Interesting Facts About Evolution!

    1. Ultimately every living thing can trace its ancestry to a bacterium that lived billions of years ago.
    2. Bears, seals, and dogs are closely related carnivores but are on a different branch of the evolutionary tree than cats and hyenas.
    3. Some snakes have hipbones, which shows they once had four legs like lizards, their close cousins.
    4. Early whales had large back legs.
    5. Inside some whales and dolphins are small bones that show they once had back legs and that their ancestors walked on land. These occasionally reappear as tiny rear flippers.
    6. Birds evolved from dinosaurs and both are descended from reptiles. The closest living reptilian relation of a bird is the crocodile.
    7. Evolution rarely follows a straight line from species to species. Instead, it is more like a tree with many branches. Some branches lead to new branches, while others become dead ends.
    8. An elephant’s trunk is an amazing example of evolutionary development. It is a combined nose and upper lip that lengthened as the elephant’s ancestors became taller and their tusks grew bigger. With its heavy head, it needed an easy way to reach the ground.
    9. Physically, the human body seems to have changed very little in the last 50,000 years. However improvements in diets, increased lifespan, and developments in biotechnology may start to speed up the evolutionary process.
    10. All humans develop a tail in the womb that eventually dissolves.
    11. The penises of human ancestors were covered in hard spines. Theorists believe these spines possibly helped a man’s sperm overtake that of his competitors. As humans became more monogamous, the spines became obsolete.
    12. Charles Darwin did not come up with his theory of evolution while at the Galapagos Islands. His ideas came later, after his return from the voyage.
    13. Darwin (1809–1882) did not come up with the phrase “survival of the fittest” to summarize his theory. Rather, the philosopher Herbert Spencer (1820–1903) coined the phrase.
    14. Darwin did not argue that humans came from monkeys. Rather he wrote only thatmonkeys, apes, and humans have a common ancestor.
    15. Approximately 550 million years ago, humans had a common ancestor with a lancelet, a rod-like sea animal.
    16. Humans share about 31% of their genes with yeast, a single living cell that replicates every 90 minutes. They share about 50% of their genes with a banana.l
    17. A pair of parents would have to have 1,000,000,000,000,000 (a quadrillion) babies before they possibly might have a child with the same genes as any of their other children. This genetic variation between individuals is the key to how species have evolved.
    18. A descended larynx, which allows humans to speak, evolved roughly 350,000 year ago. Humans also possess a descended hyoid one, which allows humans to articulate words. In contrast, the larynx in a chimp, for example, sits higher in the throat than in a human.
    19. A hobbit-like species of human lived about 18,000 years ago. About the size of a 3-year-old, they lived with pygmy elephants and 10-foot-long lizards.
    20. The changes in a human pelvis that allow humans to walk upright also made bearing children unusually more dangerous than the rest of the animal kingdom. Additionally, the lumbar curve in the lower back, which helps humans maintain balance, is more vulnerable to pain and injury.
    21. A square inch of human skin on average has as much or more hair-producing follicles as other primates. The difference is that human hair is thinner, shorter, and lighter.
    22. Researchers believe that goose bumps are a remnant of thick hair that covered early humans.
    23. While other primates have opposable thumbs, humans are unique because they can bring their thumbs across the hand to their ring and little fingers. Humans can also flex the ring and little fingers toward the base of the thumb. This allows humans to have a powerful grip and dexterity to hold and use tools.
    24. The development of human clothes has influenced the evolution of other species. For example, unlike all other kinds of louse, the body louse clings to clothing not to hair.
    25. Evolutionary biologists hypothesize that species that cooperate rather than compete value sameness, which has led to right-hand dominance. Lefties constitute just 10% of the normal population; yet they make up 50% of elite athletes.
    26. Researchers suggest that the discovery of fire influenced human evolution. Fire allowed humans to cook their food, which made food easier to chew and digest—which, in turn, contributed to the reduction of human tooth and gut size.
    27. While most animals reproduce until they die, humans have evolved to survive long after the ability to reproduce. Scientists believe this has helped ensure the success of a woman’s family.
    28. The theory of evolution has three basic parts: 1) it is possible for an organism’s DNA to change or mutate; 2) the change is harmful, beneficial, or neutral; and 3) after a long period of time, the mutations cause new species to form.
    29. Mutations fuel evolution by providing new genes in the gene pool of a species. Many factors cause DNA mutation, including X-rays, cosmic rays, nuclear radiation, and random chemical reactions in a cell.
    30. In 1861, the fossil of a primitive bird named Archaeopteryx (“first bird”) was found in Germany. It has impressions of feathers and a long, bony tail. Scientist believe this fossil links birds and reptiles and was the first solid evidence to support Darwin’s theory of evolution.
    31. In the 1870s, Ernst Haeckel, a German biologist and naturalist, developed the idea of “evolution as progress,” which assumes that all nature is moving toward a final goal: human beings.
    32. The discovery of DNA (strands of hereditary material) provides the strongest proof for biological evolution. By comparing genomes of different living things and observing the changes in the coding of genes, scientists can figure out how closely different species are related to each other and identify how long ago a common ancestor lived.
    33. Modern evolution theory recognizes that evolution does not always mean progress. If the environment changes, more advanced animals can die out while less advanced relatives survive.
    34. Darwin was not the first to propose a theory of evolution. His real achievement was that he was able to present a more coherent argument for evolution backed up by a mass of accurate information.
    35. In revolutionary France, a theory of evolution (by Jean Baptiste Lamarck) was used to challenge the authority of the church and the king. Fearful of similar uprisings, England made evolution a scandalous idea.
    36. Scientists believe that the nictitating membrane (the small pink tissue in the corner of a human eye) is a remnant of a third eyelid, similar to the semitransparent eyelid used by birds, reptiles, fish, and other mammals. It is used to protect the eye or moisten it.
    37. Eighty-five percent of the population cannot wiggle its ears or control the Auricularis muscles that surround the outer ear. Scientists believe this muscle allowed human beings’ primate ancestors to move their ears in different directions to pinpoint the locations of sounds. They lost the need to move their ears when they started to live in groups.
    38. Scientists believe that wisdom teeth and the appendix are leftover “equipment” from when humans ate a primarily leaf-based diet. As the human diet changed, these appendices have become essentially useless.
    39. The term “Junk DNA” refers to regions of DNA that are noncoding—or, in other words, they do not code for a protein. Scientists note that evolution is messy, incomplete, and inefficient and, consequently, it results in DNA sequences with varying degrees of function or no function at all. In the human genome, almost all (98%) of DNA is noncoding.
    40. Hiccups may date back to humans’ watery ancestors. Wiring in the brain that pushes water over fish gills and makes amphibians gulp air has been imperfectly rewired in mammals. It can make the diaphragm go into spasms, which causes hiccups.
    41. Because of evolution, many animals lay hundreds of eggs each year to ensure that even a few reach adulthood. If all the froglets survived, the world would be knee-deep in frogs within 10 years.
    42. The platypus is the earliest mammal offshoot from the reptiles. It lays eggs but produces milk like other mammals. It also has evolved the ability to produce venom independently of its reptile ancestors.
    43. The plantaris muscle in the foot is used by animals to grip and manipulate objects with their feet. For example, apes seem to be able to use their feet as well as their hands. In humans, however, this muscle is so underdeveloped that doctors often remove it when they need tissue for reconstructing other parts of the body. About 9% of humans are now born without it.
    44. Humans have very little hair compared to other primates. Researchers believe humans have evolved this feature because 1) it made it easier to forage for food in shallow water, 2) it helped humans lose heat faster on the hot savannas, and 3) it helped reduce the number of parasites on the body.
    45. Human evolution has taken 5 million years. Modern man, or homo sapiens (“wise man”), emerged 250,000 years ago. Until 25,000 years ago, humans lived alongside the Neanderthals, who were stronger and more stocky. Scientists are unsure what happened to the Neanderthals.
    46. The evolution of the mammalian ear can be clearly tracked through fish, amphibian, and reptile fossils. Mammals have three small bones in the inner ear that began as the jawbones of fish. Over time, they changed form and function, shrank, and moved away from the jaw. This allowed mammals to develop a superior sense of hearing.
    47. Madagascar split from Africa 165 million years ago, which was before Africa’s large mammals, such as elephants and giraffes, evolved. Hence, elephants and giraffes do not live on Madagascar. Hippos are thought to be the only large mammals to have swum to Madagascar.
    48. Some scientists believe that if humans colonize other planets, colonizers would face new environment conditions, such as low gravity and oxygen. Over centuries, the colonizers and the plants and animals they took with them would evolve to look and behave differently.
    49. A panda’s thumb is actually an enlarged wrist bone that has evolved to allow the panda to hold onto its favorite food: bamboo.
    50. Birds haven’t had teeth for 70 million years, but researchers have found them in the embryos of mutant chickens. Researchers believe that chickens lost their teeth to grow beaks—although, they still have the potential to make teeth.
    51. Most people had brown eyes until about 10,000 years ago when a single genetic mutation from the Black Sea switched the eyes from brown to blue. Approximately 8% of the world’s population now has blue eyes.
    52. Researchers are unsure if humans are still evolving or if they have reached their evolutionary peak.
    53. A new species is achieved when two populations of the same living thing become so different that they can no longer breed with each other.
    54. Evolutionary biologists note that a symmetrical face is more attractive around the world because symmetry signals good genes for reproductive health.
    55. According to evolutionary biologists, women are more attracted to men with a large jaw and prominent brow, which are shaped by high levels of testosterone. Men are attracted to women with smaller chins and less prominent brows, which signal higher estrogen levels.
    56. One study found that men who were hungry preferred women with higher body weights. Researchers suspect this happens because of an evolutionary response to resource scarcity; in other words, a heavier woman advertises access to more resources, such as food.
    57. Historically, men prefer women with an hourglass figure. Researchers believe this is a product of evolution because the waist-hip ratio (WHR) serves as an indicator of reproductive health.
    58. Scientific studies have shown that blushing helps ease hostile responses by communicating that a person is ashamed or apologetic. Studies show that blushing elicits sympathy, which helps keep the subject alive. Humans are the only animals capable of blushing.
    59. Lip twitching when angry is an evolutionary leftover. It is the first part of baring teeth at an intruder and can also be seen in wolves, bears, and chimpanzees.
    60. Many people feel the urge to lift their feet or climb to a more elevated position when scared or feeling anxious. Evolutionary biologists claim this is a remnant instinct from when early ground-dwelling mammals would climb trees when threatened.
    61. Evidence for evolution is continually being gathered and tested; consequently, scientists argue that evolution is both a fact and a theory.
    62. The Tiktaalik is a fossil that shows the transition between a fish and a walking tetrapod. This “fishapod” had developed wrist and finger bones that enabled it to prop itself up on its fins. Holes on top of its head suggest it may have breathed air through primitive lungs.
    63. The term “evolution” dates from the Latin evolutionem, meaning “unrolling” or “an opening of what was rolled up.”
    64. Scientists believe that red hair and pale skin was evolutionarily advantageous in northern Europe because it helped humans to synthesize vitamin D more easily.
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Android Phone at Rs. 888?

