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Monday, 3 December 2012

The story goes that the Taj Mahal was built by 22,000 workers who consumed petha for instant energy in Agra's hot summer month

Agra, Dec 2 — There's no doubt that no one thinks of Agra without also thinking of the Taj Mahal. But Agra has much more to offer than Mughal monuments, say local artistes, businessmen and culture-activists, and that is its entrepreneurial excellence.
"The whole Braj Mandal, roughly the area now under the Taj Trapezium Zone, has a vibrant centre of entrepreneurial excellence that catapulted Agra to the forefront decades ago," says historian Raj Kishore Raje, and author of "Bharat mein Angrez" (Englishmen in India).
No other city in India can boast of producing a range of items for which raw materials are not locally available.
"Agra is famous for iron foundries, glassware, leather shoes, its peculiar sweet called petha, and also handicrafts. But the raw material for all these industries is not locally available. It is the skilled workers, the artisans, craftsmen, the entrepreneurial class in Agra that has made the city rank among India's top industrial towns," Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society, told IANS.
Gourd, from which petha is made, comes from Maharashtra and other southern states. It is processed and turned into a sweet by skilled workers in Agra.
The story goes that the Taj Mahal was built by 22,000 workers who consumed petha for instant energy in Agra's hot summer months.
Iron foundries depend on supplies of pig iron and coal, as well as natural gas from outside the state.
"But it is the dexterous hands and "desi" (local) technology that evolved over years, to produce cast iron products including manholes that found markets even in America. Now a whole range of products are cast. During the green revolution, Agra's iron foundries provided solid support manufacturing pumps, agricultural implements and diesel generators," says Srimohan Khandelwal, a leading industrialist.
Marble and coloured precious stones come from Rajasthan and various other places, but the expert in-lay artistes and craftsmen here create intricate artistic pieces.
The glassware and bangles of Firozabad, earlier part of Agra but now a neighbouring district, are famous the world over.
The glass manufacturers use soda ash and silica sand, which come from Gujarat and Rajasthan. "But it's the expertise, the skills of workmen, that really contribute to the growth and advance of this industry," says senior journalist from Firozabad, Raghvendra.
How and why Agra became the chief centre of the leather shoe industry, nobody knows. For the past 80 years, Agra has continued to remain number one in terms of production and exports of leather.
Leather and other raw materials come from Chennai and other centres. The leather shoe industry employs more than 100,000 workers directly and sustains 200,000 more in various ways.
"The local workers, designers, cutters, and others are not just hard-working but have very creative talents and keep coming up with new ideas to stay ahead in the race," according to leading exporter Harvijay.
Talking of the entrepreneurial genius of the local 'banias', retired banker P.N. Agarwal says: "The first loan to the East India Company in 1640 to build a factory at Surat was given by a local bania. Another local seth funded Aurangzeb's brother Murad to raise an army to rebel against the emperor. Agra's industrial base and entrepreneurial class were highly evolved and had far-reaching interests and networks," Agarwal told IANS.
K.C. Jain, president of the Agra Development Foundation, regrets that the traditions and legacy of the city have long been neglected.
"More attention these days is focussed on stones and monuments as tourism brings money. But for society's balanced growth, arts, culture, cuisine and industry are all to be seen as heritage," Jain said.
(Brij Khandelwal can be contacted at

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GANGTOK, 02 Dec: Annual chaam and prayers were performed on 01 and 02 December here at the Pabyuik Monastery situated in East Sikkim falling under Syari constituency. The programme was attended by area MLA and Speaker, SLA, KT Gyaltsen as the chief guest today.
The Chaam [“five gods dance”] was performed by monks of the monastery. The chaam and prayers were held to propitiate the Gods and Deities for peace and prosperity for the people of Sikkim and also to ward off evil omens. The programme was organized by Bara Kagui, Pabyuik Tashi Chiling Gumpa, which has 12 members in the committee.
The prayer was led by Kagyu Tulku Rinpoche Nowang Tempa Gyaltsen. A mela was also held at the venue today.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Stories of Jhamphey Mung reach Mumbai

GANGTOK, 27 Nov: ( Source:Sikkim Now)

Acoustic Traditional’s work in Sikkim, especially in Dzongu, and neighbouring Darjeeling over the last few years seems to have finally received the nation’s attention. Yesterday Mid-Day, the afternoon English daily in Mumbai, carried a full page article on Acoustic Traditional [AT], the NGO behind the hard work, and Dzongu storytellers with their tales of Yeti or Jhamphey Mung.
“This is really great news for us and for the storytellers with whom we have been working all this time. Mr. Merek and Mr. Netuk Lepcha have been pictured in the article with their testimonials. It’s great because there is so much in our oral literature to tell. What people think is that our stories are just as much as they have come to know through books or documented works. Everything in the region is so much about storytelling that it is hard to believe that we have that much. Our oral traditions are as old as the sacred Earth and there is so much to know and listen to. It’s inspiring to know that interest in our work in growing. It’s time to tell our stories again, this time to the world,” said Salil Mukhia Kwoica, founder AT.
The article comes at a time when Acoustic Traditional is busy preparing for their upcoming Confluence, Festival of Indigenous Storytellers at Darjeeling between 07 and 09 December at the Windamere Hotel. Now in its 3rd year, the Confluence actually was initiated in Sikkim with the support of State Culture and Heritage Department. Last year, it was held in Bangalore.
The Confluence is a travelling Festival of Storytellers and the reason why it travels is because it aims to focus on a region’s folklore and storytelling. The focus in 2010 was Sikkim where around 12 storytellers from across various communities participated. In Bangalore, the focus was on the Southern tribes. This year, it is on Darjeeling. From Sikkim, storytellers from Dzongu will be participating this year.
AT will be nominating storytellers from the region to participate at the global Tera Madre Movement being organised in Shillong around 14 December 2012. “We are hoping that one storyteller from Sikkim and one from Darjeeling could be supported to represent there,” added Abhishek Pradhan, Programmes and Communication Manager, AT.
For the Confluence festival, AT is providing a concession especially for community-based associations to encourage their participation. The registration fee with concession is Rs 800 for three days as compared to the Rs 5,500 for non-regional participants.
For more information on how to register, please contact: 8972 313 930