In a way it is ironic. On August 15, 2021 the day India was celebrating its 75th anniversary the resurgent Taliban recaptured Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, which in ancient times was part of India.
The present day Kandahar was Gandhara, a kingdom mentioned in many ancient texts including Mahabharata.
In Mahabharata, the story goes like this: Gandhari, the mother of Kauravas was from Gandhara. So was Shakuni, her brother, who plotted the destruction of the Kauravas to avenge the assassination of his family by Bhishma. When Gandhari lost all her hundred sons in the Kurukhetra battle, she cursed Shakuni- “You would never have peace in your country.”
Stories and legends aside, in reality, Afghanistan has always been in turmoil. Landlocked and surrounded by mountains, deserts, and competing empires, Afghanistan has been shaped by war and diplomacy since the Afghan Empire was founded in 1747. A century later, geopolitical rivalries between British interests in India to the east and Russian expansion from the north influenced its present boundaries. Afghanistan’s national identity also has been molded in its modern history by resistance to foreign incursions.
Twenty years ago, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan to rout the al Qaeda terrorists behind the September 11 attacks and toppled the Afghan Taliban regime that sheltered them. Taliban leaders took refuge in neighboring Pakistan, and mounted a comeback. As US decided to withdraw their army from Afghanistan, Taliban swept the country. The US trained Afghan army could not contain them even with superior arms, air power and at least five times more personnel. It clearly showed that they lacked public support. Not that the Talibans were the messiahs and people welcomed them with open arms. Afghanistan is once again pushed into a retrograde, even barbaric rule.
So what is the future of Afghanistan? I do not know. Nor am I in a position to comment. I can only feel sorry for a country, which gave birth to some of the finest poets of the world and gave us a person like Frontier Gandhi.
Shri Krishna, the ninth incarnation or avatar of Vishnu is believed to be have been born on the Ashtami Tithi (eighth day), Krishna Paksha (waning phase of the moon) in the month of Bhadra. The purpose of his birth like of all other avatars, as underlined in the Gita- is to save the good and crush the evil. Krishna, however, is also known for positing the importance and all consuming ability of love.
The birth of Krishna in a jail cell even as his maternal uncle Kansa trying to kill him is a fascinating tale. So is his journey from the jail in Mathura to Vrindaban, where he would spend his childhood and youth. With Radha he would show to the world what pure love means. He would come back to Mathura to kill the evil king Kansa and move on to play a stellar role eliminating the Kauravas. Krishna’s life thus is divided into three distinctly different phases: a playful childhood, a boisterous lover and a seasoned statesman.
Janmastami is observed all over the country. However the celebration in Mathura, Gokul and Vrindaban- the three places associated with his birth and early life is the grandest. In Udupi, Karnataka dance-drama events called Vittal Pindi (or Rass Leela) are performed. Folk dance performances are a major part of Janmashtami festivities in Manipur too, which has a strong Vaishnabite culture. Janmastami celebration in Maharashtra is associated with Dahi-handi. Competitions for breaking a high-hung, earthen pot filled with yogurt, milk, water and fruits are held. Youths form groups, known as Govinda Pathaks, for competing with each other by forming a human pyramid for reaching the high-hung pot and breaking it as Krishna used to do in his childhood. Jagannath Temple in Puri, Odisha has its own set of celebrations that are unique to the region. People observe fast till midnight which is considered as the hour of Krishna’s birth. Dwarka in Gujarat, the place where Lord Krishna is believed to have laid down his kingdom celebrates this day as Makhan Handi.
One hundred twenty one years ago, on August 25, Nietzsche breathed his last. Born on October 15, 1844 Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a German philosopher, cultural critic, composer, poet, writer, and philologist whose work has exerted a profound influence on modern intellectual history. His uncompromising criticisms of conventional philosophical ideas and social and political pieties associated with modernity, many of which rely on psychological diagnoses that expose false consciousness infecting people’s received ideas- made him a prominent public intellectual. Some of his words and observations are so prophetic that they resonate in the present times as well. It was he who wrote, “Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth, because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.”
Tailpiece: Mobile and the Power of Jokes
Jiska koi nehi hota, Uska mobile hota hai
Jiska mobile hota hai, Wo kisika nehi hota
(One who has nobody to talk to, mobile phone comes to his rescue
One who has a mobile phone, he forgets everybody)
See the power of jokes and humourous wisecracks. In just two lines it posits the issue of the present day alienation and loneliness.
Journalist turned media academician Mrinal Chatterjee lives in Dhenkanal, Odisha. He also writes fiction and plays and translates poetry.