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Elephant Rescued From Begging

Posted on 2003/6/17 9:49:02 ( 1151 reads )


CHENNAI, INDIA, June 11, 2003: Another complaint of a cow elephant being forced to seek alms in Red Hills, on the northern fringes of the city, was reported on Wednesday. The animal was rescued and housed safely in the People for Animals (PfA) shelter at Red Hills. The mahout accompanying the elephant was unable to show ownership papers for the pachyderm. Instead, he showed an expired "Transit Permit" issued by the Wildlife authorities of Nagapattinam which mentioned that the animal was being brought to Red Hills for a temple festival and a marriage. The permit also clearly stated that the animal should not be used for seeking alms. The mahout used the animal to beg on the road, the activists charged. It was not only the seeking of alms which disturbed the activists, but also the animal's poor condition. Though Asiatic elephants are a threatened species and are carefully nurtured in the wild, the Forest Department is yet to strengthen protection for the elephants in captivity, especially in urban areas where they are often subjected to severe cruelty.

Amma, India's "Hugging Saint" Visits California

Posted on 2003/6/17 9:48:02 ( 1047 reads )


CASTRO VALLEY, CALIFORNIA, June 11, 2003: The latest stop on a 10-city U.S. tour found Mata Amritanandamayi at her Castro Valley Center on Tuesday, where she launched a 13-day visit that drew more than a thousand people to the morning and afternoon sessions for darshan, a free hug. Amma's goal is simple: she wants to help people discover pure love and compassion, she said via a translator. In the 30 years that she's been offering hugs, Amma is estimated to have reached about 21 million people. Her efforts have caught the eye of People magazine, and have been featured in major newspapers. In 2002, Jane Goodall presented Amma with the 2002 Gandhi-King Award for Nonviolence at the United Nations. Amma is expected to do a lot of hugging during her East Bay visit, hugging about 2, 200 people each day said her Bay Area spokesman, Rob Sidon.

Indian Festival Serves Cuisine, Connections

Posted on 2003/6/17 9:47:02 ( 907 reads )


MARYLAND, U.S.A., June 14, 2003: Thousands of statues of Lord Ganesha began filling the Montgomery County Fairgrounds early yesterday, as dancers from India practiced their steps on stage, which offered shelter from the morning heat. For the uninitiated, the first day of the Heritage India Festival in Gaithersburg, Maryland, was a chance to learn more about the many cultures of the Southeast Asian subcontinent. Signs beckoned fairgoers to make posters about "Why Hinduism is Great." Infants dressed in tiny saris napped in strollers, and teenagers bopped to the latest sitar-laced soundtracks from Bollywood's tormented love sagas. But for the many local entrepreneurs in the large Indian-American community in the Washington area, the festival was a chance to cement business contacts and establish a broader network of clients and distributors. "People are coming up to us all day and asking us for the recipe. We're lucky we brought two full trucks of food," said Sanjeet Kanshik, who manages Ascot Restaurant in the District, as he doled out plates of Indian food. "This is a very good way to communicate with other communities here. Many people contract us for parties after this." This was the festival's second year and fifth location, and organizers expected crowds to top 15,000 for the two-day event, which ended on Saturday. Virginia-based Rushi Entertainment has grossed nearly $500,000 from staging the festival, which has toured the United States and provided a platform for Indian-American entrepreneurs to connect with Indian cultural enthusiasts. "What we are trying to do is create a day or a weekend in India for people here, and create a way for sponsors to reach out [to] the huge Indian diaspora," said Shishir Misra, Rushi's president. "Our community is very highly educated and established here, and the idea is to tap into community groups as well." Between 1900 and 2000, the Indian population in the Washington D.C. area doubled, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and the community is well-established in the region's hospitals and biotechnology industry.

