CAMERAS AND EQUIPMENTS


 

Cameras and equipments are an astonishingly wide topic, and its aspects and nuances could well be the subject matter of  a book of several pages. For instance, a Google search would take you to a dizzying array of pages, which contain information for not only rank amateurs but also hard-nosed professionals. Anyway, cameras, simply stated, record and store images. The term has been derived from the Latin, camera obscura meaning dark chamber, an arrangement for projecting images.    

 

So, within that general term you would find: still camera, for taking single photographs; instant camera, which develops the film itself; and Schmidt and Wright cameras, which are of specialized uses. Then there is the electronic digital camera, video camera, and so on along with the camera phone, the ubiquitous accessory of almost everybody, including perhaps yourself. Until recently, the captured images were developed on photo graphic papers but now on they could be seen electronically on the screen of the camera itself. However, developed images on papers are still continued.  

With regard to equipments, you would be faced with a similar wide variety of choices. To start with, there is the famous Konica  started around 1873 by the then biggest pharmacy store inTokyo, Konishiya Rokubē, where photographic chemicals were sold. You also have the US multinational company Eastman Kodak, beginning in 1892 as Eastman Dryplate and General Aristo Companies in New York selling cameras and film rolls. From box and folding cameras to silver halide photographic paper, it is but a century plus years progression towards manufacture of  digital cameras and digital video cameras; digital photo frames; photographic chemicals, films and papers; photo hosting service; imaging systems and sensors; printers, scanners and what have you.

Actually, there are more to equipments, like tripods, fluid heads, dollies and so on. Then, follows the autofocus and zoom lenses; camera engine, flexicolor software….

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The Economy of Bolivia


Usually, the economy ofBoliviadepended on a single-commodity focus, like silver to tin to cocoa. Of course, mining, particularly that of zinc and extraction of natural gas is now a major part of Bolivia’n export economy. In 1985, the Government of Bolivia introduced a very effective program of macroeconomic stabilization and structural reform to maintain stable prices, to create conditions for sustained growth, and to alleviate poverty. A most important structural change in the Bolivian economy is the capitalization of numerous public sector enterprises, which in the Bolivian context is a form of privatization where investors acquire a 50% share and management control of public enterprises by agreeing to invest directly into the enterprise over several years rather than paying cash to the government

 

Simultaneous legislative reforms have brought into place market-oriented policies, mostly in the hydrocarbon and telecom segments encouraging private investment. Foreign investors are accorded national treatment, and foreign ownership of companies enjoys virtually no restrictions inBolivia.

In 1996, three units of the Bolivian state oil corporation involved in hydrocarbon exploration production, and transportation were capitalized, facilitating the construction of a gas pipeline to a neighbouring country.  The government has a long-term sales agreement to sell 30 million cubic metres a day (MMcmd) of natural till 2019. TheBrazilpipeline carried about 21 MMcmd in 2000.Boliviahas the second-largest natural gas reserves in South America, and its current domestic use and exports toBrazilaccount for just a small portion of its potential production. Natural gas exports toArgentinaresumed in 2004 at four MMcmd.

In April 2000, violent protests over plans to privatize the water utility in the city ofCochabambaled to nationwide disturbances. The government eventually cancelled the contract without compensation to the investors, returning the utility to public control. The foreign investors in this project continue to pursue an investment dispute case againstBoliviafor its actions. A similar situation occurred in 2005 in the cities of El Alto andLa Paz.

Source: Wikipedia

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Is the Imperial Rome of the past comparable to the US of A


No, decidedly not. The Vietnam quagmire, the Afghanistan imbroglio and now the push-pull farce going on in Misrata, Libya (supporting cast : Nato) do not exactly reflect Roman might and resolve. Yet, the similarities are striking. Hedonistic and iconoclast, it is still the nation leading others, despite economic meltdown, tea-party divisiveness and what have you. So, a review of the past Roman leaders could be an interesting exercise, having regard to the fact that the recent pronouncements of a presidential hopeful (sounds like Triumph) remind you somewhat of Nero.
Imperium Romanum was the term in Latin for Imperial Rome or the Roman Empire, and the word Imperium also meant the territory under Rome. Long before the evolution of the empire, Western Eurasia and Northern Africa were under Roman control and the Romans constituted the majority of the region’s population. The territory under Roman rule was at its peak comprising of a landmass of 5.9 million sq. kilometres or 2.3 million sq. miles at the time of emperor Trajan in 106 CE.

It is not possible to fix a date when Republican Rome ended and Imperial Rome appeared on the scene. Imperial Rome or Roman Empire is stated to have began after the conflict between Gaius Marius and Sulla, and the civil war Julius Caesar waged against his colleague Pompey in the 1st century BCE. Going back even further to the 5th century, there was the rebellion against the Etruscan kings with the establishment of a republican form of government under a senate, a forum of rich and powerful Romans. Although there was a constitution, it was not a written document and consisted of a series of unwritten laws and traditons. The poor known as plebeians could only select their representatives to the senate, invariably someone with wealth and power and known as patricians. It was a far cry from the democracy of the contemporary Greek city state of Athens. All the powers were vested in the consul, elected annually by the senate. Actually, there were two consuls to prevent abuse of power by any one of them. Anyway, the patricians were not too eager to share the administration with the plebeians, and simmering discontent continued. It was, however, not the plebeians who revolted, but disagreement between the patricians Gaius Marius and Sulla burst into the open in the form of a conflict, and continued as a civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompey, colleagues in the senate. Eventually, the senate made Caesar a dictator.

Caesar committed a grave mistake when he elevated himself as the dictator for life in 44 BCE. There was in the constitution of the senate indeed the position of a dictator, but for a six month tenure. This was therefore quite contrary to the basic principles of the republic. Anyway, Caesar exercised his authority on the basis of a republican post, he was no monarch. Furthermore, former enemies of Caesar whom he had graciously forgiven on being given the post of dictator in the senate justifiably concluded that by electing himself as perpetual dictator, Caesar was preparing the way to establish a monarchy. So Caesar had to die, in the hands of his fellow senators on 15 March 43 BCE. Mark Anthony, a friend of Caesar tried to prevent the assassination, but failed to do so. Mark Anthony joined hands with Caesar’s adopted successor Octavian, and later married Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt brought to Rome by Caesar. In time, there were diifferences between Octavian and Mark Anthony culminating in the Battle of Actium on 2 September 31 BCE when Octavian emerged as the victor. The senate honoured Octavian with the title Augustus, meaning consecrated and venerable on 16 January 27 BCE. In addition, he was called the Princeps, a title given earlier to Pompey meaning the first leader of the Roman Senate as also the first citizen of the Roman republic. Having regard to this, 44, 31 and 27 BCE could be regarded as the years when Rome changed gradually from a republican form of government to a principate which was not exactly a monarchy.

Octavian Augustus (31 BCE to 13 CE)

Octavian was Julius Caesar’s grand-nephew, adopted son and political heir, and from the very beginning avoided the mistakes for which Caesar paid with his life. He realised that the Romans had enough of autocracy and dictatorship, and covered his powers under republican forms with meticulous care. Wearing the civic crown of laurel and oak (given to him by the senate), he simply pretended to be a highly decorated Roman citizen, who also held the post of consul. In 13 BCE, he became Pontifex Maximus upon the death of the incumbent. He went on acquiring several several additional and extraordinary powers without claiming too many titles because it was power he was after and not the titles.

He pursued his ambitions by executing early on Julius Caesar’s supposedly only son Caesarion, who was also a co-ruler along with him, thereby eliminating the possible emergence of a rival in future. Thus securing his position as the undisputed leader of the Romans, he launched a programme of reformation of Roman financial, military and political matters. He took by himself the title of imperator, which meant commander-in-chief, and to show his lineage preferred to be called as Caesar (after all, his family name). The name subsequently transformed into a title from a family name, the later derivatives of which were czar and kaiser. Due to the almost unending civil wars continuing over decades, the Roman legions or divisions of army maintained for keeping peace had grown to around fifty. Octavian Augustus pared down the numbers to twenty-eight by combining two units into one and disbanding others suspected to be composed of dissident elements. In addition, he raised nine more special units known as cohorts (of one-tenth the size of a legion). Three of those units he kept in Rome, ostensibly for peace-keeping, which in time came to be known as the praetorian guards. To maintain the illusion of a constitutional republic and to disabuse the public mind of the idea of him as a tyrant like the past dictator Sulla, Augustus officially made a move to relinquish all his powers to the senate. The senate now consiting of only his supporters (dissidents like those who murdered Julius Caesar were gone since long) participated in this make-believe process by begging him not to do so for the sake of the republic and the Roman people. It is said that Augustus even stage-managed a riot of the Roman plebeians protesting against the suggestion of his stepping down from the position of consul. The senate made an agreement with Octavian (known as the first settlement) in which he was assured that he would not be regarded as a tyrant, thus beginning the period known as Imperial Roman Era.

To maintain the facade of constitutional propriety and to consolidate his position, he shared with the senate the task of appointing governors of the provinces. He selected the governors of the unruly provinces at the borders, where the vast majority of the legions were stationed, and classified them as imperial provinces. Provinces without any trouble were marked as senatorial provinces, and the governors there were chosen by the senate. Africa was one such senatorial province with one legion posted there. Augustus took away the control of the treasury from the senate and mandated that the taxes of the imperial provinces were deposited in the fiscus, a department manned by people of his choice and answerable only to him. The revenue from the senatorial provinces, however, was left with the senate. This arranagement made Augustus richer than the senate, and enabled him to bear the expenses of the legions thereby making them loyal only to him. Actually, the imperial province of Egypt was exceptionally rich and provided almost all of the grain consumed in the empire. The province was considered to be the personal fief of the emperor and senators were forbidden to go there even for a visit. Again in 23 BCE, Augustus renounced his consulship to the senate, this time for real, but kept with him the consular privileges. Once more a compromise was reached with the senate, known as the second settlement. The agreement vested him with the authority of a tribune (an official chosen by the plebeians for the protection of their interests) minus the title, exercising which he could convene a meeting of the senate or the people anytime he wished, set the agenda thereof, be the first speaker and preside over any election conducted there. It seems under the tribunician authority, he also assumed the position of censor who had the right to supervise public morals and scrutinize laws to ensure that they were for the benefit of the public. The censor was also empowered to hold a census and determine the criteria for the membership of the senate. No tribune of Rome before Augustus held the office of the censor simultaneously, nor was there any need to combine those two public offices either. Anyway, he was given (or assumed) the control of all armed forces within the city of Rome, a power exercised by the prefects of the city earlier. Also the power over all proconsuls was vested on him, exercising which he could to interfere in any province and override the decisions of any governor. Then there was maius imperium, or his sole privilege as the head of Roman army of rewarding a victorius general with a triumphal march into the city.

According to the Roman republican traditions, all those reforms were completely irregular, but the senators being Octavian’s own people did not protest. Besides, conservative senate leaders like Cato and Cicero were dead at that time. What underhand measures did Augustus employ to achieve his objectives are not known. Having secured his position in the senate by filling it with his backers, Augustus tried to extend the borders of the empire upon the rivers Danube and Elbe. He decided to invade Illyria, Pannonia towards the south of Danube and Germania to the west of the Elbe. Initially, things went on smoothly, but then he encountered resistance with the Illyrian tribes rising in revolt. The uprising was quelled only to be followed in the ninth year of the Christian or Common Era by a shattering defeat at the hands of German barbarians in the Battle of Teutoburg forest, in which three complete legions were ambushed and decimated. Exercising caution, Augustus concentrated upon securing all territories west of the Rhine river and harassed the Germans with retaliatory expeditions only. The northern borders of the empire were demarcated by the rivers Danube and Rhine.

Not many documents on the Augustan period are available as opposed to the richly documented late republican era just before it. There is the authoritative work written by Livy covering all of Roman history upto the year 9 BCE. Also, there is a poorly written work by
Paterculus giving a relatively complete account of the times. Seneca the Elder’s work is an important primary source as well. Nevertheless, poetry and accounts of legislation and engineering along with archaeology, epigraphic inscriptions on buildings and Augustan coins provide significant insights into economic, military and social conditions. Major secondary sources include the works of Tacitus, Plutarch and the Lives of the Twelve Caesars by Suetonius. Jewish Antiquities written by Josephus gives an account of Judaea, which became a Roman province during the Augustan times.

Julio – Claudian Dynasty (14 to 69 CE)

Three grandsons of Augustus by his daughter Julia did not survive long enough to succeed him upon his death on 13 CE. Tiberius Claudius, the son of his wife Livia from her first marriage, succeeded him for being his stepson. Augustus was a descendant of the Julian family, one of the most ancient patrician clans of Rome while Tiberius came from the Claudius family, somewhat less ancient than the Julians. For this reason, historians regard the three immediate successors of Augustus as belonging to the Julio-Claudian Dynasty.

