Swine flu spreads to 160 countries

The swine flu virus has reached 160 countries and could infect two billion people within the next two years, the World Health Organization has said. A senior WHO official, Keiji Fukuda, said the virus was still in its early stages and would continue to spread for some time.Mr Fukuda said work on a vaccine was intensifying but safety could not be compromised by rushing the process.
The virus is thought to have killed almost 800 people in recent months. Mr Fukuda, the WHO’s Assistant Director General for Health Security, said the agency had been reporting only laboratory-confirmed cases, but that this was always going to be “only a subset of the total number of cases”. “Even if we have hundreds of thousands of cases or a few millions of cases, we’re relatively early in the pandemic,” he told the Associated Press news agency.
“One of the things that is relatively clear is that we will continue to see spread of the virus; even though we are now three to four months into the pandemic, this is still pretty early into the overall period,” he said.
Mr Fukuda said the WHO estimates two billion people, one third of the global population, could eventually be infected. He said the figure was a reasonable prediction, based on analysis of previous pandemics, but that it was “really impossible to predict what the future will hold”.
World response to swine flu crisis
Mr Fukuda said officials and drug manufacturers were investigating how to speed up the process of developing a vaccine against the H1N1 swine flu strain. But he said there could be no doubt over the safety and efficacy of the drug before it was publicly distributed.
“There is always a balance in this sort of situation. You of course want to get out vaccine and as much vaccine as possible, as quickly as possible. On the other hand there are certain things which cannot be compromised,” he said.
“There are certain areas where you can make economies, perhaps, but certain areas where you simply do not try to make any economies.” The WHO says that in most affected countries, the majority of cases appear to be occurring in young people, around the ages of 12 to 17, although some reports suggest it is mainly older people who have required hospital treatment.

Onion rings

Ingredients:
onion- 2 large.
all purpose flour – 75 gms.
corn starch – 2 tb. sp.
milk – 120ml.
egg – 1 beaten.
baking powder -1/2 tsp.
sugar – 1/2 tsp.
salt and paparika to taste.
oil to fry.
Process :
– Peel and cut onion into circular slices of about 1 cm thick then separate the rings.
– Mix all the dry ingredients, flour, corn starch, baking powder, salt, sugar, paprika, stir them together.
-Take egg and milk then whisk them, then pour this mixture on the dry ingredients and whisk thoroughly to get a lump free batter.
– Now heat oil to fry the rings, but oil should not be too hot. To check that the oil is hot enough to fry, carefully drop a battered onion into the hot oil. The oil should fry it lightly and take time to brown it. Therefore, the onion will be cooked through and the batter will be super crispy. Now gently dip some of the onions into the batter and coat well. Then place them into the hot oil using a fork.
Let them cook in small batches, so they won’t stick together. When they are fried on one side, turn them over to fry and brown on the other side. The process takes about 3 minutes.
Once they are done place them on kitchen towel to drain, you can season it with chat masala and serve immediately.

Navgrah or Nine Planets in Indian mythology

Navgrah or Nine Planets in Indian mythology

Nava means nine and grah means planets. In Hindu mythology, nine planets hold an important place. Navgrahas are believed to have a significant impact on individuals. So Hindu adorn these planets as deities, so that they can bring peace and harmony in their life and harmony in their life and to avert any mishap. Each planet is supposed to bestow a particular boon to human being. According to Hindu custom, the nine navgrah are placed in a single square with sun in center and none of the deities
facing each other. Following table summarises various grahas, stones to wear to appease a graha, their ruling god, etc.
Planet Ruling deity Overrule Stone
1. The Sun (Surya) Agni, FireGod Shiva Red Ruby
2. The Moon (Soma) Apas, Water Goddess Parvati Moonstone or other natural pearl
3. The Mars (Mangal) Bhumi, Earth Goddess Skanda Red Coral
4. The Mercury(Budha) Vishnu, The Preserver Vishnu Emerald
5. The Jupiter (Brihaspati) Indra, king of Gods Brahma Yellow Sapphire or yellow Topaz
6. The Venus (shukra) Indrani, Queen of God Indra Diamond
7. The Saturn (Shani) Yama, God of Death Prajapati Blue sapphire & Black stone
8. Rahu (Dragon’s head) Durga, Goddess of power Sarpa Honeycoloured Hessonite
9. Ketu (Dragon’s tail) Chitragupta, God of karma Brahma Cat’s eye

Saturn, rahu and ketu are propitated for their sinister effect, whereas jupiter, venus mars mercury, sun and moon for their favourable influence.

