Holi marks the festival of colours

Holi is a vibrant celebration that marks the arrival of spring and the triumph of good over evil. Today, Holi is celebrated not just in India but around the world, transcending cultural and geographical boundaries. It has seeped into Bollywood as well. Amitabh Bachchan’s own voice in two songs from Silsila (1981) and Baghban (2003) respectively reverberates across the nation on this day. Youngsters also groove to Balam Pichkari from Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013).

However, the festival’s roots are steeped in Hindu mythology and tradition, with various legends shaping its observance. The most popular legend associated with Holi is the story of Holika and Prahlad. Hiranyakashipu, a demon king, was granted a boon that made him virtually indestructible. His son Prahlad, however, remained devoted to Lord Vishnu, defying his father’s orders to worship him instead. In an attempt to kill Prahlad, Hiranyakashipu enlisted the help of his sister Holika, who was immune to fire. They planned to burn Prahlad alive, but through divine intervention, Prahlad emerged unscathed while Holika perished. This legend is commemorated on Holi through the ritual of Holika Dahan, where bonfires are lit to represent the burning of Holika.

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Holi celebrations vary across different regions of India, each with unique traditions. Here are a few of them:

>Lathmar Holi: In Barsana, Uttar Pradesh, women playfully hit men with sticks, emulating the actions of the gopis of Vrindavan who did the same to Lord Krishna.

>Phoolon wali Holi: At the Banke Bihari Temple in Vrindavan, instead of colors, flowers are thrown at the devotees, creating a beautiful and fragrant environment.

>Royal Holi: In Rajasthan’s Udaipur, the royal family hosts an elaborate function at the City Palace, where the festival is celebrated with much pomp and show.

>Yaosang: In Manipur, the festival is combined with the indigenous spring festival ‘Yaosang’, where folk dances and sports are organized.

>Shigmo: In Goa, the festival is known as Shigmo and is celebrated with street dances, parades, and traditional folk songs.

Finland tops the World Happiness Report for the seventh consecutive year

For the seventh year running, Finland has clinched the coveted title of the happiest country in the world. The World Happiness Report is a partnership of Gallup, the Oxford Wellbeing Research Centre, the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and the WHR’s Editorial Board.

The WHR evaluates based on self-assessed life-evaluations and reponses to the Cantril Ladder question, where respondents rate their current lives on a scale from 0 (worst) to 10 (best). Additionally the repot considers six key variables: GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom, generosity, and corruption.

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>The United States is out of the top 20 happiest countries overall for the first time since reporting began. It is currently placed 62nd.

>In the West, people under the age of 30 are becoming unhappier. People born before 1965 were, on average, happier than those born since 1980, and the gap widens as they get older.

>In India, researchers found that the older a person is, the more satisfied with life they are.

Pritzker Prize 2024: Riken Yamamoto wins the ‘Nobel Prize of Architecture’

Riken Yamamoto, an esteemed Japanese architect, has been honoured with the 2024 Pritzker Architecture Prize, internationally recognized as the highest accolade in its field. His award-winning work is celebrated for its unique approach to fostering community through architecture.

Yamamoto’s notable projects include Hotakubo Housing, his first social housing project, and Pangyo Housing, which features a communal deck on the first floor to promote resident interaction. He is the 53rd laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize and the ninth from Japan.

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>The Pritzker Prize, often referred to as the “Nobel Prize of Architecture,” is given annually to a living architect or architects. Established by Jay A. Pritzker and his wife Cindy, the inaugural prize was awarded to Philip Johnson in 1979 for his 50 years of impactful work in architecture.

>Laureates of the Pritzker Prize receive a $100,000 grant, a formal citation certificate, and a bronze medallion. The medallion’s design is inspired by the work of architect Louis Sullivan, with an inscription from Ancient Roman architect Vitruvius: “firmitas, utilitas, venustas” (firmness, commodity, and delight).

>Some notable architects to have won the award include Frank Gehry (1989) of Gugenheim Bilbao fame, Norman Foster (1999), a British architect whose high-tech designs have contributed to the modern cityscape and Rem Koolhaas (2000), a Dutch architect whose designs for structures range from the US to Qatar to China.

>In 2004, Zaha Hadid became the first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize. The Iraqi-British architect designed the London Aquatics Centre for the 2012 Olympics. Her firm was appointed to design the Navi Mumbai International Airport (NMIA).

India’s 1st underwater metro opens for public in Kolkata

On March 15, 2024, when the day’s first train began its journey from the Howrah Maidan station on the East-West metro corridor at 7 am with hundreds of people cheering, it marked a historic first in the country. Commercial services of country’s first underwater metro finally commenced in the city where it all began.

A special illumination of the inner wall of the tunnels under the river has been arranged to give the effects of water around the train. Whenever the lights turned blue, passengers understood the train is then underwater.

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>Kolkata was the first city in India to have underground metro railway, way back in 1984. It is the only metro system in the country to be controlled directly by Indian Railways. 

>The work for the East-West corridor began in 2009. After facing many hurdles and delay, tunneling under the Hooghly river commenced in 2017.

>Howrah metro station, that also aligns with Howrah Railway Station, is the deepest metro station in India. It is built to accommodate more than 40000 passengers.

>The original idea of an underwater railway was conceived by the British in 1921, around the same time when the Thames Tunnel was coming up in London. However, a feasibility analysis hindered them from going forward. It took more than 100 years to achieve this historic breakthrough.

