Scientists solve 100-year-old mystery of yellow desert glass prized by Egyptian pharaohs

Mysterious glass known as Libyan Desert Glass confirmed to be created by meteorite forces almost 29 million years ago has been found in Egypt’s Western desert.

Researchers agreed that this strange glass was originally fragmented throughout both the Egyptian and Libyan Saharan Deserts due to the explosion of an asteroid in the atmosphere, Dailymail reported.

Naturally created with no structured shape, glass is immediately formed once the molten materials cool. This glass was also identified in an ancient scarab made of the exact material and found beside Tutankhamen’s burial materials.

Several ingredients found in the glass, including zircon, were investigated by researchers at Australia’s Curtin University. Results showed that the examined zircon includes a mineral called reidite that is formed under a meteorite effect only.

Silica glass at the Great Sand Sea. Credit: Mohamed El-Hebeishy.

“It has been a topic of ongoing debate as to whether the glass formed during meteorite impact, or during an airburst,” said Aaron Cavosie from Curtin University, as reported by Dailymail.

“Both meteorite impacts and airbursts can cause melting. However, only meteorite impacts create shock waves that form high-pressure minerals,” he added.

Breastplate found in King Tutankhamun’s tomb. The scarab is made out of Libyan desert glass. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Moreover, the air blast that took place in Russia in 2013 encouraged people to support the idea that the glass was formed amid airburst.

prized for its beauty for thousands of years. The glass — the purest natural silica glass ever found on Earth — is generally yellow in color and can be very clear, although most pieces are milky and may even contain tiny bubbles, white wisps, and inky black swirls.

“Previous models suggested that Libyan desert glass represented a large, 100-megatonnes (Mt) class airburst, but our results show this is not the case,” Mr. Cavosie mentioned.

A variety of Libyan Desert Glasses. Credit: Corning Museum of Glasses.

“Meteorite impacts are catastrophic events, but they are not common. Airbursts happen more frequently, but we now know not to expect a Libyan desert glass-forming event in the near future, which is cause for some comfort.”

The research team also included Natural History Museum of Vienna Director, Professor Christian Koeberl.

‘Back From the Dead’: Bird That Went Extinct 136,000 Years Ago Has Reappeared

Iterative evolution happens when the same or similar structures evolve out of the same common ancestor, but at different times – meaning that the animal actually comes about twice over, completely separately.

A chicken-sized bird species that went extinct 136,000 years ago made a comeback to the earth twice due to a rare evolutionary process, scientists say. Researchers found the last surviving flightless species of bird, a type of rail, in the Indian Ocean came back through a process called “iterative evolution”, which saw it emerge twice over, according to The Independent.

Researchers from the University of Portsmouth in the UK and Natural History Museum found that on two occasions, separated by tens of thousands of years, the species was able to successfully colonise an isolated atoll called Aldabra and subsequently became flightless on both occasions.
“Iterative evolution happens when the same or similar structures evolve out of the same common ancestor, but at different times – meaning that the animal actually comes about twice over, completely separately,” according to the report. “This is the first time it has been seen in rails, and one of the most significant ever seen in a bird of any kind.”

The last surviving colony of flightless rails is still found on the island today, according to the study published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. The white-throated rail is a chicken-sized bird, indigenous to Madagascar in the south-western Indian Ocean. They are persistent colonisers of isolated islands, who would have frequent population explosions and migrate in great numbers from Madagascar. Many of those that went north or south drowned in the expanse of ocean and those that went west landed in Africa, where predators ate them.

Of those that went east, some landed on the many ocean islands such as Mauritius, Reunion and Aldabra, the last-named is a ring-shaped coral atoll that formed around 400,000 years ago. With the absence of predators on the atoll, and just like the Dodo of Mauritius, the rails evolved so that they lost the ability to fly. However, Aldabra disappeared when it was completely covered by the sea during a major inundation event around 136,000 years ago, wiping out all fauna and flora including the flightless rail.

The researchers studied fossil evidence from 100,000 years ago when the sea-levels fell during the subsequent ice age and the atoll was recolonised by flightless rails. They compared the bones of a fossilised rail from before the inundation event with bones from a rail after the inundation event. The researchers found that the wing bone showed an advanced state of flightlessness and the ankle bones showed distinct properties that it was evolving towards flightlessness.

This means that one species from Madagascar gave rise to two different species of flightless rail on Aldabra in the space of a few thousand years.

“These unique fossils provide irrefutable evidence that a member of the rail family colonised the atoll, most likely from Madagascar, and became flightless independently on each occasion,” said Julian Hume from the Natural History Museum.

“Fossil evidence presented here is unique for rails, and epitomizes the ability of these birds to successfully colonise isolated islands and evolve flightlessness on multiple occasions,” Hume said.

All you need to know about Sri Adi Shankaracharya, a great philosopher and the Founder of Advaita Vedanta

Founder of Advaita Vedanta, one the most prominent sub-schools of Indian Vedantic thought, Adi Shankaracharya is praised as the greatest philospher that India has produced.

