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Hindu Wedding Ceremony Details Sought

Posted on 2003/9/22 9:45:02 ( 1007 reads )


AUSTRALIA, September 22, 2003: L. Anand of the Australia Hindu community requests a copy of a script for a traditional Hindu wedding. He may be e-mailed at "source" above. He also reports that the Hindu community around Sydney will be celebrating Deepavali in a big way on October 12 and that negotiations are underway for its celebration at New South Wales state parliament house.

Chandra Observatory Finds Sound in Space

Posted on 2003/9/21 9:49:02 ( 1006 reads )


USA, September 9, 2003: M. P. Bhattathiry notified HPI of this item and asks, "Could it be possible that the universe being created in the black hole is akin to one from the sound of Omkar as told in Vedas? Can anyone through some light with references in Vedas or Upanishadas regarding the theory of creation?"

The report reads, in part, "NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory detected sound waves, for the first time, from a super-massive black hole. The "note" is the deepest ever detected from an object in the universe. The tremendous amounts of energy carried by these sound waves may solve a long-standing problem in astrophysics. The black hole resides in the Perseus cluster, located 250 million light years from Earth. In 2002, astronomers obtained a deep Chandra observation that shows ripples in the gas filling the cluster. These ripples are evidence for sound waves that have traveled hundreds of thousands of light years away from the cluster's central black hole. "We have observed the prodigious amounts of light and heat created by black holes, now we have detected the sound," said Andrew Fabian of the Institute of Astronomy (IoA) in Cambridge, England, and leader of the study. In musical terms, the pitch of the sound generated by the black hole translates into the note of B flat. But, a human would have no chance of hearing this cosmic performance, because the note is 57 octaves lower than middle-C (by comparison a typical piano contains only about seven octaves). At a frequency over a million, billion times deeper than the limits of human hearing, this is the deepest note ever detected from an object in the universe.

New Study Shows Prayer Has Positive Effect on Health

Posted on 2003/9/21 9:48:02 ( 888 reads )


WASHINGTON, USA, September 20, 2003: Can praying be good for your health? A decade ago, most doctors and scientists would have dismissed any connection between prayer and medicine. However, new studies drawing a positive connection between faith and healing have sparked new debate in the United States over the issue. A recent Gallup poll shows that 95 percent of the population of the United States believes in God, and nearly 80 percent of people over 65-years-old are members of a church. A number of studies have shown that individuals who pray regularly and attend religious services stay healthier and live longer than those who rarely or never go to a church, synagogue or mosque. Dr. Harold Koenig of Duke University's director and founder of the Center for the Study of Religion, Spirituality and Health says, when he first opened the center in the 1990s he was afraid, "of being run out of town for practicing voodoo medicine." The University recently released a study of 4,000 women and men of different faiths. All the participants were 65 or older. It found that the relative risk of dying was 46 percent lower for those who frequently attend religious services. A study by the same group found that those who pray regularly have significantly lower blood pressure and healthier immune systems.

Hallmark to Add Hindu Deepavali Card

Posted on 2003/9/21 9:47:02 ( 1243 reads )


USA, September 17, 2003: This year, for the first time ever, Hallmark will sell cards for the Hindu celebration of Deepavali or Diwali, as well as for the Muslim holiday of Eid ul-Fitr. "With the increase in the number of Hindus and Muslims, we realized there was an ongoing need that we were not satisfying," said Deidre Parkes, spokeswoman for the Kansas City, Mo.-based Hallmark company that has been making greeting cards for Americans since 1910. While based on a desire to sell more cards, the new Hallmark cards are also a recognition of the changing face of America, said Egon Mayer, a sociologist at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Mayer directed the American Religious Identification Survey, which showed that the number of Hindu adults in the United States rose from 227,000 to 760,000 between 1990 and 2001. During the same period, the number of Muslim adults went from about 527,000 to 1.1 million.

