Heavenly foods of India

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Source : Google photo of the Golden temple in Amritsar, India

Synopsis : I usually write about social issues so I thought what could be more social than food in India where people really go out to enjoy food in other’s company which is a great social event. India is known for its great food but only very few who have visited have learned its rich diversity in food and its very rich culinary history where various recipes from various parts of the world have been blended to create something unique to each region.

You will find  dazzling varieties of food with the local twist in each part of the great country called India , some vegetarian and others non vegetarian that will surprise you and your taste buds in a way that will make you feel that you are literally in heaven. That is why I named this blog The heavenly foods of India that will show you foods from Imphal to Chennai and Bengaluru in the south. The videos are self explanatory so do not need my comments.

I have tasted foods in many countries but none compare to the taste and quality of Indian food some of which are displayed in the following videos. It is not for nothing that India is called the country of spices but what is amazing is how they use the spices to bring out so unique taste in food that only Indians know how.

But I start the blog with not food but the visit to Amritsar Golden  temple and the Sikh religion that makes Amritsar the holiest city of their very unique religion. In the later part of the video the reporter will also show you a very unique feature of Sikh religion that welcomes anyone irrespective of their religion, caste, color, race or ethnicity to their temple and feeds everyone who so wishes all day , every day of the year. They never stop. You will see them feeding Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Jews and the Sikhs all together because they welcome all. This is a very unique feature of their faith. Other faiths have a lot to learn from them about their tolerance of other faiths.

Most people outside India do not know much about the Sikh religion and how it originated hundreds of years ago there , what are its main features and why the Sikhs wear turban and do not shave their facial hair. Some Sikhs living in the United States have been mistakenly identified as Muslims and have been attacked by the ignorant people who have never heard about their great religion.

Here in the Philippines the Sikhs are misunderstood and stereo typed as Indians . They are Indians but they are unlike any other people in India where all the religions of the world thrive and co exist peacefully although there have been some communal tensions due to some quarrels because of some misunderstanding or fanatical zeal that I will write about here.

In summary, some Sikh militant activists rallied to separate from India and form their own country, Khalistan and took refuge in the Golden Temple of Amritsar, from where they tried to mobilize all Sikhs to their cause through an armed revolt. The Indian army encircled the temple and, after a long battle, killed all the militants but the temple was also damaged by the fighting. This undermined the feeling of some Sikhs in the armed forces who tried to reach Amritsar to provide military assistance to the rebels, but were arrested. The Sikhs who were the bodyguards of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi murdered her in New Delhi because she had ordered the attack on their temple in Amritsar. Later, the temple was repaired thoroughly.

Birth of Sikhism in India: (source: Wikipedia)

Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world, with about 20 to 30 million Sikhs. There are about 500,000 Sikhs each in the United States and Great Britain. Here are 5 things to know about faith. The sacred book of Sikhs, “Guru Granth Sahib,” teaches that there is one God, that men and women are fundamentally good and equal before God, that everyone has direct access to God. and that the way to get closer to God is to serve our fellow men. Sikh religion was founded in 1469 by Guru Nanak in the Punjab region of India. Guru Nanak and his nine successors shaped the fundamental beliefs of religion in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Sikhism has evolved in times of religious persecution. Two of the Sikh gurus – Guru Arjan (1563-1605) and Guru Tegh Bahadur (1621-1675) – were tortured and executed by the Mughal rulers after refusing to convert to Islam. The persecution of the Sikhs triggered the founding of the Khalsa as an order to protect freedom of conscience and religion, endowed with the qualities of a “Sant-Sipāhī” – a holy soldier. The Khalsa was founded by the last Sikh guru, Guru Gobind Singh.

All Sikhs must believe in five K (Kirpan, Kachcha, Kesh, Kara and Kanghi), which means that they must always wear a dagger or a small knife (Kirpan), an undergarment called kachcha, should not cut hair or shave (Kesh), wear a steel or silver bracelet (Kara) and hold a comb in the hair (Kanghi). They are forbidden to drink alcohol, cut their hair, have sex with Muslims, commit adultery, eat halal meat and have priests.

The Muslims who invaded India several centuries ago brought with them the ideology that Hindus must accept Islam, either by coercion or by force, so they massacred the population en masse while they refused to do it. A particular group of Hindus who were so persecuted and threatened with death fought back and swore never to give up their faith, so they became armed and protected themselves.

They lived a harsh life so they grew their hair and beard and learned martial art to protect themselves and their women laying the foundation of a new faith called Sikhhism and built a magnificent temple in Amritsar that they covered entirely with gold. This temple keeps the original and sacred scripture called Guru Granth sahib that is read everyday throughout the year. This recitation has not stopped since the temple was built centuries ago.

