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Who wore it better?

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Yup! That's right, you guessed it! Today, I will be sharing on the history of high heels and how it evolved over the years! To think that the ‘heel fashion’ only started at the beginning of the Modern era would be wrong.

 

“Did you know that heels started with men? “

Dating back to approximately 4000 bce, heels were observed in ancient Egyptian murals on temples and tombs (only for higher status, those of lower status would be depicted barefooted) - I know right, how could we have missed this back in Egypt's lecture! I do not know exactly when heels originated or who made them, but historians have noticed them Before the Common Era.

heeel

 

Notably, it all started with Persian men in the army as a way to keep their feet in stirrups – back in 1500s (refer to picture below)

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And as we all know from our Persian lecture, Persia had one of the most powerful armies in the world… Which resulted in many Europeans idolizing them after they had conquered the Ottomans.

Fun Fact: To the Europeans, the Persian was seen as an exotic fashion icon!

At the height of the trend, King Louis XIV made a law that no one could wear heels as high as his!Screenshot_6

I know right.... What a diva!

 

Like how the corset works, heels sculpted the body to make one appear more aristocratic, redefined, and more desirable. Being short was not ideal for a man’s ego, so he took measures into his own hand to make himself taller and more desirable!

As time pass and fashion filter down, people of lower status started to adopt the heel trend. However, once normal/average people want them, people of higher status no longer want them… Additionally, because of Napoleon in 1791 – French revolution and many other revolts – the “high heel” trend started to vanish as the revolts started.

 

heel

Moreover, the Enlightenment pushed high heels (and many other things) out of style , where men started opting for practicality (less fancy clothing)… while women started donning on high heels and brightly colored clothes, for the sake of fabulous-ity.

In this period, heels were kept for those who were irrational, emotional and uneducated – in other words… women. Like the heels, women were considered impractical, as they were often seen as foolish and sentimental for wanting to don on such impractical footwear.

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As such, high heels then become effeminated in this period as photography turned heels into an erotic fantasy for men, as well as an expectation for women. To be sexy meant – high heels

However, in the 70s (based on ‘That 70s show’), heels made a comeback for men… remember the disco period?

70s

Who died and made you king of anything?

Religious beliefs have been known to play a more important role in influencing one’s life, as religious meanings help individuals interpret their experience.Furthermore, religion is also important because it has been know for its influence on society and society’s impact on religion As such, much knowledgeable attention has been paid to how norms of gender roles may be socially, religiously and traditionally constructed.(Mcguire, chapter 1). clownfrown

Over the years, women’s lives have often been defined by religion. This is because over the last few millennia of documented human history, largely influential cultural systems, such as the religions: Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, the Confucian code of conduct and Judaism, have unequivocally directed that women’s main social duty is to be obedient wives (submissive) and devoted mothers (nurturing) (McGuire, chapter 4).

Religions have brought with them standards, prohibitions and guidelines for female behavior, rules about how one should treat women and views of women that have ranged from empowering to devaluing them.Additionally, spiritual beliefs have also been said to be behind many of women’s repressions as well as advances

In our opinion, in the Christian context, the Roman Catholic Church beliefs is influenced by the Old Testament of the Bible, where they do not ordain women, and that women must remain silent in social settings and be submissive to their male counterparts. The Old Testament of the Bible backs this by stating that:

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Under the Roman Catholic Church, this scripture draws a line of boundary for how men and women should behave. From this scripture, it influences its believers that women are subordinate to men and that femininity is embraced through being docile. This could also be said for Islam, where women in Saudi Arabia have limited rights as the country prohibits them from driving, voting, or having any say in public and political settings — does this sound familiar to what we have learned in class?

From the Koran, a similar scripture could be observed:

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Just from the Koran alone (refer to picture above), firstly, we see that women are subordinate to men and that righteous women are obedient (to Allah and men). Secondly, those who are rebellious have been warn that they would be beaten (probably by men).

 

With this, we could say that women committed in and influenced by these religious practices are seen as inferior and subordinate to men in their culture. Thus, femininity within these religious practices is shown through being weak, submissive and subservient to their male counterparts and having no or little say in society. Yet, as of 2015, things changed for the women in Saudi Arabia, as they would be allowed to vote according to Buchanan on BBC news.

While this might be a positive execution for empowering women, many conservative Saudi women surprisingly, do not support the loosening of traditional gender roles and limitations, on the grounds that Saudi Arabia is the closest and most "ideal and pure Islamic nation” Consequently, despite the empowering news, many would still prefer to be subordinate to their male counterparts.

Regardless, our group have found scriptures in the Koran that advocates gender equality — both intrinsically and extrinsically.

O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from them twain hath spread abroad a multitude of men and women. Be careful of your duty toward God in Whom ye claim (your rights) of one another, and toward the wombs (that bear you)” (Koran 4:1)

Similarly, in the New Testament of the Bible, there was a change in how women are to be perceived. They were no longer subordinate to men, but of equal status; the Bible quotes:

“There is no male nor female, for you are all ONE in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28)

This scripture instructs for both men and women to have mutual care and respect for each other. Moreover, during the period of the Protestant Reform, women were encouraged to impose themselves in society, whereby the mother (women) had the same responsibilities as the father (men) in this period.

These variants of Christianity are influenced by the New Testament of the Bible; through this scripture, femininity is shown by women taking on more roles in political and economic world and having a say in decision-making, rather than just being the “homemaker” or subordinate to men.

In conclusion, we definitely agree that religion does affect femininity and how it should be portrayed in society. As Mason (2010) puts it, over millennia, religions have often defined women’s lives; whether they hold a powerful position in society or are being devalued and subversive to their male counterparts — religion plays an important part in influencing women’s oppressions as well as their advances.

However, we do have our critiques on this — because religious beliefs are based on an individual’s or a leader’s interpretation, this results in different variants of the same religion.

For instance,

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Despite being under the same religious umbrella (Christian or Islam), and sharing one Bible or one Koran, we noticed that the same words could be interpreted differently depending on their sects of religion. With this, we feel that anyone with enough influential power (be it pastor, or imam) could influence a group, community or a country of people to believe what that individual beliefs in… even if the intended message was decoded wrongly.

