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GODDESS SARASWATI

Goddess Saraswati symbolises learning, wisdom, discrimination and harmony, enabling one to attain enlightenment

Words: Madhuri. Y

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Navarātri is a festival dedicated to the worship of the Hindu deity Durgā. According to vedic scriptures, Goddess Durgā, a symbol of power, is worshipped in nine different forms and is therefore termed Nava-durgā. Each goddess has a different form and a special significance. In Hinduism, Mother Durgā represents the embodiment of shakti, who killed the demon Mahishāsura, who could not be defeated by any god or man. She is the epitome of divine feminism.

The nine-day festival is also a time for personal introspection. Many keep fast for nine days, which helps in mind and body purification. It is also believed that this is the time to kill the demon within us and let the divine stay. All of us have Mahishāsurs within, which need to be removed to give way to the divine. Keeping fast and concentrating on MāDurgā helps remove toxins and purify our body as well as mind.

NAVRATRI

The three goddesses Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati are worshipped during Navratri with Saraswati being worshipped on the last three days. Once Durga removes the negative aspects within us, Lakshmi brings balance to our external lives and our mind is capable of turning towards Goddess Saraswati and her learning.

Like in any other part of the country, the Navarātri (Navratri) is celebrated with much devotion in south India too. Down south the festival is celebrated in a little different way. Friends and relatives are invited to look at the kolu – exhibition of various dolls. With lot of enthusiasm young girls create kolus.

Goddesses Lakshmi, Durgā and Saraswati are worshipped for three days each. The first three days of the festival are dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi, the next three days to Durgā, and the last three days to Saraswati. Gifts of coconuts, clothes and sweets are exchanged between relatives, friends and neighbours.

Goddess Saraswati means the essence of the self, sara meaning essence and swa meaning self. Clad in white, she sits on a white lotus and rides a white swan. She is the symbol of learning and her four hands represent the four heads of Brahma, manas (mind), buddhi (intellect), chitta (thought) and ahankara (ego).

The book in her hand stands for the Vedas, which represent knowledge and learning. The rosary stands for meditation and reflection. The pot of water stands for the ability to purify and discriminate. The Veena stands for the harmony that emerges from wisdom and knowledge.

Saraswati is the goddess of wisdom and in this capacity, she is the consort of Brahma, the creator of the universe. Clad in white, she symbolises purity and clarity. It is believed that a swan has the ability to separate milk from water and drink only the milk.

Hence, the white swan is symbolic of the ability to discriminate. The goddess is seated on a white lotus in full blossom which stands for pure consciousness, that is god consciousness. All knowledge is said to lie in this space.

Goddess Saraswati’s depiction implies that wisdom lies within us. Once we learn to discriminate and separate the important things from the smaller ones, greater clarity emerges and we can become part of the pure consciousness and hence, live in joy and harmony.

When we make children write their first letters on the day of Saraswati Puja and pray to the goddess, it is simply the outward manifestation of our prayer. The real prayer is invoking her blessings in reaching the state of pure consciousness that is enlightenment.

NAMES OF GODDESS SARASWATI
Goddess Saraswati is known by many names. The most important one is Brahmajnanaikasadhana since she is believed to be the medium through which one can attain enlightenment. Her names which relate to learning and wisdom include:

Name and Meaning:

Jnanamudra – For being in a meditative pose
Mahavidya – Goddess of higher learning
Vagdevi – Goddess of speech
Bharadi – Goddess of history
Brahmi – Goddess of science
Varnesvari – Goddess of alphabet
Kavijihvagravasini – Who resides on a poet’s tongue
Vedamata – Mother of the vedas
Swaratmika – Goddess of sound
Trikalajna – One who knows the past, present and the future

Shastrarupini Goddess of learning and scriptures
Vidyarupa Embodiment of knowledge

CREATIVE WASTE MANAGEMENT METHODS

Waste management plays a crucial role in an era when countries are not only looked for the number of jobs they offer, but attitude towards the environment

Words: Steffi Mac

Development’ is probably one of the most subjective terms we have today. Each individual’s definition of the term is so different and yet so correct in its form that one cannot really restrict the word to only a certain set of activities or ideas.

But everyone will agree that when it comes to the ‘physical development’ or the ‘face lift’ of any country in any part of the world, waste management becomes the biggest question to answer. Whether it is a result of something that has been constructed or a result of human habitat, the negligence of humans is always questioned and put on the line with the ever growing waste/unusable products every day.

In an era where countries aren’t only looked upon by the number of jobs they offer or the population they have, but on their attitude towards the environment and their motivation to contribute to preserve it, waste management plays a crucial role.

India has shown promise in the field of innovation when it comes to waste management. Surely, there is room for a lot of improvement, but there is immense hope as well.

The use of plastic is convenient but has also turned into a nuisance the world over. Prof Rajagopalan Vasudevan, who teaches chemistry at a Tamil Nadu university, devised a way to transform common plastic litter into a substitute for bitumen – the main ingredient in asphalt used for road construction.

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WELL-MAINTAINED ROADS

Take for instance the roadways. Singapore has 3,324 km of modern, well-maintained roads of which 150 km are expressways. But to avoid congestion, the city has priced vehicle entry into its central business district since 1975. These are used to develop more transport infrastructure.

And if you decide to commute by trains, do not think twice. Singapore has one of the most organised railway networks in the world. During the occupation in World War II, the rails to Port Weld (now known as Kuala Sepetang and located in Malaysia) along with 150 miles of the East Coast Line were used by the Japanese to build the Burma-Siam Railway, also known as the Death Railway.

The Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system in Singapore consists of the North-South, East-West and North East lines, with a total track length of 138 km and served by 64 stations. The trains are connected to high-speed broadband internet.