It is the sacred duty of all Sikhs to visit the temple at least once in their lifetime no matter where in the world they live. Photography is not allowed inside the temple so you can’t see the splendor and breathtaking view from inside but a visit to the grounds in itself is awe inspiring as the video will show you.

The Sikhs carry Hindu names as a testament to the fact that they were Hindus but with a twist. They spell their names slightly differently from Hindus to differentiate themselves from the rest so Jitendra becomes Jatinder, Surendra becomes Surinder etc. Sikhs are wonderful people. They are fierce fighters in the defense forces of India. They are very hard working and honest and they are very intelligent and have attained very high posts in the government. One became the President of India and another became the most decorated chief of the Indian Air Force.  They have also spread out through out the world and can be found in many countries where they have settled down.

So I hope you will learn something about the great Sikh people by watching this video.

1.  The Golden temple in Amritsar, Punjab, India

2. Food in Chennai , South India

3. Food in Bengaluru in Karnataka, South India

4. Food in Imphal in North Eastern State Manipur, India.

Note: Imphal is the capital of Manipur State in northeastern India. Netaji Bose and his army fought the British and deployed the Indian flag for the first time after victory there though he did not succeed to liberate all of India. The inhabitants of this region seem different from the rest of the Indians because of their ethnic origin in the mountain tribes of Myanmarand southern China. Their food is also different from other spicy dishes in the country, but it is delicious.

 

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Intolerance

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Source : Google photo of religious intolerance

Synopsis : The scourge of radicalism in any religion is a cause for distress and suffering. The idea that one must bow to a religion and be forcibly converted is an outdated one in the modern world although the terrorists say that they are right and the whole world that repudiates them is wrong. The blog looks at the reasons for the intolerance of other faiths as practiced by some who resort to violence to push their agenda and suggests that basically we are all brothers and sisters  who must learn to live in peace and harmony in spite of our ethnic, religious and racial differences.

 

I have written a great deal about the cultural diversity that enriches  any country and have written about the unity in diversity as well. Citizens of any country no matter what their cultural identity may be , their language or religion owe their allegiance to their country and generally speaking obey the laws of their country.

In a free democratic society there is or should be room for anyone who is fundamentally different from you because of their right to practice their religion  and wear their ethnic dress  or speak their own language and observe the rules as practiced by their religions without offending anyone who is different from them. In many democratic countries , their constitution allows for such freedom so we see that a large number of Amish people took refuge in the United States because they were persecuted in their home countries in Europe by others who did not agree with their faith and life style.

America has given the opportunity to live freely so many different groups of various religions and cultures took the offer and emigrated to the United States. There are ethnic Lao people who were uprooted from their villages in Vietnam and Laos due to the war and constant threat to them  not to mention hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese people who chose America as their home due to the war in Vietnam. There are people from numerous countries who now call America their home so it is truly a land of immigrants. You will see very ornate Hindu temples as well as big mosques, Jewish synagogues and churches so people of all religions live in harmony and peace.

In Europe we see the influx of refugees from Africa and the Middle eastern countries due to war there so many countries in Europe have taken in the asylum seekers who have settled themselves somewhere without making an effort to assimilate into the European societies where they  now live. The Algerians migrated to France in large numbers before and after their independence from France because they were poor  and sought jobs in the factories in France that needed cheap labor. They still remain apart from the others because they try to maintain their cultural and religious identity. This tendency to remain apart from others to protect their cultural, ethnic and religious identity leads to barriers that isolate them from the mainstream culture of the country where they live. This isolation generates mistrust and intolerance that has social consequences.

So today I want to write about a loaded word called intolerance and will try to look into the deeper meaning of this word that is now in vogue almost everywhere. I have written in the past that the intolerance of others who are different from us is basically rooted in ignorance that breeds prejudice based on false assumptions about them. This ignorance makes people afraid of people who are not like them and who practice a set of beliefs that are different. I see that most people are unable or unwilling to accept that all religions are basically the same although their rituals and methods of reaching spirituality may be different than yours.

I was amused that people in the United States were asking google what is Taj Mahal and where in the world it is located specially after the state visit of the US president Trump and his family to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. I was amused because I thought everyone knew where was Taj Mahal located because it is the seventh wonder of the world like the Pyramids of Giza or the Wall of China but obviously most Americans had never even heard of Taj Mahal until their president posed for a photo in front of it yesterday.

A small number of Americans who have visited India may have seen the Taj Mahal and other places of interest but this knowledge remains limited to a very few people .The rest remain ignorant because they do not travel  so remain uninterested in knowing the world. This isolation has many reasons none of which are worth writing about here but the isolation remains a reason for their ignorance about other countries and other people , their culture and their history.

