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Solstice

Today is 23rd December. This day carries the same significance in Antarctica as elsewhere. That is, the Sun now will travel from East to West northwards. Practically this means that in the northern hemisphere the days will start getting longer, while in Antarctica, the days will start getting shorter. Though there will still be 24-hour day, but one may look forward to nights, stars and moon in days to come. The Sun will set completely towards the end of January to have night for 4 minutes only.

The northbound Sun, Uttarayan, has other significance too in India. People attain 'nirvana' if they leave this world during this period of 6 months. In the great Indian epic, Mahabharat, the great warrior, Bhishm, was gifted in postponing death till the time of his choice. During the final battle when he falls down with Arjun's arrows all over his body, he keeps away death since he wished to leave for his heavenly abode only after the start of Uttarayan to achieve nirvana or moksha.

I have just finished reading 'A Mountain in Tibet. The Search for Mount Kailash and the Sources of the Great Rivers of India' by Charles Allen. It is very informative and tells us about the British explorations in Tibet to trace the sources and paths of great rivers of India which originate in the Kailash-Manasarovar region, namely, Indus, Brahmputra, Sutlej, and Karnali (of which Alaknanda is a main branch and in turn one of the two major tributaries of Ganga, the other being Bhagirathi). It narrates exploration of one Swede, Sven Hedin, a bold and most ambitious explorer. Once he had made up his mind to attain a particular object no consideration of other people's feelings, conveniences or even safety was ever allowed to deflect him. I quote from his own book, 'My Life as An Explorer', "Happy is the boy who discovers the bent of his lifework during childhood. At the age of twelve my goal was fairly clear". It is a very different matter, though, that in 1952 he at 87 died a lonely, friendless and neglected man in his own country because of his unorthodox and at times unethical methods and his supporting Adolf Hitler.

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