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River Cruise to the Holy Cities Along the River Ganga

Posted on 2003/8/2 9:44:02 ( 1002 reads )


UTTAR PRADESH, INDIA, July 27, 2003: If visiting the River Ganga and experiencing first-hand the spirituality of Varanasi and Allahabad has been a life-long dream, then consider this cruise. In a fully air-conditioned luxury boat, tourists and seekers will be able to set sail on a seven-day voyage between Varanasi and Allahabad with stop-overs at the ghats of Varanasi. Sponsored by the Department of Tourism and Smita Associates, the cruise is expected to provide non-Hindus insight into Indian culture and will start in the fall of 2003. Called the Shiv Ganga, the river cruiser is 60 feet long and 20 feet wide and is equipped with a dining room, toilets, a library and computer room. Waste from the kitchen and toilets will be stored until after the cruise and will not be dumped into the river. Cuisine on the boat will be vegetarian. The article says, "With the introduction of river tourism, Allahabad would be brought firmly on the tourist map giving boost to tourism activity that till now has been confined to the Kumbh alone."

Protests Mar Kumbha Mela Flag-Hoisting in Nasik

Posted on 2003/8/1 9:49:02 ( 920 reads )


NASIK, INDIA, July 30, 2003: The Kumbha Mela began at Nasik on Wednesday, amidst a total boycott of the opening Dhwajarohan (flag hoisting) ceremony by sadhus and mahants from various akhadas (monastic orders). Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi and Maharashtra chief Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde opened the 13-month-long celebrations of Kumbha Parva by jointly hoisting a flag at Ramkund on the banks of Godavari river. The sadhus are up in arms against the Union Government following the Vajpayee cabinet's issuance of an ordinance to take over land and property owned by the akhadas and temples across the country. Hundreds of angry sadhus blocked a motorcade carrying several officials from entering the holy site of Triyambak, a few kilometers from Nasik. Thousands of Hindu devotees have flocked to Nashik and the nearby town of Trimbakeshwar in the state of Maharashtra for the Mela, dismissing fears of a fresh militant attack after a blast in a Mumbai bus. Nearly 10,000 policemen have been posted at both towns and authorities are stepping up security. People have poured in from all corners of India to attend the start of the fair. "I, along with fifty other students of our religious body have arrived here to get the blessings of the river Godavari Wednesday," said Sarvodas Swamy, a Hindu religious scholar. It is believed that a bath in the waters of the Godavari at Nashik and Triyambak wash devotees of all sins. It is also believed that the final rites of the dead, if performed on the banks of the Godavari during the Kumbha, results in Moksha (salvation) of the soul. For a related article on the history of the Kumbha Mela dating back to the pre-Harappan period click here.

Hindus, Muslims Throw Open Iron Gates, Hug Each Other

Posted on 2003/8/1 9:48:02 ( 1194 reads )


AHMEDABAD, INDIA, July 21, 2003: After last year's communal killings in Gujarat, huge gates came up around Hindu- and Muslim-dominated areas of Ahmedabad to keep mobs from each other's communities at bay. Fear among the Hindus and Muslims led to iron gates being erected in as many as 13 places.

However, on Sunday, the 20-feet high iron gates in Sayed Wadi and Isanpur areas of Vatva were thrown open, and residents from the two neighbourhoods went over to the other side, greeting each other with warm hugs. The occasion was a meeting organised by Sarva Dharma Quami Ekta Sadbhavana Samiti, a newly constituted conglomerate of voluntary groups devoted to communal harmony.

Observing that the iron barriers had only served to widen the gulf and deepen the mistrust between people of different faiths, members of the Sarva Dharma Quami Ekta Sadbhavana Samiti took the initiative to call the meeting to open the gates, thus rebuilding trust between Hindus and Muslims who had been living together for centuries. The eventual goal of the group is to restore peace and harmony to other communally sensitive neighborhoods of Ahmedabad.

