The Indian Air Force

The Crest of the Indian Air Force
The Crest of the Indian Air Force

The Indian Air Force is the air arm of the Indian armed forces. It is the world’s fourth largest air force. Its primary responsibility is to secure Indian airspace and to conduct aerial warfare during a conflict.

It was officially established on 8 October 1932 as an auxiliary air force of the British Empire and the prefix Royal was added in 1945 in recognition of its services during World War II. After India became independent from the United Kingdom in 1947, the Royal Indian Air Force served the Dominion of India, with the prefix being dropped when India became a republic in 1950.

Since independence, the IAF has been involved in four wars with neighbouring Pakistan and one with the People’s Republic of China. Other major operations undertaken by the IAF include Operation Vijay,Operation Meghdoot, Operation Cactus and Operation Poomalai. Apart from conflicts, the IAF has been an active participant in United Nations peacekeeping missions.

The President of India serves as Supreme Commander of the IAF. The Chief of Air Staff, an Air Chief Marshal, is a four-star officer and commands the Air Force. There is never more than one serving ACM at any given time in the IAF. The rank of Marshal of the Air Force has been conferred once, to Arjan Singh, by the President of India on 26 January 2002 and he became the first five-star rank holding officer of IAF & serves as the ceremonial chief.

The IAF’s mission is defined by the Armed Forces Act of 1947, Constitution of India and the Air Force Act of 1950,in the aerial battlespace, as:

Defence of India and every part there of including preparation for defence and all such acts as may be conducive in times of war to its prosecution and after its termination to effective demobilisation.

World Post day

World Post day happens each year on October 9, commemorating the date for the establishment of Universal Postal Union (UPU) in 1874 in Bern, Switzerland. The UPU was the start of global communications revolution, allowing people could write to others all over the world.

Penny Black- First postage stamp
Penny Black- First postage stamp

The Penny Black was the world’s first adhesive postage stamp used in a public postal system. It first was issued in Great Britainon 1 May 1840, for official use from 6 May of that year. It features a profile of Queen Victoria.

In 1837, British postal rates were high, complex and anomalous. To simplify matters, Sir Rowland Hill proposed an adhesive stamp to indicate pre-payment of postage. At the time it was normal for the recipient to pay postage on delivery, charged by the sheet and on distance travelled. By contrast, the Penny Black allowed letters of up to 12 ounce (14 grams) to be delivered at a flat rate of one penny, regardless of distance.

Postal delivery systems using what may have been adhesive stamps existed before the Penny Black. The idea had at least been suggested earlier in the Austrian Empire, Sweden, and possibly Greece.

A postcard or post card is a rectangular piece of thick paper or thin cardboard intended for writing and mailing without an envelope. Shapes other than rectangular may also be used. There are novelty exceptions, such as wood postcards, made of thin wood, and copper postcards sold in the Copper Country of the U.S. state of Michigan, and coconut “postcards” from tropical islands.

The claimed first printed picture postcard
The claimed first printed picture postcard

The world’s oldest postcard was sent in 1840 to the writer Theodore Hook from Fulham in London, England. The study and collecting of postcards is termed deltiology.

Alzheimer’s Disease(AD)

Alzheimer’s disease (AD), also known as just Alzheimer’s, is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that usually starts slowly and gets worse over time. It is the cause of 60% to 70% of cases of dementia.

The most common early symptom is difficulty in remembering recent events (short-term memory loss).  As the disease advances, symptoms can include problems with language, disorientation (including easily getting lost), mood swings, loss of motivation, not managing self care, and behavioural issues. As a person’s condition declines, they often withdraw from family and society. Gradually, bodily functions are lost, ultimately leading to death. Although the speed of progression can vary, the average life expectancy following diagnosis is three to nine years.

The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is poorly understood. About 70% of the risk is believed to be genetic with many genes usually involved. Other risk factors include a history of head injuries, depression, or hypertension. The disease process is associated with plaques and tangles in the brain. A probable diagnosis is based on the history of the illness and cognitive testing with medical imaging and blood tests to rule out other possible causes. Initial symptoms are often mistaken for normal ageing. Examination of brain tissue is needed for a definite diagnosis. Mental and physical exercise, and avoiding obesity may decrease the risk of AD. There are no medications or supplements that decrease risk.

No treatments stop or reverse its progression, though some may temporarily improve symptoms. Affected people increasingly rely on others for assistance, often placing a burden on the caregiver; the pressures can include social, psychological, physical, and economic elements. Exercise programmes are beneficial with respect to activities of daily living and can potentially improve outcomes.  Treatment of behavioural problems or psychosis due to dementia with antipsychotics is common but not usually recommended due to there often being little benefit and an increased risk of early death.