Sri Jagadguru Adi Sankaracharya by Swami Sivananda

Chaos pervaded all through India in the matter of religion and philosophy. Sect after sect, such as Charvakas, Lokayathikas, Kapalikas, Shaktas, Sankhyas, Buddhas and Madhyamikas sprang up. The number of religions rose as high as seventy-two. There was fight amongst sects. There was no peace anywhere. Chaos and confusion reigned supreme. There was superstition and bigotry. Darkness prevailed over the once happy land of Rishis, sages and Yogins. The once glorious land of the Aryans was in a miserable state. Such was the state of the country at the time which just preceded the Avatara (incarnation) of Sankaracharya.

All are no doubt aware of the very important position assigned to Sankaracharya in the history of Indian philosophy. It can be affirmed, without any fear of contradiction, that Bharata Varsha would have ceased to be Bharata Varsha several centuries ago and would never have survived the murderous sword, the devastating fire and the religious intolerance of the successive invaders, if Sankara had not lived the life he lived and taught the lessons he taught. And those lessons are still pulsating in every cell and in every protoplasm of the true aspirant and the true Hindu.

Shankaracharya’s Birth & Childhood:

Sankara was born in a very poor family in the year 788 A.D. in a village named Kaladi, six miles to the east of Alwaye, Kerala. Kaladi is a railway station, on the Kochi-Shoranur rail link. Sankara was a Nambudiri Brahmin. Rajasekhara, a Zamindar (a rich landlord), built a Siva temple in Kaladi and formed an Agrahara for Brahmins who were in the service of the temple. Vidyadhiraja was doing Puja (worship) in the temple. He had only a son named Sivaguru. Sivaguru studied the Shastras and married at the proper age. He had no child. He and his wife Aryamba prayed to Lord Siva to bless them with a son. A son was born to them in the Vasanta Ritu or the spring season at noon, in the auspicious Abhijit Muhurta and under the constellation Ardhra. This son was Sankara.

Sivaguru died when Sankara was seven years old. Sankara had none to look after his education. His mother was an extraordinary woman. She took special care to educate her son in all the Shastras. Sankara’s Upanayana or thread ceremony was performed in his seventh year, after the death of his father. Sankara exhibited extraordinary intelligence in his boyhood. When he was only sixteen, he became a master of all the philosophies and theologies. He began to write commentaries on the Gita, the Upanishads and the Brahma Sutras when he was only sixteen years old. What a great marvel!

Sankara’s mother was consulting astrologers about horoscopes of suitable girls for her son’s marriage. But Sankara had a firm resolve to renounce the world and become a Sannyasin. Sankara’s mother was very much grieved that there would be no one to perform her funeral rites after her death. Sankara gave full assurance to his mother that he would always be ready to serve her at the death-bed and perform the usual funeral rites. Even then his mother was not satisfied.

One day, Sankara and his mother went to take bath in the river. Sankara plunged into the water and felt that a crocodile was dragging him by the foot. He shouted out to his mother at the top of his voice: “O dear mother! A crocodile is dragging me down. I am lost. Let me die peacefully as a Sannyasin. Let me have the satisfaction of dying as a Sannyasin. Give me your permission now. Let me take Apath-sannyasa”.

The mother immediately allowed him to take Sannyasa. Sankara took Apath-sannyasa (the adoption of Sannyasa when death is near) at once. The crocodile let him go unharmed. Sankara came out of the water as a nominal Sannyasin. He again repeated his promise to his mother. He left her under the care of his relatives and gave away his little property to them. He then proceeded to find out a Guru with a view to get himself formally initiated into the sacred order of Sannyasa.

In Search of a Guru:

Sankara met Swami Govindapada Acharya in a hermitage in Badrikashram (Badrinath) in the Himalayas and he prostrated at the teacher’s feet. Govinda asked Sankara who he was. Sankara replied: “O revered Guru! I am neither fire nor air nor earth nor water-none of these, but the Immortal Atma (Self) that is hidden in all names and forms”. He also said in the end: “I am the son of Sivaguru, a Brahmin of Kerala. My father died in my childhood. I was brought up by my mother. I have studied the Vedas and the Shastras under a teacher. I took Apath-sannyasa when a crocodile caught my foot while I was taking bath in the river. Kindly initiate me formally into the holy order of Sannyasa”.

Swami Govinda was very much pleased with the truthful narration given by Sankara. Having initiated him and invested him with the robe of a Sannyasin, Swami Govinda taught him the philosophy of Advaita which he himself had learnt from his Guru-Gaudapada Acharya. Sankara learnt all the philosophical tenets from his Guru Govindapada. Govinda asked Sankara to go to Kashi. Sankara proceeded to Kashi where he wrote all his famous commentaries on the Brahma Sutras, the Upanishads and the Gita and successfully met all the criticisms levelled against them. He then began to propagate his philosophy. Sankara had the greatest esteem for his Guru Govindapada and his Parama Guru or the teacher’s teacher, Gaudapada.

Sankara’s Digvijaya:

Sankara’s philosophical conquests are unique in the world. He had his triumphant tour all over India. He met the leaders of different schools of thought. He convinced them by arguments and established the supremacy and truth of the religion that he expounded in his commentaries. He went to all the celebrated seats of learning. He challenged the learned men to discussion, argued with them and converted them to his opinions and views. He defeated Bhatta Bhaskara and condemned his Bhashya (commentary) on the Vedanta Sutras. He then met Dandi and Mayura and taught them his philosophy. He then defeated in argument Harsha, author of Khandana Khanda Kadya, Abhinavagupta, Murari Misra, Udayanacharya, Dharmagupta, Kumarila and Prabhakara.

