Panini Grammar Puzzle Solved
Dr. Rishi Rajpopat, a phd candidate at Cambridge University, has apparently solved a longstanding grammar problem in the Ashtadhyayi, a seminal Sanskrit text written by the scholar Panini around the 6th or 5th century bce. As reported in the Indian Express, Panini is widely regarded as the “father of linguistics”and has influenced European scholars since the 1800s.
The Ashtadhyayi explains Sanskrit’s structure. Its complex set of 4,000 rules for creating words—essentially a linguistic algorithm—has been compared to the Turing machine. Given the base and suffix for any Sanskrit word, it should produce grammatically correct words and sentences. But for 2,500 years, scholars have been puzzled because two or more rules can apply at the same time. The “meta-rule” Panini that wrote to resolve such conflicts had traditionally been interpreted to mean that the rule appearing later in the text would prevail.
Rajpopat’s PhD thesis, In Panini We Trust, proposes a simpler interpretation that stays loyal to the text. The meta-rule, he argues, has been misunderstood; it actually means that for rules applying to the left and right sides of a word, one should use the rule for the right-hand side. This logic, he found, makes the Ashtadhyayi an accurate “language machine,” producing grammatically correct Sanskrit words and sentences almost every time.
Experts are calling this a revolutionary breakthrough, as the discovery will allow Panini’s rule-based Sanskrit grammar to be taught to computers for the first time. The linear and exact nature of the Ashtadhyayi‘s 4,000 rules also make it suited for natural language processing (NLP) systems, as seen in the viral ChatGPT bot.
Interest in spoken Sanskrit has been increasing in recent years.
Welcoming The UK’s First Hindu PM
Rishi Sunak was elected Prime Minister of the UK in October, 2022, just two months after rioting occurred in East Leicester when a Hindu temple was vandalized and its saffron flag torn down by a Muslim mob. Sunak’s Hindu identity suddenly gained worldwide attention, but it was already outfront in Britain before then.
Livemint.com notes that when he took an oath to be finance minister in 2020 by placing his hands on the Bhagavad Gita, it solidified his faith to the media. He firmly declares he is a “proud Hindu,” though rarely discusses his religion in public. He keeps a murti of Ganesha on his office table. He abstains from beef and has made a public appeal to give it up. In a twist, one of Sunak’s new duties is to select bishops for the Church of England.
In an article for Religion News Service, author Murali Balaji says that for years now, Sunak’s use of the phrase “proud Hindu” would be interpreted in the West as referring to a person who endorses majoritarian politics in India. The idea of a proud Hindu ran counter to the shame felt by those born and raised in Western countries as Hindus. There is more to Sunak’s religious pride, the article points out. The media has largely failed to grasp the significance of the ascent of a Hindu to the leadership of a country that for two centuries subjugated Hindus in the Indian subcontinent and elsewhere. Until now, the few Hindu modern heads of state have governed Hindu-majority countries (India, Nepal and Mauritius) or countries with large Hindu populations (Guyana, Trinidad and Singapore).
Holy Crocodile Babiya Dies
The Ananthapadmanabha Swamy Temple in Kerala held a formal burial in late 2022 for its water-pond crocodile, Babiya. According to the Indian Express, Babiya was kept in a mobile freezer for hours before burial so that devotees could pay homage to the “divine soul.” Living in the temple-encircling pond with fish for 70 years, Babiya was never known to be violent. Two years ago, he was spotted on the steps of the temple sanctum. There is no record of how Babiya reached the temple pond; there is no other water body in the vicinity. Temple lore says a British soldier shot a crocodile at the shrine in 1945, and another one appeared within a few days.
Naga Attains State Status
The Thai cabinet decided in late 2022 to designate the Naga, a symbolic serpent in Hindu and Buddhist folklore, as a national emblem in the category of mythological creatures and part of Thailand’s “soft power,” according to Deputy Spokesperson Rachada Dhnadirek. Quoted on thaipbsworld.com, Dhnadirek added that the Naga has been part of Thai culture and way of life from time immemorial, as exhibited by ubiquitous statues and decorations of the supernatural being in art, religious rituals, temples and festivals. It is hoped this symbolic designation will encourage Thais to study their history and culture and drive the creative economy. One event that assures that the Naga remains popular is the Naga fireball phenomenon. Each year at the end of October, huge crowds gather along the Mekong River to witness fireballs shooting out of the river and into the sky. Many locals believe the fireballs are released by the Naga from the depths of the river.