Anti-Dowry Movement Supported by Two Brides' Denials

Posted on 2003/6/17 9:46:02 ( 1023 reads )


CHENNAI, INDIA, June 8, 2003: Two young women on the eve of their wedding have given momentum to the anti-dowry movement in India by calling off the occasion when potential future husbands and their families got greedy and demanded more gifts from the brides' families. Vidya in Chennai and Nisha Sharma in Delhi received action from the police in pressing charges against the grooms and their families, and they received media attention. Vasuki, representative of the All-India Democratic Women's association says, "The attention that these two women has attracted has helped in sending the message across to grooms and their families that the consequences of demanding dowry are sure to be severe." A senior police official says, "More women will be now take courage to come to a police station." Up to April 30, 2002, a total of 2,005 cases (rape, attempted rape, molestation, kidnapping, abduction, eve-teasing, dowry death and cruelty by husband) were reported. Of these, the number of reported dowry deaths was 89 and the number of harassment incidents by the husband and his family was 322 cases. However, since the anti-dowry law has been taken more seriously in Tamil Nadu, the number of reported cases rose to 1,200 for the remainder of 2002. Police have also indicated that they are making efforts, "to increase the number of women in the force, inaugurate more women's' courts, establish more women's' police stations and conduct gender sensitization programs for personnel."

A Singaporean Declaration on Religious Harmony

Posted on 2003/6/16 9:49:02 ( 1036 reads )


SINGAPORE, June 10, 2003: After six months of intense debate over its exact wording, leaders of religious groups here have worked out a declaration on religious harmony that all parties are comfortable with. The groups plan to hold activities to recite and teach the declaration to their congregations during the week of Racial Harmony Day, beginning July 21. Representatives of the religious bodies have also formed a network called the Inter-Religious Harmony Circle. Its role will be to clarify matters if people have objections or questions with any part of the declaration. The proposal for the declaration that affirms that groups will practice their religions bearing in mind the secular and multi-religious context of Singapore was first raised by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong last September. His suggestion came after a year in which racial ties here were tested following the September 11 attacks and the arrests of Jemaah Islamiah (JI) terrorists. Mr. Goh, who came up with a draft of the creed, said it would be one of Singapore's responses to the threat posed to racial harmony by the JI. Members of different religious groups were then asked to help refine the draft.

The declaration reads:

"We, the people in Singapore, declare that religious harmony is vital for peace, progress and prosperity in our multi-racial and multi-religious Nation. We resolve to strengthen religious harmony through mutual tolerance, confidence, respect and understanding. We shall always

" Recognise the secular nature of our State,

" Promote cohesion within our society,

" Respect each other's freedom of religion,

" Grow our common space while respecting our diversity,

" Foster inter-religious communications,

" and thereby ensure that religion will not be abused to create conflict and disharmony in Singapore."

Amma's Hugs Cure Japanese Blues

Posted on 2003/6/16 9:48:02 ( 1015 reads )


TOKYO, JAPAN, June 3, 2003: What do the Japanese do when their nation's economic slide throws more people out of work and cuts into their savings? They go in for a hug from none other than Kerala's Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, who is on the Japanese leg of her world tour. For the Japanese, a hug from the holy woman is said to bring happiness -- something many Japanese feel is in short supply in their country. And for the last three days that is exactly what thousands of Japanese who flocked to a hall in Tokyo got -- happiness through hugs. All this week, people have queued up outside Amma's room, breathing in the incense-filled air and listening to strains of devotional songs. "Japan is suffering from deflation, and I think there are a lot of people who want to be helped," said one businessman, who had already been hugged twice. Hugging is not a common custom in Japan and many people were overcome by emotion when embraced. "When you watch the news or read the newspapers, there are so many depressing things, but that's not all there is in the world. That's what I felt when she embraced me," said housewife Teruko Nakamura as she dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief. When asked, Amma attributed the emotion to nothing more than a lack of love in the modern world. "It is like when someone has been drinking sewage water all their lives and they suddenly get river water -- they want more to quench their thirst," she said.