Hindu Wedding in Nebraska

Posted on 2003/9/21 9:46:02 ( 1227 reads )


NORFOLK, NEBRASKA, September 14, 2003: When Reena Patel, daughter of Dr. N.P. and Sudha Patel, recently got married in Norfolk, the family had to bring in a priest from Chicago to perform the traditional Hindu wedding ceremony. The three-day wedding celebration attracted the attention of the local press who wrote this respectful, concise and clear article about the wedding. Traditionally, 80% of Hindu marriages are arranged but in this case, Reena and her husband Srinivas Yendru met while both were doing medical residencies at Tulane University in New Orleans. As both families are followers of the Hindu religion, the sacrament was carried out with sacred rites and blessings performed by Jagdish Joshi, a brahmin priest from Chicago. The article explains, "The traditional Hindu wedding ceremony was created more than 40 centuries ago and continues to be followed today with little variation. A couple takes seven symbolic steps together around homa fire -- for prosperity, strength, wealth, happiness, health, cheerful seasons, and love and companionship."

Nineteenth Century Photographs of India on Display at the San Francisco Legion of Honor

Posted on 2003/9/20 9:49:02 ( 899 reads )


SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, July 8, 2003: An exhibition of about 120 vintage photographs of India in the 19th century is on display at the San Francisco Legion of Honor from September 14, 2003 to February 15, 2004. The "Reverie and Reality, Nineteenth-Century Photographs of India from the Ehrenfeld Collection," includes the works of Linnaeus Tripe, Samuel Bourne, John Murray, and Lala Din Dayal. The subject matter ranges from famous architectural monuments to images of the natural landscape. The variety of humanity that inhabited this country during the time period is recorded in a series of photographs that range from scenes of daily life in villages to sumptuous and formal visits of foreign royalty. An awareness of the exotic is seen in photographs of elephants and lion hunts. "Reverie and Reality" is drawn from the significant collection of Dr. William Ehrenfeld of Tiburon, California. It is accompanied by a fully illustrated scholarly catalogue. Other aspects of Dr. Ehrenfeld's collection have been seen in two previous scholarly exhibitions: Indian Miniatures from the Ehrenfeld Collection, on view in 1985 at the Legion of Honor, and Interaction of Cultures: Indian and Western Painting 1780-1910, the Ehrenfeld Collection, on view in 1998 at the de Young Museum.

President Thabo Mbeki Speaks At Hindu Convention In Durban

Posted on 2003/9/20 9:48:02 ( 918 reads )


DURBIN, SOUTH AFRICA, September 6, 2003: The President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, spoke at the opening of the Hindu convention in Durban. In his address he said, "The process we are beginning today constitutes a significant development in the evolution of our society. There was a time when it was unthinkable that a religion which, according to the Apartheid ideology, was outside the officially sanctioned religious mainstream, could assume its rightful place in our spiritual life." He added, "In the new South Africa all religions are recognized and there is freedom of worship. We also believe that religious organizations must be at the forefront of inculcating strong religious and moral values in a society that is trying to reconstruct itself from the ravages of apartheid. 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." Mbeki encouraged volunteerism in his speech, praised Mahatma Ghandi's influence in South Africa, and cited links between Hinduism and indigenous African religions. The full text can be read at "source" above.

Christian Curtailed Evangelism in Israel in 1998 to Avoid Proposed Law

Posted on 2003/9/20 9:47:02 ( 1134 reads )


ISRAEL, September 14, 2003: This report, thought apparently five years old, from "We Hold These Truths," a Christian evangelical website, is especially informative in light of reactions to India's adopted and proposed laws regulating Christian conversion. The report reads, in part:

"Some leaders of the Christian evangelical movement here have agreed to give up spreading the Gospel of Christ in the Holy Land in order to avoid being jailed under a proposed Israeli law aimed at stamping out Christian missionary work in Israel. Anti-Christian forces led by a wide-ranging group of high-ranking Israeli officials won a major victory on March 30. Representatives of 50 different international Christian evangelical groups entered into what was described as an 'unprecedented' joint statement promising not to carry out Christian missionary work in Israel. In return, Israeli lawmaker Nissim Zvili said that he would drop his sponsorship of a proposed measure before the Israeli parliament (widely supported among various political factions in Israel) that would outlaw any effort to teach or propagate Christian doctrine in Israel. Under Zvili's highly popular proposal, any Christian missionary found guilty of violating the law would be sent to prison for one year. Zvili hailed the Christian surrender, saying: 'This is better than a law. This is a very big accomplishment.'