Tiberius (14 to 37 CE)

He started well, a benevolent and peace-loving emperor who consolidated the power of Rome and filled its coffers. He became paranoid in 19 CE after the blame for the death of his popular nephew, Germanicus was placed on him. Four years later, his son Drusus died, when he became more and more unbalnced, and started a series of trials for alleged treasons executing the persons concerned. Leaving the administration in the hands of the chief of the praetorian guards Sejanus, he in 26 CE started to live in the island of Capri. Sejanus followed his own agenda of depredations and began to strengthen his position. He was helped in his mission to some extent in 31 CE when Tiberius named him as a co-consul and allowed him to marry the emperor’s niece Livilla. Almost immediately his luck ran out, and he was put to death by Tiberius on charges of treason. The emperor continued with his persecutions for six years more when he himself died.

Caligula (37 to 41 CE)

When Tiberius died, he had nearly finished almost all of his probable successors by murdering them. However, he named as his successor his grandnephew Gaius, son of the late Germanicus, popularly known as Caligula or “little boots”. Caligula ended the persecution campaign of his uncle, but became ill probably due to the stress of his position. It is believed that he suffered from encephalitis, which causes mental instability. He became insane, and Suetonius mentions a rumour (in the Lives of the Twelve Caesars) that he planned to install his favourite horse as a member of the Roman senate. He ordered his army to invade Britain and to fight the sea god Neptune, but changed his mind at the last moment and asked the soldiers to collect sea shells from the northern shore of France. His friend king Herod prevented him from installing a statue of himself at the Temple in Jerusalem, an action that would have surely led to a rebellion. In 41 CE, Caligula was murdered by the chief of the praetorian guards, and his uncle Claudus succeeded him.

Claudius (41 to 54 CE)

Regarded as a fool and a weak person by his family, Claudius was not afflicted with paranoia like Tiberius nor insane like Caligula. He ruled over the empire efficiently, improved the bureaucracy and regularized the citzens’ and senatorial responsibilities. Britain was conquered and colonized during his reign, and more of the eastern provinces were included into the empire. A winter port for Rome was opened at Ostia so as to enable ships bringing grain to unload the cargo there during unfavourable weather. He killed his wife on finding out that she had betrayed him, and married his niece Agrippina who developed a strong hold over him. He died in 54 CE, apparently from poisoning by his wife. Agrippina then had the opportunity of anointing her 17 year old son Domitius Nero as the successor of Claudius.

Domitius Nero (54 to 68 CE)

Famous as the emperor who played a fiddle while Rome was burning due to a fire in 64 CE, Nero devoted a lot of his time to diplomacy and trade. He also made an effort to increase the cultural assets of the empire by building theatres and sports facilities. He concluded a successful war, negotiated peace with the Parthians, suppressed a revolt in Britain and improved diplomatic relations with Greece. Fleeing from a military coup, he faced the possibility of execution under orders from the senate and reportedly killed himself to escape the ignominy.

Upheavals and Uprisings

The empire was ruled from Rome usually when peaceful conditions prevailed. A rebellion was always round the corner, was expected and would occur now and then when a general or a governor would collect a following by personal charm or by making golden promises and rise in rebellion against the empire.There was all the time the possibility of a conquered city trying to get back its freedom or a subjugated tribe trying to break free. This would be a worrysome but not an uncontrollable situation. Posted along the borders, Roman legions would be alerted and the units nearby would be rushed to the trouble spot. The rebellious general or governor would have at the most two units under him and would have a gory end together with his associates. If the rebels were from some local community, they would normally be without any knowledge of military tactics and would be defeated easily. Situations getting out of hand and leading to full-scale war included a rebellion at one end of the empire while the monarch was with the legions putting down another at the other end, or an enemy attack at that time. An instance of this was the widespread Jewish uprising towards the end of Nero’s reign. Though the rebellion was suppressed, Nero could not save his throne.

Actually, in a full-scale confrontation with the enemy it was necessary to deploy several legions. During wars, it was therefore customary for a paranoid or prudent emperor to held as hostages relatives of the general in command of the military campaign so as to ensure his loyalty. Nero did so at the time of the Jewish campaign and held the brother-in-law and younger son of the general Vespasian. But the enemy was within, and he faced a revolt by the praetorian guards who were bribed in the name of Galba, the governor of Hispania province. In fact, the praetorian guards, supposedly protectors of the throne, became an ever present threat as their loyalty could often be bought with bribes. Following their example, the legions stationed in the borders would often revolt and thus start a civil war. The Roman army was seriously impaired due to this threatening development.

In the west, the main enemy of the empire was the “barbarian tribes” on the other sides of the rivers Danube and Rhine. Augustus had failed to subjugate them, and they were left in peace so as to fight amongst themselves. Although they were a divided lot and unable to form a united front, they were greatly feared for their depredations. During the late republican period (53 BCE) an attempt was made to invade Parthia (or Persia), the main enemy in the east, and was unsuccessful. Likewise, Parthian attacks were repulsed, but the threat always remained. It was natural for these two enemies to raid and plunder Roman territories at the time of civil wars. The border in the west was close to Rome and was therefore under the control of the emperor. Not so was the border in the west, and the Parthians took advantage of it in the event of an internal strife in the empire. It became necessary to deploy a large number of legions in the borders, and the chances of an ambitious general starting a local rebellion were high. Good administration was not the answer to this problem as it required the presence of the emperor at two places at the same time, and it remained unresolved. In fact, many future emperors would resort to it to fulfil their ambitions.

69 CE (Year of the Four Emperors)

Galba, the governor of Hispania, who bribed the praetorian guards to rise in revolt against Nero was eventually declared as emperor by the senate. Within a short time he was murdered, and Otho (governor of Lusitania) became the emperor. Not to be outdone, Vitellius in Germania gathered his forces and marched towards Rome to remove Otho. In the first battle of Bedriacum, Otho was defeated and committed suicide. All this time Vespasian was in Judaea.
In fact, on hearing that Galba had become emperor he started towards Rome to greet him, but stopped when he came to know of the events thereafter. He was not too keen to be taken as a hostage by one or the other side in the confrontation between Otho and Vitellius. Anyway, when the news circulated among the armies in Judaea and Egypt, they on their own decided that Veapasian should be the emperor. Vespasian’s elder son Titus then negotiated with the governor of Syria (Mucianus) who agreed to join forces with them and to lead the expedition. By the end of the year, Mucianus defeated Vitellius, and the senate proclaimed Vespasian as the emperor. Having regard to the number of times a new emperor took the throne, the year 69 CE was called the year of the four emperors.

Flavian Dynasty (69 to 96)

They brought stability to the empire going through a serious turmoil. The reforms initiated by them in their relatively short-term existence extended the life of the empire into the fourth decade of third century CE. All the three emperors of the dynasty had military backgrounds, which probably made them to reduce the importance of the senate and opt for the role of imperator (monarch) instead of princeps (first citizen).

Vespasian (69 to 79)

He had been ruling over the eastern part of the empire as a general and supported the senate’s decision to make Galba the emperor. Vespasian, however, became a contender for the throne after Galba was murdered, and gained a strategic advantage over his remaining rival Vitellius (after Otho’s suicide) by holding on to Rome’s winter grain supply in Egypt. When Vespasian’s troops captured Rome, Vitellius was killed by his own soldiers, and Vespasian was proclaimed emperor by the senate next day (21 December 69). From the very beginning Vespasian (60 years old at that time) kept the senate under control, as would be evident from the post-dating of his accession to power to 1 July, when his troops proclaimed him emperor, instead of 21 December the date of proclamation. He tightened it further by assuming the post of censor in 73 (Augustus also did that) which enabled him to constitute the senate. He expelled dissident members of the senate, and raised the numbers of senators from 200 (brought down by Nero to that level) to 1,000 by selecting most of them not from Rome but from Italy and the urban centers within the western provinces. He eased the financial burdens placed upon Rome by Nero’s excesses and the civil wars by increasing taxes and creating new forms of taxation. He updated by exercising his power as censor the tax structure of every city and province, many of them paying taxes based upon information more than a century old. A surplus was thus created in the treasury which enabled him to embark on public works and projects like Amphitheatrum Flavium (Colosseum) and to provide substantial aids to art and culture.

As an office holder for decades in various provinces in the east and the west, Vespasian was quite experienced in administration. Spain was his favourite, to over three hundred cities and towns in which he granted Latin rights (a civic right in betwween full Roman citizenship and that of a non-citizen or peregrine) thus promoting urbanization in the erstwhile “barbarian” western provinces. The crisis of 69 showed that when soldiers in the auxiliary units were posted in their native areas, they usually become supporters of the dissidents there. Vespasian stopped this by moving such units away from where they were recruited or by forming auxiliary units composed of men from different areas. He broke up the clusters of legions in different areas and placed them along the border so as to prevent a military coup. His most significant contribution towards build up of Roman military power was to begin recruitment of soldiers for the legions from Gaul and Spain along with Italy, which also helped the process of Romanization of those areas.

Titus (79 to 81) & Domitian (81 to 96)

As the eldest son of Vespasian, Titus served under his father as an effective general securing the east and later taking over the command of the Roman armies in Syria and Judaea. He suppressed the ongoing wide spread Jewish uprising and was the co-consul with his father, thus receiving the best possible training for the position of emperor. His association with some disreputable citizens of Rome caused some misgivings, but he proved his worth by recalling people exiled by his father. He was equally generous in providing relief to people when the volcanic Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 devastating Pompeii and a fire destroyed much of Rome in 80. He was very satisfied with his role in the construction of the amphitheatre Colosseum started by his father, and held gladatorial and other sports events in the semi-finished stadium for 100 days in 80. Next year he died of some unspecified illness, rumoured to be caused by his younger brother Domitian (taken as a hostage by Nero during the Jewish campaign). The rumour started because of his reported dying statement that he failed to correct a mistake, the mistake of doing nothing when he came to know that Domitian was planning to kill him to be his successor.

Domitian in the role of censor and consul carried out his control of senate to such extremes that the otherwise pliant senators were forced to protest. To compound matters further, he often appeared at the assembly in full military regalia to reinforce his image as the imperator (emperor) which was against the princeps (first citizen) image his immediate and Julio-Claudian predecessors projected. However, he kept the people happy by donations to every citizen of Rome and continued with the public projects taken up earlier. He also maintained the treasury well and kept its funds well-endowed. Increasingly he became paranoid because of the way he had been treated by his father, who gave him responsibilities but not without supervision. His paranoia reached a high after a short-lived rebellion by the governor of Germany in 89. Arrests, executions and seizures of property followed in such a scale that his advisers and family members always lived in a state of fear, leading to his murder in 96 by his enemies in the senate, family and praetorian guards.

Five Good Emperors (96 to 180)

That was how the period following Domitian came to be known – the five were Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antonius Pius and Marcus Aurelius. Each of them nominated his successor during his lifetime, taking into account the merits of the individual so chosen. Another point of view is that the succession scheme worked well because none of the emperors excepting the last had a natural heir.
Nerva (96 to 98)

Nerva came to the throne with a sort of liberal agenda (like setting free imprisoned dissidents, involving senate in governance, etc., to save himself) which failed to help him. In 97, he was taken hostage by Domitian’s supporters who forced him to hand over to them people responsible for the late monarch’s death and even to make a speech thanking the rebel leader. Nerva then nominated the general in the German frontier, Trajan as his successor with a view to strengthen his own rule. Trajan would eventually execute the rebel who rose against Nerva.

Trajan (98 to 117)

Trajan succeeded Nerva and brought the territory under Roman rule to its highest ever by conquests. In 112, following a provocation by Parthia, he annexed Armenia and continuing southwards took the city of Babylon and declared Mesopotamia as a new province of the empire in 116. Lamenting that he was too old to continue in the footsteps of Alexander, he nonetheless took the great city of Susa and pushed the border of the empire to its furthest in the east.

Hadrian (117 to 138)

Although famous as a military administrator, there was no major campaign during his reign apart from the suppression of a massive Jewish rebellion in Judaea in 132 – 135. He had to engage himself in defending the territories in possession rather than annexing new ones. Even so, he parted with Trajan’s conquests in Mesopotamia as he found them to be indefensible. He avoided a war with Parthia by negotiating peace in 121. Unlike his predecessors, he toured almost all the provinces giving money for local projects. In Britain, he provided for a wall (known as Hadrian’s wall) as a defensive measure as also various other defences in Germany and Northern Africa. Roman empire was peaceful and prosperous during his reign.

Antoninus Pius (138 to 161)

His reign was also peaceful, though there were some military disturbances of no particular importance in Britain, Judaea and Mauritania. Due to the trouble in Bitain, construction of a wall from the Firth of Forth to the Firth of Clyde (known as Antonine Wall) was started but abandoned later.

Marcus Aurelius (161 to 180)

During his time there were many raids along the long north European borders by Germanic tribes (themselves pushed by fiercer tribes from the east)in Gaul and by others along the Danube, which were repulsed. The Parthians also started to attack, to deal with which Marcus Aurelius sent his co-emperor and rival Verus. The strategy worked; Verus was happy with his hold over the army and felt no need to confront Marcus. He died during the campaign in 169, and Marcus was relieved of the threat. Commodus, son of Marcus, was co-emperor with his father from 177. When he became the emperor after the death of Marcus in 180, he made a good beginning. Then there was an attempt to murder him by some of his family members, following which he gradually became insane. It is believed that with the assassination attempt began the long decline and fall of the Roman empire.