Ten Postgraduate Sadhus Serving Bankura's Poor

Posted on 2003/8/1 9:47:02 ( 978 reads )


BANKURA, WEST BENGAL, INDIA: August 3, 2003: Ten sanyasins from the Matrivedi Shamayita Math in West Bengal, India have founded a group called Atmadwip to make the poor economically self-reliant. The sanyasins are between the ages of 25 and 33, are very well-educated and come from middle class families. They help poor farmers in West Bengal's Bankura district, organise mobile medical camps in 14 villages. Close to 200 patients are treated daily by over a dozen doctors from various medical colleges who regularly offer free service at these clinics. Some of the medicines come from the samples that the physicians receive and the Math purchases the rest. The Math also runs an English-meduim school for girls. "Our aim is to groom tribal and scheduled caste girl children along with children from other castes and religions so that they may grow up without any caste prejudices or religious differences," said Sanyasin Pracheta. The sanyasins have rigorous regimen and work tirelessly on various projects. They wake at 3 a.m. and retire to bed close to midnight. Prayer, meditation and exercise are followed by the administrative activities of the Math which includes liaising with donors, banks, corporate houses and government agencies, managing the medical unit and the Math's publications. Prabhuji, the founder of the Math, has said that to starving people self-realisation has no meaning. So, he has asked the sanyasins to "to meet the minimum needs of the starving masses; Vedanta will follow automatically."

Kerala Ranks High in Foreign Donations, and Ninety Percent is to Christian Charities

Posted on 2003/8/1 9:46:02 ( 1092 reads )


ALAPPUZHA, July 26, 2003: As many as 1,474 organizations in Kerala received foreign contributions totaling US$75 million during 2000-2001. Almost 90 per cent of them belong to the Christian community. Gospel for Asia tops the list of organizations in Kerala to receive foreign contributions worth $12 million, followed by Mata Amritanandamayi Mission with $4.8 million.

At the all-India level, 14,598 associations received foreign contributions amounting to $945 million during the year. Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust, Andhra Pradesh, received the highest amount of foreign contribution ($18.4 million) followed by World Vision India, Tamil Nadu ($17.8 million) and Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society India, Maharashtra ($15.6 million).

The list of donor countries is headed by USA ($310 million), followed by UK ($141 million), Germany ($143 million), Italy ($56 million) and Netherlands ($47 million).

The organizations include missionary agencies, social service organizations, convents, orphanages, hospitals, archdioceses, dioceses, ashrams, seminaries, educational institutions, bala bhavans and charitable trusts.

Sanskrit Dictionary Project Completes "A"

Posted on 2003/8/1 9:45:02 ( 959 reads )


PUNE, INDIA, July 26, 2003: For three generations, they have compiled and argued, agonized and transcribed -- toiling in monastic tedium to turn an intricate language into six volumes, so far. They have delved into the grammatical roots of "antahpravesakama" and debated the pun hidden in "anangada." They've done a brain-numbingly complete dissection of "anekakrta." Now, 55 years after a group of scholars began composing the authoritative dictionary of Sanskrit, the language of India's ancient glory, they are almost done -- with the first letter. "Sanskrit," sighed Vinayaka Bhatta, chief editor of Deccan College's dictionary project, "is not easy to translate." The project has consumed the skills of more than two dozen scholars (so far), cataloged 9 million citations of Sanskrit terms and given the most thorough of definitions to thousands of words. All this in a language replete with puns, metaphors and multiple meanings. The low estimate to completing the project? At least another 50 years.

Supreme Court Encourages Common Civil Code for India

Posted on 2003/8/1 9:44:02 ( 940 reads )


NEW DELHI, INDIA, July 23, 2003: In a judgement delivered by the Supreme Court, Chief Justice V.N. Khare, Justice S.B. Sinha and Justice A.R. Lakshmanan struck down Section 118 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925, which discriminated against Christians by putting restrictions on their right to bequeath property for religious or charitable use, declaring it unconstitutional. The court further made a clear distinction between two provisions of the Constitution: one that guaranteed religious freedom (Article 25) and the other that stressed the necessity of a uniform code (Article 44). Dealing with the question of a uniform code, the Chief Justice of India, lamented the fact that Parliament had not enacted such legislation in spite of constitutional provision for it. He stated, "It is a matter of regret that Article 44 of the Constitution has not been given effect to. Parliament is still to step in for framing a common civil code in the country." India has separate personal laws for the Muslim, Christian and Hindu religious communities which govern areas such as marriage, divorce and inheritance. For details of the ruling, please refer to the "source" above.

