shared a quote by him and wrote: “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.
“Words that will always ring true only love and immense respect for his holiness on his birthday,” she added.
The Dalai Lama, revered by the Tibetans as a “living god”, celebrated his birthday in Leh.
Born on July 6, 1935, at Taktser hamlet in northeastern Tibet, the Dalai Lama was recognised at the age of two as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso.
Garima Dhawan -- Happiness By Design
By Noyanika Arora
NEW YORK, March 31: Garima Dhawan is a well-known textile designer and printmaker and currently lives in New York. Her designs are featured on objects sold at stores ranging from Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, Target, Nordstrom, Kohl's to Bed, Bath & Beyond and online at Deny Designs, Society 6, Artfully Walls, Displate and Eastend Prints.
Born and raised in India, Garima is determined to bring peace and happiness in people's lives with bold, beautiful forms filled with color, space, light, laughter, expansion and spirituality – Happiness by Design.
She loves working with her hands and uses her drawings, paintings, collages, silkscreens, and photolithography prints as a starting point. She then scans them and works with them digitally, and plays with colors and layouts.
Her personal style is somewhere between the handmade and digital, clean, bold, modern and organic, usually inspired by randomness of pattern and juxtaposition of color in nature.
Garima is an alumna of RISD, the Rhode Island School of Design (MFA Textiles 2001-03) and won the Graduate Award of Excellence two years in a row.
After working in the textile industry, developing contract and home textiles, she decided to launch her own business 2012 creating art for home décor and also accessories.
Some of the products include art for walls, pillows, duvert covers, shower curtains, tapestries, blankets, rugs, trays, mugs, coasters, iphone covers and clothing.
Her art has been featured in magazines like HGTV, Redbook, Domino and Real Simple, and seen on TV in Brother vs Brother, HGTV dream home 2017 and NBC superstore.
She is currently studying printmaking at The Arts Students League of New York. Her prints and patterns are a combination of traditional printmaking techniques integrated with digital technology, as an ongoing dialogue between the old and the new, masculine and feminine, geometry and organic.
US universities register drop in Indian student applications
WASHINGTON, March 27: US universities have registered a sharp decline in the number of applications from Indian students after a spate of hate crimes and fear and anxiety about potential changes to visa policies+ by the Trump Administration.
According to the preliminary results of a survey of more than 250 American colleges and universities conducted by six top American higher education groups, students from India this fall registered a 26 per cent decline in undergraduate applications and 15 per cent decline has been reported in graduate applications.
The full version of the 'Open Doors 2016' report is slated to be released later this week.
These higher educational institutions reported a drop of an average of 40 per cent application from international students.
The report said that India and China currently make up 47 per cent of US international student enrollment, with almost half a million Indian and Chinese students studying in the US.
China reported a drop of 25 per cent application in undergraduate studies and 32 per cent from graduate studies, said the survey report.
The survey was conducted jointly by American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, the Institute of International Education, Association of International Educators, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and its focus subgroup International Association for College Admission Counseling (ACAC).
The most frequently noted concerns of international students and their families, as reported by institution-based professionals, include perception of a rise in student visa denials at US embassies and consulates in China, India and Nepal and perception that the climate in the US is now less welcoming to individuals from other countries.
It also includes concerns that benefits and restrictions around visas could change, especially around the ability to travel, re-entry after travel, and employment opportunities and concerns that the Executive Order travel ban might expand to include additional countries.
"I'd say the rhetoric and actual executive orders are definitely having a chilling effect on decisions by current applicants/admitted students, and by extension are likely to affect future applicants as well," Wim Wiewel, Portland State's president, who was recently in India told Inside Higher Education.
India's demonetisation policy and the weakness of the value of the rupee against the dollar are other factors according to Wiewel, the news report said.
The Portland University has registered 27 per cent drop in Indian students this fall.
"However, we were struck by how much US higher education is still considered the holy grail, and that especially in the southern half of India almost every middle class family seems to have a relative in the US... Thus, if nothing too bad happens in the future we will recover from this, but people are watching," he noted.
A lot of universities are concerned about declines in master's students from India, John J Wood, the senior associate vice provost for international education, at the State University of New York at Buffalo, was quoted as saying by Inside Higher Education.
"A lot of the master's students coming from India are ultimately hoping to get on the job market here through OPT (Optional Practical Training) and eventually H-1B," Wood said.
The optional practical training programme allows international students to work for one to three years on their student visas after graduation.
