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India's Caste System Topic of Anti-Globalization Forum

Posted on 2004/1/13 8:49:02 ( 1514 reads )


NEW DELHI, INDIA, January 11, 2004: Starting Friday in Bombay, Hinduism's centuries-old social hierarchy will be the focus for thousands of global activists. The World Social Forum, an annual convention of the anti-globalization movement being held in Asia for the first time, will focus on caste as one of five main themes for its panels and protests. Gautam Mody, a spokesman for the forum, says organizers expect to draw 75,000 people through January 21. More than 138 million Indians belong to the lowest caste known as the Dalits, or 'the oppressed," the term the community prefers to the archaic "untouchables." Another 68 million Indians belong to tribes facing similar social stigma. Caste discrimination was banned by the 1949 constitution and a number of Dalits have risen to prominent positions--most notable K.R. Narayan, president of India from 1997 to 2002 and a scheduled speaker at the World Social Forum's closing session. While the focus in Bombay will be on India, Dalit campaigners said they wanted to form alliances with other communities suffering hereditary discrimination. Among the speakers at the World Social Forum will be Ecuadorian indigenous leader Blanca Chancoso and Victor Dike, who has lobbied against discrimination among the Igbos of Nigeria. "The whole concept is to rally all the communities who are being humiliated by no fault of theirs," said Ashok Bharti, convener of India's National Conference of Dalit Organizations.

Pune Police Book American Writer Laine

Posted on 2004/1/13 8:48:02 ( 1068 reads )

Fundamentalism, Geology Meet At the Grand Canyon

Posted on 2004/1/13 8:47:02 ( 1121 reads )


ARIZONA, U.S.A., January 7, 2004: Most scientists agree that the Grand Canyon--a 10-mile wide chasm in northern Arizona--was carved by the Colorado river 5 million to 6 million years ago, says this article in the LA Times. Now a book in the National Park's bookstore tells another story. "Grand Canyon: A Different View," by Colorado River guide Tom Vail, asserts that the Grand Canyon was formed by the Old Testament flood, the one Noah's Ark survived, and can be no older than a few thousand years. Reaction to the book has been sharply divided. The American Geological Institute and seven geo-science organizations sent letters to the park and to agency officials calling for the book to be removed. In response, the book was moved from the natural sciences section to the inspirational reading section of park bookstores. Park service spokesman David Barna, who is based in Washington, said each park determined which products were sold in its bookstores and gift shops. The creationist book at the Grand Canyon was unanimously approved by a new-product review panel of park and gift shop personnel. But the book's status at the park is still in question. Grand Canyon's superintendent, Joe Alston, has sought guidance from park service headquarters in Washington. The uproar at the Grand canyon highlights what officials say is a dilemma for the national park system: how to respect visitors' spiritual views that may contradict the agency's accepted scientific presentations and maintain the division of church and state. Religion and geology are intertwined in many parks and monuments, where there are shrines and various sites sacred to Native Americans, who are often afforded special access to worship. Nor are spiritual references absent. Viewed from the Grand Canyon's popular Bright Angel Trail are rock formations named by 19th century explorers after Hindu deities such as Siva and Vishnu.

HPI adds: The controversy over the Grand Canyon book stands in interesting contrast to the controversy in India over the Shivaji book. Most Americans would think "book banning" to be something of the past, at least in this country, but as we see, a controversial book still faces a kind of ban in Arizona. The Christian fundamentalists are trying, with some success, to have creationist beliefs taught as an "alternative theory" to evolution in public schools.

Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute Ransacked

Posted on 2004/1/12 8:49:02 ( 1080 reads )


PUNE, INDIA, January 6, 2004: Members of the Sambhaji Brigade ransacked the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute last Monday. The vandalism was provoked by a book written by James Laine on the Hindu King in India during Islamic domination named Shivaji. The article says, "It is not known which specific passages provoked the group." However when the Sambhaji Brigade consisting of 250 members caused the destruction at BORI, they made it clear that it was because Shrikant Bahulkar, a Sanskrit scholar, had assisted Laine when he was conducting research for his book on Shivaji, which raises questions about his parentage. In December in an attempt to resolve the controversy, Laine apologized for his statements about Shivaji and the publisher, Oxford University Press, withdrew the book from the market. Apparently the apology by Laine and withdrawal of the book was not enough to appease the Sambhaji Brigade. The revenge initiated by the Brigade has done irreparable damage. Manuscripts dating back 2,000 years have been torn. A Syrian clay tablet dating back to 600 B.C. has been defaced. Over 20 years of work on the cultural index of the Mahabharata has been ransacked. Precious Sanskrit manuscripts have been trampled on. Ancient books and palm leaf inscriptions were destroyed. Leela Arjunwadkar, president of the Governing Council of the institute says, "I am unable to estimate the monetary loss, but India's cultural heritage has received a huge setback. It will be difficult for the institute to get back on its feet." Eight research scholars (mostly foreigners), who were staying at the guest house in the institute, have fled to safety. A monk from Vietnam who was doing research on Pali scripts comments, "We come here because we have heard about BORI. This is a great indological center, the library, the scholars, the environment is so peaceful. But, I don't know if this place is safe anymore."

