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Refugees International Reports on Discrimination Against Hindus in Bangladesh

Posted on 2003/8/9 9:49:02 ( 1166 reads )


WASHINGTON, D.C., August 9, 2003: A US-based human rights organization has claimed that religious minorities, especially Hindus, still face discrimination in Bangladesh even though the country has recently taken steps to protect minorities. Refugees International, in its recently published report, alleged that although Bangladesh provides for "freedom of religion," religious minorities "face restrictions in areas such as access to jobs in the government and military." Further, saying that most Bangladeshi Hindus who come to India receive little protection, it asked both Bangladesh and India to deal with the problems in a better manner. Claiming that up to "20,000 Hindus were displaced in recent years" due to communal violence, it asked the Bangladesh government to comply with laws protecting religious minorities and establish an independent body to probe the attacks on Hindus in 2001. It also recommended the Indian government to stop "threatening mass expulsion of Bangladeshis who have come to India whether as refugees or for economic reasons." The report alleged that "despite calls for a full, impartial and independent investigation of the 2001 attacks, the Government of Bangladesh has taken no action to bring to justice the perpetrators." The organization also demanded that property appropriated under the Vested Property Act (VPA) from Hindus be returned to them according to a well defined timetable. "In the absence of a specific date for the return, there is no way to monitor whether the property is being returned," it added.

Bhagavad Gita and Teaching of Buddha Join Bibles in US Hotel Rooms

Posted on 2003/8/9 9:48:02 ( 951 reads )

Religion Watch

USA, August 9, 2003: The American hotel tradition of placing a Bible in guests' rooms is changing as these establishments broaden their menu of religious reading material to please the new diversity of guests. USA Today (July 10) reports that the Bibles placed in hotel rooms for over a century by the Gideon International ministry has become "an unwitting brand standard" that is being challenged by the desire of some hotels to offer their guests options that range from the Bhagavad-Gita to the Book of Mormon. In deference to the Marriot's founders, these hotels now supplement the Bible with the Book of Mormon. The Society for the Promotion of Buddhism has placed gratis copies of the Teaching of the Buddha in more than 2,300 hotels across the U.S. as part of a program that also includes 53 other countries. Washington, D.C.'s Madison Hotel will reopen with each guestroom having a windowsill decal pointing toward Mecca -- an amenity mainly found in the Middle East.

Vaishnava Monasteries Threatened by Brahmaputra River Erosion

Posted on 2003/8/9 9:47:02 ( 1011 reads )


MANJULI, INDIA, August 7, 2003: An ecological disaster looms over Manjuli, the world's largest river island, located in the Brahmaputra river in India's north-eastern state of Assam. Majuli is rapidly eroding away, threatening the lives of the 150,000 islanders. Environmentalists say Manjuli has shrunk by more than 400 square kilometers in the past three decades, reducing the island to two-thirds its original size. Affected are 22 Vaishnava monasteries. The monasteries act as the centre of Assamese culture with their traditional prayer form, a 500-year-old open air theatrical custom, colorful boat races, classical dances and handicrafts. Members of the monastery say they will have to leave Majuli if erosion continues. There has been proposal to have Majuli declared a world heritage site by the UNESCO, but it could be washed off the map one day.

Coca-Cola India Releases Test Results to Refute Claims of Pesticides in Soft Drinks

Posted on 2003/8/9 9:46:02 ( 1054 reads )


DELHI, INDIA, August 9, 2003: The Coca-Cola Company in India posted test results from the TNO company in The Netherlands which show samples of their products to test within acceptable limits (negative, in nearly all cases) for dozens of pesticides, contrary to results released by a government laboratory in India. The reports are available at their website, "source," above.

