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Texas Hindus Lay a Foundation for the Future
Posted on 2002/11/16 8:48:02 ( 658 reads )


Source: The Austin American Statesman





AUSTIN, TEXAS, November 6, 2002: A light rain blessed the day as hundreds of Hindus convened under a mammoth tent in North Austin to bless land in preparation for building a temple. The five-acre field is the future site of the Shri Swaminarayan Hindu Mandir and Cultural Complex for Austin-area Hindus, but particularly important for devotees of the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha, commonly known as BAPS. The Shilanyas Vidhi, ceremonial laying of the foundation stone, which took place on Saturday, was meant to purify and pay homage to the land before construction. "It takes a lot of sacrifice and giving up a lot of things (to build a temple)," said Dhwipa Patel, a University of Texas senior and an organizer at the ceremony. With Austin's growing Southeast Asian population, local BAPS leaders estimate that there are 600 followers in the area who worship at home or in a rented studio space. BAPS, which emphasizes physical and spiritual purity, was founded in 1801 by Lord Swaminarayan, a guru who ignited a religious movement in India and was worshipped as God incarnate by his followers. The current guru, Pramukh Swami Maharaj, follows in an unbroken line of succession which began with Lord Swaminarayan. BAPS communities in Texas are close-knit, relying on each other spiritually and financially. In Houston, the headquarters of the Southwest region, a new sanctuary that mirrors the ornate marble structures in India will open in 2004. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to participate in a project like this," said Jayesh Shelat, a Houston volunteer. The plans for the Austin temple and cultural center are still being reviewed and ultimately must receive the blessing of spiritual leaders in India, Sharan Patel said.




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Exhibition of Aum Paintings Unveiled
Posted on 2002/11/16 8:47:02 ( 817 reads )


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RAJKOT, INDIA, November 14, 2002: Rudra International Pictures announces "An Exhibition Of Digital Canvas Painting On The Supreme Power AUM." The exhibition will be held November 20-24, 2002, at the Shyamaprasad Art Gallery, Race Course Ground, Rajkot, Gujarat, India. Featured artist Jayesh Kansara says, "As a child, I have fond memories of my parents spiritual inclination. This developed my own interest towards AUM. It is with their blessings and inspiration my earlier paintings of AUM were conceptualized on paper. Later on, I progressed to the highly evocative medium of Digital Art, which is extremely popular in today's Contemporary Art. I believe Digital Art has the power to transgress mindsets and deliver the power of AUM to the viewer. I have metamorphosed Aum visually into many varied themes to the best of my knowledge, understanding and mental capacity. And needless to say, I still remain vastly incomplete." For more information on the artist and exhibition, readers may contact "source" above.




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An Appeal for Ideas and Resources
Posted on 2002/11/16 8:46:02 ( 709 reads )


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GADSDEN, ALABAMA, November 16, 2002: A Hindu group in Alabama, in the southern USA, is celebrating "India Day" in their children's schools and are seeking ideas and resources which will project India's cultural heritage and festivals. Ideas, posters and videos would be much appreciated in order to make the "India Day" a resounding success. Readers may contact "source" above to offer assistance.




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Balinese Hold Cleansing Ritual at Terrorist Blast Site
Posted on 2002/11/15 8:49:02 ( 623 reads )


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BALI, INDONESIA, November 15, 2002: Amid charred vehicles and piles of rubble, Balinese worshippers presented elaborate offerings of grain and fruit in a cleansing ceremony Friday at the site of last month's nightclub bombings in Bali. The Hindu ceremony was also attended by ministers, ambassadors and victims' families. Other rituals were performed on a nearby beach in the tourist town of Kuta. Religious leaders sprinkled the bombing site with holy water and burned incense next to pictures of the victims. After the terrorist blasts, Balinese elders and religious leaders consulted sacred texts and decided to hold Friday's ceremony to "place the souls of the victims in the correct plane, to purify them and show them the right way to enter the next cycle," said Ngurah Gede, one of the organizers. The ceremony is "a very specialized ceremony that has never happened before," he added. The ceremony is done following war. Smaller ceremonies led by Balinese Hindus also were being held Friday and Saturday at the site of the World Trade Center attack in New York and in London, Sydney, Toronto and San Francisco. Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation, though Bali is predominantly Hindu.




