Sikh diaspora concern
Diaspora refers to the dispersed Jews after their exile in 538 BC. Since then, the Jews have been scattered and have started living in different parts of the globe. During World War II, they almost faced extinction in Europe because of Hitler’s ‘Final Solution’ theory. After WWII, the allies offered them a small piece of desert land as their homeland because of their contributions to the allied forces during WW II. The small piece of desert land is now known as Israel, a nation surrounded by hostile Arab nations. The Israelis have fought many wars for their survival against the Arabs, which were financed by the Jews living in other parts of the globe. The diaspora Sikhs of Indian origin were never exiled by India after independence. They voluntarily have to go abroad in search of a new future and destiny. They always maintained their age-old relationship with their lives in India. The only difference between the Sikhs and the Jews is that the Jewish diaspora has always supported the new found land of Israel, whereas some Sikh diaspora do otherwise.
The concern shown by the Sikh diaspora in regards to the recent developments in Punjab, where internet services had to be suspended due to Khalistani threats is a pointer in this regard. We still believe that the Sikhs and the proud and patriotic Indians living in any part of the globe are Indian by heart and soul.
Dr Ashim Chowdhury,
‘Heritage in ruins’
India is a land of not just geographical and ethnic, but also cultural diversity. The country has been home to many kings and their kingdoms, lands and their lords, and governments and their heads. But not all of them have survived to speak of their saga as before, like the historical illustriousness of a place like Hampi, the capital of the Vijayanagara Empire in the 14th century. It is really unfortunate that the historical significance linked with each structure of this ruined city, has been completely forgotten and hidden from the text books for our kids to study in schools. Medieval India stands out for its magnificent amalgamation of the diverse streams of architecture, sculpture, and art. Hampi is a popular temple town, which sadly is “heritage in ruins” today but still breathes on to offer visitors an enchanting display of its history and traditions. Hampi is a historian’s paradise; it is poetry in stone, which tells some captivating stories in silence to be remembered for ages.
Christ is Raised, Alleluia!
On April 9 this year, Christians will be celebrating Easter, the day on which the resurrection of Jesus Christ is said to have taken place. The date of the celebration changes every year. The reason for this variation is that Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox.
Easter is quite similar to other major Christian festivals like Christmas and Halloween, which have evolved over the last 200 years or so. In all of these festivals, Christian and non-Christian (pagan) elements have continued to blend together. The Holy Bible gives no specific information about what time of the year Jesus Christ was born. Many scholars believe that the main reason Jesus’ birth came to be celebrated on December 25 is because that was the date of the winter solstice according to the Roman calendar.
Since the days following the winter solstice gradually become longer and less dark, it was ideal symbolism for the birth of “the light of the world,” as stated in the New Testament’s Gospel of St. John. Similar was the case with Easter, which falls in close proximity to another key point in the solar year: the vernal equinox (around March 20), when there are equal periods of light and darkness.
The naming of the celebration as ‘Easter’ seems to go back to the name of a pre-Christian goddess in England, ‘Eostre’, who was celebrated at the beginning of spring. The only reference to this goddess comes from the writings of the Venerable Bede, a British monk who lived in the late seventh and early eighth centuries. As religious studies scholar Bruce Forbes summarizes, “Bede wrote that the month in which English Christians were celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ had been called ‘Eosturmonath’ in Old English, referring to a goddess named ‘Eostre’. And even though Christians had begun affirming the Christian meaning of the celebration, they continued to use the name of the goddess to designate the season”. Bede was so influential for later Christians that the name stuck, and hence Easter remains the name by which the English, Germans, and Americans refer to the festival of Jesus’ resurrection.
It is important to point out that while the name ‘Easter’ is used in the English-speaking world, many more cultures refer to it by terms best translated as ‘Passover’ (for instance, ‘Pascha’ in Greek)—a reference, indeed, to the Jewish festival of Passover. In the Hebrew Bible, Passover is a festival that commemorates the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt, as narrated in the Book of Exodus. It was and continues to be the most important Jewish seasonal festival, celebrated on the first full moon after the vernal equinox.
At the time when Jesus was born, the Passover had a very special significance, as the Jewish people were again under the dominance of foreign powers (namely, the Romans). Jewish pilgrims streamed into Jerusalem every year in the hope that God’s chosen people (as they believed themselves to be) would soon be liberated once more.
On one such Passover, Jesus travelled to Jerusalem with his disciples to celebrate the festival. He entered Jerusalem in a triumphal procession and created a disturbance in the temple of Jerusalem. It seemed that both of these actions attracted the attention of the Romans, and as a result, Jesus was executed around the year A.D. 30. Some of Jesus’ followers, however, believed that they saw Him alive after His death—experiences that gave birth to the Christian religion. As Jesus died during the Passover festival and His followers believed He was resurrected three days later, it was logical to commemorate these events in close proximity.
Some early Christians chose to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the same date as the Jewish Passover, which fell around day 14 of the month of Nisan, in March or April. These Christians were known as ‘Quartodecimans’ (the name means fourteeners).
By choosing this date, they put the focus on when Jesus died and also emphasized continuity with the Judaism religion, out of which Christianity emerged. Some others instead preferred to hold the festival on a Sunday, since that was the day when Jesus’ tomb was believed to have been found open by some of His close disciples. In A.D. 325, the Roman emperor Constantine, who favoured Christianity, convened a meeting of Christian leaders to resolve important disputes at the Council of Nicaea. The most fateful of its decisions was about the status of Christ, whom the council recognised as “fully human and fully divine.” This council also resolved that Easter should be fixed on a Sunday and not on day 14 of Nisan. As a result, Easter is now celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon of the vernal equinox.