Mealtime Prayers are Very Important to Americans From Every Tradition

Posted on 2003/6/16 9:47:02 ( 1573 reads )


SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, June 4, 2003: Pausing a few minutes to say a prayer of gratitude and upliftment before partaking of a meal is a tradition followed by over 64% of homes in America. During this time of reflection, families are brought closer and grounded. Mark Jurgensmeyer, professor of sociology and religious studies and director of Global and International Studies at UC Santa Barbara says, "It's not just that the food that is blessed but that the process of eating is itself a renewal. The idea of ingestion is almost universal within religious traditions as a sacramental act." To show how important the power of prayer at mealtime is to the American people, the book called Graces: Prayers for Everyday Meals and Special Occasions written by June Cotner has sold more than 200,000 copies. Cotner says, "A reverent pause before eating in an edgy world affirms family and teaches reverence." She also believes that the popularity of her book shows that people are craving spirituality in their lives. Maura Singer, a student in interfaith ministry at the Naropa Institute in Oakland says, "She anticipates the pause that precedes a meal, a 'magical' moment when prayer and awe and praise come through. From gratitude springs openness, leading to compassion, then peace, justice and finally action. In much religious thought....the Christian eucharist, the Hindu prasad, among others....the transformational force of food has engendered dense theological discourse for thousands of years."

A popular Hindu meal prayer is the following chant, which can be done in Sanskrit or English:

Food-Blessing Chant

A Prayer of Gratitude to the Source of Sustenance.

Lines 1-4 are from Shri Adi Sankara's Annapurnashtakam.

Lines 5-6 are the Isha Upanishad invocation.

Lines 7-8 are a traditional Saivite closing.

Aum annapurne sadapurne shankaraprana vallabhe;

Jnanavairagya siddhyartham bhiksham dehi cha pArvati.

MatA cha pArvatI devI pita devo maheshvarah

bandhavah shiva bhaktashcha svadesho bhuvanatrayam.

Aum purnamadah purnamidam purnAtpurnam udachyate,

PUrnasya purnamAdaya purname vava shishyate.

Aum shantih shantih shantih.

Aum shivarpanamastu.


Aum, beloved Shakti of Siva, Fullness everlasting and fully manifest as this food; O, Mother of the universe, nourish us with this gift of food so that we may attain knowledge, dispassion and spiritual perfection. Goddess Parvati is my mother. God Maheshvara is my father. All devotees of Siva are my family. All three worlds are my home.

Aum, Siva is Fullness. Creation is fullness. From Siva's Fullness flows this world's fullness. This fullness issues from that Fullness, yet that Fullness remains full.

Aum, peace, peace, peace.

Aum, this I offer unto Siva.

(Note: In this simplified Sanskrit transliteration a capital letter other than at the beginning of a line indicates a long vowel)

Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists and Muslims Worship at Same Temple

Posted on 2003/6/16 9:46:02 ( 952 reads )


SINGAPORE, June 6, 2003: A Temple accommodating the worship of four faiths in Singapore may soon have to vacate its 1,400 square meter site by the beach. From humble beginnings twenty years ago, the Loyang Tua Pek Kong temple has become a very popular place of worship. The temple's lease runs out at the end of June and the temple committee has appealed to JTC Corporation, its landlord, to extend the lease for 2-3 years. Since the year 2000, the committee has been searching for a new home. They have found a location with a 30-year lease and construction should start in three to four months. Interracial relations have been promoted as Hindus, Taoists, Buddhists and Muslims all worship at the same location.

Kamal Hasan Declares He's Now Smoke Free on Camera

Posted on 2003/6/16 9:45:02 ( 1050 reads )


