BBC News – Harappa grave of ancient ‘couple’ reveals secrets

Soutik Biswas India correspondent

New Delhi – India, 9 January 2019. About 4,500 years ago, a man and a woman were buried in a grave together in a sprawling cemetery on the outskirts of a thriving settlement of one of the world’s earliest urban civilisations.

In 2016, archaeologists and scientists from India and South Korea found these two “very rare” skeletons in a Harappan (or Indus Valley) city, what is now Rakhigarhi village in the northern Indian state of Haryana.

For two years, they researched the “chronology” and possible reasons behind the deaths; and the findings have now been published in a peer-reviewed international journal.

“The man and the woman were facing each other in a very intimate way. We believe they were a couple. And they seemed to have died at the same time. How they died, however, remains a mystery,” archaeologist Vasant Shinde, who led the team, told me.

They were buried in a half-a-metre-deep sand pit. The man was around 38 years old at the time of his death, while the woman was around 35. Both were reasonably tall, he was 5.8ft (1.77m) and she, 5.6ft.

They were both possibly “quite healthy” when they died, tests didn’t find any lesions or lines on the bones or any “abnormal thickness” of skull bones, which could hint at injuries or diseases such as brain fever.

Archaeologists say this unique “joint grave” was not an “outcome of any specific funeral customs commonly performed at that time”. They believe that the man and the woman “died almost at the same time and that, therefore, they had been buried together in the same grave”.

Ancient joint burial sites have always evoked interest. In a Neolithic burial site in an Italian village, archaeologists found a man and a woman in an embrace. In another joint burial reported from Russia, the couple were holding hands and facing each other.

Nearly 6,000-year-old skeletons in Greece were found embracing each other, with their legs and arms interlocked.

Everything else they found in the Rakhigarhi grave was unexceptional for its time: a few earthen pots and some semi-precious stone bead jewellery, commonly found in graves from the bronze age Harappan civilisation.

“The most striking thing about Harappan burials is how spartan they were. They didn’t have grand burials like, for example, kings in West Asia,” says Tony Joseph, author of Early Indians: The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From.

In Mesopotamia, for example, kings were interred with hoards of precious jewellery and artefacts. Interestingly, jewellery made of carnelian, lapis lazuli and turquoise possibly exported from Harappa were found in graves in Mesopotamia.

In Harappan cities, graves usually contained pots with food and some jewellery, people likely believed in life after death and these materials were meant to be grave offerings.

A lot of the pottery, says Mr Joseph, comprised lavishly painted dishes on stands and squat, bulging jars. “There was nothing remotely suggestive of royal funerals, which were common in west Asia,” he adds.

Archaeologists believe the “mystery couple” lived in a settlement spread over more than 1,200 acres, housing tens of thousands of people. Of the 2,000-odd Harappan sites discovered in India and Pakistan so far, the settlement in Rakhigarhi is the largest, overtaking the more well-known city of Mohenjo Daro in Pakistan.

The ancient civilisation was first discovered at Mohenjo Daro in what is now Pakistan in the 1920s.

To be sure, this is not the first time archaeologists have discovered a couple in a Harappan grave.

In the 1950s, the skeletal remains of a man and a woman, heaped on top of each other, were found in a sand pit in Lothal in what is now Gujarat. The skull of the woman bore injury marks. Some excavators made a controversial claim that the grieving woman had killed herself after her husband’s death, a claim that could never be proved.

At Rakhigarhi, archaeologists have discovered 70 graves in the cemetery, barely a kilometre away from the settlement, and excavated 40 of them. But this single grave of the “mystery couple” has turned to be most fascinating of all.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-46806084

Sikh24.com – Ban on photography draws flak, SGPC justifies decision

Says move aimed at maintaining sanctity of Golden Temple (Harmandr Sahib)

GS Paul, Tribune News Service

Amritsar – Panjab – India, 08 January 2019. The SGPC’s move to ban photography and videography on the premises of the Golden Temple has not gone down well with Sikh scholars and devotees even as the religious body justified it saying that the decision has been taken to maintain serenity and spiritual ambiance of the shrine.

The SGPC clarified that the restriction is not applicable on photojournalists who cover visits by dignitaries and other events of religious or political significance inside the premises.

Similarly, professional documentary makers, too, could be allowed to shoot films that are religious in content subject to prior permission from the SGPC.

Nonetheless, warning boards in the parikarma of the shrine, carrying the prohibitory message in three languages, have been put up. The SGPC task force has been told to keep an eye on the violators.

SGPC chief secretary Dr Roop Singh observed that selfies clicked by most of the visitors in various poses and styles with Golden Temple in the backdrop appeared derogatory.

Dr Roop Singh said: “True devotees would seldom focus on clicking pictures as they revere the shrine with utmost devotion. Others consider the shrine as a tourist spot and capture their moments in a picnic mood.

We have imposed restriction on the second category of visitors. Also, hoards of visitors gather at the entrance to click pictures with their cameras and phones, thus creating hindrance in the movement of devotees at the parikrama,” he said.

The ban has drawn criticism from various quarters. Madan Lal of Solan, who paid obeisance at the shrine today, said he was unaware of the rule and was stopped by an SGPC staffer when he tried to click pictures.

“I am a mature person and came here with my family. How could they doubt my devotion towards the shrine? People take pictures for the sake of memory and it should be allowed,” he said.

Similarly, some students from Mumbai, who visited the Golden Temple for the first time, were a dejected lot. Deepak, an engineering student, said: “It is our hard luck that the orders were implemented on our maiden visit. Instead of a blanket ban of photography, the SGPC should keep a vigil on non-serious crowd.”

