Category Archives: Uncategorized

Currency

A currency in the most specific use of the word refers to money in any form when in actual use or circulation as a medium of exchange, especially circulating banknotes and coins. A more general definition is that a currency is a system of money (monetary units) in common use, especially in a nation.

Currency evolved from two basic innovations, both of which had occurred by 2000 BC. Originally money was a form of receipt, representing grain stored in temple granaries in Sumer in ancient Mesopotamia, then Ancient Egypt.

In this first stage of currency, metals were used as symbols to represent value stored in the form of commodities. This formed the basis of trade in the Fertile Crescent for over 1500 years. However, the collapse of the Near Eastern trading system pointed to a flaw: in an era where there was no place that was safe to store value, the value of a circulating medium could only be as sound as the forces that defended that store. Trade could only reach as far as the credibility of that military. By the late Bronze Age, however, a series of treaties had established safe passage for merchants around the Eastern Mediterranean, spreading from Minoan Crete and Mycenae in the northwest to Elam and Bahrain in the southeast. It is not known what was used as a currency for these exchanges, but it is thought that ox-hide shaped ingots of copper, produced in Cyprus, may have functioned as a currency.

Paper money

Song dynasty Jiaozi, the world's earliest paper money.
Song dynasty Jiaozi, the world’s earliest paper money.

In premodern China, the need for credit and for a medium of exchange that was less physically cumbersome than large numbers of copper coins led to the introduction of paper money, i.e. banknotes. Their introduction was a gradual process which lasted from the late Tang dynasty (618–907) into the Song dynasty (960–1279). It began as a means for merchants to exchange heavy coinage for receipts of deposit issued as promissory notes by wholesalers’ shops. These notes were valid for temporary use in a small regional territory. In the 10th century, the Song dynasty government began to circulate these notes amongst the traders in its monopolized salt industry. The Song government granted several shops the right to issue banknotes, and in the early 12th century the government finally took over these shops to produce state-issued currency. Yet the banknotes issued were still only locally and temporarily valid: it was not until the mid 13th century that a standard and uniform government issue of paper money became an acceptable nationwide currency. The already widespread methods of woodblock printing and then Pi Sheng’s movable type printing by the 11th century were the impetus for the mass production of paper money in premodern China.

Kerala

Kerala
Kerala

Kerala  historically known as Keralam, is an Indian state in South India on the Malabar coast. It was formed on 1 November 1956 following the States Reorganisation Act by combining Malayalam-speaking regions. Spread over 38,863 km2(15,005 sq mi), it is bordered by Karnataka to the north and northeast, Tamil Nadu to the east and south, and the Lakshadweep Sea to the west. With 33,387,677 inhabitants as per the 2011 Census, Kerala is the thirteenth-largest state by population and is divided into 14 districts with the capital being Thiruvananthapuram. Malayalam is the most widely spoken language and is also the official language of the state.

The region has been a prominent spice exporter since 3000 BCE. The Chera Dynasty was the first prominent kingdom based in Kerala, though it frequently struggled against attacks by the neighbouring Cholas and Pandyas. In the 15th century, the spice trade attracted Portuguese traders to Kerala, and paved the way for the European colonisation of India. After independence, Travancore and Cochin joined the Republic of India and Travancore-Cochin was given the status of a state in 1949. In 1956, Kerala state was formed by merging Malabar district, Travancore-Cochin (excluding four southern taluks), and the taluk of Kasargod, South Kanara.

The production of pepper and natural rubber contributes significantly to the total national output. In the agricultural sector,coconut, tea, coffee, cashew and spices are important. The state’s coastline extends for 595 kilometres (370 mi), and around 1.1 million people in the state are dependent on the fishery industry which contributes 3% to the state’s income.

Kerala is one of the prominent tourist destinations of India, with backwaters, beaches, Ayurvedic tourism and tropical greenery as its major attractions.

DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation)

"Strength's Origin is in Science"
“Strength’s Origin is in Science”

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is an agency of the Republic of India, charged with the military’s research and development, headquartered in New Delhi, India. It was formed in 1958 by the merger of the Technical Development Establishment and the Directorate of Technical Development and Production with the Defence Science Organisation. It is under the administrative control of the Ministry of Defence, Government of India.

With a network of 52 laboratories, which are engaged in developing defence technologies covering various fields, like aeronautics, armaments, electronics, land combat engineering, life sciences, materials, missiles, and naval systems, DRDO is India’s largest and most diverse research organisation. The organisation includes around 5,000 scientists belonging to the Defence Research & Development Service (DRDS) and about 25,000 other scientific, technical and supporting personnel.

DRDO started its first major project in surface-to-air missiles (SAM) known as Project Indigo in 1960s. Indigo was discontinued in later years without achieving full success. Project Indigo led to Project Devil, along with Project Valiant, to develop short-range SAM and ICBM in the 1970s. Project Devil itself led to the later development of the Prithvi missile under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) in the 1980s. IGMDP was an Indian Ministry of Defence programme between the early 1980s and 2007 for the development of a comprehensive range of missiles, including the Agni missile, Prithvi ballistic missile, Akash missile, Trishul missile and Nag Missile.

Children’s Day

Children’s Day is celebrated across India to increase awareness of the rights, care and education of children. It is celebrated on 14 November every year on the birth anniversary of the first Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru also called ‘Chacha Nehru’. Nehru is often cited as saying that children should always be carefully and lovingly nurtured, as they are the future of the nation and the citizens of tomorrow.

Children’s Day (Bal Diwas) was first celebrated in 1964 after the death of Pandit Nehru.

Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi ( 2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948) was the preeminent leader of the Indian independence movement in British-ruled India. Employing nonviolent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. The honorific Mahatma—applied to him first in 1914 in South Africa – is now used worldwide. He is also called Bapu in India. In common parlance in India he is often called Gandhiji. He is unofficially called the Father of the Nation.

Born and raised in a Hindu merchant caste family in coastal Gujarat, western India, and trained in law at the Inner Temple, London, Gandhi first employed nonviolent civil disobedience as an expatriate lawyer in South Africa, in the resident Indian community’s struggle for civil rights. After his return to India in 1915, he set about organising peasants, farmers, and urban labourers to protest against excessive land-tax and discrimination. Assuming leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1921, Gandhi led nationwide campaigns for easing poverty, expanding women’s rights, building religious and ethnic amity, ending untouchability, but above all for achieving Swaraj or self-rule.

Gandhi famously led Indians in challenging the British-imposed salt tax with the 400 km (250 mi) Dandi Salt March in 1930, and later in calling for the British to Quit India in 1942. He was imprisoned for many years, upon many occasions, in both South Africa and India. Gandhi attempted to practise nonviolence and truth in all situations, and advocated that others do the same. He lived modestly in a self-sufficient residential community and wore the traditional Indian dhoti and shawl, woven with yarn hand-spun on a charkha. He ate simple vegetarian food, and also undertook long fasts as a means of both self-purification and social protest.

His birthday, 2 October, is commemorated as Gandhi Jayanti, and world-wide as the International Day of Nonviolence.

Mahatma Gandhi, was assassinated at the Birla House (now Gandhi Smriti) in New Delhi on 30 January 1948. Gandhi was outside on the steps where a prayer meeting was going to take place, surrounded by a part of his family and some followers, when Nathuram Godse, a Hindu nationalist and prominent member of Hindu Mahasabha, approached and shot him three times in the chest at close range. Gandhi was taken back inside the Birla House, where he died.

OLYMPICS

The modern Olympic Games or Olympics are leading international sporting events featuring summer and winter sports competitions in which thousands of athletes from around the world participate in a variety of competitions. The Olympic Games are considered the world’s foremost sports competition with more than 200 nations participating. The Olympic Games are held every four years, with the Summer and Winter Games alternating by occurring every four years but two years apart.

Their creation was inspired by the ancient Olympic Games, which were held in Olympia, Greece, from the 8th century BC to the 4th century AD. Baron Pierre de Coubertin founded the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1894. The IOC is the governing body of the Olympic Movement, with the Olympic Charter defining its structure and authority.

The evolution of the Olympic Movement during the 20th and 21st centuries has resulted in several changes to the Olympic Games. Some of these adjustments include the creation of the Winter Olympic Games for ice and winter sports, the Paralympic Games for athletes with a disability, and the Youth Olympic Games for teenage athletes. The IOC has had to adapt to a variety of economic, political, and technological advancements. As a result, the Olympics has shifted away from pure amateurism, as envisioned by Coubertin, to allowing participation of professional athletes. The growing importance of mass media created the issue of corporate sponsorship and commercialisation of the Games. World wars led to the cancellation of the 1916, 1940, and 1944 Games.

I.O.C. headquarters at Lausanne
I.O.C. headquarters at Lausanne

There are several Olympic rituals and symbols, such as the Olympic flag and torch, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies. Over 13,000 athletes compete at the Summer and Winter Olympic Games in 33 different sports and nearly 400 events. The first, second, and third-place finishers in each event receive Olympic medals: gold, silver, and bronze, respectively.

Olympic Symbols
The Olympic flag
The Olympic flag

The Olympic Movement uses symbols to represent the ideals embodied in the Olympic Charter. The Olympic symbol, better known as the Olympic rings, consists of five intertwined rings and represents the unity of the five inhabited continents (Africa, America, Asia,Oceania, Europe). The coloured version of the rings—blue, yellow, black, green, and red—over a white field forms the Olympic flag. These colours were chosen because every nation had at least one of them on its national flag. The flag was adopted in 1914 but flown for the first time only at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium. It has since been hoisted during each celebration of the Games.

The Olympic motto, Citius, Altius, Fortius, a Latin expression meaning “Faster, Higher, Stronger” was proposed by Pierre de Coubertinin 1894 and has been official since 1924.

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.

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

Indian Space Research Organisation(ISRO)

The Indian Space Research Organisation(ISRO) is the space agency of the Indian government headquartered in the city of Bangalore. Its vision is to “harness space technology for national development”, while pursuing space science research and planetary exploration.

Formed in 1969, ISRO superseded the erstwhile Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) established in 1962 by the efforts of independent India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and his close aide and scientist Vikram Sarabhai. The establishment of ISRO thus institutionalised space activities in India. It is managed by the Department of Space, which reports to the Prime Minister of India.

ISRO headquarter in Banglore
ISRO headquarter in Bangalore

ISRO built India’s first satellite, Aryabhata, which was launched by the Soviet Union on 19 April in 1975. In 1980, Rohini became the first satellite to be placed in orbit by an Indian-made launch vehicle, SLV-3.

ISRO subsequently developed two other rockets: the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) for launching satellites into polar orbits and the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) for placing satellites into geostationary orbits. These rockets have launched numerous communications satellites and earth observation satellites. Satellite navigation systems like GAGAN and IRNSS have been deployed. In January 2014, ISRO successfully used an indigenous cryogenic engine in a GSLV-D5 launch of the GSAT-14.

ISRO sent one lunar orbiter, Chandrayaan-1, on 22 October 2008 and one Mars orbiter, Mars Orbiter Mission, which successfully entered Mars orbit on 24 September 2014, making India the first nation to succeed on its first attempt, and ISRO the fourth space agency in the world as well as the first space agency in Asia to successfully reach Mars orbit.