CHENNAI, INDIA, June 7, 2003: Popular South Indian Actor Kamal Hasan has vowed that he will never again be seen smoking in any of his future films. This prompted a leading cancer surgeon to appeal to other stars, particularly Mr. Hasan's peer, Rajnikanth, to follow suit. Speaking at a function organized by WHO on "Tobacco-free films and fashion" Mr. Hasan said, "I promise that I would never again wield a cigarette before the camera." His declaration evoked a wave of support from others in the Tamil film industry like producer A.V.M. Saravanan, lyricist Vairamuthu and comedian S.V. Shekher. Dr. V. Shanta, chairman of Adyar Cancer Institute, pointed out that 76 percent of the movies show tobacco in some form and 50 percent of the time the hero is shown smoking. She appealed to other stars, especially Rajnikanth, a chain smoker who made cigarette smoking an inimitable style in Tamil films, not to smoke on the screen since they set a bad example to young filmgoers. The Cancer Institute has invited film, TV stars, directors and producers for a dialogue to evolve smoking-free films. In America, tobacco companies have paid movie stars hundreds of thousands of dollars to smoke their brands in films.

Bengali Nun Killed in Attack on Christian School

Posted on 2003/6/16 9:44:02 ( 983 reads )


SRINAGAR, INDIA, May 21, 2003: A nun from West Bengal was killed when Muslim terrorists attacked a Christian school in Anantnag, the first such incident in Kashmir. Sister Kamlesh died when a grenade exploded near the main entrance of the Saint Lukas Convent School in Nai Basti in Anantnag town, 50 km from Srinagar. Sister Mary, another teacher who also comes from Bengal, was injured in the explosion. Police said a grenade was thrown at the gates of the school when the two women were returning from a market. Sources said the area was tense after the local media carried reports that conversions were being carried out in the two south Kashmir districts of Anantnag and Pulwama, but no one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. This is the first time that a Christian-run school has come under attack in Kashmir.

World Hindi Conference in an Uproar

Posted on 2003/6/12 9:49:02 ( 985 reads )

Press Trust of India

PARAMARIBO, SURINAM, June 9, 2003: The World Hindi Conference was in an uproar Monday, PTI of India reported, when some believed efforts were made to project Hindu culture as Indian culture. Opponents alleged that it was an attempt to "saffronize" the conference. The uproar began when the chairman of the session, Dharmpal Maini, one of the ten attendees from India chosen to receive special honors at the conference, dwelt at length in his speech on Hindu culture. The chairmen of the Sanatan Dharm Mahasabha, Holland, Shyam Pandey, took exception to this and said it was not proper to regard Hindu culture as Indian culture, as did some others.

Representatives from Surinam, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago began speaking in support of Dharmpal Maini. Ram Bachan Rai of Bihar came to the dais and opposed Maini's viewpoint. B. Upadhyaya then intervened by cutting off the microphone and said the session was over. When the address system was restored, verses from Ram Charit Manas were played. Later several conference attendees criticized this development, claiming the World Hindi Conference was being converted to the World Hindu Conference. HPI adds: We have no further information on this incident, and do not understand what points were being made regarding "Hindu" culture vis-a-vis "Indian" culture that led to objections by delegates.

Insensitive Remarks by British Religious Panel Dismay Hindus

Posted on 2003/6/12 9:48:02 ( 969 reads )


LONDON, ENGLAND, June 10, 2003: A serious controversy has erupted following the release of a report by the House of Lords Select Committee on Religious Offenses. The committee was asked to decide whether the present law on religious offenses, that, according to yesterday's HPI, guarantees protection to only the Church of England, should be extended to protect all religious faiths against blasphemy or should be scrapped.

Many prominent leaders of the UK Hindu community are now shocked over a statement made by a member of the Committee, the Earl of Mar and Kellie, that was published in the minutes of the oral evidence given by the Hindu community to the Select Committee in November 2002. During an oral evidence before the members of the Select Committee, Ramesh Kallidai, speaking on behalf of the Hindu Community, pointed out an article by the Christian Medical Fellowship's Pastor Juge Ram that claimed that Hindus were lost and spiritually blind and that Hinduism was a false religion. Responding to this statement, the Earl of Mar and Kellie said, "They (the Christian Medical Fellowship) were not actually telling any lies about the Hindu religion in the sense that they were not actually putting out any false remarks which were possibly going to distort people or mis-educate them." (i.e. the Earl agreed Hindus were "lost and spiritually blind" and that Hinduism was a "false religion.")

