Far from being eternal, Bharat Mata is only a little more than 100 years old

At a time when India is being projected as eternal, when the chanting of Bharat Mata ki jai has become a testimony to patriotism and refusal to do so invites the wrath of Hindutva outfits and political parties, it is pertinent to look at the history of the country known as Bharat whose antiquity cannot be pushed too far back in time.

The earliest references

The geographical horizon of the Aryans was limited to the north western part of the Indian subcontinent known as Saptasindhava. The Vedic texts do not mention the word Bharata in the sense of a country though they refer to the tribe of Bharatas at several places in different contexts. In Panini’s Ashtadhyayi (500 BC) we find a reference toPrachya Bharata in the sense of a territory (janapada) which lay between udichya (north) and prachya (east). It must have been a small region occupied by the Bharata tribe and cannot be equated with the Akhanda ­Bharata or Bharata of the Hindutva brigade.

The earliest reference to Bharatavarsha (Prakrit Bharadhavasa) is found in the inscription of the Orissan king Kharavela (first century BC), who lists it among the territories he invaded: but it did not include Magadha, which is mentioned sepa­rately in the record. The word here may therefore refer in a general way to northern India, its precise territorial connotation remaining vague. A much larger geographical region is visualised by the use of the word in the Mahabharata (200 BC to AD 300), which provides a good deal of geographical information about the subcontinent, but a large part of the Deccan and the far south does not find any place in it. Banabhatta’s Kadambari (seventh century), at one place describes Bharatavarsha as being ruled by Tarapida, who “set his seal on the four oceans”. But since it is referred to as excluding Ujjaini from it, the location and boundaries of Bharat are far from clear.

Bharatavarsha figures prominently in the Puranas, but they describe its shape variously. In some passages it is likened to a half-moon, in others it is said to resemble a triangle; in yet others it appears as a rhomboid or an unequal quadrilateral or a drawn bow. TheMarkandeya Purana compares the shape of the country with that of a tortoise floating on water and facing east. Most of the Puranas describe Bharatavarsha as being divided into nine dvipas or khandas, separated by seas and mutually inac­cessible.

The Puranic conception of Bharatavarsha has similarity with the ideas of ancient Indian astronomers like Varahamihira (sixth century AD) and Bhaskaracharya (11th century), though in their perception it does not seem to have included southern India. Although a 14th-century record mentions Bharata as extending from the Himalayas to the southern sea, by and large, the available textual and epigraphic references to it do not indicate that the term stood for India as we know it today.

A part of Jambudvipa

In many texts Bharata is said to have been a part of Jambudvipa, which itself had an uncertain geographical connotation. The Vedic texts do not mention it; nor does Panini, though he refers to the jambu (rose apple) tree. The early Buddhist canonical works provide the earliest reference to the continent called Jambudvipa (Pali, Jambudipa), its name being derived from the jambu tree which grew there. Juxtaposed with Sihaladipa (Sans. Simhaladvipa=Sri Lanka), of the inscriptions of Ashoka, Jambudipa stands for the whole of his empire, which covered nearly the entire Indian subcontinent excluding its far southern part. He unified the major part of the Indian subcontinent and called it Jambudipa. But he did not use the word Bharat to denote this vast land mass.

Despite the use of the word Jambudipa for the whole of his empire, the ambiguity about its territorial connotation is borne out by both epigraphic and literary sources during the subsequent centuries. In a sixth-century inscription of Toramana, for instance, Jambudvipa occurs without any precise territorial connotation, and in the Puranic cosmological schema, it appears more as a mythical region than as a geographical entity. According to the Puranas the world consists of “seven concentric dvipas or islands, each of which is encircled by a sea, the central island called Jambu­dvipa…”. This is similar to the cosmological imaginings of the Jains who, however, placed Jambudvipa at the centre of the central land (madhyaloka) of the three-tiered structure of the universe. According to another Puranic conception, which has much in common with the Buddhist cosmological ideas, the earth is divided into four mahadvipas, Jambudvipa being larger than the others. In both these conceptions of the world, Bharatavarsha is at some places said to be a part of Jambudvipa but at others the two are treated as identical. The geographical conception of both Bharat and Jambudvipa are thus factitious and of questionable value.

Abanindranath Tagore/ ‘Banga Mata’ water colour that he later decided to title 'Bharat Mata'.  1905.
Abanindranath Tagore/ ‘Banga Mata’ water colour that he later decided to title ‘Bharat Mata’. 1905.

