Battle of Arras

The Battle of Arras took place in France during the early stages of the Second World War and brought to the forefront Germany’s most prodigious field commander, Erwin Rommel. In 1940 Rommel was given command of his requested Panzer division, the 7th Panzer which later became known as the “ghost division” and in the same year Rommel’s newly acquired Panzers, invaded the town of Arras, a quiet town in the northeast of France.

Rommel crossed the river Meuse using inflatable boats and ferried under the cover of night into French territory. His Panzers in typical blitzkrieg fashion steamrolled their way across the countryside without meeting much resistance. On the 21st of May, Rommel’s advance came to a sudden halt, impeded by a brigade of British tanks that attempted to stop Rommel from pocketing the allies in Dunkirk.

Unable to progress any further Rommel devised what was possibly the most coveted innovation of the Second World War. He modified his 88 mm anti-aircraft guns into anti-tank guns and inflicted massive casualties on the British tanks.

On the 22nd of June 1941, in an operation code-named operation Barbarossa, Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Army Group South under the Command of Field Marshall von Rundstedt launched an offensive from Germany and Czechoslovakia into Ukraine. The German offensive met with swift success partly because of Rommel’s innovation, and every infantry division involved in the offensive carried at its rear, the converted anti-aircraft guns which were used to devastating effect against Soviet tanks, arguably the most formidable tanks in Europe, because of the extensive thickness of their armor. The initial victories in the Soviet Union may have been much more difficult if it wasn’t for Rommel’s invention.

Copyright © 2019 by Kathiresan Ramachanderam

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Central to the legend of égig érő fa (the legend of the sky-high tree), which gives a vivid description of the bird-hawk Turul, is the legend of Emeshe. The word “Emeshe” in Sumerian simply means “High Priestess”. The legend starts in 819, during the reign of the Assyrian King Ashur-Banipal, when a descendant of the Scythian King Magog married the daughter of Enid-Belia.

In contemporary literature the daughter of Enid-Belia is known as Emeshe but it is difficult to say for certain if the word Emeshe is used in reference to the princess’s name or if it is indicative of her status as High Priestess of the Temple of Kham, an office that she held prior to her marriage.

The word Kham in Sanskrit means sky, and the words Emeshe and the Temple of Kham, if read together can be translated or interpreted in the following manner: – High Priestess of the Temple of the Sky or High Priestess of the Temple of the Sky God. It implies or suggests a Sumerian-Sanskrit radix and it unearths a new and unexplored facet of Sumerian-Sanskrit mythology.

Anu is the highest-ranking deity in the Sumerian epoch but the extent of his worship remains unknown. He is commonly acknowledged to be the Sumerian “father of the gods” and as such he wielded extensive powers.

He is also, through his consort Antu, the patriarch of the Annunaki or the fallen, who clearly bear his name. In Sumerian and Sanskrit mythology both the progenitors of good and evil or light and darkness have the same source. It is a salient feature or aspect of both veins of mythology – the word Annunaki appears to be an extension of the word Anu and it could be taken to mean the children of Anu.

According to the legend the union between the prince and the princess produced a son, Almos who in other historical circles is also known as Voivode Levedia. The word Almos itself means sleepy or dreamer and if we were to take it a step further, Turul appeared in Voivode Levedia’s dream at a time the Magyars were besieged by enemies and led him and his people to Pannonia.

Before his birth, his mother, Emeshe, had a dream in which Turul, the giant mythical Hawk in Hungarian mythology, who often acts as a messenger of God, flew down from its perch high up on the tree of life and impregnated Emeshe with a drop of its saliva.

When she was giving birth to Almos, a tiny spring welled from her womb and slowly grew in size swelling with water until its torrents swept through the snowy mountains and the valleys wedged between them into the flat lowlands that lay beyond. There it stopped and grew into a wondrous tree with golden branches. This became the land of her descendants or the land of fabled kings and warriors.

Emeshe and her immediate descendants were the foremost priests and priestesses of the Temple of Kham and according to myth they were gifted with the ability to read the will God.

Copyright © 2019 by Kathiresan Ramachanderam

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Can India another afford another era of coalition politics?

Coalition politics by definition is where political parties, often with similar interests, but not always, form a bloc and are represented collectively as an individual entity, as opposed to a conglomeration of various parties, which normally tends to be the case, and usually it is because the major parties, as far as India is concerned there are only two major parties, the BJP and the INC, have failed to obtain a clear majority or a decisive victory.