Feasting with the Gods
Is it a restaurant or god’s abode? In the basement of the Maha Vallabha Ganapati Temple in Flushing, New York, is a hidden gem where you can get the most amazing South Indian food, says journalist Lavina Melwani on her blog after a recent visit. Popularly known as Ganesh Canteen, it started in 1993—mainly to prepare prasada for the Deities. The canteen now also provides pure vegetarian food for devotees and others.
Clean, fast and orderly, it is a restaurant, canteen and takeout space combined. Delicacies include over a hundred Indian vegetarian food items, from vadas and idlis to Pondicherry dosas and many North Indian dishes. Snacks are available year-round. For those who like something hot, there is mirchi bhajji—long chilli poppers—deep-fried in lentil batter.
This is probably the most unique eating-out experience in New York, which is home to some of the world’s best restaurants. It has been hailed by Zagat, The New York Times, Daily News and other media, and featured in the Travel TV channel by the iconic Anthony Bourdain. Yet there are many people who don’t know about it, or how it can be a part of their daily lives. Read the rest of Lavina’s post at bit.ly/GaneshCanteen.
Tallest Siva Inaugurated
After ten years of construction, the world’s tallest Siva statue officially greeted the public on October 29, 2022, amid felicitations from Morari Bapu and others. Built on a hilltop in Nathdwara, Rajasthan, India, by Tat Padam Sansthan, the “Viswas Swaroopam” or Statue of Belief rises 369 feet and is visible from 20km away.
As reported by the Deccan Herald, Sansthan spokesperson Jaiprakash Mali says the statue is illuminated with special lights for night viewing. The facial expression is detached, meditative. Construction used 3,000 tons of steel and iron plus 283,000 cubic meters of concrete. Coated with zinc and painted copper for rain and sun protection, the figure is built to last 250 years and withstand winds of 250km per hour.
Inside the structure are an exhibition hall and public viewing galleries accessible by elevator at 20 feet, 110 feet and 270 feet. Facing Siva on the entry steps is a statue of Nandi, 25 feet tall and 37 feet long. The 16-acre grounds include parking, three herbal gardens, a food court, a laser fountain, handicraft shops, viewing platforms, musical fountains, souvenir shops and a pond. There is a mini-train on site for quick local sightseeing.
In a bid to combine religious devotion with fun activities to attract youth, the surrounding area, spread over nearly 32 acres, will offer bungee jumping, zip lines, go-karts, an adventure park and a jungle cafe.
Veggie Burger Sizzle Fizzles
At the start of 2022, McDonald’s launched a plant-based burger. For a while, as reported by The Guardian, this looked like a glimpse of the future. But the US test run of the McPlant burger was quietly shelved in August, in one of a series of setbacks for a meatless-meat industry that only a year ago was claiming it could change the great American menu forever. Getting US meat eaters to adopt plant-based alternatives has proven a challenge. Bhagyashree Katare, one of the authors of a trial study in Indiana, said participants may have been put off by the taste and the fact that it is not necessarily nutritionally healthier. Its cost, about the same as meat, also diminishes its attractiveness to consumers. “If I’m spending money in a restaurant, and I’m a meat eater, why would I spend money on plant-based meat? I would rather eat an actual burger,” Katare said.
In February, 2020 Anies Baswedan, governor of Jakarta, Indonesia, attended the laying of the first stone for the Jakarta Murugan Temple on land donated by the Jakarta government. The local Tamil community had been preparing for this moment for 60 years. Consecration is hoped to occur this year. See jktmurugantemple.org for a progress report video.
The Kedarnath Siva temple in the Himalayas has replaced the silver plating in its sanctum sanctorum with gold, thanks to a generous donor. It required 560 sheets transported via 18 mules. Nineteen artisans did the work in three days. Because the temple lies unattended during winter, 30 personnel from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police will now protect it from thieves.
Research by the Henry Jackson Society UK think tank into the cause of recent Hindu-Muslim clashes in England has found no evidence of Hindu extremism. It found instead that a group of Muslim online influencers, some with links to terrorism, peddled a false narrative of “Hindu fascism” to stir up tensions and instigate violence.
in the USA, major brands are recognizing the Diwali festival, running ad campaigns and stocking relevant products. You can now pick up fireworks from Costco, greeting cards from Hallmark and party decorations from Target. It’s a big difference from eight years ago, when large retailers hardly took notice.