Belgium’s new away kit is inspired by Tintin

The Royal Belgian Football Association (RBFA) unveiled the new home and away kits for its male and female internationals on March 14, 2024. While the new home kit features the traditional dark shade of red, the away kit is a homage to Belgian cartoonist Hergé and his most famous creation: Tintin. It is composed of a blue jersey with a white collar, brown shorts and white socks.

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>Tintin first appeared in Le Petit Vingtième (The Little Twentieth), a supplement to the Belgian newspaper Le Vingtième Siècle (The Twentieth Century), in 1929 through “Tintin in the Land of the Soviets“. His adventures have sold more than 270 million comics worldwide and have been translated into 70 languages since.

>Tintin’s adventures take him to various corners of the globe, from the Congo to Tibet, and from Egypt to the US. He has also been to the Moon, 19 years before Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin.

>Alongside Tintin, the series features a memorable cast of characters, including his loyal dog Snowy (Milou in the original French), the grumpy but good-hearted Captain Haddock, the bumbling detectives Thomson and Thompson (Dupont et Dupond in French), and the absent-minded Professor Calculus.

>Belgium has sported themed jerseys before as well. The EURO 2016 away kit was a playful salute to the cycling heritage of the country while the FIFA World Cup 2022 away jersey and capsule collection was inspired by the famous fireworks of Tomorrowland, an annual electronic dance music festival held in Boom near Antwerp.

IUCN says lions in Gujarat 19 times safer than in Africa

In a remarkable turn of events, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has reclassified the Asiatic lion, found primarily in Gujarat, from “endangered” to “vulnerable“. The report highlights that the Asiatic lion’s population decline risk is 19 times lower than that of their African counterparts, primarily due to effective measures against poaching and habitat loss in India.

The Asiatic lion was categorized “endangered” in 2008. This change reflects the significant strides made in conservation efforts, leading to a more stable and growing population of these majestic creatures.

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>Asiatic lions evolved in Europe, migrated to Asia Minor and eventually to the Indian subcontinent due to climatic changes. Hunting was regulated and later banned by the Nawab of Junagadh. After India’s independence, serious conservation measures were initiated, and the Gir lion sanctuary was declared in 1965 in the erstwhile Nawab’s private hunting area.

>The history of the IUCN’s species classification system dates back to 1964 with the establishment of the Red List of Threatened Species. This list has become the most comprehensive global approach for evaluating the conservation status of global flora and fauna.

>The Red List categorizes species into nine different conservation statuses:

Not Evaluated (NE): Species not yet assessed against the criteria.

Data Deficient (DD): Not enough data to make an assessment of its risk of extinction.

Least Concern (LC): Species evaluated with a low risk of extinction.

Near Threatened (NT): Species close to qualifying for or likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future.

Vulnerable (VU): Species considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.

Endangered (EN): Species at a very high risk of extinction in the wild.

Critically Endangered (CR): Species at an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.

Extinct in the Wild (EW): Species known only to survive in cultivation, in captivity, or as a naturalized population outside its past range.

Extinct (EX): No reasonable doubt that the last individual has died.

Academy Awards 2024: A Quick Recap

The 96th Academy Awards ceremony took place on March 10, 2024 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, hosted by comedian Jimmy Kimmel for the fourth time. Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer swept the night with seven awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Cillian Murphy) and Best Supporting Actor (Robert Downey Jr.). The other categories in which it won include Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Score.

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>The Oscar season finally brought down the curtains to the Barbenheimer saga. While Barbie was more successful in the box office, it won a solitary Oscar, for Best Original Song, that went to Billie Eilish’s What Was I Made For?

>The 96th Academy Awards marked many firsts. This was Christopher Nolan’s first Oscar for Best Director. Jonathan Glazer’s Holocaust drama The Zone of Interest became the first-ever British film to win the Oscar for Best International Feature Film. 

>After being nominated eight times over the last 22 years, Wes Anderson finally won his first-ever Academy Award, in the Best Live Action Short Film category, for his adaptation of The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. There’s a Kolkata connect as well. Dev Patel plays Dr Z. Z. Chatterjee in the film.

>War-torn Ukraine won her first-ever Oscar. 20 Days in Mariupol, which tells of the Russian invasion, was named Best Documentary Feature. Talking of war, Jonathan Glazer‘s speech addressed the Israel-Palestine conflict. Various celebrities also wore red pins in support of a ceasefire in Gaza.

>It was a season of seconds too. Emma Stone won her second Best Actress Oscar for Poor Things, after previously winning for La La Land. Hayao Miyazaki won his second Oscar, as his swansong The Boy and the Heron was named Best Animated Feature Film, more than two decades after winning his first Oscar for Spirited Away. The legendary animator also received an honorary Oscar in 2014.

125-ft statue of Bir Lachit Borphukan unveiled in Assam

Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled a 125-ft statue of Bir Lachit Borphukan at the latter’s ‘maidam’ (burial site) in Assam’s Jorhat district. This was part of the Lachit Barphukan Maidam Development Project at Hollongapar, a Rs 214 crore to develop the place into a major tourist spot.

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>The legendary Ahom general is celebrated for his leadership against the Mughal Empire, led by Raja Ram Singh Kachwaha of Amber, in the 1671 Battle of Saraighat, a decisive victory that secured Ahom sovereignty over the region.

>The statue, named ‘The Statue of Valour’ has been crafted by the 99-year-old Padma Bhushan Ram Vanji Sutar, the veteran scuptor most famous for his work on Sardar Patel, the Statue of Unity in Gujarat, which is the tallest statue in the world.

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