It not something that is new or unheard of and it common enough, but what makes India different is that it has 29 states with varying interests and while the national aspirations may be the same or similar, the state interests are anything but.

The term coalition itself implies that there has to be some behind the scenes negotiations between the parties who are members of the coalition or who have agreed to be a part of the coalition and that to some extent means that the major parties can’t have it all their own way, i.e. there has got to be some give and take, and with India entering an era of regionalism, the chances of either of the major parties gaining an overwhelming majority, without the help of its local allies, in any of the states, looks modest at best.

The burgeoning of regional parties that are proliferating like wild mushrooms with no clear national objectives in mind, and are limited to regional objectives, which is not necessarily a bad thing, as long those objectives are acceptable objectives, tends to suggest that India is indeed looking at an era of coalitions, one that is more conspicuous than the previous.

Can India afford another era of coalition politics? Well, for starters India hasn’t been dominated by coalition politics for all that long, and most of the parties, with exception of the INC and parties like the Indian Communist Party, only came into existence in the mid 70’s and early 80’s. The BJP itself, despite its at times overwhelming national presence only came into existence in 1980, though it has to be said that the Arya Samaj and the Brahmo Samaj have been around for a lot longer than that. Both these organizations, it is not fair to call them parties because they are more focused on social reforms than anything else, but they do act as feeder parties to the BJP, have been around for some time. The Brahmo Samaj was founded in 1828 and the Arya Samaj some forty-seven years later in 1875. The former was founded in Kolkata and the latter in Mumbai.

Coalition politics only became a facet of Indian politics after 1984 and even then, it didn’t have much of an impact until about a decade ago.

Many of the regional parties that we see today didn’t develop organically and their births were to some extent induced by the enactment of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1958 (AFSPA) which initially came into force to address the troubles in Assam but was later extended to cover “disturbed areas” in Arunachal Pradesh, Bengal, J & K, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Punjab, and Tripura and the sudden sprouting of many of the regional parties that we see today was to some degree stimulated to quell the ethnic and racial tensions there.

At this stage it doesn’t look like there is much of a choice not at state level anyway. Nothing is going to stop the birth and growth of these regional parties, unless of course there are some legal or constitutional changes made and the number of political parties in the country are limited or individuals are prohibited from forming new political parties, but to do that would be to go against the principles of democracy, and for obvious reasons it is something that most people don’t want to see happen.

India is entering a phase where regional politics is gaining ground and the two major political parties are faltering at state levels. However, that in itself is not necessarily a bad thing and as long as the regional parties can be limited to state assemblies, then the federal issues can be ironed out by the two major parties i.e. the BJP and the INC.

In all fairness it is not practical to expect total and complete coverage of all 29 states, and even writers and journalists restrict themselves to specific states, they would have to if they wanted to do their jobs effectively, and that is because of the overwhelming number of issues that each state is faced with and many of these issues have to be addressed at state levels because a majority of these issues involve ethnic and racial interests.

Copyright © 2019 by Kathiresan Ramachanderam

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Summoning of the Guardian of the Eastern Tower

“Hail the Guardian of the Eastern Tower, the guardian of the earth and all things that grow on and beneath, she who fills the nostrils with the scent of lime and lemon.

Hail the Guardian of the Eastern Tower, she who wafts in with the chilly wind at the stroke of midnight.

Hail the Guardian of the Eastern Tower whose pallid touch breathes life into ashen corpses, she who freely frisks and frolics with the lingering and the dawdling dead.

I summon thee, keeper of spirits, stalwart of the lost, guide of the destitute and confidant of the forlorn. I summon thee queen of the night, she who is the pale night-blooming cereus, she who shines and sparkles like a luminous star.

I summon thee who is clothed in silken threads, she who flashes and flares along with the bats of the night, she who is trumpeted by the howl of the wolf and heralded by the warble of the saintly owl.

Come sister, come forth from thy castle beneath the fertile soil of the south. Come sister, come forth, to shower us with thy love and to cover us with thy glory”

Copyright © 2019 by Dyarne Jessica Ward

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Summoning of the Guardian of the Southern Tower

Hail the Guardian of the Southern Tower, she who sets the sky alight with her fiery blaze, she who drifts in with the twilight breeze and fills the air with the scent of jasmine and lavender.

