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Visiting the Tiger-Controlled Areas of Sri Lanka


Posted on 2004/1/5 8:48:02 ( 958 reads )

Source

SRI LANKA, January 2, 2004: It has been almost two years since a ceasefire was announced between the Tamil Tigers and the government. After twenty years of civil war, the Tamil Tiger rebels now control areas of northern Sri Lanka. In order to enter these areas, travellers must pass through immigration and custom offices manned by young Tamil Tigers cadres. Many travellers pay heavy duties and taxes to enter the northern areas. These taxes are used to sustain the administrative structures the Tigers have set up. Travellers feel like they are entering another country after just completing a security check by the government when they first entered Sri Lanka. Despite the fact that the northern countryside still has land mines, the people are rebuilding temples destroyed during the war and a small tourist industry in now thriving. The article adds, "As for the political mood, the rebel leaders are now waiting to see the results of the current power struggle in the capital, Colombo, where President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe have deep differences over the peace process." Ordinary people in Sri Lanka feel that 2004 will be a crucial year for the peace process.




Haridwar Prepares for Ardha Kumbha Mela


Posted on 2004/1/5 8:47:02 ( 1079 reads )

HPI

NEW DELHI, INDIA, January 5, 2004: The Ardha or half-cycle celebration of the Kumbha Mela at Haridwar is to begin January 14 and carry on through May. As many as 20 million devotees will pilgrimage to the Ganges during that time. This Mela occurs on the 6th year between the main Melas which are on a 12 year cycle. There has been little advance coverage of the Mela, though the government has been making substantial preparations. Swami Vishweshwarananda of Omkarananda Ashram in Rishikesh told Hinduism Today reporter Mr. Rajiv Malik in Delhi today that the preparations at the governmental level for the Ardha Kumbha were going on in a full swing. Roads, bridges and other construction work was being carried out speedily. Rishikesh was even subjected to frequent power cuts due to the Kumbha preparations as the power was being diverted for Kumbha related jobs. Another significant change at the ground level is that Haridwar is now a part of the new state of Uttranchal which was carved out of Uttar Pradesh. So it is the state of Uttranchal which is preparing for the Ardha Kumbha.



Swami Vishweshwarananda also said that yesterday they had a gathering of around 200 sadhus at Omkarananda Ashram to mark the Mahasamadhi day, January 4, of Swami Omkarananda. A huge bhandara was organized to feed the sadhus on this occasion.




All-Religion Peace Committees For Sri Lanka


Posted on 2004/1/4 8:49:02 ( 970 reads )

Source

SRI LANKA, January 3, 2004: The Sri Lanka government is setting up all-religions peace committees at provincial and district levels to defuse the religious tension in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan Prime Minister's Secretary, Bradman Weerakoon, held talks on December 31, 2003, with the Secretaries of the Buddhasasana, Hindu religious affairs, Christian affairs and Muslim affairs Ministries to discuss details. Mr. Weerakoon said the Prime Minister and the government were deeply concerned about the religious tension and would do everything possible to check this ugly trend (mostly involving Christian missionary activities).




Nepal Kumari Accepting Foreign Visitors Again


Posted on 2004/1/4 8:48:02 ( 892 reads )

Source

KATHMANDU, NEPAL, January 3, 2004: Kumari, the Virgin Living Goddess who is worshipped by millions of Nepalis, has once again started giving darshan or audience to foreigners after an 11-month hiatus at her abode at Kumari Ghar, Basantapur. Foreign tourists were restricted from seeing the Kumari following a dispute over allowances to be given to the Living Goddess from the fees raised from them. Nepali visitors go to the top floor of the Ghar to worship the Kumari. But foreigners are allowed only in the courtyard where they can have a glimpse of the Kumari as she looks out of her window. Foreigners can have a glimpse of the Kumari from 8 to 12 in the morning and from 4 to 7 in the evening everyday. But in the winter, it closes an hour early in the evening. As per the new agreement, any offering of gifts or money is purely voluntary. In the past, tourists were charged a certain amount. Taking photographs of the Kumari is prohibited.




Delhi Police Seek Blessings Of Lord Hanuman and Goddess Durga


Posted on 2004/1/4 8:47:02 ( 1433 reads )

Hindi Daily Dainik Hindustan (translated from Hindi)

NEW DELHI, INDIA, January 3, 2004: "Ko nahi janat hai jag mein kapi, sankat mochan naam tiharo" [Who does not know that in this world oh monkey, thy name is one which liberates one out of all problems]. It is this "Sankat Mochan" [one who liberates the individual from all problems] who is playing the role of supporting element for Delhi Police in managing the law and order arrangements of Delhi. Chief of Police Shri Radhey Shyam Gupta and many other officials not only observe a fast on Tuesdays but they make it a point to go to the Hanuman temple to pray for strength, intellect and education.