"Although Israel today is torn asunder by vast feuding among various political and religious factions even within the Jewish community as a whole, the anti-Christian proposal by Israeli lawmaker Zvili had wide-ranging support throughout the Israeli population."

A second report, dated May 27, 1998 and from the Southern Baptist Church web site (click here) discusses this same or similar legislation. It reads, in part,

"A bill proposing a three-year jail sentence or $13,700 fine for people who verbally witness about Jesus the Messiah cleared a first reading in the Israeli legislature May 20, 1998. But the bill, like other restrictions on free speech and religious freedom, faces an uphill battle against international opposition. Among those voting in favor of the bill was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The bill represents the fourth attempt to curtail free speech in religious matters in Israel during the past 21 years. A bill passed in 1977 banned persuading someone to change their religion for the broad and ambiguous motive of 'financial gain.' Three more restrictive bills during the past two years have sought to drop the requirement to prove that motive.

"Evangelicals are troubled that, in an Oct. 5, 1997 letter, Netanyahu told his Jewish Orthodox minister for construction and housing he would support 'an appropriate bill that will reflect the suitable balance between the preservation of the freedom of religion and of expression on the one hand, and the worthy war against missionary activity on the other. Not only do I not support missionary activity, but the opposite is true: I oppose any such activity,' his letter continued."

Accused Saint in Mela Stampede Claims He Has Been Falsely Charged

Posted on 2003/9/17 9:49:02 ( 1021 reads )


NEW DELHI, INDIA, September 15, 2003: Swami Gyan Prakash, through his lawyer Amit Khemka, accused the Maharashtra Government of falsely charging him and other innocent saints as the main culprits behind the deadly stampede at Nashik on August 27, 2003 during the Kumbha Mela. Speaking at a Press conference at Press Club of India on Friday, Mr Khemka said that "The management of Kumbha Mela is a big affair, and Maharashtra Government was totally responsible for it." He said that Swami Gyan Prakash, the head of Nirvani Akhara was allotted a time between 10 am to 12.00 noon. Swami along with his group started for the shahi snan (bath) and took the holy dip as per the scheduled time allotted to him and other sadhus. The lawyer also said that it was alleged that a jeep came from opposite of the crowd and a sadhu threw silver coins towards the mob. He said Swamiji, being a follower of Lord Jagannath, (apparently on the coins) never even in his dreams could imagine to throw these coins on the ground.Twenty-seven other sadhus have also been implicated in this case. He said to accommodate a VIP vehicle, the police tried to disperse the mob through a lathi charge, which resulted in a stampede.

Mixed Religion Marriage Brings Malaysia Custody Turmoil

Posted on 2003/9/17 9:48:02 ( 1017 reads )


MALAYSIA, September 15, 2003: In Malaysia, Muslims come under the Syariah judicial system while non-Muslims come under the civil judicial system. But which system has overriding jurisdiction when a civil marriage breaks up and a spouse converts to Islam? Women's groups and lawyers recently got together for a discussion hosted by the All Women's Action Society. Shamala Satiyaseelan got married in November 1998 in a Hindu ceremony. Four years later, her husband left her to marry a Muslim woman. Upon his conversion, Shamala initiated High Court proceedings to ask for custody of their two children. In April 2003, the High Court issued an order in favor of Shamala. She was given custody and the husband was allowed to see the children over the weekends. The husband was prohibited from taking the children out of Alor Star, where they lived. Meanwhile, against her wishes, her estranged husband had converted their children and went to the Syariah Court to get a separate custody order. In May, the Selangor Syariah High Court granted him a custody order. Two weeks later he took the children out of Alor Star. The husband has also initiated divorce proceedings at the Hulu Langat Syariah court. As a result, Shamala has been summoned to the Syariah court for both custody and divorce proceedings. It is Shamala's position that as a person of another faith, a Hindu, in her case, she is not subject to the jurisdiction of a Syariah Court. This is just one example of the problems that arise in the context of conversions into Islam by one of the spouses to a civil marriage because of the existence of two separate and exclusive applicable legal systems: the Syariah system applicable to the Muslim party and the civil system applicable to the non-Muslim party.