Exploring the beauty of Dravidian temples

IMG_1707 Dravida temples are said to be the product of religious, philosophical, cultural, sociological and aesthetic quest. Southern India temples have a slight different style than those in Northern India. Despite the diversity of architecture in Hindu temples, they are largely similar and share similar attributes. It developed in the late mediaeval times and came to be noted for its enormity and design. Dravidian style of architecture is mainly found in Temple architecture of south India.

Hindu temples has varied shapes and sizes, including the design of its domes and gates- such as rectangular, octagonal, semicircular etc. You name it, they have it. In addition; Hindus don't usually go to the temple as they have a mini prayer room in their house. They go to the temple during the festive seasons such as Thaipusam, Pongal, Panguni etc. where special prayers will take place for specific deities. A typical South Indian temple are fairly well-defined layout and has elegant features such the the front porch,the inner chamber, the dome and steeple,the walkway,the temple tanks & reservoir/rivers and the temple hall. Let’s explore the different features and the significance/purpose of such an architecture in Dravidian temples!

 

The Front Porch:

The front porch is situated at the entrance of the temple. Devotees usually enter through this entrance and also exit through this door when they have finished their prayers.

 The Front Porch of a temple

It has a big metallic bell that hangs elegantly from the roof or sometimes found on the huge temple doors. Devotees who enters and leaves will ring this bells, so as to declare their withdrawal steps from the temple.

 

The Inner Chamber:

The inner chamber of the temple called ‘garbhagriha’ or ‘womb-chamber’. This is where the deity(murti) image/ statue is placed.  The Sanskrit word garbha and griha meant “womb” and  “house” respectively. It literally means “Womb Chamber”. The most important structure of a temple is the garbhagriha/ sanctum sanctorum. These are the “ house” for the presiding deity. It is usually open-cased and sparsely lit, intentionally

Inner chamber of Chennakesava Temple at Belur

creating a focus for the devotees to pray. In most temples, visitors are not allowed to enter the garbhagriha, only priests are allowed. In the Dravidian style, the garbhagriha took the form of a miniature vimana with other features exclusive to southern Indian temple architecture  the inner chamber such as the inner and outer walls creates a pradakshina around it.

Besides, its entrance is beautifully decorated. The inner shrine became a separate structure, it is more elaborately adorned as time passed. The garbhagriha is usually in a square form and it sits on a plinth, where its placement is properly calculated to a point of total equilibrium. Thus, it represents harmony and a microcosm of the Universe.

 

The Dome and Steeple:

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Dravida Style Thanjavur temple,showing the ‘Shikhara’

The steeple of the dome is called ‘Shikhara’ (summit) that represents the mythological ‘Meru’/highest mountain peak. The shape of the dome varies from region to region and the steeple is often in the form of Shiva trident. It consists primarily of pyramid shaped temples called Kovils in Tamil(கோவில்) which has intricate carved stone in order to create a step design consisting of many statues of deities, warriors, kings, and dancers.

The Walkway:

Devotees doing Pradakshina aroung Lord Ganesha

Hindu temples are designed with passageways around the inner chambers to allow devotees to circumambulate, Pradakshina, around the deity as a form of respect to the temples god or goddess. The importance of Pradakshina came from the Hindu scriptures where Lord Ganesha circumambulated around his parents, Lord Shiva and Lord Parvathi to show his gratitude and thank them for their protection and goodwill. Even though, children do not circumambulate around their parents today, some fall on their feet to take blessings during hindu festivals and their birthdays. Devotees perform either 10, 108 or 1000 Pradakshina rounds to thank god if their wishes and prayers came true.

The Temple tanks & Reservoir/Rivers:

Ancient water pool and temple

Many south indian temples have temple tanks because water is considered to be a sacred element in Hinduism.  It is used in various rituals (Poojas and Abhishekam) to bath the deities. This holy water, “theertham”,  is then collected and sprinkled on devotees to bless them or is offered to devotees who will then drink it as it is believed to purify and cleanse their soul. The fresh water from the temple tank is also used to clean the cups and vessels used for the Poojas and also to clean the temple floors. During festive days the devotees are encouraged to take a ritual bath in the reservoirs or river nearby before entering the inner chamber of the temple.  

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Conventional belief suggests that temples had temple tanks to provide villagers with water during droughts and water scarcity so that they would be able to satisfy their basic water needs. Just like the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their life) in the Islam religion, Dravidian people are encouraged to take a holy bath in the Rameshwaram Sea or the Ganga river at least once in their life as they strongly believe that it would cleanse an individual’s soul of past sins and also has the ability to cure illnesses.   

[embed]http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YvXlILRLmI[/embed]

The Temple Hall:

 

Temple Hall with painted ceiling

Wall paintings on Temple Hall ceiling

Most dravidian temples have a hall, Nata-mandira, decorated with intricate painting of deities. The main purpose of the temple hall is to serve as a common place for devotees to gather for various temple activities such as meditating, praying, chanting and also to enjoy indian classical dance performances by Devadasis,

Lord Nadaraja

servant of deva, dedicated to Lord Nataraja and other god or goddess. The temple halls are also used for traditional weddings as two    families come together to get blessings before god as they start their lives.

Temples have been a part of the indian tradition since times immemorial.The majority of the existing temples are located in the Southern Indian states of Tamil nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Northeastern Sri Lanka, Andhra pradesh, Maldives, and various parts of Southeast Asia today. It is amazing to note that these ancient Dravidian temples were built many decades ago with no technology and machines like in the present days, but they still stand strong even in this 21st century! Many new temples around the world have attempted to replicate the architecture of the ancient Dravidian temples. One such temple would be Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple in Singapore.  Believed to be the symbolic reconstruction of the universe, Dravidian temples has been and still is a contribution of blessings, creative art, architecture, sculpture, painting, music, dance, culture and religious activities. We are thus fortunate to have been able to study and know our history and culture and also achieve spiritual contact with the world of Gods in hinduism. Watch this video to know more about the Dravidian culture and heritage!

[embed]http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qAkHGN62mk[/embed]

 

Death....The final journey!!