Indian Firm Markets Vegetarian Insulin

Posted on 2003/8/8 9:49:02 ( 1133 reads )


NEW DELHI, INDIA, August 8, 2003: It is estimated that there will be 57 million diabetics in India by 2025. An Indian drug company has launched what it claims is Asia's first vegetarian insulin. The new insulin is derived from yeast, as opposed to pigs or cows, as most insulin in India is at present. The company which has manufactured the drug, Wockhardt, says that this type of insulin will also avoid other viral infections such as BSE and CJD associated with insulin derived from animals. Until now nearly 90% of the insulin available on the Indian market was derived from pigs or cows which are proscribed respectively in the Muslim and Hindu communities.

The Brahmins Who Became Untouchables

Posted on 2003/8/8 9:48:02 ( 3984 reads )


PATNA, INDIA, August 5,2003: The Mahapatra brahmins of Sahupura village in Buxar district of Bihar are finding that they are virtual untouchables in their own land. They perform cremation rituals and their very appearance at a doorstep is considered a bad omen."We used to knock at the door of a house only when there was a death in the house to perform the cremation rituals, so our appearance is regarded as a bad sign," said Ramanand Pandey. But there don't seem to be any major regrets.

Most brahmins in the village said they never encouraged their children to pursue modern studies. Instead of going to school, children start picking up the finer points of their specialised job under the expert tutelage of their elders. At least they don't have to worry about unemployment, community leaders said defending the decision. "The work of performing cremation rituals gives us the guarantee of a job without education. In the neighbouring village, there are many educated upper caste youth who are sitting at home because they have no job," said Madan Pandey.

The brahmins of Sahupura have the advantage of performing the last rites at the famous Ramrekha Ghat on the banks of the Ganges not far from the village. The place is considered auspicious for conducting cremations because the river turns to the north at the spot. Like the famous pandas of Gaya in Bihar, Puri in Orissa and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, the brahmins of Sahpura have the right to undertake cremation rituals in a large area spanning about six districts.

Kumbha Mela TV Coverage Gets Flooded, Too

Posted on 2003/8/7 9:49:02 ( 916 reads )


NASIK, INDIA, August 4, 2003: The Kumbha Mela, among the largest gatherings in the world, besides attracting devotees, sadhus and exotica-seekers, has its share of media adding to the crowd. There are at least five reporters doing live telecasts at any given point in time. The first to arrive was the NDTV outdoor broadcast van, which is not a van at all but a truck mounted with a dish and all the requisite paraphernalia. The Sahara, Zee OB and Star vans soon followed. Locals and pilgrims throng around the TV crew in a furtive attempt to be on TV at least for a second, even if among 500 faces. Often a brawl will break out between the crew and the people who are "spoiling the frame" or among people who keep jostling each other to get in front of the camera. The question heard most often is, "Is this live?". Ramkund is the main pond where the ritual baths take place during the Mela. The Godavari flows in from one end and out the other. After three days of heavy torrential rains, the water turned to muddy brown and submerged everything around. Even the main Godavari temple, which opens once every 12 years for the Kumbha Mela, was filled with waist-deep water. The water began rising at the site reserved for the television vans. Their tires became completely submerged and one van became stuck in the steadily rising waters. When the vans looked in danger of being washed away, the local fire brigade warned the TV crews to move their vehicles and equipment.

Lord Ganesha Rolls Through Stuttgart

Posted on 2003/8/7 9:48:02 ( 946 reads )


STUTTGART, GERMANY, August 2, 2003: A Ratha (chariot) festival was conducted for the first time in the streets of Stuttgart by the Hindu community on Saturday, August 2. Many German residents of the city stretched their necks out of their windows, unbelievingly, as hundreds of Hindus pulled the Elephant God on a holy vehicle through the streets. For nine days, the Hindus living in Stuttgart and the surrounding region have been celebrating. This Saturday was the highpoint of the festival. "Our chariot was specially made for us in Sri Lanka," said Apputhurai Kumaran, a teacher of Hindu culture. Subsequently the vehicle was taken apart and brought in a container by airplane to Germany. Men run before the vehicle, throwing water out of buckets on the street in order to clean it for the arrival of the holy chariot. The chariot is jointly pulled by men and women, who brace themselves heavily against the ropes. A Hindu priest stands next to the Elephant God. A nageshwaram player and drummer step ahead. Behind the vehicle, two men with bare torso roll themselves over the hot asphalt, holding a coconut in their hands. Curious bystanders line the roadside asking what is the meaning of this shimmering procession. "We sometimes commit mistake in the daily life," explains Kumaran, "in this festival we can correct these mistakes." "This morning ends our festival," he says, "however in the coming year we want to pull the chariot through Stuttgart again."

