WORLD INTHAVAARAM, 2022–20
About: the world this week, 15 May to 21 May 2022, America keeps gunning its own, India aces Badminton-Men and Boxing-Women, Music of Ukraine, Entering NATO, and the Gyanvapi Case.
America Keeps Shooting
Late last week a gunman killed 10 people and wounded three others at the Tops Friendly Super Market Store in Buffalo City, New York State, a predominately Afro-American neighbourhood. The victims range in age from 20 to 86 and at least 11 who were shot were Afro-American.
The suspect was identified as Payton Gendron a rifle-toting 18 year old from Conklin, New York. He is said to have written a white supremacist manifesto online, travelled to the Store and live-streamed the attack. He was heavily armed, wore tactical gear, and a tactical helmet with a camera. After the gunfire, he exited the store, put his gun to his head, to his chin, then dropped it and took off his bullet-proof vest. He got on his hands and knees, and put his hands behind his back, when the Police, who arrived within two minutes of the shooting, had him arrested.
Last year, Payton had threatened to shoot in his high school and underwent a mental health evaluation by state police before being released. Under federal law, an evaluation alone doesn’t reportedly bar people from owning a gun.
The crime was termed as a racist hate crime.
Close to the bullets of this shooting, one person was killed and 5 injured in a Church shooting in the town of Laguna, 70km southeast of Los Angeles.
Will America ever get over the dreadful habit of shooting itself down?
A First Ever Historic Win for India
I came across this unverified story and I don’t know how true it is, hence will keep it as fiction. There was a man called Badmin, a courtier in Mughal Emperor Akbar’s court who invented a game for the royal family’s entertainment. He cooked-up the idea of a shuttle-cock game when he saw a rooster being taken to the Royal kitchen to be made into a Royal meal. He made a feather-cock for hitting, with a racquet designed by his wife. Badminton was named after him — flies the story.
The Thomas Cup also called the World Men’s Championships, is an international Badminton competition among the teams of the Badminton World Federation (BWF). The Thomas Cup is held once in two years -earlier it was once in three years -and is one of the most important Men’s Badminton Competitions in the World. Often held together in what is called The Uber Cup, for Women, it also shuttles around as the Thomas and Uber Cup. And both determine the supremacy of a country in the sport of Badminton.
The Thomas Cup was the idea of British Sir George Alan Thomas, a successful badminton and chess player in the 1900s. And is named after him. The first Tournament was held in 1948–1949 with Malaysia winning the inaugural held in England, beating Denmark. Only five countries have ever won the Tournament: Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Japan, and Denmark. And Indonesia has dominated with 14 wins. Believe it or not, the United States (US) of America was a runner-up in the second Thomas Cup, held in Singapore in 1952, losing to Malaysia. Obviously, the US lost interest in the game as thereafter their presence fizzled out.
India stormed in to the finals of the Thomas Badminton Cup 2022, being held in Bangkok, Thailand, late last week, which was a first ever achievement is almost 73 years. They defeated the great Danes of Denmark in the Semi-finals and a day earlier out classed Malaysia in the quarter-finals to reach the finals against Indonesia.
This Sunday the finals were played in Bangkok. With the winner being the first to win three out of five matches, India opened with Lakhsya Sen playing singles, who hustled from behind, one set down to set the stage for what was to become a stupendous Tournament. The second match was a doubles. And Ranki Reddy and Chiraj Shetty paired like shuttle & cock, again coming from behind to win. Now, it was over to the singles again, with India’s former World No 1 Srikant Kidambi being unforgiving in winning in two straight sets. The winning shot — a powerful and clever cross-court smash, which sent the opponent diving to reach it — said it all. Srikant had not lost a match all week, and he played the match of his life. There were a few hiccups and many a heart missed many a beat. And I felt the doubles team did not play to their true killer potential, but kill they did!
Suddenly, it looked too good to be true. India’s National Anthem playing in Bangkok was music to the ears. Where was India all these 73 years?
