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Pune's Women Priests in Demand
Posted on 2002/7/8 1:49:02 ( 634 reads )


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PUNE, INDIA, July 7, 2002: As the demand for priests to perform certain rituals has increased, the supply of male priests has dwindled. Often young men do not follow in their father's footsteps and have taken up what they feel to be more lucrative careers. Hence in 1990, an organization call Jnana Prabodhini started training both women and men in the priestly arts. Over 800 people to date have completed the training. After completing a three-month priesthood training class, graduates from JP can perform rituals such as weddings, various pujas, and the rites of passage after death. Another organization called Shankar Seva Samiti has been training women to become priests since 1976. After one year of traditional training, SSS priestesses now numbering 7,000, serve all castes and are from all castes themselves. The two organizations have taken a different approach to their training, SSS a traditional one and JP a modern participatory one. Regardless of their training, women priests are very much in demand. As one patron put it, "They do not take short cuts while performing rituals, explain the meaning and always have time." See also next story.




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Women Priests from Jnana Prabodhini Take a Different Approach
Posted on 2002/7/8 1:48:02 ( 1048 reads )


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PUNE, INDIA, July 7, 2002: Jnana Prabodhini, a Pune-based organization, has been training women to become priests since 1990. With very little opposition from the public, JP has found that women priests have filled a demand, that priests graduating from their program perform rituals for all classes of people, and that women should have an equal opportunity in the profession. Yashwant Lele, who works for JP, says, "We have modified the rituals to suit the jet age where people have the inclination to perform rituals, but have less time and limited money." Lele points out that the modifications were done after consulting the Lonavla-based Dharmanirnay Mandal. JP priests also perform the last rites and have revived the sacred thread ceremony for girls, to emphasize their importance




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Three Thousand Attend Opening of Hindu Temple in Germany
Posted on 2002/7/8 1:47:02 ( 668 reads )


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HAMM, GERMANY, July 8, 2002: Around 3,000 Hindus on Sunday attended the inauguration of the largest Hindu temple in Europe, at Hamm in northwest Germany, police said. The 700-square-meter Sri Kamadchi Ampal temple took two years to build and cost US$990,000, most of it from donations. The building is built in an architectural style typical of southern India and includes 180 icons and altars, the architect Heinz-Reiner Eihorst said. The inauguration was marked by a party that was expected to continue late into the night. The Hindu priest Siva Sri Paskarakurukkal, who will officiate at the temple, expects around 300 devotees per day to worship there.




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Medicinal Use of Cow Urine Receives US patent
Posted on 2002/7/8 1:46:02 ( 947 reads )


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NEW DELHI, INDIA, India, July 3, 2002: Joint research conducted by the Scientists of Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, a Central Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) laboratory, and Go-Vigyan Anusandhan Kendra, Nagpur, has resulted in the granting of a US patent for a unique pharmaceutical composition, announced Union Minister Murli Manohar Joshi. The research discovered the unique bio-enhancing activity in a specific cow urine distillate, which enhances the anti-microbial effects of antibiotic and anti-fungal agents. Cow urine has been used for its medicinal properties in India since ancient times and has been described as a substance/secretion with innumerable therapeutic values in ''Sushrita Samhita'' and ''Ashtanga Sangrah.'' This contemporary finding is the synergy of Indian traditional wisdom and modern science. The impact of this novel patent will be on reducing the dosage of drugs to get a given therapeutic effect. It will also reduce the cost of treatment and the side-effects due to toxicity, according to the details of the research paper. Joshi also believed the achievement would give impetus to the traditional researchers of the country. Details of the cow urine patent, entitled Pharmaceutical composition containing cow urine distillate and an antibiotic, #6,410,059, are available at the US Patent Office website: www.patft.uspto.gov/




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Should We All Be Vegetarians?
Posted on 2002/7/8 1:45:02 ( 641 reads )


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NEW YORK, NEW YORK, July 15, 2002: Sporting the ubiquitous hamburger bun overflowing with vegetables, the July 15 issue of Time magazine carries a cover story on the merits of vegetarianism for everyone. For many, meat is an obscene cuisine. It's not just the additives and ailments connected with the consumption of beef, though a dish of hormones, E. coli bacteria or the scary specter of mad-cow disease might be effective enough as an appetite suppressant. It's that more and more Americans, particularly young Americans, have started engaging in a practice that would once have shocked their parents. They are eating their vegetables. Also their grains and sprouts. Some 10 million Americans today consider themselves to be practicing vegetarians, according to a Time poll of 10,000 adults; an additional 20 million have flirted with vegetarianism sometime in their past. Discussing a number of nutritional issues like calcium absorption and vitamin B12 to the ethical argument that vegetarianism is a much more environment-friendly diet than those revolving around meat, this lengthy article provides much food for thought.