Another scam? Docoss X1 phone launched at Rs 888

Remember Freedom 251? Of course you do! That’s the phone that set the bar for stooping low (pun intended) as far as how cheap and affordable a ‘fully-functional’ smartphone could be in the real world.

That’s right, Ringing Bells promised a phone for as low as Rs 251, and the rest as they say is controversy. Apparently, Freedom 251 was just the start. Jaipur-based Docoss has now come up with its own version of the Freedom 251 that it calls the Docoss X1.

Priced at Rs 888, the Docoss X1 is claimed to be a fully-functional Android-based smartphone that is now available for pre-order from the company’s just launched website.

Deliveries of the Docoss X1 will begin from May 2, while pre-bookings close this Friday. Pre-booking is via SMS-only. Cash on delivery option is also available.

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Just the way the Freedom 251 website did not reveal the exact product images initially, the Docoss X1 website is also missing out on any real photographs. Moreover, the website fails to give enough information about the company in general. Unlike the Freedom 251, folks behind the Rs 888 phone have taken a rather silent route with the Docoss X1. While the Freedom 251 was launched amid great pomp and show, the Docoss X1 has had a rather forgettable launch.

In terms of specifications, the Docoss X1comes with a 4-inch display, a 1.2GHz dual-core Cortex A7 processor with 1GB and 4GB of internal memory which is further expandable by up to 32GB via microSD card.

The dual SIM phone runs Android KitKat and supports 3G connectivity. It sports a 2-megapixel camera on the rear and a VGA front-facing camera. The phone is backed by a 1,300mAh battery.

Given that nobody has heard of the company before, and that Docoss claims to have been featured on The Verge, Mashable, etc if you go by the web cache page on Google, there are serious doubts about the authenticity of this smartphone and the company itself.

The company’s address is listed as “Third Floor, Happy Tower, Maharani Farm, Durgapura, Jaipur, Rajasthan.” Docoss X1 is not the first smartphone in India to cause a frenzy thanks to a ‘low’ price, which makes even most budget phones seem exorbitant. In February this year, a similar frenzy ensued when another never-heard of company called Ringing Bells launched Freedom 251 at just Rs 251. Ringing Bells claimed that it was keeping the cost low by manufacturing in India, and that it would deliver all smartphones by end of June. The website crashed soon after bookings opened thanks to the overwhelming orders. Plus it was revealed that the smartphone shown at the launch was a re-branded version of another device from a Chinese player called AdCom. AdCom later threatened to sue Ringing Bells.

Given the Rs 251 pricing, and the fact that the website kept crashing, angry customers also turned up at Ringing Bells’ Noida office only to find it empty. While the fate of those who bought the Freedom 251 remains unclear, the Docoss X1 has also managed to gain some fame on the internet thanks to the Rs 888  price-tag.

The amateurish-looking Docoss’ website asks buyers to book the smartphone via an SMS. On its social media platforms, the company has requested buyers not to make calls on the number given for SMS. We suggest you tread with caution here. Although the proposition of a Rs 888 smartphone seems very tempting, the very recent case of the Freedom 251 is a classic example of how things are not always what they seem on first look.

Given that we can’t really verify any details about this company, anyone buying this phone should do keep a caveat in mind: it might not really exist.

Cauliflower Crust Pan Pizza!

It may be necessary for some, but I really don’t believe in following measurements. I just add according to what feels right in terms of texture and consistency. Also constant tasting after ever step helps you know how you are progressing with the recipe. You can always go a little here and there with the ingredients to suit your taste buds. That shouldn’t be a problem. A little common sense is required especially when using spices and salt! If you are trying something new, try with a lesser quantity so that even if you fail, you’ll always have another chance at doing something better than your first attempt. So don’t stress. Cooking is fun!

I love colorful food and try to use a lot of vegetables. It not only looks beautiful, but it is highly nutritious too.

So here’s what I experimented the other day at home. It’s a Pizza that tastes amazing; looks gorgeous and your tummy will thank you for the healthy treat!

Do try it out and comment below on what’s your take on it. If you’ve tried your very own twist, post your versions here and I’d love to try those out too! So here goes the recipe for today…

Cauliflower Crust Tava Pizza!

9

Ingredients (Pizza Base)

  • Boiled Cauliflower – A quarter approx.
  • Boiled & Peeled Potatoes – A Medium Sized approx.
  • Grated Cheddar Cheese – A small slice is what I used. You can add more.
  • Amul Garlic & Herbs Butter – A small slice again.
  • All purpose Flour – 1 Tbsp approx. You can avoid this or replace with other flour.
  • Egg – 1 whole egg. You can avoid this too if you are a pure vegetarian.
  • Salt – As per your taste.

Ingredients (Pizza Sauce)

  • Onion – 1 small onion to medium, roughly sliced.
  • Garlic Cloves – 3 or 4 is fine.
  • Dried Chilli or Chilli Flakes – Just 1/4th 
  • Tomato Ketchup – 3 Tbsp or you can add Tomato Puree
  • Butter – Very little.
  • Salt – As per your taste.

Ingredients (Toppings)

  • Tomatoes – 1 should be enough.
  • Baby corn – 2 to 4.
  • Bell Peppers – Quarter of yellow, red and/or green.
  • Jalapeños – I used 5 sliced homemade pickled Jalapeños.
  • Pepper Corns – Around 5 crushed/powdered.
  • Oil/Butter &  Oregano – Very little to Sauté & for taste. Or you can use Amul Garlic Herbs Butter.
  • Salt – As per your taste.

