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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Editorial

KUFIT sustains the commitment to continue though our appearance of late has been intermittent. This is one of the several good things we do and aspire to do in the University. So, our delay is reasonable.We promise not to fail. And we will keep on asking you to contribute by writing, by reading and by letting your own circle of friends know that we have this small platform.

We heartily thank our regular contributors. They have kept their promises despite having the same extent of engagement as we. They have helped us keep the zeal for keeping the forum alive. They have helped make it more professional and interdisciplinary by providing us diversity of themes and subjects.

We present KUFIT in a new template and platform. The previous site reportedly failed to open in certain places, and that some antiviruses blocked it. We hope the present site is more accessible. We hope it serves the purpose of intellectual engagements.

We expect your feedback.

In this issue:

1. The Omnipresent Force by Pushpa Raj Adhikary

2. सोमरस भनेको मदिरा नै हो त? by Mukunda Upadhyaya

3. Open and Distance Learning in Nepal... by Khagendra Acharya

4. अन्तरिक्ष-विज्ञान सम्बन्धमा केही चर्चा by Nirmala Mani Adhikary

5. Breathtaking Beijing by Kashiraj Pandey

6. On Identity by Hem Raj Kafle

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Posted by on July 22, 2012 in Editorial, KUFIT MAG

 

The Omnipresent Force

– Pushpa Raj Adhikary

We call the pull of the earth on the bodies the force of gravity. The measure of this pull is called the weight of the body. There is no escape from the gravity and its eternal laws are valid even in the remotest parts of the universe. It equally pervades vacuum and the densest substance. There is no way of shielding from it or acting on it. Its action is less and less when we move away from earth but does not vanish completely. Gravity makes rivers flow down to the sea, keeps the atmosphere around the earth, and is the cause of tides in the oceans. We have to use force to overcome gravity if we want to move away from the earth.

Since time immemorial, living beings had to reckon with gravity, and learned to adapt to it. The force of gravity, which makes everything move towards it, was unexplained for ages. The first man to develop a scientific theory of gravity and apply it to study of the universe was the great Englishman, Sir Isaac Newton.

The anecdote that Newton discovered the law of gravity by watching an apple fall from a tree may or may not be true. It has been said that he invented this story to get rid of people demanding explanation of just how he discovered the great law. Today, any high school student knows this law with such an ease that it seems strange indeed that there was a time when learned men had not the slightest idea about it. However, it is not as it may appear to us and it took the genius of Newton to discover it.

Newton’s studies convinced him that not only earth attracts an apple but an apple also attracts the earth. In fact, every material body attracts other material bodies towards it. But then why the apple moves towards the earth but not the earth towards the apple? This attraction or pull or force exists between the earth and all heavenly bodies too. This is known as the force of gravitation.Any material object attracts all other material objects and this attraction is in proportion to the weight of an object. The heavier a body, the stronger is the attraction. The weight of the earth is enormous compared to the weight of an apple or a man. Hence, the attraction exerted by the earth on other objects is also very strong compared to the attraction of an apple on earth or by a man on earth. This attraction of the earth makes every body move towards earth. The attraction between two material bodies increases if they come closer or if their weights are increased.

About seventy years before Newton’s time, the great German Scientist Johannes Kepler discovered the law as how planets moved around the sun. But in Kepler’s time nobody knew why the planets moved as explained by him. Newton, with the help of the law of universal gravitation, could explain why the planets moved around the sun as explained by Kepler. The universal law of gravitation found another brilliant confirmation in the discovery of the planet Neptune. Astronomers had long discovered that the planet Uranus occasionally appeared to stray from its orbit. Sometimes it would slow down its motion and again it would go faster as if drawn by some invisible force. The law of gravitation predicted that the anomaly in the motion of Uranus was due to the presence of another planet farther from Uranus and soon astronomers discovered a new planet Neptune.

For many decades Newton’s theory of Gravitation appeared perfect. But then facts began to accumulate which could not be explained by the law of universal gravitation alone. One of these is the Seeliger paradox. This paradox goes this way. The universe is infinite and is infinitely variable. Its lifetime too, is unlimited. It is more or less filled with material bodies and so can be assumed to possess some mean density of matter. Seelinger decided to apply the universal law of gravitation to determine the gravitational force which an infinite universe would exert at any point within it. This force was found proportional to the radius of the universe. As the radius of the universe is infinite, so the force would be. But this is not the case. Does it mean that the law of Universal gravitation is not valid on universal scale?

Another phenomenon in which the conclusions of gravitational theory did not quite agree with observations was found in the displacement of the orbit if the planet Mercury. Very accurate calculations of the orbit of Mercury reveal that the point closer to the sun suffers a precession or displacement. For a long time this precession of the orbits of Mercury remained unexplained. It took a revolution in science to explain it, and the revolution was carried out by a young German Scientist, Albert Einstein.

It is a long known fact that if a gun fires at a distance we see the flash of light some time before we hear the sound. This tells us that sound travels in a far less speed that the light. It was possible to measure the speed of sound in the surface of the earth as 330 meters per second. But it is much harder to measure the speed of light because light travels with an incredible speed of 3,00000 kilometers per second. A ray of light can circle the earth in just over 0.1 second i.e. one tenth of a second. For a long time people were unable to measure the speed of light. It was finally measured by observing the eclipses of the satellites of the planet Jupiter from two points on earth’s orbit around the sun, when the earth was closed and farther from Jupiter. Today it is measured in laboratory conditions to a high degree of precession by means of rotating mirrors. In fact, not only light but all electromagnetic waves travel with light’s speed as the electromagnetic field moves through space.

But how do electromagnetic fields propagate through space? Does gravitational force also propagate through space in the form of gravitational field? If so, how fast does a gravitational field travel? As fast as sound in air, light in vacuum or with some other speed? Can the attraction between the bodies happen directly without the participation of the intervening medium? Do the gravitational force and gravitational field also propagate with the same speed of light or have a finite velocity? A new scientific theory was needed to explain the propagation of electromagnetic field through space and its foundation was laid in 1905-1915 by Albert Einstein in his special and general theories of relativity based on the geometries of Lobachevski and Riemann.

One of the fundamental conclusions of the special theory of relativity, which defines the interconnection between space and time, is the equivalence of mass and energy. The theory states that a moving body carries kinetic energy, hence its mass is greater than when it is at rest. The greater a body’s latent energy is, the greater is its mass. A cup of hot coffee is heavier than cold coffee in the same cup. The famous equation E=mc2 is Einstein’s formula of mass-energy equivalence.

But what is meant by a body’s mass? The mechanical concept of mass states that mass is a measure of a body’s inertia. Hence, mass can be expressed in terms of force and the acceleration which it imparts to the body. In physics, mass measured in this way is known as inertial mass. But mass can also be measured from Newton’s formula of gravitation. This mass of bodies which may be at rest relative to one another is known as gravitational mass. The physical interpretation of inertial and gravitational mass are different but quantitatively have, to date, been found to be the same no matter how they are measured. This led Einstein to think that inertia and gravitation must have a common origin. So, if a body’s inertial mass varies with the velocity of motion, then, he reasoned, the gravitational mass should also vary with the velocity of motion.

Einstein’s identification of inertia and gravity on the basis of the equality of inertial and gravitational mass of great significance. It enabled him, in 1915, to develop the general theory of relativity, which is the modern theory of gravitation. This modern theory offers a much more exact and profound explanation of the properties of the bodies than Newton’s theory. Einstein’s theory was a revolution in physics which provided explanation for many hitherto unexplained phenomena. But it would hardly be useful to present the theory in common language as it contains largely mathematical, extremely complicated equations belonging to the class of non-linear differential equations in spite of the clarity of its physical meaning.

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2012 in Science

 

सोमरस भनेको मदिरा नै हो त ?

