Thursday, May 28, 2015

Shani Shingnapur, a Lockless village where God is Guardian

Shani Shingnapur
Shani Shingnapur – Houses Have No Door Frames/Locks 

Shani Shingnapur or Shani Shingnapur is a village in the Indian state of Maharashtra which is situated in Nevasa taluka the district of Ahmednagar. The village here is known for the popular temple of Shani. The Hindu god is associated with the planet Saturn – graha and Shingnapur is about 35 km from the city of Ahmednagar.

The deity of Shingnapur – Sri Shaneshwara or Lord Shanidev, the epitome of the planet Saturn is worshipped with great reverence and devotion by several devotees from all over the world. The most amazing fact with regards to this place is that none of the temple structures has the Shanidev and there is only a simple platform on which the idol of swayambhu is placed, which is of black stone.

The devotees here unlike the other pilgrimage centres can perform puja themselves, or any other religious rituals. Exceptional aspects of the village Shingnapur, is that the houses do not have door frames or locks for the purpose of safety. The locals here are of the belief that it is the blessing of the god that there are no crimes taking place in this village. The attraction of this village is the Shri Dattatraya Temple and the tomb of Sant Shri Udai Baba.

Shouting out For Help in Case of Intruders 

This village in India with around 300 odd buildings of homes, educational institutions as well as banks do not seem to have door and the cash is stored in unlocked containers as well as the valuables like gold jewellery.

Most of the public toilets in the village square have no doors and according to a shopkeeper, Parmeshwar Mane, who informed that for the sake of privacy and on requests from women, they have recently agreed to have a thin curtain at the entrance though no doors, since it would go against their belief. Some however tend to have loose door panels against their door frames but the same is done only during night time to keep the wild animals and stray dogs away.

 The only issue with regards to the lack of doors is that there could be no indication of announcing any entry. However, according to one of the villagers, Rani explains that on shouting out someone could come to the door for rescue.

Shani Shingnapur
No Security Measures 

The locals of this village have no need of security measures since they have an undying faith in the local deity Shani – the God of Saturn. According to legends, it was believed that centuries ago, an iron and stone slab had been washed against the shore of a nearby river during a flood and when the slab was poked by cattle herders with a stick, it oozed out blood.

Shani had appeared in the dream to the village head, later that night and had revealed that the slab was his own idol who in turn informed the villagers that the idol was powerful and the need to place it under shelter was not essential. He also informed them that the villagers would not need to install doors again since they were protected from every type of danger.

A mill worker informed that the power of Shani is such that if anyone tends to steal, he would be walking all night and be under the impression that he has left the village and when the sun comes up he will find himself still in the village. They are also of the belief that anyone committing sins in the village would have to face `Sade Saati’, meaning seven and a half years of bad luck. Till date, the five foot naked slab still continues to be worshipped at the local shrine which is placed in the open.

Reputation of the Village Changed - 2010

Shani Shingnapur has inhabitants of around 5,000 locals. Its distinctive door less practice became popular in India in 1990s when the village was featured in a devotional film. Sayaram Bankar, a trustee at the shrine informed that the whole world got to known about its existence that there is a place known as Shani Shingnapur where the houses were without doors, trees but no shadows, there are gods but no temple.

Thereafter, devotees from all across the state came to see the unusual village. It is a fact that till 15years ago, the villagers were depended on sugar cane farming as their main source of income though tourism has now become their main source of income where around 40,000 tourist tend to visit this village daily.

Though this village has been free from any type of theft for centuries, the reputation of this village has changed due to some robberies where in 2010, there was a complaint from a visitor that cash and valuables amounting to Rs 35,000 had been stolen from his vehicle. This incident was dismissed by the trustee stating that the incident had been taken place outside the village.

Some of the villagers are now choosing in ignoring the legend and are installing doors and according to Ajay, a farmer, he informs that he wants to take precautions to ensure that his family is safe though he would have to face resistance from the villagers but does not want to take chances.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

India’s Bizarre Border Ritual

Wagah Border – Closing Ceremony – India/Pakistan

From Amritsar, around 30 km west to the town of Atari, on the Wagah border, the closing ceremony between India and Pakistan is a daily tradition between the two countries. It is a daily ritual which occurs at the Wagah section of the border and is accessible from the city of Amritsar.