Severan Dynasty (193 to 235)

Emperors of this dynasty were Septimius Severus (193 – 211), Caracalla (211 – 217), Macrinus (217 – 18), Elagabalus (218 – 222) and Alexander Severus (222 – 235). They ruled in an increasingly troubled period just before the crisis of the third century. The founder was from a prominent family of Leptis Magna in Africa who married into a prominent Syrian family. Rulers emerging from such provincial background and cosmopolitan alliance were possible due to the broadening of political base and economic prosperity attained during the previous regime. Septimius was a successful ruler who ensured the army’s support by increased pay and by appointing them as officials instead of the earlier practice of engaging senators. This widened the administrative power base throughout the empire, which was further helped by the abolition of the standing jury courts dating back to republican times. His son Marcus Antoninus or Caracalla
enacted a law in 212, which removed all legal and political differences between Italians and provincials extending full citizenship to all free men. He was also responsible for the construction of the famous Caracalla Baths in Rome, which served as a model for gigantic public buildings in times to come. He was murdered by a prefect of the guards (Macrinus) in 217, who succeeded him for a brief period as the first non-senator ruler. There were quite powerful and capable women in the court, who pulled strings to put Elagabalus and after him Alexander Severus in the throne in 218 and 222 respectively. Alexander restored the power of the senate to some extent and enacted some fiscal measures. Though he succeeded in defeating the Sassanians early in his reign, eventually the army went out of his control, mutinied and assassinated him in 235. With his death, began nearly fifty years of turmoil and civil war.

Crisis of the Third Century (236 to 284)

This was a period of military anarchy when the Roman Empire was on the verge of collapse. The times of peace and prosperity from the reign of Augustus came to an end, for which that late emperor could be held partly responsible. In order to lay stress on his first citizen (princeps) image he did not specify an order of succession, which inspired ambitious generals to start civil wars. Despite occasional setbacks, his successors were able to keep things in order. During the third century the situation went out of control because of “barbarian’ raids”, foreign invasions and a depleted treasury. Consequently, from 235 onwards, no fewer than 25 different emperors ruled Rome. Excepting two, all such soldier-emperors were either murdered or killed in the battle in the next 50 years. Ascending the throne in 284, Diocletian was able to solve some of these acute problems and stave off for a while the break up of the empire.

Division of the empire

After defeating his rival Carinus in July 285, Diocletian became the sole emperor. Realising that the empire was ungovernable by a single emperor due to external threats and internal strifes, he divided the empire in two parts along a north-west axis just east of Italy, and created two equal emperors to rule under the title of Augustus. Diocletian became Augustus of the eastern half, and selected his long-time friend Maximian to rule the western half, thus creating what would be known as Eastern and Western Roman Empire. The western empire would last for about 200 years, and the eastern empire would become the Byzantine Empire, with the Greek city of Byzantium as its capital, later to be named Constantinople by the emperor Constantine I and would survive for another thousand years. Authority was further divided in 293, when each Augustus took a junior Emperor called Caesar to aid him in administrative matters as also to provide a line of succession. Modern scholars call this tetrarchy or leadership by four. In 305 Diocletian and Maximian abdicated in favor of their Caesars, and two new Caesars were named by the two incoming Augustus (es) or Augusti. The tetrarchy worked well under Diocletian and Maximian and for a short time thereafter. Edward Gibbon in his book The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire says that it was so because of the affinity the four rulers had for each other and compares it to a “chorus of music”, the harmony in which disappeared when Diocletian and Maximian abdicated. Then one of the augusti died in 306, Maximian came back in 307 to back his son and at the end of that year there were four augusti and a lone caesar. The pattern was thus set, and the empire was divided among sons, nephews and cousins till the time of Julian and Jovian when it was one again for a while.

Julian and Jovian (361 to 364)

Julian, caesar of the western empire since 355, would remain the sole emperor for two years. Though a Christian himself, he would lift the ban on paganism enforced earlier and imposed restrictions on Christianity. It seems he believed himself to be a reincarnation of Alexander the Great and wrote works of philosophy based on the ideas he held. He died while fighting Shapur of Persia and did not name his successor. Pagans considered him as a hero while Christians a villain. Upon his death, his officers elected the unknown Jovian as his successor. Jovian ceded territories to Persia and restored the privileges of Christianity.

Valentinian Dynasty (364 to 392)

Again the officers had to select a new emperor, when they chose a Pannonian called Valentinian. He selected as co-emperor his brother Valens, and together they ruled after the pattern set by Diocletian: he in the west and his brother in the east. Soon Valens faced a challenge from a cousin of Julian, who bribed two legions and captured Constantinople. Valens fought back, defeated and executed him. A third co-emperor, Valentinian’s son 8 year old Gratian was selected next with a view to secure succession. However, on his father’s death in 378, the then 16 year old Gratian was not given the chance to rule. His infant step brother becme the emperor as Valentinian II, and Gratian was left to administer Gaul. His step mother and infant step brother was given Italy, Illyria and Africa, but the real authority remained with him. Meanwhile, Valens was challenged by Germanic tribes whom he allowed to live in the area south of Danube. Gratian was coming to his help, but without waiting for Gratian he started the Battle of Adrianople. Two-thirds of the Roman army was lost along with many experienced leaders and Valens was killed in 378. In the aftermath, Theodosius I was chosen to rule the eastern empire. Gratian, after ruling efficiently for some time, became lazy and a Frankish general and a bishop jointly acted as the power behind the throne. Theodosius selected his five year old son as the fouth co-ruler with support from the other three in 383 to secure succession.
The Spanish general Maximus of Roman Britain revolted and attacked Gaul when Gratian fled and was killed. Then Maximus chose his infant son as a co-ruler, raising the number of such incumbents to five. Theodosius acknowledged these two co-rulers, but Maximus and his son were not accepted by the other two co-rulers. So, Maximus attacked Italy, drove out Valentinian II, when Theodosius came to Valentinan’s rescue and killed Maximus. In 392, Valentinian II was murdered when Theodosius invaded the western empire, and reunited the entire Roman empire under his own rule. After his death in 395, the two halves of the empire were ruled by his two sons: Arcadius in the east with the capital Constantinople, and Honorius in the west with the capital in Milan and later Ravenna. Though the Roman state would continue to have two emperors, the eastern part considered itself as Roman in full. Latin was used in official writings to the same extent (if not more than) Greek. The two halves were culturally and historically the same state, though perhaps politically they were different.

After 395, the rulers in the west were usually figureheads. For most of the time, the actual rulers were military strongmen who called themselves patrician or magister militum. In June 474, Julius Nepos became the ruler in the west. Next year, the magister militum Orestes revolted and made his son Romulus Augustus the Roman emperor. Romulus, however, was not recognized by the eastern Emperor, and was therefore technically an usurper. Romulus Augustus, however, is regarded as the last Western Roman Emperor.
The Western Roman Empire is supposed to have ended in 476 when Orestes was killed by rebelling Germanic tribes. The capital Ravenna was captured and Romulus was deposed bringing about what is traditionally described as the fall of the Roman Empire.

Language

Latin was the language of the empire before its expansion as also its official language. Actually, there were two languages, classical and vulgar Latin. Classical Latin was the written language while Vulgar Latin was the spoken language. Vulgar Latin was a fluid language which differed in various regions of the empire and changed quite a lot over time. In the provinces in the west, Vulgar Latin became the common language and later evolved into the modern Italian, Spanish, French and so on. After the fall of the west, Latin remained the official language of the administration, and for some centuries in the east as well. Greek, however, was always the primary language used in the east for administration outside the capital. Actually, Greek was the most widely spoken language there, mainly in the larger urban centers, and, even in the city of Rome itself, Greek became the language of the educated and the elite. Before the imperial period in the second century BCE, more than 15% of Rome’s population spoke Greek and that percentage continued to grow. Greek became the language of scholarship and the arts, and, to a large degree, the common language for trade between provinces and with other nations. Like Latin, the primary spoken language, Koine Greek, existed with the literary language, a variant of the ancient Attic Greek.

Greek lost its dominance over Latin by the fourth century, resulting to a great extent from the growth and development of the western provinces. The publication in the early fifth century of the Vulgate Bible corroborates it. With the decline of the west, the number of people who spoke both Greek and Latin declined as well, contributing greatly to the future cultural divisions in Europe. Anyway, languages evolving from Latin are widely spoken in the world today, while Greek dialects are limited mostly to Greece, Cyprus and parts of Turkey. Due to the multi-ethnic nature of the empire, many other languages like Syriac, Aramic, Coptic, Armenian, etc. existed and some of these were given limited official status in their provinces at various times.

Legacy

Succession to the Roman Empire had been claimed by several states after the fall of the west. First, it was the Byzantine Empire, the modern term used for later period of the east. Then followed the Holy Roman Empire, a very different entity, which was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire either. The king was Frankish, the empire was a collection of independent States and the 9th century Pope Leo III (who organized it) was the only person to be considered holy (with reservations). When the Ottomans captured Constantinople, the Russian Tzars, as inheritor of the Byzantine Empire’s Orthodox Church, called itself the third Rome (with Constantinople being the second). Then the Ottoman’s, who based their state on the Byzantine model, established in 1453 their capital in Constantinople and the ruler claimed to be sitting on the throne of the Roman Empire. He even went to the extent of launching an invasion of Italy with the purpose of “re-uniting the Empire”, only to be stopped by the Papal army at Otranto in 1480. Apart from such successors, the Roman state lasted (in some form) from the founding of Rome in 753 BCE to the fall in 1461 CE of Trebizond (a fragment of the Byzantine Empire which escaped conquest by the Ottomans in 1453), for a total of 2214 years. The Roman impact on Western and Eastern civilizations is tremendous. In the centuries following, most of the Roman achievements were duplicated by later civilizations. For example, the Romans knew how to make cement, the technology for which was rediscovered by John Smeaton in 1759.

The (more-or-less) modern calendar, the Christian institutions and facets of modern neo-classical and neo-classical and Byzantine architecture are all contributions of the Roman empire to the world. The extensive system of roads constructed by the Roman army still exist and till the introduction of railways there was no reduction in travel time between destinations in Europe. In the sphere of governance, the Roman empire influenced through its constitution those of the countries in Europe and many former European colonies. The framers of the constitution of the United States in creating the presidency did so to usher in an “Augustan Age”. Roman Law as codified in Corpus Juris Civilis in the period of late antiquity (6th century CE) is the cornerstone of the legal system in many a modern country in the world. The Romans developed the science of public administration to govern their vast territory to an extent never before thought of. They created an extensive civil service and formalized methods of tax collection. The Greeks gave the west its intellectual stimulus; the Romans their methods of living, ruling and governing.

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MA KALI – THE MOTHER GODDESS


 

Nechey nechey ai Ma Shyama/ Ami je tore shonge jaboe/

Tui khabi  Ma panthar muroe/ Ami je tore prasad paboe !

 

Roughly translated, it reads Mother Kali, come dancing on, I will follow you/ you will munch the sacrificed goat’s head/ I will have the leftovers.

Not quite an appetizing meal, but the Bengali singing unsteadily on his feet was dripping piety. Probably, it was the country liquor with which he filled up himself, but his devotion and religiousity was unmistakable. In that, at least, he was different from Gunter Grass, who excoriated Ma Kali in his book, Show Me Your Tongue. Ma Kali, anyway, had her turn of excoriating Grass. It became known that Gras had enrolled in the Nazi air force at 16.

Since paleolithic times humankind have been worshipping goddesses, and anthropologists think (without firm evidence) that the first god or the entity for worship conjured up by those of our .distant ancestors was female. This belief is somewhat supported by the ancient myth of creation by self- fertilisation, very common in the vegetable kingdom and in parthenogenetic insects, mollusces and snails.  Probably, this had given rise to the belief that the Mother Goddess created not only herself , but also the universe all by herself,  alone.

Agricultural religions

And that accounted for the growth of agricultural religions, belief systems narrating that the benevolence, happiness and prosperity the gods shower on us are all due to the Mother Goddess (MG for short). No wonder,  that nearly all such early religions, societies and tribes were matriarchal.  Be that as it may, there is no evidence that the female members of such societies considered themselves superior to their male constituents. Usually, a balance was achieved by equally honouring the female and male gods. This could be the origin of that charming myth of the marriage between Earth Mother and Sky God in many early cultures and societies. A line from a poem by Mao Ze Dong stating that women hold up the sky reflects that belief.

Images

The first images (excavated) which the Cro-Magnons of the Upper Paleolithic Period had made are all unmistakably female figures going back to as early as 35,000 BCE.  Naturally, they are all called Venus, after Botticelli’s masterpiece renaissance painting, The Birth of Venus.  There is a Venus of Vestonice  (Czechoslovakia –  circa 35,000 – 25,000 BCE); of Willendorf (Germany – ca 22,000 BCE); and one in Laussel, southern France chiselled out as a bas-relief in a rock shelter, ca  19,000 BCE. There is also the doubtful Venus of Morocco (ca 400,000 BCE) because experts are not sure how it was made – shaped by the actions of rain and wind or by human hands. They are, however, unanimous in their opinion that it was used as a figurine. The Laussale Venus is painted in red, perhaps suggesting blood . This and the detail showing a bison horn held in one hand suuggests that the rock shelter was probably a hunting shrine. There are Cro-Magnon paintings in caves showing women during during child birth. An interesting painting in the Pyrennes depicted a naked woman  apparently  as a mascot of mammoth hunters , the guardian of wild things and the defender of the cave shelter. 