Interfaith Organization Calls for Better Reporting on Religion

Posted on 2003/9/17 9:47:02 ( 903 reads )


OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA, September 11, 2003: In his speech here today, Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President, The Interfaith Alliance, said, in part, "The religious press in this land (USA) has an unusually crucial role to play in truth telling by the media. Unfortunately for the most part, religion is involved in most of the big stories in today's news. From politicians' manipulation of religion to the promotion of partisan causes to religionists efforts to manipulate politics for sectarian gains to terrorists claims to be servants of the Almighty to governmental leaders appeal to Deity and morality to support their policies of war, religion is an unmistakable component in today's news. The manner in which the role of religion in today's world is reported will help or hurt interfaith relations, encourage or discourage militancy, and determine to a great extent the public understanding of and commitment to religious liberty. Allow me to be specific.

"News organizations should pay close attention to the role of religion in the 2004 elections. Religion will be a major topic in political stump speeches as well as a studied strategy for organization in the various campaigns. I hope that political reporters and religion reporters across the nation will report on religion in the various campaigns with the same kind of scrutiny that will be devoted to economic policies and foreign affairs, citing not just how religious language is used by candidates but exploring as well the meaning of what is said.

"Terrific pressures exist to move our nation away from a commitment to pluralism toward an endorsement of special privileges for the majority faith point of view -- what would be a deathblow to religious liberty. One recent poll showed that 77% percent of the public saw nothing wrong with the religious statuary of the Ten Commandments being displayed in a judicial building in Alabama. Even United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has suggested that controversial issues in church-state relations should be resolved more by the legislative process and less by the judiciary. We are failing in the public relations battle. People cannot distinguish between our opposition to the prostitution of religion and our devotion to the protection of the sanctity of religion. To a large extent, the media will shape public opinion on these issues.

"Condemnations of other religions should be set in a broader perspective. Reporters have a professional obligation to report the news but also an ethical responsibility to raise questions about what part of this news is fact and what is fiction. Over the past several months, I have walked away from several meetings with colleagues from around the world reeling from a realization that the international community judges religion in America by the profile of Jerry Falwell and the voice of Pat Robertson. How critical as well as wrong is that image? Recent elections in Pakistan took a serious turn toward Talibanization, in part in reaction to news accounts of the demonizing of Islam and the prophet Mohammed by former president of the Southern Baptist Convention Jerry Vines, evangelist Franklin Graham and media minister Jerry Falwell.

"Sensitivity regarding religious terminology is terribly important in writing and reporting news stories. Characteristically, terrorist acts by Muslims are attributed to Islamic Fundamentalists while similar acts by Christians are reported apart from any reference to religion. The atrocity perpetrated in this city (the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City) was a terrorist act by a Christian fundamentalist that was anticipated and applauded by many in The Christian Identity movement. Attacks on abortion clinics have been spawned by committed Christian extremists. Reporting on religion-based acts of terror should be consistent lest the reading, television-watching public concludes that terrorism is the exclusive domain of Muslim extremists and prejudice against Muslims increases.

"Report on the positive and healing role of religion in public life and the problems associated with religion in the public square. Stories of shared religious values and interfaith cooperation can serve as instruments to broaden understanding and even encourage greater interfaith cooperation. Suffice it to say that a solid commitment to telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth will sustain the kind of journalism that informs the American public and preserves the liberty that allows both religion and the press to do their best work."

Correction on Mount Kailas Pilgrimage

Posted on 2003/9/17 9:46:02 ( 1004 reads )


September 17, 2003: Swami Saradananda points out that the correct travel time from Lhasa to Mt. Kailas area is seven days each way by jeep, not three or four as the report in the September 14 HPI stated.

