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Mata Amritanandamayi's Birthday Celebrations Conclude

Posted on 2003/9/28 9:48:02 ( 1024 reads )


KOCHI, INDIA, September 27, 2003: Curtains came down on the four-day birthday celebrations of Mata Amritanandamayi with several social service and charitable programmes being announced as the spiritual leader turned 50 today. Speaking at the valedictory of the celebrations, Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat applauded the humanitarian programmes and projects successfully launched by her. An all-India free legal cell comprising 1,008 lawyers was formed to serve the needy while keys of houses built as part of the Amritanandamayi Matt's "Amritakutterpam" project to build one hundred thousand free houses for the destitute and homeless throughout the country were handed over to the beneficiaries. A new care home for the elderly and a charitable hospital for tribals were also opened. Amma also solemnized the marriage of 158 destitute couples. From President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, Shekhawat, Deputy Prime Minister L. K. Advani and HRD Minister Murli Manohar Joshi to top business leaders like S. P. Hinduja, Sabeer Bhatia, Kanwal Reikhi and former American Senator, Larry Pressler, Hollywood actress Linda Evans were all here to participate in various functions in the last four days as also devotees from 191 countries. The highlight of the celebrations was the CEO meet held on Friday in which Kalam participated. Over 150 business leaders from India and abroad attended the meet which laid great stress on reaching education to all. As part of the celebrations, an inter-faith meeting was held in which spiritual and religious leaders from around the world came together to discuss and endorse resolutions and create a platform to foster healthy dialogue between faiths and religions. A women's summit resolved to fight the harmful social customs like dowry, female feticide and infanticide and promote awareness of the quality of motherhood. For complete coverage of the event, go to Ammaji's website here.

Indian Minister Attends Global Summit on Medicinal Plants in Mauritius

Posted on 2003/9/28 9:47:02 ( 927 reads )


SRINAGAR, INDIA, September 27, 2003: Minister for Health and Medical Education, Ch. Lal Singh attended the Global Summit on Medicinal Plants in Mauritius. More than one hundred participants from all over the world were present on the inaugural function. Speeches by the dignitaries of the different countries delivered on the different aspects of the medicinal plants and showed their keen interest to develop Ayurveda in their respective countries. They shared the knowledge with each other regarding prospects of Ayurveda medicines. In the inaugural speech, Ch. Lal Singh spoke about the concept of Ayurveda and said that India is the basic source of Ayurveda sciences. He reminded the gathering that Ayurveda is a science of God and it was Bhardwaj Rishi who brought this system of medicine on the Earth from Brahma. The Minister also discussed contractual farming with the top officials of Mauritius Government. Mauritius is having a very little source of Ayurveda plants, and Mr. Singh put a proposal to the Mauritius Government for contractual farming and other related matters in this field. He also held a meeting with the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and other Ministers of Mauritius Government to explore avenues in different fields like employment, sending students in various colleges for engineering and medical education and exchange of artists.

Malaysian Hindus are Advocates for Peace

Posted on 2003/9/28 9:46:02 ( 964 reads )


KUALA LUMPAR, MALAYSIA, September 23, 2003: Seeking peace and harmony, Hindus in Malaysia have worked with their communities and the government to establish harmonious relationships. Dato Samy Vellu, Malaysia India Congress president, spoke at the World Hindu Peace Pilgrimage and said, "The government recognizes each religion's existence as part of the religious mosaic of the country and had allowed people of all religions equal rights and freedom of worship." Vellu gave praise to the Malaysian Hindu Sangam for working closely with the government to alleviate problems related to places of worship. He also elaborated that Hinduism embraces peace but it is a challenge to maintain this concept internally and in the world.

Request for Magazine Coverage of Hindu Girl's Coming of Age Ceremony

Posted on 2003/9/28 9:45:02 ( 966 reads )


NEW YORK, NEW YORK, September 27, 2003: HPI has received the following request: "A national magazine for teenage girls, ym, is working on an article about different coming-of-age ceremonies that American girls participate in. So far we will be featuring an Apache ceremony, a bar mitzva and a quinceanera. One of the rites of passage we are most interested in, however, is the Ritu Kala ceremony for Hindu girls when they reach maturity and are presented their first sari. We are in search of a girl who will be having such an event sometime by mid-October (however, we might be flexible on our deadline) and who would be interested in being photographed and interviewed for ym. This will be a photo-driven article with deep captions and we are fortunate enough to be working with Sylvia Plachy, a very well respected photographer on this project, so the art is sure to be stunning. To participate or for more information, please contact Paisley Strellis, 'source' above, or call 646-758-0429." Readers can visit the ym (it's lower case) website here.

