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Lord Jagannath's Devotional Chariot Makers

Posted on 2003/7/4 9:48:02 ( 946 reads )


PURI, INDIA, July 1, 2003: They are chariot makers for the Gods, and millions of devotees depend on them to help make the festival, dedicated to Lord Jagannath, successful. The 10 artisan families in the temple town of Puri have been making the chariots of devotion for hundreds of years. They are known as Maharana, or carpenters, and are given their due status in society. The artisans do other jobs for ten months, then in May they become very busy making the chariots from the rare fashi wood. "We get a tremendous amount of personal satisfaction because we are making cars for the Gods after working throughout the year for men. The temple officials give us US$1.72 a day, which is less than what we get for any other work that we do, but it doesn't matter," said 81-year-old Damodar Moharana. "We wait for the occasion because it provides us fixed money as well as gives us God's blessings. We work day and night to meet the deadline given to us by the temple authorities so that the chariot rolling festival begins on the scheduled date. There has been no delay ever as far I know. This is our hereditary tradition, and we have been doing this for hundreds of years," he added.

The three gigantic chariots, Nandighosh, Taladhwaja and Deva Dalana of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra, pulled by devotees, are built in front of the famous Jagannath temple. The Nandighosh is the biggest with a height of 15.20 meters and 16 wheels. The Taladhwaja chariot is 14.81 meters tall and the Deva Dalana chariot is the smallest at 14.32 meters. The cost to build the chariots is $97,296.56.

But all is not well with the hard-working artisan families. "The erstwhile king of Puri provided us land and houses. We still have the homes but have lost the cultivable lands because of a 1963 law. As a result, we are forced to work for others," said Moharana.

New Amarnath Cave to be Opened for Pilgrims

Posted on 2003/7/4 9:47:02 ( 980 reads )


JAMMU AND KASHMIR, June 30, 2003. Set amidst rocky terrain and picturesque pine trees, the sacred cave shrine of Lord Siva in Chandanwari hills of South Kashmir is all set to redefine the annual Amarnath Yatra with the Jammu and Kashmir Government making efforts to open it for pilgrims this year.

"Work on the construction of metaled foot path to the 4,000-meters-high, three-mouthed cave shrine is going on a war footing, and efforts are on to open it for pilgrims this year," Minister of State for Tourism Gulam Ahmed Mir said here today. The cave temple complex is surrounded by thick birch trees, and comprises three caves, all dedicated to Lord Siva. Located just above the tree line, the main Siva statue is sculpted from black marble and is two feet high. On both sides of Lord Siva's murthi are nearly a dozen lingams.

The contents of the third cave continues to be a "mystery" due to darkness within, according to Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Parvez Dewan, who along with a shepherd, Haji Mohammed Rafique Bocken, discovered it two years ago. He pointed out that Amarnath Yatra pilgrims could have been using this route years back however, topographical changes may have later blocked it. He said the recent rediscovery of the Hapatgandh and Shiv Marg has given a new dimension to the belief that the Amarnath Yatra dates back to even before 1750 A.D. "We want people to know about this cave. Devotees can visit this shrine nearly eight to nine months a year, and this could help alleviate the problem of unemployment in the area," the commissioner said.

Chicago Vivekananda Vedanta Society to Build Ramakrishna Universal Temple

Posted on 2003/7/3 9:49:02 ( 1006 reads )


CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, July 2, 2003: The Vivekananda Vedanta Society, Chicago, has completed its purchase of 15 acres where they will build the first Sri Ramakrishna Universal Temple in North America, Swami Chidananda, President of the society, announced today. "We are very pleased to share this historic news. The greatest activity of the Vedanta Society is to disseminate spiritual education, which leads to spiritual illumination. The purpose of the temple is to disseminate spiritual knowledge," Swami Chidananda said. Earlier this month, the Village Council of Homer Glen unanimously decided to annex the land from an unincorporated area of Will County. The Vedanta Society sought the annexation from Homer Glen because the village, with its philosophy of "Community and Nature in Harmony," best fits its own philosophy for building the temple. The Vivekananda Vedanta Society, Chicago, now plans to raise US$3 million for the first phase of construction, scheduled to begin May, 2004. The total cost estimate for the new temple is $6.5 million and the estimated completion date is December, 2005, when the Vivekananda Vedanta Society, Chicago, has its 75th Diamond Jubilee anniversary. For additional information on the temple, readers may send an e-mail to "source" above.

