Posted tagged ‘News’

Top 10 Temples in the World …..

June 3, 2008

Tiger’s Nest Monastery, perched precariously on the edge of a 3,000-feet-high cliff in Paro Valley, is one of the holiest places in Bhutan

Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Mai, Thailand is unlike any Buddhist temples in the world.

fROM sEX tO bIRTH !!……

May 21, 2008

 

A pregnant woman near the end of term 

A pregnant woman near the end of term

Pregnancy (latin graviditas) is the carrying of one or more offspring, known as a fetus or embryo, inside the uterus of a female human. In a pregnancy, there can be multiple gestations, as in the case of twins or triplets. Human pregnancy is the most studied of all mammalian pregnancies. Obstetrics is the medical field that studies and treats pregnant patients.

Childbirth usually occurs about 38 weeks from fertilization, i.e., approximately 40 weeks from the start of the last menstruation. Thus, pregnancy lasts about nine months, although the exact definition of the English word “pregnancy” is a subject of controversy.

One scientific term for the state of pregnancy is gravid, and a pregnant female is sometimes referred to as a gravida. Both words are rarely used in common speech. Similarly, the term “parity” (abbreviated as “para”) is used for the number of previous successful live births. Medically, women who have never been pregnant are referred to as “nulliparous” (“gravida 0, para 0”), during a first pregnancy as a “primigravida” (“gravida 1, para 0”) and in subsequent pregnancies as “multigravida” or “multiparous”. Hence during a second pregnancy a woman would be described as “gravida 2, para 1” and upon delivery as “gravida 2, para 2”. Incomplete pregnancies of abortions, miscarriages or stillbirths account for parity values being less than the gravida number, whereas a multiple birth will increase the parity value.

The term embryo is used to describe the developing offspring during the initial weeks, and the term fetus is used from about two months of development until birth.

In many societies’ medical and legal definitions, human pregnancy is somewhat arbitrarily divided into three trimester periods, as a means to simplify reference to the different stages of prenatal development. The first trimester carries the highest risk of miscarriage (natural death of embryo or fetus). During the second trimester, the development of the fetus can be more easily monitored and diagnosed. The beginning of the third trimester often approximates the point of viability, or the ability of the fetus to survive, with or without medical help, outside of the uterus.

Characteristics

Pregnancy occurs as the result of the female gamete or oocyte (egg) being penetrated by the male gamete spermatozoon in a process referred to, in medicine, as “fertilization“, or more commonly known as “conception”. The fusion of male and female gametes usually occurs through the act of sexual intercourse or, very rarely, other non-penetrative sexual activity. However, the advent of artificial insemination has also made achieving pregnancy possible in such cases where sexual intercourse is not potentially fertile (through choice or male/female infertility).

Though pregnancy begins at implantation, it is more convenient to date from the first day of a woman’s last menstrual period (acronym = LMP), or from the date of conception (if known). Starting from one of these dates, the expected date of delivery (acronym = EDD) can be calculated. Counting from the LMP, pregnancy usually lasts between 37 and 42 weeks, with the EDD at 40 weeks, 38 weeks after conception. 40 weeks is a little more than nine months and six days, which forms the basis of Naegele’s rule for estimating date of delivery.

Pregnancy is considered ‘at term’ when gestation attains 37 complete weeks but is less than 42 (between 259 and 294 days since LMP). Events before completion of 37 weeks (259 days) are considered pre-term; from week 42 (294 days) events are considered post-term. When a pregnancy exceeds 42 weeks (294 days), the risk of complications for mother and fetus increases significantly. As such, obstetricians usually prefer to induce labour, in an uncomplicated pregnancy, at some stage between 41 and 42 weeks.

Recent medical literature prefers the terminology pre-term and post-term to premature and post-mature. Pre-term and post-term are unambiguously defined as above, whereas premature and postmature have historical meaning and relate more to the infant’s size and state of development rather than to the stage of pregnancy.

Though these are the averages, the actual length of pregnancy depends on various factors. For example, the first pregnancy tends to last longer than subsequent pregnancies. Fewer than 10% of births occur on the due date; 50% of births are within a week of the due date, and almost 90% within two weeks.

Accurate dating of pregnancy is important, because it is used in calculating the results of various prenatal tests (for example, in the triple test). A decision may be made to induce labour if a fetus is perceived to be overdue. Due dates are only a rough estimate, and the process of accurately dating a pregnancy using the LMP method is complicated by the fact that not all women have 28 day menstrual cycles, nor ovulate on the 14th day following their last menstrual period.

A number of medical signs are associated with pregnancy. These signs typically appear, if at all, within the first few weeks after conception. Although not all of these signs are universally present, nor are all of them diagnostic by themselves, taken together they make a presumptive diagnosis of pregnancy. These signs include the presence of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in the blood and urine, missed menstrual period, implantation bleeding that occurs at implantation of the embryo in the uterus during the third or fourth week after last menstrual period, increased basal body temperature sustained for over two weeks after ovulation, Chadwick’s sign (darkening of the cervix, vagina, and vulva), Goodell’s sign (softening of the vaginal portion of the cervix), Hegar’s sign (softening of the Vaginal fornix), and Linea nigra, (darkening of the skin in a vertical line on the abdomen, caused by hyperpigmentation resulting from hormonal changes; it usually appears around the middle of pregnancy).

Diagnosis

The beginning of pregnancy may be detected in a number of ways, including various pregnancy tests which detect hormones generated by the newly-formed placenta. Clinical blood and urine tests can detect pregnancy soon after implantation, which is as early as 6-8 days after fertilization. Home pregnancy tests are personal urine tests, which normally cannot detect a pregnancy until at least 12-15 days after fertilization. Both clinical and home tests can only detect the state of pregnancy, and cannot detect its age.

In the post-implantation phase, the blastocyst secretes a hormone named human chorionic gonadotropin which in turn, stimulates the corpus luteum in the woman’s ovary to continue producing progesterone. This acts to maintain the lining of the uterus so that the embryo will continue to be nourished. The glands in the lining of the uterus will swell in response to the blastocyst, and capillaries will be stimulated to grow in that region. This allows the blastocyst to receive vital nutrients from the woman.

An early sonograph can determine the age of the pregnancy fairly accurately. In practice, doctors typically express the age of a pregnancy (i.e. an “age” for an embryo) in terms of “menstrual date” based on the first day of a woman’s last menstrual period, as the woman reports it. Unless a woman’s recent sexual activity has been limited, or she has been charting her cycles, or the conception is as the result of some types of fertility treatment (such as IUI or IVF) the exact date of fertilization is unknown. Absent symptoms such as morning sickness, often the only visible sign of a pregnancy is an interruption of her normal monthly menstruation cycle, (i.e. a “late period”). Hence, the “menstrual date” is simply a common educated estimate for the age of a fetus, which is an average of two weeks later than the first day of the woman’s last menstrual period. The term “conception date” may sometimes be used when that date is more certain, though even medical professionals can be imprecise with their use of the two distinct terms. The due date can be calculated by using Naegele’s rule. The expected date of delivery may also be calculated from sonogram measurement of the fetus. This method is slightly more accurate than methods based on LMP. The beginning of labour, which is variously called confinement or childbed, begins on the day predicted by LMP 3.6% of the time and on the day predicted by sonography 4.3% of the time.

Diagnostic criteria are: Women who have menstrual cycles and are sexually active, a period delayed by a few days or weeks is suggestive of pregnancy; elevated B-hcG to around 100,000 mIU/mL by 10 weeks of gestation.

Physiology

Pregnancy is typically broken into three periods, or trimesters, each of about three months. While there are no hard and fast rules, these distinctions are useful in describing the changes that take place over time.

 First trimester

 

Comparison of growth of the abdomen between 26 weeks and 40 weeks gestation.

Traditionally, doctors have measured pregnancy from a number of convenient points, including the day of last menstruation, ovulation, fertilization, implantation and chemical detection. In medicine, pregnancy is often defined as beginning when the developing embryo becomes implanted into the endometrial lining of a woman’s uterus. In some cases where complications may have arisen, the fertilized egg might implant itself in the fallopian tubes or the cervix, causing an ectopic pregnancy. Most pregnant women do not have any specific signs or symptoms of implantation, although it is not uncommon to experience light bleeding at implantation. Some women will also experience cramping during their first trimester. This is usually of no concern unless there is spotting or bleeding as well. The outer layers of the embryo grow and form a placenta, for the purpose of receiving essential nutrients through the uterine wall, or endometrium. The umbilical cord in a newborn child consists of the remnants of the connection to the placenta. The developing embryo undergoes tremendous growth and changes during the process of foetal development.

Morning sickness can occur in about seventy percent of all pregnant women and typically improves after the first trimester. Most miscarriages occur during this period.

 

Second trimester

Months 4 through 6 of the pregnancy are called the second trimester. Most women feel more energized in this period, and begin to put on weight as the symptoms of morning sickness subside and eventually fade away. Although the fetus begins moving and takes a recognizable human shape during the first trimester, it is not until the second trimester that movement of the fetus, often referred to as “quickening“, can be felt. This typically happens by the fourth month. The placenta is now fully functioning and the fetus is making insulin and urinating. The teeth are now formed inside the fetus’s gums and the reproductive organs can be recognized, and can distinguish the fetus as male or female.

Third trimester

Final weight gain takes place, and the fetus begins to move regularly. The woman’s navel will sometimes become convex, “popping” out, due to her expanding abdomen. This period of her pregnancy can be uncomfortable, causing symptoms like weak bladder control and back-ache. Movement of the fetus becomes stronger and more frequent and via improved brain, eye, and muscle function the fetus is prepared for ex utero viability. The woman can feel the fetus “rolling” and it may cause pain or discomfort when it is near the woman’s ribs and spine.

It is during this time that a baby born prematurely may survive. The use of modern medical intensive care technology has greatly increased the probability of premature babies living, and has pushed back the boundary of viability to much earlier dates than would be possible without assistance. In spite of these developments, premature birth remains a major threat to the fetus, and may result in ill-health in later life, even if the baby survives.