This border area is a 200 metre space spanning the geographical boundary between the two countries where the road is lined with grandstands and divided by a gate. On either side spectators gather where the Indians are to the east and the Pakistanis towards the west. It is a highly choreographed event that is performed towards sunset amidst a huge gathering.

One will find hundreds and hundreds of locals scattered around with hawkers making their way in the crowd. The place is in an oval shaped area having large concrete steps which spread around for seating with a giant gate passing right through the middle.

The gate was the border between India and Pakistan. Foreigners are provided with their own seating area towards the front to witness the ceremony. The ceremony starts with a bang. To warm up the crowd, the officials commence to play bhangra music with the audience contributing to the beat of the music and all the women leaving their seats and dancing to the rhythm of the music in the centre of the arena dancing and radiating pride for their country.

Articipating Army Officials Compete on Loudest/Longest Shout

The women giants are given Indian flags and races are held from the centre of the arena to the border gates and back again. There is no age lime for these races which start with young girls, going back and forth, with a gradual increase on age as the competitors tend to increase.

Towards the end two women who could be of advanced age, glide through the crowds carrying the flags with no indication of old age. The participating army officials then come out from both the ends of the border shouting the names of their own countries or regions which seems like a competition on who could hold it for the longest and loudest, where they are met by their own respective crowds with deafening shouts of repetition as they make attempt to compete with the other country.

One gets the opportunity of witnessing two men from two different countries with less than 100 m apart participating in an old fashioned screaming competition.The Indian army officer together with his fellow officer,then proceed with their march across the centre of the arena attired in extravagant uniforms which is complete with adorned giant fan shaped red turban.

Ceremony – A Whirlwind of Pomp & Circumstance

Among the total of around six officers, there seems to be one ranking officer in the group who tends to continue with his shout at his men and high kicking his way around the area.

During this procedure, the gates between the two countries tend to open up with both armies continuing with their march towards each other and the rituals begin as the two groups begin directing their fiery patriotism at each other. After the exchange of fiery patriotism, the two head officers from the respective country shake hands with the closing of the gate, lowering of the flags and the ceremony comes to an end.

The whole ceremony seems like a whirlwind of pomp and circumstance, which could be weird though wonderful. It is an implausible piece of cultural curiosity and one which should not be missed.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Why Communism Fail


Communists Movement – November 7, 1917 – November 9, 1989

The great French historian, Fernand Braudel, wrote that history has various levels. Climate and geography tend to play an important role together with ideas that change slowly and gradually. The French Revolution was a moment in the West’s long tradition of violent struggles andJean-Jacques Rousseau, a comet in the galaxy of democratic theory.

The communist movement was started on November 7, 1917 when the Bolsheviks had captured the Winter Palace and dissolved between November 9, 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down and December 25, 1991, when the Soviet Union was eliminated. Communism was claimed as the guiding ideology by the Bolsheviks, though the slogans which earned support for them helped in winning the Russian Civil War, enabling them to complete their revolution.

 The Bolsheviks rose in a power vacuum which they had not brought about when the tsar stepped down in March 1917 and they were a tiny group within the large and different Russian socialist movement. All the main elements of the Russian socialist movement opposed the war, unlike their counterparts in democratic Western Europe. The destiny of the Western Socialist had been tangled with the bourgeois state, which they claimed to loathe irrespective of imperial Germany or republican France.

Source – Split Between Socialist & Communist

It was a state which they considered to co-exist, where its institutions sheltered them to some extent and its property began to trickle down to the working classes. This became the source for the split between the Socialist and Communist in the West where the former’s objective of reforming capitalism could not be compromised with the latter’s aim of modernizing the state without it.

In comparison to Russia, the socialist movement which Bolsheviks were a vital part, did not own anything to the state. They were of the belief that stardom needed no support and gave nothing. However what the Bolsheviks built was not a socialist society.

The Bolsheviks’ first move was to provide land to the peasants, who started taking it anyway, which increased the importance of private property in the new state. Some of the succeeding measures, from huge state intervention at the time of the civil war to the limited markets reforms of the New Economic Policy – 1920s, to the costly industrialization of 1930s, had little to ideology though lot to improvised realism which societies tend to display in chaos and revolution.

Fusion between the East & West

Russian Communists did face a problem that pervaded the country all through the 19th century which was modernization. The awareness of Russia’s backward situation obsessed and united the elites though the Bolsheviks were divided over what strategy to be adopted to catch up with the West.

