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April 16, 2001 - April 16, 2001

JUNAGADH:::: Sweetest songs of Junagadh Monday, April 16, 2001

JUNAGADH: This mystic and mythical town has seen the rise and fall of many historical, political and cultural ups and downs, as different rulers, dynasties ruled over it. Obviously, the town has witnessed many victories and defeats.

Against all odds, Junagadh has sustained its superiority in art and music repelling the assault of western culture and the idiot box.

The cultural and musical galaxy comprises legendary artists since the time of its first ruler King Raivata, father-in-law of Lord Balaram, from whose name Girnar's ancient name Raivatachal or Raivatgiri has evolved. Ever since he heard the heavenly song "Atitaan" from two Gandharvas -Haha and Huhu- in the Brahma-Lok, the cultural torch lit by princess Revatee's father (Raivata), continues to shine over Junagadh, even today!

Among its lot many famous and infamous singers and musicians, it is Narsinh Mehta, who comes to mind, not merely because he was a great poet and devotee of God but because Gujarati poetry without him is incomplete. He had written and sung hymns accompanied with Kedaro, a musical instrument, whose name is derived from Rag Kedar.

After him Junagadh had many musicians. Classical vocalists at the time of Mughals did not shine well. Only during the Nawabs' time and after independence they could shine brighter. Between 1940 and 1947, two Muslim singers and artistes, Ustad Aamir Khan Sahib (vocalist) and Begum Munnibai, used to enrapture the Nawab's court.

Ustad Aamir from the Kirana gharana was the one who introduced soft classical vocal music in 'Khanyal Gayaki'. He stayed at Junagadh for seven years and then went to Mumbai.

Begum Munnibai was Nawab's court-dancer and a Ghazal singer, too. Her shayri is noteworthy.

Then there is Vitthaldas Bapodara who began the first classical music academy in the town. Known for his Haweli Sangeet he now lives in Mumbai. Old age has diminished his capacity to sing.

Nagar families have also generated classical vocalists like Sanatbhai and Kanakbhai Vaishnav. Anil Vaishnav, a vocalist, is associated with the M S University.

Pt. Maneklal Padiya is a student of Ustad Aamir Khann Sahib. He has trained many students but due to ill health, he is not active unlike his younger brother Pt. Chimanlal Padiya. The brothers stay at Junagadh and impart training in classical music to students even today.

Pt Aroonkant Sewak, a big name in classical vocal has sung and performed at many places. Harikant Sewak, another vocalist has settled in Rajkot and has opened a music school 'Soor-Milan' with Maharashtra Mandal. One more Nagar classical vocalist, Dilip Dholakiya, is now settled in Mumbai and composes music for Hindi films.

However, the sad song is that classical music is losing its appeal. Yet a few young students of Pt Maneklal Padiya like Vipool Trivedi have been taking initiative to preserve the wealth of classical music. Vipool teaches the basics, irrespective of students' age. His favourite ragas include Yaman Kalyan, Bhimpalasi, Bhairava, Durbari, Desi, Madhuvanti, Multani, Gurjari Todi, Lalit and Pooriya-Dhanashree. He wants to invite music masters like Pt. Jasraj, Ustad Rashid Khann, Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, Kishori Amonkar and Ashwinee Bhide-Deshpande to Junagadh so that the youth can enjoy classical ragas and take the melodic dip into the heavenly music played and sung by them.

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MEHSANA:::: Never too old for education Monday, April 16, 2001

MEHSANA: The board examinations, without fail, throw up quaint ways of ingenious candidates and their well-wishers who browbeat the system. However, some tales reveal an unusual aspect, like the one from the centre at the New Progressive Education Trust.

When the checking squad found a man in his forties in the examination hall, they smelt impersonation. But when they checked, the candidate turned out a genuine one, taking the examination for earning a promotion in the GEB. In the next block, his sister's son was appearing for the SSC examination.

At the same centre, in another block a peon at Ganpat Vidyanagar, was also writing the paper for promotion. Yet another employee of ONGC in his fifties who draws a salary of Rs. 10,000 was sitting with his answerbook and question paper. He was also trying his luck for promotion. But he found the paper too tough. The aged candidates provided amusement to the younger lot. Incidentally, they left after half an hour.

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BHAVNAGAR:::: Morale booster Monday, April 16, 2001

BHAVNAGAR : Giants Club and Hanuman Dhara Samiti of Sihor town, 23 km from here, did a commendable job of accommodating 567 students of Sandipani Vidyamandir and Uttar Buniyadi Vidyalaya of two earthquake affected villages of Selari and Nilpar in Kutch for teaching and preparation of SSC examination. Buildings of both the schools had collapsed on January 26. The school boys had managed a fortnight in makeshift shelters without any teaching. Preparation for the examination was absolutely impossible due to nightmarish impact of the quake.

However, members of the Giants Club and Hanuman Dhara Samiti rose to the occasion and made arrangements to accommodate, offer food, clothes, textbooks, regular teaching. Many teachers came forward for free but effective teaching.

Encouraged by such a generous gesture, all the students decided to appear at regular examination at Sihor centre and many of them are brimming with confidence. "We were shocked by the devastating effects of the earthquake and were stunned by fear of our dark future. We had lost the teaching material and also the subject content from our memory. Our parents, too, were highly disturbed and confused as to what to do for our study".

"We are overwhelmed by this gesture, which has enabled us to prepare for the board examination", says a student.

A retired science teacher Narendra Bhatt (62) who offered free teaching for a month said that it was not possible for an aged person like him to go to Kutch and help earthquake victims. But commuting to Sihor to teach science and maths offered him a great pleasure.

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PALANPUR::::Jantra at Ambaji Monday, April 16, 2001

PALANPUR: Over a lakh devotees who thronged the Ambaji temple on Chaitri poonam (April 9) as also lakhs of others who come all over the year have to content themselves with the darshan of a copper plate engraved with sacred figures 'Jantra' and not the idol.

Amid the loud pealing of bells, frenzied drumbeats and devotees clapping rhythmically, arti time and queuing up for darshan probably do not know that the great pilgrimage of goddess is sans an idol of the goddess.

Though strange it may sound, the great pilgrimage of Ambaji has no idol.

The priest attending the rituals said that the colourful costume attires the Jantra - a plate carved with sacred figures. While bathing the jantra for abhishek the priest has to shut his eyes and open only after all rituals end. The reason: traditional assertion that jantra is accepted as the goddess' symbolic omnipresence.

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PALANPUR::::Tale of potatoes Monday, April 16, 2001

PALANPUR: Deesa, near Palanpur, gets packed with potato merchants just as the summer sets in. For them, the peak period is from the second week of March to middle of April. Many have agents; others take local help. Nonetheless they all spend time and money to buy enough stock to last till winter, when the supply is short.

Potato crop needs 40 to 50 days to grow into full tuber and summer is the season for building up the stock. Nandlal Verma, 78-year-old farmer, who had won the state award thrice, has an interesting story to tell about potato cultivation in Gujarat. His forefathers, who were in Patiala military camp of the British, were transferred to Deesa camp in the late 18th century. With the flavour of north Indian potatoes still lingering in their mouths, they took to its cultivation after retirement from the Army. The British had allotted land at Deesa on the banks of Banas river.

Today Deesa is one of the largest potato growing centres in India with an annual yield of five lakh tonnes. Yes, it occupies a unique position in the world, too. For the river bed potatoes are grown according to norms of the international potato research directorate of South Asian countries, New Delhi.

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