I often find the news media in the western countries complicit  that spread negative news about other countries , their people, their beliefs and culture giving the people the impression that the so called third world countries are not worth their attention because they are poor, have strange religions they do not understand or care about , where cows and snakes are found everywhere, where people wear strange clothes etc.

Among the third world countries also there is tremendous ignorance about other countries like India so they are very surprised to know that India now is a world power, a technically advanced country that sends Moon lander or a rover that lands on Mars. In the Philippines some people may have heard of Touch Mahal although I have corrected many to say Taj Mahal but they can’t be corrected.

So I come back to the point that ignorance breeds prejudices that lead to intolerance. Recently the Indian government enacted a law that gives the persecuted minorities living in strict Islamic countries the right to get the Indian citizenship so that they now have a chance to live in India freely anywhere and enjoy all the rights, privileges and practice their religion freely. It is like a homeland for Jews in Israel where any Jew anywhere may be given citizenship and the freedom to live the way they want free of pogrom and persecution. It was the reason for creating Israel. All people want a homeland where they can feel free to practice their faith and live peacefully but many are denied so the Palestinians are still waiting and so are the Kurds, the Yezidis, the Coptic Christians etc.

Hindus are persecuted in some Islamic countries where they force them to convert to Islam, where they suffer great deprivation, poverty and the status of second class citizens, where their women are abducted and forcibly made Muslim, where they do not have any rights that the Hindus in India enjoy so now they want to move to India. Similarly the Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains and the Zoroastrians will now get to live freely in India just like anyone else. This is a boon to all the persecuted people so this humanitarian law in India should be praised but some people think differently.

It did not sit well with the Mullahs who insist that the Muslims from other countries like the Bangladesh, the Rohingyas of Burma and other countries must also be given Indian citizenship that the law does not allow so they have incited the Muslims in India to take to the streets and have resorted to violence. They have burned buses, torched many Hindu homes and pelted stones at the policemen killing some of them. They have looted Hindu shops and burned them to ashes all because of this law that gives shelter to the persecuted people.

The Indian Government wants all illegal immigrants to leave India and has started the process of identifying them and sending them to where they came from. Many countries have similar laws that deport illegal immigrants and insist that all immigrants must follow the legal immigration procedures so India now has started to follow the same but the Muslims in India are openly defying the law and have taken to the streets and violent protests. This has led to the confrontation between those who support the humanitarian law and those who oppose it causing widespread mayhem and even deaths and that too during the state visit of a sitting US president to the country.

By and large people of various religions live side by side in India but the fundamentalist Muslims now threaten the country and cause mayhem because they are intolerant of people of other faiths namely the Hindus who are the majority. Their Mollahs make fiery speeches and exhort the uneducated Muslims  to demonstrate violently in many parts of the country that has led the Government to intervene and use force to disperse the crowd. The Indian government has repeatedly explained that the Muslims of India are citizens of India so they should not worry about anything but it has had little effect on the people demonstrating violently in the streets of Delhi.

I have traveled to many countries including Islamic countries but I have never seen any animosity there towards the Hindus. I was very well received in Algeria and Egypt and I had a room mate in Tizi Ouzou in Algeria who was a Muslim from Tunisia and a very nice fellow. I have been invited by my Muslim office mates in Mostaganem to their homes in a village to celebrate Id ul Fitr and was very well received. But in India this intolerance towards non Muslims is like a living snake that can strike you without warning or under any pretext. There have been mass massacres of Hindus in India by the Muslims during the partition of India in 1947 so the seed of intolerance took root since then. As I said earlier, this intolerance between two religions is not as widespread as the Muslims make out to be but it takes very little to rouse them to violence so the riots start on a short notice. Muslims and Hindus coexist but rarely they mix with each other.

The Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians all fought together in the Indian National Army of Bose to defeat the British and make them leave India so many Muslims died fighting for the freedom of India because Bose never differentiated between anyone because of religion. Muslims adored Bose and his dynamic leadership because Bose told them that they were all Indians first so must fight together to free India.

So why the poison of intolerance was injected to separate people and by whom? To learn the source of intolerance we have to go back to the pre independence days of 1946 when a fierce separatist called Jinnah demanded a country for Muslims creating Pakistan that caused the loss of over a million lives during the process of vivisection of India while the British just looked on and did nothing to prevent it.

In fact they were complicit in cutting up India into three parts because they did not want to see a undivided India living in peace and harmony and become a world power someday. They could not accept that Bose and his army had sown fear in their hearts that made them leave. They were a proud people who had just defeated Hitler but governing a seething country like India was beyond their ability in 1947 but the world was told a different story of how Gandhi and his cohorts got India free . Nothing could be farther  from the truth.