Prenatal development and sonograph images

Prenatal development is divided into two primary biological stages. The first is the embryonic stage, which lasts for about two months. At this point, the fetal stage begins. At the beginning of the foetal stage, the risk of miscarriage decreases sharply,  all major structures including hands, feet, head, brain, and other organs are present, and they continue to grow and develop. When the fetal stage commences, a fetus is typically about 30 mm (1.2 inches) in length, and the heart can be seen beating via sonograph; the fetus bends the head, and also makes general movements and startles that involve the whole body. Brain stem activity has been detected as early as 54 days after conception, and the first measurable signs of EEG activity occur in the 12th week. Some fingerprint formation occurs from the beginning of the fetal stage.

Embryo at 6 weeks after fertilization Fetus at 8 weeks after fertilization Fetus at 18 weeks after fertilization Fetus at 38 weeks after fertilization
Relative size in 1st Month (simplified illustration) Relative size in 3rd Month (simplified illustration) Relative size in 5th Month (simplified illustration) Relative size in 9th Month (simplified illustration)

One way to observe prenatal development is via ultrasound images. Modern 3D ultrasound images provide greater detail for prenatal diagnosis than the older 2D ultrasound technology. Whilst 3D is popular with parents desiring a prenatal photograph as a keepsake. both 2D and 3D are discouraged by the FDA for non-medical use, but there are no definitive studies linking ultrasound to any adverse medical effects. The following 3D ultrasound images were taken at different stages of pregnancy:

3-inch fetus (about 14 weeks gestational age) Fetus at 17 weeks Fetus at 20 weeks

Physiological changes in pregnancy

The body must change its physiological and homeostatic mechanisms in pregnancy to ensure the fetus is provided for. Increases in blood sugar, breathing and cardiac output are all required.

Hormonal changes

Levels of progesterone and oestrogens rise continually throughout pregnancy, suppressing the hypothalamic axis and subsequently the menstrual cycle. The mother and the placenta also produces many hormones.

Prolactin levels increase due to maternal Pituitary gland enlargement by 50%. This mediates a change in the structure of the Mammary gland from ductal to lobular-alveolar. Parathyroid hormone is increased to increases calcium uptake in the gut and reabsorption by the kidney. Adrenal hormones such as cortisol and aldosterone also increase.

Placental lactogen is produced by the placenta and stimulates lipolysis and fatty acid metabolism by the mother, conserving blood glucose for use by the fetus. It also decreases maternal tissue sensitivity to insulin, resulting in gestational diabetes.

Physical changes

12-15kg are gained during pregnancy due to fat deposition, growth of the reproductive organs and fetal tissues.

Cardiovascular changes

Blood volume increases by 40% in the first two trimesters. This is just to an increase in plasma volume through increased aldosterone. Progesterone may also interact with the aldosterone receptor, thus leading to increased levels. Red blood cell numbers increase due to increased erthropoietin levels.

Cardiac function is also modified, with increase heart rate and increased stroke volume. A decrease in vagal tone and increase in sympathetic tone is the cause. Blood volume increases act to increase stroke volume of the heart via Starling’s law. After pregnancy the change in stroke volume is not reversed. Cardiac output rises from 4 to 7 litres in the 2nd trimester

Blood pressure also fluctuates. In the first trimester it falls. Initially this is due to decreased sensitivity to angiotensin and vasodilation provoked by increased blood volume. Later however, it is caused by decresed resistence to the growing uteroplacental bed.

Respiratory changes

Decreased functional residual capacity is seen, typically falling from 1.7 to 1.35 litres, due to the compression of the diaphragm by the uterus. Tidal volume increases, from 0.45 to 0.65 litres, giving an increase in pulmonary ventilation. This is necessaary to meet the increased oxygen requirement of the body, which reaches 50ml/min – 20ml of which goes to reproductive tissues.

Progesterone may act centrally on chemoreceptors to reset the set point to a lower partial pressure of carbon dioxide. This maintains an increased respiration rate even at a decreased level of carbon dioxide.

Metabolic changes

An increased requirement for nutrients is given by fetal growth and fat deposition. Changes are caused by steroid hormones, lactogen and cortisol.

Maternal insulin resistance can lead to gestational diabetes. Increase liver metabolism is also seen, with increased gluconeogenesis to increase maternal glucose levels.

Renal changes

Renal plasma flow increases, as does aldosterone and erthropoietin production as discussed. The tubular maximum for glucose is reduced, which may precipitate gestational diabetes.

Management

Prenatal medical care is of recognized value throughout the developed world. Periconceptional Folic acid supplementation is the only type of supplementation of proven efficacy.

Nutrition

A balanced, nutritious diet is an important aspect of a healthy pregnancy. If the woman is healthy, balancing carbohydrates, fat, and proteins, and eating a variety of fruits and vegetables usually ensure good nutrition. Those whose diets are affected by health issues, religious requirements, or ethical beliefs may choose to consult a health professional for specific advice.

Adequate periconceptional Folic acid (also called folate or Vitamin B9) intake has been proven to limit fetal neural tube defects, preventing spina bifida, a very serious birth defect. The neural tube develops during the first 28 days of pregnancy and this explains the necessity to guarantee adequate periconceptional folate intake. Folates (from folia, leaf) are abundant in spinach (fresh, frozen or canned), and are also found in green vegetables, salads, melon, hummus, and eggs. In the United States and Canada, most wheat products (flour, noodles) are fortified with folic acid.

Several micronutrients are important for the health of the developing fetus, especially in areas of the world where insufficient nutrition is prevalent. In developed areas, such as Western Europe and the United States, certain nutrients such as Vitamin D and calcium, required for bone development, may require supplementation.

There is some evidence that long-chain omega-3 (n-3) fatty acids have an effect on the developing fetus, but further research is required. At this time, supplementing the diet with foods rich in these fatty acids is not recommended, but is not harmful.

Dangerous bacteria or parasites may contaminate foods, particularly listeria and toxoplasma, toxoplasmosis agent. Careful washing of fruits and raw vegetables may remove these pathogens, as may thoroughly cooking leftovers, meat, or processed meat. Soft cheeses may contain listeria, if milk is raw the risk may increase. Cat feces pose a particular risk of toxoplasmosis. Pregnant women are also more prone to catching salmonella infection from eggs and poultry, which should be thoroughly cooked. Practicing good hygiene in the kitchen can reduce these risks.

Weight gain

Caloric intake must be increased, to ensure proper development of the fetus. The amount of weight gained during pregnancy varies between women. The National Health Service recommends that overall weight gain during the 9 month period for women who start pregnancy with normal weight be 10 to 12 kilograms (22-26 lb).  During pregnancy, insufficient weight gain can compromise the health of the fetus. Women with fears of weight gain or with eating disorders may choose to work with a health professional, to ensure that pregnancy does not trigger disordered eating. Likewise, excessive weight gain can pose risks to the woman and the fetus. Women who are prone to being overweight may choose to plan a healthy diet and exercise plan to help moderate the amount of weight gained.

Immunological tolerance

Research on the immunological basis for pre-eclampsia has indicated that continued exposure to a partner’s semen has a strong protective effect against pre-eclampsia, largely due to the absorption of several immune modulating factors present in seminal fluid. Studies also showed that long periods of sexual cohabitation with the same partner fathering a woman’s child significantly decreased her chances of suffering pre-eclampsia. Several other studies have since investigated the strongly decreased incidence of pre-eclampsia in women who had received blood transfusions from their partner, those with long, preceding histories of sex without barrier contraceptives, and in women who had been regularly performing oral sex, with one study concluding that “induction of allogeneic tolerance to the paternal HLA molecules of the fetus may be crucial. Data collected strongly suggests that exposure, and especially oral exposure to soluble HLA from semen can lead to transplantation tolerance.”

Other studies have investigated the roles of semen in the female reproductive tracts of mice, showing that “insemination elicits inflammatory changes in female reproductive tissues,” concluding that the changes “likely lead to immunological priming to paternal antigens or influence pregnancy outcomes.” A similar series of studies confirmed the importance of immune modulation in female mice through the absorption of specific immune factors in semen, including TGF-Beta, lack of which is also being investigated as a cause of miscarriage in women and infertility in men.

According to the theory, pre-eclampsia is frequently caused by a failure of the mother’s immune system to accept the fetus and placenta, which both contain “foreign” proteins from paternal genes. Regular exposure to the father’s semen causes her immune system to develop tolerance to the paternal antigens, a process which is significantly supported by as many as 93 currently identified immune regulating factors in seminal fluid. Having already noted the importance of a woman’s immunological tolerance to her baby’s paternal genes, several Dutch reproductive biologists decided to take their research a step further. Consistent with the fact that human immune systems tolerate things better when they enter the body via the mouth, the Dutch researchers conducted a series of studies that confirmed a surprisingly strong correlation between a diminished incidence of pre-eclampsia and a woman’s practice of oral sex, and noted that the protective effects were strongest if she swallowed her partner’s semen.The researchers concluded that while any exposure to a partner’s semen during sexual activity appears to decrease a woman’s chances for the various immunological disorders that can occur during pregnancy, immunological tolerance could be most quickly established through oral introduction and gastrointestinal absorption of semen. Recognizing that some of the studies potentially included the presence of confounding factors, such as the likelihood that women who regularly perform oral sex and swallow semen engage in more frequent vaginal and anal intercourse, the researchers also noted that, either way, the data still overwhelmingly supports the main theory behind all their studies–that repeated exposure to semen establishes the maternal immunological tolerance necessary for a safe and successful pregnancy.

Sexuality during pregnancy

Most pregnant women can enjoy sexual intercourse throughout gravidity. Most research suggests that, during pregnancy, both sexual desire and frequency of sexual relations decrease. In context of this overall decrease in desire, some studies indicate a second-trimester increase, preceding a decrease. However, these decreases are not universal: a significant number of women report greater sexual satisfaction throughout their pregnancies.

