Thursday, August 18, 2005
Quiz - Indian freedom struggle
Quiz: Struggle for Independence

In lieu of the 58th anniversary of Indian independence coming up on Monday, August 15, it is only fitting that this week’s quiz be devoted to the freedom struggle. A lot of the questions are devoted to identifying personalities who played key roles in this struggle. In addition, the present quiz reverts back to the verbose questions that you are used to seeing from me. Actually the question itself is not verbose, but I have tried to thrown in plenty of related information that makes the question look bulky. Some of you might actually find the info interesting – those who don’t, just ignore it and i hope you wont have too much time 'finding the question' amongst all the info!

1. Which leader of the 1857 mutiny died in exile in 1862 in Burma, and was buried near Shwe Degon Pagoda, Rangoon? When the rebellion was crushed, he was captured and his sons Mirza Mughal and Khizar Sultan and his grandson Abu Bakr were executed in his presence and, famously, their severed heads presented to him.

2. The ‘Doctrine of Lapse’ was an important reason for the outbreak of the mutiny in 1857, and was responsible for the changes in fortune of several princely states - Satara (1848), Jaitpur and Sambalpur (1849), Nagpur and Jhansi (1854) and Awadh (Oudh)(1856). What was this ‘doctrine’?

3. (a) Which retired British civil servant is considered the founder of the Indian National
Congress? (b) Who was the first president of the INC?

4. Which British viceroy ordered the partition of Bengal in 1905? [The huge province of Bengal was split into ‘Eastern Bengal & Assam’ (capital – Dhaka, and comprising modern Bangladesh and the northeastern states of India, the latter clubbed together as Assam) and ‘West Bengal’ (capital – Calcutta, and comprising modern West Bengal, Bihar and Orissa). The action was hastily conceived and reeked of ‘divide and rule’ and led to widespread agitation and a Congress boycott of British goods under the banner of ‘swadeshi’.]

5. Which revolutionary was famous for his role in the Kakori Rail Dacoity in 1925, and the assassination of John Saunders (in protest of the lathi charge which claimed thelife of Lala Lajpat Rai)? He was born in Varanasi in 1906, and was surrounded by British police in 1931 at Alfred Park (Allahabad) following betrayal by an informer. Rather than be captured, he shot himself in the temple after fighting till the last bullet.

6. Which auxiliary force was created by Rash Behari Bose and Captain Mohan Singh mainly by the recruitment of Indian prisoners of war who, in the course of service in the armed forces of the British Indian Empire, had been captured by Japanese forces?

7. Who started the ‘Khudai Khidmatgar’ (Servants of God) organization with brownish (or red) uniforms? They were also known as the ‘Red Shirts’.

8. Which famous lawyer (who was regarded as one of the ‘young and upcoming members of the Bombay Bar’) began his political career with Annie Besant’s Home Rule League? He represented the rights of the farmers of Gujarat following Vallabhbhai Patel’s Bardoli satyagraha, and was one of the main members of the 17 member defense team set up by the Congress to defend the officers of the Indian National Army (along with Jawaharlal Nehru and Tej Bahadur Sapru). Giveaway clue – the US consulate in Mumbai is located on the street named after him!!

9. In 1940 who was chosen by Gandhiji to be the first Individual Satyagrahi (an Individual standing up for Truth instead of a collective action) against the British rule?

10. Which freedom fighter founded the Servants of India Society, which trained people to be selfless workers so they could work for the common good of the people? He was one of the founders of Fergusson College, Pune in 1885.

a. One of the highlights of the civil disobedience movement started in 1930 was the observance of the Purna Swaraj (complete independence) day. What was the date? This day is today a special day for all of us.
b. Also a highlight of this movement was an event that took place on April 6, 1930. Name this event.

12. Who was the British monarch at the time of Indian independence (and also the ‘Emperor of India’ (as was the official title)?

13. Who unfurled the National Flag at the August Kranti Maidan after the arrest of Gandhiji and other major leaders? She was the first Mayor of Delhi and posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1997 after her death in 1996 at the age of 86. Her husband was the first Indian Ambassador to the US.

Friday, August 05, 2005
Quiz - Hindu Mythology (Part 2)
its been an extremely hectic month of july at work, leaving me no time to work on any quizzes ... so this one's been a long time coming. i had promised part deux of the hindu mythology quiz, and finally here it is.

Just like the previous one, this one comes with a disclaimer – since the Sanskrit words are spelled in English, the can seem a little weird (or even incorrect at times!). Also, it’s a little hard to come up with these quizzes – so you might find the questions too hard or too esoteric. So please bear with me and feel free to report the errors.

1. Vichitraviya, the king of Hastinapura died childless. To continue the ‘Kuruvansh’, which great rishi ‘fathered’ Dhritarashtra and Pandu?