Sankara then proceeded to Mahishmati. Mandana Misra was the chief Pundit of the court of Mahishmati. Mandana was brought up in the Karma Mimamsa faith and so he had intense hatred for the Sannyasins. He was performing a Sraaddha ceremony when Sankara somehow dropped down there. Immediately Mandana Misra became very furious. An ugly conversation was started when the Brahmins, who were present there for dinner, interposed and pacified Mandana Misra. Then Sankara challenged Mandana to a religious controversy. Mandana agreed. Bharati who was the wife of Mandana Misra and who possessed scholarly erudition was appointed as the umpire. It was agreed beforehand that Sankara, if defeated, would become a householder and marry; and that Mandana, if defeated, would become a Sannyasin and receive the robe of a Sannyasin from the hands of his own wife. The controversy began in right earnest and continued for days without any interruption. Bharati did not sit and listen to their controversy. She threw two garlands, one each over the shoulders of each of the disputants, and said: “He whose garland begins to fade first should consider himself defeated”. She left the place and began attending to her household duties. The controversy went on for seventeen days. The garland of Mandana Misra began to fade first. Mandana Misra accepted his defeat and offered to become a Sannyasin and follow Sankara.

Bharati was an Avatara of Sarasvati, the Goddess of Learning. Once the sage Durvasa chanted the Vedas before Brahma and his wife in a big assembly. Durvasa committed a small mistake. Sarasvati laughed at it. Durvasa became enraged and gave a curse that she would take birth in the world. Hence Sarasvati had to take birth as Bharati.

Bharati now interposed and said to Sankara: “I am the other half of Mandana. You have defeated only one half of Mandana. Let us have a controversy”. Sankara objected to have controversy with a woman. Bharati quoted instances wherein there had been controversies with women. Sankara then agreed and this controversy also went on uninterruptedly for seventeen days. Bharati passed from one Shastra to another. At last she found out that she could not defeat Sankara. She decided to defeat him by means of the science of Kama Shastra.

Sankara asked Bharati to give him an interval of one month for his preparation to hold controversy with her in the science of Kama Shastra. She agreed. Sankara went to Kashi. He separated his astral body from his physical body by means of his Yogic powers and left his physical body in the hole of a big tree and asked his disciples to take care of that physical body. He then entered into the dead body of Raja Amaruka which was about to be cremated. The Raja rose up and all the people rejoiced at the astounding incident.

The ministers and queens soon found out that the revived Raja was a different person, with different qualities and thought. They realised that the soul of a great Mahatma had entered the body of their Raja. Therefore, messengers were sent out to search for a human body hidden somewhere in lonely forests and caves and to burn it when found. They thought that if they did so, the new Raja might remain with them for a long time.

Sankara was acquiring all the experience of love with his queens. Maya is very powerful. In the midst, of those queens, Sankara entirely forgot all about his promises to his disciples about his going back to them. The disciples began to search for him. They heard about the miraculous resurrection of Raja Amaruka. They immediately proceeded to the city and had an interview with the Raja. They sang a few philosophical songs which at once revived the memory of Sankara. The disciples immediately repaired to the place where the physical body of Sankara was kept hidden. By that time the messengers of the queen had found out the physical body and had just begun to set fire to it. The soul of Sankara just then entered his own body. Sankara prayed to Lord Hari to help him. There was a shower of rain immediately and that extinguished the flames.

Then Sankara returned to the residence of Mandana Misra. He resumed the old controversy and answered all the questions raised by Bharati satisfactorily. Mandana Misra gave all his property as a gift to Sri Sankara and Mandana was made to distribute it to the poor and the deserving. He then became a disciple of Sankara. Sankara initiated him into the holy order of Sannyasa and gave him the name of ‘Sureswara Acharya’. Sureswara Acharya was the first Sannyasin who took charge of the Sringeri Mutt. Bharati also accompanied Sankara to Sringeri and there she is worshipped even today.

Pūjaśri Śanḳarā Bhagavatpādāchārya Garba Griham at the Srimattan. A place where Ādi Śanḳarā and his disciples, including Pūjyaśrī Mahāperiyavā and Pūjyaśrī Puddu Periyavā have performed Tapas.

Sankara ascended the seat of omniscience after inviting Vedic scholars from all parts of India and answering their numerous questions. Sankara, by vanquishing all the religious opponents of his day-and they belonged to no less than seventy-two different schools-and establishing the superiority of the Vedic Dharma, had become the Jagadguru of all.

Sankara’s success over the other religious sects was so complete that none of them have since been able to raise their head in the land. Most of them have disappeared altogether. After Sankara’s time, although a few Acharyas have appeared, none of them have been able to vanquish those who differed from them as Sankara did and establish unquestioned supremacy.

Mother’s Funeral Rites:

Sankara received news that his mother was seriously ailing. He left his disciples and proceeded to Kaladi alone. His mother was then bedridden. Sankara touched her feet in reverence. He praised Lord Hari. Hari’s messengers came. Sankara’s mother gave up her physical body and went along with those messengers to the abode of Hari.

