Nihangs


  • Recently, in Patiala (Punjab), a group of Nihangs attacked a Punjab police party, has put the spotlight on the Nihangs.

About Nihang

  • Nihang is an order of Sikh warriors, characterised by blue robes, antiquated arms such as swords and spears, and decorated turbans surmounted by steel quoits.
  • Etymologically the word nihang in Persian means an alligator, sword and pen but the characteristics of Nihangs seem to stem more from the Sanskrit word nihshank which means without fear, unblemished, pure, carefree and indifferent to worldly gains and comfort.

Origin

  • The Nihangs trace their origins to the founding of the Khalsa Panth by the 10th Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh, around 1699.
  • Many claim the sect to be “guru di laadli fauj” (the guru’s favourite army).
  • The armed sect is believed to have emerged from the Akaal Sena, a band of soldiers of Guru Hargobind, the sixth guru.
  • Later, the Akaal Sena metamorphosed into the ‘Khalsa Fauj’ of the 10th guru.

Social Structure

  • The Nihangs are not one consolidated sect or group
  • There are very divided and while following the same traditions and norms, they have their own independent deras, some of which are at loggerheads with one another for prominence,
  • Men and women both train in horsemanship, swordsmanship, and in the Punjabi martial art known as gatka.

Difference with other Sikh warriors

  • Nihangs did not consider themselves subordinate to any Sikh chief and thus maintained their independent existence.
  • They observe the Khalsa code of conduct in its strictest sense. They do not profess any allegiance to an earthly master.
  • Instead of saffron they hoist a blue Nishan Sahib (flag) atop their shrines.
  • Nihangs use the slogans ‘chhardi kala’ (forever in high spirits) and ‘tiar bar tiar’ (state of ever preparedness) for unforeseen events.
  • The Nihangs are fond of a popular drink called shardai or sharbati degh (sacrament drink) which contains grounded almonds, cardamom seeds, poppy seeds, black pepper, rose petals and melon seeds.
  • When a small measure of cannabis is added to it, it is termed sukhnidhan (treasure of comfort).
  • A higher dose of cannabis in it was known as shaheedi deg, sacrament of martyrdom. It was taken (while) battling enemies.

Role in Sikh History

  • Nihangs had a major role in defending the Sikh panth after the fall of the first Sikh rule (1710-15) when Mughal governors were killing Sikhs, and during the onslaught of Afghan invader Ahmed Shah Durrani (1748-65).
  • Nihangs also took control of the religious affairs of the Sikhs at Akal Bunga (now known as Akal Takht) in Amritsar.
  • Their clout came to an end after the fall of Sikh Empire in 1849 when the British authorities of Punjab appointed a manager (sarbrah) for the administration of the Golden Temple in 1859.

Thrissur Pooram Festival


Why is it in News?

The temple festival of Thrissur Pooram was held in Thrissur, Kerala on 13th May, 2019.

About the Festival:

  • It is a one day annual festival which involves ten temples in and around Thrissur. The history of Pooram dates back to the late 18th century. It was started by Sakthan Thampuran, the Maharaja of the former Kochi state.
  • In the Pooram ceremony the deities of these temples come together to pay obeisance to Lord Shiva at the Vadakumnathan Temple, located in the centre of the town.
  • One of the hallmarks of the ‘Thrissur Pooram’ is the musical percussion ensemble consisting of traditional instruments like chenda, maddalam, edakka, thimila and kombu.
  • Elephants are important part of Pooram festivities. The replicas of the deities, participating in the Pooram are carried atop the elephants as they proceed towards the Vadakumnathan temple. While 30 elephants are part of the main Pooram festivities, another 60 or 70 tuskers form a part of the smaller processions of the participating temples.
  • Although a Hindu ritual, Pooram has grown to encompass all religious and cultural strains of Kerala. Both the Muslim and Christian communities participate in the festival in a variety of ways.


Source: IE

Hampi Architecture


Why is it in News?

Tourist footfall in Hampi is down by nearly a lakh between April 2018 and March 2019, despite the fact that group of monuments at Hampi was listed on number two in ‘Must see’ tourist spot by the New York Times.

About Hampi:

  • Hampi, also referred to as the Group of Monuments at Hampi, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in state of Karnataka.
  • It became the centre of the Hindu Vijayanagara Empire capital in the 14th century.
  • Vijaynagara was the capital of Vijaynagara Empire which is present day Hampi.
  • Hampi is situated on the bank of Tungbhadra (or Pampa), hence is also referred to as Pampakshetra.

How did we come to know about Vijaynagara Empire?

Various travelers came under the different rulers during this period and they have left the account of systems prevalent during this phase. For eg.,

  • Nicolas Conti (Italian) came during Dev Raya 1
  • Abdul Razzak (Arabian) came during Dev Raya II
  • Domingo Paes (Portugese) came during Krishna Dev Raya I

These travellers have explained the prevalent administrative culture, traditions etc. during the period of Vijayanagara Empire.

Hampi Architecture:

  • Mainly Dravidian in nature
  • Indo Islamic influence can be seen in almost all the temples.
  • Combinations of Cholas, Pandyas & Chalukya Style.
  • Temples were built mainly from local granite along with the lime, mortar etc.
  • Some temples during this period are - Vittala temple, Virupaksha temple (dedicated to Shiva etc.)


Source: TH, CCRT, NCERT

Sangeet Natak Akademi (SNA)


Why is it in News?

