Art & Culture Minority Issues

Chin-Kuki-Zo Tribes: The Background of Ethnic Conflict in Manipur

The Manipur Chief Minister resorted to social media to charge a “unnatural growth” in the population of the state’s “Chin-Kuki-Zo” tribes, posing a perceived danger to indigenous communities and national security. 

About Chin-Kuki-Zo Tribes

Chin TribeKuki TribeZo Tribe
Ethnic CompositionMajor ethnic group in Myanmar’s Chin State, recognised for its distinct culture and language.Heterogeneous group in Northeast India, known for its various subtribes.A diverse ethnic group in Northeast India, Myanmar, and portions of Bangladesh.
Geographical DistributionPrimarily in Myanmar’s Chin State, with considerable numbers in Indian states such as Mizoram.Located primarily in Northeast India, but also in Chin State, Myanmar.It lives in northeast India, specifically Mizoram and Manipur, as well as sections of Myanmar and Bangladesh.
LanguageThe Chin language belongs to the Kuki-Chin subgroup of the Tibeto-Burman family.Kuki-Chin languages include several dialects with unique characteristics.Mizo-Kuki-Chin languages are various dialects within the Tibeto-Burman family.
Culture and TraditionsVibrant music, dancing, and festivals commemorate Chin National Day.Rich oral traditions and folk music are celebrated, as are festivals such as Chavang Kut.Chapchar Kut and Mim Kut are celebrated via rich oral literature and spectacular festivals.
LivelihoodPreviously engaged subsistence agriculture; now has varied livelihoods.Historically practiced shifting (Jhum) agriculture; presently involved in a variety of activities.Historically, shifting (Jhum) agriculture was used; today, multiple livelihood patterns exist.
ReligionPredominantly Christian, with some traditional animistic beliefs.Predominantly Christian, with old animistic customs.The predominant religion is Christianity, with traces of traditional traditions.
Socio-Political OrganizationAdvocates for cultural identity and rights, such as the Chin National Front.Promotes Kuki identity through active organisations such as the Kuki National Organisation.Promotes Zo identity, such as Zomi Council and Mizo Zirlai Pawl.

Issues with migration

Manipur’s Chin-Kuki-Zo tribes contribute to the state’s strife for a variety of reasons. 

  • Various tribal tribes have long demanded more recognition and autonomy for their ethnic identity in Manipur.
  • The Chin-Kuki-Zo tribes of Manipur have substantial land ownership and control difficulties. 
Art & Culture

In the news: Theyyam Performance Art of Kerala

  • This newscard is an excerpt from an image that appeared in today’s edition of TH.

About Theyyam

  • Theyyam is a traditional ritualistic performance art form from Kerala’s northern area.
  • It is thought to have evolved over centuries, incorporating elements of music, dance, and drama to honour numerous Hindu deities, particularly the Goddess Kali.

Key Features:

  • Theyyam performances are unique in that they take place in village shrines or joint-family houses rather than on stages.
  • Long duration: Performances might last from 12 to 24 hours, reflecting their importance in the community.
  • Ritual: The primary dancers stay near the shrine throughout the occasion and do not eat after sundown.
  • Masks and costumes: A variety of masks and face paints are utilised, all with brilliant colours.
  • Traditional Kerala instruments such as chenda (drum), tuti (flute), kuzhal (wind instrument), and veekni (percussion instrument) accompany the dancers.
  • Dance steps: Specific dance steps known as “Kalaasams” follow a set pattern.
  • Religious influence: Certain features of Theyyam, such as not eating after sunset, show religious influences from Jainism and Buddhism.
Art & Culture

Somnath Temple: A Historical Perspective

  • The opening of the Ram temple at Ayodhya on January 22, 2024, has prompted debate regarding the relationship between politics and religion in India.
  • In this historical examination, we look at the lesser-known characteristics of another famous temple, the Somnath Temple, to better appreciate its complicated historical context and the British effect on its reputation.