Sankara encountered serious difficulties in performing the funeral rites of his mother. Usually, Sannyasins do not perform any of the rites or ceremonies which are enjoined on the householders. The Nambudiri Brahmins were all against Sankara. Sankara’s relatives also did not help him. They did not come forward to assist him even in carrying the dead body to the place of cremation and refused to give fire for igniting the funeral pyre. At last Sankara determined to perform the funeral rites all alone. As he could not carry the entire dead body, he cut it into pieces and removed the pieces one by one to the backyard of the house. He then made a pyre there of stems of plantain trees and set fire to it by his Yogic power. Sankara wanted to teach the Nambudiris a lesson. He then made the local chief issue an edict that a corner should be set apart in each Illam or house of the Nambudiri Brahmins to burn the dead of the family and that they should cut the dead body into parts and then burn the same. This practice continues even today amongst Nambudiri Brahmins.

Sankara then returned to Sringeri. From there he went out on a tour through the eastern coast with a large number of followers. He preached his Advaita philosphy wherever he went. He established the Govardhana Mutt at Puri. He went to Kancheepuram and attacked the Shaktas. He purified the temples. He won over to his side the rulers of the Chola and the Pandya kingdoms. He went to Ujjain and put down the atrocities of the Bhairavas who were shedding human blood. He then proceeded to Dwaraka and established a Mutt there. He then travelled along the course of the Ganges and held religious controversies with great personages.

Sankara’s End:

Sankara proceeded to Kamarup-the present Guwahati-in Assam and held a controversy with Abhinava Gupta, the Shakta commentator, and won victory over him. Abhinava felt his defeat very keenly. He made Sankara suffer from a severe form of piles through black magic. Padmapada removed the evil effects of the black magic. Sankara became quite alright. He went to the Himalayas, built a Mutt at Joshi and a temple at Badri. He then proceeded to Kedarnath higher up in the Himalayas. He became one with the Linga in 820 A.D. in his thirty-second year.

Sringeri Mutt:

In the north-west of the State of Mysore, nestling in the beautiful foot-hills of the Western Ghats, surrounded by virgin forests, lies the village of Sringeri and here Sankara established his first Mutt. The river Tunga-a branch of the river Tungabhadra-runs through the valley closely touching the walls of the temple; and its pure and limpid waters are as famous for drinking purposes as the waters of the Ganges are for bath (Ganga Snanam, Tunga Panam). Sringeri is a place of great sanctity and its beauty has to be seen to be appreciated. The Mutt is ‘still going strong’ as the phrase goes. The homage paid to the Mutt by countless aspirants and devotees is as much due to the greatness of illustrious men like Vidyaranya who have been at its head ever since its foundation as to the renown of the founder himself.

It may not be out of place to mention here that it took thirty years for the well-known Sanskrit professor Max Muller to translate the commentary on the Rig Veda, written by Vidyaranya, also known as Sayana. The learned professor, in his preface, says that not a single day passed in the thirty years without his devoting at least ten minutes on the translation. There is also a little interesting incident that when the manuscript was found to be illegible in some places, he got an authorised transcription from the first original still preserved in the Sringeri Mutt, through the influence of the then Maharaja of Mysore.

The famous holy shrine of Sri Sarada is an equal source of attraction to the devotees. Many are the Mutts and monasteries in India where holy men or their successors sit, and where Hindus from all parts of India gather, but none so great or so famous as Sringeri, the original seat of Adi Sankaracharya. The Sringeri Peetha is one of the oldest monasteries of the world flourishing for over twelve centuries now. It is the first of the four seats of learning established by Sankaracharya, the other three being Puri, Dwaraka and Joshi Mutt, each one of them representing one of the four Vedas of the Hindus.

Sankara placed his four eminent disciples (Sureswara Acharya, Padmapada, Hastamalaka and Trotakacharya) in charge of the Sringeri Mutt, Jagannath Mutt, Dwaraka Mutt and Joshi Mutt respectively. The most famous Sannyasin in the succession of Gurus of the Sringeri Mutt was, of course, Vidyaranya, the great commentator on the Vedas and the father of the dynasty of Vijayanagar. He was the Dewan of Vijayanagaram. He became a Sannyasin about 1331 A.D. The eleven Sannyasins before Vidyaranya were Sankaracharya, Viswarupa, Nityabodhaghana, Jnanaghana, Jnanottama, Jnana Giri, Simha Girisvara, Isvara Tirtha, Narasimha Tirtha, Vidya Sankara Tirtha and Bharati Krishna Tirtha.

The historic and sacred pontifical throne of the Sringeri Mutt is known as Vyakhyana Simhasana or seat of learning. Tradition has it that this seat was given to the great Sankara by Sarasvati, the Goddess of Learning, in appreciation of the philosopher’s vast scholarly erudition. Thirty-five Acharyas had sat on the pontifical throne before his present holiness in regular and uninterrupted succession.

Dasanami Sannyasins:

Sankara organized ten definite orders of Sannyasins under the name ‘Dasanamis’ who add, at the end of their names, any one of the following ten suffixes: Sarasvati, Bharati, Puri (Sringeri Mutt); Tirtha, Asrama (Dwaraka Mutt); Giri, Parvata and Sagar (Joshi Mutt); Vana and Aranya (Govardhana Mutt).