On-Line Satellite View of Everest

Posted on 2003/8/7 9:47:02 ( 1158 reads )


USA, August 7, 2003: For a free space view of Mount Everest, click "source" above. Also available is a dizzying 3D fly-over of the world's highest mountain.

All-Women Reading of Ramayana in Trinidad

Posted on 2003/8/7 9:46:02 ( 1067 reads )


PORT OF SPAIN, TRINIDAD, August 4, 2003: Three Hindu women have created a record when they read the holy Ramayana for five nights at a Ramayan Yagna hosted here. The all-women panel read from the Ramayana at the religious ceremony hosted by the Hindu Prachar Kendras Ninth Annual Tulsidas Jayanti Festival here. The triad included Mayaanti Maharaj, Gita Ramsingh and Shakuntala Jangabahadoor, all from Trinidad and Tobago. Jangabahadoor is a well-known singer and has studied classical Indian music at the Gandharva Mahavidyala, New Delhi on a Government of India scholarship. She is a secondary school teacher. Ramsingh already holds the honour of becoming the first woman to sing the Ramayana in 1990.

Puri Beach 10-Ft Sand Chariot Awes Devotees

Posted on 2003/8/7 9:45:02 ( 964 reads )

Daily Pioneer

PURI, INDIA, August 2, 2003: The crowds pouring into Puri for the rath yatra are thronging the beach to view the 10-foot sand chariot crafted by famous sand artist Sudarshan Patnaik. Apart from being Patnaik's personal tribute to the three deities of the historic Jagannath temple who make their annual journey to their aunt's house in July, the creation has brought alive the legend of Balram Das, the author of Dandi Ramayana. The legend says that the temple priests once denied Balram Das the honor of paying his respects to the Deities seated on Their chariots during the yatra. Saddened, Das, known for his devotion to Lord Jagannath went to the seashore and crafted three chariots out of sand and began worshiping the Deities there. The Deities were so pleased with his devotion that They abandoned Their chariots waiting to roll on the Grand Road outside the temple and seated Themselves on the sand carts carved out by Das. Bereft of the Deities, the raths at temple gate refused to budge, much to the disappointment of the assembled crowd and the king. Later in the night the king had a vision where the Lord explained to him the reasons for the fiasco. The repentant king made amends and since then Balram Das has remained part of Orissa's folklore.

Controversial UK Hindu prayer hall granted permission to continue services

Posted on 2003/8/7 9:44:02 ( 1022 reads )

The Times

LONDON, ENGLAND, August 1, 2003: A Hindu prayer hall in Hounslow, England, has been granted permission to continue holding services for another three years. Residents of the area had complained of increased traffic and smell from spicy cooking and incense and had called for enforcement action to stop activities at the hall. But a decision was deferred three times. The Shree Jalarma Seva Trust, which conducts services and prayers at the hall, was granted permission last week to continue its activities with conditions attached by the Hounslow Central Area Planning Committee in a vote which split councillors. The issue began in 2001 when an outbuilding behind the Hussar Public House was first used for religious and social gatherings. The building was later extended, an extractor duct installed and a portable building erected without planning permission. Residents have continually complained about the noise of worshippers coming and going, driving the wrong way down a one-way street, noise from a PA system, the sound of drums and the smell of cooking and incense. The neighbors are upset. One lady who represented people on Gloucester Road was asked at the meeting if she likes curry. She replied that she probably likes curry and eats curry, but she doesn't want her curtains smelling of it. On July 24, council officers again called for an enforcement order at the Hounslow Central Area Committee meeting but councillors voted to grant the trust another three years to operate as a prayer hall. Councillor Bob Whatley, vice chair of the Committee, told the Times the committee had been split over the decision: "It was certainly far from unanimous. The idea is to try to work with them to find a more suitable site."