Borobudur Ship Follows Ancient Spice Route

Posted on 2003/9/17 9:45:02 ( 1294 reads )


JAKARTA, INDONESIA, September 15, 2003: In the Indian Ocean, between the Cocos and Seychelles islands, an odd-looking outrigger vessel is retracing the ancient "cinnamon route" from Indonesia to East Africa, first navigated by Indonesian seafarers more than a millennium ago. The Borobudur Ship -- a 72-foot-long wooden ship modeled after wall reliefs found on the 8th century Borobudur temple in Central Java -- set sail on August 15 from Jakarta for a 4,000 mile sail to Madagascar. Computer access to the Internet, along with a satellite phone, radar and refrigeration, are some of the few modern nautical conveniences aboard the Borobudur, which otherwise has attempted to copy the sort of ship believed to have been state-of-the-art in Java about a century ago. The boat, designed by Australian Nick Burningham was modeled after five wall reliefs found on the Borobudur temple, a towering Buddhist complex, in Central Java. There is no evidence that the type of ship depicted at Borobudur is the kind that traveled between Indonesia and Madagascar in the first millennium. There is, however, plenty of historic evidence that some sort of Indonesian vessel made the journey. To follow the progress of the Borobudur's journey, you can visit their official website here.

Prayers For Goddess' Blessing

Posted on 2003/9/16 9:49:02 ( 1185 reads )


PENANG, MALAYSIA, September 8, 2003: About 150 women gathered at the Sri Mangala Nayagi Amman Temple in Bukit Mertajam recently to participate in the Thiruvillaku Puja (oil lamp lighting ceremony). The ceremony, also known as Varalakshmi Puja, was conducted by Rukumani Krishnasamy, 59, who has been conducting religious functions all over the country for the past 40 years. According to Rukumani, the puja, which dates back more than 5,000 years, is performed in accordance with the Hindu shastras during the Adi month (July/August). "The ceremony is usually conducted by married women to seek Goddess Mahalakshmi's protection for continued good health, long life for their husbands and prosperity, besides peace, harmony, happiness, spiritual knowledge and wisdom," she said. The women are normally encouraged to fast or follow a strict vegetarian diet, ideally for nine days before the puja for purification of body, mind and soul. The women started their prayer by first lighting up the five-faced kuttu vilaku (oil lamp). Rukumani explained that the five faces of the lamp signifies the five good values that should be possessed by a Hindu woman -- love, confidence, be a good companion to their husband, patience and willpower.

Starbucks Faces Human Rights Case Over Nose Stud

Posted on 2003/9/16 9:48:02 ( 1057 reads )


VANCOUVER, B.C, June 27, 2003: Starbucks could be facing two human rights complaints from two Indo-Canadian employees fired for refusing to remove a nose stud. Aisha Syed, who was fired last November after working at Starbucks for three years, has filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal. "I'm very upset, and I see my firing as racism," said Syed, 25, a graduate of the University of B.C. "The nose stud is an expression of my Indian identify." In her complaint Syed alleges her dismissal amounts to discrimination on the grounds of race, ancestry and sex. A second employee of South Asian descent, Benita Singh, was fired last week for refusing to remove a stud. She is considering filing a complaint with the tribunal. The two firings clash with Starbucks' claim that it practices diversity in its human resources policy, said Syed's lawyer, Lisa Fong. The lawyer said Starbucks has a Diversity Statement" that says, "At Starbucks, diversity is a way of life." The coffee company also has a mission statement that declares more than 60 percent of its total work force should be people from minorities and /or women and that Starbucks actively recruits from job fairs focused on minorities, women and people with disabilities. "Yet, their dismissing South Asian women for wearing nose rings or nose studs which are symbolic of their culture, is contradictory to this goal and detrimental to these women." Starbucks has refused to comment, says this article, other than to release its dress code policy, which forbids its employees to wear pierced jewelry or ornaments on their face. The stated goal of Starbucks' dress code is to provide the company with a consistent look. HPI adds: Some years back two similar cases regarding nose studs occured with Indian-American high school students. The resolution of those cases is not known.

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