– मुकुन्दप्रसाद उपाध्याय

मदिरापान एक्काइसौँ शताब्दीमा हरेक सम्भ्रान्त परिवारको संस्कृति बनिसकेको छ। मदिरापान गर्ने वर्गहरू आफूलाई सभ्य र सुसंस्कृत बताउँछन्। तर मदिरापान कुलीन वर्गको मात्र वर्गीय पहिचान होइन। सर्वहारादेखि सर्वमारासम्मको हरेक वर्गमा यो व्याप्त छ। वास्तवमा यो नसा हो, व्यसन हो। निम्नवर्गले निम्नकोटिको मदिरा सेवन गर्छन् त कुलीन या उच्चवर्गले उच्चकोटिको। फरक त्यत्ति हो। मेडिकल साइन्सले मदिरापान स्वास्थ्यका लागि हानिकारक प्रमाणित गरिसकेको छ।

हाम्रो समाजमा ब्राह्मणजाति बुज्रुक, अग्रज अनि चतुर र छट्टु जाति मानिन्छ। मदिरापानको कुलतमा फसेका यस जातिका विद्वान्हरू आफ्नो ज्ञान र विद्वत्ताको दुरुपयोग गर्दै ‘मदिरापान हाम्रो वैदिक संस्कृति हो, स्वर्गका देवताहरू पनि सोमरस पान गर्ने गर्थे’ भन्दै आफ्नो लतलाई उच्चता प्रदान गर्न उद्यत देखिन्छन्। के देवताहरूको प्रिय वस्तु, देवताहरूले पान गर्ने, वैदिक यज्ञमा चढाइने सोमरस पनि साँच्चिकै नसालु पेयपदार्थ नै थियो त ? यस लेखमा यसैको परिचर्चा गर्न खोजिएको छ।

हिन्दूधर्मलाई सनातनधर्म भनिन्छ। किनकि यो वेदविहित धर्म हो, अनि वेद अनादि, सनातन र अपौरुषेय हो। त्यसैले अचेल हाम्रो हिन्दूधर्मलाई सनातन वैदिक धर्म भनेर परिभाषित गर्ने गरिन्छ। वेद अनादि र अपौरुषेय भनेर जान्दाजान्दै पनि हाम्रा केही आध्यात्मिक चिन्तक, इतिहासकार र संस्कृतिविद्हरू वेदरचनाको कालखण्ड पहिल्याउनमा तल्लीन छन्। तिनको बुद्धिविलासका अनुसार तिनीहरूले ‘ऋग्वेद’ को रचनाकाल आजभन्दा ५ हजार वर्षदेखि ६ हजार वर्षका बीचमा रहेको अनुमान लगाएका छन्। ‘ऋग्वेद’ मा प्रमुख देवताका रूपमा इन्द्रको उपासना र स्तुति गरिएको छ। इन्द्रपछिका अन्य प्रमुख देवताहरूमा सूर्य, अग्नि, वरुण, वायु, मरुत्, अश्विनिकुमार, सोम, मित्र, विश्वदेव, ऋभु, वृहस्पति आदि छन्। यी सबै देवताहरूले सोमरस पान गर्ने गरेको कुरा ‘ऋग्वेद’ मा सयौँपटक आउँछ। ‘ऋग्वेद’ मा इन्द्रलाई सोमपान गर्नेहरूमध्ये धेरै सोमपान गर्ने देवताका रूपमा वर्णन गरिएको पाइन्छ। इन्द्रलाई देवताहरूका राजा, भोगविलासमा रमण गर्ने, सुरासुन्दरीप्रति आसक्त, इन्द्रियासक्त विषयी देवताका रूपमा पुराणहरूले समेत स्वीकारेका हुँदा ‘ऋग्वेद’ मा वर्णित इन्द्रले पान गर्ने, इन्द्रलाई मन पर्ने पेयपदार्थ सोमरसलाई मदिरा बताउनेहरूको तर्कलाई पनि ठाडै नकार्न सक्ने ठाउँ छैन।

तर यो शास्त्रको सतही बुझाइ र आफ्नो रुचिअनुसारको विश्लेषण हो जस्तो लाग्छ। मदिरालाई चलनचल्तीको भाषामा रक्सी भनिन्छ, शास्त्रमा सुरा पनि भनिन्छ, रसायनशास्त्रको भाषामा अल्कोहल भनिन्छ अनि अल्कोहलको मात्रामा र स्वादमा विविधताका दृष्टिले मदिराभित्र ह्विस्की, ब्रान्डी, रम, बियर, वाइन, जाँड, तोङ्वा अनि रूखबाट सोझै निकालिने खजुर र ताडी आदि सबै पर्दछन्। यी सबै मादक पेयहरू मूलभूत रूपमा तीन किसिमले बन्दछन् — (१) अन्नबाट बनाइन्छ, २. फलहरू र फूलहरू (महुवा आदि) बाट बनाइन्छ, अनि (३) विशेष प्रजातिको वृक्षलाई ताछेर त्यसको रस वा चोपबाट बनाइन्छ। यसरी बनाइने मदिराहरूमध्ये कुनचाहिँ मदिरा देवताहरूले पान गर्ने सोमरससँग मिल्दोजुल्दो छ त ? यो पनि चर्चाको विषय हुन सक्छ।

एकथरी सन्त–महात्माहरूले गरेको अभिभाषण वा प्रवचनमा ‘वेदवर्णित देवताहरूले पान गर्ने भनेको सोमरस मदिरा किमार्थ होइन, किनभने सोम भनेको चन्द्रमा हो र चन्द्रमाको शीतलतालाई पान गर्ने कामलाई नै सोमरसपान भनिएको हो’ भनेर अथ्र्याएको मैले सुनेको छु। नेपाल राजकीय प्रज्ञाप्रतिष्ठान

(हालको नेपाल प्रज्ञाप्रतिष्ठान) द्वारा प्रकाशित ‘नेपाली वृहत् शब्दकोश’ मा ‘सोमरस’ लाई ‘सोमलता नामको लहराबाट निकालिने देवताहरूले पान गर्ने रस एवं सोमरसले झैँ मत्याउने पेयपदार्थ’ भनेर अर्थ लगाइएको छ। सोही शब्दकोशमा ‘सोमलता’ लाई चाहिँ ‘शुक्लपक्षमा दिनहुँ पातहरू पलाउने र कृष्णपक्षमा क्रमशः झर्दै गएर औँसीको दिनमा डाँठ मात्र बाँकी रहने हिमालयतिर पाइने एक लहरो’ भनिएको छ। शब्दकोशले उक्त लहरोको बोटानिकल नाम भने दिन सकेको छैन। यसरी शब्दकोशले परोक्ष रूपले सोमरसलाई मत्याउने पदार्थका रूपमा स्वीकारेको देखिन्छ। साथै उक्त शब्दकोशमा नै ‘सुरा’ शब्दको अर्थ दिने क्रममा ‘(१) रक्सी, मदिरा, मद्य, (२) सोमरस, (३) जल, पानी’ भनेर थप भ्रम सिर्जना गरिदिएको देखिन्छ।

यी प्रश्नहरू वा शङ्काहरूको निवारण गर्न फेरि वेदतिर नै जाऊँ। हिन्दूहरूको मात्र होइन, मानवजातिकै प्राचीनतम ग्रन्थका रूपमा ‘ऋग्वेद’ लाई मानिएको छ। यस कुरामा पाश्चात्य विद्वान्हरूको पनि विमति छैन। वेद विभिन्न समयमा विभिन्न ऋषिहरूले साक्षात्कार गरेका मन्त्रहरूको सङ्ग्रह हो। मन्त्रसङ्ख्याको दृष्टिले १०५५२ मन्त्रहरू भएको ‘ऋग्वेद’ लाई वेदहरूमध्येको जेठो र गहन मानिएको छ। वेदलाई संहिता, ब्राह्मण, आरण्यक र उपनिषद् गरी चार भागमा विभाजन गरिएअनुसार ‘ऋग्वेद’ का पनि चार भाग छन्। ऐतरेय र कौषीतकी यी दुई ‘ऋग्वेद’ का ब्राह्मण हुन्। आरण्यकहरूमा ऐतरेयारण्यक, साङ्ख्याउन र कौषीतकी गरी तीन आरण्यकहरू प्रसिद्ध छन्।