2. Who built Yudhishtira’s palace at Indraprashtha? It was supposed to be exquisite and even the gods were supposed to have been envious of it.

3. Of Arjuna’s many wives, who was the mother of Abhimanyu?

4. In the Ramayan, who was the wife of Ravana?

5. ‘Indraprastha, Varnavata, Vrikaprastha, Jayanta and one more of your own choice’! What am I referring to?

6. In the ‘ViraatParva’ of the Mahabharata appear two characters named 'Kanka’ and ‘Sairandhari’. Who are these characters?

7. Who was the son of Brihaspati who took tutelage under Shukraachaarya to learn the art of Sanjivani?

8. After the death of Duryodhana, Yudhishthira became the king of Hastinapura and went to Bhisma (still on the bed of arrows), who instructed him in the various aspects of life and Dharma. After this, Yudhishthira asked if there was one thing through which one can achieve all, Bheeshma tells him the ‘__________’?

9. Whose son is Pradyumna?

10. What is the name of the serpent that bites Parikshit ?

11. What/who was depicted on Arjuna's flag?

12. The grandfather of Bali (of Vamana avatar fame) was a principal protagonist in another of Vishnu’s avatars. Who are we talking about, and which avatar?

Sunday, June 26, 2005
Quiz 9 (June 27-July 3, 2005): General
1. The Suez Canal connects the Mediterranean Sea with which water body?

2. At the headquarters of which international body would you find Dag Hammarskjöld Library? [Hint: The Interpreter]

3. Formed by a former professor of engineering named Hafiz Mohammed Saeed at the University of Punjab (Lahore), this organization is the militant wing of the Markaz Dawa-Wal-Irshad (the Centre for Religious Learning and Propagation). It defined its agenda as ‘the restoration of Islamic rule over all parts of India’. What are we talking about?

4. The host city of the 2012 Olympic Games will be announced on July 6, 2005. Which two out of the following cities are not contenders for the Games? Paris, Brussels, London, Madrid, New York, Tokyo and Moscow.

5. Which sprinter broke the world 100m sprint record at Athens two weeks ago to clock in at 9.77 seconds? He had finished fifth in last year’s Athens Olympic Games. Extra credit – which country does he belong to?

6. Which famous Mumbai-born film maker was buried last month at the Bada Kabrestan in Marine Lines, Bombay on 2005-05-28 in keeping with his wishes of resting with his ancestors? He shot to fame as a 25 year old with his short film ‘The Creation of Woman’, which was shown at the Cannes Film Festival and also nominated for an Oscar.

7. Fill in the gaps - The world’s first _______ was produced by NCR in Dundee, Scotland, and installed in Enfield Town in north London on June 27, 1967 by Barclays Bank. These days, it is almost a mandatory requirement to have for any bank to install several of these (in fact, the more the better its viewed by customers).

8. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is a fatal, neurodegenerative disease. It spreads not through microbes, but through infectious self-reproducing protein structures called ‘prions’. What is the disease commonly known as?

9. What is diacetylmorphine (the 3,6-diacetyl derivative of the pain killer morphine) more commonly known as? Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of this substance.

10. Which is the largest financial services company in the world? It had a profit of $17.9B (yes billion!!) in 2003 and its subsidiaries include Smith and Barney, and Diners Club.

11. What is the capital of Uzbekistan?

12. What is Jalal Talabani’s claim to fame?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Hindu Mythology Quiz
1. In the Ramayana, who disguised as the golden deer to lure away Sita?

2. Who did Veda Vyasa enlist to write down the Mahabharata as he narrated it? Extra credit: what were the conditions laid down at this time before they agreed to go ahead?

3. Srimad Bhagavatam (sometimes also known as the Bhagavata Purana) is a narration by Suka, to a king who has been cursed to die in seven days. Name this king - a descendant of the Pandavas (the son of Abhimanyu, to be exact).

4. Who was the only one of the Kauravas who fought for the Pandavas in the battle at Kurukshetra? He was also the only son of Dhritarashtra not killed in the Great War.

5. Who was the commander-in-chief of the Pandav army in that same war?

6. How many verses and chapters (adhyaaya) does the Bhagwad Gita have?

7. Which famous Rishi has contributed the Gayatri Mantra to our scriptures? Before becoming a rishi, he was a king named Kaushika. Stories about his failures in the quest of becoming a brahmarishi are quite famous!

8. What did Vaishampayana narrate to Janamejaya, the great-grandson of Veda Vyasa's grandson? [HINT - The ultimate flashback of them all]

9. During the last part of the great war, X declared Bheema's conduct to be unworthy of a Kshatriya, and was so livid that he charged at Bheema with his own personal weapon, Y. Which act of Bheema made X so angry, and why? Also name his personal weapon Y. [Question taken from quiznet's Mahabharata quiz]

10. What was the name of the town that Bheema freed from the clutches of Bakasura by slaying him?

11. In the Ramayana, when Vaali was fighting with Sugreev , Rama couldnt distinguish between the 2 from a distance as they looked remarkably alike. What helped him distinguish Sugreeva from Vaali?