In some places, until the mid 20th century, it was considered a socio-moral “taboo” action for pregnant women to engage in sexual activities[citation needed]. This is far from universal however, for example the Talmud recommends it for the health of the mother and child. Sex during pregnancy is a low-risk behaviour except when the physician advises that sexual intercourse be avoided, which may, in some pregnancies, lead to serious pregnancy complications or health issues such as a high-risk for premature labour or a ruptured uterus. Such a decision may be based upon a history of difficulties in a previous childbirth.

Some psychological research studies in the 1980s and ’90s contend that it is useful for pregnant women to continue to have sexual activity, specifically noting that overall sexual satisfaction was correlated with feeling happy about being pregnant, feeling more attractive in late pregnancy than before pregnancy and experiencing orgasm. Sexual activity has also been suggested as a way to prepare for induced labour, as some believe the natural prostaglandin content of seminal liquid can favour the maturation process of the cervix making it softer and riper, allowing for easier and faster dilation and effacement of the cervix. However, the efficacy of using sexual intercourse as an induction agent “remains uncertain”.

During pregnancy, the baby is protected from the thrusting of sex by the amniotic fluid in the womb and by the woman’s abdomen.

Abortion

An abortion is the removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus from the uterus, resulting in or caused by its death. This can occur spontaneously or accidentally as with a miscarriage, or be artificially induced by medical, surgical or other means.

Progression

Complaints

The following are complaints that may occur during pregnancy:

  • Back pain. A particularly common complaint in the third trimester when the patient’s center of gravity has shifted.
  • Constipation. A complaint that is caused by decreased bowel motility secondary to elevated progesterone (normal in pregnancy), which can lead to greater absorption of water.
  • Braxton Hicks contractions. Occasional, irregular, painless contractions that occur several times per day.
  • Edema. Common complaint in advancing pregnancy. Caused by compression of the inferior vena cava (IVC) and pelvic veins by the uterus leads to increased hydrostatic pressure in lower extremities.
  • Regurgitation, heartburn and nausea. Common complaints that may be caused by Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD); this is determined by relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and increased transit time in the stomach (normal in pregnancy). About 1% of pregnant women will suffer from excessive vomiting in pregnancy called hyperemesis gravidarum, in which the lack of foods, fluids and nutrients can be harmful to the baby.
  • Haemorrhoids. Complaint that is often noted in advancing pregnancy. Caused by increased venous stasis and IVC compression leading to congestion in venous system along with increased abdominal pressure secondary to the pregnant space-occupying uterus and constipation.
  • Pelvic girdle pain. A common complaint is pain, instability or dysfunction of the symphysis pubis and/or sacroiliac joints resulting from either excess strain or injury (such as Diastasis symphysis pubis) during the course of the pregnancy or birthing process.
  • Increased urinary frequency. A common complaint referred by the gravida that is caused by increased intravascular volume, elevated GFR (glomerular filtration rate), and compression of the bladder by the expanding uterus.
  • Varicose veins. Common complaint caused by relaxation of the venous smooth muscle and increased intravascular pressure.

Childbirth

Childbirth is the process by which an infant is born. It is considered by many to be the beginning of a person’s life, and age is defined relative to this event in most cultures.

A woman is considered to be in labour when she begins experiencing regular uterine contractions, accompanied by changes of her cervix – primarily effacement and dilation. While childbirth is widely experienced as painful, some women do report painless labours, while others find that concentrating on the birth helps to quicken labour and lessen the sensations. Most births are successful vaginal births, but sometimes complications arise and a woman may undergo a caesarean section.

During the time immediately after birth, both the mother and the baby are hormonally cued to bond, the mother through the release of oxytocin, a hormone also released during breastfeeding.

Postnatal period

Context

There are fine distinctions between the concepts of fertilization and the actual state of pregnancy, which starts with implantation. In a normal pregnancy, the fertilization of the egg usually will have occurred in the Fallopian tubes or in the uterus. (Often, an egg may become fertilized yet fail to become implanted in the uterus.) If the pregnancy is the result of in-vitro fertilization, the fertilization will have occurred in a Petri dish, after which pregnancy begins when one or more zygotes implant after being transferred by a physician into the woman’s uterus.

In the context of political debates regarding a proper definition of life, the terminology of pregnancy can be confusing. The medically and politically neutral term which remains is simply “pregnancy,” though this can be problematic as it only refers indirectly to the embryo or fetus. De Crespigny observes that doctors’ language has a powerful influence over the way patients think, and thus proposes that the best interests of patients are served by using language that both supports patient autonomy and is neutral.

this is called “SELF-CONFIDENCE”

May 9, 2008

An absolute Example for Confidence, its not mere to say “this is the CONFIDENCE”

Swami Vivekananda !!

April 15, 2008

Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda in Chicago, 1893
On the photo, Swamiji has written in Bengali, and in English: “One infinite pure and holy—beyond thought beyond qualities I bow down to thee” – Swami Vivekananda

 

Swami Vivekananda in Chicago, 1893
On the photo, Swamiji has written in Bengali, and in English: “One infinite pure and holy-beyond thought beyond qualities I bow down to thee” – Swami Vivekananda
Born 12 January 1863(1863-01-12)
Calcutta, West Bengal, India
Died 4 July 1902 (aged 39)
Belur Math near Calcutta

Swami Vivekananda (Sanskrit: स्वामी विवेकानन्द, (Swami Vivekananda) (January 12, 1863 – July 4, 1902), whose pre-monastic name was Narendranath Dutta (Narendranath Dut-tta), was one of the most famous and influential spiritual leaders of the philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga. He was the chief disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and the founder of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. He is a major figure in the history of the Hindu reform movements.

While he is widely credited with having uplifted his own nation, India, he simultaneously introduced Yoga and Vedanta to America and England with his seminal lectures and private discourses on Vedanta philosophy. Vivekananda was the first known Hindu Sage to come to the West, where he introduced Eastern thought at the World’s Parliament of Religions, in connection with the World’s Fair in Chicago, in 1893. Here, his first lecture, which started with this line “Sisters and Brothers of America,” ( – not his voice) made the audience clap for two minutes just to the address, for prior to this seminal speech, the audience was always used to this opening address: “Ladies and Gentlemen”. It was this speech that catapulted him to fame by his wide audiences in Chicago and then later everywhere else in America, including far-flung places such as Memphis, Boston, San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and St. Louis.

Contents

* 1 Biography
o 1.1 Birth and early life
o 1.2 With Ramakrishna
o 1.3 Wanderings in India
o 1.4 In the West
o 1.5 Back in India
o 1.6 Death
* 2 Principles and philosophy
* 3 Influence
* 4 Vivekananda and science
* 5 Works
* 6 Books on and by Swami Vivekananda
* 7 Miscellaneous

Biography

Birth and early life

Narendranath Dutta was born in Shimla Pally, Kolkata, India on January 12, 1863 as the son of Viswanath Dutta and Bhuvaneswari Devi. Even as he was young, he showed a precocious mind and keen memory. He practiced meditation from a very early age. While at school, he was recognized early on as an academic genius, and showed excellence in games of various kinds. He had a photographic memory, displaying the power to read entire books in mere minutes. He organized an amateur theatrical company and a gymnasium and took lessons in fencing, wrestling, rowing and other sports. He also studied instrumental and vocal music. Even when he was young, he questioned the validity of superstitious customs and discrimination based on caste and religion.

In 1879, Narendra entered the Presidency College, Calcutta for higher studies. After one year, he joined the Scottish Church College, Calcutta and studied philosophy. During the course, he studied western logic, western philosophy and history of European nations.

Questions started to arise in young Narendra’s mind about God and the presence of God. This made him associate with the Brahmo Samaj, an important religious movement of the time, led by Keshub Chunder Sen. And along with his classmate and friend Brajendra Nath Seal, he regularly attended meetings of the breakaway Sadharan Brahmo Samaj. Later they would part ways with Dutta aligning himself with Keshub Chunder Sen’s Nava Vidhan and Seal staying on as an initiated member. During this time spent together, both Dutta and Seal sought to understand the intricacies of faith, progress and spiritual insight into the works of John Stuart Mill, Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer and G.W.F. Hegel.

But the Samaj’s congregational prayers and devotional songs could not satisfy Narendra’s zeal to realize God. He would ask leaders of Brahmo Samaj whether they have seen God. Their answers did not satisfy his quest for knowledge. It was during this time that Reverend William Hastie, the Principal of the Scottish Church College told him about Sri Ramakrishna of Dakshineswar.

With Ramakrishna

Narendra met Ramakrishna for the first time in November 1881. He asked Ramakrishna the same old question he has asked others so often, “Mahashaya (Venerable Sir), have you seen god?.” The instantaneous answer from Ramakrishna was, “Yes, I see God, just as I see you here, only in a much intenser sense.” ” God can be realized,” he went on; “one can see and talk to Him as I am seeing and talking to you. But who cares? People shed torrents of tears for their wife and children, for wealth or property, but who does so for the sake of God? If one weeps sincerely for Him, he surely manifests Himself.”. Narendra was astounded and puzzled. He could feel the man’s words were honest and uttered from depths of experience. He started visiting Ramakrishna frequently. At first he did not believe that such a plain man could’ve seen God but gradually he started having faith in what Ramkrishna said.

Though Narendra could not accept Ramakrishna and his visions, he could not neglect him. It had always been in Narendra’s nature to test something thoroughly before he could accept it. He tested Ramakrishna to the maximum, but the master was patient, forgiving, humorous, and full of love. He never asked Narendra to abandon reason, and he faced all of Narendra’s arguments and examinations with patience. In time, Narendra accepted Ramakrishna, and when he accepted, his acceptance was whole-hearted. While Ramakrishna predominantly taught duality and Bhakti to his other disciples, he taught Narendra the Advaita Vedanta, the philosophy of non-dualism.