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Japanese DVD "RG Veda" Not About Our Rig Veda
Posted on 2002/7/8 1:44:02 ( 691 reads )


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TRINIDAD, July 8, 2002: HPI's local contacts here sent in a note that a Japanese-language DVD had appeared entitled "RG Veda." Our correspondent, Anil Mahabir, spoke with a distributor of the DVD who said, "The film is not about anything even remotely resembling Indian culture or Hinduism, although the name "RG Veda" might seem to suggest such." Intrigued, HPI tracked down a website on this DVD ("source" above). There we learned, "RG Veda was created by a group of female Japanese artists and writers who go by the name of CLAMP. RG Veda was one of their first creations, and they are also responsible for X (called X/1999 in the U.S.), Tokyo Babylon, Clover and a few others." The illustrations, apparently made some time ago, are in Japanese "anime," a stylized cartoon, and the plotline summarized on the website does indeed seem to have nothing to do with the Rig Veda. Concerned that Hindus might take offense at the cartoon, the Trinidad distributor, Hafeez Amin of Genesis Foundation (genesis@wow.net) has decided not to feature the DVD as part of their Japanese cartoon festival. He did ask our correspondent, "Should you do the necessary research and deem this movie able to be shown to general audiences in Trinidad & Tobago please do not hesitate to contact us." HPI readers who want to look into the cartoon are welcome to send Hafeez their comments.




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Advani Disputes Forensic Report on Godhra
Posted on 2002/7/7 1:49:02 ( 834 reads )


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AHMEDABAD, INDIA, July 7, 2002: Deputy Prime Minister L. K. Advani has rejected a forensic report that contradicts the government's view that a Muslim mob had set a train on fire from outside, killing 58 passengers, in February near here. The contention of Ahmedabad-based Forensic Science Laboratory that the fire, which engulfed two coaches of Sabarmati Express at Godhra railway station, was ignited from within them was untenable, Advani told reporters here on Sunday. "How could women, children and other travellers keep inflammable or explosives to take their own lives?" Advani asked during a day's visit here, while rejecting the laboratory's report. "The idea is frivolous." A report on the lab's method is posted at "source" above. The forensic lab parked a similar railroad car at the same place as the one burnt in Godhra. They tossed water at it from the outside, attempting to simulate the throwing of flammable liquid, but not actually causing a fire. The lab believed, for unstated reasons, that at least 60 liters of flammable liquid were required to start the fire, and concluded that such a large amount could not be thrown through the windows. They do not say why their theory contradicts numerous eye-witness accounts of the attack by a mob of Muslims numbering approximately 1,500.




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Christian Minister Suspended for Worshipping With Hindu "Pagans" at 9/11 Memorial
Posted on 2002/7/7 1:48:02 ( 703 reads )