12. What is the name of Krishna"s shankha (conch)?

Sunday, June 05, 2005
India Defense Quiz
1. Who were India’s defense ministers in the 1965, 1971 and 1999 (Kargil) conflicts against Pakistan?

2. Which famous Special Forces group was formed in 1986 to fight the increasing menace of terrorism that was evident in the aftermath of Operation Bluestar in Punjab? It is probably the most well known special forces unit in India and has seen action in more than 100 missions since, including the clearing of the Akshardham complex in Gujarat (operation Vajrashakti)? They were conspicuous by their lack of action in the hijacking of IA flight IC-814 and its abduction to Kandahar airport in Afghanistan.

3. Amongst the following missiles from India’s missile armory, which is the anti-tank guided missile? Agni, Prithvi, Trishul, Nag, BrahMos and Akash.

4. Who was the Army chief during Operation Bluestar in 1984, when the Indian Army launched the assault on the Golden Temple in Amritsar? He too suffered a similar fate as Indira Gandhi a couple of years later, when Sikh terrorists assassinated him in Pune in 1986.

5. ‘Operation Shakti’ in 1998 was a defining moment in India’s military history and permanently changed the rules for all future conflicts. What was Operation Shakti?

6. A week ago, India opened its new naval base INS Kadamba, which when fully operational will be India’s largest naval base, and one of the largest in Asia. Where is this base located?

7. Which French-made aircraft of the Indian Air Force (named ‘Vajra’) was a key player in the high altitude bombing operations in the heights of Kargil in 1999? The IAF obtained 49 of these aircraft from manufacturer Dassault in 1985.

8. Named ‘Tejas’, this aircraft being developed jointly by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. and the Aeronautical Defense Agency (ADA) has seen long delays and cost over runs. Development started in 1983, and its first maiden flight was in 2001, but is nowhere close to production. What are we talking about?

9. Between 1987 and 1990, the Indian Army was thrust into a civil war on foreign soil, where it suffered severe losses of personnel, material and a big loss of face, thanks primarily to a big political gaffe by the government of India. It has come to be referred to as India’s Vietnam – what are we referring to?

10. Name the highest battlefield in the world, whose ownership was left undecided by the 1972 India-Pak Simla agreement because it was thought to be uninhabitable. Since 1984, this has not been true, and it is estimated that both sides currently deploy about 3000 soldiers each in the frozen heights. It has cost us more than 2000 soldiers, mostly from weather issues and not from the conflict itself.

11. What is the premier inter-services institute for training of officers of the armed forces? Setup initially in Dehradun in 1948 as the Joint Services Wing and moved to its present destination in 1954. Recruitment takes place after the 10+2 examinations, and cadets graduate with scientifically designed academic training for BA/B. Sc. degree of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

12. This special forces unit is the only one in the Indian military where non-Sikh personnel are allowed to grow a beard! Sounds rather hilarious, but these are some of the best special forces units – having started out with 3 officers sent for training with US Navy Seals and British special forces. What are they commonly known as?

Saturday, June 04, 2005
India Quiz (general)
After an extended hiatus, I'm back. Here is a new one, diverse topics - but one underlying theme: India.

1. What is the tree scientifically called Ficus benghalensis more commonly known as? It is widely found in India and can grow into a giant covering several hectares.

2. Which financial institution of the Indian government, established in 1935, had Sir Osborne A. Smith as its first head. Its first chief in independent India was Sir Chintaman D.Deshmukh, and the present head of this organization has his office at the Central Office Building, Shahid Bhagat Singh Road, Mumbai?

3. How many companies comprise the BSE Sensex? Which of the following is NOT a member of that list: Hindalco Industries Ltd., Cipla Ltd., Tata Chemicals Ltd., Bharti Tele Ventures Ltd., Zee Telefilms Ltd. [Effective March 24, 2005]

4. Which 87-year old freedom fighter was the lone opposition to APJ Abdul Kalam in his presidential election?

5. Which Indian scientist was recently awarded the $1M Dan David prize from Israel (shared with MIT’s Robert Langer and Harvard’s George Whitesides) for his outstanding contributions to materials science? He is currently Linus Pauling Research Professor and Honorary President of Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bangalore and has also been Chairman of the Science Advisory Council to the Prime Minister of India. [for udct junta – he was the main speaker at MM Sharma’s felicitation function at the time of his retirement from udct]

6. Which actress won the Miss India contest in 1979? She starred with Amol Palekar in ‘Naram Garam’ and is presently married to Paresh Rawal.