Somnath, till 1947

  • Historical significance: Somnath, located near Prabhas Patan, Veraval, Gujarat, is a sacred Hindu pilgrimage place.
  • Temple Legacy: The temple is renowned as the “holy place of the First Aadi Jyotirling Shree Somnath Mahadev” and is religiously significant.
  • Maratha Queen’s Effort In 1782, Maratha queen Ahalyabai Holkar constructed a tiny temple on the site, but the original’s splendour was not restored.

Somnath’s Decline

  • Historical Attacks: The temple has been attacked multiple times throughout history, including a disastrous invasion by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1026 CE.
  • Diverse monarchs: While some Muslim monarchs, such as Akbar in the sixteenth century, authorised temple worship, others, like Aurangzeb in 1706, ordered its demolition.
  • Historian Abul Fazl referred to Mahmud of Ghazni’s attack as “the plunder of the virtuous,” emphasising the temple’s significance.
  • British Intervention: During an expedition to Afghanistan in 1842, British Governor General Lord Ellenborough used the “gates of Somnath” to avenge an affront.

After Independence: 

  • The Nawab of Junagadh sought to accede to Pakistan, causing instability.
  • Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s Decision: On November 12, 1947, Patel announced the reconstruction of Somnath, which was approved by the Union Cabinet.
  • Mahatma Gandhi’s Suggestion: Gandhi advocated that the temple’s finance come from the public, which resulted in the formation of a Trust under K M Munshi.

Nehru’s Opposition to Inauguration

  • Political Implications: Nehru opposed President Rajendra Prasad’s attendance in the temple’s grand opening.
  • Concerns about Secularism: Nehru raised worries about the government’s participation in an event that may have political and revivalist overtones.
  • Financial Concerns: He criticised the Saurashtra government’s involvement in the event, citing austerity measures and economic concerns.
  • Secular State: Nehru emphasised the need of India becoming a secular state that does not participate in religious ceremonies.
  • Opposition to External Affairs Circular: He protested to a circular asking water, soil, and twigs from other nations for the event.
Art & Culture Uncategorized

Pakke-Paga Hornbill Festival

  • The 9th edition of the Pakke Paga Hornbill Festival (PPHF) will be held in Arunachal Pradesh, promoting the region’s dedication to wildlife conservation, with a specific emphasis on hornbills.
  • This event, slated for 18-20 January, 2024, in Seijosa, Pakke Kessang area, brings together various communities to work together to safeguard these unique birds and raise environmental awareness.
  • Pakke Paga Hornbill Festival’s theme is “Domutoh Domutoh, Paga hum Domutoh”.
  • Meaning: This year’s theme, which translates as “Let Our Hornbills Remain” in Nyishi, emphasises the essential need of maintaining these wonderful birds.
  • Conservation Advocacy: The PPHF acts as a platform to campaign for the preservation of hornbill populations and their natural habitats.

Emphasis on Wildlife Conservation

  • Hornbill Species: The Pakke Tiger Reserve (PTR) in Arunachal Pradesh is home to four hornbill species: wreathed, great Indian, oriental pied, and the endangered Rufous-necked hornbill.
  • Nyishi Tribal Contribution: The celebration honours the Nyishi, Arunachal Pradesh’s biggest tribal community, for their important involvement in hornbill conservation. They went from hunting hornbills to advocating for their preservation.
  • Alternative revenue: PPHF’s goal is to provide alternative sources of revenue for the region and promote awareness of PTR and its environs, so promoting economic growth while protecting the environment.
Art & Culture

Konsachem Festival in Goa and St. Bartholomew’s Feast

  • August commemorates the formation of new rice grains in Goa, which is commemorated with the Konsachem festival.

The Konsachem Festival and Its Customs

  • Background: Konsachem is a Goan Hindu and Catholic holiday that honours fresh rice grains known as konxeo in Konkani.
  • Shared Rituals: The first harvested rice sheaves are taken for blessings, with Hindus blessing deities and Catholics blessing saints.
  • Catholic Celebrations: The festival peaks for Goan Catholics on August 24, the Feast Day of St. Bartholomew, one of Jesus Christ’s 12 Apostles.
  • Observances: A procession, traditional cutting of grain, and a thanksgiving mass with offerings to St. Bartholomew are all part of the festival.