Millions of Devotees Arrive for Annual Festival to Lord Jagannath

Posted on 2003/7/3 9:48:02 ( 916 reads )


PURI, INDIA, July 1, 2003: Millions of devotees converged in Puri Tuesday to participate in the annual chariot festival dedicated to Lord Jagannath. The three chariots bearing the murthis of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra were pulled through the main streets of the town and taken to Gundicha temple. The Deities will remain there until July 9 and then journey back to the Jagannath temple. Bells were rung and devotees sang devotional songs as the three presiding Deities were taken out of the sanctum sanctorum and ceremoniously placed on the decorated chariots. The celebrations took place amid tight security. Metal detectors were installed at entrance to the Jagannath temple and "spotters" were stationed at strategic points to prevent terrorists from sneaking in disguised as pilgrims.

Mansarovar Yatra "Send Off" Celebration Held In Delhi

Posted on 2003/7/3 9:47:02 ( 946 reads )

Rajiv Malik, Hinduism Today New Delhi Correspondent

NEW DELHI, INDIA, July 1, 2003: A special function was organized by Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh, at Yoga Shakti Peeth, Mehrauli, New Delhi on July 1, 2003, to honor those undertaking the pilgrimage to Lake Mansarovar. A large number of saints, politicians, media persons and pilgrims attended the function. His Holiness, Swami Chidananda Saraswati, affectionately known as Muniji, under whose leadership and guidance the Mansarovar Yatra is taking place, addressed the gathering. Under the auspices of India Heritage Research Foundation and Parmarth Niketan he has undertaken the tasks of building an ashram, tourist rest house, and medical clinic on the holy banks of Lake Mansarovar for the welfare of the pilgrims as well as the local Tibetans. The building will be formally inaugurated on the auspicious day of Guru Purnima, July 13, 2003. "My dream is that a day would come when we would hold a Kumbha Mela at the banks of the Holy Mansarovar Lake," Swami told the group. Muniji profusely thanked the Chinese Government for all the cooperation they extended in connection with the setting up of the buildings and also the arrangements of the holy pilgrimage.

Immigrants Grapple With Elderly Care

Posted on 2003/7/2 9:49:02 ( 1005 reads )


UNITED STATES, June 30, 2003: Long unknown in East Asia, where centuries of tradition dictate that children care for their parents until death, retirement homes have become part of the American experience for a generation of aging immigrants. The cultural taboo, coupled at times with a language barrier, has made adjustment that much harder for some seniors and compounded the guilt for their families. In response, a new type of retirement home has emerged that allows elderly Asian immigrants to hold on to some of their culture as they make their final adjustment to Western society. As the senior population becomes more diverse, housing experts say, retirement facilities targeting a specific culture will be a growing niche market. Some homes have incidentally attracted specific ethnic groups because of their location in a particular neighborhood. Others have been launched to attract seniors of Cuban, Mexican, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Indian descent -- complete with bilingual staff and ethnic food. Clayton Fong, executive director of the Seattle based National Asian Pacific Center on Aging, said the trend is similar to the way immigrants formed ethnic neighborhoods. "There's been a long tradition of if you're going to leave your home and go to a strange place, you look for a common thread," Fong said.