Proto-Neolithic (circa 9,000 – 7,000 BCE); Middle Neolithic (ca 6,000 – 5,000 BCE); and Higher Neolithic (ca 4,500 – 3,500 BCE) Periods also yielded female figurines, some of which were decorated and appeared to have been objects of worship.  Isis or the Horned Goddess was depicted in cave paintings (ca 7,000 BCE) in Africa, interestingly as a bisexual woman. MG was called  Ta – Urt (Great One) in predynastic Egypt before ca 3100 BCE, and was shown as a pregnant hippopotamus standing on her hind legs. MG figurines associated with cow, sheep, goat, dove, humped ox, snake, pig and double axe were the characteristics of the Halaf culture flourishing in the Tigris basin, ca 5,000 – 4,000 BCE.  The  Sumerian culture (ca 4,000 BCE) associated princesses and queens of the cities with the MG, while the kings were regarded as gods.

Different roles

In the millennia gone, MG asumed and played many roles — mother, wife, creator, destroyer, homemaker, huntress, healer, sorcerer…and so on, her roles depending on the state of development of the culture she was a part of. She could be a queen with a royal consort; she could be a mother whose son had died or sacrificed to represent the birth and rebirth of the seasons; she was called by a myriad of names and had many faces, but always unfailingly she represented nature, and was identified with the sun and the moon;  with the earth and the sky. Her devotees, whatever they called themselves,  were nature worshippers as well.  She was the Supreme Being, while the gods were described in anthropomorphic terms.

It is generally believed that the Black Madonna icons were created from the descriptions of ancient goddesses, particularly the Egyptian Goddess Isis holding on her lap her son, Horus. Spirits of the benevolent or malevolent kinds are described in many languages (for example Syriac) in the feminine gender. So it was in early Christianity upto circa 400 CE, after which the practice was discontinued.  Even at present, the  Latter – day Saints or the Mormons (followers of a tangential Christian doctrine) subtly accept the existence of a Heavenly Mother, but chastise the members who openly declare their adherence to this goddess instead of praying to God the Father.  The Mother Goddess was the central figure, the very essence of the craft and practice of Neo – pagan Witchcraft. As the Great Mother, she represented fertility bringing forth all life; as Mother Nature, she embodied the world of the living and the world of the planets.  She herself was the elemental force: the creator and the destroyer.  She was the Queen of Heaven; and she was the moon. Emotion, intuition, magical powers and psychic faculty were her attributes.  A genderles Divine Force  was the power behind her, but in the universe it was manifested as male and female principles.  Though both the principles were accepted,  the Goddess or the female principle was given importance by excluding the Horned God or the male principle.  Many aspects, facets and names characterised the Goddess; but in Neo – paganism and Witchcraft, She was worshipped in her three Goddess forms : Virgin, Mother and Crone.

Mother Goddesses elsewhere

In ancient cultures Mother Goddesses were worshipped in different forms with varying names. She was known as Tiamat in Sumerian mythology; Ishtar or Inana and Ninsun were her names in Mesopotamia; Asherah in Canaan; Ashtart in Syria; and  Aphrodite in Greece. The Mother Goddess of the Celts or the  ancient  Irish,  Anu or sometimes called Danu lend her name to  Irish literature, and  Tuatha de Dannan meaning people of Danu came to be known as the last and most favoured generation of gods.  The  Nordic Bronze Age was the time  when probably a Mother Goddess was worshipped by the Germanic  tribes as a part of their religious practice, known as  the  Nerthus of  Germanic mythology. She lived on in the Norse mythology as Frevia, and was worshipped by that name. Njord, interestingly, was her male counterpart in Scandinavia, the only male deity in an otherwise female pantheon,  which included Yggdrasil or World Ash.  It is said that the image of Grendel’s mother in the poem Beowulf  was based on a Mother Goddess from Norse mythology.

Ancient Near Eastern culture zones surrounding the Aegean Sea worshipped the  MG known as Cybele. Her  other forms,  revered in  Rome were known as Magna Mater,  Great  Mother,  Rhea and Gaia.  Classical  Greece  had  twelve  Olympian  Mother  Goddesses  like  Hera, Demeter and so on with many special powers. Potnia Theron,  the MG of the  Minoans was the Mistress of the Animals  besides many other qualities.  Apparently,  all her  powers were later appropriated by Artemis born of Zeus and Leto.  Apollo, the very good-looking Greek God was her twin brother.  She was beautiful and energetic; wore a short dress leaving her legs bare; and looked young all the tme.  She was also the MG of  the place  known  as  Ephesus  where she wore a peculiar dress representing honeycombs, breasts, fruits and the like. Experts are divided over the purposes of her outfit, but the general opinion is that it represents a lactating woman capable of feeding many babies.  A  bow  is her  symbol, her hunting weapon;  and she often wears a crescent on her  brow.  Her strength lies in her ability to defend herself, and naturally  she is a defender of women and animals.  She  provides  comfort to women  during  child birth.  She dislikes men, an example of misandry perhaps,  and  hates  marriage for the bondage it imposes on women.

Greek  and  Roman (Italian)  Mother Goddesses 

Quite a number of  Mother Goddesses are  common in  Greek and Roman mythologies,  among whom perhaps the most revered is Cybele. She is a Near  Eastern  MG  with her domain spreading from Phrygia to Greece, Rome amd other places. The  Agora in Athens,  a sort of gathering and commercial centre once, has a temple known as Metroon dedicated to her.  Sacred  prostitution, castration and fertility rites were the forms in which she was paid tributes. Her cult followers raised monuments in her honour from circa 6,000 BCE to the end of the Roman Empire. Recent archaeological finds have established that she was venerated even in Thrace. Rhea is her other name in Greece, and Agdos is what she is called when she takes the form of a rock.  In an interesting observation,  Ean Begg in his work on Christian Black Virgins speaks of a link Cybele has with the Ka’bah : “Her name is etymologically linked with the words for crypt, cave, head and dome and is distantly related to the Ka’aba, the cube-shaped Holy of Holies in Mecca that contains the feminine black stone venerated by Islam” Begg, p.57.  Though famously known as The Great Mother, she was also called  Mater Kubile;  while her Roman Ceremonial name  name was Mater  Deum  Magna  Idaea (Great Idaean  Mother of the  Gods). She  was one of the various nature deities worshipped in Asia Minor, and Phrygia in west – central Turkey  was  the original place of her cult – followers.  The Greeks saw her resmblance to their own  MG, Rhea and unhesitatingly combined the two. In 204 BCE,  when Hannibal was marching  to conquer  Rome,  there was a prophecy stated to be from her that the enemy would be defeated and expelled  if the “Idaean Mother” was brought to Rome, together with her sacred symbol, a small stone reputed to have fallen from the heavens. Though emphasis was placed on her maternal instincts and attributes,  her worship was orgiastic in nature. Apparently, only castrated males could become her priests, so as to honour her lover the agricultural god Attis  who  self – mutilated himself that way and died bleeding under a pine tree.                                                                                                           

Aurora or Eos is the Greek Goddess of Dawn, daughter of the Titan, Hyperion; the Sun God, Helios is her brother and the Moon Goddess,  Selene  is her sister. Homer described her in his works as the Rosy – Fingered  one.  Her lover is the hunter Orion as also Cephalus, who is the father of her child, Phaethon.  Artistically,  she is depicted as rising from the sea in a chariot drawn by winged horses,  and morning dews falling  from the two pitchers held in her hands.

The Furies are so called because they are the Goddesses of anger, jealousy and revenge. The Greeks  (probably not to provoke them) called them euphemistically Eumenides (meaning  “The Kind  Ones),  and Romans (not so tactful) addressed them as Furiae. Older than the Olympian  Pantheon,  this trio or triune were the punishing force of  the Mother  Goddess  disciplining  Her law – breakers.  It is speculated that they were personification of curses and rose from  ghosts or the victims of murder. The Greek poet Hesiod believed them to be the daughters of the Earth Mother, Gaia and to come out of  the mutilated body of Her spouse, Uranus.  Aeschylus in his plays called them the daughters of Nyx; Sophocles in his works described them as daughters of Darkness and Gaia; and it was Euripides who spoke of them as three in number.  Subsequent authors named them  Alecto (Unceasing in Anger); Tisiphone (Avenger of Murder); and Megaera (Jealous). They lived in the underworld, due to which they were associated with the fertility of the soil, and came out often to chase and punish the wicked. The Greeks were afraid even to utter their name,  Erinyes, and in addition to the appeasing title of  “The Kind Ones” called them  Semnam Theai meaning The Venerable Goddesses.

Quite a contrast to The Furies was  the Italian or Roman  Goddess of the hearth,  Vesta; her Greek counterpart was called Hestia. Her priestesses were required to protect a continuously burning fire symbolising the hearth, and to remain virgins.  The Vestal cult was one of the oldest in Rome, and in ancient republican times state functions began with a prayer to the god Janus and concluded by invoking Vesta.  As opposed to this, the Hestia cult was not that important in Greece; nor was her image (unlike Vesta) kept for worhip  in  housealtars.  The state worship of  Vesta was quite elaborate, carried out in a circular building similar to the early Italian huts and to the hearth in a home.  There was a Temple of Vesta in the Roman Forum,  restored and renovated many times during the ancient Roman Imperial and Republican phases.  Inside that temple burned perpetually the fire of the public/state hearth attended by the  Vestal  Virgins.  On March 1, the first day of the ancient Roman New Year, the fire was put out once only to be rekindled again. If it went out accidentally or otherwise,  the event was regarded as the omen for an impending disaster. The inner sanctuary was not open to the public; only during the 9 days of Vestalia in June 7 to 15, barefoot matrons were allowed to go inside.  Those days were considered unlucky, and the temple was kind of sanitised by ceremonial sweeping and dumping the refuse in a particular spot along the Clivus Capitolinus or by throwing them in the Tiber river. Atrium Vestae was the name of the sacred area and  consisted of the Temple of  Vesta, a sacred grove, Regia  or the chamber of the chief priestess (pontiflex maximus) and the House of the Vestals. Vesta was portrayed as a fully draped woman with an ass, her favourite animal. As she was the patroness of bakers and an ass was used to turn the millstone  grinding the grain, the animal accompanied her. Fornax or the spirit of the baker’s oven was also associated with her.

The New Year festivities of both the Greeks and the Romans were held around 15 March, the time of Spring Equinox when the Sun had completed its annual journey according to their belief, and was called Anna Perenna. As the Sun was the giver of Life and Food, this festival was also considerd a homage to the Mother Goddess. Incidentally, it sounds nearly the same as Anna Purna, the name of a Hindu Mother Goddess.

The Greek Goddess Aphrodite’s counterpart in Roman mythology was Venus. As she was the mother of Rome’s founder  Aeneas, she was considered a Mother Goddess and ancestor of all the subsequent Roman rulers. During the rule of Julius Caeser, she was called Venus  Genetrix.  The legend of the founding of Rome, however, has it that the city was founded by Romus and Romulus, sons of a vestal virgin.

Buddhist  Mother  Goddess        

The  origins of the female Bodhisattva, Kuan Yin (also called Kwan Yin and Quan Shi Yin) are still a matter of debate among Buddhist scholars. Etymologically, her name means someone attending to the cries of the distressed, a definitive maternal quality placing her in the Pantheon of Mother Goddesses. She is considered to be the female form of Avalokiteswara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, whose worship in China began in the early years of the Common Era.  Apparently, the first reference to this MG is in the Lotus Sutra of 405 CE; but, by the tenth crntury she was also thougt of as a male. During the reign of the Chang Dynasty, Tantric Buddhism conceptualised her as a beautiful white-robed female Bodhisattva in the eigth century CE.   In the next century, there were statues of  Kuan Yin  in all the Chinese Buddhist monasteries. 

Imagining  Bodhisattva as a female was not inconsistent to Buddhist belief because the Bodhisattva could assume any form, wearing it like a garb to bring salvation to the people. There are references to such acts of redemption by “a variety of shapes” in the Lotus Sutra. Some are of the opinion that Kuan Yin was the title conferred on Miao Shan, a Chinese Princess of circa 700 BCE.  It is believed that she was in Pu-To-Shan, the sacred  island – mountain in the Chusan Archipelago for nine years bringing rescue and  relief to ship – wrecked sailors. Tales of her acts of mercy spread all over northern China in no time.

Kuan Yin assumes  various  forms  representing different aspects of her attributes. A slender woman in a flowing white robe, carrying in her left hand a white lotus is the manner in which she symbolises purity. She may be without any ornament as a sign of her humility; or, she may be wearing some, as appropriate for a  Bodhisattva. It is, however, as a companion and friend of children, she is portrayed in homes and temples. She is normally seen sitting on a lotus with a great white veil entirely covering her, and holding a child in her arms. Or, the child is sitting on her lap; or, standing holding on to her knees; or, there may be several children playing around her. In this form of Bodhisattva, she is known as the “White – robed Honoured One”.  In her thousand –  eyes,  thousand – hands Bodhisattva form, she has a multitude of arms, eyes and heads. in this form she is the Mother Goddess, observing, sensing and reaching out to help humanity with her infinite compassion and tenderness.