Police Commissioner Radhey Shyam Gupta observes a fast on Tuesdays and is a regular worshipper of Lord Hanuman. Shri Ashok Chand, who has killed several terrorists in dramatic encounters, said he has a deep faith in Lord Hanuman, as does Deputy Commissioner of Crime Branch Shri Deependra Pathak. Shri Pathak says that no one can dispute the powers of Lord Hanuman, and he has been worshipping Him for a long time. Delhi's West District Deputy Commissioner of Police Shri Satish Golcha has worshipped Him since childhood. He fasts on Tuesday, visits the Hanuman Temple in Connaught Place and recites Hanuman Chalisa. Many of the police also worship Goddess Durga as "Mother of Lions."




Maintain Tradition Of Ahimsa, Says the Dalai Lama


Posted on 2004/1/3 8:49:02 ( 1133 reads )

Source

NEW DELHI, INDIA, January 3, 2004: Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama said people of India should maintain the country's glorious tradition of "ahimsa" for all-round development. "For thousands of years, India is following tradition of ahimsa (nonviolence). Indians must show the world that people of different religions can live together peacefully," he said at a function organized by Sri Sathya Sai International Centre and School for Study and Research in Human Values in New Delhi. The Dalai Lama said, "Pluralism in religion is a reality and we must accept it. Some politicians may follow a different view, but that is because of their ignorance." He said the attitude of Chinese people towards Tibet was changing. "Religious belief of Tibetan Buddhism has been increasing among Chinese. Many Chinese, who visit Tibet, are showing interest in Tibetan culture and religion," he added. Rajya Sabha member Dr. Karan Singh, who was present at the function, described the spiritual leader as a "great human being" and said, "it is because of his continuous efforts that Tibetan diaspora across the globe has been brought under a close knit network."




Boys Fall Behind Girls In Education


Posted on 2004/1/3 8:48:02 ( 893 reads )

Source

UNITED STATES, December 28, 2003: According to a USA Today research done in 1,000 high schools, spanning more than 25 states in the US, and from a survey among 40,000 typical students (that is, neither stars nor low performers), it has been found that boys have "a deep-seated malaise about learning." According to the research, for five out of six girls, it is important to continue education beyond high school, but only two out of three boys have a similar interest. The newspaper's editorial states: While 70 percent of girls thought it was useful to do well in school to achieve life goals, only about one in two boys felt the same. Also, 31 percent of boys scored low on federal reading tests, compared with 20 percent of girls. In colleges, at the end of the 1990's, for every 100 boys who got their bachelor's degrees, there were 133 women and this could go up to 142 by 2010, according to the US Department of Education. It used to be believed that boys catch up with girls "in math and science courses starting in 10th or 11th grades." The new finding is that they are simply "falling behind." An op-ed piece in USA Today by Sally Shaywitz suggests that teachers may be holding boys to the behavioral standards of girls. By such a yardstick, boys who are normal as boys may be seen as being more inattentive, more active and exhibiting more behavioral and academic problems.




US Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan head to get NRI award


Posted on 2004/1/3 8:47:02 ( 1033 reads )

Source

NEW YORK, NEW YORK, December 27, 2003: The executive director of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in the United States, Dr P. Jayaraman, is among seven non-resident Indians chosen for the Pravasi Community Service Award. Dr. Jayaram has contributed his expertise in Sanskrit on numerous occasions to Hinduism Today magazine and other publications by Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami.



The award is given by the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO). The other awardees are V. Ram, social activist and educationist from Indonesia, London-based community activist Raj Loomba, publisher of 'Who's Who' in Bahrain, Sunny Kula Thakal, Indo-Guyanese founder of Rajkumari Cultural Centre, Pritha Singh, Minister of Education in South Africa's Natal government, Narend Singh and social activist K. Sital. The awards will be presented during the convention GOPIO will hold in New Delhi on January eight and nine to coincide with the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas to be held next month.




New Hampshire Hindu Temple Burns


Posted on 2004/1/2 8:49:02 ( 1114 reads )

Source

EPPING, NEW HAMPSHIRE, January 2, 2003: There was little Pandit Ramadheen Ramsamooj could do to save several precious religious icons when fire engulfed his Hindu temple Wednesday night. The smoke, he said, was just too thick. "I could not see anything at all," the 50-year-old leader of the Saraswati Mandiram temple said yesterday as he sifted through what was left of the holy place where he and hundreds of others once worshipped. The fire was likely sparked by an electrical problem, the state Fire Marshal's Office ruled yesterday.