In India, the concept of life after death is taken very literally. It is often said that the deeds of one’s life determine their life after death. The idea of death and afterlife evolved during the Aryan civilization and the researchers idealized this custom and culture into Hinduism. Hence, when someone dies the loved ones leave no stone unturned in performing the various rituals of Antima Sanskar, which we will discuss about in this blog.

  • Approaching death: Hindus believe that the near to dying person should be taken home where he is close to his loved ones because according to Hindu mythology, prolonging the illness is against the karma. A person should die happily and not stretch life by artificial methods. The person is laid on the floor with his head facing in the east direction and with a lamp lit near his body to spread aroma. The priest chants mantras from the Rig Veda and sings hymns to create a pious environment. If the dying person seems to be unconscious, a family member chants “Aum Namo Narayana” or “Aum Namo Sivaya” in the right ear to calm the soul.
  • The moment of death: The dead body is placed on the ground in the hallway with the head facing in the south direction. Placing the body on the floor signifies that the body returns Mother Earth, where it was initially created. The priest chants Vedic hymns and puts a few drops of milk or holy water (River Ganges) into the mouth and applies holy ash or sandalwood paste on the forehead to release the soul from the body. The thumbs and toes are tied together respectively and a white cloth is tied below the chin and over the head of the dead body.
  • The (Homa) Fire Ritual: This ritual involves creating a fire place under a shelter or inside the house. The priest performs the rite in the presence of family members whereby they honour nine brass Kumbhas (water pots) and one clay pot. The eldest son perform leads this rite in case of the father’s death and the youngest son preforms in the case of mother’s death. He is regarded as a chief mourner or karta.
  • Preparation of the dead body: The body is covered with white cloth and taken to homa fire where the eldest son or the chief mourner encircles around the dead body with a burning wooden stick in hand. The body is then offered rice puffs for better nourishment in his next life.

  • Cremation: In Hinduism, only men are allowed to attend the cremation ceremony (funeral). The body is placed on wooden stacks like structure (pyre) and the chief mourner takes three rounds in the anti-clockwise direction. He carries a clay pot filled with water on his shoulder making holes after each round to release water from the pot. This signifies that the soul of the deceased person is leaving into a new world with a whole new life.

 

  • Bone-Gathering Ceremony: After one day from the cremation ceremony, men in the family return to collect the remains of the body. The remains which include ashes and small pieces of bones are collected in a small clay pot covered by a red cloth and water is sprinkled on the ash to settle all the impurities and dead body’s remains into the Earth (the creator). As per the last wish of the dead person, the ashes are carried to the river Ganges or any other holy river or ocean along with flowers.

  • First Memorial: This ritual is usually organized on the third, fifth, seventh, ninth or thirteenth day of the death, where relatives and friends come to give condolences and eat deceased person’s favorite foods. A photo is placed in the centre of the hallway where people offer flowers and put garlands and a portion of food is offered too. This ritual varies from family to family. Some people offer pinda (rice balls) for nine days to the priests or others combine it into a one day ceremony.
  • One Month Memorial: This rite is performed to purify the home from the spirit of the deceased person. The priest performs the Sapindikarana ceremony in which 3 small pinda (rice balls) are made representing father, grandfather and great-grandfather; this shows that Hindu rituals revolve around the family tree. One large pinda is also made which is then cut into three pieces to join the three small pindas representing the males in the family. This ritual unites the deceaseds’ soul with the ancestors because Hindus believe in reincarnation.

Each Hindu family in India performs the rituals mentioned above in order to show their respect for the deceased. The concept of “Rest in Peace” is exercised by performing these rituals in the Hindu society.

Finding Ourselves Through the Quran

e404e10651024c1a16639cab9f767719 (1) The Quran, like many other religious books, appeals to many. It speaks to the soul when the mind struggles for answers to life’s unpredictability. It speaks to feelings of insecurity and vulnerability that are acknowledged to no one. It speaks the limbo between life and death, health and illness, abundance and want. The literal word of God in the Quran offers hope beyond humankind’s limitations, through complete submission to Allah and His assigned code of conduct.

The Quran dates back to the year 610 CE in the town of Mecca. A middle-aged man, by the name of Muhammad, received a divine revelation during one of his spiritual retreats. He was initially confused but later convinced that his encounter was from Allah and he was willed to be the Prophet of God. Thereafter, he continued to receive such revelations which were passed on verbally to his followers.

In the society that Muhammad inhabited, there was widespread social turbulence, gender inequality and moral decline. In such a crisis, the messages of the Quran arrived timely and brought order to society. Followers were expected to maintain laws on civil affairs, such as behavior in marriage and inheritance. In addition, followers were taught to excel in duties to Allah and in personal conduct, such as by showing benevolence towards people. People were seen to express more concern for the less fortunate and developed a stronger sense of community.

 

Today, the Quran continues to guide and mould the lives of many, both Muslims and non-Muslims. As a non-Muslim, I adore the beauty of the Quran in shedding perspectives on how we can approach life.

Chase meaning instead of avoiding discomfort

Al-Hajj 22:46

“So have they not traveled through the earth and have hearts by which to reason and ears by which to hear? For indeed, it is not eyes that are blinded, but blinded are the hearts which are within the breasts.” (Sahih International)

The verse above reminds us that we are creatures of emotions and are vulnerable to our feelings. At times, the heart may cloud our better judgement and we act irrationally. For instance, worrying is like a rocking chair, a whole lot of movement but does not get you anywhere. Instead of holding onto joy and artfully dodging discomfort, seek to learn in every situation.People have the tendency to remain in their comfort zone, embracing ease of the heart without realising the opportunities they miss out on. However, this verse teaches us to detach from our emotions and be bold to pursue wisdom through life’s journey, regardless where it takes us. Nurture a heart that chases meaning.