वेदका मन्त्रहरूलाई ऋचा भनिन्छ। ‘ऋग्वेद’ को पहिलो मण्डलको सूक्त २३ को २३० औँ ऋचामा ‘हे वायुदेव ! आऊ र यी दूध मिसाइएका कडा सोमरसहरू पान गर’ भनेर भनिएको प्रसङ्ग र सोही मण्डलको सूक्त ५ को ४५ औँ ऋचामा सोमरसलाई दहीमिश्रित पवित्र पदार्थका रूपमा उद्धृत गरिएबाट केही धार्मिक विद्वान्हरूले ‘ऋग्वेद’ मा वर्णित सोमरस पञ्चामृत हुन सक्ने तर्क अघि सारेका छन्। वैदिक कर्मकाण्डका यज्ञ, पूजा आदिमा सबै देवीदेवताहरूलाई पञ्चामृत अर्पण गरिन्छ, जुन पाँच पदार्थको मिश्रित झोल हो। ती पाँच पदार्थहरूमा गाईको दूध, गाईको दही, गाईको घिउ, सखर (वा चिनी) र मह पर्दछन्। ‘ऋग्वेद’ को बाँकी प्रसङ्गलाई बेवास्ता गरेर ती दुई ऋचाहरूलाई मात्र लिँदा सोमरसलाई हालको पञ्चामृतजस्तो रस भनेर भन्न सकिन्छ। तर अन्य प्रसङ्गहरूमा चाहिँ वनस्पति वा लतातिर बढी सङ्केत गरिएको छ।

‘ऋग्वेद’ कै प्रथम मण्डलको सूक्त ५ को ३७ औँ मन्त्रमा सोमरसलाई यज्ञको सम्पत्ति, नेताहरूलाई उत्साहित गर्ने, वहनशील, साथीहरूलाई आनन्द दिने, शीघ्र प्रभाव पार्ने भनेर वर्णन गरिएको छ। वेदको यो वर्णनमा रहेको ‘नेतृत्ववर्गलाई उत्साहित गर्ने, आनन्द दिने र शीघ्र प्रभाव पार्ने’ यी तीन गुण मदिराको गुणसँग मिल्ने भएकाले केही पण्डितहरूले मदिराको नाता सोमरससँग जोड्न खोजेको देखिन्छ।

‘ऋग्वेद’ को सूक्त २८ को ३१३ औँ मन्त्रमा ‘पिँध मोटो भएको ढुङ्गालाई माथि राखेर त्यहाँ ओखलमा पिसिएको सोमरस बारम्बार खाऊ’ भनेर इन्द्रको स्तुति गरिएकाले सोमरस ओखलमा पिसेर निकालिने रस रहेछ भन्ने बुझिन्छ। सोही सूक्तको ३१४ देखि ३२१ सम्मका ८ वटा मन्त्रहरूमा मुस्ली र ओखलबाट सोमरस उत्पादन हुने कुराको उल्लेख छ, अनि वृक्ष–वनस्पतिहरूको पनि उल्लेख भएको हुँदा कुनै वनस्पतिविशेषलाई ओखलमा पिसेर विशिष्ट प्रकारको मीठो रस निकालिने कुरो बुझिन्छ। चास्नीमा छानेर सोमरस निकाल्ने प्रविधिको समेत उल्लेख गरिएको छ। सूक्त ३० मा पुनः दूध मिसाइएको सोमरसको वर्णन छ। हाल चलनचल्तीमा खाइने रक्सी, बियर आदि विश्वमा कहीँ कतै पनि दूधसँग मिसाएर अथवा दहीसँग मिसाएर खाइने चलन छैन। त्यसैले मदिरासँग सोमरसको एकता स्थापित गर्न सकिँदैन। वेदवर्णित सोमरस उत्पादन गर्ने विधि र मदिरा उत्पादन गर्ने विधिमा पनि फरक छ। सोमरस निकाल्न ओखल, मुस्ली आदि प्रविधि पाइएकाले यो प्रविधि वनौषधि निकाल्ने आयुर्वेदिक प्रविधि रहेको प्रतीत हुन्छ।

‘ऋग्वेद’ को पहिलो मण्डलको ८९७ औँ ऋचामा सोमरसलाई शीतलता प्रदान गर्ने, आनन्द दिने र बल दिने भनिएको छ भने ९०४ औँ ऋचामा ‘ऋत्विक्हरूले इन्द्रको प्रसादका रूपमा सोमरस खाँदा साँच्चै नै तृप्त भएर आ–आफ्नो शरीर हल्लाए’ भनिएको छ। यहाँ ‘खाएर शरीर हल्लाए’ भनिएबाट सोमरस मादक पदार्थ हुन सक्ने अनुमान गरिएको हुन सक्छ। त्यस्तै त्यही मण्डलको ९०७ र ९०८ औँ ऋचामा इन्द्रलाई सोमरसले मनग्गे खुसी पारेको हुँदा ‘गएर आफ्नी पत्नीसँग पारिवारिक सुख प्राप्त गर’ भनिएबाट सोमरस पुष्टिवद्र्धक अति पौष्टिक पेय हो भन्ने अर्थबोध हुन्छ। यसै गरी अन्य ऋचाहरूमा पनि सोमरसलाई बल दिने, मीठो, स्वादिलो आदि विशेषण दिइएको छ।

यसरी शास्त्रहरूमा वर्णित सोमरसपान र सुरापान बिलकुलै फरक कुरा हुन् भनेर बुझ्नुुपर्ने हुन्छ। वेदमा उल्लिखित अश्वबलि र पशुबलिको साङ्केतिक अर्थ नबुझेर वर्तमान हिंसाप्रधान बलि र केही आदिवासी समाजमा प्रचलित नरबलिलाई वेदसँग जोड्ने धृष्टता गरिएजस्तै अचेलको मदिरालाई वैदिक सोमरससँग जोड्नु पनि धृष्टता नै हो। वेदमा धेरै ठाउँमा यज्ञलाई अहिंसामय यज्ञ भनेर बताइएबाट पनि पशुबलि वैदिक यज्ञको विरासत होइन भनेर बुझ्नुपर्ने थियो।

‘ऋग्वेद’ को प्रसङ्गबाट कतिसम्मचाहिँ प्रस्ट हुन्छ भने सोमरस सात्विक पेयपदार्थ हो जो देवताहरूले पान गर्दथे, यो यज्ञको एक अङ्ग पनि हो, कुनै खास वनस्पति वा लतालाई कुटेर त्यसको रस छानेर सोमरस बनाइन्थ्यो, जुन रस दही र दूधसँग मिसाएर सेवन गर्दा अझ बढी लाभदायक हुन्थ्यो। यज्ञमा सोमरस पान गर्न सबै वैदिक देवताहरू आउन आतुर हुने स्थितिलाई बुझ्दा केचाहिँ अर्थ लगाउन सकिन्छ भने सोमरस देवताहरू आफैँले उत्पादन गर्न नसक्ने तर मनुष्यहरूले उत्पादन गरेर देवतालाई अर्पण गर्न सक्ने झोल पदार्थ रहेछ।

‘महाभारत’ को उद्योगपर्वमा महात्मा विदुर र राजा धृतराष्ट्रबीचको संवाद छ जसलाई विदुरनीति पनि भनिन्छ। त्यसमा विदुरले एउटा राजाले सातवटा दुर्गुणबाट टाढै रहनु भनेर मद्यपानलाई पनि एउटा दुर्गुण बताएका छन्। भद्रपुरुषले मद्यपान गर्न हुँदैन भन्ने विदुरको ठहर छ। ऋग्वेदकालीन इन्द्र देवताका राजा, भगवान् विष्णुका अंशपुरुष भएका कारणले इन्द्रले पान गर्ने सोमरस मद्यपान हुने सम्भावना देखिँदैन।

