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President A. Vaithilingam Addresses Annual Malaysian Hindu Sangam Conference

Posted on 2003/7/5 9:49:02 ( 1172 reads )


KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA, June 29, 2003: The Malaysian Hindu Sangam (MHS) recently held their 26th annual national meeting where Datuk Vaithilingam, president, outlined a "Renaissance Plan" for the Sangam's continuing religious work in Malaysia. What follows is a summation of his remarks:

Improving religious education among the youth is at the top of our list. "Only then can they have the basic tools in order to stand shoulder to shoulder with other religious and ethnic groups." Implanting in all Hindus a spirit of service to the community using the "ATMAH project," already implemented in some areas of Malaysia. Nurturing and helping Hindu cultural values flourish again within the Hindu community. Enhancing the roles of temples beyond traditional worship and making them powerful cultural and community centers where Hindus can join together for religious entertainment and in service of others. In order to fulfill these goals, Hindus must use science and technology. "The whole array of modern media and a variety of languages should be made use of to make the message of Hinduism more accessible to all. Language should not be a stumbling block for religious activities." Create a Hindu Academy with modern facilities to train religious teachers, counselors and youth. And, in order to make these visions possible, the Malaysian Hindu Sangam must raise funds from a variety of sources.

"The issue of land for temples is a very long outstanding issue. The Malaysia Hindu Sangam calls upon the Federal Government, and all State Governments, to grant the land on which they (temples) are situated to all existing temples... Places of worship must be respected no matter which religion they belong to...demolishing of temples including the destruction of Deities placed in these temples" shows a lack of respect for the religious sensibilities of the Malaysian Hindu community. The MHS asks everyone "solve these problems with discussion rather than destruction. The Malaysia Hindu Sangam is a responsible organization which has always cooperated with governmental and nongovernmental organizations. We, therefore, appeal to all concerned to liaise or contact us with whatever issues faced and we shall do everything possible within our means to assist." Also, the Sangam has worked together with Yayasan Strategik Sosial of the MIC on many projects, like pre-marriage courses, Youth Training Programs, and Community Service Projects, to overcome the social problems facing the Hindu community. "We hope this cooperation continues and gains in strength."

In conclusion, Datuk Vaithilingam urged "all Hindus in Malaysia to unite and work together for the progress and upliftment of the Indian community in general and the Hindu community in particular."

"Om" as Sock Decoration Makes U.S. Hindus Unhappy

Posted on 2003/7/5 9:48:02 ( 1377 reads )


NEW YORK, U.S.A., July 3, 2003: India Cause, a watch dog group of Hindus in America, is unhappy over the use of the Om symbol as decoration on socks. "We are outraged seeing such repetitive insults and attack on Indian culture," India Cause coordinator Sanjeev Dahiwadkar said. Gold Medal Hosiery in New York, which distributes the offending socks, declined to comment.

Dahiwadkar said there had been at least three instances where India and Indian culture were shown disrespect in the past by using Hindu Gods as toilet seat decorations, a magazine picture mocking Mahatma Gandhi by having him beaten up by a muscular man, and images of Lord Ganesha as slippers (sandals) decoration. "India Cause is planning to send letters to US distributors and manufacturers about how such products affect the feeling of Indians in general."

HPI adds: Western people are often unaware of the significance of feet for many Asians (not only Hindus). Some years ago, the first president Bush presented the Chinese president with a pair of Texas cowboy boots upon which had been set the Chinese flag. Aides quietly explained to the president's entourage that this was considered a most demeaning placement for the flag. Scenes in Bollywood movies of the villain being beaten or garlanded with shoes are completely lost on the average American. So in these protests, it is necessary to take a step back and explain the broader context. For example, one could say that touching something with the feet is, to a Hindu, about as insulting as spitting on it would be to an American.

Vietnam to Preserve Champa Kingdom Temple Towers

Posted on 2003/7/5 9:47:02 ( 985 reads )

Asia Pulse

HANOI, VIETNAM, June 30, 2003: Another US$812,000 has been invested in preserving a cluster of five Champa temple towers at My Son, the Hindu holy land of the old Champa Kingdom, 70 km southwest of central Da Nang City. The project is being jointly carried out by the Vietnamese government, UNESCO and the Italian University of Milan. The towers feature the most impressive and ornate decorations of all in the My Son complex, each with hundreds of brick God masks attached to its base.