Appreciate the abundance you have

At-Tawbah 9:40

“If you do not aid the Prophet - Allah has already aided him when those who disbelieved had driven him out [of Makkah] as one of two, when they were in the cave and he said to his companion, "Do not grieve; indeed Allah is with us." And Allah sent down his tranquillity upon him and supported him with angels you did not see and made the word of those who disbelieved the lowest, while the word of Allah - that is the highest. And Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.” (Sahih International)

In this verse, unbelievers in Makkah were after the Prophet and had planned to assassinate him in order to stop the spread of Islam. Even though the Prophet faced impending danger, he remained calm. He told his companion (Abu Bakr) to persevere in their mission for Allah and reassured him that Allah was watching over them. It is amazing how the Prophet held great optimism even in such an uncertain circumstance. He chose not to magnify his problems, but to magnify what he already had; Allah. This verse encourages us to take a step back from our micro lenses and appreciate what we already possess. Perhaps happiness is not dependent on acquiring something, or seeing the result we desire, or absence of anxiety and pain. Rather, it is knowing we already have so much good in our life. It is about contentment.

 

Violent extremism is a single story we associate with Islam. Here, I offer you a less dim story: Islam encourages a peaceful and liberating life. It teaches people to value the life of the mind. It encourages people to contemplate and think for themselves. When we understand the power of our thoughts in creating perceptual reality, we will discover more of ourselves each day. 

MYTHICAL TWINS!

Hey guys! So! To make our last blog post relatable and memorable to us, we decided on the topic of twins in mythology (Hurrayyyy!). Even though we are twins ourselves, we still find it fascinating when we come across another set of twins but perhaps, not as much a non-twin individual would (we might be wrong here). Anyway, back to the topic, we really wanted to do something fun and something that was particularly closer to us both so we thought why not twins? and here we are. In class, we already learnt about the story of the orphaned twins Romulus and Remus, who were raised in the wilderness and discovered the magnificent city of Rome. So for today, we will be exploring more on other twins in ancient mythology and what essentially made their story so interesting and famous. There are many different versions of every story so keep that in mind!

Heracles and Iphicles (Hercules and Iphecules)

Heracles (or Hercules) and Iphicles were twin brothers. Heracles was believed to be the son of Greek god, Zeus and thus, his superpowers. Iphicles on the other hand, was the son of Amphitryon and Alcmene (their mom) who were both mortals so he did not have any of his brother’s superpowers. This may perhaps explained why Heracles was more famous and why many of you did not know that he had a twin brother (AM I RIGHT?!). What essentially made people believe that Heracles was the son of Zeus is the story of when the twin brothers were infants. Apparently, when Hera, third lawful wife of Zeus, knew that he cheated on her and heard about the twins, she got jealous and sent two serpents down to kill them. While Iphicles screamed and cried when he saw the serpents, Heracles on the other hand, choked the serpents by their throats and killed them.

While we do not know much about Iphicles, what we do know is that he joined his brother on many adventures and eventually died battling the Moliones (another pair of twins, Eurytus and Cteatus, sons of Poseidon and Molione) with Heracles. In Greek mythology, Heracles was described as a demigod who grew up to become a strong warrior and a hero. He was famous for accomplishing the “twelve labors” that made him immortal. Additionally, he also played a big role in the victory of the Olympians against the Giants.(Read more about that here: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/Herakles/giants.html)

Apollo and Artemis

In Greek mythology, Apollo was the God of the sun, music and prophecy, and Artemis was the Virgin Goddess of the moon, childbirth, hunt, and nature.

The pair Apollo and Artemis was the son and daughter of Zeus (the King of the Gods) and his favorite lover, Leto (a Titan goddess). The birth story of the twins was not an easy one because Heta (the legitimate wife of Zeus) was envious and hated Leto despite the fact that the pregnancy happened before her marriage with Zeus. When Heta heard about the pregnancy, she made sure to stir up all sorts of trouble for Leto and even chased her out of Olympus. Heta also prohibited everyone in Greece from providing help and refuge to Leto. She went as far as to prevent her own daughter Eileithyia (the goddess of childbirth) from aiding Leto during childbirth. Even more outrageous, she had a large serpent called Python hunt down Leto WHILE SHE WAS PREGNANT!!! What a cruel woman!!

Leto eventually settled on an island called Delos. Leto was miserable and was in immense pain for nine days before finally giving birth to Artemis on the tenth day at a nearby pond. Soon after, Artemis assisted her mother in the delivery of her twin brother, Apollo. Hence, Artemis also became known as the new goddess of childbirth. AND! After only FOUR DAYS following their birth, the young and strong Apollo avenged his mother’s pain by killing Python. (YASSSSS!)

Yama and Yami

All direct quotes came from only one source linked in the above heading

Yama and Yami were the son and daughter of Surya (the Sun God) and Sanjna (meaning Conscience). The story goes that Yama and Yami were the first mortals on Earth. Like the story of Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis, they were also “born into a garden of earthly delights.” Their love for one another prospered as they grew. While Yama’s love for Yami was always platonic and brotherly, Yami wanted more. Yami was devastated by her brother’s rejection and distanced herself away from him.

When she came back later on, she found Yama lying motionless underneath a tree. She called out his name and shook him but he never woke up. The understanding that she was now the only human left on this world made her absolutely heartbroken and miserable. She cried so much that her tears became “a river (the Yamuna), which began to flood the earth.”

The gods wanted to help her but she would continuously say: “But Yama just died today! Yama died today!” The gods then realized that Yami’s nonstop grief and mourning was due to the fact that she lived in “a perpetual interval of time.” There was no yesterday or tomorrow. Hence, this was how night was created as the gods combined their powers to make the sun set below the western horizon and rise above the eastern horizon.

Then, Yami slept through the night for the first time ever and woke up and said: “Why, Yama must have died yesterday!” Therefore, as time passed, her sadness slowly diminished and she became prudent from her acknowledgment of her hardship and her understanding of what it means to be a human.

For Yama, because he was the first human to die and to “discover the ineffable secrets of life, death, and the cosmic laws that govern existence.” There, he became the God of Death, with a secondary title of Dharmaraja, which means “the ‘King of Dharma’ or righteousness.”

Hunahpu and Xbalanque (The Hero Twins)

The Hero Twins, known as Hunahpu and Xbalanque, are popular Mayan demigods. Their story came from Mayan ancient sacred text, the Popol Vuh otherwise known as “The Book of Council”.

