This Day in History (6-Jan-1929) – Mother Teresa Arrives in India

Mother Teresa, Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, was resident of Macedonia. At the age of 18 she joined a group of nuns in Ireland. After a few months of training, she was given permission to travel to India. On her arrival in India, she began by working as a teacher. She took her formal religious vows in 1931 at Darjeeling, and chose to be named after St Therese of Lisieux – the patron saint of missionaries. The widespread poverty of Calcutta made a deep impression on her; and this led to her starting a new order called “The Missionaries of Charity”. The primary objective of this mission was to look after people, who nobody else was prepared to look after.

She experienced two particularly traumatic periods in Calcutta. The first was the Bengal famine of 1943 and the second was the Hindu/Muslim violence in 1946 – before the partition of India. In 1948, she left the convent to live full time amongst the poorest of Calcutta. She chose to wear a white Indian Sari, with blue trimmings – out of respect for the traditional Indian dress. For many years, Mother Teresa and a small band of fellow nuns survived on minimal income and food, often having to beg for funds. Slowly her efforts with the poorest were noted and appreciated by the local community and Indian politicians.

In 1952, she opened her first home for the dying, which allowed people to die with dignity. Mother Teresa often spent time with those who were dying. It afforded many neglected people the opportunity to die knowing someone cared. Those in her dying homes were given the religious rites appropriate to their faith. Over the course of the 1950s and 1960s, she established a leper colony, an orphanage, a nursing home, a family clinic and a string of mobile health clinics. The Missionaries of Charity now has branches throughout the world including branches in the developed world where they work with the homeless and people affected with AIDS.

In 1979, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for work undertaken in the struggle to overcome poverty and distress, which also constitutes a threat to peace”. Following her death, Mother Teresa was formally beatified in October 2003 by Pope John Paul II and is now known as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.


This Day in History (10-Jun-323 BCE) – The Death of Alexander the Great

At the tender age of twelve, in front of his father King Phillip II and several nobles of the Macedonian court, Alexander tamed a spirited horse named Bucephalus. The proud Phillip infamously told the prince, “O my son, look thee out a kingdom equal to and worthy of thyself, for Macedonia is too little for thee.” Alexander would ride Bucephalus in all of his major battles, together till the very end. Philip hired the Greek philosopher Aristotle to be Alexander’s personal tutor, whose philosophy became of importance in Alexander’s later life.

After Philip’s assassination, Alexander ascended the throne and quickly disposed of all of his domestic enemies by ordering their execution. He restored Macedonian rule in Greece and with the conquered territories firmly in Macedonian control, Alexander completed the final preparations for the invasion of Asia with the army of 40,000. His ship approached the Asia Minor’s coast  where he crossed the river Granicus, near the ancient city of Troy and defeated the Persians. Further Battle of Issus ended in a big victory for Alexander . Alexander entered Egypt in the beginning of 331 BC.  In the spring of 327 BC, Alexander and his army marched into India invading Punjab. The greatest of Alexander’s battles in India was at the river Hydaspes, against king Porus, one of the most powerful Indian rulers. The Indians were defeated in a fierce battle, even though they fought with elephants, which the Macedonians had never seen before. Porus was captured and like the other local rulers he had defeated, Alexander allowed him to continue to govern his territory.  In this battle Alexander’s horse Bucephalus was wounded and died.

Alexander the Great finally made a miscalculation: his men wanted to go home. Angry to be asked to turn around despite being just three months’ march from his ultimate goal, he relented. His kingdom, now at its largest boundary, extended over more than two million square miles from northern Greece to western India. In the return journey, after battling an unknown illness for nearly two weeks, Alexander the great quietly died at the royal palace in the heart of Babylon.