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NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, JULY 5, 2002: Lutheran pastor, Rev. David Benke, has been suspended from his duties and ordered to apologize to all Christians for participating with New York's Cardinal Edward M. Egan, other Christian ministers, Sikh and Hindu holy men, imams, rabbis and civic leaders in an interfaith prayer service hosted by Oprah Winfrey in New York's Yankee Stadium after September 11. The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, which has 2.6 million members and is the 10th-largest church in the United States, has ordered Rev. Benke to apologize or appeal by July 10 or he will automatically be removed from the Missouri Synod's clergy. The ruling against Benke illustrates the growing tension between two major trends in American religion: ecumenical or interfaith efforts, which have been bolstered by President Bush's calls for tolerance since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and back-to-tradition or "renewal" movements, which have taken hold among Presbyterians, Episcopalians and Methodists as well as Lutherans. While the interfaith efforts emphasize common values, the renewal movements emphasize theological differences. The two trends can coexist, but sometimes they conflict, particularly over claims that only adherents of a particular creed will gain salvation and all others face eternal damnation. "By President Benke's joining with other pagan clerics in an interfaith service [no matter what the intent might have been], a crystal clear signal was given...while there may be differences as to how people worship or pray, in the end, all religions pray to the same God," the Rev. Wallace Schulz, the Missouri Synod's national second vice president, wrote in the suspension letter. "To participate with pagans in an interfaith service and, additionally, to give the impression that there might be more than one God, is an extremely serious offense against the God of the Bible," Schulz added. "The principle is, you don't want to do anything that would compromise the gospel of Jesus Christ," said the Rev. David H. Mahsman, editor of the Missouri Synod's newspaper, the Lutheran Witness. "The question is, does participating in an interfaith service after September 11 do that? Benke would say no. In fact, it honors Christ and shows that Lutherans are concerned about the well-being of the entire community. Others would say it placed Christ on an equal footing with Allah and Vishnu and whatever Gods are involved. Supporters of the Rev. David Benke say he will appeal his suspension as a district president -- the equivalent of a bishop.




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Bihar and Jharkhand Temples Ban Animal Sacrifice
Posted on 2002/7/7 1:47:02 ( 803 reads )


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BIHAR, INDIA, JULY 4, 2002: Last month a group of Hindu activists from Bihar launched a campaign against animal sacrifice at the famous Lord Baidyanath temple at Deogarh in Jharkhand. It is estimated that about 100 animals are slaughtered at the Deogarh temple each month and the temple management spends about US$2,000 procuring goats for the sacrifices. Following a note sent Monday to the governor from Vice-Chancellor of Kameshwar Singh Darbhanga Sanskrit University, Acharya Kishore Kunal, Mithilesh Kumar, Principal Secretary to Pande, sent a letter to the chief secretaries of the two states, saying sacrifice of animals was punishable under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, Raj Bhavan. Kumar, on behalf the governor, has urged the chief secretaries to find out if animal sacrifice is still going on in some temples and if so, steps be taken to stop it. Nothing is said in this report as to why the ban applies only to animals killed in temples and not to all killing.




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Britain Tries to Set Right a "Historical Wrong" for Uganda Indians
Posted on 2002/7/7 1:46:02 ( 676 reads )


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LONDON, ENGLAND, JULY 5, 2002: Thousands of officially British, ethnically Indian and technically stateless people are finally to achieve closure on a painful part of their past as the British government announces it will set right a "historical wrong" from 30 years ago. In the 1960s and 70s, thousands of Indians fleeing persecution in East Africa were prevented from seeking refuge in the UK, while white East Africans were allowed into Britain to live. Some Indians managed somehow to gain entry into the UK and others managed to go to India. All those Indians were "treated unfairly" by Britain, a Home Office ministerial statement admitted late on Thursday. As reparation, these Indians will now be granted normal British citizenship rights. So far, they were officially classed as British Overseas Citizens but had no automatic right to live and work in Britain. The British government's admission of guilt for a skewed and racially-discriminatory immigration policy biased towards white people, comes as Britain this month marks the 30th anniversary of the arrival of 28,000 Indians turned out of Uganda by Idi Amin. Many of the Ugandan Indians now rank among the top 500 wealthiest people of the country.




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Frightful AIDS Warning for India and China
Posted on 2002/7/7 1:45:02 ( 701 reads )


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SPAIN, BARCELONA, July 5, 2002: The United Nations warned that at least 68 million people will die by 2020 unless there are "drastically expanded" efforts to prevent and treat HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Their portrait of human misery on a gigantic scale was released in anticipation of the 14th International AIDS Conference, set to open Sunday in Barcelona, Spain. "It is clear to me that we are only at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in historic terms," said Dr. Peter Piot, director of UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, which produced the study. Scientists fear that AIDS is expanding beyond Africa and is poised to explode in Asia, particularly in the most populous nations on Earth, India and China. In India, 3.9 million are already believed to be HIV positive. The UNAIDS report released Tuesday appeals for more action by governments and the private sector to provide easier access to drugs to fight climbing infection rates of HIV.