To tell the birth story of the Hero Twins, we must first look at their father, One Hunahpu who happened to also have a twin brother, Seven Hunahpu. They were described as knowledgeable and good by nature. One thing that they most enjoyed doing was playing ball and this somehow angered the Death Lords of Xibalba (Mayan underworld). They were thus, summoned to Xibalba, where they were put to many trials and was eventually deceived by the lords and they died in sacrifice. The head of One Hunahpu magically appeared on a tree, which was then touched by Xquic, a goddess of Xibalba and she was pregnant with the Hero twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque.

Just like their father, the Hero Twins also enjoyed playing ball and they were great players. However, they made a lot of noise and this angered the Lords of Xibalba who called them to the Underworld to play a ball game. The Twins similarly went through the trials and they passed them all because they knew the story of their father and uncle. The Death Lords again tried to trick them but they did not fall into the trap. However, they did let the Death Lords kill them because they knew they had to die to essentially become divine. After they returned, the Hero Twins possessed a supernatural power that allows them to bring any living thing back to life when they wish to do so.  Upon hearing this news, the Death Lords eagerly asked the boys to kill them and bring them back to life but unfortunately for them, the Hero Twins knew better and they did not resurrect the Death Lords. Ultimately, the sky gods made the Hero Twins become the rulers of the Earth; they turned into the Sun and the Moon.

The video below tells another version of the story with beautiful artworks. Do check it out if you have time :)

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jb5GKmEcJcw[/embed]

 

Thank you for reading and we hope you've enjoyed reading about twins! Farewell!!! :D

 

A Day in the Life of a Mongol

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JpcwAq4Ze0M  

Today, we will be shifting our attention from our previous post in China southwestwards to the Mongolians! However, before we begin, let’s run through some of the terminology, as people might mix up the differences (or similarities) between Mongols and Mongolians.

 

Mongol is the noun to describe a member of pastoral groups of people living mainly in Mongolia, of Mongolian tongue. Whereas Mongolian is the noun that describes not only the person, but can be also used as an adjective to describe the Mongol culture or language. For the sake of this post, we will be using both terms interchangeably!

 

The Mongols are a people with a vast history and deep culture, such that attempting to cover their entire history would be impossible in a thesis paper, much less a blog post. As such, we will be focusing on three main areas of the Mongols today: We will be taking a brief look into their culture, sports and contribution to trade in the silk road. This will give us a better perspective into the lives of these Mongols, and allow us to understand better the values, trials and lifestyles these people once led and still do.

 

MONGOL CULTURE

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The Mongols lead Nomadic lifestyles, up till this day. This means that they travel with the seasons, moving according to optimal climate and living conditions. They are well known for their hospitality, serving refreshments to the passing travellers and leaving their gers open for them to rest, should there be a need to. Their travelling route follows an exclusive routine, with each clan moving to a specific grazing field as used by the same clan members the year before. This ensures that there are no clashes in 'territory' between the clans when it came to a certain season in the year. Due to their nomadic lifestyle, agriculture alone is not enough for sustenance. Therefore, since ancient times, the Mongolians relied on trades with nearby civilizations for grain, rice, tea, silk, etc. One of which would be their active involvement in Silk Road, which we will be discussed later.

 

While it is stereotypical to have the impression that the Mongolians are a barbaric and violent bunch, as displayed in MANY of our class crash course videos, they actually have a pretty artsy side to them - did you know that they are also very much involved in music, as we are? :D

 

Despite being cut off from the typical music industry, the Mongols are excellent musicians themselves - masters of the art of Khoomi singing (or throat singing), and the playing of the Morin Huur. Khoomi singing, basically producing two or more notes in a breath, is sung by dividing the mouth into two cavities and changing the resonance pitches of each - this produces a base pitch with one cavity, and an accompanying harmonic note with the other. A listener would hear a very clear bass note, accompanied by a crisp overtone, which is the accompanying note that is created. This form of singing is usually accompanied by a Morin Huur - a two stringed fiddle that usually has a head of a horse carved into it, due to their ‘almost-worship’ of the horse, hence giving it the English name of Horse Head Fiddle. While it is used in performances today, it was initially used for rituals and everyday activities by the Mongols, from dancing to even taming of some animals! 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQkrsdjJB2s

 

MONGOL SPORTS

images-3

 

When discussing about the Mongolians, how can we forget about their sport history? Mongolians have three main traditional sports in which they pride very strongly. They are collectively known as the “Three Manly Skills”. These traditional sports have been passed down for centuries; they are archery, horsemanship and wrestling.They are usually played during the Naadam festival where the mongolians celebrate and recognise their rich history, even till this day! Out of the three, Bökh or Mongolian wrestling is the main highlight. And if you think that mere brute strength is all that is needed for this sport, you are truly mistaken! Besides strength, good execution technique and intelligence (tactics) are crucial to bringing your opponent down.

 

In the past, wrestling was a way to keep the Mongolian army fit and combat-ready. Today, Mongolian wrestlers adopt that spirit and embody the ancient ideas of nobility, strength and chivalrous sportsmanship. Watch this video clip to see how SIZE and STRENGTH do not always win you battles :)

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ry-OuWGhjVg

 

MONGOLS AND SILKROAD

 

Pax Mongolica

Mongol Empire map.gif

In 1206, Genghis Khan was announced the ruler of all Mongol tribes. In his project of world conquest, he undertook numerous military campaigns. Some tribes he conquered included the northern parts of China, Tibet and Beijing. From 1218 to 1220, he dominated the central parts of Asia. His sole rule of the Silk Road connected the trade that centers across Asia and Europe, allowing for Pax Mongolica to be established. Pax Mongolica (Mongol Peace) describes the easiness of transport, unified rule and period of peace following the Mongols’ conquests. The period of Pax Mongolica allowed for the flow of goods, information, ideas, people and culture to take place. With the unification under the Mongols, it allowed systematic administration, increased trade and assured security for traders. As such, we cannot deny the efforts of the Mongolians in creating the improved Silk Road.