‘श्रीमद्भगवद्गीता’ को सत्रौँ अध्यायमा श्रीकृष्णले अर्जुनलाई बताएको सात्विक, राजसी र तामसी खाद्यवस्तुको व्याख्याअनुसार मदिरा दुर्गन्धित, बासी, उच्छिष्ट मादक द्रव्य भएकाले त्यो तामसी भोजन हो। तामसी वस्तु वैदिक यज्ञमा चढ्ने या चढाइने कुरै भएन। परम्परागत रूपमा रक्सी सेवन गर्ने विश्वका केही आदिवासी जनजातिहरूले भौगोलिक विशिष्टताका कारण जाडोबाट बच्न रक्सी सेवन गर्ने गरेका र आफूले सेवन गरेको वस्तु आफ्ना इष्टदेवतालाई समेत अर्पण गर्ने गरेका कारण त्यो नै परम्परा बन्न गएको र देवतालाई पनि रक्सी चढाउन थालिएको कुरा बुझ्न सकिन्छ। तान्त्रिक पद्धतिमा पनि देवतालाई मदिरा चढाइन्छ, तर वैदिक पद्धतिमा मदिरा वर्जित छ र ब्राह्मण–क्षत्री मात्र चतुर र छट्टु जाति भएकाले तिनीहरूले आफूले सेवन गर्ने सबै वस्तु भगवान्लाई चढाउँदैनन् वा भनौँ देवताहरूलाई नचढ्ने अभक्ष वस्तुसमेत भक्षण गर्ने गरेका छन्।

वेदमा सोमयाग, राजसूययज्ञ, अश्वमेधयज्ञ आदि ठूला–ठूला यज्ञहरूमा सोमलतालाई पिसेर मन्त्रोच्चारणसहित सोमरस निकाली देवतालाई चढाउने प्रसङ्ग आउँछ। यो रस पुष्टिवद्र्धक, वीर्यवद्र्धक र पवित्र रस भएकाले देवताहरूलाई अर्पण गरिएको हुँदा ऋचाहरूको प्रसङ्ग, सन्दर्भ र सङ्केतलाई नबुझेर वा बढी बुझेर त्यो रसलाई सुरा वा मदिरा थियो भन्नु भनेको वेदका त्यस्तै मन्त्रहरू नबुझेर वा बढी बुझेर अश्वबलि र पशुबलिबाट बलिप्रथा र नरबलिप्रथा जस्ता गलत प्रथाहरूलाई परम्परा र धर्मको जलप लगाइदिएजस्तै हो भन्न सकिन्छ। प्रकृति वा ईश्वरका स्थलचर, जलचर र नभचर जीवहरूमध्ये अनि ब्रह्माजीका दस प्रकारका सृष्टिहरूमध्ये मानवजातिलाई उत्कृष्ट मानिएको छ। अन्य चराचुरुङ्गी र जीवजन्तुहरूभन्दा मानवलाई उत्कृष्ट बनाउने तàवका रूपमा मानवजातिलाई बुद्धि र विवेक दिइएको छ। त्यसैका कारण मानवजाति सिर्जनशील, कलाकार, चिन्तक, लेखक, अन्वेषक, वैज्ञानिक, दार्शनिक आदि बन्न सक्छन्, अन्य जीवहरू सक्तैनन्। यसरी प्रकृतिप्रदत्त बुद्धि र विवेकलाई केही क्षणका लागि विस्मृत गराई हामीलाई बुङ्गुर–सुँगुरजस्तो पशुतुल्य बनाउने मदिरा कसरी सोमरस हुन्छ होला त ? मानवभन्दा श्रेष्ठ सृष्टि रहेका देवताहरूले यज्ञमा कसरी मद्यपान गर्छन् होला त?

खाद्यप्रविधिसम्बन्धी विशेषज्ञहरू ह्विस्की, रम र ब्रान्डीबाहेक वाइनहरूमा १० देखि १३ प्रतिशतसम्म अल्कोहल हुने, बियरहरूमा ५ देखि ७ प्रतिशतसम्म (प्रिमियम बियरमा चाहिँ बढी) अल्कोहल हुने र टनिकहरूमा ५ प्रतिशतभन्दा कम अल्कोहल हुने कुरा बताउँछन्। सोमरस बन्ने सोमलता पनि एक प्रकारको लता भएकाले लतामा सुगर हुन्छ। त्यस्तो सुगर ग्लुकोजबाट नसालु पेय बनाइँदा पनि ५ प्रतिशतभन्दा बढी अल्कोहल हुने सम्भावना देखिँदैन।

यसरी हेर्दा सोमरस पुष्टिवद्र्धक, बलवद्र्धक र गुलियो, मीठो हुने हुँदा भिटामिन टनिकजस्तो पेय पदार्थ हुन सक्छ भन्न सकिन्छ, जसमा ४–५ प्रतिशत अल्कोहलको मात्रा रहनु अस्वाभाविक देखिँदैन। वनस्पति कुटेर सोमरस बनाइने हुँदा यो पेय पनि तराईतिरका वनस्पति खजुर र ताडीको रस, नरिवलको पानी जस्तो शीतलता दिने, मीठो, बल दिने र स्वादिलो पेय रहेछ भनेर बुझ्नुपर्ने हुन्छ, जसमा केही प्रतिशत अल्कोहलको मात्रा पनि हुन सक्छ भन्ने तर्कमा भने केही तुक भेटिन्छ।

 

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2012 in Discourse

 

Open and Distance Learning (ODL) in Nepal: Prospects and Challenges

Khagendra Acharya

In this article I discuss some of the aspects that pertain to Open and Distance Learning (ODL) in Nepali context. More specifically, drawing from the articles which explicate the prevalence of ODL in developing countries, I delineate on the prospects and challenges of ODL in Nepalese context. As such, the article aims to explore fundamental aspects of popularly designated alternative paths to the traditional mode of learning.

Background

Broadly, the beginning of ODL dates back to 18th Century due to the phenomenal advancement and innovation in transportation and communication heralded by industrial revolution. In Desmond Keegan’s account, ODL as alternative model of education started when technology made it feasible to separate teacher and learner from a fixed place, at a fixed time, to meet a fixed person, in order to be trained. An alternative account at micro level, i.e., at the level of individual, invokes the name of Isaac Pitrnan (in 1840 Britain) as the precursor of this mode with his initiation of modern correspondence education.

Started with correspondence mode, ODL is now agreed to have undergone notably four other stages namely multimedia model, tele-learning model, flexible learning model and interactive flexible learning model (Taylor). The proliferation suffices to prove why ODL has been so widely accepted in the western hemisphere and why European countries have established and recognized this method through European Distance Education Network (EDEN).

Compared to the genesis of ODL in the west, its official and documented history in South Asian Countries (SAC), however, carries shorter history. The table below shows the history of open and distance learning in the SAC (I have included only the State Universities which offer courses in ODL mode):

Table 1: History of Open University in SAC[1]

Country Year Institute
Afghanistan None
Bangladesh 1985 Bangladesh Institute of Distance Education (BIDE)/ Bangladesh Open University was established in 1992.
Bhutan None
India 1982 Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Open University (BRAOU), formerly known as Andhra Pradesh Open University/ The National Open University of India was established in 1985.
Maldives 1999 Tertiary Institute for Open Learning; the institute was under The Maldives National University
Pakistan 1974 Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU)
Sri Lanka 1980 Open University of Sri Lanka (OUSC)

Though offered very lately, ODL in SAC has been gaining an increased attention and thereby a phenomenal growth in recent years. The change can best be described as the move of ODL from marginal to integral part of overall educational provision.