The victorious Communist’s answer was a fusion between the East and the West wherein they had made their way to industrialization though under the guidance of older ideology, Marxist socialism, which had been initiated in Western Europe.

The Russian Communist at first presumed that their revolution would not stay on, in isolation and they would need the success of their Western companions who in turn would require the prestige of Russia’s success to supersede their local reformist rivals.

However from its initiation, the international communist movement was uncertain by an irresolvable structural tension. While in the East, the Communists were in command of underdeveloped society which needed to be industrialized quickly, in the West, where industrialization was not a problem; the Communists desired a revolutionary break with capitalism.

China More Capitalist Than Others

China tends to be more capitalist than other country and one hears that on a reasonably regular basis, even from socialist who seems to know better than the others. Old Maoist like Alain Badious claims that China turned that under Deng Xiaoping – who follows the path of the capitalist. Ephemeral socialist such as Slavoj Zizek is of the opinion that Chinese capitalism is unrestrained unlike the bourgeois democracies of Europe.

There are various prominent theories as to why communism could be unsustainable in organizing society, the one noted by Hayek and Popper, wherein the former provides a literal road map on how communism tends to fail. There are various theories on how society could or could not be organized.

 It is almost difficult to run controlled experiments on real population to envisage what could work, which is the reason why some tend to point to the failures of Soviet Russia and Maoist China since only two data aims that do not adequately prove communism seems to be a failed ideology.

Over the last two centuries, communistic societies had been tried many times especially like small communities in rural North America and most of them failed within a period of 18 months. Some of the towns like Indiana, New Harmony, Ohio, and Utopia were second generation efforts at such societies probably with the lessons learned in prior failure.

Several Intentional Communities Prevail

Few voluntary communistic experiments which lasted more than several years resulted in dilution of the communal ownership of property, since one kind of communal asset after another suffered tragedy of the commons.

Several Intentional Communities prevail presently across the globe most of which are based on socialist/communist governance though none to these communities draw more than a fraction of population in their individual countries resulting in failure at higher rates than the town which have developed from scratch. One would be of the opinion that small societies comprised of self-selected believers would provide social experiments with important survival benefits though due to some reasons, individual commitment fails to interpret into collective success.

Efforts to implement communism through state power have usually been totalitarian bloodbaths, with extreme privation. 94 million people, towards the 20th century perished in failed, state sponsored implementation of communism.

From a reasonable point of view, when every large scale implementation of governance practice tends to lead to escalating violence and compelled to make it work, it speaks about the compatibility of that governance practice with nature of the people trying to govern it. In other words, if communism seems to be incompatible on the behaviour of people, accusing human nature would not absolve communism of its failure.

To sum it, communism is a failed ideology since all efforts in implementation in either voluntarily or through compulsion have conformed to the theories foreseeing its disaster

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Fatal Conceit


Hayek’s `The Fatal Conceit’ – 1988

Friedrich Hayek – 1899 to 1992 was one among the several political and philosophers of the 20th century. Some of his most famous works like `The Road to Serfdom’, published in 1944 was an anti-socialist classic while his later works -`The Constitution of Liberty’ and `Law, Legislation and Liberty are considered permanent contributions to political philosophy. His final work `The Fatal Conceit’, published in 1988, seems to be something of a mystery.

The amount of involvement of the work’s editor, William Warren Barley is unknown, which has worried several scholars. Something that could be incorrect in the published version was brought to the notice by Jeffrey Friedman, editor of Critical Review in 1998. Friedman, in 1986, had written that `he had served as research assistant to W.W. Bartley, the editor of the book and the products of Bartley’s efforts were allegedly reviewed by Hayek.

 The Fatal Conceit – The Errors of Socialism is a non-fiction book written by Friedrich Hayek and edited by William Warren Bartley. The title of the book is related to a passage from Adam Smith in his `Theory of Moral Sentiments’. The attempt of the book is to contradict all forms of Socialism by indicating that socialist theories besides being logically incorrect, the premises they used in forming their arguments are also improper.

Birth of Civilization – Start of Societal Tradition

According to Hayek, the birth of civilization is because of the start of societal tradition with importance on private property which leads to expansion, trade and ultimately the modern capitalist system which is known as the extended order. He debates that this exhibits a key flaw in the socialist though that holds only what is purposely designed to be most efficient.