Himalayan Academy Announces Pilgrimage to India with Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanaswami

Posted on 2003/8/1 9:43:02 ( 1037 reads )

Nashik Kumbha Mela Begins

Posted on 2003/7/31 9:49:02 ( 903 reads )


NASHIK, INDIA, July 30, 2003: Despite monsoon floods, hundreds of thousands of Hindus on Wednesday thronged to the temple city of Nasik for the beginning of the Kumbha Mela. The Mela kicked off in the Trimbakeshwar at 11:51 am when the Sun and Jupiter entered the constellation of Leo. Over half-a-million people took part in a colorful inaugural ceremony. The festival will see millions of devotees plunge into the river Godavari over the next month, with holy dips scheduled for August 17 and 27 and September 1 in Nasik and August 12 and 27 and September 7 in Trimbakeshwar. The Kumbha Mela is held every three years alternatively in four holy sites -- Hardwar, Prayag (Allahabad), Nasik and Trimbakeshwar, and Ujjain. Security was tight after Monday's bomb blast in nearby Bombay, with more than 3,000 policemen deployed at the 12-day festival. Hundreds of lifeguards have been stationed along the Godavari, which until yesterday was flowing at least 5 feet above its normal level. Heavy rains have fallen in the last three days amid inappropriate arrangements of shelter and food, and have affected the work of setting up infrastructure. Hindu devotees are meanwhile all set to kick off the fair despite the hurdles. Millions of Hindus are also gathering downstream for a parallel festival. The Godavari Pushkarma also known as the "Kumbha of the South" is being held at Rajahmundry in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

World Heritage Status for Holy Cities

Posted on 2003/7/31 9:48:02 ( 1052 reads )


NEW DELHI, INDIA, July 26, 2003: The Union Ministry for Tourism and Culture has recommended to UNESCO World Heritage Center that the Golden Temple at Amritsar and the city of Varanasi be included in the world body's list of heritage sites.

The Golden Temple is the principal place of worship of Sikhs, a three-storied shrine crowned with a golden dome. Rising from the middle of the Amrit Sarovar Lake, the monument atop a rectangular platform is surrounded by a white marble corridor and linked to a causeway. Its lower storeys are made of white marble while the upper portion is done with gold plating. Four hundred kilograms of gold-leaf were used for the renovation of the upper parts of the shrine which was sponsored by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1803. The inner walls are decorated with carved wooden panels and elaborate inlay work in silver and gold.

Also known as Kasi and Benaras, Varanasi is considered to be the ultimate pilgrimage spot for Hindus. A great hub of culture, the city literally breathes history and is know as a "city of thousand temples." The city is internationally-renowned for its nearly 100 ghats along the river Ganges. Although many of them are bathing ghats, some are meant to be used for cremation.

There are now 24 World Heritage Sites in India, of which 18 are cultural and five natural. Information on recent site declarations and sites being considered for World Heritage status may be found at the "source" above.

Priest Claims He Was Held Hostage By Temple Protesters

Posted on 2003/7/31 9:47:02 ( 1016 reads )

Sunday Times

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA, July 20, 2003: The Durban High court has heard how the spiritual head of a Hindu movement and his followers were allegedly "taken hostage" by a group of sign-carrying protesters.