2

Method: (Start With The Base)

  • Take a deep bowl and add all the ingredients – Cauliflower, Potato, All Purpose Flour, Whole Egg, Amul Garlic & Herbs Butter, Grated Cheese and Salt. If you do not have the herbs butter, you can add oregano and sautéed garlic to the mixture.
  • Mash all the ingredients so that all of them get blended really well. You need not necessarily make this into a smooth paste. The consistency should be that of a paste. If you feel the mixture is dry, then add a little milk cream or water. If the mixture is watery, then add a little more flour to thicken the mixture.
  • Take a non-stick tava (pan) and grease it with the Amul garlic & herbs butter.
  • Pour the mixture and spread it evenly on the tava.
  • The texture should look somewhat like this :

1

  • If you want the base to be on the crispier side, apply a thin layer on the pan. I poured the entire mixture to create a thick base that’s soft and creamy.
  • Place the pan on the gas on a medium flame and let it cook well. It will easily come off from the pan and when it’s a light brown shade, flip over. You can take a plate and slide it on the plate from the tava and then flip the plate over on the pan to avoid breaking the base.
  • It will look like this, once it is cooked well on both sides. Switch off the flame and keep aside in the same pan. We need this later after the toppings come in. You can also eat it like that because it tastes good too!

3

Method: (The Pizza Sauce)

  • In another non-stick pan, add butter and once it is hot, sliced onions, Sauté till light brown.
  • Add whole garlic cloves, dried chilli or chilli flakes and switch off the gas once you get a mild fragrance from the garlic.

4

  • Let it cool and then transfer it in a grinder.
  • Add salt and tomato ketchup. You can use fresh tomato puree as well. I used a Tomato ketchup that already had onion and garlic. So it tasted better.

5

  • Blend all the ingredients in the mixer and spread the sauce over the pizza base evenly.
  • Here’s what it looked like on my pizza base:

7

Method: (Toppings)

  • In the same pan, add a little butter if required.
  • Add to this, the cut vegetables – Tomatoes & Baby Corn. Add Bell Peppers. You can add Chicken, Paneer (Cottage Cheese) & Mushrooms too if you want more taste.
  • Add pickled Jalapeños and sauté for sometime till everything is cooked through.

6

  • Add salt & herbs to taste.
  • Get the pizza base that has been spread with pizza sauce.
  • Equally distribute the sautéed vegetables on top of the base covering it completely.

8

  • Sprinkle Pepper powder.
  • Switch on the gas and again heat it on medium flame to warm it.
  • Last but not the least, grate some cheese over the pizza.
  • Take it off the gas, slice it in equal portions and serve.

11

Save Little Tejal!

Tejal, one of the most brilliant kids under our care at Teresa – The Ocean of Humanity Foundation is hospitalized in an extremely serious condition since 2 weeks. She is in a semi-paralytic state and has not been able to eat or open her mouth ever since. She was being treated at a hospital in Kandivali, but after her situation worsened, we have shifted her to Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital & Medical Research Institute in Andheri. They have taken multiple tests along with MRI scans and sent her spinal fluid for tests. Nothing concrete was detected from the reports but her symptoms and tests lean towards Tetanus. The spasms haven’t stopped and to help her breathe, the doctors have carried out a tracheotomy surgery on her, where they made an incision in the trachea (windpipe) for a tube to be inserted. They couldn’t place the tube in her mouth as it would only give rise to further infections. Compared to her first week, there has been a little improvement in her condition, but she still is very critical.

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Always chirpy, ever smiling and constantly pinching, our 7 year old angel, Tejal is now lying on a hospital bed constantly on a ventilator, in silence, struggling to live. She recently stood 2nd in her class and she is so strong academically that we always knew she would do really well in future. It’s disheartening to see such an active child like her go through so many surgeries and pain at a very tender age.

She is not responding to medicines and therefore the treatment will take more time. The doctors have said that she will need 4-6 weeks in the ICU and it could even stretch further to months. Per day expenses at the hospital are between Rs. 25,000 – Rs. 30,000. This has come unexpectedly and the NGO is not prepared financially to take on such a big case.

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Prince Kumar Tiwari (Founder of TOHF) who is helping with the expenses at the hospital is trying to save her with whatever he can do. If any of you could help her in any way, please get in touch with Prince on: +91 9022557873. SMS/Whatsapp him if the call doesn’t get through.

You can also directly contribute your bit in the name of ‘Teresa The Ocean Of Humanity Foundation’. Here are the bank details for NEFT/Wire Transfer:  Yes Bank, Thakur Village, Kandivali East Branch, A/C No. 021288700000037, IFSC Code: YESB0000212.

Kindly keep her in your prayers. Thank you all for your kind help, encouraging words and donations. She has this amazing chance at recovery only because of you all. She is a fighter and we know she will wake up soon from her suffering.

Please share this message as much as you can.

The Island Where Everyone Wears A Gas Mask!

Mount Oyama

Resting atop a chain of volcanoes, Miyake-jima is an island in the Izu group, southeast of Honshū, Japan. About 160 kilometers south of Tokyo , this town is a hub for volcanic activity where over the past century, the volcanoes have erupted six times. The worst of these occurred in June 2000 when, after a repose of 17 years Mount Oyama which is an extremely active volcano spot erupted & 17,500 earthquakes hit the island between June 26 and July 21.

Inside of Mount OyamaEruption of Mount Oyama in Miyakejima Japan Picture

During the assault of eruptions and earthquakes, ash plumes soaring as high as 10 miles enveloped Miyake-jima, and heavy ash fell as the craters collapsed. High levels of toxic sulphur dioxide would regularly rise up through the ground, making 20 percent of the land not fit for habitation. Covered with a cloud of harmful sulphur dioxide gas, spewed into the air by volcanic eruptions, the islands heavy weather systems and cold make it worse. At one point, it was so bad that it was polluting the air with 42,000 tons of sulphur dioxide per day. Those who have studied the volcano’s patterns have found that it goes off in intervals of 20 years.  But even when Mount Oyama isn’t mid-eruption, it continues to emit sulfuric gas.

Miyakejima Panorama Photograph

The eruptions released so much toxic gas into the air that three months later in September, the government had to force a mass evacuation of the entire island. Over 3,600 people evacuated the island in 2000 because of the toxic gases which could harm their lungs. For five years, Miyake-jima was declared off-limits, with the barren island resembling a post-apocalyptic world. Dead trees and rusted cars peppered the derelict space. Mount Oyama continued to emit 10,000 to 20,000 tons of sulphuric dioxide gas from its summit every day for two years following the eruption. Slowly, though, the evacuation order began to lift, and in 2005 citizens were allowed to return to their homes.

6_gas mask town japanGas Protection

Despite the high level of volcanic activity that causes poisonous gas to leak from the earth, some island denizens just can’t stay away! Some opted to remain in their relocated houses in Tokyo, but about 2,800 chose to return, taking back the island’s abandoned buildings. They have adopted ways to suit the living conditions in the island.

8_gas mask town japan

Considering the re-populating of the island, nearly a third of Miyake-jima remains permanently uninhabitable and the government mandates regular health checkups and enforces age restrictions in certain areas. In terms of monitoring the air quality, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has been watching the volcanic activity through videos, helicopter and satellite images.

Naval Leapfrog4_gas mask town japan3_gas mask town japan

In the meantime, civilians walk around with gas masks to protect themselves from the toxicity. All residents and visitors are required to carry gas masks, and an air raid alarm goes off when the sulfur levels get unhealthily high. So when the air quality gets bad enough, the town turns into a masked extra-terrestrial looking crowd of people seemingly attending the same themed costume party.

Miyakejima The Gas Mask Town

But all that poisoned air does have its perks. While many wouldn’t exactly call this an ideal spot for tourists, some curious about this town where the citizens wear gas masks do venture through. Gas mask tourism is a huge draw for people who want to pretend they’re living in the post-destruction age. With disposable masks sold at ferry stations and local stores, this gas-soaked village hasn’t kept tourists away. The city’s site advises visitors to learn about the harmful effects of sulfur dioxide before visiting as it can be quite damaging to one’s health. They even suggest tourists get a respiratory medical exam before booking the trip. Visitors can also take tours of abandoned houses, flattened cars and a school gym half-destroyed by lava or dip themselves in hot spring baths, until self-awareness hits and visitors realize that they find disaster enjoyable enough to pay for.