The Paramahamsa represents the highest of these grades. It is possible to become a Paramahamsa by a long course of Vedantic study, meditation and Self- realisation. The Ativarnashramis are beyond caste and order of life. They dine with all classes of people. Sankara’s Sannyasins are to be found all over India.

Some Anecdotes:

Sankara was going along the street one day with his pupils to take bath in the Ganges when he met a Chandala who was also passing along the street with his dogs by his side. The disciples of Sankara shouted and asked the Chandala to clear off the road. The Chandala asked Sankara: “O, venerable Guru! You are a preacher of Advaita Vedanta and yet you make a great difference between man and man. How can this be consistent with your teaching of Advaitism? Is Advaita only a theory?”. Sankara was very much struck by the intelligent query of the Chandala. He thought within himself, “Lord Siva has assumed this form just to teach me a lesson”. He composed then and there five Slokas called the ‘Manisha Panchaka’. Every Sloka ends thus: “He who learnt to look on the phenomena in the light of Advaita is my true Guru, be he a Chandala or be he a Brahmin”.

In Kashi, a student was cramming the Sutras in Sanskrit grammar. He was repeating again and again “Dukrin karane, Dukrin karane….”. Sankara heard it and was struck by the perseverance of the boy. He immediately sang a small poem, the famous Bhaja Govindam song, in order to teach the uselessness of such studies in the matter of the liberation of the soul. The meaning of the song is: “Worship Govinda, worship Govinda, worship Govinda, O fool! When you are about to die, the repetition of these Sanskrit Sutras will not save you”.

Once some mischief-mongers offered meat and liquor to Sankara. Sankara touched those items with his right hand. The meat turned into apples and the liquor into milk.

A Kapalika came to Sankara and begged for his head as a gift. Sankara consented and asked the Kapalika to take his head when he was alone and absorbed in meditation. The Kapalika was just aiming with a big sword to sever the head of Sankara. Padmapada, the devoted disciple of Sankara came, caught hold of the arm of the Kapalika and killed him with his knife. Padmapada was a worshipper of Lord Narasimha. Lord Narasimha entered the body of Padmapada and killed the Kapalika.

Sankara’s Philosophy:

Sankara wrote Bhashyas or commentaries on the Brahma Sutras, the Upanishads and the Gita. The Bhashya on the Brahma Sutras is called Sareerik Bhasya. Sankara wrote commentaries on Sanat Sujatiya and Sahasranama Adhyaya. It is usually said, “For learning logic and metaphysics, go to Sankara’s commentaries; for gaining practical knowledge, which unfolds and strengthens devotion, go to his works such as Viveka Chudamani, Atma Bodha, Aparoksha Anubhuti, Ananda Lahari, Atma-Anatma Viveka, Drik-Drishya Viveka and Upadesa Sahasri”. Sankara wrote innumerable original works in verses which are matchless in sweetness, melody and thought.

Sankara’s supreme Brahman is Nirguna (without the Gunas), Nirakara (formless), Nirvisesha (without attributes) and Akarta (non-agent). He is above all needs and desires. Sankara says, “This Atman is self-evident. This Atman or Self is not established by proofs of the existence of the Self. It is not possible to deny this Atman, for it is the very essence of he who denies it. The Atman is the basis of all kinds of knowledge. The Self is within, the Self is without, the Self is before and the Self is behind. The Self is on the right hand, the Self is on the left, the Self is above and the Self is below”.

Satyam-Jnanam-Anantam-Anandam are not separate attributes. They form the very essence of Brahman. Brahman cannot be described, because description implies distinction. Brahman cannot be distinguished from any other than He.

The objective world-the world of names and forms-has no independent existence. The Atman alone has real existence. The world is only Vyavaharika or phenomenal.

Sankara was the exponent of the Kevala Advaita philosophy. His teachings can be summed up in the following words:

Brahma Satyam Jagat Mithya
Jeevo Brahmaiva Na Aparah

Brahman alone is real, this world is unreal; the Jiva is identical with Brahman.

Sankara preached Vivarta Vada. Just as the snake is superimposed on the rope, this world and this body are superimposed on Brahman or the Supreme Self. If you get a knowledge of the rope, the illusion of the snake will vanish. Even so, if you get a knowledge of Brahman, the illusion of the body and the world will vanish.

Sankara is the foremost among the master-minds and the giant souls which Mother India has produced. He was the expounder of the Advaita philosophy. Sankara was a giant metaphysician, a practical philosopher, an infallible logician, a dynamic personality and a stupendous moral and spiritual force. His grasping and elucidating powers knew no bounds. He was a fully developed Yogi, Jnani and Bhakta. He was a Karma Yogin of no mean order. He was a powerful magnet.

There is not one branch of knowledge which Sankara has left unexplored and which has not received the touch, polish and finish of his superhuman intellect. For Sankara and his works, we have a very high reverence. The loftiness, calmness and firmness of his mind, the impartiality with which he deals with various questions, his clearness of expression-all these make us revere the philosopher more and more. His teachings will continue to live as long as the sun shines.