Amidst all the mindless destruction a ray of hope filtered in at the Bhandarkar Institute when a team of college students and some neighbors and friends united together to clean up the rubble. Gauri Deshpande, a first-year student from Fergusson college says, "We discussed it in the class today and decided that instead of just talking about the incident we should go and see if we could be of any help. Now we will come here everyday after college." Aarti Shaligram, a neighbor who lives opposite the BORI, says, "I had heard about the institute but never visited it before as I thought that it would not be open for common people like me. But when I read the newspapers today, I could not stop myself from coming here to help." Prajakta Sarnaik, a student of Sanskrit from SP College adds, "We can replace the furniture, but who will give us the manuscripts that have been damaged or stolen? Now people will think twice before handing over their precious collections to institutions like BORI."

Please check out the following additional URLs for more information on this incident: ananova.com or timesofindia or cities.expressindia.com

Interview with Shri Pramukh Swami Maharaj

Posted on 2004/1/12 8:48:02 ( 1374 reads )


BANGALORE, INDIA, December 31, 2003: The Bochasanwasi Akshar Purshottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) is all set to open its temple in Bangalore. This will be followed by the setting up of the Akshardham in the next few years, like the Akshardham in Gandhinangar (Gujarat), which is huge teaching display on the history and philosophy of the denomination. Head of BAPS his divine holiness Poojya Pramukh Swamy Maharaj spoke to The Times of India in Bangalore.

Q: What is the significance of setting up the Mandir and Akshardham in Bangalore?

A: More than any other time in history, the world today is suffocating in materialistic madness. Pure materialism has become the root of devastating addictions, violence, theft, divorce, corruption, homicide and suicide. No technology can do much to curb these things. Only spirituality, family values and an awareness of one's social duty can help. A mandir now and in the long-term future, an Akshardham, form the hearts that pump and transport these lofty values to every corner of the city.

Q: What is the message to the people on this occasion?

A: Open your hearts to God, surrender your troubles to Him. Seek solace and guidance from scriptures, good books and renunciates. Think not only of this world, but also of the next. Life is short. What is important is not the length of your life but its depth. We cannot become happy while others are unhappy. We live a symbiotic relationship. We cannot isolate ourselves. No one can be an island. We all depend on each other and need to reach out to each other. This is the essence of happiness and the foundation of progress.

Q: What will be the role of Akshardham in the future of India?

A: Akshardham is the symbolic reproduction of the Lord's divine and eternal abode. With more and more Akshardhams and mandirs like these coming up around the world, the future not only of India but also the entire planet will be much brighter. The future of India lies in its spiritual reawakening. A person who loves God truly will love all His creations too. That includes mankind. A God-conscious person would never hurt another being and would spend his life in the service of others. Instead of pulling each other down, they will pull each other up. This is the quantum leap India will make in the future.

Q: You are a renunciate and pristine celibate. You enjoy none of the pleasures of this world. What then is the source of your happiness?

A: Bhagwan Swaminarayan and my Gurujis Brahmaswarup Yogiji Maharaj and Brahmaswarup Shastriji Maharaj are the source of infinite bliss! It also brings me great joy and satisfaction to witness their visions such as the Akshardham, Gandhinagar, the eighth wonder of the world Shri Swaminarayan Temple, London, the Akshardham, New Delhi, the award-winning gowshalas, schools, hostels and hospitals -- all becoming a beautiful reality.

Misuse of Funds Charged at Famed Ganesha Temple

Posted on 2004/1/11 8:49:02 ( 1079 reads )


MUMBAI, INDIA, January 6, 2004: Devotees lining up at the Siddhivinayak Temple, Prabhadevi, are receiving a pamphlet distributed by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). The pamphlet says the temple's funds are being systematically diverted to private trusts run by ministers in the state government and state officials. The state government controls the Siddhivinayak Temple trust, which is the state's second richest with over $9 million. The distribution of the pamphlets began last week. VHP president Ashok Chowgule and other VHP workers met with governor Mohammad Fazal and asked him to present the issue to the state government. It is not just the VHP that has raised the issue of corruption at the temple. A public interest litigation was filed in the Bombay High court in November, with the same allegations. The petition has alleged that in the absence of any guidelines for distribution of temple funds, the funds are being misused by those who control the temple. The plea has sought transparency in allocation of funds by the trustees to other trusts and NGOs. The petition is being heard by the court. Unlike other temple trusts that are governed by the charity commissioner, the Siddhivinayak temple trust is governed under a special legislation enacted by the state government in 1980 and comes under the direct jurisdiction of the state law and judiciary department.