Nine figures of Hindu Gods and Goddesses were ruined in the blaze, their charred and broken pieces strewn across the blackened floor of the temple. Ramsamooj said the gold-plated marble icons hand-made in India were valued at close to US$400,000. The flames were so intense they melted the gold. "It was devastating in my heart to see the place where I worship and the hundreds who come to worship go up in flames. It's a very sad day for me," Ramsamooj said.



Ramsamooj has vowed to eventually rebuild the temple, but until then, members will worship in a 200-seat auditorium attached to the temple that was saved by firefighters. Neighbors stopped by the temple yesterday to offer their support and assistance when efforts to rebuild get under way. Ramsamooj said it's too early to begin thinking about how the temple will be rebuilt because he is still stunned. Members of the temple come from across New England. Some, like Hema Mahase, 18, live in apartments on the property. Mahase was home with her family when the fire began, but she and other tenants made it out safely. "I couldn't believe it. This is so precious to us. We are just shocked," Mahase said, standing near piles of burnt furniture and other items removed from inside the temple. Ramsamooj moved the Hindu temple from Boston seven years ago. The building was formerly used as a Christian retreat center. The temple also offers religious classes through a private school, and Ramsamooj is looking to create a charter school on the property.



Temple address: Saraswati Mandiram 38B, Ladds Lane, Epping, NH 03042. Phone: 603-679-1126




Lord Ganesha Graces the Desk of America's Former Ambassador to India


Posted on 2004/1/2 8:48:02 ( 997 reads )

Source

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 23, 2003: This article in the Washington Post is mostly about the appointment of Robert D. Blackwill as coordinator for strategic planning with the National Security Council, a new and very influential position. Blackwill, a former Harvard professor, was much appreciated in India during his recently-concluded stint as ambassador, and appears to have imbibed some of India in the process. The article reads in part:



Although he returned this summer, part of Blackwill's heart is clearly still in India. A huge map of "Mother India" adorns the cream-colored walls of his fastidious office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. The only item on his vast desktop -- besides precisely arranged wooden "in" and "out" boxes -- is a tiny figurine of Ganesh, the Hindu elephant-headed God of wisdom and success.



During his two-year stint, Blackwill oversaw one of the fastest transformations in relations between the United States and any country by peaceful means, he noted in a farewell address to the Conference of Indian Industry in New Delhi this summer. When he arrived in 2001, India was under U.S. economic sanctions because of its 1998 nuclear tests and was considered "a nuclear renegade whose policies threatened the entire nonproliferation regime," he recalled.



By the time he left, sanctions had been lifted, and cooperation flourished on issues ranging from counterterrorism to the HIV/AIDS crisis. And the U.S. and Indian militaries were engaged in almost monthly joint training exercises.



"The Bush administration perceives India as a strategic opportunity for the United States, not as an irritating recalcitrant," Blackwill said shortly before leaving India.



But India, in which he traveled by both rail and elephant, transformed him somewhat, too. In a farewell reflection in July, Blackwill said the world for him now falls into two groups -- those who have seen the Taj Mahal and those who haven't. An avid reader, he lauded the Indian novel in English. "Who is writing better fiction today than these folks?" he said.



Blackwill has long been noted for pulling quotes out of the air, from Humphrey Bogart's lines in "Casablanca" to Aristotle pithily defining analysis -- "illumination through disaggregation." In India, he added Krishna to the list -- "Be thou of even mind" -- as well as a taste for sugar in strong tea and Indian dancing.



In his farewell address, Blackwill fondly recalled "gyrating frenetically in a borrowed red turban with a professional local dance group on a lawn on a balmy evening in Chandigarth" -- and his disappointment that members of the group did not ask "the long-legged whirling dervish" to join them permanently.




Publisher of Hinduism Today to be in India on Pilgrimage January 20 - February 5, 2004


Posted on 2004/1/1 8:49:02 ( 893 reads )

Source

KAUAI, HAWAII, January 1, 2004: The publisher of the international magazine, Hinduism Today, Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami (affectionately referred to as Bodhinatha) will be pilgrimaging to India in January 2004, bringing with him seven monastics and 80 sishya and students from 14 different countries. Successor to Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, Bodhinatha and his monastic order are carrying on the dynamic work started by Subramuniyaswami, of publishing and distributing internationally the renowned magazine, Hinduism Today and other educational Hindu publications and internet resources. Hinduism Today magazine is widely acclaimed for bringing to the modern world an international vision and voice for mankind's oldest faith. As well, Bodhinatha is continuing the construction of Iraivan Temple in Hawaii, the first all-stone Hindu temple to be built outside of Asia in modern times. This masterpiece of craftsmanship is being carved in Bangalore and shipped to Hawaii where it has now been 20% completed by a team of master carvers on site. They are the first traditional Indian stone craftsmen to work in America.