When the Pakistan soldiers invaded part of Jammu and Kashmir in 1947 and occupied a large portion of it, the British Governor General Mountbatten just looked on and did nothing to stop them. Now both India and Pakistan are inching toward another military confrontation over the occupied portion of Kashmir and soon this may lead to a military solution in favor of India because America and many other powerful countries support India in its dispute with Pakistan. They are also arming India to its teeth and making huge amount of money in the process.

The seed of intolerance was not an invention of Jinnah but it goes back to some 800 years of Muslim invasion , loot and massacres of innocent people. The Muslim hordes of looters came to India through the Khybar pass in Afghanistan again and again to kill , loot and convert Hindus to Islam by force that their successors like the Mughals continued during the rule of Babur and Aurangjeb. The last Mughal king was Bahadur Shah Zafar who was a pacifist. He was overthrown by the British who sent him to exile in Rangoon, Burma where he died.

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Source : Google photo of Babur

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Source : Google photo of the last Mughal king Bahadur Shah Zafar

The religious extremism had started long before the Mughals when Bakhtiyar Khilji attacked the Nalanda University in Bihar that he razed to the ground, killed all the peaceful teachers and students and burned its massive library to ashes just because they were Buddhists who meant no harm to anyone. This was in 1193.

Destruction of Nalanda University by Bakhtiyar Khilji

Source : Google photo of Bakhtiyar Khilji who destroyed Nalanda university in 1193

Mahmud of Ghazni
In 1024, during the reign of Bhima I, the prominent Turkic Muslim ruler Mahmud of Ghazni raided Gujarat, plundering the Somnath temple and breaking its jyotirlinga despite pleas by Brahmins not to break it. He took away a booty of 20 million dinars. He returned to loot the temple 17 times and totally destroyed the temple sacred to all Hindus.  The loot and massacres that followed each raid is well recorded in the annals of history for its cruelty and utter barbarism.
Somnath-Temple

Source : Mahmud Ghazni, Alauddin Khilji and Aurangjeb all looted and destroyed the temple of Somnath because of religious intolerance.

The radical Islam that wants to turn the whole world into their brand of Islamic States is as old as the religion itself that has created 56 Islamic countries so far where non Muslims may not live and they still have 140 or so more to go but they say that the time is on their side so eventually someday they will succeed or that is what they think. Now they are openly calling for the establishment of an Islamic India and are willing to shed blood to do it just like their ancestors. The tragedy is that all the Muslims in India were forcibly converted from Hinduism so basically they are the same people and of the same blood. Just check their DNA.

But the radical Islam is repudiated by the whole world now and the most violent of them all called the ISIS has been decimated and their leader killed recently while they thrive in other parts of the world that is causing bloodshed and destruction on a massive scale. Donald Trump made it very clear during his speech in Ahmedabad a few days ago that America and India will fight together this scourge of radical Islam so that there is peace between people.

The world today is a very different place from what it used to be 1400 years ago. The religion itself has seen better days in many countries where churches remain empty and few people really practice their faith. Most Muslims have nothing to do with the radicals who use terror as means to push their agenda but all it takes is a small group of people to make trouble. The violent form of Islamic radicalism has hurt more Muslims than anyone else. Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Somalia are just a few examples .

Now many countries are coming down hard on any form of radicalism and impose outright ban on them but terrorism continues in many parts. The threat of terrorism caused by radical Islam and its severe consequences can’t be ignored after what happened in New York, Mumbai or in Europe.  Now you can not travel to any country without body scan , luggage scan , patting and groping in airports. Even a simple beard and a turban or long gown makes people nervous.

Can I now ask a simple question ?  Can I ask how this poisonous seed of intolerance of other faith can be crushed and destroyed ? I think the answer lies within each of us. We have to examine our conscience and see the injustice of it all and react to it by saying that  Buddha and Jesus were right that we are all brothers and sisters no matter where we come from. Swami Vivekananda said the same thing in Chicago meeting in 1893 winning the hearts of all Americans. We should be humanist first and Muslims, Hindus , Sikhs and Christians later so that we can all learn to live together in peace and harmony because our world is the only one we have so we should leave it for the future of mankind. We must not allow radicalism in any religion to dictate to the world  how we should live. I think all the peaceful people in this world will agree with me.We simply can’t afford a third world war caused by intolerance.

 

Note : My blogs are also available in French, Spanish, German and Japanese languages at the following links as well as my biography. My blogs can be shared by anyone anytime in any social media.

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My blogs at Wix site

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Medium.com

Anil’s biography in English.

Biographie d’Anil en français

La biografía de anil en español.

Anil’s Biografie auf Deutsch

Anil’s biography in Japanese

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