Indians always ‘perform well’ in Thailand — was the thing doing the rounds on social media!
This week, India’s Nikhat Zareen, 25, boxed her way to win Gold at the Women’s World Boxing Championship, 52 kg Category, thrashing Thailand’s Jitpong James. Nikhat hardly seemed to break into a sweat. And showed she had a good pair of long hands — reaching and punching with precision. This year, the Championship was held in Istanbul, Turkey.
Nikhat is only the fifth Indian woman to achieve such punching glory. The others before her are: Mary Kom — a record 6 time Champion, Sarita Devi, Jenny RL, and Rekha KC.
She thanked her parents for doing all they possibly could, to make her a boxer. That’s the secret power layer inside the gloves!
The Sounds of Ukraine
Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra sang won the Eurovision Song Contest 2022 amid a tidal wave of support and sympathy for the nation following Russia’s invasion. Ukraine’s song ‘Stefania’ beautifully mixed rap with elements of Ukrainian folk music to create the winning numbers — awarded a staggering 492 points by the jurors.
The UK also had an exciting night, as Sam Ryder had a considerable lead at the halfway point and placed second overall with his song, ‘Space Man’. This is the highest rank the UK has reached, since 1998
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, welcomed the victory, and said ‘we will do our best’ to one day host the contest in the now battered port city of Mariupol. Zelenskiy and the Kalush Orchestra synchronised to harmoniously sing, ‘any victory is meaningful for Ukraine at this time’. That sure rings a bell. Stefania mom mom Stefania!
Russia appears to have scored a victory, gaining complete control of the Ukraine’s south-eastern port city of Mariupol. It’s Russia’s first major win (I hate to call it that) since the start of its unwarranted, crazy invasion.
Ukrainian said its troops have ‘fulfilled’ their combat goals in Mariupol.
The mission to defend the Azovstal steel complex in Mariupol from Russian forces ended on Monday, as over 900 fighters, some seriously wounded, have been evacuated. Ukranian forces holed-up in the Steel Works began the process of surrendering. President Zelensky said, ‘Ukraine needs its heroes alive’. The sprawling four square mile complex is a maze of tunnels designed to survive a nuclear war.
This week Finland and Sweden, after remaining neutral for decades, decided to join the defensive North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and formally sent their applications. Russia’s President shouted hoarse against the move while Turkey — already a NATO member- said it would block their entry, accusing the Nordic countries of harbouring terrorists-Kurdish militants -wanted by Turkey.
To join NATO all 30 existing member countries must unanimously agree that a new country can join. Now, that’s a battle looming ahead. Everyone wants their pound of flesh!
A Matter of Faith
Gyanvapi means the ‘well of knowledge’ derived from the Sanskrit ‘Gyan’-knowledge and ‘Vapi’- Well. The name itself says it all?
The temple town of Varanasi, on the banks of the River Ganges in India’s Uttar Pradesh State, is considered the oldest living city in the world, with 3500 years of documented history: it is also called Kashi, the most sacred place of Hinduism in India.
The Gyanvapi mosque stands next to the iconic Kashi Vishwanath Temple — dedicated to Lord Shiva — in Varanasi. It acquired its name from an adjoining waterbody-holy well. It was constructed by the ‘last effective Mughal Emperor’, Aurangzeb, in 1669 upon demolition of an older Shiva temple -a Vishweshwar Temple, at the spot. The facade was modelled partially on the Taj Mahal’s entrance; the original plinth of the temple was left largely untouched and continued to serve as the courtyard of the mosque, while the southern wall-along with its cusped arches, exterior moldings and toranas (a gateway)-was turned into the Qibla Wall (the wall that faces Mecca). To this day, there are many surviving external elements of the original temple. A well-preserved sketch, by a James Prinsep, in the British Library, in London, has the original caption titled ‘Temple Of Vishveshwur, Benaras’, referring to the ‘Gyanvapi Mosque site’.
Temple priests were allowed to reside in the premises and exercise their privileges on issues of Hindu pilgrimage. The desecrated site-especially the plinth-became a popular hub for Hindu pilgrims from across the country.
In the late eighteenth century, the British East India Company gained direct control of Benares ousting the then Nawab Rulers. And in 1780, Maratha Queen Ahilyabai Holkar constructed the present Kashi Vishwanath Temple to the immediate south of the mosque. However, this had a markedly different spatial configuration and was ritually inconsistent. This was after many, before the Queen, had failed to build and fully restore the Kasi Temple to its historic glory. The original Shiva Lingam was supposedly hidden by the Temple priests inside the Gyanvapi well during Aurangzeb’s raid: the plinth continued to be considered as more sacred than the new temple by pilgrims for well over a century- into the early 1900s-before the present Kashi Vishwanath temple succeeded in installing itself as the central component of pilgrimage routes.
A flashback: A Jyotirlinga or Jyotirlingam, is a devotional representation of the Hindu God Shiva: it is a Sanskrit compound of jyotis ‘radiance’ and linga. There are 64 original Jyotirlinga shrines in India, 12 of which are most sacred and called the Maha Jyotirlingam (The Great Jyotirlingas). At all these sites, the primary image is lingam (or Shiva Lingam) representing the beginning-less and endless stambha pillar, symbolising the infinite nature of Lord Shiva. A stambha (tower in English) is a pillar or column which in the context of Hindu mythology, it is believed to be a cosmic column that functions as a bond, joining heaven and earth.
During the past 100 years, the Gyanvapi compound has been fiercely contested by Hindus and Muslims alike with each side ‘investing their faith’ in the well, the mosque, or the temple.
In the year 1991, a title dispute suit was filed in a Varanasi Court for handing over the site to Hindus. The court-case remained pending for about 22 years, before the advocate of the 1991 petition re-filed another plea requesting for an Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) study of the mosque-complex. This was on the same grounds that it was a temple that existed for thousands of years -since the reign of King Vikramaditya.
The Gyanvapi Mosque Management Committee, Anjuman Intezamia Masjid (AIM) acting as the Defendant denied the claims and rejected that Aurangzeb demolished a temple to construct the mosque.
On 8 April 2021 the Varanasi Court ordered the ASI to conduct the survey, which was subsequently stayed by the Courts, on a petition by AIM.
Coming over to this year, 2022, the Varanasi Civil Court is in the process of hearing a petition by five Hindu woman who claim there are idols of Hindu Gods and Goddesses in the Gyanvapi Mosque complex. They had petitioned the court to allow daily prayers before idols on its outer walls as well as other ‘visible and invisible deities within the old temple complex. The site is currently open for prayers once a year. The Court ordered a video assessment of the mosque complex, including three domes, underground basements and the pond, and appointed court commissioners for the task. This happened soon after India’s Supreme Court refused to stay the video assessment, when the matter came before it.
The assessment was completed, and certain images were leaked to the media-without the Court’s permission. The Surveyor who leaked the photos was promptly sacked and a Report of the findings submitted to the Court.
Late this week, the Supreme Court of India ruled that the Places of Worship Act 1991 cannot determine the religious character of a place nor does it prohibit ascertaining such character.
What is The Places of Worship Act 1991? It’s an Act enacted by India’s Parliament that provides for the maintenance of the religious character of a place of worship, as it existed on 15 August 1947. And prohibits conversion of any place of worship after such character is known. The disputed site of Ayodhya was exempted as the case on its ownership was in the Courts at that time.
The Supreme Court completed its ruling by transferring the case to the Varanasi District judge, as being local they are best capable of making a decision; noting that the ‘selective leaks’ of the survey report must stop.
Lots of action up ahead, but people need to get together and be friends for life.
More hidden stories will be unearthed in the weeks to come. Judge for yourself with World Inthavaaram.