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Kerala Priests to Discuss Temple Entry for Everyone
Posted on 2002/11/15 8:48:02 ( 758 reads )


Source: Hindustan Times





THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, INDIA, November 11, 2002: Hindu priests, heads of various Hindu bodies and seers will meet at Kottakkal, Kerala's Malappuram district, on November 24 to discuss whether entrance to Hindu temples should be available to all, regardless of religion. In most temples in Kerala, non-Hindus are not allowed entry. Famous singer, K. J. Yesudas, an ardent devotee of Guruvayurappan and Ayyappan who has sung several songs for the Deity was denied entry to the temple on the ground that he was born a Christian and, despite his devotion to Hindu Gods, has never converted to Hinduism. Similarly, poet Yusufali Kecherry, who has written songs to Lord Krishna, is not allowed to enter the Guruvayur temple because he is a Muslim. The meeting is being held under the initiative of Azhvanchery Raman Thamprackkal, who is regarded as the religious head of the Namboodiri sect in the state. "It is a custom to cleanse the religion and regain spiritual sheen of Hindustan," a spokesman of the Azhvanchery family told the Hindustan times. "No believer should be denied entry into a temple just for the reason that he or she was born in another religion. Hinduism is at a crossroads now. Only an internal reformation exercise can revive its old glory and the conclave is a step towards that direction," the spokesman said. However, he hastened to add that consensus among all religious heads and priests was necessary for the success of the meeting.




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Regularly Eating Herbs and Spices Provides Health Boost
Posted on 2002/11/15 8:47:02 ( 597 reads )


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UNITED STATES, Nov 11, 2002: Recent research shows that it's health-savvy to sprinkle herbs and spices in your food all year long. "We now know they act as potent antibiotics, blood thinners, anticancer agents, anti-inflamatories, insulin regulators and antioxidants," says Harry G. Preuss, Ph.D., physiologist at Georgetown University Medical Center and a top researcher in the field. "In tiny doses, eaten regularly in food, common herbs and spices are unique health boosters." (HPI adds: Indian Ayurvedic physicians came to the same conclusion thousands of years ago.) For example, researchers have found that ginger compounds (gingerols) reduce pain in animals and act as Cox-2 inhibitors, similar to the anti-arthritis drug Celebrex. Gingerols also thin the blood "just like aspirin," suggesting that gingerols also fight heart disease. Research has proven that ginger is anti-inflammatory and patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, who took 255 milligrams of ginger extract twice a day for six weeks, had less knee pain than those not getting ginger. Another spice with health benefits is the yellow spice turmeric, a constituent of curry powder, which contains high concentrations of the potent antioxidant curcumin. New tests suggest curcumin helps stifle cancer. Researchers speculate that curcumin blocks the activation of genes that trigger cancer. In addition, curcumin's anti-inflammatory activity reduces arthritic swelling and progressive brain damage in animals. Cinnamon, another spice used commonly in Indian cooking, helps control spikes of blood sugar. This is important as avoiding high circulating levels of blood sugar and insulin may help ward off diabetes. Research also indicates that onion, garlic, cumin, cloves and bay leaves are strong antibiotics.




