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Kashmiri Pandits Facing "Extinction," Say Experts


Posted on 2003/9/8 9:45:02 ( 908 reads )

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NEW DELHI, INDIA, September 7, 2003: Kashmiri Pandits are "threatened with extinction," says a study presented to the conference on Kashmiri Pandits held in New Delhi on September 1-2, 2003. Among the problems cited were premature ageing and premature death, unnatural death, high incidence of serious and potentially fatal diseases, affliction with multiple disease syndromes, poor medical aid, economic bankruptcy and lack of desire to live, resulting in a high death rate among them. Late marriages and late conception, premature menopause and reduced fertility span, diminished libido and hypo-sexuality of exile, forced celibacy and sexual deprivation, contraception, elective abortion and high divorce rate have spurred low birth rates. The statistics were obtained from surveys conducted at various camps at Jammu where most migrants stayed in pitiable condition after fleeing the Kashmir Valley. The study was conducted was by Dr. K. L. Choudhary, a noted physician, who himself had to flee the Kashmir Valley and is living in Jammu.




In the face of calamity: Orissa children keep up Ganesha faith


Posted on 2003/9/8 9:44:02 ( 815 reads )

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ORISSA, INDIA, September 2, 2003: Heavy rains and floods in Orissa this year did not deter children from celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi. The festival is usually celebrated with much enthusiasm by students seeking Lord Ganesha's blessings for success in their studies. "Our school is flooded with water. So we decided to have the puja by the roadside," said one student. Ninety percent of the students couldn't attend school, but the small and less elaborate puja gave those present a reason to cheer and celebrate.




British Home Secretary Blunkett visits Hindu Temple


Posted on 2003/9/8 9:43:02 ( 973 reads )

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SOUTHALL, U.K., September 4, 2003: British Home Secretary David Blunkett was welcomed with a garland of flowers when he visited Shree Ram Mandir in Southall, Middlesex on Thursday. The Shree Ram Mandir is one of UK's oldest temples. Mr. Blunkett was given a tour of the Deities and listened to a traditional instrumental performance on sitar as well as a recitation of the scriptures. The Home Secretary praised local head teachers, religious leaders and worshippers for working together and creating the much-used resource center. The Shree Ram Mandir is used as a social, educational and religious base for locals of different faiths. As well as holding GCSE classes in Hindi (GCSE is a high school certification in a subject), it holds music and dance lessons, organizes health projects, wedding services, social activities for the elderly and provides a creche for local children. The founder member and trustee of the temple, Rabindra Patahak, said the temple provided people of all ages with a place to come and take part in cultural activities. Mahanta Shrestha, from Nepal added: "More than 200 people come here through these doors every day. This is the first minister we have ever seen here, and I hope it will be a milestone for us as a community."




Temple Consecrated on Reunion


Posted on 2003/9/8 9:42:02 ( 955 reads )

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REUNION, FRANCE, July 7, 2003: July, 2003, marked a highpoint in the religious life of the Tamil community of Reunion island. Thousands gathered on July 6 for the Maha Kumbahishegam of the Siva Soupramanien temple of Petit-Bazar on Avenue Ile-of-France in the town of Saint-Andre. The ten-day ceremony was presided over by Shivacharia Kayaroganam Bala Soupramanien from Tiruchy (Tamil Nadu). Four other priests were flown in from India to assist him and Natarajan Thangappan Gurukkal, the temple's priest. The temple was founded in a small hut in 1900. Many improvements occurred since that time. But now, after eight years of construction, the temple has been completely renovated. Even the deities are new. John Kichenin, president of L'association Siva Soupramanien, explained that hundreds of thousands of dollars (US) were donated to cover construction costs. "The temple needed a renovation as the number of worshippers at the Cavadee festival has grown in recent years. In 1977, we counted 60 penitents performing the cavadee, we passed 125 in 1988, 286 in 1998 and 382 in 2003, and this is not counting the thousands of devotees that accompany the penitents every year."