The Legacy of St. Bartholomew and Christian Faith in India

  • Bartholomew is thought to have landed in Kallianpur and preached throughout the Konkan coast, reaching as far as Karachi.
  • St. Thomas’ mission in Kerala and Tamil Nadu is well-documented, but St. Bartholomew’s services in India are less well-known yet vital.
  • Martyrdom and Influence: He is remembered for his martyrdom in Azerbaijan as well as his involvement in Christianizing Armenia and Georgia.
  • Scholars’ research highlights Christianity’s roots in India extending back to the Apostles, reaffirming Christianity’s fundamental presence in Indian religion traditions.
Art & Culture Culture of India Trivia

Karnataka’s Hoysala Temples have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Hoysala temples of Belur, Halebid, and Somanathapur in Karnataka have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites, marking a watershed moment for these architectural masterpieces.

Nomination of Hoysala Temples

  • Previous Recognition: Since 2014, the Chennakeshava temple in Belur and the Hoysaleshwara temple in Halebidu, both in Hassan district, have been on UNESCO’s tentative list.
  • Nomination Expansion: The Keshava temple in Somanathapur, Mysuru district, was added to the tentative list alongside the other two temples. In February 2022, the Centre officially nominated all three as India’s entry for 2022-23.

Distinct Architectural Style:

  • The Hoysala temples are recognised for its distinctive architectural style, which is characterised by intricate ornamentation and a stellate layout built on raised platforms.
  • These temples are made of choloritic schist, often known as soapstone, which is malleable and lends itself well to elaborate carving.
  • Many sculptures within the temples bear the signatures of the creators, which is a unique trait in Indian art history.
  • Intricate Carvings: The intricate carvings on the doors of these temples showcase the outstanding artistry of Hoysala artisans.

Timeline of Events in History

  • Construction of the Chennakeshava Temple in Belur began in 1117 CE during the reign of King Vishnuvardhana and was finished in 1220 CE.
  • Hoysaleshwara Temple in Halebid: Built in 1121 CE.
  • Somanatha Dandanayaka commissioned the Keshava Temple in Somanathapur in 1268 CE under the reign of Narasimha III.

Tourism Impact and Future Focus

  • Global attention: The UNESCO World Heritage classification is expected to offer these temples global attention and encourage tourism in the region.
  • Increasing Amenities: Authorities intend to address any UNESCO issues and focus on boosting visitor facilities such as signs and connection.
  • Management Action Plan: To maintain and promote these heritage sites, a management action plan will be adopted.
Art & Culture Culture of India

Amazing Nataraja Statue: A Celebration of Chola Art

  • The tallest statue of Lord Shiva in his dancing form in the world, the 27-foot Nataraja statue, is waiting for the G20 leaders in New Delhi’s Pragati Maidan.
  • The sculptors can trace their ancestry 34 generations back to the Cholas.

The Nataraja Work of Art

  • Created by talented craftsmen from Swamimalai, Tamil Nadu, using an eight-metal alloy (ashtadhatu).
  • It was transported across the nation on a 36-wheel trailer and weighed about 18 tonnes.

The statue’s design draws inspiration from three revered Nataraja idols:

  1. Thillai Nataraja Temple in Chidambaram.
  2. Uma Maheswarar Temple in Konerirajapuram.
  3. Brihadeeswara (Big) Temple in Thanjavur (a UNESCO World Heritage Site).

Nataraja and the Cholas

  • The Cholas were the ones who first built all three of the temples that served as inspiration for the Bharat Mandapam Nataraja statue.
  • The Cholas, who governed most of peninsular India between the ninth and eleventh centuries AD, were renowned for their support of the arts and culture.
  • Throughout the Cholas’ geographical expansion, their art and architecture blossomed.

Shiva’s significance as the Lord of Dance

  • From the Vedic god Rudra, Lord Shiva transformed into Nataraja.
  • Shiva is a complicated god who embodies both nefarious and beneficent traits.
  • Shiva is represented as Nataraja, the Lord of Dance, as both the destroyer and the guardian.
  • He is credited with creating a wide variety of dances, from serene to ferocious and orgiastic.