During the course of five years of his training under Ramakrishna, Narendra was transformed from a restless, puzzled, impatient youth to a mature man who was ready to renounce everything for the sake of God-realization. Soon, Ramakrishna’s end came in the form of throat cancer in August 1886. After this Narendra and a core group of Ramakrishna’s disciples took vows to become monks and renounce everything, and started living in a supposedly haunted house in Baranagore. They took alms to satisfy their hunger and their other needs were taken care of by Ramakrishna’s richer householder disciples.

Wanderings in India


Pencil drawing of Vivekananda

Soon, the young monk of Baranagore wanted to live the life of a wandering monk with rags and a begging bowl and no other possessions. On July 1890, Vivekananda set out for a long journey, without knowing where the journey would take him. The journey that followed took him to the length and breadth of the Indian subcontinent. During these days, Vivekananda assumed various names like Vividishananda (in Sanskrit, Vividisha means “the desire to know” and Ananda means “bliss”), Satchidananda, etc. It is said that the Maharaja of Khetri, Ajit Singh, suggested to him the name Vivekananda because of his discernment of things, good and bad. Viveka or discrimination between the eternal and the transient was highly valued by the Swami, who, recollecting that Keshab Chandra Sen used to call him by that name, accepted it.

During these wandering days, Vivekananda stayed in kings’ palaces, as well as the huts of the poor. He came in close contact with the culture of different regions of India and various classes of people in India. Vivekananda observed the imbalance in society and tyranny in the name of caste. He realised the need for a national rejuvenation if India was to survive at all. He reached Kanyakumari, the southernmost tip of the Indian subcontinent on 24 December 1892. There, he swam across the sea and started meditating on a lone rock. He thus meditated for three days and said later that he meditated about the past, present and future of India. The rock went on to become the Vivekananda memorial at Kanyakumari.
Vivekananda Temple on Vivekananda rock at Kanyakumari, India
Vivekananda Temple on Vivekananda rock at Kanyakumari, India

Vivekananda went to Madras and spoke about his plans for India and Hinduism to the young men of Madras. They were impressed by the monk and urged him to go to the United States and represent Hinduism in the World Parliament of Religions. The Raja of Ramnad, who was originally invited for the conference, promoted Vivekananda as the right person to represent the views of Hinduism in the Parliament. Thus, helped by his friends at Chennai, Bhaskara Sethupathi, Raja of Ramnad and Maharajas of Mysore and Khetri, Vivekananda set out on his journey to the USA.

In one of his lectures in California, the swami described about his condition during wandering days as follows:

 Vivekananda Temple on Vivekananda rock at Kanyakumari, India
Many times I have been in the jaws of death, starving, footsore, and weary; for days and days I had no food, and often could walk no farther; I would sink down under a tree, and life would seem to be ebbing away. I could not speak, I could scarcely think, but at last the mind reverted to the idea: “I have no fear nor death; never was I born, never did I die; I never hunger or thirst. I am It! I am It! The whole of nature cannot crush me; it is my servant. Assert thy strength, thou Lord of lords and God of gods! Regain thy lost empire! Arise and walk and stop not!” And I would rise up, reinvigorated; and here I am today, living! Thus, whenever darkness comes, assert the reality and everything adverse must vanish. For after all, it is but a dream. Mountain-high though the difficulties appear, terrible and gloomy though all things seem, they are but Maya. Fear not, and it is banished. Crush it, and it vanishes. Stamp upon it, and it dies.

In the West


Swami Vivekananda in London, 1896

Vivekananda was encouraged by J.H. Wright, a professor of Greek at Harvard University, to represent Hinduism in the 1893 World Parliament of Religions in Chicago. When he expressed reservations saying he had no credentials, the professor replied, “To ask you, Swami, for your credentials is like asking the sun about its right to shine.” He wrote about Vivekananda to the chairman of the committee on selection of delegates, “Here is a man more learned than all our learned professors put together.”

Vivekananda was received well at the Parliament of Religions, where he delivered a series of lectures. The audience arose in their seats and applauded loudly (for two minutes) when he started his first address with the famous words, “Sisters and brothers of America.” When the applause subsided the Swami began his speech by thanking the young nation “in the name of the most ancient monastic order in the world, the Vedic order of sannyasins.” A newspaper account described him as “an orator by divine right and undoubtedly the greatest figure at the Parliament.” Vivekananda’s arrival in the USA has been identified by many to mark the beginning of western interest in Hinduism not as merely an exotic eastern oddity, but as a vital religious and philosophical tradition that might actually have something important to teach the West.

Vivekananda successfully introduced yoga and Vedanta to the West and lectured around America introducing the topics (1894-6). He taught hundreds of students privately in free classes held in his own room beginning in New York in 1895. Later, he started Vedantic centers in New York City and London, lectured at major universities and generally kindled western interest in Hinduism. His success was not without controversy, much of it from Christian missionaries of whom he was fiercely critical. After four years of constant touring, lecturing and retreats in the West, he came back to India in the year 1897.
Memorial Plaque inside the Art Institute. The plaque reads: “On this site between September 11 and 27, 1893, Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), the first Hindu monk from India to teach Vedanta in America, addressed the World’s Parliament of Religions, held in conjunction with the World’s Columbian Exposition. His unprecedented success opened the way for the dialogue between eastern and western religions.” On 11 November 1995, the stretch of Michigan Avenue that passes in front of the Art Institute was formally conferred the honorary name “Swami Vivekananda Way.”
Memorial Plaque inside the Art Institute. The plaque reads: “On this site between September 11 and 27, 1893, Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), the first Hindu monk from India to teach Vedanta in America, addressed the World’s Parliament of Religions, held in conjunction with the World’s Columbian Exposition. His unprecedented success opened the way for the dialogue between eastern and western religions.” On 11 November 1995, the stretch of Michigan Avenue that passes in front of the Art Institute was formally conferred the honorary name “Swami Vivekananda Way.”

Back in India

Memorial Plaque inside the Art Institute. The plaque reads: “On this site between September 11 and 27, 1893, Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), the first Hindu monk from India to teach Vedanta in America, addressed the World’s Parliament of Religions, held in conjunction with the World’s Columbian Exposition. His unprecedented success opened the way for the dialogue between eastern and western religions.” On 11 November 1995, the stretch of Michigan Avenue that passes in front of the Art Institute was formally conferred the honorary name “Swami Vivekananda Way.”

 

Admirers and devotees of Vivekananda gave him an enthusiastic reception on his return to India. In India, he delivered a series of lectures, and this set of lectures known as “Lectures from Colombo to Almora” is considered to have uplifted the morale of the then downtrodden Indian society. He founded one of the world’s largest charitable relief missions, the Ramakrishna Mission and reorganized the ancient Swami order by founding one of the most significant and largest monastic orders in India, the Ramakrishna Math.

However, he had to bear great criticism from other orthodox Hindus for having traveled in the West. In his day there was hardly a Hindu in America and he received criticism for crossing the ocean, at that time a cause for “outcasting.” Vivekananda scoffed at these critiques from the orthodox saying “I cannot be outcast – As a monk, I am beyond caste.” His contemporaries also questioned his motives, wondering whether the fame and glory of his Hindu evangelism compromised his original monastic vows. His enthusiasm for America and Britain, and his spiritual devotion to his motherland, caused significant tension in his last years.

He once again toured the west from January 1899 to December 1900. He inculcated a spirit of respect and good will for exchanges between the East and the West. He had American disciples whom he brought to India and initiated as Swamis and brought Indian Swamis to America where they and their successors have been ever since.

Death

On July 4, 1902 at Belur Math near Calcutta, he taught Vedanta philosophy to some pupils in the morning. He had a walk with Swami Premananda, a brother-disciple, and gave him instructions concerning the future of the Ramakrishna Math. He passed away in the evening after a session of prayer at Belur Math. He was 39. Doctors pronounced that the death was due to apoplexy, but the monks were convinced that he had attained mahasamadhi, as Sri Ramakrishna had predicted. Vivekananda had fulfilled his own prophecy of not living to be forty-years old.

Principles and philosophy

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Gandhi · Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan · Swami Vivekananda · Ramana Maharshi · Aurobindo · Nisargadatta Maharaj · Sivananda · Coomaraswamy · Pandurang Shastri Athavale · A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada · Asaramji Bapu
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Vivekananda was a renowned thinker in his own right. One of his most important contributions was to demonstrate how Advaitin thinking is not merely philosophically far-reaching, but how it also has social, even political, consequences. One important lesson he claimed to receive from Ramakrishna was that “Jiva is Shiva ” (each individual is divinity itself). This became his Mantra, and he coined the concept of daridra narayana seva – the service of God in and through (poor) human beings. If there truly is the unity of Brahman underlying all phenomena, then on what basis do we regard ourselves as better or worse, or even as better-off or worse-off, than others? – This was the question he posed to himself. Ultimately, he concluded that these distinctions fade into nothingness in the light of the oneness that the devotee experiences in Moksha. What arises then is compassion for those “individuals” who remain unaware of this oneness and a determination to help them.

Swami Vivekananda belonged to that branch of Vedanta that held that no one can be truly free until all of us are. Even the desire for personal salvation has to be given up, and only tireless work for the salvation of others is the true mark of the enlightened person. He founded the Sri Ramakrishna Math and Mission on the principle of Atmano Mokshartham Jagad-hitaya cha (आत्मनॊ मोक्षार्थम् जगद्धिताय च) (for one’s own salvation and for the welfare of the World).

However, Vivekananda also pleaded for a strict separation between religion and government (“church and state”) a value found in Freemasonry which as a Freemason he had been exposed to. Although social customs had been formed in the past with religious sanction, it was not now the business of religion to interfere with matters such as marriage, inheritance and so on. The ideal society would be a mixture of Brahmin knowledge, Kshatriya culture, Vaisya efficiency and the egalitarian Shudra ethos. Domination by any one led to different sorts of lopsided societies. Vivekananda did not feel that religion, nor, any force for that matter, should be used forcefully to bring about an ideal society, since this was something that would evolve naturally by individualistic change when the conditions were right.