The yatra will start in Bangalore, where there will be a major public event at the temple work site on January 21. From Bangalore, the pilgrims continue on to Madurai and various other temples in Tamil Nadu, ending in Chennai where a gathering for the public will be held on Monday, February 4th, 7:00PM at the Binny Hall of the Taj Connemara.



Bodhinatha is open for interviews with media correspondents from the press, radio or television, as and when his schedule allows during the journey. To coordinate such interviews please contact our India liason officer, L. Nellaiappan, Chennai, tel: 91-44-2432-2925; e-mail: nellai@vsnl.com.



Additional background material and photos for the media are available at "source" above.




US Vegetarians Hesitiate to Capitalize on Mad Cow Case


Posted on 2004/1/1 8:48:02 ( 962 reads )

Source

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, January 1, 2004: Droves of Britons gave up meat during England's mad cow outbreak in the 1980s, but since the discovery of an infected cow in Washington state American vegetarians mostly have trod carefully, trying not to take advantage of a situation that could cost lives and cripple a $40 billion industry. "I caution vegetarians from using mad cow disease as a recruiting tool," said Joseph Connelly, editor of San Francisco-based VegNews magazine. "Mad cow disease is not a good thing no matter how you look at it." Though vegetarian headcounts are imprecise, Britain's meat-free population surged following its bout with mad cow, which killed 143 people, according to Tina Fox, spokeswoman for the Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom. She estimates up to 10 percent of the population is vegetarian, and up to 40 percent has reduced its meat consumption.



Vegetarian businesses and advocacy groups mostly say the discovery of mad cow in the United States still is too isolated to prompt people to change their diets. "We're not really at that stage," said Charles Stahler, co-director of the Baltimore-based Vegetarian Resource Group. "They haven't shown that anyone is sick, so it's really very different here." For now, the discovery of one sick cow mostly will steel the minds of existing vegetarians.



"It's giving them another good reason to stay firm in their beliefs," said Carla Davis, managing editor of Glen Allen, Va.-based Vegetarian Times magazine, which has a monthly circulation of 300,000. Vegetarianism has been on an upswing in the United States. Vegetarian Resource Group estimates there are roughly 5.7 million adult vegetarians, up from about 2 million a decade ago.



Natural foods grocers, including giants Whole Foods Market and Wild Oats, said sales data aren't in yet, but so far shopping habits don't appear to have changed. "I've seen nobody coming in panicking, saying 'I have to become a vegetarian,"' said John Hutchins, manager of the Concord Food Co-Op in Concord, N.H. "But if this keeps going I wouldn't doubt if more people start experimenting."



People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals group already has activists around the country distributing information about vegetarianism outside restaurants and launched a new ad campaign: "You would have to be MAD to eat meat." Bruce Friedrich, the group's spokesman, said demand for PETA's free vegetarian starter kits -- a pamphlet of recipes and advice for changing one's diet -- has been so strong the group called in employees from vacation to handle the requests -- 10,000, up from the usual 4,000. "The USDA and the meat industry are playing Russian roulette with the health of the American people, and the national consciousness is being awakened" he said.




UK Hindus Protest Attacks During Festivals


Posted on 2003/12/31 8:49:02 ( 854 reads )

Source

LONDON, ENGLAND, December 14, 2003: Leading British Hindus are meeting on Sunday to discuss ways of tackling violence against their community. Organizer C. B. Patel said Hindus had suffered worse religiously motivated violence than Jews in recent years. Hindu leaders will be joined by politicians and representatives from the Metropolitan police. The conference has been called in response to an attack on the Ealing Road temple in west London during the Hindu festival of Diwali. There has been anger over both that attack, on 25 October, and another attack on a temple in Edgware on 8 November. Hindu leaders fear they are seen as a soft target by thugs, particularly during festivals like Diwali. "I believe people know up until now Hindus are the easy targets and that's why we have to learn to look after ourselves." Mr Patel, publisher of Asian Voice newspaper, said the meeting at Northolt in Middlesex was an opportunity to work out national strategies to make sure Hindus were able to discourage the attacks. He said there was a need to learn "how to defend ourselves, how to learn from the Jewish community, how to have national coordination." "It's unfortunately very serious, not only attacks on temples, but festivities... people have thought it is convenient and they can get away with attacking them. The threat is serious and increasing." "If you look at anti-Semitic activities in the last 10 years, and we have done some statistical study, Hindus have suffered more attacks on temples, serious burnings."