Surya

1. Surya: It is a chief solar deity. He has hairs and arms of gold and his chariot is pulled by 7 horses, which represents 7 chakras. He presides as Ravi-var or sunday. He is said to be of sattva Gunna and represents the soul, the king.

Chandra

2. Chandra: It’s a lunar deity, also known as soma. He is described as young, beautiful, fair two armed holding a club and a lotus. he rides his chariot across the sky every night, pulled by 10 white horses or antelope. He is said to be of sattva gun and represents mind. He has 27 wives, representing 27 nakshatra. He is presiding over som-var or monday.

Mangala

3. Mangala: It’s god of mars, the red planet. He is considered son of prithvi. He is red in colour with four arms carrying trident, club,lotus and a spear. He is tamas in nature and represents energetic actions, confidence and ego. He presides mangal-var or tuesday.

Budha

4. Budha: It’s god of planet mercury and is son of moon and taraka (tara). He is of rajas guna and represents communication. He is represented as being mild, elequent and is of greenish colour. He presides budh-var or wednesday.

Brihaspati

5. Brihaspati : It’s a vedic deity, and represented as purohit of gods with whom he intercedes for men. He is of sattva gunna represent knowledge and teaching. He is yellow or golden in colur and holding a stick, lotus and beads. He presides over guru-var or thursday.

Shukra

6. Shukra : It’s god of planet venus. He is of rajas gunna and represent wealth, pleasure and reproduction. He has white complexion and is mounted on came or horse or a crocodile, holding a stick, bead and lotus or sometime bow and arrow. He presides over shukra-var or friday.

Shani

7. Shani : It’s god of planet saturn. He is tamas in nature and represent learning the hard way, career and longevity. It move svery slowly as compared to other planets. He is son of surya and his wife chayya. He is depicted dark in colour holding a sword, arrow, and two draggers and mounted on a black crow or raven. He presides over shani-var or saturday.
Lord Shani
Lord Shani

Rahu

8. Rahu : It’s a god of ascending/north lunar node. He is depicted as a dragon with no body riding a chariot drawn by 8 black horses. He is tamas by nature and does his best to plung any area of one’s life he control into chaos. Rahukala is considered inauspicious.
According to legend asura rahu drank some devine nectar and before it could pass through his neck, Mohini (female awtar of Vishnu) cut off his head. Thus the head remain immortal and is calles rahu and body is called ketu. It is believed that immortal head occasionally swallows sun and moon causing eclipses.
Rahu
Rahu

Ketu

9. Ketu : It’s lord of descending/south node. It is believed to have tremendous impact on human lives and also the whole creation. In some special circumstances it can help someone achieve the zenith of fame. Tamay by nature represents supernatural influence.
Ketu
Ketu