Rudraksha Bead Sales Brisk at NRI Convention in Delhi

Posted on 2004/1/11 8:48:02 ( 1034 reads )


NEW DELHI, INDIA, January 10, 2004: NRIs (non-resident Indians) and PIOs (persons of Indian origin) who have come to India to attend the second Pravasi Bharatiya Divas celebrations are thronging the Rudra Centre gallery at Vigyan Bhavan, to buy rudrakshas, the seed of the Elaeocarpus Ganitrus Roxb tree and sacred to Lord Siva. Rudraksha specialist Kamal Narayan Seltha says that the ek-mukhi (single-faceted or faced) to 15-mukhi beads have powerful electromagnetic, paramagnetic and inductive properties that will improve the health and wealth of the buyer as well as improve his concentration, creativity and wisdom. "It will also remove obstacles, help you foresee future happenings and get you limitless administrative qualities," he promises.

A rudraksha could cost anything between US$4.34 and $43,000 each, depending upon its strength. A 14-mukhi rudraksha is selling for $700 while a special siddhamala has been priced at $1,500. Mr Seltha told The Asian Age: "The rudraksha is our national treasure, which the Siva Purana describes as Lord Siva's tears. There is a tremendous interest in rudrakshas among NRIs. I have done tremendous business in the first two days of the meet. We are guaranteeing that the rudrakshas here are genuine. Artisans have also been posted at the spot to make the malas (garlands)."

Call for Hindu Lay Religious Leaders for US Military

Posted on 2004/1/10 8:49:02 ( 1116 reads )


USA, January 10, 2003: HPI received the following article and request from Chaturbhuj N. Gidwani. Gidwani, who is attached to US forces in Okinawa, Japan, has campaigned for years to establish a Hindu chaplain in the US military. There are presently Buddhist and Muslim chaplains serving, and as yet, no Hindu chaplain. However, there is an intermediate position, that of Lay Leader, which can be fulfilled on a part-time basis by a qualified person. Gidwani himself is a Hindu lay leader at Okinawa.

He writes: "It is explained in the Directorate for Operational Ministries, U.S. Atlantic Fleet's Lay Leader Handbook & Resource Guide, that a Lay Leader's role is to conduct Divine Services in the absence of ship/squadron chaplain. The position can be of great benefit to the collective life of the ship. It is my opinion that the role of the Lay Leader is one of enhancing our own individual moral character and spirituality that will eventually weed out global terrorism. I am writing this article as a call for Indian Americans serving the Armed Forces to come forward and volunteer to be Hindu Lay Leaders. Ever since September, 1893, when Swami Vivekananda came from India to represent Hinduism and address the Parliament of Religions held in Chicago, Illinois, America has opened her arms to the philosophy and principles of Vedanta. In the last 110 years, major cities around the world have opened Ramakrishna Mission Centers that teach Vedanta Philosophy to those who are in sympathy with the teachings of Sri Ramakrishna, spiritual master of Swami Vivekananda. Presently the University of California offers regular courses on Vedanta Philosophy. In August, 1947, Mahatma Gandhi proved to the whole world that freedom can be achieved through the main tenet of Hinduism - nonviolence. In 1965, Congress made massive reforms to the immigration laws, equalizing quotas which allowed immigrants from many countries to enter the United States of America, particularly from Asia. These reforms opened the doors for people from the subcontinent to come over and make America their new homeland. In 1950s and 60s, two great spiritual masters, Swami Chinmayananda and Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami (Gurudeva), independently started to teach Hindu heritage and cultural values to Americans to bring unity in diversity. In July, 1973, Americans decided through their elected Congress to establish the All Volunteer Force. This allowed young Indian Americans to come forward and join the Armed Forces to serve their new homeland. In March, 1998, efforts by Hinduism Today, founded by Gurudeva, were made to attract qualified Hindus to consider career Military Chaplaincy as a career option. Click here for the article. I also appeal to all serving soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen to volunteer to become part-time Hindu Lay Leaders as allowed in the military and invite qualified Hindus to consider becoming Hindu Chaplains, a commissioned officer post, in the U.S. Armed Forces. With this noble appeal, we will continue to preserve our 5,000 year-old culture and heritage for our future generations to come. For additional information contact the author at 011-81-611-745-5217."

