Monday, August 29, 2011


My India fun facts today derive from the back of a doll box…and from inside the box and from the doll herself. As a matter of fact this beautiful doll is so inspiring my daughter now owns it.
Jeda had been promised a doll (by her Mimi) for being so diligent with her studies. When she walked into the Toys-R-Us, doll section, her eyes perused all the makes and models. Awe inspiring Disney caught her attention quickly, but having been there and done that many times, she quickly moved on. Next stop, Liv Girls. They were colorful and pretty and had slightly exaggerated features. She was not amused. Others that made her pause… at least momentarily were the multitude of Barbies, in many skin shades, many outfit changes and endless themes. Alas, she passed them all by. But soon she declared “Mommy, she is wearing a sari!” I began to pay attention. “Mimi, she looks brown just like me!” The little girl was sold on a doll named Nahji whose homeland is India. My mom and I had never seen a doll of this sort.  Nahji, was a part of a collection of six dolls called Heart 4 Hearts Girls. This rather new product was created to promote diversity and self confidence in little girls ages 6 and up. The hook that sold me was the company’s simple slogan:
“What if you could change the world just by buying a doll? You can, with Hearts For Hearts Girls™ dolls! Each doll is a girl that wants to make a difference in her life, community, and culture. When you buy a Hearts For Hearts Girls doll, a portion of the purchase price is donated to children’s causes in those countries”.

Needless to say, we bought my daughter her first Hearts 4 Hearts doll and she will probably eventually collect all six. This doll may just be Jeda’s (and my) favorite new toy!

Here are a few charming qualities about Nahji, in her own words. (excerpts taken from personal journal  that comes along with Nahji)

Here is a listing of everything that comes with Nahji:
·         Braided purple choker with pearl-like pendant
·         Drop earrings of simulated pearl and emerald
·         Removable beaded pearl headband
·         Golden bangle bracelets
·         Hand tattoo inspired by the henna mendhi of India
·         Purple strap sandals
·         Doll-sized hair comb with hair elastic
·         Girl-sized H4HG power bracelet
·         Beautiful mini storybook about Nahji’s life
·         Jeweled nose piercing

Here is a shot of the actual box

Here is the site where you can further explore the Heart 4 Hearts girls.

I hope this simple doll sparks inspiration in every little girls who buys her to love herself and her differences!

Sunday, August 21, 2011


When I embark upon the task of researching a topic on India, it quickly becomes daunting, as I almost immediately realize “it is easier said than done” to compile a comprehensive, not to mention informative yet still amusing account of the particulars about this vast subject. I am similar to my 4 year old, who often proclaims, “I want to know everything, about everything!” She really means it, I however reserve that proclamation for topics that truly intrigue me; those that claw at my curiosity and compel me look deeper. Alas, I am still unable to relay it all; all that I read and hear and glean since I have been researching India.  Oh, how I wish I could, but since I cannot, I will suffice to say that we will again delve into yet another interesting part of Indian culture. Indian Holidays.
Like Americans, Indians have all sorts of holidays, festivities and celebrations. Some are major holidays others are specific to certain regions. Still other holidays are specific to certain religions. Since I am American, when I first started researching, I looked to find some holidays that were comparable to our own.
Buddhist Indians celebrate “the New year” and it’s called Losar. It is celebrated for 15 days. On the first day they drink a beverage similar to beer called “changkol”. The second is the king’s Losar. This practice ironically sometimes falls on Chinese New Year. Losar dates back to pre-Buddhist times and therefore is also called by another name, “Bal Gyal Lo”. Gyal is “king” and Lo is “year”.  It is called the “kings year” because it was started by the first king and has been practiced ever since. There are twelve lunar months on the calendar and celebrators of Losar begin their festivities on the day before “new years eve” on the 29th day of the last month.
The custom that day is to make special noodle called guthuk. It is made of nine different ingredients including dried cheese and various grains. Also, dough balls are given out with various ingredients hidden in them such as chilies, salt, wool, rice and coal. The ingredients one finds hidden in one's dough ball are supposed to be a lighthearted comment on one's character. If a person finds chilies in their dough, it means they are talkative. If white-colored ingredients like salt, wool or rice are inside the dough it is considered a good sign. If a person finds coal in the dough it has much the same meaning as finding coal in one's Christmas stocking; it means you have a "black heart".

Another very special Buddhist holiday is Buddha Purnima or Buddha Jayanti. Some say it is the most sacred of days for a Buddhsit because it celebrates the birth, enlightenment and death (entering Nirvana) of their most beloved teacher Siddhartha Guatama.  The next time Buddha Purnima will be celebrated will be on Saturday, May 5 2012.

What would a listing of prominent holidays be if we didn’t mention Independence Day? America is of course a very young nation in comparison to India. Yet India gained it’s independence from Britain a short 64 years ago on August 15th 1947.

After more than two hundred years of British rule, India finally won back its freedom on 15th August, 1947. All the patriotic hearts rejoiced at seeing India becoming a sovereign nation and the triumph of hundreds and thousands of martyred souls. It was a birth of a new nation and a new beginning. The only fact that marred the happiness of the fruits by the blood of martyrs was the fact that the country was divided into India and Pakistan and the violent communal riots took away a number of lives. It was on the eve of 15th of August, 1947 that India tricolor flag was unfurled by Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, on the ramparts the Red Fort, Delhi.