Facts about Cholesterol

What is Cholesterol :
It is a soft waxy lipid (fat) that can not be dissolved in blood. This fatty substance is made in liver itself from certain fats present in the diet. A small amount is also obtained pre-formed from animal based food such as meat, egg yolk and prawn(shrimps).
Importance of Cholesterol:
It acts as an important building blocks and is used to make:
* Healthy cell membrane.
* Steroid hormone such as cortisol, oestrogen, testrogen, progestron.
* Bile acid
* Co-enzyme Q-10 a vit. like substance essential for processing oxygen and generating energy within cell.
Certain amount of cholesterol is vital for health, but excess cholesterol clogs arteries and increases the risk of coronary heart diseases.Nature has provided a special mechanism to stop flushing too much cholesterol. The only way to excrete cholesterol is via. liver into bile. Bile is stored in gallbladder then squirted into small intestine to help digest dietary fats. Almost 97% of cholesterol reaching this way is absorbed straight back into the blood stream and sent back to liver for processing. The only significant way to lose it from body is break it down and burn it as fuel.
Types of Cholesterol:
1. High Density Lipoprotein HDL
2. Low Density Lipoprotein LDL
The only difference between the two is in their relative size and weight.
  1. High Density Lipoprotein HDL: These are large, heavy particles that are two big to big to be engulfed by scavenger cells or to seep into artery walls. This is therefore also called good Cholesterol as it stays in blood stream and help to carry LDL cholesterol back to liver for processing. Thus higher the level of HDL lower is the risk of Cardiovascular disease. Research’s show that for every 1% rise in HDL cholesterol, risk of heart attack falls as much as 2%.
  2. Low Density Lipoprotein LDL: These are tiny light particles and can seep easily into the gaps between the cells lining the artery walls. It is also prone to oxidation (damage by rouge free radical cells) that lead to various diseases and is easily engulfed by scavenger cells which hasten antherosclerosis. Thus this is also called Bad cholesterol. So higher the level of LDL higher is the risk of Cardiovascular Disease.
  3. Triglyceride: Most fats in the diet and in the body are stored in form of triglyceride. Liver packages up triglyceride to be transported round the body as very low- density lipoprotein (VLDL) particles. which also contain some cholesterol. As VLDL passes through circulation, triglyceride component are burned as fuel or stored as fats what remains become smaller and dense and convert into bad LDL particles. So having raised blood level of triglyceride can also raise cholesterol level and cardiovascular disease.
What Raises Cholesterol:
  1. Hereditary : Around 1 in 500 people across world possess a faulty copy of geans that is needed to catch LDL. As a result of which cholesterol level rises, leading to premature antherosclerosis and increased risk of heart attack in their early 30’s and 40’s.
  2. Diet : Some people eat food which are rich in cholesterol and saturated fats thus increasing LDL levels.
  3. Overweight : Too much weight increases LDL cholesterol level while lowering HDL level.
  4. Lack of Exercises : Regular excercise lowers ‘bad’ LDL Cholesterol and raises ‘good’ HDL.
  5. Thyroid Functions : Underactive thyroid gland slows metabolism which lead to a decline in cholesterol breakdown, though its production in normal this causes an imbalance.
  6. Kidney Function : Researchs shows a link between long term kidney disease and high triglyceride level and low HDL Cholesterol level.
How To Reduce Blood Cholesterol :
  1. Taking foods rich in omega3, antioxidants, mono saturated fats, help in reducing risk of atherosclerosis, heart attacks and stroke.
  2. Lose Weight: Check size of waist in cms. if its greater than 80 am and you are female and more than 94 and male than you are apple shaped. Storing fat around your middle (Central Obesity) increases the risk of heart disease by 70%.
  3. Exercises: Proper and regular exercises increases metabolic rate by as much as 10 times mobilising fat stores and increasing rate at which they are burned for fuel in muscle cells.
  4. Quit smoking.
  5. Keep your alcohol intake at sensible level.
  6. Avoid stress and relax.
In UK
Ideal – less than 5mmol/l
Mildly High- bet 5-6.4mmol/l
Moderate high-bet 6.5- 7.8mmol/l
Very high- above 7.8mmol/l
In US
200mg/dl is considered Desirable.
200-239mg/dl is borderline high risk.
240-mg/dl and over is high risk.

Chinese wedding and ritual of three letters

Chinese wedding

Chinese wedding is a ceremonial ritual within the society. There are six rituals also known as three letters and six etiquette.
Wedding involves three letters. First is the request letter, which is formal request for wedding which is sent from groom’s family to a bride family.Second is the gift letter, which accompanies the gifts of groom family to bride’s family shortly before wedding. And third is the, wedding letter which is given on the date of wedding which is formal acceptance of bride in groom’s family.

Six etiquette’s of Chinese wedding

Proposal: When an unmarried boy’s parents find a potential daughter-in-law. They then locate a matchmaker whose job was to assuage the conflict of interests and general embarrassments on the part of two families largely unknown to each other when discussing the possibility of marriage.
Birth dates: Then the match maker compares the birth dates of two and only if they are compatible according to Chinese astrology next step is followed.
Brides price(Bethrothal gift) now groom family arranges match maker to present bride price with bethrothal letter.
Wedding gift: now groom’s family will sent lots of gifts like cakes, foods and other religious things to bride’s family.
Arranging the wedding: both family will arrange a suitable day for marriage according to Chinese calendar mythology.

A wedding procession with a bride’s sedan

And finally, wedding ceremony which is the final and elaborate one. Firstly, a wedding procession is taken from brides house to groom’s house. This consist of traditional band, bride’s sedan,brides dowry in the forms other than money.Welcoming the bride: the procession stops at the door of groom, where it is welcomed. There are several ceremonies to be followed. Actual wedding ceremonies: Now the exchange vows in west, and pays respect to earth and heaven, to, grooms family and to each other. This is followed by a reception which is known as wedding banquet. All guest give gifts like cash or jewellery in red envelope.