9_gas mask town japan

Free Basics – Why You Shouldn’t Support It!

There’s a lot of buzz going around ‘Free Basics’ – A platform that Facebook is trying to get it launched full-fledged in India. But what exactly is Free Basics? Does it really mean that Indians will now have access to basic Internet for free? Let’s find that out in detail. Whether the claims are too good to be true or it’s just another scam that can prove to be really disastrous in future!

Why ‘Internet.org’ was renamed to ‘Free Basics’?

About a year ago, when Internet.org was launched in India, countless netizens protested as it was against net neutrality. Shocked by this response, the marketing department of Facebook renamed it to ‘Free Basics’ and re-launched it here as they thought Indians would never say ‘no’ to anything that says ‘free’. Facebook has been aggressively marketing to get it accepted by India’s Telecom regulator. Right from publishing full page newspaper ads, roadside banners and online ads, they have also started sending constant notifications to all their Indian Users to click a button which will direct an email to TRAI saying that you support ‘Free Basics’. They ‘accidentally’ sent these notifications to foreign users as well. And, if you do not accept their pesky notifications, they make you feel guilty for not supporting ‘digital equality’ by showing the list of your friends who support it. By the look of these ads, it seems like Facebook is doing a huge favor for India through ‘Free Basics’ and our government is acting all evil trying to put a stop to their good efforts. But is that so?

What is Free Basics?

Free Basics is a platform given by Facebook in association with telecom operators, where certain basic internet websites will be available free of cost. This means, if you are visiting Facebook or its partner websites, you don’t have to pay internet charges at all. However, if you are visiting other websites such as Google, you need to pay data charges as you have been doing all this while. In India, Facebook has tied up with Reliance to make certain websites free of cost. However, while Facebook claimed that the initiative would allow people who cannot afford the Internet to get access to ‘information’ and connect with the world, a number of people and organizations have been opposing it. And this is because ‘Free Basics’ does not mean free access to the whole of Internet.

What is Net Neutrality?

Net Neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet the same, not discriminating or charging differently by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication. It is one of the fundamental principle due to which Internet exists in the form we see today. Source: Net neutrality- Wikipedia

Internet Access v/s Services on the Internet

Google is a service and so is “Internet access” – and if many of you are using Google service for free – then there is no point in fighting or debating for “Internet access” which is also a service. Google service also requires infrastructure and Internet Access also requires infrastructure – it depends on the business model of the companies on how they generate revenue.  Internet is an open protocol and there is difference between protocols and infrastructures. What we pay for is “Internet access” because that requires a lot of infrastructure and we pay rent for using that infrastructure. Gmail or Facebook are services but not the internet. Internet is collection of those services from which the user should be allowed to choose what he/she likes.

What does Reliance gain from this?

Here’s the deal. You have two options to access Facebook: (1) You can choose Reliance network, and access it for free; or (2) You can choose other telecom operators and pay for the same service. What will you do? It is obvious that people would prefer to go for Reliance. However, once you register on the Reliance network, you realize that actually you need more than just the websites available on Free Basics. Free Basics does not have Google, YouTube, Amazon, Flipkart, Yahoo, LinkedIn,Twitter, Snapdeal, HDFC, ICICI, PayTM, eBay, IRCTC, NDTV, Rediff, Quora, Quikr, RedBus, BSE/NSE and the list goes on. The basics of Indian internet is not on Free “Basics” and you will soon realize, (Click on the image below) that it offers nothing significant, and you will anyway need to pay for the other services.

websites freebasics

When these people, who are now interested in internet, get converted to full payment service, then Reliance becomes their obvious choice. Therefore, telecom operators gain from Free Basics because it increases their subscribers.

What happens if other Telecom Operators join?

We now know Reliance is interested in Free Basics as it gives them an edge over other telecom providers. However, what if other telecom operators also join in? Imagine if all the major telecom operators in India such as Idea, Airtel, Vodafone etc. join the Free Basics platform, what happens then? Reliance will not have any inherent advantage and in that sense, all the websites listed above will be available for free on all the networks. In that case, these telecom operators will gain nothing and will all be just killing themselves? The fact is that these telecom operators are interested in this initiative because it gives them more subscribers. It increases the size of the market as a whole. A lot of people from rural India who have never used internet on their mobile phones will now start using internet. In this whole initiative, the telecom operators will eventually win, because their subscriber base will go up. You may argue that they are not charging for it (because it is free basics). But this argument is foolish because you and I both appreciate that the websites offered by Free Basics are not even basics. They are not offering useful websites like Khan Academy or Amazon or Quora or even Google for that matter. Therefore, anyone who subscribes to Free Basics will eventually want to shift to the full version of internet.

Why is Free Basics a problem?

One thing we must understand is that internet has always been free, fair and democratic in terms of access of information and usage. But today with the dawn of Free Basics, this space is under threat. Even though we do not discuss or see it around us, the World Wide Web dictates our present and future in a manner more real than we can imagine. The ones who are joining the internet today or in the future should be able to use the internet without any restriction, just the way it is meant to be. The issue here is that Facebook’s Free Basics app offers some Internet services (like Facebook) for free, but doesn’t offer the entire Internet for free. This violates net neutrality, the concept that all content online should be treated equally.

Plus no competitor of Facebook would use free basics for obvious reasons. We must never forget that it’s a public company. Even if Marks intentions are good, in difficult times they would use everything they have like targeted ads, big data and many more. Facebook at present sells your data to NSA (source) and this is a security issue for India. So you can anticipate what they can do in future. But the major problem is the ecosystem which is what they are trying to create over the coming years.

Today, there are nearly 1 billion websites and if we consider that there are 3.5 billion users of the Internet, 1 (which could be you) out of every 3.5 such users also offer content or services. The reason that the Internet has become such an influential force for change in such a short period of time is precisely because anybody can connect to anyone, anywhere in the world, not only to receive, but also to provide content or service. This gives both sides equal access to the Internet. But unfortunately, all this would stop if the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) or telecom companies (Telcos) are given the right to act as gatekeepers.

No ISP or Telco can decide what part of the Internet or which websites we can access. Tim Wu, the father of net neutrality, has written that keeping the two sides of the Internet free of gatekeepers is what has given a huge incentive for generating innovation and creating content. This is what has made the Internet, as a platform, so different from other mass communications platforms such as radio and television. Essentially, it has unleashed the creativity of the masses; and it is this creativity we see in the hundreds of millions of active websites. Facebook’s ads and Mark Zuckerberg’s advertorials talk about education, health and other services being provided by Free Basics, without telling us how on earth are we going to access education or doctors and medicines through the Internet? It forgets that while English is spoken by only about 12 per cent of the world’s population, 53 per cent of the Internet’s content is English. If Indians need to access education or health services, they need to access it in their own languages and not in English. No education can succeed without teachers. The Internet is not a substitute for schools and colleges but only complements and that too if the material exists in the languages understandable by the students. Similarly, health demands clinics, hospitals and doctors and not just a few websites on a private Facebook platform.

The danger of privileging Free Basics over a public Internet is that it initiates a new kind of digital divide among the people. A large fraction of people who join Free Basics may come to believe that Facebook is indeed ‘The Internet’. Just the way the British Empire was based on the control of the seas, whoever controls the vast oceans of data today, controls the global economy.

Net neutrality is not an obscure subject which concerns only a few netizens. It is fundamental to the world, in which the Internet is a fountainhead of knowledge, a platform for communication and an artery of commerce. The one who wheels access to the Internet will control our future ultimately. This is what the current battle over Facebook’s Free Basics is all about.

Why hasn’t Free Basics launched in the US or other major economies?