Bharat as Mother

It was only from the late 19th century that Bharatvarsha in the sense of the whole subcontinent, and Bharat as Mother found their way into the popular vocabulary. The anonymous work Unabimsapurana (1866), KC Bandyopadhyaya’s play called Bharat Mata (1873) and Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyaya’s Anandmath (1880) were among the earliest works to popularise the notion of Bharatmata. Its visual evocation came perhaps not earlier than 1905 in a painting by Abanindranath Tagore, who conceived of the image as one of Bangamata but later, “almost as an act of generosity towards the larger cause of Indian nationalism, decided to title it ‘Bharatmata’”.

Far from being eternal, Bharat mata is thus little more than a 100 years old. Insistence on her inhabitants forming a nation in ancient times is sophistry. It legitimatises the Hindutva perception of Indian national identity as located in remote antiquity, accords centrality to the supposed primordiality of Hinduism and spawns Hindu cultu­ral nationalism which prompts the saffron brigade to bully the Indian people into chanting of Bharat Mata Ki Jai.

DN Jha is former Professor and Chair, Department of History, University of Delhi


Practo FY15 revenue up by more than 10 times, losses widen 30%

Bengaluru: Practo Technologies Pvt. Ltd, the most funded homegrown healthcare start-up, posted a more than 10-fold increase in revenue for the year ended 31 March, while losses increased 30%, signalling the company’s intent to extend its lead over smaller rivals.

Practo’s revenue increased to Rs.29.73 crore in fiscal 2015 from Rs.2.30 crore a year earlier, while the company incurred a loss of Rs.12.85 crore until March, as againstRs.9.88 crore in the year-ago period, according to documents filed with the Registrar of Companies (RoC).

The company’s expenses grew more than three times, from Rs.12.19 crore in fiscal 2014 to Rs.42.59 crore, while revenue grew more than 10 times, which, according to industry experts imply that the company has a stable business model in place.

“Businesses thrive only if revenue grows faster than expenses. Yes, there are losses. But, if revenue grows faster than expenses, at some point in time the company has the potential to become a profitable business,” said Rutvik Doshi, director at Inventus Capital Partners, a venture capital firm.

Employee benefits, which surged three times to Rs.25.8 crore in fiscal 2015, comprised more than half of the firm’s expenses, the documents showed.

Practo did not respond to an email seeking comment.

India is home to at least 140 start-ups in the doctor-booking and practice management software segment, according to Tracxn, a company which provides data on start-ups. Practo is by far the largest in the category, with the company claiming to have about 200,000 doctors, 5,000 diagnostic centres and 8,000 hospitals on its platform.

For instance, smaller rival Qikwell Technologies Pvt. Ltd, which was bought by Practo in September, posted a loss of Rs.3.61 crore on revenue of Rs.51.29 lakh in fiscal 2015, according to RoC filings. Tiger Global Management-backed Lybrate Inc. is another well-capitalized start-up in the segment.

Practo had raised $34 million from institutional investors until March, while Qikwell had about $3 million and Lybrate raised $1.2 million by then.

Practo went on to raise another $90 million in August from leading investors such as China’s Tencent, Belgian venture capital firm Sofina, Google Capital, Altimeter Capital, Sequoia Capital and Yuri Milner, founder of Russian venture capital firm DST Global. Lybrate raised another $10 million in July.

Experts believe that losses may surge in the near future, given that Practo has invested in multiple acquisitions, besides spending on international expansion, launching more categories and brand promotion since April. It entered the beauty and wellness segment in early December by aggregating spas, salons and fitness centres.

“In the short term, I would expect the expenses to balloon. It makes sense to pump in a lot of money at this juncture and capture the adjacent markets. In a year or two, they can again accelerate and the cost will be recovered,” said Doshi.

Practo, which was founded in 2008 by Shashank N.D. and Abhinav Lal, started out as a product firm, providing practice management software for doctors on a software-as-a-service model. Called Practo Ray, the product remains the key revenue generator for Practo. The firm also earns revenue from Practo Reach, a sponsored listing service for hospitals and clinics. It does not charge doctors for listing on Practo, while searching is free for consumers.

To be sure, Practo had acquired hospital information management solution provider Insta Health Solutions for $12 million in September in an attempt to boost revenue. At the time of the acquisition, Insta Health Solutions had over 500 hospitals as clients in 15 nations across South-east Asia, West Asia and Africa using its information management software.