Temple Gets Stolen Conch Back


Posted on 2003/12/31 8:48:02 ( 972 reads )

Source

KOCHI, INDIA, December 29, 2003: A doctor of Indian origin now living in America who stole a conch from a temple in Kerala five years back has returned it anonymously, saying he faced innumerable problems and hardships because of his misdeed. Last week, priests in the Sree Dhanwanthari temple at Wadakkanchery, a small town near Thrissur, were surprised to receive a registered parcel from the United States of America. It was the first time that the temple got any post from the US. At first, temple authorities feared it might contain a bomb. Hence, they did not open the parcel for a week. Then, some people mustered the courage to open it and found a conch inside along with an anonymous letter from the doctor. The doctor claimed he had stolen the conch during one of his visits to the temple. Since then, he has been facing bad luck. "I am paying dearly for my religious misdeed. So I am returning this sacred object," he said in the letter. He begged pardon and as atonement for his sins, and sent a $51 demand draft. The temple is dedicated to Dhanwanthari, the God of Medicine. Hence, it is known as the temple of healing. A large number of NRI doctors and pharmaceutical professionals frequently visit the temple. A temple official said that authorities had registered a complaint with the police after the conch went missing from the temple about five years back.




India Bashing in the Associated Press


Posted on 2003/12/31 8:47:02 ( 1016 reads )

Source

NEW DELHI, INDIA, December 31, 2003: The usually more balanced Associated Press posted an article ("source" above) today that reads, in part, "The last year was, it seems, pretty good for India. 'The Golden Year,' a major newsweekly proclaimed in a recent cover story. 'The Feel-good Year,' another magazine declared. Politicians and headline writers battle it out for the most frequent mentions of the greatness of 2003. The stock market is bouncing around near record highs, foreign exchange reserves have topped $100 billion and malls are being built by the dozen. India's growing middle class is coming into its own amid a surge in conspicuous consumption. And India is celebrating with an orgy of self-congratulation. 'If it is good news, it must be India 2003,' Deputy Prime Minister Lal K. Advani declared in a speech. In a country still stereotyped as being little more than teeming slums and chanting holy men, columnists now offer advice on taking advantage of low-interest rates to get home loans. But the teeming slums are still there, along with disease, rampant unemployment and an ever-widening divide between rich and poor. India's president counts 260 million Indians, one quarter of the nation, as poor. So some here wonder if the burst in Indian optimism -- which ties together everything from a booming economy to a slick government ad campaign and excellent monsoon rains -- simply forgets a large percentage of the country. Those conditions are often miserable. New Delhi alone has an estimated 200,000 homeless people. Across the country, there are 41.6 million people -- four times the population of Belgium -- registered at unemployment offices. Over the past weekend, two dozen homeless people died of the cold in north India, where temperatures dipped to 35.6 Fahrenheit -- frigid for a nation where heat kills hundreds of people every summer. The government's response was to open a few shelters and to tell the homeless not to sleep on the pavement."



The problem with the report isn't in its listing of statistics, or in its uncalled-for slight against "chanting holy men," but in its lack of comparison to other countries.



Compare, for example, this report: "During this year the number of homeless New Yorkers residing in shelters each night has reached the highest point in New York City's history. In November 2003 more than 38,500 homeless men, women, and children were sleeping each night in the New York City shelter system, including 16,900 children, 13,400 adult family members, and 8,200 single adults. Thousands more sleep on city streets, park benches, and subway trains."



Or compare the fact that 400 homeless people freeze to death each winter in Moscow, or the fact that the 2003 heat wave in Europe killed 35,000 people, 14,000 in France alone.



Or consider that America, with a population of just under 300 million has 8.7 million unemployed, while India with one billion population, or three times as many people, has 41.6 million unemployed, a rate a little less than twice that of the US -- which could be considered rather good for a "developing" country.



Or the part about the rich getting richer, compare again New York City from this Newsday article of 2002, "The 1990s wealth effect fueled by the stock market and dot-com craze failed to trickle down to most New Yorkers, according to newly released U.S. Census data. Instead, the rich got richer, particularly in Manhattan. In every other borough, the 2000 Census data suggest, earnings slipped over the decade. 'New York City is a high-priced, congested area with a lot of wealthy and a lot of poor,' said Christopher Jones, a director of the Regional Plan Association, a nonprofit research and planning organization." Twelve percent of Americans, 35 million, live in poverty, according to the US census, compared to 25% of Indians.


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