International Day of Peace

The International Day of Peace, sometimes unofficially known as World Peace Day, is observed annually on 21 September. It is dedicated to world peace, and specifically the absence of war and violence, such as might be occasioned by a temporary ceasefire in a combat zone for humanitarian aid access. The day was first celebrated in 1982, and is kept by many nations, political groups, military groups, and people. In 2013, for the first time, the Day was dedicated by the Secretary-General of the United Nations to peace education, the key preventive means to reduce war sustainably.

To inaugurate the day, the United Nations Peace Bell is rung at UN Headquarters (in New York City). The bell is cast from coins donated by children from all continents except Africa, and was a gift from the United Nations Association of Japan, as “a reminder of the human cost of war“; the inscription on its side reads, “Long live absolute world peace

Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21 September. The General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.

The Day’s theme for 2016 is “The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace.”

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals were unanimously adopted by the 193 Member States of the United Nations at an historic summit of the world’s leaders in New York in September 2015. The new ambitious 2030 agenda calls on countries to begin efforts to achieve these goals over the next 15 years. It aims to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all.

The Sustainable Development Goals are integral to achieving peace in our time, as development and peace are interdependent and mutually reinforcing.

Ozone Layer

Ozone Layer
Ozone Layer

The ozone layer or ozone shield is a region of Earth’s stratosphere that absorbs most of the Sun’s ultraviolet(UV) radiation. It contains high concentrations ozone (O3) in relation to other parts of the atmosphere, although still small in relation to other gases in the stratosphere. The ozone layer contains less than 10 parts per million of ozone, while the average ozone concentration in Earth’s atmosphere as a whole is about 0.3 parts per million. The ozone layer is mainly found in the lower portion of the stratosphere, from approximately 20 to 30 kilometres (12 to 19 mi) above Earth, although the thickness varies seasonally and geographically.

The ozone layer was discovered in 1913 by the French physicists Charles Fabry and Henri Buisson. Measurements of the sun showed that the radiation sent out from its surface and reaching the ground on Earth is usually consistent with the spectrum of a black body with a temperature in the range of 5,500–6,000 K (5,227 to 5,727 °C), except that there was no radiation below a wavelength of about 310 nm at the ultraviolet end of the spectrum. It was deduced that the missing radiation was being absorbed by something in the atmosphere. Eventually the spectrum of the missing radiation was matched to only one known chemical, ozone. Its properties were explored in detail by the British meteorologist G. M. B. Dobson, who developed a simple spectrophotometer (the Dobsonmeter) that could be used to measure stratospheric ozone from the ground. Between 1928 and 1958, Dobson established a worldwide network of ozone monitoring stations, which continue to operate to this day. The “Dobson unit”, a convenient measure of the amount of ozone overhead, is named in his honor.

The ozone layer absorbs 97 to 99 percent of the Sun’s medium-frequency ultraviolet light (from about 200 nm to 315 nm wavelength), which otherwise would potentially damage exposed life forms near the surface.

The United Nations General Assembly has designated September 16 as the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer.

Venus also has a thin ozone layer at an altitude of 100 kilometers from the planet’s surface.

Ozone depletion

The ozone layer can be depleted by free radical catalysts, including nitric oxide (NO), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydroxyl (OH), atomic chlorine (Cl), and atomic bromine (Br). While there are natural sources for all of these species, the concentrations of chlorine and bromine increased markedly in recent decades because of the release of large quantities of man-made organohalogen compounds, especially chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and bromofluorocarbons. These highly stable compounds are capable of surviving the rise to the stratosphere, where Cl and Br radicals are liberated by the action of ultraviolet light. Each radical is then free to initiate and catalyze a chain reaction capable of breaking down over 100,000 ozone molecules.

The breakdown of ozone in the stratosphere results in reduced absorption of ultraviolet radiation. Consequently, unabsorbed and dangerous ultraviolet radiation is able to reach the Earth’s surface at a higher intensity.

Onam – The State festival of Kerala

Onam is a major festival celebrated in the state of Kerala in India. It is also the State festival of Kerala. The festival falls during the Malayalam month of Chingam (Aug – Sep) and marks the commemoration of home-coming of the King Mahabali and to pray to the fifth avtaar(incarnation) of lord Vishnu, known in Hinduism as Vamana.

Onam festival of Kerala
Onam festival of Kerala

In Kerala, it is the festival celebrated with most number of cultural elements such as Vallam Kali, Pulikali, Pookkalam, Onathappan, Thumbi Thullal, Kummati kali, Onathallu, Onavillu, Kazhchakkula, Onapottan, Atthachamayam etc. Onam is reminiscent of Kerala’s agrarian past, as it is considered to be a harvest festival.