 

Blackdeath2.gif However, everything has its ups and downs. While the exchange of goods and resources may have positively benefited many regions in the world, it brought about negative impacts, as well, that should not be sidelined. With this improvised interconnection, the spread of diseases was easily intensified. The Black Death, also known as the Bubonic Plague, took place in the fourteenth century killing about 60% of Europe’s entire population (or 50 million people). The disease circulates among wild rodents that lived in great numbers, and a plague among humans arose when these rats became infected. These black rats, also known as ‘house rats’ and the ‘ship rats’, lived near human vicinity, which made it even more dangerous. Historians have asserted that this is said to be the greatest catastrophe ever. Effects of the Black Death, coupled with civil wars staged by opposing forces weakened the Mongols' empire, eventually causing its decline and collapse, and leading to a permanent shift of world power from the east to the west. 

 

Today, the Mongols continue to live Nomadic lives, travelling according to the seasons, as they have been doing since their origin. In this day and age, where diplomatic ties play a huge role between countries, the once fearsome roar of the Mongols have simmered down into a quiet purr. Nonetheless, the Mongol's role in the silk road and their involvement in trade have helped shape the world we live in today. While they continue living tucked away in the vast plains of Mongolia, their traditions remain intact, as it had been throughout the generations, maintaining the rich lifestyle they are so well known for having, till this day.

ξέρετε τι λέτε - Do you know what you're saying?

Greek language has a long history together with the rich heritage of the Greeks in general and it has evolved many times into Modern Greek today. As we have learnt, Greek is an Indo-European language. We have also learnt that Greek language and the culture have been playing huge roles in shaping our society and the influence is still seen in our world today. For instance, the philosophy texts which are credited for the Western world foundation were in Greek and in many dialects of Greek to be exact. The New Testament of the bible was also written in common Greek (Koine Greek). The words we use every day also have Greek etymology and influence, sneaking into our everyday lives and once again, re-emphasising how Greek culture has shaped our society today.

In this blog post, I will be focusing on how Greek language has influenced all of us reading this blog post (or those who speak English, which is a huge number), through our everyday spoken words.

Do you really know what you’re saying? I mean, how well do you know the words you’re using, about their etymologies?

 

The brand: Hermes

Have you ever struggled with trying to pronounce the luxury brand that people rave about for their handbags, belts and bracelets? I know I did and I can help you with that today! It is not pronounced as “her-mess” but “airrr-misz” in Greek. You’ve got to roll your tongue for the rrrrrr’s. However, the English pronounciation would be “her-miss”, much easier for daily conversational use. Unless you want to be as fancy as the luxury brand, then the Greek pronunciation would probably be a better option.Click on the hyperlink for the actual pronunciation if you’re still unsure.

This word used for the French luxury fashion brand has its roots from Greek culture and Greek mythology to be exact. Hermes is the son of Zeus (yes, again) and Maia. He was a Greek messenger god, god of trade/merchant as well as the god of thieves, travellers and athletes. Hermes was a cheeky god who enjoyed tricking other gods for his own enjoyment or at times he tricked them in order to help the mortals. He was cunning ever since he was an infant as he sneaked out of his cradle and stole Apollo’s goats which made Apollo so mad. He was also skilled in many aspects such as having eloquence, dexterity, inventing.

With all the recent lectures about trade, I guess Hermes must have been a popular Greek god to worship then because of the prevalence of trade and how trade can bring riches to people and society.

In my opinion, he was a really competent and witty god that was just a little too mischievous at times and like how every story needs a witty-comedic character, Hermes has that role in Greek mythology. Kind of like Puck in Midsummer Night's Dream.

 

Also, his symbolic objects or “logos” are a sandal with wings (talaria), the kerykeion (herald's rod), petasos (brimmed cap) with wings and chlamys (traveller's cloak).

 

 

 

 

 

 

The above images are the logos or symbols of “Hermes” the Greek god, On the other hand, the logo representing “Hermes” to most people today are these...

 

Chronology/Chrono-

Now, it’s time for a more commonly used term in our spoken language- Chronology. Chronology is defined as the order in which a series happened and Chrono- is a word-forming-element of time. These words or terms have Greek etymology and it is related to the Greek god of time, Cronos/Kronos. Cronos is a titan, the father of the Greek Olympian gods that we are more familiar with such as Zeus, Poseidon and Hades (the big 3). He overthrew his father and his children overthrew him, because karma.

Before he was overthrown by his children, he made the extra precaution of eating his children once they were born. However, his wife was upset and managed to trick Cronus and prevented Zeus from being eaten. Zeus then forced his father to spew his siblings out who fought together with Zeus against their father in which they succeeded.

 

Other Words/Terms

Other than words with etymology related to Greek mythology, there are also words that are not related to Greek mythology. For instance, kudos which means praise in Greek and even today in English. Anemia which means the lack of red blood cells today came from the Greek word “aneimon” means unclad, or without. One “without” red blood cells would thus have Anemia. Eureka, an exclamation when one discovers something. A word which was shouted by a Greek mathematician who found out if he was cheated by a goldsmith during his bath.

 

 

The list of words could go on forever and this just shows how much we are influenced by Greek language unknowingly or maybe knowingly, every day. As such, continuing and carrying the culture of Greeks even though we do not seem closely related to the Greeks. The language of Greek shown through English single-word etymologies demonstrate what the Greeks valued-their religion, mythology, trade, mathematics. And yet people say “a picture paints a thousand words”! I think it should be “a word tells a thousand/billion/gazillion words”.

I know there has been many blog posts written about the Greeks and it is not tested in our upcoming exam, but I really am attracted to Greek culture and I hope you guys enjoy learning about it as much as I did while preparing for the blog post!

 

Picture URLs

http://cdn.totalsororitymove.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/ea3fd306b431d2a4bc577a5f57f9f6102022047862.png

http://www.hellenicgods.org/_/rsrc/1266592529619/k/Kerykeion.jpg?height=200&width=154

https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQDHziYhbO6bC1X7vWxZVQ41abqJegC5llqz2sShQt9amoG3lgscQ

http://arachne.uni-koeln.de/images/Abbildungen/FADatenbankabb0725/D-DAI-ROM-731_39163.jpg

http://www.messala.de/images/Kostuem-griech-29.jpg

https://encrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTK6tqfx2ddMr-wsWWj3qJBlZkII9XrReSStj9vd4Xm6yd12xuZ

http://www.arthurbarnett.co.nz/images/assetimages/Logos/hermes.jpg

https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQVM1AsGA3eHlIL2pfcUOTTD3gl9LcHdIxuU9fP3uXYrjSaO_hR

 

Nanny-nanny-poopoo, you cannot see me

Heyho!  