This year marks the 100th century of Jallianwala Bagh Massacre and SNA had organised a drama on the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre to showcase the atrocities done to the unarmed masses.

About Sangeet Natak Akademi:

  • The Sangeet Natak Akademi is India's national academy for music, dance and drama and is the first national academy of the arts set-up by the Republic of India.
  • It was created by a resolution of the (then) Ministry of Education, Government of India in 1952.
  • The Sangeet Natak Akademi is presently an autonomous body of the Ministry of Culture, Government of India and is fully funded by the government for implementation of its schemes and programmes.
  • It is SNA that coordinates the matters related to Intangible Cultural Heritage and various UNESCO Conventions.
Source: sangeetnatak.gov.in.

Kulhadar Miniature Painting


What are the Different Styles of Indian Painting?

Indian Paintings can be broadly classified into two groups:

1. Mural Paintings- Found predominantly before 11th Century A.D.

2. Miniature Painting- Found predominantly after 11th Century A.D.

Mural Paintings:

  • Usually done on walls and has its genesis in the Gupta Period.
  • The best examples of this style of painting are paintings on the Ajanta & Ellora Caves.

Miniature Paintings:

  • Miniature is derived from the word ‘MINIA’ in Renaissance period which means ‘RED’. Miniature painting does not mean small.
  • Size of the Miniature Paintings cannot be greater than 25inches.
  • Scaling of size shall not be greater than 1/6.
  • It can be executed on books, clothes, paper and even glass.
  • One of the finest examples of Miniature Painting is ‘Bani Thani’ by Nihal Chand of Marwar School of Painting.

About Kulhadar Painting:

This miniature painting originated in 16th Century A.D. and is completely indigenous i.e. it has no tinge of either Persian or Mughal style of painting.

What is Unique about this Painting?

  • The style of these miniatures is marked by the use of brilliant contrasting colours, vigorous and angular drawing, transparent drapery and the appearance of conical caps 'Kulha' on which turbans are worn by the male figures.
  • This group of painting includes illustrations of the 'Chaurapanchasika' – ‘Fifty Verses of the Thief by Bilhan, the Gita Govinda, the Bhagavata Purana and Ragamala.

Source: TH

Tholpavakoothu


Tholpavakoothu is a form of shadow puppetry that is practiced in Kerala.

Genesis of this Puppetry:

It is believed to have originated in the late 9th Century A.D. and this puppetry uses Kamban Ramayana as its basic text. This art form is dedicated to Bhadrakali.

When is this Art Form Performed?

This art form is performed generally in the months of January to May. It is performed using leather puppets in Devi temples in specially built theatres called koothumadams.

Source: TH

Ambubachi Mela


The Ambubachi Mela is an annual Hindu fair held at the Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati, Assam. It is four day fair to mark the menstruation of Kamakhya Goddess.

Significance of the Festival:

  • The ritualistic fair celebrating the goddess’ annual menstruation period is one of the reasons why the taboo associated with menstruation is minimal in Assam compared to other parts of India.
  • Celebration of this festival leads to dissemination of knowledge related to menstruation hygiene.

Source: TH

Theyyam


About the Dance form:

  • Theyyam is derived from a Sanskrit word ‘Daivam’ which means God’s Dance.
  • Theyyam is a popular ritual form of worship in Kolathunadu area of Kerala, which is performed by men only.
  • Theyyam is usually performed in front of sacred groves which are locally called as ‘Kaavu’.
  • Theyyam is a ritualistic performance where pantheistic deities are summoned to the body of the performing man, one who is almost always from a subaltern community.
  • In this dance form, dancers spin and twirl to the frantic drums and they enter a state of trance before collapsing. It takes a while for them to revive after which devotees seek their blessings.

Striking Features of Theyyam:

  • People wear colorful costumes and elaborate makeup.
  • Performers of Theyyam wear headgears of around 5 to 6 ft.

Instruments used in this Dance Form: Chenda, Tudi, Kuzhal, Veekni etc.

Source: TH

Gita Govind


Why is it in news?

The Victoria Memorial Hall (VMH) in Kolkata displayed the handwritten script of Gita Govind from the 17th century to mark International Mother Language Day (21 February).

About Gita Govind:

The Gita Govinda (songs of Govind/ Krishna) is a work composed by the 12th-century Indian poet, Jayadeva. It describes the relationship between Krishna and Radha. This book puts Radha on higher pedestal than Krishna and the poems/ texts of this book have been an inspiration for many compositions and choreographic works in Indian classical dances. Jaydeva was the courtier of Laxman sena of Sena Dynasty, Bengal.

Source: TH

Kattaikoothu


Why is it in News?

The Kattaikkuttu Sangam recently completed the performance of their drama ‘Abhimanyu’.

What is it?

  • It is a Tamil-language based physical and vocal form of rural, open-air ensemble theatre. It is widespread in the northern and central parts of the state of Tamil Nadu in South India.
  • Kattaikkuttu uses different kinds of song, music, articulated prose, acting, movement, make-up and elaborate costumes. It produces all-night narrative events most of which are based on the pan-Indian epic, the Mahabharata.
  • The performers – by tradition only men - sing, act and dance and the musicians accompany them on the harmonium, the mridangam and the mukavinai.
It uses a wide range of media that require multiple skills, including a strong voice, versatile acting and movement skills and a talent for spontaneous comedy.