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"Miss Cleo" Settles Federal Suit
Posted on 2002/11/15 8:46:02 ( 707 reads )


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WASHINGTON, USA, November 14, 2002: The operators of Miss Cleo's psychic hot line agreed Thursday to cancel US$500 million (yes, that's 2,350 crore rupees) in customer bills to settle federal charges that the service fleeced callers while promising mystical insights into love and money. Hindus may find it difficult to believe, but such psychic hot lines are very popular in the United States. The settlement requires Access Resource Services Inc. and Psychic Readers Network Inc. to stop using pay-per-call numbers to sell their soothsaying services, the Federal Trade commission said. The two Fort Lauderdale, Florida, based companies, which promoted a national network of "psychic readers" on television and the Internet, also must pay the FTC a $5 million fine. Under the settlement, the companies did not admit to breaking any law but agreed to stop trying to collect money from customers who called the service and to forgive about $500 million in outstanding charges. The service also must return all uncashed checks to customers. Howard Beales, director of the FTC's consumer protection bureau said that during three years of operation the service charged people about $1 billion and collected half of it -- mostly from customers quite satisfied with the service. The service's business fell sharply in the past year following the FTC lawsuit and is now shutting down, Beales said. The FTC filed a lawsuit in February accusing the companies of misdeeds including false promises of free psychic readings, tricky billing tactics to squeeze money out of callers and unrelenting and abusive telemarketing calls. The FTC said the psychic service promised a free reading, but consumers calling a toll-free number were directed to a 900 number charging $4.99 per minute. HPI adds: The FTC did not accuse Miss Cleo of not being able to provide psychic readings, rather the complaint had to do with illegal marketing, charging and collection procedures -- practices regulated by general telemarketing laws.




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Kedarnath Temple Closes for the Winter
Posted on 2002/11/14 8:49:02 ( 626 reads )


Source: PTI





GOPESHWAR, INDIA, November 6, 2002: The Hindu shrine of Kedarnath, located in Garhwal, Himalayas, closed Wednesday for the winter. The deputy Rawal (priest) of the shrine closed the Kapat (doors) amidst the chanting of Vedic hymns, as snow and stormy winds started blowing through the region. Hundreds of devotees of Lord Siva, including saints, temple employees and others, offered prayers Wednesday morning at the shrine before its closure. The shrine will be reopened in April-May next year. Kedarnath, one of the most renowned Hindu pilgrimage sites, is located at an altitude of 3,584 feet in Rudraprayag district of the North Indian state of Uttaranchal. The doors of Yamunotri and Gangotri temples were also closed Tuesday, while the door of Badrinath shrine will be closed on November 17 for the entire winter season.




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Dalits Seek Conversion From Hinduism to Better Their Lives
Posted on 2002/11/14 8:48:02 ( 613 reads )


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NEW DELHI, INDIA, November 9, 2002: Rebelling against their birth, Dalits ("untouchables") across India are converting from Hinduism to better their lives. To belong a valued members of society and not to be persecuted,or even killed, for being born "untouchable," this is possible in this lifetime they believe. But possible, a growing number amongst Dalits are saying, only by discarding Hinduism. This rejection of their inherited faith occurs sometimes in quiet private ceremonies, and at other times as loud political protests. Like the mass Dalit conversions that happened in Gurgaon, Haryana, 14 days after the Jhajjar lynchings on October 15. Or like the spurt of conversions Dalits foresee occurring in protest against the new bill in Tamil Nadu that proposes to prohibit "conversion from one (religion) to another by use of force or allurement or fraudulent means." Not all conversions, though, are knee-jerk reactions to the latest caste atrocity nor the result of cynical manipulation by politicians. The Dalits of Meenakshipuram, Tamil Nadu, discussed conversion for seven years before quitting Hinduism to free themselves from the practices of untouchability and police harassment. In 1981, 150 Dalit families in this sleepy hamlet in Tirunelveli district embraced Islam. Caste, however, finds its way into most religions in India. Categories like Dalit Christians, Reddy Christians, Nadar Christians continue to matter. Syrian Christians are known to call themselves "originally Brahmin." Moreover, there is discrimination even within the church. For example, in Tamil Nadu's Tiruchirapalli and Palayamkottai districts, there are separate pews and burial grounds for Dalit Christians. The nine-judge Supreme Court ruling in the 1993 Mandal case recognized caste in Christianity. "There are inequalities in other religions but not even near as stark as in Hinduism," says Delhi-based advocate Rashid Saleem Adil, who was Ram Singh Vidyarthi two decades ago. Many have also observed that neo-converts seem to be grasping for meaning in their new belief systems. However, not all neo-converts are too bothered by the burden of a new identity. In Rahmat Nagar, most neo-Muslims do not wear a fez cap, not one woman is wearing the burqa, and for the men it does not mean multiple marriages.