So this is the last blog post of the module… Honestly having some mixed feelings here.

 

Even though it takes me much more pain, time and effort to write up these blog posts compared to the ones in my own blog, I must say it has been a fulfilling journey of learning to find out about things more intentionally.

 

NO RAGRETSSSSSSSSSSS

Seldom do I get pushed out of my comfort zone (but actually, it really is just pure laziness) to find out about something that sparked my interest. Many times, that moment of interest will soon be forgotten and there goes the opportunity that I could have learn something.

 

OK NO NO, before I rattle off my feelings and emotions as if this is my private blog, l shall go on to my topic of the day right awayyyyyyyyy!

 

So as usual, I was thinking of what I can talk about, again (this is like the question of the century, really), and suddenly, I got reminded of something interesting I heard in class just today.

 

 

But nah, not going to play the guessing game with you today.

SO, presenting to you:

(However, after reading up on Biete Ghiorgis, I feel there is not much meaningful information available; hence, I decided to find out about this particular type of church in Ethiopia as a whole.)

 

 

King Lalibela and his churches

In the mountainous region of a town called Lalibela that is in the heart of Ethiopia, there exists 11 churches today in which the building of these churches have been specially attributed to their king then, King Lalibela. Biete Ghiorgis is one of these churches.

 

Hmm... Why were these churches attributed to their king? What is so special about these 11 churches?

 

Well, in the 12th century, King Lalibela was the one who set out to construct a symbol of the holy land (Jerusalem), where Christian pilgrimages could (hopefully) be made possible without the Christians having to risk their lives. This was after the Muslims conquering Jerusalem, which was the original holy land.

 

Because King Lalibela was the one who call for the Second Jerusalem to be built, the world today attributes the creation of these 11 churches to him.

 

Also, these churches are so special because...

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THEY ARE CARVED OUT OF ROCKS.

Yes, I totally am serious. It was unbelievable for me too because… just imagine the amount of spatial imagination, planning and time needed to do it??!?! For each church built, it is essentially one piece of stone shaped inside out!!!!

 

 

Yeah, that is really some high-leveled skills and devotion right there. But it was not for no-reason that they decided to build the churches in such a tedious manner.

 

 

Birth of monolithic cave churches

Back then, Lalibela feared further invasions of the Muslims. So he thought of building the churches below the surface of the ground by carving the churches out of the rocks in the mountains, so that when viewed from lower planes in the mountainous regions, the enemies would not be able to see the churches.

 

In addition, the strategic construction of those 11 churches had proven itself effective when Ahmad ibn Ibrihim al-Ghazi led a Muslim invasion in Ethiopia in the sixteenth century. Then, he only claimed to have destroyed one stone church without mentioning about the 11 churches at all. WHOOHOO!

 

I think it was super brilliant of King Lalibela to have thought of building the churches like that. Also, he was brave enough to have thought of that because the amount of effort, time and perhaps, manpower, needed seem daunting and impossible already. Yet, King Lalibela had the courage to carry out this mission.

 

It is in this impossibility that we can precisely imagine how much devotion King Lalibela and his society had in that religion that they believed in, also known as Christianity.

And also, it made me ponder on what influence and importance must Christianity have had on the society in Lalibela that it led to such devotion in the people's creation of these churches.

 

Faith in a belief is needed to sustain people, people need faith in order to sustain their belief.

 

Faith sustains us. Where have you placed your faith in today?

∇ Introducing The Torah a.k.a the Tawrah a.k.a. the Pentateuch ∇

The Torah, a product of the Revelation at Sinai to Moses

~ Why care about the Torah/Tawrah/Pentateuch? ~

What do five books have to do with 3.78 billion people in the world? Such is the scale of the relevance of the holy scripture, the Torah (תורה), as it is known in Judaism, also known as the Tawrah in Islam, and the Pentateuch in Christianity. The five books are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

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Known across all three religions as the Law of Moses, these five books present the revelations of God to Moses, the historical figure to whom the Torah is attributed to. Mount Sinai marks this divine impartation during the Exodus of Israel from Egypt.

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These five books span origin stories from Creation, the Genesis flood narrative, the Passover, the Exodus of the Israel and the formation of their community, to laws and even records of genealogy.

 

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, before the Fall of Man

 

The Genesis Flood Narrative

Genesis could be seen as the cosmic narrative of world order, humanity. The focus centers upon Abraham and his sons (Jacob and Israel), and the formation and expansion of their 12 tribes.

 

How the Abrahamic tradition sets the ground for Judaism, Christianity and Islam

 

Exodus talks about how Moses help to guide the Israelites back to their promised land (Israel) as provided by God and the journey they took to travel from Egypt towards Israel. It is also the book where the Revelation at Sinai took place.

Wanna take a walk in the desert?

 

leviticus-slider

Leviticus is dependant on Exodus as the codification of guidelines for the people of God to be set apart in a fallen world corrupted by the presence of sin. Hence, God’s standards are set into tangible laws for lawbreakers (as all are fallen), and talks about the holy and the common, the clean and the unclean, as well as purification rituals to be reconciled to God.

What Leviticus talks a lot about...

 

As the Israelites’ time in the desert draws to a close, the book of Numbers emphasise on the geographic, the desert wandering location when Moses and the Israelites travel from Egypt to the Promise Land.

 

Joshua and Caleb, the two spies, return with positive news of the Promise Land “flowing with milk and honey” amidst the ten other spies’ fears

 

The Brazen Serpent is made for Israelites to look to and be healed from fiery flying serpents for speaking up against God and Moses

 

Deuteronomy focuses on the way how Israel should live in order to maintain its authority (socially and politically) and reminders of God’s covenant with Israel.

 

Reminders on God’s covenant with Israel from Deuteronomy

 

A guideline to understanding Deuteronomy

Weaved together in both Oral and the canonized Written form, the Torah (meaning “instruction”) has set the social, cultural and religious foundations for the formation of the Jewish community.