7. What is the name of the supersonic cruise missile being developed by a company setup as part of a Joint Venture through an Inter-Governmental Agreement between India and Russia? The name of the missile is derived from the names of two major rivers – one Indian and the other Russian, and is supposed to represent the confluence of two great nations. Needless to say, the Indian effort is conducted through the DRDO. It is touted to be superior to the Tomahawk cruise missiles of the US, and recently ran into issues over intellectual property rights between India and Russia.

8. Who captained India’s women cricket team to the finals of the world cup in South Africa earlier this year?

9. Which paramilitary force was formed in 1990 for the exclusive role of fighting insurgency in Kashmir? Although raised as a paramilitary force, it comprises exclusively of soldiers on deputation from the Indian Army, and now has more than 40,000 soldiers in J&K.

10. Who was appointed Chief Justice of India, exactly one year ago, on June 1, 2004?

11. What was the most significant change brought about in the preamble to the constitution of India by the 42nd Amendment of 1976?

12. In 1992, which corporate watchdog body based in Mumbai did the govt. of India establish following the Harshad Mehta stocks scandal to regulate the functioning of the financial markets?

Monday, April 18, 2005
Quiz 7 (April 18-24, 2005): Astronomy
Quiz 7 (April 18-24, 2005): Astronomy

1. A white dwarf is an astronomical object which is produced when a low to medium mass star dies. What is the term used to define the maximum mass of a white dwarf? It is approximately 3 × 1030 kg, close to 1.44 times the mass of the Sun and named after a Nobel Prize winning astrophysicist from India.

2. Which American astrophysicist discovered the velocity-distance relation, which led to the concept of the expanding universe? The law states that the greater the distance between any two galaxies, the greater their relative speed of separation. He is also generally credited for discovering the redshift of galaxies and has a very well known telescope named after him.

3. Name this largest moon of Saturn - discovered by the Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens, it is the second largest moon in our solar system and is the only one to have a dense atmosphere consisting of more than trace gases. Its atmosphere is denser than Earth's, with a surface pressure more than one and a half times that of our planet and supports an opaque cloud layer that obscures its surface features. The 'Huygens probe' from the Cassini-Huygens mission reached its surface on January 14, 2005 by an atmospheric descent and relayed scientific information.

4. Which American astronomer, famous for his efforts to popularize science wrote the bestselling novel 'Contact', which was later made into the 1997 movie of the same name, starring Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey?

5. Which planet in our solar system has two moons Phobos and Deimos, both of which are small and odd-shaped, with the hypothesis that they are probably captured asteroids? It is named after the Roman god of war and has only a quarter the surface area of the Earth and only one-tenth the mass, though its surface area is approximately equal to that of the Earth's dry land because it lacks oceans.

6. What is the so-called boundary of a black hole referred to as? It is defined as the boundary in spacetime for a given observer beyond which no electromagnetic energy, including light, can reach the observer. It is also the title of a science fiction movie starring Lawrence Fishburne and Sam Neill about a spaceship that had disappeared seven years ago (the spaceship has the same name as the movie).

7. Which Indian astronomer (~ 500 AD) presented a mathematical system that described the earth as spinning on its axis and considered the motions of the planets with respect to the sun (a heliocentric solar system)? He also gave a very accurate estimation of 'pi'. India's first satellite (launched in 1975) was named after him.

8. Foundations of modern astronomy
a. Which ancient Greek astronomer was responsible for the 'geocentric' model of the solar system (i.e. earth is the center of the solar system, and all planets revolve around the sun). This remained the generally accepted model in the Western and Arab worlds until it was superseded by the heliocentric solar system.

b. Which brings us to the next question - who was responsible for the 'heliocentric' model (sun at the center) of the solar system (as seen earlier, it was not new, but it is generally attributed to him in the modern age). He hails from Poland and this discovery is considered to mark the beginning of modern astronomy.

c. Contributing to modern astronomy were the three laws of planetary motion, the first of which states that the planets move not in circular but elliptical orbits around the sun (To be exact 'The orbit of a planet about a star is an ellipse with the star at one focus.'). Who was the German astronomer who proposed these laws?

9. Next to the sun, which is the star nearest to the earth? It is a red dwarf in the Alpha Centauri star system and is roughly 4.22 light years from Earth.

10. Which was the first planet in our solar system to be discovered that was not known in ancient times? It had been observed on many previous occasions but was always dismissed as simply another star. It was eventually discovered by Sir William Herschel in 1781.

11. What was the name given to a small planet supposed to exist in an orbit between Mercury and the Sun (from a 19th century hypothesis that has now been superseded by Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity)? [HINT: the name is the same as that of the planet from which Star Trek's Spock came from]

12. Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka (zeta, epsilon and delta - i cant seem to be able use greek symbols!) are three very prominent stars in the night sky and are signature identifiers for which constellation? They are visible throughout the world, make this constellation universally recognized. [HINT - they form the 'belt']

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