Introduction

In Nepalese context, ODL offered by the state’s own establishment carries no history in the sense that the government’s plan to establish Open University Nepal (OUN) has yet not been materialized. Hence, ODL in relation to OUN can be discussed only at the level of efforts made[2]. The government’s initial endeavour can be located in the very year when Nepali Government became a signatory of SAARC Consortium to Open and Distance Learning (SACODiL) in 1999. Wagle recall of the government’s effort for Open University also establishes 1990 as a starting point:

The MoE (Ministry of Education) itself constituted an Open Learning and Distance Education (OLDE) Committee in 1999 under the chairmanship of then Secretary of Education to suggest the government with modalities of OLDE in Nepal. The Committee comprising OLDE experts suggested the government with alternatives of programs and resources. (The Himalayan Times)

Nonetheless, the report, Wagle writes very sarcastically, must be gathering dust in some cabinet of the MoE even today. Since 1999 the agenda does not seem to have occupied any importance for around a decade. Exactly after eleven years, i.e., in October 2010, another notable [might be more optimistic effort from the government due to collaborative nature of the venture: MoE and Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA) have signed in the agreement to start Open University Nepal (OUN)] move appears visible. The proposed OUN has included the following major objectives:

  • Close the gap in higher education demand, currently unmet by the combined capacity of all the institutions, through open and distance mechanisms.
  • Take tertiary education to the rural, remote, and marginalized people of Nepal, especially women and Dalits, who are practically confined to the villages due to family obligations, social challenges, and financial constraints.
  • Provide opportunities for teachers and government employees who are unable to advance their education, skills and careers while living in rural and remote places, or to those who are unemployed.
  • Provide a mechanism to continue education for the youth who take temporary or permanent employment in foreign countries.
  • Advance a computer-based education to rural Nepal that relates to health, social-systems, productivity, economic improvement, and sustainability disciplines.

(Source: Rasali, Adhikari and Dhakal)

The outcome of the effort, however, has been only a ray of hope for the advocates of ODL. In a context when the plan is in incubation period, writing on the prospect of ODL might sound highly phantasmagoric. Here, I caution my readers not to harness total skepticism mainly for two reasons: first, the government of Nepal along with a promising partner has declared an Open University as a viable and appropriate means to provide mass access to tertiary education; second, ODL has already been in operation since the turn of century in Nepal through accredited universities such as Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU).

Prospects

ODL by its nature carries promising features such as egalitarianism, equality of educational opportunities, flexible curricula (Peters). Consequently, the mode bears significant potential to widen access to higher education which in Nepalese context has appeared very tough due to various constrains. The following elements appear to create noteworthy scope for ODL.

Availability of Learners

The inability of Nepali government to tackle the consequences of diversity, whether prevalent in the form of extreme economic disparity or geographical inaccessibility or socio-political hierarchies, had stood as a major barrier for a large population in appropriate access to education. Education opportunities were inappropriately decentralized, if not totally centralized, and thus any individual other than well-to-do economic status could not get enrolled for higher qualification. I vividly remember my father narrating his odyssey to Dharan from Khotang to study intermediate level. Many people who could not afford to make such bold decision (I am sure this number is large) could hardly own even fundamental qualifications required to take hold of opportunities which were available. And, the situation is true even now: they cannot claim for any of the provisions made by the governments firstly (though scantily) after the restoration of Democracy in 1991 and secondly after the end of Maoist Armed Conflict in 2005.

A very paradoxical situation ensnares these people now: they have opportunities but not the required qualifications. The situation thereby produces foundational reason to demand for educational qualification which does not look viable through traditional mode of education. The availability of learners due to this necessity has further increased at the acceleration of peace process. We have a large number of cadres who had joined Maoist revolution after 1996 leaving their studies are now in need of education as they have been placed back to society. The two-fold availability, along with other elements such as outbound mobility of students for foreign universities, would be productive factors in pulling learners to ODL mechanism.

Ample Libraries

Libraries in Nepal have grown phenomenally especially after the restoration of Democracy in 1991. Now, we live the condition neither of a group of young students in 1930 who were charged of sedition as they applied for permission to start a public library (the Sarawasti Public Library) nor of students who suffered in 1960 when the king dismissed Nepal’s first elected government and closed public libraries established in the fifties. As the study of Koirala and Bird has outlined, post 1991 has provided appropriate environment for, “re-opening of a number of rural community libraries which were closed during monarchy”. Similarly, a large number of INGOs such as Room to Read, and Read Nepal have been asking for government’s permission to “support for community libraries”. Consequently, the number of libraries in Nepal has increased from about 400 in 1990 to about 800 in 2003 (Shrestha qtd in Koirala and Bird 120). The quality and quantity of library has further been enhanced both by INGOs like Rural Development and Education (READ) and Room to Read, and by foreign mission libraries such as the American Library, British Council Learning Centre, Bharat Sanskritic Kendra.

Though all the libraries, especially the ones located in rural areas, might not have ample and appropriate books, their infrastructure can be used for ODL.

Contribution from Diaspora

One of the most optimistic aspects in ODL comes from the promise of contribution from Nepali diaspora. The diaspora, like the population of this type elsewhere, undergo ambivalent position: on the one hand, they meagerly wish to return their home country but on the other, they wish to see the country prospered and plan to contribute without returning. Rasali, Adhikari and Dhakal have fairly outlined the nature of potential input from the Diaspora due to their empathy for people at home:

There are a sizable number of highly qualified academics and professionals among Nepalese Diaspora, who are eager to help their motherland. Having benefited originally from the Nepal’s investment in public education and having had a first-hand experience of her needs, many of them are also eager to give back to the native land. Several members of this Diaspora group have themselves experienced the hopelessness caused by poverty, have walked barefoot to attend schools in the mountains and plains, and have faced acute shortage of books and other educational facilities when they pursued their education in Nepal.  As many of them have succeeded in obtaining world class education in spite of these insurmountable barriers, they understand the pain and frustrations of the rural poor and marginalized groups and their struggle for education, and know that success is still possible. Because of these reasons, they are well suited to help education in Nepal through open and distance learning and support the neediest groups.

The agreement made in October 2010 (it has already been mentioned) stands as a remarkable gesture of the potential.

Challenges

Challenges in ODL are inherent to the characteristics of this mode. Since it espouses values of flexibility and accessibility, it assumes learners to have sense of both autonomy and responsibility for learning. Before I discuss on the problems that start due to the collusion of two elements, I find it worthy to quote Rennie and Mason’s conclusion on the impediments in distance and distributed learning in Nepal and Bhutan:

Firstly, Internet access is improving rapidly, but is still generally too weak and inconsistent to allow any reliance on net-based learning solutions. Secondly, the academic culture is resistant to the recognition of the value of open-learning degrees, with subsequent difficulties in re-designing course materials for a more educationally flexible, student-centred learning environment.

Certainly, the ambivalent position of scholars[3] on the degree from ODL and the problems of internet access for learners account as major impediments. Leaving aside the skepticism of these scholars, I concentrate on other more important factors which make ODL more challenging. One of them, as already mentioned props up from the dialectics of autonomy and responsibility. In Nepalese context, learners’ autonomy which should be curbed by the sense of responsibility exists in very peculiar situation. Learner’s sense of autonomy often overrides their sense of responsibility. Simply stated, many learners tend to carry no responsibility in pedagogic assumptions in ODL. In turn, the tendency might culminate in using ODL as mere formality for awarding and getting certificate.

Unconducive Political Environment

Political environment in Nepal especially after the restoration of Democracy in 1991 has been constantly unstable. The phenomena such as frequent change of governments and thereby blockage of policies formulated by former government has been hindrance for any initiative. Institutions which are already in operation do not generally suffer; but the institutions like OUN which are in the making face major hindrance due to political instability. Wagle’s account succinctly presents this problem:

The education minister makes the commitment, but how long will he stay in the MoE? By the time the university bill is passed by the parliament, he may already have been out of the government because of the fluid politics of Nepal. That means another minister would have to understand the whole process again.