Kuan Yin  is associated with a willow branch with which she sprinkles compassion and wisdom drawn from a precious vase containing the nectar of life. She holds a scroll of prayers in her hand (like her predecessor Miao Shan did) to recite Sutras or Teachings or The Buddha and wears a rosary on her neck to receive help and succour fromThe Avalokitesvara.  The beads in the rosary are a manifestation of all living things while the action of rotating them sgnifies The Buddha guiding them through unending cycles of birth and rebirth to Nirvana.

Mahayana Buddhists along with Taoists of China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan worship the Bodhisattva Kuan Yin as the patroness of craftsmen, men under unlawful detention, sailors, women, children, and particularly those women desiring to have a child. It is believed that her healing powers and saving grace are so profound that a mere recitation of the Kuan Yin Sutras in the twenty-fifth chapter of the Holy  Text Lotus Sutra  would bring relief from troubles like shipwreck, fire, imprisonment, robbers, demons, fatal poisons and karmic woes, in which the devotee is immersed.        

HA  HAI – I  WUHTI :  Hopi (American – Indian)  Mother  Goddess

Ha Hai – I  Wuhti means “pour water woman”, an imagery similar to Deities in many faiths shown pouring the water of life on the world. The Hopis believe that their Divine Mother does so from a hollowed – out gourd held in one hand, while a sheaf of corn is held in the other hand. She is considered to be the Mother of all things, sentient or otherwise. Kachinas or dolls with magical powers are a central feature of the Hopi beliefs, and Ha Hai – I  Wuhti is their mother and her husband Eototo is their chief. Unlike the kachinas, she is quite vocal, and speaks during Hopi festivals like Powamu, Water Serpent and Hopi Shalako through some intermediary. A  flat image of her made by the doll carver is the first present a baby receives. Such images are also given to captive eagles adopted by the tribe. Dolls carved in full relief are given to girls.

SGROL – MA : Tibetan  Mother  Goddess  

Her more popular name is Tara, and her numerous forms are worshipped in Mongolia,  Nepal  and  Tibet. Regarded as the feminine counterpart of Bodhisattva, she is said to have developed from a teardrop of  Avalokitesvara which fell on the ground and formed a lake. The legend mentions that a lotus came out of the water in full bloom revealing Tara. She comes to the aid of those who are crossing waters or going on tour. Like wise, she  helps those who are on their paths to enlightenment.      

Srong-brtsan-sgam-po, the first Buddhist king of Tibet had two wives, princesses of Chinese and Nepali origins. Like every pious Tibetan woman, they were considered as reincarnation of Tara. The Chinese princess was incarnated as The White Tara, signifying purity. In the legend, White Tara is the consort of The Avalokitesvara and in scrolls shown as standing to His right, or seated alone with her legs crossed holding a lotus in full bloom in her hand.  Normally, she has a third eye in the middle of her brows. In Mongolia she is called  “Tara of the Seven Eyes”, as the scrolls there show her with four more eyes, two on her palms and two more on the soles of her feet.  

The Nepali princess was regarded as the original Tara or “Green Tara”.  Her scrolls also portray her as a consort of The Avalokitesvara and show her sitting on a lotus throne with the right leg hanging down. She wears the ornaments of a Bodhisattva and holds a lotus bud  (utpala) in her hand. The full – blown and the unopened lotuses in the hands of the two Taras represent the unceasing efforts they make all the time to relieve humanity  from the worldly woes. Like the 108 traditional “Avatars” in Hinduism,  Tibetan Lamaism also invest the two Taras with 108 forms. The pennants fluttering on top of Tibetan temples normally show 21 different Taras coloured red, white and yellow surrounding a green Tara. Her headgear or scarf often depict the self – born Buddha or Amitabha because she like Avalokitesvara is also regarded  as an emanation of Amitabha. The blue form is her fearsome incarnation  Ugra – Tara or Ekajata, and like the Greco – Roman Furies destroys the wicked; the red form known as Kurukulla is the Goddess of Love and also  provides antidote to snake – bite when she is calle Janguli. Bhrukuti is the name of her yellow form, and shows her anger and displeasure in arched and raised frowning brows. There is also a Hindu Tara, a reincarnation of the goddess Ma Kali or Kali Mata.

Turkic Siberian Mother Goddess 

She is called Umai, Ymai  or  Mai, and is shown as having sixty golden tresses,  like the radiating rays of the sun.  Much earlier,  in  antiquity, she was identified with the Mother Goddess of the  Mongols known as Ot.  Interestingly, the Hindu god Shiva’s consort is also known as Uma and Mai is the vernacular form of addressing one’s mother in quite a few Indian languages. 

Hindu Mother Goddesses

In the pantheon of Hindu Mother Goddesses,  a very special position is held by Lakshmi because she holds the purse – strings, is the goddess of prosperity and wealth.   In the home – altars, she necessarily have a spsce, and thursdays are set aside for her weekly puja in addition to the annual festivities honouring her on a full – moon night in the autumn. . Seated on a lotus, her portrait is that of a full – bodied woman with a smiling face and being annointed by two elephants one on each side. It is believed that she rose from the sea when it was churned by deities and demons, and after a controversy she went to the side of the deities. She became the wife of Vishnu, and changed her name for each of his incarnations.  For example, when Vishnu took the form of a dwarf, she came to be known as Padma or Kamala.  A white owl is her pet animal, and in her four hands she holds a conch, a lotus, a treasure chest and makes a gesture of assurance to the devotee in the fourth.

Sarasvati is the Mother Goddess for all the finer things in life. Music, painting, sculpture, dance…are the spheres in which one can not excel without her blessings. Besides, it is her, the legend goes, who taught humankind how to write so as to compose songs to be sung praising the deities.  She is a four – armed goddess shown riding on the back of a white swan, holding a book and a lotus in two hands and playing the veena with the fingers of the other two. She has a mellifluous voice and sings charmingly. With all these attributes, she has one shortcoming : she is terribly jealous of her sister,  Lakshmi, and vvithdraw all her gifts bestowed earlier on someone shifting loyalty to  Lakshmi.  She need not be,  because Lakshmi by nature is fickle and often go away for no reason.

Ma Kali, Kali Mata or Kalka  Mata  derives her name from Kaal in Sanskrit  meaning  time. Besides being a destroyer of the wicked Asuras,  She also helps in banishing  the self – importance one acquires from time to time,  and in that sense appears to be ageless. It is not entirely correct to associate her with death, the exclusive preserve of  the god, Yama. She and her consort , the god Shiva are said to inhabit the cremation grounds, and devotees often used to go there to meditate. Their intention, apparently,  was to think of the evanescence of things  by looking  at the bodies consigned to flames nearby, decidedly a scary procedure to the uninitiated.  Eventually, however, the idea of impermanence takes hold, and the Mother Goddess and her consort help one in attaining that. The idea is somewhat similar to the Biblical injunction that proclaims one as dust to which one ultimately returns, but the process there is a bit long.

Of all the Hindu MGs,  Ma  Kali is the most compassionate because she (it is believed) helps the devotee to attain Moksha, yet another name for Nirvana, Salvation and so on. Her  outfit,  a  skirt  of severed hands and a neckless of  skulls is fearful enough, and the effect is further heightened by a severed head dripping blood and a chopper in the two hands on her left. Some reflection would, however, reveal that the severed head was on the shoulders of an oppressor and that the severed hands belonged to his gang members.  And,  then,  her  two right hands  (she is four – armed) are in gestures of assurance to the innocent.  Finally,  in that killing spree, she still retains her sense of proportion by sticking out her tongue as a gesture of abashment, when she steps on to the chest of  Shiva who (on finding that things are getting out of control) lies down on her path to stop her. An incrrect idea of Tantric worship associates Ma  Kali with orgiastic  violence,  providing  an excuse  for organised debauchery. According to legends, she is very motherly, a celibate and helps her devotees to attain renunciation. This is evident from the songs of Ramaprasad (circa 17th century CE) in Bengali suffused with Bhakti or devotional attachment. One roughly translated song goes like this :

           Who says my Mother  Shyama is black?

           She is definitely not; and is of many hues

           She could be white; and she could be yellow;

           Often, she is aquamarine: 

           It is this many – splendoured  aspect of her,

           Thinking of which Ramaprasad lives on… 

The Hindu Goddess of Primal Energy or Shakti is also associated with Ma Kali.  Pure awareness, as stated in scriptures, is transcendent, unchanging and kind of inert (though not a bad thing in itself). As opposed to this, Shakti is dynamic, energetic and vibrant, and is a manifestation of the female principle. It is, as though, the will and energy components of a resolve, without which nothing comes to a successful conclusion. It is said that this primal energy resides within awareness,  and goes through periodic cycles of  motion and immobility.           

Fall from pedestal

The MG’s state of glory (at least in parts of  Eurasia) had ended apparently  with the beginning of the Hebrew religion when the god Yahweh became the ruling deity in circa 1800 – 1500 BCE, and the prophet  Abraham was living in Canaan. Her enemy number one was the Christian Church, especially the Roman Catholic Church, which identified the MG with all the pagan deities and with the evil without offering any logical proof.  The term ex cathedra perhaps describes the situation accurately,  but the attempts to suppress MG worship were not entirely successful. MG continued to remain within the hearts of the people. This was demonstrated forcefully in the sacred city of Ephesus, where the MG known as the Divine Mother, as also the Mother of Animals,  was worshipped by “all Asia and the world” according to the Bible before it was Christianized. Her most famous Ephesus image was that of a lactating woman  capable of nurturing and feeding the whole world.  In 432 Common or Christian Era (CE), the Church Council held a conclave of bishops in  Ephesus,  when people took to the streets and rioted demanding that the worship of the Mother Goddess  be restored,  and the first name they put forward was Virgin Mary, the Mother of Christ. The bishops had to give in to the people’s demand and allowed Mary to be called the Mother of God,  but there was strict injunction against calling her the Mother Goddess or Goddess.  It is ironic that even to this day many  Christians wonder  why do the Catholics  show such extraordinary devotion to the Virgin Mary,  little realising  that by this the Catholics are celebrating and continuing their early ancestors’  worship of the  Mother  Goddess.

A controversial but decidedly feminist point of view is that the peace – loving, matriarchal and agricultural religions worshipping  various Mother Goddesses were annihilated or subjected to a strict regimen of a different kind when nomadic patriarchal warrior tribes appeared on the scene. In that scenario, the early Hebrews with their male God dispossessed the Mother Goddess of her throne and established a male – dominated society where women were brutalised, degraded and oppressed.   

Restoration (partial)

Anyway, in a theological sense,  Christians usually regard Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ as a “spiritual mother” because she not only was cast in a maternal role, but also served as a protector of the humanity and as the  intermediary between the divine and  the people in general. The Catholics take her to be “the woman” described in Revelation 12 of the Bible,  who stated to have given “birth to a son,  a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod” in verse 5. That male child is Jesus Christ.   Subsequently, in verse 17,  “the rest of her offspring” was described as “those who keep God’s  commandment and bear witness to Jesus”.  The Catholics regard them as belonging to the rest of Mary’s offsprings, and their commitment to Jesus and the God’s commandment  invest them with the right to call Mary their mother. As a further back-up for their claim,  they cite  John  19 : 26 – 27 where Christ tells the  Apostle John to take care of His mother as the evidence that Mary is the Mother of all Christians. They contend that when Christ was asking his “beloved disciple” John to “behold your Mother”,  He was addressing all Christians.  In addition, many titles are conferred upon  Virgin Mary in  Catholicism, like Star of the Sea (Stella Maris), Queen of Heaven and so on, which are in line with the traditions of Near East.  Then, Hagia Sophia or the concept of Heavenly Wisdom is taken to be a feminine entity,  a  noticeable departure from the Catholic understanding of  God as subsuming and transcending both masculinity and femininity. Omnipotence and creative force constitute the masculine aspect of God;  all – encompassing love and heavenly wisdom represent his femininity.  Christ  or The Son of God  is the personification of this  wisdom. Likewise in Orthodoxy,   reverence to Mary is on the same basis  as it is in Catholicism.  Mother of God and Birth – giver of God are the two honorifics bestowed on her, and she is taken to be the greatest of all human beings. But she can not be worshipped,  though she holds the positions of the supreme saint and the patroness of the humankind.      

A  Counterview

The opposing view is offered by examining the “real female deities of early human culture”.