Vivekananda made a strict demarcation between the two classes of Hindu scriptures : the Sruti and the Smritis. The Sruti, by which is meant the Vedas, consist of eternally and universally valid spiritual truths. The Smritis on the other hand, are the dos and donts of religions, applicable to society and subject to revision from time to time. Vivekananda felt that existing Hindu smritis had to be revised for modern times. But the Srutis of course are eternal – they may only be re-interpreted.

Vivekananda advised his followers to be holy, unselfish and have shraddha (faith). He encouraged the practise of Brahmacharya (Celibacy). In one of the conversations with his childhood friend Sri Priya Nath Sinha he attributes his physical and mental strengths, eloquence to the practice of Brahmacharya.

Vivekananda didn’t advocate the emerging area of parapsychology, astrology (one instance can be found in his speech Man the Maker of his Destiny, Complete-Works, Volume 8, Notes of Class Talks and Lectures) saying that this form of curiosity doesn’t help in spiritual progress but actually hinders it.

Influence

Every one of the 20th century Indian leaders of note have acknowledged his influence, from Gandhi to Subhas Chandra Bose. The first governor general of independent India, Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, once observed that “Vivekananda saved Hinduism.” According to Subhas Chandra Bose, Vivekananda “is the maker of modern India” and for Mohandas Gandhi, Vivekananda’s influence increased his “love for his country a thousandfold.” Gandhi, who also strived for a lot of reform in Hinduism himself, said: Swami Vivekananda’s writings need no introduction from anybody. They make their own irresistible appeal. Many years after his death, Rabindranath Tagore (a prominent member of the Brahmo Samaj) had said: If you want to know India, study Vivekananda. In him everything is positive and nothing negative. National Youth Day in India is held on his birthday, January 12, to commemorate him. This was a most fitting gesture as much of Swami Vivekananda’s writings concerned the Indian youth and how they should strive to uphold their ancient values whilst fully participating in the modern world.

Swami Vivekananda is widely considered to have inspired India’s freedom struggle movement. His writings inspired a whole generation of freedom fighters including Aurobindo Ghose and Bagha Jatin. Vivekananda was the brother of the extremist revolutionary, Shri Bhupendranath Dutta. Subhash Chandra Bose one of the most prominent figures in Indian independence movement said,

I cannot write about Vivekananda without going into raptures. Few indeed could comprehend or fathom him even among those who had the privilege of becoming intimate with him. His personality was rich, profound and complex… Reckless in his sacrifice, unceasing in his activity, boundless in his love, profound and versatile in his wisdom, exuberant in his emotions, merciless in his attacks but yet simple as a child, he was a rare personality in this world of ours

Aurobindo Ghosh considered Vivekananda as his spiritual mentor.

Vivekananda was a soul of puissance if ever there was one, a very lion among men, but the definitive work he has left behind is quite incommensurate with our impression of his creative might and energy. We perceive his influence still working gigantically, we know not well how, we know not well where, in something that is not yet formed, something leonine, grand, intuitive, upheaving that has entered the soul of India and we say, “Behold, Vivekananda still lives in the soul of his Mother and in the souls of her children. –Sri Aurobindo–1915 in Vedic Magazine.

Vivekananda inspired Jamshedji Tata to set up Indian Institute of Science, one of India’s finest Institutions. Abroad, he had some interactions with Max Mueller. Nikola Tesla was one of those influenced by the Vedic philosophy teachings of the Swami Vivekananda.

Above all Swami Vivekananda helped restore a sense of pride amongst the Hindus, presenting the ancient teachings of India in its purest form to a Western audience, free from the propaganda spread by British colonial administrators and Christian missionaries, of Hinduism being a caste-ridden, misogynistic idolatrous faith. Indeed his early foray into the West would set the path for subsequent Indian religious teachers to make their own marks on the world, as well herald the entry of Hindus and their religious traditions into the Western world.

Swami Vivekananda’s ideas have had a great influence on the Indian youth. In many institutes, students have come together and formed organizations meant for promoting discussion of spiritual ideas and the practice of such high principles. Many of such organizations have adopted the name Vivekananda Study Circle. One such group also exists at IIT Madras and is popularly known as (VSC). Additionally, Swami Vivekananda’s ideas and teachings have carried on globally, being practiced in institutions all over the world.

Vivekananda and science

In his book Raja Yoga, Vivekananda writes that practice of Raja Yoga can confer psychic powers such as ‘reading another’s thoughts’, ‘controlling all the forces of nature’, become ‘almost all-knowing’, ‘live without breathing’, ‘control the bodies of others’ and levitation. He also explains traditional eastern spiritual concepts like kundalini and spiritual energy centres.

However, Vivekananda himself says in the book,
” It is not the sign of a candid and scientific mind to throw overboard anything without proper investigation. Surface scientists, unable to explain the various extraordinary mental phenomena, strive to ignore their very existence. ”

He further says in the introduction of the book that one should take up the practice and verify these things for themselves, and that there should not be blind belief.
” What little I know I will tell you. So far as I can reason it out I will do so, but as to what I do not know I will simply tell you what the books say. It is wrong to believe blindly. You must exercise your own reason and judgment; you must practise, and see whether these things happen or not. Just as you would take up any other science, exactly in the same manner you should take up this science for study. ”

Vivekananda (1895) rejected ether theory before Einstein (1905), stating that it cannot explain the space itself.

The great electrical scientist, Nikola Tesla, after listening to Vivekananda’s speech on Sankhya Philosophy, was much interested in its cosmogony and its rational theories of the Kalpas (cycles), Prana and Akasha. His notion based on the vedanta led him to think that matter is a manifestation of energy . After attending a lecture on vedanta by Vivekananda Tesla also concluded that, modern science can look for the solution of cosmological problems in Sankhya philosophy, and he could prove that mass can be reduced to potential energy mathematically.

Works

Vivekananda left a body of philosophical works (see Vivekananda’s complete works) which Vedic scholar Frank Parlato has called, “the greatest comprehensive work in philosophy ever published.” His books (compiled from lectures given around the world) on the four Yogas (Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga) are very influential and still seen as fundamental texts for anyone interested in the Hindu practice of Yoga. His letters are of great literary and spiritual value. He was also considered a very good singer and a poet. He had composed many songs including his favorite Kali the Mother. He used humor for his teachings and was also an excellent cook. His language is very free flowing. His own Bengali writings stand testimony to the fact that he believed that words – spoken or written should be for making things easier to understand rather than show off the speaker or writer’s knowledge.

Books on and by Swami Vivekananda

* The complete Works of Swami Vivekananda ISBN 81-85301-46-8
* Jnana Yoga by Swami Vivekananda ISBN 0-911206-21-3
* Raja Yoga by Swami Vivekananda ISBN 0-911206-23-X
* Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga by Swami Vivekananda ISBN 0-911206-22-1
* Life of Vivekananda by Romain Rolland ISBN 81-85301-01-8
* Vivekananda: A Biography by Swami Nikhilananda ISBN 0-911206-25-6
* The life of Swami Vivekananda by his eastern and western disciples ISBN 81-7505-044-6
* Swami Vivekananda: A Reassessment by Narasingha P. Sil ISBN 0-945636-97-0
* The Master As I Saw Him by Sister Nivedita
* Notes of Some Wanderings With the Swami Vivekananda by Sister Nivedita
* Swami Vivekananda in the West: New Discoveries by Marie Lousie Burke
* Comprehensive Biography of Swami Vivekanandaby Shailendranath Dhar
* A Short Life of Swami Vivekananda by Swami Tejasananda
* Vivekananda, World Teacher: His Teachings on the Spiritual Unity of Humankind” by Swami Adiswarananda
* Swami Vivekananda Natun Tathya Natun Alo by Shankari Prasad Basu
* Vivekananda Charit by Satyendranath Majumder
* Reminiscences of Swami Vivekananda ISBN 81-85301-17-4 Advaita Ashrama
* Letters of Swami Vivekananda ISBN 81-7505-062-4 Advaita Ashrama
* Vivekananda: The Great Spiritual Teacher by A Compilation ISBN 81-7505-147-7
* Teachings of Swami Vivekananda ISBN 81-85301-87-5
* Inspired Talks by Swami Vivekananda ISBN 0-911206-24-8
* SWAMI VIVEKANADA Hero for the INDIAN YOUTH
* Swami Vivekananda The Living Vedanta ISBN 143062093 by Chaturvedi Badrinath
* Vivekananda — His Gospel of Man-Making, with a Garland of Tributes & a Chronicle of His Life & Times with Pictures (Fifth revised & Enlarged Edition — August 2000) Compiled, Edited & Published by Swami Jyotirmayananda

Miscellaneous

The turban that Vivekananda used to wear is believed to be suggested by the Maharaja of Khetri. Turbans are considered to be a visible symbol of self-respect, integrity and honor in Indian culture.

Dr.Poulose speculates that Vivekananda may have received spiritual lessons from Sree Chattampi Swamikal .

About India !!

April 10, 2008

INDIA is one of the most ancient country in the world, which smiles for its richest heridity, Democracy, Natural Wealth, Agricultural Background, Traditional aspects, Unity in Diversity, Economy, Education, Information Technology, Man Power, Arm Power etc….

right now it has 27 states and 8 union territories, refer here

Though it has all those pride, its degrading factor is the political background nowadays, since the impure politics and politicians. Its pride was in peak when it was scattered in to pieces and ruled by numerous kings. Till the invade of Mughals and English people it out stand for its foreign trade for silk, Gold, Cereals, Cotton & Jute Exports, The Mughal emperors swallowed some richness from INDIA to their country like “Kajini Mohammed” and former invaders, though it had lost something, even after the invading part it stood for its richness, since the invaders love to live in this beautiful country, they conquired some capitals, and made it as their headquarters, they made a historic events in INIDA, for this we can give an example of the “King Akbar”. Even though he was an Invader, he had contributed some good ideas to avoid the supersticious aspects which were followed by the ancient indians (like SATI, which sentenced the wife into fire (lively) after the death of husband).