Lack of Electrification

ODL relies heavily on advancement and proliferated use of media and communication. More specifically, educationists need to rely on novel methods of imparting knowledge such as the internet and e-mail, telephone, CD-Roms, print materials, video cassettes and video-conferencing. All these devices need uninterrupted supply of electricity, which in Nepalese context sounds highly unlikely. Power cut has been so severe that electricity avails to us in many months only for around 6-8 hours.

Conclusion

The proliferation and thereby acknowledgement of ODL both in developing and developed countries imply the mode’s significant potential. However, this does not mean that ODL will replace the traditional mode as euphorically supposed by scholars such as Ramanujam, “the present dominance of  campus based higher education may become a thing of the past perhaps by the middle of the next century, if not earlier than that” (126). In the developing countries like Nepal, ODL has apparent scope due to the availability of learners, accessibility to libraries and promise from prospective collaborators. But, we have challenges such as unconducive political environment, lack of electrification, skepticism from some scholars regarding the strength of degree making the task of tackling almost herculean.

Works Referred


[1]  I have relied heavily on internet sites though I have cross-checked many sites, I regret any discrepancies.

[2] Read Prof. Mana Wagle’s articles for the endeavours put by private sector for establishing Open University at http://www.thehimalayantimes.com/fullNews.php?headline=Open+University+&NewsID=283434.

[3] Some scholars blindly believe that anyone who has acquired degree through distance mode does not have skills as much as it is required for being in the profession. Though ridiculous due to over generalizing and egoistic tendency in the argument, we still have this population in academia.

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2012 in Discourse

 

अन्तरिक्ष–विज्ञान सम्बन्धमा केही चर्चा

– निर्मलमणि अधिकारी

विश्वका प्रायः सबै पाठशालाहरुमा निकोलस कपर्निकस (सन् १४७३– १५४३) लाई सर्वप्रथम सौरमण्डलको विज्ञान–सम्मत अध्ययन गर्ने वैज्ञानिकको रुपमा मान्यता प्राप्त छ। अन्तरिक्ष विज्ञानसम्बन्धी चर्चा अधिकांशतः आरम्भ गरिन्छ उनैको नामबाट। पछि केप्लर, ग्यालिलियो, न्यूटन आदि वैज्ञानिकहरुले यिनैको सिद्धान्तको अनुशरण गरेका हुन् भनिन्छ। ग्यालिलियो ग्यालिलि (सन् १५६४– १६४२) टेलिस्कोपको आविष्कार गर्ने वैज्ञानिक हुन् र यिनले परावर्तित प्रकाशद्वारा अन्तरिक्षको विशिष्ट अध्ययन गर्न सकेका छन्। यी वैज्ञानिकहरुको योगदानलाई म आदर गर्छु र उनीहरुप्रति मेरो सम्मान छ। तर मलाई चित्त नबुझेको कुरोपनि यहीँनेर छ। प्राचीन भारतवर्षका वैज्ञानिकहरुलाई आधुनिक विश्व-समुदायले चटक्कै बिर्सेको छ र ती प्राचीन वैज्ञानिकहरुले आफूले गरेका आविष्कारको श्रेय पाइराखेका छैनन्। पख्नोस्, वेदसम्म पुग्नुअघि पहिले त केही शताब्दीअघिको कुरा गरौं।

माथिनै उल्लेखित छकि कपर्निकसको समय थियो सन् १४७३– १५४३ र ग्यालिलियोको समय थियो सन् १५६४– १६४२। जबकि पाँचौं शताब्दीका (अर्थात्, कपर्निकसको तुलनामा करिब एक हजार वर्ष प्राचीन) भारतवर्षीय वैज्ञानिक आर्यभट्टको पुस्तक ‘आर्यभट्टीय’मा अन्तरिक्ष विज्ञानको जति तथ्य लेखिछाडिएको छ; त्यो हेर्दाखेरिमा स्पष्ट हुन्छकि आधुनिक विश्वका सबै पाठशालाहरुमा आर्यभट्टलाईनै सौरमण्डलको विज्ञान–सम्मत अध्ययन गर्ने पहिलो वैज्ञानिकको रुपमा मान्यता दिनुपर्ने हुन्छ। आर्यभट्टको वैज्ञानिक सिद्धान्तलाई आज उनीभन्दा धेरैपछिका कपर्निकसको सिद्धान्त भनेर पढाइनु अन्यायपूर्ण कार्य हो। आर्यभट्टीय पुस्तक अहिले पनि प्राप्य छ (यसलाई पश्चिमाहरुलेचाहिँ सन् ९५० को भन्दछन्) — जसमा उनले सूर्यग्रहण र चन्द्रग्रहणको वैज्ञानिक कारण दिएका छन्। पृथ्वीले सूर्यलाई घुम्दछ र त्यसै कारणले दिन–रातको भेद हुन्छ भनेर लेखेका छन्। सोही पुस्तकमा आर्यभट्ट लेख्छन्— चन्द्रमा तथा अन्य ग्रहसँग आफ्नो प्रकाश छैन र तिनीहरु सूर्यको प्रकाशले प्रकाशित हुन्छन्। उनले दूरदर्शकयन्त्र पनि बनाएका थिए भनिन्छ। यसरी अहिले सर्व–स्वीकृत ‘सूर्यकेन्द्रित सिद्धान्त’का जनक आर्यभट्ट हुन् र कपर्निकस, ग्यालिलियो आदिचाहिँ त्यस परम्पराका उत्तराधिकारीमात्र हुन् भन्ने छर्लङ्ग देखिन्छ। तर विद्यालय, उच्चविद्यालय तथा विश्वविद्यालयहरुमा किन पढाइँदैन त आर्यभट्टको योगदान ? कम्तीमापनि नेपाल–भारतका विद्यालय, उच्चविद्यालय तथा विश्वविद्यालयहरुमा त पढाइनै पर्छ उनको बारेमा।

चन्द्रमामा मानव बस्ती बसाल्ने कल्पना गर्न थालेको छ आधुनिक मानवले। मिति सन् १९५७ अक्टोबर ४ मा तत्कालीन सोभियत संघद्वारा स्पुतनिक–१ मानवनिर्मित प्रथम अन्तरिक्षयान प्रक्षेपण गरेपछि आधुनिक विज्ञानको अन्तरिक्षसम्बन्धी अध्ययनको नयाँ अध्यायको आरम्भ भएको थियो। सन् १९५९ मालुना–२ चन्द्र धरातलमा पुग्योभने सन् १९६१ अप्रिल १२ मा सोभियत रुसले युरी गागरिनलाई अन्तरिक्षमा पठायो। सं.रा. अमेरिका सन् १९५८ जनवरी ३१ मा एक्सप्लोर–१ प्रक्षेपण गरी अन्तरिक्ष विज्ञानको क्षेत्रमा प्रवेश ग-यो। सन् १९६९ जुलाइ १६ मा केप केनेडीबाट नील आर्मस्ट्रङ्, एडविन एल्ड्रीन र माइकल कलिन्सलाई लिएर उडेको ‘अपोलो’ अन्तरिक्षयान चन्द्रमामा पुग्न सफल हुनुलाई आधुनिक विज्ञानको महान् उपलब्धि मानिएको छ। त्यसपछिका दिनमा अन्तरिक्षतर्फ धेरैओटा अन्तरिक्षयानहरु प्रक्षेपण गरिएका छन्। अन्तरिक्ष विज्ञानका क्षेत्रमा भए–गरेका उपलब्धिहरुप्रति गर्व गर्न हिच्किचाउनु पर्दैन। साथसाथै गर्वयोग्य कुरो योपनि छकि हाम्रा प्राचीन शास्त्रहरुमा अन्तरिक्ष विज्ञानको भण्डार छ।