Lotte Motz says that she found no sign of the MG there in her book, The Faces of the Goddess :-

” From the Eskimos of the arctic wasteland, whose harsh life even today most closely mirrors the earliest hunter gatherers, to the rich cultures of the sunny Fertile Crescent and the islands of Japan, Motz looks at a wide range of goddesses who are called Mother, or who give birth in their myths. She finds that these goddesses have varying origins as ancestor deities, animal protectors, and other divinities, rather than stemming from a common Mother Goddess archetype. For instance, Sedna, the powerful goddess whose chopped-off fingers became the seals and fish that were the Eskimos’ chief source of food, had nothing to do with human fertility. Indeed, human motherhood was held in such low esteem that Eskimo women were forced to give birth completely alone, with no human companionship and no helpful deities of childbirth. Likewise, while various Mexican goddesses ruled over healing, women’s crafts, motherhood and childbirth, and functioned as tribal protectors or divine ancestors, none of them either embodied the earth itself or granted fertility to the crops: for that the Mexicans looked to the male gods of maize and of rain. Nor were the rituals of these goddesses nurturing or peaceful. The goddess Cihuacoatl, who nurtured the creator god Quetzalcoatl and helped him create humanity, was worshipped with human sacrifices who were pushed into a fire, removed while still alive, and their hearts were cut out. And Motz closely examines the Anatolian goddess Cybele, the “Magna Mater” most often cited as an example of a powerful mother goddess. Hers were the last of the great pagan mysteries of the Mediterranean civilizations to fall before Christianity. But Cybele herself never gives birth, nor does she concern herself with aiding women in childbirth or childrearing. She is not herself a mother, and the male character figuring most prominently in her myths is Attis, her chaste companion. Tellingly, Cybele’s priests dedicate themselves to her by castrating themselves, thus mimicking Attis’s death–a very odd way to venerate a goddess of fertility.”

“To depict these earlier goddesses as peaceful and nurturing mothers, as is often done, is to deny them their own complex and sophisticated nature as beings who were often violent and vengeful, delighting in sacrifice, or who reveled in their eroticism and were worshipped as harlots….”

   ( taken from the Oxford University Press webpage –     http://www.us.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/ReligionTheology/Ancient/?view=usa&ci=9780195089677)

Source: Wikipedia and others

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Democracy — When did the process begin


Democracy  —  When Did the Process Begin

Tahirir Square, Cairo, Egypt is presumably the place where the latest field work is going on, a carryover, apparently, of the experiment that started in Tunisia. But the experiment is not exactly new, it had begun long ago in a land washed by a Homeric wine-dark sea, over the sun-drenched expanse of which, says Henry Miller sightless statues in ancient ruins keep on gazing.  

 

Believed to be one of the very first and most important ancient democracies in the world, Athenian democracy or classical democracy was the system of governance in the city – state of Athens and its surrounding area of Attica in ancient Greece. There were other city – state democracies in Greece as well, modeled to some extent after Athens, but none were as powerful and as firmly settled as Athens. Nor were their surviving records as numerous. People in Athens did not vote to elect representatives who would frame on their behalf legislations and executive bills, they voted to create such instruments of governance themselves on their own right. It was an astonishing and bewildering devlopment in an age, when very few people had a clear idea of what a purposeful life was. Not all the people in Attica took part in this direct democratic process, but those who did were so chosen not for any economic consideration, and their numbers were staggering. It was indeed a matter of wonder that so many people worked together so far away in time to give a shape to their future.

The word democracy is derived by combining the Greek words demos meaning people and kratia meaning rule or power. Kratia apparently is not a polite word, and instead of using the conventional word “arche” the detractors of the system used this pejorative. Anyway, it won the approval of the Athenians as would be seen in the attestation (ca 440 – 430 BCE) of Herodotus, author of some of the earliest surviving Greek prose. It is not certain that the word was used before the beginning of democracy, but around 460 BCE a child was named Democrates.

Such a name was quite common in Aeolian Temnus, not quite a democratic state.

The   Pioneers

Historians are divided over who contributed which institution towards the inception and growth of Athenian Democracy, the path – breakers being Solon (594 BCE), Cleisthenes (508) and Ephialtes (462). It seems Solon started the democratic movement, and his constitution was discarded by the tyrant Peisistratos. Quite a darling of the aristocratic opponents of democracy, Peisistratos and his sons Hippias and Hipparchus let loose a reign of increasing severity thereby undermining their authoritative hold over the Athenian society. Hipparchus was assassinated by Harmonius and Aristogeiton, and a revolution four years later brought about the end of the tyranny. In the relatively peaceful conditions which followed, Ephialtes revised the constitution Cleisthenes had prepared and kept in abeyance due to the tyrannical conditions. For this reason, Athenian democracy is considered to have began in the time of Cleisthenes. Many years later Athenians honoured Harmonius and Aristogeiton  for their roles in the restoration of Athenian freedom.  To Pericles goes the honour of being the greatest and longest-lasting democratic leader of Athens. Following his death, there were two brief oligarchic revolutions towards the end of the Peloponnesian war when the democratic institutions were suspended. The restoration was brought about by Eucleides along with some modifications in the constitution. This fourth century BCE account is recorded in much greater detail than that of the Periclean system. The Macedonians in 322 BCE put an end to the Athenian institutions which were later restored. In what measure the revived institutions reflected the democratic spirit was, however, not quite clear.          .

Participants  and  outsiders

Only informed guesses could be made about the population, as no reliable census figures were available in the Athenian records, and there were wide rise and fall in the numbers of metics or resident aliens and slaves. There were perhaps some 250,000-300,000 people in Athens during the 4th century BCE, out of which citizen families probably amounted to 100,000 people and some 30,000 among them would have been the adult male citizens entitled to vote in the assembly. Apparently, this number of adult male citizens rose to 60,000 in the mid-5th century, but fell steeply during the Peloponnesian war. It was a permanent loss due to the adoption of a stricter definition of citizen. Viewed at present the figures seem woefully small, but at that point of time Athens was a huge Greek city – state. Most of its thousand or so contemporaries could only gather 1000-1500 adult male citizens and Corinth, a major power, had 15,000 at the most. Metics and slaves constituted the non-citizen component of the population, the slaves apparently being more in numbers.  According to the orator Hyperides,  there were 150,000 slaves in Attica, an impressionistic figure making slaves more numerous than citizens. Slaves did outnumber citizens, but never did they overwhelm the latter.

Athenian citizens

Eighteen year old or above in age male Athenians, having done their military service as ephebes, were entitled to vote in Athens, thus excluding a majority of the population, such as, slaves, children, women and resident foreigners or metics.  Citizens whose rights were under suspension due to failure to pay a debt to the city were not allowed to vote.This disqualification for some Athenians amounted to a permanent and inheritable liability. Even then, as in oligarchical societies, there were no real property requirements limiting access. In Solon’s constitution, there were indeed provisions limiting voting power to propertied classes only, but such stipulations remained a dead letter for all practical purposes. Having regard to the exclusionary and ancestral conception of citizenship in Greek city – states, it was significant that quite a relatively large portion of the population took part in the government of Athens and of other radical democracies like it. No doubt, in Athens some citizens were far more active than others.  Still, vast numbers of people were required just for the system to work. That in itself was a testimony to a degree of participation among those eligible, and their numbers greatly exceeded the numbers of people actively taking part in any present day democracy.

As per the reforms introduced by Pericles in 450 BCE, Athenian citizenship was granted only to legitimate offsprings of  Athenian men and women.  Children born to Athenian men and foreign – born women were not eligible for citizenship. Upon receipt of a gift of grains from the Egyptian king in  445 BCE, some 5,000 people were deprived of their citizenship (presumably, for a fair and substantial share for the rest). The assembly granted citizenship, and at times extended it to large groups. Thus Plateans and Samians were granted citizenship in  427 and  405 BCE respectively. From 4th century, however, such privileges were granted to individuals only, and for that a special vote with at least 6,000 citizens participating was necessary. Normally, this was done as an award to the person concerned for some act in the interest of the state. In the next hundred years, the process was carried out for hundreds of people if not thousands. Thus polis or the Greek word for a city was regarded more or less as a community, in line with the concept of an extended family.

The  power  structure

Governance was shared between three political bodies constituting of citzens numbering 500 in the council or boule, the courts (minimum 200 and maximum, occasionally, 6,000) and the assembly requiring a quorum of 6,000 at times.  It was Solon who introduced the boule with a special advisory task. Consisting of 400 people, 100 each from the four tribes of Athens, its manner of working at that time was not quite clear. It was enlarged later to accommodate 50 members each from a total of 10 Cleisthenic tribes (apparently the initial number of four had swelled to that figure meanwhile).  Subsequently, known as the council of 500 (the largest body of officeholders),  the boule framed preparatory legislation for consideration by the assembly, supervised  the meetings of the assembly, and at times executed the legislation as directed by the assembly. Those 500 members were selected by drawing lots, carried out annually among men over thirty years of age.  The members were allowed to serve on the council only twice in their lifetime. The process of  drafting legislation for the assembly to consider was called proboleumatic or the preparation of  the agenda for a meeting of the assembly. Common citizens were allowed to suggest topics for inclusion in the agenda, but each such proposal had to be endorsed by a member of the boule. The assembly on its own could direct the boule  to prepare a proboleuma (agenda) on a topic it wanted to discuss. It was, however,  forbidden to take a final decision on any matter that had not been previously considered by the council. The assembly had only the power to approve or reject a topic in the agenda, but circa the 5th century BCE  it had acquired the power to alter and rework the proposals as it deemed necessary. Anyway, even during the peak period of radical democracy, complex proposals from the boule were accepted by the assembly without any alteration, indicating the cardinal role of the council (boule) in making laws.

The  Boule

The boule was presided over  each month by one among the ten prytanies, delegations from the ten Cleisthenic tribes. (At that time the Greek state calendar had ten months in a year.) Lastly, there was the epitastes, an official selected by lot for a single day from among the currently presiding prytany who chaired that day’s meeting of the boule. He also presided over the assembly, if there was a meeting of that body on that day. In addition, he held (for the day) the keys to the treasury and the seal to the city, and was designated to receive credentials of foreign ambassadors and welcome them to the city.  In this manner (by rotation), the city ensured that one quarter of all its citizens at one time in their lives hold this coveted post, and limited it to only once in a lifetime. As an executive committee of the assembly, the boule supervised the activities of a section of the magistracy, coordinated the functions of  various boards and officials who carried out the administrative work of Athens and provided from its own membership randomly selected sub – committees of ten people looking after departments like naval affairs, religious observances and so on. It would be seen that the boule was responsible for a great portion of the administration of the state, but had relatively little elbow – room for initiative. The proboleumatic or drafting of the agenda for discussion in the assembly was the boule’s trump card, beyond that, in the execution of the policy, it just did what the assembly asked it to do. Excepting the days for festivities and the days of ill – omen, the boule used to meet every day.

Assembly

Athenian democracy kind of centred around the meetings of the assembly. It was not a parliament, and its members were not elected. They attended the meetings if and when they felt like doing so to exercise their right. Athenian democracy was a direct democracy. Unlike the present day representative democracy, it was a duty of male citizens above 18 years in age to participate in it. Most of the officials of the assembly were selected by lottery, while the rest were chosen from among the members. The assembly was called ekklesia, and apparently had four major functions  : Announcement of decrees, like decision to go to war or grant of citizenship to a foreigner; Selection of officials; Legislation; and Trial for political crimes. The law courts were assigned the last two tasks as the system matured. Generally, speakers made statements for or against a position, which was accepted or rejected after a general vote by show of hands indicating yes or no. There were occasionally differing opinions on matters of crucial interest, but as such, there were no political parties, nor any opposition or government. Actually, the government position was whatever the speakers agreed to on a particular day on the basis of majority votes.  There were no curbs on the power exercised by the assembly, at least in the 5th century.  If any law was broken, at the most the proponents of the measure would be punished for misleading the assembly to commit such a mistake. As was customary in ancient democracies, one had to be physically present in the assembly so as to vote. Absence was generally due to distance or engagement in military service elsewhere. The method was normally by show of hands or cheirotonia, while officials made informed guesses. Naturally, counting was out of question when thousands of people took part in the voting process. For matters like granting of citizenship, etc., a quorum of 6000 was prescribed. In such instances, black and white balls were used; white for yes and black for no. It seems the voters dropped one ball in a large clay jar to register their views on the matter under consideration. The jar was broken at the end of the process for counting and the result declared. Anyone found writing his name on the ball was debarred (ostracised), a penalty rarely imposed.

One assembly meeting was held in each month, thus a total of 10 meetings were held in the state calendar of one year during the 5th century BCE. A century later this was increased to four meetings per month making a total of forty in a state calendar year, out of which one was called the main meeting or kyria ekklesia. Additional meetings were not uncommon, especially as up until 355 BCE there were still political trials that were conducted in the assembly rather than in court. There were no fixed dates for the assembly meetings because annual festivals held as per the12 month lunar calendar year fell on different days (when no meetings could be held). Frequently, for this reason, all the four scheduled meetings were held together at the end of the state month.

There was no compulsion to attend the assembly meeting; it was entirely voluntary. Slaves formed a cordon or closed area with red – stained ropes forming its boundaries and shepherded citizens from the agora (seat of the government) into the assembly meeting. Those who got their clothes stained red were made to pay a fine. This was not the same as compulsory voting practiced in some present day democracies, but rather an effective way to build up a crowd.  In  403 BCE, after restoration of democracy, a scheme of payment for attending assembly meetings was introduced.  There was then enthusiastic crowds to get inside, and the red rope cordon was used to keep late comers at bay. Aristophanes mentioned these two kinds of use of the red rope in his comedies Acharnians for guiding in, and Ekklesiazousai  for guiding out.