"There's a lot of fear and anxiety about potential changes to H-1B and/or OPT that would limit their opportunities. Making the decision to invest in a master's program when the uncertainty on the other end is there is an issue for a lot of students in India," he was quoted as saying by the report.
Recent killing of an Indian engineer in Kansas and other hate crime is another factor that would have an impact on application of students from India, Woo said.
"Those events affect us, whether we like it or not. The impact is not just going to be on Indian nationals. It could impact other students from other countries who may now be concerned about coming," Ahmad Ezzeddine, associate vice president for educational outreach and international programs, at Wayne State University, told a media outlet that focuses on higher education.
Limca’s oldest MA student is 97 and studying economics to understand why India’s poor
PATNA, March 18: A 97-year-old, who enrolled for a masters in economics here in 2015, has been recognised by the Limca Book of Records as the oldest man to do so.
The Limca Book of Records has included the name of Raj Kumar Vaishya for enrolling in an MA in economics in 2015 at Nalanda Open University (NOU).
Vaishya said he enrolled nearly one -and-half-years ago for the programme for two reasons: “To fulfil my long nurtured desire to get a master’s degree and to study economics to be able to understand why India has failed to solve problems like poverty.”
Vaishya, who graduated in 1938 and retired in 1980 as a general manager in a private firm in Koderma (now in Jharkhand), lives with the family of his second son Santosh Kumar in the posh Rajendra Nagar colony for last 10 years.
“I did my graduation from Agra University in 1938 and got a degree in law in 1940, but failed to get a masters’ degree due to increasing family responsibilities. Now, I am closer to fulfilling my dream,” he said.
Vaishya was born on April 1, 1920 in Uttar Pradesh’s Bareilly town.
Modi bats for tech in Mann ki Baat
NEW DELHI, Feb 26: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday hailed the science community for India’s record satellite launch and successful testing of a missile system as he made another pitch for digital payments.
February 15 was a historic day for India as it launched 104 satellites in one go, Modi said of the record achieved by the state-run Indian Space Research Organisation.
“This cost effective, efficient space programme of Isro has become a marvel for the entire world,” the Prime Minister said during the 29th edition of Mann ki Baat, his monthly radio show.
For the 124 satellites put into orbit, 101 were for foreign countries.
Modi singled out India’s Cartosat 2D, saying it would map resources and infrastructure. It would be of great help to farmers, as it would give a correct measure of water available and help them make the best use of resources at hand.
“It is also a matter of exultation for us that this entire campaign was led and steered by our young scientists, our women scientists. This tremendous participation of youth and women is a major glorious dimension in ISRO’s success.” Modi said.
The country had achieved a milestone in the field of defence as well. India successfully test fired a ballistic interceptor missile, he said.
The missile, test-fired on February 11, is capable of hitting an incoming ballistic missile, a significant milestone in developing a two-layered ballistic missile defence system.
Only four or five countries had this capability, the PM said, as he encouraged the young to embrace science.
“The country needs more and more scientists. Today’s scientist becomes a potent catalyst for enduring change in the lives of our future generations,” Modi said.
Technology, he said, could be used in innovative ways to improve lives of people. Digital payments were getting popular in the country and people were gradually switching over to cash-less transactions.
Modi talked about the success of Lucky Graahak Yojana and Digi-Dhan Vyapari Yojana, programmes aimed at encouraging people and traders to go cashless.
The cashless push came after the government in a surprise move withdrew Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes. As these two bills accounted for 86% of the currency in circulation, it led to a huge cash crunch that saw people switch to digital modes of transaction.
But a lot need to be done. As HT wrote on February 26, with money situation easing, many people, even among the winners of the lottery scheme, are going back to dealing in cash. Infrastructure and transaction charges continue to be the biggest hurdles
Modi urged the youth and lottery winners to become ambassadors of the two schemes and encourage people to go cashless that would go a long way in the fight against corruption and black money.
“To me, each and every individual involved in this mission constitute a new anti-corruption cadre in the country. In a way you are a soldier in the cause of cleanliness and purity.”
He asked each of the winners to teach at least 125 people the use of BHIM App in the memory of Dalit icon BR Ambedkar, whose 125 birth anniversary would be celebrated on April 14.
Bharat Interface for Money, or BHIM, is an app developed by the government to further its cashless push.
Modi unveils 112-feet-tall statue of Lord Shiva
COIMBATORE, Feb 24: Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled a 112-feet-tall Lord Shiva statue in Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore on the occasion of Hindu festival Mahashivratri on Friday.
Modi unveiled the statue or ‘Adiyogi’ -- an avatar of Lord Shiva who is considered to be the first of yogis -- at Isha Foundation in Coimbatore.