This scam has been pushed through these poor, mostly helpless African nations who have no experience of anything better and who have no ‘activists’ like us who tell their governments they’re raising a generation of deprived children with no access to the real internet. The more online-progressive countries like Japan, Norway, Finland, Estonia and Netherlands have banned programs such as Free Basics. With over 12 lakh emails to TRAI last year, we worked our way towards a ban for it in India too – but Facebook has since spent a large amount of cash in ads, lobbying, diplomacy and PR to try to get it unbanned here. They’ve managed to re-open a closed issue, again. And now we need to re-shut Free Basics.  This program, call it digital apartheid if you will, has been roundly condemned by experts ranging from Tim Berners-Lee, the gentleman who invented the world-wide web, to Ph. D. researchers to civil society officials working in the field, globally. Just because countries like South Africa did not know how to say no to Facebook doesn’t mean India has to say yes. In fact, India saying no to this digital apartheid should hopefully inspire the African and other poor nations to kick out this evil program that serves no one but Facebook at their government’s expense. The issue in India is big, not only because it is home to Facebook’s second-biggest user base outside the U.S., but because whatever happens in India will likely set a precedent in other important countries, like Indonesia and Brazil.

Click on the image below for the list of countries where Free Basics has been launched.

FREEBASICS COUNTRIES 3

FREEBASICS COUNTRIES 2

FREEBASICS COUNTRIES 1

In the US, Facebook is strongly on the side of net neutrality – but in the developing and undeveloped world, they speak from the other side of their mouth, blatantly seeking to violate net neutrality and to give our citizens here a second-rate online experience that they wouldn’t even dream of offering people in their home country.  There are almost 50 million unconnected people in the US. Why haven’t Facebook tried offering them this shoddy program and see how the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) responds to them? We Indians do not need a “bridge” to the full internet, when we can have the full internet itself. The “bridge” is a fancy invention by Facebook to refer to a holding area where Facebook holds, numbers and tracks people before they pay up and wander off into the real internet. Study after study has shown that the poor and the less fortunate in undeveloped nations vastly prefer limited access to the full internet (for example a data limit or a speed limit) rather than full access to a few limited sites – like the one ‘Facebook Free Basics’ offers. They want the freedom of choice. Why hasn’t Facebook chosen the other, proven options to bring people to the internet that do not violate Net Neutrality?

Is Facebook doing this as charity?

Forget their lies about “wanting to connect India” – if they really did, they would offer the open and full internet to everybody for free. The real reason is something they have never denied: their rivalry with Google and their questionable stock price. Both companies have 1.5 billion users, but Google makes Rs. 70,000 crores while Facebook does less than one-fifth as well. In other words, for every new user that comes on the internet, Facebook makes Rs. 8, while Google makes around Rs. 48. Facebook’s stock is valued at a much higher multiple than Google. With no reason to support the extreme price, it will fall. For Facebook to keep their stock price high, and to keep Zuckerberg and wife as rich as they are, they need to find new users who sign up for Facebook, but at the same time do not use Google. Thus a strategy via this program was planned out to offer Facebook but not Google at the mass, poor people level. Who is outside the first 1.5 billion people? It’s mostly people in India and China. But since Facebook is banned in China, the essential to Mark Zuckerberg’s balance sheet becomes us, Indians! Hundreds of crores of ad spend, against tens of thousands of crores of valuation is just nothing!

The internet market growth is getting saturated in the western world as most people are already using internet. India and other Asian countries have a large untapped population who are yet to use internet. Facebook wants to acquire these users by any means possible. One easy way to make Facebook popular among these users is to give it for free. Do you know how drug-agents get college students addicted to their drugs? They first give it for completely free. Then once the students get addicted to it, they start charging them heftily. Free basics is launched for Facebook’s best interests. Otherwise why are they so pushy about this and investing millions for the ad campaign itself, when people are clearly protesting against it? Reliance – the official network partner of Free basics advertises it as ‘Free Facebook’ on newspapers (Source)

Who will get affected?

There are many other reasons why Facebook’s Free Basics Digital Apartheid is bad. We need to get this fact across to people that Free Basics is not offering anyone internet but only sponsored content. We must understand that internet will stand true to its name only if it gives equal opportunities to all the people. If Free Basics starts operating full-fledged, it will be unfair because those websites will now have more viewers than others. And in this way, the other websites will suffer. And the very premise on which internet flourished, will be destroyed. Why is a company like Flipkart able to compete with Amazon today. This is because they have an equal platform called the internet. Today, they are competing only on the basis of their services. This is a healthy competition and it is beneficial for everyone. Startups like Ola are able to efficiently compete with established taxi companies such as Uber. Just imagine what would have happened if Ola did not have an equal opportunity? What would have happened if Uber was available for free and not Ola? Internet is giving an equal opportunity to a number of people because all of them can reach so many users at the same time. This is the magic of the internet. Therefore, with the advent of internet, people are able to genuinely compete only on the basis of services that they offer. Free Basics is going to destroy that. This model will give some companies an edge over the others and will therefore discourage other innovative ideas.

It’s bad for entrepreneurs – your business can’t be discovered by these new potential users on the Internet until you advertise on Facebook. The same goes for big businesses. If a lot of people switch to free internet and Free Basics – then paid-subscribers can be hurt big time. Suppose you start a website that caters to the weather forecast requirements of farmers. With the help of Free Basics, a lot of farmers are able to use internet. However, they cannot access your application because your website is not available in the Free Basics platform. On the other hand, assume a farmer wants to buy a television set for his family. He has an option of buying from A or B. However, he can only access A, because other websites like B are not available for free. Maybe, he ends up paying more for that TV set. The issue with Free Basics is that, it is controlling the content available for the subscribers of internet. Therefore, your website will not be able to reach a lot of subscribers just because you don’t have a tie up with Free Basics. This is outright unfair – both to the website owners (such as the person who works hard to create a useful website for farmers) and also the subscribers (such as the farmer who doesn’t even know that he can have better facilities on other websites). This is against the principle of net neutrality. This is applicable to urban India/metros where the mobile internet is exhausted. Having understood the scenario pretty well, Facebook can slowly take control of the internet by arm-twisting all telecoms into being the sole provider of free internet bundle.

Facebook or Whatsapp wasn’t a basic internet service 10 years ago. If some other company X had offered their service free from past 15 years then Facebook/ Whatsapp wouldn’t have even existed. The things which may look basic now may not be basic in the next 10 years. By giving Facebook control of which apps to give for free, we are creating a monopoly. New startups won’t be able to compete as everyone will use the Facebook’s free alternative. For example:- If free basics was launched in 2010, then Whatsapp would never have been so popular as ‘Facebook Messenger’ would have been free, while you would have to pay data charges to use ‘Whatsapp’ or any other service. This creates a monopolistic environment where only Facebook will thrive.

Have any other telecom companies offered a Zero-Rating platform?

Earlier, Airtel had offered a similar platform called Airtel Zero, using the zero-rating concept. Zero-rating is a practice where internet service providers (ISPs) do not charge customers on data for select applications that they use. Following a public outcry from those who want a free and equal internet, a number of firms, including Flipkart, pulled out of Airtel Zero. Similarly, Cleartrip and NDTV had also pulled out of internet.org. Free Basics operates on the zero-rating principle.

What we really need to get India digitally connected?

There is no denying that a lot of users in India are not connected to the internet, and we know that they would be better off if they were genuinely connected to all the plethora of services that internet can offer them. But this cannot be done by differentiating between some websites over others. Moreover, the power of differentiation cannot be controlled by a single entity (Facebook). This is the case of too much power in the hands of too few people, and this is always disastrous.

While the Free Basics platform has connected only 15 million people in different parts of the world, in India, we have had 60 million people join the Internet using mobiles in the last 12 months alone. And this is in spite of the high cost of mobile data charges. There are 300 million mobile broadband users in the country, an increase fuelled by the falling price of smart phones. In spite of this increase in connectivity, we have another 600 million mobile subscribers who need to be connected to the Internet. Instead of providing Facebook and its few partner websites and calling it “basic” Internet, we need to provide full Internet at prices that people can afford. This is where the regulatory system of the country has to step in. The main barrier to Internet connectivity is the high cost of data services in the country. If we use purchasing power parity as a basis, India has expensive data services compared to most countries. That is the main barrier to Internet penetration. Till now, TRAI has not regulated data tariffs. It is time it addresses the high price of data in the country and not let such prices lead to a completely truncated Internet for the poor. There are various ways of providing free Internet, or cost-effective Internet, to the low-end subscribers. They could be provided some free data with their data connection, or get some free time slots when the traffic on the network is low. 2G data prices can and should be brought down drastically, as the telcos have already made their investments and recovered costs from the subscribers.