Continuing to scour history for more fascinating Indian celebrations, I ran across one that was not born in India, but is celebrated there by some. Boxing Day, occurs the day after Christmas (the first or second business day after Christmas in certain places) and it is a quirky little celebration concocted under the reign of Queen Victoria of Britain.  Boxing Day is not a religious holiday but it holds many meanings depending on the region that celebrates it. For some because it often falls on St. Stepen’s day it does hold spiritual meaning. For others it is a day to give to the needy and poor. Some countries have made it a statutory day off for all workers and for still others it is the best shopping day of the year, much like the day after thanksgiving for Americans.

Unfortunately, there will be no major holidays for us to partake in when we visit in september. There is always next time!

Following is a glimpse of a few more “holidays” celebrated in India:
Gandhi Jayanti Mahatma Gandhi’s Birthday; Tuesday, 2 October 2012
Pongal Harvest Festival of South India; Saturday, 14 January 2012

India Republic Day Commemorates Constitution of India replacing the Government of India Act 1935.Thursday, 26 January 2012

Milad-Un-Nabi  Mawlid-an-Nabi; Birth of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad.
Saturday, 4 February 2012

Other sources for pictures and italics:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bombay to Mumbai

Deviating momentarily, Count Down will return to Religions of India, rounding out an intriguing study of India’s most prominent faiths with Hinduism and Islam. For now, however, we are going take a peek at another interesting fact about India. How did the famous city of Bombay come to be known as Mumbai?
I have said it before, and I will surely say it again, but I do not want to run the risk of making this a history lesson. So to avoid that all together, here is just a brief rundown of some very interesting facts about this wealthy Indian city, which is the 6th most populated city in the world.
-          Mumbai is not only the 6th most populated city in the world, but it is the largest city in India with over 20.5 million people. It is the capital of the Indian state Maharashtra.
-          In 2009, Mumbai became an Alpha World City, simply meaning that the city is a “specialized city”, integral to the global economic system.
-          Unfortunately, with growth and change come terror and unrest. This technological hub and commerce super power has been the back drop for many terrorist attacks, bombings and protests. The most recent act of violence was July 2011.
-          The “Seven Islands” make up the land mass of Mumbai. They are: Bombay Island, Parel, Mazagaon, Mahim, Colaba, Worli, and OldWoman’s all of which were fishing colonies before the rule of several empires commenced.
Now, for the tale behind the name…actually it is not as intriguing as I thought it would be, but here it is anyway. In actuality, Bombay, (which is a misnomer, you’ll see why in a moment) is a name given by the Portuguese. But Bombay was not the cities only name, in fact, depending on the region or the family in power the city that sits on a “bay” was called many things, from Kakamuchee to Galajunkja. Manbai and Bombaim were commonly used in the 16th century. Even more names existed throughout the centuries. Debates about the name of the city played out between historians and scholars like Jose Pedro Machado who rejected the idea that the Portuguese name Bombay (Bom Bahia) meant “good little bay”. He feels the toponym had nothing to do with a bay at all and that the word was mistranslated. Also, the literal translation of “Bombay” from Portuguese would be bom=good (masculine) and ba(h)ia=bay(feminine). Those of us who have studied romance language know that masculine and feminine must agree, raising the notion that “Bombay” should have been “Boa Bahia”, (“boa” being feminine).
Either way, Bombay was the widely excepted name as Roman Catholicism was a widely excepted religion during European rule. Mumbai, which was always among the historical references as title for the city, emerged as the official name for the city in the late 20th century. It seems this fact is less controversial, as some believe (as they have tried to modify history) that “Bombay” was merely a British mispronunciation. This seems unlikely though, as “Bambai” is still a pronunciation of the Hindus and Persians today. More likely, it is an attempt to write out an “unwanted legacy of British colonial rule”.
So the mystery is solved. Bombay is now Mumbai…officially. But as with most changes, those of the old school still refer to the ancient city as Bombay. What remains true is that whatever you decide to call it, this up and coming nucleus for commerce, entertainment, trade and technology will hold its place on the map for years to come.
Note: The main source for this piece was good old Wikipedia ( In this article there were actually over 15 other variations for the name of the city now known as Mumbai.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Indian religions continued…Jainism

Jainism originated in India, but only makes up about 0.41 percent (roughly 4.5 million) of the entire religious population. It is still note worthy due to its noble precepts and honorable ethics.
Jainism by definition is “A non-theistic religion founded in India in the 6th century BC by the Jina Vardhamana Mahavira as a reaction against the teachings of orthodox Brahmanism, and still practiced there. The Jain religion teaches salvation by perfection through successive lives, and non-injury to living creatures, and is noted for its ascetics”. Webster’s Dictionary
This interesting religion came into existence around the same time as Buddhism. There is apparently a discrepancy as to who truly instituted the religion because various sources cited different names, although the most reoccurring mention was that of Tirthankar Rishabdev as founder. 
In a push to denounce extreme, forced religion, Jainism emerged denouncing the caste system employed in India even today. It also denounced absolute worship of any one supreme deity, but its followers, devout and true, conducted their worship free of violence and upheaval unlike the brutal and hostile establishment of so many religions.
At its core, Jainism is similar to the other Indian religions in the quest to bring followers to a form of purity and sanctification that put worldly suffering to an end. The path to this kind of peace is through self denial and withdrawal from secular behavior.
Due to the large number of libraries and high literacy rate among its followers Jainism stays a powerful religious force though small in number.
Jainism Symbol Courtesy of Wikipedia