Replica of Tirupati temple in South Africa

Posted on 2004/1/10 8:48:02 ( 980 reads )


JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA, January 2004: A replica of the famed Tirupati temple in Andhra Pradesh is being built in an Indian township in South Africa. The Transvaal Andhra Sabha saw a 27-year-old dream reach fruition when the foundation-laying ceremony of its temple took place in Lenasia, south of Johannesburg. Founded in 1976, the members of the small but dedicated community from the South African provinces of Gauteng, Mpumalanga, North-West and Limpopo Provinces have been raising funds for the temple. Roy Naidoo, who has been taking care of the temple project, said an Indian architect put together the plans. "We took those plans, modified them a bit for local conditions and are looking forward to having a temple similar to the famous one in Tirupati, which is reputed to collect the most religious funds from visitors in the world after the Vatican." There will be the main Venkateswara temple as well as a smaller Hanuman temple to complement it. Discussions have already been initiated with representatives in India for the 11 deities that are to be installed in the temples.

Diversity Champions to Receive King Honors

Posted on 2004/1/10 8:47:02 ( 1000 reads )


SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA, January 10, 2004: The son of migrant workers who now helps the underserved and uninsured get services, and Hindu twins who created a program to teach tolerance, will be honored Monday, January 12, as Diversity Champions. The awards will be presented at the 10th annual Scottsdale Community Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dinner Celebration. Meghan and Manali Bhave, seniors at north Scottsdale's Desert Mountain High School, and Rueben Camacho, a Scottsdale worker and resident of Gold Canyon in the Southeast Valley, were selected from a group of 12 nominees.

Several people nominated Camacho. He works in community relations at Scottsdale Healthcare. He reaches out to the uninsured and underserved families that live in south Scottsdale. He makes families aware of a variety of services that are available to help. He said he finds joy in "just seeing poverty-stricken families coming together and learning the system."

Meghan and Manali Bhave are being honored for founding Students Understanding Nations' Similarities or SUNS, a club that fosters tolerance and promotes an environment free of racial tensions. The 17-year-olds came up with the idea after the 9/11 attacks. Through SUNS, the duo created a performance for students at Anasazi Elementary School. The fraternal twins created 12 three-dimensional booths; each represented a country. Each student was given a passport to visit the booth, where they learned about different foods, sports, clothes and religion. Meghan and Manali have been asked back to create a similar program for Anasazi this year. They are also coordinating an event at Desert Mountain in March that will showcase different cultural dances and food. Meghan and Manali's work makes them the youngest recipients ever of the Diversity Champion awards. "Cultural diversity is something we do as a hobby because we love it," Meghan said. "We're Hindus living in America," Manali explained. All their lives they have learned both cultures integrated the two into their lives. The teens both hope to become doctors.

The Bhaves and Camacho will receive the award awards are given by the Community Celebrating Diversity at 5:45 p.m. at Chaparral Suites Hotel, 5001 N. Scottsdale Road. Reservations are $60 per person and can be made by calling (480) 312-3030.

Efforts Being Made to Revitalize India's Famed Marwari Horse

Posted on 2004/1/10 8:46:02 ( 1179 reads )


JODHPUR, INDIA, January 3, 2004: The most famous Marwari horse was Chetak who saved the life of Maharana Pratap, one of the great military heros of Hinduism. It is counted among one of the many gifts from the Gods brought forth at the "churning of the ocean" -- and was originally equipped with wings. But this courageous breed is now a dying breed, found only on ceremonial occasions. It is known for its fine carriage and showmanship. The most distinguishing feature of the Marwari horse is a long flat head and unusual ears that touch on the top. Yes, the horse has a home page, here.

But the Marwari breed known for his courage and endurance is a dying breed. Less than 400 Marwari pure breeds now survive. "They were sure footed and courageous animals and could live on meagre rations. And this role continued right up to the time there were horse cavalries like the Jodhpur lancers," says Maharaja Gaj Singh, Patron, Marwari Horse Society. Once the cavalries of Rajasthan were disbanded these horses were left without patrons to maintain them. Interbreeding with local horses also led to their decline.

But now efforts by the Marwari Horse Society in Jodhpur, which has standardized the points of the Marwari horse, has once again revived this breed. "These are one man horses. If trained and loved, they will do anything the owner tells them to," says Gajendra Pal Singh, Joint Secretary, Marwari Horse Society. Horse races and shows are now being planned to make Rajasthan's most historical breed relevant in the modern context.