Obesity, Graveyards and Cremation

Posted on 2003/9/28 9:44:02 ( 989 reads )


NEW YORK, NEW YORK, September 28, 2003: If you're obese and think your problems end when you die, think again, suggests this article in the New York Times. Like the airline industry, the article says, which was warned in May that passengers were heavier than they used to be, and was asked to adjust weight estimates accordingly, the funeral industry is retooling to make room for ever-larger Americans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 20 percent of American adults are obese, up from 12.5 percent in 1991. Of those 70 and older -- the demographic that most interests the funeral industry -- 17 percent are obese. Despite the numbers, nearly every aspect of the funeral industry, from the size of coffins to vaults, graves, hearses and even the standardized scoop on the front-end loaders that cemeteries use for grave-digging (it is called a "grave bucket") is based on outdated estimates about individual size. "Many people in this country no longer fit in the standard-size casket," said David A. Hazelett, the president of Astral Industries, a coffin builder in Indiana. "The standard-size casket is meant to go in the standard-size vault, and the standard-size vault is meant to go into the standard-size cemetery plot. Everyone in the industry is aware of the problem." The Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx recently increased its standard burial plot size to four feet wide from three feet to accommodate wider burial vaults, and the cemetery's newest mausoleum has four crypts designed especially to hold oversize coffins. The Cremation Association of North America has begun providing special training to its members in the handling of obese bodies. For those who can't afford the cost of larger plots and coffins, cremation is an option, but most crematorium can't handle bodies over 500 pounds.

Navaratri Celebrations in the U.K.

Posted on 2003/9/27 9:49:02 ( 1060 reads )


COVENTRY, U.K, September 24, 2003: Hindus in Coventry, U.K., are gearing up for Navaratri, the annual nine-day festival, which begins on Friday. The festival marks the celebration of goodness conquering evil. The nine nights of Navaratri are dedicated to three Hindu Goddesses: Lakshmi, Paravati and Saraswati and include worship, dance and music. Venues in Coventry which celebrate the festival each year include Shri Krishna Temple, Harnall Lane West, Mercia Park Leisure and Community Centre, Sidney Stringer School and the Hindu temple in Foleshill Road. Gordhanbhai Chhaya, 75, who has lived in Coventry for more than three decades, said: "Navaratri is a festival eagerly awaited each year by all Hindus. It is an opportunity to meet, greet and rekindle any weakened bonds. It's a marvellous congregation of both the young and old."

Mumbai Court Sets Decibel Limit for Navaratri

Posted on 2003/9/27 9:48:02 ( 1018 reads )


MUMBAI, INDIA, September 24, 2003: The Mumbai High Court has given an interim order to curb noise pollution during Navaratri, following a Public Interest Litigation. According to the interim ruling, noise levels should not cross 45 decibels after 10 p.m. (IST). But the state government has extended the permission for loudspeakers till midnight for the three days of the festival. Though the court still insists that even for those days the decibel levels should not go beyond the set limit. Not everyone is happy with the ruling. "There is noise always at the airports with flights taking off and landing. Why target Navaratri, which only lasts for nine days?" said Preeti, a singer. According to a Supreme Court verdict given two years ago, loud speakers can be used till midnight for 15 days in a year. And for Navaratri the state has extended the deadline on September 27, and October 1 and 2.

Amma Arrives for 50th Birthday Celebration

Posted on 2003/9/27 9:47:02 ( 1243 reads )


KOCHI, INDIA, September 24, 2003: Kochi is closed on Tuesday for a special election, but a visitor may easily think it is part of the celebration honoring Mata Amritanandamayi's 50th birthday instead. Amma was named "Hindu of the Year" by Hinduism Today in 1993 and represented Hinduism at the 1993 Parliament of the World Religions in Chicago and again at the Conference of World Spiritual and Religious Leaders held at the UN in 2000.