Onam is an ancient festival which still survives in modern times. It is one of the rarest festivals which is celebrated by a complete State, irrespective of religion, caste and creed.celebrates the Asura King Mahabali’s annual visit from Patala (the underworld). Onam is unique since Mahabali (locally known as Maveli) has been revered by the people of Kerala. The King is so much attached to his kingdom that it is believed that he comes annually from the nether world to see his people living happily. It is in honour of King Mahabali that Onam is celebrated. The deity Vamana, also called Thrikkakarappan is also revered during this time by installing a clay figure next to the floral carpet (Pookalam).

Mahabali’s rule is considered the golden era of Kerala, ancient Bharata. The following song is often sung over Onam:

“Maveli nadu vaneedum kalam,

manusharellarum onnupole

amodhathode vasikkum kalam

apathangarkkumottillathanum.

adhikal vyadhikalonnumilla

balamaranangal kelppanilla

Dushtare kankondu kanmanilla

Nallavarallathe illa paaril..illa paaril

kallavum illa chathiyumilla

ellolamilla polivachanam

kallampparayum cherunazhiyum

kallatharangal mattonnumilla

Vellikolaadikal naazhikalum

Ellam kanakkinu thulyamaayi..thulyamaayi”

The Ten Days of Onam Celebrations

The celebrations of Onam start on Atham day, 10 days before Thiruvonam. The 10 days are part of the traditional Onam celebrations and each day has its own importance in various rituals and traditions.

  1. Atham The first day of Onam celebrations starts with Atham day in the Malayalam month of Chingam. It is believed that King Mahabali starts his preparations to descend from Pathala (netherworld) to Kerala on this day. The day also marks the start of festivities at Thrikkakara temple, which is considered as the focal centre of Onam and the abode of Mahabali, with the raising of the festival flag. The Onam celebrations across the state, starts off with a grand procession at Thrippunithura near Kochi called Atthachamayam. In olden days, the Kochi Maharaja used to head a grand military procession in full ceremonial robes from his palace to the Thrikkakara temple. After independence, the public took over the function and celebrated as a major cultural procession which kicks off the official celebrations of Onam. Elephant processions, folk art presentations, music and dancing make Athachamyam a spectacular event which is now aggressively promoted as a tourist event.

The traditional ritual of laying pookkalam (floral carpet) starts on Atham day. The pookkalam on this day is called Athapoo, and it is relatively small in size. The size of the pookkalam grows in size progressively with each day of the Onam festival. Only yellow flowers will be used on Atham with only one circular layer made and the design is kept simple. Statues or figurines of Mahabali and Vamana are also installed at the entrance of each house on this day.

2. Chithira The pookkalam design on the second day consists of a second layer added on top with 2 different colours apart from yellow (mostly orange and creamy yellow). On this day, people start cleaning the household to prepare for the Thiruvonam day.

3.Chodhi On the third day of Onam celebrations, the pookalam starts growing in its size by adding new layers or designs with at least 4 to 5 different flowers. 

4.Vishakam The fourth day of Onam celebrations. Vishakam is considered to be one of the most auspicious days of Onam. In olden days, the markets open their harvest sale on this day, making one of the busiest days in the markets for public. Nowadays, Vishakam marks the start of many Onam-related competitions such as Pookkalam competition.

5.Anizham The fifth day of Onam celebrations is one of the most important days in the Onam celebration, as it kicks off the great Vallamkali (Snake boat race) in many parts of Kerala. The snake boats are prepared for participation in the boat race at Aranmula Uthrattathi Vallamkali. A mock Vallamkali is conducted on this day at Aranmula as a dress-rehearsal for the final boat race which will be held after Onam.

6.Thriketa The sixth day of Onam celebrations. By the sixth day, the public frenzy starts building up. Most of the schools and public offices are granted holiday from this day onwards and people start packing their bags to their native homes to celebrate the festival with their dear ones. The pookkalam design will be very large by this time, with at least 5 to 6 new flowers types added to the original designs.

7.Moolam The seventh day of Onam celebrations. On this day, the smaller versions of traditional Ona Sadya (Onam lunch feast) start in many places. Most of the temples offer special sadyas on from this day. Festivities include Puli Kali (masked leopard dance) and traditional dance forms like Kaikotti Kali which are performed in various functions. The official Government celebrations start on this day with heavy illuminations in Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode along with fireworks.