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India’s rapid economic development has witnessed a surge in plastic waste. Converting the common plastic litter into bitumen actually saves 15% of the investment made by the government for road constructions.

Naturally this is bringing down plastic waste in the country by leaps and bounds. It has already been tested in about 11 states in India since 2004 and the results have been remarkable.

An IIT Kanpur team came out with a mechanism where the vortex movement of water cleans the pan surface when the toilet is flushed and pushes the solid waste downwards into a tank located at the centre.

While the centrifugal force acting outwards from a centre of rotation presses the water to the surface of the pan, the geometric design of the surface guides it through a circular path downward toward the separator.

The solid waste thus collected can be used for making compost, while the filtered water is sent to an overhead tank for storage purpose. In community toilets, the water can be sent to an overhead tank using a hand pump instead of electricity.

However, it would be required to pump twice or thrice a day. These toilets are not only eco-friendly but also economic. The micro filters cost just `100 and last for at least a year, while building a basic toilet would cost just around `8,000. This mechanism is being used by UNICEF on a trial basis in community toilets.

Sweden leads the bandwagon when it comes to waste management. It has already made its place in history for its well-known progressive environmental strides.

The country’s waste-to-energy system efficiently provides direct heating to 950,000 Swedish households and electricity to 260,000 homes. The trash management and its recycling are incredibly exemplary in Sweden with less than 1% of the total trash ending up in the landfills.
Unlike other countries, Sweden sees garbage as a commodity and imports it from other European countries to fuel its power needs, with 700kg of rubbish translating into up to 250kg of energy and fuel.

Waste products and litters are always seen as the side effects to ‘development’, but if the attitude of these countries is anything to go by, development may soon have no environmental side-effects at all.

SINGAPORE: THE INFRASTRUCTURE HUB

A country takes pride in its infrastructure. And when it is a tiny island city-state called Singapore it can take a lot of it. Join us, as we take you through Singapore’s award-winning infrastructure.

Words: Amogh Purohit

Singapore, the island city-state in Southeast Asia, is well-positioned to be the infrastructure hub with a strong cluster of companies involved in various development activities. This brings flocks of investors and tourists to Singapore.

And when it comes to making a good first impression, Singapore does it a bit too well. You are greeted with sunflower gardens inside the airport. No wonder, the Changi airport is consistently voted the world’s best in both industry and consumer polls.

The success of the airport has added a feather to Singapore’s very colourful hat and made it a regional aviation and air cargo hub. It caters to 80 airlines serving more than 180 cities in over 50 countries. The three terminals at Changi airport together handle 70 million passengers a year. Since it commenced operations in 1981 it has won more than 250 awards.

Most of Singapore’s world-renowned infrastructure has been inherited from the colonial era. This includes a well-developed transport network. After independence in 1965, the Singapore government made massive investments and put in efforts to constantly improve the infrastructure.

This island city packs a punch when it comes to infrastructure. It is served by a network of 3,324 km of roads. In the past, Singapore saw a huge spike in ownership of private cars. Quick steps were taken and a reliable public transport system was put in place.

According to a global survey of 221 cities, Singapore has the world’s best infrastructure including glass buildings, swanky malls, a top-notch airport, public transportation and water distribution system.

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WELL-MAINTAINED ROADS

Take for instance the roadways. Singapore has 3,324 km of modern, well-maintained roads of which 150 km are expressways. But to avoid congestion, the city has priced vehicle entry into its central business district since 1975. These are used to develop more transport infrastructure.

And if you decide to commute by trains, do not think twice. Singapore has one of the most organised railway networks in the world. During the occupation in World War II, the rails to Port Weld (now known as Kuala Sepetang and located in Malaysia) along with 150 miles of the East Coast Line were used by the Japanese to build the Burma-Siam Railway, also known as the Death Railway.

The Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system in Singapore consists of the North-South, East-West and North East lines, with a total track length of 138 km and served by 64 stations. The trains are connected to high-speed broadband internet.

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In fact, Singapore is the most wired country in the world, with a household broadband penetration rate of 115.2%. This ties Singapore with the US as the least expensive place in the world to make a phone call or surf the internet using a broadband connection.

The ports and maritime infrastructure are often referred to as the Gateway to Asia. Over 5,000 companies, employing over 100,000 people, keep the ports busy. This industry contributes over 7 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

Global leaders in shipping finance, ship broking, risk management and marine insurance have flourished here. Being at the epicenter of a network of trade routes and well-connected to more than 600 ports in over 120 countries, Singapore is a key hub port.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore monitors and regulates the development of ports in Singapore working in tandem with operators and shipping companies.

BUSIEST PORT

The Port of Singapore is the busiest container transhipment hub in the world. The port handles around one-fifth of global container transhipment throughput. A total of 130,575 vessels arrived at the port in 2009. It is one of the top bunkering ports in the world – 42.4 million metric tonnes of bunkers (fuel replenishment for ships) reported to have been sold in 2014..

The island is the world’s third-largest petrochemical refiner and operates the most technically advanced and efficient shipbuilding and ship repair facilities in Southeast Asia.

And if you think there isn’t room for anything more on this tiny island, you are wrong. This city-state has the world’s highest, largest rooftop pool at the Marina Bay Sands, the world’s freakiest theme park and a whole museum dedicated to ‘public housing’.

It is also home to two of the world’s three most expensive buildings including the Marina Bay Sands. It also has a concert hall shaped like a durian fruit and a museum that looks like a split banana.
In Singapore, 19th century British architecture is still intact with all its grand white monoliths, columns, balustrades and verandas, making it a delight to walk through the city and take pictures. There’s a lot to do in Singapore wherever you are, whichever time of the day.

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