The trustees of the Chinmaya Mission of South Africa, based in Chatsworth, asked the court for an urgent decree to prevent 27 members of the movement from assaulting and threatening the head priest, Veejay Muckoon. The trustees also asked the court to prevent the members from interrupting services and prayers conducted by Muckoon and to prohibit them from entering the temple. Judge Achmat Japie turned down the application, saying he did not regard the matter as urgent. Devotees were split into two sides after Muckoon's predecessor was dismissed last year "for conduct unbecoming of a swami." Muckoon told the court that while conducting a prayer service recently, a group of people entered the prayer hall carrying signs and shouting slogans. He said they blamed him for the division at the ashram and restrained him from leaving. The local police were called. Sergeant Ramathar said the mob was engaged in peaceful protest and had the right to do so in terms of the Constitution. Raksha Singh, one of the 27 devotees, said that she and a group of followers had gone to the temple to pray and submit a petition "of our vote of no confidence in the management and decisions that were taken by the trustees at certain meetings." Singh said that, as long-standing members of the temple, "we have a right to express our concerns with regard to decisions that were made." The matter was adjourned to August.

Rains Ruin Kumbha Preparations

Posted on 2003/7/30 9:49:02 ( 1016 reads )


NASHIK, INDIA, July 28, 2003: Steady rains in Nashik the past two days have inundated several low-lying areas, including the Ram Kunda on the banks of the flooded Godavari river, the site of the Sinhastha Kumbha Mela scheduled to start on July 30. "All low-lying areas are flooded ... many tents in 'Sadhugram' here and at Trimbakeshwar are submerged now," officials said. With the weather office forecasting more rains, there is anxiety in official circles. Several roads that were redone for the Kumbha Mela have been damaged in the rain and several temples in the Ram Kunda area are under water. The rising water levels in the Gangapur dam have, however, come as a blessing to the water-starved Nashikites. Farmers in rural parts of the Nashik are jubilant, too.

Pilgrims Coming to the Kumbh Mela Will be Protected

Posted on 2003/7/30 9:48:02 ( 965 reads )


MUMBAI, INDIA, July 24, 2003: (Note: this report appeared four days earlier than the above report) Preparations for pilgrimage on a grand scale are being made in Maharashtra for the Grand Pitcher festival or Kumbh Mela. Expecting hundreds of thousands to millions of Hindus in the twin towns of Nasik and Trimbakeshwar, 125 miles from Mumbai, the high point of the festival will be on August 17. On that day, ash-smeared sadhus and other devotees will bathe in the Godavari River in groups of 10,000 at a time. To protect pilgrims, India has hired 10,000 police and installed hidden cameras for the duration of the event. Senior local official Vinay Pathak says, "We have taken full precautions against terrorist attacks." Click here for a list of Mela web sites.

Eastern Languages To Remain On South African Syllabus

Posted on 2003/7/30 9:47:02 ( 1032 reads )


SOUTH AFRICA, July 24, 2003: The National council for Eastern Languages claimed a major victory when national education minister Kader Asmal overturned his decision to remove Eastern languages from the school syllabus. The council, officials of the South African qualifications authority, South African Hindu Maha Sabha and the SA Tamil Federation met Asmal in Pretoria this week to discuss the fate of Eastern languages amid rising fears that the national education department was considering scrapping some of these languages from the country's school syllabus because of their inability to attract sufficient numbers of pupils. The minister agreed to retain Tamil, Urdu, Hindi, Telegu and Arabic in the Further Education and Training phase up to Grade 9. "We are very pleased with the outcome and this serves to confirm that the minister understands the potential of these languages," said council chairman Ram Maharaj.

Cell Phone Matchmaking in India

Posted on 2003/7/30 9:46:02 ( 1068 reads )


BANGALORE, INDIA, July 27, 2003: The age-old tradition of arranged marriages is surviving in India, while technology strives to keep up. After using newspaper advertisements and web-sites to find a suitable partner for their son or daughter, parents can now subscribe to a text messaging service on their cell phone. Arun Sikka, vice-president for sales and marketing at RPG Cellular says, "Parents can register the profiles of their sons or daughters with us and ask for matching profiles. They just need to send a 'short message service' to a specified number to do all this." If a prospective match is found, a meeting can be arranged between the two families involved. So far Sikka's company is not charging for this new service. Later on they will offer an exchange of photos and horoscopes as part of the service.

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