Courts

The extensive legal system of Athens was based on the dikasteria, which in turn was under  heliaia, or the supreme court. Heliaia in ancient Greek meant congregation or a gathering of people. The term also could mean the great outdoors under the sun (helios) where the hearings took place. Yet another meaning was big ecclesia or the ultimate assembly. Anyway, there is not much confusion over the word dikasteria, a derivative of the word dikastes meaning judge / juror (also known  as heliasts). People serving in such jury courts were annually picked by lottery from a large pool of 6,000 citizens. In order to be a juror, a citizen had to be over 30 years of age and in possession of full citizen rights. As Athenians regarded older as wiser, the age limit for the jurors was set at a higher level than that required for participation in the assembly. In addition, the jurors were required to serve under oath, thereby further increasing their standing as opposed to participation in assembly. Nonetheless, authority of both the institutions was derived from the same source, expression of the direct will of the people. The jurors were not like magistrates who were office holders and therefore could be prosecuted and impeached for inappropriate conduct. Nor the jurors could be censured because they were the people and there could be no authority higher than that. In view of this, if the jurors had taken a wrong decision , it was concluded that they had done so having been misled by the false deposition of a litigant.

Lawsuits were of two kinds, suits of small causes or private suits (dike) and suits of important matters or public suits (graphe).  The jury size for private suits was a minimum of 201 (401 where the disputed amount was more than 1000 drachmas) and 501 for public suits. Jury size for important public suits was increased by adding 500, the increments depending on the seriousness of the matter. There was an instance, the first time a new kind of case was brought to court when all 6,000 members of the juror pool participated. The litigants themselves presented their cases in the form of an exchange of single speeches, first the plaintiff and then the defendant. Three hours by water hour glass was the time given to each litigant in public suits while in private suits it was much less and depended on the amount of money under dispute. There was no time for the deliberations over the verdict, the juries either voted yes or no as to the guilt and sentence of the defendant. They often talked among themselves, shouted their beliefs or disbeliefs on the statements of the litigants and created bedlam while working towards a consensus.

The prosecutor or plaintiff in a private suit was the wronged party or his family, while in public suit it could be anyone with full citizen rights since the matter was supposedly affecting the entire community. The trials were quick, completed in a day. If a prescrbed penalty was not there, the litgants suggested what it could be, and the juries voted on it. If a plaintiff used false witnesses, the judgement in his favour was cancelled. Apprently, Pericles introduced the system of paying the juries in 462 BCE which Aristotle described as a regular feature in a radical democracy in his book, Politics. The amount paid in the beginning is not known, but in the early years of the Peloponnesian war itwas increased from 2 to 3 obols. This was done more than half a century before payment for attendance to assembly was introduced. In fact, the  expenses of the justice system was a major drain on the Athenian exchequer and gave rise to occasional financial crisis in the fourth century leading to temporary suspension of private suits. 

Rank amateurism was the hallmark of the system. There were no judges, nor lawyers, nor anyone to give legal directions to the juries either. It seems the only experts in the whole scene were the people who drafted the appeals (logographos). Even they were an elusive species, never advertised their skills in the court areas and politicians known for their speechwriting ability used to downplay that quality. Actually, litgants normally charged each other of benefiting form the services of a logographos, so as to score a point in the debate.  Anyway, during the litigation, any act ever committed by the ‘Athenian people’, such as battles fought before any of them were born or court decisions made by other juries far removed by time from those currently addressed, were referred to as if it was consequent to the deliberations of the court in session. Second to the assembly, the courts were looked up as a platform for the expression of people’s sovereignty.

Usurpation  of  the  power  of  the  assembly  by  the  courts

With the passage of time, the courts or citizen jurors composed of people senior in age to people in the assembly (30 as opposed to 18) began to nibble at the powers of the assembly. Political trials were held in the courts instead of the assembly from 355 BCE. The court’s power had previously been increased in 416 BCE with the resolution graphe paranomon (indictment against measures contrary to the laws). It gave the jurors the power to hold up for review anything passed by the assembly or even proposed but not yet voted on. The jurors had the discretion to annul it as also to punish the proposer, if deemed necessary. It would appear that a   measure voted for acceptance in the assembly but blocked thereafter in a court had no need to go back to the assembly if it survived the court challenge. The court was empowered to reinstate it. There was nothing like an impartial intervention by the state. For example, two men had clashed in the assembly about a proposal put by one of them, which was ultimately passed. It would be now open to the loser in the assembly to go to the court to bring both the law and its proposer for prosecution. There were plenty of cases of this nature giving the courts the power of the present day upper houses for legislation.  Actually, both executive decrees and laws were passed by the same processes in the assembly upto the closing years of 5th century BCE. There was a major change in 403 BCE, when special panels of 1000 citizens drawn from the annual jury pool of 6000 set the laws. They were called nomoethai or the lawmakers. Unlike a legislative commission sitting down to discuss the pros and cons and drafting proposals, it took the form of a trial, voting yes or no after the speeches for and against.

Proposals from the Citizens

The citizens were the prime mover of the entire system. Famously known as Hoboulomenos (he who wishes or any one who wishes), he symbolized  the right of citizens to take the initiative: to stand to speak in the assembly, to initiate a public law suit affecting the political community as a whole, to propose a law before the lawmakers or to approach the council with suggestions. He was not required to be vetted before his speech, nor he was reviewed after stepping down (like officeholders). It was a brief moment of action and glory, but this  stepping forward into the democratic limelight  had its pitfalls. If someone else callenged him and what he proposed was found wrong, he was liable to explain why he did that and to punishment for unsatisfactory reasons. Participation among citizens varied greatly, from wholehearted commitment to doing nothing at all. The words “whoever wishes” were considered an open invitation to every qualified free male Athenian citizen. In all, there were three functions: the officeholders organized and looked after the complex protocols; “whoever wishes” was the initiator and the proposer of content; and lastly the people, present in the assembly or in the courts convened as lawmakers, made the decisions, either yes or no, or selecting an alternative there from.

Office  bearers

They were responsible for administration and numbered over a thousand every year. Initially, they were chosen by lot, and then from among them a smaller, more prestigious group was elected. None of it was compulsory, citizens came forward and offered themselves as candidates.  They carried out limited, routine administrative work. Those who were chosen by lot had no particular administrative skills. This could not be avoided because a person was appointed for the office only once, and there was no scope for building of general competence by ongoing involvement. The exceptions were the ten annually elected generals or strategois who could be elected more than once. They were very prominent, especially in the 5th century, for their observations on matters of importance in the assembly and the respect given to them for that reason. Their official powers had nothing to do with it. Citizens particpating in the assembly were considered as representing people, and the consequences of their actions there were beyond reproach and punishment. However, when they held office they were considered as people’s agents and not their representatives. Their actions were reviewed, and they were liable to be punished, severely if that was deemed necessary. Before selection, they were subjected to a qualifying test and another for performance in the office after they stepped down. Office bearers were selected by two methods, lottery and election. Annually, 1,000 members were chosen by holding lottery, including the members of the boule or the council of 500. Another 100 were added to the numbers by election.

Lotteries

It was the most common method for selection because of its democratic nature. In elections, factors like wealth, birth (in families with influence), speech – making abilities, etc. came to play while lotteries spread the work of governance among the entire citizenry. Everyone had a chance to acquire that essential democratic experience, which Aristotle described in his book, Politics as  “ruling and being ruled in turn”. Lotteries ensured that the basis on which the individuals were selected was citizenship only, excluding all other considerations like personal popularity which could be purchased. Giving the citizens a unique form of political equality, the lotteries held in check the corrupt practice of purchasing votes, and provided everybody an equal chance of obtaining government office.

Those who wanted to become an office bearer had to nominate themselves as candidates one year before the selection (lotteries). They were paid a small sum to compensate for the loss of income, but it was more in form than in substance. Devoting the same time as they did in the assembly, people could earn much more. Apparently, the practice was started in the fifth century and discontinued in its closing years (403 BCE) when the oligarchs came to power. Whether it was resumed again upon restoration of democracy was not quite clear. Apparently, this indiscriminate assignment of responsibilities was not quite wise, but the system had its built – in checks and balances to prevent flagrant misuse of power. Normally, the Athenians worked in groups, boards, panels, teams and so on, where each member of the group kept watching what the others were doing. Then there was also the possibility of someone among them knowing the correct thing to do in a particular situation, and others would learn from him. The exceptions were the nine archons or magistrates. Although they formed a group, each individual member had different things to do. Anyway, the minimum age requirement of 30 years (40 years in some instances) set apart permanently about one – third of the population from joining  administration. Then quite a few were debarred from taking office due to various reasons. Ability was not the criterion for taking up office, but (in the 4th century BCE, specially) loyalty to democracy or oligarchy was. Then there was the process of “straightening” or euthunai after leaving office as a check on performance. This and the review before joining were more or less routine procedures, but there were instances when some one intervening and the matter going before a jury court. In that event, there was the risk of the office bearer being found guilty and subjected to heavy punishments. Even during his tenure, the office bearer was liable to impeachment and removal from the office by the assembly. In fact, whether the office bearers were doing their work properly or not was in the agenda of each of the ten annual meetings (kuriai ekklesiai) of the assembly. The lotteries did not permit any one to hold the same office more than once. The exception was the membership of boule or the council of 500, which one could serve twice for demographic reasons of unavailability of suitable candidates among a limited population. For the same reasons, the secretaries and underlings of the magistrates or the archons were allowed to serve twice. The Athenians were not so much concerned about incompetency, they were on guard against using the position of the office holder to build up a base of power. Nonetheless, the officials had precisely defined powers and had little room for taking any initiative. They were there only to administer, and not to govern. They could not impose a penalty exceeding fifty drachmas; anything above this amount had to be decided by the court.

Elected   Officials

Just about 100 officials were elected as opposed to 1,000 selected by lotteries. They were composed of two groups: the ten generals and those who were required to handle large sums of money. The latter category had to be necessarily rich, so that any financial irregularity or embezzlement coming to light could be recovered from their properties. The ten generals, however, belonged to a special class of their own due to their expertise in warfare as also their knowledge and contacts in the Greek world beyond the borders of Athens where many of the wars were fought. At the time of Pericles in the 5th century BCE, the generals were the most important figures in the entire population. It would, however, be not correct to assume that Pericles acquired his powerful status from his long tenures as a general (which he shared annually with nine others). It was more due to his influence in the assembly, an influence which could be wielded by any citizen capable of standing up and speaking before the assembly. In the 4th century, the role of a powerful political speaker and that of a general became somewhat different because wars had by then became a very specialised matter. Like officials selcted by lottery, the elected ones were also subject to scrutiny before taking up and performance review after laying down office. They could also be impeached and removed from office by the assembly, and there was a particular instance when the punishment was exceedingly harsh. In the 5th century, ten accountants of the Delian league charged with embezzlement of funds were sentenced to death, and the executions were carried out one after the other. When the 9th member was put to death, it was found that the accounting method was faulty, and the men indeed were innocent. The tenth man was set free, and to rectify matters those who brought the charges of misappropriation of funds against the accountants were executed. One significant feature of Athenian democracy was that those who did not participate in politics were looked down with contempt. It seems the word idiot has its origins in the ancient Greek word idiotes, meaning an individual not actively interested in politics. Eventually, the word came to acquire its current usage.

Shortcomings  of  Athenian  democracy   

Athenian democracy was a direct democracy, in which (instead of representatives elected or selected by the people) the people themselves participated in making laws and policies. Political activity such as this not only educates people about governance, but also helps them to know their compatriots better. It can even be argued that direct democracy prevents powerful elites to take charge of governance and that people really do not rule themselves unless they frame laws and policies of the state. Despite all these virtues, the biggest shortcoming of Athenian democracy was, perhaps, its exclusivity. By excluding women, non – citizens (for various reasons) as also slaves, and by emphasizing that only male citizens were eligible for participation in the political process, Athenian democracy reduced the status of quite a considerable section of its polity. This narrow definition of eligibility (from a modern point of view) is in sharp contrast with the views of the ancient critics who regarded  the demos in democracy not as the whole people, but the people as opposed to the elite. They were of the opinion that the eligible citizens were from poor and uneducated sections of the society as well, and the political process gave them the power to dominate over their betters, the rich and the educated. It was not seen as a fair system in which everyone had equal rights, but as a patently unjust procedure. Aristotle defined it as the difference between and arithmetical and geometrical (proportional) equality. In other words, the state was seen as a company in which the poor and the uneducated were seen as single share holders while the elites possessed shares commensurate to their status. Athenian democracy (to them) was based on concepts which actually favoured the minority. The trial of the Delian league accountants is an illustration of this point, the precursor of a similar trial in 406 BCE in which Socrates was the citizen presiding over the assembly that day.

Having suffered a series of defeats (and large losses of men) in the invasion of Sicily, the Athenians in that year finally triumphed over the Spartans in a naval battle. Then there was a storm , and the eight commanding generals of the forces failed to rescue many drowning men . The Athenians put them on trial, and sentenced them to death. Socrates protested against and disassociated himself from this illegal decision. It had no effect on the verdict, and the sentences were carried out. As expected the decision was later considered a terrible mistake, and equally expectedly those who brought the charges were put to death. Seven years later, Socrates himself was put on trial on the charge that he believed in strange gods and thereby corrupted the minds of the young people whom he taught. He was sentenced to death, and though he could save himself by escaping from Athens, he refused to do so. Plato calls him the gadfly of Athens, who annoyed and irritated the Athenians to no end by questioning their beliefs and prejudices. His death made him an intellectual martyr and turned Plato, his disciple, into an enemy of direct democracy.  Long after the death of Socrates, Plato wrote in his Dialogues that Socrates actually contemplated a trial and compared it to that of a physician by a pastry cook before a jury of children.