Hail the Guardian of the Southern Tower, she who fuels the flames of passion and ambition, she who sets the heart alight with lust that knows no inhibition. Hail to the Guardian who urges the temporal senses to shine bright like a burning light.

I summon thee, Guardian of the fire-spirits that dance to the sparkles of tinder. Like tiny fireflies they float and flounder in the pale moonlight, under a canopy of radiant stars, setting spying eyes that watch bewilder, as they reduce all that stands in their way to cinder.

I summon thee, Guardian of the Southern Tower, who fans the flames of the funeral pyre, she whose eyes burn bright like pulsating amber. I summon thee, the star of the evening sky that blooms bright like a scarlet geranium, in the twilight hour.

Come sister, come forth from thy castle that is the towering inferno of the south, to bless this coven. Come sister, come forth, to shower us with thy love and to cover us with thy glory”.

Copyright © 2019 by Dyarne Jessica Ward

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Summoning of the Guardian of the Western Tower

Hail the Guardian of the Western Tower, she who flows with the rivers and the springs, the keeper of nymphs and the mistress of maidens who die afore time.

Hail the Guardian of the West, who with her magical touch heals the scarred and blemished skin and turns it an untainted white.

Hail the Guardian of the West who heals the crackled pores and turns it to lurid and lucid ice.

Hail the Guardian of the West who presides over all spirits that haunt the waterways and lurk beneath watery expanses.

I invoke thee, she who blesses the farms and the fields with water, she who brings rains to stifle the smoldering and sweltering heat of the relentless sun.

I invoke thee, the guardian of lakes, rivers and streams, she who drifts in with the midday breeze, scattering and dispersing to all corners of the world, she whose arrival fills the nostrils with the scent of rosemary and thyme.

Come sister, come forth from thy castle in the watery graves of the West, to bless this coven. Come sister, come forth, to shower us with thy love and to cover us with thy glory”

Copyright © 2019 by Dyarne Jessica Ward

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Summoning of the Guardian of the Northern Tower

Hail the Spirit of the Wind, the Guardian of the North, who solemnly gazes upon all things that flitter and flutter. I greet thee my sister who is vested with the powers of the earth, whose breezy touch cherishes and nourishes, whose kiss wheedles and caresses, the flowers, the oaks and the cedar.

I greet thee, the Guardian of the North, Spirit of the Wind, keeper of trees and forests, who ambles in with the morning breeze, whose whisper fleetingly disperses watchful eyes and spying ears. I summon her who is as mild as the fleeting wind or  she who is as vigorous as the raging storm.

I summon her whose voice is as sweet as a lark or as harsh as frost, she who is the essence of rose and the essence of magnolia. I summon thee the Guardian of the North in thy most placid form.

Come sister, come forth from thy castle in the farthest reaches of the brazen ice-fields to bless this coven. Come sister, come forth, to shower us with thy love and to cover us with thy glory.

Copyright © 2019 by Dyarne Jessica Ward

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Stalin’s Second Revolution

Joseph Stalin could never claim to be a humanitarian, and nor could he claim to be a general well versed in the subtle nuances of war, but he could certainly lay claim to being the man who industrialized Russia.

Born in Tbilisi, Georgia, the son of a poor shoemaker who was beaten almost daily by his father, he managed to fulfill his ambitions and aspirations of achieving greatness and grandeur by becoming the Soviet Union’s longest serving leader. After manipulating his way to power in 1924, following the death of Lenin, Stalin embarked on a crusade to industrialize Russia.

Stalin was always suspicious of the capitalist west and he was determined to do everything he could to defeat them. Stalin revolutionized his country even more profoundly than Lenin. In the late 1920’s he started a frenzied campaign of modernization. The class division that had divided the country was swept away and the Orthodox Church suppressed.

He implemented a series of 5-year plans which were designed to achieve a series of economic goals and successive reforms based on his policy of socialism. The first 5-year plan came into force in 1928 and his 5-year plans would later be emulated by other Asian countries.

One of the primary objectives of the first 5-year plan was to restructure the country’s heavy industry and implement a policy of collective farming. It included keeping detailed records, monitoring shipping and other procedures to increase efficiency and productivity. Stalin further embarked on what could only be dubbed as a steel crusade. In his estimations the Soviet Union was 50 – 100 years behind Europe and he was determined to bridge the gap within 10 years.