Then after the Mughals, Obviously the English people captured some part of the country in the beginning and after that they occupied the entire INDIA from the hands of all other kings, I dont want to say the English men did the worst for the INDIANS, because they have given us lot of prosperities like LAWs, Political Ideas, importantly the “English Language”. But in the period of british rule, Indians suffered a lot because of their slavy ruling..

Even before the English people & Mughals, India was used to fight within their states (which was known as seperate countries) on those days, the conflicts between two kings made the gateway for the foreign invaders, because of Ego, Jealous and Guilty, the Indian kings made the war between their enemy kings and start supported english people without knowing the cunningness behind their plan. that was the first cause for the fall of indian emperors, ( the I wish to thank a lot for the british people to introduce, decency, literature, language, LAWs etc ) Step by Step the english people started to conquire the entire INDIA and defeated all the kings and made strong foundation for the EAST INDIA COMPANY. which acted as a port during the world war.

Because of the great effort of the gandhiji india got its freedom on august 15, 1947, and celebrated its Independence day on January 26 every year after that….. Now India had proved its efficiency through its manpower ( but not equal to china / Japan ), But still India have to learn a lot from its Neighbouring countries, like china, sri lanka…

It Have been stated its new pace in the field of growth through the information technology, since the indians are well and good enough in handling/maintaining/Software/Networking/BPO its now well known and popular around the globe, the foreign countries are giving the reason that the manpower and the cost given to the indian outsourcing companies are 10 times less than the normal norms given to their citizen, hence the development of indian economy starts from there…

hope to keep going….. Cheers Everybody…..

Barack Hussein Obama !!

April 9, 2008

Barack Hussein Obama, Jr. (pronounced /bəˈɹɑːk oʊˈbɑːmə/; born August 4, 1961) is the junior United States Senator from Illinois and a candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 2008 U.S. presidential election.

Born to a Kenyan father and an American mother, he spent most of his early life in Honolulu, Hawaii. From ages 6 to 10, he lived in Jakarta, Indonesia with his mother and Indonesian stepfather. He married Michelle Robinson in 1992 and has two daughters. A graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, Obama worked as a community organizer, university lecturer, and civil rights lawyer before running for public office and serving in the Illinois Senate from 1997 to 2004. After an unsuccessful bid for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000, he announced his campaign for U.S. Senate in 2003.

The following year, while still an Illinois state legislator, Obama delivered the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in November 2004 with 70% of the vote. As a member of the Democratic minority in the 109th Congress, he cosponsored bipartisan legislation for controlling conventional weapons and for promoting greater public accountability in the use of federal funds. He also made official trips to Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. In the current 110th Congress, he has sponsored legislation on lobbying and electoral fraud, climate change, nuclear terrorism, and care for returned U.S. military personnel.

Since announcing his presidential campaign in February 2007, Obama has emphasized ending the Iraq War, increasing energy independence, and providing universal health care as his top three priorities. He has written two bestselling books: a memoir of his youth titled Dreams from My Father, and The Audacity of Hope, a personal commentary on U.S. politics.

Early life and private career

Obama, known as “Barry” throughout his early years, was born on August 4, 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii to Barack Obama, Sr. and Ann Dunham. His parents separated when he was two years old and later divorced. After her divorce, Dunham married Lolo Soetoro, and the family moved to Soetoro’s home country of Indonesia in 1967, where Obama attended local schools in Jakarta from ages six to ten. He then returned to Honolulu to live with his maternal grandparents while attending Punahou School from the fifth grade until his graduation in 1979. Following high school, Obama moved to Los Angeles, where he studied at Occidental College for two years. He then transferred to Columbia University in New York City, where he majored in political science with a specialization in international relations.

Obama received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Columbia in 1983, then worked at Business International Corporation and New York Public Interest Research Group before moving to Chicago in 1985 to take a job as a community organizer. He entered Harvard Law School in 1988. In 1990, The New York Times reported his election as the Harvard Law Review’s “first black president in its 104 year history.” Obama completed his law degree magna cum laude in 1991, then returned to Chicago where he headed a voter registration drive and began writing his first book, Dreams from My Father, published in 1995.

As an associate attorney with Miner, Barnhill and Galland from 1993 to 2002, he represented community organizers, discrimination claims, and voting rights cases. Following his election to the Illinois Senate in 1996, Obama agreed to work at the firm during the summer, when the Illinois Senate was not in session. While Obama never took part in a trial, he worked on teams drawing up briefs, contracts, and other legal documents. This included being part of teams that represented Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now in a successful lawsuit that forced the state of Illinois to implement a federal law that was designed to make it easier for people to register to vote, an appeals brief on behalf of a whistleblower that was suing Cook County Hospital and the Hektoen Institute for Medical Research for wrongful termination, and on another team forced the city of Chicago to redraw ward boundaries that the city council drew up following the 1990 census. Obama also did some work on taxpayer-supported building rehabilitation loans for Rezmar Corp., owned by Tony Rezko and Daniel Mahru. Rezko has raised over $250,000 for Obama’s various political campaigns.

Obama also taught constitutional law part-time at the University of Chicago Law School from 1993 until his election to the U.S. Senate in 2004.

State legislature

Obama was elected to the Illinois Senate in 1996 from the 13th District, which then spanned Chicago South Side neighborhoods from Hyde Park-Kenwood south to South Shore and west to Chicago Lawn. His campaign challenged the irregular nominating petitions of other Democratic candidates, whose names were eventually struck from the primary ballot, including incumbent Alice J. Palmer.

In 2000, he made an unsuccessful Democratic primary run for the U.S. House of Representatives seat held by four-term incumbent candidate Bobby Rush. He was reelected to the Illinois Senate in 1998 and 2002 (when the 13th District was redrawn to span Chicago lakefront neighborhoods from the Gold Coast south to South Chicago). In January 2003, Obama was appointed chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee when Democrats, after a decade in the minority, regained a majority in the Illinois Senate. The new majority leader Emil Jones also appointed Obama the sponsor of important legislation, that had previously been under development, establishing his political record in that year. He resigned from the Illinois Senate in November 2004 following his election to the U.S. Senate. As a state legislator, Obama gained bipartisan support for legislation reforming ethics and health care laws. He sponsored a law enhancing tax credits for low-income workers, negotiated welfare reform, and promoted increased subsidies for childcare. Obama also led the passage of legislation mandating videotaping of homicide interrogations, and a law to monitor racial profiling by requiring police to record the race of drivers they stopped. He was criticized by rival pro-choice candidates in the Democratic primary and by his Republican pro-life opponent in the general election for a series of “present” or “no” votes on late-term abortion and parental notification issues. His early legislative career was sometimes marked by an inability to acquire the necessary votes for the passage of bills.

Senate campaign

Obama launched a campaign committee at the beginning of July 2002 to run for the U.S. Senate in 2004 and two months later had David Axelrod lined up to do his campaign media. Obama formally announced his candidacy on January 21, 2003, four days after former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun announced she would not seek a rematch with U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald. On April 15, 2003, with six Democrats already running and three Republicans threatening to run against him, Fitzgerald announced he would not seek a second term in 2004, and three weeks later popular Republican former Governor Jim Edgar declined to run, leading to wide open Democratic and Republican primary races with 15 candidates, including 7 millionaires (triggering the first application of the Millionaires’ Amendment of the 2002 McCain-Feingold Act).

In opinion polls five months before the primary, Obama trailed Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas and Illinois Comptroller Daniel Hynes; one month before the primary, Obama trailed only multimillionaire securities trader Blair Hull; one week before the primary, Obama had surged to front-runner status. Hull’s popularity declined after divorce records were unsealed that contained allegations of domestic abuse. Obama’s candidacy was boosted by an advertising campaign featuring images of the late Chicago Mayor Harold Washington and the late U.S. Senator Paul Simon; the support of Simon’s daughter; and political endorsements by the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times. Obama received over 52% of the vote in the March 2004 primary, emerging 29% ahead of his nearest Democratic rival. He also won the endorsement of the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police, whose president credited Obama for his active engagement with police organizations in enacting death penalty reforms. His opponent in the general election was expected to be Republican primary winner Jack Ryan. However, Ryan withdrew from the race in June 2004, following public disclosure of child custody divorce records containing sexual allegations by Ryan’s ex-wife, actress Jeri Ryan. In August 2004, with less than three months to go before election day, Alan Keyes accepted the Illinois Republican Party’s nomination to replace Ryan. A long-time resident of Maryland, Keyes established legal residency in Illinois with the nomination. Through three televised debates, Obama and Keyes expressed opposing views on stem cell research, abortion, gun control, school vouchers, and tax cuts. In the November 2004 general election, Obama received 70% of the vote to Keyes’s 27%, the largest electoral victory in Illinois history.

In July 2004, while still serving as a state legislator, he wrote and delivered the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, Massachusetts. After describing his maternal grandfather’s experiences as a World War II veteran and a beneficiary of the New Deal’s FHA and G.I. Bill programs, Obama spoke about changing the U.S. government’s economic and social priorities. He questioned the Bush administration’s management of the Iraq War and highlighted America’s obligations to its soldiers. Drawing examples from U.S. history and invoking patriotic texts and symbols, he challenged media perceptions of sharp partisan divisions and asked Americans to find unity in diversity, saying: “We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.” Broadcasts of the speech by major news organizations launched Obama’s status as a national political figure and boosted his campaign for U.S. Senate.