Symbolism of Nataraja

  • Nataraja is frequently shown surrounded by a fiery aureole or halo, which stands for the circumference of the globe.
  • He has four arms and lengthy dreadlocks that symbolise the power of his dance.
  • He is holding an agni (fire) in his upper left hand and a damru (hand drum) in his upper right.
  • Under his foot, a dwarf-like figure stands for deception.
  • The ‘abhayamudra’ (gesture to assuage fear) is made by Nataraja with his front right hand, while he points with his front left hand to his raised feet.
  • Nataraja usually has a tranquil smile on his face, which symbolises the duality of life and death despite its complicated connotation.

Lost Wax Technique

  • The age-old “lost-wax” casting technique, which originated during the Chola era, was used to produce the 27-foot Bharat Mandapam Nataraja statue.
  • This technique has been used for at least 6,000 years.
  • A wax model must be made, covered with a particular soil paste, heated to dissolve the wax, and then the soil paste is removed, leaving a hollow mould that must then be filled with molten metal.
  • The Cholas perfected this method, which is regarded as the height of metallurgical craftsmanship.
Art & Culture

Pulikkali Festival

The Pulikkali event, a traditional folk art form from Kerala, culminated the Onam festivities, with individuals dressed as tigers and leopards marched around the streets.


  • Pulikkali, popularly known as Tiger Dance, is a distinctive Kerala folk art.
  • On the fourth day of Onam, artists dress up as tigers, complete with characteristic yellow, red, and black stripes, and are accompanied by the rhythmic rhythms of traditional percussion instruments such as thakil, udukku, and chenda.
  • The core topic is tiger hunting, with individuals portraying both the tiger and the hunter.
  • Pulikkali is a rich cultural heritage that was introduced by Maharaja Rama Varma Sakthan Thampuran, the former monarch of Cochin.

The Key Highlights of the Onam Festival

  • Onam, Kerala’s most important festival, is culturally significant.
  • It is a harvest celebration that takes place at the beginning of Chingam, the first month of the Malayalam calendar.
  • The Onam Carnival lasts four to ten days, with Atham (the first day) and Thiruonam (the tenth day) being the most important.
  • According to popular belief, Onam welcomes King Mahabali’s spirit, who is said to visit Kerala around this time.
  • Vallamkali, a spectacular snake boat race on the Pampa River, is part of the event.
  • Onam has Kaikotti kali and Thumbi Thullal, two beautiful dances performed by women that add elegance to the festivities.

Art & Culture Culture of India

Muharram and Ashura

  • On the 8th of Muharram, the Jammu and Kashmir administration approved a Muharram parade in Srinagar for the first time in over three decades, attracting thousands of Shia mourners.
  • The ruling has received widespread acclaim.

What exactly is Muharram?

  • Muharram is the first month of the Islamic lunar calendar and has religious and historical significance for Muslims all over the world.
  • The word “Muharram” means “forbidden” in Arabic, indicating the month’s hallowed aspect.
  • It is one of Islam’s four sacred months, during which combat and disputes are usually prohibited.
  • It is observed by both Sunni and Shia Muslims (as well as Hindus), albeit each group has a different historical and religious significance.

Celebration of Ashura

  • Ashura, the tenth day of Muharram, is the most important day of the month.
  • Shia Muslims observe the martyrdom of Prophet Mohammed’s grandson, Imam Hussain, in the Battle of Karbala in 680 AD. During this time, the prophet’s son-in-law, Ali, and Ali’s elder son, Hassan, are also recalled as having suffered and perished.  Shia Muslims perform distinctive mourning rites on Ashura, including as self-flagellation, chest-beating, and, in certain cases, forehead cutting with sharpened knives and chains with connected blades. The Shia Community also holds a ‘Taziya,’ a tableaux parade.
  • Sunni Muslims celebrate Ashura as the day when Prophet Moses and the Children of Israel were delivered from the oppression of Pharaoh by crossing the Red Sea.
  • Hindus observe Muharram by getting themselves painted in tiger stripes, visiting families, and performing “huli kunita” as part of their “harake” (promise).