8.Pooradam The eight day of Onam celebrations. The day starts off with a major traditional ritual where the small statues of Mahabali and Vamana will be washed and cleaned and taken around the house in a procession. It will be later installed in the centre of the pookkalam smeared with a rice-flour batter. The smearing is done by small children who are called Poorada unnikal. From this day onwards, the statue will be called Onathappan (Lord of Onam). The pookkalam design from Pooradam day onwards gets much bigger and complex in design. Shopping is one of the major activities as the public will be making final purchases for the great Thiruvonam day.

9.Uthradom The ninth day of Onam Celebrations. Uthradom is the ninth and the penultimate day of the festival of Onam. It is considered as Onam eve and celebrated in a very big way. The importance of this day is last minute extreme shopping frenzy called as Uthradappachil and is considered the most auspicious day for purchase of fresh vegetables and fruits along with other provisions from the Thiruvonam day.

Uthradam is known as ‘First Onam’ because it marks the day when King Mahabali descends onto Kerala. Traditional myths say that the king will spend the next four days touring his erstwhile kingdom and blessing the subjects. Due to this, Uthradom is celebrated in a very pompous manner with larger pookkalams and celebrations in all households. The Uthradom lunch is generally grand. Women normally cut the first set of vegetables on this day that marks the celebrations of Thiruvonam in each household and preparations for grand Thiruvonam feast also start during the evening of Uthradom day.

10.Thiruvonam The tenth and final day of Onam celebrations that culminates the 10 days of Onam Carnival. The day is known as Thiru-Onam (Sacred Onam Day) also known as ‘Second Onam’. Myth says that this was the day Mahabali was sent to the netherworld ( Pathalam) by Vamana. The day marks the return of Mahabali to his fabled land (Kerala), as per the boon he received from Vamana to meet his subjects and bless them. Apart from this myth, this day is considered auspicious being birthdays of several temple deities representing Vishnu, like Vamana of Thrikkakara temple, Sree Padmanabha Swamy of Thiruvananthapuram etc.

Activities begin early in the morning. People clean their house, apply rice flour batter on the main entrance (a traditional welcome sign), take an early bath, wear new clothes and distribute alms to needy. The eldest female member of each family presents clothes to all the members of the family. Special prayers and Masses are organized in temples, churches and mosques that highlight the secular nature of festival. The pookkalam is prepared to welcome Mahabali.

In Thrikkakara temple, a mega-feast is conducted which is open to the public and is attended by more than twenty thousand people. The afternoon is marked with various traditional Onam games, usually seen in rural areas, and are organized by resident associations and clubs in large cities. In some parts of Kerala, people indulge in various games and dances (Onakkalikal) during and post Thiruvonam. These include Thiruvathirakali, Kummattikali, Pulikali etc.

Pookkalam

The floral carpet, known as ‘Onapookkalam’, is made out of the gathered blossoms with several varieties of flowers of differing tints pinched up into little pieces to serve the decorator’s purpose. It is considered a work of art accomplished with a delicate touch and a highly artistic sense of tone and blending. When completed, a miniature pandal (umbrella) hung with little festoons is erected over it.

Onam Sadya

The Onam sadya (feast) is another very indispensable part of Thiruvonam, and almost every Keralite attempts to either make or attend one. The Onasadya reflects the spirit of the season and is traditionally made with seasonal vegetables such as yam, cucumber, ash gourd and so on. The feast is served on plantain leaves and consists of about 26 dishes

International Literacy Day

September 8 was proclaimed International Literacy Day by UNESCO on November 17, 1965. Its aim is to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies. On International Literacy Day each year, UNESCO reminds the international community of the status of literacy and adult learning globally. Celebrations take place around the world.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of International Literacy Day and UNESCO is celebrating it under the banner “Reading the Past, Writing the Future”. International Literacy Day 2016 celebrates and honours the past five decades of national and international engagement, efforts and progress made to increase literacy rates around the world. It also addresses current challenges and looks to innovative solutions to further boost literacy in the future.

Now International Literacy Day is celebrated worldwide, bringing together governments, multi- and bilateral organizations, NGOs, private sectors, communities, teachers, learners and experts in the field. On this day also International Literacy Prizes are awarded to people with outstanding solutions that can drive literacy towards achieving the 2030 Education Agenda. This year the focus is on innovation.

This is the first year of implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In this context the vision of literacy is aligned with lifelong learning opportunities with special focus on youth and adults. Literacy is a part of Sustainable Development Goal 4, which aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. The target is that by 2030 all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy (SDG Target 4.6).

The International Literacy Day will be celebrated all around the world. The main global celebration of the day will take place at UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, the highlight of which will be the awarding of the Literacy Prizes. At the same time the Global Alliance for Literacy (GAL) will be launched, a new and ambitious initiative to make all major stakeholders pull together to promote literacy as a foundation for lifelong learning.