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The Resilient Brahmins
Posted on 2002/11/14 8:47:02 ( 1021 reads )


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NEW DELHI, INDIA, November 10, 2002: Brahmins continue to dominate India's sociopolitical spectrum, despite Mandalisation (legislation to reduce their influence). Four years after Prime Minister V. P. Singh's decision in 1990 to implement the Mandal Commission recommendations, it was hailed and reviled with equal fervor. While the upper castes saw it as the death knell of their aspirations, the backward castes and Dalits ("untouchables") believed it was the gateway to a new world, free of brahminical hegemony. But 12 years after the announcement, and eight since the judgment, brahmins are far from marginalized. Nine of the 12 years have seen brahmin Prime Ministers, P.V. Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee and for five years there was also a brahmin President, Shankar Dayal Sharma. The current Lok Sabha Speaker, Manohar Joshi is a brahmin, as are the three chief ministers of Uttaranchal, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. The chiefs of the Army and the Air Force, Gen. S. Padmanabhan and Air Chief Marshal S. Krishnaswamy, are also brahmins. Brahmins proliferating in top corporate positions, or at the top of the culture and entertainment worlds are too many to name. Additionally, four permanent fixtures in the Indian cricket team, Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble, are brahmins. Although in the North, brahmins have held their own even more successfully than in South India, undoubtedly, lasting changes did occur, rendering brahmins irrelevant in politics. In the bureaucracy, too, brahmins have been reduced to a minority, but even that minority is not doing all that badly. Also South Indian brahmins continue to thrive in the private sector. In the new fields of technology the Indian contribution to software development, is primarily the achievement of South Indian brahmins.




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Audiovisual Presentation on Swami Vivekananda Tours USA
Posted on 2002/11/14 8:46:02 ( 1425 reads )


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KERALA, INDIA, November 9, 2002: Swami Jyotirmayananda of Karnataka, an independent monk of the Ramakrishna tradition, is the author and publisher of a book on Swami Vivekananda. Swami participated in the 1993 Parliament of Religions held in Chicago, in commemoration of the centenary of the First Parliament held in 1893, and the Global Vision 2000 Program in Washington, in commemoration of the centenary of Swami Vivekananda's visit to America. In August, 2000, he attended the U.N. Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders. In the context of the centenary of the Mahasamadhi, July 4, 2002, of Swami Vivekananda, Swami Jyotirmayananda has prepared an Audiovisual presentation on Swami Vivekananda. 45 minutes in length, and titled "Swami Vivekananda -- The Great Hindu Monk of India and His Lasting Spiritual Legacy to Humanity," it is being shown to the student community in some of the educational institutions in the U.S., through the auspices of the Hindu Students Council. Swami Prabuddhananda, Head of the Vedanta Society of Northern California, San Francisco, has arranged for the presentation on Swami Vivekananda for January 1, 2003, at his center. Any institution, religious, cultural, social or educational, who would like to know more about the presentation can contact Swami at "source" above.