Its acquisition of Qikwell, which has expertise in appointment scheduling at hospitals, helped Practo penetrate deeper into the enterprise segment, especially hospitals, clinics and diagnostic centres. Additionally, Practo had acquired product outsourcing firm Genii in July and Delhi-based health and fitness solutions firm Fitho Wellness Services Pvt. Ltd in April.


Oculus Rift May Offer Better High-End Quality Than PS VR, Admits Sony Executive

Oculus Rift May Offer Better High-End Quality Than PS VR, Admits Sony Executive

After years of hype and development, high-end virtual reality (VR) headsets will make their way to consumers starting with the Oculus Rift this month, in 20 countries around the world. Sony’s PlayStation VR (PS VR) is one of its biggest competitors, and Sony Computer Entertainment vice president Masayasu Ito pointed out this week why he thinks its creation will be more popular.

(Also see: Sony to Host PlayStation VR Event at Game Developers Conference 2016)

“If you just talk about the high-end quality, yes, I would admit that Oculus may have better VR,” Ito toldvideo gaming website Polygon. “However, it requires a very expensive and very fast PC. The biggest advantage for Sony is our headset works with [PlayStation 4]. It’s more for everyday use, so it has to be easy to use and it has to be affordable. This is not for the person who uses a high-end PC. It’s for the mass market.”

The Oculus Rift and even the HTC Vive do indeed boast of more impressive specifications; the screen resolution is higher and so is the field of view. Ito said they looked towards their regrets with the problems faced by PlayStation 3 and the immense success of the PS4 to decide on a strategy for PS VR, which would allow it to be accessible to the widest audience possible.

Sony has yet to comment on an official price for the headset and the accompanying box, but reports do put it slightly below the $599 (approx. Rs. 40,000) price of the Rift and significantly less than the HTC Vive at $799 (approx. Rs. 54,900). Both of those need an accompanying PC in the range of Rs. 60,000 while PSVR will only work with the PS4, which retails around Rs. 30,000.

(Also see: Facebook’s Sandberg Says Virtual Reality Will Take Time to Develop)

That does entail less of an investment if you’re looking to get into VR with first-gen devices, but you’ll have to wait till the end of the year to experience one yourself.

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Samsung Says Galaxy S7, S7 Edge Pre-Orders ‘Stronger Than Expected’

Samsung Says Galaxy S7, S7 Edge Pre-Orders 'Stronger Than Expected'

Samsung has revealed that it is receiving “stronger than expected” pre-orders for the latest Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge. Koh Dong-jin, President of Samsung’s Handsets Business, told Reuters during apress event for the new premium Galaxy phones in South Korea.

(Also see: Samsung Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 Edge Are Ahead of the Curve but Will That Be Enough?)

Dong-jin expects that the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge will help the company revive sales in markets such as China where in recent years Apple has shown tremendous growth.

The company as of now has not revealed the number of pre-orders it received in various markets but we can expect Samsung to announce the figures soon. We already know that Samsung will be launching the Galaxy S7 and the Galaxy S7 Edge in 60 countries in its first wave starting Friday.

In India, the Samsung Galaxy S7 has been priced at Rs. 48,900, while the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge at Rs. 56,900 – both prices for the 32GB variant. Similar to other markets, Samsung India is offering a free Gear VR headset to consumers who place pre-orders by March 17.

As expected, the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge launched in India come with Samsung’s octa-core Exynos 8890 SoC instead of the quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chipset seen in the global variant. Perhaps the most welcome change from their predecessors is the inclusion of the hybrid microSD slot in the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge, which means you can either expand your storage up to 200GB or use it as the second SIM slot.

(Also see: Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge First Impressions)

In terms of other specifications, the Samsung Galaxy S7 features a 5.1-inch QHD Super Amoled display, while the Galaxy S7 Edge packs a 5.5-inch QHD Super Amoled display. The always-on display lets users check notifications, time, and date without having to wake up the device. Both phones come with 4GB of RAM, a 12-megapixel ‘Dual Pixel’ rear camera with an f/1.7 aperture and smart OIS feature, as well as a 5-megapixel front camera with f/1.7 aperture.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge run Android 6.0 Marshmallow, and have IP68 rating for dust and water resistance. The Galaxy S7 packs a 3000mAh battery while the Galaxy S7 Edge includes a 3600mAh battery.