Ways Facebook can help without violating Net Neutrality, but they won’t!

There are many, many proven and better ways to get the less fortunate on the Internet – rather than wearing the Facebook Free Basics handcuffs. Schemes such as Gigato offer free data for normal usage of apps. The Mozilla Foundation runs two programs for free and neutral Internet access. Facebook could work with them. Mozilla in partnership with Grameenphone in Bangladesh allows users to receive 20 MB of data usage for free each day, in exchange for viewing an advertisement. In Africa, Orange users get 500 MB of free access on buying a $37 handset. In India, Aircel has begun providing full internet access for free at 64 kbps download speed for the first three months. Facebook could sponsor and expand that. Facebook can give all Indian users free full access to internet upto a certain data limit every month. For instance, 100MB data free for everyone every month without any restrictions. They can give Free internet at low speeds upto a certain data limit. They can also provide ad supported free internet, without restrictions. They could give subsidized data coupons like Rs.10 for first 200MB of the month. Facebook could help lay the infrastructure (cables, routers etc) to connect villages/rural towns. They could offer free unrestricted internet to poor people in selected regions. They can create something like ‘Google Web Light for Slow Internet’ which will reduce the data size of all websites and provide it for free. Facebook can help doing something like these organizations have done, as part of their philanthropic effort.

What is ‘Free basics’/’Internet Dot Org’ according to Facebook?

Free Basics by Facebook provides free access to basic internet services to a billion people all over the world. It makes the internet accessible to more people by providing them access to a range of free basic services like news, maternal health, travel, local jobs, sports, communication, and local government information. To date, we’ve been able to offer these services to a billion people across Asia, Africa and Latin America. By introducing people to the benefits of the internet through these services, we hope to bring more people online and help improve their lives.

That really makes it look so good, right? Who doesn’t want free unlimited internet? You can imagine that a poor kid in a village in central India should be able to see Khan Academy videos, her Dad should be able to look up agricultural spot prices on Google or a commodity exchange and perhaps her Mom could look for a better-paying jobs at a top job board. But no, none of these are a part of the so-called “Free Basics” that Facebook offers the poor. Videos in fact, are not available at all, presumably to conserve bandwidth so it can be retained for more important things like villagers sending each other Candy Crush requests. There is no place these folks can buy, or sell or trade. There’s no Kiva or other bottom-of-pyramid money service. No loans they can receive. No government sites, no banks. No Coursera or EdX or Khan Academy – so it’s not about education either. Forget about entertainment – there’s absolutely none of that. You name any possible site of importance to someone who needs information and opportunities, and it’s not there. But, hey, I guess then you can always poke folks in the next village!

Who is paying for Free Basics?

Telecom operators pay for Free Basics and they get this money from users who pay. By encouraging people to choose Free Basics, Facebook reduces the tendency to bring down data costs for paid Internet access. Free Basics isn’t about bringing people online. It’s about keeping Facebook and its partners free, while everything else remains paid. Users who pay for Internet access can still access Free Basics for free, giving Facebook and its partners an advantage. Internet access is growing rapidly in India. Free Basics is not an open platform. Facebook defines the technical guidelines for Free Basics, and reserves the right to change them. They reserve the right to reject applicants, who are forced to comply with Facebook’s terms. In contrast they support ‘Permissionless Innovation’ in the US. Facebook was criticized in Brazil for misleading advertising (source). Their communication in India is misleading. People find the “Free” part of Free Basics advertising from Facebook from Reliance misleading (source). Facebook says that Free Basics doesn’t have ads, but does not say that it will never have ads on Free Basics.

How Facebook got you to support Free Basics – A sly move!

FREEBASICS FACEBOOK MESSAGE

 

What can you do to stop ‘Free basics’?

They may claim 3.2 million in support, but how many of those mails are legitimate?  Remember this. Internet exists in its current form because of net neutrality. (It is not just a buzz word.) If it wasn’t neutral then you wouldn’t be reading opposing opinions. You can go to Save The Internet! and send an email to TRAI saying you are against this. You can spread this information and ask your friends to also do the same. It is important for the people who know the truth to help others understand it.

Say No To Free Basics! Save The Internet!

Popular Games & Sports That Originated In Ancient India!

Ancient India had a rich tradition of games that were played and passed on through generations and cultures for not only leisure but also to develop mental capabilities and maintain physical fitness. During ancient times, physical fitness was given prime importance, especially by the kings and the higher-class warriors.

Here is a list of well-known indoor & outdoor games that took birth in the soils of Ancient India, many of which are still actively played throughout the world.

Chess

The game of chess was invented in India and was originally called Ashtapada (sixty-four squares). “Ashtapada” in Sanskrit denotes a spider -“a legendary being with eight legs” and this game was played with a dice on an 8×8 checkered board. 1000 years back, the squares weren’t black and white like we see in the presently used chess board. Other Indian boards included the 10×10 Dasapada and the 9×9 Saturankam. Later this game came to be known as Chaturanga. The Sanskrit name Chaturanga means ‘quadripartite’ — the four Angas (divided into four parts) which symbolize “the 4 branches of the army.” Like real Indian armies at that time, the pieces were called elephants, chariots, horses and foot soldiers. Unlike modern chess, Chaturanga was mainly a game of chance where results depended on how well you rolled the dice. Played on an authentic cloth  by 2, 3 or 4 players, Chaturanga combines the basic strategy of chess with the dynamic challenge of chance as each move is determined by the random roll of a wooden dice. In fact,  in the Mahabharata, Yudhishthira and Duryodhana played a version of Chaturanga using a dice. The game Chaturanga was a battle simulation game which rendered Indian military strategy of the time.

In 600 AD this game was learned by Persians who named it Shatranj. The word ‘checkmate’ is derived from the Persian term Shah-Mat which means ‘The King is Dead!’. The Sanskrit translation of this term would be Kshatra-Mruta. Another term viz. ‘The Rooks’ which is the name for one set of the counters used in chess, originated from the Persian term Roth which means a soldier. The Persian term is derived from the Indian term Rukh, which obviously seems to have originated in the Sanskrit word Rakshak which means a soldier which is again derived from Raksha which means ‘to protect’. About the introduction of this game into Persia, the Encylopedia Britannica says that the Persian poet Firdousi, in his historical poem, the Shahnama, gives an account of the introduction of Shatranj into Persia in the reign of Chosroes I Anushirwan, to whom came ambassadors from the sovereign of Hind (India), with a chess-board with men asking him to solve the secrets of the game. The king asked for seven days grace, during which, the wise men vainly tried to discover the secret. Finally, the king’s minister took the pieces home and discovered the secret in a day and a night’s time. The Encyclopedia Britannica concludes that “Other Persian and Arabian writers state that Shatranj came into Persia from India and there appears to be a consensus of opinion that may be considered to settle the question. Thus we have the game passing from the Hindus to the Persians and then to the Arabians, after the capture of Persia by the Caliphs in the 7th century, and from them, directly or indirectly, to various parts of Europe, at a time which cannot be definitely fixed, but either in or before the 10th century. Tamil variations of Chaturanga are ‘Puliattam’ (Goat and Tiger game), where careful moves on a triangle decide whether the tiger captures the goats or the goats escape;  ‘Nakshatraattam’ (Star game) is the one where each player cuts out the other and the game named ‘Dayakattam’ with four, eight or ten squares, is similar to modern day Ludo. Variations of the ‘dayakattam’ include ‘dayakaram’, the North Indian ‘pachisi’ and ‘champar’ along with many more local variations.

Carrom Board

It is a “strike and pocket” table game of Eastern origin similar to billiards and table shuffleboard. It is found throughout the East under different names, though most non-eastern people know it by the East Asian name of Carrom (or Karrom). Carrom is widely played in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and surrounding areas and in the Middle East as well. In South Asia, many clubs and cafés hold regular tournaments. Carrom is popularly played with families including children, especially at social gatherings. Different standards and rules exist in different areas. The game of carrom is believed to have originated from the Indian subcontinent. Although no concrete evidence is available, it is believed that carrom was invented by the Indian Maharajas. One Carrom Board with its surface made of glass is still available in one of the palaces in Patiala, India. It became very popular among the masses after World War I.