Extolling the ancient Indian discipline of Yoga, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for efforts to protect nature and mould human activities to bring them in sync with ecological surroundings. He also termed unity in diversity as the speciality and strength of the Indian culture.
"This (Maha Shivaratri celebrations) symbolises a spirit of vigilance, that we have to protect nature and mould our activities in sync with our ecological surroundings," he said.
Underlining the need for peaceful coexistence, Modi said, "Lord Shiva is everywhere" and referred to the bull, peacock and mouse that were the vehicles of the Lord and his sons -- Ganapathy and Karthik. He also talked about the venomous snake Vasuki curled around Shiva's neck to emphasise the importance of peaceful coexistence. In homage to the first yogi – Lord Shiva,
Meanwhile, famed singer Kailash Kher composed a song with lyrics by poet and writer Prasoon Joshi ‘Adiyogi – The source of Yoga’. Kailash Kher also performed this original track at the function.
Modi asked people to remain united, insisting unity in diversity was special to Indian culture.
Praising the ancient practice of Yoga, whose goal is to bring the practitioner's body, mind and spirit in tune with each other, Modi told the gathering that by "practising Yoga, a spirit of oneness is created. Oneness of mind, body and the intellect, oneness with our families and with the society we live in, with fellow humans and with birds, animals and trees."
"This is Yoga, Yoga is a journey from me to we," he said, emphasising India's biggest strength was its diversity. Modi began his speech by greeting people in Tamil "Ungal Ellorukkum En Anbana Vanakkam," (My loving greetings to all). Founder of Isha Foundation, Jaggi Vasudev, said the bust of 'Adiyogi' was built in eight months. He also lauded Modi for practising Yoga.
Before unveiling the giant 'Adiyogi' bust, Modi lighted the "Maha Yoga Yagna" and released the book 'Adiyoga: The source of Yoga', which deals with yogic sciences. Modi was shown around various places in the Isha Yoga complex, including the Dhyana Linga, Surya Kund, Nandi statue and the inner and outer corridors (prakaras) by Sadhguru Vasudev.
The Prime Minister offered aarti and showered flower petals over the Dhyana Linga. He later sat in the Dhyana Linga mandapam, where a yogic dance was performed by a group of youngsters to the accompaniment of traditional music and Sanskrit shlokas. Modi briefly sat alongside Vasudev in a meditative posture.
Tamil Nadu Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao and Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami received Modi on his arrival here. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan and Puducherry Lt Governor Kiran Bedi also attended the event. The statue and the foundation are located in the foothills of Velliangiri mountains in the Western Ghats.
The Prime Minister had earlier on Friday greeted people on Mahashivratri and invoked Lord Shiva, saying that people can see what is good or bad for them with their third eye.
The bust, made of steel, weighs 500 tonnes and took two-and-a-half years to design and eight months to build it.
A five-tier security blanket was put in place in and around the city and at the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border due to the event.
Human rights organisations, various political parties, farmers and tribal bodies had planned protests during the event, alleging that Adiyogi’s face was built on encroached land and that Modi’s visit would only regularise it (land).
In Chennai, the CPI(M) and CPI had pointed out alleged violations in setting up of the statue at the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats and said the Prime Minister should not visit the venue.
Mahashivratri, which translates to the great night of Shiva, is celebrated annually in remembrance of overcoming darkness. It is observed by remembering Shiva and chanting prayers, fasting, practising yoga and meditating on ethics and virtues such as self-restraint, honesty and forgiveness.
Kailash Satyarthi’s Nobel Prize citation stolen in theft at his house in Delhi
NEW DELHI, Feb 7: Thieves broke into Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi’s home in south Delhi and stole several valuable items, including his Nobel certificate, police said on Tuesday.
People close to Satyarthi, who also runs NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan, said his Nobel prize is safe as it currently with the President.
No one was present in Satyarthi’s Kalkaji house when the thieves struck. Satyarthi is currently in the United States to attend the World Peace Summit.
The theft came to light on Tuesday morning when Satyarthi’s son, who lives elsewhere in the city, found the locks of the house broken. The house was ransacked and several valuables were missing.
Police were immediately informed and a case has been registered. Police said it was too early to say who is behind the theft, but suspect that it was the handiwork of burglars whose primary aim was to steal jewellery. The time of the theft is yet to be ascertained.
The CCTV cameras in the area are being scanned and known criminal elements in the area are rounded up for questioning.
Satyarthi, a children’s rights activist, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, which he shared with Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai.