DIVE INTO THE MUSICAL CHANT OF BKB IN THIS YEAR’S MAHALAYA!

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Hello to all my readers, who have been following my blog for the past six years. Here’s wishing all of you Shubho Mahalaya! You might be wondering what is Mahalaya? Well, don’t fret! I am coming down right to the main point and take your time in grasping the article about Mahalaya.

Come autumn and Mahalaya, and the Bengalis get busy to complete the final preparations for their greatest festival – the Durga Puja. This year, Mahalaya is being observed by the people of India on October 8 and those in Bangladesh, the very next day, on October 9.

Mahalaya or Devi Paksha is an auspicious occasion observed seven days before Durga Puja, and heralds the advent of Durga, the goddess of supreme power. It is a kind of invocation or invitation to the mother goddess to descend on earth – “Jago Tumi Jago”, which means “Wake Up Mother Durga” in Bengali. This is done through the chanting of mantras and singing devotional songs.

Since the early 1930s, Mahalaya has come to associate itself with an early morning radio programme called “Mahishasura Mardini” or “The Annihilation of the Demon.” This All India Radio (AIR) programme is a beautiful audio recitation from the scriptural verses of “Chandi Kavya”, an album of Bengali devotional songs, classical music and a dash of acoustic melodrama.

The programme has also been translated into Hindi set to similar orchestration and is broadcast at the same time for a pan-Indian audience. It has almost become synonymous with Mahalaya. For nearly six decades now, people rise up in the pre-dawn hours, at around 5 am on the Mahalaya day to tune into the “Mahishasura Mardini” broadcast.

One man who will always be remembered for making Mahalaya memorable to one and all is Birendra Krishna Bhadra or BKB popularly, the magical voice behind the Mahishasura Mardini. The legendary narrator recites the holy verses and tells the story of the descent of Durga to earth, in his inimitable style.

BKB has long passed away, but his recorded voice still forms the core of the Mahalaya programme. In a sonorous, reverberating voice, BKB renders the Mahalaya recital for two thrilling hours, mesmerising every household with the divine aura of his narration, as the Bengalis submerge their souls in quiet moments of prayer.

Mahishasura Mardini is a remarkable piece of audio drama. Though the theme is mythical and the mantras are Vedic, the programme itself is a landmark composition. It was scripted by Bani Kumar and narrated by Bhadra. The enchanting music was composed by none other than Pankaj Mullick.

All the songs are rendered by famous singers of yesteryears, including Hemant Kumar, Manna Dey and Arati Mukherjee. As the recital begins, the serene morning air resonates with the long drawn sound of the sacred conch shell, immediately followed by a chorus of invocation, melodiously setting the stage for the recitation of the “Chandi Mantra”.

The story element is captivating and engrossing. It speaks of the increasing cruelty of the demon king Mahishasura against the gods. The demon king claimed that no man or woman would be able to defeat him. Unable to tolerate his tyranny, the Gods plead to Vishnu to annihilate the demon. The Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara (Shiva) came together to create a powerful female form with ten arms – Goddess Durga or “Mahamaya”, meaning the “Mother of the Universe”, who embodies the primeval source of all power.

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The Gods then bestow their individual blessings and weapons upon the supreme creation. Armed like a warrior, Goddess Durga rides a lion to battle with Mahishasura. After a fierce combat, Durgatinashini slays the demon king with her trident. Both heaven and Earth rejoice at her victory. With her triumph, the Durga Puja festivities begins and lasts for five days, worshipping her strength and dominance over the world.

So there you go! Durga Puja will commence from October 14, on Maha Panchami and will culminate on October 19, which is Maha Dashami or Dusshera. During that day, the idol of Goddess Durga is immersed, who make a tearful departure back to the heavens.

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CHINA LAUNCHES WORLD’S LARGEST HUMAN GENOME RESEARCH PROJECT

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China has launched the world’s largest human genome research project to document the genetic makeup of one lakh people to help generate the precision medicines for the future, a media report said today.

The project would detect the genetic links between health and sickness and involve one person from different ethnic backgrounds and regions, China Central Television (CCTV) reported.

The project will collect the genetic data of Han ethnic majority people from all over the country and nine other ethnic minority groups with a population of more than five million. There are about 25,000 human genes and the project aims to decode the hereditary information contained in each.

The project includes four stages – collecting, sequencing gene samples, gathering the data and sharing the findings, one of the project’s founders told state-run Global Times

Currently it’s the first stage, said Yu Jun, former Deputy Head of the Beijing Institute of Genomics under the Chinese Academy Of Sciences (CAS).

Researchers will create a “health contrast” pool, he said, gathering genetic information from those who suffer a variety of diseases.

The project’s Chief Scientist, Wang Yadong was quoted as saying by CCTV that the research’s aim was to “provide references for China’s medical research, clinical diagnoses and treatments.”

The project will conclude all its gene sequencing and analysis within four years, which will also make it the fastest Genome engineering project in the world, the report said. The report did not disclose the budget.

