Page 232. " ‘The voices babbled in everything from Malayalam to Naga dialects’ "

Tamil text inscribed in stone
Creative Commons AttributionTamil text inscribed in stone - Credit: Ravages
While the principal language of the Republic of India is Hindi, individual mother tongues in India number several hundred and according to the Indian Census of 2001, 29 languages are spoken by more than a million native speakers, 122 by more than 10,000 and there are approximately 325 dialects overall. The constitution also recognises English as the official secondary language.

The wide range of regional languages and dialects has caused much conflict and practical issues for India. During the post partition period of India’s history the religious and linguistic reorganisation of Indian states proved unpopular and language riots broke out in Madras in 1950, and across the region through the '60s and '70s, fuelling the rise of separatist movements in the 1980s.

India has adopted many ways of managing these language barriers, at India's Institute of Technology for example, exam questions are posed in either Hindi or English, and students can answer in any of the following languages: English, Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu.

Languages and Scripts of India >>

Page 244. " ‘performing the right of Puja’ "

In Hinduism, Puja is a daily ritual preparing for the day with a ritual cleansing involving devotion by the offering of food, water, drink, and prayers to a deity. Depending on what tradition one follows and situation, Puja can be performed as an elaborate family event or as simple as one person in personal time with God.

Women perform Puja in Goa
Creative Commons AttributionWomen perform Puja in Goa - Credit: S_W_Ellis

The ritual usually follows the below process:

   1. Avahana (“invocation”). The deity is invited to the ceremony.

   2. Asana. The deity is offered a seat.

   3. Svagata (“greeting”). The deity is asked if the journey has gone well.

   4. Padya. The deity’s feet are symbolically washed.

   5. Arghya. Water is offered so the deity may wash face and teeth.

   6. Acamanıya. Water is offered for sipping.

   7. Madhuparka. The deity is offered a water-and-honey drink.

   8. Snana or abhisekha. Water is offered for symbolic bathing.

   9. Vastra (clothing). Here cloth is wrapped on the image and ornaments affixed to it.

  10. Anulepana Perfumes and ointments are applied to the image.

  11. Puspa. Flowers are offered before the image, or garlands draped around its neck.

  12. Dhupa. Incense is burned before the image.

  13. Dıpa A burning lamp is waved in front of the image.

  14. Naivedya Foods such as rice, fruit, clarified butter, sugar, and betel leaf are offered.

  15. Namaskara The worshiper bows before the image to offer homage.

  16. Visarjana or udvasana. The deity is dismissed.

Page 249. " ‘Eid-ul-Fitr’ "

Eid ul-Fitr, often abbreviated to Eid, is an Islamic celebration that falls at the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. The name stems from the Arabic literally meaning "to break the fast" and so the holiday symbolizes the end of the fasting period.

Typically Muslims celebrate with a small breakfast before attending a special Eid prayer that is performed in congregation at mosques. The Eid prayer is followed by the khutbah (sermon) and then a supplication (dua') asking for forgiveness, mercy and help for all living beings across the world.  After the prayers, people also visit their relatives, friends and acquaintances to share the celebrations.

Although Eid ul-Fitr is always on the same day of the Islamic calendar, since the Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle, the date on the Gregorian (Western Solar) calendar falls approximately 11 days earlier each successive year.

Eid Celebrations in Trafalgar Square, London
Creative Commons AttributionEid Celebrations in Trafalgar Square, London - Credit: DFID