Senate career

Obama was sworn in as a senator on January 4, 2005. Though a newcomer to Washington, he recruited a team of established, high-level advisers devoted to broad themes that exceeded the usual requirements of an incoming first-term senator. Obama hired Pete Rouse, a 30 year veteran of national politics and former chief of staff to Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, as his chief of staff, and economist Karen Kornbluh, former deputy chief of staff to Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin, as his policy director. His key foreign policy advisers include Samantha Power, author on human rights and genocide, and former Clinton administration officials Anthony Lake and Susan Rice. He holds assignments on the Senate Committees for Foreign Relations, Health; Education, Labor and Pensions; Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; and Veterans’ Affairs, and is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The U.S. Senate Historical Office lists him as the fifth African American Senator in U.S. history, the third to have been popularly elected, and the only African American currently serving in the Senate. CQ Weekly, a nonpartisan publication, has characterized Obama as a “loyal Democrat” based on Senate votes cast in 2005 through 2007. During his first three years in the Senate, Obama received Honorary Doctorates of Law from Knox College (2005), University of Massachusetts Boston (2006), Northwestern University (2006), Xavier University of Louisiana (2006), Southern New Hampshire University (2007), and Howard University (2007). A Kenyan school located in his father’s hometown, which he visited while on an congressional trip in August 2006, was renamed the “Senator Barack Obama Primary School.”

109th Congress

Obama on discussion with tom coburn regarding coburn-obama transparency act..

Obama took an active role in the Senate’s drive for improved border security and immigration reform. In 2005, he cosponsored the “Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act” introduced by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). He later added three amendments to the “Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act”, which passed the Senate in May 2006, but failed to gain majority support in the U.S. House of Representatives. In September 2006, Obama supported a related bill, the Secure Fence Act, authorizing construction of fencing and other security improvements along the United States-Mexico border. President Bush signed the Secure Fence Act into law in October 2006, calling it “an important step toward immigration reform.”

As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Obama made official trips to Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. In August 2005, he traveled to Russia, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan. The trip focused on strategies to control the world’s supply of conventional weapons, biological weapons, and weapons of mass destruction as a first defense against potential terrorist attacks. Following meetings with U.S. military in Kuwait and Iraq in January 2006, Obama visited Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian territories. At a meeting with Palestinian students two weeks before Hamas won the legislative election, Obama warned that “the U.S. will never recognize winning Hamas candidates unless the group renounces its fundamental mission to eliminate Israel.” He left for his third official trip in August 2006, traveling to South Africa, Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Chad. In a nationally televised speech at the University of Nairobi, he spoke forcefully on the influence of ethnic rivalries and corruption in Kenya. In December 2006, President Bush signed into law the “Democratic Republic of the Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act,” marking the first federal legislation to be enacted with Obama as its primary sponsor.

Partnering first with Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN), and then with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), Obama successfully introduced two initiatives bearing his name. “Lugar-Obama” expands the Nunn-Lugar cooperative threat reduction concept to conventional weapons, including shoulder-fired missiles and anti-personnel mines. The Lugar-Obama initiative subsequently received $48 million in funding. The “Coburn-Obama Transparency Act” provides for the web site USAspending.gov, managed by the Office of Management and Budget. The site lists all organizations receiving Federal funds from 2007 onward and provides breakdowns by the agency allocating the funds, the dollar amount given, and the purpose of the grant or contract. Obama found less success in his efforts to further regulate the US nuclear energy industry, sponsoring a bill which generated expected opposition. A modified version was successful in committee but did not pass the full chamber as the session ended; Obama would once mistakenly claim to have fully passed the bill.

110th Congress

In the first month of the newly Democratic-controlled 110th Congress, Obama worked with Russ Feingold (D-WI) to eliminate gifts of travel on corporate jets by lobbyists to members of Congress and require disclosure of bundled campaign contributions under the “Honest Leadership and Open Government Act,” which was signed into law in September 2007. He joined Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in sponsoring S. 453, a bill to criminalize deceptive practices in federal elections, including fraudulent flyers and automated phone calls, as witnessed in the 2006 midterm elections. Obama’s energy initiatives scored pluses and minuses with environmentalists, who welcomed his sponsorship with John McCain (R-AZ) of a climate change bill to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two-thirds by 2050, but were skeptical of his support for a bill promoting liquefied coal production. Obama also introduced the “Iraq War De-Escalation Act of 2007,” a bill that had proposed capping troop levels in Iraq, beginning phased redeployment, and removing all combat brigades from Iraq before April 2008; the measure came under criticism from Senate Republicans, including fellow presidential contender John McCain (R-AZ).

Later in 2007, Obama sponsored with Kit Bond (R-MO) an amendment to the 2008 Defense Authorization Act adding safeguards for personality disorder military discharges, and calling for a review by the Government Accountability Office following reports that the procedure had been used inappropriately to reduce government costs. He sponsored the “Iran Sanctions Enabling Act” supporting divestment of state pension funds from Iran’s oil and gas industry, and joined Chuck Hagel (R-NE) in introducing legislation to reduce risks of nuclear terrorism. A provision from the Obama-Hagel bill was passed by Congress in December 2007 as an amendment to the State-Foreign Operations appropriations bill. Obama also sponsored a Senate amendment to the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to provide one year of job protection for family members caring for soldiers with combat-related injuries. After passing both houses of Congress with bipartisan majorities, SCHIP was vetoed by President Bush in early October 2007, a move Obama criticized.[dead link

Presidential campaign

Obama on stage with his wife and two daughters just before announcing his presidential campaign on February 10, 2007

In February 2007, standing before the Old State Capitol building in Springfield, Illinois, Obama announced his candidacy for President of the United States in the 2008 U.S. presidential election. Describing his working life in Illinois, and symbolically linking his presidential campaign to Abraham Lincoln’s 1858 House Divided speech, Obama said: “That is why, in the shadow of the Old State Capitol, where Lincoln once called on a house divided to stand together, where common hopes and common dreams still live, I stand before you today to announce my candidacy for President of the United States of America.” Speaking at a Democratic National Committee (DNC) meeting one week before the February announcement, Obama called for putting an end to negative campaigning.

Obama’s campaign raised US$58 million during the first half of 2007, topping all other candidates and exceeding previous records for the first six months of any year before an election year. Small donors, those contributing in increments of less than $200, accounted for $16.4 million of Obama’s record-breaking total, more than any other Democratic candidate. In the first month of 2008, his campaign brought in $36.8 million, the most ever raised in one month by a presidential candidate in the Democratic primaries. Amid concerns for his safety as the first black candidate seen as having a viable chance of being elected president, the U.S. government assigned Secret Service protection to Obama 18 months before the general election. He was given the Secret Service codename of Renegade.

Barack and Michelle Obama at the Iowa caucuses, January 3, 2008

With two months remaining before the first electoral contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, and national opinion polls showing him trailing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama began directly charging his top rival with failing to clearly state her political positions. Campaigning in Iowa, he told The Washington Post that as the Democratic nominee he would draw more support than Clinton from independent and Republican voters in the general election. Among the first four DNC-sanctioned state contests, Obama won more delegates than Clinton in Iowa, Nevada and South Carolina while winning an equal number in New Hampshire; Clinton, however, won the popular vote in Nevada and New Hampshire. His win in Iowa was boosted by majority support from a record turnout of voters under 30 years old, most of them first-time caucus goers, while blacks turned away from Clinton after perceived attempts by Clinton to label Obama as a racial candidate. Trailing Clinton nationally by 20% heading into the February Super Tuesday, he eliminated that lead and emerged with another 20 more delegates than Clinton. He broke fundraising records in the first two months of 2008, raising more than $90 million for his primary campaign while Clinton raised $45 million in the same period.

After Super Tuesday, Obama won the eleven remaining February primaries and caucuses. He then won the Vermont primary and the caucus portion of Texas primary and caucuses, but lost the Ohio, Rhode Island, and Texas primary elections to Clinton. As of March 17, 2008 the Associated Press estimated that Obama led the pledged delegate count 1,404 to 1,249; but both were well short of the 2,024 needed to secure the nomination. He also began to cut into Clinton’s lead in committed superdelegates, with the AP counting 249 for Clinton and 213 for Obama. Since the Iowa caucuses, Obama had added 53 superdelegates to his total, compared to 12 for Clinton.

In March 2008, a controversy broke out concerning Obama’s longterm relationship with his former pastor and religious mentor, Jeremiah Wright, when ABC News found several racially and politically charged sermons by Rev. Wright. Following negative media coverage and during a brief drop in the polls, Obama responded by condemning Wright’s remarks, cutting his relationship to his campaign, and delivering a speech entitled “A More Perfect Union” at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In the speech, Obama rejected Wright’s offensive comments, but refused to disown the man himself. Although the speech, which attempted to explain and contextualize the comments, was generally well-received, some continued to press the question of Obama’s long-standing relationship with Wright.

Political advocacy

Obama speaking at a rally in Conway, South Carolina on August 23, 2007

Obama addressing the Save Darfur rally at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on April 30, 2006

On the role of government in economic affairs, Obama has written: “We should be asking ourselves what mix of policies will lead to a dynamic free market and widespread economic security, entrepreneurial innovation and upward mobility we should be guided by what works.” Speaking before the National Press Club in April 2005, he defended the New Deal social welfare policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt, associating Republican proposals to establish private accounts for Social Security with social Darwinism. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Obama spoke out against government indifference to growing economic class divisions, calling on both political parties to take action to restore the social safety net for the poor. Shortly before announcing his presidential campaign, Obama told the health care advocacy group Families USA that he supports universal healthcare in the United States.

Campaigning in New Hampshire, Obama announced an $18 billion plan for investments in early childhood education, math and science education, and expanded summer learning opportunities. Obama’s campaign distinguished his proposals to reward teachers for performance from traditional merit pay systems, assuring unions that changes would be pursued through the collective bargaining process.

At the Tax Policy Center in September 2007, he blamed special interests for distorting the U.S. tax code. His plan would eliminate taxes for senior citizens with incomes of less than $50,000 a year, repeal tax cuts said to favor the wealthy, close corporate tax loopholes and restrict offshore tax havens, and simplify filing of income tax returns by pre-filling wage and bank information already collected by the IRS. Announcing his presidential campaign’s energy plan in October 2007, Obama proposed a cap and trade auction system to restrict carbon emissions and a 10 year program of investments in new energy sources to reduce U.S. dependence on imported oil.