In the 1930’s driven by a zealous Stalin, iron and steel outputs quadrupled. Stalin ruthlessly pursued his goals for modernization and any resistance was met with swift and decisive action. Many of those who resisted were packed off to prison camps in the arctic wastes of Siberia, to the notorious gulags, where over 2 million soviet citizens were incarcerated in 1941 alone.

The implementation of collective farm policies was brutal, and it took its toll on the ordinary citizens. The peasants fought back against farm and livestock seizures. Some even went to the extent of killing their own animals to prevent the state from taking control and in the chaos that ensued almost half of the Soviet Union’s cattle stocks were slaughtered. The excessive loss of livestock led to famine and an estimated 5 million people died. Stalin continued to enforce his policies vigorously, despite the loss of lives and just how effective his reforms were, became apparent during the Second World War.

Because  of Stalin’s efforts and his personal commitment to reforming the iron and steel industry, the Soviet Union had gained the ability to strip and ship, by rail, many of its factories, including arms and ammunition factories to the Ural Mountains, out of harms way, where they were rebuilt and continued to churn out arms as sophisticated as that of their enemies. If it wasn’t for the Second World War, Stalin might just have beaten the rest of Europe.

Copyright © 2019 by Kathiresan Ramachanderam

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The Siam-Burma Railway Line

The invasion of Malaya begun just after midnight on the 8th of December 1941, a day after the attack on Pearl Harbor with a naval assault on the 8th Indian Infantry Brigade stationed in Kota Baru, Kelantan, followed by an amphibious landing supported by air strikes by Air Group III.

The attack was led by General Tomoyuki Yamashita; the man selected for the job and later dubbed the Tiger of Malaya. The destruction on the Malayan side of things was total and both British and Commonwealth troops were on the retreat from the start, driven back from the north to the south and by the 31st of January 1942, British and Commonwealth forces had completely withdrawn to Singapore, and Malaya had fallen. The allies suffered massive casualties with 9,000 dead and almost 130,000 captured.

Between the 31st of January 1942 to the 15th of August 1945, Malaya was administered by the Japanese and much of its wealth as were its people were used to further Japan’s war efforts.

In 1943 the Japanese commenced with the building of the Burma-Siam railway line, a necessity for Japan at that stage to further its war efforts.

Prior to that supplies to Japanese troops stationed in Burma were ferried by sea but the route around the Malay Peninsula, via the Straits of Malacca, in addition to being lengthy, was fraught with danger and allied vessels and submarines which patrolled the area proved to be more than a handful.

In order to overcome these difficulties and to ensure that their troops in Burma were adequately supplied and reinforced, the Japanese embarked on the rather ambitious project of building a railway line that ran all the way from Thailand (a buffer state or a state that was neutral) to Burma and despite the difficulties of constructing such a line it was completed well ahead of schedule and was in operation within a year.

The line started from Ban Po in Thailand and stretched all the way to Thanbyuzayat in Burma and ran for about 258 miles. Hence it was a fairly long trip but much shorter that the 2,000-mile sea route that was used previously.

Thousands of prisoners of war (POWs) were deployed to lay the tracks which often ran through dense rainforests. In addition to POWs the Japanese army also conscripted thousands of young men of Tamil origin to help with the construction of the railway line.

Among the men that were taken was my grandfather on my dad’s side Nadisan Thevar. My grandfather was born in 1890 in Chidambaram and he came to Malaya in 1900 at the age of 10 to work. It must have been very difficult in India back then because there was a big outflow of workers that not only came to Malaya but also went to Thailand, Myanmar and various other countries in Indo-China.

My grandfather was taken at the age of 53, so he was by no means young, but he was employed by the railway services, as a matter of fact he was an engine drive, so that might have had something to do with it but as I understand it groups of men were indiscriminately taken from their homes and herded away by the truckloads so it could have been random.

Nothing was heard from him until he returned in 1946 after spending about three years in Thailand. From all accounts it was a very, very difficult life. He died 9 years later from a heart attack at the age of 65.

In total, approximately 180,000 civilian workers were taken from various countries to help lay the tracks and it is estimated that almost half that number died during the construction of the railway line. Of those that remained many didn’t return home and because of the extremely high death toll the Burma-Siam railway line is sometimes called the death railway.

It is difficult to say, with any degree of certainty, what happened to the POWs and the civilians that did not return home but it would be fair to speculate that many continued as laborers or remained behind and became either Burmese or Siamese citizens.

Copyright © 2019 by Kathiresan Ramachanderam

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