All along the roadways are huge posters of Amma's birthday and steady streams of people head for the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium in Kavaloor. "We expect at least 500,000 visitors during this four-day fest," says Swami Dhyanamrita, a member of Amma's inner circle of devotee-managers. At least a dozen media teams have registered from Berlin, Paris, USA, England and even Ireland. As Amma arrives, Swami Abhayamrita Chaitanya, the head swami of all Amma operations in this birthday mela, says: "These 96 hours are packed minute to minute so that we have barely allowed Amma an hour of rest." The program is indeed a huge endorsement-action plan. Actress Linda Evans, US Senator Larry Pressler and Martin Luther King's daughter Yolanda will arrive for a special interactive session. President Kalam will address a two-day workshop of international CEOs, on "Making India Economically Secure and Spiritually Strong."

Elephant Conference Turns To Religion And Culture For Conservation

Posted on 2003/9/27 9:46:02 ( 993 reads )


COLOMBO, SRI LANKA, September 25, 2003: Elephant experts here have turned to Asia's reverence of the beasts to push conservation amid calls for a cull to tackle growing wild jumbo populations in Africa. Ian Douglas-Hamilton, an authority on African elephants said religious and cultural practices in Asia shows the peaceful coexistence between people and elephants amid increasing pressure on habitats. He is fascinated by the place elephants have in religion in some Asian countries and in the Hindu and Buddhist cultures. He said that the battle for space should not result in the elephants losing out as their survival was linked to human existence. "If we don't leave enough space for elephants, we will eventually not leave enough space for ourselves," he said after opening a symposium on "Human-Elephant Relationships and Conflicts." Papers presented at the meeting suggested allowing tourists to hunt wild elephants in Africa to maintain its woody vegetation and use the proceeds to conserve elephants elsewhere. Most experts here opposed the idea. African elephants are found in 34 countries while in Asia only 13 countries have wild herds. Douglas-Hamilton argued that conservationists should ensure there is no conflict like the rapid invasion of elephant habitats by man in the decade of the 90s and up 'til today. In Sri Lanka, the battle between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels has taken its toll on wild elephants. The Biodiversity and Elephant Conservation Trust based here, a co-organiser of the symposium, said an estimated 200 to 300 wild elephants had been displaced by the war. The Tamil Tiger rebels had in the early stages of the war spared wild elephants, but when the animals stormed jungle bases in search of food and water, and drank up the entire supply of water the rebels had for a week, they started shooting the elephants when firing in the air failed. Land mines were also the cause of agonizing deaths after having their trunks and legs blown off by anti-personnel mines. Elephants are considered a sacred animal in Sri Lanka and elsewhere in the Buddhist world. Elephants are also revered by Hindus who use caparisoned pachyderms at temple pageants.

Top Tennis Players Pray for World Peace at Bali Hindu Temple

Posted on 2003/9/27 9:45:02 ( 907 reads )


BALI, INDONESIA, September 12, 2003: Three world top rank tennis players took time from their busy schedules on Thursday, September 11, to visit the Taman Temple of Grand Hyatt Hotel Nusa Dua to say a prayer for world peace. Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand, Elena Dementieva of Russia and Barbara Schett of Austria, are competing in a tennis tournament of Wismilak International WTA Tour 2003, which is being held in the Grand Hyatt Nusa Dua from September 6 to 14. Elena Dementieva, the Russian tennis player, said that this is her first visit to Bali, and she feels glad that she can attend a Balinese ritual. She also expressed her happiness to dress in Balinese style, while through the prayer, she wishes for world peace. There are two temples in the Grand Hyatt Hotel Nusa Dua--Taman Temple which is located in the middle of the resort, and Segara Natha Temple which was built before the resort. Occasionally, these temples are visited by the Hindu people for a mass prayer.