तर, हाम्रा प्राचीन शास्त्रहरुमा अन्तरिक्ष विज्ञानको भण्डार भएको कत्तिपनि मेसो नपाएका तथा “नील आर्मस्ट्रङ्हरु चन्द्र धरातलमा पुगे अरे ….” भन्दाखेरिमा पनि ट्वाँऽऽ परेर बस्ने व्यक्तिहरुपनि थुप्रै छन्। धर्मशास्त्र भन्नेबित्तिकै नाक चेप्राउने उल्लुहरुको संख्यापनि कम छैन। अनि, शास्त्रलाई पोको पारेर पुजामात्र गर्ने, पढ्न–गुन्नचाहिँ नखोज्ने प्रवृत्तिपनि देखिएकै छ।

चन्द्रमामा पहिरो गएर विचित्र किसिमको शब्द भइरहने गर्छ तथा त्यहाँ सात किसिमका पत्थरहरु छन् भन्ने तथ्य ऋग्वेद र शुक्लयजुर्वेदमा उल्लिखित रहेको पाइएको छ। (यहाँ त्यो ‘पहिरो’लाई सामान्य अर्थमा बुझ्ने गल्ती नगरौं नि !) आधुनिक अन्तरिक्ष विज्ञानले पत्ता लगाएको कुरा पनि यस्तै छ। यसरी सो वैदिक तथ्यलाई आधुनिक अन्तरिक्ष वैज्ञानिकहरुले पनि पुष्टि गरेका छन्। वेदमा भनिएझैं नै धातु खानी भएको तथ्यपनि क्रमशः प्रमाणित भइरहेका छन्। विश्वको सबैभन्दा पुरानो शास्त्र ऋग्वेदको भनाइ आधुनिक वैज्ञानिकहरुको खोजीले पुष्टि हुनुको ठुलो अर्थ छ। यसले इंगित गर्ने संकेत पनि निक्कै महत्वपूर्ण छ।

वेदमा “यां चन्द्रमसि ब्राह्मणा दधुः” भनी ब्राह्मणहरुले पृथ्वीको भाग चन्द्र धरातलमा लगेर राखेको प्रागैतिहासिक कालको ‘इतिहास’पनि भेटिइएको छ। यस तथ्यले के देखाएको छभने नील आर्मस्ट्रङ्हरुलाई चन्द्र धरातलमा पुग्ने प्रथम मानवको मान्यता अहिले मिलिरहेको छतापनि उनीभन्दा हजारौं वर्ष अघि (कुनै युगमा) ऋषि एवम् ब्राह्मणहरु चन्द्र धरातलमा पुगेको हुनुपर्छ। अझ आश्चर्यको कुरो लाग्नसक्छ तपाईंहरुलाई— वेदमा अन्तरिक्षयान निर्माण गर्ने र विभिन्न लोकमा यात्रा गर्ने प्रविधिको बयान गरिएका ऋचाहरु हामीसँग छँदैछन् र यदि त्यसकालागि खर्च हुने अरबौं रुपैयाँ उपलब्ध हुनसक्दा हामीले त्यस्ता अन्तरिक्षयानहरु निर्माण गर्न सकिन्छ। आर्य परम्पराका शास्त्रहरु वेद, उपनिषद् आदि र ‘विज्ञान’ बीचको अन्तर्सम्बन्ध बुझ्न नसक्दा हामीलाई भइरहेको घाटाको पत्तो कतिलाई होला ? अनि ख्याल रहोस्— यदि आधुनिक प्रविधिपनि लिन नसक्ने र परम्परागत प्रविधिपनि बिर्सने होभने समयको प्रवाहमा गतार्थ (आउटडेटेड) भई कालान्तरमा समाप्तै हुने नियति भोग्नुपर्छ नि !

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2012 in Science

 

Breathtaking Beijing

 – Kashiraj Pandey

With a shimmering kaleidoscope of abundant natural scenery, history and colorful cultural identities of numerous ethnic groups, China is rich in arts, beliefs, customs, cultures, and scientific accomplishments. Besides being a leader in manufacturing industries and development works, it features many magnificent natural and historical sites with royal cities.

I first arrived in Kathmandu leaving my home in 1987 when China had a profound imprint in my mind. Almost everything Chinese around me; to start with, a pair of shoes, clothes, pens, pencils, cups, utensils, and later a lovely Phoenix bicycle that I bought with my first cheque, were all manufactured in China. Therefore, it was a dream for me to visit China and for long I was hopeful about my coming to this beautiful country of amazing people, specially to see two places that I heard from time to time; the Great Wall and Tian’an’men Square. Not surprisingly, on 8 May 2012, I arrived in Beijing and I am writing from here today. Filled with reflective and vivid thoughtfulness, a hope to visit many more places itself is an excitement. Travelling with a group of educationists and writers like myself from 18 different countries of the world is an additional benefit to me.

Regardless of several rumours about Beijing’s pollution, on the very next day of my arrival, I was happy to witness a clear blue sky, the rising sun and a panoramic view of the city from the window of my dormitory room at Beijing Chinese Language and Culture College. Below, I could clearly observe a group of people walking, running and doing exercises; stretching out the parts of their body in the bright sunlight, twisting and bending in a seemingly choreographed shadow-play; couples, youths, children, students and everybody. Moreover, my first observation of Beijing is to see everyone proud to use either bicycles or public vehicles as the most common modes of transportation, and therefore, this cuts down greatly on air pollution despite the city’s size and dense population.

I too could see cultural and linguistic variations in Beijing, representing different regions of this vast country. For such a large nation it is interesting that the society is relatively uniform, with a sense of national identity based on the ideals of equality and hard work. Beyond the beauty and steady progress of China, I am amazed to see how they have successfully tackled the challenge to encourage people for mutual affection and unity, a lesson all Nepalese should learn at the critical juncture of the history of our nation.

For me, it is simply awesome to see the hard work and commitment people have put in to build this nation and expand the rich heritage and virtues to the outside world. My trip to China, therefore, has proved more than wonderful. This will remain in my memory forever and I wish to unfold Beijing from the tours, arranged every Sunday from our college, which also served as great breaks from the intensive in-house activities.

A trip to the Great Wall

In line with the purpose of my visit to China, I was taken around the significant sites of Beijing where an excursion to the Badaling Great Wall became among the best treats I was given during my stay, which is some 55 kilometers north of Beijing, linking many high hills. After a short drive, our day started with an ecstasy preparing ourselves for an uphill walk at least for more than an hour.

To anyone who has the energy to walk up to the top of the area where the tourists congregate all the times, busy taking pictures and enjoying the convalescent fresh air from the natural Air Condition with superb views, this trip with spectacular sight will be etched out in my mind.

Each guard tower, appearing on the way up, literally chills the visitors, while thinking how anything so big and so long ever came into being. Everything I saw around was simply simple and well managed as the Great Wall has always been a fascination for the visitors. Thousands of tourists from all over the world have come to experience the walk on the wall with the majestic view of nature and the hills around.

The Great Wall was primarily built to protect China from outside aggression, especially from the North to stop Mongolians, and for the safety of the country and her people as early as the 5th century BC which has become the major touristic site these days.

Bearing an exceptional testimony to the civilizations of ancient China, this military structure holds historic and strategic significance. It is said that a great army of manpower, composed of local people, soldiers, and prisoners built the wall. Any moment I could imagine an overwhelming sense of awe at the weight of history embedded in every stone on which I was stepping (up) on that day.

A feeling of an unconscious heroism appears in all who reached to the top. With more than an hour’s strenuous walk, I too wonder who had thought of my climbing the Great Wall this time, and same is the feeling of the other people around me. I, along with my two other colleagues from Fiji Mr. Waisake and Ms. Venina also walked uphill to the top among many other travelers, all mesmerized by the blend of natural and architectural grandeur, one of the most appealing attractions for people from all around the world.

I notice everyone sweating but never tired of walking up the wall, up, straight and curves; people over seventy or eighty, women, children, and couples – all are energized while climbing. I could witness everyone being at the highest degree of joy; our spirits have taken us beyond the imagination, thinking how the Chinese erected such highway-like huge walls during those days; the masons and resources, hats off for you also built it to preserve your culture from foreign invasions. The wall that proved useful as a main road, transporting people and supplies during the past, was also wide enough for four to five horses to be ridden side by side on its top.