 

Seven little known facts from the Mahabharata (1)

Shri Krishna challenging Bhishma in the war of Kurukshetra

Seven less known facts from Mahabharata

In Indian mythology, we find mention of stories which are not only interesting, but also serve a message/ purpose. Mahabharata is one such epic, where we find these types of topics in abundance. Here are seven captivating stories from the epic Mahabharata from Indian mythology.

1. Arjuna as an eunuch

In Indralok, Arjuna was propositioned by apsara Urvashi, but Arjuna addressed her as ‘mother’, Urvashi was annoyed with the rejection and cursed him that he would become a eunuch. When Indra came to know about the curse, he told Arjuna that the curse would serve him as a boon during the one year stay in hiding and after spending that period he would regain his masculinity.

Arjuna as Brihannala

This proved to be significant in the war of Kurukshetra. After spending 12 years in forest, Pandavas spent the 13th year of exile in cognito, in the court of king Virat. Arjuna made use of the curse and lived as a eunuch named Brihannala.

2. Five golden arrows

As Kauravas were losing the battle of Mahabharata, Duryodhana approached Bhisma one night and accused him of not fighting the Mahabharata war to his full strength because of his affection for Pandavas. Bhisma greatly angered, immediately picked up 5 golden arrows and chanted mantras declaring tomorrow he will kill 5 pandavas with the 5 golden arrows. Duryodhana not having faith in his words asked Bhisma to give custody of 5 golden arrows saying that he will keep them and will return them next morning.

Long back before the Mahabharata war, Pandavas were living in exile in a forest. Duryodhana placed his camp on the opposite side of the pond where Pandavas were staying. Once while Duryodhana was taking bath in that pond, the heavenly prince Gandharvas came to take bath Duryodhana could not tolerate this and had a fight in which Gandharva captured him. On request of Yudhisthir, Arjuna saved Duryodhana and set him free. Duryodhana was ashamed but being a kshatriya, asked Arjuna what benediction of boon would he like Arjuna replied he would ask for the honour gift later when he needed it.

Bhishma downfall
Bhishma’s downfall

It was during that night of Mahabharata war, when Krishna reminded Arjuna of his unsatisfied boon and told him to go to Duryodhana and ask for 5 golden arrows. When Arjuna asked for the arrows Duryodhana was shocked being a kshatriya and bound by his promise he had to give those golden arrows. He asked who told you about golden arrows, Arjuna replied who else other than Lord Krishna.

Duryodhana again went to Bhisma and requested for another five golden arrows. To this Bhishma laughed and replied this is not possible and will of Lord is Supreme and undeniable and whatever happens tomorrow in the Mahabharata war is written long before.

3. Birth of Drona

In Mahabharata, we find strange ways of people being born (see related article). Drona was not gestated in a womb, but outside the human body in a droon (vessel). Bhardwaja went with his companion to the Ganga to perform his ablution. There he beheld a beautiful apsara named Ghritachi who had come to bathe. The sage was overcome by desire, causing him to produce reproductive fluid. Bhardwaja captured the fluid in a vessel called a drona and Dronacharya sprung from the fluid thus preserved. Drona would later boast that he had sprung from Bhardwaja without ever having been in a womb. Drona was the teacher of Pandavas and Kauravas and later fought the Mahabharata war from Kauravas side. 

4. Krishna broke his promise

 

Shri Krishna challenging Bhishma in the war of Kurukshetra
Mahabharata
Before the battle of Mahabharata, Lord Krishna promised that he will not pickup any weapon.On other hand, Grandsire Bhishma promised Duryodhana that he will fight like a lion and will kill Arjuna or will make Lord Krishna breaking his promise. There was an intense battle between Arjuna and Bhisma and Arjun being powerful still was no match for Bhisma. When Bhisma shot arrow which cut Arjuna armour and his gandiva bow. Arjuna was helpless before the wrath of Grand sire. As Bhisma was about to kill Arjuna with his arrow Lord Krishna could not tolerate his devotees plight and he immediately threw down the chariot rein and jumped off the chariot onto the battle field and lifted a chariot wheel and charged Bhisma determined to send him to death. Arjuna tried to stop Lord krishna but Lord says that in order to protect my devotee, I must break my own promise.