Sabarimal Temple Opens


Posted on 2003/9/8 9:41:02 ( 1017 reads )

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PATHANAMTHITTA, KERALA, INDIA, September 5, 2003: The hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala will open for Onam festival on September 6. Melsanthi Perikamana Sankaranarayanan Nampoothiri will open the sreekovil (main sanctum) at 5.30 a.m. in the presence of Thantri (chief priest) Kandararu Rajivaru. Udayasthamana pooja, Pushpabhishekam and Padipooja will be conducted on all four days from September 7. The melsanthi will offer Onam sadya to devotees on September 7 after the Ucha pooja. A Sahasra kalasam will be performed under the leadership of the thantri on September 9. The sanctum sanctorum will be closed on September 10 after Harivarasanam in the evening.




National Hindu Convention Held in South Africa


Posted on 2003/9/7 9:49:02 ( 889 reads )

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DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA, September 6, 2003: Hundreds of delegates from all parts of the country are in Durban for a two-day National Hindu Convention. The gathering is to assess Hinduism and its place in South Africa. President Thabo Mbeki is to officially open the meeting later this morning. The convention is being hosted by the South African Hindu Maha Sabha and is aimed at uniting Hindu organizations and the preservation of the culture. Ashwin Trikamjee, the president of the Maha Sabha, said for the first time in the history of this country almost every single Hindu organization would be represented. The Sabha wants to make every effort to support the activities of its affiliates and to ensure the relevance of the tradition. Discussions at the convention will also focus on the role of the youth, women and the functions of Hindu priests. Other dignitaries that will attend include Shiv Sankar Mukherjee, India's High Commissioner to South Africa.



A second report on this convention, available at source, reads, " 'The inaugural Hindu Convention, being held in Durban, would make a great contribution towards the spiritual enrichment of South Africa's diverse society,' President Thabo Mbeki said. Speaking at University of Durban-Westville's Hindu Centre, Mbeki said the convention constituted a significant development in the evolution of South African Society. 'There was a time when it was unthinkable that a religion (that is, Hinduism) which, according to the Apartheid ideology, was outside the officially sanctioned religious mainstream, could assume its rightful place in our spiritual life,' he said. Apartheid not only suppressed political freedom, but also stifled religious choices. Forced removals saw the destruction of sacred places. 'As we know, during removals, graves, temples, halls and other cultural institutions were destroyed in areas such Cato Manor, Riverside and Clairwood.' He said it had taken the Hindu community a long time to rebuild their places of worship in relocated areas such as Lenasia, Chatsworth and Phoenix. Thankfully, in the new South Africa all religions are recognized and there is freedom of worship. 'Given our divided history, religious organizations have an important role to play in the reconstruction and development of our country, especially in the welfare and civil society sectors.' He said the convention would empower South Africa's Hindu community to enhance its contribution to peace.




Temple Priest Arrested for Selling Antique Icons


Posted on 2003/9/7 9:48:02 ( 812 reads )

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BANGALORE, INDIA, September 4, 2003: A temple priest from Kolar district and two others were arrested in the city by the police when they were trying to sell antique icons (of Chola dysnasty) worth over US$3.2 million in the international market on Wednesday. Giving details of the thieves and their operation, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Alok Mohan said archeological department has certified that one of the six icons recovered from the arrested as over 400 years old. The arrested have been identified as Sampath Kumar, head priest of Venkataramana Swamy Temple in Gudibanda, Lokananda of Manchenahalli in Gauribidanur taluk and Sudhakar of Vidyaranyapura. According to police, Sampath Kumar stole original icons from the temple where he worked and replaced imitation icons in the temple. Later, with help from Lokananda and Sudhakar, he tried to sell it and got caught, DCP (North) Syed Ulfath Hussein said. Seized icons are of Venkataramana Swamy, Sridevi, Bhoodevi, Srilakshmi, Anjaneya and Srinivasa and they weigh over 40 kgs, police said.