Hindu Houses Burnt in Bangladesh

Posted on 2004/1/9 8:49:02 ( 957 reads )


DHAKA, BANGLADESH, January 2, 2004: Thirty people were injured, five of them seriously, when a group of armed attackers led by a local BNP leader allegedly set fire to 20 houses belonging to minority Hindus in Bangladesh on the first day of the New Year. The minority Hindu houses at Lalpur Village of the northern Natore district were set on fire in broad daylight by assailants led by Moslemuddin, the local leader of the ruling BNP, reported The Daily Janakantha newspaper. At least 30 people were injured in the incident with five people hospitalized in serious condition. Four people remained missing following the incident, the reports said, adding the attackers also indulged in looting and destroying property. Quoting the victims, Janakantha said the attack centered around the possession of a pond and land area. A case regarding a property dispute is pending in the court. The victims were mainly farmers engaged in making jaggery. All the equipment needed for jaggery-making was destroyed in the attack, the reports said. Minorities, including Hindus, Buddhists and Christians, constitute between 11 and 12 percent of Bangladesh's population of 140 million. Hindus make up nearly 90 percent of the minorities.

Puri Shankaracharya: Donate One Rupee a Day to Stop Conversions

Posted on 2004/1/9 8:48:02 ( 851 reads )


BERHAMPUR, ORISSA, January 6, 2004: The Shankaracharya of Gobardhan Peeth, Puri, Swami Nischalananda Saraswati, has urged the Hindus to save at least one rupee (US two cents) every day and contribute it to a fund for development of tribal areas to stop illegal conversion. People are taking advantage of the poverty and under-development of tribals to wean them away from the Hindu religion, the Puri seer stated while addressing the annual function of Ganjam college at Ganjam, 30 km from here yesterday. Expressing concern over conversion, the Shankaracharya said it posed a threat to Hindu religion and ridiculed the propaganda that tribals were not Hindus. The Shankaracharya said that Hinduism was the oldest religion in the world saying the time has come for people professing the faith to protect it.

Jewish View of Eastern Religions

Posted on 2004/1/9 8:47:02 ( 832 reads )


DECEMBER 30, 2003: In the last several decades, countless Westerners have turned to Eastern religions for inspiration and spirituality, according to this article on jewish.com. Jews have been no different. Many American Jews flocked to Eastern religions as part of the hippy counter-culture of the 1960's and 1970's, and today, India and Thailand are havens for Israelis seeking to explore other cultures and religions, say author Rachael Gelfman. The article focuses primarily on Hinduism and Buddhism, as these are the religions most often discussed in Jewish sources. The medieval Jewish scholastic sources that discuss Hinduism consider it idolatrous. However, from the beginning of the modern era, some Jewish scholars began to see Eastern religions in a more positive light. In Jerusalem, Moses Mendelssohn, a leading Jewish Enlightenment thinker, argued that, "we should not be so quick to judge other religions -- particularly Hinduism -- as idolatry. First one must know that religion well and investigate how its own practitioners see it." In recent years, interfaith dialogue between Jews and practitioners of Eastern religions has developed. One of the most noted of these dialogues is described in Rodger Kamenetz's book The Jew in the Lotus. Kamenetz writes about eight Jewish delegates who traveled to Dharamsala, India to meet with the 14th Dalai Lama in 1990. The Jewish delegates had diverse attitudes toward this dialogue, reflecting the diversity of Jewish attitudes toward inter-religious dialogue in general. For the complete article, click on "source" above.

Ancient Javanese Temple Target for Thieves

Posted on 2004/1/5 8:49:02 ( 931 reads )


CENTRAL JAVA, INDONESIA, January 3, 2004: Resembling a temple in India, the Bima Temple in Java was built about 7th century ce, and the traditional rites performed at the temple are steeped in Javanese mysticism. Twenty-four statues called Kudus originally blessed the upper part of the Bima temple. After successive thefts, deities only remain on the western and southern sides of the temple. The most recent attempt to procure a Kudu statue occurred on October 31, 2003. It was recovered three days later when a psychic revealed that the Kudu was still in the general vicinity of the temple. Haryanto, chief of the management and maintenance board of Dieng archaeological site and museum says, "There were probably at least two thieves because the statue, made of andesite stone and measuring the size of an adult's head, was too heavy for a single person to carry." Haryanto further adds, "Kudu statues are targeted by thieves as foreign collectors are fond of them. The first theft occurred in 1981, followed by the second, the third and the fourth in 1984, 1991 and 1999 respectively." Bima Temple is the only temple on Dieng plateau that has Kudu statues in the form of a woman's face wearing a crown. The temple was built 2000 meters above sea level at a location believed to be a holy site or point of contact with the immortals.

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