Hindu community leaders contend that a person who sits on a panel to discuss laws relating to Religious Offenses must not be seen to support a sweeping statement amounting to the of vilification of Hindus all over the world. "To say that all Hindus are spiritually lost and blind and that Hinduism is a false religion is not something that most Hindus would agree to be a truthful statement," said Kallidai. "The crucial issue here is that the Earl purports to say that the statement, 'Hindus are lost and spiritually blind,' is not a distortion," pointed out the Chair of HINCOM, Swami Nirliptananda. "It is clear that a person holding or supporting such views may not be in an appropriate position to inquire about the legalities of religious offense." A few leaders pointed out that historically, the Houses of Parliament have witnessed earlier attempts to vilify Hindus. Lord Macaulay had made a statement in the 19th Century at the House of Commons to say that all the ancient books of wisdom from India could not compare with the one shelf of books from England." Dr. J.C. Sharma, Director of the UK Council of Hindus said, "I'm surprised that thinking like Lord Macaulay's still exist in modern Britain."

Indians Are the World's Most Nationalistic People

Posted on 2003/6/12 9:47:02 ( 926 reads )

Hindustan Times

NEW DELHI, INDIA, June 7, 2003: A survey of people's attitudes from around the world has shown Indians were the most nationalistic. The latest survey of the US-based Pew Global Attitudes Project (http://people-press.org/), "Views of a Changing World," asked people of 44 countries about the superiority of their culture, their wariness regarding foreign influence on their way of life, and whether "parts of other countries belong to us." 74 percent of Indians "completely agreed" with the statement their culture was number one. This was more than any other country and 11 percent higher than Turkey, the next proudest nation. In comparison, the comparable figure for Americans was 23 percent. A few countries topped India on specific points, but none showed consistent approval on all fronts. The survey's authors concluded Indians were the "most likely to agree with all the three statements."

Ohio Hindu Temple Flourishes Under Doctor's Care

Posted on 2003/6/12 9:46:02 ( 1604 reads )

Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)

COLUMBUS, OHIO, June 6, 2003: At times Dr. Raj Tripathi seems as much a fixture at Powell's Hindu temple as are the majestic statues that give the building its identity. And yet he is at or near the Bharatiya Temple only part of the week. The rest of the time, he's 90 miles to the east, working as a cardiologist. His presence is felt not only in his profession but also in many civic organizations in both communities. "He's certainly been a legend in this area," said Dale H. Hileman, trustee and past board president at Southeastern Ohio Regional Medical Center. Tripathi, a native of Mumbai, India, has been a trustee at the temple since 1989 and chairman since 1995. Tripathi's main duty at the temple is fund-raising. "We had $20,000 to start with in 1992; this temple now is worth $1 million-plus," he said. Tripathi takes great pride in the annual youth camp, which will be conducted for the sixth time Aug. 10-16 on the temple's 25 acres along Hyatts Road. When Tripathi and his wife, Prabha, first began attending the temple, they made the 180-mile round trip at least every weekend, staying in motels, which was not always easy with three young children. Special occasions often mean taking a day off work, but anything Tripathi can do for the temple makes the trip worthwhile, he believes. "God has been good to me; it's good to pay back."

Indo Romuva Cultures Conference Announced

Posted on 2003/6/12 9:45:02 ( 2806 reads )


ATLANTIC CITY, NEW JERSEY, June 12, 2003: The World Council of Elders of the Ancient Traditions and Cultures in collaboration with the World Congress of Ethnic Religions, Vilnius, Lithuania, proudly announces the First Conference (in a series of understanding ancient traditions and cultures of the world) on Indo Romuva Cultures. The conference will be October 10-12, 2003, at the Howard Johnson Hotel, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.A. The Romuva people are from the Baltic countries, with a major concentration in Lithuania. They worship Fire as well as many Deities with prayers similar to Sanskrit prayers. For presenting a paper or conference attendance, kindly contact Dr. Yash Pathak, International Coordinator, at "source" above for details.

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