Altered Statues Trigger Outrage in Malaysia

Posted on 2003/9/24 9:49:02 ( 956 reads )


PENANG, MALAYSIA, September 23, 2003: The Malaysia Hindu Sangam is outraged over the sale of imported statues of the Lord Ganesha which were altered and had additional accessories. The Malaysia Hindu Sangam Penang state council chairman, P. Murugiah, said statues of the Hindu Deity wearing a turban and a pair of shoes and holding a handphone were being sold in several shops in the northern region. "The altered statues are offensive and give a distorted depiction of Lord Ganesha," he said, adding that the statues belittled the Hindu religion. Murugiah has filed a formal complaint with the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry, the Home Ministry and the Prime Minister's Department. He said a few years ago statues of Lord Ganesha wearing a coat and a hat were sold. "We filed a complaint and the Government took action against the retailers and distributors, but now they are back with another modified statue," he said. Murugiah said the distorted version of Lord Ganesha produced by manufacturers in India was not only humiliating to Hindus but also a degrading sales gimmick. He added that he would write to the Indian religious authorities and the Indian Customs to stop the export of such statues to Malaysia. "On behalf of the local Hindu community, we demand that the importers and distributors of the statues stop selling the degrading statues," he said.

Indian Troupe In Unique Devotional Show In South Africa

Posted on 2003/9/24 9:48:02 ( 1010 reads )


PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA, September 23, 2003: South Indian devotional singer Veeramani Raju is performing in South Africa to help raise funds for the completion of the first Ayyappa temple in the southern hemisphere. "Although he has been here several times before, Veeramani has done concerts that had a commercial objective," said Raj Kolapan of the Pretoria Bhajanai Mandram. "This time round, he is undertaking a series of celebrations in which he sings uninterruptedly from beginning to end while an actual puja occurs on stage," Kolapan added. "Rather than people sitting in the audience and watching him on stage, he sits among the audience and sings the praises of the Deity that is worshipped." Performances begin with an educative discourse that makes it easier to understand the full steps of a prayer, from the moment the intention to worship the Lord is made, right until the Lord is bade farewell, with Veeramani rendering appropriate items for every step in the process. The planned development at Sri Ayyappa Kshetram by the Pretoria Bhajanai Mandram includes a temple, community center with clinic facilities, youth center and retirement complex. Donations received during these performances will go towards building the temple.

Srimath Sri Viswamatha Giving Discourse in Edmonton, Canada

Posted on 2003/9/24 9:47:02 ( 1020 reads )


EDMONTON, ALBERTA, CANADA, September 24, 2003: The Maha Ganapati Society of Alberta is pleased to host a discourse by Srimath Sri Viswamatha, (Mathaji Ammah), who is visiting from India, on Friday, September 26, the first day of Navaratri at the Cultural Centre of the Maha Ganapati Society of Alberta, 128 Running Creek Road, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. For more information, click "source" above.

Time Magazine Article On-Line

Posted on 2003/9/24 9:46:02 ( 1040 reads )


KAUAI, HAWAII, September 24, 2003: A helpful HPI reader has found the Time magazine article on meditation discussed in yesterday's HPI at "source" above. We are directing readers there rather than faxing a copy as offered yesterday.

VHP Halts Christian Meeting at Borivali

Posted on 2003/9/23 9:49:02 ( 1244 reads )


MUMBAI, INDIA, September 19, 2003: Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) activists stopped a Christian prayer meeting in Borivali (just north of Mumbai) yesterday morning, according to this report by Mid Day. The prayer group said they were driven out of the hall, which was then locked up. The VHP denied locking the hall, but said they had questioned the prayer group as they suspected the group was planning to convert people to Christianity during the meeting. Police have not arrested anyone, but said complaints have been filed by both VHP and a Protestant group called the Faith Fire Fellowship. Around 150 men and women from Borivali and Bhiwandi were supposed to gather at 10:00 am for a day of prayers at Mangal Murti Hall in Shimpoli, Borivali. One of the participants, Pastor Prakash Boyin representing a prayer group from Bhiwandi, said just before the meeting began, a group of 50 people came to the hall and accused those gathered there of converting people with inducements of money. "They said we paid US$109 to each person to convert to Christianity. Around 100 people had already come for the prayers. They asked them to get out of the hall and locked the hall," said Boyin. Though the group that locked up the hall did not tell the prayer group that they belonged to the VHP, a senior police officer confirmed it was a VHP group. "Both groups have made complaints. We are investigating," the officer said. Police said the prayer group did not have permission to use speakers and an orchestra. Surendra Pandey, joint secretary of VHP's Borivali unit said that before the meeting, the organizers had distributed pamphlets promising miracle cures for various ailments (HPI adds: which would be a violation of India's law against "quakery"). "The prayers should have been held in a church and not in an area where there are no Christians," he said.

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