Sankara’s scholarly erudition and his masterly way of exposition of intricate philosophical problems have won the admiration of all the philosophical schools of the world at the present moment. Sankara was an intellectual genius, a profound philosopher, an able propagandist, a matchless preacher, a gifted poet and a great religious reformer. Perhaps, never in the history of any literature, a stupendous writer like him has been found. Even the Western scholars of the present day pay their homage and respects to him. Of all the ancient systems, that of Sankaracharya will be found to be the most congenial and the most easy of acceptance to the modern mind.

When Shankaracharya decided to enter ‘samadhi,’ the foremost disciple of Shankara, requested that the essentials of his teaching may be summarized and given to them.

Shankaracharya then said the Dasa Shlokas, or ten verses, which elaborated the omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence of Brahman – the core concept of Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma). Today as world celebrates, Adi Shankaracharya jayanti, take a look at those ten verses

1. The five elements do no express my real nature; I am changeless and persist forever.

2. I am above castes and creeds. I am seen when ‘maya’ is removed, and do not need concentration or worship as shown in Yoga Sutras.

3. I have no parents, I need no Vedas as proclaimed in the scriptures, no sacrifices, no pilgrimages. I am the eternal witness.

4. All the teachings of various religions and philosophies do no reveal my true nature and are but shallow views of my deep being.

5. I pervade the whole universe and am above, in the middle and below, in all directions.

6. I am colourless, formless, light being my form.

7. I have no teacher, scripture or any disciples, nor do I recognize Thou or I, or even the universe and am changeless and the absolute knowledge.

8. I am neither awake, in deep sleep nor dreaming, but above consciousness with which the three are associated. All these are due to ignorance and I am beyond that.

9. I pervade everything, everywhere and the eternal reality and self-existent. The whole universe depends on me and become nothing without me.

10. I cannot be called one, for that implies two, which is not. I am neither isolated nor non-isolated, neither am I empty or full.

Posted by Krishna Chaitanya Chandolu

ASI unearths treasure in India : 4,000-year-old sacred chambers and coffins found

Ongoing excavations at 4,000-year-old burial sites at Sanauli in Uttar Pradesh’s Baghpat continue to enthrall archeologists as for the first time the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has unearthed underground “sacred chambers”, decorated “legged coffins” and fascinating artifacts in what is being claimed to be a first in the Indian subcontinent.

In the recent excavation resumed by the Archaeological Survey of India at Sanauli, district Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh, two decorated ‘legged coffins’ with two skeletons were discovered along with other fascinating artifacts.

In continuation of the work conducted in 2018 the present excavation is carried out under the direction of Dr. S.K. Manjul, Director, Institute of Archaeology, ASI, to understand the extension of burial site and also habitation area in relation with earlier findings.

Sanauli is located on the left bank of River Yamuna, 68 km north-east of Delhi which brought to light the largest necropolis of late Harappan period datable to around early part of second millennium BCE.

Credits : ANI

The excavation is being carried out at two different areas, the first in the area in continuation of 2018 excavation and the second in the area 200 m east of the former.

In the first area, two burial pits and a sacred chamber of burnt brick were discovered along with burial goods. In burial pit no. 9 one wooden ‘legged coffin’ decorated with steatite inlays having extended skeleton of a female oriented North-South, tilted 10 ˚west is excavated.

This burial pit contains evidence of decomposed bow, bone points, armlet of semiprecious stones, gold bead and pottery including vases, jars, bowls and dish on stand systematically arranged towards north and eastern sides of the coffin. An interesting find from this burial pit is the antenna sword placed near the head.

The pelvis of the skeleton is sinking in the middle indicating the process of decomposition of wooden base of the coffin, a similar feature also seen in the burial pit no.10.

In burial pit no.10 includes extended female skeleton in disturbed condition. The burial goods include copper mirror, hairpin, channel, beads and pottery. Interestingly steatite inlays forming a figure of eight which is probably the lid of a Vanity Box found between two legs of the coffin in north. The coffin is also decorated with steatite inlays similar to coffin in burial no.9. Two big pots are placed under the coffin which could have contained food and other organic remains associated with the rituals.

Another important feature to the north of two coffin burials is a sacred chamber of burnt bricks. The structure has eight courses of bricks on three sides with a probable entrance towards the south. Pottery fragments, brick bats and bones are recovered inside the structure.

The excavation in the second area, unearthed the remains of four furnaces with three associated working levels. The furnaces yielded slags, potsherds, and few charred bones. Stone weights, stone anvils, animal figurines, gamesmen, etc are part of the antiquities recovered from this area. Storage jars and cluster of pottery dump are common feature of the topmost working level. The overall ceramic assemblage has late Harappan characters.

Furnaces have narrow top and broad base with air ducts and mouth to regulate temperature. The nature of these furnaces suggests their long term usage.

The discovery of furnaces from the site indicates towards habitation activity of the period associated with the necropolis. The nature of burial pottery, coffins, antiquities such as antenna sword, pottery, etc. suggest a complex of late Harappan period. Sanauli therefore is important in not only giving new evidences of copper decorated chariots and coffins, shields, halmet in Indian sub continent first time with antenna swords, dagger, etc but also in understanding of the cultural scenario of upper Ganga-Yamuna doab.