Former Jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahib Giani Kewal Singh said the orders should be withdrawn immediately. “Rather, the SGPC should insist on the visitors to maintain the sanctity and maryada of the shrine. The ban order will be seen as a negative step,” he said.

Sikh scholar Ashok Singh Bagrian said it was a narrow thinking on part of the SGPC to implement such dictatorial orders.

Scribes exempted

The SGPC has clarified that the restriction is not applicable on photojournalists who cover visits of dignitaries and other events of religious or political significance at the shrine.

May review decision, says Roop Singh

Amritsar: Dr Roop Singh, SGPC chief secretary, however, softened his stance when apprised of the resentment among visitors who come from far off places. “We may think of allowing the visitors to click pictures, but only under strict supervision,” he said.

Earlier, Dr Roop Singh said: “True devotees would seldom focus on clicking pictures as they revere the shrine with utmost devotion. Others consider the shrine as a tourist spot and capture their moments in a picnic mood. We have imposed restriction on the second category of visitors.

Also, hoards of visitors gather at the entrance to click pictures with their cameras and phones, thus creating hindrance in the movement of devotees at the parikrama,” he said.

Sehajdhari party asks Takht to intervene

Moga: The Sehajdhari Sikh Party has requested Akal Takht to intervene and direct the SGPC to revoke its illogical move to ban photography at the Golden Temple. Parmjeet Singh Ranu, president, alleged that it was a well-planned move initiated by the RSS through the SGPC to lower the popularity of the sacred Sikh Shrine, which is a world famous monument.

The SGPC had always followed the RSS diktats and even barred lakhs of Sehajdhari Sikhs to vote in the gurdwara elections, he alleged. Ranu alleged that the ban would ruin the image and popularity of the Sikh religion across the globe. “People create memories by clicking pictures at the revered shrine. They will see it a negative move,” he claimed.

https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/ban-on-photography-draws-flak-sgpc-justifies-decision/710642.html

Loosduinseweg – Noord-Westbuitensingel

Loosduinseweg
25 December 2018


RandstadRail Tram 4 to De Uithof


RandstadRail Tram 4 to De Uithof


Tram 2 to Leidschendam

Noord-West Buitensingel
25 December 2018


Tracks for RandstadRail Tram 3 to/from Loosduinen


Noord West Buitensingel


Turning left onto the Lijnbaan

To see all my pictures:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/12445197@N05/

More Netherlands pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

Pakistan Today – Sikh community condemns killing of youth in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK)

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 07 January 2019. Various Sikh groups on Monday strongly condemned the killing of youth belonging to the Sikh community in the Tral area of Pulwama district of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK).

The Sikh groups, during a meeting in Jammu, criticised the Indian authorities for not providing foolproof security to the families of the panchs and sarpanchs who contested the so-called panchayat elections, Kashmir Media Service (KMS) reported.

As per the statement, the meeting was chaired by Sardar Darbinder Singh, president, Shromani Akal Dal, and attended by representatives of Bhai Kanahyia Nishkam Sewa Society, AISSF, Sikh Naujwan Sabha, Sikh Welfare Society and other Sikh groups.

The meeting condemned the killing of a 25-year-old youth, Simranjit Singh, son of Sardar Nanak Singh of Khasi Pura, Tral, who contested the recent panchayat elections.

The Sikh groups demanded that the family of the deceased youth be given a compensation of Rs2.5 million and his murderers be arrested at the earliest.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/01/07/sikhs-community-condemns-killing-of-youth-in-iok/

The Hindu – Afghan Taliban, USA to sit down to peace talks on Wednesday: sources

Kabul – Kabul Province – Afghanistan, 08 January 2019. The talks will be the fourth in a series between Taliban leaders and USA special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.

Afghan Taliban representatives and USA officials will sit down to two days of peace talks on Wednesday in Qatar but Afghan government officials will not be involved, senior Taliban members said.

The Taliban have rejected numerous requests from regional powers to allow Afghan officials to take part in the talks, insisting that the United States is their main adversary in the 17-year war and that Kabul is a “puppet” regime.

The insurgents, seeking to reimpose strict Islamic law after their 2001 ouster by USA-led troops, called off their meeting with the USA officials in Saudi Arabia this week because of Riyadh’s insistence on bringing the Western-backed Afghan government to the table.

The talks will be the fourth in a series between Taliban leaders and USA special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.

After mutual consultations, we are going to meet USA officials in Doha on Wednesday. The meeting will continue for two days, Wednesday and Thursday, said a senior member of the Afghan Taliban on condition of anonymity.

Pakistani and Iranian officials said they were trying to persuade the Taliban to meet Afghan officials.

Another senior Taliban leader confirmed the Qatar meeting and said no other country would be involved.

Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) took part in the last round of talks in December.

“This time we want to hold talks with the American officials,” said a Taliban leader based in Afghanistan, adding that they would discuss a USA withdrawal, prisoner exchange and the lifting of a ban on movement of their leaders.

The war in Afghanistan is Americas longest overseas military intervention. It has cost Washington nearly a trillion dollars and killed tens of thousands of people.

The United States, which sent troops to Afghanistan in the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks on New York and Washington and at the peak of the deployment had more than 100,000 troops in the country, withdrew most of its forces in 2014, but still keeps around 14,000 troops there as part of a NATO-led mission aiding Afghan security forces and hunting militants.

Reports last month about USA President Donald Trump’s plans to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan triggered uncertainty in Kabul which depends on the United States and other foreign powers for military support and training.

The USA Embassy in Afghanistan did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/afghan-taliban-us-to-sit-down-to-peace-talks-on-wednesday-sources/article25938212.ece