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Puri Priests to Get Etiquette Lessons
Posted on 2002/7/6 1:49:02 ( 694 reads )


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PURI, ORISSA, INDIA, July 6, 2002: Priests of the Jagannath temple in Puri will be taught lessons in etiquette, so that they learn how to deal with visitors to the temple. A Puri-based cultural outfit, Yuva Chetana Sangathana, has decided to launch the orientation program to put an end to the complaints against the priests, known as "pandas." The priests have consistently been accused of ill treating tourists and pilgrims: They try to extort money and humiliate the tourists when their demands are not met. Often, the pandas demand exorbitant sums as donation and when the visitors do not pay up, they are harassed and abused. At a meeting of the Yuva Chetana Sangathana, Gopiunath Mohanty, the Director of Culture of Orissa government, asserted that the government viewed such lapses on the part of the pandas seriously. He said the culture department would be glad to grant funds to any organization coming forward to teach the pandas the benefits of good behavior towards tourists. Incidentally, over the years the inflow of tourists to Puri and pilgrims to Puri temple has dwindled. The misbehavior of the Puri priests is cited as a major reason for the visitors' disgust, though pilgrims still number in the tens of thousands. Similar projects have worked with such unlikely candidates as New York City cab drivers.




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Food Worth US$50,000 Destroyed in Puri temple
Posted on 2002/7/6 1:48:02 ( 711 reads )


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PURI, ORISSA, INDIA, July 7, 2002: The biggest temple kitchen in the world has suffered a huge loss because one cook didn't observe the proper rituals. Authorities of the Jagannath temple of Puri in Orissa destroyed US$50,000 worth of cooked offerings for the presiding Deity, stating it had not been prepared according to prescribed rituals. The offering, or mahaprasada, consisting of 56 vegetarian dishes, is prepared daily at the Jagannath temple. Every day, nearly 25,000 devotees eat the food after it is offered to the deity. The food was destroyed after some priests complained to chief temple servitor Bhitarchhi Mohapatra that the temple cook, or supakar, had not observed some post-cooking rituals. This was an unprecedented event in the past thirty years! Since the preparation process did not follow the correct procedure, Mohapatra suggested that the entire food be destroyed (probably fed to the animals). This resulted in the suspension of all the rituals at the famous temple on Saturday. But the rituals started as usual on Sunday. During festivals, the temple kitchen, considered to be the biggest of its kind, prepares food for nearly 100,000 people.




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Nepal King, Queen Move into Palace
Posted on 2002/7/6 1:47:02 ( 655 reads )


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KATMANDU, NEPAL, July 5, 2002: After a year of mourning, Nepal's King Gyanendra has moved into the palace where his elder brother was assassinated in a royal family massacre in June, 2001. Gyanendra assumed the throne after his brother and eight members of the royal family were killed by Crown Prince Dipendra, who also shot himself and later died in the hospital. On Wednesday, the king, Queen Komal and their daughter, Princess Prerana, moved into the Narayanhiti Palace, the traditional home of the Shah dynasty rulers. Their home is guarded by more than 3,000 soldiers of the Royal Nepalese Army. Previously, Gyanendra and his family lived in their mansion in the capital, Katmandu, where Crown Prince Paras will continue to reside.




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A Career in Theft -- Temple Gods Included!
Posted on 2002/7/6 1:46:02 ( 810 reads )


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BHUBANESWAR, INDIA, July 7, 2002: As a boy, he helped his father loot goods trains. When he grew up, he started looting gods! Prakash Patnaik, 24, who hit headlines as the brain behind the thefts in Lingaraj and Puri Jagannath temples of Orissa, has had police groping in the dark for years. Hailing from Kantapara village of Odgaon block in Nayagarh district, with his early childhood in Bhilai, Prakash reportedly joined his father, an electrician who, after losing his job, took to crime. The first temple theft Prakash committed was stealing of 57 kg of silver ornaments from the Mahamayya Temple in Bilaspur on January 6, 1998. The state police have claimed that they were able to unveil the mystery behind the theft cases in four temples in the state including Jagannath Temple at Puri and Lingaraj temple which occurred recently. Prakash has since been arrested, and reportedly confessed his guilt before the police.




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