Black Belt Priest to Guard Lord Venkateswara

Posted on 2003/7/2 9:48:02 ( 1101 reads )


TIRUPATI, INDIA, July 1, 2003: Since armed guards are forbidden inside the Venkateswara temple, one of India's most revered religious shrines, authorities want to assign its security to a trusted insider, a Hindu priest with a black belt in karate. K. Seshadri has been asked by officials in Tirupati to teach younger priests to defend themselves and the temple from terrorists and other attackers. The temple, which has over 30,000 visitors per day, is reputed to be the world's richest. Security in Hindu temples has been raised since last September's terrorist attack on the Swaminarayan Temple in which 12 people were killed. For this reason, the state government's security adviser has asked Seshadri to train the young priests, who will form an inner ring of protection around the Deity. It is not clear how such trained priests could resist an assault by heavily-armed intruders, who required the Black Cat Commandos, India's top special forces, to neutralize in earlier attacks.

Hindus Flock to Register for Amarnath Pilgrimage

Posted on 2003/7/2 9:47:02 ( 1031 reads )


NEW DELHI, INDIA, July 1, 2003: About 100,000 Hindus have registered for the annual Amarnath pilgrimage Kashmir, despite the threat of militant attacks. Each year tens of thousands of Hindus from around the world head to Amarnath, located in the foothills of the Himalayas, for a month-long pilgrimage, which this year begins on July 12. The state government has regulated the numbers of pilgrims since 1996, when more than 200 people died because of bad weather. The government is also making elaborate safety arrangements because of the possibility of terrorist attacks. Eight pilgrims were killed and 27 injured last year when rebels attacked a camp, despite heavy security.

Indonesia's Controversial Religious Education Bill

Posted on 2003/7/2 9:46:02 ( 1128 reads )

World Magazine

JAKARTA, INDONESIA, June 28, 2003: Indonesia's parliament on June 11 passed a controversial education bill that requires schools with 10 or more students from any particular religion to provide those students "religious education in their own faith from a teacher of that faith." That stipulation falls heavily on Christian schools. While Christians do not generally send their children to Islamic schools, many Muslims send their children to Christian schools, which have a reputation for superior educational standards. Under the new law, a private Christian school with 10 Muslim students would have to devote its own funds to building a mosque and hiring an Islamic teacher. (Muslim and Hindu schools will have to provide similar programs in their schools.) "That strikes at the heart of religious freedom," says Ann Buwalda, USA director of the Jubilee Campaign, an international advocacy group for persecuted religious minorities. "If it were a public-school matter, I don't think Christians would be concerned. It's the first legislation on a nationwide basis to draw in religious distinctions." The driving force behind the new bill is the second-largest Muslim movement in Indonesia, called Muhammadiyah. Though nonviolent, the group is committed to establishing Islamic foundations throughout society, and education is one of its main vehicles.

Historical Glimpse -- Siva Temple Constructed by Grateful British Army Wife

Posted on 2003/7/2 9:45:02 ( 1496 reads )


MADHYA PRADESH, INDIA, July 2, 2003: Colonel Martin, formerly of the British army, was stationed in India during the 1800's and built a temple in Malwa to Lord Siva in 1883. The story behind the construction goes something like this: the Colonel's wife became very concerned when she no longer was receiving messages from her husband, whom she knew was in a battle in Afghanistan. Out riding one day she saw a temple and inquired what the worshippers were doing. She was told that the people were worshipping Lord Siva. She asked the priest about Siva who followed with a religious discourse on His greatness. Seeing the wife very worried, the priest asked what was the matter and she explained the situation with her husband. The priest suggested she observe the 11-day "Laghu-rudri anusthana" of the mantra "Om Namah Sivaya." The Colonel's wife then vowed she would build a Siva temple if her husband returned safely from the battlefield, and began to observe the anusthana. At the end of the 11 days she received a letter from her husband saying he was safe. After his return home, both began praying regularly to Lord Siva and had the temple constructed. This is the only temple built by an Englishman in India. A photo of the temple may be found at "source" above.