Though the connection appeared to be tenuous, there was a perceptible link between Athenian democracy and imperialism. Athenian state was feeding off the spoils of subjugated places for quite a long time in the fifth century BCE. For opposing such policies, Thucydides, son of Milesias of aristrocratic origins was ostracised in  443 BCE. The imperialistic policies were extremely severe, as would be seen in the decision to kill the entire male population of Melos and sell off the women and children there because of their refusal to become Athenian subjects.

Athenian citizens generally served as rowers in the navy, and used the plunders from their forays overseas to improve their positions back home. They were also employed in the numerous administrative posts in the subject states, using the funds obtained therefrom to become office bearers in the Athenian state. This was stated in an anti – democratic pamphlet written by an anonymous author believed to be an old oligarch. As opposed to this the Athenian hold over other states almost disappeared in the fourth century, and it would not be correct to imply that the state was not viable without such possessions. At about that time the system of payment for attending assembly sessions was introduced. The same practice was resorted to before the Persian wars when the resources of the state was quite limited, and the state was a fledgling proposition.

There were two brief interregnums in democratic rule during the Peloponnesian war, named after the  numbers of people of the groups in control. The group of Four Hundred brought it in 411 BCE, to be followed by the Thirty Tyrants seven years later in 404. Both of these groups tried to reduce the size of the electorate by linking the franchise with property qualifications. Both of them ended up as rogue governments and did not follow through on their constitutional promises. These two coups started as responses from the Athenian elite to what they saw as the inherent arbitrariness of government by the masses. In his Seventh Epistle, Plato commented that the Infamous Thirty were so inept and corrupt they made the  democratic rule before their misadventure look like a Golden Age in Athenian chronicles. It would probably not be correct to regard the lapses of Athenian democracy as systemic failures or the results of extreme conditions of the long – drawn Peloponnesian war. Nevertheless, there was an attempt for course correction, and a new version of democracy was established from 403 BCE, which could be regarded as subsequent to the introduction of graphe parnomon (indictment against measures contrary to the laws) in 416 and the precursor of the end of the assembly trials in 355 BCE. That was the first time a conceptual and procedural distinction was made between laws and decrees. From then on,  responsibility was shifted from the assembly to the courts, with laws being made by jurors and all assembly decisions becoming reviewable by courts. In other words, mass meeting of all citizens lost quite a lot of ground to smaller gatherings (of only a thousand or the like) which were under oath and free of quite a number of unthiking men in their impetuous 20’s and having more time to focus on just one matter (though never more than a day). A drawback of the new democracy was that it needed some time for deliberations and thus the ability to response quickly to a situation was impaired. 

As regards the lowering of status of quite a considerable section of the population, male citiizenship became a newly valuable and quite profitable possession to be jealously guarded against all odds. Pericles, however, in 450 BC stipulated that a citizen had to be born from citizen parentage on both sides, thereby excluding those with foreign mothers or the metroxenoi.   The poorer citizens generally married locally while it was not uncommon among the elite to marry abroad as a part of aristocratic alliance building. Thus the custom of a group developed due to sheer necessity was thus codified as a law for the whole citizen body resulting in a loss of  openness and cultural diversity. Had this law been promulgated earlier, many Athenians prominent in the century preceding would have lost their citizenship. For instance, Cleisthenes the founder of democracy, had a non-Athenian mother while the mothers of Cimon and Themistocles were not Greek at all, but belonged to Thrace. As a prosperous and rich  city – state, Athens was the centre of attraction of an increasing number of resident aliens or metics. By introducing this change in the definition of citizen, the immigrant population were politically differentiated from the locals imore sharply and probably regarded themselves as unwelcome. 

Athenian women were undobtedly a deprived group as against their counterparts in Sparta, who could own properties as also participate in public sports. Aristophanes mentioned in Lysistrata that the Athenian women admired the graceful bodies of the sportswomen of Sparta. It is suggested that misogyny, not exactly confined to the ancient Athenians only, gave rise to a very strict gender discrimination, arising (once again) from the values cherished by the so – called commoners. It is also suggested that without the contribution of women’s labour, the concept of democracy would not perhaps have taken roots. 

Athens had more slaves than any other Greek city state, and employed imported non – Greeks (whom they called barbarians) extensively as chattel slaves. It is not therefore unusual to raise the paradoxical question: Was slavery the main prop of democracy? No doubt, the poorer Athenians owned a few slaves and thus could find time to engage in political activities. It is, however, not clear that democracy was possible due to this free time otherwise needed to make a living. Slaves apparently made the minority of rich Athenians less dependent on the labour of their more numerous fellow citizens. Solon in his reforms in the 6th century BCE abolished debt servitude, but working for others on wages was clearly subjecting oneself to the will of someone else. The availability and employment of chattel slave could thus be imagined as the introduction         

of a new kind of equality, which in turn made particpation in democratic process easy. It is not possible to reach a conclusion on this point, but Cornelius Castoriadis (20th century Current Era Greek philosopher) pointed out that other societies also had slaves without being a democracy.

From Wikipedia and other sources

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A Brief History of Corruption in India


No, this piece has nothing to do with time a la Hawking. Actually, it begins in the middle-eighties of the last century. That was when the novelist, Ann Tyler (famous for The Accidental Tourist) published a not so short story in some magazine. Neither do I remember the name of the magazine, nor the title of the story. What I distinctly recall that I was overwhelmed by its content, and wanted to write about my experience. Firstly, the protagonist was like me an engineer in middle-forties, married with two daughters; secondly, he also had (like me) reasons to be grateful to the organization he worked in, for the benefits and rewards given to him; and thirdly he let go the job for what he regarded as a blatant instance of corruption, favoritism…call it what you will. Apparently, he was bypassed for a higher post which was given to a colleague of his. That perceived injustice cut him up so much that not only he quit the job, but also made inconsequential claims of great service to the organization. A performance which he regarded as an example of shining loyalty. Ah! I told myself, I will write all this in my deathless prose, setting on fire the waters of Ganga, Bramhaputra, Thames, Godavari, Tigris, Subarnarekha, Charles,…Rivers, I have crossed and re-crossed one time or the other. Then, I heard the voice of reason. Actually, it was from a Nobel Laureate-to-be, a confirmed India and everything-baiter, advising aspiring writers to distance themselves from the events they described by about 25 years. Bidya (Learning) was not pulling punches while distributing gyan (knowledge). So, I have to postpone narration of the awesomest, biggest and crudest story of injustice (in my lights) ever told until today. But, then, why now? Rupees 176000 crores telework embezzlement (can you guess how many zeroes are there! 10), Money-loot fest competition in Common Wealth Games, Dentist couple suspected of murdering daughter, and to top it all, whisper of disproportionate wealth creation by ex-Chief Justice of India and family. The cloyingly sweet and putrid smell of corruption invigorated me to no end. Before proceeding further, let us consider one of the strongest pillars (there are many) holding up the Government of Bharat aka India. It is called seniority, not necessarily by age. Thus, a relatively young entrant in a position higher than the one in which an older person works is senior to the latter. Naturally, the senior gets more money, say 18k as opposed to the other’s 16k and that entitles him to fly around for inspections and such while the minion takes a train. All other things being equal, these are the two life and death questions to be taken into account while filling up the post of a HOD, at least so I thought. Imagine therefore my surprise when a person named Pakil, fitting the description of the minion above, comes to supervise my work as hod! The irony is poignant because just a few months ago, the self-same Pakil requested me to recommend him for Associate Member of the Boston-based Society of Fire Protection Engineers, of which I was a member. My blood boiled, thunders crashed and howling winds of rage told me not to take the matters lying down. Pakil, a nincompoop was of no consequence. A little before this, he was charged of wrongdoing when he touched the feet of the enquiry officer and wept, the standard Indian method of asking for forgiveness, immortalized in no less than hundred times in Bollywood movies. Pakil deserved nothing but my contempt. No, the villains were others: Gadhilal Hahs, Poe-faced Tequila and Barabazar Ginka. The first was the pointsman of my employer traffic advisory committee; the second a dalal from insurance to the committee and the third was the head honcho of the main committee. My resignation letter was a protest, a fulmination and promised revenge from quarters not quite unknown to them, in the hope that they would reverse their decision. Nothing worked, Barabazar nodded, Tequila consented and Gadhilal wrote that I should go. In TV soaps, the passage of time is indicated as “Some Time Later”. So it was in my opera, the Nemesis was known as the Central Bureau of Investigation. They found that the bandicoots had been up to a lot of mischief. Thus, Gadhilal was demoted as general manager in charge of stationery (envelopes and the like). Tequila became CMD and then retired only to find that his savings had been forfeited. Ginka’s punishment was severest, he had to go back to his family business in Barabazar. Ah! Sweet Revenge!! But Pakil became a multi-millionaire by touching many more feet. He is now believed to be the Pedicure King of Mumbai.

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Yet another kind of blog with a personal angle


 

FROM  OUTLOOK  WEBSITE

Here, lobbyist Niira Radia is chatting with Sunil Arora, former chairman of Air India and a serving bureaucrat. They are discussing corruption in the judiciary. Arora is telling her how judgements were fixed in the sealing cases in New Delhi when commercial areas and establishments in residential areas were sealed on the orders of erstwhile Supreme Court Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal. Arora informs Radia that a Delhi High Court judge, Justice Vijender Jain, was paid off Rs 9 crore in a sealing case by a middleman. The favourable judgement was written one month before it was delivered; the middleman was even given an advance copy. Justice Jain is referred to as Justice Sabharwal’s man.

Sunil Arora: Haan, ab to higher judiciary mein corruption bahut ho gayi na…

Niira Radia: Haan?

SA: Higher judiciary mein corruption bahut ho gayi na…

NR: Bahut zyaada, it’s like crazy situation…

SA: In the sealing cases, one chap had told me that he’ll get this judgement after one month.

NR: Haan.

SA: And he told me how much he had paid to whom.

NR: My god!

SA: I said, yaar, tum mazaak kar rahe ho. He said main aapko bata raha hoon ye judgement hai, and he broadly outlined the judgement…ki, this is to be pronounced after one month. To aap dekh lena, main khud hi copy le aaoonga uski…tab next time jab ho jayegi, woh le aaya copy…. He showed me, that order. He had paid 9 cr…as he claimed, at the residence.

NR: Kaun tha yeh?

SA: I mean this litigant had paid Rs 9 crore to that high court judge in Delhi.

NR: Good god!

SA: This is what he claimed…ki that I paid, at his home.

NR: Kaun sa judgement tha?

SA: Koi tha land deal, real estate ka.

NR: Pathetic ha? Yeh hai na, yeh Upendra Rai (a journalist) ka brother-in-law, jo bhi hai uska…cousin brother—Pradip Rai—yehi to kaam karta hai.

SA: And this gentleman ultimately became chief justice!

NR: My god!

SA: Jisne judgement diya tha…he became CJ (chief justice), abhi retire hua tha, Vijender Jain, naam bhi bataa deta hoon.

NR: Haan, I know.

SA: Jo Sabharwal (CJI Y.K. Sabharwal) ka khaas aadmi tha.

NR: Haan uske upar to problem hua tha na beech mein?

SA: Nahin par woh (Vijender Jain) to ban gaya CJ (of Punjab and Haryana High Court), ab to CJ ban ke retire bhi ho gaya hai. Kya farak pada…

 The personal angle is that in 2004 my lawsuit against Tata Sons for my arbitrary sacking (please refer to my earlier blog Gorillagram from Himalayas…) came up for pleading before Justice Vijender Jain (after many a summer, meaning Justices Mudgal, Nandi, Sharma…) On 4th October, Justice Jain, to my delirious delight upheld my right for compensation for unjust termination from job and ordered (hold your breath) the defendant to pay 6 lakhs, a sum of money which even then was just a piffle. I rejoiced because it was a victory of sorts, the third time when I extracted money from an entity famous for its philanthropy. The second was due to the help received from a CPI Rajya Sabha member and the then Labour Minister Sharad Yadav (to say nothing of the e-mails sent to the PM, Atal Bihari Vajpayee) who urged the PF Commissioner to force the defendants to pay my provident fund dues. Even after the use of such heavy artillery, the yield was just about 56k, one-tenth of what was actually due. The skinflints said that since the matter was before the court, they were paying what I contributed to the fund.

And the first was due to Justice Nandi, who got tired of their delaying tactics, ordered them to pay me 5k.

Digression over, back to my case before Justice Jain. On hearing the award, the defendant’s rookie lawyer almost wept. In a shaky voice, he beseeched the judge for some time to consult his client. So, a date in November was fixed for the closing.

Then something happened, I don’t exactly know what. The case was transferred from one justice to another…to end up finally with Justice Madan Lokur, who overturned the verdict (please see rukol nadam as balban, chepeyja’s blog in wordpress). I appealed against it, but there was no money to continue the fight.

The point is, I appeared a number of times before Justice Vijender Jain. And I don’t believe that he had take 9 into 10 to the power of 7, Sunil Arora or no Sunil Arora.

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