Ludo

Also known as Pachisi, the earliest evidence of this game in India is the depiction of boards on the caves of Ajanta. This game was played by the Mughal Emperors of India; a notable example being that of Akbar. Variations of the game made it to England during the late 19th century. The one which appeared around 1896 under the name of Ludo was successfully patented.

Cards

The popular game of cards originated in ancient India and was known as Krida-Patram.  These cards were made of cloth and depicted motifs from the Ramayana, Mahabharata along with ancient artwork. The tradition is still carried on today with floral motifs and natural scenery.This game was patronized especially by the royal and noble class. In medieval India, playing cards were known as ‘Ganjifa’ cards and were played in practically all royal courts. It is recorded to have been played in Rajputana, Kashyapa Meru (Kashmir), Utkala (Orissa), the Deccan and even in Nepal. The Mughals also patronized this game, but the Mughal card-sets differed from those of the ancient Indian royal courts. According to Abul Fazal’s (Author of the Ain-e-Akbari) description of the game, the following cards were used. The first was Ashvapati which is the ‘lord of horses’. The Ashvapati which was ranked the highest card in the pack, represented the picture of the king on a horseback. The second represented a General (Senapati) on a horseback. After this card came ten other cards with pictures of horses from one to ten. Another set of cards had the Gajapati (lord of elephants) which represented the king whose power lay in the number of elephants. The other eleven cards in this pack represented the Senapati and ten others with a soldier astride an elephant. Another pack had the Narpati, a king whose power lies in his infantry. The other cards  were known as the Dhanpati, the lord of treasures, Dalpati the lord of the squadron, Navapati, the lord of the navy, Surapati, the lord of divinities, Asrapati, the lord of genii, Vanapati, the king of the forest, Ahipati, the lord of snakes and so on. Based on reports by Abul Fazal, we can say that the game of playing cards was invented by sages in ancient times who took the number 12 as the basis and made a set of 12 cards. Every king had 11 followers, thus a pack had 144 cards. The Mughals retained 12 sets, and so they had 96 cards. The Mughal Ganjifa sets have representations of diverse trades like Nakkash painter, Mujallid book binder, Rangrez dyer, etc. In addition to this, there were also the Padishah-i-Qimash, the king of the manufacturers and Padishah-izar-i-Safid, the king of silver, and many more. The pre-Mughal origin of the game of cards is evident if we examine the pattern of painting on the cards. We also find that despite the observation of Abul Fazal that Akbar introduced the pack with 8 sets, we find that even earlier, in Indian (Hindu) courts we have packs with 8, 9 and 10 sets apart from the usual 12. The numbers were derived from the eight cardinal directions Ashtadikpala, for the pack with 8 set; from the nine planets Navagraha for the one with 9 sets and from ten incarnations Dashavatara of Vishnu for the pack with 10 sets.  The largest number of such cards are to be found in Orrisa. The painters from Orissa have represented various illustrations like the Navagunjara, a mythical bird-human animal which was the form assumed by Sri Krishna to test Arjuna’s fidelity.  Illustrations from the Dashavatara of Vishnu are also portrayed.

All these cards were hand-made and were painted traditionally. This required considerable patience and hard meticulous work. The kings usually commissioned painters to make cards as per their preference. The commoners got their cards made by local artists who were found in urban and rural areas. In order to obtain the required thickness, a number of sheets of pieces of cloth were glued together. The outlines of the rim were painted in black and then the figures were filled with colors. As cards were played by members of all strata of the society, we find a variety of cards. Cards were made of ivory, tortoise shell, mother of pearls, inlaid or enameled with precious metals. The circular cards were more common but there were different shapes like oval & rectangular as well. The cards were usually kept in a wooden box with a lid painted with mythological figures. This art of handmade, hand painted cards which survived for hundreds of years, decayed gradually and thus became extinct with the introduction of printed paper cards by the Europeans in the 17-18th centuries. With the extinction of the art of making and painting cards, the memory that Indians played the game of cards with their own specific representations of the Narapati, Gajapati and Ashvapati was forgotten too.

Snakes & Ladders

This game had its origin in India and was known as Moksha Patam, Parama Padam and Mokshapat. It was used to teach Hindu Dharma and Hindu values to children. The British renamed it as Snakes and Ladders. The game was created by the 13th century poet Sant (Saint) Gyandev. The ladders in the game represented virtues and the snakes indicated vices. The game was played with cowrie shells and dices. Later through time, the game underwent several modifications but the meaning remained the same – good deeds take us to heaven & evil takes us through a cycle of re-births. There are certain references which take the game back to the 2nd century BC. In the original game, the squares where the ladders were found were referred as follows – Square 12 was Faith, 51 was Reliability, 57 was Generosity, 76 was Knowledge, and 78 was Asceticism. The squares where snakes were found depicted the vices like Square 41 was for Disobedience, 44 for Arrogance, 49 for Vulgarity, 52 for Theft, 58 for Lying, 62 for Intoxication, 69 for Debt, 84 for Anger, 92 for Greed, 95 for Pride, 73 for Murder and 99 for Lust. Square 100 represented Nirvana or Moksha.

In another version known as ‘Paramapadam’, there are a hundred squares on a board, where the ladders take you up and the snakes bring you down. The difference here is that the squares are illustrated. The top of the ladder depicts a God, or one of the various heavens (Kailasa, Vaikuntha, Brahmaloka) and so on, while the bottom describes good qualities. Conversely, each snake’s head is a negative quality or an asura (demon). As the game progresses, the various karma and samskara, which are the good and bad deeds, take you up and down the board. Interspersed are plants, people and animals. The game serves a dual purpose: entertainment being one and the other being the learning that one gets with regards to the do’s and don’ts of life, divine rewards and punishment, ethical values and morality and so on. The final goal leads to Vaikuntha (heaven) which is depicted by Vishnu who is surrounded by his devotees or Kailasa with Shiva, Parvati, Ganesha and Skanda with their devotees. In the present age of moral and ethical degeneration, this game would prove to be a brilliant way to instill values in children who are way too exposed to the highly influential world. The British took the game to England in 1892, named it Snakes and Ladders and changed it according to Victorian values.

Mancala

If Paramapadam teaches us moral values, Mancala (Pallankuli) develops mental skill and quick thinking. Two players compete on a board consisting between seven to twenty pits per player, where each player has to collect the coins or shells or seeds with which the game is played. The player with the maximum number is declared the winner. There are nine variations of this game, each with regional, caste and religious significance. This game was extremely popular among women and required a good memory and an alert mind since they had to count and remember the number of coins or seeds accumulated by the opponent. This is a traditional mancala game played in South India (especially Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala), Sri Lanka and Malaysia. This game is also known as Ali guli mane (in Kannada), Vamana guntalu (in Telugu), Pallanghuzi (inTamil) and Kuzhipara (in Malayalam).

The game is played by two players, with a wooden board that has fourteen pits in all (hence the name from the words fourteen pits (pathinaalam kuzhi). There have been several variations in the layout of the pits, one among them being seven pits on each player’s side. The pits contain Cowry shells, seeds or small pebbles used as counters. There are several variations of the game depending on the number of shells each player starts with.This board game with 14 cups is set out with six seeds in each cup; the players distribute these seeds into the other cups until there are no seeds left. The person who reaches two consecutive cups without seeds has to bow out of the game. This game is popular among the kids as well as the old. Kids are encouraged to play this game as it teaches how to count, improves eye–hand coordination and develops concentration while playing. And for the older people of the house, it is a god way to spend time in the company of the young members of the family. In Indonesia, this is known as Congkak or Congklakin. It is somwhat similar to Brainvita.

Dice

The dice is attributed to India based on certain accounts. Some of the earliest archaeological evidence of oblong dice have been found in  the Harrapan sites such as Kalibangan, Lothal, Ropar, Alamgirpur, Desalpur and the surrounding territories. Some of these oblong dice that were used for gambling, date back to the third millennium BCE. The oblong or cubical dice (akṣa) is the precursor of the more primitive vibhīṣaka—small, hard nuts drawn randomly to obtain factors of a certain integer. Dicing is believed to have later spread towards the west to Persia, influencing Persian board games. Early references to dicing can be found in the Ṛig Veda as well as the Atharva Veda.