Kerala Seeks to Revive Flowers for Onam


Posted on 2003/9/7 9:47:02 ( 855 reads )

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KERALA, INDIA, September 6, 2003: The festival of Onam commences from Monday in Kerala and many homes roll out flower carpets, locally known as athappoo. The flower carpet welcome is for the legendry King Mahabali. Efforts are being made to revive this floral tradition for which a competition was organized in Kochi. Many people took part in that competition for the very first time. "People used to decorate floral carpets with natural flowers. Now it has changed to leaves, dry flowers and different powders. The celebration itself has changed a lot from the past," said K K Warier, a judge at the competition. Onam marks the end of the monsoon but it also coincides with the Malayalam New Year thus adding significance to the festival. Besides the very popular snake boat races, fairs are organized and this year's Onam promises to be a memorable one.




Masroor Temple: a Pearl of the Devbhoomi


Posted on 2003/9/6 9:49:02 ( 888 reads )

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DHARAMSALA, INDIA, August 31, 2003: Himachal Pradesh has the reputation for being the land of Gods and Goddesses and is known as Devbhoomi. The state has many historical and modern temples of various sects. The Masroor temple located in the Jawali sub-division of Kangra district, around 35 miles from Dharamsala, is one such temple. The rock-cut temple is a unique example of monolithic structure in the sub-Himalayan region. The beautiful and complex structure of this temple stands on a hill crest and was erected around the 8th century. In the center of the complex stands the main temple, the most elaborate carved shrine, the Thakurdwara that enshrines the black stone images of Lord Ram, Sita and Laxmana facing east. According to archaeological evidence, it appears this temple was originally dedicated to Lord Siva but after a 1905 earthquake, it was converted into the abode of Lord Rama. The exact period of the construction of the temple is not certain, however, on the basis of architecture and sculptural decoration, this temple has been assigned a date somewhere between 8th and 9th century AD. Because of its architecture and sculptural importance, the Masroor temple was declared a protected monument of national importance by the Archaeological Department of India. The locals are allowed to offer prayers only on two big days of Ram Navami and Janamashtmi and have to buy a ticket like other tourists to go inside on other days of the year.




Nepal Goddess Kumari a Rare Sight


Posted on 2003/9/6 9:48:02 ( 766 reads )

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KATHMANDU, NEPAL, September 5, 2003: Next Tuesday, tourists in Nepal will have the rare opportunity of seeing a living Goddess. Normally, the Kumari appears for tourists through an intricately carved window at her residence in the Hanumandhoka palace square. But for the past six months six-year-old Preeti Sakya -- the living Hindu Goddess or Kumari -- has been hidden away because of a row with the Kathmandu municipality. Her guardians say she should receive a fair share of the fee tourists pay for entry to the historic palace square. Municipal officials say they have to use the proceeds of the US$2.50 fee to maintain the world heritage-listed site. For one day, at least, tourists will be able to see the Kumari when she is borne in a palanquin in a religious procession through Kathmandu. According to the 300-year-old tradition, a girl from the Sakya caste of the Newari community in the Kathmandu Valley is selected through rigorous tests. She remains the Goddess until puberty and is called upon to give blessings to Nepal's Hindus and Buddhists -- and even the king. "It is unfair," says Gautam Sakya, one of the guardians. "The municipality earns in the name of Kumari, yet we do not get anything to maintain the rituals associated with her." The guardians insist that the local body should pay them at least 10 percent of its annual earnings of a little over $200,000. Before the municipality began charging tourists the entrance fee two years ago, foreign visitors were allowed to see the Kumari and offered money individually.