The excavation at the site is still in progress.

Picture Courtesy : ASI

Centuries old Bronze Idols unearthed During Foundation Work In Tamilnadu, India

Indian subcontinent, land of ancient Vedic Civilization continue to amaze us with its grand treasures, this time with Centuries old bronzes.

In Kongudi village of Aranthangi Taluk in Pudukottai district of Tamilnadu, centuries old Bronze Idols were found buried under the earth and were retrieved when the spot was excavated for foundation work.

Lord Nataraja with Goddess Sivagami idols found during the construction work
Soma Skandha Murthy of Lord Shiva

Seven Idols have been excavated in all and include a Nataraja with Sivagami and Somaskanda Shiva, Skandha and a standing Sukravara Ambal Vigraha.

Skandha and a standing Sukravara Ambal Vigraha

There is an Amman temple (Goddess) in this village and adjacent to it for constructing a Local Panchayath office building, the land was excavated using a JCP Machine. During this it was found that many Bronze idols were kept buried in the spot.

Local people praying for the idols of goddess

The idols were then carefully dug out. The Goddess idol /Ambal Vigraha alone weighed 50 kg.There were three more Devi Bronzes and a Bhairava Vigraha, All the Idols were handed over to the local Tahsildar and are expected to be handed over to the Archaeology Department by the Revenue Department.

Villagers with Unearthed Bronzes

Yet to receive the actual period of these bronzes from
Archaeology Department of India.Special thanks to Dr.K P Ravichandran.

Indian Army ‘sights footprints’ of mythical creature Yeti near Makalu Base Camp

The Indian Army’s tweet claiming its expedition team sighted “mysterious footprints of the Yeti has regenerated curiosity surrounding the age old belief about the existence of the mythical ape-like creature said to inhabit the Himalayas, Siberia, Central and East Asia.

The Army on Monday tweeted images saying its mountaineering expedition team had found the Yeti’s “mysterious footprints measuring 32X15 inches”.

The army said it discovered the footprints on April 9 at Makalu Base Camp in Nepal and claimed that the “elusive snowman” has also only been sighted nearby at Makalu-Barun National Park.

Also known as “abominable snowman” and the “big foot”, claims of sighting of the mythical creature have emerged from time to time but without much of a proof.

Besides claims of the yeti sightings in the Himalayas and the Siberia,“ Bigfoot” sightings are also claimed in the Pacific Northwest, and throughout of North America.

Yeti footprint first captured in 1951

British explorer named Eric Shipton is said to have first captured the footprint of the mysterious Yeti in 1951 while he was exploring an alternative route up Mt. Everest.

Shorsky National Park a forested, mountainous area in southwestern Siberia has a 18 km trail to a cave where ‘experts’ claim the fabled Yeti hangs out.

There are several movies, documentaries books and even video games on the elusive “Yeti” and has been a facet of popular folklore in Nepal and Siberia and as “Bigfoot in North America.

In the video game Mr. Nutz, the title character goes through a series of levels before meeting his nemesis Mr. Blizzard who is a Yeti.

In the 2006 video game Titan Quest, Yetis appear as beast enemies in Act III

Walt Disney World’s attraction, Expedition Everest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, is themed around the folklore of the Yeti and features a 25-foot-tall audio-animatronic Yeti which appears during the ride.

Bumble is the Abominable Snow Monster from the 1964 Christmas television special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. He later influenced the portrayal of the yeti who appeared near the end of the film Monsters, Inc.

In the Bengali film Yeti Obhijaan, there is a prologue of gigantic teeth which, as of Yeti, is a primary plot point. Also there are different sightings and PoVs (like Tintin in Tibet) of Yeti is shown through the movie.

In 2016 the Travel Channel released, in the series Expedition Unknown, a special four-part episode titled “Hunt for the Yeti

The discovery of a rock tomb dating back to the Greco-Roman era in western Aswan

The Egyptian-Italian archaeological mission working in the area of the Aga Khan tombs in western Aswan, headed by Dr. Patricia Piasti, found an ancient tomb carved in rock for a person named tjt, which dates back to the Greco-Roman era.

Dr. Mustafa Waziri, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said that a wooden coffin containing the whole hieroglyphic text was found inside the tomb, in which the mission was able to find out the name of the graveyard as well as a text for the funerary rites of the third region of Khannum, The Nile.

Dr. Ayman Ashmawy, head of the Egyptian Antiquities Department, said that the tomb was made of a Yodi ladder to a side chamber that was found on a rock-carved coffin. Another stone was found in front of a group of mummies in a poor state of preservation.

For her part, Patricia Piacentini of the University of Stattal in Milan and head of the mission that it was also found many important archaeological collections dating back to the Greek Roman era, including a large collection of cardboard cartons of the footprints of the foot of the mummy who wears sandals and embellishes the nails of his doctrine, A white cartonage, a cartonage for a full head cover with a winged sun disk on top, two funeral funerary masks and two small statues, one of which is a good conservation of the alba bird, representing the spirit of the deceased and showing all the details of the decoration. A large collection of amphorae of various shapes and two pottery vessels containing the bitumen used in embalming.