After a while, with a rejuvenated mind we had no option but to return. First time in life, I had an ecstatic experience of human traffic on the way. Unlike our initial planning to meet at 10.45 am at the base, we arrived an hour late, a wrong calculation as the organizers also failed to sense the flow of tourists and budding beauty of nature all around that one had to capture in the camera.

Fortunate I find myself today, for I am writing from the highest point of Badaling Great Wall, a symbol of spirit of determination and human intelligence of Chinese people. From this powerful site, among the Seven Wonders of the World, the only man-made structure that is visible from the moon, which also saw countless wars between Chinese rulers and other warring nomadic tribes. Standing here I am trying to constantly envision many brave soldiers in one of the lookout towers who safeguarded this country, centuries ago. Standing by the walkway, and looking out from the top of the Great Wall of China, today, I must be gazing at the same scene that thousands of workers, men and women, then armies of soldiers, and tourists alike would have also looked out during the past centuries, almost every day. Whenever cherishing this day in future, I know I will say I would have rather spent another day or so at the Great Wall, alone.

A glimpse of Tian’an’men Square and the Forbidden City

On the fourth day of my arrival in Beijing, I left my hotel room at four o’clock in the morning.  With an excitement to witness the popular flag hoisting ceremony at the sunrise, I hurried toward the Tian’an’men Square. As early as 5 am, I reached at this biggest open theatre of the world that “can accommodate one million people at one time” according to Yuan Yuan Laoshi, a Chinese language teacher at Beijing Chinese Language and Culture College.

When the Emperor and his courtiers were quite corrupt in China, people felt the need of a real revolution for long and they got the result of their wish in 1949 establishing the country as People’s Republic. With this historical background, Tian’an’men Square is a widely popular site of several demonstrations and events, as well as the location of Chairman Mao’s tomb. Other attractions of this site are Tian’an’men tower and the Great Hall of the people. The Hall was built in 1959 within 10 months, said Zhou Laoshi of Beijing Chinese Language and Culture College, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of People’s Republic of China.

Looking the world around from this Square, I could easily feel the difference between the Republic of Nepal and another republic, adjacent to us. Instantly, I proceeded towards the Forbidden City, an endless complex of labyrinth right behind the Tian’an’men Square, that served as the home of 24 Emperors, their court and households for centuries. The Forbidden City, with its Chinese name Gugong, is a Palace Museum too. With an impressive architectural vocation of temples, palaces, courtyards, a magnificent and awe-inspiring sight with wide passageways and gardens around, this is a must-see spot for travelers that has “9999 rooms in total”, said Wang Laoshi, Associate Professor at Beijing Chinese Language and Culture College. As I was walking from one courtyard to the next, our tour unfolded a many-layered vista of palaces, as if it was wrapped as gift for each group of visitors.

Each gate of the palace building opens to the royal chamber. With a predominant red colour throughout the City, every palace boasts flamboyant ceilings with intricate interlocking of wooden painted tiles. Looking at each of the palace, my eyes are dazzled seeing a big container to measure the grain, an indicator of time, an image of crane, an artistic water tank to extinguish the fire with a vision of good fortune, comfort, power and safety centuries ago. My surprise knew no bounds when I saw a stone carving that would weigh over 200 tons.

A human crowd is busy every moment and from all directions to capture its picture in the best possible angle, while I imagine how the Emperor made it possible to get this huge stone. It is written in the inscription that “some 1000 horses and 2000 people were deputed” to carry this stone from about 90 km away. Although this complex was off limits to civilians in the past, people, sightseers and tourists can admire its terraces and pavilions today.

A day’s trip to the Summer Palace

Another remarkable site is the Summer Palace, also known as the ‘garden of gardens’ which is apparently Beijing’s another popular tourist site, a classical garden with worldwide reputation. The Summer Palace, Yi-He-Yuan in Chinese translates as ‘Garden of Peace and Harmony’, which is the largest and best-preserved imperial garden in China. As its name implies, the Summer Palace was used as a summer residence by China’s imperial rulers – as a retreat from the main imperial palace now known as the Forbidden City.

Indeed, the Summer Palace represents a distinct Chinese ideal of harmony between nature and its inhabitants. This is the proof how China has preserved history so well where thousands of tourists pour in to have a glimpse of their intelligence in garden arts. Situated between Kunming Lake and Longevity Hill, in their unique styles, the pavilions, halls, trees, rocks, bridges and temples, all blend together – harmoniously.

Kunming Lake is the main attraction of the Summer Palace, and as I walked around I could feel cool summer breeze floating across the Lake. Perhaps it is more mesmerizing to me because I could associate it with the Phewa lake of Nepal every moment.

Although a little smaller than the Phewa, the way this was maintained beautifully, it featured to create a poetic effect between different scenes in me. I think the emperor and his family must have enjoyed immensely looking around the hillside and the lake at once while sipping the green tea during those summer days.

Walking leisurely through the corridors that encircle the lake is the most pleasurable moment with the crowd of tourists from everywhere. The rich paintings that adorn the cross-beams and walls, along the entire walkway with the beauty of four octagonal pavilions fascinate anyone. Moreover, exploring the lake on boat perfectly serves the purpose of any tourist for a day.

The street artists and the musical programme that was held at one of the pavilions by the bridge made me realize the significance of accessories to develop tourism in Nepal.

 [Published in The Rising Nepal, 13 July 2012]

 

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2012 in Memoirs

 

On Identity

– Hem Raj Kafle

Hardly anything bothers human beings so much as the uncertainty about identity.  The question of identity tickles more acutely in a foreign land. A place is foreign not only because you don’t belong to it, but because it poses on you the challenge to prove that you really or somehow belong.

Estranged from the ancestral soil, whether by choice or compulsion, people regularly attempt to find ways of establishing the identity they desire, and the desire is largely to be what they originally are. In this regard, they rarely show readiness to spiritually submit to the culture of the host country. For example, orthodox Indians or Nepalis may find it difficult to cope up with the ways Europeans or Americans live. But the same does not apply to the case of Nepalis in India or vice versa. The reason is clear: the similarity of culture, and geopolitical proximity.

Cultural similarity and geopolitical proximity are complications in the process of identity formation. Cultural similarity is the cause of easy dissolution / assimilation into the host community and may result into the dissolution of originality itself. It will lead the emigrants to such extent of adaptation that a bit of intolerance from the host community puts existence at stake. This, facilitated by locational proximity, usually does not trigger retaliation because reporting back to the native land is a wiser choice. It is, however, easier for those who own properties and have relatives in the native land. Usually the native country is cooperative enough to allow the returning citizens. Nepal, for example, did not have much grudge to let escaping Bhutanese Nepalis enter and take refuge here. In Nepal’s acceptance, nothing but the recognition of their ancestry had worked. Rejection would have elicited national and international criticism for being cold and unfriendly to its earstwhile countrymen.

Living in marginalization poses a greater crisis in identity building. The Nepalis living in Jammu and Kashmir face a perpetual crisis of remaining Nepalis by political identity. Their problem is unlike that of Nepalis living in North east, where the question of being Indian citizens of Nepali origin reigns supreme. Nepalis in Assam, for instance, claim the rights for a status of first grade citizens retaining their own language and culture and taking part in the mainstream politics. The Nepalis of Jammu and Kashmir are not in a position to claim participation in the mainstream due to their minority. The majority is stronger in many respects. The Nepalis of Assam have a kind of mutual empathy which keeps them emotionally secure though they have perpetually undergone ordeals in maintenance  of Nepaliness. They have their Nepaliness intact for their success in keeping Nepali as a dominant medium of communication. They have made it possible by producing considerable bulk of literature and journalism in Nepali. On the contrary, the Nepalis of Jammu are in a condition to forget the Nepali language itself. Specially, the new generation do not even know the everyday Nepali, let alone the language of literature and academy.

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2012 in Reflections