However in Hayek’s terminology of `socialist’, economies cannot be efficient due to the dispersed knowledge needed in modern economy. Moreover since modern civilization and other customs and traditions leading to current order, are needed for continuity, any fundamental change to the system trying to control it is destined to be a failure.

This is due to the impossibility or unsustainability in modern civilization and price signals are the only means in enabling each economic decision maker in communicating implied knowledge or dispersed knowledge to them for the purpose of solving the economic calculation problem. The Fatal Conceit has a unhappy history and Hayek has considered it as the great work of his last years of his career. It grew out of `The Three Sources of Human Value, the epilogue of `Law, Legislation and Liberty which was published in 1979.

The Three Sources of Human Values 

In May 1978, when Hayek was 79 years old, `The Three Sources of Human Values’, was initially given as a lecture at London School of Economics. Here, Hayek tried to convey the general direction wherein his ideas were moving towards the end of his career.

During his lecture he stressed the idea that there are three sources of human values and institutions. Besides this, there are subconscious sources that surface through group selection, in addition to genetic and intellectual sources.
These sources are not sufficiently regarded as either rational or innate. On the contrary, these are rules of human conduct which may be displayed due to the success of the human groups which practice them. Improved rules may result in more efficient human communities where the latter is defined as the communities that are most productive, materially.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Karl Popper


Karl Popper – Greatest Philosophers of Science

Karl Popper known as Sir Karl Raimund Popper, an Austrian born British philosopher of natural and social science subscribed to anti-determinist metaphysic, was of the opinion that knowledge evolves from experience of the mind. He was born on July 28, 1902, in Vienna, Austria and died on September 17, 1995, in Croydon, Greater London, England.

In the 20th century, Karl Popper was regarded as one of the greatest philosophers of science. He is also known for his rejection of the classical inductivist views on scientific methods in favour of empirical deception. Theory in empirical sciences cannot be proven though it could be fabricated which means that it should be examined by decisive experiments.

 Should the result of the experiment oppose the theory, they should refrain from ad hoc schemes that could avoid the contradictions by making it less made-up. Popper is also known for his disapproval to the classical justificationist account of knowledge that was replaced with critical rationalism by him, `the first non-justificational philosophy of criticism in the history of philosophy’. In political address, Popper is known for his vigorous defence of liberal democracy as well as the principles of social criticism. He was of the belief that it made a flourishing possibility of `open society’.

Wrote on Problems of Determinism/Free Will 

In his later years, his political philosophy held ideas from all important democratic political ideologies and also made efforts in reconciling them – social democracy, conservatism and classical liberalism. He also wrote on the problem of determinism as well as free will, researching several past thinkers on the subject, formulating his own `evolutionary’ model of free will. 
On his lecture delivered at Washington University in St. Louis in April 1965, on Arthur Holly Compton, Of Clouds and Clocks, he observed that the earlier thinkers had seen the only alternative to determinism as chance. Though Popper’s first book – The Logic of Scientific Discovery in 1934, was published by the Vienna Circle of logical positivists, he rejected their empiricism and developmental historicism. 
On studying physics, mathematics and psychology at the University of Vienna, he taught philosophy at Canterbury University College in New Zealand -1937 to 45. Towards 1945, he was a reader at the London School of Economics, serving there as a professor of logic as well as scientific method from 1949 till his retirement in 1969. 

Major Contribution – Rejection of the Inductive Method – Empirical Sciences

Karl Popper's major contribution to the philosophy of science is on his rejection of the inductive method in the empirical sciences. A scientific hypothesis can be tested and verified by attaining the repeated results of substantiating observations, as per the traditional view.

David Hume, a Scottish empiricist, had portrayed that only an infinite number of confirming result can prove that the theory could be accurate. Popper debated that hypotheses are deductively certified to what he calls the `falsifiability criterion’.

A scientist under this system tends to pursue to discover an observed exception to his assumed rule and the absence of contradictory evidence then becomes corroboration of his theory. Popper’s belief that such pseudoscience as astrology, metaphysics, Marxist history as well as Freudian psychoanalysis are not empirical sciences, due to their failure in adhering to the principle of falsifiability.

Karl Popper's later works are `The Open Society and It’s Enemies – 1945, The Poverty of Historicism – 1957, and Postscript to the Logic of Scientific Discovery, volume 3 – 1981-82/ He was knighted in 1965