Amarnath, Symbol Of Indian Brotherhood

Posted on 2003/8/7 9:43:02 ( 1284 reads )

Press Trust Of India

AMARNATH, INDIA, July 31, 2003: Amarnath is one Hindu pilgrimage run and managed to a large extent by Muslims in the militancy-tormented Kashmir valley in the northern tip of India. Nearly the entire infrastructure back-up for the month-long annual Amarnath Yatra, in which devout Hindus trek the arduous terrain to pay obeisance to an annual ice formation as a symbol of Lord Siva, is provided by Muslims, making it what locals describe "as a symbol of Indian brotherhood." Mushtaq Ahmed sells religious items like photographs, saffron headbands and food for the yatra. He is one among more than a hundred Muslims who have set up a string of makeshift-shops in the run up to the cave selling religious items. Thousands of tentwallahas, horsemen and "pitthus" (luggage carriers) consider it their duty to ensure each pilgrim have the darshan of the Holy Lingam. They also call it their '"rozi-roti" (literally, "job and bread," like the expression "bread and butter") which enables them to earn and save for the rest of the year. Though community kitchens, set up at all major stops en route the cave shrine, have made the yatra a trifle easier, pilgrims concede that but for the locals who work as pony-men, tent-men and pitthus, the arduous 20-mile trek at 14,000 feet in the ice-clad Himalayas is impossible.

One Million Witness Puri Chariot Yatra

Posted on 2003/8/6 9:49:02 ( 901 reads )

Daily Pioneer

PURI, INDIA, August 2, 2003: The Grand road in Puri was crowded with people on Tuesday as nearly 1 million devotees turned up to witness the annual Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath and His two siblings, Balbhadra and Subhadra. The Deities were carried to their gaily decorated chariots amid the beating of drums and cymbals. The chariots began rolling following the ceremonial sweeping of their decks by Gajpati Divya Singhdeo, the maharajah of Puri, and the worship of the Deities by the Sankaracharya. This Rath Yatra has been one of the most expensive in history. Sources said the total expenditure was around US$400,000, which went into setting up amenities like toilets, water taps and first aid units for the pilgrims, besides feeding the huge contingent of policemen deployed to maintain law and order. Security was heightened in view of the perceived terrorist threat to the 12th century Jagannath temple. Orissa Armed Police were on 24-hour duty as were special anti-riot forces. Puri municipality had made special arrangements for pilgrims and tourists on the sea beach considered to be among the best in the country. Most of the tourists were seen taking a dip in the sea after they had pulled at least one of the three chariots.

300,000 Malaysian Hindu Students Attend Education Pilgrimage

Posted on 2003/8/6 9:48:02 ( 1042 reads )

Press Reports

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA, August 4, 2003: The annual Kalvi Yathrai (education pilgrimage) jointly organized by the Sri Murugan Centre (SMC) and the Sri Maha Mariamman Kovil Devastanam was held on the August 3, 2003, at the Batu Caves Sri Subramaniamswami Temple in Kuala Lumpur. Some 300,000 people comprising students and their families gathered at the foot of the 272-step Batu Caves temple (well known among Malaysians for its Thaipusam festival) since early in the morning to observe the pilgrimage. Participants started off with a mass meditation and prayer session. Included in the session was motivational talks given by students and SMC directors, including its founder, Dr. M. Thambirajah. The participants climbed the 272 steps up the hill to pay homage to Lord Muruga. SMC co-director L. Krishnan said that their main objective is to increase the number of Indian intellectuals in Malaysia by producing high academic achievers. Indian High Commissioner to Malaysia Veena Sikri and National Land Finance Co-operative Society chairman K. R. Somasundram attended the event.

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