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Saudi Arabia Prohibits Indian Jewelers
Posted on 2002/11/14 8:45:02 ( 622 reads )


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RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA, November 9, 2002: After the ban on foreign taxi drivers, Saudi Arabia has now announced that all jobs in gold and jewellery shops, presently dominated by Indians, will be taken over by local people by next year. Saudi Interior Minister Prince Naif, who is also chairman of the Manpower Council, has ordered the total "Saudization" of jobs in gold and jewellery shops from March 4, 2003, Al-Madinah newspaper reports. The shop owners have also been asked to ensure that 50 per cent of their staff are Saudi citizens by the end of this year. There are 3,500 expatriates working in the 1,100 gold and jewellery shop in Saudi Arabia and 10,000 skilled workers in the 360 workshops in Jeddah. A group of Saudi businessmen have decided to open an institute to train Saudi youth in skilled jobs related to the manufacture and sale of gold and jewellery. Between six and seven million expatriates live and work in the Kingdom, which has a population of 22 million. Unofficial estimates put the unemployment rate among Saudi males at about 15 per cent. Labor and Social Affairs Minister Ali Al-Namlah disclosed recently that there are 3.2 million Saudi job seekers.




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Short Message Services Accused of Causing Marital Discord
Posted on 2002/11/14 8:44:02 ( 582 reads )


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NEW DELHI, INDIA, November 10, 2002: A human rights group has launched a campaign here against Short Message Services, arguing SMS has become the root of divorces in India where mobile telephones are the latest craze. Activists with the National Human Rights Council staged a demonstration and burned a cellular telephone in a protest against the succinct messages which are now crowding the Indian ether. "SMS is against Indian etiquette and culture and is the cause of numerous divorces in the recent past," council President Subhash Gupta said after the protest in the Indian capital. This article does not explain why SMS is causing a problem, except to state that even innocent text messages like "U4ME" were known to have sparked marital discord ending in divorce. "SMS has diverted the youth of the country from Indian culture and they are now following the Western trend of dating," added council General Secretary Ramesh Sabbarwal.




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Patna's Mahavira Temple Accepts Dalit Priest
Posted on 2002/11/13 8:49:02 ( 679 reads )


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PATNA, INDIA, November 10, 2002: Patna's Mahavira temple, one of the biggest temples in the country, is known for its break with tradition. Not only the traditional Brahmin priests but also Suryavanshi Das, a Dalit ("untouchable"), also performs religious rituals at the temple and has been a priest there for the past nine years. "We believe in equality among human beings. This temple is associated with the Ramanand community which believed and practiced nondiscrimination 700 years back," says Kishore Kunal, administrator of the Mahavir Mandir Trust. Suryavanshi Das says, "I live here without any fear. There are no restrictions. I come here whenever I feel like. No one questions my work either." Misconceptions and opposition to a Dalit priest from brahmins and religious leaders has now dissipated. "There was discrimination in the early days. It continued for a year or two but now there's nothing like that at all," says Suryavanshi Das. Since Suryavanshi has been accepted as priest, the temple authorities have now decided to increase the number of Dalit priests.




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Deepavali in the Caribbean
Posted on 2002/11/13 8:48:02 ( 720 reads )


Source: Paras Ramoutar





TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO, CARIBBEAN, October 25, 2002: The religious festival of Deepavali holds special significance for the people of Trinidad and Tobago. This year to commemorate the 16th annual Deepavali Nagar, Dr. Uma Mesthrie, a great granddaughter of the late Mahatma Gandhi, was asked to speak. Knowledgeable about the experience of East Indian immigrants who were brought to the Caribbean as laborers, Dr. Mesthrie chose to speak about Mahatma Gandhi as an Apostle of Peace. Dr. Mesthrie wished all Hindus who are doing their dharma a prosperous Deepavali and she prayed that those who are not fulfilling their duty to love and serve, will be inspired to do so in the future. As part of the nine-day festival, Prime Minister Patrick Manning also spoke on October 28th. Manning said, "In Trinidad and Tobago we must of necessity hold the view that our national celebrations, in particular the religious ones, should serve as a vehicle for bringing our society together. They must somehow bond our collective spirit. Like the Mahatma, the Apostle of Peace, we must continue to believe that keeping the peace and exercising goodwill are not a sign of weakness but are manifestations of the highest level of strength."




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