Located in Duy Phu commune, Duy Xuyen district of central coastal Quang Nam province, with more than 70 architectural structures built of stone and bricks between the 7th and 13th centuries, My Son was considered the kingdom's largest center of architecture. Through studies of stelas and chronicles of the kingdom, historians have found that My Son used to be the most important holy land of the Champa between the 4th and 15th century. They also discovered the structure of the complex that included the central temple devoted to Lord Siva was surrounded by temples in honor of gods and kings. The major temples in the complex were all dedicated to Lord Siva -- the guardian of Champa kings and Bhadesvara who was the first king of the Amaravati region in the late 4th century.

Each temple group is characterized by a gate tower, a main tower symbolizing the heaven, a long tower, shaped like a house, providing lodging for pilgrims, a storage tower for objects of worship and smaller towers in honor of the Gods of direction and the stars. The towers are symmetrical and in the shape of a mountain, symbolic of Meru Mount, kingdom of God Siva. They also feature elaborate engravings of many Gods. Inscription on the oldest stela, dating back to the fourth century, reads that King Bhadresvara built the first temple in honor of God Siva-Bhadresvara. Two centuries later, the wooden temple was burned down. In the early 7th century, King Sambhuvarman rebuilt the temple with more durable materials and the remnants remain until today. The following dynasties restored the temple and added new ones.

Kenyan National Motto Controversial to Some

Posted on 2003/7/5 9:46:02 ( 2042 reads )

African Church Information Service

NAIROBI, KENYA, June 30, 2003: Controversy is brewing in Kenya between Christians and members of the public over the country's national motto Kenya's had for 40 years, "Harambee." A number of Christians, drawn mainly from the Pentecostal churches, want the motto erased from the country's coat of arms, alleging that Harambee gives honor to a Hindu Goddess called Ambee (Kali). "As committed Christians and patriotic Kenyans, we are disturbed by the realization that our national motto gives honor and glory to a Hindu Goddess, yet as Christians, we are aware that honor and glory belong to God alone," Linda Agalo-Achieng of Alpha Kenya, a Christian organization, told a commission here, on June 24.

But some members of the public have challenged this view, saying that they have grown up knowing that Harambee means "pooling together for development." "We should not ignore the fact that Harambee as our motto has helped build schools in this country. We must not narrow it down to a spirit since it is deeply entrenched in our culture," said Wafula Buke, a human rights activist.

Investigations into the origin of the Gujarati word, according to the Christians, indicates that Indian workers, while working on the Mombasa-Kampala railway more than a century ago, lightened their work by chanting "Haree Ambee," which in their words meant "Hail, Ambee." With time, the words came to be assimilated into Kiswahili, Kenya's national language, to mean "pooling together."

"There is a spirit behind the word. When Kenyans shout the motto, they get into contact with that spirit. This is offending to Christians," says a local pastor. But Mr. Kabacia Gatu says Kenyans should see Harambee from its original meaning of pooling resources together for development.

The current debate centers on the government's instituted commission to evaluate whether public fundraising, also known as Harambee should be retained or scrapped. The commission has been gathering views from the public and not yet come to a conclusion.

Hindu Temple in Bothell Becomes Pacific Northwest's Meeting Place

Posted on 2003/7/4 9:49:02 ( 1071 reads )


BOTHELL, UNITED STATES, July 2, 2003: For Hindus in Seattle, and as far a way as Portland, Oregon, and Vancouver, Canada, the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center has become the central place to worship. Lord Venkateswara and Goddess Lakshmi Devi are the main Deities presiding in the temple, which serves not only as a place of worship, but also as a place for young and old, immigrant and American-born, to be part of a community.

The dream for a temple started 18 years ago when local Hindus began gathering in area homes to pray. Their worship has manifested a 6,000-square-foot temple on four acres that used to house a nursery. Should you wish to visit, the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center is located at 3818 212th St. S.E., Bothel, Washington. For additional information kindly log onto the temple's website at link.

Lord Jagannath's Devotional Chariot Makers

Posted on 2003/7/4 9:48:02 ( 968 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 ( 1004 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 ( 1026 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 ( 938 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 ( 966 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 ( 1022 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 ( 1122 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 ( 1061 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 ( 1151 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 ( 1513 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.

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