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Similarly, as Christianity (both Protestant and Orthodox/Catholic traditions) sees itself as fulfilling the Messianic prophecies of Judaism, the Pentateuch (“five vessels”) set the theological foundations of the Bible, compiled about 725 years after the Jewish canon, the Tanakh, where the Torah is found in.

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The Quran, compiled about 600 years after the Bible, includes the Tawrah (“the Law”) as a true message of God. Perceiving the Tanakh and Bible to be earlier versions of the message of God corrupted by man, Islam nonetheless upholds the prophethood of Moses just as Judaism and Christianity do.

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Because of the theological significance of these five books, a well-read cosmopolitan thinker could thrive on how the depth and nuances of these five books go beyond a single narrative to shape Judaism, Christianity and Islam - dynamic global communities across times and civilizations.

~ Judaism and the Torah ~

Jewish scholars study the Torah

Meaning “instruction”, the Torah is known as law of command that is passed from God to Moses in the form of the five holy books. These form the first section of the Tanakh, Judaism’s holy book, for the Jews. The aim of these books, in Judaism, is to guide people to carry out the right actions.

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The Abrahamic narrative of the covenant between God and man, as we have covered in Experiments in Monotheism, could be summarized, once again, through this verse:

“I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. (Genesis 17:7).”

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For Jews, the Torah thus taught people about laws needed to uphold the covenant. The Torah’s stories, recited on the Sabbath morning service, revolve around Creation, the Fall of Man, the Covenant, Israel’s Exodus and eventual prophesied return to the Promise Land. The Torah hence also reveals the right ways to govern as guided by God to Moses for the establishment of an ideal society with the right worship.

 

Want a Yad to go a mile with the Torah?

 

The Torah is considered so holy that people are to avoid any contact with the parchment of the Torah scrolls, made from animal skins, so as to prevent damage via fingers (acidic sweat). Thus, a pointer, Yad, is used to mark the specific portion of the text when being read. In Hebrew, Yad refers to the hand, and so this corresponds to the shape of the hand on the pointer, with the index finger pointing upwards. Do you also notice how the Yad is supposed to ‘point’ the reader to the ‘truth’?

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On a more holy note, the scrolls of Torah are kept in the ‘Ark of Covenant’ (holy cabinet) and it is sometimes called the ‘Chumash’ in Hebrew. For the Jews, there is a presence of the ‘Oral Torah’, known as ‘The Talmud’, for the explaining and the teaching of the interpretation of the written version of the Torah and their applications to Laws. This oral form of Torah was later written into words called the Mishnah.

From “words” to words - the Oral Torah

 

~ Christianity and the Pentateuch ~

Cross-reference to the Torah in Psalms, also known as Tehillim (“Praises”), a book in both the Tanakh and the Bible

 

The significant role played by the Torah in Christianity is similar to that played by the Judaism as one can trace the origins of Christianity from Judaism. In fact, these two religions have many overlaps. For instances, the Torah is a form of instructions/laws for the people and Yahweh is the God of these two religion. The key difference is that the God of Judaism is Yahweh and does not recognize the Christian concept of the Triune God which includes Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit, in addition to God the Father.

The Trinity

 

Islam and the ‘Tawrah’

So, what is the significance of the Torah in terms of Islam? While God in the context of Islam is ‘Allah’ (in Judaism it is ‘Yahweh’), Muslims refer to the true Torah with the Arabic word Tawrah ( توراة‎). Islamic belief towards the Torah is similar to the Jewish belief on that it too refers to the five holy books given by God to Moses, however it is considered to be a holy scripture of the past as it is believed to have been corrupted (via misrepresentations) as mentioned previously. Muslims believe the Quran to be the final, perfect word of Allah.

 

Holy Quran

 

Adding onto the point of scripture, although the Torah is written in Hebrew and Quranic text, plus supplementary religious scriptures, are written in Arabic the two languages share some similarities when it comes to their letters, words and pronunciations; but while the Torah talks only about instructions to its believing people, the Quran involves teachings through stories. Another difference to note would be that the Jewish belief is such that prophethood ends with Moses and the Torah; however, Islamic belief is such that Moses was a prophet and the revelation of the Tawrah was sent to him, but prophethood and revelation ends with the holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the Quran.

 

Hagar and Ishmael

Despite the major difference stated above, there are some similarities between some Jewish and Islamic beliefs when it comes to prophethood. For one thing Abraham, Ismail (Ishmael in Hebrew) and Isaac are all believed to be part of prophethood in Islam as well, but it is believed Abrahamic religion was a predecessor of Islam, that they were still carrying the message of Allah.

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As with this example, similarities will be seen throughout some narratives, the difference is mainly seen when explaining the narratives in the context of Islam (i.e. it is believed to be the spread of Islamic teaching instead of Jewish teaching). But of course, in other examples you will witness a complete difference in narratives, and at times you may see the same names but a different narrative or the same narratives but different names.

 

~ How then shall we live? ~

The Torah, while an ancient text, still speaks across times, cultures and civilizations today to have a universal message for mankind, whether religious or secular.

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Even as five books, the oneness of the Torah not only present the Law of Moses, but the foundations of three influential religions in the world til today. From origin stories of mankind to guidelines for lifestyles, it could be attributed to the Torah how the kosher tradition and the 2014 film, Exodus: Gods and Kings, came about.

Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014 film)

Whether you may be an adherent of the three religions, like Google’s estimated 53% of the world population, or not, the Torah opens up one’s eyes to cultures and community narratives, and may only inspire more possibilities to answer, “why do we study history?”

 


 

Sources Used

http://jerusalemcouncil.org/articles/teaching/torah/

http://www.ancient.eu/Torah/

http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?historyid=ab85

http://www.torahresourcesinternational.info/definition.php

http://www.jewfaq.org/torah.htm

http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1426382/jewish/Torah.htm

http://christianity.about.com/od/booksofthebible/tp/Books-Of-The-Bible.htm

http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/the-torah/

http://www.jewfaq.org/torah.htm

http://www.unchangingword.com/kitabulmuqaddas.php

http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Articles/Torah-Aware/torah-aware.html

http://www.bridgesforpeace.com/il/teaching-letter/article/why-christians-should-study-torah-and-talmud

https://www.gci.org/law/lawmoses