Kashmir Celebrates Ashura

  • Dogra Rulers’ Prohibition: Muharram processions were either outlawed or permitted only at night under the reign of the Dogra rulers, citing tensions between the Shia and Sunni people.
  • Despite the Dogra mandate for early processions, mourners marched during the day in the 1920s, with both Shias and Sunnis joining the procession. This became connected with the Kashmiri Muslim liberation fight.
  • Selective Permits: Later, specific people and families were granted permits to participate in processions, but the major Muharram procession was banned when militancy broke out.

The Importance of Allowing Processions

  • After a long restriction, the approval for the Muharram parade in Srinagar is an important milestone, indicating progress towards religious freedom in the region.
  • It emphasises the importance of respecting people’s religious beliefs and upholding the values of inclusivity and unity among the valley’s various groups.
Art & Culture History

ASI’s scientific survey of Gyanvapi begins

  • The Archaeological investigation of India (ASI) has begun a scientific investigation of Varanasi’s Gyanvapi mosque complex in Uttar Pradesh.
  • Its goal is to determine whether the mosque was built on top of an existing Hindu temple, a point of controversy.
  • The mosque is not an ASI-protected site, and the ASI has no participation in its preservation or maintenance.

Updates till date

(A) Varanasi Court’s Order

  • During a court-mandated survey in May 2022, a building alleged to be a “Shivling” by the Hindu side and a “fountain” by the Muslim side was discovered in a blocked part that had been unreachable since a prior Supreme Court decision.
  • Exclusion from Survey: The court ordered the ASI to exclude the sealed part from the survey, emphasising the importance of conducting a scientific inquiry to determine the historical facts.

(B) Supreme Court’s Ruling

  • Protection Order: Previously, the Supreme Court ordered that the area surrounding the alleged “Shivling” uncovered during a video survey of the complex be protected.
  • Argument of Mosque Management: According to the mosque’s management, the structure in question is part of the water fountain mechanism at the ‘wazukhana,’ the reservoir where worshippers do ablutions before offering namaz.
  • Legal Implications: Lawyers for the mosque referenced the Place of Worship (Special Provisions) Act of 1991, which forbids changing the nature of any place of worship from the status it had on August 15, 1947. This Act, however, does not relate to the legal dispute over the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid.

History of the Gyanvapi Mosque

  • The Gyanvapi Mosque was built in 1669 under the time of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, who ordered that the existing Vishweshwar temple be demolished and replaced with a mosque.
  • The old temple’s plinth was kept intact, serving as the mosque’s courtyard, while one wall was preserved and repurposed into the qibla wall, facing Mecca. The mosque’s building still contains traces of the temple’s elements.
  • The name of the mosque is derived from an adjacent well known as the Gyanvapi or Well of Knowledge.
  • Current Temple: The current Kashi Vishwanath Temple was established in the 18th century, near to the Gyanvapi Mosque, and has since become an important Hindu religious site.

Longstanding Claims and Legal Framework Claims of Hindu Worship:

  • Many Hindus believe that during Aurangzeb’s raid, the original deity of the Vishweshwar temple was hidden inside the Gyanvapi well. This notion has spurred the urge to conduct puja and rituals at the location.
  • The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, states that the nature of all places of worship, except the one in Ayodhya, must be preserved as it was on August 15, 1947. Its goal is to protect the nature of religious sites while also preventing legal challenges to pre-existing constructions.
  • Disputed Claims: The dispute contained claims on both sides, with temple worshippers arguing that the mosque was built on the site of an ancient temple and another claiming that it was erected on Wakf property.

Archaeological examination in the Spotlight:

  • In April 2021, a Fast Track Court Civil Judge ordered the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to perform a detailed physical examination of the complex. The survey sought to ascertain the structural relationship that existed between the two religious structures.
  • Criticism of the Deadline: Worshippers contend that the August 15, 1947 cut-off date for claiming religious sites is arbitrary and denies Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs the right to “reclaim” their places of worship.
  • Opposition to the Law: Since its inception, several groups have argued that the Centre lacks the jurisdiction to legislate on pilgrimage or burial locations, which belong under the state list.
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