Book Released -- Hinduism and Its Sense of History, by Professor Arvind Sharma

Posted on 2003/7/2 9:44:02 ( 1178 reads )


BOSTON, UNITED STATES, July 1, 2003: During his tenure as the Infinity Foundation Visiting Professor of Indic Studies, Harvard University, Professor Arvind Sharma intensively researched the axiom that Hindus lack a sense of history. He concludes that this unfortunate impression arose out of a conflation between the different concepts of time in Hinduism and must be discarded in the light of the epigrahic, literary and artistic evidence now available. The results of his research is available in a book entitled "Hinduism and Its Sense of History" published by Oxford University Press. Kindly contact "source" above for inquiries regarding the book.

Hindus to Meet With Education Minister Over South African Language Curriculum

Posted on 2003/7/1 9:49:02 ( 973 reads )


SOUTH AFRICA, June 29, 2003: The South African Hindu Maha Sabha has formed a committee to meet with Education Minister Kader Asmal to discuss the decision to remove Indian languages from the school curriculum. Last week religious and cultural leaders voiced opposition to Asmal's decision to remove Hindi, Tamil, Gujarati, Telegu and Urdu from the syllabus for pupils in Grade 10 to 12 from 2006. The decision to remove 12 of the 18 foreign languages at present being taught in South African schools is part of Asmal's overhaul of the further Education and Training curriculum. "The issue is not about whether or not a language will be 'culled' but about the ability of the government to fund all foreign languages," Asmal said. "The constitution requires that we promote and ensure respect for languages that are commonly used by communities in our country. However, this goal is dependent on the availability of funds." He said the department had found that many foreign languages had very low enrollment rates in Grade 10 to 12. According to the department's figures for the senior certificate examination in 2002, there were 13 candidates for Hindi while Arabic, one of the languages that will be kept, showed an enrollment figure of 661.

Malaysia Hindus Cautioned to Beware of "Quacks"

Posted on 2003/7/1 9:48:02 ( 986 reads )


PETALING JAYA, MALAYSIA, July 1, 2003: Malaysia Hindu Sangam president Datuk A. Vaithilingam called on Hindus not to fall prey to so-called foreign teachers, fake astrologers and quack doctors. "These people come here and set up an office to earn quick money. They urge people to pay hundreds of ringgit just for the so-called blessings," he said during the association's 26th annual general meeting. "Certainly, no teacher can achieve a wondrous result in such a short time. Great sages and rishis of Hinduism gave us the different yogas not for profit but to help devotees in their regular daily life," Vaithilingam said.

Fresh Water Honored in Trinidad and Tobago

Posted on 2003/7/1 9:47:02 ( 1021 reads )


TRINIDAD & TOBAGO, June 5, 2003: As planet Earth faces a reduced supply of fresh water, ceremonies such as Ganga Dhaaraa, which took place on June 15, take on added significance. Representatives from various faiths including American Indian, Christian, Islam and Hindu joined together to honor the coming of Ganga to Earth and the necessity of fresh water on Earth. The event coincided very closely with World Environment Day and supported the UN's environmental theme of fresh water. Religion and science joined together to present seminars with speakers from both communities. Hindus, as well as American Indian traditions, have a rich heritage centered around the importance of fresh water.

Goddess Saraswati Awaits Jaffna Library Opening

Posted on 2003/7/1 9:46:02 ( 1036 reads )


JAFFNA, SRI LANKA, June 27, 2003: Saraswati, the Hindu Goddess of learning is standing guard, a retired school principal is all fired up, the computers are in place and war-weary Jaffna is ready for the reopening of its famous library, more than two decades after it was set it ablaze in 1981. The library, a center of learning and culture, is hugely symbolic for the country's minority Tamil community. The fire destroyed nearly 100,000 Tamil-language books, including rare palm leaf writings. Locals hope its reopening will help heal some of the torment from a civil war that has killed 64,000 people and displaced more than one million. They also hope it will bolster a peace process backed by a 16-month-old ceasefire between Tamil rebels and the Government.

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