Polo

India is said to have set the base for modern Polo. In the 15th century, Babur made the sport popular when he founded the Mughal Empire. Later, the Britishers globalized the sport which was only played in the areas of Manipur, Jammu & Kashmir and other states. Another variation of polo is the one played with Elephants and is known as ‘Elephant Polo’. It is played in India (Rajasthan), Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, England and Scotland. Since very ancient times, Elephants have been a part of Indian culture. They were representatives of the strength and power of Kings and Emperors. It was therefore natural that polo “The King of Sports”and simultaneously “The Sport of the Kings” was included to be played on elephants as well.

It was invented in India during the early 1900s when we were a part of the British Empire and the first people to play were members of the English aristocracy. Elephant polo is played between two teams of three or four elephants. Each elephant is ridden by two people, a player and a mahout. Mahouts are professional elephant handlers who work for many years with an individual animal to develop a close rapport. They are able to communicate quickly and effectively by using spoken commands and by pressing behind the elephant’s ears with their feet. Players are tied onto the back of their elephant in rope harnesses, so they can concentrate on hitting the ball without the fear of falling off. The players give directions to the mahouts and the mahouts give directions to the elephants.

Bull Fighting

Bull Fighting which is also known as JallikattuEruthazhuvuthal or Manju viraṭṭu, is a bull taming sport played in Tamil Nadu as a part of Pongal celebrations on Mattu Pongal day. Bulls are bred specifically for the sporting event and a specific breed of cattle bred for this purpose is known as “Jellicut“. In May 2014, the Supreme Court banned the sport citing animal welfare issues. Bullfighting was common among the ancient tribes who lived in the ‘Mullai’ geographical division of the ancient Tamil country. Later, the sport became a platform to display bravery, win prize money and a form of entertainment. The term “Jallikattu” originated from the words “Jalli” and “Kattu“, referring to silver or gold coins tied to the bulls’ horns. A seal from the Indus Valley Civilization depicting the sport is preserved in the National Museum, New Delhi. A single painting discovered in a cave about 35 km west of Madurai shows a lone man trying to control a bull. The painting, done in white kaolin is estimated to be about 1,500 years old.

Kho Kho

Kho Kho was started in India way back and  it was played by the people of Maharashtra. Kho-Kho ranks as one of the most popular traditional sports in India. The origin of Kho-Kho is difficult to trace, but many historians believe, that it is a modified form of ‘Run Chase’, which in its simplest form involves chasing and touching a person. With its origins in Maharashtra, Kho-Kho in ancient times, was played on ‘raths’ or chariots, and was known as Rathera.

It is an ancient game of the undivided India, pssibly derived from the different strategy and tactics of the “Kurukshetra” war in the Mahabharta. The chariot fight during the war and the zigzag pathways followed by the retreating soldiers indicates the formation of Chain Play-Defense Skill in the game of Kho-Kho. On the 11th day of the war, the Chief of Kaurava Army, Guru Dronacharya drew a typical strategic circular formation- Chakravyuh, keeping Jayadratha at the main entrance with seven soldiers to draw in and kill the enemy. Veer Abhimanyu, the son of Arjuna, entered into the trap but could not get his way out and in the process got killed. He fought gallantly alone against seven soldiers. The method adopted by Abhimanyu resembles the idea of “Ring Play” – a Defense tactic in Kho-Kho. It became popular in 1935 when the first edition of the rules were published by Akhil Maharashtra Shareerika Shikshan Mandal. It is also called “Game of Chase” . Over the years the rules have gone under a major change. The first Indian Kho-Kho Championship was held in 1959 under the Kho-Kho federation of india. In the year 1982, the game was included in the Indian Olympic Association.

Gilli Danda

Gilli Danda is an ancient sport of India, possibly with origins over 2500 years ago. It is believed to be the origin of Western games such as Cricket, Baseball and Softball. It is called dānggűli in Bangla, chinni-dandu in Kannada, kuttiyum kolum in Malayalam, viti-dandu in Marathi, kitIti-pullu in Tamil, gooti-billa in Telugu, and Lappa-Duggi in Pashto. This sport is generally played in the rural and small towns of the Indian subcontinent. It is widely played in Punjab and rural areas of the North-West Frontier Province and Sindh (Pakistan) and Sultanpur district, Uttar Pradesh. The game requires two sticks. The bigger one is called “danda” and the smaller one is called “gilli“. The player then uses the danda to hit the gilli at the raised end, which flips it into the air. While it is in the air, the player strikes the gilli, hitting it as far as possible. Having struck the gilli, the player is required to run and touch a pre-agreed point outside the circle before the gilli is retrieved by an opponent.

Kabaddi

Kabaddi is a contact sport that originated in Ancient India. There is concrete evidence that the game is 4,000 years old. It originated in the state of Tamil Nadu. The game is derived from group hunting and village defense tactics. Kabaddi is an umbrella term which encompasses various forms of the game including International rules of Kabaddi and the Indian Kabaddi styles – Sanjeevani, Gaminee, Amar and Punjabi. Kabaddi also encompasses similar sports known by their regional names, such as hadudu in Bangladesh, baibalaa in Maldives, chedugudu in Andhra Pradesh, sadugudu in Tamil Nadu and hututu in Maharashtra. India is the most successful team on the world stage, having won every World Cup and Asian Games title so far, in both men’s and women’s categories.

It is a combative sport with seven players on each side and is played for a period of 40 mins. The basic concept of the game is touching a player on the other side and eliminating him by coming back to the origin side of the player. It is a team sport, which requires both skill and power, and combines the characteristics of wrestling and rugby. The game originated from Ancient India and the modern Kabaddi became popular in 1930. Dhopkel is also a similar to Kabbadi but is played more in Assam areas. Dhop is the name given to a rubber ball that two teams throw across a central line into each other’s courts. Each team sends a player into the opponent’s court; the aim is to catch the ball his team throws and make his way back to his team without allowing the opponents to touch him to earn points.

Rugby

Yubi Lakpi, a traditional football game played in Manipur using a coconut, has some notable similarities to Rugby. Despite these similarities, the name is not related to the game of Rugby or the Rugby School in England. It is in fact of Manipuri origin, and means literally “coconut snatching”. Perhaps this was the root of modern Rugby. Most Manipuris are quite adamant that the modern world stole the idea from them and made it into Rugby . This game which has been around for centuries is so similar to Rugby, which evolved a great deal later, that it must be more than just a coincidence. The game is traditionally associated with autochthonous forms of Hinduism. It is said to have started as a ceremonial re-enactment of the celestial snatching of the pot of nectar after the Samundra Manthan. An official game is held on the occasion of the Yaoshang Festival of Shri Shri Govindajee at palace ground with Royal presence.

Unlike Rugby, it is an individual sport and not a team one. Before the start of the game, players rub their bodies with mustard oil and water to make it slippery to catch each other.  Each side has 7 players in a field and one of the ends of the field has a rectangular box, a side of which forms the central portion of the goal line. To score a goal a player has to approach the goal from the front with his oiled coconut and pass the goal line. The coconut serves the purpose of a ball and is offered to the king or the judges who sit just beyond the goal line. However, in ancient times the teams were not equally matched but the player with the coconut had to tackle the rest of the players. The ultimate goal of yubi lakpi is to present the coconut to the King or the head of the tribe . It is a game of individuals because each player is vying to win the coconut and get the reward. In the original games, the King would watch the players to see who was the most skillful and who possessed qualities for the battlefield . Each player would therefore try to impress.

Martial Arts

Martial arts is a part of India’s ancient culture and is a traditional game. Originally, the traditional form of martial arts started in the southern part of India and now it not only has different names but also has different forms that’s practiced in the different regions of India. Khusti – The Indian Wrestling is also a part of Indian Martial Arts and is found throughout India. Indian martial arts has an important influence in the development of modern Asian martial arts. Nowadays, people have started opting martial arts training for self-defense as well as for for fitness. Indian martial arts can be roughly divided into northern and southern styles. A detailed list of the various forms of Martial Arts that has its origins in India will be discussed in the next blog!

Happy Playing!

Knowledge, Experiences, Life

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