5. How Shri Krishna ended up on Pandavas side in Mahabharata war

Duryodhana and Arjuna both went to Dwarka to meet Krishna in order to seek his support for Mahabharata. Duryodhana was first to reach Dwarka. Satyaki informed that Krishna was asleep. Both Duryodhan and Arjuna entered Krishna’s bedroom. Duryodhana who was first to enter the room sat on a seat at the head of the bed on which Krishna was asleep. Arjuna went to the foot of the bed and stood there with hand folded. When Krishna got up he saw Arjuna first who was standing at his foot. Duryodhana said that as he came first so it was fair that Krishna should join Kauravas.
Duryodhan, Arjun and Shri Krishna
Duryodhan, Arjun and Shri Krishna
On this, Krishna smiled and said as he saw Arjuna first when he got up so it is also fair that he should help both Kauravas as well as Pandavas. So on one hand was his famous Narayani army, and on other hand was he himself alone and shall not yield any weapon. Then he added that dharma demands that the younger should have the first choice. So Arjuna was given the first chance, he fell at the feet of Lord Krishna with tears in his eyes he chose him. Duryodhana was very happy with the decision. Shri Krishna later became the Arjuna’s sarathi during the war of Mahabharat.

6. Yudhishthir firm adherence to truth

Yudhisthir was very well known for his firm adherence to truth. But, in the battle of Mahabharata, Drona, who was Kauravas commander was killing thousands of Pandavas warriors Krishna made a plan to tell Drona that his son Ashwathama has died, so that Drona would give up his arms and could be killed easily.

Bhima kills Ashwaththama, the elephant
Bhima kills Ashwaththama, the elephant

The plan was set in motion when Bhima killed an elephant named Ashwaththama and loudly proclaimed that Ashwaththama was dead. Drona approached Yudhisthir for confirmation because he was the only person who could tell him the truth.Yudhisthir who could not make himself tell a lie inspite of the fact that if Drona would continue fighting pandavas and the cause of dharma would have been lost. Yudhisthir added ‘praha kunjara ha’ which means he is not sure whether man of elephant has died. Krishna knowing this that Yudhisthir would be unable to tell lie, had all the warrior beat war drum and cymbals to make as much noise as possible so that the words ‘praha kunjara ha’ were lost. Drona was disheartened and laid down his weapons. He was later killed by Dhristadyumna.

After speaking this half lie, Yudhisthir feet and chariot descended to the ground.

7. End of Jayadrath

krishna and arjun

Jayadrath was granted a boon by Lord Shiva to hold the pandavas brother at bay for one day in battle – except for Arjun who was protected by Lord Krishna. In Mahabharat war, Jayadradth was fighting from Kauravas side, he using his boon to stop Pandavas from entering the near-impenetrable chakra viyuh battle formation. When Arjun son Abhimanyu enters the formation he was trapped inside and brutally killed. Arjuna vows to kill Jaydradth the very next day and if he failed he would kill himself. Arjuna killed an entire akshauhini during the day’s battle. At a climatic moment the sun had nearly set and thousands of warrior still separates Arjuna and Jayadrath. Seeing his friend’s plight, Lord Krishna send his Sudarshan chakra to mask the sun creating a solar eclipse thus faking a sunset. The Kauravas warriors rejoiced over Arjun defeat and his imminent suicide exposing Jaydradth from his hiding for a crucial moment. Upon the Lord’s urging Arjun shot a powerful arrow that decapitation Jaydradth. Jaydradth father was a sinful king he had pre cursed the killer of his son that anyone who caused Jaydrath’s head to fall on ground would suffer by having his own head exploded. When Arjun recapitulated Jaydrath he faced death but Lord Krishna intervened he asked Arjuna to shoot his arrow that would carry Jaydradth’s head to his father’s lap when he was sitting meditating in his ashram. Arjuna did the same and shot 3 arrows which carried Jaydrath’s falling head to his father’s lap. when he got up after meditation he didn’t see the head in his lap but caused it to fall on the ground so his head exploded as a result.

 

Jayadratha killed by Arjuna
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Further reading:

Unknown fact about Draupadi – Why she had five husbands

Seven little known facts from the Mahabharata(2)

Seven little known facts about Karna from the Mahabharata

Pandavas exile – seven little known facts from the Mahabharata (3)

Seven unknown facts about Karna

When incarnation of Lord Vishnu could not defeat his bhakta

Books

An excellent book by none other than Anant Pai from Amar Chitra Katha. Third one is dedicated to the battle of Kurukshetra.