CENTRE FRAMES NEW SCHEME FOR PROTECTING ECONOMICALLY FRAGILE MAJULI ISLAND IN ASSAM

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The Union Minister of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Nitin Gadkari laid the foundation stone for a new scheme for protection of Majuli Island in Assam from flood and erosion of river Brahmaputra, at an estimated cost of Rs. 233.57 crore.

The scheme has been framed by Brahmaputra Board based on the recommendations of the high level Expert Committee of the Government of India that visits the island at least twice a year to monitor and recommend anti-erosion measures.

The major components of the scheme include (a) Bank revetment with geo bags filled with earth / sand for a reach length of 27 km in 14 locations (b) RCC porcupine works in 41 locations (c) Construction of a sluice and (d) Construction of a Pilot channel for a length of 3.50 km. The scheme was sanctioned by Government of India in March, 2017. The funding for the project would be from Ministry of DoNER.

Majuli District with an area of 1245 sq km, includes the main Majuli Island with an area of 522 sq km, a large number of smaller islands some of which are inhabited and the Brahmaputra River upto its south bank touching Jorhat and Sibsagar Districts. The area of the island was 734 sq km in 1914 whereas, the minimum area was recorded to be 502 sq km in 2004.

Geomorphologically, the entire Majuli island is a part of the alluvial flood plains of the Brahmaputra river. The island is formed of soil consisting mainly of silt deposits. The soil is without cohesion and thus, susceptible to erosion. The problem of erosion has been severe after the disastrous earthquake of 1950.

As per Survey of India topo-sheets and satellite imagery data, area lost by the island is 206.7 sqkm from the year 1949 upto the year 2004. Although some measures were taken in the form of embankment and anti-erosion work by Government of Assam, the problem of erosion and flood remained mostly uncontained. The embankments built during the 60s were in poor condition.

Brahmaputra Board was initially requested by Government of Assam in 1999 to take up necessary measures for protection of the Island. Formal ‘No Objection’ of Government of Assam for execution of flood and erosion protection works in Majuli Island was communicated in August 2003.

Work was started by Brahmaputra Board in January 2004 in four phases. The total expenditure incurred in these four phases up to October 2017 is Rs. 185.88 crore.

Major works carried out under these schemes includes raising and strengthening of 96.25Km embankment with breach closure at 24 locations, construction of five spurs with Boulder and Geo-bag, construction of noses of land spurs at Sonowal Kachari and Kandulimari, numerous RCC porcupine screens, spurs etc at erosion affected reaches, bank revetment for a length of 4.11 km at four locations and five numbers of raised Platforms.

Before the protection work was taken up by the Board, cultivation could not be done in many areas of the island such as Malowal-Malapindha during kharif season due to large numbers of breaches in the embankment. People suffered from flooding year after year and land of the island was lost at about 2.5 sq km in a year.

Due to raising and strengthening of 96.25 km of existing embankment, the entire area of Majuli Island within the embankment is now secured from floods unless there is breach in embankment. Communication from remote areas has improved as people use these embankments as roads.

Due to implementation of the anti-erosion and pro-siltation measures such as RCC porcupine, bank revetment and spurs, the situation of Majuli Island has now reversed in most areas. Erosion in most of the vulnerable locations except for a length of about 10km along Brahmaputra could be contained due to these measures. Judicious laying of porcupine screens encouraged heavy siltation and have brought about favourable changes in the river morphology and regime.

Reclamation of land started and area of Majuli Island increased from 502.21 sq km in 2004 to 524.29 sq km in 2016 with net gain of 22.08 sq km as per study on satellite imageries. Thus, not only overall erosion of the Island is arrested, but the trend has been reversed favourably.

It is noteworthy that Brahmaputra is one of the most difficult rivers to tackle as it is very dynamic with morphology changing continuously. Measures adopted elsewhere may not be applicable in this river which is 3rd largest in the world and carries highest silt amongst the rivers of its size. Keeping this in mind,

In appreciation of the positive results of the works carried out by Brahmaputra Board at Majuli, Government of Assam moots to entrust several new works to Brahmaputra Board.

These works include protection from erosion of Brahmaputra at Neamatighat area near Jorhat, protection of Mikirgaon area in Morigaon District and protection of 3 locations on the right bank of Brahmaputra between Bogibeel bridge and Majuli Island.

The Board is in the process of preparation of the proposals and will finalize the same through the Expert Committee for obtaining approval. Once techno-economically approved, Board will seek a funding agency to execute these works.

DELHI METRO’S ‘DRIVERLESS’ MAGENTA LINE OPENS TODAY

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Here’s some good news for people commuting between Noida and south Delhi. A section of the awaited Magenta Line of the Delhi Metro — from Botanical Garden to Kalkaji Mandir — is going to open to the public from December 25.

The 12.64-km stretch is part of the 38.23-km Botanical Garden-Janakpuri West corridor under the Metro’s Phase III of the expansion plans, and will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

December 25 has been a significant date for the Delhi Metro as its first line — the Red Line from Dilshad Garden to Rithala — was inaugurated on Christmas 2002. The line was flagged off by then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

With the opening of the new line, Noida residents will save at least 45 minutes of commute time while travelling to south Delhi.