Krishna Dance a Success in New York


Posted on 2003/9/6 9:47:02 ( 996 reads )

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NEW YORK, NEW YORK, AUGUST 23, 2003: On Saturday evening at Ananda Ashram's Blue Sky Center in Monroe, the students of renowned Kathak artist and guru Pt. Satya Narayana Charka presented a marvelous display of dance technique and expression in the East West School of Dance's annual Krishna Leela dance-drama. Graduates Mayura Casuba and Romanee Kalicharran dazzled an appreciative audience as they brought Sri Krishna and Sri Radha to life on the stage. Other young students and dance artists demonstrated skilled dance and sensitive expression (earmarks of their teacher's training), as they brought alive the stories of child Krishna, Yashoda and Lord Krishna's beloved Gopikas and friends in the dance-drama choreographed and directed by Pt. Charka. All in all, the performers and the audience alike brought out a wonderful energy that made the Krisnha Leela Dance-Drama a great success for this summer season in New York. For information contact: Pt. Satya N. Charka, Charkasn@hotmail.com.






New Hindu Temple for Belle-Vue-Maurel, Mauritius


Posted on 2003/9/5 9:49:02 ( 1296 reads )

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MAURITIUS, September 1, 2003: A brand new Murugan temple has been constructed in the village of Belle-Vue-Maurel on the East coast of Mauritius. The consecration took place on August 31st. The architecture and construction of the building was done by workers from India. A sum of US$172,000 was invested in the construction of the temple, known as the Belle-Vue-Maurel Bala Soupramaniar Kovil. The money was donated by the inhabitants of the surrounding area and by collections around the island. The temple site has been occupied by three successive structures all of which were destroyed by cyclones. The original shrine was established in 1884 on land donated by the Belle-Vue-Maurel sugar estate.




Punjabi Women Celebrate Traditions Of Tian De Mela


Posted on 2003/9/5 9:48:02 ( 928 reads )

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YUBA CITY, CALIFORNIA, September 1, 2003: The Yuba-Sutter Fairgrounds, venue for such events as the "Sutter North Chili Cook Off," "Two Cities Kennel Dog Show" and the "Harvest Hoe-down-Square Dancing Competition," was full of bright colors Sunday as the fifth annual Tian de Mela, presented by the Punjabi Women's Cultural Organization, brought together women of all ages. More than 3,000 women from throughout California attended the festival. Among the highlights were the Gidda performances by members of the organization, as well as the open Gidda, inviting the participation of women in the audience. Gidda is a combination of dance and "bolian" -- stories and feelings expressed in a rhythmic manner. A variety of vendors displaying Indian suits, jewelry, music and food were also present at the event. Cultural representation from Northern India was apparent in the stage setting, performances and traditional clothing worn by the performers. "This is a great opportunity for Punjabi women to get together and share their views and interests and just have fun," said Navi Samra of Sacramento.




Upper Castes Attack Dalits' Ganesha Parade


Posted on 2003/9/5 9:47:02 ( 782 reads )

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PYAPLI, INDIA, September 1, 2003: Four people were injured when a group of upper caste persons from Pyapili village in Andhra Pradesh in India rained stones on a police party which tried to restore order between the village Dalits ("Untouchables") and the upper castes. Sources said the upper castes started the trouble by destroying the Lord Ganesha icon being taken by the Dalits for immersion. This was strongly resented by leaders of the Dalit community, who informed the police. The upper castes tried to drive away the police party by raining stones on it. Four government officials were hurt.




Kerala Onam Celebration Gets Commercial


Posted on 2003/9/5 9:46:02 ( 753 reads )

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THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, INDIA September 1, 2003: Wherever they are, Keralites look forward to Onam as a great occasion to reminisce their long traditional past. But at home, part of the beauty and grace of the festival appears to have been lost to the demands of consumerism. With Onam just a week away, the state wears the look of an extended market place, as if the "festival of flowers" has turned into a "festival of fairs." Blaring mikes announcing discount sales, make-shift shops offering readymade garments to electronic goods and streets jammed by traffic as people come out in hordes for festival purchase -- the scene is the same in every town, and villages are not far behind in the mad rush. Gone are the days when children used to take time off their studies and go around picking flowers, singing Onam songs. Gone, too, are the days when the care-worn men used to plunge into the arena of rural sports, and women shed their shyness to display their artistic skills at the flower-bedecked front yard of homes.


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