Obama was an early opponent of the Bush administration’s policies on Iraq. On October 2, 2002, the day Bush and Congress agreed on the joint resolution authorizing the Iraq War, Obama addressed the first high-profile Chicago anti-Iraq War rally in Federal Plaza, speaking out against it.

On March 16, 2003, the day President Bush issued his 48-hour ultimatum to Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Obama addressed the largest Chicago anti-Iraq War rally to date in Daley Plaza and told the crowd “It’s not too late” to stop the war.

Obama sought to make his early public opposition to the Iraq War before it started a major issue in his 2004 U.S. Senate campaign to distinguish himself from his Democratic primary rivals who supported the resolution authorizing the Iraq War, and in his 2008 U.S. Presidential campaign, to distinguish himself from four Democratic primary rivals who voted for the resolution authorizing the war (Senators Clinton, Edwards, Biden, and Dodd).

Speaking to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs in November 2006, Obama called for a “phased redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq” and an opening of diplomatic dialogue with Syria and Iran. In a March 2007 speech to AIPAC, a pro-Israel lobby, he said that the primary way to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons is through talks and diplomacy, although not ruling out military action. Detailing his strategy for fighting global terrorism in August 2007, Obama said “it was a terrible mistake to fail to act” against a 2005 meeting of al-Qaeda leaders that U.S. intelligence had confirmed to be taking place in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas. He said that as president he would not miss a similar opportunity, even without the support of the Pakistani government.

In a December 2005 Washington Post opinion column, and at the Save Darfur rally in April 2006, Obama called for more assertive action to oppose genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. He has divested $180,000 in personal holdings of Sudan-related stock, and has urged divestment from companies doing business in Iran. In the July-August 2007 issue of Foreign Affairs, Obama called for an outward looking post-Iraq War foreign policy and the renewal of American military, diplomatic, and moral leadership in the world. Saying “we can neither retreat from the world nor try to bully it into submission,” he called on Americans to “lead the world, by deed and by example.”

Obama has encouraged Democrats to reach out to evangelicals and other religious people. In December 2006, he joined Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) at the “Global Summit on AIDS and the Church” organized by church leaders Kay and Rick Warren. Together with Warren and Brownback, Obama took an HIV test, as he had done in Kenya less than four months earlier. He encouraged “others in public life to do the same” and not be ashamed of it. Before the conference, 18 pro-life groups published an open letter stating, in reference to Obama’s support for legal abortion: “In the strongest possible terms, we oppose Rick Warren’s decision to ignore Senator Obama’s clear pro-death stance and invite him to Saddleback Church anyway.” Addressing over 8,000 United Church of Christ members in June 2007, Obama challenged “so-called leaders of the Christian Right” for being “all too eager to exploit what divides us.”

Personal life

Obama rebounding the ball during a basketball game with U.S. military from CJTF–HOA during his visit at Camp Lemonier, Djibouti, on August 31, 2006

Obama met his future wife, Michelle Robinson, in 1988 when he was employed as a summer associate at the Chicago law firm of Sidley & Austin. Assigned for three months as Obama’s adviser at the firm, Robinson joined him at group social functions, but declined his initial offers to date. They began dating later that summer, became engaged in 1991, and were married in October 1992. The couple’s first daughter, Malia Ann, was born in 1998, followed by a second daughter, Natasha (“Sasha”), in 2001. Applying the proceeds of a $2 million book deal, the family paid off debts in 2005 and moved from a Hyde Park, Chicago condominium to their current $1.6 million house in neighboring Kenwood. The land adjacent to their house was simultaneously sold to the wife of well-connected developer, and Obama supporter Tony Rezko, provoking continued media scrutiny but no official allegations against Obama, even as the political fundraiser was indicted on unrelated charges. In December 2007, Money magazine estimated the Obama family’s net worth at $1.3 million.

Obama plays basketball, a sport he participated in as a member of his high school’s varsity team. Before announcing his presidential candidacy, he began a well-publicized effort to quit smoking. “I’ve never been a heavy smoker,” Obama told the Chicago Tribune. “I’ve quit periodically over the last several years. I’ve got an ironclad demand from my wife that in the stresses of the campaign I do not succumb. I’ve been chewing Nicorette strenuously.” Replying to an Associated Press survey of 2008 presidential candidates’ personal tastes, he specified “architect” as his alternate career choice and “chili” as his favorite meal to cook. Asked to name a “hidden talent,” Obama answered: “I’m a pretty good poker player.”

In Chapter Six of Obama’s 2006 book, The Audacity of Hope, Obama writes that he “was not raised in a religious household.” He describes his mother, raised by non-religious parents, as detached from religion, yet “in many ways the most spiritually awakened person that I have ever known.” He describes his Kenyan father as “raised a Muslim,” but a “confirmed atheist” by the time his parents met, and his Indonesian stepfather as “a man who saw religion as not particularly useful.” The chapter details how Obama, in his twenties, while working with black churches as a community organizer, came to understand “the power of the African American religious tradition to spur social change”:

It was because of these newfound understandings-that religious commitment did not require me to suspend critical thinking, disengage from the battle for economic and social justice, or otherwise retreat from the world that I knew and loved-that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ one day and be baptized.

Obama joined Trinity United Church of Christ in 1988. A megachurch with 8,000 members, Trinity is the largest congregation in the United Church of Christ.

Books


Obama’s first book, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, was published before his first run for political office. In it he recalls his childhood in Honolulu and Jakarta, college years in Los Angeles and New York City, and his employment as a community organizer in Chicago in the 1980s. The book’s last chapters describe his first visit to Kenya, a journey to connect with his Luo family and heritage. In the preface to the 2004 revised edition, Obama explains that he had hoped the story of his family “might speak in some way to the fissures of race that have characterized the American experience.” Joe Klein, author of Primary Colors, a 1990s roman à clef loosely based on Bill Clinton’s 1992 U.S. presidential campaign, wrote that Dreams “may be the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician.” The audiobook edition earned Obama the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album of 2006.

His second book, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, was published in October 2006 and soon rose to the top of the New York Times Best Seller hardcover list. The Chicago Tribune credits large crowds that gathered at book signings with influencing Obama’s decision to run for president. Former U.S. presidential candidate Gary Hart said the book’s self-portrayal presents “a man of relative youth yet maturity, a wise observer of the human condition, a figure who possesses perseverance and writing skills that have flashes of grandeur.” Reviewer Michael Tomasky writes that it does not contain “boldly innovative policy prescriptions that will lead the Democrats out of their wilderness,” but does show Obama’s potential to “construct a new politics that is progressive but grounded in civic traditions that speak to a wider range of Americans.” In February 2008, he won a Grammy award for the spoken word edition of Audacity. Foreign language editions of the book have been published in Italian, Spanish, German, French, and Greek. The Italian edition was published in April 2007 with a preface by Walter Veltroni, leader of the newly formed Democratic Party of Italy.

Cultural and political image

Obama supporters at a campaign rally in Austin, Texas, on February 23, 2007

Supporters and critics have likened Obama’s popular image to a cultural Rorschach test, a neutral persona on whom people can project their personal histories and aspirations. Obama’s own stories about his family origins reinforce what a May 2004 New Yorker magazine article described as his “everyman” image. In Dreams from My Father, he ties his maternal family history to possible Native American ancestors and distant relatives of Jefferson Davis, president of the southern Confederacy during the American Civil War. Speaking to Jewish audiences during his 2004 campaign for U.S. Senate, he linked the linguistic root of his East African first name Barack to the Hebrew word baruch, meaning “blessed.” In an October 2006 interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Obama highlighted the diversity of his extended family: “Michelle will tell you that when we get together for Christmas or Thanksgiving, it’s like a little mini-United Nations,” he said. “I’ve got relatives who look like Bernie Mac, and I’ve got relatives who look like Margaret Thatcher. We’ve got it all.”

With his Kenyan father and American mother, his upbringing in Honolulu and Jakarta, and his Ivy League education, Obama’s early life experiences differ markedly from those of African American politicians who launched their careers in the 1960s through participation in the civil rights movement. During his Democratic primary campaign for U.S. Congress in 2000, two rival candidates charged that Obama was not sufficiently rooted in Chicago’s black neighborhoods to represent constituents’ concerns. In January 2007, The End of Blackness author Debra Dickerson warned against drawing favorable cultural implications from Obama’s political rise: “Lumping us all together,” Dickerson wrote in Salon, “erases the significance of slavery and continuing racism while giving the appearance of progress.” Film critic David Ehrenstein, writing in a March 2007 Los Angeles Times article, compared the cultural sources of Obama’s favorable polling among whites to those of “magical Negro” roles played by black actors in Hollywood movies. Expressing puzzlement over questions about whether he is “black enough,” Obama told an August 2007 meeting of the National Association of Black Journalists that the debate is not about his physical appearance or his record on issues of concern to black voters. Obama said, “we’re still locked in this notion that if you appeal to white folks then there must be something wrong.”

Writing about Obama’s political image in a March 2007 Washington Post opinion column, Eugene Robinson characterized him as “the personification of both-and,” a messenger who rejects “either-or” political choices, and could “move the nation beyond the culture wars” of the 1960s. Obama, who defines himself in The Audacity of Hope as “a Democrat, after all,” has been criticized by progressive commentator David Sirota for demonstrating too much “Senate clubbiness”, and was encouraged to run for the U.S. presidency by conservative columnist George Will. But in a December 2006 Wall Street Journal editorial headlined “The Man from Nowhere,” Ronald Reagan speech writer Peggy Noonan advised Will and other “establishment” commentators to avoid becoming too quickly excited about Obama’s still early political career. Echoing the inaugural address of John F. Kennedy, Obama acknowledged his youthful image, saying in an October 2007 campaign speech, “I wouldn’t be here if, time and again, the torch had not been passed to a new generation.”