She added that the archaeological mission has also completed the work of a complete map of the site by raising the architectural number of 226 graves of the region

Photo Credits : Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities

Nigeria: 15-Year-Old Claims Jesus Is The Father Of Her Unborn Child

Latifah Smith-Nabengana, a pregnant 15-year-old teenager from a “very religious family” has claimed that Jesus Christ is the father of her unborn baby.

According to her, an angel, during an encounter in July 2015, ‘divinely impregnated’ her while explaining that she had been chosen to bear a child for Jesus Christ.

World News Daily Report quoted her to have said: “she was visited by an Angel of God in July 2015”. That presence told her that she had been chosen to bear Christ’s son. “He told me that he was a Nephilim, like those described in the Bible,” Smith-Nabengana explained. “He told me that he had a message from Jesus, He said that I was going to be pregnant, and that I would give birth to a son, Jesus’ son.

Nephilims are mythical creatures mentioned in Genesis 6:4; “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.”

The girl’s family being “very religious” believe her wholeheartedly and await the birth of her child. Dr. William Franklin Murphy, the dector who has been following the girls’ pregnancy, says he is aware of his patient’s claim, but can’t confirm or invalidate them right now until the child is born.

“Her claims of Virgin pregnancy are technically true, but that doesn’t mean there was a divine intervention. I can tell you that it’s a boy, but there is no way for me to determine if it is Jesus’ son until he is born.”

Credits to The Guardian Nigeria.

Gorillas pose for selfie with DR Congo anti-poaching unit

The image was taken at a gorilla orphanage in Virunga National Park, DR Congo, where the animals were raised after poachers killed their parents.

The park’s deputy director told that they had learned to imitate their carers, who have looked after them since they were found as reported by BBC Newsday.

The gorillas, he added, think of the rangers as their parents.

Innocent Mburanumwe, deputy director of Virunga said the gorillas’ mothers were both killed in July 2007 as reported by the BBC

The gorillas were just two and four months old at the time.

Shortly afterwards, they were found and taken to Senkwekwe Sanctuary in Virunga, where they have lived ever since.

Because they’ve grown up with the rangers who rescued them, Mr Mburanumwe added, “they are imitating the humans” – and standing on two legs is their way of “learning to be human beings”.

But it “doesn’t happen normally”, he said.

“I was very surprised to see it… so it’s very funny. It’s very curious to see how a gorilla can imitate a human and stand up.”

Being a ranger, however, is not always fun – it is mainly dangerous work.

Five rangers were killed in Virunga National Park last year in an ambush by suspected rebels, and more than 130 park rangers have been killed in Virunga since 1996.

Eastern DR Congo is mired in conflict between the government and various armed groups.

Some of these armed groups are based in the park, where they often poach animals

Sadaf Khadem, the first female Iranian boxer to win an overseas fight, cancels return to Iran after arrest warrant issued

Sadaf Khadem, the first female Iranian boxer to win an overseas fight, intends to stay in France, where she fought last weekend, after an arrest warrant was issued by her country.

Sadaf Khadem beat the French boxer Anne Chauvin in an amateur bout on Saturday.

She had planned to fly to Tehran with her French-Iranian trainer this week.

Khadem was quoted by a sports newspaper as saying she believed she was accused of violating Iran’s compulsory dress code by boxing in a vest and shorts.

Iranian officials have not commented, but the head of Iran’s boxing federation denied that Khadem would be arrested if she came home.

“Ms Khadem is not a member of [Iran’s] organised athletes for boxing, and from the boxing federation’s perspective all her activities are personal,” Hossein Soori was quoted as saying by an Iranian news agency.

Sadaf Khadem is presented with the trophy after beating Anne Chauvin in their boxing match in Royan.

Khadem fought in a green vest and red shorts with a white waistband – the colours of Iran’s national flag – in Saturday’s bout in the western French town of Royan.

The 24-year-old had to fight abroad as, despite having the blessing of Iranian sporting authorities, it proved too complicated to fulfil their requirement that the bout be refereed and judged by women.

Khadem had been expecting a hero’s welcome when she returned to Iran.

Sadaf Khadem and her coach, Mahyar Monshipour prepare for the fight.

But while she travelled to Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport with her trainer Mahyar Monshipour – an Iranian-born former World Boxing Association champion who also serves as an adviser to the French sports minister – she said they were told that warrants had been issued for their arrest.

“I was fighting in a legally approved match, in France. But as I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt, which is completely normal in the eyes of the entire world, I confounded the rules of my country,” she told the L’Equipe newspaper.

“I wasn’t wearing a hijab, I was coached by a man – some people take a dim view of this.”

A spokesman for the Iranian embassy in Paris told Reuters news agency on Wednesday that he could not comment on whether Khadem faced arrest in Iran or on her decision not to return to Iran.

Under Iranian law, women and girls as young as nine years old who are seen in public without a headscarf can be punished with a prison sentence of between 10 days and two months, or a cash fine.

Iranian sportswomen are required to cover their hair, neck, arms and legs when competing.

Until recently, Khadem would not have been permitted to take part in an official boxing match wearing a hijab or a full body form fitting uniform for religious regions. But the International Boxing Association (AIBA), amateur boxing’s governing body, changed its uniform rules at the end of February.