The section that is opening has nine stations: Botanical Garden, Okhla Bird Sanctuary, Kalindi Kunj, Jasola Vihar-Shaheen Bagh, Okhla Vihar, Jamia Milia Islamia, Sukhdev Vihar, Okhla NSIC and Kalkaji Mandir.

Kalkaji Mandir is underground and the others are elevated. The route will cater to two major educational institutions — Jamia Millia Islamia and Amity University.

The Botanical Garden Metro station will be the first interchange station outside Delhi and since both Botanical Garden and Kalkaji Mandir are interchange stations, there will be a significant reduction in travelling time between the Blue and Violet Lines.

Once the entire corridor opens, commuters from Noida will be able to go to Gurgaon by changing trains at Hauz Khas.The commute from Noida and Faridabad will also get shorter. Passengers between Noida and Faridabad will change trains at Kalkaji Mandir.

What’s new

Brightly lit and with videos guiding you on routes, the Magenta Line will promise both comfort and convenience for the commuters. The trains will have Wi-Fi, USB ports along with charging points, LED and LCD screens and backrest near the wheelchair area. The seats in the new trains will be red, pink, orange and blue to give a lively feel.

This will be the first Metro line with driverless trains, a first in the country. Initially, trains on this route will run with drivers for 2-3 years.

The stretch will also be the first after the Airport Express line to have screen doors on Metro platforms. Post this, every new line launched under Phase III will have the same feature.

In fact, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has decided to include platform screen doors in all stations that will be built under Phase IV as well.

The rest of the corridor will open in another three to four months. It will also connect to the Terminal 1 of Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport for the first time.

UN REJECTS US’ PROPOSAL TO RECOGNISE JERUSALEM AS ISRAELS’S CAPITAL

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The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has overwhelmingly adopted resolution declaring United States of America (USA) recognition of Jerusalem Israel’s capital as ‘null and void.

The resolution was moved by Turkey and Yemen and was adopted with 128 countries voting in favour including major political powers such as India, Japan Britain, France, Germany and 9 against it, while 35 abstained from voting.

The UNGA resolution stressed that Jerusalem was final status issue to be resolved through negotiations. It demanded that all States comply with UNSC resolutions regarding Jerusalem, and not recognise any actions or measures contrary to those resolutions. Countries voting in favour of resolution also disregarded US President Donald Trump’s threat to cut off financial aid to countries that backed the draft resolution.

The 9 countries that opposed resolution at UNGA included US along with Israel, Guatemala, Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Honduras and Togo. The nations that abstained from voting include US allies such as Canada, Australia, Mexico, Bhutan, Poland, Czech Republic and Romania.

The draft resolution rejecting US move was sent to UNGA after it was vetoed by United States at UN Security Council (UNSC), although all other 14 countries voted in favour.

The resolution was drafted following US President Donald Trump’s announcement of shifting US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and officially recognising the ancient disputed city as the capital.

INDIAN RAILWAYS AIMS TO MAKE ALL STATIONS 100% LED LIT BY MARCH 2018

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The Union Ministry of Railways in an eco-friendly measure to reduce power consumption, has planned to make all stations 100% LED lit by March 2018.

Under this initiative, the national transporter will provide 100% LED lighting for energy needs in railway staff colonies, stations and platforms.

This is huge initiative to provide energy efficient lighting will help in conservation of environment as well. It will help to reduce consumption by about 10% of total energy being utilised for its non-traction uses. It will conserve about 240 million units of electricity and will save Indian Railways about Rs.180 crore annually.

Till November 2017, about 3,500 railway stations have already been provided with 100% LED lights. About 20 lakh such lights were installed. The national transporter also aims at providing these lights on all coaches and EMUs (Electric Multiple Units).

Moreover, the lights in 1300 non-AC second-class and 3-tier sleeper coaches have been fully converted to LED. The Indian Railways has also issued directives to Zonal Railways to provide LED light fittings to residential quarters.

INDIA RE-ELECTED TO INTERNATIONAL MARITIME ORGANISATION COUNCIL

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India was re-elected to Council of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) at an assembly of body at its headquarters in London.

India was elected under category B that represents nations with largest interests in international sea borne trade. It secured second-highest 144 number of votes from member-countries, just after Germany’s 146.

The IMO Council plays crucial role in deciding various important matters within mandate of IMO especially in relation to global shipping industry and its work strategy and budget. India has been one of earliest members of IMO, having ratified its convention and joined it as a member-state in 1959.

India has been elected to the Council of the IMO ever since it started functioning, except for a two-year hiatus during 1983-1984.

IMO is a specialised agency of the United Nations responsible for regulating shipping. It was established in 1948 in Geneva and came into force in 1959. Its headquarters are in London, United Kingdom. IMO has 171 member states and 3 associate members. India was one of earliest members of the IMO.

IMO’s functions are to develop and maintain a comprehensive regulatory framework for shipping and its remit. This framework should address various areas like safety, legal matters, environmental concerns, technical co-operation, maritime security and efficiency of shipping.

IMO is governed by an assembly of members and is financially administered by a council of members elected from the assembly. IMO Council consists of 40 member countries who are elected by IMO Assembly. It plays a crucial role in deciding various matters related to global shipping industry.